I explained my process of how I chose these players in the first part of this trilogy, so if you didn’t read that, I recommend reading this so this article will make more sense.
Taking all of the position player seasons over 4 WAR, I found salary data for 86 players. Using these 86 players, I compared their equivalent 2021 salaries with their season WAR’s and constructed the graph below. The names highlighted in yellow are the players who made the starting lineup
As was the case in part 1, the bottom right of the graph is where you want to have your players be, signifying a lot of WAR for not a lot of 2021 money. There were some very tough decisions in constructing this lineup, but these are the position players I decided would make the best team in Twins history.
Catcher: 2009 Joe Mauer - $15.69M translated salary, 7.8 WAR
Because of his lackluster production despite a large contract in the latter part of his career, some Twins fans see Joe Mauer as a bust and not as one of the best players in Twins history. In reality, over the course of his career, Mauer vastly outproduced his contracts.
Adding in 2018 to these totals, Mauer made just over $218M in his career but according to FanGraphs, he was worth over $307M. Mauer was so phenomenal early in his career that he completely outperformed his rookie contract and arbitration deals. It makes you wonder what he would’ve done if not for his concussion problems later in his career.
Mauer’s best year was 2009. He slashed .365/.444/.587 for the second highest single-season OPS in Twins history of 1.031. Mauer also hit a career high 28 home runs, had a wRC+ of 170, walked more than he struck out, and was an above average defensive catcher in his MVP campaign.
In 2009, Mauer had a salary of $10.5 million. This translates to over $15 million in 2021, meaning his contract efficiency number was 0.497. Mauer outperformed his contract not just in 2009, but over the duration of his entire career and he should be inducted in the hall of fame.
First Base: 1977 Rod Carew - $10.93M translated salary, 9.7 WAR
In 2021, Rod Carew would not be your stereotypical first baseman. Today, first basemen are power-hitters who strike out quite a bit, hit home runs, and don’t steal a lot of bases (see Sano, Miguel). Carew was the greatest player in Twins history and in 1977, he had the greatest season in Twins history.
In Carew’s historic 1977 season, he stole 23 bases, slashed .388/.449/.570 for an OPS of 1.019, and had a 135 wRC+. He had a Twins franchise record 239 hits, his .388 average was a franchise record, and he won the MVP award.
In 1977, Carew had a salary of $180,000. This translates to just shy of $11 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.888. Carew was an outstanding player, will bring some defensive quickness to first base, and would be an outstanding leadoff hitter for this dream-team.
Second Base: 1995 Chuck Knoblauch - $13.44M translated salary, 6.7 WAR
Even though Chuck Knoblauch isn’t Keith Olbermann's favorite player, he still had an outstanding tenure as a Twin. Knoblauch was a four-time all-star with the Twins before contract disputes led to him becoming a Yankee.
In 1995, Knoblauch batted .333, had a .911 OPS, stole 46 bases, and won the American League Silver Slugger at second base. Although Knoblauch’s best season may have been a year later in 1996, he still accumulated nearly 7 WAR in 1995 on a cheaper contract.
In 1995, Knoblauch had a salary of nearly $3 million. This translates to $13.4 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.499. Knoblauch was a great all-around player for the Twins and is the greatest second baseman in Twins history, so it is only right to put him here.
Third Base: 2001 Corey Koskie - $606K translated salary, 6.3 WAR
One player who was always undervalued for the Twins was Corey Koskie. In the early 2000’s, you could tell Koskie was a very solid player for the Twins but if you look at him in a more advanced scope, you can see that Koskie was a great player for the Twins and they did not have to pay much for him.
In 2001, Koskie slashed .276/.362/.488 for an OPS of .850 and a wRC+ of 119. He led the team in slugging percentage, walks (68), RBI (103), and WAR (6.3). He was an outstanding defender at third base, racking up 1.9 defensive WAR which ranked 4th among third basemen in MLB. Combining above average offense with a stellar glove at third base makes Koskie an easy choice to be our third baseman.
In 2001, Koskie had a salary of only $300K. This translates to only $606K in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 10.39, which was the highest contract efficiency number out of all of the top 100 WAR seasons in Twins history. Getting a 6 WAR player for nearly league minimum does not happen very often so we can save a lot of money while getting a lot of value out of Koskie at 3B.
Plus, the man is a townball star
Shortstop: 1965 Zoilo Versalles - $7.63M translated salary, 7.2 WAR
When building this team of superstars, Zoilo Versalles was the most confusing player I researched. He only had 12 career WAR, and over half of it came in this MVP 1965 campaign. Versalles was the Baha Men of 1965, a one-hit wonder. Digging deeper into his MVP season, he only had a wRC+ of 116 and led the American League in strikeouts.
The reason Versalles was so good in 1965 was that he was the best defensive shortstop in the league. He led all MLB shortstops with 3 defensive WAR, also the best mark for any shortstop in Twins history. Versalles’ defensive prowess coupled with his above average offensive abilities (led AL in runs, doubles, and triples) made him the best player in the AL in 1965 and the best shortstop in Twins history.
In 1965, Versalles had a salary of $28K, which translates to $7.63 million in 2021. His contract efficiency number (0.944) was very good. Cristian Guzman was also in contention for this spot with an extremely cheap contract, but Versalles accumulated 2.4 more WAR than Guzman so I thought it was a worthwhile trade-off.
Left Field: 1992 Shane Mack - $5.44M translated salary, 6.5 WAR
One of the most overlooked Twins of all-time is World Series Champion outfielder Shane Mack. After being the Twins Rule 5 draft pick in 1989, he had a great five-year stretch with the Twins. In those five years, he slashed .309/.375/.479 (.854) while hitting 119 doubles, 67 home runs, and stealing 71 bases. His best year of that stretch was 1992, having a wRC+ of 142, hitting 31 doubles, 16 home runs, and stealing 26 bases. He also led the American League with 15 hit by pitches.
In 1992, Mack had a salary of $1.075 million, which translates to $5.44 million in 2021. He posted a WAR of 6.5, so his contract efficiency number was very good at 1.195. Mack is one of the most underrated players in Twins history and was frankly one of the best outfielders in Twins history.
Center Field: 1992 Kirby Puckett - $6M translated salary, 7.2 WAR
Undoubtedly the most beloved figure in Twins history, Kirby Puckett is also the best outfielder in team history and delivered some unforgettable moments, like his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Kirby joins fellow ‘92 outfielder Shane Mack on the team.
One of Kirby’s best seasons was 1992. He hit .329/.374/.490 (.864) while leading MLB in hits (210). He had 110 RBI, a wRC+ of 136, hit 38 doubles, 19 home runs, and had a defensive WAR of 1 while manning center field for the reigning World Champs and being a clubhouse leader.
In 1992, Puck had a salary of $2.97 million, which is about $6 million today. He had a 7.1 WAR so his contract efficiency was about 1.184. Puck would be the heart and soul of this team and bring some much needed energy and leadership to the team.
Right Field: 1964 Tony Oliva - $2.12M translated salary, 6.8 WAR
Recent Hall of Fame inductee Tony Oliva joins the squad with his phenomenal rookie season of 1964. Oliva is one of the greatest hitters in Twins history and a Twins great, hitting .304/.353/.476 (.830) over his 15-year career with the Twins.
Oliva was phenomenal in his rookie season, winning rookie of the year and finishing fourth in AL MVP voting. He had a wRC+ of 148, led the AL with a .323 batting average, 109 runs, 43 doubles, and 217 hits while posting a .916 OPS and clubbing 32 home runs.
In 1964, Oliva had a salary of $7,500, which translates to $2.12 million in 2021. He accumulated 6.8 WAR, so his contract efficiency was 0.73. Oliva has always been an excellent representative of the Twins organization both on and off the field, so he is a great addition to the team.
Designated Hitter: 1963 Bob Allison - $8.75M translated salary, 7.4 WAR
The last hitter we have in the lineup is Bob Allison. Allison was ahead of his time. He was more of a three true outcomes hitter than most people in his time. Allison was one of the original Twins, coming from the Washington Senators. He is one of the more underrated players in Twins history and he was one of the leaders on the 1965 World Series team.
Allison was a star in 1963, hitting .271/.378/.533 (.911). He led the American League in WAR (7.4), OPS, and wRC+ (150). He hit 35 home runs and was solid defensively, posting a defensive WAR of 1.1 as a right fielder. Somehow, he finished 15th in MVP voting despite leading the league in all of these categories. If they could revote today knowing what actually makes a player valuable, he would most definitely finish in the top 3.
In 1963, Allison had a salary of $29,250, translating to a $8.75 million salary today. His contract efficiency was 0.846 so he would be a great bopper in a lineup full of them. Harmon Killebrew was also considered for this position but Allison edged him out in WAR and was slightly cheaper.
Overall, the Twins lineup would bolster some heavy hitters and some very high on-base guys, creating a high-powered offense that would wreck the league. These hitters accumulated 65.6 WAR and would be worth $70.6 million translated to 2021 salaries. Part 3 will cover the bullpen and bench, so stay tuned for that.
Thanks for reading, and Go Twins!