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  1. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Twins could have Six Top-50 Draft Picks in 2024   
    The rules governing MLB are nothing, if not labyrinthine. The draft rules are no different. Between qualifying offers, competitive balance picks, and the standard first-round pick, the Twins have the potential to fill their draft boards.
    MLB teams can offer their impending free agents a Qualifying Offer (QO) at the end of the season. If the player rejects it, teams can receive an additional draft pick. The rules are complicated, but if the Twins are still a revenue-sharing recipient and the player signs a contract north of $50 million, they will gain a draft pick between the first and second rounds. The pick would be between the second and third rounds if the player signs for less than $50 million.
    Have you got it? Super simple. The bottom line is that if the Twins give the QO to an impending free agent, and he rejects it, they essentially get an extra first-round pick.
    Do the Twins have any players who could receive the QO? Yes, several. To give a player the QO, the team has two criteria. First, the player must not have received a QO from their current team or any other team. Second, the player has to have spent the entire season on the team’s roster.
    The Twins have seven players projected to be eligible for the QO. However, the QO is a one-year deal equal to the average of MLB’s top 125 player salaries, likely around $20 million. Something has to go horribly right for three players—Donovan Solano, Michael A. Taylor, and Emilio Pagán—to sniff the QO.
    Depending on how they play, a solid case can be made for each of the other four to receive the QO. It’s something of a win-win for the team. If the player accepts the offer, the team pays them a hefty salary for only one year—no strings attached. The team gets a draft pick for their troubles if they reject it.
    So, who are these four players, and what are the odds they will receive a QO?
    Kenta Maeda
    Maeda is likely the longest shot in this camp, but it’s not unfeasible. It’s hard to predict how he will play this season, coming off of Tommy John surgery at almost 35, but if he pitches anywhere close to how he did in 2020, it’s reasonable.
    He would also be the most likely of the group to accept the offer. At his age, his chances of securing a multi-year deal are lower, so if he doesn’t think he could get a deal in free agency around $50 million over two years (Justin Verlander’s 2022 deal coming off of Tommy John, for reference), a $20 million payday would be good for him. It would also be an affordable veteran arm for the younger 2024 team.
    Sonny Gray
    2023 will be Gray’s 11th year in the big leagues, but he signed an extension early in his career that kept him from testing free agency (and kept him underpaid). Now he’s 33 and an established #2 starter heading into free agency after the season.
    A comparable (albeit more durable) player who signed a deal in free agency this year is Chris Bassitt. Bassitt signed a three-year, $63 million contract with the QO attached to him. If Gray has another season like 2022, with better health and more innings, he could be in line for more than Bassitt got. The Twins would gladly bring him back for $20 million or get a draft pick.
    Tyler Mahle
    Mahle is the highest-upside pitcher in this group and, not coincidentally, the youngest. If his shoulder proves healthy and he keeps his home runs down in pitcher-friendly Target Field, he could put together a season solidifying himself as an upper-level number-2 starter.
    In 2022, similar starters in age and ability Eduardo Rodriquez and Marcus Stroman fetched contracts over $70 million guaranteed. Rodriguez had the QO attached, and Stroman accepted his QO the year prior.
    If Mahle and his representation saw $70 million as feasible, they would likely pursue free agency. Given his age, he may sign a contract for five-plus years, taking him into his mid-30s and even push $100 million. Again, the Twins would gladly accept either outcome from him.
    Joey Gallo
    Here’s the wildcard. Gallo is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner. He also hit .160 last year. If he had been a free agent last offseason, he would have netted over $100 million on his next contract, even with his struggles down the stretch. Instead, he’s on a make-good, one-year deal with Minnesota.
    If he rediscovers his form, playing elite defense in the outfield, getting on base at a .335 clip, and hits 35 home runs, he will assuredly receive the QO and reject it. Even if he plays at 80% of that pace, there’s a case to be made. (Andrew Benintendi signed a five-year, $75 million deal this offseason).
    What are the odds that all four players play well enough to justify a QO? Probably low. The Twins current front office has only ever offered one player the QO—Jake Odorizzi in 2019—and he accepted it. I would be shocked, though, if none of them received it, and I think there’s a better chance for all four to get one than for none of them to get one.
    Combined with their standard first-rounder and a potential competitive balance pick, which they have been receiving lately due to market size and revenue, the Twins could have as many as six draft picks before the second round.
    I’m not saying it’s likely, but as JP from Angels in the Outfield would say, “It could happen.” I’m sure Twins scouting director Sean Johnson is licking his chops.
  2. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Is Now the Right Time for a Royce Lewis Extension?   
    Last week at The Athletic, Dan Hayes wrote a great story about Chris Paddack and why the right-hander was open to a three-year contract extension with the Twins as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. On the surface, the $12.5 million pact seems immensely team-friendly, locking him down at $2.5 million in 2024 -- when he will ostensibly be back to full health -- and buying out his first free agent year for a mere $7.5 million.
    If Paddack, who recently turned 27, can return to pitching anywhere near the level he was at prior to surgery, he'll be an incredible bargain and an ultra-valuable asset for the rotation in 2024/25. But that can't be safely assumed coming off a second TJ surgery, and he gets it.
    “I’m always kind of gambling on myself,” he told Hayes. “If this was my first one, maybe we’re talking just a one- or two-year deal with risk and gambling on myself going into my contract year. But this is something I couldn’t pass up, man. It’s a win-win for me."
    Which brings us to Royce Lewis, who is facing his own version of Paddack's journey, and happens to have the same agent (Scott Boras).
    Lewis is rehabbing from a second consecutive tear of the same right ACL. His odds of returning to the field as an impact player are probably much higher than Paddack's, given the murky history of double-TJ pitchers, but the risks of going through this ordeal cannot be downplayed, especially for a player whose game is based on springy athleticism.  
    Of course, the Twins' No. 2 prospect is in a very different situation career-wise compared to Paddack. By virtue of MLB's service system, Minnesota controls Lewis' rights for the next six years, including at a league-minimum salary for the next three. 
    Many teams have exercised their leverage in this position to work out long-term contracts with highly touted young players who've barely played in the majors, if at all. (The Rays have become famous for it and the Braves just did it with Michael Harris II.)
    In the case of Harris, Atlanta locked down the 21-year-old outfielder for eight years and $72 million last August, midway through a Rookie of the Year debut. The contract buys out his first two free agency years with a pair of team options after that. Here's how it shakes out: 
    2023: $5 million 2024: $5 million 2025: $8 million 2026: $8 million 2027: $9 million 2028: $10 million 2029: $10 million 2030: $12 million 2031: $15 million club option ($5 million buyout) 2032: $20 million club option ($5 million buyout) The big draw for Harris in this arrangement, aside from the ultimate security of guaranteeing himself $72 million, is the elevation of his income in the next few years. Rather than earning the league minimum each year in 2023-25, he'll make $18 million total over those campaigns. 
    Compared to Harris, Lewis obviously has a lot less bargaining power at the moment. He's three years older. He briefly debuted in the majors and looked good, but didn't make nearly so emphatic and convincing a statement as Harris. And of course, there's the knee injuries.
    Still, Harris contract might provide a helpful framework for thinking about a Lewis extension that makes sense for both sides: increased pre-arb paydays, as part of a total sum of guaranteed money that assures generational wealth, in return for cost-controlled years of arbitration and free agency, plus the flexibility of some team options at the back end.
    The proposal below amounts to roughly a seven-year, $34 million contract, buying out one year of free agency with an additional two team options on the back end (not entirely dissimilar from the extensions given to Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, albeit further along in their development):
    2023: $1M 2024: $3M 2025: $3M 2026: $5M 2027: $5M 2028: $7M 2029: $10M 2030: $12M team option ($1M buyout) 2031: $15M team option ($1M buyout) For the Twins, the incentive here is obvious -- adding a star-caliber talent in Lewis to the entrenched long-term core alongside Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa -- with cost certainty that fits nicely alongside their progressive salary allocations. (Notably, by the time Lewis reaches even a $10 million salary in this framework, Correa would already be into his option years with declining salaries.)
    The team downside is nominal: if Lewis completely fails to make it back and pan out as an effective MLB player, the Twins would be on the hook for a total sum of money slightly below Correa's 2023 salary. 
    For Lewis, the incentive also should be obvious, but it might not be quite enough. Very possibly, he's inclined to bet on himself and aim for bigger paydays, especially if he's feeling really good at this stage of his recovery. No one would begrudge him. 
    At the same time, should anyone be surprised if he and Boras are open to this kind of extension? Not only has Lewis seen his outlook become shrouded in doubt by two straight freak injuries to the same knee, but at a higher level, he's experienced the way this game can cruelly take things away from you, in ways that are completely out of your control. For what it's worth, he also seems to genuinely enjoy being a part of this organization, which could factor as well.
    If Lewis is looking for long-term security, the Twins should be welcoming that conversation with open arms. Even if the terms above are not agreeable, there's a lot of room for flexibility to still find a framework that makes a ton of sense for both sides.
  3. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Minnesota Twins Pitchers and Catchers Report: An Offseason Summary   
    For the Minnesota Twins, 2023 represents an opportunity to right the ship. Rocco Baldelli got off to a great start in his managerial career, but since the 2019 Bomba Squad, things haven’t been the same. Despite a postseason berth in 2020, the Twins have missed playoff baseball each of the past two years. This roster looks the part of being the best we’ve seen in some time, and the front office now wants to see it matter on the field.
    While we are still a bit away from seeing the Twins in game action, there is plenty to catch up on from the offseason. Who’s Out
    From the Opening Day roster last year, just 14 players currently remain in the system. Notably, starting catcher Gary Sanchez is gone, and so too are starting infielders Luis Arraez and Gio Urshela. Minnesota flipped the arbitration-eligible Urshela to the Los Angeles Angels for prospect Alejandro Hidalgo, while Arraez’s departure brought in Jorge Lopez (along with Jose Salas and Byron Chourio). The rotation will no longer see Dylan Bundy or Chris Archer among it, and longstanding organizational piece Miguel Sano remains unemployed at the moment.
    For Minnesota, this roster is one of renewed belief. Although Arraez was beloved by fans, his deal brought in much-needed pitching help. It will be weird to see Sano in a different uniform if and when he ever surfaces again, but not being in the organization has removed a vein for storylines. The rotation a season ago was largely pieced together, and with both departures for the Twins still being unemployed, it’s not shocking that the new group shows more promise.
    Who’s In
    Most importantly, Carlos Correa is back. Although it took some weird twists and turns to happen, Correa is with the organization at least for another six years, meaning that his deal lines up perfectly with Byron Buxton’s. A true superstar shortstop, Twins fans could watch C4 trend towards an eventual Hall of Fame enshrinement due to his exploits in the new Minnesota threads. The shortstop is also joined by a new backstop in Christian Vazquez. He is expected to start the bulk of Minnesota’s games, and will push Ryan Jeffers into more of a reserve role than he saw a season ago. The outfield grabbed an addition in Joey Gallo, and while he’ll need to bounce back from a down season with the Dodgers and Yankees, he adds defensive talent that could make Minnesota’s outfield the best in baseball.
    The rotation brings back Kenta Maeda at 100% after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery, and the aforementioned Lopez should be expected to contribute in a big way as well. The bullpen has largely gone unaddressed, but that could be an area Minnesota looks to tweak before Opening Day. Kyle Farmer was added as a fallback option, and now immediately slots in as a high-level utility player.
    What Are We Watching For
    This season is one for the youth. Jose Miranda is going to start at the hot corner and be expected to contribute immediately. Plenty of promise has followed Alex Kirilloff, and it’s up to his wrist as to whether he can be the regular at first base. Trevor Larnach has looked the part of a true impact bat, but injuries have kept him off the field. He was solid in left field last season, but will need to show he can remain healthy. That was the major downfall last year, health, and Nick Paparesta’s addition to the organization can hopefully make a quiet impact. Seeing the likes of Buxton, Tyler Mahle, Jeffers, Jorge Polanco, and any number of other players remain available should only enhance Minnesota’s chances. Which Twins player will breakout in 2023? We have seen Louie Varland win the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year each of the past two seasons (2021, 2022). Royce Lewis made his big league debut in 2022 and should be back this summer. Simeon Woods Richardson showed up for one start at the end of the year as well. Does Austin Martin or Brooks Lee get the call? Maybe David Festa forces his way into big league action. Although the Twins may not have the top end talent of some other organizations, their prospect depth is plenty exciting.
    Many of Minnesota’s regulars will remain in camp with the organization. There are a few others that will play for their native countries in the World Baseball Classic this spring. Checking out a few of them in action during more meaningful games could give fans a glimpse of how ready they are for the regular season to start.
    With Cleveland having made just minor upgrades in Josh Bell and Mike Zunino, their top spot is ripe for the picking. Andrew Benintendi is a nice get for Chicago, but expecting Mike Clevinger to contribute there any time soon isn’t a good bet. The division is again right there for the taking, and it starts this week.
  4. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, The Twins Most Underrated Player?   
    MLB teams need players to fit different roles on the roster, from the big bat off the bench to a fireman reliever out of the bullpen. Jorge Polanco is entering his tenth big-league season, and he has quietly become one of Minnesota’s most consistent presences in the line-up. Multiple traits make Polanco underrated as he has developed into one of baseball’s best second basemen before entering his age-29 season. 
    Minnesota originally signed Polanco as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in a strong signing class that included Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. Kepler and Polanco agreed to contract extensions leading into the 2019 season to add to their years of team control. He signed what turned out to be a very team-friendly deal for five years and $25.75 million. There is a vesting option for 2024 ($10.5 million) if he reaches 550 PA in 2023. Minnesota also holds a $12 million team option for 2025, with escalators based on All-Star Games, Silver Sluggers, and Gold Gloves. He’s earned over $18.3 million in his career, but his value to the Twins has been much higher than his earnings. 
    Polanco has outperformed his contract nearly every season since becoming a big-league regular. He was limited to 104 games last season, and FanGraphs pegs his value at $14.6 million. His best season was the 2021 campaign when he provided 4.2 WAR, which equals $33.4 million in value. In 2019, he was the AL’s starting shortstop in the All-Star Game, and he was worth $26.2 million. Overall, he has been worth 13.9 WAR and $111.3 million. 
    Every winter, MLB Network ranks the top players at each position. Polanco improved by one spot in the rankings, moving from seventh to sixth overall. Fans did not think as highly of Polanco as he didn’t make the top-10 fan list from MLB Network, with players like Ozzie Albies and Jazz Chisholm Jr. jumping over him into the list. Polanco isn’t a household name, so it’s easy to see why he might be forgotten about in fan voting. 
    Among AL second basemen, Polanco has the third-highest WAR over the last two seasons behind Jose Altuve and Marcus Semien. He ranks sixth among all second basemen in the same period. Altuve is the only second baseman with a higher wRC+ over the last two years. Last season, he ranked in the 70th percentile or higher in xwOBA, Barrel %, xSLG, Chase Rate, and Sprint Speed. His best category was BB%, as he ranked in the 98th percentile after drawing a career-high 64 walks. He is clearly among baseball’s best second basemen in many offensive categories. 
    Defensively, Polanco struggled in 2022, but a knee injury might have impacted his defensive value. Only three AL second basemen ranked lower than Polanco according to SABR’s Defensive Index. Baseball Savant ranked him in the 14th percentile for Outs Above Average and in the 25th percentile for Arm Strength. It will also be interesting to see how MLB’s shift rules impact his defensive value. Defensive metrics have been hard to trust the past couple of seasons, with the second baseman regularly standing in shallow right field. His ankle and knee issues may have slowed him down, which might impact his defensive value without being able to play on the grass. 
    Polanco missed the last month of the season after a knee injury, but the team is reporting that he should be ready for spring training later this month. Minnesota also has multiple top prospects behind Polanco on the second base depth chart. Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Edouard Julien , and Austin Martin look to impact the roster in 2023, and second base might be their path to playing time. If Polanco’s injuries reemerge, the Twins might turn the position over to a younger player. 
    Since the start of 2019, only Byron Buxton has provided more value to the Twins than Jorge Polanco. Some fans might have yet to fully appreciate that value, which is one of the biggest reasons he is underrated. Do you feel Polanco is an underrated player? Is he the most underrated player on the Twins roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  5. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, Ranking the Twins Offseason Moves   
    Throughout the winter, fans will react differently to any transaction the club makes, from significant acquisitions to prospects left off the 40-man roster. Teams can trade away fan-favorite players or sign free agents to multi-million dollar deals. There are no guarantees in baseball, and the Twins front office has left themselves open to praise or criticism depending on the long-term outcome of these moves. On paper, the Twins have improved and added depth throughout the roster, which projects to have the team back in playoff contention. 
    7. Trading Gio Urshela for Alejandro Hidalgo
    According to Baseball Reference, Urshela provided the fourth-most WAR on the team in 2022. One of the keys to his value was that he tied Luis Arraez for the team lead with 144 games played. Minnesota traded him to the Angels for Alejandro Hidalgo, a 19-year-old pitcher with a career 4.64 ERA in 17 appearances. Urshela is in his last arbitration season, and the Twins were ready to give Jose Miranda the starting job at third base. It's at the bottom of the list because the trade return was minimal.
    6. Signing Joey Gallo to a 1-year, $11 million deal
    The Twins front office thinks Gallo can return to his previous form, but it will take time to know if signing him was the correct decision. Last season, Gallo hit just .160/.280/.357 (.638) with 19 home runs and 163 strikeouts in 126 games. He was an All-Star in 2021, leading the AL with 111 walks while hitting 38 home runs. Gallo is a multi-time All-Star and has won two Gold Gloves, but there is no guarantee he will return to that level in 2023. 
    5. Trading Steven Cruz and Evan Sisk for Michael A. Taylor
    Many thought the Twins were in the market for a right-handed hitting outfielder on the free agent market. The Twins decided to go in a different direction and traded for one of baseball's best outfield defenders. On paper, it seems like a solid plan to use Taylor for games when Buxton is not available to play in the field. He can bat at the bottom of the line-up and help the pitching staff on the defensive side. This move has the potential to be a sneaky-good move for the Twins, especially if it helps Buxton play over 100 games. 
    4. Trading Casey Legumina for Kyle Farmer
    Adding Farmer helped the Twins establish a floor for their middle infield this winter. If Correa signed elsewhere, Farmer would likely take over the starting shortstop role until Royce Lewis returned in the second half. Instead, Farmer can shift to a utility role that suits his skill set. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged over 145 games per season while playing every infield position. He's not a player to get excited about, but fans will come to appreciate what he adds to the roster. 
    3. Trading Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez, Jose Salas, and Byron Chourio
    It was tough for the front office to trade away Luis Arraez, a fan favorite, but the return helps the team in the short- and long term. Lopez adds depth to the starting rotation, especially with injury concerns tied to multiple arms. Arraez's 2022 season showcased his peak value, but there is little upside in a first baseman with little to no power. The Twins also received two prospects in the deal, including one that already ranks in the team's top 10 prospects. Minnesota needs Lopez to be the pitcher he was in 2022, and it will be a bonus if either prospect is a regular at the big-league level.
    2. Signing Christian Vazquez to a 3-year, $30 million deal
    The Twins had to improve behind the plate, and Vazquez should help to solidify one of baseball's most important positions. He's been on multiple World Series teams and has caught over 1,900 innings over the last two seasons. Minnesota will be relying on some young pitchers in the coming years, and Vazquez can be a veteran presence to help usher them into their big-league careers. Adding Vazquez was a move the Twins had to make, and that's why it ranks so high on this list. 
    1. Signing Carlos Correa to a 6-year, $200 million deal
    No other transaction will define the Twins franchise more over the next decade than signing Correa... the second time. He is one of baseball's best two-way players and has the rare ability to impact nearly all facets of the game. Minnesota saw what he provided on and off the field, so they were eager for him to return, even with questions about his ankle. Fans may have yet to fully embrace Correa because it looked like his Twins tenure would be short-lived. Now, there is a chance he will end his career in Minnesota, and that's something for fans to enjoy. 
    How would you rank this winter's moves? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  6. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Top Prospects: #16-20   
    Earlier this week, Seth Stohs took a dive into the deeper end of the Minnesota Twins system, highlighting players who finished in the 21-30 range of our voting tabulation, and honorable mentions who fell just outside that threshold. (For what it's worth, note that Luis Arraez was once found in these very same outside ranks of our lists and others. And he's only one fresh-in-mind example.)
    With that said, the odds of an MLB future start to increase as we break into the top 20 of our list. In this group of five, representing Twins Daily's choices for the organizations 16th-through-20th best prospects of 2023, we find an intriguing mix of untapped promise and fading high-end upside.
    20. Misael Urbina, OF
    Age: 20
    2022 Stats: 263 PA, .247/.323/.407, 5 HR, 27 RBI
    He was the Twins' big-money signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2018, scoring a $2.75 million bonus, but four years later he hasn't played a game above Low-A. That's how it can go for players that sign as extremely raw talents at age 16 (especially with a lost COVID season mixed in). Through it all he still won't reach legal drinking age until this April.
    Urbina's outstanding tools remain intact but he needs to start backing them up with production in order to keep his prospect status from fading. Thus far he has a .228/.326/.359 slash line as a pro.
    19. Jose Rodriguez, OF
    Age: 17
    2022 Stats (Rookie): 219 PA, .290/.361/.605 , 13 HR, 49 RBI
    Typically speaking, when teenage players sign from another country and head to the States to play pro ball, it takes a little while to acclimate and warm up. You'll often see meager results in short-season debuts for players who go on to accomplish a great deal. Rodriguez broke the mold after he signed last summer and joined the Twins' affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.
    He wasn't the most high-profile player acquired in Minnesota's 2022 international signing class, which helped make his spectacular showing on the field so jarring. Rodriguez posted a jaw-dropping .966 OPS and led the short-season league with 13 homers in 55 games. He was an absolute slugging machine and it's scary to think how that might evolve as he ages. The stellar showing earned him Twins Daily's nod as short-season hitter of the year.
    "Rodriguez’s exit velocities may have been even more impressive than his homer total," wrote Aaron Gleeman, who is higher than most on the prospect, ranking him 13th on his list. "He destroyed the ball, in an environment where that isn’t supposed to take place."
    So far, so very good. And the strikeout/walk rates are promising for future development. But Rodriguez has a long way to go, as a player from a mold that has high burnout rates. He's a candidate to fly up these rankings with a reinforcing 2023 campaign.
    18. Tanner Schobel, 2B
    Age: 21
    2022 Stats (Rookie/A): 136 PA, .242/.367/.303, 1 HR, 11 RBI
    The Twins snagged Schobel in the second round of last year's draft out of Virginia Tech, where he emerged as a slugging shortstop to boost his appeal. After signing him to a $1 million bonus the Twins him to get his feet wet in Low-A. There, Schobel's power evaporated.
    Following a 19-homer outburst in the college season, Schobel managed just one home run in 120 plate appearances at Fort Myers, producing a mere .303 slugging percentage. He did, however, show good plate discipline with a 23-to-18 K/BB ratio while swiping seven bags.
    The power drop-off and move from short to second keep Schobel's helium in check, leading to a lower ranking than you'd normally see from such a highly-drafted prospect in the latest class. But there are some Brian Dozier parallels here, and he's the poster child for late-blooming middle infield power. 
    17. Ronny Henriquez, RHP
    Age: 22
    2022 Stats (AAA): 95.1 IP, 5.66 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 
    The Twins were excited to get Ronny Henriquez as an addition to Isiah Kiner-Falefa in last offseason's Mitch Garver trade. They viewed him as underrated addition to their pitching pipeline, capable of racking up strikeouts and moving quickly to the majors.
    They were correct on those two counts. Henriquez tallied 106 strikeouts in 95 innings at Triple-A, and reached the majors in September at age 22, posting a 2.31 ERA in three appearances.
    data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== With the goods news out of the way, he also allowed a 5.66 ERA at St. Paul, coughing up 19 homers and 33 walks in those 95 innings. Some changes in pitch usage could help Henriquez take the final step to fulfill his potential, and that'll probably start with moving him to full-time relief duty. The righty made 14 starts for the Saints last year among 24 appearances. Don't sleep on him as a significant factor in Minnesota's bullpen this year.
    16. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    Age: 24
    2022 Stats (AAA): 70.2 IP, 7.39 ERA, 9.7 K/9, 4.5 BB/9
    What was supposed to be Balazovic's breakthrough year turned into a total breakdown. From start to finish it was an abject disaster. He was all over the place, utterly hittable when in the zone, and incredibly home run prone. Virtually every start unraveled on the big right-hander, at least up until a decent final month softened his landing at season's end.
    There were reports of a bothersome knee issue, but Balazovic was healthy enough to avoid the injured list following his late start, so this seems more an issue of mechanics and execution. The reason he remains as high as he does in our ranks is because Balazovic had elevated himself to such a level prior to this lost season. 
    Bad as it was, it's only one season, and the 24-year-old still has time to get (at least somewhat) back on track to recapture the form that made him arguably the system's best pitching prospect prior. Over the past three years he's ranked fourth, sixth, and fifth on this list. 
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below. I will try to get to as any of them as I can. 
    For more Twins Daily content on these ten Twins prospects, click on the link with their name here: Jordan Balazovic, Ronny Henriquez, Tanner Schobel, Jose Rodriguez, Misael Urbina. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20 
    Prospects 11-15 - Coming Soon! 
  7. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 5 Twins Players with Something Specific to Prove This Year   
    Yes, we all know that health uncertainty is the banner headline for the 2023 Twins. "If they're healthy" is the rallying cry for even the most optimistic fan. 
    As pivotal as they are, these situations just aren't very fun to analyze or talk about, because they feel so beyond anyone's control. Much of the team's outlook hinges on whether Tyler Mahle can pitch without shoulder weakness, and Alex Kirilloff can swing without pain.
    These things either will happen or they won't, and if they don't, it's not necessarily anyone's fault. The human body is fickle.
    Today I'm going to look at five critical points of uncertainty for the Twins that have nothing to do with injuries. (Well, almost nothing.) Instead, it's about these players proving they can deliver in areas where the club really needs them if they're to achieve their goals.
    1. Can Joe Ryan excel against good teams?
    Hidden in Ryan's very good overall numbers last year (13-8, 3.55 ERA in 147 innings over 27 starts) is the fact that his success was largely buoyed by beating up on horrible AL Central opponents.
    In eight starts against the Royals and Tigers, the two teams he faced more than any other, Ryan went 8-0 with a 0.94 ERA. He won every start, allowing just five earned runs on 26 hits (one homer) in 48 innings.
    Look: that's an absurd level of dominance against any major-league lineup. Ryan certainly deserves a ton of credit for being absolutely automatic in those match-ups. But the flip side is that against all other opponents, he went 5-8 with a 4.80 ERA. 
    The 26-year-old has already established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter who can take care of business against lesser lineups. But with so many question marks elsewhere in the rotation, the Twins are really leaning on him to be more. 
    Showing he can up his game against better offenses than Detroit and KC will be key, both because he'll face less of each in the rebalanced schedule, and because the Twins will (hopefully) need starters they can count on in the postseason.
    2. Can Jorge Polanco fill Luis Arraez's OBP void?
    There's no question that Arraez's ability to get on base will be deeply missed, and his departure raises questions about how a power-driven lineup will fare without his penchant for creating opportunities. There's reason to hope Polanco can make up for some of what the top of the order just lost.
    You might look at Polanco's career .334 OBP and say, eh, nothing special. Even his .346 mark last year was quite ordinary. But here's the thing: he posted it while batting a career-low .235, thanks to DOUBLING his walk rate from 2021. Polanco's 14.4% BB rate last year would've ranked fifth-best in baseball if his at-bats qualified. 
    If the newfound patience sticks and Polanco is able to sustain a similar walk rate while his batting average rebounds to somewhere in the range of his .270 career benchmark, you've got the recipe for an Arraez-like OBP, or better.
    To wit: if Polanco walked at same rate in 2021 – when he batted .269 with a .323 OBP – as he did in 2022, he would've had 92 walks and a .395 on-base percentage. 
    3. Can Nick Gordon make himself essential?
    Gordon is coming off a breakthrough season that earned him Most Improved Twin honors and saw him accrue nearly 450 plate appearances. In many cases, a campaign like that for a former first-round draft pick would open the door for a big opportunity, if not a starting role. But the circumstances of the offseason leave him in a spot where he'll be scrapping for playing time from the start, and potentially buried on the depth chart.
    He's not their top backup center fielder (that's Michael A. Taylor). He's not their best lefty-swinging backup corner OF or DH option (that's Trevor Larnach). He's not their top backup anywhere in the infield, and in fact, I'd be somewhat surprised if the Twins view him as anything more than an emergency option on the dirt.
    Injuries can of course change the equation here, but as things stand, Gordon will have a hard time finding his way off the bench with any regularity. That is, unless he can force the issue. At times last year the former light-hitting shortstop looked like a game-changing offensive force, like in August when he slashed .321/.360/.531 with three steals and 17 RBIs in 26 games. Gordon was electric.
    Bring more of that to the table, and Rocco Baldelli will find a way to get Gordon into the lineup as much as he can.
    4. Can José Miranda play third base effectively?
    The viability of Miranda's bat is not in question after a convincing rookie campaign that saw him handle everything MLB pitchers could throw at him, thanks to high-contact swing that generated power to all fields. 
    Now he needs to define his defensive future.
    If he's able to hold on as a capable third baseman, at least for a few years, as opposed to switching to 1B/DH duty, it'd be a boon for the team's planning and lineup-building. An early slide down the defensive spectrum diminished Arraez's value in the front office's eyes, but Miranda can still avoid that route.
    Thus far, I would say the signs are less than encouraging. His defense at third base checked out pretty poorly last year, by almost any measure or metric, and scouting reports were hardly glowing in the minors.
    But plenty of third basemen who looked rough as rookies went on to establish themselves  at the hot corner (calling Corey Koskie), and Miranda's still only 24. His offseason efforts to slim down have also notably resulted in a body that, per Carlos Correa, "looks sexy." We'll see if the defense can follow suit.
    5. Can Jorge Alcalá get lefties out?
    Coming off a season where he made only two appearances due to an elbow injury that ultimately required debridement surgery, Alcalá is obviously a health question mark. Can his arm hold up, much less get back to pumping the upper-90s heat that led to big results in 2020/21?
    The Twins seem to be counting on it, because they have yet to make any significant additions to their bullpen this offseason. Unless that changes, they're banking largely on Alcalá's return to provide depth in the mid-to-late innings, setting the table for Jhoan Durán and Jorge López at the back end.
    Even assuming he's healthy, Alcalá needs to turn one more corner to be the kind of weapon the Twins need him to be. He needs to overcome his susceptibility against left-handed pitchers, who have pummeled him to the tune of .275/.358/.508 in his MLB career. That .866 OPS is 354 points higher than his mark against righties.
    Baldelli will have the ability to strategically deploy Alcalá in favorable match-ups to an extent, but if the righty wants to truly be relied upon as a key late-inning weapon, he'll need to show he can handle the lefty sluggers and pinch-hitters that come his way.
  8. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Seth Stohs for an article, Twins Daily 2023 Prospect Rankings (Part 2: Prospects 21-30)   
    For the first time, Twins Daily is now sharing our choices for the Top 30 Twins prospects. In reality, it's just one more article for you to read as we are including prospects 21-30 today. It is really an interesting mix of prospects in this range, which isn't surprising. There are several prospects who are very young in their careers. These are players with lots of tools and potential, but a long, long way to go before even approaching the big leagues. There are a couple of pitchers who had exciting 2022 seasons that catapulted themselves to this level, but they were previously lesser known so some weren't willing to push them any higher. As you would also expect, there are some minor leagues who were once Top 20, and even Top 10, prospects and whether it be injury or performance, they have dropped down the rankings. They still have the talent and at least one took that will need to carry them to an opportunity. 
    Twins prospects ranking between 21-30 in our series highlights a dynamic group of players, some brimming with upside and others with higher-perceived floors. Let's break them down. 
    30. OF Byron Chourio 
    Age: 17
    2022 (DSL Marlins): 51 games, .344/.429/.410 (.838), 9-2B, 1-HR, 12.4% K, 11.5% BB
    Just one year ago, the Marlins signed a 16-year-old Chourio from Merida, Venezuela, for $200,000. He stands 6-2 and weighs about 175 pounds. He had a very impressive professional debut in 2022 with the Marlins’ DSL team. He hit for average, got on base, showed good bat-to-ball skills, and showed doubles power. He also stole 19 bases in 26 attempts. He played 20 games in center field, 19 games in right field, and three games in left field. He has a strong arm. The Twins acquired him as a flyer in the Arraez/Lopez trade recently. Jose Salas is the top prospect, but Chourio is equally intriguing. As I like to say, he was impressive in the DSL, but that is six promotions from the big leagues. Chourio is certainly filled with athleticism and tools that should excite Twins fans. 
    29. 1B Aaron Sabato 
    Age: 23
    2022 (A+/AA): 103 games, .215/.336/.438 (.774), 17 2B, 22 HR, 4/5 SB, 32% K, 13% BB
    The Twins were excited to select Sabato with the 27th overall pick out of North Carolina where he put up numbers very similar to those of Spencer Torkelson. He really struggled in his pro debut in 2021. He hit just .189 in 85 games in Ft. Myers but came on strong after a late-season promotion to Cedar Rapids where he added eight homers in 22 games. That’s where he began the 2022 season. In 80 games, he hit .226 with 13 doubles and 17 homers. He moved up to Wichita for 23 games late in the season and hit .179 with four doubles and five homers before his season ended with a fastball to his wrist. To this point, he has not hit for average. However, he does walk a lot. He has immense power, so when he does make quality contact, he has the ability to hit the ball a long way. The problem is that he has had trouble making contact, especially on good fastballs. He has become a decent defensive first baseman. He should start 2023 at Wichita and will continue to get opportunities, including another spring training invitation. 
    28. OF Kala’i Rosario 
    Age: 20
    2022 (A): 109 games, .239/.320/.408 (.727), 21 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 32.5% K, 8.1% BB
    In the five-round 2020 draft, Rosario was the team’s fifth-round pick out of high school in Waiakea, Hawaii. He was one of the most powerful prep bats in that draft. He debuted with 51 games in the FCL in 2021 and hit .277 with 10 doubles, four triples, and five home runs. As a 19-year-old in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, his overall numbers may not look exciting, but he was productive and provided some extra base power. However, with that power comes a lot of strikeouts, something that he will need to continue working on as he moves up the organizational ladder. Rosario played both corner outfield positions with about two-thirds of that time in right field. He has good speed and plays average defense. He’s got an average arm for right field. He’s very young for the level, so he could repeat in the FSL in 2023, though it would be great if he can spend some time in Cedar Rapids as well. 
    27. INF Yunior Severino 
    Age: 23
    2022 (A+/AA): 83 games, .278/.370/.536 (.907), 17 2B, 2 3B, 19 HR, 25.9% K, 11.1% BB
    Twice a top international signing, Severino has slowly worked his way up the Twins system. He began 2022 where he ended the 2021 season, in Cedar Rapids. In 46 games, he hit .283/.398/.572 (.970) in 46 games and hit nine doubles and 11 homers. He missed significant time with an injury but when he returned he was soon promoted to Double-A Wichita where he played 37 games. In that time, he hit .273/.338/.497 (.834) with eight doubles and eight homers. He does strike out more than you could like, but he also has a strong on-base percentage thanks to a lot of walks. At Cedar Rapids, he primarily played second base. Once he moved up to Wichita (and Christian Encarnacion-Strand was traded), Severino spent most of his time at third base. While he lacks plus-range, he does make most of the plays. He should start the 2023 season with the Wind Surge where at 23, he’ll be about a year younger than the average player. 
    26. SS Bryan Acuna 
    Age: 17
    2022 (DSL Twins): 43 games, .310/.409/.393 (.803), 12 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 21.1% K, 11.7% BB
    You can’t help but start with the Acuna genetics. Ronald Acuna Sr. played in the New York Mets organization from 1999 through 2004. He then spent one season each with the Blue Jays and Brewers organizations. In 2005, Bryan was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, the Double-A home of the Blue Jays. Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. was the NL Rookie of the Year as a 20-year-old in 2018 and has been an All-Star in three of the past four years. 20-year-old Double-A shortstop Luisangel Acuna was just added to the Rangers 40-man roster. 
    Bryan Acuna signed with the Twins last January from Venezuela for $950,000 and made his pro debut in 2022 in the DSL. His overall numbers look solid, including an OPS over .800. That is more impressive when you consider that in his first 11 games, he went 2-for-30 with 13 strikeouts in 37 plate appearances (35%). That also means that over his final 32 games, he hit .368/.455/.465 (.919) with 11 of his 12 doubles, and he struck out just 17% of the time. While maybe not to the same level as his All-Star brother, Bryan Acuna does have a lot of tools. He played in 42 games at shortstop and had 13 errors. He’s got work to do defensively. He had no homers, but his 12 doubles show that the power could come too. He should come to the States in 2023 and play in the FCL.  
    25. LHP Brent Headrick 
    Age: 25
    2022 (A+/AA): 23 starts (25 G), 108 1/3 IP, 3.32 ERA, 31% K, 6.1% BB
    Headrick was the Twins ninth-round pick in 2019 out of Illinois State University where he pitched for former Twins catcher Steve Holm. Like most minor leaguers, he did not pitch in 2020. He made 15 appearances for the Mighty Mussels in 2021 and posted a 3.82 ERA. In 61 1/3 innings, he walked 33 batters, but he struck out 86 batters. In 2022, he made 15 starts with Cedar Rapids and went 8-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. In 65 1/3 innings, he had just 13 walks to go with 77 strikeouts. He moved up to Double-A, and after a rough first outing (7 runs on 10 hits in 2 1/3 innings), he posted a 3.54 ERA and had 57 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings. Following the season, he was a pretty easy addition to the Twins 40-man roster.
    24. INF Danny De Andrade 
    Age: 18
    2022 (FCL Twins): 48 games, .242/.333/.371, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 4/6 SB, 13.5% K, 7.5% BB
    De Andrade signed with the Twins out of Venezuela in January 2021 for a $2.2 million bonus. He spent that summer in the DSL where he hit .264/.340/.348 (.688) with 13 doubles and a triple in 50 games. He came to the States in 2022 and played most every day. He made 32 starts at shortstop and 13 more at third base. He is a solid defender with good range, soft hands and a strong arm. Offensively, he’s a work-in-progress. He is an aggressive hitter with a strong swing and good bat-to-ball skills. There is potential for some power. He could spend the 2023 with the Mighty Mussels, which is likely to present a major challenge for him offensively, so don’t be surprised if he repeats the level as he will be very young. 
    23. RHP Cole Sands 
    Age: 24
    2022 (AAA): 19 games (13 GS), 61 2/3 IP, 5.55 ERA, 25.4% K%, 8.5% BB%
    2022 (MIN): 11 games (3 GS), 30 2/3 IP, 5.87 ERA, 19.3% K%, 9.0% BB% 
    Sands represented Team USA events in high school. He was drafted but chose to attend Florida State University. Three years later, he was the Twins fifth-round pick in 2018. That next season, he pitched at three levels, ending the year with one Double-A start. He didn’t pitch in 2020, and in 2021, he posted a 2.46 ERA at Double-A Wichita. He had 96 strikeouts in 80 1/3 innings. Moving up to Triple-A in 2022, he maintained his strikeout rate and actually reduced his walk rate. However, as you can see above, he gave up a lot of runs. It was an inconsistent year for Sands. He was promoted and optioned several times throughout the season, and also spent a couple of stints on the injured list. Is he a starter or reliever? There are a lot of similarities in terms of stuff between Sands and Tyler Duffey. Sands sits in the low-90s with his fastball but can touch 95. He also has a couple of very nice, albeit inconsistent,  breaking balls. As we saw with Duffey, that can be very valuable. He would not be the first player to struggle in his big-league debut, learn from it, and have some level of success. With the Twins pitching depth, will he get that opportunity? 
    22. RHP Blayne Enlow 
    Age: 23
    2022 (AA): 24 games (10 starts), 57 1/3 IP, 4.40 ERA, 24.8% K, 11.6% BB
    Another Team USA alum, Enlow was the Twins third-round pick in 2017 out of high school in Louisiana when they met his signing bonus request to keep him from LSU. It was a slow-go for Enlow early in his career. Like many, Enlow did not pitch in 2020. He returned to Cedar Rapids (now a High-A affiliate) in 2021, but just three starts into the season, he hurt his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in June. Enlow worked hard through his rehab, and in November 2021, he was added to the 40-man roster. He returned to the mound in May 2022, 11 months after surgery, and made one rehab appearance for Ft. Myers before heading up to Double-A Wichita. He made 10 starts and 14 relief appearances. He went 1-3 and had three saves. He was clearly working to get back his form. He walked 30 batters in 57 1/3 innings, well over his ‘normal’ walk rate. That is a number he can reduce quite a bit. He also struck out 64 batters which showed that the stuff was still there. Recently, the front office took the risk of placing him on waivers, but he cleared and was outrighted to the minors. While not necessarily great, it might be exactly what he and the Twins need. It might take some of the pressure off of him in 2023 and he can just work on things. With a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a solid breaking ball and an improving change up, Enlow has potential. Again, will that be as a starter or as a reliever? We shall see. (As you can see in the video below, right before his elbow injury, Enlow was dealing, with all of his pitches.)
    21. LHP Jaylen Nowlin 
    Age: 22
    2022 (A/A+): 22 games (14 starts), 71 IP, 3.80 ERA, 36.0% K%, 11.6% BB%
    Yet another late-round steal by the Twins scouting department, it appears. Nowlin was the Twins 19th round pick out of Chipola College. He attended Westlake High School in Atlanta with A’s prospect Lawrence Butler. In the summers, he played with Braves outfielder Michael Harris. He pitched in just one FCL game in 2021, but he made his mark at Fall Instructional League when the southpaw was touching 97 mph with a fastball and showing a solid slider as well. He carried that into the 2022 season. He began at Ft. Myers where he went 4-4 with a 3.65 ERA. In 56 ⅔ innings, he walked 29, but he struck out 89 batters. He moved up to the Kernels late in the season and made three starts. He was 1-1 with a 4.40 ERA. In 14 1/3 innings, he walked seven but struck out 22 batters. Overall, that is 11 strikeouts in 71 innings, a rate of 14.1 K/9. Clearly he will need to improve his control and command, but the Twins can be patient with him and should be because he has immense talent, he just needs to keep improving. 
    Feel free to discuss these prospects and ask as many questions as you like in the COMMENTS below. I will try to get to as any of them as I can. 
    For more Twins Daily content on these ten Twins prospects, click on the link with their name here: Jaylen Nowlin, Blayne Enlow, Cole Sands, Danny De Andrade, Brent Headrick, Bryan Acuna, Yunior Severino, Kala'i Rosario, Aaron Sabato, Byron Chourio. 
    Previous Installments
    Honorable Mention
    Prospects 21-30
    Prospects 16-20 - Coming Soon!
    Prospects 11-15
  9. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Twins Daily Winter Meltdown Returns with a Bang: Event Recap   
    Taking place a few blocks away from Target Field at The Pourhouse, the 2023 Winter Meltdown brought together hundreds of people for a lively night of food, drinks, and baseball chatter. 
    The staff at the venue did an excellent job keeping up with a huge crowd of attendees, serving up tasty 612Brew beers, snacks, sliders, and more. Twins fans and media, many having walked over from TwinsFest at Target Field, filled both of Pourhouse's two levels to catch the action on-stage, which featured Aaron Gleeman and John Bonnes interviewing two iconic figures in Twins media, as well as several interactive games and giveaways. 
    The first interviewee was legendary columnist Patrick Reusse, fresh off being recognized by the Twins with the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of his decades covering the team. As always, Reusse was full of amusing anecdotes and snarky one-liners, sharing his thoughts on the Luis Arraez trade, Joey Gallo's strikeouts, and MLB's rule changes, among other things.
    Reusse was followed by featured speaker Glen Perkins, a former three-time All Star closer for the Twins who now serves as analyst and commentator for the Bally Sports North broadcast team. In the past I've called Perkins a Twins Daily Hall of Famer: a hometown big-leaguer who was one of the team's best players throughout the site's early years of existence, adopted an analytical mindset midway through his career, and once famously bought a bunch of TD pub-crawlers a round of beers from the bullpen during a rain delay.
    He was a perfect headliner for the Winter Meltdown's return, and was a great guest, reminiscing on his playing days while also sharing insights about the current team and the state of baseball. I found particularly interesting Perk's explanation of how the front office influences the contents of the TV broadcast: the increased presence of people like him who can speak to the analytical side of baseball is no coincidence. As he put it, they want fans and viewers to gain a better understanding of the game through this lens because it's fundamental to how they build and run the team.
    If you missed the event, you can catch recordings of both Reusse's and Perkins' interviews on the latest episode of the Gleeman and the Geek podcast.
    There were plenty of other highlights from the night, including some recognizable faces among the crowd (I enjoyed catching up with former Minneapolis mayor and staunch Twins Daily advocate RT Rybak) along with plenty of great apparel on display. The rebrand seems to be resonating with the fanbase, as the updated logo and styles were quite prevalent.
    With that said, the "best dressed" award has to go to the combo of Aaron Rupar and Brett Howe, who were sporting Giants and Mets Carlos Correa shirseys, respectively.
    It's all part of the unique Winter Meltdown experience that I have missed so dearly over these past two years. I'm filled with gratitude for everyone who played part in making it happen, and who came out to make it what it was. 
    HUGE thank you Bonnes, who did a majority of the legwork on planning and overseeing the event. Big thanks also to Reusse and Perkins, who were among the most engaging guests we've had; The Pourhouse for hosting us with such great accommodations; and to 612Brew for supplying the beers and take-home pint glasses. 
    The scale this event has reached is truly amazing to me, and speaks to the powerful sense of community among Twins fans, and surrounding this website specifically. We appreciate you all. If you didn't make it this year, I hope to see you at next year's Meltdown – or better yet, this summer at the ballpark.
  10. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, How the Twins Addressed Their Biggest Weaknesses from 2022 This Offseason   
    Reviewing the Twins offseason up to this point after a flurry of January activity, some notable trends and focal points emerge. In sizing up the front office's moves this winter, it strikes me that there was a clear intent to address six key areas that factored into last year's fade, starting with the biggest one: 
    Better physical outcomes with a new head trainer.
    One of the first moves the Twins made this offseason was replacing head athletic trainer Michael Salazar with Nick Paparesta, a reputed leader in the field who'd spent the past 12 years in Oakland with the A's.
    It was a fitting top priority for the front office coming off a season that was completely wrecked by injuries, with unending recovery timelines and frustrating setbacks decimating the roster. The Twins were not a flawless team, as we'll cover below, but the level of physical attrition and number of days lost gave them no legitimate chance to hang on.
    To a large extent, injuries are uncontrollable. Training staffs tend to become scapegoats in circumstances where sheer bad luck is the prime culprit. But that's the nature of the beast, and as bad as things got last year, it can't hurt to bring in a fresh – yet seasoned – perspective.
    data:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw== Better pitching depth from the start.
    The pitching staff was definitely hurt by injuries last year, but not to the same degree as the lineup. No, the problem with the Twins' pitching staff last year was more foundational: On Opening Day, they had Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer as members of the starting rotation. On Opening Day, they had Tyler Duffey, Joe Smith, Jharel Cotton, Jhon Romero, and Josh Winder – owner of zero major-league innings – all as part of the bullpen. 
    This year the Twins will be much more structurally sound from the start on the pitching side. The return of Kenta Maeda, along with the acquisitions of Tyler Mahle and Pablo López, have surrounded Sonny Gray with a bevy of proven veterans. Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, who both pitched very well last year, push the rotation to six deep, while Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson have both proven ready to step in. Randy Dobnak is a wild card. 
    On the bullpen side, Jhoan Durán emerged as a force last year while Caleb Thielbar and Griffin Jax are both coming off outstanding seasons. Jorge López, if he returns to form, can give the Twins an unparalleled 1-2 punch alongside Durán in the late innings. Jorge Alcalá is back after missing almost all of last year, joining middle-relief options like Trevor Megill, Jovani Moran, and Danny Coulombe. Your mileage may vary on Emilio Pagán but he's a high-upside piece they don't need to rely on.
    I wouldn't be surprised to see another addition on the relief side (Michael Fulmer, come on down?), but as things stand, the 2023 Twins are in a much better position on pitching stability. 
    Dynamic contingencies and depth in the position player corps.
    If you want to stir up some bad memories, I've got a recommendation to fulfill your sadistic urge: go back and pull up a random Twins starting lineup from last August or September. The club's utterly ravaged position-player corps regularly left Rocco Baldelli submitting sad lineups with little hope to compete. 
    Nick Gordon and Gio Urshela trading off at cleanup. Jake Cave and Mark Contreras starting against lefties. Gilberto Celestino hitting fifth or sixth, repeatedly. It was ugly, and something none of us want to experience again. The front office is doing everything it realistically can to prevent it.
    Kyle Farmer and Michael A. Taylor are borderline starting-caliber players and top-shelf backups. They both provide experience, flexibility, and defensive prowess to help keep things chugging along in a variety of injury scenarios. The Twins are stacked with options in the corners and that's before you account for their prospects nearing readiness. 
    Presently, it's kind of hard to see how someone like Gordon or Trevor Larnach is even going to find his way to steady at-bats. Things will change, as we know, but the Twins are well prepared for that eventuality. Even with their 2022 leader in plate appearances gone, Minnesota is very strong on depth across the board. 
    Improved hitting against left-handed pitchers.
    Southpaws were a perpetual pain point for the Twins last year, holding the team to a .240/.310/.391 overall slash line while regularly shutting down poorly optimized lineups. This owed partially to injuries, especially later on, but was also a result of poor planning. Kyle Garlick can mash lefties and is a nice piece to have on hand, but you don't want to be primarily dependent on him in that role as they were last year. 
    This year, Garlick will likely open in Triple-A as ready-made depth for the same role. Meanwhile, the big-league club is significantly more balanced on the bench. Taylor could hardly be described as a "lefty masher" but he's solid against them, and should reduce the need for lefty-hitting outfielders to start against same-siders.
    The big add here is Farmer, whose defensive flexibility will allow him to plug in all over and start against almost all left-handed pitchers, against whom he has a .288/.345/.492 career slash line (including .309/.380/.568 last year).
    Run prevention via defensive improvements.
    You might feel the Twins were not emphatic or aggressive enough in their approach to upgrading a pitching staff that ranked 14th in runs allowed and remains plagued by question marks. You'd have a fair point.
    But the name of the game isn't pitching well – it's preventing runs. While performance on the mound obviously plays a major role, defense is also a big factor in this equation. The Twins weren't necessarily bad in this area last year, ranking 12th in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved thanks in large part to CF/RF, but they could stand to get better. 
    In 2023, they're poised to field one of the best defensive units in the league. Buxton and Correa return as elite up-the-middle defenders, and are joined by glove-first catcher Christian Vázquez. Newcomer Joey Gallo adds a standout fielder to the corner mix. Max Kepler provides another top-shelf glove if he sticks around, and if he goes, Larnach's a very good defender in his own right. 
    Alex Kirilloff is a superior first baseman to Luis Arraez (Gold Glove hub-bub aside), and we won't see Arraez's sub-par defense at second or third, which is a benefit through this lens. 
    Even beyond the starting lineup, we find defensive strength in the Twins' depth. Taylor is a great center fielder whose range is elite in the outfield corners. Farmer is a capable shortstop who excels at the infield corners. Jeffers is a glove-first backup to a glove-first starter. 
    Greater catching stability.
    Speaking of Jeffers and Vázquez, the presence of these two puts the Twins in a much better position behind the plate than they were last year, when Minnesota backstops collectively posted a .629 OPS and just 1.8 fWAR. 
    Dealing away Mitch Garver and Ben Rortvedt left the Twins woefully short on high-level catching depth. When Jeffers went down, they were forced to lean on Gary Sánchez as a starter before turning over the reins to no-hit veteran Sandy León after grabbing him from Cleveland's Triple-A club. 
    Bringing in Vázquez makes a profound difference in this regard, giving the Twins two starting-caliber catchers to buttress against an injury to either. The addition of Tony Wolters on a minor-league deal also supplies the Twins with some experienced depth at Triple-A; Wolters has played more than 400 games in the majors, albeit only 16 since 2020.
    Additions like Vázquez and Wolters might not be the most exciting, but like many of the other moves mentioned above, they had strategic underpinnings geared toward shoring up the weaknesses that brought down the 2022 Twins. 
  11. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Spend on Bats, Bank on Arms: This Front Office's Strategy Is Clear   
    Earlier this month, the Twins shocked the baseball world by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million contract. The move would've seemed inconceivable for this franchise as recently as five years ago, but in recent offseasons, Minnesota has signaled its willingness to start wading into the deeper end of the spending pool.
    After all, they first signed Correa just a year ago, albeit to a short interstitial deal that paved way for this one. Months earlier, the Twins had extended Byron Buxton with a $100 million contract, two years after handing free agent Josh Donaldson a then-record $92 million.
    Compared to the previous regime, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown a drastically greater willingness to profer these kinds of large-scale contracts, which are somewhat rare for teams in their class. (For context, Chicago's $75 million deal for Andrew Benintendi last month was the largest free agent commitment in White Sox history.)
    Notably, however, this appetite has been limited entirely to the position player side. Minnesota's current front office has been comparatively averse to investing dollars on the pitching side. Pablo López falls in line with a distinct pattern when it comes to acquiring rotation help: they trade talent (in this case Luis Arraez) for a cost-controlled starter who fits snugly into the budgeting forecast for multiple seasons.
    Minnesota did the same thing with Tyler Mahle at the deadline last year, and with Sonny Gray the prior offseason. They did it with Chris Paddack, and Kenta Maeda, and Jake Odorizzi. They traded away José Berríos, in part, because he was reaching the end of that cost-controlled window.
    Only in one case have these situations ever led to the Twins paying a remotely market-rate salary for one of these frontline starters: in 2020, when Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer to earn around $18 million. Of course, the club ended up paying out less than half that amount due to the truncated COVID season.
    Outside of that instance, Gray's $12.5 million salary this year will supplant Lance Lynn in 2018 ($12 million) as the highest salary paid to any pitcher acquired by this front office in seven years. Michael Pineda's two-year, $20 million contract signed in December of 2019 – also prorated down, because of his carryover suspension – remains the largest Falvey has given a pitcher. It's 10% of the amount they just guaranteed Correa.
    So like I said, the pattern is pretty stark. The question is, what's driving it? Why are the Twins comfortable allocating such an outsized proportion of their available budget to position players while persistently minimizing money tied up in arms?
    I think it comes down to volatility and risk.
    Back in November, I wrote an article on the troubling realities of buying high on free agent pitching. I was citing a dynamic that I believe prevents the Twins – and really, the vast majority of mid-market teams – from winning bids for top free agent pitchers available at their peak.
    Namely: you are paying the utmost long-term premium for pitchers in their late 20s or early 30s who are hitting the sharp downward slope of the aging curve. Look back no further than last year's free-agent class to see the pitfalls of this buy-high philosophy: Robbie Ray, for example, got a $115 million deal from the Mariners coming off a breakout Cy Young year and then reverted right back to his previous ordinary form. The contract already looks like a hindrance for them.
    There are worse outcomes. Signing up commit pay big bucks to starting pitchers, who've already often logged 1,000+ innings, through their mid-30s is flat-out hazardous. The Yankees bought high on Carlos Rodón and earmarked $162 million to lock him up through age 35. The upside he brings as a true ace exceeds almost any bat you can buy on the market, but it's counterbalanced by the tremendous risk of his shoulder issues flaring up and making him a non-factor.
    With their financial inhibitions, New York can afford to assume that risk without catastrophic collateral downside. Most teams operating in lesser markets can't or won't. 
    Of course, there's even more risk in simply not acquiring pitching talent. It's not an option if you want to compete, and you lack the elite development machines of a Tampa or Cleveland.
    For Minnesota, the preferred course has been to trade for second-tier starters in their prime. This prevents risky long-term commitments and keeps the rotation's budget share in check, enabling the Twins to invest in building around the likes of Correa and Buxton, who now occupy a third of the payroll with almost 300 million in combined dollars owed.
    I'm not going to say staking the franchise's future on Correa and Buxton is WITHOUT RISK, of course, but star position players tend to age a bit more reliably than standout starting pitchers, in part because they have more "outs."
    If injuries continue to impact Buxton, he can still make a real difference while spending time at DH, as we saw last year. If Correa's ankle forces him off shortstop, he can move to third, as he planned to with the Mets.
    When you're paying top dollar for a starting pitcher and they get struck by injuries that keep them off the mound or diminish their performance, it's harder to maintain that value equation. For teams with finite spending capabilities (self-imposed as they may be), that matters.
    Continually trading quality prospects to replenish their rotation will not necessarily be a viable strategy for the Twins going forward, so the success of this approach really comes down to how well their efforts with the pitching pipeline come together. 
    The front office has put in place a potential lineage to support sustained rotation success – with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson followed by the likes of Marco Raya, Connor Prieilipp, and more – but pressure is rising to see it pay off and embed some legitimate fixtures so they don't have to keep trading their way to patchwork solutions.
    In theory, allocating your funds to superstar everyday players and relying on a sustained and regenerative pipeline of younger, fresher, lower-cost pitchers is a savvy strategy. In theory.
  12. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Matt Braun for an article, The Twins Have a Type   
    Broadly speaking, that outline covers Chris Paddack, Tyler Mahle, and now López; one could argue that Kenta Maeda fits the mold as well. The idea probably stems from two sources: first, the Twins acknowledging themselves as an undesirable home for arms. Big-name starters have eschewed Minnesota for years. Despite recent infamous twirls with Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler, Michael Pineda remains the richest starter to brace the cold under Derek Falvey’s watch. Realizing that players have no say in trades, Falvey and Co. decided to force the issue, utilizing the lack of consent involved in deals to pool together talented arms. 
    The second part is the more interesting one—and its assumptions will likely decide how successful the Twins are with their strategy.
    Pitching in the modern baseball landscape is—and this is the technical term for it—absolutely bonkers. Arms become studs overnight—hello, Evan Phillips—as hefty advancements in technology make adjustments a science, no longer an art only understood by a few masters of the craft; a good pitching coach must communicate what the computer knows. Good teams aren't alone in claiming these resources; every team in MLB has them. But the most consistent franchises identify players most capable of breaking out, freeing them from the clutches of an ignorant team while reaping the rewards of a flourishing arm. The pickpocketed squad has no clue what happened. The Pirates lose 100 games.
    Looking beyond the horrifying societal implications of technological modernity, the scientific pitching movement hasn’t created an abundance of frustratingly talented pitchers—those will always exist—but it has made it tantalizingly irresistible to acquire them. “I can fix him,” thinks a team watching a guy with an ideal fastball get crushed for a 4.70 ERA. Phil Maton has pitched for three teams over six seasons. Phil Maton’s career rWAR is negative. Phil Maton will continue to have a bullpen spot on one of the smartest teams in baseball. Perhaps hearing the same information from a new source proves to be the catalyst. Or, as sports fans have known for decades, a guy just needs a change of scenery. If it doesn't work, the team may look silly, but that's the price of doing business.
    Minnesota took this concept and ran with it in 2021. They acquired Paddack, one of the more notorious problems in baseball, pulled some strings on his pitching package, and came out with a renewed starter… until he got injured. Players still have ligaments, after all. They then acquired Mahle, watched him be exactly as maddening as he was in Cincinnati for 16 1/3 innings, and failed to help him realize his potential… because he, too, got injured. This pitching business sounds hazardous. Whether López’s tale differs is up to him and whatever sacrifices the baseball gods choose to accept. 
    While Minnesota hasn’t yet experienced success with the plan, other teams have reaped great riches. Perhaps most famously, Houston understood that Gerrit Cole should not be throwing sinkers, thank you very much, and they enjoyed two years of some of the most dominating starting pitching baseball has seen in recent years. Toronto somehow didn’t give up on Robbie Ray, transforming him into a Cy Young winner after a year where he walked nearly 18% of all hitters. Kevin Gausman evolved from pitching in relief for Cincinnati in 2019 into a legitimate Cy Young candidate. 
    Minnesota hasn’t yet seen a transformation like the previous arms, but it injuries are the culprit, not poor targeting.
    Rather than tinker with potential, why not shoot for the best of the best? For starters, the most impactful arms in the game command a royal ransom in return, something that few teams are ok with meeting these days. You can criticize Minnesota for not going after Zac Gallen, but remember that no team yet has met Arizona's asking price for him; the Twins aren't an anomaly. Also, there just aren't many available aces these days. Sandy Alcántara is going to remain a Marlin for a few years, Milwaukee shut down trade noise, and Oakland is currently a picked-over walrus carcass. Is Cole Irvin your fallback plan?
    This isn’t to say that all their pitchers will figure it out eventually because, well, if everyone is super, then no one is. The game is in upside: what can you do in the future with your raw stuff? A player’s past hardly defines them; their measurables reign supreme and the Twins have gathered a hearty assortment of players with fascinating under-the-hood numbers. We shall see if the plan works.
  13. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, What's the Appeal? What's the Deal? Exploring Trades for Starting Pitching Help   
    With Carlos Correa in the fold, the discourse of Twins fandom has turned to possible rotation upgrades. There has been rumored interest in Pablo López and the Marlins as a possible trade partner. Fair enough. López, however, doesn’t really check the cost-benefit box for the Twins. Coming off a career-best season, he accumulated 2.8 fWAR in 2022. A free agent in 2025, he doesn’t clear the Sonny Gray (2.4 fWAR in 2022) echelon of starting pitching candidates with enough conviction. Pass, especially if it would take a package including Max Kepler or Luis Arraez and more to acquire him. 
    I would assert the following guidelines in working toward a trade for starting pitching:
    They have to be clearly better than Sonny Gray (3.5-4.5 fWAR ideally), OR There has to be some projectability left. Edward Cabrera is a good example of the latter qualifier (25 K%, 24 years old, and not a free agent until 2029) With those criteria in mind, here are a few ‘less talked about’ starting pitching trade candidates for the Twins to pursue. For each, I’ll attempt to answer ‘what’s the appeal’? and ‘what’s the deal’? I leveraged ‘Baseball Trade Values’ to find approximate value equivalency for each trade. As with any hypothetical trade scenario, they’re meant to outline potential cost, as opposed to specific names teams might target, because, what do I know? 
    Zac Gallen
    What’s the Appeal?
    The Diamondbacks would maximize Gallen’s value by trading him now. In 2022, he accumulated 4.3 fWAR (14th in baseball) from 180 innings after accumulating 4.4 fWAR in his previous 270ish innings spread over three seasons. Gallen was misery for hitters last season, sporting a 26.9 K%, 6.6 BB%, and 111.7 stuff+. Gallen is under team control for three more seasons, so the cost would be breathtaking. The Diamondbacks aren’t in a position to win a loaded NL West division and have some of the most elite prospect talent in baseball. Trading with the Twins allows them to continue to load up for 2024 and beyond.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire RHP Zac Gallen from the Diamondbacks for SS Brooks Lee, OF Emmanuel Rodriguez, and RHP David Festa
    Too rich for me.
    Nestor Cortes
    What’s the Appeal?
    Cortes was one of the feel-good stories in baseball in 2022. After a promising 2021, he exploded last season, amassing 3.6 fWAR with a 26.6 K% and a stingy 6.2 BB%. Cortes isn’t a free agent until 2026, so he would be expensive, but the Yankees and Twins are a good match to trade. The Yankees have Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Frankie Montas, Domingo Germán, and Luis Severino in the rotation mix, with more options close to the major-league level. Cortes might strike the balance between adding real quality to the rotation, at a price the Twins can stomach.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire LHP Nestor Cortes from the Yankees for OF Max Kepler, OF Matt Wallner, and RHP Josh Winder
    I would accept this trade. The Twins have a huge dearth of left-handed corner outfielders. This trade gives the Yankees a defensively strong starting outfielder, an additional outfielder for the future who can also fill in at DH, and a powerful arm who hasn’t yet clicked in Minnesota.
    Brandon Woodruff
    What’s the Appeal?
    Simply put, a dominant track record. Over the last four seasons, Woodruff has averaged 3.4 fWAR. While Woodruff isn’t a free agent until 2025, we know that the Brewers are not opposed to cashing in on or maximizing value. In 2022, Woodruff struck out over 30% of batters faced while maintaining a 6.8 BB%. At his best, he’s dominant and would immediately be the Twins best starting pitcher.
    What’s the Deal?
    The Twins acquire RHP Brandon Woodruff for 3B José Miranda, and RHP Bailey Ober
    This deal is more a reflection of cost than a possibility. We all know Assistant General Manager Carlos Correa would immediately veto a trade of José Miranda. This situation simply bumped Ober, (who has struggled to remain healthy) from the bottom of the Twins' rotation and substituted Woodruff at the top. This also sees Brooks Lee as the Twins' long-term third baseman, debuting in 2023, with Miranda as more of a first base or DH option.
    Honorable Mentions
    I put the topic of pitching trade candidates on twitter and, as usual, Twins Daily readership came through in style. Other candidates that I didn’t include in-depth either as they had been recently written about, OR the trade fit wasn’t as obvious. They are, however, worth mentioning: Tyler Glasnow, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Logan Gilbert, Chris Sale, and Frankie Montas. The list goes on. It’s worth widening the lens when considering Twins trade targets. Thinking back to the Rangers/Yankees double trade last season, it feels likely they pursue a similarly creative path to upgrade the high-end talent on the roster.
    Ultimately, I’m in favor of the 3.5 fWAR threshold for starting pitching acquisitions. Given the prices, I think the Twins are unlikely to be, as it would involve parting with a close-to-the-majors prospect they see as part of their core, or MLB-level pieces they view as indispensable. Time will tell.
    Who would you like the Twins to trade for? Who are you willing to part with and who is off limits? Join the discussion and leave your thoughts in the chat.
  14. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Christie for an article, 3 Twins Prospects that Need Healthy 2023 Seasons   
    Last season, three notable names returned from injury at the top of the Twins' prospect rankings. Royce Lewis was returning from a torn ACL, while Matt Canterino and Jhoan Duran were recovering from strained elbows. Lewis had a tremendous season before tearing his ACL for the second straight season. Canterino was limited to 37 innings before requiring Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, during his rookie campaign, Jhoan Duran became one of baseball's most dominant relievers. Entering the 2023 season, the Twins hope these three prospects can get back on track to prove they are healthy. 

    Royce Lewis, SS
    2022 Injury: Torn ACL
    Lewis didn't want to be on this list in two consecutive off-seasons. However, he has already proven that he can return from this injury and not lose a beat. There was some question last year if Lewis would need time to adjust to the Triple-A level after not appearing in a competitive game since 2019. It certainly didn't look like he missed a beat. He posted a .993 OPS in 24 games before being called up for his big-league debut.
    Then Lewis went 12-for-39 (.308) with six extra-base hits in his first 11 MLB games with the Twins. With Carlos Correa signed, Lewis doesn't need to be rushed back in 2023. He can take his time to prove he is healthy again at Triple-A before being being called up. Still, the Twins need Lewis to become a player that impacts both sides of the ball for the next decade. 

    Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF
    2022 Injury: Torn Meniscus
    Last season, Rodriguez showed why the Twins were so high on him when they signed him in July 2019. He was considered a top-10 international prospect in the class. Unfortunately, the pandemic postponed his professional debut to 2021, where he hit .214/.346/.524 (.870) with five doubles, two triples, and ten home runs.
    Rodriguez spent the 2022 season in Fort Myers, where he was over two years younger than the average age of the competition. In 47 games, he hit .272/.493/.552 (1.044) with more walks (57) than strikeouts (52). His season ended in June after he tore his meniscus and needed surgery. Minnesota can start Rodriguez in Fort Myers while the weather is colder, but he should spend most of the season in Cedar Rapids. He's out to prove that his breakout season wasn't a fluke. 
    Jordan Balazovic, SP
    2022 Injury: Left Knee Strain
    Balazovic's 2022 season was delayed until mid-May due to a left knee strain, and he went on to have the worst season of his professional career. In 72 2/3 innings, he posted a 7.68 ERA with a 1.97 WHIP with a 77-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lucas wrote extensively on ways to fix Jordan Balazovic, saying, "It's possible that the lingering pain caused him to diminish his knee extension after foot plant, impacting his velocity and command."
    The Twins don't need to rush Balazovic to the big leagues with other pitchers ahead of him on the team's depth chart, including Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson. Balazovic can spend the beginning of the season proving he is healthy at Triple-A before a potential mid-season call-up.

    Which has the most to prove this season? Can all three stay healthy? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 
  15. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, The Circumstances Don't Matter When it Comes to Carlos Correa   
    On more than one occasion this winter it appeared Carlos Correa was headed elsewhere. San Francisco, New York, etc. Both larger markets generally thought to be more desirable destinations offering more money, it’s easy to see how Correa was ready to sign onto both situations before fate brought him back to the Twins. Now that he’s here, does the path he took matter at all? Some people sure seem to think so, and have been raising several concerns now that Correa appears to be back in Minnesota.
    “He didn’t want to come back to Minnesota”
    Minnesota was by definition the third choice for Correa to land in, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t want to come back to Minnesota. No fan should expect anything less than a player to take the highest offer they’re given in free agency, especially when those offers come from premier destinations such as San Francisco and New York. Did he love it to the extent that he was willing to take less money to return? No. Why would anyone have expected otherwise? When the Twins eventually wound up with the best offer on the table, he was willing to take it. That should be plenty good enough!
    “This is going to be like Lance Lynn all over again”
    Many fans remember 2018 when Lance Lynn signed with the Twins following a disappointing offseason for the right hander. He didn’t get the money or destination he desired and despite the Twins being the one team to offer a competitive contract, he seemed to hold it against them. If anyone has these concerns about Carlos Correa, they likely don’t know much about Carlos Correa. It’s far more likely he’s on a warpath to leave 29 other teams kicking themselves for missing out on a healthy superstar shortstop.
    “They only got him because of his physicals”
    Correct. The stars aligned to allow not one, but two mega deals to fall through and open the door for the Twins. When the dust settled and all information was equal, the Twins still outbid 29 other teams, with the Mets offer reportedly coming up significantly short of Correa’s agreement with the Twins. The way we should probably think about this is as follows: “My favorite team just won the bidding for a star player. There’s risk involved, but it’s not my money!”
    “This doesn’t do much but get us back to last year’s roster”
    While the Twins aren’t going to be projected to win the Central immediately following the Correa signing, it gets them within striking distance, something that couldn’t have been said prior to the deal. The Twins are in a spot given their middling projections and poor division where every win added is extremely valuable. Last year by Fangraphs measures, Correa was worth around 4-5. Simply put, there may have been a path to a winner without Correa, but it was extremely narrow. With Correa filling shortstop and anchoring the lineup, variance and the good health we’ve all been talking about sets up the possibility of a rebound season for the Twins. Also consider the fact that there could be multiple additions still on their way.
    “What if Correa’s leg is a legitimate problem?”
    Let’s be clear, nothing has changed with Correa’s physical condition since the Twins offered 10 years, $285m to Correa earlier this winter. It’s also likely nothing has changed since he was actually playing for the Twins. There’s risk with any free agent signing, or trade as we saw last season. The Twins have made a reputation out of chasing low risk, one year deals in recent years and let’s be perfectly honest, it has not gone well. They appeared to be saving money for a longer term deal if the opportunity arose, and it’s hard to imagine a better opportunity than the one that was presented to them to get Correa. It was an uncomfortable, high risk deal that quite frankly they’ve been overdue for. It’s also worth considering that at only 6 years, $200m guaranteed, it’s not nearly as uncomfortable or high risk as it could have been. Would you rather gamble on Correa remaining a star talent for 6 years with a plate in his leg that hasn’t held him back in nearly a decade, or someone like Trea Turner remaining a star player for the next 11? Turner’s deal is almost certain to go poorly in the next 11 years. The Twins are only gambling on 6 with Correa.
    To be fair, many of these questions have to be asked, and some of them were in some fashion during the introductory press conference. All parties were likely expecting questions regarding the awkwardness of this outcome, but none seem particularly perturbed about the situation moving forward. The fact of the matter is this: Twins fans should have been hoping that Correa would wind up back in Minnesota this winter by any means necessary. It certainly wasn’t a straightforward path but the end result is exactly what we dreamed of. The circumstances are irrelevant. Carlos Correa is a Minnesota Twin. Possibly for the rest of his career. Just try to enjoy it.
  16. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Peter Labuza for an article, Trevor Bauer Is Not Worth It   
    (Content warning: This story includes allegations of sexual assault that may be difficult to read and emotionally upsetting.)
    Unwilling to entertain his presence on the team, the Los Angeles Dodgers still owe Bauer an additional $22.5 million for the 2023 season, making him officially free to play for any team interested in paying the league minimum salary ($720,000) to sign him. The Dodgers will be on the hook for the rest. Many fan bases across baseball have speculated on what he might bring for a rotation. However, no consideration of stats should erase the obvious: Bauer’s presence on the Twins would be bad for the team, bad for fans, and bad for baseball.
    Trevor Bauer signed as a free agent with the Dodgers in 2021 on a creative three-year deal. However, in July of that year, allegations of sexual misconduct came to light after a woman filed a restraining order that detailed two separate incidents. In his own legal filings, Bauer did not deny some of the particularly brutish details of the victim's injuries but claimed they were entirely consensual.
    The Dodgers, acting slower than what many fans expected, placed Bauer on administrative leave pending a further investigation from MLB. During that process, the Washington Post published two separate stories following allegations that claimed similar violent behavior by Bauer during his time with Cleveland. 
    After completing their own investigation, MLB announced a suspension of Bauer for violating the league’s domestic violence policy – a record 324 days. Bauer appealed, and after a second extensive investigation by an independent and binding arbitrator, the sentence was reduced to 194 days, making him eligible to play at the beginning of the 2023 season. That sentence, however, was still noted as the longest in MLB’s short history of domestic violence enforcement.
    Although Bauer has disputed some of the facts of the original allegations, and the LA district attorney declined to file criminal charges, there are a number of other key elements to consider with the pitcher. He has been vocal on social media, attacking numerous media members and especially female-identifying fans, targeting them for harassment. He has voiced anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, attacked trans individuals, and generally brought negative attention to himself on a regular basis. Bauer was considered "MLB's most hated man" long before all of this transpired.
    Through the allegations and investigations, Bauer has remained vocal in trying to put himself back in the spotlight and shown little to no remorse. In fact, he still has a case open for defamation against former beat writer Molly Knight for publishing details about the case (a similar suit against The Athletic was dismissed). Unlike other cases of players who served sentences and have at least done their best to center on the game, Bauer has demonstrated an interest in creating more hassle and negative media buzz for any team interested in bringing him aboard. In fact, in his statement about his release, Bauer poisoned the waters by claiming the Dodgers allegedly told him they wanted him to play for the team as late as the day before his release. 
    Different from the “let the kids play” mentality of the younger generation of baseball players, he has also occasionally made a mockery of the game and sportsmanship, particularly an incident in Cleveland where he refused to give up the game ball and tossed it into the centerfield bleachers. Bauer relished playing the villain in the Dodgers uniform and doing everything to make opposing fans boo him. Stories quickly arose after Bauer’s suspension from teammates in Los Angeles who felt his negativity not just on the field but within the clubhouse. At least one Dodgers pitcher—former Twins prospect Brusdar Graterol—almost immediately liked the Dodger's Instagram post announcing the release.
    Twins fans already saw what happens when one player tries to make themselves an MLB villain a few years ago with the signing of Josh Donaldson. Though he played two above-average seasons for the Twins, the apparent animosity he created between himself and other players no doubt did not bode well during their frustrating 2021 season. Although never openly stated, the discussion of “better vibes” in 2022 from a number of Twins players became quickly clear that many felt the trade with the Yankees was for the better. Bauer’s laundry list of behaviors would be a more extreme version of Donaldson in a Twins clubhouse. 
    Most importantly, Bauer’s signing would show a sign of entire indifference toward a wide swath of Twins fans. For many Dodgers fans, Bauer in a uniform demonstrated the worst of MLB’s attitude toward an entire gender of fans of baseball, at a time in which the growth of female fans has pointed a better direction for the sport. The fact the Dodgers took a month to decide what should have been obvious was a blow to fans frustrated at the team’s callous care toward payroll or winning. As Ken Rosenthal pointed to in his own column on the subject, "Some decisions, though, are so necessary, so important, they should not require much thought."
    It’s hard to ever think baseball will ever love you back, but there’s at least a version without Trevor Bauer’s hands bringing both old and likely new behavior behavior to Minnesota. No matter the value he might bring on the mound, Trevor Bauer is not worth it. 
  17. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Things to Remember About the Mets, the Twins, and the 28 Other Owners   
    Steve Cohen, the Mets owner, is stupid rich. He can afford to sign Carlos Correa as an afterthought.
    All the other owners are also stupid rich. They could also afford to sign Carlos Correa as an afterthought. They opted out.
    The Giants and Twins may end up being completely vindicated in exercising restraint. That plate in Correa’s leg may start malfunctioning like the one in Cousin Eddie’s head from Christmas Vacation. If he pees his pants rounding second because someone at Citi Field is microwaving salmon in the break room, the Mets can’t say they weren’t warned.
    If Correa flames out, guess what? The Mets can still afford it. And they can afford to replace him with another generational talent at another astronomical price point.
    This gets at the problem for the Twins, Giants, and everyone else, even the Pirates: They can all afford this, too. See above about being stupid rich. Their wealth is unimaginable. You really have no idea.
    It’s not your money.
    “We’ll lose (some number and a word that rhymes with Jillian) this season! We can't compete with New York!” Great. That’s a rounding error for them and a number they finessed to within an inch of straight up lying. If they want to impress me with real losses, invest in crypto.
    If they decide that losing a fraction of their wealth on a professional sports team is not for them, the Phoenix Suns just sold for $4 billion. Buddy, there’s the door.
    You don’t get points for not taking on risk. You don’t get games in hand for fiscal responsibility. You do get a reputation as a team that will do exactly this much to improve your roster, but not that much.
    It’s not your money.
    Every “small market” team is in a giant city with skyscrapers and bridges. The people who own that team own the skyscrapers and the bridges are named after the great-grandparent who got the money in the first place by inventing child labor or selling bayonets to a guy nicknamed “The God-Tyrant of the Eurasian Steppe” or something.
    “The owners didn’t become rich by wasting money.” No, they became rich by being born into obscene wealth. Glad we cleared this up.
    “The Pohlads are cheap” is inaccurate. “Most of the owners are content with the status quo” is accurate. The problem is, Steve Cohen is making the status quo look cheap. So I may have to revisit that “inaccurate” thing.
    It’s not your money. It really, really isn’t.
    The concessions at Target Field will be expensive regardless of who they sign this winter. Let’s say they decide to say "Bleep it" and start the rebuild now. You will still spend John Bonnes’ weekly craft beer budget on a hot dog and popcorn in 2023.
    None of this is Carlos Correa’s fault. Anyone mad at him for taking the best deal (twice) instead of staying in Minnesota is a tiny baby. Yes, our lakes and amenities are nice, but I assure you that San Francisco and New York have water and restaurants too.
    In conclusion, they should probably trade for some pitching. 
  18. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Here is How the Minnesota Twins Can Save Their Offseason   
    There was no question that Carlos Correa was the focal point for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this winter. Rocco Baldelli wanted him back, as did superstar Byron Buxton. Everyone said the right things, but when the dust settled the Twins presented an offer that was never going to get it done and came up $65 million short.
    Then Carlos Rodon went to the New York Yankees. Then Dansby Swanson went to the Chicago Cubs. Every top tier free agent Minnesota could have realistically been involved with sought other alternatives.
    No longer is there a plethora of starting pitching, and the shortstop group is the same holdovers that Kyle Farmer was likely acquired to help avoid. Unless Jose Iglesias draws the eye of the front office, or some alien-induced reunion with Andrelton Simmons is on the docket, there aren’t better options up the middle either.
    Joey Gallo is a decent addition for a team that needed offense far too often last year, and while he likely makes moving Max Kepler a certainty, that should be viewed as a net gain. Christian Vazquez works behind the dish, and he’ll take pressure off of Ryan Jeffers. There are still holes, however, and at least $40 million needs to be spent on filling them.
    So what happens? How can the Twins try to salvage this offseason? 
    1. Sign Nathan Eovaldi
    Eovaldi will be 33 years old in 2023, and he’s been healthy for a whole season just once since 2014. That said, he represents a player with the amount of risk Minnesota should be comfortable taking on. Whether Baldelli initially employs a six-man rotation or not, Eovaldi could find himself with opportunities for extra rest throughout the season thanks to depth such as Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson, and others. When healthy, the former Red Sox starter can be elite. The velocity is still strong and his strikeout numbers are solid. He gave up too many home runs last year, but is just a season removed from Cy Young contention. With what is still out there, the Twins may have just one last shot to sign a starting pitcher.
    2. Sign Will Smith
    Really, there are still more than a handful of solid relievers left on the open market. The Twins goal should be to acquire at least two with high-leverage ability. I don’t think they make sense as a landing spot for aging veterans such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Zack Britton. Someone like Smith or a reunion with Michael Fulmer could work. Trevor Rosenthal may fit in this space if he’s healthy, but it’s the Astros World Series winner that should be prioritized. Smith has previously had multiple 30-save seasons, and although he has a 4.21 FIP the past two seasons, he was incredible with Houston down the stretch. There are lots of strikeouts to be had here, and Smith could certainly help Minnesota’s relief corps as a whole.
    3. Sign Brad Hand
    The fit is a natural one. Hand is a Minnesota native and would give the Twins another lefty out of the pen. He posted a strong 2.80 ERA for the Phillies last season, and while his secondary numbers were down, the Twins could make some tweaks to return strikeout performance back to where it was previously. Hand hasn’t lost much in the way of velocity, and he’s a big slider guy which is something this front office has consistently targeted.
    4. Trade for Willy Adames
    There were a few names I considered here. Brandon Crawford is being pushed off shortstop in San Francisco, but I can’t see the Giants pulling the band-aid off and flipping a fan favorite like that. Ha-Seong Kim could be available with the Padres acquiring Xander Bogaerts, and while they have Fernando Tatis Jr. returning at some point, the trio could be kept with Manny Machado having an opt out and Tatis likely moving to the outfield. Milwaukee has been linked to talks of shedding salary, and while they now don’t seem to be trading Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, Adames could still be available.
    Adames is in line for a $9.2 million salary through arbitration per MLB Trade Rumors projections, and he owns a career 111 OPS+. His 31 homers were a career-high last season, and although Farmer brings a bit of pop to Minnesota’s lineup, this would take that to another level entirely. Someone has to replace Correa’s production, and that was already in the context of a lacking offense. Adames has only played shortstop, and maybe the Twins don’t love that, but neither Royce Lewis or Brooks Lee are a slam dunk to stay there.
    Although this isn’t close to what fans would’ve hoped for at the beginning of the offseason, would this be enough to satisfy going into the year?
  19. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Amazingly, Christian Vazquez Is Among This Front Office's Boldest Gambles   
    Derek Falvey and Thad Levine moved quickly after taking the reins in 2016, signing catcher Jason Castro to a three-year, $24.5 million contract as their first move. It would be the new regime's largest commitment to a free agent until 2020, when they made waves by signing third baseman Josh Donaldson for four years and $92 million.
    An audacious move coming off a breakthrough season. Donaldson's deal nearly doubled the franchise record-holder for biggest free agent contract: Ervin Santana for four years and $52 million, almost eight years ago to the day (12/14/14).
    Donaldson's two-year tenure with the Twins was unfulfilling, and the team was happy to move on when they unloaded his remaining contract to New York this past February. They used the newfound payroll space to make an even bigger splash: signing Carlos Correa to a three-year, $105 million stunner. He opted out of that deal a few weeks ago, as expected.
    Which brings us to this week, where the Twins have agreed to terms with Christian Vazquez on a three-year deal worth $30 million over three years. 
    With that, we've covered all of the biggest free agent commitments ever from this front office: Vazquez (#3) nests behind Correa (#1) and Donaldson (#2) as the heftiest contract in six offseasons, and – along with Castro – the only deals spanning three or more years.
    There are a few ways to react to this. The first, of course is: wow, that really puts the Twins' aversion to free agent spending in context. Their biggest splurges under this regime have been two solid yet unspectacular catchers, and two superstar infielders, whose contracts more or less melded into one. (Twins basically turned the last $52 million owed to Donaldson into $35 million for Correa.)
    Castro is, thus far, the only one of these players who actually played out at least three years of his contract as a Twin. Vázquez will presumably join him, bridging us to the other reaction: the front office must REALLY like Christian Vázquez. 
    Clearly they are deeply uncomfortable with long-term contracts, especially for aging players. If they wanted to, the Twins could have certainly bided their time to wait out the remaining trade market, or turned their attention to another free agent around the middle tier. They passed up the opportunity to pursue a (likely cheaper) true platoon partner for Ryan Jeffers, such as Omar Narváez or Tucker Barnhardt, in order to aggressively acquire Vázquez – who was reportedly their #1 free agent catching target from the start.
    What do they like so much about the 32-year-old to make such a (relatively) big leap? Vázquez has a number of appealing qualities, one of which is pitch-framing – particularly high in the zone) – as Lucas Seehafer laid out in detail. There's also his relatively neutral platoon split, his strong throwing arm, and his reputed clubhouse presence.
    Beyond that, the Twins' willingness to pay a real premium for the backstop comes down to two core things: safety and experience.
    This is the biggest factor without question, in my mind. Coming into this offseason, the catcher position was a glaring hole on an otherwise structurally sound roster. Dan Hayes writes in The Athletic that the team was "desperate to find a catcher in free agency." 
    Vázquez has had an up-and-down career, with occasional solid offensive bursts counterbalanced by long unproductive stretches ... but he's been serviceable at worst. Even when his bat is amiss, he remains a steady defensive player and durable mainstay. 
    He might arguably lack the upside of a Zunino or Narváez, but he's got a higher and sturdier floor. And that's what this move does: complete the front office's floor-raising setup for whatever is next. 
    The Astros acquired Vázquez from Boston at the deadline this year, valuing him as a seasoned vet who could contribute during the stretch and into the playoffs. He played 41 games for Houston in August, September, and October, aiding their successful pursuit of a World Series championship. It was the second ring for Vázquez, who won another in Boston in 2018 and took part in a deep run with the Red Sox in 2021.
    For a Twins organization that was devoid of ANY meaningful big-league catching experience beyond Jeffers' 600 plate appearances ... it's easy to see why this track record would be very appealing.
    Now, the big remaining question is whether this front office is going to add another top contract to its modest historical ledger. Amazingly, Vázquez's $30 million contract has now entered their top three -- and the top six in franchise history, adding in Santana and Ricky Nolasco. If Vázquez remains on either of those lists by the time the offseason is over, it'll be hard to see how this winter would be viewed as a success.
  20. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Conceptualizing a Creative, Realistic, Winning Contract for Carlos Correa   
    The mutual affinity between Carlos Correa and the Twins does seem genuine. He appears very open to returning, and is at the very least giving Minnesota the time of day by entertaining offers, which is something we've rarely been able to say about top-tier free agents in past years. 
    There have been reports of the Twins submitting multiple different proposals to Correa's camp, as the front office gets creative in trying to put forth a framework that entices him away from other monster offers he's sure to receive – while also not being so risk-filled and player-friendly as to defy their sensibilities.
    That's a very difficult line to walk. Signing Correa would obviously be a precedent-shattering move for this franchise, at any level, and by all accounts they are ready to take that step. But it doesn't mean they'll hand Scott Boras a blank check. 
    Is there a way the Twins could win the bidding for Correa without actually having the largest guaranteed offer? Is there are practical structure for a deal that doesn't force Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to abandon their regard for long-term planning?
    I think maybe I've got something. But you tell me if it works for both sides.
    Hypothetical Twins/Correa contract: 10 years, $325 million with two player opt-outs.
    Here's how it breaks down, year by year:
    Year 1: $40M
    Year 2: $40M
    Year 3: $40M
    Year 4: $40M
    Year 5: $30M
    Year 6: $30M
    Year 7: $30M
    Year 8: $25M
    Year 9: $25M
    Year 10: $25M
    It's a frontloaded contract that is essentially broken down into three parts. After earning $160 million in the first four years, Correa can opt out of six years and $165 million at age 32, or three years and $75 million at age 35.
    The reason this feels like a realistic concept is that I can look at it from both sides and talk myself into it, even while accounting for the front office's known tendencies and preferences.
    Why the Twins Like It
    In trying to come up with this theoretical contract, I presupposed two things from the team's point of view:
    They're willing to dish out huge salaries in the short term (they'd have happily paid out Correa's full three-year, $105 million contract), but they're deathly afraid of being burdened by gargantuan commitments for aging mid-30s players down the line. They recognize that player opt-outs are an effective mechanism for making contracts more appealing to players and their agents, but don't want to include them in a way that robs all of the team's upside from a deal. I believe the above framework satisfies their preferences on both fronts. The highest salaries are concentrated at the front of the contract, during Correa's prime years, so they'd be ostensibly paying most for his peak production. The diminishing salaries in the latter part of the deal reduce team downside to some extent should things go awry.
    Meanwhile, the opt-outs probably aren't too inhibiting. If Correa chooses to re-enter the market after four or six great years the Twins will have been happy to have gotten them. 
    Why Correa and Boras Like It
    Well, for one thing, it's a legitimate all-time MLB free agent contract. Correa would tie Giancarlo Stanton and Corey Seager for the sixth-biggest guaranteed sum ever. His salary next year would be the highest for any position player in history, and second overall only to Max Scherzer ($43.3M).
    These things matter to Correa and Boras – not sheerly out of greed, as some would proclaim, but to pave the way for future players and contracts. It's no coincidence the past contract made Correa the highest-paid infielder ever, just by a hair.
    I also could see the frontloaded makeup of this framework having appeal to Correa, if he wants to be on himself an truly maximize his earnings. Should he tear it up while earning $160 million over the next four years, he could easily re-enter the market at 32 and seek another deal approaching $200 million.
    Could It Really Happen?
    Let's be clear: this contract would not only shatter precedence for the Twins, but for baseball at large. Of the 10 contracts that have ever been signed for $300 million or more, none came from teams outside of the major markets in Southern California, New York, Texas and Philadelphia. 
    For Minnesota to be the first flyover mid-market club to break that barrier would be almost hilariously surreal, and yet, if ever there was a time I could see it happening, it's now. The Twins are ushering in a new era with a comprehensive rebrand and ownership shift. Out of sheer circumstance, they stumbled into getting acquainted with Correa and now have a verifiable IN with one of the most talented players in the world. They also have tremendously clear books going forward.
    Do I think it will happen? No, I still don't. But I've talked myself into there being a path. What say you all?
  21. Like
    IndyTwinsFan reacted to Jamie Cameron for an article, With the 36th Overall Pick the Twins Select SS Noah Miller, Ozaukee HS (WI)   
    With the 36th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Minnesota Twins Selected Noah Miller, SS, Ozaukee HS (WI).
    The Twins selected New Jersey RHP Chase Petty with the 26th overall pick. You can read more on the high risk, high reward, high school pitcher with the electric fastball from Andrew Thares here. With their compensatory first round pick, the Twins selected Wisconsin prep SS Noah Miller.
    HT: 6’0 WT: 180 B/T: B-R
    Commitment: Alabama
    Age: 18
    Overall Grade: 50
    Hit: 45 Power: 40 Run: 50 Field: 60 Arm: 55
    The Twins significantly broke from their draft tendencies in the Falvey Levine era, drafting two high school prospects with their first two picks. It’s also notable that they addressed their two biggest deficits with their first two picks, drafting a starting pitcher and a middle infielder.
    In addition to adding Chase Petty with the 26th overall pick, the Twins elected WI prep SS Noah Miller with the 36th overall pick. Noah Miller is a switch hitting shortstop whose brother recently made his MLB debut in the Cleveland organization. The 18 year old is an impressive athlete and outstanding defensive SS with a strong sense of anticipation and reading of the game.
    Despite his defense being his most impressive tool, Miller also shows strong offensive skills. Miller is the top ranked prospect from Wisconsin and showcases a short, simple swing with effective bat to ball skills. Miller shows gap to gap line drive power from the left side but better pull power from the right hand side of the plate. Despite facing limited competition, Miller has dealt with opposing pitching successfully, consistently showcasing the ability to drive the ball the other way. While Miller doesn’t have any one truly stand out tool, he has a high offensive and defensive floor which should allow him to stick at SS and be an impactful hitter at the MLB level.
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