This offseason, the Minnesota Twins made six free agent signings and all of them (save for Nelson Cruz) blew up in their faces. The Minnesota Twins front office misfired badly and the losing season they are going through is the result. But what if things played out differently?
In a “hindsight is 20/20” thought exercise, let’s play out what the ideal version of the 2021 offseason would have looked like for the Minnesota Twins and see how the Twins front office could have best spent their offseason dollars.
In this thought exercise I am giving the Minnesota Twins the same budget as they spent in their actual offseason, which was approximately $41.75M. Additionally in this exercise, the Twins’ “ideal” offseason signings will need to be signed at a 20% increase over what they actually signed for in the offseason. This 20% increase would account for the the Twins prying away the players from the teams they actually signed with, making this a more realistic scenario of what could have been.
Are “what if” games pointless as they have no bearing in reality? Probably. Are they fun? You bet they are! So let’s run through these...
Actual Offseason signing: Nelson Cruz - 1 year, $13MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Nelson Cruz - 1 year, $13MM
The only of the six offseason signings from the Twins’ offseason that they would redo in our ideal version would be bringing back Nelson Cruz on a 1 year, $13MM deal. In his 214 plate appearances with the Minnesota Twins this season, Cruz posted a .907 OPS, which led the team and was third-best in baseball after Shohei Ohtani and J.D. Martinez. The Twins had a clear need at designated hitter and opted to fill that slot with Cruz which was the right choice, which is why the Twins would make that same move again, if they knew then what they know now.
Actual offseason signing: Andrelton Simmons - 1 year, $10.5MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Kolten Wong - 2 year, $21.6MM
After Nelson Cruz, the Andrelton Simmons signing was the largest investment that the Minnesota Twins made last offseason. The thought was that Simmons’ bat would play well enough and that his glove would completely transform the team. While his glove has been solid (though not spectacular), Simmons is having one of the worst offensive seasons in team history, with his OPS of .565. In our ideal offseason, the Minnesota Twins would have signed Kolten Wong for a 2 year, $21.6MM contract. Wong has been excellent with the Milwaukee Brewers this year and owns a .810 OPS. Wong is only 30-years-old and would be under contract again for the Twins next season. Wong plays second base, which means the Twins would’ve needed to keep Jorge Polanco at shortstop under these circumstances, but at 2.7 fWAR compared to Simmons’s -0.3, signing Wong over Andrelton would’ve made a big difference for the Twins.
Actual offseason signing: J.A. Happ - 1 year, $8MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Robbie Ray - 1 year, $9.6MM
The Minnesota Twins signed J.A. Happ last offseason hoping that he could fill the fourth starter role for the Twins in 2022. Instead, Happ completely imploded for Minnesota, posting a 6.77 ERA in 19 starts. What makes the Happ signing hurt even more for the Twins is that southpaw Robbie Ray signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for the identical 1 year, $8MM deal that J.A. Happ signed for. Under this exercise, the Twins would’ve needed to pay a 20% premium to guarantee Ray’s services, but for a 1 year, $9.6MM the Twins could have signed Ray who has a 2.71 ERA on the season and just became the all-time leader in K/9 in MLB history.
Actual offseason signing: Matt Shoemaker - 1 year, $2MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Carlos Rodón - 1 year, $3.6MM
While J.A. Happ pitched terribly for the Minnesota Twins during his tenure here, Matt Shoemaker was even worse. In 16 appearances with the Twins, Shoemaker posted a 8.06 ERA and was worth -0.7 fWAR before getting DFA’d and ultimately released. At a 20% premium, the Minnesota Twins could have signed Carlos Rodón for just $3.6MM and gotten a pitcher who has been a revolution for the White Sox this year, with a 2.43 ERA and a 12.8 K/9.
Actual offseason signing: Alexander Colomé - 1 year, $6.25MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Sergio Romo - 1 year, $3MM
Moving to the bullpen, Alexander Colomé was yet another disastrous signing for the Minnesota Twins this offseason, as he has a 4.26 ERA, six blown saves and the worst win probability added on the team. In their ideal offseason, the Minnesota Twins would have simply brought back Sergio Romo, who they let walk last offseason, for half of the price of Colomé. Romo has put together a 3.18 ERA in 54 appearances with the Oakland Athletics and has thrived there in a high-leverage role.
Actual offseason signing: Hansel Robles - 1 year, $2MM
Ideal Offseason signing: Collin McCugh - 1 year, $2.16MM
Finally, in their ideal offseason the Minnesota Twins would have avoided Hansel Robles and his 4.91 ERA in Minnesota in favor of Collin McHugh for nearly the same price tag. McHugh signed with Tampa Bay this offseason and has been spectacular, featuring a 1.40 ERA and 11.6 K/9.
Overall let’s compare the actual offseason for the Minnesota Twins to what the ideal offseason would have looked like:
Actual offseason $ spent: $41.75MM
Ideal offseason $ spent: $42.16MM
Actual offseason fWAR acquired (with Twins): 0.2 fWAR
Ideal offseason fWAR acquired: 14.4 fWAR
Again, hindsight is always 20/20 and ideal history is always going to be an unfair game to play, but laying out what the ideal offseason for the Twins would have looked like is not only fun, but interesting to look at the types of players that succeeded as we try to find free agent options for the 2022 season.
What trends stick out to you from the list of “ideal” free agents above? Which of the above names were you clamoring for the Twins to sign at the time? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!