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  • Offseason Blueprint: A Two Area Focus


    Ted Schwerzler

    The Minnesota Twins flopped in 2021, and it was primarily due to a lack of performance from those expected to contribute. There were injuries as well, but the hope is that development promotes production in 2022. Needing to add, this blueprint focuses almost entirely on two areas.

    Image courtesy of Andy Marlin, USA TODAY Sports

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    If there’s something the Twins need to address, it’s pitching. There’s no denying that a rotation with just two current arms needs a severe jolt. Dealing Jose Berrios and watching Kenta Maeda go under the knife leaves the group on life support. No matter Minnesota’s intended direction for the year ahead, stockpiling pitching assets for the future is beyond necessary.

    With that in mind, let’s start the spending in a big way. The front office hands out another $100 million contract, this time to Marcus Stroman, over five years. Stroman will be 31 in 2022 and has been as consistent as they come throughout his career. His 3.63 ERA is solid, and while he’s not a strikeout pitcher, he limits damage by forcing hitters to get themselves out on the ground. The career 0.8 HR/9 rate is solid, and he walks just over two per nine. Stroman has been both durable and reliable. While he may not have the top-tier stuff of a traditional ace, this is a guy you can be confident in each time you hand him the ball. A caveat here is that Stroman will be most effective with a strong infield defense behind him.

    Dropping down a rung, a second arm joins the rotation in the form of Jon Gray. Former Rockies first-round pick Gray is entering free agency with no draft pick compensation tied to him. This seems like a misstep by Colorado but is a place where the Twins can capitalize. Gray has strikeout stuff, and while he doesn’t induce much in the form of chasing, the big righty blows it by opposing hitters. Gray has a plus-slider and could be further unlocked with a diminishing home run rate, leaving Coors Field's elevation permanently. A three or four-year deal around $10 million annually seems like a pretty fair pact.

    Rounding out the rotation additions requires a swap with a team open for business. The Cincinnati Reds appear determined to tear it all down, and that’s a party Minnesota should invite themselves to. While Luis Castillo is the big pitching prize there, I’d prefer seeing them hang onto the assets a swap like that would need to part with. Instead, Tyler Mahle draws my attention. He’s just 27-years-old and isn’t a free agent until 2024. Mahle owns a 3.72 ERA and 10.7 K/9 the past two seasons. You’d like to see him get the walks down and allow a few less homers, but there’s plenty to work with here. If you can make this trade by giving up Jhoan Duran, Cole Sands, and Alerick Soularie, I think you have to consider that.

    Before flipping it over to the offense, we will spend just over one million on a bullpen addition, right-handed veteran Greg Holland The former Kansas City Royals arm has had up and down seasons since 2017. He’s often rebounded following a poor showing, and the upswing would be scheduled for 2022. It’s entirely fair to assume he may be cooked, but the velocity and effectiveness have remained essentially unchanged over the past few seasons. He walked too many batters and got burned by the long ball last season, but a few command tweaks could have him back on track. He’d be a veteran arm with little cost that could shore up a bullpen largely reliant on internal talent. If things go belly up, the hope would be that an internal depth piece has stepped up out of the gate.

    I’m mainly gambling on holdovers such as Juan Minaya and Ralph Garza Jr. being enough to round out the stable when it comes to relievers. Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey need to be the horses, and Jorge Alcala continuing to look like he did down the stretch is a must.

    The final considerable expense comes at the other position needing serious help, shortstop. Jorge Polanco has established himself as a solid second baseman and needs to stay there. Much will be told about the belief and direction of Minnesota’s future with how the front office handles this role over the winter. A one-year deal means Royce Lewis or Austin Martin could be the next option. A long-term deal suggests uncertainty about an heir from within and may dictate how a Byron Buxton extension is handled (though that, too, should be a part of this offseason’s tasks).

    If there’s a shortstop in this class that looks for a strong one-year deal before cashing in, I think it’s former Cub, Javier Baez. He posted a strong .886 OPS with the Mets down the stretch, but I still think he could do better coming off a complete season of production. Giving him just north of $20 million for a year gets him paid and allows Minnesota flexibility over what they’d like to do with the roster in another offseason. He’s a great defender and brings a bat at the position that most organizations could only dream on.

    With the dust beginning to settle, you can see that the vast majority of open opportunities fall on guys already in the organization. Brent Rooker is your de facto designated hitter, with Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff making the Opening Day roster. Jose Miranda is a utility guy, and Luis Arraez joins him. If you don’t like the prognosis of a lineup mainly filled with internal talent, then it’s hard to have expected much out of 2021, either. Kirilloff and Larnach have been expected to make the leap. Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Polanco, and Buxton are supposed to carry the water. Miguel Sano can be there in bursts, and emerging talents like Miranda can step in as well. A complete lineup overhaul would represent a teardown, and doing so would be an admittance of failed development for this core.

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    Coming off lackluster results and being stuck between what was and what is to come leaves this offseason as one of the most important this front office has ever faced. We’re in for some answers, and it should be a wild ride. Get pitching. Get a shortstop. Let the chips fall where they may.

    I'd love to hear your thoughts on this potential offseason. Please share in the comments below. 

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    You have some interesting ideas in this blueprint. I would take the first two pitchers but pass on the 3rd. Those you suggest giving up have the potential to be what you are gaining. Duran and Sands have good potential and I would keep them. I know you have to give up something to get something, but I'm not sure that this has the positive outcome that makes the trade worthwhile. 

    I'm not sure that I like Holland. But at his price it's fine to give him a try. He fits in with the type of relief pictures that this front office has been signing the last 2 years. 

    Shortstop is going to be a challenge. If we were to lose Byron Buxton, we would have center field shortstop and starting pitcher as our needs. That is basically the heart of any team all the rest are pieces that go around that core. We're either going to get really lucky with player development or we're going to spend a lot of money if we truly want to stay competitive. One of the things that worries me is that we might become one of those middle of the road teams which isn't quite good enough to win it all but isn't so bad that you want to give up on them. 

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    I still maintain, and will continue to maintain that the Twins CAN and SHOULD compete in the A.L. Central in 2022.  The task is a tall one.  We have basically two rookies in our starting rotation who will be on innings limits.  This means the Twins will need to build almost an entire starting rotation.  But with targeted FA signings and trades should be able to accomplish the task.  The way I see it, if this front office fails to do this, we're looking at a very LONG and painful 2022 baseball season in Minnesota and the Pohlad's will lose a ton of money as 4,000-6,000 fans show up on a regular basis.  We were just division champs in 2019 & 2020.  The A.L. Central, while an improving division, is never going to boast one team with 107 regular season wins and another with 106.  We CAN and SHOULD be able to compete.  I would have a few nitpicks (I'm not very jazzed about Holland either) but on the whole, this plans at least seeks to address our major areas of need. 

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    1 hour ago, TopGunn#22 said:

    I still maintain, and will continue to maintain that the Twins CAN and SHOULD compete in the A.L. Central in 2022.  The task is a tall one.  We have basically two rookies in our starting rotation who will be on innings limits.  This means the Twins will need to build almost an entire starting rotation.  But with targeted FA signings and trades should be able to accomplish the task.  The way I see it, if this front office fails to do this, we're looking at a very LONG and painful 2022 baseball season in Minnesota and the Pohlad's will lose a ton of money as 4,000-6,000 fans show up on a regular basis.  We were just division champs in 2019 & 2020.  The A.L. Central, while an improving division, is never going to boast one team with 107 regular season wins and another with 106.  We CAN and SHOULD be able to compete.  I would have a few nitpicks (I'm not very jazzed about Holland either) but on the whole, this plans at least seeks to address our major areas of need. 

    Would love to see examples of average revenue teams that have pulled off a similar plan.  Would also see what that plan actually looks like in terms of payroll and what you would have to trade away to acquire this much talent in one off-season. 

    If this is feasible, shouldn't the Reds, Cardinals, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, Angels, Tigers, and Guardians also  make similar transformations.  What about the Dodgers and Astros?  They both have almost $90M coming off the books.  The Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays are all coming off 90+ win seasons.  Shouldn't they be adding pieces?  This does not leave too many teams to trade with and the teams that are at the very bottom are not exactly load with talent.

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    I would more politely agree that the FA prices here are too low.  Stroman is at least 5M short, probably more.  Gray is 5M short.  I think Baez is 5M short.  That puts this closer to 155M, which should still be in the realm of possibility IMO.

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    Ted, we agree on Stroman and Gray and I have the 2 of them heading my 2022 rotation. I do have Gray for a higher $AAV but happy to drop down to $10M from $12-14M. We differ on the #3 option, however. While Mahle is a fine young arm, your proposal trades away a couple young arms that might be as good and ready as early as this season. And you do so for only 2yrs of control. Not a bad idea, but why not Cobb or Pineda on a 1yr or 1+1  deal to solidify the rotation and provide opportunity for the young arms nearly ready?

    I like the Holland idea as a cheap flier with rebound upside. But there are 3 or 4 arms I like and feel safer about for another few $M and I think I'd go that route to better secure the back end of the pen.

    Baez would be awesome. I'd love it! But it means keeping the bullpen add and 3rd SP at low cost and that's where I'm going to disagree with Baez coming on board.

    I think Stoman should sign for $18-20M. But it's going to take $22-23M IMO to get it done. And Gray has been good enough, is young enough, and still has some upside I think he's going to be $12-14M. I hope I'm wrong, but that's how I see it playing out.

    That's why I look at a filler SS that is a solid player and a better addition to the pen. Even then, the payroll is pushing for the extra 10% that I'm calling for with butts in the seats, 2020 behind us, and the FO saying they intend to be competitive. $140M-ish payroll is well within the financial parameters the Twins have spent in recent years, and fits comments made by the FO that they are looking at keeping payroll within recent parameters. And the only long term $ they are committing is to a couple quality rotation arms. Those two commitments should in no way handicap the near future.

    I just don't see a fit for Baez, or any other top FA SS, unless A] The Twins bump payroll to $150M, OR B] The Twins can actually, successfully, lower obligated payroll with a move of Donaldson and maybe Sano. Then, you MIGHT have room to add a top SS FA. Even then, it might take some  combination of BOTH A AND B to get it done.

    I think the offense, and offensive potential is good to great.. I think the defense has a chance to be pretty solid as well. I think the team can compete as long as the staff is SOLID and the pen is SOLID. Neither has to be GREAT. But both have to be SOLID.

    Wish there was an easy/smart/lucky way for the rotation to be re-tooled and the pen have at least ONE solid addition and still leave room for one of those top FA SS. I just don't see it.

     

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