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  1. Like
    Eicemann reacted to John Bonnes for an article, How Soon Do the Twins Need a Fifth Starter?   
    Fortunately, the sabermetrics on this doesn’t require a spreadsheet. In fact, it requires one hand. Just count the number of games between off days a team has, and when you run out of fingers – that means you need a fifth starter. Then keep counting, until you run into an off day or run out of fingers again.
    But since we do love us some spreadsheets, here’s a data table of the strings of games the Twins play, starting with their second game of the season:
    Games in a Row 5th Starts Needed Notes 5 1 vs SEA, vs LAD 10 2 at BOS, at KC, vs CWS 13 3 vs DET, at TB, at BAL, vs OAK 9 1 vs HOU, vs CLE, at OAK 18 3 18 games in 17 days In the Twins' first 29 games, they’ll need a 5th starter five times, which is just one time less than they’ll need the other four starters. There’s almost no reason to even juggle anyone around. That’s all before mid-May.
    The Twins just aren’t blessed with too many off days early in the season. To be fair, all of MLB is playing a slightly condensed schedule, trying to fit three extra games into their previous schedule. (The other three CBA impacted games are being added to the end of the schedule.) But that isn’t even really the problem for the Twins. They just had a fairly heavy April and May schedule to begin with.
    On the other hand – sometimes, it rains. That can be especially true in April for teams in the AL Central, and especially in Minnesota. Having just one game canceled in that first series, and one more during that first road trip, could buy the Twins a little more time. But that can’t be the plan.
    This is a bad schedule to engage when facing rotation questions. If you’re looking for a further reason the Twins need to still address their starting rotation, you can add their lack of early off-days toward the bottom of that already formidable list.
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  2. Incorrect
    Eicemann reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, There's a Very Simple Solution to Minnesota's Shortstop Problem   
    When the offseason resumes, Minnesota's front office will be feeling pressure to address its extensive needs on the pitching staff. But as things stand, they won't be able to dedicate their full attention to this focus.
    Because as things stand, the Twins don't have a starting shortstop. Nothing even resembling a feasible option or fallback plan. That is, unless they're willing to change their position on Jorge Polanco's ... position.
    A ready-made starter at shortstop
    Polanco was the starting shortstop on the American League All-Star team in 2019. Of his 596 games started in the majors, 470 have come at short. He played the position almost exclusively until last year, when he shifted across the diamond to second base.
    No one would deny this was a successful pivot for Polanco and the Twins. He was never a defensive asset at short, but showed standout ability at second, where he looked increasingly comfortable and natural over time. Polanco was able to shake off his power-sapping ankle issues and recapture his excellent standard of offensive production. 
    As a second baseman, Polanco got his career back on track and then some. He was the team's most valuable player.
    In light of this development, you can see why the Twins would be reluctant to turn around and reverse course. As Dan Hayes of The Athletic mentioned when I posed the idea on Twitter, "It was not lost on [the Twins] that Polanco’s health was not an issue after early May and that he responded well physically to second base."
    In Dan's well-informed estimation, moving Polanco back to shortstop is "somewhere around Plan M" for the Twins. And I believe it. But my question is ... should that be the case?
    Clearly the Twins are not diametrically opposed to playing Polanco at short. He was their primary backup last year and started there 26 times. It's a question of how willing they are to shift him back into regular duties, as a temporary solution to a pressing problem. Maybe the M in "Plan M" stands for...
    Making the best
    This Twins front office prides itself on being flexible, adaptable, and opportunistic. Through this lens, when you look at all circumstances, sliding Polanco back to shortstop makes a great deal of sense.
    Not only does his presence at second base leave a complete void on the shortstop depth chart – it also creates a logjam behind him at second. Luis Arraez is displaced to the point where he looks like a prime trade candidate. Behind him, young talents like Nick Gordon and Jose Miranda have nowhere to play regularly even if they're deserving. Top prospect Austin Martin also might be best suited at second.
    Moving Polanco back to short for the time being would free up second base for one or several of these players to step in and receive valuable playing time. Meanwhile, it would prevent the front office from having to make a desperation-fueled move to address the shortstop vacancy.
    What else is out there?
    The high end of free agency at shortstop has mostly been picked over. The Twins aren't going to sign Carlos Correa and they're probably not going to sign Trevor Story. There are a handful of starting-caliber options remaining, in the Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons mold, but they are not very inspiring. If just a few more names come off the board quickly when free agency fires back up, you're exclusively in backup territory. 
    Trades are an option, of course. But that means giving up assets that you could be using to acquire pitching.
    Finding a shortstop who's going to pair with Polanco, and give you a better keystone combo than Polanco and Arraez, will be very hard. I say that while being fully aware of the defensive shortcomings yielded by the latter arrangement.
    If nothing else, moving Polanco back to short would be a temporary fix designed to buy time. Until Royce Lewis demonstrates that he is (or isn't) the franchise's future at shortstop. Until they've had a chance to sort through second basemen like Arraez, Gordon, Miranda, and Martin. 
    Once a better shortstop option comes along, the Twins can move Polanco back to his preferred position across the bag. 
    Is this kind of back-and-forth player shuffling ideal or optimal? No, but "optimal" has sorta gone out the window at this point. Polanco's a veteran with plenty of experience at both middle infield positions. He's answered the call whenever needed. If anyone can handle the disruption it's him, and he'd be doing the team a hell of a solid.
    Sorting through solutions
    Even with the limited remaining options to address shortstop, I'm not saying this is the best one. If the Twins can find a viable taker for Josh Donaldson, or get a really good offer for Arraez, that changes the equation by alleviating the infield logjam. Similarly, if they can swing a no-brainer deal for a shortstop like Paul DeJong, I could get behind that.
    But if the "solution" to their problem is signing someone like Iglesias or Simmons as a stopgap, and then struggling to find at-bats for better players buried on the 2B depth chart behind Polanco ... is that really any better than pivoting back to the 2020 setup? 
    The simplest solution to the front office's current problem at shortstop is right in front of their face. Are they willing to embrace Plan M?
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  3. Like
    Eicemann reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Could the Twins Weather the Blowback of a Luis Arraez Trade?   
    Luis Arraez is an extremely popular player. This is known. Merely bringing up the idea of trading him can stir up considerable emotion and anger, as I've learned here and on Twitter.
    I get it. It's easy to see why he is so popular. Arraez has earned the affinity of casual fans and hardcores alike. His consistent .300 batting averages, in an era where those are increasingly rare, endear him to the more traditional follower. For those who gravitate more toward sabermetrics and advanced stats, it is the healthy OBPs driven by Arraez's bat and discipline that define his indispensable value.
    Everyone can agree that his personality and his amusing mannerisms on the field are treasures. Arraez is a joy to behold.
    But the front office can't make decisions based solely on likability or popularity if they want to steer this ship back into contention. They need to make savvy moves and opportunistic improvements. They need to make hard choices.
    Trading Arraez would certainly qualify, but the logic is undeniable:
    The 24-year-old's considerable strengths are balanced by significant detriments. His knees have already proven to be a chronic issue at his young age. He's not a defensive asset anywhere on the field. He doesn't hit for any power. Despite these drawbacks, he'd clearly be a coveted asset on the trade market. Arraez is still at the front end of his physical prime, with three remaining years of team control. He's a bona fide OBP machine at the top of the lineup, and still has a chance to develop some pop. His defensive versatility could be viewed as highly appealing for many teams. However... Arraez is very redundant within the Twins' roster planning. The two positions he's most capable of playing — second and third — are manned by two of the team's best veteran players, who are both under guaranteed contract for the next two years. Meanwhile, top prospects Austin Martin and Jose Miranda also seem destined to end up at one of the three positions Arraez has played most (2B/3B/LF).  A year ago, ultra-plugged national reporter Ken Rosenthal mentioned the idea of Arraez being floated as a trade piece, suggesting the Twins had at least entertained such discussions. That was before the arrival of Martin and the emergence of Miranda. In the present situation, there's an urgency to clear a logjam and acquire impact pitching in the process.
    Arraez doesn't necessarily have to be the guy sent out in such an undertaking, but he sure strikes me as the most likely. 
    Are fans ready for that? Is the front office ready for the reaction that would likely follow? How about ownership, which was reportedly applying pressure for a Byron Buxton contract extension in part because of dwindling fan morale? 
    The Twins and their decision makers aren't exactly on firm footing in the eyes of a fanbase beaten down by a brutal season and totally inactive offseason thus far. If they make a move like this, the return had better be undeniably strong, as well as the messaging.
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