I wasn't planning to do one of these - the free agent class was too deep, with too many choices to make; the Twins roster needed too much work; it was just as easy not to care after a disappointing season. Then other teams started making moves and players started coming off the board, discussions of free agents and trades in the threads here brought up intriguing questions, and I remembered that indulging my half-baked ideas in this exercise had literally no real-world consequences!
Case in point: I posted an original version of this that ran the 40-man roster up to 43 players, and had to edit the plan in several places after realizing that.
Anyway, I tried to put a good team together here, and to do things that the Twins actually might do, but I also fully admit to not having encyclopedic knowledge of other teams' rosters or all the players on the free-agent market, and I'm trying some stuff for the hell of it. Let's get after it.
40-man roster cuts
Charlie Barnes, Jharel Cotton, Ralph Garza, Juan Minaya, Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe, Willians Astudillo, Jake Cave, Kyle Garlick
Since not all the moves to come would happen at once in a real offseason, not everyone here will be a single round of cuts (e.g. before the Rule 5 draft), but these are the players I'm considering available to waive when I need their spots on the roster.
Originally I had Danny Coulombe in place of Minaya here—those two are in kind of the same bucket, former minor-league free agent types who pitched fairly well and whom the Twins valued enough to keep thus far. I think Coulombe has been through waivers unclaimed more times than Minaya, making me think he's more likely to pass through again. However, I noticed the first 4 names on my list were all left-handed pitchers, and even with two good lefties in the MLB pen and a good LH relief prospect (Moran) in the wings, I didn't want to jettison quite so much of the Twins' depth in that area.
I'm hoping that Minaya clears waivers and can stay in the org. We're going to try to sneak Cotton and Garza through waivers and keep them as well.
Smeltzer and Thorpe are really easy to root for, but they're both out of options and it seems like it may be change-of-scenery time.
There's nothing more we need to say about Astudillo (fun while it lasted though!) or Cave. A healthy Brent Rooker does similar things to Garlick and is a few years younger.
40-man roster adds
Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, Chris Vallimont, Blayne Enlow
My guess is that I'm being more generous estimating 40-man additions than others, but while adding these guys to the 40 does mean tying up roster spots, some deals to come will counterbalance that a bit.
Next, let's get this over with:
Sign Byron Buxton to a contract extension, 7 years, $105M...ish (possibly more)
Okay. There are reports that the Twins and Buxton had the framework of a contract in place a few months ago and talks broke down over the structure of incentives. There was a report of a contract proposal for 7 years/$100M, which may or may not have included the incentives. We don't know how accurate these numbers are or how much the incentives change the deal, and we can't know what's informing the Twins FO's valuation of Buxton going forward. I'm avoiding speculating, but I'm moving ahead with the belief that there's still motivation for a deal on both sides.
The incentives are such a variable here that I can only estimate, but I'm thinking one of two things: either the base pay is closer to $15M/year and the incentives are modest and don't change the deal that much; or it's a slightly lower base with more lucrative incentives that BB won't hit every year. So we can still estimate a $15M average salary over the life of the deal. I'm backloading the deal slightly (he's at $13M for 2022) and there's a lot of guessing in every aspect here.
Trade RHP Cole Sands, IF/OF Alerick Soularie (plus) to Oakland for RHP Chris Bassitt
Trade RHP Chris Vallimont to Houston for RHP Jake Odorizzi
Trade IF Spencer Steer to St. Louis for SS Paul DeJong
Part of my strategy here, especially while projecting moves right now with the 40-man deadline and Rule 5 draft looming, was to make 40-man-neutral moves (only the DeJong trade is a net gain on the Twins' 40.) Bassitt is only under team control for one more year but has been really good the last couple years. He'll take a good prospect or two to acquire; I think Sands is a good prospect, but this may be a little light. I'm noting "plus" on this trade to indicate that we could add a depth piece or two, but these are the key players.
St. Louis seems to get the most out of multi-positional players who can hit a bit, and Steer gives them another guy like that to work with. DeJong had a down year, but has some power and is a legitimate shortstop. He has a guaranteed contract for the next two years that ties up a bit of payroll, but not a lot. He could be an expensive utility player or trade bait by late 2022 if Royce Lewis really forces the issue at SS, but he also gives the Twins 2-4 years of insurance at the position.
I'm spitballing the Odorizzi trade largely on the basis of a Houston beat writer speculating that the Astros may look to trade starting depth after signing Verlander. Odorizzi had a year to forget in Houston and could come back to the team and coaching staff that got some of his best pitching. As a "run it back" move, this is a bit higher on both risk and reward than signing Pineda. In Vallimont I'm giving up a decent prospect but only one, giving the Astros a potential piece for their transient bullpen, and taking Odo's whole salary in turn.
I was really, really tempted to try to trade Jermaine Palacios for Odorizzi again.
Sign Carlos Rodón for 4 years, $68M
This deal is a little scary, with the uncertainty on the health of Rodón's arm. MLB Trade Rumors predicted that he'd go for max annual value on a one-year contract with a team willing to take that risk, presumably to show he's healthy and hit the market again. Fangraphs predicted that teams would want to go 3-4 years with Rodón, more because of his overall injury history than his recent injury—more chances for him to pitch like an ace, interspersed with the predicted IL stints.
The latter makes more sense to me. They'd need to be really confident in his current health, but with Bassitt also at the front of the rotation this year, Maeda back in 2023, and minor-league depth coming, the Twins are going to absorb the risk for the chance of the reward in this scenario. Plus, how fun will it be if Rodón can stay healthy and the Twins get to run him out against the White Sox over and over?
Sign Michael Lorenzen for 1 year, $4.5M
I'm picking this guy partially because he just seems interesting. Jim Bowden in the Athletic noted his high-spin fastball. He's a good hitter...for a pitcher, but good enough that the Reds gave him some time as a pinch-hitter and an outfielder. In a league with a DH, the two-way thing maybe isn't as valuable if the player isn't at an Ohtani level, but still...why not keep a pitcher who can hit around.
Lorenzen reportedly is interested in starting, and he doesn't get guaranteed a spot in the rotation in this scenario. However, he's potentially the 6th starter, and that's valuable to this team given the volatility of their other pitchers due to youth and health. He's been more serviceable than good, but given his (again) interesting and slightly unusual skills, and the potential to serve as rotation depth, I'm paying him about the same amount he made in his last arbitration year to see what a new team and coaching staff can do with him.
Sign Héctor Neris, Mychal Givens, or some guy like that for 1 year, $4.5M
Fudging a little here, but given a deep free-agent class, the idea is to spend a few million on some experienced relief pitching from outside the top tiers of free agents. Neris and Givens both have been closers on other teams. Someone else could fit this bill, probably.
Sign Josh Harrison for 1 year, $2M
Harrison has been signing 1-year deals for less than this over the last couple years, but he's played pretty well as a role player. He can play several positions in the infield and outfield (the As trusted him to stand at shortstop, at least) and he can hit a bit.
I'm penciling Sanó in as primary DH, but expect to rotate players through that slot a lot. The Twins have seemed open to, if not actively interested in, Kirilloff playing more 1B.
I'm giving Rooker another chance to get regular reps in the outfield, but Kirilloff and almost anyone on the bench can step into an outfield corner. Arráez is listed as a reserve but will play a lot; how much he plays in the outfield may depend on his knees. Gordon, Arráez and Harrison all have experience at multiple positions in the OF and IF. There isn't a defense-first backup shortstop, but there are 3-4 guys who could play there if needed.
On call in the minors
Larnach, Miranda, Celestino, Rortvedt, Moran, and Stashak all could play/pitch in the majors now if needed, but here they'll be on hand in the minors as depth. None of them are out of options, as far as I know.
Jharel Cotton and Danny Coulombe are both out of options. I wanted to try to keep Cotton on the roster through spring training, at least, and to hold a spot for him and Coulombe to compete for, but given the 40-man crunch, I'm holding onto Coulombe for lefty depth (as noted above) and hoping that some of other the dropped/waived pitchers will clear and stay on hand in the minors.
If I can go "buy" one front-line starter, I would consider Gausman or Stroman as well, and I'd be comfortable going a few $M more per year with them than I gave Rodón. I think there's a strong chance Gausman goes back to SF, and probably a decent chance the Mets open the wallet for Stroman too. Between Stroman's likely higher price tag and Rodón's health risk, I can really see the justification for preferring either one.
I'm going for relatively "easy targets" with the trades I made here—one player likely to move in a cost-cutting deal and two promising veterans who've had rough sailing lately and could be bought low. I also would be interested in higher-upside, longer-term trade targets; the Marlins' pitching depth is one example that comes to mind. If the rumors that Miami wants to add hitters at C and OF are true, then I'd listen on Jeffers, Larnach, Garver, and probably Kirilloff for someone like Pablo López.
I'm expecting that the higher-valued the trade targets (in terms of both talent and years of control) the more difficult it could be to match up, as each team aims to be sure it's not getting screwed. Ultimately for this blueprint I took the somewhat obvious trades that would make some sense for all sides, without giving up the Twins' top prospects who we hope to see filtering into this roster over the next couple years.
$ (in Millions)
($ in Millions)
($ in Millions)
$137M (5% raise)