If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to get stuck in patterns of familiar thinking when considering possible moves the Twins front office could make to fill a need. Let’s take shortstop as an example. The need is clear. Andrelton Simmons was incredibly limited in what he offered the Twins offensively in 2021. The dichotomy I jump to when considering shortstop next steps is this:
- Target a big-name free agent from the greatest-ever free agent shortstop class, a move doomed to failure OR
- I resign myself to the inevitable reunion with Simmons which will result in me not being savvy enough to recognize his defensive wizardry while screaming at my TV while he plays fruit ninja at home plate during each at-bat.
Neither is satisfactory.
It doesn’t have to be this way, however. One of the beauties of the off-season is considering creative possibilities. To escape the painful reverberation in the Twins twitter echo chamber in light of recent Byron Buxton-related developments, I decided to think through some outside-the-box options for the Twins to plug their shortstop-sized roster hole.
These moves are predicated on a simple, but important assumption:
The Twins are seeking a short-term solution. Whether because they don’t want to, or simply can’t, sign a big-name free agent, I’m going to assume the Twins long-term answer at shortstop is internal, be it Royce Lewis or someone else.
So who, or what, are some options we might not have considered?
Sign Chris Taylor to a 3 or 4 Year Deal
This isn’t exactly a secret. Taylor has been a popular, much-discussed option among Twins fandom this off-season. Let’s add to the context. Taylor has averaged 2.8 fWAR over the last five seasons. Impressive. Last season he played at least 20 games at four different positions (SS, 2B, LF, CF) and is solid defensively in all of them. The Twins have shown in recent seasons, that they have multiple cornerstones in their lineup who are extremely injury prone. This makes so much sense. The beauty of signing Taylor to a three or four-year deal, is if your shorstop of the future is Lewis and he’s ready, the Twins will undoubtedly have a role that needs to be filled with a strong hitter. Taylor isn’t a super-utility player, he’s just a super baseball player.
Trade for Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed
Nick Ahmed is and has been, one of the best defensive shortstops in the league for some time. In 2021, he massed 19 OAA (Outs Above Average), good for third in the league behind Nicky Lopez and Francisco Lindor and three better than Simmons. Lopez is not a strong hitter and has averaged around a 90 wRC+ for Arizona in the last four seasons (and averaged 1.25 fWAR in that same span). The Diamondback are going nowhere soon and Ahmed should be available at a pretty acceptable price. He will be a free agent in 2024, so if the Twins are confident that Royce Lewis is ready, he immediately becomes a defensively excellent utility infielder.
Trade for Tampa Bay Rays Infielder Joey Wendle
Joey Wendle is a curious case who doesn’t get much shine because he’s chronically under-utilized. In 2021, Wendle was called into action, playing over 130 games for the first time since 2018. He played at second base, but was primarily at shortstop and third. Wendle was 17th among all infielders in OAA with 8 on the season. Offensively, Wendle is no slouch either, amassing 2.6 fWAR and a 106 wRC+. Indeed, over his last five seasons, Wendle has averaged a 111wRC+. In three of those four, however, he’s played less than 80 games. Like Ahmed, Wendle isn’t a free agent until 2024 and would be an excellent fill-in at other infield positions if he was no longer needed as a primary shortstop.
Which of these options do you like most as a potential target for the Twins? What are other names do you like that have not been mentioned to fill needs on the Twins roster?