Coming off a pandemic-shortened 2020, the Twins did a solid job holding serve regarding payroll. While it dropped, it didn’t fall off a cliff. I don’t know where I expect Minnesota to be in terms of dollars this season, but I think we’re in for an offseason that sees some major-league assets moved. If that’s going to be the case, who are the combinations that are defined by value and expendability?
I’m torn on the idea of moving Kepler, given the Twins commitment to getting more out of him. He posted just a .719 OPS this season, and it was a down year. He remains one of the best outfield defenders in baseball, however, and that has significant value. For a guy that plays on the corners, you’d certainly like to see the power production of 2019 return. Given his name was dangled at the deadline, I can’t imagine Minnesota is against the idea of moving him, but it’d need to be a situation where someone is parting with assets based on what they believe Kepler can be rather than what he is currently. Alex Kirilloff can fill some of the gap here, and Trevor Larnach is also an option should the Twins move on.
After a down year in the shortened 2020 season, Garver has rebounded with a vengeance. Mitch is back to hunting fastballs, and despite some fluke injuries this season, he put up impressive numbers from the minute he got settled in. His final 51 games were played to the tune of a .991 OPS. I’m reluctant to hand the reigns over to Ryan Jeffers full-time, but Garver is the older of the two, and this is a position where Minnesota could exploit the strength and use it to secure pitching help. The Twins don’t have much for a backup option unless they want to go defense only with Ben Rortvedt behind the plate. That said, a veteran backup shouldn’t cost much on the open market, and there’s plenty of names they could chase after. Cody recently did a great breakdown of a partner for Garver.
Once again near the top of the league in batting average, Luis Arraez continues to be as predictable as they come. 2021 was his first season with an average south of .300, but that’s more related to a late-season slide than it is the body of work. He is always going to hit, there’s not much in terms of speed or pop, and his glove is just ok in the field. What Minnesota has to determine is where Jorge Polanco will play and what they want to do at shortstop. Arraez is either a rotational player with plenty of avenues for playing time, or he’s a luxury that they can parlay into something more necessary. A lot of Arraez’s functionality for this club directly correlates to the build-out of their infield.
In the final year of his three-year extension, Sano will cost Minnesota just over $9 million this season. He hasn’t lived up to the .923 OPS he posted in 2019, but he has plenty of functionality as a bottom-of-the-order hitter. He’s continued to post OPS+ numbers north of league average, and the power potential was once again evident in a season where he blasted 30 homers. I can’t imagine his value bringing back a whole lot for the Twins, but with the designated hitter expected to be league-wide, there may be more suitors interested in his services. I prefer the Twins don’t utilize a consistent batter as a designated hitter this season, but that’s definitely where Sano is at his best. Rocco Baldelli will also need to balance first base playing time with Alex Kirilloff returning to action.
Obviously, if the Twins decide against paying Byron Buxton, then he’d likely be on the move as well and bring the greatest return. I can’t see a scenario in which any arms are moved, most notably because of that being Minnesota’s greatest need. Who else could you see as potential interest for another organization?