chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, OK, But Really: Why Did the Twins Openly Leak Their Payroll Drop?
The Twins didn't exactly hold a press conference to announce it, but they might as well have. In early November, shortly after the conclusion of the World Series, team leadership left little ambiguity about the spending outlook for 2024.
“We’ve pushed our payroll to heights that we had never pushed it before with the support, certainly, of ownership,” Derek Falvey said. “We know there is some natural ebb and flow to that. Will it be where it was last year? I don’t expect that. I expect it [to be] less than that. Some of that may come more organically.”
Some follow-up reporting from Dan Hayes for The Athletic brought even more detail to light: the team foresees "significant payroll cuts" of up to $30 million. This journalistic revelation was less overt than Falvey's open on-the-record admission, but still, you don't get the sense it was some tightly-held secret. Clearly Twins leadership–or at least certain elements of it–didn't mind having this narrative out there in the public sphere.
Coming off a division-winning campaign and a long-awaited postseason breakthrough, the Twins were riding high. They had a prime opportunity to parlay the excitement surrounding this team into a robust winter of season ticket sales and sponsorships. Even if reduced spending was an inevitable reality (and arguably a reasonable one), why come out and say it right away? What is to be gained?
Falvey and this front office are too strategic, too intentional to just let something like this slip accidentally. There was a rationale behind getting the word out there. Maybe that's what is most annoying about it for those of us trying to analyze from the outside; it's really hard to find an obvious answer. The effects of setting this vibe for the offseason have been fairly predictable. The widespread reaction to nearly every piece of Twins-related news is colored by resentment toward dropping payroll in a moment of great opportunity.
Parting with longtime scouts from the previous regime? Cheap. Failing to re-sign Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda? Classic Pohlads. Never mind that these decisions adhere to the same general philosophies this front office has pretty much always followed. The Twins are willingly inviting this narrative.
So again, I ask: why? There's got to be some sort of motivation behind this course of action. In trying to land on an explanation that seems viable, a few potential objectives come to mind.
They're trying to create awareness of the TV situation and its implications.
This strikes me as most probable. While many Twins Daily regulars are likely aware of the team's collapsed broadcasting deal with Diamond Sports Group and what it means for the overall revenue picture, a majority of casual fans are not clued in.
Not everyone's going to be empathetic to a mega-rich operation making fractionally less profit, but at least it gets an associated (and arguably valid) causal factor out there. Hayes's article makes this framing clear: "Following the expiration of a Bally TV deal that netted them $54.8 million last season, Falvey acknowledged the team’s payroll wouldn’t be nearly as high," he wrote. If a public perception is formed that "better TV deal = higher payroll", it could help the team curry support in its quest to find a new solution.
They're trying to influence market expectations.
The Twins love to find a competitive advantage wherever they can get it. If players, agents, and other front offices believe the Twins are intent on reducing their payroll, it could influence perceptions in interesting ways. Perhaps another team discounts the stealthy Twins in negotiations for a key player.
A stretch? Perhaps. But it'll be a feel-good story for everyone if the Twins end up shooting higher than expected and can talk about how they went past their comfort zone to get the guy they wanted.
They're lowering expectations so they can exceed them.
Under-promise, over-deliver? The optics of even coming close to repeating their record-setting payroll of 2023 would now be pretty good, given that the team has proactively dampened expectations. I know most of us are zeroing in on the lower end of that $125-140 million range Hayes laid out, to the extent that going beyond that would now feel like a pleasant surprise.
It matters, because the difference between those two figures would have a sizable impact on what the front office is realistically able to do this offseason when it comes to upgrading the team, or even making up for the losses they've already experienced in free agency. Unfortunately, this is probably wishful thinking. What I keep coming back to is, why come out with it now? If the Twins ended up spending marginally less next year than they did this year, I don't think too many people would notice or care. The up-front framing of these cuts as significant is glaring to me, and makes me expect the worst.
They're trying to soften a big blow.
Maybe we are all right to be zeroing in on the low-end $125 million target. Maybe that's the whole point. I don't have any specific insight beyond what's out there, but it wouldn't shock me if the Twins feel overextended after going big last offseason and then losing the RSN honeypot.
If Falvey is merely leveling with us and being transparent about the steep drop-off to come, I find it hard to begrudge him. I still just don't get it from a business standpoint. Even if the front office leader's corresponding point about payroll–that the Twins can succeed with a lower one because they've built the infrastructure to do so–is accurate, he had to know how the comment and insinuation would be perceived.
The reignited payroll narrative is now casting an additional pall over a series of Twins-related headlines that have not been received well: Dick Bremer being ushered out of the broadcast booth, tenured scouts being dismissed, several key free agents signing elsewhere. Hopefully, somewhere on the other side of this, there is a vision to turn the tides and revitalize morale. Right now, all I'm seeing is an avalanche of bad press and buzz-killing vibes. It makes me wonder what exactly the Twins are trying to do from a business and brand standpoint, as much as a baseball one.
chpettit19 reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Pump the Brakes On These Prospects
Pump the brakes on Brooks Lee. For that matter, the same applies to Austin Martin, Yunior Severino, Jair Camargo, Chris Williams, and DaShawn Keirsey. Lee is the third baseman of the future, hopefully. Martin, Severino, Camargo, Williams, and Keirsey will all likely appear in games for the Twins at some point during 2024, but we don’t need to put the cart before the horse.
The Twins have a number of decisions to make with an already crowded infield, a questionable mix at first base, a backup catcher making $10 million in both 2024 and 2025, a hole in centerfield, and an unclear budget for making additions. Many of the aforementioned names could be written in as key contributors in those spots.
However, none of those players are beating down the hatches. Lee has 60 games at AAA with a mediocre August and a solid September. Martin similarly has 59 games and one outstanding month in St. Paul. Severino and Keirsey have even less than that. Williams and Camargo are both in their mid-20s coming off great offensive years, but they still haven’t gotten a single plate appearance in MLB.
None should be the answer to any question at the beginning of 2024. It would put the Twins in a very difficult spot. If Martin or Keirsey are your personal long-term answer in center field, you’re welcome to that. You might see Camargo as a long-term backup catcher, replacing Vazquez.
Forcing that to happen in March is a problem.
The recent success of rookies Royce Lewis, Edouard Julien, and Matt Wallner has been incredible, but it’s important not to expect that level of production to be the norm, even for prospects at the top of organizational rankings. It’s not normal. Their success was exceptional. They themselves may struggle to find the same level of success going forward.
So often prospects, even those who are hyped and go on to have great careers, struggle in their early stints. Names like Torii Hunter or Michael Cuddyer come to mind, struggling for years to find their footings before becoming mainstays in the Twins lineup for a decade.
Other prospects don’t manage to get their footing at all, such as more recent examples like Stephen Gonsalves, Alex Meyer, Oswaldo Arcia, or Joe Benson. It’s difficult to project success, even in players at the upper levels of the minor leagues.
Both Jose Miranda and Trevor Larnach have shown flashes of being very good players, but they have also gone through extended stretches that cast a cloud over their long-term outlook—and both were Opening Day starter in 2023. If that’s not the organization showing a reliance on them, I’m not sure what is.
Fortunately, Miranda and Larnach were able to be replaced by Lewis and Wallner, respectively, but it would be foolish to assume that that outcome was always a given. What if the team didn’t open the season with Lewis and Wallner in reserve as alternative options? What if they were going to sink or swim with Miranda and Larnach?
They would have been in trouble. Likewise, starting 2024 with upper minors depth in key roles is asking for the same.
The Twins clearly have a philosophy in this type of situation, and it’s probably the right one—they want depth. That’s exposed in the acquisitions of players like Michael A. Taylor, Joey Gallo, and Donovan Solano. Granted, not all of these types of acquisitions are beneficial, but that’s kind of the point.
They want options.
Do those options sometimes block our favorite prospects on the depth chart? Sure. But it also allows those prospects to be a short-term backup plan, protecting them and the team. Blocking prospects is the cost of bringing in big league depth.
Beginning the year with some sort of big leaguer in those roles ensures better talent is in the organization. Those same big leaguers wouldn’t take a minor league deal to serve as a backup to the prospects. The decision is effectively between bringing in an MLB veteran and having a top prospect as a backup or having a top prospect with a minor league veteran as a backup plan.
One of those plans has a better rate of success. It’s risky business trusting a big league role to someone who’s never seen an MLB pitch, and it can go wrong in any number of ways, be it performance or injury. Sure, the MLB veteran could struggle or get injured too, but it’s much more comforting to be able to turn to a top prospect than a career minor leaguer in that event.
If any of the aforementioned players do break camp with the team, it’s not the end of the world. They all have the potential to be competent pieces at minimum. It just shouldn’t be what any of us are clamoring for. They’ll be here when it’s time. Right now, the Twins have a division to win.
chpettit19 reacted to Hans Birkeland for an article, Who Solidified Themselves as Playoff Hitters for the Twins, and Who Didn't
In 2023, the conversation for the Twins in the playoffs finally changed. There were media outlets in September suggesting it would be good for the five seed to “tank” in order to face three-seeded Minnesota in the Wild Card round since “bulletin board material” didn’t apply to such a cursed franchise.
But no longer can the Twins’ chances be reduced to a hand wave and a chuckle – they won as many games as they lost, including nearly handing the Astros a loss in the ALDS for the first time since the Obama administration.
Now the conversation has to be (as with all playoff teams) what the Twins need in order to go further in 2024. They didn’t hit much against the Astros (or the Blue Jays for that matter), with a number of their hitters failing to eclipse the .600 mark in OPS for the two rounds. However, we did see evidence of a few guys who could terrify future playoff opponents by virtue of what they did in October 2023.
Edouard Julien: He drew five walks in the six games, with three extra base hits and zero errors/misplays on defense. His OPS for the playoffs was a stout 1.043. He did make two baserunning errors, one ghastly (game one of the ALDS), and one a product of bad luck (game four).
Julien showed that his blend of power and patience will play in the postseason. His home run and double in game four gave the Twins some life, and his pinch-hit, bases loaded, two-out single in game two sealed a win. He is a playoff caliber leadoff hitter.
Royce Lewis: He posted an OPS over 1.100 in the playoffs, with four home runs that put him on the precipice of setting the Twins’ all-time playoff record. After six games. He appeared to press at times, swinging at some spiked breaking balls in crucial moments, but he’s also played in only 76 career games to this point, including the playoffs. Seeing more pitchers and how they attack him should make him even more of a threat next October.
Carlos Correa: He also eclipsed a 1.000 OPS, and threw in some of the savviest shortstop play I have ever seen with his pickoff of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and deke of Jose Abreu. His performance sealed his reputation as a known quantity in the playoffs, regardless of how his regular season goes. In 2020, he posted an OPS lower than what he posted in 2023 sans any plantar fasciitis issues. In the playoffs he hit for a 1.209 OPS and six home runs in twelve games that year. That isn’t to say he is automatic in the playoffs, but he will be ready.
Jorge Polanco: This one is borderline. Polanco’s .653 2023 playoff OPS doesn’t stand out, except when you compare it to the rest of the Twins’ lineup. He drew four walks and popped a key three-run home run in game one of the ALDS that drew a collective gulp from everyone in the stadium that day.
Polanco has proven he can hit in the playoffs. He was one of the few players to show up for the 2019 ALDS, hitting a first inning homer in game one, then tying the game with a single in the fifth.
His defense is another matter. He went about 1-4 in fielding chances against Toronto and the specter of his missed flip in 2020 still haunts me to this day.
Outside of those hitters and Kyle Farmer, the rest of the position player group didn’t inspire much confidence. Playoff pitching just doesn’t compare to the regular season. It rewards superstars (Yordan Alvarez) and guys who play within themselves (Martin Maldonado). It can be hard to identify who will play the Jason Kubel (1-29 career in the postseason) role in a given playoff series, and the Twins had a few this year.
Chief among those was Ryan Jeffers. Outside of two hits in game one of the ALDS, Jeffers contributed nothing offensively. Two walks and a lot of strikeouts. He hit some balls hard, but he also made you wonder if keeping the playoff-tested Christian Vazquez on the bench for every game was the right move. Watching Vazquez’s at-bats down the stretch compared to Jeffers’ catcher-leading OPS made it a justifiable decision, but giving Vazquez a start or two may have butterfly-effected an extra scoring opportunity. We’ll never know.
Matt Wallner went hitless in twelve plate appearances for the playoffs, although he did contribute three walks and a key hit-by-pitch. His inability to make contact against jumpy fastballs was exposed, and he’ll have to work and adjust in order to avoid a reputation as a mistake crusher who wilts against good pitching.
Max Kepler was victimized by two terrible strike three calls against Houston, and he did collect a hit in his first five games of the playoffs. But even at his best, Kepler isn’t a cleanup hitter for a serious playoff lineup. He struck out 14 times in the six games and was worth -1.6% cWPA (championship win probability added) against the Astros. As a seven hole hitter, his skill set would play a lot better.
Alex Kirilloff was playing through a torn labrum in his lead hitting shoulder, and performed as such. He is a little jumpy at the plate, even when healthy (taking strikes, then swinging at balls). But his elite plate coverage and all-fields power could be a major asset on future playoff teams.
Now, having only three hitters clicking at the same time can certainly play in the playoffs. The 2019 Nationals provided proof of that concept with Juan Soto, Howie Kendrick and Anthony Rendon delivering a World Series championship that year.
But ideally, you would want more lineup depth than that. Wallner has shown an ability to make adjustments, Jeffers has shown an ability to hit good pitching, Byron Buxton is always a wild card, and Kirilloff has shown the skill set to succeed in October. But if the front office doesn’t add another big bat this offseason, that may be a decision they could come to regret, especially given that the pitching will be hard-pressed to match this year's production.
What do you think? Is the projected 2024 lineup good enough to take the next step as is, or does it need another piece? Sound off in the comments.
chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Twins' 2023 Trade Deadline Was a Far Bigger Disaster Than 2022
With the benefit of hindsight, no one would say Minnesota's big trades at the deadline last year worked out. If they could go back and do it all over again, knowing what they know now, the front office certainly would not have traded away a bunch of prospects for Tyler Mahle and Jorge Lopez.
But you know what? They didn't have the benefit of hindsight when they made those moves. All they had was the information available in real-time, which was this: The Twins were in first place in a winnable division, and they had some clear flaws that they needed to address if they were going to make a real run at the thing.
Last July, those needs were pretty significant. They needed a credible frontline starter to plug in alongside Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan, and a high-caliber reliever to complement Jhoan Duran in the late innings.
The Twins swung big. They gave up decent prospect packages to acquire Mahle and Lopez all along with extra years of service for both.
The front office knew the risk factors attached to both players -- Mahle's injury concerns and Lopez's unconvincing long-term track record -- but didn't know both would come fully to fruition. The front office also couldn't have guessed that even if both pickups played exactly up to optimistic expectations, it wouldn't have mattered because the entire roster collapsed in an injury epidemic.
All the Twins front office knew at the time was where they were at and what they needed. They acted accordingly. The last takeaway you'd want the club to draw from this experience is that risks aren't worth taking. After all, some of this regime's greatest and most impactful moves have been the payoffs of bold risk-taking, for example:
Dealing their 100+ MPH throwing top pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers for Kenta Maeda. Dealing their 100+ MPH throwing top draft pick Chase Petty to the Reds for Sonny Gray. Trading their reigning batting champ Luis Arraez to the Marlins for Pablo Lopez. Those moves led us to where the Twins are at today, with an elite rotation featuring three playoff-caliber starters. And for some reason, upon reaching this long-awaited moment they've been building toward, the front office passed up the opportunity to provide much-needed help for that unit and the rest of this team as it aims to reach the postseason and snap a 20-year curse.
The team's needs at this past deadline were lesser in scale, but no less clearly evident. They needed bullpen help -- ideally a high-leverage arm, but even middle relief depth would help. Injuries to Brock Stewart and Jorge Alcala, combined with Jorge Lopez proving unusably bad, left the team's planned late-inning core severely lacking, in need of support.
Adding one or two relatively trusted relief arms of the Michael Fulmer ilk would've done worlds for this unit's depth and stability. The cost for such assets would've been vastly less than a Mahle or Lopez haul. It was, seemingly, a pretty simple assignment.
Alas, the Twins front office failed it. Aside from a swap of struggling relievers that brought in Dylan Floro, they sat on their hands. And the negligence of this approach is only growing more apparent and upsetting as the exact scenario they were supposed to be protecting against plays out before our eyes.
Minnesota's bullpen has fallen apart since the trade deadline. Over the past 20 days they've collectively been sub-replacement level with a -0.2 fWAR that ranks 26th in the majors. The have a 6.13 ERA during this span, compared to 3.01 for the starters.
The relief corps completely melted down in Milwaukee over the past two days, blowing mid-game leads in both losses. Floro was at the head of the struggles with a nightmare outing on Tuesday. Now the Twins head into a four-game series against the Rangers in a beleaguered state, with Duran having thrown 33 pitches in taking the loss Wednesday.
I'm not trying to oversimplify things here, by suggesting that one or two reliever additions at the deadline were going to definitively change the course of this bullpen. Maybe the acquisitions wouldn't work out; we've been there. Maybe they wouldn't have made enough difference; if Duran and other late-inning arms can't get on track, there will be no saving this bullpen.
But to not even try? To not even add a single impact reliever who might reduce your reliance on Emilio Pagan to succeed in high leverage, or Caleb Thielbar to stay healthy, or Jax and Duran to not get run into the ground?
It's truly one of the most baffling things I've ever seen. And if the Twins fall short in the playoffs, AGAIN, because they are one quality relief arm short ... or worse yet, miss the playoffs entirely because their bullpen isn't equipped for the task of holding up down the stretch ... it'll be tough to forgive this bizarrely complacent lapse from a front office that uncharacteristically played scared this time around.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, 2005 Minnesota Vikings ‘Impressed’ with 2023 Chicago White Sox Dysfunction
The godless Chicago White Sox have had a memorable 2023 season, even if their reprobate, degenerate fans, all of whom should be in jail, would just as soon forget it. From locker room dissension to on-field underperformance to veteran leaders getting knocked out in front of god and everybody, they’re an epic mess.
The 2005 Minnesota Vikings, a team most familiar with scandal and dysfunction, have noticed.
“Oh, wow,” said safety Willie Offord. “They’re really going for it. I wonder if any of them have a fake penis.”
Running back Onterrio Smith attempted to smuggle the faux genitalia, called a Whizzinator, through airport security in the 2005 offseason. As of this edition of Twins Daily, no White Sox player has done this.
"There's still time," said Offord. "Not even September yet."
The South Siders have also parted with a slew of veterans, all of whom immediately roasted the team in interviews, reminding one former Viking of the disastrous 2005 trade of Randy Moss.
“Randy would give you an honest answer no matter what, especially if he was ornery,” said running back Moe Williams. “Add that to the fact that they traded him for Troy Williamson and Napoleon Harris? No wonder everyone got fired. That the White Sox can even approach that is incredible. I’m impressed.”
If there’s one thing that sets the breathtaking dysfunction of the two teams apart, the ex-Vikings all say it’s the lack of a real good sex scandal.
“Tim Anderson fighting Yasmani Grandal in the locker room then catching hands in the infield dirt is great, but where’s the aquatic sex party,” asked Bryant McKinnie. “How come none of them are bare-ass naked in the stairwell of a nightclub? You can fight and talk [EXPLETIVE] all you want, but if you’re not making the local newspaper put the word ‘dildo’ on the front page, maybe hold your horses on being truly dysfunctional.”
McKinnie’s one-time teammate Fred Smoot agreed.
“If they need Al & Alma’s number, I’ve still got it,” said Smoot. “Let’s take this thing to the next level.”
chpettit19 reacted to Matt Braun for an article, Dallas Keuchel Is Who He Is
There was quite a stir made when Dallas Keuchel signed with the Twins. Although MLB hitters spent much of the prior two seasons spanking his offerings, the former Cy Young winner felt that his sinker had a few more outs in it, and worked hard to add a few elusive ticks of velo—perhaps hoping that the extra oomph would be the difference between disaster and a spot on a major league roster. He latched onto the Twins on a minor league deal and waited for fate to move in his favor.
Fortunately, Joe Ryan had a debatably real groin problem and an undeniably real home run problem. Needing to decide on keeping Keuchel around, the Twins called him up—and with his Sunday start now in the books—he now needs to be talked about.
Some may have viewed his five frames of one-run ball positively; our own Sherry Cerny argues that he should be the 6th man in the Twins rotation, extending his stay on the major-league roster. He did only allow one run, after all.
Beyond the earned runs, though, there’s much to be concerned about. Namely, Keuchel didn’t strike anyone out.
Yes, no one would confuse prime Keuchel with Randy Johnson—the sinking lefty earned his bread off groundballs, not whiffs—but at his best, Keuchel could still offer five to six punchouts a game, improving his absurd ground ball total by ensuring that the few batted balls hitters could find were headed straight for infielder’s gloves. This year's performance is not Keuchel at his best; his strikeout rate in 2023 against AAA hitters—inferior competition—was below average. He’s almost wholly unable to miss major league bats.
That matters. Some days, those batted balls aren’t always going to find gloves and will instead bang around the field, creating chaos and scoring runs as the visions of his double plays on Sunday become distant and unrecognizable. It’s a simple math problem, with a few more batted ball chances allowing for shenanigans and unideal outcomes. The Pied Piper comes calling for his due eventually; relying on fortunate sequencing and unsustainable left-on-base rates won’t cut it. Those hits will fall. They have to.
Now, yes, he does still have the groundballs. The almighty ability to get batters to drive the ball directly into the earth hasn’t evaporated with age. However, diminished in recent years, Keuchel has demonstrated a rejuvenated grounder rate with the Saints and in his lone Twins start. That’ll always help cap the damage he allows. It can even erase some of his mistakes, but it’s not enough to only have groundballs—especially if batters are smoking his sinker with an exit velocity of 96.2 MPH as they did on Sunday.
Put it this way: strip away the name and the Cy Young award. Would you trust a pitcher with 14 walks and 28 strikeouts over 37 innings? Would you trust a pitcher who could only elicit five swings and misses against one of the coldest offenses in baseball?
He’s solid depth—the kind of guy you may trust more than Simeon Woods Richardson—but making big plans to add him to Minnesota’s grand down-the-stretch scheme is foolish. He got lucky on Sunday and was fortunate in his time with the Saints.
Once Joe Ryan is over his bout of balls-keep-leaving-the-yard-itis, the Twins should thank Keuchel for his troubles, and jettison him to the depths of Baseball Reference, only to be uncovered by intrepid dorks wondering why he made a handful of starts for the 2023 Minnesota Twins. They have better starters, and they will be far more critical to the Twins staving off Cleveland in the coming months.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Cleveland Out of Good Ideas If Twins Continue Faltering
The Guardians thought they’d finally done enough.
In a season where they barely played offense and lost ace Shane Bieber to injury, Cleveland still could not entirely break away from the AL Central division lead. Trading Amed Rosario for the ghost of Noah Syndergaard didn’t do the trick either. Finally, they parted with Aaron Civale and Josh Bell at the trade deadline, and the early signs encouraged, as the Astros swept and no-hit them over the course of a tjree-game tilt. The Twins were set up to make an early August run and finally put the Central
Unfortunately, Minnesota could only manage one victory over a terrible Cardinals team before Joe Ryan’s struggles continued in a 7-3 loss on Wednesday evening, leaving the Guardians hopelessly looking for answers. (Thursday's game had not been completed when this issue of Twins Daily went to press.)
“What more are we supposed to do,” asked a Cleveland front office source. “We’re doing everything we can to not win this [expletive] thing and then your fun little Deadhead goes out and gets shelled. Do something already!”
Minnesota has one of the easiest schedules remaining in the entire league and will be getting Royce Lewis back shortly. However, they made exactly one move before the trade deadline, didn’t upgrade clear needs like righthanded power or another bullpen arm, and continue to hover just above .500. Cleveland has noticed.
“Good god, have some self-respect,” said the source. “You got swept by the Royals. The Royals! We literally can’t not compete with that. There are no other strings for us to pull. If we burn the stadium down for insurance money, we will go to jail. People will get hurt. We are out of good ideas. Don’t make us win this division. We don’t want it. We don’t need it. Leave us alone.”
Things don’t get any harder for the Guardians this weekend, as they travel to Chicago to play the pathetic and godless White Sox. Meanwhile, the Twins host the surprisingly competitive Arizona Diamondbacks.
“Remember when the White Sox were supposed to run this division for years,” asked the source. “How about some follow-through on that, fellas? We’re going to win at least one game purely by accident, maybe two. Probably be a half-game out on Monday. I can’t get mad at our players because I don’t know any of their names.”
chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, A New Position for Royce Lewis?
Last season. the Minnesota Twins signed Carlos Correa to be their starting shortstop. When he went down with an injury, top prospect Royce Lewis stepped up in a big way. Despite being sent down when Correa returned, Lewis forced the hand of the big league club. He took over in centerfield and made it just three innings before a fluke knee injury occurred after a collision with the outfield wall.
Now, with the Twins having suggested that they’d prefer not playing him in the outfield this season, current roster construction makes that arguably the best place to supplement the roster.
By the time Lewis returns for Minnesota, Jorge Polanco will likely have taken over as the regular at third base. While Edouard Julien is not a good defender, his bat and youth have him entrenched at second base. Polanco shifting across the diamond makes sense. Correa will continue at shortstop, and putting Lewis at first base as opposed to Alex Kirilloff would be nonsensical.
What does make perfect sense is playing Lewis in a spot where he may very well see the bulk of his career playing time.
Lewis is an exceptional athlete, and he has displayed an ability to play up the middle for years. He looked the part of a shortstop before being bumped to the hot corner, and he handled centerfield fine in limited looks down on the farm and in the Arizona Fall League. Of course there is the fear of growing pains, and getting to know outfield configurations, but the fluky re-injury of his ACL should not be a deterrent to future plans.
Rocco Baldelli could insert Lewis in centerfield upon his return from the injured list. The Twins have needed a right-handed bat out there all year, and while Michael A. Taylor holds the lumber from that side of the plate, he rarely does anything with it. As long as Byron Buxton remains a full-time designated hitter, expecting Taylor to produce on a daily basis will come with suboptimal results.
With Lewis in the outfield, Minnesota could have their most ideal offensive infield configuration, while also still finding an opportunity to play a great stick in Lewis. If Buxton were able to man centerfield on a regular basis, this wouldn’t be a consideration, but it’s one that could help the Twins to get the most out of their lineup in October.
The process to score at least four runs during any given game has to be the focal point for Minnesota. They have been tough to beat when accomplishing that feat, and for a lineup that has done less with more all season long, they can’t afford to leave ammo unused.
Maybe Buxton returns to health for 2024, and Lewis isn’t needed in center. Having that ability in his back pocket is something of a benefit to such a talented player, and it doesn’t seem that Minnesota’s $100 million man is going to force the question at all during this current season. Lewis has already stepped up in big spots, and this would be a way for him to do so yet again.
It remains to be seen if Minnesota will make the tough decision and put him out there. The injury he suffered a year ago will unquestionably be on everyone’s mind, but there is no straightforward suggestion that he’s more likely to be hurt in center than he is at third. Trying to play chicken with injury is a losing game, and putting the best lineup configuration on the field each night should be the goal.
If everyone is healthy when he returns, Royce Lewis should be the Twins starting centerfielder.
chpettit19 reacted to Hans Birkeland for an article, Exit Kirilloff, Enter Goldschmidt: Could This St. Louis Swap Make Sense Both Now and Later?
Alex Kirilloff has long been a mythical presence in Twins fandom. He was ascribed the gaudiest projections as a prospect, and when summoned to the majors has provided enticing glimmers of being an offensive force. This year, he has been healthy for the first time, at least on the surface, and produced quality numbers hitting between second and fourth in the lineup.
He has warts, too. He can’t hit lefties very well, and doesn’t provide any real defensive value. His power is also a question; coming up through the minor leagues his ability to drive the ball was considered a potential sticking point, and although he appeared to answer those doubters in 2018 with a .578 SLG in two levels of A-ball, that remains the only extended stretch of power he has shown in between all the injuries.
If Kirilloff is in fact, James Loney, Lyle Overbay or Casey Kotchman, starting first baseman with doubles power who control the strike zone and hit seventh in the lineup, he shouldn’t be considered a long-term building block for the organization. If his wrist is holding back his power, and with improving health he becomes Will Clark, that’s a different story. Or if he never gets to his power but learns how to spray the ball around like Joe Mauer or John Olerud, obviously you invest in that player, too.
It’s hard to improve a roster overflowing with veteran depth pieces whose worst performers are also making the most money, so the Twins may have to make some bold decisions to get better offensively. Moving Kirilloff may be what the doctor ordered.
He plays first base primarily, and a lot of the bats they may look to acquire play there, as well. Last year’s National League MVP, Paul Goldschmidt, is one of those, and although it is unclear whether the Cardinals would sell one of their best hitters off as they look to contend in 2024, it may make sense for them to target Kirilloff as their heir apparent at first.
Why Goldschmidt and not his younger and more dynamic teammate, Nolan Arenado? For starters, Arenado is nearly four years younger than Goldschmidt at 32-years-old, is one of the best defensive third baseman of all time, and is under contract through 2027 (which is also when Kirilloff would become a free agent for the first time). If the Cardinals expect to win over the next few years, why would they get rid of a team controlled future Hall-of-Famer still in his prime? They wouldn’t, short of receiving a better package than the Nationals got for Juan Soto (i.e. ridiculous and franchise-crippling).
Goldschmidt is more of a pure hitter than Arenado, and in contrast is under contract for just one more year. The Cardinals may actually be interested in cashing in on his value now, while acquiring a young hitter with loads of potential to slot in around Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Jordan Walker and Willson Contreras. The Cardinals scouts would have to believe Kirilloff’s bat is more Olerud than Kotchman, but if they do this may constitute something more than wishcasting.
On the Twins side, they would acquire in Goldschmidt a student of the game with an incredible resume who also operates as a serious, reserved leader who, incidentally, would become the team’s best hitter with a 144 career OPS+, meaning 44% better than league average. The only Twin who exceeds that mark this year is, of course, the unconscious Edouard Julien who sits at 154.
Keeping in mind the Twins really only need an average offense to compete with their pitching staff, how would this October lineup look (assuming Byron Buxton moves hell and earth to play center field in the playoffs):
That has to be a top-seven lineup in the AL, and if injuries become a factor, Donovan Solano, Brooks Lee, Austin Martin and Matt Wallner could supplement and depending on who they replace, make the lineup potentially even better. The only doubling up of handedness would occur from Goldschmidt to Buxton, so matchups would be tricky for the opposition, at least in theory.
For his career, Goldschmidt has over a 1.000 OPS versus lefties, currently the Twins biggest weakness. If Buxton still can’t play center, the team needs to find a way to teach Julien how to stand in left field, in which case Michael A. Taylor would remain in the mix, replacing Gallo or Kepler. Willi Castro and/or Martin could pinch-run and play both infield and outfield. The team would still strike out plenty (Goldschmidt is good for about 150 of those a year), but would present a much scarier challenge to the Guardians as well as any postseason opponent.
What about the Twins’ future? Wouldn’t this mortgage it just to invest in a barely .500 team that alternates between frustrating, annoying and mediocre? Maybe, or perhaps it opens doors for the pieces of the Twins’ offensive prospect puzzle to fit together. Sure, for every instance of the Astros letting Carlos Correa go just to call up Jeremy Pena and not miss a beat, there are thousands of stories of teams freeing up a position for a guy and ending up, due to injury, underperformance or both, having to roll out plan C or D.
But letting Julien take over first base after learning from the four-time gold glover Goldschmidt for a year, might make some sense. Julien can definitely hit, but taking his arm out of play is the best scenario for everyone, long–term. He can anchor future lineups that include Emmanuel Rodriguez, Walker Jenkins, Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee without getting in anyone's way, and the future would remain bright on the hitting side.
Would Goldschmidt cost more than just Kirilloff? Surely. The Cardinals would likely ask for pitching, with Marco Raya, Louie Varland and David Festa surefire targets of theirs. According to baseballtradevalues.com, adding any of that group to Kirilloff in a trade package would constitute an overpay, but the Cardinals aren’t about to cast Goldschmidt aside for anything resembling equal value.
My proposition would be Kirilloff, Festa and Brent Headrick for Goldschmidt and one of their setup men, like Jordan Hicks (as a rental) or Genesis Cabrera (two more years of team control). BTV sees that as a moderate overpay, with the Cardinals getting about 30% more value than the Twins.
What do you think? Would you pull the trigger on a trade like this? Sound off in the comments.
chpettit19 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, Byron Buxton's Clock Is Ticking
We’ve seen the Twins operate on a 1:1 replacement basis this season, sticking to the plan to a fault at times. Previously it was white-hot Matt Wallner sent down for a returning Max Kepler simply because Wallner was the replacement when Kepler hit the IL.
In the case of Jorge Polanco, we saw this play out during his first IL trip with Edouard Julien, who took his place for a brief time, showed some flashes, and was sent back down when Polanco returned. Julien again took Polanco’s spot in the previous, more lengthy injury absence. This time, however, the Twins would be downright foolish to stick to their usual 1:1 trade-off when Polanco returns.
Shipping a second baseman out for a returning second baseman makes sense, but Julien has emerged as one of the key cogs of an underwhelming Twins lineup. The left-hander has slashed .298/.373/.525 on the season, a batting line that places him 49% better than the league-average hitter. His eye at the plate and ability to ambush mistakes are welcome additions to the Twins lineup, and it’s hard to imagine what the offense would be without him at this point. So what can the Twins do?
Unfortunately, at this point, the answer has become far too obvious that the best-case scenario for the Twins' chances of winning involves Byron Buxton losing in a significant way. The full-time DH is one of the worst offensive regulars in the lineup, a devastating development for the offense.
There were some raising minor issues with Buxton’s change in approach last season making him boom-bust at the plate. This season Buxton has crossed the line where it’s impossible to argue that the bust has completely outweighed the boom. He appears to be completely guessing, taking pitches right down the middle while swinging at others that were never even close to the strike zone. It feels like the only positive potential outcome at this point when Buxton is hitting is for him to guess correctly and pull a ball in the air over the fence. His 31+% strikeout rate is his worst since 2016, and it’s easy to see the change in what he’s trying to do at the plate since 2021. Rest assured, it’s not paying off.
This change in approach may be injury related. We should hope so, as such a change from the multi-dimensional approach Buxton showed in 2021 to what we see now would be an unjustifiable adjustment to make on purpose. At any rate, Byron Buxton is doing the Twins no favors. His wRC+ is approaching Michael A. Taylor who gets negative attention at times for his subpar offense. Unlike Taylor, Buxton is providing nothing defensively, and instead of settling into the nine spot, he’s disrupting the lineup with his constant hitless streaks and non-competitive at-bats coming in the three-hole. So what can the Twins do?
If the Twins are willing to be real with themselves, the Buxton situation can’t continue the way it has. They’re a worse team with him in the lineup over several other options at the moment. When Jorge Polanco returns, they can go in a few different directions. They could send Wallner back down and greatly decrease Buxton’s playing time in favor of Edouard Julien filling the DH spot. Buxton can focus more on physical maintenance and get mental breaks while still cycling into the lineup here and there.
The solution fans have discussed for some time is simply placing Buxton on the IL indefinitely. He may not like it, but there’s no way he’s not dealing with some kind of physical impairment worthy of an IL trip. This would open a roster spot for another player deserving of a shot, such as Matt Wallner or a bat acquired at the deadline. It may not fix anything with Buxton physically, but it at least allows him time to work on things and go on a lengthy rehab assignment to try to get things straightened out. It’s easy to say at this point that it would be a massive boost to the lineup to add Polanco while keeping Julien in Buxton’s stead.
The Byron Buxton situation is officially untenable. Even the highs at this point last for a handful of days and are promptly followed by a week plus of absolutely nothing. The Twins quite simply have too many better options if this is the Byron Buxton they’re going to get. They can no longer ignore what they’re watching on a nightly basis, and his being under contract long-term can no longer trump his actual production when it comes to what spot in the order he hits and more importantly who he plays over.
When Jorge Polanco returns, it should be at the expense of Byron Buxton, not Edouard Julien. Do you agree?
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Person Who Has Never Heard of Any of These Guys Furious Over Twins Draft
Unlike the NFL or NBA drafts, where players spend time in the national spotlight in college (and even high school for some basketball standouts), the Major League Baseball draft centers prospects from high school and the less glamorous college baseball ranks. It’s fair to say that unless you’re a diehard amateur baseball fan or related to one of the players, you’ve never heard of a single person in the 2023 MLB Draft.
That’s not stopping Drew Barber from losing his mind.
“I can’t believe the Twins lucked into the fifth pick of the draft and took a teenager,” said Barber, who has watched Skip Bayless on purpose more than once. “They are an unserious team. Heads need to roll.”
That teenager is North Carolina high school outfielder Walker Jenkins. He was a consensus top five pick per multiple scouting organizations and the choice was almost universally praised. If anything, this has made Barber angrier.
“This is just baseball guys covering for (Derek) Falvey and (Thad) Levine,” said the 35-year-old day trader. “They keep them as sources, so they’ll say, ‘Great pick, love this guy, you the man.’ It’s BS.”
Barber didn’t know until last week that there was a College World Series, or that it was held in Omaha, or that Omaha was in Nebraska. Still, he has some suggestions for how the Twins could have had a successful draft.
“This team needs a guy who can step in right away and hold down the middle of the order,” said Barber. “Take someone from Alabama or USC and roll ‘em out there before Labor Day. Done and dusted.”
When told that this is incredibly rare in baseball, and that neither Alabama nor USC are as prospect-rich in baseball as they are on the gridiron, Barber shifted focus.
“You can probably get high school kids on the cheap compared to some SEC stud,” speculated the lifelong Blaine resident, who could not name any SEC baseball player from this year or any year. “Typical Twins. The Patriots got Touchdown Tom (Tom Brady) in the sixth-round and we're out here getting high schoolers. Fire everyone.”
Barber concluded by saying the Twins should trade Byron Buxton for Shohei Ohtani.
chpettit19 reacted to Hans Birkeland for an article, This Team is Just the Timberwolves
The Minnesota sports scene is an odd mix. You have the over-performing Vikings that figure to take a step back this year with some difficult salary cap constraints, the underperforming Twins with a seemingly playoff-ready roster including three frontline pitchers (four if you’re a big Bailey Ober fan) and multiple superstar-level bats (in theory) complementing perhaps the best closer in the game in Jhoan Duran. Then there are the Timberwolves, who combined immaturity and odd roster fits to form a .500ish team that lost in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Twins could channel any of the Vikings’ more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts mojo, they would be considered World Series contenders. Obviously, they haven’t to any degree, and they may not even win the dreadful AL Central. They’ve become the Timberwolves, and the comparison runs pretty deep. You can break it down player by player:
Byron Buxton as Karl-Anthony Towns: The longtime superstar who battles injuries and maddening slumps. Buxton does appear to have a much better head on his shoulders, though.
Carlos Correa as Rudy Gobert: The key acquisition that cost a lot and while good, hasn’t played to the level he had established earlier in his career, perhaps due to injury. Came to the team with some baggage.
Alex Kirilloff as Naz Reid: The burgeoning offensive force who doesn’t play much defense and has missed time with wrist injuries.
Royce Lewis as Anthony Edwards: The young superstar and former number overall pick who has taken his lumps on his way to the top. Charismatic and doesn’t get in the way of the other big guns.
Jorge Polanco as Mike Conley: The seasoned vet who doesn’t have the legs he used to, but still gives a professional performance despite the clown show going on around him.
Jhoan Duran as Jaden McDaniels: Freak athlete at the top of his field. Seems calm; isn’t.
Joe Ryan as Kyle Anderson: Has an odd shooting/throwing motion, but makes up for it with elite ability to put the ball where it needs to go.
Max Kepler as Jordan McLaughlin: Seen once as a rising contributor with a great skill set for what the team needs, but has faded with his weaknesses exposed (contact quality and shooting ability, respectively).
Trevor Larnach as Jaylen Nowell: Lightning in a bottle on occasion, but injuries and inconsistency have clouded his future with the team.
Sonny Gray as Taurean Prince: Hired gun and veteran emotional leader who gives amazing performances mixed in with inexplicable control issues. Plays about 75% of the time.
Pablo López as Nickeil Walker-Alexander: Acquired in a trade for a popular (or at least high-profile) player who shows all the tools to be a scoring prevention genius, but too inconsistent to really get there.
Eduoard Julien as Nate Knight: Some intriguing upside if only he weren’t such a bad defender.
Matt Wallner as Luka Garza: Some real offensive skills, but the team is stacked at his position and his defense isn’t great.
Jorge López as Austin Rivers: Got some run early on, but a little erratic and slipped down the pecking order.
That was fun, but the similarities run even deeper. The Wolves tended to play well against the good teams in the league, splitting the season series against the champion Denver Nuggets, Philadelphia, New York, Memphis, Golden State and Miami while winning series against Cleveland, both LA teams, Sacramento, Dallas (prior to tanking), New Orleans, and Atlanta.
They also lost series to Portland, Washington, Charlotte, and most egregiously, Detroit. Sound familiar? The Twins have played at their worst against the Guardians, White Sox, Angels, Nationals, and now the Tigers. Like the Wolves, they play well when expected to lose, like when facing the Yankees, Astros, Blue Jays, Padres and I’ll even throw the Dodgers in there, since that was one inch from being a series win on the road and two inches from being a sweep. They’ll probably surprise us one way or the other in the Boston series.
Both teams also lost a vocal leader in Patrick Beverly and Wes Johnson, though those impacts are arguable.
Mainly, both teams have alternated weeks where they were ascending and unstoppable with weeks where the sky has fallen by virtue of key injuries, strange officiating and most importantly, lifeless offense that looked unsalvageable.
With that said, the Wolves were never too far off of a playoff spot, and considering their star power and assortment of quality defenders following the DeAngelo Russel trade, they were seen as somewhat of a dark horse down the stretch, with Memphis and Sacramento looking like upset candidates should the Wolves meet them in the playoffs.
The West wasn’t a great conference, like the AL Central, and a .500 record was good enough to get to the dance. But, as we know, Reid fractured his wrist, McDaniels his hand, and Gobert was limited by back troubles when the playoffs began. To make matters worse, the Wolves ended up facing the eventual champion Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, and got steamrolled in five games.
That may sound grim to compare a tragic season that began with such high hopes to the Twins, who at the very least don’t seem to let immaturity get the best of them (can you imagine Correa taking a swing at Joe Ryan?). But the Wolves won a playoff game. Baby steps.
chpettit19 reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Can Conflict be Both Positive and Negative on a Team?
Sonny Gray had a rough outing last Thursday night, even if the box score indicates he only gave up two runs. After escaping a fourth inning in which Gray labored through a single and three ugly walks, having given up only one run, manager Rocco Baldelli pulled the plug. As documented, Gray prefers to stay in games as long as possible.
As visible on the Bally Sports North broadcast, the manager and pitcher disagreed. Viewers could see some level of emotion, seemingly from both parties, as they talked it over in the dugout. What does that mean for the relationship between a player and a manager or the team overall?
Those who have read my writing, specifically those articles that delve into emotion, relationships, and psychology, will know that I don’t like to assume to understand everything between teammates and coaches in the clubhouse. However, this is an excellent time to examine conflict within a team and what interactions like the one Thursday can mean.
When I use the term "Conflict," the definition that I like comes from a 2003 article by Carsten De Dreu and Laurie Weingart (it’s been cited 4,500 times, so apparently, a lot of other people like it too): “a process resulting from the tension between team members because of real or perceived differences.” Conflict as a concept is pretty self-evident, but a definition always helps and serves as a basis for analyzing different types of conflict.
One way that conflict can be broken down is into task conflict and relationship conflict. This method of separating types of conflict is generally attributed to a 1995 article by Karen Jehn (cited over 6,000 times). It’s again self-explanatory: task conflict is conflict that arises out of performing tasks, and relationship conflict is conflict that arises out of interpersonal interactions. They’re both the natural result of people working together.
Let’s take a look at task conflict first. Task conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A complete lack of task conflict actually indicates issues like a lack of attention or commitment or even something like groupthink. When people work together, they’ll disagree on the best way to do whatever the group wants.
For a baseball team, that disagreement can take the form of strategy and approach, for example. Players may have differing views with teammates and coaches about the best way to approach a plate appearance against a specific pitcher or even the right way to play the game (running out a grounder, etc.). If we use our imagination, we can see a disagreement between a hypothetical pitcher wanting to stay in the game for the fifth inning and a hypothetical manager wanting to pull his starter.
Hey, I didn’t use names. Those are in your head.
In that situation, it’s perfectly reasonable for a disagreement between the two to arise. It’s reasonable to expect a heated discussion. For the most part, there’s nothing wrong with that type of conflict. Opinionated competitors will have competitive opinions, and they’ll discuss them. I’d go so far as to say it’s healthy.
Relationship conflict, on the other hand, is seldom healthy. Relationship conflict refers to things like annoyances over other people’s actions, disagreements over non-team-related manners, or lack of trust. It’s again natural because who hasn’t been annoyed by one of their coworker’s simple presence? However, it should be avoided.
Within a baseball team, this type of conflict could be related to things like card games gone awry or a teammate eating animal crackers in the hotel bed. They could arise because one teammate is a general nuisance and pain in the tuchus.
Relationship conflict can also emerge from task conflict. Let’s consider another hypothetical. Imagine one player, who is a notorious hothead, batting with a runner on second (who would hypothetically later in his career chase a .400 batting average for the Miami Marlins). Imagine that as the batter dug in, he noticed that the runner was not paying attention and was instead facing into the outfield.
The two may have some understandable task conflict. The batter believed the runner should pay better attention, and conflict could ensue. However, if that conflict devolves into a shouting match, teammates start taking personal digs at each other, and feelings are hurt, it’s now relationship conflict (not saying that did happen).
Relationship conflict isn’t productive. It’s a hindrance to good team functioning. It must be worked through for a team to perform optimally, and it takes time away from more important matters. Even if it sits dormant, it can cause future task conflict to devolve into relationship conflict.
So, then, the key is keeping conflict on the task side. Saying things like “You are ugly!” takes players away from their objective—winning games—and refocuses their energy around interpersonal matters.
By all accounts, there was visible task conflict in Thursday’s game, but that doesn’t mean there was also relationship conflict. In his postgame comments, Gray was clear in his position; he wants the opportunity to work through trouble and compete, and he understands that, at times, the manager will make decisions that go against those wishes because Baldelli sees it as the best thing to do.
By his comments, at least, this seems to be firmly in the differences in beliefs category, and if it’s handled well, both parties can grow from it. Gray even acknowledged that the two likely need to discuss it. So long as it doesn’t become personal, that’s a good thing.
On the other hand, if there is conflict bubbling under the surface and one or more parties reach the point that they have active disdain for the other as a person, then you’re talking about trouble. To be frank, you’re probably talking about trouble even before active disdain gets involved.
Of course, I want to reiterate that I don’t know the actual status of their relationships. All I know is what a bunch of dry papers and books written by stuffy academics have taught me. So long as the episode between the manager and player avoids getting personal, even if it’s conflict that reappears a few times during the season, it’s not the end of the world.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Twins Keeping Kepler in Lineup ‘Just to Spite Gleeman’ at This Point
For a Twins offense that’s struggled mightily in 2023, Max Kepler has set the pace, a pace he’s arguably been setting for years. His replacement-level performance has been well-documented in the media, most notably by The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman. Not once. Not twice. Let’s just say frequently.
And the team has noticed.
“Would we like to see what Matt Wallner can do? Yes,” said a Twins front office source. “Would we like to see what literally anyone can do out there? Of course. But that would mean acknowledging Gleeman had a point.
“That’s not happening. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”
Kepler is posting a dreadful 0.1 WAR for 2023 with a .193 batting average. The Twins have talent in St. Paul, including Forest Lake native Wallner, ready to step in. The source says fans shouldn’t get their hopes up.
"We’re aware we have many better options but sticking it to that guy (Gleeman) is what gets me up in the morning," said the source. “Max has hit seven home runs this year. Each time he does, the video department has orders to send the clip to Gleeman’s inbox with a ‘’YOU LIKE WHAT YOU SEE IDIOT, THIS IS WHY SZECHUAN SPICE CLOSED’ subject line from a burner email. We hired a guy just to do this, I wish we could keep him busier.”
Gleeman was unavailable for comment. His Athletic colleague, Dan Hayes, said in a statement that “I just want to watch the world burn.” Chrissie Bonnes, spouse of Gleeman’s podcast partner and Twins Daily co-founder John Bonnes, laughed for 35 minutes in a row when told of this story.
The Twins host the Detroit Tigers on Friday at 7:10pm. Kepler is expected to start, go 0-4, and strand three runners. “I bet that’s going to drive Gleeman nuts,” said the source. “God, I love it. I love it so much.”
chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, What Will the Twins Front Office's Trade Deadline Strategy Look Like?
The August 1st trade deadline is a little over seven weeks away, which is a long time but not THAT long. Already, the front office is surely beginning to strategize, keeping one eye forward while they try to maintain a slim division lead in the present.
For Twins brass, the prevailing hope is – has to be – that significant improvement will be driven internally, with lagging hitters and injured players and wayward youngsters finding their rhythms in the summer months. Few outside additions could be as impactful as Carlos Correa finding his MVP form and turning it on for three months, or Jose Miranda rediscovering his swing and returning to the majors with a vengeance.
But even with some much-needed twists of fortune, it's already growing clear that this team will need additional help to compete at the level of, say, the Tampa Bay Rays, who soundly swept them in Florida last week.
The bullpen is its own issue, and luckily relief pitchers tend to be plentiful at the deadline. I'm more interested in how the Twins might look to address the offense, because that is no easy nut to crack.
They're already having a hard enough time finding room for some of their best hitting prospects from the minors, so realistically, where would the Twins be aiming to make impact additions? And what might be available?
As we'll learn through taking a position-by-position survey of the roster, any upgrade scenario would require a little shaking and shuffling.
Christian Vázquez has been a big contributor to the team's offensive woes, turning into a total void at the plate after the first week, but he's not going anywhere – both because his defense is considered so valuable, and because he's on a freshly signed $30 million contract. Ryan Jeffers has been very good. Barring injuries, catcher is not a place to target additions. (Not that any impact hitters are available here anyway.)
It seems safe to say Alex Kirilloff is firmly implanted. He's been essentially the only hitter on the team to live up to his promise. He's a long-term cornerstone piece. Kirilloff definitely seems most comfortable and effective at first base defensively. That said, he can play the outfield corners just fine, so if a big 1B bat were to come into play, moving AK off the position would be an option. (It would, however, require the Twins to sort out their existing corner-OF depth, which we'll cover shortly.)
Name to Watch: Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals – The 35-year-old reigning NL MVP is under contract through next year with the last-place Cards, who probably wouldn't mind dumping his salary for prospects. Goldy has a no-trade clause, but that's not always a deal-breaker for brokering a deal... SECOND BASE
Jorge Polanco's health can be counted on roughly as much as Edouard Julien's defense – but the presence of both quality bats makes it hard to justify adding another player here. Especially when Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, and Austin Martin could all factor in at second as well.
Something tells me the Twins won't be trading for anyone to replace their $200 million free agent in the first year of his deal.
Between Lewis, Lee, and Miranda (not to mention Kyle Farmer) it feels like the Twins have too many guys in the third-base mix for adding another piece to make sense. MAYBE if a difference-maker became available, it would be possible to shift things around, but as I scan the deadline trade candidate landscape I don't see any prominent third basemen in the likely mix.
Thanks to some intrepid reporting, I believe we can safely say the Twins won't be dealing for Josh Donaldson.
So, the Twins have Trevor Larnach, they've got Joey Gallo, they've got Willi Castro. Nick Gordon will be back at some point. None of those four are above setting aside for a high-profile acquisition, if the right deal presented itself. I'd name left field as the most likely destination for a deadline bat addition, mainly because the Twins are least entrenched at this position and it's an easy place to make a variety of good hitters work.
Name to Watch: Juan Soto, Padres – Under control through next year, he's the only member of San Diego's star-studded core who hasn't been locked down long-term. Soto would require a ransom and will cost around $30 million in his coming final turn at arbitration. Do the Twins have an appetite for 2023/24 superstar upside at that pricetag? CENTER FIELD
It's probably wishful thinking to believe Byron Buxton will occupy this position in any full-time capacity this year, but Michael A. Taylor has been a quality fixture and Gordon will be back at some point. Tough to envision a major add in center field.
It's a similar situation to left field, except here you've got the longtime incumbent Max Kepler atop the depth chart, and top prospect Matt Wallner pressing him from Triple-A. I would bet against Kepler still being on the roster on August 1st, but even if Wallner flops or gets hurt, the presence of guys like Larnach, Gallo, and Kirilloff provide a lot of theoretically capable offensive depth.
If the right opportunity came along, the Twins could probably make it work. But I consider left field to be easily the most likely spot for an addition in the outfield.
If Buxton's knee flares up, or something else happens to knock him out for the season, the Twins would presumably turn to Julien at DH, where he's best suited. But let's say Polanco can't get his legs healthy, and Julien needs to stick at second. That's the type of situation that would open the door for acquiring a pure designated hitter at the deadline. Maybe even one who could ... also slot in as your ace starter in a ridiculously loaded playoff rotation? Just spitballing here.
Name to Watch: Shohei Ohtani, Angels – For now, the Angels are in contention. But if that changes, as it usually does, they'll surely be shopping the impending free agent Ohtani. Minnesota would be in no position to re-sign him, so it comes down to how much they're willing to sacrifice for the most impactful and expensive deadline rental in MLB history. Alright, so, what has this exercise taught us?
For me, it's that the trade deadline is probably not going to offer solutions for the Twins lineup, unless they are willing to venture into the pipe-dream territory teased above with names like Goldschmidt, Soto and Ohtani.
If you move your scope much lower than the superstar tier, then you're probably not getting a whole lot more upside and assurance in a 2-3 month sample than you would with internal options already on hand. And the last thing this front office needs is to get wiped out on another bad deadline deal.
For better or worse, I think that's where the path to resurrection lies for this offense. As tired as the "It's like making a trade!" tropes are, nothing can realistically remedy this offense as much as coalescing a remotely healthy and effective mix of Buxton, Polanco, Correa, Miranda, Gallo, Larnach, and beyond.
Then again, the deadline is still a pretty long ways away.
chpettit19 reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, The Clock is Ticking on the Twins' Roster
Over the offseason, a clear focus for Minnesota Twins decision-makers was improving on depth. With few exceptions, they retained everyone who was not an impending free agent. They brought in veteran depth pieces like Joey Gallo, Kyle Farmer, Michael A. Taylor, Donovan Solano, and several others on minor league contracts.
Naturally, part of the rationale for this depth stockpile was to protect against injuries forcing the team to run out anemic lineups reminiscent of the atrocities seen in September 2022. Check out this analysis comparing the depth of this team against the worst-case scenarios of last fall.
A second rationale for stockpiling depth was the number of question marks that the organization employed. They had eight potential corner outfielders, nine potential starting pitchers; you get the gist. In football, there’s a saying that “if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one.” The same could be said about a baseball team. Even if you run a team that likes to mix it up positionally, if you have five first basemen, you don’t have one to put your trust in.
Take the corner outfield situation as an example. Every candidate to occupy the corners had red flags coming into the year. Max Kepler had not hit in two years. Gallo was coming off a year in which he hit .169. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach both had prospect pedigree, but both had also missed most of the last two years with injury and struggled to find consistency when on the field. Matt Wallner is unproven. Nick Gordon’s second half of 2022 was encouraging, but difficult to fully trust. Willi Castro was a 25-year-old castoff. Kyle Garlick doesn’t hit righties well.
There’s not much to hang your hat on in that group. However, with that many candidates, there’s hope that a few will emerge as mainstays. The beginning of 2023 can be treated as a sorting period in which the team can determine which players are here to stay.
We’ve passed Memorial Day. There are fewer than 100 games left. The trade deadline is a little over a month away. The true team has to manifest soon, right?
To this point, the team has yet to make a truly active decision on the roster. Players like Wallner and Eduoard Julien have gotten some run, Royce Lewis has been added to the active roster, and Brock Stewart has gotten high-leverage work. Jorge Alcala and Jose Miranda are in St. Paul. But no decisions have been made.
Instead, to date, except for Miranda and Alcala, injuries have dictated the roster. Even with Alcala, the demotion was related to his recovery from injury. Miranda lost his starting job, yes, but he was the worst hitter on the team and was the victim of a roster crunch when Farmer returned from injury, and he would likely have also been moved to make room for Lewis after his return from injury.
You may be reading this and thinking of the fans’ flavor of the week, Wallner, and persona non grata of the week, Kepler. Sure, they qualify, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a Kepler departure is the first domino to fall. However, Gallo will return from injury soon, at which point, even if Kepler is no longer around, the team will need to make a decision between Larnach and Wallner. Larnach has gotten the nod to date, seemingly out of seniority. Either way, it’s challenging to justify stowing MLB talent in AAA for an entire year.
It goes deeper than the corner outfielders, though. Kenta Maeda will hopefully return from injury within the month, at which point a decision needs to be made about Louie Varland and perhaps Bailey Ober, who have both pitched like rotation mainstays in Maeda’s absence.
Miranda has been heating up in St. Paul, and if the Twins still see him as part of the future, it’s reasonable to look for major league room for him. Julien has also been playing well but has only seen MLB action as a fill-in for Jorge Polanco. There are a plethora of live arms in St. Paul.
There are fungible pieces on the MLB bench in Kyle Garlick, Solano, Farmer, and Castro, but Castro has been one of the top players on the team, and Solano and Farmer would need to be traded or released. The only bullpen arms that can be removed from the roster without being waived or traded are Jhoan Duran, Griffin Jax, and Cole Sands.
Now that we’re 40% of the way through the season, it’s coming time to make difficult decisions to put the best players on the field. Even with abundant caution taken for injury depth, changes can be made. However, the changes will soon require moves that cannot be taken back. This front office has long shown a propensity for not cutting ways with any value to protect themselves from the injury bug.
Sitting on this level of depth for an entire season seems somewhat unreasonable, with so many players at AAA performing well. If injuries don’t force decisions on who will be playing in August and September, eventually, the team will have to make those decisions.
Feel free to disregard this if injuries do dictate who plays, though. Let’s hope the decisions are difficult.
chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, The Minnesota Twins Are Whiffing Away at a Momentous Opportunity
In so many ways, it feels like the stars are aligned for the Minnesota Twins here in 2023. They've managed to assemble one of the best pitching staffs in the league, with a rotation that piles up strikeouts and regularly goes deep. The Twins miraculously landed Carlos Correa during the offseason in one of the most stunning twists seen in the history of MLB free agency, or this franchise.
A wave of incoming top prospects was set to imminently join the cause, blending with an established veteran core supported by remarkable depth to provide a seemingly sturdy offensive floor.
Most importantly, as we're learning, the American League Central division has turned out to be an absolute atrocity that can seemingly be won with ease. A quality team could essentially lock the thing up by the deadline and start plotting for the postseason.
All of which makes it so much more frustrating and deflating that this group of hitters seems hell-bent on derailing the team's quest. As the bats continually whiff away at the plate, they are threatening to swing and miss at an opportunity the likes of which we may not see again.
An offense plagued by strikeouts
Looking at their overall OPS+ and runs total doesn't quite paint an accurate picture for the Twins offense, which ranks merely as a little below-average in both categories. The timing of their production and distribution of their scoring have drastically minimized the unit's effectiveness in a practical sense.
Minnesota's lineup has popped off for a few big games, but between those sporadic instances, it's been a sprawling desert of lackluster performance, providing the team with no real shot at winning games. The Twins have scored two or fewer runs in 25 of their 63 games (40%) and they've unsurprisingly gone 4-21 in those games, which singularly explains their sub-.500 record and lack of separation in this dreadful division.
Several factors can be traced to this pitiful production, but none more so than the lineup's profound penchant for strikeouts. They are on their way to obliterating the all-time K record, and without corresponding immense power to offset the lack of contact, it's a trend that – at its current extreme – eliminates any chance of success.
Veterans driving the downfall
The youthful lumber infusion hasn't sparked the lineup as many hoped. Jose Miranda is in Triple-A and struggling there. Trevor Larnach is again struggling to stay on the field and produce consistently. Royce Lewis went ice-cold after a loud arrival. Nick Gordon fell completely flat before breaking his shin last month.
However, the team wasn't depending on unproven youngsters to carry the load. These guys were supposed to be supplemental to the veteran core that the Twins assembled – one that looked clearly capable coming into the season, so long as it could avoid another catastrophic bout with injuries.
This year's team certainly hasn't avoided injuries in the position-player corps, but that can hardly be pegged as the primary source of blame this time around. These players plain and simply aren't doing their jobs.
Players like Christian Vazquez and Max Kepler are hitting vastly below their career benchmarks, sinking to baffling new lows. Byron Buxton has arguably been a liability overall, requiring full-time DH duty that limits the lineup while providing decent production that – mimicking the offense in general – comes in short spurts separated by long, costly slumps.
Taking center stage in this scourge of ineptitude is, of course, Correa. He has been a replacement-level player as we approach the halfway mark, fresh off signing a $200 million contract that locked him in as the franchise's foundational building block for years to come.
Flailing away at hittable pitches in the zone and churning out brutal, overmatched plate appearances, Correa has shown minimal signs of improvement. It's tough to get excited about Thursday's game, where he launched a long homer to snap an extended power drought, as a slump-breaker, given how Correa went directly back in the tank after his last flurry of life at the plate in mid-May.
No easy answers
The most vexing part of this offense's persisting poor performance: there aren't really any fixes available. Nearly all of their hopeful impact reinforcements have already arrived. The trade deadline isn't too far off, but acquiring one or two good hitters isn't going to resolve the lineup's pervasive issues, and – as we're all too aware – nothing is guaranteed in deadline pickups.
Making a change at hitting coach is on the table, and I'd argue we might be getting close to that point. As I wrote a month ago, David Popkins doesn't have much of a leg to stand on as a 33-year-old plucked out of Single-A before last year. Correa's effusive praise for Popkins doesn't do much to help validate his efficacy, all things considered. Nor does the inability of numerous young hitters to make adjustments and emerge.
Beyond that, there's this bizarre trend of veteran hitters across the roster striking out at levels that don't jibe with their track records.
It was conspicuous, to me at least, that Dan Hayes' latest column in The Athletic included this tidbit:
"One of those solutions could be adjusting how they approach their game plan. Under hitting coach David Popkins, the Twins are said to feature a technology-heavy approach, one championed by shortstop Carlos Correa. Last offseason, Correa described Popkins as the best hitting coach he’s ever had.
But within the clubhouse, there’s some concern that not everyone is capable of handling the approach and the team may need to adjust how they prepare their hitters."
That doesn't NOT sound like setting the stage for making a change. And really, a new voice couldn't hurt. But people need to be realistic about what is available at this juncture in terms of replacements, and how much an impact any hitting coach can actually have. A new instructor isn't a magical elixir. They can't go out there and swing the bat.
Players like Correa and Buxton and Vazquez and Kepler aren't developing talents who need to be taught how to handle major-league pitchers. They're longtime veterans who earn millions based on their lengthy track records, which earned them the faith of a front office that bet big on them. Alas, those track records betray the continuing failures to launch we've seen from them and so many others.
Some help might be on the way, but none of it will matter if a few of these cornerstone pieces, around whom the entire 2023 team was constructed, don't step up and start bearing the load.
If they can't, they'll have to bear the weight of blowing one of the most prime opportunities you could ever be handed, while obliterating the morale of an embattled fan base trapped in some sadistic groundhog's day.
For now, with 100 games remaining on the schedule, I choose to believe that the tides will turn, and the veterans on this team will awaken to some degree, enabling the Twins to pull away and avert all-out disaster. I choose that because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, What Is the AL Central Most Like?
Going into the season, the consensus was that the American League Central would be average at best and that only two or three teams had a realistic shot at clearing the very attainable bar of winning it.
That negativity has, if anything, proven overly optimistic. The godless Chicago White Sox have joined Kansas City in the divisional toilet, with Detroit managing to look improved only by comparison to those two. That leaves a wildly boring Cleveland team, currently a half-game behind the Tigers, and a fun but flawed Minnesota Twins team once again being the best of a bad lot.
Twins Daily is fortunate to have a lot of fellow bloggers, broadcasters, and weather-beaten sportswriters in its audience, and those folks need something with which to compare this ugly division. It’s our pleasure to provide this service to them and all of you: What is the AL Central Most Like? Not the worst thing in the world, but sorely lacking in aesthetics or ambition and the potential to really stink up the joint.
A college student in his seventh year. He’s not dumb, but he likes to party, and there’s no real reason to rush as long as mom stays married to his well-off stepdad. His name is Sean or Max. He is majoring in poli sci, he thinks. His marijuana intake is remarkable. Indiana. You’re only going there if your job makes you or you watched Hoosiers at a vulnerable age. The fourth or fifth film in a movie franchise that no one really cares about anymore but enough people show up to keep it going. Transformers: Rise of the Bloodmoon or something like that. A used car with six figures on the odometer. You might be able to squeeze more miles out of it, but it’ll cost you. You called it your “work car” because that’s what you were going to use it for, but now it’s your “work car” in that it’s stuck in the work parking lot because the alternator is shot. A plain hamburger at a chain restaurant. The menu gives you the ol’ razzle dazzle for the Jalapeno Popper Butter Burger Bomb or Col. Saugatuck’s Old-Fashioned Double Bacon Patty Melt with Country Gravy but tucked away at the bottom is Plain Burger. They don’t even try to gussy it up with words like Angus or sizzling or traditional. If you want fries, the dishwasher with the strongest arm throws them at you and whatever you catch in your mouth, that’s it. The USA Network. If you’re a cord-cutter, you may not know that there’s a station that is no cable subscriber’s first, second, or even third choice for entertainment. But it’s always there, somewhere between Lifetime and TNT. You don’t even watch NCIS but you’ve somehow seen this episode. All the commercials are for reverse mortgages and laxatives for patriots. Maroon 5. Catchy enough, even played the Super Bowl, but they’re not anyone’s favorite band. Horny but in an annoying way, like they're coming on to you because they want to tell you about a time-share opportunity in Fort Myers. You can name two songs, but you're guessing on the second one's title (it's "This Love"). Nickelback fans make fun of them. Nickelback. A town where the biggest store is a Kohl’s. You really wish they had a Target, an Old Navy, or even a dumpy mall. But no. Kohl’s it is. Nice enough town, but none of the kids stay there after high school. Dutch elm disease killed the trees that the tornado didn't. The local newspaper went under in 2011, otherwise the lead story in this week’s edition would be the fire in the abandoned Pick 'n Save. We hope this helps.
chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Have the Twins Found Value in Trading for Starters?
When it comes to creating a pitching pipeline and certain amount of quality depth, there are roughly three ways for an organization to attack that idea. Derek Falvey had success in Cleveland by developing internal drafted talent. The goal in bringing him to Minnesota was replicating that sort of success. It’s the most cost effective plan of action, and arguably the most controllable.
Louie Varland and Bailey Ober have been hits in that regard, but they were Day 3 draft picks and there isn’t much else to hang a hat on for the front office. Matt Canterino and Jordan Balazovic types have been internal prospects, but neither has yet to pan out, and others such as Cole Sands or Brent Headrick have substantially lower ceilings.
A second avenue would be through paying free agents. No matter how much money the Twins choose to offer, they would need to beat out other suitors and present a compelling argument for arms to come to the colder Midwest. Offering a boatload to Carlos Rodon may not have been enough to change his mind, and even the Nathan Eovaldi types want to play in bigger markets or more ideal pitching conditions.
That leads us to a third avenue, and it’s one the Twins have explored prominently. By adding arms through a trade, the front office can look to find assets cast off by other teams, and while at times that’s for health reasons, it doesn’t always have to be.
Sonny Gray was a premium acquisition for Minnesota, and he cost a first-round draft pick in the form of Chase Petty. Joe Ryan was quite the opposite in that the Rays were willing to part with him for an aging Nelson Cruz in hopes of making an extended postseason run. Recently though, the run on injured pitchers has provoked this question. Is there a certain value to rolling the dice on a questionable arm?
Chris Paddack was likely the reason that Minnesota flipped Taylor Rogers to the Padres just before Opening Day last season. He had undergone Tommy John surgery previously, and there were arm concerns, but his team control and past success was enticing for a closer who was on the wrong side of 30 and coming off injury on his own.
It’s not entirely unlike the situation in which the Twins got involved trading Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers when the Red Sox parted with Mookie Betts. They lost a flame-throwing reliever, but got an established starter in Kenta Maeda. Los Angeles drafted his contract in a way that protected them from his arm concerns, and after the Twins saw him nearly win a Cy Young in 2020, they watched the blow out come to fruition.
This is a talking point again with the fallout from Tyler Mahle. Sure, they traded infielders Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand (as well as Steven Hajjar) for the Reds starter, but the circumstances suggested to make that deal 100 out of 100 times. Steer was a multi-position prospect, and Encarnacion-Strand seems to be positionless prospect, with very good bats. However, the Twins needed a playoff arm, and Mahle fit the bill. They didn’t need to give up one of their premium prospects for someone that could be a number two, and his eventual elbow injury was unlikely related to the shoulder fatigue he dealt with in 2022.
Driveline founder Kyle Boddy recently put together a great thread on this topic after the Rays lost Drew Rasmussen to an elbow injury. They had already suffered the same fate for Jeffrey Springs this season, and it causes plenty to wonder if they are acquiring diminished assets. Instead, Boddy highlights that it is a negotiating tactic in looking to generate present value.
One of the most important things Boddy states is that “the goal of a team isn’t to ensure everyone stays healthy 100% of the time.” That level of thinking would be largely impossible. What an organization is attempting to do, and the Twins accomplished this year, is to create depth through a funnel of players that can continue to provide opportunity for the organization to win big-league ballgames.
The reality is that there is always going to be a level of risk associated with the acquisition of any player. It’s lowest through the draft from a financial outlay, but it’s highest there in that the potential future gain remains insurmountable. Paying players on the free-agent market can lead to dollars spent for little return, and you’re always dealing with a player allowed to leave for one reason or another. In trades, it’s about understanding what your organization values in relation to the one an individual is coming from, and trying to be on the right side of that more often than not.
At no point is it fair to evaluate if a trade was good based on how it works out. You can discuss the value gained or lost by a team, but the process leading to the point of a swap is where every organization in baseball should be looking to get it right.
chpettit19 reacted to Greggory Masterson for an article, Byron Buxton Playing Centerfield will not Fix this Twins Offense
The Twins’ offense has been bad. There are no two ways about it. Per Baseball Reference, they rank 25th in team OPS and 24th in offensive WAR. They need to hit. Many fans are clamoring for Byron Buxton to be moved out of the DH slot and into centerfield so that another bat can be added to the order to replace Michael A. Taylor. However, this line of thinking doesn’t hold up practically or in theory.
At the onset, I want to acknowledge that the best lineup for these Twins features a healthy Buxton hitting in the middle of the order and patrolling centerfield. I hope to see it soon. However, it’s the least of the team’s offensive problems right now.
First, let’s dig into the practical reason—Taylor is hitting better than the alternatives. Nick Gordon, Matt Wallner, Willi Castro, Jose Miranda, Max Kepler, Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Kyle Garlick, and Buxton all have a lower OPS+ than Taylor. Replacing him in the lineup with any of those options worsens the offense.
Of course, this issue shouldn’t be expected to continue. Talyor is hitting roughly how he did last year, about 15% better than his career average. Even if he maintains that level, the other bats should heat up and pass him by—right? Please tell me I’m right.
Therein lies the problem—the other bats. From a theoretical perspective, that’s the biggest issue with the offense. The players in bat-first positions have largely been disappointing.
The beauty of a player like Buxton is that he occupies a glove-first position in centerfield and an elite glove to boot, but he also has a big bat. The bat is so big that he can play the hitting-only position at DH and have the potential to be one of the best in the league at it.
Correa is in the same boat—great glove at a fielding-heavy position and a great bat. Even the tandem of Christian Vázquez and Ryan Jeffers brings solid bats to a position where the bar is quite low. Centerfielders, shortstops, and catchers are paid to field. Hitting is gravy. The Twins are in a great position with good-to-elite fielders at all three positions with average-to-elite bats.
It provides them an immense advantage in roster construction. If the weakest offensive positions have some of their best hitters, filling in the rest of the lineup with good bats, an easier task, can make the lineup elite. But it’s not mandatory for success.
Since the 80s, Twins fans have watched the likes of Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, Buxton, and even Denard Span roam centerfield. They were each good defenders who could handle the bat well enough to hit in the top half of the order. Not every centerfielder needs to do that, though.
A great lineup can have a Taylor at the bottom, so long as he’s an elite fielder—which Taylor is. The 2022 World Series champion Astros had catcher Martín Maldonado, a far worse hitter than Taylor. The 2021 Braves had catcher Travis d’Arnaud. It wasn’t their job to hit—they provided value in the field. Taylor can do that.
However, with a player like Taylor in the field, it’s imperative that the positions lower on the defensive spectrum—namely the corners: first base, left field, right field, and third base—produce. It’s easier to find competent bats at those positions, which are much less fielding-intensive. C.J. Cron, for example, was picked up off waivers in 2019, was paid a painless $4.8 million, played well until a thumb injury, and then was released.
So far, the Twins have yet to get much help from their bat-first positions. Buxton himself hasn’t hit well, but he is streaky, and no one expects this funk to last forever. In contrast, everyone asked to fill a corner spot has some question mark attached to them, and production has been low.
Joey Gallo and Kepler need bounce-back years. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach must return from two years of injury and solidify themselves. Miranda looked good in 2022—but had a shaky start and end—and sophomore slumps are always valid concerns. Gordon had a breakout year in 2022, but he needs to prove it’s legit. Donovan Solano is 35. Wallner and Edouard Julien are unproven rookies.
Thus far, there have been few positive answers to those question marks. As a team, the Twins have had solid production from their first basemen (Solano, Gallo, Miranda), ranking 6th in OPS at .943. The other three bat-first positions have been markedly poorer.
Third basemen (Miranda, Castro) rank 27th at .495, left fielders (Larnach, Gordon, Castro, Garlick) rank 28th at .517, and right fielders (Larnach, Kepler, Wallner, Garlick, Gallo) rank 21st at .655. It’s abysmal.
Individually, there are some bright spots. Gallo has been otherworldly, though injured. Julien is off to a hot start. Solano has been a welcome addition, though it’s difficult to count on him consistently providing first-base-production against righties. Larnach got off to a hot start but has cooled down a bit. The other corner options have been below-average, at very best, at positions that cannot be below average.
This problem may eventually work itself out. With such a large pool of potential bats, it may take time to identify which players can round out the roster built around Buxton and Correa. However, until then, the team isn’t hurting itself, keeping Buxton out of centerfield. When the alternative to Buxton as a DH and Taylor as a centerfielder is Buxton in center and Nick Gordon (-33 OPS+) at DH, there’s no rush to get Buxton into the field.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, The Twins...Won?
Trust nothing you see on the internet. Deep fakes and AI and unreliable sources are as common as water, as the air we breathe. Cable TV, if anything, is worse.
I’m telling you this because you’ve no doubt already read stories and seen video about how the Minnesota Twins jumped all over the New York Yankees with a nine-run first inning and didn’t look back, flattening the Bronx Bombers 11-2 at Yankees Stadium. But are those accounts real? Think about it. Take a deep breath and think about it. Who stands to gain? Why would they do this? Why are we falling for it?
First, confirmation bias. We all want to believe the Twins can beat the Yankees. Nothing would give a Minnesota baseball fan more satisfaction than finally breaking New York’s historic dominance over the hometown nine. The good guys won! The bad guys ground to dust under our Red Wing boots! Wouldn’t it be lovely if it was true? Like when they finally contract the godless Chicago White Sox and send their sausage-fingered fans into the ice-choked waters of Lake Michigan? But we know that hasn’t happened. Why would we think this alleged triumph happened?
Second, the media loves a new storyline. “Yankees Stomp Twins for the Millionth Time” doesn’t drive traffic. “Twins Batter Yankees, Sun Shines On America, the World” does. It’s the clickbait-iest clickbait that ever clickbaited. No one cares if a beat writer catches a foul ball. But if he makes a three-course meal out of it with all the fixings? Fire up the emergency servers, nerds. This “win” is just another can of corn headed directly at Dan Hayes.
Third, we’re Minnesota sports fans. God has abandoned us. The world is a vampire. We are Sisyphus. This is our rock. Our enemies delight in our futility. Our basketball team fights each other. Our hockey teams innovate in the exciting field of grievous playoff exits. Our football team is the MINNESOTA [EXPLETIVE] VIKINGS. Honestly, the Minnesota Aurora should move to Rapid City, just to have a puncher's chance. Nothing about a decisive Twins victory over the actual, real New York Yankees makes sense. Because it didn’t happen. We all know this. We need to accept it and move on. Misery loves company, yet we are alone, here. 'Twas ever thus.
That said, if they did actually win, it would be pretty cool, right? Go Twins.
chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Here Comes Trouble
The Twins are off to a nice start. They opened up with back-to-back shutouts on the road, on the way to a season-opening sweep and winning road trip. Sure, they fell to earth with a pair of low-scoring losses on the back end, but there's no shame in struggling against premier pitching in early April, as your hitters find their grooves.
At least, that's the charitable take.
The less charitable take is that the Twins took care of business against two sub-par teams, but let some opportunities slip away due to an underwhelming offense with some carryover sleepiness from last season.
The 2022 Twins, despite ranking 11th among MLB teams in OPS, were 17th in runs scored, thanks to a warped distribution: While apt to blow up occasionally, they scored two or fewer in nearly one-third (32%) of their games.
Now, the 2023 Twins have opened up by scoring two or fewer in four of their first six.
Again, it's an easy thing to downplay and excuse, all things considered. But this Minnesota lineup was a question mark coming in, especially down multiple key pieces out of the gate. And while they've still managed a winning record thus far, the difficulty level is about to rise immensely
Starting with Friday's home opener, the Twins will play 10 of their next 19 games against the Astros and Yankees. There's also a three-game homestand against a key division rival, the Chicago White Sox, mixed in there.
It's proving time, to say the least. Minnesota's pitching stuff looks up to the challenge, but we shouldn't expect the same kind of success as the they saw against the Royals and Marlins. In order to come out of this early-season gauntlet in a reasonably good place, the Twins are going to need to get their offense going.
Some key questions:
Can the right-handed bats start producing some power? The Twins have hit six home runs so far, with lefty hitters (Joey Gallo, Trevor Larnach, Max Kepler) accounting for all but one. Byron Buxton, Jose Miranda, and Carlos Correa have yet to go yard. The Twins could use some punch from this group. What's up with Kepler? He started his season 0-for-13, broke out on Monday with two hits including a homer ... then tweaked his knee running to first, and hasn't played since. It sounds like he should return to the lineup soon, but how soon, and can he recapture the momentum that was starting to finally materialize? Kepler might not seem like a crucial part of the offense but as we've seen, the byproduct of him not playing is that Willi Castro does. When will Jorge Polanco return? Or Alex Kirilloff, for that matter, but Polanco seems significantly closer. On Thursday night, he opens an official rehab stint at Class-A Ft. Myers, where he's batting second and starting at second base. It's plausible he could return to the fold during this 19-game stretch. Getting back Polanco at something resembling full strength would be a game-changer for this offense, particularly with some high-caliber opposing pitchers about to come through. Yes, the Twins are off a nice start, but fans know better by now than to let that get them too confident. In 2021, the team started 5-2 before the bottom fell out. Last year they also looked promising, and things noticeably started to take a turn when they welcomed (drumroll) the Astros into town for a three-game set in May.
It was there that the Twins, who entered the series seven games above .500 at 18-11, started to really show their flaws against superior competition. Already mired by injuries, they were swept and outscored 21-3 in front of the home fans.
Justin Verlander nearly no-hit their slump-prone offense. (Not to be confused with the other time he almost no-hit them last year.) The acrobatic act that helped Chris Archer jump out to a 3.26 ERA in his first five starts gave way, as the Astros pummeled him for five runs in three innings. Around this time we also learned that Chris Paddack, who came out of a start in the previous series with elbow soreness, would undergo Tommy John surgery.
Beyond that disastrous series, most Twins fans have plenty of negative associations with the Astros, who most recently swept Minnesota out of the playoffs and have recently made a habit of clobbering the hometown nine while dynastically dominating the American League. The Yankees? Well, nothing further needs to be said on that front.
Showdowns with these two opponents have produced some of the most devastating moments and ominous turning points for Twins teams over the past couple decades, and both clubs are looking very strong as expected this season.
Can the Twins break one of their most frustrating patterns and hang in there against these giants of the AL, showing they belong in the conversation rather than customarily shrinking in the moment? That's the kind of statement that would really energize and engage an understandably skeptical fan base. It will require the Twins to clean up some of the flaws that have been on display against mediocre opponents in the first week, while continuing to throw the living hell out of the ball.
Yeah, it's been a nice start. Now the real work begins.
chpettit19 reacted to Thiéres Rabelo for an article, Is The WBC Even Worth it?
For three weeks, most of the baseball world celebrated the multicultural festivities of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) that took place in four different cities across three countries and two continents. The tournament had some of the world’s best players and broke, with ease, all of its attendance and viewership records. Still, in the middle of all that baseball fun, some people still managed to find a negative way to look at the competition.
When Puerto Rico closer Edwin Díaz got hurt celebrating his country’s crucial win over the powerhouse from the Dominican Republic on March 15th, several media outlets and personalities bashed the WBC and its “lack of relevance.” Most notably, Barstool’s Kevin Clancy went on a rant about how “nobody gives a [expletive] about the WBC except for [expletive] losers.” Then, podcaster Keith Olbermann piled on by claiming the WBC is “a meaningless exhibition series designed to (...) split up teammates based on where their grandmothers got laid.”
Despite being made in a grotesque way, there’s a very valid point in those statements, and they are definitely worth being politely discussed: is the World Baseball Classic fun worth the risk of superstars getting injured? Here are some reasons why I think it is.
For many people, the WBC matters much more than the MLB
This year’s WBC broke all of its attendance and viewership records. The tournament drew 1,010,999 fans to the stands during pool play, shattering the previous record of 510,056 set in 2017 with a 98% increase. Pool D, which was played in the US, drew 295,850 fans to the stands, making it the most-attended WBC round ever played in the United States – an 81% increase compared to the previous record.
The TV viewership of this year’s WBC was also outstanding. Numbers on Tuesday night's championship game are not officially out yet, but one of the Samurai Japan games in this edition already broke an interesting record. Until this year, the most-watched baseball game in history was considered to be Game 6 of the 1980 MLB World Series, when 54,86 million people tuned on NBC to watch the Phillies defeat the Royals. But when Japan played against South Korea in their third pool play game, around 62 million people were watching the game in Japan – nearly half of the country. Tuesday’s championship game has the potential to be the most-watched game in baseball’s history.
To put things in perspective, according to MLB, the 2022 World Series averaged 12.02 million total viewers per game across FOX, FOX Deportes, and FOX Sports streaming platforms. The final game of the series reached a peak audience of 14.73 million viewers during the game.
Another fun number: when Puerto Rico played against the Dominican Republic in the final game of Pool D, about 62% of the island was watching the game, including 24% of viewers under the age of 35, and 55% were female viewers. Can you imagine over 60% of a country watching the same game? You can find some more fun stats about the WBC here and here.
Finally: the players love it. Former Twin Nelson Cruz said, "the WBC is the real World Series.” It is easy to notice how important representing their country is for players, especially from countries like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, where baseball is the number one sport. But it’s not only them. Here’s what Mike Trout and Mookie Betts had to say right after the Edwin Díaz injury.
Injuries will happen anywhere, at any time
Wanting the end of the WBC over injuries makes no sense. First and foremost because Major League Baseball has insurance in place to protect its teams in circumstances like this. The Mets, for instance, will get reimbursed for Edwin Díaz’s salary during the star closer’s time on the injured list. That should be the end of this.
But in case that’s not enough, people should remember that injuries like that could happen anywhere, at any time. Gavin Lux suffered a non-contact knee injury in this year's spring training and will miss the entire season. Brandon Nimmo got injured sliding into second. Last Sunday, both Juan Soto and Austin Nola left their respective spring training games due to injuries, and the Padres might miss them for a while. Nola, specifically, was hit in the nose with a pitch. Yet, no one is calling for spring training to be canceled. And no one should, as it doesn’t make any sense.
Injuries are unpredictable. Remember when Francisco Liriano missed out on roughly $11M when he broke his arm slamming into a door to scare his kids on Christmas? The odds of that happening might be the same as Díaz suffering a torn patellar tendon while celebrating a WBC win with his teammates.
The WBC puts baseball on the map
Finally and most importantly, the WBC makes baseball stronger. The United States is the birthplace of baseball, and it might even sound weird for a US native to hear that baseball needs to be strengthened. But the truth is that baseball is not among the most globally-spread sports in the world. Outside the US, it is only considerably popular in Central America and east Asia.
I’m not from the USA. I’m a born and raised Brazilian who’s been living in Brazil my entire life. I had never watched a baseball game until I was 16, and I didn’t know the first thing about the sport. Unfortunately, that’s the case for most people in most countries outside the US and those two other areas. A global event such as the WBC is vital for baseball’s future, especially since it has been dropped from the Olympic Games.
Baseball is the greatest game on the planet, and the whole world needs to know that. The WBC isn’t nearly as representative as other sports’ world cups, like FIFA’s, FIBA, the cricket world cup, the rugby world cup, etc. But it can be. It has to be. It will be, as long as we don’t give up on it over a superstar injury.
What do you think? Is the World Baseball Classic important enough for superstar players to risk getting injured? Share your thoughts in the comments!
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, EXCLUSIVE: Twins Daily Sits Down with The Injury Gods
With the regular season almost here, Twins Daily is proud to present this in-depth conversation with longtime Minnesota nemeses The Injury Gods. Known for their season-ending (and sometimes career-ending) work, The Injury Gods have developed quite a reputation among Twins fans. Jontu of the Poison Wind and Cnathol the Endless clear the air on alleged grudges against the Twins, some of their past work, and their outlook for 2023.
TWINS DAILY: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
JONTU: You’re welcome, mortal.
TD: First of all, I just have to congratulate you on your work with Royce Lewis last year. Getting him just healthy enough to show some serious potential, then tearing his ACL again because he was playing out of his natural position to replace your masterwork, Byron Buxton? Even Minnesota sports fans were impressed by the sheer cruelty.
CNATHOL: It’s funny, I proposed that at a work happy hour as a joke! But Jontu and Torvald the Bleak both looked up and basically said, “Hey, we could make this work.” They came back on Monday with a PowerPoint deck and it was full speed ahead.
JONTU: He’s being modest. Sending Lewis into the wall was all Cnathol. We just added the finishing touches. Did you like that we did it on his first game back in the majors? During the Twins Daily/Gray Duck event at Target Field?
TD: No. It was awful.
JONTU: Thank you. That means a lot.
TD: Moving on, Jorge Polanco is still dealing with a bad wheel after seven months. He’s starting the season on the injured list. Any comment?
CNATHOL: There is no offseason for an Injury God. We put in the work. Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
JONTU: Also, just to clarify, it’s both Jorge Polanco and Alex Kirilloff who still haven’t recovered from the injuries that torpedoed their 2022 seasons. A lot of time and ill intent went into both their struggles.
TD: My apologies.
JONTU: You saw how well Kirilloff was hitting before his wrist flared up. The wretched agony of Twins fans as he labored to play through it…I tell you, it makes the long hours all worth it.
TD: It was so hard to watch.
JONTU: You flatter Us.
CNATHOL: To be clear, We’re not always manifesting pain for you puny humans. Mortals think just because We rain misery on the frail bodies of their heroes that We’re always like this. It’s simply not the case. Jontu has taken up pickleball!”
JONTU: We make the pickleball out of discarded UCLs. Last night we used Stephen Strasburg’s.
TD: Strasburg plays for Washington. Is this confirmation that the Gods aren’t specifically targeting the Minnesota Twins, despite the lamentations of the fanbase?
CNATHOL: First of all, I just want to say to Twins fans to keep the lamentations up. The cursing, the frustration, the part where you sit in your car in the driveway with the engine and radio off, trying and failing to keep the howling void of an indifferent universe at bay? That’s what keeps Us going.
JONTU: But to your point, no, it’s not just the Twins. You’ve seen Our work with the New York Mets. Their fans are already bone-deep psychos and sick freaks. Knocking their closer out for the year because he and his friends were happy? Man, You wait an eternity for a chance like that. This is not an exaggeration. We are beyond time.
TD: Finally, I need to return to the topic of Byron Buxton.
CNATHOL: Oh, yes.
TD: You’ve no doubt seen that he’s starting the year at DH to reduce the wear and tear of playing centerfield all season.
JONTU: They think they’re clever.
CNATHOL: The beauty of this is that they believe it’ll work.
JONTU: The group chat was lit. The gall. The insolence!
CNATHOL: That rookie pitcher with a 101-mph fastball and zero control? The massive, ankle-spraining pothole in the players’ parking lot at Target Field? A cheeseburger that gives you syphilis? The human mind can’t comprehend the suffering that awaits, much less the form it takes.
JONTU: None shall know the hour.
CNATHOL: But probably late April, early May.
chpettit19 reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Guy Who Overvalues Prospects Thinks Matt Moses Is Finally Ready
It’s the age-old baseball debate: Do you hold onto your prospects at all costs, or part with them in order to upgrade the current major league squad?
Terry Utgaard is in the former camp.
“Remember when the Tigers traded John Smoltz for Doyle Alexander,” asked the Roseville-based claims adjuster. His few friends confirm he has used this argument to oppose any trade of any minor leaguer since Detroit dealt the future Hall of Famer in 1987. Alexander would go on to lose both his ALCS games against the Minnesota Twins that season.
Utgaard, who still has a threadbare Michael Restovich shirsey in his t-shirt rotation, has some unorthodox opinions about the 2023 team as well.
“I love Jose Miranda,” said the 47-year-old bachelor. “But if he falters or gets hurt, I think this might be time for Matt Moses. He fits the bill.”
Moses, Minnesota’s first-round draft pick in 2003, is 38. He hasn’t pl
ayed professionally since 2009 for Double-A New Britain. While Moses might have stopped chasing his MLB dream, Utgaard hasn’t.
“Some beat writer hacks limit their top prospect lists to 40 or 100,” said the maniac, opening a spreadsheet that takes minutes to load despite Caribou Coffee’s robust visitor wi-fi. “As you can see, I have Moses sitting in the mid-600s by BJ Hermsen and The Real Deal JD Durbin . He would bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse that, say, Yunior Severino can’t.”
When it’s mentioned that Moses is likely retired for good, a shadow passes over Utgaard’s face.
“So you’re saying you just want to give up on Matt Moses. You want to discard him for some veteran who will be gone in a year or two. Is that what you’re saying?”
When it’s pointed out that the Twins would likely be thrilled to get anything in return for a player who hasn’t been on the team in 14 years, Utgaard scoffs.
“This ‘win now’ mentality baffles me. You’re looking at potential All-Stars up and down this list and you want to get rid of them for what? When A.J. Achter and Levi Michael are winning rings, I want them winning rings in Minnesota.
“And before you tell me they’re both retired, did you ever think that’s just a ploy to drive down their trade potential and prevent the team from making an incredible mistake?”
“I worry about Terry, and I’m me,” said Seth Stohs, Twins Daily senior prospect knower and the only other Twins fan who remembers A.J. Achter.
Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash