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  1. Like
    wavedog reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Byron Buxton Agrees to a Contract Extension with the Twins   
    Since Buxton first joined the team in 2015, he’s only had one year with 500 plate appearances, and indeed only one with over 331. His injuries have ranged from seemingly self-inflicted problems due to his aggressive defense in center field, to worrisome nagging injuries like hip strains and foot injuries, to flukey injuries like a broken finger from being hit by a pitch.
    On the other hand, he’s been absolutely elite defensively throughout his time with the Twins, and recently his offense has reached a similar level. This year he hit .306 with 19 home runs in just 61 games, a pace that makes him a 50-home run threat over a full season. He’s also only 27 years old, entering the peak period of many players' careers.
    He is due to be a free agent next offseason, compelling the Twins to either sign him to an extension or trade him this offseason, lest they risk having him leave next year for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick. That urgency is further heightened by the threat of an impending work stoppage starting as soon as Wednesday night. If an extension or trade iss not made by then, there is a chance any such move would be delayed until some unknown point in a potentially compressed offseason, or thwarted altogether.
    A deal would likely represent the biggest deal the Twins have made since they signed Joe Mauer to a contract extension in 2010 for $184 million dollars. That deal was also for a rare talent who contributed defensively, was at the peak of his ability, and on the verge of free agency. 
    The deal with Mauer aged poorly, as leg problems and concussions limited his ability to stay at catcher and stay in the lineup. With Buxton having more health questions, the reality is it makes him more affordable; it’s unlikely the Twins could complete a deal without the built-in discount his health history affords them. 
    The Mauer deal also took place as the Twins were completing a run of division-winning seasons and trying to lengthen their competitive window. Twins’ management’s next to-do for this offseason is to find some starting pitchers whom Buxton’s Gold Glove can assist with his range in center field. While the size of Buxton’s deal is likely significant, the Twins entered the offseason with as much as $50M or so to spend on free agents. A deal with Buxton is likely to maintain that capability.
    Indeed, Ken Rosenthal has just published contract details:
    The extension  guarantees $15M per year (except this year, when he still would've been under arbitration) plus very large bonuses for MVP bonuses and a series of $500K bonuses if he stays healthy for over 500 plate appearances. It is a very creative contract. I can't think of any that has had a bonus structure remotely similar to it. The deal essentially rewards Buxton extra money for staying healthy for a full season, handsomely for MVP-caliber production, but still guarantees him base salary commensurate to a top center fielder. 
    If the Twins had traded Buxton instead, it would be hard for them to pretend that they could expect to be competitive in 2022. They would have lost their best offensive and defensive player, while also trying to replace 60% of their starting rotation. Retaining Buxton keeps the option of competing in 2022 alive. It should also make him one of the core pieces of the next competitive Twins team. Further pieces will still need to be assembled, but the deal represents a serious effort by the Twins to compete by locking up high-end home-grown talent for a long time.
    We'll add details as they emerge. In the meantime, give us your initial thoughts below. 
  2. Like
    wavedog reacted to Lucas Seehafer PT for an article, The Twins Need More from First Base Next Summer   
    The Twins finished 27th overall in production from their first basemen according to FanGraphs' WAR (-0.2) during the 2021 season, with only Cleveland (-0.7), Pittsburgh (-0.9), and Kansas City (-1.0) winding up below them. (These were the only four teams to accumulate negative fWAR.) Despite ranking sixth in home runs (45), Twins' first basemen were 24th in wRC+ (97) and 29th in FanGraphs' defensive runs above average stat (-25.7).

    In short, Twins' first basemen, as a group, were terrible this past summer.

    Of course, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who regularly tuned into the games. Miguel Sanó struggled mightily for most of the season before a hot August, and September resulted in quasi-respectable cumulative stats (30 home runs, 110 wRC+, .778 OPS). Alex Kirilloff shone brightly for 59 games before a wrist injury hampered his power, and the corresponding surgery in July sidelined him for the remainder of the season. As a result, Willians Astudillo appeared far more at first base than the Twins originally planned or his skills warranted.

    Arguably the best solution for the Twins' first base woes is also the easiest and most likely: Move Kirilloff to the bag and Sanó to designated hitter full-time. Kirilloff produced a 1.4 UZR in 213 ⅔ innings at first base last season, representing a slightly above average total. On the other hand, Sanó has accumulated -10.0 UZR at first base throughout his career and has never produced a positive value in a season in which he has played more than 50 innings at the position. 
    Kirilloff's sample is too small to draw any firm conclusions — FanGraphs recommends at least three seasons of data before seeking to do so — but his early results are encouraging. Moving him to first base full-time would likely boost the team's fWAR and UZR numbers while maintaining a similar level of power at his peak. Sanó's presence at DH would also help fill the void left by Nelson Cruz's trade to the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Secondarily, the Twins could make Kirilloff the primary first baseman, move on from Sano, seek backups in either the free agent, waiver, or trade market, or rely on their prospects to fill in part-time. The first base free-agent class is heavy at the top with names such as Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo and lacks overall depth, making an acquisition of that nature unlikely. Likewise, trades for primary backups are rare unless said backup provides value at other positions.

    As such, perhaps the most logical solution in this scenario would be to have Jose Miranda serve as a utilityman, filling in at third, second, and first base, assuming Josh Donaldson remains on the roster. Miranda played 225 innings at first base across Double- and Triple-A last summer, committing two errors. Many evaluators — present company included — believe he is best defensively at third due to several factors: arm strength, feel for the glove, and range. Still, he could function well at first base in spot situations. 

    Regardless of the path they ultimately take, the Twins need more from their first basemen if they wish to be competitive during the 2022 season. Moving a healthy Kirilloff into the role is most logical and would likely provide a boost both offensively and defensively. From there, it's on the shoulders of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to make the proper decisions. 
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    wavedog reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Revisiting the Eddie Rosario Decision   
    Last December, the Twins had a tough decision to make about offering a contract to Eddie Rosario. He was heading to his final year of arbitration eligibility, and he was expected to cost around $12 million in arbitration. To put that in perspective, Rosario was coming off a season where FanGraphs had him pegged at providing $7.7 million worth of value to the Twins. The front office used the money not spent on Rosario to sign 40% of the team's starting rotation.

    Minnesota also had other options for filling corner outfield spots. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach were both expected to make their regular season debuts in 2021, and they were scheduled to cost significantly less than Rosario. Each had the potential to provide equal or more value than Rosario during the 2021 season, so this made it easier to make their Rosario decision. He was designated for assignment and no other teams put a claim on him. 

    Rosario eventually signed with Cleveland at the end of January for $8 million. He played in 78 games and hit .254/.296/.389 (.686) with 23 extra-base hits. Among AL outfielders with 300 plate appearances, he ranked in the bottom eight in wRC and wOBA. His 86 OPS+ was five points fewer than his previous career low. At the trade deadline, Rosario was traded to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval, who Cleveland immediately cut. 

    The Braves added multiple outfielders at the deadline to try and make up for the loss of Ronald Acuna Jr. Rosario found his swing again with the Braves as the club was fighting for a playoff spot. In 33 games, he hit .271/.330/.573 (.903), which raised his OPS+ by 45 points compared to his time in Cleveland. He hit seven home runs in fewer than 100 at-bats which were as many home runs as he had in over 280 at-bats before the trade. 
    During the NLDS, Rosario went 4-for-13 with two RBI and a walk as the Braves surprised the Brewers. In the NLCS, his bat has continued to stay hot. Through the first four games of the series, he went 10-for-12 with two home runs, one triple, and six RBI. Rosario has clearly impacted Atlanta’s success so far this October.  Fans may be excited by Rosario contributing to a team having postseason success, but the front office still made the right decision when it came to tendering him a contract. He was still a well below-average player for a majority of the season in Cleveland. As Twins fans recall, Rosario is a very streaky hitter, and he happens to be in the midst of one of his hot streaks at the season’s most impactful time of the year. 
    Rosario will hit the free-agent market again this winter, and his market will largely remain unchanged. He makes poor baserunning mistakes and plays below-average defense. His offense also doesn’t make up for his other deficiencies. Rosario can undoubtedly be exciting, but Minnesota made the right decision in the short and long term. 

    What are your thoughts on Rosario’s playoff performance so far? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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  4. Like
    wavedog reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Winning Out   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 9/27 thru Sun, 10/3
    Record Last Week: 4-2 (Overall: 73-89)
    Run Differential Last Week: +4 (Overall: -105)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 157 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Edge Tigers in Pitchers' Duel
    Game 158 | MIN 5, DET 2: Polanco and Pineda Propel Twins
    Game 159 | DET 10, MIN 7: Buxton's 2 HR Not Enough as Ryan Struggles
    Game 160 | KC 11, MIN 6: Pitching Plastered as Royals Pound Twins
    Game 161 | MIN 4, KC 0: Arms Rebound, Blank Kansas City
    Game 162 | MIN 7, KC 3: Twins Close Losing Year with a Win
    It turns out that Bailey Ober's start the previous week would be the last of his rookie season. He was shut down ahead of his scheduled final turn with a right hip strain, although the move surely had more to do with workload management than real injury concern. Ober completes his first MLB campaign with a 4.19 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 96-to-19 K/BB ratio in 92 ⅓ innings spread across 20 starts. A tremendously encouraging year from the big righty, who has vaulted directly into the club's rotation plans.
    With an offseason ahead that may prove decisive in shaping his big-league future, Byron Buxton ended his season on a high note. Generally speaking, he hasn't been quite the same offensively since returning from his broken hand, but Buxton's final week looked more like his first month. He went 11-for-25 with three home runs, five doubles, and 11 runs scored, mixing in a couple of stolen bases for good measure. 
    We're seeing something special here, folks. The question now is whether we'll have the opportunity to keep watching Buxton's magic happen in a Twins uniform. He's got one year ahead until free agency and if Minnesota can't extend him, his trade market will be too hot to ignore. 
    The decision with Buxton this offseason will primarily dictate whether the Twins actually aspire to contend in 2022, and will likely determine whether a lot of fans choose to stick with the team or tune out for the time being. I've written in the past where I stand: pay the man, or regret it forever. You cannot let a talent like this get away.
    Joining Buxton with strong finishes at the plate:
    Josh Donaldson went 6-for-21 with four walks, two homers, and five RBIs. He started all six games, which is pretty much par for the course by now. It was a huge proving year durability-wise for the 35-year-old, who returned from an immediate IL stint to play in 133 of the club's final 150 games, starting 125. The production was there too. While he still carries plenty of risk at this point, JD looks like a much more dependable building block than he did one year ago. The late drop-off of Luis Arraez was an under-discussed storyline in the second half for the Twins. From August 19th through September 19th, he batted just .176 in 99 plate appearances, sinking his average from .318 to .284. Given the lack of real defensive value, and the absence of power or patience in his game, Arraez's value plummets pretty quickly when he's not hitting for average, and we've never seen him slump in that department quite like he did during this late stretch. So it was nice to see him snap out of it with an excellent final week, in which Arraez notched 11 hits in 20 at-bats, lifting his final average to .294. It'll be very interesting to see what the team's plan is with him going forward. Miguel Sanó went 7-for-22 with a home run, a double, and four RBIs. He rebounded from a brutal April with production the rest of the way that was basically in line with his quality career norms. He also put up the lowest overall K-rate of his career (34.3%) after leading the league in strikeouts a year ago. It was ultimately a disappointing year for Sanó but offered some promising signs, and he's vowed to focus harder than ever on his body this winter, setting a goal of losing 20-30 pounds. With Alex Kirilloff looking more like a first baseman than outfielder, Sanó is another intriguing piece in the organization's future planning. He has one more guaranteed season under team control. On the pitching side, Michael Pineda wrapped his walk year with 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a win over Detroit. He returned quickly from an August oblique injury to register a 5-0 record and 1.85 ERA in five outings. That'll give the pending free agency market a boost. 
    Griffin Jax finished a rough rookie season in a positive way, delivering his best performance as a big-leaguer on Saturday with five innings of shutout ball against Kansas City. He was hardly dominant, striking out three and walking two, but he allowed only one hit. Jax showed some promise after the All-Star break, but in his final eight starts he went 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA, erasing any chance of factoring into the Twins' rotation plans next year. That said, with his effective fastball-slider combo, he's definitely earned a look in the bullpen.
    Speaking of which, the Twins received impressive final weeks from a trio of key relievers. Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, and Jorge Alcala combined to allow zero earned runs over 11 frames. Tough to overstate how impactful these three are for the Twins' bullpen outlook.
    At the All-Star break, it wasn't clear that any of them were going to be names to comfortably write into the 2022 plans. None pitched especially well in the first half. But since the break, they've collectively posted a 2.48 ERA and 85-to-24 K/BB ratio in 83 ⅓ innings. All three are expected to return in 2022, at a little over $5 million in total salary.
    It's not an amazing bullpen foundation to build around, but if Taylor Rogers can return to form following his finger injury, it's certainly a viable starting point for a contending relief corps. 
    He's been a beaming beacon in the Highlights section nearly every week since arriving in the majors, but in his final turn as a rookie, Joe Ryan finally hit a road bump for the first time. Facing the Tigers at Target Field on Thursday, Ryan was knocked around for six earned runs in 4 ⅔ innings, with a pair of homers by Niko Goodrum accounting for much of the damage. 
    The poor finale may diminish a bit of Ryan's shine, but hardly removes the luster from a tremendous showing in September for the rookie. He finishes with a 4.05 ERA, 3.43 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, and 30-to-5 K/BB ratio in 26 ⅔ innings. Small sample and lack of experience aside, it's tough to imagine he won't be at least tentatively penciled into a rotation spot come next spring.
    Will Max Kepler still be the man in right field at that time? He closed out one of the worst offensive seasons of his career with a 3-for-19 week, leaving him with a pedestrian final slash line of .211/.306/.413. Just flat-out sub-mediocre production from a right fielder. It does bear noting that Kepler supplements his value in other ways, like on the bases (10-for-10 on steals this year) and in the outfield, but with emerging corner outfield depth in the Twins system, Kepler and his favorable contract will likely be shopped on the trade market.
    Andrelton Simmons put the finishing touches on an all-time dud of an offensive season, going 2-for-11 with a couple of singles. He posted a .480 OPS in the second half, managing three total extra-base hits (all doubles) in 189 plate appearances. Most Twins fans will be more than happy to be rid of the pending free agent, and while his defense was customarily good this year (albeit unspectacular), I do wonder if any team will view him as a starting-caliber player on the offseason market.
    In an interesting trend, Simmons finally started losing some his playing time at shortstop to Nick Gordon toward the end of the year, much to the pleasure of fans who'd been clamoring for such a shift. Gordon first start at short didn't come until September 11th, by which time he'd been in the majors for three months and appeared in 55 games. From that point forward, however, he started eight of the team's final 21 games, including three times in the final week.
    Gordon's bat went cold during this final stretch, producing just one hit in 13 at-bats, and his overall production for the season was underwhelming (.647 OPS, 0.2 fWAR), but if he's viewed as a credible option at short, that cements his value as a utility guy. The team's usage late in the season inspires optimism on that front.
    There are plenty of trending storylines ahead as we turn our attention to the offseason. Once a World Series champion is crowned in about one month's time, the page will turn and Hot Stove season will officially get underway. (Theoretically, anyway ... a looming CBA expiration could throw a wrench in things.)
    As they seek to rebound from a terrible season, the Twins face a number of key decisions this winter. Will Buxton be traded? What about dealing a semi-redundant yet valuable fixture such as Kepler, Arraez, or Sanó? Who will survive the 40-man roster crunch? How hard will Minnesota attack the free agent markets at pitcher and shortstop? 
    There's plenty to explore as we size up a critical offseason. I'm pleased to say we'll have an exciting announcement on that topic dropping on Monday morning. Make sure you tune in for it.
    On a final note: a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who has consumed, commented on, or complimented these Week in Review columns over the course of the year. It's been fun, and for me, a good way to stay plugged into a season that was often difficult to find motivation to care about. Hopefully these weekly recaps served a similar purpose for many of you.
    We'll be back next year. Here's to much happier weeks to break down in 2022.
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  5. Like
    wavedog reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Welcome to the New Twins Daily   
    Obviously, there are the stories. The site was founded by four bloggers, all of whom understood the value of providing unique coverage of the Twins. Non-traditional voices - whether they are sabermetric, prospect news, mechanical break analysis, cynical, hopeful, satirical, whimsical – are the core of what we are. We want to be a place where coverage of baseball is expanded in new ways. And we try to foster that organically, by encouraging our readers to….
    At the end of every story, you’ll find a comment area where you can react to our stories, provided you register. But we want you to be in the driver’s see, too, so we also have our forums, where you can ask your own questions, post your own opinions, and explore your own topics. The rules are pretty simple: don’t be an a-hole. Our moderators work hard to keep it civil and our community works hard to keep them welcoming. We want you to find your voice, because we want some of you to…
    Our blog area provides a place for those called to write to further develop their writing style. Any member can start their own blogs and post when and how they want. It’s a little like playing in the minors – the crowds are smaller, but that also means it’s a good place to make mistakes or try a writing style that might be out of your comfort zone. The comments are generally encouraging, and when we think you’re ready, you’ll be invited to contribute regularly to the front page, where we pay for your work.
    Twins Daily goes beyond the traditional publish-only model that corporate media embraces because we’re trying to do something a little different. We’re trying to develop a community that can gather, share and ultimately support itself. You, just be reading this, are already part of that community. We hope you’ll continue exploring and reaching out to other Minnesota baseball fans. We’re glad you’ve joined us.
    For even more about what the new site can do, we encourage you to stop by our new help page.
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