Twins Protect Prospects, Fill 40-Man Roster
Last Friday marked the deadline for teams to add players to their 40-man rosters in order to block them from being claimed in the Rule 5 draft. Minnesota elected to protect six prospects.
- Royce Lewis, SS
- Jose Miranda, 3B
- Josh Winder, RHP
- Cole Sands, RHP
- Blayne Enlow, RHP
- Chris Vallimont, RHP
While the first four adds above were essentially considered locks, the Twins went the extra mile by adding Enlow (recovering from Tommy John surgery) and Vallimont (24-year-old with no success yet above Single-A). After getting burned on the loss of Akil Baddoo last year, it seems Minnesota wanted to take no undue risks this time around, especially when it comes to their critical minor-league pitching depth.
In order to facilitate this wave of additions, the team also cleared room by offloading four players.
- Devin Smeltzer, LHP (Outrighted)
- Kyle Garlick, OF (Outrighted)
- Charlie Barnes, LHP (DFA)
- Willians Astudillo, UTIL (DFA)
These moves leave the 40-man roster full, with 17 position players and 23 pitchers. Here's the makeup as it currently stands.
From here on out, the Twins will need to remove a player and risk losing him for each new addition. Any of Danny Coulombe, Ralph Garza Jr., Juan Minaya, Cody Stashak, Drew Strotman, and Lewis Thorpe could be on the chopping block. It's hard to envision any more drops on the positional side (barring trades), after one clear candidate got himself a controversial new contract for 2022.
Cave Lands Deal for 2022
It was widely expected the Twins would move on from Jake Cave this offseason. He produced a total of 0.2 fWAR in 118 games over the past two seasons, his performance progressively worsening. Alas, the team agreed to terms with him Friday on a one-year, $800K contract.
It's a bit less than Cave was projected to earn in arbitration this winter, but still could hardly be considered much of a value, considering how awful his play has been. My read on this is that the Twins are simply trying to preserve some experienced outfield depth, with both Byron Buxton and Max Kepler ranking among their most likely players to be traded this offseason. Still, Jake Cave?
It bears noting that arbitration contracts are not guaranteed. The Twins can still cut Cave before the next season starts while shedding most of his salary commitment. That rarely happens, but it may be somewhat more likely in this case given the circumstances.
Here's a look at the updated 2022 roster and payroll projection, with Cave (for now) penciled in as fourth outfielder:
Rotation Options Fly Off the Free Agency Board
Free agent starters Noah Syndergaard, Justin Verlander and Eduardo Rodriguez have all signed with aspiring 2022 contenders from the American League. None of those teams are the Twins.
Detroit made an emphatic statement about its status as a reborn legit player in the AL Central, signing Rodriguez to a five-year, $77 million contract. Not only is E-Rod a quality arm added atop a talented young Tigers rotation, but he was also one of the more realistic high-end starter targets for the Twins. (Though they reportedly were not in on him.)
Syndergaard got a one-year, $21.5 million contract from the Angels, while Verlander re-signed with Houston on a one-year deal worth $25 million, plus a 2023 player option. It's likely that neither of these ace-caliber hurlers had much interest in signing with the reigning last-place finishers in the Central, but those kinds of short-term commitments are in the wheelhouse of the flexibility-focused Twins.
With that trio off the board, here's what remains at the top end of the free agent starting pitching market (* denotes QO and draft pick compensation):
- Max Scherzer, RHP
- Kevin Gausman, RHP
- Robbie Ray, LHP*
- Marcus Stroman, RHP
- Clayton Kershaw, LHP
- Carlos Rodón, LHP
- Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
- Steven Matz, LHP
- Zack Greinke, RHP
- Alex Cobb, RHP
- Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
- Jon Gray, RHP
- Alex Wood, LHP
Still plenty of quantity out there, but if the Twins want to score a name from this list they might want to act quickly, because other clubs aren't wasting time. One lower-level name also came off the board on Sunday when José Quintana signed with the Pirates for $2 million.
Winter of Discontent?
We all knew this was likely to be an unusual offseason, given the looming labor strife. Plenty of organizations seem to be biding their time. The Twins front office, especially, has had a habit of waiting out the market and treating patience as an asset, so their general lack of activity comes as no big surprise.
With that said, the early events of this offseason have done nothing but fuel the sour vibes of frustrated fans who are eager for a turnaround, and a showing of intention. Since wrapping up one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history, here's what we've witnessed:
- Three top free agent starters signing with other teams, including one with a division rival.
- An unpopular player in Cave re-signing for 2022.
- José Berríos signing a long-term extension with Toronto, and more or less indicating that his prior dedication to reaching free agency was largely due to Minnesota never making an offer that seriously tempted him.
- Reports of Buxton negotiations inexplicably remaining fruitless despite the apparent presence of a reasonable framework, with a trade considered likely.
None of these are necessarily unforgivable offenses on their own (the Buxton thing might be, if it plays out like it's trending). But they all feed into negative narratives around the Twins: a team that is unwilling to do what it takes to keep premier homegrown talent, or to sign high-end free agent pitching. A team that's overly committed to perceived "bargains," and maintaining the status quo rather than taking bold action.
There's time to turn the tides on these narratives yet, but if the Twins stand still until the CBA expires midway through next week, they're staring down the prospect of letting this sourness and discontent fester through an extended lockout, which will already be alienating enough for fans on its own.
If that's the case, well... good luck with those season ticket sales.