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  1. Like
    Clare reacted to John Bonnes for an article, Byron Buxton Agrees to a Contract Extension with the Twins   
    Since Buxton first joined the team in 2015, he’s only had one year with 500 plate appearances, and indeed only one with over 331. His injuries have ranged from seemingly self-inflicted problems due to his aggressive defense in center field, to worrisome nagging injuries like hip strains and foot injuries, to flukey injuries like a broken finger from being hit by a pitch.
    On the other hand, he’s been absolutely elite defensively throughout his time with the Twins, and recently his offense has reached a similar level. This year he hit .306 with 19 home runs in just 61 games, a pace that makes him a 50-home run threat over a full season. He’s also only 27 years old, entering the peak period of many players' careers.
    He is due to be a free agent next offseason, compelling the Twins to either sign him to an extension or trade him this offseason, lest they risk having him leave next year for nothing more than a compensatory draft pick. That urgency is further heightened by the threat of an impending work stoppage starting as soon as Wednesday night. If an extension or trade iss not made by then, there is a chance any such move would be delayed until some unknown point in a potentially compressed offseason, or thwarted altogether.
    A deal would likely represent the biggest deal the Twins have made since they signed Joe Mauer to a contract extension in 2010 for $184 million dollars. That deal was also for a rare talent who contributed defensively, was at the peak of his ability, and on the verge of free agency. 
    The deal with Mauer aged poorly, as leg problems and concussions limited his ability to stay at catcher and stay in the lineup. With Buxton having more health questions, the reality is it makes him more affordable; it’s unlikely the Twins could complete a deal without the built-in discount his health history affords them. 
    The Mauer deal also took place as the Twins were completing a run of division-winning seasons and trying to lengthen their competitive window. Twins’ management’s next to-do for this offseason is to find some starting pitchers whom Buxton’s Gold Glove can assist with his range in center field. While the size of Buxton’s deal is likely significant, the Twins entered the offseason with as much as $50M or so to spend on free agents. A deal with Buxton is likely to maintain that capability.
    Indeed, Ken Rosenthal has just published contract details:
    The extension  guarantees $15M per year (except this year, when he still would've been under arbitration) plus very large bonuses for MVP bonuses and a series of $500K bonuses if he stays healthy for over 500 plate appearances. It is a very creative contract. I can't think of any that has had a bonus structure remotely similar to it. The deal essentially rewards Buxton extra money for staying healthy for a full season, handsomely for MVP-caliber production, but still guarantees him base salary commensurate to a top center fielder. 
    If the Twins had traded Buxton instead, it would be hard for them to pretend that they could expect to be competitive in 2022. They would have lost their best offensive and defensive player, while also trying to replace 60% of their starting rotation. Retaining Buxton keeps the option of competing in 2022 alive. It should also make him one of the core pieces of the next competitive Twins team. Further pieces will still need to be assembled, but the deal represents a serious effort by the Twins to compete by locking up high-end home-grown talent for a long time.
    We'll add details as they emerge. In the meantime, give us your initial thoughts below. 
  2. Like
    Clare reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Anoka Man Thinks Buxton Should Pay Twins   
    Classic North Metro halfwit Tom Hanson has seen enough. With the Twins allegedly looking to move Byron Buxton, the self-taught expert on epidemiology thinks the franchise is overlooking the best path forward.
    “He oughta pay them to play centerfield,” said the frequently-divorced electrician. “Bet he lands on the injured list reaching for his wallet, lol.”
    Hanson, who frequently interrupted his interview to speculate on the accuracy of Dominion Voting Systems machinery, credits Buxton’s injury history with this outside-the-box notion.
    “He’s hurt all the time, and the whole insurance game is a racket,” mused Hanson. “I bet they’ve paid more on premiums for him than salary. And I bet he hasn’t thanked them for either one.”
    Hanson, who has been banned from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, the Star Tribune comments section, Rube Chat, YouTube, and the Perkins chain of family restaurants, said Buxton reminds him of another Twins great, and not in a good way.
    “Joe Mauer must have taught (Buxton) that if you say you’re hurt, these suckers will believe you every time,” said Hanson. “I almost respect it. Must be nice to make $23 million a year to hit singles and then not even do that because your quote-unquote concussion hurts. Must be real nice.”
    When told that one of the quoted figures for a potential Byron Buxton deal was 7 years for $100 million, Hanson was livid.
    “You could have a lunch pail, 110% effort guy like Zach Granite or Jake Cave who’ll go out there every day and compete for a fraction of that, or you could have a prima donna like Buxton,” exclaimed Hanson. “The fact that they’d choose the latter is just another example of the woke cancel culture infecting our society.”
    Hanson would not elaborate on what that meant but did say it also applied to his local school board, KARE 11 meteorologist Belinda Jensen, maternity leave, paternity leave, rap music, Home Depot, his first, third, and fourth wives, and Little Free Libraries.  
  3. Like
    Clare reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, One Season-Defining Moment from Each Month of 2021   
    April: That Loss in Oakland (4/21)
    In Twins lore, this was a game that will forever live in infamy. In fact, it probably needs a nickname for eternal reference. Bayside Blunderfest? Catastrophe in the Coliseum? The Oaktown Meltdown? 
    Whatever you want to call it, this was the clear low point in a gut-punch of a first month for the Twins. I don't say so lightly, because there was no shortage of brutal blows from which to choose, but this game was the cream of the crap. 
    It wasn't just the dire implications of that 13-12 result itself, sealing a sweep for the A's and marking Minnesota's ninth loss in 10 games. No, what made this one an L for the ages – to the extent you knew exactly which game I was talking about when you read "that loss in Oakland" – was the almost comically painful way in which it all unfolded.
    I won't torture you with a full recap, but the gist is this: With the team playing short-handed due to a COVID outbreak, Kenta Maeda digs a deep hole by allowing seven runs (an early sign something is amiss for the reigning Cy Young runner-up); the offense mounts a big rally; Byron Buxton attempts to will the team to victory single-handed with a huge catch and home run; and then ... Alex Colomé happens.
    As these Twins stumbled out of the gates and fell flat on their faces, Colomé was a deserving figurehead for the failure. The front office's big-ticket bullpen pickup was an incomprehensible disaster, repeatedly giving away games that were in hand. On this special occasion, he did so twice in a two-inning span!
    Minnesota led 9-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth when Colomé entered. He gave up a run. The game went to extras. Buxton launched a dramatic two-run homer in the 10th. Then Colomé promptly walked the bases loaded in the bottom half, and watched the infield defense implode behind him as the A's rallied to score three runs on back-to-back errors and walk it off. *chef's kiss*
    May: Twins Drop 12th Out of 15 Games (5/20)
    Damaging to our collective psyches as it may have been, the above game was not fatal to the team's hopes of contending. While a 6-11 start wasn't ideal, the Twins were padded by a strong first week. This was just a good team going through an ugly April funk ... right?
    Nah. Turns out they were just bad. From May 8th through May 20th they went 3-12, turning in lifeless outing after lifeless outing as their season crumbled into nothingness, a mere seven weeks after getting started. Prior to this stretch the Twins were modestly climbing toward .500; by the end they were 14-28, and 11 ½ games out of first place. 
    The last of the dozen losses during this 16-day stretch – a 7-1 doubleheader matinee against the Angels – was not especially noteworthy, save for how typical it was. Lewis Thorpe made a spot start and got lit up. The bullpen was bad. The offense did nothing. It was obvious from early on the Twins were going nowhere in this one, which is a suitable summarization of their season as a whole.
    June: Buxton Breaks His Hand (6/21)
    As things devolved in the early weeks, there was one redeeming storyline for Twins fans. Buxton was playing out of his mind. In April he became the first Twins player to earn Player of the Month honors in more than a decade. Unlocking his long-simmering potential at last, the center fielder was a must-watch attraction on a team that was otherwise hard to stomach.
    In early May, a hip injury shut Buxton down, leading to more than a month on the Injured List. He returned in mid-June, fighting through obvious pain and physical limitation, but was nonetheless productive for three games.
    Then, a freaking fastball hit his hand and fractured it. The team's fate was already more or less sealed by this point, but seeing their most likable player suffer another unthinkable setback was almost too much to take. I'll never forget Rocco Baldelli's somber postgame press conference, which conveyed empathy for his snakebit center fielder, as well as a general sense of dazed bewilderment at the state of his club's shattered season.
    This was going to be the year Buxton pulled it all together. Instead, it'll go down as yet another fleeting glimmer of greatness. And perhaps his final hurrah in a Twins uniform.
    July: Berríos Dealt on Deadline Day (7/30)
    We've already seen that final hurrah from José Berríos, who was drafted the same year as Buxton and rose to similarly impressive heights. The blockbuster deal that sent Berríos to Toronto for two top prospects was among the most significant deadline trades in franchise history, and a bellwether moment.
    Trading Berríos affirmed a full-on changing of the guard, following the less surprising Nelson Cruz trade a week earlier. Factor in coinciding reports of fruitless extension negotiations with Buxton, and this year's deadline openly signaled an oncoming identity shift for the Twins.
    This changing identity was evident in the final two months, during which we'd see these Twins play some of their very best ball.
    August: Ober Blanks Boston at Fenway (8/25)
    No Berríos. No Cruz. No Maeda. No Taylor Rogers. And yet the Twins were a .500 team after the trade deadline. That's not anything to write home about but, all things considered, it's kind of eyebrow-raising. How'd they do it? 
    Bailey Ober played a big part (figuratively and literally) in the quality results, and the long-term implications of his sudden ascent from organization filler to rotation fixture are difficult to overstate. 
    The month of August saw Ober pitch to a 2.30 ERA and 27-to-3 K/BB ratio in 27 ⅓ innings. The Twins went 4-1 in his five starts. While veteran pitchers around him got injured, got traded, and got blown up, Ober remained steady, with his newfound velocity boost and 6-foot-9 frame proving a sustainable formula.
    His most memorable outing in an excellent month came in Boston on the 25th. One year prior, no one would've realistically expected Ober to be pitching in the big leagues, so the rookie must've been feeling some nerves as he took the mound against a powerhouse at legendary Fenway Park for his 15th MLB start. 
    You would've never known it from the way he pitched. Ober tossed a leisurely five shutout innings, striking out seven and walking one. 
    At this moment he's the presumed Opening Day starter in 2022.
    September: Polanco Tallies 4 Extra-Base Hits (9/6)
    While Ober's emergence as a rotation staple was the most consequential unexpected development of the 2021 season, Jorge Polanco's rejuvenated slugging prowess may be a close second.
    For better or worse, the Twins are contractually tied to Polanco through at least 2023, and that was tilting in the "or worse" direction when his punchless 2020 production spilled over to April. But as he became more comfortable on his twice-surgically-repaired ankle, and began to find his stride once again, Polanco's long-absent power came rushing back. Suddenly, the switch-slugging All-Star from early 2019 was back and better than ever. 
    And this was no flash in the pan. Polanco consistently kept pounding baseballs for the rest of the season – reflected by the fact that his most memorable highlight arrived in September.
    On this day in Cleveland, Polanco tallied a season-high four of his 70 extra-base hits, doubling three times and homering in a 5-2 win. During the previous series in Tampa, he launched two home runs and two doubles. Five days later against the Royals, he'd go deep twice. 
    Polanco relentlessly slugged and produced all the way through to the end, playing at an MVP level while the team around him acquiesced to sub-mediocrity. It's reminiscent, in some ways, of Brian Dozier in 2016.
    One year later, Dozier was the veteran star and leader on a team that shocked everyone, improving by 26 wins and reaching the postseason. A precedent that is perhaps worth carrying forward.
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  4. Like
    Clare reacted to RandBalls Stu for an article, Sources: Injury Gods Also Surprised by Lack of Joe Ryan Injury   
    As entities that predate recorded history, it’s very hard to get something by the Injury Gods. Yet that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday afternoon, as a wicked comebacker found Joe Ryan’s pitching hand without causing lasting damage.
    “Ryan’s a big part of their future plans so it seems like that’s an ideal place to really put the screws to the player and the Twins,” said a source close to Znon the Wrathful, the unspeakable beast responsible for tweaking Minnesota’s ulnar collateral ligaments. “I can’t explain it. Nor can They. The entire nether world is buzzing. To be clear, that’s mostly because of the bees we’re sending to swarm Byron Buxton next Wednesday, but it’s also the talk of the realm.”
    It initially appeared that the Gods had done as they always have to the bedeviled franchise, with Ryan immediately storming off the mound and heading to the showers.
    “Oh yeah, I thought for sure we tagged and bagged him,” said another source who works in Damnations and Accounts Receivable for Langurr The Plague King. “I should have known something wasn’t right when the ball didn’t deflect and hit Jorge Polanco in the eye. Classic double play and we didn’t even get the one? You don’t get surprised around this office too often, but that one put us back on our hooves.”
    The resulting X-rays were negative, with Ryan diagnosed as having a mere bruise. He might not even miss a start. The lack of traumatic injury is leaving more questions than answers among Those who exist to harm and maraud.
    “It’s a real stumper,” said a source familiar with Znon’s thinking. “His name is Znon the Wrathful. He just loves Himself some wrath. Lots of speculation that He’s going to make up for it by dropping a house on Ryan’s pinky toe or putting a black bear in his car. No one ever expects the black bear. Bears can’t drive!”
  5. Like
    Clare reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: Rotation Reinforced   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/30 thru Sun, 9/5
    Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 59-77)
    Run Differential Last Week: -12 (Overall: -111)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (20.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 131 | MIN 3, DET 2: Twins Take Makeup Game Behind Ober
    Game 132 | CHC 3, MIN 1: Offense Comes Up Short in Key Spots
    Game 133 | CHC 3, MIN 0: Ryan Bitten by 3-R HR, Lack of Run Support in Debut
    Game 134 | TB 5, MIN 3: Dobnak Digs Deep Early Hole in Return to Rotation
    Game 135 | TB 11, MIN 4: Rays Annihilate Albers, Blow Out Twins
    Game 136 | MIN 6, TB 5: Offense Snaps Slump with 13 Hits
    When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Twins called up two starters from the minors – one a new face in pitching prospect Joe Ryan, who came over in the Nelson Cruz deal, and one a familiar face in Randy Dobnak, who had wrapped up a rehab stint in St. Paul. Both pitchers joined the rotation right away, and you can read about their performances below.
    To make room on the 40-man roster for the new additions, Edgar García was outrighted and Kenta Maeda – who underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday – was moved to the 60-day IL. 
    In a bit of an odd and surprising trade, the Twins dealt minor-league reliever Andrew Vasquez to the Dodgers for minor-league catcher Stevie Berman. Vasquez was called up immediately by Los Angeles, and appeared in Friday's game against the Giants.
    We've seen Vasquez in brief stints for the Twins before, in 2019 and 2018, and they did not go well. He is what he is – a lefty specialist who has been incredibly effective in that capacity in the minors but also struggles to throw strikes. People around here weren't exactly clamoring for him to promoted, and I'll admit he hasn't been on my radar lately.
    Still, for a team like the Twins that is desperate for any kind of pitching help – now and going forward – to never even take a look at a pitcher who was deemed immediately valuable by the reigning champs, vying for a ninth straight division title? I dunno. Strikes me as weird. 
    In other news, Trevor Larnach was placed on the IL at Triple-A with a hand contusion, and it sounds like Michael Pineda's return is imminent. The big righty's oblique has healed quickly and he's set to rejoin the Twins rotation this week without a rehab assignment.
    On Sunday, Luke Farrell was activated from IL, supplanting Andrew Albers, who was utterly clobbered by Tampa on Saturday night. Derek Law was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man.
    With Maeda out of the picture, can the Twins realistically build a rotation capable of contending in 2022? I made the case for it here a few days ago, while acknowledging that such an outcome would require multiple savvy offseason moves from the front office, and for things to break right with a few returning arms that are – at best – uncertainties right now.
    The past week brought much-needed encouraging signs for a few of those arms.
    Things opened up with yet another excellent outing from Bailey Ober, who delivered six innings of two-run ball in a makeup game at Detroit on Monday. The right-hander struck out five and walked none while allowing five hits in his second big-league win. 
    One thing that I think gets lost in Ober's performance – due to the Twins carefully managing his pitch counts and workload – is that he's showing the potential to provide length once the team loosens up his restrictions a bit. In five August starts, Ober completed at least five innings each time, and got through six twice, despite never throwing more than 82 pitches.  
    If he can continue to pitch this way in 2022, Ober looks like a guy who could give you six or seven innings on a pretty regular basis.
    We haven't had quite as much time to get a read on Ryan, who made his major-league debut against the Cubs on Wednesday night, but our first glimpse was a promising one.
    After spending a few months carving Triple-A hitters to shreds, Ryan took his game to Target Field and delivered a pretty good approximation, striking out five over five frames with 14 swinging strikes on 60 pitches (23%). He allowed only three hits and one walk, but his otherwise strong outing was marred by a three-run homer. (Ober can relate on this one.) 
    As for Dobnak ... I don't think a start where the pitcher gives up five earned runs could be described as "good," but there was certainly some optimism to be drawn from his outing on Friday. 
    All of the damage came early against Dobnak, who was likely shaking off some rust after a two-month absence from the rotation. He gave up three straight hits – including back-to-back RBI singles – to open the third, and then settled in to retire 15 straight batters. The last seven all came on groundouts and in total, Dobnak induced 17 grounders over his seven innings of work. He became the first Minnesota starter to complete seven innings since José Berríos in his last Twins start, all the way back on July 24th.
    Even some of the peripheral arms on the staff had solid showings. John Gant looked about as good as we've seen him in his start against the Cubs on Tuesday, tossing five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks. He was spinning the ball around the lower regions of the zone and inducing some fairly ugly swings. Like Griffin Jax, there's evidence Gant could be a useful swingman or long reliever on the 2022 staff. 
    Also deserving of note is Ralph Garza Jr., who tossed three scoreless and hitless innings. The 27-year-old has fared out much better as a Twin than García, claimed off waivers around the same time. Garza Jr. now has a 1.46 ERA with just six hits allowed in 12 ⅓ innings since being acquired.
    While the pitching staff (sans Albers) held its own, the offense provided little support. Since scoring nine runs in consecutive games in Boston a couple weeks ago, the bats have gone into hibernation, batting just .214 with 29 runs scored in their past 10 games.
    Conspicuously, the slump in production coincides closely with Byron Buxton's return, which has thus far had the opposite of its intended impact. The center fielder has been playing daily since being activated from IL, but can't find much rhythm at the plate. Last week he went 4-for-21, and overall he's 4-for-35 (.114) with 10 strikeouts and two walks since coming back.
    I don't think Buxton's struggles are super concerning – ample rust is to be expected following his prolonged absence, and he's not striking out an inordinate amount or anything – but they're definitely threatening the narrative of a breakout season. Is Buxton truly a bona fide MVP-caliber hitter, like we saw back an April and in frequent bursts over the past few years, or is he more of a great but streaky offensive player?
    The final month should offer a bit more clarity, and could heavily impact the dynamics of any offseason extension talks as Buxton heads into his walk year. Hopefully Sunday's two-hit game is a sign that the 27-year-old is ready to get rolling again.
    Other players contributing to the lineup's run-scoring scarcity:
    Luis Arraez is finding the hits uncharacteristically difficult to come by of late. In six games (five starts) last week, Arraez went just 5-for-22, and in fact he's got only five hits in his past 10 games. I'm not sure this qualifies as anything more than regression to the mean for a player who'd previously been hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break, but it does go to show how much the offense relies on his contributions to spark rallies. Miguel Sanó probably fell into some regression of his own. After posting a 1.005 OPS in his previous 10 games, Sanó went just 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts and two walks. Coming into the week, the first baseman had struck out 3+ times in a game just once in the previous month (a notable feat for him) but he did so twice last week. Sanó got a day off on Sunday; we'll see if this is a mere hiccup or the start of another mega-slump. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons' season has basically been one long mega-slump. While continuing to draw almost everyday starts due to a lack of compelling alternatives, Simmons was customarily awful at the plate, going 2-for-12 with zero extra-base hits, zero RBIs, and zero runs scored. He now sports a .216 slugging percentage and .468 OPS since the All-Star break. Simmons' consistently meager contact produces almost no chance for successful results, and the 32-year-old (as of Saturday) really does look cooked as a big-league hitter. Alas, the Twins appear committed to running out the string. TRENDING STORYLINE
    All eyes are on the rotation right now. It'd be nice to see the offense pick up its pace again, but there are no deep concerns about the state of the lineup going forward. Meanwhile, everyone currently slotted into the rotation – Ober, Dobnak, Jax, Ryan, and even the returning Pineda – is making their case for a role on the 2022 staff. 
    Presently I'd say Ober is the only one who could safely be viewed as having a spot carved out, but matters could change over the final four weeks. No storyline looms larger, in my eyes. 
    A full week of match-ups against fellow AL Central also-rans lies ahead, with the Twins set to play four games in Cleveland followed by three against the Royals at Target Field. Minnesota is amidst a run of 13 straight days of games with no break.
    Who will start on Friday against the Royals, with Albers now out of the equation? That is the question. Charlie Barnes would seem to be the most likely option at present, if not a bullpen game.
    The Twins will be operating for a short while without their manager, as Rocco Baldelli departed the team on Sunday for the birth of his first child. (Congrats Rocco and Allie!!)
    Bill Evers, who announced he'll be retiring at season's end, will take over as interim skipper.
    MONDAY, 9/6: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Bailey Ober v. LHP Sam Hentges
    TUESDAY, 9/7: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP John Gant v. RHP Triston McKenzie
    WEDNESDAY, 9/8: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Joe Ryan v. RHP Cal Quantrill
    THURSDAY, 9/9: TWINS @ CLEVELAND – RHP Randy Dobnak v. RHP Eli Morgan
    FRIDAY, 9/10: ROYALS @ TWINS – LHP Daniel Lynch v. TBD
    SATURDAY, 9/11: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Brady Singer v. RHP Griffin Jax
    SUNDAY, 9/12: ROYALS @ TWINS – RHP Jackson Kowar v. RHP Bailey Ober
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  6. Like
    Clare reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Envisioning a Good Twins Rotation in 2022 (For Real!)   
    Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more.
    There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 
    1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal
    Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block.
    How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen.
    Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. 
    His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. 
    Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022.
    2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency
    No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. 
    Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others.
    3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade
    Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. 
    We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining.
    The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 
    4. Re-sign Michael Pineda
    The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. 
    Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. 
    His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 
    5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track
    As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone.
    Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. 
    When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation.
    There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter.
    6. The minors provide depth and jolts
    Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. 
    Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right.
    Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. 
    The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. 
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    Clare reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Twins Failing Half of Expectations   
    After an ugly series against the New York Yankees, Minnesota went to Boston with an opportunity to reset. In a game that the Twins put up 14 hits and scored nine runs, they still found themselves on the short side of the ledger. While this season has gone nothing as was expected, this is a reality that’s played out far too often.
    The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman has consistently reported one of the most telling statistics tied to this club during the season.
    Giving up five or fewer runs in a baseball game on a nightly basis should not be a difficult task. It also should not so consistently result in an inability to overcome. The turnover in their starting rotation has compounded Minnesota's ineptitude to pitch. The path forward looks even more gloomy with the uncertainty of Kenta Maeda’s health going into the offseason.
    Offensively the Twins are no longer the Bomba Squad, but they’re hardly a lackluster unit. With 577 runs scored, they are 13th in baseball as a team. They are 13th and 14th in average and on-base percentage, respectively, while rounding out the top 10 in OPS. That’s not by any means world-beating numbers, but being middle-of-the-pack should present a substantially greater opportunity for competitiveness.
    It’s on the bump where things go completely off the rails. The Twins are 26th in pitcher fWAR, and their 5.00 ERA is 27th in baseball. At 21.7%, they are striking out batters 23rd most across the sport, and there’s been little semblance of bright spots.
    During the broadcast, Dick Bremer noted the Twins need to overhaul the relief corps in 2022 while Caleb Thielbar was on the mound. The formerly retired pitcher has been a pleasant surprise and was noted by the broadcaster as a near-lock for the unit in the year ahead. He then promptly gave up a two-run shot to Red Sox utility man Enrique Hernandez and Minnesota’s season predictability was as evident as ever.
    Tonight Rocco Baldelli will turn to another bright spot, Bailey Ober, in hopes of getting back in the win column. Minnesota is an underdog at Fenway while the Red Sox are chasing down Tampa Bay, currently sitting 6.5 back in the AL East.
    There have been bright spots for this club, but they haven’t been on the mound. Looking to salvage something over the last month, seeing performance from the bump would be a much-welcomed reality
  8. Like
    Clare reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, Week in Review: A (Familiar) Bronx Tale   
    Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 8/16 thru Sun, 8/22
    Record Last Week: 2-4 (Overall: 54-70)
    Run Differential Last Week: -16 (Overall: -90)
    Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (18.0 GB)
    Last Week's Game Recaps:
    Game 119 | MIN 5, CLE 4: Polanco Ends Sloppy Contest in Extras
    Game 120 | CLE 3, MIN 1: Bats Stymied by Cleveland Pitching
    Game 121 | MIN 8, CLE 7: Another Jorge Polanco Walk-Off
    Game 122 | NYY 7, MIN 5: Twins Drop Bullpen Game
    Game 123 | NYY 10, MIN 2: Barnes Clobbered in Blowout
    Game 124 | NYY 7, MIN 1: Another Day in the Bronx
    There was a ton of roster churn over the past week, as well as some key rehab developments, so let's run through all of the news in bullet form, starting from last Monday:
    As I hinted they might in last week's edition, the Twins sent slumping Trevor Larnach back to Triple-A to try and fix his broken swing. Nick Gordon was recalled to replace him and has seen plenty of action since the recall, appearing in all six games and starting in four of them. He's primarily been in center field. As expected, Lewis Thorpe was called up to start Wednesday's game against Cleveland. It did not go well and Thorpe's latest stint with the Twins did not last long; he went on the IL with a shoulder impingement following the game.  With the Twins in desperate need of arms, Andrew Albers and Kyle Barraclough were recalled from St. Paul on Thursday. To make room for them on the 40-man roster, Beau Burrows and Nick Vincent were outrighted to Triple-A.  Amidst all the roster juggling, Edgar Garcia was optioned to Triple-A for exactly one day before returning on Friday, taking over the vacated spot of Miguel Sanó, who went on paternity leave. Randy Dobnak started a rehab assignment in Ft. Myers on Saturday night, tossing three perfect innings with five strikeouts. Dobnak hadn't pitched in a game for more than two months, so it's good to see him on the road back. I consider his status one of the most crucial questions for the team to find clarity on in the second half. In the week's happiest news, Byron Buxton had begun his own rehab stint in Triple-A the prior night. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout but drove in a run on a sac fly. Buxton took a day off on Saturday, then homered in his first at-bat on Sunday. Presuming all goes smoothly over the next few days, it's reasonable to look at Friday – when the Twins return to Target Field and open a series against Milwaukee – as a reasonable target for Buck's return. HIGHLIGHTS
    The two most critical rookies in the Twins rotation – Bailey Ober and Griffin Jax – carried their success from the previous week forward. They started against Chicago on Monday and Tuesday night, and each allowed two earned runs over six innings in his respective outing. Neither was spectacular or dominant, but they got it done against a very good team, and that's what we need to see right now.
    Since the trade deadline, Jax has a 2.82 ERA over 22 ⅓ innings in four starts, and opponents are slashing just .207/.267/.402 against him. In that same span, Ober has a 2.66 ERA over 20 ⅓ innings in four starts, with a 20-to-3 K/BB ratio. The Twins are 6-2 in those eight games.
    Offensively, Jorge Polanco stayed hot, prompting those of us who doubted him to eat our words. He amazingly walked off Cleveland twice in a three-game series, and finished the week 10-for-28 (.357) with eight RBIs. Sanó also had a very nice week, launching a pair of homers (including an absolutely mythical opposite-field blast) and contributing significantly to the series-clinching win against Cleveland on Wednesday.
    But if we're being honest, the biggest positives of the week happened on the farm. Joe Ryan made his St. Paul Saints debut on Friday and was simply electric, striking out the first six batters he faced on the way to four innings of one-hit, one-run ball (the hit was a solo homer) with nine Ks. 
    Ryan struggled a bit out of the gates for the Durham Bulls this year, posting a 7.11 ERA in his first three starts. Since then, he has a 2.61 ERA in 10 turns, with a 66-to-6 K/BB ratio in 48 ⅓ innings. Opponents are slashing .150/.191/.293 against him in this time. 
    It's not exactly clear WHY the headliner of the Nelson Cruz trade is so dominant – Ryan's fastball-heavy arsenal isn't visibly overwhelming, with his deceptive heater being labeled in some corners an "invisiball" –  but it's clearly working at Triple-A. Will it play in the majors? I suspect we might get our first look in the near future.
    For what it's worth, Ryan threw 124 innings during his first pro season in 2019 (racking up 183 strikeouts). He's thrown 61 this year, not including the Olympic workload, so the Twins aren't in danger of pushing him too hard.
    Ryan has a chance to emerge as the top pitching prospect in the organization. But he'll need to overcome Jordan Balazovic, who retains his stake on that claim despite checkered results this season. His past five turns have been perfectly emblematic:
    7/30: @ Northwest Arkansas – 3.1 IP 6 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 2 HR 8/5: vs Midland – 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HR 8/10: @ Tulsa –  6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0 HR 8/15: @ Tulsa – 1.2 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 0 HR 8/21: @ Springfield – 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 6 K, 0 HR Look: were there some major command struggles mixed in there? Yes. The August 15th outing would not be considered good by anyone, even if he allowed zero "earned" runs (six unearned were charged to him). But at the end of the day, Balazovic has a 3.42 ERA and is averaging well over a strikeout per inning in his first turn at Double-A, coming off the lost season. He's still only 22.
    While young pitchers are generating reason for optimism, no prospect is matching the hype-building prowess of one Jose Miranda. He keeps adding to one of the greatest seasons in Twins minor-league history, piling on impressive performances for the Saints following a late-June promotion to Triple-A. On Saturday he went 4-for-5 as St. Paul's leadoff hitter, launching his 25th homer of the season.
    It's easy to be dismayed by what you're seeing from the major-league club. (And we're doing to delve into that next, I'm afraid.) But there truly are some energizing things happening in the system and we shouldn't lose sight of that.
    Positive vibes for the Twins pitching staff wore off in a hurry as soon as they got to New York. Getting clobbered in three straight by the Yankees before a hurricane canceled Sunday's game served as a cold splash of water in the face. 
    The Twins might have previously enjoyed a solid run against good competition but ... they ain't a good team.
    It all started with the semi-unavoidable decision to roll with a bullpen game against New York in the series opener. John Gant held his own for a couple innings before the floodgates opened in the third and fourth, leaving the team in a 6-0 hole.
    The next day, Charlie Barnes toed the rubber for a start at Yankee Stadium and it went about as one would expect. Barnes coughed up seven earned runs over five innings in a 10-2 laugher. His ERA now sits at 6.56. 
    Should he really be in the majors right now? Probably not. But, the Twins' options are thin. And they're even thinner after what played out on Saturday.
    Kenta Maeda appeared to be building upon his strong run – four scoreless innings to start the game lowered his post-May ERA to 2.74 – and this was fueling some valid enthusiasm. 
    Things went downhill from there, to say the least.  
    Maeda loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, gave up a run on a wild pitch, walked Aaron Judge, exited the game, and was later diagnosed with right forearm tightness, adding to a season where the previously durable hurler has been plagued by uncharacteristic physical issues. Rocco Baldelli gave a post-game quote indicating this setback will be more long-term than short-term, leaving him with more innings to fill.
    With all of their pitching headaches, you'd like to think the lineup is where the Twins could find comfort in stability. But not so much. The offense scored a whopping three runs over 18 innings during the Friday and Saturday affairs at Yankee Stadium, after squeaking out one-run victories in four of the previous five days.
    That meager production wasn't going to cut it in NYC, and chief among the under-performers was leadoff man Max Kepler. For whatever reason, he continues to bat atop the order almost daily in Baldelli's lineups, even though his average has sunk to .204 and his on-base percentage to .300.
    I realize I'm walking on somewhat precarious ground here, having apologized days ago for prematurely judging Baldelli on his enduring faith in Polanco, but ... it's a lot harder to see the lingering upside in Kepler at this point. There is no apparent injury holding him back. He's just an utterly mediocre hitter, plagued by a stagnating swing that produces way more pop-ups than line drives.
    To be clear, I would LOVE if he proved me wrong on this, as Polanco did. I'd almost begin to see myself as some sort of trash-talking soothsayer. 
    But what are we identifying in Kepler's profile that reinforces him as a building-block caliber player, or a guy who should be lined up for the most at-bats on the team? The past week saw his typical strong plate approach (5 BB, 4 K) accompanied by his typical lackluster hitting results: 2-for-19 (.105) with three runs scored and two RBIs in five starts. 
    Kepler now has a .204/.300/.423 hitting line this year, as a (mainly) right fielder in his ostensible prime at age 28. When you take away the context of his past excellence, there doesn't seem to be a particularly valid case for him as a starter going forward, let alone a leadoff hitter. 
    Then again, I said the same type things about Polanco once upon a time. So I dunno. I'd like to hear what you all think about Kepler in the comments.
    Certain players on the fringe of the Twins' roster have an opportunity to make cases for their future functionality in these final weeks. Will they take advantage? 
    Willians Astudillo did not help his argument much last week. He went 1-for-7 in two starts, and is 2-for-22 (.091) this month. We might be reaching the end of the line for La Tortuga.
    Rob Refsnyder is a player who I find interesting as a possible 2022 bench piece, but he's definitely been regressing, with a 1-for-15 week dropping his OPS from .852 to .739. 
    Brent Rooker? Well, who knows. He barely played in New York after drawing near-daily looks as Rocco's #2 hitter for almost a month. Has a lack of progression caused the team to sour?
    The divvying of playing time in these final weeks will be fascinating from this perspective.
    There are a lot of unknowns in the Twins rotation at this point. It sounds like Maeda will miss significant time and possibly the rest of the season. He would be the final piece to drop from a dissolved season-opening rotation that included Maeda, José Berríos, Michael Pineda, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker. 
    At this point, Jax and Ober are basically their steadiest and most dependable starting pitchers, which is saying a whole lot. It'll be interesting to see how they fill the gaps around them. Could Ryan get a look imminently? 
    TUESDAY, 8/24: TWINS @ RED SOX – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Tanner Houck
    WEDNESDAY, 8/25: TWINS @ RED SOX – TBD v. RHP Nick Pivetta
    THURSDAY, 8/26: TWINS @ RED SOX – LHP Charlie Barnes v. LHP Chris Sale
    FRIDAY, 8/27: BREWERS @ TWINS – LHP Eric Lauer v. TBD
    SATURDAY, 8/28: BREWERS @ TWINS – RHP Adrian Houser v. RHP Griffin Jax
    SUNDAY, 8/29: BREWERS @ TWINS – RHP Corbin Burnes v. RHP Bailey Ober
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