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  • Three-Bagger: Pineda, B-Squad & Romero

    Nick Nelson

    It's been a long time since we've circled the bases with a Three-Bagger, which explores three different Twins stories in the news.


    As Spring Training 2.0 swings into gear, let's unpack a quirk in the timing of Michael Pineda's return, the implications of top prospects playing just minutes away from Target Field, and the saddening uncertainty surrounding Fernando Romero.

    Image courtesy of David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports (Alex Kirilloff)

    Michael Pineda: It's Just Like Making a Trade!


    During the latest episode of Gleeman and the Geek, Aaron and John made a connection that I hadn't noticed: the conclusion of Pineda's carryover suspension will coincide almost exactly with MLB's rejiggered August 31st trade deadline. This brings to mind the classic utterance for Twins fans, "It's just like making a trade!" – often used to mock the team for sitting out deadlines, and pointing to players returning from injuries as impact additions.


    Interestingly, as Patrick Wozniak wrote here last week, this is basically a script-flip on the original plan for Rich Hill, who was supposed to join the fold around the standard deadline and negate a possible need for the team. Now, the veteran lefty is expected to be ready to go from Day 1.


    By being forced to serve his full remaining suspension in a shortened year, Pineda is getting a raw deal. It's almost hard to believe the league would stick to such a penalty, and that explains why reporters keep getting asked about it over and over again. Just doesn't make sense. Alas, the Twins are almost guaranteed to get one big addition around the strange new deadline.


    Twins Across the Twin Cities


    On Monday, the Twins shared publicly their 60-man player pool, which includes the entire 40-man roster plus 19 non-roster players. As expected, the discretionary "taxi squad" list is filled mostly with experienced minor-leaguers, along with a handful of top prospects.




    I gotta say that all this talk about "Summer Camp" and pools is not helping with me normal summer FOMO, but I digress. It's exciting to see all these names and to think about the possibility of young talents like Trevor Larnach or Brent Rooker making an impact. (Cody Christie wrote about the chances of various top prospects to reach the majors in 2020.)


    It's quite interesting to me that the auxiliary group will be based out of CHS Field in St. Paul, just miles away from Target Field. I've always thought it would be fun to have a minor-league team in the same vicinity as the big-league club, giving fans an opportunity to see upcoming talent without traveling. (Red Sox fans, for example, need drive only 40 minutes or so to see their Triple-A team in Pawtucket.) That won't really be in play this summer, obviously, but it's cool that Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff and other premier upcoming prospects will be staying sharp so nearby.


    On that note, I'm very curious: what is "staying sharp" going to look like? In order to be ready to step into legitimate major-league action on short notice – not to mention simply develop skills appropriately throughout the season – these extra players need to be routinely competing at a very high level, which exceeds the typical intrasquad scrimmage or sim game. What will that look like? Games? Stats? Will there be coverage? I have no doubt there'll be appetite for it.


    Wherefore Art Thou, Romero?


    One player who, like Pineda, is on the team's summer roster but currently unavailable: Fernando Romero, also on restricted list. In this case, though, the underlying reason is unclear. Romero didn't report to camp in March due to visa issues, and those issues evidently haven't been resolved.


    To my knowledge, there still haven't been any details reported on exactly what's going on here. I suppose it would make sense if the visa application system is currently bogged down and out of whack due to everything going on. Hopefully that's the case, and Romero isn't embroiled in something serious. Either way, it's a really tough situation for a guy at a key spot in his career. Romero was set to exhaust his final MLB option in 2020. At this point, you've really gotta wonder if we are going to see him pitch again in a Minnesota uniform.


    The former No. 1 Twins Daily prospect and forgotten flamethrower averaged 97 MPH with his fastball in the majors last year, ranking in the 95th percentile among all pitchers.



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    1] Pineda: Yes, it's like have g a trade acquisition and a flip of he and Hill had it been a normal season. I also have real concerns about Pineda's situation, but have spoken at length about it months ago, and in a recent Forum piece I started, so will leave it alone here.


    2] Reserve Roster: I'm sure the Twins have a smart plan in place and I'm also very curious as to what that may involve. A couple days ago I proposed an idea of a 5 1/2 day week to establish preparedness, development and "normalcy". 3 days of simulated play, 2 days of side work, 1/2 day for meetings and video with optional extra work here and there, probably Saturday, with the rest of that day and Sunday off.


    3] Romero: This is just weird. Does he not want to play? Did he not stay up on things? Is there just something going on we are not privy to that is restricting his visa? I'd really like to know. I think he could still have a future, but his future is passing him by for whatever reason. And that would be a shame.


    4] 60 Man Roster: I'd still like some clarication here if anyone has it. It is my understanding that the 60 man roster can change, meaning guys can be let go and replaced. But is that only before the season starts? Only due to situations like trades? The whole purpose of the 60 man roster is for depth due to injury or illness, right? So I'm guessing you can't replace/add anyone due to those circumstances. Or can you but that player is now waived?


    I'd really like to understand this part better because I have a hunch a guy or two might be let go after ST 2.0 in favor of a prospect not yet on the 60 man.

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    I guess it's alright to have the auxiliary group based out of CHS. I'm just hoping it doesn't mean the St. Paul Saints are punting on the possibility of Saints games at CHS this season. Their public communication so far is that they will get back to playing games at CHS asap.


    Derek Falvey noted today that they are preparing for scenarios in which the Saints return to CHS Field this season. The Twins would continue to use the ballpark, just at a different time. 

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    First, Pineda situation is not as simple as some would like it to be, see my response in Doc's forum.  Romero, until I hear more I am just going to assume the fact it has not resolved is based on the COVID situation and essential government shut down of things like that.  I had sent in passport application February, told end of April would be when I would get it.  It did not come until end of June.  I am sure the Visa situation is not something the government is trying to get done quickly, as they have been banning travel from all kinds of places anyways.


    As for the 60 man roster, it is much of what I was expecting.  I would still like to know if the COVID list will allow someone to join 40 man.  I would hate to see Buxton go down with injury then have the one or two viable backups have COVID for period of time and we cannot put a replacement on team.  As much as I want baseball back, this will be an interesting season.  

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    I think I see a poor Pineda post almost daily, but it is not something that bothers me.  He was suspended, that is a fact, he has to deal with it and so does the team.  I do not think it is really a terrible crisis.


    Romero is one of those really frustrating baseball stories.  He looked so good, then the team decided to shift him from starter to reliever (like putting a 3B in RF) and it did not work.  He never seemed to regain his equilibrium and now it appears that there are some very extenuating circumstances that will impact his career.


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    I think the primary focus for the guys working out of CHS Field needs to be keeping them all healthy. Those guys are around for insurance, can't afford to not have them available if needed.


    I'd divide up that group into multiple units and make every effort possible to keep them from mingling with one another. That way hopefully any COVID outbreak is limited to just a portion of your reserve players instead of the whole pool.


    Since media is expected to be restricted for the big league games I can't imagine there will be much, if any coverage of what's going on at CHS Field.

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    I think I see a poor Pineda post almost daily, but it is not something that bothers me.  He was suspended, that is a fact, he has to deal with it and so does the team.  I do not think it is really a terrible crisis.


     I agree with you that it isn't a crisis mostly due to the bizarre schedule & situation we are entering. Two thirds of our games will be against KC, DET, CHW & CLE. Maybe the Tribe remains competitive, maybe the Chisox pull it together and contend, and maybe the pundits will be right when they say the Twins have the most patty-cake schedule in all of MLB, in a sprint, not a marathon.


    Even the Brewers, Cards, Cubs, and maybe Reds will have deeper competition. The coastal teams/media/fans whose teams have to face the Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Rays, Braves, Nats, Phils, etc., are going to have a legitimate gripe when it comes time to weight the playoffs based on these records.


    So I agree that not having Pineda for roughly 2/3rds of the season isn't a terrible crisis. 


    What's fascinating is how this plays out, including the new restrictions on replacing relievers. Quality depth in pitching may well soon matter much more than it usually does. What's a regular season's worth of IP, somewhere between 1400 and 1500 innings, on average? 


    Teams usually need those middle relievers to soak up the long season.  Games in extra innings now begin with a runner sprinter on 2nd. Unlikely to have many games going deep into extra innings, which innings stretch out the wear & tear for a single win.


    I haven't seen the schedules yet, but I heard some talk of doubleheaders. Even more compact.


    It's just a hunch, but this schedule may place a much higher premium on quality now that the quantity of innings won't happen.  Yeah, if we can't dominate the ALC, we won't deserve the playoffs. And a rested Pineda might be a very nice thing this autumn.


    But aside from the uniqueness of the 2020 schedule, and how it works for the Twins, depth of above average pitching may be a big part of the 2020 MLB sprint to the MLB owners' playoffs *ka-ching* payoff.  

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    3] Romero: This is just weird. Does he not want to play? Did he not stay up on things? Is there just something going on we are not privy to that is restricting his visa? I'd really like to know. I think he could still have a future, but his future is passing him by for whatever reason. And that would be a shame.

    Trump issued a no new visa order on about April 21, and expanded it last Monday.  This wouldn't apply to most baseball players because they have a pre-existing visa (and maybe for other reasons as well).  But if Romero violated his visa and has to get a new one, he might fall into the no new visa order.  Having said that, I know that there are some exceptions to the order but I'm not an immigration attorney and don't know what they are.  Or maybe this has nothing to do with it.

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