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  • Offseason Status Update: 40-Man Shuffling, Missed Opportunities


    Nick Nelson

    The Minnesota Twins have yet to make any significant additions this offseason, but that's not to say the league as a whole has been standing still. 

    As we await an impending lockout, let's get up to speed on the state of the Twins, recapping the latest roster moves, an unpopular retention decision, and key pitching targets coming off the board. 

    Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA Today

    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.

    IN:

    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.

    OUT:

    These moves leave the 40-man roster full, with 17 position players and 23 pitchers. Here's the makeup as it currently stands.

    40man112121.png

    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:

    rosterpayroll112121.png

    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:

    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.

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    Happy Thanksgiving.  We are in the season where we are glad we once had Cruz, Pressly and Berrios, where LaMonte Wade was one of our bench players, Akil and Wells were in our system. We have had a lot of good players to celebrate and two really good years.  Now the weather and the roster look bleak.  So do we get Christmas Cheer or wait until the end of the winter and sign a Cron or a disgruntled Lynn?  Please FO give us something as we snap the wishbone.  

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    I agree 100% with Ace Wrigley and have been thinking about Clint Frazier being released by the Yankees ever since rumors were swirling that it might happen.  Why our FO felt the need to "lock up" Cave when a player of Frazier's potential would eventually become available is mind numbing.  Personally, I believe the Yanks are giving up on Frazier too soon.  It's a classic case in the Big Apple of just churning thru players far too quickly.  Frazier has 30-HR potential and is capable of playing at least as good a CF as Cave.  He would be a PERFECT buy low candidate for the Twins as a 4th OF'er who COULD end up as your starting LF'er and possible backup for Buxton.  My question beyond Cave is this:  What are Falvey&Levine waiting for ?? Sign Frazier and either dump Cave  (unlikely now) or Thorpe.  I'm tired of the bargain bin diving, but Frazier is JUST the type of gamble this team needs to take with a pitching staff in shambles.   

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    As Yogi would say, this is deja vu all over again. 

    Resigning Cave has me wondering if Falvine have any brains at all. WAYYYYYYY too many better options out there for a 4th outfielder than Cave. I'd take Frazier or Goodrum over Caveman anyday. Makes me wonder since they gave up a good prospect in Luis Gil for him if they feel the need to give him extra chances to prove they didn't really make a bad trade, as it looks now. This FO needs to stop looking at the player production from 2018 and 2019 and focus on what their players are giving them now and make decisions based on that. 

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    I think I'd rather see Gordon out there than Cave .LOL. There are so many other outfielders that are able to be 4th and can play CF that are sitting on benches or in the minors I still don't see the need to sign Cave at this point. Its not like a bunch of other teams are chomping at the bit waiting to sign him.

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    3 hours ago, old nurse said:

    Chicken Little articles before Thanksgiving,  Months to go before the season starts. As Morrison once said “We want the world and we want it now”

    Chicken Little had no prior history to go off of for his pronoucement of doom.  We Twins fans have plenty of history (and recent) to support this position.  

    Well written Nick!

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    As always, Great article Nick.  I don't understand the Cave signing at all.  But to me it looks like another indication that payroll is going to be slashed.  The off seasons are always frustrating for Twins fans.  Just like the prospects we get, a lot of hype but not much substance.  They have been in a classic payroll reduction since last spring with their moves.  As for a potential lockdown I say: "shame on you" players and owners.  Any work stoppage involving billionaire owners and multi millionaire players will only alienate more people from an already dwindling fan base.

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    Feels like much ado about nothing with Cave. He's easily cuttable. They didn't give him 10M or something. I don't like him and have no problem with people preferring they had just released him, but lets not make this out to be more than it is. Less than $1M to a 4th outfielder they'll cut immediately if/when they find a better option.

    Now on to the other players being thrown around as preferable over Cave. Yes, Castellanos and Canha are far better options, but, again, Cave signed for 800K, those 2 are getting way, way, way more than that. They're not the same type of signing. It's like saying "why did we extend Kepler? I would've signed Bryce Harper over Kepler." Yes, Bryce is far better, but they're not comparable signings.

    Clint Frazier can't play CF. We need to stop that talk right now. I don't like Cave in center, but Frazier is a Rooker-esque corner outfielder. As in one of the worst defenders in all of baseball. In fact, Rooker may be the best comp for Frazier there is on the Twins right now. Better contact skills, but he's a power corner bat who's a negative asset in the field. I wouldn't be upset with bringing him in, or even him replacing Cave, but lets not make him out to be what he isn't. He's a terrible fielder. I'd take him over Cave because I'd use Gordon in CF before I'd use Cave. But I'd never use Frazier there. 

    But let's pump the brakes on the Cave rage. He's my least favorite Twin right now, and I don't think he plays a role on a contending team, but it's not even Thanksgiving yet, and he's on an incredibly releasable 1 year contract.

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    5 hours ago, old nurse said:

    Chicken Little articles before Thanksgiving,  Months to go before the season starts. As Morrison once said “We want the world and we want it now”

    I think that's easy to understand when other fans are getting it now.

    Waiting things out mean you get the guys who will meet your asking price, where as being aggressive means you get the guys you want most.

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    22 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

    Feels like much ado about nothing with Cave. He's easily cuttable. They didn't give him 10M or something. I don't like him and have no problem with people preferring they had just released him, but lets not make this out to be more than it is. Less than $1M to a 4th outfielder they'll cut immediately if/when they find a better option.

    As mentioned, I understand they can do this. But might you name some examples of past players they tendered arbitration contracts and then cut in spring training (or before)? I'm having a hard time thinking of a single one. Let's not act like it's a common occurrence.

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    5 hours ago, old nurse said:

    Chicken Little articles before Thanksgiving,  Months to go before the season starts. As Morrison once said “We want the world and we want it now”

    And guess what's going to be happening during those months? This comment seems entirely oblivious of the reality that is about to materialize. It would be nice to have any semblance of good news or encouragement before the baseball world shuts down completely.  

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    1 hour ago, insagt1 said:

    For heaven sakes..make extending Buxton a priority and move on. Do what it takes. Period

    What if it takes 500 mil over 10 years? What if that is the only offer he will sign?  Would you agree to that?  I mean I know that is unlikely but you said do what it takes period. 

    I personally do not understand people's obsession with extending him no matter what.  We basically have played every year of his career without him for at least half the season.  If we extend him, we need to sign a backup CF for when he will be injured. 

    I am not saying do not sign him, but do not overpay for someone that will be injured half the time at minimum.  The fact that he has had head issues concussion and migraines, that always concerns me because they can end a career without even a contact injury sometimes.   

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    9 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

    As mentioned, I understand they can do this. But might you name some examples of past players they tendered arbitration contracts and then cut in spring training (or before)? I'm having a hard time thinking of a single one. Let's not act like it's a common occurrence.

    Was there arbitration extended, or did they just sign him forgoing arbitration?  How often is a guy signing less than 1 million in arbitration?  I bet if you look at those signings you will find the likely of being cut goes way up.  I doubt they will be tied to him this year if they feel there is an upgrade out there.  Will he be first of the 40 man, most likely not, but not like they are married to him. 

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    51 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

    As mentioned, I understand they can do this. But might you name some examples of past players they tendered arbitration contracts and then cut in spring training (or before)? I'm having a hard time thinking of a single one. Let's not act like it's a common occurrence.

    Definitely not, but the Twins rarely have this much uncertainty in the OF either. I think the fact that the Twins are paying him LESS than what he would have gotten in arbitration makes it more likely they'd eat his salary once the Buxton situation is resolved one way or another.

    I mean the fact that they already agreed to a reduced salary seems to indicate the Twins already threatened cutting him once. And it's a nice compromise for Cave; even if later he only latches on with a MiLB deal, he still gets minimum 800K to play the Twins safety net for a few months.

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    Out of the lefty trio of Smeltzer, Thorpe and Barnes, I half expected Barnes to be the one still standing. Hopefully Thorpe is healded, otherwise I question why. Although not sure I see Thorpe as a rotation arm anymore. Still could see Smeltzer as a starter possibility, but maybe it was a good time to give up on him. And Barnes...who knows. Be interesting to see final locales for all of them come spring training.

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    1 hour ago, Nick Nelson said:

    And guess what's going to be happening during those months? This comment seems entirely oblivious of the reality that is about to materialize. It would be nice to have any semblance of good news or encouragement before the baseball world shuts down completely.  

    What is about to materialize? IDK and neither does anyone else. 2 arms coming off injury signed. Rodriguez is quality pitching. The need is for higher than that….

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    2 hours ago, nicksaviking said:

    I think that's easy to understand when other fans are getting it now.

    Waiting things out mean you get the guys who will meet your asking price, where as being aggressive means you get the guys you want most.

    3 pitchers signed, One to the team he played for, one on a one year build value contract. Neither will anchor the team.

    Two play a waiting game The teams and the players,. The Rodriguez signing shows that either he wanted to play in Detroit or the market is not going to be as high as people seem to think. The latter may be confirmed by what Berrios signed for. If the market is not going to be as hot the players will wait.

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