Here's a look at how the 2021 Minnesota Twins roster and payroll are shaping up, as spring training bears down upon us.
The $124 million payroll estimate above is merely a baseline – with reachable performance incentives added in (mainly Kenta Maeda's), the Twins will probably be well north of $130 million. It'd be the highest payroll in franchise history, although they were on track to spend more than $140 million last year before the season was shortened.
Are they done? That's not entirely clear. But the 40-man roster is full, and the team is looking pretty complete. Here are some updates and things to watch as we wait for the Lee County Sports Complex to soon spring to life.
IF THE SHOEMAKER FITS...
The Twins have dropped plenty of hints that they were monitoring the starting pitcher market, seeking a reasonably-priced veteran to come in and compete with Randy Dobnak for the fifth rotation job. On Monday, they got their guy, agreeing to terms with 34-year-old right-hander Matt Shoemaker on a one-year deal worth $2 million.
Shoemaker has much to prove on the health front, having thrown just 166 innings combined over the past four years due to various injuries. But as Andrew Thares pointed out ahead of the signing, Shoemaker saw a big spike in velocity last year and there are some signs his pitch mix can be further optimized by the Twins.
Plus, the righty ended last year in good shape physically, and even got the nod in Game 1 of the postseason for Toronto last year, firing three shutout innings against the Rays.
The presence of a perfectly dependable fallback option in Dobnak gave Minnesota the chance to gamble a bit in their final rotation spot. While some might have liked to see a higher-upside play such as James Paxton (who signed with Seattle last week for $8.5 million), Shoemaker can be a very strong fifth starter if healthy.
ROUNDING OUT THE RELIEF CORPS
In the days following their big free agency additions of Nelson Cruz and Alex Colomé, the Twins brought in a few more bullpen candidates, acquiring Shaun Anderson via trade and Ian Hamilton via waivers.
The latter might already be on his way out, as the Twins designated him for assignment just days after claiming him, making room for Colomé. If another organization snags him, it'll be Hamilton's fourth time switching places since last September. If not, the Twins can keep him around as quality non-roster bullpen depth, alongside fellow waiver pickup Brandon Waddell.
As for Anderson, it seems he is here to stay after the Twins acquired him from San Francisco in exchange for outfielder LaMonte Wade Jr.
Anderson boasts big stuff – an upper-80s slider and spin-heavy mid-90s fastball – but the challenge for Minnesota lies in helping him command it. I wrote here about a mid-August incident in 2020 where Anderson buzzed Mike Trout's tower three times in one week, leading to some on-field tension and infuriating Angels manager Joe Maddon.
If the Twins can help him reign in his intriguing stuff, Anderson could be a big addition to this bullpen. Will he make the Opening Day roster?
PROJECTING THE OPENING DAY BULLPEN
Last week I was joined by John Bonnes and David Youngs on Offseason Live to break down the bullpen picture and project the Opening Day setup. Together we tried to determine which relievers will be in the mix when the season starts, and what the pecking order might be.
Here's where we landed:
- Taylor Rogers
- Tyler Duffey
- Alex Colomé
- Hansel Robles
- Jorge Alcala
- Caleb Thielbar
- Cody Stashak
- Lewis Thorpe
At that time, we were under then impression that Thorpe was out of minor-league options, giving him an inside track for the long relief role. Dobnak was also still penciled in as the fifth starter.
With the revelation coming to light this week – via Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic – that Thorpe will get a rare fourth option year, the Twins are no longer obligated to carry him coming off a bad year. Meanwhile, Dobnak being supplanted from the rotation makes him the ideal fit for a long man/piggy-backing role, with which he's fairly familiar. Thus, we now have Dobnak as the eighth reliever in our roster projection, with Thorpe likely headed to St. Paul.
SPICING UP THE OUTFIELD
The Twins used another waiver claim last week to add outfielder Kyle Garlick, who effectively replaced the previous week's waiver claim, Hamilton. Garlick infuses helpful corner outfield depth, with Minnesota losing both Eddie Rosario and Marwin González, and his right-handedness adds some nice balance alongside Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Jake Cave, and Trevor Larnach.
Garlick hasn't had a ton of success in the majors (.691 OPS in 76 plate appearances), but he has slugged .553 against left-handed pitching, and he slashed .292/.364/.708 versus southpaws at Triple-A in 2019. Given how mightily the Twins struggled in this department last year, the decision to swap out a lefty swinger in Wade for a lefty masher in Garlick makes plenty of sense.
Since Garlick has an option, he seems likely to open in Triple-A barring injuries.
TWINS DONE MAKING BIG MOVES?
The Twins could arguably use further additions in the bullpen, but it sounds unlikely they've got any big bullets left to fire.
As Phil Miller reported in the Star Tribune, Derek Falvey indicated the the "heavy lifting is done" after the team committed nearly $40 million to Cruz, Colomé, Andrelton Simmons and J.A. Happ in the span of a few weeks.
"We'll have some other conversations about other potential guys as well as nonroster fits and others that will compete. But I feel really good about our pitching right now," Falvey said.
Miller understandably inferred this to mean that Jake Odorizzi is basically out of the picture, which seems all the more certain after Shoemaker's signing.
The 40-man roster is full and the payroll seems to be essentially maxed out. I'd be surprised if they sign anyone else to a big-league deal. That said, I still fully expect the Twins to bring in a few non-roster relievers.
Among the noteworthy names still unsigned:
- David Robertson, RHP
- Pedro Strop, RHP
- Ian Kennedy, RHP
- Tyler Clippard, RHP,
- Oliver Drake, RHP
- Brad Peacock, RHP
- Chaz Roe, RHP
- Brandon Workman, RHP
- Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
- A.J. Ramos, RHP
- Cam Bedrosian, RHP
Nobody on that list has particularly high stock at the moment, obviously, but there are plenty of legitimate names. I'd be thrilled to bring in a few of those guys on non-guaranteed contracts and get a good look at then. I'm sure the Twins would too.
But for now, with the preliminary list of non-roster invites announced and the first player player group reporting to camp on Friday, it's time to start getting familiar with the group we have. For the most part, this is probably it, and from my view it's a dang good roster.
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