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  1. Haha
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, The Case Against Joe Mauer’s Hall of Fame Candidacy   
    Joe Mauer will make the Hall of Fame.
    Maybe not this year, but it’s inevitable. Even with injuries marring the latter portion of his career, his peak performance at the game’s most demanding position makes the honor more a matter of when, not if.
    Still, there’s a small, if vocal, opposition. Poisoned by years of talk radio bluster and rancid internet commentary, these absolute goons will let you know, in no uncertain terms, that Joe Mauer is soft. A loser. A faker. We asked these numbskulls to expand on their now decades-long campaign against reason. This is what they said:
    Damon Kubesh, Rochester: Sal Butera got a ring. Tom Nieto got a ring. Junior Ortiz got a ring. Joe Mauer got bilateral leg weakness. In case you missed it, that’s not a ring.
    Gale Stalmach, Comfrey: In my day, you didn’t get concussions. You got your bell rung, shook it off, and kept going. Now everyone’s soft, and it’s because of Joe Mauer. They call it CTE because it’s Communist Twins Excuses, that’s what.
    Scott Jankowitz, New Prague: I called into KFAN once to tell The Common Man (Dan Cole, longtime afternoon host) what I really thought about Joe Mauer. He hung up on me and started talking about golf. Some people don’t want to hear the truth.
    Abe Willis, Fridley: Here’s an advanced metric for you: Don’t hit singles when you’re making $23 million a year. These nerds who say he was underpaid when he was hitting all those dingers should take their spreadsheets and calculate why every Twins beat writer has me blocked on Twitter.
    Paul Lang, Minneapolis: I saw on Tik-Tok that we invaded Iraq to get oil money to pay for his contract and that makes him a war criminal. You want me to honor that?
    Nate Lunde, North St. Paul: I pitched against him in high school. Got him to a 1-1 count before blue started squeezing me, so I piped one down the middle. Let’s see what you got. The home run he hit off me never landed, and not a single person in my life has let me forget it. I hate him.
    Tom Hanson, Anoka: Much like the patriots who tried to take our country back on January 6, 2021, I’m not afraid to tell people the truth: Joe Mauer should’ve been cut on the first day of spring training in his rookie year. If I knew how to contact my children, they’d tell you I’ve been on the case since day one. When my fourth wife Rhonda gets back from her ceramics instructor’s one-on-one weekend cabin retreat, she’ll tell you the same.
  2. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, The Twins Daily Table Setter: December 4, 2023   
    Although the Winter Meetings kicked off on Sunday, there wasn’t any substantial action. Minnesota has yet to make a major-league move this offseason, but there are some storylines worth checking into.
    Hall of Fame Takes Focus
    While Joe Mauer is the primary reason for Minnesota fans to concern themselves with the National Baseball Hall of Fame this cycle, it was during Night One of the Winter Meetings that former Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland found out he would be enshrined. Leyland managed 3,499 games during his career, and was a mainstay in the opposing dugout against Minnesota. He won a World Series with the Florida Marlins, and was named Manager of the Year on three separate occasions.
    Although Leyland had enough votes to go in, fellow manager Lou Piniella came up just one shy. If you watched Ron Gardenhire get tossed by umpires over the years, it was Piniella who often came up as the gold standard for being given the heave-ho. Piniella also won a World Series and the same number of Manager of the Year awards.
    When it comes to the player ballot, only eight have been added to the official tracker hosted by Ryan Thibodaux. Mauer has seen his name checked on five of them, with three coming through publicly revealed ballots. FanGraphs’s Jay Jaffe recently implored his fellow Baseball Writers Association of America members to do right by the Twins great.
    Crew Makes it Official
    Reported last week, Milwaukee Brewers top prospect Jackson Chourio’s eight-year extension became official on Sunday. That means he will be in center field on Opening Day, and it changes how they will construct their roster for 2024. Corbin Burnes has been a hot name to consider on the trade market, and if Minnesota is looking for options to replace Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda, he’d be among the best out there.
    You can check out Brewer Fanatic to see thoughts on how the Brewers will handle the rest of their offseason, but it stands to reason that they will want to hold serve with the rest of the NL Central. Cincinnati has already agreed to deals with Nick Martinez and former Twins reliever Emilio Pagan. The Cardinals became Minnesota South from a pitching perspective, inking Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson, and Gray.
    Kepler to the Emerald City
    As the night grew late on Sunday, Jerry Dipoto continued his magic and worked a trade. With Jarred Kelenic headed to the Atlanta Braves for pitching help, the Seattle Mariners found themselves with a hole in the outfield. Jon Heyman opined that a salary dump might help to acquire Juan Soto, but Jon Morosi noted a fit in the form of Twins right fielder Max Kepler.
    It's certainly possible that Minnesota could match up with the Mariners. Second baseman Jorge Polanco also fits there, and the Mariners have pitcher Logan Gilbert that could work as a Gray replacement. How the two teams hammer out any sort of swap remains to be seen, but it's at least worth noting that the puzzle pieces make sense. Maybe Falvey is able to push for a swap while the representatives are all in Nashville this week.
    Is Ohtani Imminent?
    There hasn’t been much confirmed reporting when it comes to Shohei Ohtani’s next team, but we could reach a conclusion sooner rather than later. The Winter Meetings would be a great stage for the biggest free agent to announce his decision, and it seems that we may see the $500 million mark blown out of the water.
    It’s unfortunate that Minnesota isn’t among those being considered, but that was simply never going to be the case. Once Ohtani gets his deal done, though, it could open the logjam holding the market back. This is the week always circled for Hot Stove season, and starting it with a bang only to continue the momentum would be a blast.
    Last year Minnesota had already made trades for Kyle Farmer and Gio Urshela by this point. They didn’t sign Christian Vazquez or Joey Gallo until mid-December, but establishing some financial understanding soon may be beneficial with the television uncertainties. What are you hoping they accomplish in Nashville? Who got snubbed as Leyland got his props? And where will Ohtani end up? There's plenty to talk about, while we wait for the hard news to hit.
  3. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Is This a Championship Core?   
    Looking back at the most successful teams in recent MLB history, we see how the impact of multiple star players clicking at the same time can carry clubs to new heights. The most recent example is the World Series champion Texas Rangers, who were propelled by a pair of top-three MVP finishers (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien). 
    Teams like the Dodgers, Astros, Phillies, and Braves have, similarly, been elevated by their star power. Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuna, Jr., and Matt Olson deliver massive value on the way to 100-plus win seasons and deep playoff runs. Pitching and depth both matter, as we've learned, but the reality is that having multiple everyday players on your roster who put up 5+ WAR can make up for a lot issues elsewhere. This concentrated production also tends to factor more heavily in October, where individual impact is accentuated.
    The Twins have long worked to build this kind of core, and are hoping it will all come together in 2024. Carlos Correa is entering his age-29 season, Byron Buxton his age-30 season, and Royce Lewis is looking to put in his first full MLB campaign at age 24. 
    The Three North Stars
    It was always known that these three players could be destined for the tier of true major-league superstars. All were baseball prodigies from a very young age. Correa and Lewis were both No. 1 overall draft picks, and Buxton (No. 2 behind Correa in 2012) would've been the top pick in many other years. 
    The Twins invested heavily to acquire these three–in money, draft capital, or both–and now the franchise has reached a point it's long been building toward: all three are in the majors, in their (ostensible) physical primes, and ready to join forces for a clear contender.
    Yes, there are question marks surrounding each of the three, as we'll discuss, but let's just look at what they've done when on the field. Here's a rough calculation of each player's fWAR per full season (averaged out for Buxton and Correa, extrapolated for Lewis):
    Carlos Correa: 4.7 fWAR per 150 games Byron Buxton: 4.2 fWAR per 150 games Royce Lewis: 6.2 fWAR per 150 games At a base level, if all three of these players stay mostly healthy next year and play to these standards of production, you've got a championship-caliber nucleus, plain and simple. Those are All-Star players at three critical positions. If we take one step farther into the realm of optimism, one could envision any of the three contending for an MVP in 2024. Correa wasn't far off from that form in 2021 or 2022. The same can be said for Buxton during that span, when on the field: he amassed 8.1 fWAR in 153 games. 
    Lewis is the least proven, but his potential feels almost limitless, after watching him slug at a 40-homer pace while acclimating to major-league pitching. To whatever extent the clutch gene exists, Lewis has it in spades. That is undeniable. 
    In addition to on-field production and pedigree, all three of these guys are leaders in the clubhouse, with intangible value that magnifies their positive impact. When you take away the injuries, it's easy to see why the Twins and their current front office have placed this trio at the center of their team-building scheme.
    Of course, you can't take away the injuries.
    The Elephant in the Room
    Let's just get it all out there. Correa is coming off the worst season of his career, in which he was plagued by signs of potential age-related regression even beyond the plantar fasciitis that bothered him for much of the season. Buxton's year was a depressing mess, casting doubt on his ability to stay on the field at all going forward, let alone play center field regularly. Lewis has played all of 118 total games over the past four seasons due to a medley of injuries, which extended into his brilliant rookie year. 
    Coming off an 87-win season, it's understandable why many fans are yearning for more star power to be added to the mix this offseason, but that level of help probably isn't coming. The Twins will be focused on using what limited resources they have to replace their pitching losses and replenish their depth. 
    They have little choice but to depend on these three core players as the foundations of their championship vision for 2024–because of the financial commitments they've already made to Correa and Buxton, and because of the ability Lewis has shown. There's an inclination for fans to focus on the negative or the downside in scenarios like these. After all, we've been conditioned to expect the worst when it comes to injury outcomes. But as this quiet offseason unfolds, I urge you to look at the bright side, and to consider the ceiling for the team if it all comes together next year. 
    Reasons to Believe
    Setting aside the injury baggage, let's remind ourselves of the talent level these three players possess, and the highlights they've produced in big spots over the past few seasons. Is it plausible for all three to realize their top form next year? Here are some points for optimism:
    Not always, but plantar fasciitis is often an injury that lingers throughout a season before clearing up with extended rest during the offseason. That'll be the hope for Correa, who notably looked excellent in the playoffs after finally tearing the fascia late in the season. La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported over the weekend that Buxton is "fully recovered" from his latest knee surgery and preparing for next season with the goal of playing center field. Given what a tough time he's had with the knee, I understand the widespread skepticism, but the team and its trainers are at least implementing a clear plan to address it. These things can take time. You'd like to think Lewis's catastrophic bad breaks are behind him. His twice-repaired right knee looked fully functional after his return this year. Hopefully going through some troubles with the oblique and hamstring helped him learn about managing his body and avoiding soft-tissue injuries going forward. For what it's worth, staying healthy and on the field was never a problem for Lewis prior to the two fluky ACL tears.  The Time Is Now for This Twins Trio
    When Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Twins front office, they inherited the first overall pick in their very first draft. They used it to select Lewis, setting in motion a team-building vision that is now reaching its planned fruition. Along the way, Correa and Buxton joined Lewis as core building blocks, signing two of the largest contracts in team history. 
    This is it. This is what the Twins have been building toward and now we'll see if these three superstar-caliber players can come together and make magic. Down the line, they might be joined or succeeded at this level by the likes of Brooks Lee or Walker Jenkins, who arguably offer the same kind of upside. But for now, look no further than Correa, Buxton and Lewis as the decisive factors in Minnesota's outlook in 2024, regardless of what else happens this offseason.
  4. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Do The Twins Need Bullpen Help?   
    This Twins front office has taken a few big swings on relief additions in their tenure and often whiffed. From Addison Reed to Jorge Lopez, it’s easy to see why the Twins may have developed a belief that bullpens aren’t worth majorly investing in. With a decline in payroll headed into 2024, we should expect them to show a good bit of restraint again. They would certainly be justified in doing so.
    Many believed the Twins could have benefitted from one more high-leverage reliever headed in 2023. It never hurts, after all. The Twins had reason to believe the top end of their bullpen was a strength between Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, and Lopez. Of course, Griffin Jax piled up blown leads early, and Lopez was eventually DFAed. Luckily, Brock Stewart emerged from Triple-A, and Jax righted the ship down the stretch to still have a formidable top of the bullpen by season’s end.
    This trio will return in 2024, assuming good health. Duran is likely the undisputed closer at this point. A case can be made to slot Stewart in as the setup man after he struck out nearly 36% of the hitters he faced, and Jax had a down season by his standards. Either way, this group combined for just over 155 innings in 2023 with a cumulative 3.1 Wins Above Replacement. It’s a back end of a bullpen many competitive teams would envy on paper.
    Caleb Thielbar should be back as a high-leverage, left-handed reliever capable of facing both righties and lefties. The question, of course, is health with the 36-year-old after repeated oblique issues limited him to just over 30 innings. He still struck out over 36% of opposing hitters and posted a 3.23 ERA on the season. Emilio Pagán’s departure will be noteworthy, though it’s important to remember that while his numbers were great, he pitched almost solely in low leverage.
    The problem at times last season was the middle relief group. The Twins cycled in several arms, hoping a few would stick, and it cost them some wins. Jovani Moran looked to build on a solid 2022 season and couldn’t do so. He’s now undergoing Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss all of 2024.
    Jorge Alcala has never really put it all together, and he has health questions of his own. Players like Cole Sands just never did enough to stick around.
    Luckily, down the stretch, the Twins finally gave Kody Funderburk a shot. In 12 innings, he allowed one run and stuck out over 40% of the hitters he faced. It’s a small sample, but the lefty has a history of retiring hitters from both sides of the plate while picking up a healthy amount of strikeouts.
    There’s at least a tiny hope that a few other internal options emerge to fill the middle innings. Jordan Balazovic’s MLB debut was unsuccessful, but if he is fully prepared as a traditional one-inning reliever, he may rediscover the talent that once made him a top prospect. Josh Winder began throwing a two-seam fastball down the stretch that would hopefully solve the fastball woes that have held him back despite a solid secondary pitch mix.
    The Twins are in a better spot with the bullpen than in recent years. There are plenty of red flags, both health and performance-wise, but that’s to be expected on any roster. We may see them add a reliever this winter; it’s never a bad idea. It may be likelier that whoever they bring in is more of a flier for a few million dollars or even a waiver claim.
    The odds of the Twins bringing in a big-time arm for the back innings, at least at market price, are extremely low. With the foundation they have in place and the payroll space they’re working with, we may see them more or less stand pat. Unlike in some recent years, doing so would be more justified. Do you agree?
  5. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Hunter McCall for an article, Should the Twins Trade Brooks Lee for a Top-Tier Starting Pitcher?   
    When the Twins drafted Brooks Lee in 2022, the scouting report showed an incredible ability to put the bat on the baseball. With decent pop and an insanely low strikeout rate, the Cal Poly shortstop worked his way into being a borderline top-5 prospect in the draft. That's why fans were rightfully excited when the Twins were able to scoop him with the 8th pick. Lee immediately entered MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 prospect list, and currently sits as the 18th overall prospect in the entire league.
    The hype around Lee is as high as it’s been, as fans get ready for him to make his way to the MLB roster. Already traveling through all minor-league levels and finishing 2023 with the St. Paul Saints, Lee appears close to making his MLB debut. Would it make sense to capitalize on Lee’s value and cash in on their current infield depth by trading Lee for an arm to replace Sonny Gray?
    The Twins have a logjam of infielders either at the major-league level or close to making their debut. Currently either on the MLB roster or carrying a 2024 ETA, according to MLB.com, the Twins have Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, Alex Kirilloff, Jorge Polanco, Willi Castro, Kyle Farmer, Lee, Yunior Severino, Austin Martin, and Jose Salas (unlikely to debut, but meets these criteria).
    As we saw in the 2023 offseason when the Twins traded Luis Arraez to the Marlins for Pablo Lopez, they are not afraid to capitalize on their depth to fill an area of need. The area of need again this year is a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. So, what’s the case for moving Lee?
    The first reason is that Lee is unlikely to play shortstop in MLB. The most likely path for Lee is at either third base or second base. The Twins currently have two young studs (in Lewis and Julien) holding down those spots for the foreseeable future. If Lee were to stick around, the Twins would likely find ways to make it work, but it would eventually force one of them to either move off their spot or DH regularly. You can never have too many quality bats, but it could get crowded quickly with the other names listed fighting for playing time.
    Another reason to consider packaging Lee is that, of the players listed above, Lee holds the most value. He’s also relatively unproven. While Lewis and Julien have shown to be impactful bats at the highest level, Lee hasn't exactly dominated in the minors. He spent his last 38 games in Triple A and posted a .732 OPS. He has also yet to post an OPS above .850 with any team in his young professional career. Lee hasn’t been bad, but he hasn’t lit the world on fire. He's shown himself to be a solid hitter, a potential everyday big-leaguer, but I’m not sure he possesses the star power that some think he does. Maybe the Twins should strike while the iron is hot and capitalize on his high prospect ranking to solidify their rotation.
    I think Lee will be a very good baseball player at the highest level. However, when you mix his current value with the Twins’ need for a top-of-the-rotation starter, it makes sense to consider packaging him for a guy who can help the already-solid roster take the next step. Just to take one example, Astros southpaw Framber Valdez is becoming the subject of some trade speculation this week. When trading prospects, you risk watching them become stars on another team, but there’s also a risk in holding them and watching them not pan out while their value depreciates. Could the next Pablo López be just one Brooks Lee away?
    What are your thoughts? Should the Twins consider packaging Brooks Lee for starting pitching help? Let me know. Go, Twins!
  6. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, OK, But Really: Why Did the Twins Openly Leak Their Payroll Drop?   
    The Twins didn't exactly hold a press conference to announce it, but they might as well have. In early November, shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, team leadership left little ambiguity about the spending outlook for 2024.
    “We’ve pushed our payroll to heights that we had never pushed it before with the support, certainly, of ownership,” Derek Falvey said. “We know there is some natural ebb and flow to that. Will it be where it was last year? I don’t expect that. I expect it [to be] less than that. Some of that may come more organically.”
    Some follow-up reporting from Dan Hayes for The Athletic brought even more detail to light: the team foresees "significant payroll cuts" of up to $30 million. This journalistic revelation was less overt than Falvey's open on-the-record admission, but still, you don't get the sense it was some tightly-held secret. Clearly Twins leadership–or at least certain elements of it–didn't mind having this narrative out there in the public sphere.
    Coming off a division-winning campaign and a long-awaited postseason breakthrough, the Twins were riding high. They had a prime opportunity to parlay the excitement surrounding this team into a robust winter of season ticket sales and sponsorships. Even if reduced spending was an inevitable reality (and arguably a reasonable one), why come out and say it right away? What is to be gained?
    Falvey and this front office are too strategic, too intentional to just let something like this slip accidentally. There was a rationale behind getting the word out there. Maybe that's what is most annoying about it for those of us trying to analyze from the outside; it's really hard to find an obvious answer. The effects of setting this vibe for the offseason have been fairly predictable. The widespread reaction to nearly every piece of Twins-related news is colored by resentment toward dropping payroll in a moment of great opportunity. 
    Parting with longtime scouts from the previous regime? Cheap. Failing to re-sign Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda? Classic Pohlads. Never mind that these decisions adhere to the same general philosophies this front office has pretty much always followed. The Twins are willingly inviting this narrative.
    So again, I ask: why? There's got to be some sort of motivation behind this course of action. In trying to land on an explanation that seems viable, a few potential objectives come to mind.
    They're trying to create awareness of the TV situation and its implications.
    This strikes me as most probable. While many Twins Daily regulars are likely aware of the team's collapsed broadcasting deal with Diamond Sports Group and what it means for the overall revenue picture, a majority of casual fans are not clued in.
    Not everyone's going to be empathetic to a mega-rich operation making fractionally less profit, but at least it gets an associated (and arguably valid) causal factor out there. Hayes's article makes this framing clear: "Following the expiration of a Bally TV deal that netted them $54.8 million last season, Falvey acknowledged the team’s payroll wouldn’t be nearly as high," he wrote. If a public perception is formed that "better TV deal = higher payroll", it could help the team curry support in its quest to find a new solution.
    They're trying to influence market expectations. 
    The Twins love to find a competitive advantage wherever they can get it. If players, agents, and other front offices believe the Twins are intent on reducing their payroll, it could influence perceptions in interesting ways. Perhaps another team discounts the stealthy Twins in negotiations for a key player. 
    A stretch? Perhaps. But it'll be a feel-good story for everyone if the Twins end up shooting higher than expected and can talk about how they went past their comfort zone to get the guy they wanted.
    They're lowering expectations so they can exceed them.
    Under-promise, over-deliver? The optics of even coming close to repeating their record-setting payroll of 2023 would now be pretty good, given that the team has proactively dampened expectations. I know most of us are zeroing in on the lower end of that $125-140 million range Hayes laid out, to the extent that going beyond that would now feel like a pleasant surprise.
    It matters, because the difference between those two figures would have a sizable impact on what the front office is realistically able to do this offseason when it comes to upgrading the team, or even making up for the losses they've already experienced in free agency. Unfortunately, this is probably wishful thinking. What I keep coming back to is, why come out with it now? If the Twins ended up spending marginally less next year than they did this year, I don't think too many people would notice or care. The up-front framing of these cuts as significant is glaring to me, and makes me expect the worst.
    They're trying to soften a big blow.
    Maybe we are all right to be zeroing in on the low-end $125 million target. Maybe that's the whole point. I don't have any specific insight beyond what's out there, but it wouldn't shock me if the Twins feel overextended after going big last offseason and then losing the RSN honeypot.
    If Falvey is merely leveling with us and being transparent about the steep drop-off to come, I find it hard to begrudge him. I still just don't get it from a business standpoint. Even if the front office leader's corresponding point about payroll–that the Twins can succeed with a lower one because they've built the infrastructure to do so–is accurate, he had to know how the comment and insinuation would be perceived. 
    The reignited payroll narrative is now casting an additional pall over a series of Twins-related headlines that have not been received well: Dick Bremer being ushered out of the broadcast booth, tenured scouts being dismissed, several key free agents signing elsewhere. Hopefully, somewhere on the other side of this, there is a vision to turn the tides and revitalize morale. Right now, all I'm seeing is an avalanche of bad press and buzz-killing vibes. It makes me wonder what exactly the Twins are trying to do from a business and brand standpoint, as much as a baseball one.
  7. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Christie for an article, One Year In: Carlos Correa, Dropping Payroll, and the Future of the Twins   
    Carlos Correa and the Twins seemed destined to find each other. His long-term deals with the Giants and Mets each collapsed, and the Twins were waiting to welcome him back into the fold. Granted, it took the largest contract in team history (six years, $200 million), but the Twins were getting one of baseball’s top players in the prime of his career. This was an unusual feeling for Minnesota sports fans because there was hope Correa could push the team to levels not seen in the Target Field era. 
    2023 Recap
    Unfortunately, the 2023 regular season did not go as planned for Correa. His season started slowly with a .634 OPS in the first month. Correa was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in May, impacting him on both sides of the ball throughout the 2023 campaign. He posted career-worst totals in most offensive categories, hitting .230/.312/.399 (.711) while grounding into an MLB-high 30 double plays. Even with his struggles, Correa continued to play through the injury as he led the Twins with games played and had 89 more plate appearances than any other player. 
    In September, Correa was finding a way to produce offensively despite his nagging injury. He hit .296/.377/.463 (.840) with three doubles and two home runs in 15 games. He tore the fascia in late September when planting his foot on a popup against the Reds. Team trainer Nick Paparesta told reporters that this kind of tear can lead to less discomfort in the foot for players. Correa’s playoff performance pointed to him being back closer to 100 percent. He made multiple defensive plays that were game-changing moments and went 9-for-22 (.409 BA) with three doubles and four RBIs. 
    Twins manager Rocco Baldelli spoke during the regular season about his own experience with plantar fasciitis. Like Baldelli, players have shared that it can take an entire offseason of rest for the injury to heal completely. Sometimes, players deal with the injury throughout their careers. Hopefully, Correa returns in 2024 without any lingering effects from his injury-plagued 2023 season. 
    Future Payroll Considerations
    The Twins are dealing with a payroll crunch this winter due to their lucrative television deal expiring at the season’s end. Minnesota is expected to drop payroll this winter, which can impact multiple parts of the roster. Also, there is no clear solution to the club’s television rights problem. Cable companies are falling to the wayside, with households cutting the cord and switching to streaming options. It might be multiple seasons before the Twins find a solution and can return payroll to levels seen in 2023.
    In 2024, the Twins have some wiggle room with the payroll for multiple reasons. Many of their young players have yet to reach arbitration, which makes them very affordable. Also, Pablo Lopez will only cost $8.25 million before his contract jumps to over $21 million per season from 2025-27. These players will only get more expansive in 2025 and beyond.

    Correa’s salary accounted for roughly one-fifth of the team’s overall payroll last season. FanGraphs pegged Correa’s financial value at just over $9 million, a career-low total. When healthy, Correa has averaged well over $30 million in value per season. With the team dropping payroll, it’s even more imperative for Correa to match his previous production level.
    Front offices can regret trading away players or signing free agents to long-term contracts. The Twins knew there were health risks associated with signing Correa, but there was no way to predict this year’s injury issue. Correa is tied to the Twins for at least five more seasons, and his contract will impact the type of players the team can target on the open market. 
    Twins fans saw the highest highs with Correa in the playoffs last season and the lowest lows with his regular-season production. Now, the front office faces the challenge of upgrading a roster with limited payroll flexibility due to contracts like Correa’s. If Correa was a free agent this winter, would the Twins attempt to sign him? Would he be able to get more guaranteed money this winter because of the poor shortstop class available via free agency? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Lou Hennessy for an article, Three Non-Tendered Relief Pitchers Who Should Interest The Twins   
    Twins decision-makers have never been keen on paying top dollar for the best relievers on the market, and this off-season appears to be no exception. While the top of the free-agent class features high-caliber options such as Josh Hader and Hector Neris, the Twins are likely to seek complementary arms to their current group on one-year or non-roster deals. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
    Multi-year commitments to relievers have a strong tendency to come back and bite the team who signs them, even if the immediate impact of an addition appears enticing. The Twins have a spotty track record when it comes to bringing in sufficient depth to last a full season, but there’s no denying the fact that they have hit on some underappreciated arms who subsequently turned into bullpen buzzsaws for them. From Caleb Thielbar to Matt Wisler to Brock Stewart, the current front office has been able to identify talent in the off-season scrapheap in recent years.
    Some in this class of player might need some tweaks, whether it be mechanically or through modifying their pitch repertoire, but the upside is waiting to be tapped into. If these experiments fail to deliver fruitful results, the commitment should be minimal enough to be able to cut bait without much blowback. 
    Here are three recently non-tendered pitchers who could be interesting pickups for the Twins as they seek low- and medium-leverage arms for 2024 (and beyond).
    Lou Trivino
    The former Oakland setup guy underwent Tommy John surgery in early May, so it’s hard to know how a team like the Twins would evaluate his potential value. He won’t have any impact in the first couple months of the season, but Trivino has a solid track record in the majors and has been a bullpen mainstay for the A’s and Yankees since debuting in 2018. Over his last three seasons, the veteran righty carried a 3.76 ERA through 150 ⅔ innings, with an encouraging 9.6 K/9. He did have a walk rate that hovered around 10%, which should be cause for concern, especially after coming off of elbow surgery. 
    Trivino uses a heavy sinker that he was able to throw for strikes consistently and that averaged more than 95 MPH before the operation. He used a handful of other pitches, including a cutter, four-seam fastball, changeup and a rarely-thrown curveball. What might interest the Twins most is his development of a slider in early 2022, before being traded to New York. The pitch achieved good results in a small sample. Then, the Yankees pumped its usage up substantially with a great outcome (41.7% whiff rate after the trade). 
    If the Twins can reel Trivino in on a team-friendly deal, whether that means a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training or a very affordable major-league guarantee, he could be a worthwhile project. Maybe they could simplify his pitch mix by having him focus on that slider and just one fastball, as they have with other success stories in the past. He'll become a free agent again next winter if only signed for a season, as he has no extra years of team control remaining. If he's amenable, the best move might be a two-year pact that guarantees him a bit more money but gives the Twins a chance to get a full season from him in 2025, should things go well.
    Derek Law
    As an old flame of the Twins, Law pitched 74 ⅓ innings across the last two years since leaving Minnesota, with a 3.74 ERA and handful of unappetizing parts under the hood. He had pedestrian strikeout numbers (7.5 K/9), a high-risk walk rate (10.2%) and a 4.77 expected ERA (xERA, derived from walks, strikeouts, and batted-ball data), but was able to avoid greater damage thanks to his ability to induce weak contact. Law’s 87-MPH average exit velocity allowed was among elite company across baseball, as opponents were limited to a 4.8% Barrel rate.
    We know the Twins have had interest in Law in the past, so the appeal might still be there, especially on a minimal commitment. Like with Trivino, the club could try to simplify the 33-year-old righty’s pitch mix. That could entail ditching his cutter, which has been his primary pitch for the last two years but has yielded lackluster results. Law could instead pair his plus slider with his four-seam fastball, which had far superior expected results in 2023 (.178 xBA, .272 xSLG). He threw six pitches last season, which is at least two more than he needs. Simplifying things could further unlock him, and he's already joined the fraternity of relievers who find their best velocity in their 30s, so the profile gets interesting in a hurry. Law might not raise the ceiling of the Twins’ bullpen, even if he pans out, but he could help raise the floor in low-leverage spots.
    Penn Murfee
    The last name on this list looks like it was simulated by MLB The Show, but might be the most intriguing one of the bunch--or it was, until Atlanta signed Murfee to a big-league deal Wednesday night. Murfee’s lack of notoriety probably comes from the veil of playing on a West Coast club, where he succeeded in mostly low-pressure relief opportunities for the Seattle Mariners. But the 29-year-old righty’s run ended in June when he succumbed to a torn UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery. Thus, Murfee was dropped by Seattle, and subsequently picked up and dropped by the Mets and Braves. After Atlanta non-tendered the Vanderbilt product in order to avoid paying him all season while he navigates the risky rehab and return process, the two parties got back together on a split contract. Murfee will make one salary while he's in the big leagues, and another, lower one if and when he needs to be optioned to the minors. Whereas many other teams (including the Twins) might have wanted him on a minor-league deal, Atlanta used their wide-open 40-man roster to their advantage and guaranteed him a spot.
    Murfee’s fastball sat around 88-89 MPH over the last few years, but he made up for it with a wicked sweeper that he used as his primary offering. That high-spIn pitch helped limit opponents to an anemic .177 batting average, and could be the kind of offering that the Twins’ front office loves. We already know they like guys who can give opponents unusual looks, and the lanky, sidewinding Murfee certainly does that. Since he's no longer available, maybe the Twins could turn to submariner Adam Cimber to provide that unique angle. The Blue Jays non-tendered Cimber after a rough 2023, but no reliever who was non-tendered has a more robust track record in MLB. Unlike Murfee, Cimber would almost certainly require a straight-up big-league deal, but it's likely to be a small one.
    What do you think? Should these non-tendered pitchers be of interest to the Twins? Who else would you rather see them chase in free agency? Let us know what you think in the comments, and as always, keep it sweet.
  9. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Louie Varland’s Role More Apparent After Free Agent Departures   
    Louie Varland has been quite the success story for the Twins' scouting and player-development departments. Minnesota selected Varland in the 15th round of the 2019 MLB Draft from Concordia University in St. Paul. He entered college with a mid-80s fastball and a below-average breaking ball. By his junior season, he increased his velocity to the low 90s and developed a solid breaking pitch. It was enough to catch the eye of the Twins, and they signed him for $115,000.
    Varland continued to make improvements after signing with the Twins, because he couldn’t overpower professional hitters with a low-90s fastball. Coming out of the pandemic, he threw in the mid-90s, and his arm slot was lower. These adjustments helped him to be a more consistent pitcher, which helped his prospect stock to rise. Following the 2021 season, Twins Daily ranked him as the organization’s 15th-best prospect after posting a 2.10 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and 12.4 K/9 between Low and High A.
    His 2022 season established him as one of the team’s top pitching prospects after being named Twins Daily’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In 126 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.06 ERA, with a 1.26 WHIP and a 146-to-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Minnesota was confident enough in him to have him make his big-league debut at Yankee Stadium. He entered last season as Twins Daily’s ninth-ranked prospect and the fourth-highest-ranked pitcher. 
    Varland began the season at St. Paul, but the Twins were forced to turn to him because of injuries in the first half. In 10 starts, he posted a 5.30 ERA, with a 1.36 WHIP and a 54-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His biggest issue was allowing 14 home runs in 56 innings. As other starters returned, Varland was sent back to Triple A in late June to work on his secondary pitches, including a cutter.
    Minnesota recalled Varland when rosters expanded on September 1, to test him in a late-inning bullpen role. His stuff was electric, with his fastball hitting triple digits and his cutter being a weapon in the low 90s. In seven relief appearances (12 innings), he allowed two earned runs with a 17-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His playoff experience was limited to two appearances, and he was only asked to get one out per game. Still, overall, it was clear that Varland could be a dominant bullpen option, especially with his improved secondary offerings. 
    Twins manager Rocco Baldelli met with reporters following the 2023 season and had glowing remarks regarding Varland as a reliever. Outside of Jhoan Duran’s emergence, Minnesota’s late-inning bullpen options have been hit-or-miss for multiple seasons, so it’s easy to understand why a manager would get excited about a potential bullpen weapon. If it were up to Baldelli, he’d likely have Varland in the bullpen for next season and worry about other options to fill spots in the starting rotation.
    Minnesota’s starting rotation is losing two members, with Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda signing free-agent deals outside the organization. Currently, the starting staff would include Pablo López, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and Chris Paddack in the top four spots. Varland lines up to fill the fifth spot in the rotation, but it seems likely that the front office will want to add more depth. If the Twins trade for a playoff-caliber starter, Varland would be pushed to Triple A, which the team did with Ober in 2023. It seems clear that no matter what the team does this winter, Varland will be needed in a starting role. 
    Varland has been considered a hard worker throughout his collegiate and professional careers, and the new-and-improved version of him hasn’t been given a starting opportunity. Last season, his breaking and offspeed pitches had negative run values, while his fastball ranked in the 74th percentile. During the 2022 season, opponents posted a .545 SLG against his cutter, but he lowered that by 145 points last season. Another offseason of emphasis and refinement could sharpen that offering into a true difference-maker. 
    Like many pitchers, Varland saw an increase in his velocity in his switch from starter to reliever. He lacks an actual swing-and-miss pitch against right-handed hitters, who hit .275/.317/.526 (.843) against him in 2023. One possible change would be using his cutter as a fastball and then trying to use his sinker more regularly. However, he has lacked a feel for that pitch because he only started throwing that pitch last season. Varland has shown the ability to make substantial improvements from one year to the next, and his sinker should be one focus area.
    From the front office’s perspective, it’s much easier for Varland to prepare for the season as a starting pitcher and shift him to the bullpen than to do things the other way around. The team assured him last season that the long-term plan is to keep him in the starting rotation. He’s outperformed expectations at every level, and the Twins hope he can take the next step in 2023 and establish himself as one of the team’s long-term rotation options. 
    Should the Twins keep Varland in the rotation? Is it better to move him to the bullpen? Leave a comment and start the discussion.
  10. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Joe Mauer Should Be a First Ballot Hall of Famer   
    Since his playing days, Joe Mauer has been recognized with a few key accolades. The Minnesota Twins wasted no time making sure no player in franchise history would again wear the number 7. Last season, they brought Mauer back onto the field and inducted him into the franchise Hall of Fame with a ceremony at Target Field. The only thing left is to create a bronze bust in Cooperstown's plaque room, which in my opinion should happen during the first voting cycle.
    No player in franchise history seems to have their production more scrutinized than Mauer. From a fanbase that continually clamors for ownership to spend money, his record-breaking contract was primarily held against him despite providing surplus value and having to move positions following a career-threatening injury. Beyond that, his mild-mannered personality doesn’t often elicit significant favor, and his true talent somehow flew under the radar.
    As a catcher, Mauer was among the best to play the game. He won three batting titles from behind the plate, something no other player has done in major league history. 
    At the most demanding position on a baseball diamond, Mauer won three offensive awards that tested durability and the chief offensive ability in the sport. While he was not the current iteration of Luis Arraez, Mauer earned his batting titles through plate discipline, consistency, and a picturesque left-handed swing. He never slid defensively during that time either, racking up three Gold Glove awards while needing to compete with Ivan Rodriguez and Matt Wieters.
    The move to first base is where Mauer’s Hall of Fame candidacy hits a snag. His offensive production dropped mightily as a corner infielder, but the move was forced as a result of his traumatic brain injury. Although he never fit the bill for the position, hitting just 38 home runs after moving to first full-time, he remained an above-average offensive producer with a 105 OPS+ across 680 games. His .278 average in that span was plenty respectable, and he still finished with a career .306 average.
    Beyond transitioning to an entirely new position at age 31, Mauer again found a way to excel. He recorded 1,000 innings at first base in 2015 and posted a -4 DRS (defensive runs saved). In 2016, he turned that on its head by tallying 7 DRS and 9 outs above average (OAA in the first year Statcast recorded the metric).
    By 2017, he was worth 13 DRS and 11 OAA, making him the best defensive player at the position statistically. Antiquated voting gave Eric Hosmer the Gold Glove as a reflection of his offensive prowess despite owning -5 DRS and OAA numbers. Had Mauer been correctly given the award, he would have been the third player in major league history to win a Gold Gloves at multiple positions, joining Darin Erstad and Placido Polanco.
    So often, Mauer’s case for Cooperstown is compared to that of St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Despite having been a historically below-average offensive producer, the latter is seen as a surefire first-ballot candidate because of his defensive prowess and team accolades. Mauer is often denigrated for his time spent at first base after being forced out behind the plate. When voting for the first time, though, it’s not about comparison to outside noise as much as it should be a yes or no.
    Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, which focuses on the worthiness of Hall of Fame enshrinement, places Mauer seventh among catchers. The six above him are all in, and Bill Dickey, along with six others behind him, are in as well. With a ballot introducing only Adrian Beltre as a sure inductee and Todd Helton as a worthy holdover, the ability to vote for ten players should have Mauer’s as an easy name to check. Last week, Cody Christie looked at the ballot, where Mauer falls amongst his competition, and the case he has. The outline seems to set the record relatively straight.
    We haven’t seen the acceptance of controversial players, whether steroids or other transgressions, be moved in, but Mauer has none to overcome. His most significant detriment may have been getting hurt and taking a payday that rubs some the wrong way. He was the Sandy Koufax or Johan Santana of his time behind the plate, and he continued on from that. What ballot a player gets in on is as inconsequential as forcing a guy to wait for the sake of merit.
    You can track the results with Ryan Thibodaux on X at @NotMrTibbs. If done right, this one shouldn’t be hard. Vote Mauer and call Joe in January.
  11. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Trading Places: A History of Minnesota Twins Challenge Trades   
    No team wins every trade, but competitive teams need to win more than they lose. It's pretty straightforward to pick winners and losers when a team trades MLB contributors from a position of strength to bring in other MLB contributors for a position of need. These are often called challenge trades, and the Twins have made them a habit under this front office's tenure.
    I challenge you (no pun intended) to think of an offseason trade since 2016 that sent away an MLB player for the Twins. 
    If that trade wasn't Gio Urshela for Alejandro Hidalgo, you just thought of a challenge trade. The only time that the Twins have truly sold—i.e., traded an MLB player for a prospect—was that second Urshela trade. Below, I've listed every trade that could be considered an offseason challenge trade (or sell) under Derek Falvey. 
    Before we begin, some housekeeping. I provided stats for each player with their new team. A player's performance is not included if they were again traded or signed elsewhere as free agents after the original trade. This analysis doesn't have future performance, either. This information is accurate as of November 15th, 2023. Those with an * indicate that the player is still in the organization they were traded to, so the complete picture isn't available.
    I will also be providing some context for each trade. Comparing statistics does not necessarily indicate which team won the trade, so I have done my best to explain why the trade occurred. 
    See the Yankees trade below for an example of why comparing statistics isn't ideal. Although the Twins lost the trade by WAR, it cleared the salary owed to Josh Donaldson and gave them the room to sign Carlos Correa to his first Minnesota contract.
    Without further ado, my subjective order is from best to worst.
    3/13/22: Minnesota acquires Gio Urshela (551 PA, 119 OPS+, 3.1 bWAR), Gary Sanchez (471 PA, 88 OPS+, 0.9 bWAR) from New York (AL) for Josh Donaldson (666 PA, 90 OPS+, 2.3 bWAR), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (892 PA, 81 OPS+, 2.9 bWAR), Ben Rortvedt* (79 PA, 28 OPS+, -0.2 bWAR), -1.0 bWAR for Minnesota.
    There's much to unpack in this trade, primarily orchestrated to clear up salary room from 2022 to 2024 and rid themselves of Donaldson. Donaldson was a solid contributor for New York in 2022 but wore out his welcome, and the Yankees waived him before the end of 2023. Kiner-Falefa also lost his starting shortstop role, handling a super-utility role when his contract ended after 2023. Rortvedt has played minimally in New York due to injury. Urshela and Sanchez spent a year in Minnesota, but neither returned for 2023. Although both Urshela and Sanchez had contracts that offset some of Donaldson's, the Twins are no longer paying either, and that excess money helped to bring in Correa before 2022 and 2023.
    1/20/23: Minnesota acquires Pablo López* (194 IP, 117 ERA+, 3.3 bWAR), Jose Salas* (has not reached Minnesota), Byron Churio* (has not reached Minnesota) from Miami for Luis Arraez* (617 PA, 133 OPS+, 4.9 bWAR), -1.6 bWAR for Minnesota.
    The Twins tabbed López as the Opening Day starter after the trade that sent the reigning batting champion Arraez to Miami. After four great starts and a four-year, $73 million extension, López finished seventh in the AL Cy Young. Churio and Salas were promising prospects many did not anticipate being included in the deal, though it's questionable whether either will make it to the big leagues. Arraez won his second consecutive batting title and placed eighth in the 2023 NL MVP voting. He's under team control in Miami through 2025.
    2/9/20: Minnesota acquires Kenta Maeda (277.1 IP, 106 ERA+, 3.0 bWAR), Jair Camargo* (has not reached Minnesota) from Los Angeles (NL) for Brusdar Graterol* (173.2 IP, 158 ERA+, 3.5 bWAR), Luke Raley (72 PA, 43 OPS+, -0.5 bWAR), +0.0 bWAR for Minnesota.
    Maeda finished second in the 2020 Cy Young voting during the shortened season but struggled in 2021, had Tommy John surgery, and re-established himself in 2023, though not without continued injury concerns. At the time of the trade, the Twins knew he may have elbow issues. Graterol has been a solid force in LA's bullpen when healthy. Camargo has not reached the majors, while the Twins traded Raley to Tampa. This trade also sent a 2nd round pick to LA.
    4/7/22: Minnesota acquires Chris Paddack* (27.1 IP, 95 ERA+, 0.2 bWAR), Emilio Pagán (132.1 IP, 112 OPS+, 0.9 bWAR), Brayan Medina (has not reached Minnesota) from San Diego for Taylor Rogers (41.1 IP, 87 ERA+, -0.2 bWAR), Brent Rooker (7 PA, -100 OPS+, -0.2 bWAR), +1.1 bWAR for Minnesota.
    This infamous trade sent away the Twins' top reliever, Rogers, who struggled in San Diego. Rooker, a depth outfielder, only registered seven plate appearances for the Padres but wound up a 2023 All-Star with Oakland. In return, the team received Paddack, who had known elbow issues, pitched well in five starts, then underwent Tommy John. He returned as a bullpen piece down the stretch in 2023 and will likely open 2024 in the starting rotation. Pagán largely struggled through 2022 as a high-leverage arm, but he posted a sub-3.00 ERA and led the bullpen in innings in 2023. Medina is currently in Rookie ball as a starter, and the Twins retained most of Rogers's salary.
    3/12/22: Minnesota acquires Isiah Kiner-Falefa (did not reach Minnesota), Ronny Henriquez (11.2 IP, 173 ERA+, 0.2 bWAR) from Texas for Mitch Garver (559 PA, 121 OPS+, 2.5 bWAR), -2.7 bWAR for Minnesota.
    Coming out of the lockout, Minnesota made a move that killed two birds with one stone: got a return for the off-injured Garver and filled a hole at shortstop. Garver has dealt with injuries in Texas but has still hit well, though relegated to mainly DH. Kiner-Falefa was a Twin for one day before getting traded again, and Henriquez threw a few innings in 2022, but the Twins released him after the 2023 season.
    11/18/22: Minnesota acquires Alejandro Hidalgo (has not reached Minnesota) from Los Angeles (AL) for Gio Urshela (130 PA, 84 OPS+, 0.2 bWAR), -0.2 bWAR for Minnesota.
    Urshela became a fan-favorite and consistent performer in his year in Minnesota. However, he would have likely been non-tendered in arbitration to prevent a perceived logjam on the Minnesota infield. He played all around the infield and had been moderately productive for the Angels before a broken pelvis ended his season. Hidalgo is still 20 years old and a starter at High-A.
    2/5/21: Minnesota acquires Shaun Anderson (8.2 IP, 47 ERA+, -0.5 bWAR) from San Francisco for LaMonte Wade Jr.* (1151 PA, 112 OPS+, 3.9 bWAR), -4.4 bWAR for Minnesota.
    In retrospect, this was an unforced error. The Twins had two similar options for their fourth outfielder going into 2021—Wade and Jake Cave—and they elected to trade Wade, who, when healthy, has been a consistent presence in the Giants lineup. Cave struggled over his last two years in Minnesota, and Anderson, the AAAA lottery ticket they got for Wade, was out of the organization before the year ended.
    Total WAR gained: -8.8 bWAR
    Unfortunately, by WAR, the Twins have given up more than they've brought in in MLB-for-MLB trades. However, there's room for discussion. The team could say that they'd do the Donaldson, Arraez, and Graterol trades, even though they have not shown favorably by WAR, given the context of the trades. I said at the beginning that it's easy to see who wins and loses, but it's a little trickier to contextualize them.
    What do you think? Do you trust the team to trade away big leaguers again in 2024?
  12. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Schoenmann for an article, Could This Los Angeles Angels Pitcher Be the Next Pablo López?   
    Roughly three weeks ago, I wrote an article on three left-handed starting pitchers the Twins should consider pursuing in free agency. In the article, Blake Snell, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Jordan Montgomery were highlighted as three top-tier options that could adequately counteract the impending departure of AL Cy Young Award runner-up Sonny Gray and his 5.3 fWAR.
    Many who follow the Twins had concocted mock offseason plans fueled by grand ambition due to the immense optimism sprung upon by the franchise finally ending their 18-game playoff losing streak and putting up a worthwhile fight against the then defending World Series Champion Houston Astros in the ALDS.
    Unfortunately, the embers of those plans have been smothered by the cold cup of water that was the announcement of the Twins planning to undergo "significant payroll cuts" for the 2024 season. As Kim Ki-taek eloquently stated in the 2019 film Parasite, "You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan at all. You know why? If you make a plan, life never works out that way."
    To shift from the pessimism just a smidge, though Snell, Rodriguez, or Montgomery are no longer realistic left-handed starting pitchers the Twins could pursue this offseason, that doesn't mean that specific market is closed. Cheaper secondary-market free-agent options like James Paxton, Wade Miley, and Hyun-jin Ryu are available. Yet, none of these three left-handed starting pitchers are viable one-for-one replacements for Gray's production. 
    Unless the Twins unexpectedly become willing to dish out a significant multiyear contract to Gray himself or a viable replacement like Snell, Rodriguez, Montgomery, Lucas Giolito, or Yoshinobu Yamamoto -- or take a flier on an injury-prone high variance free agent like Frankie Montas or Marcus Stroman -- they will not be able to replace Gray through free agency.
    Luckily, there is another market the Twins can search to find a viable replacement for Gray. Well-known, above-average starting pitcher trade targets like Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Shane Bieber, Dylan Cease, and Tyler Glasnow are the first names that come to mind. Yet, there are less-known, above-average options which, once given resources available to them that their current team doesn't provide, could become the next Pablo López. 
    One of those options is Los Angeles Angels left-handed starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval. Sandoval, 27, has been a member of the Angels since 2019, with his best season coming in 2022. Here are Sandoval's numbers during his breakout 2022 season:
    148 2/3 innings pitched (IP), 638 TBF, 2.91 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 3.67 xFIP, 3.94 SIERA, 6.3% HR/FB, 23.7% K%, 9.4% BB%, 0.48 HR/9, 76.8% LOB%, 139 hits allowed, 60 walks, 151 SO, 3.7 fWAR Highlighted by a sub-three ERA and near-elite HR/FB ratio, Sandoval's 2022 campaign was fascinatingly similar to many of the underlying metrics Gray generated during his 2023 Cy Young Award-worthy campaign. To provide context, here are Gray's 2023 numbers compared to Sandoval's 2022 in specific metrics:
    Gray - 2.79  Sandoval - 2.91 SIERA
    Gray - 3.95 Sandoval - 3.94 HR/9
    Gray - 0.39 Sandoval - 0.48 LOB%
    Gray - 76.8% Sandoval - 76.8% xFIP
    Gray - 3.64 Sandoval - 3.67 There is an obvious caveat: Gray pitched 34 2/3 more innings in 2023 than Sandoval pitched in 2022. Regardless, Sandoval's 148 2/3 innings are a significant enough sample size compared to Gray's 184, which is essentially five to six more starts. Like Gray, Sandoval was able to post a sub-three ERA, suppress home runs, leave the majority of runners on base, and thrive in skill-based sabermetrics like xFIP and SIERA, which provide a more quantitative insight into the underlying skill level of pitchers.
    Now, the current iteration of Sandoval is not as skilled as Gray, as evidenced by his lackluster 2023 season, where he produced a 4.11 ERA, 5.00 SIERA, 0.75 HR/9, 65% LOB%, and 4.61 xFIP. Though Sandoval finds himself in this current state with the Angels, what if he found himself in a more favorable situation?
    Enter Pablo López.
    While with the Miami Marlins, López operated in an environment that struggled to find ways to use analytics in player development advantageously. On the Gleeman and the Geek podcast, Aaron Gleeman of The Athletic noted that López, upon his arrival, was approached with a plan concocted by Pete Maki and the Twins pitching coaches to adjust his pitch mix through, most notably, adding a sweeper to his repertoire and using his changeup less.
    Sandoval, who is in a similarly regressive situation in Los Angeles as López was in Miami, would likely benefit from the same revamp that López underwent upon his arrival with the Twins. Sandoval would have to be open-minded to the proposed ideas and adjustments like López was, but there is no reason to expect he wouldn't be, as most pitchers and MLB players are open to trying different techniques to advance and improve their craft. 
    If the Twins were to trade for Sandoval, here is what a trade offer would likely look like:
    Twins Receive: Patrick Sandoval Angels Receive: Matt Wallner, Marco Raya Now, trading Wallner and Raya for Sandoval is merely a hypothetical trade, not a suggestion. Trading promising young talents in Wallner and Raya is likely an overpay. Yet, the Angels plan on competing in 2024, so they will likely want MLB-ready talent in return for Sandoval, an established Major League-caliber starting pitcher. Nevertheless, the Twins would have to send a significant package to the Angels to acquire Sandoval, who is 27 and under team control until 2027.
    As evidenced by his performance in 2022, Sandoval can be a frontline starting pitcher. Unfortunately, he has been the victim of an unstable and dreary situation where it is nearly impossible for a player to thrive unless they are at the skill level of Shohei Ohtani or Mike Trout. If Sandoval is given the opportunity to pitch in a more progressive and sustainable situation like López was given when he was traded from Miami to Minnesota, there is potential that he thrive and become a consistently above-average starting pitcher.
    Should the Twins trade for Sandoval? Could he benefit from joining the Twins like López? Comment below.
  13. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Trends and Takeaways from the Big List of Twins Trade Ideas   
    If you haven't yet, you can download the (FREE!) big list of trade ideas, which is a PDF compiling submissions from our community. Each proposal was explained, vetted, and analyzed. Anyone can access this installment of our 2024 Offseason Handbook, whether you are a Caretaker or not.
    This call for imaginative yet considered trade ideas yielded a wide range of theoretical swaps, involving many different players. Some were off the wall; others seemed downright plausible. One person submitted a three-team deal involving six players.
    I encourage everyone to read through all of the many ideas unpacked in the PDF, but here I'm going to pull out some themes and takeaways that struck us as we went through all your submissions.
    Corbin Burnes is a good trade fit for the Twins
    Clearly the rumors of Burnes' availability, with reports that the Brewers are willing to trade "virtually any player" following Craig Counsell's exit, have piqued the interest of Twins fans, and for obvious reasons. Burnes is a frontline starter capable of offsetting the loss of Sonny Gray like few others could. 
    Multiple different trade submissions targeted Burnes, including a really well thought out and explained framework from Matthew Trueblood, who has unique dual insight as editor for both a Twins and Brewers website.
    If Milwaukee would be down to deal Burnes and his one remaining year of control for Jorge Polanco and David Festa, as Matthew suggests, I think I'd take that in a second.
    Payroll could be an impediment in making a big splash
    The pesky knowledge of a looming Twins payroll decrease threw some cold water on a few otherwise intriguing trade ideas. Multiple people took a shot at acquiring Juan Soto from San Diego, but even if the Twins could muster a worthy package, it's hard to see how another $30 million salary fits on the books. The same is true to a lesser extent with Pete Alonso, another known trade candidate.
    One popular name whose pursuit could be stymied by payroll implications is Tyler Glasnow. He's an appealing fit for the Twins as a frontline talent with one remaining year of control, but the same reason Tampa is looking to unload Glasnow is the same reason Minnesota may struggle to accommodate his addition; the righty is owed $25 million in 2024.
    David Festa is a popular trade chip
    In trying to conceptualize trades that would be considered realistic, many respondents included pitching prospects, which tells us they were taking the assignment seriously. Festa was named in six different Twins trade packages, and Marco Raya was in a few others. Twins Daily has these two ranked as the top two pitching prospects in the organization, fourth and fifth overall.
    Minnesota's front office might prefer to trade exclusively from its position-player depth, but young arms are the currency of baseball. As I wrote in an earlier Handbook chapter, "If the Twins front office is big-game hunting this winter, these are names they’ll need to make themselves comfortable including."
    People are eyeing Mitch Keller as the next Pablo Lopez
    The Lopez trade worked out extremely well, so it's unsurprising that many fans are eager to try and replicate it. Pittsburgh's Keller was called out in multiple submissions as a target with similar traits: he's pretty young (27) with good-not-great performance and upside to potentially be tapped. Like Lopez a year ago, Keller has two remaining years of team control, and they don't figure to be that expensive.
    Of course, for these reasons, the Pirates won't be giving him away. Players dangled in various hypothetical Keller trades included Edouard Julien, Matt Wallner, and both of the top two pitching prospects mentioned above.
    Unloading salary for prospects looks like a realistic path
    It's no surprise that there were a lot of different deals in the book involving Max Kepler and/or Jorge Polanco, given that both are logical candidates to be shopped this winter. Several of these proposals brought back immediate impact talent, but if the Twins are truly motivated to move one or both for salary reasons, a trade that brings back prospects might be most likely -- particularly if the Twins are using this step-back in spending as an opportunity to reload their longer-term pipeline.
    One trade suggestion from user Cory had the Twins swapping Polanco for RHP Tom Harrington, the No. 6 prospect in Pittsburgh's system. Another submission, from "harmony," sent both Polanco and Kepler to Seattle for their top pitching prospect Emerson Hancock.
    If you haven't yet, we encourage you to explore the Big List of Twins Trade Ideas and share your own thoughts, or any ideas for offseason trades that might've been inspired by others.
  14. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking the Untouchable Players in Potential Twins Trades   
    Some organizations are not planning on contending during the 2024 season, which likely means they would be willing to trade away current value for future long-term pieces. Contending teams like the Twins must find the right balance between supplementing the current roster and adding future assets to open the team’s winning window. 
    The Twins' current roster includes significant depth on the position player side, so that’s a strength from which the team will make moves. Minnesota’s lost TV revenue means the club plans to cut payroll by $15-30 million next season. Veteran players like Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Kyle Farmer are likely on the trading block to clear some salary space. 
    After examining Minnesota’s roster, two player types are untouchable in trades. Current young players with surplus value moving forward and veteran players with high contracts and trade restrictions. Baseball Trade Values attempts to quantify each player's surplus value in a potential trade, so it’s easy to see why these players are untradeable. 
    1. Walker Jenkins, OF
    Surplus Trade Value: 45.1
    The Twins selected Jenkins with the fifth overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, and he’s already established himself as one of baseball’s best prospects. Minnesota pushed him to Low-A, and he posted a .989 OPS in his professional debut. His surplus trade value isn’t the highest in the organization because he is far from the big-league level. The Twins aren’t trading Jenkins because he is on his way to becoming a superstar. 
    2. Royce Lewis, SS/3B
    Surplus Trade Value: 44.2
    The Twins saw how valuable Lewis can be to the line-up in the second half of last season. He added muscle to his frame while rehabbing from two ACL tears, increasing his power production. He will get an entire off-season to acclimate to third base, his new defensive home. On a team with big names like Correa and Buxton, Lewis is quickly becoming the face of the franchise. 
    3. Pablo Lopez, SP
    Surplus Trade Value: 43.1
    The Twins have yearned for an ace since trading away Johan Santana was. Lopez stepped into that role last season, and the front office quickly signed him to an extension. He had some ups and downs during his first season with the Twins, but he was fantastic in October. He will be at the top of the team’s rotation through 2027. The Twins continue to try to add to their rotation, so there is no reason to try and trade Lopez. 
    4. Brooks Lee, SS/3B
    Surplus Trade Value: 48.1 
    Lee has the highest surplus trade value of any player in the Twins organization because he is on the cusp of the big leagues. He has a full six years of team control, with some of those years being at a minimal cost. Jenkins and Lee are ranked closely on many national prospect lists, but Lee has a lower floor, and Jenkins has a higher ceiling. The Twins were lucky to get both players in their respective drafts, and the hope is they are in the middle of the team’s line-up for the next decade.
    5. Joe Ryan, SP
    Surplus Trade Value: 39.1
    Near last year’s trade deadline, I wrote that Ryan was the team’s most valuable trade asset. His performance struggled in the middle of the season as he dealt with a groin injury. However, there is hope that Ryan can have a healthy 2024 and reach his full potential. Some of his trade value has decreased because he is in his last pre-arbitration season. Still, the Twins want Ryan to take the next step and prove he can be a player they rely on in the playoffs.
    How would you rank the players listed above? Would the Twins consider trading any of these players for the right starting pitcher? Leave a Comment and start the discussion. 
  15. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Bullpen Catcher Dishes on His Unique Experience in 2023   
    On the field, fans watched Rocco Baldelli and the Minnesota Twins play American League Central Division-winning baseball. The 2023 squad ended an 18-year postseason drought, and they swept a Toronto Blue Jays team while besting former ace Jose Berrios in an elimination game.
    Behind the scenes, pitchers like Chris Paddack and Jorge Alcala were working their way back toward the active roster with an eye on competing alongside their teammates. Paddack ultimately realized the goal and looked great when deployed in September and October. As those bullpen sessions took place, I connected with Bryan Ludwig, a catcher doing it all behind the scenes.
    Despite working as an attorney, Ludwig has had the pleasure of working with the Twins as a bullpen catcher. Wondering what that experience has been like, what he has seen, and especially the development of arms this season, it seemed like a good time to connect.
    Twins Daily: How do you wind up as a bullpen catcher in a major league organization? What does your baseball background look like?
    Bryan Ludwig: I grew up in Woodbury and played ball at Woodbury High School ('04). I attended Augsburg University, where I played ball as a C/1B/DH (2004-2008). I also played for and ran the St. Paul Mudhens (Class A Townball) from 2005-2020, managing the team from 2010-2020. Since 2020, I've been playing summer ball in the Federal League (35+) for the Lakeville Lobos and moonlighting with Baseball 365's townball team.
    I've been a coach with the Minnesota Twins Youth Training Academy and the RBI Program since 2010. I work traveling camps/clinics in the spring/summer and train catchers in the offseason. I have also worked in club baseball as a head coach and trainer. Mostly with Great Lakes Baseball Academy until recently. Having a seven and nine-year-old is pulling me into the coach-dad realm lately with little league and softball. I've also been a volunteer assistant coach back with Augsburg, working with their catchers in fall ball and early spring, and since 2020, I've been working with the Midwest Speed Softball Club, training their catchers during their winter season. 
    Rehab bullpen catching is a story of "right place, right time, right person."
    I had a unique skill set with unique connections that enabled me to meet a unique need. I was just a volunteer with the Twins academy in 2009, trying to log hours for my volunteer requirements at law school. The Twins' lefty specialist bullpen thrower was the one running those camps at the time, and leading up to the start of 2010, he got wind that the Twins were asking around about having a local catcher on-call to be a bullpen guy. The ask was to work with the training staff as guys rehabbed and fill in for home games as needed. This was a completely new role with the christening of Target Field. While they were in the Dome, an injury was a one-way ticket to Ft. Myers to rehab because no on-site facilities were available. With Target Field opening and a state-of-the-art training room and team doctors on-site, they needed someone who could work out with the pitchers when the team was on the road, during off days, or when the full-time bullpen catcher was unavailable or needed a break.
    It was late March 2010, and I got a call from the Twins bullpen guy in the middle of one of my classes. He explains the situation and asked if I would be interested in reporting to Target Field the following week to work with Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Carl Pavano on the field so they could get on the big mound before the home opener.
    The rest is history from there, I have been in this role since, except pausing during the pandemic when the organization limited who was in/around the clubhouse.  I am grateful for the schedule flexibility my job as an attorney has provided to enable me to stay connected to the game, even in this small way. I have gotten to meet and interact with many amazing baseball people, and I hope to continue doing this as long as I am physically able. 
    TD: When you get behind the plate for the Twins, what goes into that preparation? Are you working with anyone from the team to ensure you know what each guy wants to do?
    BL: There are two routes this goes: the in-game route and the rehab route.
    In-game, the preparation for the catcher is minimal. It is dictated by the situation and the call from the dugout. Also, each pitcher has their own preparation timeline. Unless it is a "get hot immediately" call, you have a general idea of who will be getting up depending on the inning and the situation. The bullpen coach and pitcher control the pen, but most of these guys have such a finely tuned internal clock they know exactly how long it will take to get hot as soon as that phone rings. Most guys will start throwing plyo balls and stretching around the 5th/6th inning, and once they get on the mound, it is anywhere between 15-25 pitches to get hot. The other job in-game is warming up left field. Otherwise, the bullpen is just baseball guys being baseball guys on the bench.
    For rehab work, it is a little more regimented. The training staff establishes a back-to-throwing program with built-in bullpen days. On those days, there is usually some pre-bullpen treatment and workout for the pitcher: long toss to a specific distance, some throw a short flat ground pen to work on release points and grip, and then a full pen on the big mound or out in the home bullpen. Everything monitored closely to ensure all the movements and metrics are improving or back to normal for a guy before they can go out on minor league assignment for a start or in-game relief work. The training staff I have worked with have been amazing at letting me use of all the tools and resources the big leaguers get to use to get ready to throw. On rehab days, I check in with the trainer to get the session plan, do some light band work and stretching, get on my shins, and head out to the first baseline for long toss. (I'm a Minnesota Townballer. Show-n-go is how we roll.) 
    TD: This season, we saw the Twins put together one of their best starting rotations in franchise history. What was it like to work with those guys, and how was their stuff different than what you had seen in the past?
    BL: There is no denying that this was one of the most talented staffs the Twins have had in a long time. Aside from pure talent, one of the things that made this staff unique is that each pitcher, starting or relief, was uniquely complimentary to every one of the other guys on the roster.
    Pablo Lopez and Jhoan Duran did it with power and flair, Sonny Gray and Caleb Thielbar were bulldogs with control and finesse. Up and down the staff, there was a near-perfect balance of power and finesse, and guys like Pablo and Sonny took the lead on establishing a bulldog mentality across the staff. As an inside-outside observer, there were no wasted opportunities, and they attacked offenses versus just trying to hold an offense off. A lot of credit also goes to the Twins pitching coaches who fostered and supported that approach and gave all of these guys the tools and information necessary to find another edge or slight adjustment to add to their personal pitch arsenal. When you've seen big league "stuff," it is all elite, and pitching has outpaced hitting in how it is tracked, analyzed, and adjusted. I can talk about my thoughts on that for hours. Still, I think what made this staff so difficult was the consistency of its makeup that gave opposing offenses the sense that getting a starter out of a game only meant a constant barrage of difficult arms from the pen and on the days the starters went deep, they were equally unhittable. 
    TD: Having done work with some of the guys rehabbing with the intention of making it back for the postseason, what tipped you off that they may be ready? How did their stuff look?
    BL: There are all kinds of measurables and metrics (spin rate, pitch depth, pitch shape, velocity, vertical break, horizontal break, etc.) that can give the team confidence that a guy is ready to step back on a big league mound. Those are all invaluable data points, but from my position, there is also a perceptible change in how a particular pitch moves or the snap of my mitt that I can tell the last piece has clicked into place.
    For some guys, it's that "out pitch" that bites a little harder, that changeup that disappears like a magic trick at 59 feet, or the fastball that has little lift that tells you "this guy is back." Sometimes, it's even a simple look they give after they let go of that breaking pitch at 100% for the first time, and it has the life and movement they expect. When they start repeating that output on the rehab mound, you can visibly see a weight lifted off their shoulders. I think any catcher would agree, when a pitcher is dialed in and that glove snap is just a little bit louder, you just have the intuitive sense that no hitter will be able to touch it. For all the data and technology, there is still a lot of raw feel in the moment that informs that player that they're ready. The tech, trainers, and coaches will confirm it, but that moment is always fun to be even a small part of. 
    TD: You have seen plenty of pitchers while working behind the plate. Is there a guy or a pitch that jumps out as something that has always just been special?
    BL: 2014 All-Star Game aside (that is another fun story), It is not velocity that impresses. It is the movement and pinpoint control these guys have on pitches that can move 22 inches horizontally or drop 14 inches and still catch a corner. For the Twins, if you want to talk about wipeout pitches, it is tough to beat a Francisco Liriano slider or a vintage Joe Nathan curveball. However, that Duran splinker is, in fact, some ridiculous voodoo magic.
    Regarding a special moment, I spent an entire summer with Michael Pineda as he rehabbed from TJ. Seeing him progress and become a force in the rotation in 2019 was incredible. That grind was real, and he poured everything he had into it. That human element gets lost sometimes with fans who don't get to see that day-to-day drive and passion first-hand. 
    TD: For Minnesota going into 2024, how confident should the quality of depth returning make fans feel about the pitching? Why can this group go out and again put up strong numbers?
    BL: It will be tough to replace some of the departing arms, but there is real buy-in from the returners to what the training and coaching staff want to develop with these guys individually and as a cohesive unit. The seasoning of some of our younger arms, along with the sustained presence of key vets, makes for a firm foundation to build off of the successes of this season. The bullpen will remain a force, and will be anchored by one of the most electric closers in the game (Duran), but Paddack is the guy I am most excited about. It is a bit of a wild card at this point, but if the Twins don't re-sign Gray and assuming a healthy season, I think his range of outcomes starts at something like 70-80% of what Sonny gave this rotation to a seamless replacement from Paddack in 2024. In both circumstances, Twins fans should be excited by that. 
    TD: End it with something fun. What has been one of the best moments or stories you can share since working in this role?
    BL: I had the honor of serving as one of the bullpen catchers during All-Star Weekend in 2014. I was assigned to the World team during the Futures Game and the American League during the workout day, Home Run Derby, and All-Star Game. I was in the World bullpen for the Futures game and got to warm up a young stud named Jose Berrios before his start.
    This is where I have to get romantic about baseball because it is rare that you recognize one of those "stop and take it in" moments, but that was certainly it. During the game, I got to work with players who span the globe, some of whom didn't speak English. Each of the pins on the globe, MLB team affiliations, and varied languages didn't matter on that day because we all spoke the same language of baseball. There were no cross-ups. No missed signs. Just a couple of guys having a catch on a warm July evening with each new pitcher that entered the game. 
    There are many other moments and experiences from that weekend and the years of being granted the opportunity to strap on the gear and play this small role with my favorite childhood team. That particular experience sits at the top for me because it was the perfect baseball microcosm. At the end of the day, players will come and go, and teams will rise and fall, but the game holds this baseball community together. The game lights us up every February as teams report to Spring Training and a new season begins. From the tee-baller in a jersey five sizes too big to the big leaguer catching the last out of the World Series, the game is the heartbeat. 
    Baseball is a sport everyone experiences differently, and the barrier to entry is so low. While mastering the game is an art form, appreciating it is beyond a straightforward understanding. Bryan Ludwig does something fun outside of his regular work schedule, and hearing how that has all played out was quite the experience.
  16. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nate Palmer for an article, Trade Retrospective: Mitch Garver World Series Edition   
    As the baseball world was treated to a Texas Rangers World Series championship, Minnesota Twins fans watched former Twin and fan favorite Mitch Garver perform well throughout the playoffs. His highlights included a golf-shot home run off of Merrill Kelly in Game 2 and an RBI single to break open the scoring in the title-clinching game. With the Rangers' incredible run fresh in mind, let’s take a trip back to examine the trade that landed Garver in Texas. 
    The trade followed a 2021 season with the Twins where Garver had played in only 68 games but hit for an .875 OPS and 139 OPS+ in those limited plate appearances. That left the front office with a decision to make. Could they rely on the often-injured Garver, was it time to hand the reins to the rising Ryan Jeffers? Or, could they both share the catching load? 
    With other needs to fill on the roster, the decision ultimately was made to trade Garver away. A deal with the Rangers materialized and resulted in Garver leaving with Ronny Henriquez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa coming to Minnesota. This trade will always be challenging to analyze on its own because it set off a string of moves, which included trading away Josh Donaldson and eventually signing Carlos Correa. 
    The Immediate Move
    Based on the holes on the Twins roster at the time, it was understood that either Garver or Jeffers could be traded at some point in the 2021-2022 offseason. The return of Henriquez and Kiner-Falefa did feel light for what fans had hoped to see in a return for Garver. 
    Kiner-Falefa was an example of the front office setting a floor at an empty position. His bat has never been that impactful, boasting a meager 84 and 78 OPS+ over the past two seasons. What IKF does provide is above-average defense across the infield and, most notably, at shortstop, which was a hole on the roster heading into the 2021-2022 offseason. 
    There is still a chance that Henriquez will turn into a bullpen arm for the Twins. He came to the organization as a potential starter but, due to his struggle to stay healthy, has shifted primarily to the bullpen. While there is still a chance for Henriquez to impact the Twins roster, he will need to rise the ranks to meet the value of Garver when the two are placed side by side. 
    The Long-Term Ripple Effects
    The positive of this move comes from the chain reaction it set off. The trade allowed the Twins to send out Josh Donaldson, his contract, and his negative clubhouse presence to the Yankees, who were keen on acquiring Kiner-Falefa. Donaldson’s absence opened up payroll space to bring in Carlos Correa for his initial deal, paving the way for this year's long-term contract.
    Garver has also seemingly had the judgment passed on him that between injuries and performance, others should be playing catcher over him. The Twins did pass on Garver in favor of Jeffers, and the Rangers chose Jonah Heim and trade deadline acquisition Austin Hedges behind the plate. While they were two of the three best defensive catchers in the game, according to Baseball Savant, it is still worth noting that the Rangers saw a need to acquire Hedges when Garver was in the locker room. 
    Even as just a right-handed bat, Garver could have helped the Twins, especially considering his .938 OPS against left-handed pitchers in 2023. The only issue would be roster space and playing time. The Twins are currently seeing a roster crunch when all players are available at designated hitter (and corner positions if he was willing to play first base), and Garver would only add to that crunch. 
    In the end, the initial deal looked like a short-sighted one. Thankfully for the Twins and us as fans, the Yankees were desperate to grab IKF and created all those other moves. Moves that, in ways, laid the groundwork for 2023 and beyond. Now, Garver will hit the free agent market, and we will see if everyone views him simply as a designated hitter or if someone will give him a chance to catch again. 
    How did watching Garver win a championship with another team sit with you? How do you feel about the trade a couple of years later? Let us know below!
  17. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Schoenmann for an article, Could Yunior Severino Be a Cheaper, More Productive Version of Joey Gallo?   
    Headlined by rookies Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, and Matt Wallner, the Minnesota Twins just underwent one of the most exponential youth movements in franchise history. These young players, mixed with stars like Carlos Correa and Pablo López, have seemingly ushered the Twins into a new era of baseball, one free of the burden that was the ever-looming Sisyphean 18-game playoff losing streak.
    Unfortunately, the sense of renewal and optimism that has reigned over Twins Territory since defeating the Toronto Blue Jays on October 4th has spiraled into yet another Pohlad-induced angst, as it was shared that the team is expected to undergo payroll cuts heading into the 2024 season. 
    Expensive veteran contributors like Sonny Gray ($13.3 million), Joey Gallo ($11 million), Michael A. Taylor ($4.6 million), and Donovan Solano ($2.1 million) are likely to depart from the Twins this offseason. Instead of replacing them with similarly priced veterans through trade or the free agent market, the front office, hindered by payroll constraints, may opt for inexpensive internal options. 
    While we are in the early stages of the offseason and have yet to learn what the front office's plans are to replace these veteran players' production for the upcoming 2024 season, a handful of young internal candidates may be called upon. Although replacing the production of more key contributors like Gray, Taylor, and Solano will be difficult, a likely candidate to replace Gallo's production has already emerged in 24-year-old power-hitting utility player Yunior Severino. 
    Like Gallo, it is vital to emphasize power when discussing Severino, as he finished the 2023 season tied with Astros prospect Shay Whitcomb for the most home runs in Minor League Baseball with 35. Severino accomplished this feat by hitting 24 home runs with the Double-A Wichita Wind Surge and 11 home runs with the Triple-A St. Paul Saints after being promoted on August 3rd.
    Beyond his immense power, Severino possesses a versatile defensive profile similar to the one Gallo provided in 2023. During his time between Double-A Wichita and Triple-A St. Paul, Severino played 184 2/3 innings at second base, 556 1/3 at third base, 125 1/3 at first base, and was the designated hitter for 20 games.
    To put this into perspective, Gallo played 315 innings in left field, 46 1/3 innings in centerfield, 53 innings in right field, and 322 innings at first base, and was the designated hitter for one game during the 2023 regular season. Severino isn't a viable defensive Major League outfielder, so the Twins will need to look elsewhere to cover the 414 1/3 outfield innings Gallo provided. Regardless, Severino could easily find himself replacing the 322 innings Gallo provided at first, if not more, while serving as at least an emergency option at third. 
    In theory, Severino, a switch-hitter, could increase his value and perception of flexibility more than Gallo, who hits exclusively left-handed, ever could. Gallo often found himself part of left-handed heavy platoon employments whenever the Twins would face a right-handed starting pitcher. Typically, switch-hitters like Severino are platoon-proof, but earning that distinction depends on whether the respective player can adequately hit pitchers of both handedness. Here are Severino's splits in Double-A and Triple-A during the 2023 season:
    Double-A Wichita Wind Surge
    Versus Left-Handed Pitching - .290/.355/.551 (.906) - 76 PA, 20 hits, three doubles, five home runs, five walks, 27 strikeouts Versus Right-Handed Pitching - .287/.368/.562 (.930) - 299 PA, 76 hits, 12 doubles, 19 home runs, 31 walks, 90 strikeouts Triple-A St. Paul Saints
    Versus Left-Handed Pitching - .286/.400/.429 (.829) - 25 PA, six hits, zero doubles, one home run, four walks, eight strikeouts Versus Right-Handed Pitching - .223/.305/.527 (.832) - 128 PA, 25 hits, two doubles, ten home runs, 11 walks, 48 strikeouts Despite a fairly significant drop-off in performance when facing right-handed pitching between Double and Triple-A, Severino still handled them exceptionally well, hitting 29 of his 35 home runs while generating a .881 OPS in 427 plate appearances against them. 
    Severino manufactured incredible offensive numbers at both levels, which is why the Twins elected to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him from MiLB free agency and the Rule 5 Draft. If Severino hadn't been added to the 40-man roster, it is near-guarantee that a team would have selected him in the Rule 5 Draft as he is an MLB-caliber player. 
    With Severino on the Twins' 40-man roster for the upcoming season, he will inevitably make his Major League debut in 2024. And with payroll cuts playing a prominent role in the Twins' decision-making process this season, it isn't far-fetched to expect Severino to be a key contributor for the Twins in 2024.
    Whether Severino can hit for power more efficiently than the current version of Gallo, who seemingly became an automatic strikeout toward the end of his tenure with the Twins, is yet to be determined. Regardless, it is reasonable to expect Severino to be an improvement.
    The Twins front office places a premium on power when analyzing which players to add and subtract from the 26-man roster, which is Severino's greatest strength. Severino did possess a roughly 33.9% K% to 9.7% BB% between Double and Triple-A, which is concerning but, at the same time, feasible. As long as Severino keeps his K% around 33.9% and does not skyrocket to the mid-40s, where Gallo lived most of the 2023 season, it is reasonable to think Severino could provide an upgrade for an AL Central Title-pursuing team. 
    Assuming Severino's strikeout rate hovers around the lower 30s while effectively hitting for power from both sides of the plate, there is a significant chance he can put more than 0.7 fWAR, which Gallo generated during the 2023 season. Severino, being five years younger and roughly $10 million cheaper than Gallo, presents a unique opportunity for the Twins to immediately improve in a hyperspecific area of roster construction while saving an immense amount of money, which is the Pohlad family and, in turn, front office's main goal this offseason.
    With the Twins set to make relatively drastic payroll cuts this upcoming offseason, they will need to rely more on their young internal options than in past seasons. Though this is a daunting proposition, it could also be a silver lining, and the Twins could end up unearthing a viable power-hitting corner infielder who could provide more value than the $11 million risk they took in Gallo in 2023.
    Should the Twins put their faith in Severino to replace Gallo's production in 2024? Is giving him the opportunity too risky? Comment below.
  18. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Pump the Brakes On These Prospects   
    Pump the brakes on Brooks Lee. For that matter, the same applies to Austin Martin, Yunior Severino, Jair Camargo, Chris Williams, and DaShawn Keirsey. Lee is the third baseman of the future, hopefully. Martin, Severino, Camargo, Williams, and Keirsey will all likely appear in games for the Twins at some point during 2024, but we don’t need to put the cart before the horse.
    The Twins have a number of decisions to make with an already crowded infield, a questionable mix at first base, a backup catcher making $10 million in both 2024 and 2025, a hole in centerfield, and an unclear budget for making additions. Many of the aforementioned names could be written in as key contributors in those spots.
    However, none of those players are beating down the hatches. Lee has 60 games at AAA with a mediocre August and a solid September. Martin similarly has 59 games and one outstanding month in St. Paul. Severino and Keirsey have even less than that. Williams and Camargo are both in their mid-20s coming off great offensive years, but they still haven’t gotten a single plate appearance in MLB.
    None should be the answer to any question at the beginning of 2024. It would put the Twins in a very difficult spot. If Martin or Keirsey are your personal long-term answer in center field, you’re welcome to that. You might see Camargo as a long-term backup catcher, replacing Vazquez.
    Forcing that to happen in March is a problem.
    The recent success of rookies Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, and Matt Wallner has been incredible, but it’s important not to expect that level of production to be the norm, even for prospects at the top of organizational rankings. It’s not normal. Their success was exceptional. They themselves may struggle to find the same level of success going forward.
    So often prospects, even those who are hyped and go on to have great careers, struggle in their early stints. Names like Torii Hunter or Michael Cuddyer come to mind, struggling for years to find their footings before becoming mainstays in the Twins lineup for a decade.
    Other prospects don’t manage to get their footing at all, such as more recent examples like Stephen Gonsalves, Alex Meyer, Oswaldo Arcia, or Joe Benson. It’s difficult to project success, even in players at the upper levels of the minor leagues.
    Both Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach have shown flashes of being very good players, but they have also gone through extended stretches that cast a cloud over their long-term outlook—and both were Opening Day starter in 2023. If that’s not the organization showing a reliance on them, I’m not sure what is.
    Fortunately, Miranda and Larnach were able to be replaced by Lewis and Wallner, respectively, but it would be foolish to assume that that outcome was always a given. What if the team didn’t open the season with Lewis and Wallner in reserve as alternative options? What if they were going to sink or swim with Miranda and Larnach?
    They would have been in trouble. Likewise, starting 2024 with upper minors depth in key roles is asking for the same.
    The Twins clearly have a philosophy in this type of situation, and it’s probably the right one—they want depth. That’s exposed in the acquisitions of players like Michael A. Taylor, Joey Gallo, and Donovan Solano. Granted, not all of these types of acquisitions are beneficial, but that’s kind of the point.
    They want options.
    Do those options sometimes block our favorite prospects on the depth chart? Sure. But it also allows those prospects to be a short-term backup plan, protecting them and the team. Blocking prospects is the cost of bringing in big league depth.
    Beginning the year with some sort of big leaguer in those roles ensures better talent is in the organization. Those same big leaguers wouldn’t take a minor league deal to serve as a backup to the prospects. The decision is effectively between bringing in an MLB veteran and having a top prospect as a backup or having a top prospect with a minor league veteran as a backup plan.
    One of those plans has a better rate of success. It’s risky business trusting a big league role to someone who’s never seen an MLB pitch, and it can go wrong in any number of ways, be it performance or injury. Sure, the MLB veteran could struggle or get injured too, but it’s much more comforting to be able to turn to a top prospect than a career minor leaguer in that event.
    If any of the aforementioned players do break camp with the team, it’s not the end of the world. They all have the potential to be competent pieces at minimum. It just shouldn’t be what any of us are clamoring for. They’ll be here when it’s time. Right now, the Twins have a division to win.
  19. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Ranking the Twins' 10 Most Valuable Trade Candidates   
    Here in the month of November, Twins Daily is providing offseason preview coverage with a phased thematic approach. Last week we took a deep dive on free agency possibilities; this week we're shining the spotlight inward with a focus on players currently in the Twins organization and how they might factor into the team's plans.
    Along with articles on the site that will explore this focus from every angle, we're also releasing a new section of the 2024 Offseason Handbook for TD Caretakers, which includes Seth's breakdown of organizational depth at every position, and a story from me ranking the 10 players in Twins organization who best blend tradeability with trade value.
    If you use the coupon code 2024HANDBOOK at checkout, all Caretaker packages are 25% off!
    You can read an excerpt from that story here, or become a Caretaker to access the whole thing! (If you are a Caretaker, you can scroll to the bottom of this page to download the full PDF for the chapter.)
    The Twins front office has not been shy about swinging big trades and giving up high-profile talent in the process. In the past we've seen them trade top pitching prospects Brusdar Graterol and Chase Petty to acquire frontline starters, and more recently, they gave up cherished team fixture Luis Arraez in the Pablo Lopez swap.
    These moves involved some painful losses, but they were also responsible for shaping the league-leading 2023 rotation. As the Twins endeavor to fill key gaps left in their starting pitching corps this offseason, history tells us there's a good chance they'll turn to the trade market.
    The other factor at play: Minnesota has a lot of players in the mix who look like plausible trade candidates. To their credit, the front office has built up some redundancies, or at least reasonable depth, to make certain quality players less essential to the future. 
    The Twins have productive veterans they could be motivated to deal, as well as elite prospects they could use to aim exceptionally high in their hunt for controllable frontline pitching. 
    Here's my take on 10 players who could realistically be traded this offseason, in order of how much value they might bring back by my estimation. 
    I didn't include players who have no-trade clauses (Correa, Buxton) or players who I simply could not imagine being traded (Jeffers, MLB starting pitchers). I also didn't include players who are candidates to be traded, but have mostly neutral value because of their salaries (Farmer, Vazquez).
    1. Brooks Lee, 3B
    Lee is not the Twins' top prospect, according to TD's rankings, but I do think he is their most valuable and viable trade chip. He's a truly elite prospect in the game – 18th overall in the season-ending MLB Pipeline rankings – and he is pretty clearly major-league ready or very close. Turning 23 next spring, Lee will be a cheap, controllable regular for years to come. He's established a solid floor while still offering an All-Star level ceiling. This blend of qualities makes him highly appealing to a wide range of rebuilding and contending teams. 
    Placing Lee at the center of a trade package would put the Twins in the conversation for almost any hypothetical high-end pitcher on the market. And while losing him obviously would not be fun, we already find ourselves talking about how to make room for him in a crowded Twins infield next year.
    2. Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    Rodriguez is not quite the same caliber of prospect as Walker Jenkins (below), in absolute terms. However, I do think he has a special sort of intrigue that could make him alluring to front offices enamored by his rare skill set.
    To be clear, E-Rod's game is not without known flaws. He has a lot of swing-and-miss in his plate approach, with a 30% K-rate in three minor-league seasons helping contribute to a .242 batting average. He's also had some injury issues. But the corresponding strengths really jump out at you. He's a speedy, lefty-swinging center fielder whose power is uncommon and whose patience is almost unheard of. The 20-year-old has an absurd 21.3% career walk rate in the minors. While constantly facing more advanced competition, he has gotten on base more than 41% of the time.
    After leading the High-A Midwest League in OPS and finishing second in wOBA, Rodriguez is flying high, ready to tackle Double-A. His relative proximity to the majors adds to his value from a trade acquisition standpoint. 
    3. Walker Jenkins, OF
    If the Twins were to make their newly drafted top prospect available in trades, they could get a haul. And technically, that is an option on the table. An MLB rule change in 2015 made it so teams can trade draft picks in the same year they were selected, which was previously prohibited. Jenkins was a consensus top-five talent in a loaded draft, and followed up with an emphatic pro debut that puts him in the discussion as a top 10 global prospect.
    Still, it seems really unlikely the Twins would shop him already. And even if they did, any club drawn to his immense upside would also have to grapple with an added level of uncertainty compared to Lee and Rodriguez. Jenkins has played 26 total pro games and is likely multiple years away from the majors, even in a favorable scenario.
    Then again, when you're talking about the #16 prospect in baseball (per MLB Pipeline), you're talking about gargantuan trade capital.
  20. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Comparing Kepler and Polanco to Free Agents at Their Positions   
    The Twins recently confirmed that they'll be looking to trim payroll this offseason, which may create some challenges as they aim to address a set of clear needs on the roster. One of the most straightforward ways for the front office to create some spending flexibility is by trading one or both of Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler.
    The longtime Twins mainstays are both under contract for around $10 million apiece next season; the club could clear as much as $20 million from the 2024 payroll by moving them and their salaries. Adding to the appeal of this idea: the emergence of standout rookies (Edouard Julien and Matt Wallner) at second base and right field, and the fact that both Polanco and Kepler boast solid trade value.
    That latter point is key, because as we've seen, this Twins front office isn't going to trade guys they like just for the sake of doing so. Both Polanco and Kepler are coming off solid seasons and, more importantly, the free agent alternatives at their positions aren't very compelling.
    The value Minnesota might get back in a trade for one or both of these veterans will be dictated by how much 2B/RF-needy teams are willing to give up, and that will be determined by how much more attractive Polanco and Kepler (and their contracts) are compared to signing a free agent for only money.
    Here's a look at how both players would rank on against the free agent classes at their respective positions, to give you an idea of the options being weighed by these teams. 
    Right Field: Max Kepler vs. The Market
    Kepler's trade value: Following a breakthrough second half that re-established him as an All-Star caliber talent, Kepler has one remaining season under contract at $10 million. The short-term control could be viewed as a downside, but teams might also value the flexibility of a one-year deal versus locking into a 30+ year-old free agent for several years.
    In listing its position-by-position free agents, MLB.com ranks players by fWAR over the past two seasons (2022-23), so we'll add Kepler into that mix using the same lens. What we find is that Kepler outranks every single free agent right fielder, and is also the youngest of the bunch:
    Max Kepler (31 years old, 4.6 WAR) Teoscar Hernández (31, 4.3) Hunter Renfroe (32, 3.1) Jason Heyward (34, 1.8) Randal Grichuk (32, 0.4) Wil Myers (33, 0.3) Tyler Naquin (33, 0.1) Kevin Pillar (35, 0.1) Kole Calhoun (36, -1.3) Only Hernández, whom MLB Trade Rumors projected to get an $80 million contract coming off a fairly underwhelming season, is even in Kepler's range in terms of value over the past two years. And that's with Kepler being quite disappointing offensively for a large stretch of that period.
    The drop-off is especially steep for any team specifically targeting a left-handed hitting right fielder. Heyward, Myers, Naquin and Calhoun are not appealing targets at this stage of their careers – at least in anything resembling a full-time role. Kepler is the clear standout of the pack here.
    Second Base: Jorge Polanco vs. The Market
    Polanco's trade value: Polanco's contractual situation is even more favorable than Kepler's – he's controllable for two more years with a $12.5 million team option in 2025. Polanco has been an extremely consistent hitter, with an OPS+ of 110 or better in each of the past five full MLB seasons. 
    Teams are sure to be wary of Polo's recent injury history, but a review of the free agent market at second base casts his risk level in a different light. Here's how Polanco ranks against this year's class by 2022-23 fWAR:
    Elvis Andrus (35 years old, 4.6 WAR) Jorge Polanco (30, 3.3) Whit Merrifield (35, 3.0)  Tony Kemp (32, 1.5) Kolten Wong (33, 1.5) Adam Frazier (32, 1.3) Jonathan Schoop (32, 1.2) Rougned Odor (30, 1.0) Josh Harrison (36, 0.8) Hanser Alberto (31, -0.7) Leury García (33, -1.1) Pretty much everyone below the Merrifield line is a clear-cut backup-caliber player at this point, and no one's idea of an assertive solution to a middle-infield need. So then you've got Polanco near the top going against two mid-30s players in decline. Andrus technically edges Polanco in fWAR, but that's mostly because of a random 3.5-WAR last season that's an outlier from everything else he's done in the past six years. Merrifield has more appeal as a flex player than a full-time second baseman.
    No one in this class comes close to offering the offensive floor or ceiling of Polanco. With two reasonably priced years remaining under contract and a more consistent track record, I actually think he compares even more favorably against his class than Kepler against right fielders. Unsurprisingly, rumors are already circulating that the Twins intend to shop Polanco around this winter.
    Ultimately, his value in a trade will be dependent on how confident the team acquiring him is that Polanco can stay healthy. The veteran infielder played in only 80 games this year due to injury issues, and often looked hobbled down the stretch, although he was able to play in every playoff game.
    Even with the risk that comes attached to him, Polanco compares favorably to aging players like Andrus and Merrifield in free agency. Kepler's drawbacks are also healthily outweighed by his strengths in comparing him to the right field market. 
    As the Twins reach the end of the road with these two long-tenured fixtures, they find a very favorable offseason environment for talking trade. Both players figure to be in high demand.
  21. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Twins Roster Among Baseball’s Top 10 Entering the Offseason   
    Last season, there were strong teams in both leagues, with three teams winning 100 games or more. The Twins finished at 87-75, enough to win the AL Central by nine games, but it was the lowest win total of any division winner. Before free agency starts, clubs must evaluate their own roster and decide on their individual needs.
    FanGraphs and MLB.com combined resources to compile a list of the best rosters entering the offseason. As part of these rankings, Mike Petriello used FanGraphs’ depth charts and projects to find each team’s highest needs while ranking the clubs based on their current roster. Here’s a look at how the Twins ranked and some other questions facing the club this winter. 
    How High Do the Twins Rank?
    Honestly, I clicked on the article and thought the Twins would rank in the middle of the pack. So I was surprised to see that MLB.com ranked the Twins as the sixth-best roster (41.3 WAR) entering the offseason. The teams ranking higher than the Twins are the Braves (51.4), Astros (46.6), Rays (45.9), Blue Jays (42.2), and Dodgers (41.5). It’s an interesting list of teams ahead of the Twins, with three teams winning 99+ games last season and the other two being Minnesota’s playoff opponents from last season. Also, the Twins are less than 1.0 WAR from moving into fourth place. Overall, it is an exciting place to start the winter, but there are other questions to answer.
    How Will the Twins Replace Sonny Gray?
    The Twins aren’t re-signing Gray, so the club must look into other options to fill his pivotal role at the top of the rotation. Internal options exist to recoup some of Gray’s lost value, including Chris Paddack and Louie Varland. However, neither of these pitchers is expected to perform at a Cy Young caliber level, and the Twins will want at least one more playoff-caliber starter. Last winter, the club traded for Pablo Lopez and developed him into one of the league’s best pitchers. The front office is expected to attempt to trade from the club's position player depth to improve the rotation. 
    How Can the Twins Fill Holes in Center Field and First Base?
    According to FanGraphs ' depth chart and projections, center field and first base are the club’s other needs. Byron Buxton didn’t log a single inning in center field last season, and Michael A. Taylor is heading to free agency. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Kevin Kiermaier, an elite defensive player, but he comes with his own injury history. There is a chance the Twins could turn center field over to a prospect like Austin Martin or DaShawn Keirsey, which likely wouldn’t happen until later in the season. 
    The Twins received positive news regarding Alex Kirilloff’s shoulder surgery, giving hope that he can fully recover and produce at the big-league level. He’s missed significant time in recent seasons with various injuries, so his inclusion in the line-up is not guaranteed. Minnesota can try to work Jose Miranda back into the mix at first base after he missed time with his own shoulder injury. Another option is to give Edouard Julien more time at first base, which seems like an appropriate adjustment for his sophomore season. 
    Where Do the Other AL Central Teams Rank?
    Based on current rosters and projections, the Twins are the odds-on-favorites to win the AL Central. Cleveland, 15th overall, is the closest team to Minnesota in the rankings and sits 4.4 WAR behind the Twins. Detroit finished ahead of Cleveland last season, but the Tigers rank 23rd with a 31.7 WAR. The Royals (26th) and the White Sox (29th) rank among the baseball’s bottom five teams, with the Rockies being the lone team with a worse WAR than Chicago. The Twins should easily win a second consecutive division title in MLB’s worst division. 
    How Does Payroll Dropping Impact These Projections?
    Last week, reports surfaced from the GM meetings that the Twins payroll is expected to be $15-30 million below last season’s $155 million total. The team’s current revenue tied to its TV deal is in flux for next season, which is the biggest reason for the decrease in spending. Minnesota will likely trade away veteran players like Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Kyle Farmer to clear some money off the books. With less veteran depth, the Twins will likely see their projected WAR drop unless they improve their starting pitching. 
    What are your thoughts on these rankings? Do the Twins have a top-10 roster entering the offseason? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  22. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, How Will the Twins Handle Yunior Severino in 2024?   
    It feels like ancient history now, since the Atlanta Braves have come to be viewed as a model franchise, but six years ago they were embroiled in deep controversy. After it was learned the Braves were circumventing league rules around signing international amateur prospects, general manager John Coppolela received a lifetime ban from MLB and 13 minor-league players were released, free to sign with any club.
    Among them was Yunior Severino, an 18-year-old who had signed with Atlanta for $1.8 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2016. At the time, he was a smallish second baseman coming off a modestly impressive pro debut. Considered one of the best talents to become available in the sudden purge of Atlanta's system, Severino was in high demand before signing with the Twins for $2.5 million.
    Severino progressed gradually through the Twins system, starting at Elizabethton in 2018 and advancing all the way to St. Paul by the end of this past season. Like many prospects, his development was slowed by the lost COVID season. As Severino matured physically, he started transitioning from second base to third, and by late 2023 was often playing first base or DH. His future in the big leagues likely resides at one of those positions.
    But on the flip side, as Severino's growing frame has led to a drop in defensive value, it's also led to a massive spike in power. In 2021, between two levels of A-ball, Severino slugged .430 in 98 games. Prior to that point he'd hit 12 total homers in parts of three minor-league seasons.
    In 2022, Severino burst out of the gates at Cedar Rapids with 11 homers and a .572 SLG in 58 games. He moved up to Class-AA Wichita and added eight more homers while slugging .497 in the final 38 games. This season, between Double-A and Triple-A, the switch-hitter took his prodigious power game to new levels, launching 35 bombs and slugging .546 between the Wind Surge and Saints.
    It does bear noting that the Triple-A hitting environment was extremely favorable this year. To wit: his .511 slugging percentage after moving up ranked 61st among players with 100+ PA in the International League. His .832 OPS translated to a wRC+ of 100, exactly average. Nonetheless, it's easy to see the appeal of Severino for the Twins in their current situation: a productive power bat with remaining upside, and a potentially inexpensive solution at a position of need.
    The Twins are planning with a level of uncertainty at first base for 2024. Derek Falvey has been open in stating that it's a position he intends to address via trade or free agency this offseason. Interestingly, the addition of Severino to the 40-man roster will be somewhat restricting in terms of the front office's ability to make additions, so it's very conceivable he could be viewed as a short-term factor in the club's outlook.
    A 24-year-old switch-hitter who can mash from both sides and just led all the minors in homers? Sounds like a quality piece to have on hand. If Alex Kirilloff is slow to come back from his latest surgery, the Twins could theoretically give Severino a shot in the spring to take over as interim first baseman. Or they could position him as top-line depth at the position.
    The trouble with relying on Severino to fill a major role is that he represents an offensive profile the Twins might be trying to distance themselves from this offseason. He is very much an all-or-nothing slugger in the same vein as Joey Gallo. Severino's 36.6% K-rate with St. Paul ranked fifth among International League (AAA) hitters, and his 31.2% K-rate with Wichita ranked seventh out of 54 qualified hitters in the Texas League (AA).
    Unlike Gallo, Severino doesn't offset all the whiffs with a healthy dose of walks. He's just an undisciplined hitter with a big uppercut swing who is looking to hit the ball over the fence every time he steps to the plate. More than a quarter of Severino's hits in 2023 (27.5%) were home runs. 
    Planning around Severino as a part of the mix in 2024 would mean leaning even harder into the power-and-strikeouts identity that defined the Twins this past year, to the frustration of many. It would also mean giving a chance to the prospect they gambled on a half-decade ago as he finally evolves into the kind of feared hitter the Twins envisioned at the time.
  23. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Theo Tollefson for an article, Buxton's Uncertainty Creates a Center Field Conundrum   
    Michael A. Taylor made himself a standout for the Twins in Buxton’s absence this season. In the scenario that he doesn’t re-sign, the internal organizational options don’t pan out as well as having a semi-healthy Buxton or a returning Taylor. 
    Willi Castro proved himself useful as a backup and left-handed hitting platoon in center with Taylor. But he would be very stretched as a starter and the Twins value his versatility.
    Then there’s Austin Martin. Martin ended the season strong with the St. Paul Saints and has set himself up well to make his MLB debut in 2024. But he’s still a player who doesn’t need to be rushed and still has elements of his game to iron out. It’s hard to see him arriving before Memorial Day, at least as a full-time option, unless injuries force the front office’s hand. 
    Another option is Nick Gordon, who missed the majority of the 2023 season with a broken tibia. While Gordon looks to be healthy, his future with the organization is in question as Castro has overtaken him in the pecking order as the team’s super-utility man. Gordon is arbitration eligible and out of options, which doesn't help his case.
    Royce Lewis may be another option in center this upcoming season too. However, for now the Twins and Lewis both seem to be opposed to a return to the outfield, after his last start in center ended with a torn ACL.
    While he did remain healthy with his knees upon his return on Memorial Day this season, Lewis still experienced some leg issues during the season, including a hamstring strain that forced him to finish on the IL. There are many who still believe his best-fit position is center field, but it’s possible Lewis remains on the infield to ensure longevity in playing time versus risking another injury that puts him out for a long while. 
    Removing Lewis as an option in center, that leaves Castro as the only man currently on the Twins' outfield depth chart that can hit from the right side of the plate. And the last thing the Twins outfield needs is another left-handed hitter, which makes a reunion with Taylor, or a signing like Kevin Kiermaier or Harrison Bader, the best outfield options in free agency.
    If payroll limitations price these higher-end free agents out of  Minnesota's range, there are some lower-tier right-handed hitting center fielders that can work as a one-year deal, platoon options alongside Castro, Martin, or Lewis. 
    Kevin Pillar, Jake Marisnick, and even former Twin Aaron Hicks are all suitable fallback options if Taylor signs elsewhere. 
    Pillar played in 81 games with the Braves this last season. The Braves used him more frequently as a defensive option than for his offense, as he slashed .228/.248/.416 in 206 plate appearances. Pillar would remain that defensive-first, bat-second option to keep things afloat until the Twins line up their primary center fielder.
    Marisnick played less than Pillar, showing up in 46 games between the White Sox, Tigers, and Dodgers this year. Marisnick had a .228/.248/.416 triple slash in 83 plate appearances. The limited playing time and injuries this season do show a decline in his performance, but Marisnick will only be 33 and has shown the ability to mash lefties.
    Speaking of players who showed they still have something left in the tank, former Twin Aaron Hicks. After being released by the Yankees on May 26th, Hicks revitalized his career with the Orioles on May 30th. Hicks played in only 65 of the remaining 106 games on the season but he had his best stretch of games at the plate since 2018.
    Hicks posted an .806 OPS in 236 plate appearances with the Birds. The switch-hitter has always been more effective swinging from the right side, and that was definitely true in 2023. He may not be the player he once was, but he’s likely the best fallback of this group if the Twins miss out on the top CF names in free agency. It bears noting that Hicks rarely played center down the stretch in Baltimore, more often starting in the outfield corners.
    The offseason is still young and the options in centerfield outside of Buxton are still plentiful. However, with the Twins likely to move slow and facing payroll constraints, it behooves us to become familiar with the lower tier of free agents.
  24. Like
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Adam Friedman for an article, The Best Free Agent You've Never Heard Of   
    If the Twins can make one more massive long-term investment in this team, Yoshinobu Yamamoto makes the most sense of any free agent, reasonably assuming Minnesota won't shatter an MLB record to sign his Japanese compatriot, Shohei Ohtani . Given the lack of investment in any free agent pitching and the status of the T.V. deal, it would be surprising to see the Twins shell out big money, but besides Ohtani, there's nobody better in the free agent market to help the Twins build off their 2023 division title and playoff run. 
    A Special NPB Performer
    Yamamato burst onto the NPB scene for the Orix Buffaloes at 19 years old in 2017 and hasn't looked back. In that season, he posted a 2.35 ERA in 57.1 IP. He then hit a new level in 2021, winning the first of three consecutive Sawamura Awards (the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young Award)- becoming the first player to do so since 1958.  
    He has been simply dominant to the tune of a 1.82 career ERA- including a 1.16 ERA in 2023. Tim Britton of the Athletic put together a version of ERA+ for Japanese pitchers who came over to MLB- which adjusts their ERA for the NPB run-scoring environment. Using this metric over their final three seasons in NPB, Yamamoto will be the best NPB pitcher to come stateside, edging out Masahiro Tanaka . 
    Ace-Level Stuff
    Yamamoto's success in the NPB makes him an exciting free-agent target, but his stuff makes him an incredibly tantalizing talent. He has a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, a nasty splitter, and a unique and fantastic high-spin curveball- which work together to keep the ball on the ground and strike out plenty of hitters. That is a nasty mix that will allow him to get lefties and righties out. 

    Yamamoto has only given up 36 home runs in 967 NPB innings. That is an absurd .4 HR/9. Further, in 2023, he posted a solid 9.3 SO/9 and a fantastic 1.5 BB/9. Keeping the ball in the ballpark, minimizing walks, and putting up a solid strikeout rate bodes well for sustainable success. Scouts, unsurprisingly, view him as a potential number-one starter and as a step up from Kodai Senga , who had an exceptional rookie season in 2023.   
    A Rare Expensive Opportunity
    A 25-year-old with ace-level stuff is not often available in free agency, so Yamamoto will demand a lot of money- likely over $200 million, and the team who signs him will have to pay Orix a posting fee over $20 million. But Yamamoto seems highly likely to perform even better than his massive contract because it's unlikely any team will pay what he's worth, given his lack of MLB experience. 
    The Twins have never paid a starting pitcher long-term, but the chance to bring in a number-one starter at a slightly depressed value hasn't come around. They should pay over the market value because he's far more likely than a typical free agent to outperform his market over the entire term of the contract. The Twins front office should pay for Yamamoto's stuff and upside because he could be as good as any starting pitcher they've had in years. 
    The Mets are reportedly the favorites to land Yamamoto, so it's unlikely the Twins will land him, but they should attempt to make him an offer he can't refuse- one that accurately values his ace-level upside. With a Yamamoto/Pablo Lopez one-two punch for the immediate future, the sky is the limit for the rotation.
    Do you want the Twins to pursue Yamamoto?
  25. Haha
    Oldgoat_MN reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, With TV Rights in Flux, Twins Urge Parents to Explain AM Radio to Young Fans   
    While the expiration of the Twins’ TV contract is leading to a lot of agitation about the team’s 2024 payroll, there’s also some concern within the organization about where people can follow next year’s games.
    “I’m confident that we’ll have a presence on television next year,” said a front office source. “But we have to be prepared for all possible outcomes.”
    If that outcome doesn’t extend beyond the team’s current radio broadcasts, team officials say they’re laying the groundwork for a vigorous educational outreach program about the audio-only format.
    “AM radio has a loyal base of listeners—shut-ins, reactionaries, those who fear change, residents of unlicensed nursing homes—but that base skews older,” said the source. “We need to let our younger fans know that an alternative to TV and streaming exists. Their parents are our greatest tool.”
    The source shared a working document with Twins Daily that’s aimed to help families talk about AM radio with youths and anyone else under the age of 39. Some of the talking points include:
    There’s no video element. This is on purpose. No, really. No, seriously. Yes, this was often the only option to follow a live baseball game when I was growing up. No, I did not call social services about this. Your grandparents had nothing to do with this. Yes, anyone who calls them “the good old days” should be shunned by decent people. I’m glad we’ve found common ground. You like podcasts, right? Think of it like a podcast that has commercials for dairy cooperatives and funeral homes. No, it’s not a murder podcast. The funeral home thing is a coincidence. Washburn-McReavy’s trusted staff can help you with funerals, cremation, burial, and pre-planning services and are always willing to assist you and your family in this time of need. The nice man’s name is Cory, the man who always sounds upset about the way things ought to be is Dan. No, for the last time, no video. Just audio. Traffic and weather are on the 8s. Yes, you can use your phone to check both those things at any time. I am aware of this. You really seem hung up on this traffic and weather thing. What if you're driving? You look down to check your phone and boom you just T-boned a family of 6. Now you’re in jail and you know who’s not going to have TV privileges? You, the phone murderer. Stop crying. What do you mean, what’s a radio? Let’s start over. The sources said a final call on the document and outreach will be made before Jan. 1.
    Image license here.
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