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  1. Like
    chpettit19 reacted to Cody Pirkl for an article, No Half Measures   
    In a vacuum, Josh Donaldson is not overpaid despite what some frustrated fans may tell you. His time missed in 2020 was frustrating albeit not as costly as it appears considering his prorated salary in the 60 game season. In 2021, he was actually one of the regulars in the lineup day in and day out. As a whole, Donaldson has slashed .243/.355/.474 with the Twins, far from the “wasted payroll” reputation some have pinned on him.
    That being said, he’s 35 years old with a tremendous injury history in addition to having about $50m remaining on his salary over the next two years. The result of all of these factors leave the Twins with a fantastic player with an enormous ceiling and about as low of a floor a player can have. For that very reason, it’s difficult to blame them for at least exploring the trade market given the year they just came off of. They shouldn’t be so quick to pull the trigger on a deal without lining themselves up for a slam dunk however. 
    This was a recently reported idea for a trade between the Twins and Milwaukee who will likely need an impact third base option in 2022. It’s a perfect example of the type of trade the Twins shouldn’t do. There’s almost no scenario where the Twins don’t pay down significant money to get Donaldson’s contract off the books. The issue is trades like this make the Twins worse in the present and offer little payoff for the future.
    Dumping about $35m in future payroll would likely look appealing to ownership. That being said, doing so probably lands them in a situation like this one where the Twins take on money of their own in Jackie Bradley Jr.’s $9.5m and $6.5m buyout in 2023. JBJ slashed .163/.236/.261 en route to a -0.8 fWAR finish on the season. Worse than Matt Shoemaker, Andrelton Simmons etc.
    Perhaps taking on money isn’t out of the question, but the younger pieces in the deal have to be at least somewhat appealing. In this scenario, they receive 19 year old RHP Logan Henderson and 22 year old outfielder Joey Wiemer, #21 and 23 in the Brewers system respectively. Prospects from the 20s range aren’t very exciting for most teams, but the Brewers in particular are a bottom 5 system by most prospect sites. 
    So in review, the Twins get to save a bunch of money in the future, although not a ton after taking on a much less valuable player. Their lineup and team as a whole takes a significant downgrade in regards to the 2022 Opening Day lineup. They also get two prospects who have a very insignificant chance of making any impact on the team in the future. This type of trade would be a mistake.
    The Twins have two options in my opinion. They may very well be gearing up to spend big this winter and acquire some legitimate pieces via free agency and trade. In which case, gamble on the health of Josh Donaldson who will still be one of the premier players on the team if healthy. His salary doesn’t impede their spending plans nearly as much as it gets credit for.
    The second option is to come to terms with 2022 not being the year. If you don’t want to spend down immediately for a comeback season, paying most if not all of that contract in a trade should be the goal. It’s already on the payroll and one way or another, they’ll pay some sort of price on it. Might as well write a fat check to a competing team in a deal where the recipient gets instantly better and the Twins can command some impactful prospect capital in return.
    One way or another, the Twins need to commit 100% when it comes to the Josh Donaldson decision. There’s no point in taking half measures for a team whose winter will have an enormous tilt not only on the 2022 season, but the next few years to come. Should they hold onto their star third baseman or sell him off for the best trade package? Let us know below!
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    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, 4 Plausible Developments That Would Dramatically Alter the Twins' Fortunes   
    When things are going bad, as they did in 2021, it's easy to get caught up in the mindset that nothing ever goes right. But of course, we all know that's not the case. 
    Twins fans have seen many unanticipated "glow-ups" over the years – players rising above their stations and surpassing expectations to become pivotal game-changers in the team's strategy. Examples would include: Taylor Rogers going from middling SP prospect to All-Star RP; Tyler Duffey doing more or less the same; Mitch Garver emerging as an elite offensive catcher; Jorge Polanco and Brian Dozier developing 30-HR power in the middle infield; and so on, and so on.
    With these precedents in mind, let's leave the misery of this season behind us and envision some plausible best-case scenarios.
    If any of these four developments play out, they could significantly ease and expedite the current team's return to contention.
    1: Joe Ryan is a frontline starting pitcher
    During his brief five-start MLB debut, Ryan did some rare things. It's not often you see a major-league pitcher take a perfect game into the eighth, or strike out seven consecutive batters. Even a veteran.
    There are three possible paths forward for Ryan. The first is that big-league hitters figure him out and he implodes, perhaps shuttling between the minors or shifting to a bullpen role. The second is that he goes through the standard adjustments and reaches his low-end potential as a back-of-rotation arm.
    The third path is that instead of being adjusted against, he makes the adjustments. He gets better. What if Ryan's best moments were entirely representative of what lies ahead?  
    The 25-year-old posted a 3.43 FIP with the Twins this year, and threw strikes at a rate that you don't really see, from rookies or otherwise. If he can continue to do that while missing bats and keeping the ball in the yard (last part is most in question), Ryan could easily settle in as a legitimate No. 2 starter. Imagine what a difference that would make in the rotation-building initiative going forward.
    #2: Griffin Jax becomes a relief ace
    No one would've thought Tyler Duffey was destined to become a dominant major-league pitcher when he was posting a 6.43 ERA in 26 starts during his first full season in 2016. But, you might've looked at certain elements of his game – namely, a clearly excellent breaking ball that was producing great results – and seen the potential for something more. 
    A few years later, Duffey was one of the most dominant relief pitchers in the league.
    Jax was no better as a starter this year than Duffey in 2016, but he also looked equally miscast in the role. The clearest sign is that he was VASTLY better his first time through a lineup (.197 AVG, .597 OPS) than the second time through (.283, 1.010). Within that, you also have the existence of a clearly excellent breaking ball – Jax's slider generated a 36% whiff rate and .270 xwOBA – but little else.
    "Relief ace" might be a small stretch, but I almost think "solid reliever" should be the baseline expectation for Jax once the Twins stop letting him get bombed as a starter. Move your gaze a shade in the optimistic direction and you could easily have a prime Duffey-type here. How big of an asset would that be for a bullpen that is currently short on high-quality options?
    #3: Alex Kirilloff blossoms as a perennial MVP contender at first base
    Kirilloff's numbers as a rookie were far from spectacular. In 59 games before undergoing wrist surgery, he slashed .251/.299/.423 with eight homers and 34 RBIs. His OPS+ of 98 reflects slightly below-average offensive performance. But he did all this as a 23-year-old with essentially zero previous experience above Double-A, and he was battling through a torn wrist ligament for most of his time on the field.
    Despite all this, he flashed upside aplenty. Kirilloff shrugged off an 0-for-15 start and went on a tear as April turned to May and he acclimated. In the four games before spraining his wrist, he launched four homers and two doubles, boosting his slugging percentage to .571. His average exit velocity at the time would've ranked third in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge if he qualified. Not only that, but Kirilloff showed to be stunningly smooth and adept defender at first base, which will almost surely be his long-term defensive home.
    As a sweet-swinging, run-producing lefty whose fielding chops at first can contribute to a sterling overall reputation, Anthony Rizzo stands out as a decent high-end comp for Kirilloff. He never was never named Most Valuable Player, but in his age 24-through-26 seasons (which are the three lying directly ahead of Kirilloff), Rizzo was a three-time All-Star, and twice a top-five MVP finisher. In the last of those three seasons, Rizzo was among the leaders on a championship-winning Cubs team. 
    #4: Royce Lewis makes an immediate and sustained impact
    The expectation for Lewis should be a slow, methodical return to action, with some rough patches as he regains his footing on the field. By the time spring training rolls around next year, he'll be two years removed from last real competitive baseball action. Most players would need some time to shake off the rust. 
    Of course, Royce Lewis is not most players. He's a former No. 1 overall draft pick who was ranked by MLB.com as the 17th-best prospect in the game before losing his 2020 to a pandemic and his 2021 to a torn ACL. Sometimes natural talent rules out, as we saw with the aforementioned Mr. Kirilloff, who came back after missing all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery and slashed .348/.392/.578 at Single-A.
    The idea that Lewis will hit the ground sprinting upon his return feels a bit more far-fetched, given that he had some mechanical issues to iron out even before the injury. At the same time, he hasn't been sitting around doing nothing over the past two years, and he's also had the opportunity to mature mentally and physically. Lewis turns 23 next season, so he'll be the same age or older than fellow top prospects like Kirilloff and Byron Buxton were when they debuted. 
    Lewis' defensive utility makes him a very intriguing figure in the team's planning. He's played primarily shortstop in the minors but some believe he's more likely to end up in center field. Those happen to be perhaps the two biggest positional uncertainties in Minnesota's future outlook (assuming Buxton is not re-signed).
    If the Twins operate under the belief that Lewis could viably take over at shortstop midway through the 2022 campaign, they can opt for a cheap short-term plug at the position this offseason and channel the brunt of their resources elsewhere. This may require a leap of faith, but Lewis is a guy who warrants it. And if he can stick at short (or even in center), he can be a game-changing factor for the franchise. 
    Just as they planned when they drafted him in 2017.
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    chpettit19 reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, In Defense of the Twins Front Office   
    The Twins hired Derek Falvey (who hired Thad Levine) in the wake of a disastrous 103-loss season in 2016. By that point, the Twins had gone six straight years without making the playoffs, and during that span they lost more games than any team in baseball. 
    The following year, Minnesota stunningly reached the postseason as a wild-card team. Then they missed out in 2018, still finishing second, before rebounding in 2019 with one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. The Twins followed in 2020 with another division title. 
    To run all that back: this front office took over a team that had gone 407-565 (.419) with zero playoff appearances in its previous six years, and went 300-246 (.549) with three playoff appearances in the next four. 
    Does their success owe somewhat to the foundation built before they arrived? Of course. No one would deny that Terry Ryan and Co. had cultivated an impressive nucleus before being ousted. But during those years, the Twins repeatedly failed in the draft, failed in acquisitions, and failed in player development. The results bore that out.
    Let's be clear about something here: This current regime was so successful and so impressive through four years that they were repeatedly poached of talent, both in the front office and the coaching staffs they assembled. Not only that, but Falvey and Levine themselves have been courted by big-name franchises like the Red Sox and Phillies. 
    What did they say, according to publicized reports on the matter? 
    "No thanks, we're going to see through what we're building here."
    And so, to see flocks of fans calling for their heads because of one bad season, which is no worse than the ones we saw repeatedly before they arrived ... it's a little hard to take. 
    Falvey became the youngest head exec in the league when he took Minnesota's top job. Currently he is 38 years old, which is three years younger than the DH he traded to Tampa Bay last month. Up until now he never experienced serious adversity during his tenure, which speaks to how smoothly things have gone in the first four years. 
    The same could be said, by the way, for his managerial choice Rocco Baldelli, who was named Manager of the Year in 2019 (as the youngest skipper in baseball, with no experience in the role) and then won a second straight division title in his second season.
    These people have shown their mettle. They've won. A lot. I realize they haven't won in the playoffs, and that sucks, but they haven't had nearly the opportunity of their predecessors. 
    Are we not going to give them a chance to learn from failure?
    Obviously the free agent pitching additions from the past winter have failed at every level. But this front office has made plenty of good and savvy pickups in the past, which helped fuel the success of high-quality staffs the last two years. And in any case, Falvey wasn't really hired to sign pitchers. He was hired to develop them.
    On that front, the jury is still out. This operation was four years in when a pandemic came along and wiped out an entire minor-league season. The fact that Minnesota's upper minors are currently loaded with intriguing high-upside arms would suggest the mission was on track, and is just now getting back on the rails. 
    Soon we'll start seeing those arms (along with the ones acquired at the deadline this year) ushered into majors, and at that point we'll be able to make real assessments. But until then, you're judging an incomplete project. 
    This reassembled baseball ops department has been working ahead of schedule basically since they took over a moribund franchise in despair. They hit a setback this year, and it's been painful. Let's give them a chance to get back on track in the wake of a major disruptive event and humbling follow-up season.
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    chpettit19 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Front Office Facing Pitching Problems   
    Across the division in Cleveland, Falvey grew a reputation for being able to develop pitching. Minnesota needed to overhaul that aspect of their development, and the early returns were promising. Despite the Bomba Squad emerging in 2019, Minnesota also became the best pitching version of itself that the franchise had seen in years. Taylor Rogers was elite, Tyler Duffey was transformed, and a number of fliers worked out.
    Enter 2021 and things couldn’t be further from that reality. This Twins club owns the 29th overall fWAR mark from their pitching staff, and both starters and relievers have been collectively terrible. The lineup took a bit to get going, but it hasn’t been an issue for weeks. With the White Sox now having all but ended Minnesota’s chances in the year ahead, a look at 2022 puts both Falvey and Levine squarely on the hot seat.
    Given the amount of talent eyeing a return on this roster, and the unexpected nature of these results, a full rebuild should not be the course of action in 2022. Reloading and trying it again with some new pieces makes all the sense in the world. What the front office must not do again however, is look to shop in the bargain bin and think the process will entirely translate into results.
    I have long harped on the infrastructure brought in by this front office as being exceptional. That still rings true. Wes Johnson is a good pitching coach, and throughout the farm there’s intelligent instructors. At some point though, you can’t bank entirely on a blueprint squeeze more juice from an already cashed fruit. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were fine back-end additions, but they both relied entirely on depth with nothing done to raise the water level.
    From the vantage point we have now, walking through this smoldering warzone, Falvey has virtually nothing to show for this season. The plethora of waiver claims all failed to pan out, save for the small sample of Luke Farrell. Happ and Shoemaker have been terrible. Randy Dobnak was extended, then optioned, and has never had a real defined role. On the farm, each of the top prospects has now gone down with arm issues, likely due to the year off. Yes, Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic look good, but there’s more reason to be cautious than excited at this point.
    In the year ahead it will be on the Twins to use their depth as a fall back plan rather than seeing it as a source of reliance. Signings like Happ and Shoemaker indicated a belief one or both would soon be bumped as prospects came for their spots. Now Shoemaker is gone entirely, and the lack of options becomes even more glaring with yet another miss added to the books. Jose Berrios has been good, but not yet elevated to the next step, and now the talk of trading him lands even more into a questionable realm for me.
    Over the winter the plan has to be pitching, spending on it, and making sure it’s right. Relief arms are generally fickle year over year. Expecting Alexander Colome to fall this hard wasn’t a good bet. In 2022 you can reshuffle that group and bring in new faces, but they can’t be supplemented with a bunch of fall back options just ran out in case of emergency. The starting staff needs a legit arm that slots in to the top three, and that’s on top of paying or at least keeping Berrios.
    One bad season in the midst of such turnaround isn’t going to cost the front office their jobs, but there is plenty of reason to question why Derek Falvey hasn’t come through with his calling card should we see two years’ worth of these results. It’s time to right this ship, fix it, and prove the belief has been warranted. Dollars, development, whatever path you want to take, pitching can not be a problem for the Twins in the year ahead.
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