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Max Kepler Under Contract for 2023


The Twins are on the hook with struggling Max into next season.   Then they can buy him out for 2024 for $1 million.   Looks like Max is destined to be a reserve defensive outfielder but only when Jake Cave is injured.   They can’t play him when he looks this lousy and they probably won’t dump him when he is under contract for 2023.  Is it as hopeless as I describe?    Or - Do they just take an $8 million hit next year if he struggles in Spring Training?  

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Max is an excellent outfielder, runs the bases about as well as any Twins but he has really sunk low at the plate. He seems very unhappy. Even when the Twins have played decently Kepler is pretty stoic and often looks lost when the camera pans the dugout. He doesn't strike me as the type of person who cares only about the money and he may have something going on that has affected his game. Or .... maybe baseball has caught up with him and he is done, which really doesn't seem possible due to his physical gifts.

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The lure that he is an impressive physical specimen is also a trap.  Alejandro Kirk is no physical specimen but he can see the ball and hit the ball.  Max seems to have lost this skill as he has gone from bad to worse.   He should be the new Tyler Duffey for TD (with Emilio “Graven Image” Pagan as runner-up).   I’ll give him this, Max may have more value left than Tim Beckham. 

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Max - constantly hitting ground balls to the right side of the infield does not work. You either have to hit a bunch of balls to the left side and, when they shift back, return to pulling the ball OR practice bunting so much that you get on first most times. There isn't anyone near third base. It's an easy single, which is much better than 0 for 29.

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4 minutes ago, FlyingFinn said:

Max - constantly hitting ground balls to the right side of the infield does not work. You either have to hit a bunch of balls to the left side and, when they shift back, return to pulling the ball OR practice bunting so much that you get on first most times. There isn't anyone near third base. It's an easy single, which is much better than 0 for 29.

Agreed, There may be some that will say he is paid to drive in runs, hit HR's, etc..., not to bunt.  However, the flip to this is that he is not being paid to go 0 - August. Maybe he rushed back from the IL, maybe not, but hitters need a good base to be successful and something seems wrong.

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8 minutes ago, FlyingFinn said:

Max - constantly hitting ground balls to the right side of the infield does not work. You either have to hit a bunch of balls to the left side and, when they shift back, return to pulling the ball OR practice bunting so much that you get on first most times. There isn't anyone near third base. It's an easy single, which is much better than 0 for 29.

He seemed as if in the beginning of the season he had figured that out and was hitting more to the left ... then he stopped ... don't know what's going on with him

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48 minutes ago, FlyingFinn said:

Max - constantly hitting ground balls to the right side of the infield does not work. You either have to hit a bunch of balls to the left side and, when they shift back, return to pulling the ball OR practice bunting so much that you get on first most times. There isn't anyone near third base. It's an easy single, which is much better than 0 for 29.

This happens because pitchers have been busting him inside and he is late on the fastball. If he could see these out front and get that bat head out, he would be fine. Right now, he is just done for on anything at his hands. Couple that with the fact that against LHP he is abysmal, he's really struggling. 

If I were his hitting coach, I would tell him just to hunt the inside fastball and be early on it. Every team is hammering him into that spot right now. He has to adjust and hasn't. 

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What I see is the same Max from day 1. He looks the same in the box. You need to adjust and he hasn't. If a team is giving you something you take it. This team is all the same swing for the downs. I can count on 3 fingers the players who play the right way. It may be time for Max to ask for a trade in the off season.

 

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Always felt he was a hard worker. But his batting skills lessen each season.

He did have trade value, still, this deadline, if wrapped in a package. He might still be movable in the off-season.

Partly because the Twins may have an abundance of outfield riches, if Buxton can stay healthy.

Sadly, if one is to ask "Keep Kepler, or Garlick," one may say keep Garlick. Is Cave in the picture for 2023 at this point, still?

One factor that can hasten the departure of Kepler would be Matt Wallner overperforming in the final month of the AAA season.

 

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Even with a horrible, unsustainable, 0/27 slump where he's playing with a broken toe, Max Kepler is STILL OPS+ 97 with excellent right field defense. Kepler is a solid every day starter. Kepler had a higher fWAR than Ron Acuna until a week ago...

It's the pitching. You know something really spectacular? Max Kepler has provided as much or more bWAR than every single pitcher on the Twins except Jhoan Duran. That's right. As much as Sonny Gray. 50% more than Joe Ryan.

Want to see the Twins win? It starts with Rocco and the front office allowing the starters to do their job and pitch more than 60 pitches. It continues with the bullpen not hanging curveballs over the meat of the plate. It ends with the starters showing up the same night the bullpen shows up.

 

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4 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

The Twins are on the hook with struggling Max into next season.   Then they can buy him out for 2024 for $1 million.   Looks like Max is destined to be a reserve defensive outfielder but only when Jake Cave is injured.   They can’t play him when he looks this lousy and they probably won’t dump him when he is under contract for 2023.  Is it as hopeless as I describe?    Or - Do they just take an $8 million hit next year if he struggles in Spring Training?  

IMO, neither Jake Cave nor Max Kepler are part of the solution. I think they’d be better moving on from both and planning a more flexible, balanced team in terms of ways to score. I’d rather see Wallner and Julien and see if they can help. Back in the 1970s, the Orioles were struggling and a pair of rookies were called up and both hit so well that it elevated the team a lot. Al Bumbry and Rich Coggins. 

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17 minutes ago, Greglw3 said:

IMO, neither Jake Cave nor Max Kepler are part of the solution. I think they’d be better moving on from both and planning a more flexible, balanced team in terms of ways to score. I’d rather see Wallner and Julien and see if they can help. Back in the 1970s, the Orioles were struggling and a pair of rookies were called up and both hit so well that it elevated the team a lot. Al Bumbry and Rich Coggins. 

Twins already are paying, or dealing with the results of shots in the dark, two bring more shots in the dark and standing with fingers crossed hoping would be obtuse and the owners would see fewer and fewer in the stands which is what they really care about.

Back in the seventies the Twins brought in a lot of newbies, their record speaks for itself.

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44 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

2.0 WAR for a full season at $8.5MM or $10.00MM is a pretty good deal IMHO. That said, if Nick Gordon or Matt Wallner can take Kepler's place in RF for $8-9.5MM less while Kepler net's the Twins a mid level prospect, that's a no brainer.

Odds either puts up 2-3 WAR next year? Slim? 

Now, if Larnach is healthy, and they want to roll the dice on dealing Max (if they spend the money elsewhere)? I'm ok with that.

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2023 brings an end to the infield shift. If anyone stands to benefit from that, it would be Kepler. Even with that, and good health, that his toe injury completely recovers, he seems a good 4th OF candidate and late inning defensive replacement, but not a regular starter at this point in his career. Assuming that we would have a viable starting RF to replace him. And that cannot for the love of God or money be Jake Cave. Maybe they give Wallner a shot, or look to sign another corner.

 Kepler would still stand to log a fair amount of innings. 8M is an overpay for that type of role, but its not a bad strategy to give it a go and see if he plays better in that role. If so, look to a market-level extension for 2024. If not, cut bait.

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I know he's got an owie right now, and I'm sure that's bothering him...a broken toe is very painful, but he's been pretty brutal at the plate for a while now. Well before the broken toe.  He's just not showing any growth/progress/improvement at all. Extremely unproductive AB's. Tries to pull everything and can't adjust to the shift(s). Weak grounder after weak grounder. He's very good defensively, but he's killing us with the bat in his hands. I agree with what someone said earlier...he looks like he's not really engaged or interested at times. Just not enjoying himself at all out there. Like he's battling something mentally. He's got skills, but he hasn't developed them in the last 2-3 years. After the year he had in 2019, the future looked real bright. It could be time to trade him and give one of the kids the job out there.  

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Wallner seems like a first baseman when I watch him. And regardless, I wouldn’t want to count on him in 2023….risky…it’s not like 2023 shapes up to be a rebuilding year, at least going in.

When he gets through this __it storm, it’s likely that Kepler remains a solidly above league-average hitter against right handed pitching for at least a couple more years. And IMO, you can’t do anything with Kepler until you are SURE about Kirilloff. I say you plan on platooning him in 2023 with Garlick or some other right handed batter who rakes lefties.
 

After 2023, I’m sure at least one of Kepler/Larnach/Kirilloff will not be in the picture.

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2 hours ago, bean5302 said:

2.0 WAR for a full season at $8.5MM or $10.00MM is a pretty good deal IMHO. That said, if Nick Gordon or Matt Wallner can take Kepler's place in RF for $8-9.5MM less while Kepler net's the Twins a mid level prospect, that's a no brainer.

I'll take Nick Gordon over Max Kepler every day of the week and I'd be thrilled to see Max off this roster. 

It's not the toe, folks. Like Sano, Kepler is just unable to physically and/or mentally keep up with adjustments. It happens all the time as guys get to around 30 years old. 

Sure, we all wish that every Twins player will have a better season than they did last year, and they'll all live up to their hype and potential. But we need to start getting a grip on reality here. The team isn't that good. A handful of guys who are getting close to or in the final years of their contracts appear to be nearing the end of their baseball careers. It happens. 

Occam's Razor tells us that Max Kepler isn't very good anymore, and it's likely because he's getting older and slower, which is what happens to all baseball players at his age. 

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I think Kepler has real value as an excellent defensive OF who performs about league average offensively. And with his contract, he's worth keeping around for 2023 no doubt. While defenses will continue to shift and shade in 2023, I would bet his numbers do improve without the exaggerated shifts. What's so frustrating is a lack of adjustment. I agree that early in the year it sure seemed like he WAS making adjustments and was actually spraying a few balls to center and left and it was refreshing. Did he suddenly forget how to do what he was doing? I'm actually wondering if something else has been bothering him before the broken toe as he just wasn't looking the same.

I've said for some time now that's he's more than acceptable as a good/dangerous hitter lower in the order who plays great defense and should sit once in a while against some LHP. The problem is Larnach and Kirrilloff, while potentially better and more complete hitters, have been battling injuries during their ML introduction which has really killed the lineup at times. 

It's a shame Kepler hasn't reached the production hoped for because he's got all the physically ability you'd probably wish for in your RF. But I have believed for a while now that Kiriloff will be the primary 1B, while still playing some corner OF here and there, and Larnach would become the primary RF where he has to cover a little less ground and has more than enough arm. I initially thought Martin would become the primary LF and be very Alex Gordon-like out there, but with a little more speed and SB ability. And that might still happen. I'm starting to wonder now if that player in LF might not be Julien. He has some experience there and definitely has the wheels. The bat plays exceptionally there with AVG/OB/POWER and good speed. 

Random thoughts, but thoughts I think are accurate. I haven't given up on Kepler, and I sure hope he can help down the stretch this year. And I'm looking for SOME improvement in 2023 as a lower in the order bat to make room for better above him. Despite being relatively young still, I'm not sure he figures in beyond 2023.

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4 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

Odds either puts up 2-3 WAR next year? Slim? 

Now, if Larnach is healthy, and they want to roll the dice on dealing Max (if they spend the money elsewhere)? I'm ok with that.

Kepler > Trevor Larnach. All day, every day. Better at the plate. Better on the base paths. Better defense.

If Kepler plays a full season? 95% he's 2.0+ WAR.

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4 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

Kepler > Trevor Larnach. All day, every day. Better at the plate. Better on the base paths. Better defense.

If Kepler plays a full season? 95% he's 2.0+ WAR.

And? My point was that if they have Buxton and another healthy starter, and think the can get something for Max, they might be ok. They aren't dealing Larnach.

Also, I'd bet Larnach puts up 2 fwar easy next year, if healthy 

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31 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

And? My point was that if they have Buxton and another healthy starter, and think the can get something for Max, they might be ok. They aren't dealing Larnach.

Also, I'd bet Larnach puts up 2 fwar easy next year, if healthy 

My point is that Kepler is a solid player. Larnach has yet to prove he is. As I noted above, yes, Kepler is a good potential asset to trade if they feel Gordon and Wallner could replace him.

If you want to believe Larnach is more than the next Nomar Mazara, you can.

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Hey, I'm one of Kepler's harshest critics but he did seem to adjust and hit 2 line drives to LF tonight. At this point though, we all know what were getting from him. .230/.320/.400 ish; OPs around .700-.725, and superior defense in RF. Not a bad guy to have but it would be great if we had 3 better OFs so he could be the 4th. Well, let's see, we have Buxton, and in descending order maybe Larnach (?), maaybe Kiriloff (?), maaaybe Gordon (?), and maaaaybe Celestino (?)! Cave and Contreras appear to be hard NOs, and who knows about guys in the minors like Wallner and Julien. Boy, it's going to be hard to trade him with those alternatives.  

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31 minutes ago, bean5302 said:

Kepler > Trevor Larnach. All day, every day. Better at the plate. Better on the base paths. Better defense.

If Kepler plays a full season? 95% he's 2.0+ WAR.

Hey, I've been a follower and fan of Max from the day they signed him. I've been rooting for him and been trying to make others realize how good he is even without ever realizing the potential of what we all hoped he could be with all of his talent. He's a really, really good and valuable ballplayer for everything he does. And I want him back in 2023 and I hope he has a great season, raises his production without the extreme shifts, etc. I am in no hurry to dismiss him or want to get rid of him. Period!

But even in SSS due to injury EACH of the past 2 seasons, even as a fan of Kepler, I can see Larnach as a better hitter. Larnach will never have the range of Kepler in RF, but he's shown enough he isn't bad defensively, and has a great arm. The power is still building/coming. But the power is there. He's also not embarrassing against LHP. Over the next few years, I'd take less range, a great arm, and better hitting and as much or more power and production.

And this from a fan of Kepler.

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Max will be back, but it's been disappointing to see that the 2019 version of himself was a mirage and he's just a .230 hitter. He'll justify his value with having a good walk rate, great defense, and some pop (though that hasn't been good this year). He's more durable than the other OFs too. And if the shift is reduced, Max should benefit.

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