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  • Eye on the Prize: Why the Twins Need to Avoid Non-Tendered Free Agents


    The Minnesota Twins should stay away from signing any of the non-tendered players, regardless of how enticing these targets may appear on paper.

    Image courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    We said goodbye to Eddie Rosario and Matt Wisler this week. Fans outside of the Midwest were surprised about Rosario’s departure, but real Minnesotans knew that this day was coming. After another year of questionable plays and free swings, the coffin was far sealed for this fan favorite. This year’s free agency class is strong across the board, but in the non-tendered class, Rosario sits near the top of the board according to many sources, including MLB’s Mark Feinsand. Given this reason, among others, the Minnesota Twins should stay away from signing any of the non-tendered players, regardless of how enticing these targets may appear on paper.

    The non-tendered, free agent class is littered with some of the bigger names in baseball, such as Kyle Schwarber, Adam Duvall, and Archie Bradley. Overall, these players were non-tendered for a combination of these four factors: price, health, production, and replaceability. Generally, these factors are all quantifiable. Take Schwarber for example. He was a 2014 first round draft pick who was known for his power. Although there were concerns about his speed and defense, his incredible slash lines guided him all the way to the majors, where he failed to meet production expectations from season to season. Rosario also falls in this quantifiable category, where his high price tag exceeded his expected return, and his replacement is waiting in the wings.

    However, a team’s decision to non-tender a player is often blurry and difficult to justify on paper. Take the aforementioned Matt Wisler for starters. Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson highlighted every reason to keep Wisler, from his stats to his low price tag, but the Twins still chose to move forward, despite losing bullpen pieces Trevor May, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard to free agency. If it has to be boiled down on quantifiable facts that you can write on paper, the Twins non-tendered Matt Wisler, reliever with above average stats last season, despite losing three members of the bullpen. However, Twins Daily’s Matthew Trueblood dissected the red flags and lingering questions surrounding Wisler, such as small sample size and various other anomalies, that outweighed his pros. At the end of the day, whether you are Team Nelson or Trueblood, it’s impossible to ignore that Wisler carries attributes that make him more of a toss up than other free agent relievers on the market, despite how attractive his statistics indicate on paper.

    It’s painfully obvious that teams should sign the least risky players with all four factors mentioned above in mind. The gamble of signing any player is what I like to call “the tomato-tomato dilemma”. Only players in the caliper of Francisco Lindor and Mike Trout are excluded from the dilemma, where their guaranteed return outweighs their associated price. With the top free agents on the market, such as Trevor Bauer and JT Realmuto near one end of the spectrum and players who will likely remain unsigned at the end of the offseason on the other, many of these enticing non-tendered free agents fall closer towards the middle, where, like in Wisler’s case, you can make the argument that his statistics justify his price tag, tomato, or a gamble on his red flags can’t justify his price tag, tomato.

    In the case of a team with a seemingly unlimited budget, a bad gamble or rotten tomato hardly makes a difference. However, we are not in the Bronx, and The Twins typically keep their payroll below or around the league minimum. If this pattern continues, they seem to have two options:

    • Option A: Save for a top free agent
    • Option B: Sign numerous contracts to good free agents

    With many top free agents that fulfill the Twins’ immediate needs with lower risk and higher reward than what the group of non-tendered free agents can provide, the Twins need to keep their eye on the ball and focus on signing one of the top free agents in one of the most diverse pools of free agents of recent. It’s undeniable that with another ace, the Twins’ rotation can be in the conversation with Cleveland. It’s quantifiable that the Twins currently don’t have a DH. It’s factual that the Twins may need another arm in the bullpen. While there is immense talent in the group of non-tendered free agents, the Twins need to focus on the few players they need the most, instead of adding quantity to the already competitive roster.

    We all know what happens when you take your eye off the prize.


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    Players were non-tendered for a variety of reasons. If there is a good value sign we should pounce for example: Rosario was not a reasonable spend at 10 million. But if he can be signed for 4 to 6 million someone will step forward and do it. I don't know what we need that could be solved from the nontenders but I suspect we could find a value sign. We do have an extra million after Wislers nontender....

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    Yeah, not sure why them having been non-tendered separates them from other free agents. I'd love Archie Bradley and David Dahl. Dahl has 3 years of control left. If you think giving him extra rest can keep him on the field he's absolutely worth going after. Obviously the price has to be right for any free agent, but a blanket statement of not signing non-tendered players doesn't make a lot of sense to me.


    Carlos Rodon is an interesting piece to add as another lefty in the bullpen if they think a move to the pen and a tweak or 2 can keep him healthy and performing to expectations. Maikel Franco is intriguing as insurance for the oft injured Sano and Donaldson corner IF duo. Kyle Schwarber is worth talking to with the ceiling he has with the bat. Eddie Rosario at a reduced rate is something I think almost every team would be interested in. 


    As far as non-tendered (or FAs in general) hitters go, I think a lot of that comes down to Cruz. If you're bringing him back you don't have the same flexibility to get guys ABs by cycling through the DH spot. If he's not retained signing one of the FA bats as insurance against the early struggles you'd predict for the kids makes a ton of sense. There weren't any great utility guys non-tendered so probably looking at other FAs or trades there. But overall there's no reason not to go after non-tenders the same way you'd go after any other FA. In fact, it may make more sense to go after the right ones who have more years of team control left and can be gotten on the cheap now.

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    Any free agent it comes down to price tag on signing them. Some players were not in the club’s eyes what they might get in arbitration. In a multi billion dollar industry even a few million here or there matters. Which ones do you sign is still based on the price tag. The top players will get their money. With more bottom tier players available there may be more make good contracts, otherwise know as minor league contract with an invite and an opt out 

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    Was there any starting player from 2019 on the Twins that had a better year in 2020? But they are keepers, nontheless, and most should be.


    I wanted DJ LeMahieu two years ago, and I want him now. That is a prize. I'm not buying on Arraez as the best direction at second - I like him in a utility/back-up role. And when it comes to rotating bats that perform well below Cruz in the DH spot, just to get them at bats..... I hate that stategy.

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    I mean, Archie Bradley will probably top the list of FA relievers now. And David Dahl is incredibly enticing if he can stay healthy. I don't think they need to avoid non-tendered free agents. From what I gather you want option A. What if Bauer doesn't consider Minnesota at all as a free agent destination?


    Above Hendricks and Hand? MLB trade rumors estimates were 4.3-5.7M which is about the same as what they had for Taylor Rogers. What do you think it would take to get him? I am thinking about reworking my plan with him in it.

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    Very nice article.  Good things to think about, but I find I have no opinion in this.  I only have confusion until we start to see some signals from the FO - are we going young?  Are we delaying the young players again for some FA we hope can be as good as the young players might be?


    What kind of arms are we looking at for the pitching staff.   The three pickups so far signal nothing and despite the TD writers none look better than Wisler. 

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    "We all know what happens when you take your eye off the prize."


    Exactly!!  This team should be primed for a deep run into the playoffs.  To do that we need grade A replacements, not bargain basement fillers.  Not to say there aren't some worthwhile players in the non-tender group, but if this team is going to break their pathetic playoff streak, these are not the players to go after.


    A Hendricks(top choice), Hand, or Rosenthal could be the capstone on a very good bullpen.  MLBTR has the Twins exploring a Soria signing.  That move would not be a difference maker.  Why not just resign Clippard?  A stacked bullpen is a must in the playoffs!  Presently, we do not have that.


    Similarly, the rotation is good but not World Series caliber.  No, Bauer is too expensive, but trading for Snell makes a lot of sense, as does resigning Odo.  Now that is a championship-caliber rotation!


    The icing on the cake would be addition of someone like LaMehieu who would add a badly needed contact hitter to this homer-happy, low OBP lineup.  His addition would make it easier to include either Arraez or Sano in a Snell transaction.


    Of course, resigning Cruz is desirable but not a necessity if the above-type moves are made.  So, yes, think big or go home.  Haven't we had enough of the Ryan-type tinkering that led to such disappointment in the aughts?

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    Above Hendricks and Hand? MLB trade rumors estimates were 4.3-5.7M which is about the same as what they had for Taylor Rogers. What do you think it would take to get him? I am thinking about reworking my plan with him in it.

    Good call outs on Hendriks and Hand. I didn’t realize Hendriks is only entering his age 32 season. Hand will be 31 and Bradley will be 28. Upon further review I don’t know how I would rank these 3 players.


    I read that Bradley was projected to get $6 million in arbitration. He’s someone I’d like to give a 1 + option year contract too. If there’s competition for him, maybe $6 million + $7.5 million in 2022 is enough?

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    Your premise on the article is the player that was non-tendered will sign for the expected arbitration value.  The problem is that is why they were non-tendered because the team did not want to pay that value for the output as stated.  However, it is likely they will not sign for that value and it will be at the reduced price that teams believe they are worth.  Eddie will not get 10 mil from any team no way shape or form.  But he will be offered something.


    If you can get a player for the right price who cares if they were non-tendered or not.  This years non-tender list is larger than normal too based on the COVID questions of revenue.  Unlike in basketball where players will lose money if league does, in baseball all the risk of loss of money is on the owners, so they have to plan ahead and reduce risk of loss prior to season.  

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    Great article.  I agree that's it's hard to say "THIS" is what the twins should do when there are so many unknowns yet to be resolved.  

    #1 of those is "Will there be a Universal DH ?? "

    If there IS, it just got a LOT harder to sign Cruz.  If not, Cruz should be back in our lineup at about $12-million per year.  He's head and shoulders our BEST HITTER.

    If Cruz is NOT our DH then that means there IS a Universal DH and the Twins should be spending money on PITCHING.  In other words, If Cruz is not our DH we could sign any 2 of:  Hendricks, hand, Bradley, Soria.  Add Rogers and Duffey and Alcala and THAT'S a Bullpen.

    A guy like Dahl has always intrigued me.  His age, cost and potential scream "TAKE A CHANCE ON THIS GUY!!!"

    But---When you already have Kiriloff, Larnach and Rooker what are you going to do with Dahl ?  I know he played "some" CF in Colorado.  He would intrigue me as a potential LH bat to replace an injured Buxton or give Buck a rest against a tough RH pitcher (Bieber).

    I think one thing is clear to me:  The Twins are in a position to contend and the Terry Ryan philosophy should be out the window.  I want them to sign Bauer.  BAM!!  Elite starting rotation with a still powerful lineup.  

    But if that is not in the cards, trade Sano in a package to Tampa for Snell and put Kiriloff at 1B.

    Sign someone like Hendricks to be our closer.  This would give us a proven, elite closer while also hedging our bets on Taylor Rogers.  If he comes back strong our bullpen is even MORE awesome (along with a SP rotation of Maeda, Snell, Berrios, Rich Hill--yes Rich Hill, and Dobnak).

    There is literally 100 different ways the Twins could go.  I want Cruz back in our lineup.  But if that doesn't happen for some reason they need to turn on a dime and make some impact signings and trades.  

    The window is open.  


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    Warning !    Warning !!  

    Maybe snub in above comment !!!


    I left out Pineda from the starting rotation. He would replace Rich Hill who I would still consider bring back at affordable price.  Yes, he will get hurt at some time (maybe a couple times) but he's a solid pitcher who gives you quality innings when he's healthy.  

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