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Offseason Status Update: Whirlwind Weekend


After three months of lockout-induced stagnancy, Major League Baseball reopened for business over the weekend with a flurry of activity across the league.

Your Minnesota Twins got in on the action with a pair of high-wattage trades addressing key areas of need. Let's catch up and reset the roster outlook as spring training officially gets underway.

[Author's Note: Naturally, MINUTES after I said to myself, "Okay, probably safe to post this, the action has gotta be wrapped up for the weekend," we learned of a major blockbuster trade between the Twins and Yankees. You can learn about it here. And then read on to learn about the state of the roster ... just BEFORE that move.]

Twins Send Garver to Texas for Kiner-Falefa

Minnesota's front office checked off the "shortstop" box before turning its attention to the pitching staff, acquiring Isiah Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers alongside pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez

The cost was extremely high: Mitch Garver is gone. To procure this package from Texas, the Twins had to part with the 31-year-old who they drafted-and-developed, from ninth-round pick into elite slugging catcher and self-made pitch-framing specialist.

Garver, under control for two more seasons just like Kiner-Falefa, is one of the biggest difference-making bats in the league as a nearly unrivaled offensive force from the catcher position.  

Despite his dwindling team control, I ranked Garver this year as the eighth-most valuable asset in the organization, and when sizing up the club's top trade candidates, I didn't see him as one of the top-five most likely to go.  

"One could theoretically add Mitch Garver or Ryan Jeffers to this list," I wrote, "although I'm not sure I have enough confidence in either one to feel good about trading the other."

Therein lies my struggle with this move. Jeffers hasn't shown enough yet to be confident in his status as "The Guy" going forward, and the Twins are woefully short on qualified depth behind him and Ben Rortvedt in the system. 

The Twins gave up a lot for a light-hitting defensive specialist. Too much, in my opinion. But the team has firmly addressed its need at shortstop with a versatile young player who was highly regarded in Texas. The price they paid says a great deal about their belief in Kiner-Falefa.  

Frontline Pitching at Last: Twins Get Gray from Reds for Petty

The rotation looks a lot more legitimate now than it did coming out of the lockout. There was plenty of buzz indicating the Twins were pursuing high-end pitching on the trade market, and the rumors came to fruition on Sunday with the extraction of right-hander Sonny Gray from the Reds

In this deal, the Twins gave up all future value, sending 2021 first-round draft pick Chase Petty to Cincinnati. I recently wrote the profile on Petty as our #9 Twins prospect, and got myself all jazzed about dreaming on his upside, but even the most optimistic analysis of Petty has to acknowledge his sky-high burnout risk. 

To exchange such a volatile asset for an established top-of-rotation for starter with two years of reasonably-priced team control remaining ($10.2M in 2022 with a $12M option for '23) should be viewed as a big win.

Gray is a two-time All-Star with an extensive pitch mix, a bulldog mentality, and excellent strikeout rates (10.6 K/9 since 2019) who figures to benefit from a move away from Cincinnati's hitter-friendly ballpark. He posted a 3.44 ERA with six home runs allowed in 12 road starts last year, compared to 4.89 with 13 homers in 14 home starts.

The addition of Gray certainly makes the Twins a better team in 2022, but between this and the Kiner-Falefa pickup – both players having team control for two more years – one can sense that the front office is primarily focused on building toward 2023, when Kenta Maeda returns to the fold. 

An Updated Look at the Roster and Payroll

With Gray and Kiner-Falefa joining the party, here's how the Twins roster now projects. The payroll (which includes about $15M in new salary for those two, as well as Gray's $1M trade bonus, paid by the Twins) is creeping up on $100M.

roster31322.png

The team could theoretically fill the DH role with in-house options – rotating guys like Miguel Sanó, Josh Donaldson, and Luis Arraez. Same goes for the remaining bullpen openings – Juan Minaya, Lewis Thorpe, Griffin Jax, etc. 

But I think they need at least one more bat and a couple of back-end caliber arms to call roster complete. They definitely need at least one more starting pitcher.

The team is reportedly pursuing some of the top remaining veteran names in the remaining middle tier of free agency, including Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, and old friend Michael Pineda.

Spring training has already begun, but the Twins certainly aren't done shopping. Stay tuned into Twins Daily as we cover the moves in real-time. I'll keep these periodic status updates running as the fragmented offseason extends into camp.

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11 hours ago, Otwins said:

The bat is where there will be some bargains at the end. I would like to see them acquire two more SP.  If they really have 33 million left they should have enough money.  You know they won't spend much if they add a reliever or two.

I agree.  I think Sonny Gray would be great if we would have added a quality SP before the lockout, had Maeda still, and Gray was our #3 starter.  It seems like we still have a long way to go, especially after trading Donaldson and Garver (and Cruz last year).  We are now relying on a lot of people to step up offensively from poor recent performance or lack of experience.  

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It will be fun to see where this all ends.  I'm hoping and assuming there is more to come because we still have some big holes and some newly created ones.  Everyone talks about having 30 to 40 mill in payroll to spend.  Hopefully that's true.  But it's just speculation. .let's hope trading Donaldson was to free up payroll for other transactions.  Let's hope it isn't just a salary dump.

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