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  1. Last winter, the Twins were focused on making improvements to their infield. Adding a shortstop allowed the team to move Jorge Polanco to second base, where there could be less physical wear and tear on his body. Minnesota was interested in players like Marcus Siemen, Didi Gregorius, and Andrelton Simmons. Siemen agreed to terms with Toronto, and Gregorious resigned with the Phillies. This left Minnesota focused on Simmons. At the time of the signing, the Twins were saying all the right things about Simmons. "There are so many ways that he fits into what we do and what we are trying to accomplish," said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. "We have one of the best, I think, pitching staffs as a whole in the American League, and for us to be able to complement that group with basically one of the greatest defenders of our generation, and to be able to put Andrelton at the shortstop position, which also allows us to really solidify everything going on in the rest of our infield as well." Unfortunately, everything didn't work out perfectly with the Simmons signing. Besides his strong defensive skills, he was known for his elite contact ability. He had the worst offensive season of his career as he hit .223/.283/.274 (.558) with a 57 OPS+. All of those totals were career lows, and he struck out over 60 times for only the third time in his 10-year career. His defense was still strong, but the offense was tough to swallow. Besides his offensive flaws, Simmons was also at the center of some off-field distractions this season. He declined to get the COVID vaccine, and then he tested positive for coronavirus in April. He also made comments about his anti-vax opinions on social media. Leading into spring training, he dealt with visa issues, and he couldn't go with the team to Toronto later in the season because of visa and immigration issues. His season couldn't have gone much worse across the board. By season's end, fans were frustrated to see Simmons in the line-up regularly when he didn't have a long-term obligation to the club. Playing someone like Nick Gordon at shortstop would allow the club to evaluate him for the long term. However, the club has seen Gordon play shortstop throughout his minor league career, and they may have already decided that he won't play the position regularly at the big-league level. This winter is a prime offseason to be looking for a free-agent shortstop. One of the best free-agent shortstop classes in MLB history is available, with names like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, and Trevor Story headlining the list. Other potential options include Chris Taylor, Freddy Galvis, Jose Iglesias, and old friend Simmons. There are multiple intriguing names, but why would the Twins consider circling back to Simmons? Minnesota has many needs this winter, and spending money on a top-tier shortstop can be expensive. Simmons signed for $10.5 million last winter, and his cost is estimated to be significantly less in 2022. In the 2022 Twins Daily Offseason Handbook, his contract is estimated to be $3 million, which is not much in the grand scheme of an MLB roster. MLB.com also identified him as a prime bounce-back candidate after his horrible offensive season. Signing Simmons to a one-year deal can also keep shortstop open for one of the team's top prospects. Both Royce Lewis and Austin Martin have played shortstop during their professional careers, but neither may play the position long-term. Signing one of the top-tier shortstops likely pushes both of these players off the position moving forward. Fans will be disappointed if Simmons returns next season, but there's a real possibility of a reunion, at least for the 2022 campaign. Do you think Simmons will return to Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Falvine Strike Out on Starting Pitchers With José Berríos in Toronto and Kenta Maeda out for at least the first half of 2022, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan are the only likely 2022 rotation pieces that are actually on the roster right now. Michael Pineda seems somewhat likely to come back into the fold but that’s no guarantee, and even then, the Twins would need a top-end arm to get the rotation even close to competitive. Cody Christie wrote a compelling argument last week that Falvey and Levine need to cut a big check for a starter, and I tend to agree that without one of the big-money guys, this rotation could look pretty gory, and not in a good way. I guess this is only really scary if you believe the Twins offense can be competitive—as I believe they can—because a young, learning-on-the-job rotation isn’t a bad thing if the team wouldn’t be good anyway. But this team can be good with a solid rotation, so it’d be best not to miss out. Miguel Sanó Never “Figures It Out” Of all the scenarios in this article, this is perhaps the most likely. Miguel Sanó isn’t a bad player. He’s a beast with exit velocity and hard-hit percentage numbers. However, as Twins fans, we seem to struggle to accept that those benefits are always going to come with one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. We seem to think that, someday, something will click and the strikeouts will stop, his average will creep up towards .250, and his OPS will rise to .900+. What if that never happens? What if this is who he always is? Again, he’s not bad, but if who he is now is what he’ll always be, then we have a bad defensive first baseman who strikes out a lot out of the six hole in the lineup, and is borderline unplayable when he’s in a slump. Are the 30 homers a year worth that trouble? That’s a question for more analytical minds than mine to figure out, but I think that type of reality is one we have to come to terms with as the expectation for Sanó’s career, as scary as that may be. Andrelton Simmons Being on the 2022 Roster The Twins signed Simmons last January after reportedly missing out late on Marcus Semien. Then, Semien hit 45 bombs, and Simmons was one of the least impressive hitters in all of baseball, so we’ve already lived this nightmare. Simmons is a free agent again this winter, and he’ll be available for a lot less money than the front office spent for him last winter. And, given how committed the team was to putting his useless bat in the lineup almost every night last season, it doesn’t take much imagination to see them bringing him back in. The Twins certainly can’t trot him out as the Opening Day shortstop (talk about nightmare), but I don’t want the stink of his 2021 campaign anywhere close to the 2022 squad, even if it’s just as a backup utility infielder. The Next Wave of Prospects Falls Short About a year ago, the Twins’ plan seemed clear: the current core was fresh off two straight division titles and was poised to transition perfectly into the years of Alex Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Ryan Jeffers, and Trevor Larnach. However, 2021 didn’t go well for either the current stars of the team or for those pegged to be next up. The current Twins fell well short of their playoff expectations, Lewis lost his season, Kirilloff was good-not-great and had surgery, and Larnach and Jeffers couldn’t stay up in the big leagues. Now, Kirilloff and Larnach gave us signs that there is real reason for optimism for the next wave of talent, but it often seems that, with prospects, blind optimism is the norm. And I’m not saying it’s worth a whole lot of concern, but there is a scary scenario out there where these guys just don’t live up to the lofty expectations we’ve given them. Byron Buxton Leaves Okay, so I saved the scariest scenario surrounding this team for last. The Byron Buxton extension talks have been well-documented because he’s the most-talented Twin since Joe Mauer and when healthy, plays something like pre-steroid-era Barry Bonds. Obviously, the concern is his constant injury problems, as he hasn’t played 100 games in a season since 2017. But, though it’s hard to commit a $17 million-a-year extension to a guy who may not be in the lineup half the time, the alternative is worse. Think of what Eddie Rosario is doing right now for Atlanta, except that happens all the time and it’s for the Yankees or some other crazy rich club. That’s the nightmare scenario we’re trying to avoid. And, based on the Twins’ history with former players popping off after leaving the club, Buxton may never get injured again if Derek and Thad let him walk. Did I scare you enough? Let me know in the comments!
  3. Before taking a look at the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and the players Minnesota will need to protect, it’s worth getting the lay of the land for guys headed onto the open market. Minnesota has a handful of 40 man players that will be on their way out, and some minor leaguers will also be worth keeping tabs on once they exit the organization. First, let’s take a look at the guys currently on the 40 man roster: Michael Pineda, Alexander Colome*, Andrelton Simmons Both Pineda and Simmons are sure to be jettisoned this week. The former is a strong candidate to re-sign with the Twins, while the latter should be expected to wind up elsewhere. Given Minnesota’s 2022 pitching outlook, bringing Pineda back to bolster the starting rotation would be an excellent decision. The one uncertain candidate here is closer Alexander Colome. He fell flat for Minnesota but did rebound somewhat down the stretch. His career numbers have been better than in 2021, and free agency isn’t a straightforward process for him. Both parties have a mutual option for 2022, and the value checks in at $5.5 million. His $1.25 million buyout is forfeited if Minnesota exercises their option but Colome declines (which would seem the least likely scenario). Notable Minor Leaguers: Melvi Acosta, Adam Bray, Trey Cabbage, Wander Javier, Hector Lujan, Carlos Suniaga, Aaron Whitefield, B.J. Boyd The three most prominent names in this group are sandwiched in the middle. Trey Cabbage was a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft. He reached Double-A Wichita this season and posted an .882 OPS over 68 games. It was a solid season for the 24-year-old. Minnesota could consider a 40 man roster addition, but if not, he’ll reach the open market for the first time. Once a top prospect, Wander Javier finds himself at a critical juncture in his career. He’ll be 23-years-old next season and has played in just 226 professional games. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, things just have never followed the tools that have impressed through evaluations. Javier was at Cedar Rapids last season, although it did represent High-A this time around. He posted a sub-.700 OPS but did show flashes after a very slow start. He may find a better path forward in a different organization. Lujan represents a definite grinder when it comes to prospects. He was a 35th round pick back in 2015 but reached Double-A during the 2019 season. Pitching all of 2021 for Wichita, the numbers looked good enough for Triple-A or big-league consideration. Nothing is extremely flashy for the reliever, but there are solid numbers across the board, and he could factor as a depth middle-reliever. The other pitchers noted above have shown flashes of capability that could be useful at the big league level. Acosta, Bray, and Suniaga are more unknown names but have made a presence for themselves through performance. In the box, Whitefield has previously debuted with the Twins while Boyd put up strong numbers at Double-A in 2021. A whole host of veteran or non-prospect types will also hit free agency as Minnesota needs to decide who will be offered deals for the upcoming year. Free agency could also look slightly different this offseason, with the CBA negotiations likely dictating the ultimate timeline for players. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  4. Blankenhorn and Arraez Make Back-to-Back Errors to Lose to Oakland Everyone remembers this game in Oakland. In fact, it was such an important inflection point in the season that Nick Nelson chose it as the most important moment of April. As season-defining as it was, the bottom of the tenth of that game was equally embarrassing. After a tough start, the Twins battled back to take a 10-7 lead in the game, and then promptly blew about three different chances to win the game and it went to (the dreaded) tenth inning. Byron Buxton bent the universe to his will (as he does) with a two-run homer in the top of the tenth, but it only set the stage for a meltdown in the bottom of the inning. Alex Colome, who had already blown a save, had loaded the bases, but there were two outs and the Twins still led by two, so any ball in the infield would surely end the game, right? Wrong. Travis Blankenhorn basically farted on a grounder to second that scored one run. Then Luis Arraez fielded a bouncer to third, but missed first base by a good six feet on his throw, and just like that, the Twins blew their fourth and fifth chances to win the game and Oakland was dogpiling. Pathetic. Rob Refsnyder Introduces Himself to the Camden Yards Wall Remember when Rob Refsnyder was a thing? The 30-year-old journeyman was filling in at the center field spot for Buxton and for a second there, you couldn’t tell the difference between the two. Refsnyder was swinging a scorching bat and had some timely hits that helped the Twins to a 10-6 record in his first sixteen games in the lineup. However, in that sixteenth game, Rob took his Buxton impression a little too far and freight-trained himself into the center field wall, injuring himself and ruining the Refsnyder-as-cult-hero vibe the Twins had going on. Also, no image encapsulates the 2021 Twins better than this: ...and getting clowned on by one of the worst teams in baseball didn’t help. Yermin Mercedes Tees Off on Astudillo Okay, this one isn’t even really about the Twins, as it has more to do with infighting between Tony La Russa and his players. But the only issue the White Sox had all year was played out over the backdrop of them consistently brutalizing the Twins on the field, and that’s a tough look. As a reminder, the Twins were getting shellacked by Chicago and sent Willians Astudillo out to the mound while they limped through the final innings. Yermin Mercedes came up with two outs and on a 3-0 count, he deposited Astudillo’s 47-mile-per-hour offering into the shrubs in center. La Russa, Roy Smalley, and basically nobody else got mad about it, but it became a sports news cycle topic for a few days, reminding the national audience that the Twins stank and the White Sox, even with their (invented) issues, didn’t. Also, all that stuff aside, you can’t watch this as a Twins fan and not be a little embarrassed: Almost Getting No-Hit at Home Against Angels On July 24th, Patrick Sandoval took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Twins that was broken up by a Brent Rooker double with two outs left to get. I was at the game that night, so maybe that’s why this sticks with me, but the offense almost could not have looked worse. They struck out thirteen times against Sandoval and the mental gymnastics I was doing to justify buying a ten dollar beer was more entertaining than watching the at-bats the Twins were putting up on the field. It was a clown show. Then, Rooker and Donaldson turned two doubles into one run to make it 2-1, but they couldn’t complete the comeback and somehow that was even worse than getting no-hit. The Ones That Got Away Okay, these next two aren't really moments, but it’s my article, so who’s going to stop me from breaking my own rules? (Editor's Note: Ahem...) Anyway, Whether it’s star players traded away or cut-bait guys who find a huge role elsewhere, perhaps nothing haunts us as Twins fans more than former Twins finding success elsewhere. And there was plenty more of that again this year. Nelson Cruz is hitting homers in the playoffs for the Rays. José Berríos was dicing guys in meaningful games down the stretch for Toronto. Freaking Lamonte Wade Jr. just can’t stop getting big hits in big spots for the 107-win Giants. Even guys like Matt Wisler and Hansel Robles are giving playoff teams important innings this postseason. Also Eddie Rosario is on the Braves, but that one honestly doesn't feel so bad. Seeing the pieces of what should have been your contending team make a difference for real contenders throughout the league is especially humiliating. Signing Andrelton Simmons and Alex Colomé When Derek Falvey and Thad Levine brought Colomé and Simmons to the club, I, along with many others, was pumped. Here was our big late-inning guy and the shortstop upgrade we needed; let’s go win a division. Uh huh. Colomé was sneakily not bad over the second half of the year, but he blew enough games early in the year that his success later in the year (when the games didn’t really matter) will be forgotten. It turns out the the secondary numbers and, you know, every other team in the league was right: he’s not that good. Meanwhile, Andrelton Simmons wasn’t just not that good, he was a dumpster fire. Expected to be at least capable at the plate and excellent at shortstop, Simmons slashed a putrid .223/.283/.274 and was nearly special enough in the field to make up for it. He was completely and entirely awful. Falvey and Levine were roundly praised for bringing these guys in, but now they’re facing unfamiliar criticism partially due to these guys’ falling well short of their expectations. Were you able to laugh a little about it? What moments did I miss? Let me know in the comments!
  5. (Editor's Note: Before we get started, join me in welcoming Sherry to the front page. This is her first promoted article. You have likely seen some of her writing on the Twins Daily blog pages. In her first front page article, she's got some ideas for the Twins front office.) After an arduous baseball season from the Twins, the fans are left with one question: “what’s next?”. We have all been asking ourselves that question since the Twins took a nosedive in May. Plagued with injury and ailment, the Twins limped through the summer trying to find their stride while also bringing up and sending down player after player. There seemed to be no relief. As players such as Josh Donaldson, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco healed and made their comeback so did the overall growth, demeanor and mindset of the team to finish out the season strong. While the Twins were nowhere near a run for the playoffs, let alone the Wild Card, they played as if they were and left the fans with a hopeful taste in their mouth as the season closed. So, what is next? There are a few things I can think of that will instantly make a difference. #1 No More Andrelton First things first, Andrelton Simmons' contract is officially up as soon as the World Series is complete! Let’s be honest, this was one of the worst Twins acquisitions, maybe not of all time, but for sure in the amount of time that I have been a fan, which is a fairly long time. I recall when the Twins gave him the contract, I was irate. I got blown to bits on Twitter for my “bad take” and he was a “gold glove winner”. (blah, blah, blah.) I am not an elite baseball mind, but I do have a serious appreciation for usable talent. Simmons was not that. Sure, on paper he looked good. His baseball-reference stats show that from 2016 through 2020 Simmons had a solid batting average. He was hitting .283 on average over those seasons, basically his tenure with the Angels. During those years he stayed above .250. As much as I didn't want to, I did count 2020 in the stats, but it was a shorter season, fewer games, so his batting average is going to look/be a little better. What caught my eye was his errors, he had 49 errors over four years. This year, Simmons was tied for sixth out of 22 shortstops in errors. I know that shortstops tend to make the most errors on the team, but I am not sure what made the Twins think that he was going to be anything but a train wreck. What made this even more frustrating was the fact that the Twins have players who could have played shortstop and got paid less. I am not advocating for Billy Beane baseball, but with assets like Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon, it was really disappointing to have someone like Simmons in the line up, especially in the second half. It's a collective sigh of relief that Simmons is becoming a free agent. #2 Rebuild the Rotation Next... to the mound. The pitching (or lack thereof) has been the biggest thorn in the Twins' side. Thanks to trades and bold moves the Twins acquired some young arms that are going to be around for quite awhile if the front office plays their cards right. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, John Gant, Ralph Garza Jr, and Griffin Jax have breathed new life into the rotation, providing solid innings, more strikeouts and confidence that the front office may be actually understanding the assignment. The one thing that teams in the playoffs have is solid pitching. Having a good starting rotation and bullpen is important. There is less stress, leaving the line up to have enough energy to do their job and hit dingers. While there was a lot of anger due to trading Nelson Cruz, there has been less frustration with the pitching which came as a result of the trade. If there are going to be any changes in the rotation, acquiring at least two or three starters that they will leave in through the sixth inning would be beneficial. I am not sure what Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson thinks they are doing pulling guys in the sixth inning. This isn’t college baseball with a lot of depth. This is the big leagues, where guys are conditioned for longevity. The new guys that were brought in learned in a different system, potentially with different techniques and philosophies. Wes Johnson has not had a chance to them yet. The class of Free Agents looks like a platter for the next season and there is some amazing talent could be acquired, such as Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Max Scherzer. While we all have differing opinions on who is less effective, any of these pitchers would be a good buy in a 2 or 3 starter spot while we look in house for our #1 starter. #3 Bring Back the Boomstick The third thing would be bringing back Nelson Cruz to finish beefing up the batting line up. Cruz will be a free agent after his playoff run with Tampa Bay. That was a trade that sucker-punch to the fan base. While I personally was sad to see him go, the trade was one that the front office could not pass up. The return is exactly what this team needed. I can’t imagine that bringing back Cruz was not brought up in the clubhouse prior to the trade, but the tears, hugs and words spoken by the team surrounding the trade mean his teammates would love for him to come back. He, like the rest of the squad, definitely struggled a bit in the beginning of the season. The 41-year-old has shown few signs of slowing down or falling apart outside a thumb sprain early in the season. Since being in Tampa Bay, he has continued to soar and could help get the Rays to the World Series. His presence with the bat and in the clubhouse are something you rarely find, and it may be a fight to get him back. We saw this with Miguel Sano. Nelson Cruz was a guiding force into Sano's performance with the bat, and it's one relationship that has created a life-long bond. In reality, Cruz’s numbers are too good to ignore, as well as his ability to bring a smile and cohesion to the clubhouse. His impact on Sano was so great that the day Cruz was traded, Sano honored him by wearing his pants in that night's game. “The pants brought Sano a little bit of luck. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, double and run scored in his Minnesota Twins’ 3-2 loss to the Angels” writes Jesse Johnson of USA Today Sports. One thing is for sure, Nelson Cruz has always been and will always be a class act, even going out of the way to meet the pitcher that took his place in the clubhouse. You can’t replace a person like that. These are just a few of the things that would help the team see not only a higher finish in the standings, but also the potential to return to the playoffs. I love the old adage - “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships." I believe it’s true. If the Twins would be able to get a solid pitching staff, a defense that was less messy, and consider bringing back Nelson Cruz, that would be a start to creating a winning team for the 2022 season.
  6. When Milwaukee’s ace setup man Devin Williams fractured his pitching hand after celebrating the team’s playoff clinching victory, reactions were pretty much uniform: that’s some real bad luck for the Brewers and/or worse decision making by Williams. For one shortstop, it only led to more questions. “What is Anthony Fauci hiding,” asked Andrelton Simmons of the Minnesota Twins, referencing the doctor who leads the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “He hasn’t said a word about this. His silence says more than any public statement.” Simmons, a public vaccine skeptic, had harsh words for those who believed the accounts of Williams, the Brewers, media outlets, the Commissioner’s office, and objective reality. “The Brewers are a legitimate title contender and you people actually believe that one of their best players, after they lock up a playoff berth, would punch a wall with his pitching hand,” said Simmons. “I’m literally laughing out loud. Sure he did, sheeple. Sure he did.” When pressed on what he thinks really happened, Simmons looked to the past. “The Brewers were already 85% vaccinated in May, and now one of their best players has a broken hand,” said Simmons. “Not one Brewer pitcher broke his pitching hand before last year’s playoffs. You know what else didn’t happen before last year’s playoffs? Vaccinations. Connect the dots, my friend.” Simmons also claimed that while there’s no proof that the FDA trapped former Twin Marty Cordova in a tanning bed and caused him to miss multiple day games, “they’ve never denied it, either. Funny how that works.”
  7. If there’s a takeaway for 2021, it’s that nothing is won in the offseason. Take it from a guy that hung a banner over the winter, and it will be worth taking a significant lap when the dust settles on spending before Opening Day 2022. Going into this season, the Twins needed to do little more than hold serve. This team was no longer the Bomba Squad, but they didn’t need to be. Rocco Baldelli had to have a well-rounded group and one that took a step forward with a well-established core. There was plenty of promise after adding more pitching options, a defensive wizard at shortstop, and bringing back the Boomstick. Depth looked to be in a great place, and the talent at the top should’ve been comparable to anyone. After getting out to a 5-2 start, the Twins went on a 1-9 run. They never recovered and didn’t see a .500 record the rest of the way. That depth was depleted through injury, but it was also worn down through ineffectiveness. Miguel Sano looked lost to start, and Max Kepler may never have been found. The free-agent signings, save for the returning Cruz, all flopped. Kenta Maeda wasn’t the arm that dominated in 2020. The bullpen imploded all over the place. "Unfortunate" would be selling the situation short. Minnesota didn’t perform for any consistent stretch, at any consistent level, and it cost them well beyond the injury concerns they dealt with. Following his extension, Jorge Polanco took the reigns on his career, but Kepler and Sano floundered when expected to contribute. No matter how the offseason acquisitions turned out, the core failed to uphold their end of the bargain. In the future, especially when heading into a season of uncertainty, being reminded the season isn’t won in the offseason is a must. Being able to celebrate moves made is a fair practice. How they gel together and ultimately perform on the field is immeasurable until the games get played. As Derek Falvey reconstructs the future for a Twins team with a drastically different outlook, evaluating the offseason will need to be done individually. How players and contracts fit and money is spent should be a focus. Where the results will end up isn’t worth tying to specific pacts. In the year ahead, Minnesota won’t be able to claim an opportunity for a three-peat, and more than anything else, they’ll be looking to distance from the year that was. As the front office embarks on their first opportunity for significant year-over-year growth, the idea that they had a “freaking offseason” will need some pause in hopes that a well-designed process drives more acceptable results. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. After Jorge Polanco limped through 2020 with an ankle injury that required a second surgery, it became more than apparent that Rocco Baldelli needed a different option at shortstop. Before Royce Lewis was shelved with a torn ACL, the big league club needed a stabilizing presence at the most critical position on the infield. Casting a wide net made the most sense for the Twins. Marcus Semien was arguably the best option, and despite finishing a close runner-up for his services, the former Athletics infielder has posted an otherworldly season for the Blue Jays. Many players would qualify as fringe options, having one or more holes in their games. Falvey opted for a pact with Gold Glove-winning fielder Andrelton Simmons. The former Angels shortstop always carried a light bat, but his defense got the job done. Welcome to 2021. It’s not as though Simmons’ defense has fallen off a cliff; he’s still been a valuable commodity in the field for Minnesota. His 11 defensive runs saved rank third in baseball at the position, and he’s behind only Nick Ahmed and Francisco Lindor when it comes to outs above average at shortstop. Simmons has induced many highlight-reel plays this season behind Twins pitching, but his blunders have always been highly noticeable. Simmons has been miscast for a guy who needs to make an impact defensively to hide his bat, given the results Minnesota has generated on the season as a whole. He carries value for a good team that can afford to have a complete non-factor in the lineup. Given the Twins inability to pitch and often hit, the marginal defensive upgrade he has been only amplified the awful season of production. At -0.4 fWAR, Simmons has been Minnesota’s third-worst position player behind Willians Astudillo and Gilberto Celestino. Without finding a trade partner for him at the deadline, the Twins have allowed Simmons to play in 116 games despite being a free agent at year’s end. He’s being paid $10.5 million in 2021 and has been worse than a non-factor offensively. His .561 OPS is dead last in baseball among 154 hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. He has a .286 OBP and has a whopping 14 extra-base hits. The most divisive contribution Simmons has made to the Twins clubhouse may have been a medical one. Just days after being outspoken regarding his stance on vaccines, the shortstop tested positive, and Minnesota soon experienced an outbreak. Without attributing fault to any one person, Simmons' brash nature and desire to publicly share his opinions on Twitter were undoubtedly met with backlash given how the season began to spiral. Over the years, plenty of front offices have missed when it comes to spending money on players leaving other organizations. Sometimes those players move on for the sake of a big contract. Other times it happens because the club is moving on before getting caught holding the bag. This may be more of the latter when considering the Angels situation, and Minnesota felt the wrath of a decision gone wrong. You could make a case for Tsuyoshi Nishioka or Ricky Nolasco when considering previous Twins missteps. Still, nothing about how Andrelton Simmons has fared in Minnesota is good, and it’s a shock he’ll survive the year without a DFA. Back to the drawing board at shortstop for 2022. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  9. WAR According to FanGraphs, the Twins have four players that have accumulated a negative WAR total in 2021. Gilberto Celestino ranks lowest with a -0.7 WAR, but that was expected for a player forced into the big leagues before he had significant time in the high minors. Brent Rooker is just slightly negative at -0.1 WAR, with most of his negative value coming on the defensive side of the ball. The other two players with negative WAR are polarizing for Twins fans. Willians Astudillo and Andrelton Simmons are tied with -0.5 WAR, but their path to those totals is entirely different. Simmons posts strong defensive numbers, and his offense has been atrocious. His -23.0 OFF ranking is the lowest on the team, and it’s more than double the next closest player. Astudillo doesn’t have a perfect defensive home, and his offensive skills are limited. He even has a negative WAR as a relief pitcher. On the mound, Matt Shoemaker accumulated a negative WAR in his time as a starter (-0.2 WAR) and as a reliever (-0.5 WAR). Griffin Jax, Beau Burrows, and Andrew Albers are all tied with a -0.3 WAR among players classified as starters. Minnesota’s bullpen has been a mess as 12 players have a negative WAR total. Randy Dobnak, Brandon Waddell, Hansel Robles, and Edgar Garcia all have a -0.3 WAR as relievers. WPA Four Twins players have accumulated a Win Probability Added of more than -0.75. Andrelton Simmons has been worth -3.03 WPA, which is the team’s lowest total. Trevor Larnach ranks the second lowest (-1.78 WPA), with all his negative value coming on the defensive side. Miguel Sano (-1.44), Willians Astudillo (-1.48), and Ryan Jeffers (-1.59) round out the bottom five when it comes to WPA among position players. Among pitchers, J.A. Happ was worth -1.87 WPA during his Twins tenure, and the Twins were still able to get something for him at the trade deadline. Randy Dobnak is in the middle of a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season. His -1.42 WPA is the second-worst and ranks just below Griffin Jax (-1.23 WPA) and Alex Colome (-1.26 WPA). Surprisingly, Matt Shoemaker only has the tenth worst WPA among Twins pitchers. Ranking the Top-5 Least Valuable Twins 5. Willians Astudillo: He can certainly be entertaining, and his relief appearances have added some fun to a disappointing season. Overall, his lack of defensive home and low offensive ceiling put him on this list. 4. J.A. Happ: In 19 starts for the Twins, he accumulated a 6.20 ERA with a 1.53 WHIP and 100 strikeouts in 127 2/3 innings. Minnesota’s lack of pitching depth meant they had to keep trotting him out there. 3. Alex Colome: Colome would have topped this list in the early part of the season. However, he has been better lately (Editor's Note: For instance, he has recorded saves in four straight games), but it doesn’t take away from his disastrous start to the season. 2. Matt Shoemaker: Shoemaker didn’t cut it as a starter or a reliever. He claimed the Twins tried to make some adjustments during spring training that hurt his performance. 1. Andrelton Simmons: He ranks among baseball’s best defensive shortstops, which shows how inept his offense has been this year. His 57 OPS+ is 18 points lower than his previous career low. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Gant 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K Homeruns: Rooker (11) Top 3 WPA: Gant .300, Simmons .135, Thielbar .098 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) The Twins looked to build on their Labor Day win over Cleveland on Tuesday. They sent John Gant to the mound to face Aaron Civale, who returned from the IL to provide a boost to a beleaguered Cleveland rotation. Here’s how the Twins lined up for the game. Gant, fighting for 2022 rotation consideration, got off to a solid start. He threw two clean innings, working particularly effectively with his changeup and generating extra ride on his fastball, before running into trouble in the third inning. After getting a double play, Gant surrendered two singles and a walk to load the bases. Franmil Reyes missed a grand slam by five feet to keep the game tied, flying out to deep center field. Meanwhile through three innings, Civale showed no signs of rust. Other than giving up singles to Josh Donaldson and Miguel Sano, he looked highly effective. Civale worked consistently up in the strike zone, throwing a wide variety of breaking balls keeping Twins hitters off balance, and off the bases. Gant returned for a more efficient and effective fourth inning. Despite walking three through four innings, Gant generated nine swings and misses and four strikeouts in as many innings. Is Gant working himself into consideration for a job with the Twins in 2022? The deadlock was finally broken in the sixth inning. After Max Kepler drew a walk to lead off the inning, Andrelton Simmons singled up the middle to drive home Kepler, give the Twins a one to nothing lead, and force Civale from the game. A walk to Luis Arraez put runners on first and second with two out, but Byron Buxton flew out to shallow center field to end the inning one to nothing in favor of the Twins. After walking the leadoff hitter in the fifth inning, Gant returned to strike out the side. He completed five inning, struck out seven batters, and generated twelve swings and misses. Despite walking four Cleveland hitters, Gant has improved noticeably in each of his starts with the Twins. Gant will be an interesting sub-plot to monitor in the remaining four weeks of the season. Jorge Alcala relieved Gant in the sixth inning. He got Franmil Reyes swinging on a beautiful sinking fastball at 97mph. He followed up with back to back ground-outs, preserving the Twins one run lead heading to the seventh inning. In the seventh inning, Brent Rooker crushed a home run to right center field to increase the lead to two. Juan Minaya pitched a scoreless bottom of the seventh, striking out two, to preserve the Twins lead. An infield single and an Oscar Mercado double high off the left-field wall created a threat for Cleveland in the eighth inning. With runners on second and third and two out, Yu Chang struck out swinging to take the game to the ninth inning. Luis Arraez tripled home Andrelton Simmons to extend the lead to three to nothing in the ninth. Alexander Colome entered to close the game for the Twins. Owen Miller grounded out, before Amed Rosario singled on a fly ball to center field. A Miles Straw flyout and a Bobby Bradley strikeout brought the Twins their third consecutive win. Bullpen Usage Chart THU FRI SAT SUN MON TUE TOT Colomé 0 0 11 23 9 17 60 Thielbar 0 0 0 28 0 25 53 Minaya 0 0 21 0 0 21 42 Alcalá 0 0 0 15 0 19 34 Garza Jr. 0 8 23 0 0 0 31 Duffey 0 0 0 10 8 0 18 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 Next Up On Wednesday, the Twins continue their series with Cleveland. Joe Ryan will take on Triston McKenzie. First pitch is at 5:10 CST. Postgame Interviews
  11. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SABR has used SDI as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Here is how the Twins rank through games played on August 22, 2021: Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 3.7 SDI (3rd) Berrios was traded before the deadline, but he accumulated the bulk of his SDI total while still in a Twins uniform. Earlier this season, he ranked sixth overall in the AL, so he has made a significant jump in the second half. However, his defense isn’t helping the Twins anymore, and there are no other Twins players on the current leaderboard. Dallas Keuchel is the favorite among AL pitchers as he has nearly double the SDI total of the second-ranked pitcher. Catcher (AL Ranking): No Twins’ Players Qualify At the All-Star Break, both Twins catchers ranked in the top-12 when it came to SDI. Garver’s extended time on the IL pushed him out of the rankings, while Jeffers spent some time in St. Paul trying to find his swing. Over the last few weeks, Jeffers has been catching regularly, so it will be interesting to see if he winds up on the final leaderboard. First Base (AL Ranking): Miguel Sano -2.5 SDI (10th) Only two qualified first basemen, Nathaniel Lowe and Bobby Delbec, have a lower SDI total than Miguel Sano. His months of July and August continued to bring down his total as he was at -0.9 SDI. It also doesn’t help that Minnesota’s best defensive first baseman, Alex Kirilloff, is injured and won’t be back in 2021. At the All-Star break, he ranked third among all AL first basemen. For 2022, Minnesota should pencil Kirilloff in at first base every day. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco, 3.3 SDI (3rd) Polanco has been on an offensive tear in the second half, and his defense has also significantly improved. In less than two months, he moved from 8th to 3rd in SDI among AL second basemen. At that time, I mentioned that he was only 0.5 SDI out of the top-3, and he now ranks 1.2 SDI ahead of fourth place. Polanco looks to be in line to be a Gold Glove finalist, but Whit Merrified and Marcus Semiem have accumulated over twice as much SDI as Polanco. Third Base (AL Ranking): Luis Arraez, 0.4 SDI (7th) Arraez isn’t exactly known for his defensive prowess, so this ranking might come as a surprise to some Twins fans. Every third baseman ranked below Arraez has a -4.0 SDI or lower. Josh Donaldson was known for being a strong defender when the Twins signed him, but he has fallen off the leaderboard since the All-Star break. At that time, he looked to be in the middle of his worst defensive season. Does the future at this position belong to Arraez or Jose Miranda? Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons, 6.4 SDI (3rd) Simmons is having another solid defensive season, but he has taken a step back in the second half. In July, he ranked as one of the AL’s best defenders, and he was the number one ranked shortstop. Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Carlos Correa have stormed past him over the last two months. Simmons looks like he will be a Gold Glove finalist, but he won’t be coming away with the hardware. Left Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Trevor Larnach was on these rankings at the All-Star break, but he was near the bottom with a -2.2 SDI. He no longer qualifies as the team demoted him to Triple-A after some offensive struggles. Overall, this race looks to be one of the AL's tightest when it comes to the Gold Glove winner. There is no clear-cut favorite, with Austin Hays (2.1 SDI) and Michael Brantley (1.8 SDI) leading the rankings. Center Field (AL Ranking): No Twins' Players Qualified Byron Buxton is still one of baseball's best defenders, but a hip injury and a broken hand have kept him sidelined for a good chunk of the second half. Former Twins prospect Akil Baddoo has the third-lowest SDI total among qualified AL center fielders. Michael Taylor (9.5 SDI) and Myles Straw (7.1 SDI) are at the top of the leaderboard with a month to go in the season. Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler, 0.8 SDI Kepler has a positive SDI, but only one qualified right fielder sits below him in the rankings. His second-half defense has improved because he had accumulated a -0.1 SDI in right field at the All-Star break. He dealt with a hamstring injury earlier in the season, which might have brought down his SDI total. Do any of these rankings surprise you? Do you think the team's defense has been worse in the second half? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. Box Score Starter: Thorpe 1.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 1 K Home Runs: Sano (20) Top 3 WPA: Duffey (0.485), Coulombe (0.485), Sano (0.299) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Lewis Thorpe Makes Return to Twins Rotation For the first time in nearly three months, Lewis Thorpe made an appearance in a Twins uniform, after getting recalled this morning from Triple-A St. Paul. Prior to today’s start, Thorpe had made just four appearances (3 starts) for the Twins in 2021, and posted a 3.86 ERA. Velocity concerns have plagued Thorpe of late, as his fastball velocity has dropped nearly two MPH since 2019, and sat at just 89.5 MPH in 2021. Those concerns became even more prevalent after today’s short outing where Thorpe had an average fastball velocity of just 87.8 MPH, per Statcast. This lack of velocity, combined with some serious control issues made for a short day from Thorpe, who was pulled with only one out in the second after walking the bases full. It was clear after today’s outing that Thorpe’s long-term future with the Twins might be in serious jeopardy if he is unable to fix the number of issues that have been ailing him. Miguel Sano Hits Twins Longest Home Run of 2021 With the Twins down by a score of 4 to 1 entering the bottom of the fourth, they needed to find some quick offense to get back into this game, and that is exactly what Miguel Sano delivered as he blasted a mammoth 475 foot home run to right-center field to cut Cleveland’s lead down to two. Cleveland Scores Single Runs in Each of the First Five Innings It was a steady barrage of one run at a time from Cleveland early on to help them build a 5-2 lead at the halfway point of the game, as they scored one run in each of the first five innings. They got their lone run in the first courtesy of a two-out home run from Jose Ramirez. In the second it was four walks from Twins pitching that resulted in Cleveland’s run, the final coming from Edgar Garcia after he replaced Lewis Thorpe who walked the bases full before being pulled. Edgar Garcia got two quick outs in the third, but after giving up a walk to Oscar Mercado, Owen Miller drilled a fly ball off the wall in right-center, bringing Mercado all the way around to score from first. The fourth inning looked almost identical to the third, but this time it was with Juan Minaya on the mound for the Twins, who like Garcia got two outs to begin the inning, but gave up a walk that was followed by a double that gave Cleveland their lone run in the fourth. With Minaya still on the mound in the fifth, Franmil Reyes responded to Miguel Sano’s mammoth home run with one of his own to stretch the Cleveland lead back out to three. Twins Use Two-Out Rally to Take the Lead in the 5th Things were not looking up for the Twins as they came to bat in the fifth back down by three runs. The inning did not appear to be a rally inning when it started, as a Max Kepler strikeout and a Jorge Polanco pop out sandwiched a Brent Rooker walk, giving the Twins a runner on first with two outs. That did not stop the Twins, however, as they strung together six straight two-out hits and left the inning with a 7-5 lead. Josh Donaldson got the two out rally started when he laced a line drive single up the middle. Luis Arraez then fought off a tough two-strike fastball and delivered a clutch RBI single to right. After a quick mound visit, it was Miguel Sano’s turn and he quickly fell behind 0-2, but he too came up clutch driving this breaking ball to the base of the wall in center for a game tying double. That was the end of the day for Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac, but that wasn’t the end of the inning for the Twins. New Cleveland pitch Alex Young did not have much time to settle in, as Nick Gordon swung at his first pitch and drilled a hard ground ball down the first base line that bounced off of Owen Miller’s glove at first and trickled away, allowing Sano to score from second. Ryan Jeffers then followed it up with a single of his own before Andrelton Simmons came through with a ground rule double down the line in left, giving the Twins the 7-5 lead. This gave Max Kepler a chance to blow the game open with runners on second and third, but that would not be the case as the inning ended the same way it started, with a Max Kepler strikeout. Alex Colome Blows Save in 9th After a rough start to the season, Alex Colome has been pitching well of late. Unfortunately, today we saw more of the April version of Alex Colome, as he blew a two-run lead to allow Cleveland to tie the game at seven. The inning started with a leadoff double from Myles Straw that landed just out of the reach of a diving Jake Cave, who came in as a defensive replacement for Brent Rooker in left. He then got Amed Rosario to fly out, before Jose Ramirez laced a line drive into center field and hustled his way to second for a double. Ramirez then advanced to third on a weak ground out from Franmil Reyes and scored the game tying run on a wild pitch in the next plate appearance. Jorge Polanco is the Walk-off Hero Yet Again For the third time in four games, Jorge Polanco comes up with a clutch walk-off to give the Twins the victory! Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN MON TUE WED TOT Barnes 0 73 0 0 0 73 Gant 0 0 17 0 0 17 García 0 21 0 0 35 56 Thielbar 0 15 19 0 9 43 Garza Jr. 16 0 0 13 23 52 Duffey 0 27 0 0 14 41 Colomé 0 13 10 0 31 54 Minaya 0 0 19 0 40 59 Coulombe 10 0 0 0 7 17 Postgame Interviews What's Next? The Twins travel to New York for a four-game series with the Yankees. With the Twins out of contention, they have a chance to put a wrench in the surging Yankees postseason plans. Game one of the series is scheduled to begin Thursday at 6:05 pm CDT.
  13. The 2021 season was supposed to be a battle for AL Central supremacy between the Twins and White Sox. Instead, the Twins are languishing in last place with the fifth-worst record in baseball while Chicago is cruising to their first division title since 2008. What’s Their Situation? Currently owners of the fifth-best record in baseball, the White Sox have a commanding 9.5 game lead over Cleveland entering play on Wednesday. They are competing with the Red Sox Astros, Dodgers, and Giants for the best record in MLB. Perhaps more impressively, they have accomplished this working around significant injuries to the likes of Eloy Jiminez and Nick Madrigal. The White Sox are a lock for post-season play, now, their focus is on gearing up for a strong playoff run. What do They Need? Not a lot. The White Sox have the fifth-best offense in baseball right now, sporting a cumulative 113 wRC+. They have a strong front of the rotation between Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dallas Keuchel. While Giolito and Keuchel have been, perhaps, a little disappointing, Rodon and Lynn form a formidable one-two punch in any playoff series. The White Sox could strengthen their bullpen for an October run. Currently the 13th best in baseball with the third-worst xFIP, there is a lack of depth behind Liam Hendriks. The other area of need for the Sox is strengthening their infield. Nick Madrigal had season-ending surgery on a torn hamstring, leaving a lack of depth up the middle after the perennially excellent Tim Anderson. Which Twins are the Best Fit? Infield depth and relief pitching may be the biggest needs the Twins could fill for the Southsiders. Andrelton Simmons would be a massive defensive upgrade. Despite 61 wRC+, Simmons has been worth 15 outs above average, good for second in all of baseball behind Nick Ahmed. With Taylor Rogers currently on the IL and reportedly seeking a second and potentially third opinion on his sprained middle finger, Tyler Duffey would be an option that would add depth to the Chicago bullpen. There’s no question Duffey has taken a step back this year, the most concerning seeing his K/9 numbers drop from 11.6 in 2020 to 7.3 in 2021. In spite of this, Duffey still sports a strong 3.20 ERA and doesn’t reach free agency until 2023, making him an appealing option for any team hoping to contend beyond this season. Who Could the Twins get Back? The White Sox system like the Twins has been weakened by a significant number of graduations. Andrew Vaughn, Nick Madrigal, Garrett Crochet, and Michael Kopech are all 2021 graduates, leaving the Sox as the only MLB team without a top 100 prospect. Any return for Simmons would fetch a C-level prospect and serve mainly to shed salary. Duffey would fetch a greater price but teams may be wary of his diminishing peripherals. Yolbert Sanchez, SS, AA Sanchez signed out of Cuba during the international free agency period in 19-20. His best tool is 60-grade defense which makes him a viable big-league shortstop or a quality utility infielder. Sanchez is a right-handed hitter who shows solid contact skills. Sanchez is currently sporting a .360 OBP over two minor league levels in 2021. Tyler Johnson, RHP, AAA Johnson was the closer for South Carolina in his collegiate career, signing as a fifth-round draft pick in 2017. In his first three seasons of pro ball, Johnson tallied 169 strikeouts in 115 innings and managed a 2.27 ERA. Johnson’s best pitch is his fastball, which can reach 98 mph. His inconsistent delivery and mechanics seem to impact the quality of his secondary pitches. His ceiling is a late-inning reliever in the majors. Kade McClure, RHP, AA McClure is a behemoth at 6’7 and best known for being the number two starter behind Brendan McKay at Louisville. McClure missed significant time in his first few pro seasons with injuries. Despite his height, he has a fastball that sits around 92 mph and excellent control, walking just 2.1 per nine innings in 2019. McClure profiles as a back-end starter with a similar makeup to Bailey Ober. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. The Twins made their first big move sending Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay in exchange for two pitching prospects. There were reports over the weekend that Byron Buxton won't be signing a contract extension with the club and rumors of willingness to listen on team-controlled players such as Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, and Max Kepler. So, where do we go from here? We're going to start with the players on expiring contracts. Trade Andrelton Simmons to the Reds for SS Gus Steiger. Steiger, who is from Minnetonka and played collegiately at South Dakota State, signed with the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and would provide organizational depth in Fort Myers. The Twins would send no cash in the deal, leaving the Reds on the hook for the remaining $3.5 million on Simmons' contract. Trade Michael Pineda to the Astros for P Misaell Tamarez. Tamarez has less than 75 professional innings under his belt and has a walk rate over six, but he also strikes out more than a hitter per inning and has some ceiling. Tamarez would join the Fort Myers staff, where he could start or relieve. The Twins would get all of next year to evaluate Tamarez before deciding whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster. Pineda has $3.4 million left on his contract, which the Astros would pick up. I'd also expect Big Mike to be back with the Twins on a two-year deal this offseason. Trade Hansel Robles to the Red Sox for RP Durbin Feltman. Boston will give up Feltman, who may help in a bullpen someday, for Robles, who will help them in the bullpen for the rest of the year. Robles is owed less than $700,000 for the remainder of the year. Feltman, who has seen his velocity dip since turning pro in 2018, is the type of prospect on who the Twins could take a chance. If they can unlock some of that lost velocity, there is a chance he could be added to the 40-man when first eligible this upcoming offseason. Trade J.A. Happ to the Phillies for a PTBNL or cash. Happ broke into the big leagues with Philadelphia in 2007 and can provide rotational depth. The return for Happ would likely be a little bit of cash to offset his contract. He's still owed just shy of $3 million. The Twins would stay on the hook for almost all of that. The only other impending free agent is Alex Colome, who has been bad this year. If there's a team interested, he could be had for a meager price. Even if the Twins pay the remainder of his salary, the return will be low… in fact, it would be a win if someone else would be responsible for buying out his option. Before going on to the next - and definitely more debatable - part, one thing that needs to be discussed (because it will get a lot of consideration) is the 40-man roster. Except for Drew Strotman, none of the actual or projected returns to this point include someone on the 40-man roster. The Twins also have five players on the 60-day IL that will need to be activated this offseason. Now, granted, the roster has several fringe-40-man players that can be removed, but the organization has to be very careful about the position they put themselves in with acquiring players. Part of the reason Tampa Bay was ok giving up two of their top prospects for Cruz likely had to do with the crunch they were going to face this offseason. (They probably would have lost Strotman on outright waivers.) Just by my quick estimation, there are eight players (seven pitchers!) that I think are more likely to get added to the 40-man than not either later this season or in the offseason. If the Twins are going to rebuild, they would be wise to acquire prospects who are at least a year away from needing to be added to the 40-man roster. Whatever Taylor Rogers did to his finger last night puts his status on the trade market in question. If healthy - and if I were calling the shots - I would have him very available. But for this exercise, he will remain with the Twins. I'm not going to trade Josh Donaldson either. My stance would be that I would make him available, but I want a fair prospect return. The money complicates that. The Twins, in my opinion, will move Donaldson if someone is willing to take on the remainder of his contract. That will minimize the return. Josh Donaldson is too good of a baseball player just to give away. I'll listen on Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, but I don't see either getting moved. Kenta Maeda as well. For an overpay, I'd move every one of them. Now for the big dogs… Not only do I think Byron Buxton will not be moved, I believe a whirlwind Trade Deadline Week is going to be capped off with a Byron Buxton extension. Maybe it won't be Friday because the front office will be busy. But soon enough that the fanbase won't be able to check out for the year. Jose Berrios is a different story. Even a week ago, I wasn't convinced that Berrios was going anywhere. Now I've done a complete 180 and think there is no way he's not traded. And there's going to be a market. Take your pick… San Diego is aggressive, has prospects, and is forward-thinking enough to pull off another blockbuster. Would they include any of their four top prospects? Would MacKenzie Gore, who's been a mess lately, even be enough? Or would the Twins shoot for the injured CJ Abrams or Robert Hassell? Could the Twins bring back Eric Hosmer's bad contract to help the Padres out financially and ask for another top prospect too? The Dodgers don't want to share the spotlight. Is it really a possibility that they offer Dustin May? If so, that is a conversation that needs to be had. Maybe the Giants won't want to be outdone, and though they can't offer a top-end pitching prospect, they do have prospect currency, including SS Marco Luciano and C Joey Bart. There should be enough interest that the Twins don't have to settle for prospects that aren't in the top tier. The AL East is also worth watching. Toronto (P Nate Pearson and SS Austin Martin) and New York (P Deivi Garcia) would both be able to move the needle. The NL East is just as interesting. The Mets have the prospects, but all are a few promotions from the major yet. (Plus, Kevin Mulvey is no longer available.) The Braves could be a match. So what would I do….? I'd call Trader Jerry and make a deal with the Mariners. The basic framework would be Jose Berrios for P George Kirby. Kirby is a Top 20 prospect and hasn't reached AA yet (but will soon). The Mariners are also in the market for an infielder. Does expanding the deal to include Jorge Polanco make sense? Would the Mariners have any interest in taking on Josh Donaldson? Does DiPoto want to roll the dice on Taylor Rogers being ready soon and helping out down the stretch? It would be hard to bet against the Mets, Dodgers, Padres, or Yankees in a bidding war, but the Mariners are a longshot who could make the best deal for both teams. Maybe the holes these trades would create would have to be filled internally, which may not seem to scream "we're competing in 2022," but in a season with so many questions and so few answers, do we really want to be tricked into thinking that's possible anyway?
  15. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/19 through Sun, 7/25 *** Record Last Week: 3-5 (Overall: 42-58) Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -71) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (17.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 93 | MIN 3, CWS 2: Jax Deals, Twins Steal One in Extras Game 94 | CWS 5, MIN 3: Berrios Goes Deep, Then Sheets Does Game 95 | CWS 9, MIN 5: Bullpen Implodes in Five-Run 8th Inning Game 96 | MIN 7, CWS 2: Polanco, Kepler Power Twins to Split Game 97 | LAA 3, MIN 2: Cruz-less Offense Comes Up Short Game 98 | MIN 5, LAA 4: Aggressive Baserunning Sparks Win Game 99 | LAA 2, MIN 1: Twins Narrowly Avoid Getting No-hit Game 100 | LAA 6, MIN 2: Bats Go Silent Once Again NEWS & NOTES The sell-off has officially begun. Nelson Cruz always ranked No. 1 on the list of Twins players most likely to be traded, and the front office didn't waste time, striking a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays eight days ahead of the deadline. Losing Cruz is painful in the sense that he's a legendary and incredibly likable player, but this is best for all involved. He ends up on a contending team where he makes a huge difference. Tampa reached the World Series last year and Nelly can help propel them back. Meanwhile, the Twin landed a pair of intriguing pitching prospects who are verging on big-league ready. And those prospects now have a much clearer path than in Tampa's crowded pitching pipeline. Naturally, we had plenty of coverage here; I recommend reading the articles below, which include Seth's instant report, Lucas' breakdown of the return package, John's reaction to the deal, and Nash's tribute to Cruz. Twins Trade Nelson Cruz to the Rays for Two AAA Starting Pitchers, by Seth Stohs Twins Minor League Pitching Report: Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, by Lucas Seehafer Three Things to Like (and Hate) About the Nelson Cruz Trade, by John Bonnes Thank You Nelson Cruz! By Nash Walker We won't be seeing Cruz in a Twins uniform again this year. Nor Alex Kirilloff. The rookie outfielder opted for wrist surgery after reporting that the pain stemming from a torn ligament had intensified recently. His rehab will carry through the rest of the season but he'll have plenty of time to get ready for 2022, which is really all that matters at this point. Kirilloff finishes his first MLB campaign with a .251/.299/.423 slash line and eight home runs in 59 games. Adding to the exodus of high-quality hitters, Luis Arraez hit the Injured List on Saturday after injuring his knee early in the week. Thankfully, his absence looks to be more temporary than the other two, although his continuing knee troubles don't bode well for the 24-year-old. While the Twins suffered some tough losses last week, they did also get some guys back. Mitch Garver returned with a bang on Monday, launching home runs in his first two at-bats. Brent Rooker was recalled after mashing in Triple-A, and should get an extended look at DH in Cruz's stead. Jake Cave was also activated following a two-month stay on IL. HIGHLIGHTS With the trade deadline fast approaching, it's possible we'll see the Twins part with one or more of their foundational building block type players. Jorge Polanco is probably not among them, which is just fine because he's been busy proving he still deserves to be in that class. Polanco struggled last year and throughout the early weeks of 2021. He entered June with a sub-700 OPS but then finally started to find his groove again, swinging with greater authority and driving the ball with more consistency. Finding himself back near the top of the order regularly, Polanco is keying the offense right now; the past week saw him chip in a pair of three-hit games and two home runs, finishing 10-for-25 with six RBIs. Dating back to the start of June he's slashing .297/.346/.506, which is nearly identical to his overall line in 2019 (.295/.356/.485). On Wednesday, Michael Pineda took the mound for the first time in two weeks, and it was a big step in the right direction at a crucial moment. Through five efficient innings, Pineda held the White Sox to one run on four hits, striking out three and walking one. It wasn't a dominating whiff clinic like we saw earlier this year when Big Mike was at his best, but a reassuring performance nonetheless for any interested buyer. Pineda's slated to face the Tigers on Monday – his last turn before the deadline. Whatever Pineda gets back in a trade, it won't be much. To really score a haul, the Twins will need to give up one of their most in-demand pitching assets, and both are doing plenty to stoke their markets. Taylor Rogers tossed a pair of scoreless innings with three strikeouts, while José Berríos was masterful in his Saturday night start, allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings against the Halos. LOWLIGHTS The front office would surely love to unload Andrelton Simmons and the remaining millions he's owed before re-entering free agency at season's end. Problem is, they might be hard-pressed to find a taker. Simmons has been good in the field, but not good enough to offset the complete and total lack of offense. With each passing week, the shortstop slides further and further into futility at the plate. He went 2-for-22 in the most recent one, and is now slashing a woeful .220/.287/.288 with a negative WAR. Is any contending team really going to view him as enough of an upgrade to take on his remaining $4 million or so in salary? Getting back any kind of prospect is out of the question. Another dead-end move from the past offseason for this front office. It's beginning to look like we can place Hansel Robles in that bucket too. The Twins are more likely to find a buyer for him than Simmons, given the lesser money involved and the ubiquitous need for relief pitching, but he's not making himself a prized asset. Robles pitched twice this past week and gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits, including a back-breaking home run against the White Sox on Tuesday. Robles has a 5.32 ERA over his past 24 appearances, with opponents hitting .292/.376/.528 against him. One way or another, Robles will be gone after this year. Alex Colomé too. Rogers is "likely to be dealt" at the deadline according to Ken Rosenthal. Beyond Tyler Duffey there is no continuity built into this bullpen, especially because Jorge Alcala has obliterated all confidence. The right-hander is completely unraveling, and the past week added to his woes with five runs allowed over three innings of work. In his past dozen appearances Alcala has taken three losses, blown two saves, and given up 14 earned runs on 19 hits in 10 ⅓ innings (12.20 ERA). It's not even clear he should be in the majors right now, let alone pitching meaningful innings. You look at this relief corps in its current state, and it's just so immensely difficult to envision the kind of abrupt and drastic turnaround needed for the Twins to return to contention in 2022. Which may partially explain why the front office has seemingly softened its commitment to holding players with control beyond this year. This is starting to look more like a full-on rebuild. TRENDING STORYLINE The biggest storyline trending around the Twins right now is a deeply disheartening one: Byron Buxton reportedly rejected the team's contract extension offer as the two sides sought to find common ground, at perhaps their last opportunity to do so. It sounds like the club's final offer to Buxton was around $80 million plus incentives, which understandably wasn't enough to entice the superstar center fielder's camp as free agency looms. Hitting a wall in extension negotiations will compel the Twins to fully explore Buxton's trade market, but probably not until the offseason. The more immediate names to watch are guys like Berríos, Rogers, and Josh Donaldson, who could all be shipped out this week along with impending free agents. The deadline falls on Friday at 3:00 PM – and it's a hard deadline this time, with no post-waiver avenue available. Buyers need to stock up, nor or never. How different will the Twins' roster, and future, in a week? We should all be bracing ourselves for a major shakeup. LOOKING AHEAD The July 30th trade deadline is, of course, the date to circle. Rumors are sure to be flying throughout the next four days, with all the action building up to Friday afternoon. Berríos is scheduled to pitch for the Twins that night; will he still be here? Or have we already seen him for the last time in a Twins uniform? MONDAY, 7/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Michael Pineda TUESDAY, 7/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Kenta Maeda WEDNESDAY, 7/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Wily Peralta v. LHP J.A. Happ FRIDAY, 7/30: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP José Berríos v. LHP Wade LeBlanc SATURDAY, 7/31: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Jake Woodford SUNDAY, 8/1: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Johan Oviedo MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Defensive metrics have come a long way over the last decade. With Statcast tracking every batted ball, the amount of information available to fans is at an all-time high. One newer defensive metric was developed by the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and it is called the SABR Defensive Index (SDI). According to SABR's website, the SDI "draws on and aggregates two types of existing defensive metrics: those derived from batted ball location-based data and those collected from play-by-play accounts." Since 2013, SDI has been used as part of the process for selecting Gold Glove winners. Pitcher (AL Ranking): Jose Berrios, 2.2 SDI (6th); Michael Pineda, 0.6 SDI (19th); Kenta Maeda, 0.1 SDI (23rd) Berrios has always been a strong defensive pitcher and his defensive metrics point to him being near the top of the AL. Last season, Berrios finished 10th in SDI after finishing 16th in 2019. For his career, his highest 162-game season finish was in 2018 when he ranked 13th in the AL. Maeda was a Gold Glove finalist last season, but he hasn’t accumulated enough SDI to be in the discussion so far this year. Catcher (AL Ranking): Mitch Garver 1.3 SDI (10th); Ryan Jeffers 1.2 SDI (11th) Jeffers has been touted as the better defensive catcher, but he is slightly behind Garver in the first half SDI rankings. Garver has been on the shelf since his gruesome injury, and this means Jeffers has accumulated more innings behind the plate. Ben Rortvedt doesn’t have enough big-league time to show up on the SDI rankings, but he might by season’s end if the team is careful with Garver’s catching innings as he returns from injury. First Base (AL Ranking): Alex Kirilloff 1.7 SDI (3rd); Miguel Sano -0.9 SDI (11th) Outside of Simmons (See Below), Kirilloff ranks as the highest defender on the team at his position. Jake Bauers (2.6 SDI) and Ty France (2.3 SDI) have logged more than double the defensive innings compared to Kirilloff’s total. Kirilloff is much better than Sano at first and he has a chance to be a finalist for a Gold Glove in his rookie season. Second Base (AL Ranking): Jorge Polanco 1.1 SDI (8th); Luis Arraez -0.8 SDI (15th) Polanco had flaws as a defensive shortstop and his move to second base was seen as a way to increase his defensive value. Even with his current ranking, he is only 0.5 SDI out of ranking in the AL’s top three. Marcus Semien, another converted shortstop, leads the AL by one of the biggest margins at any position. Third Base (AL Ranking): Josh Donaldson -1.1 SDI (11th) Donaldson has long been considered a strong defender, but he might be in the middle of his worst defensive season. According to SDI, he ranked as high as second back in 2019 when he only finished behind Nolan Arenado in the NL. He’s been playing through hamstring issues that have significantly slowed him down and this might be one of the reasons for the decline in his defensive numbers. Shortstop (AL Ranking): Andrelton Simmons 4.4 SDI (1st) Simmons might be one of the all-time best defensive players, so it makes sense to see him at the top of the SDI rankings among shortstops. Only seven AL defenders have accumulated a higher SDI than Simmons including Semien, another player the Twins targeted for middle infield depth this winter. Simmons might have the inside track for another Gold Glove, but will he be with the Twins after the trade deadline? Left Field (AL Ranking): Trevor Larnach -2.2 SDI (14th) Larnach isn’t in the big leagues because of his defense, and this shows up in his SDI total. Only four qualified players rank lower than Larnach among AL left fielders. Former Twin Eddie Rosario currently ranks second with a 2.5 SDI and he is only 0.6 SDI behind first place. This might surprise Twins fans because he was never known for his defense when he was in Minnesota. Center Field (AL Ranking) Minnesota doesn’t currently have any players that qualify for the SDI rankings. <Insert sad trombone sound for Byron Buxton> Right Field (AL Ranking): Max Kepler -0.1 SDI (10th) Kepler’s total might be the most surprising on the midseason rankings. Throughout his career, he has been considered a strong defensive player with the Twins even using him in center field. Kepler is a year older, and he might have lost a step, or his hamstring injuries have slowed him down. Which of these rankings surprises you the most? Leave a COMMENT and star the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. In 2020 Minnesota finished the season with 17 DRS (defensive runs saved). That was good for 8th in Major League Baseball. Only 11 teams finished with a double-digit mark, and only the Pirates missed the Postseason among teams performing better than the Twins. Removing Eddie Rosario from left field and swapping Jorge Polanco to the right side of the diamond was supposed to push the needle upwards, but plans haven’t gone as expected. Originally the Twins targeted Marcus Semien for their shortstop vacancy. He ultimately chose to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays and is having a career year. They pivoted to Andrelton Simmons and that looked like a great decision given his defensive wizardry. It comes with the caveat that he’s virtually a negative asset in the lineup, but that has only compounded Minnesota’s problems, not acted as an ignitor for them. Simmons has drawn criticism of late due to some costly miscues. Overall, however, he’s been as billed. In terms of DRS, he ranks 6th among MLB shortstops, but his 10 OAA is 2nd best at the position. Polanco has never put up that production, and the tandem of him and Luis Arraez was substantially stretched. Simba is tracking towards something like 10 DRS in 2021, which wouldn’t touch his otherworldly numbers, but is on par with where he was at in 2019. The bigger problem for Minnesota is that their injuries have hit most often in the outfield. Regardless of Alex Kirilloff not being the Opening Day left fielder, defensively that was a position of weakness. While Rosario previously underwhelmed in the role, he was a more natural fit athletically. Kyle Garlick, Brent Rooker, and Kirilloff have all spent time in the corners, and none will ever grade out positively. Throw in extended absences from Byron Buxton and Max Kepler to find yourself with a doomsday scenario. Minnesota’s -10 DRS in the outfield is 28th in baseball, better than only the Mariners and Reds. Another area of issue is at the hot corner. Formerly a defensive stud at third, we’ve seen Josh Donaldson flash more than we’ve seen him be reliable. The consistency has been there from a playing time perspective, but he’s put up a -2 DRS and is on track for his worst season defensively. Sure, aging obviously factors into that reality, but this was a guy that posted a 10 DRS for the Braves in 2019. He’s failed to be positive by DRS standards for much of his career, but a career worst slide with a strong shortstop next to him probably wasn’t expected. The laundry list of issues for this Twins collection is by no means short in 2021. They haven’t hit and they haven’t pitched. When they’ve done one, they haven’t done the other. At all times though, they’ve been poor defensively, and constructed in a way in which was a point of emphasis, that’s been a tough pill to swallow. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. Mitch Garver: .497 xwOBAcon What makes Garver’s injury tough to swallow is how well he had been hitting at the plate. His Statcast numbers point to this improvement even after his slow start to the season. For those unfamiliar, xOBAcon uses three variables: exit velocity (EV), launch angle (LA), and sprint speed. Garver’s exit velocity and launch angle have allowed him to spray the ball all over the field. He currently ranks in the top 6% of the league in xwOBAcon so the hope is he can return sooner rather than later. As Rocco Baldelli alluded to after Tuesday’s game, it’s hard to imagine he will be behind the plate anytime soon. Luis Arraez: .308 xBA Arraez is another player the Twins are missing on the IL. During his big-league career, Arraez has been known for his bat to ball skills with many thinking a batting title is in the realm of possibility for him. Expected batting average (xBA) is a metric that measures the likelihood a batted ball will become a hit. Sometimes a player gets lucky, and ball falls in for a hit and other times a hard-hit ball ends up being an out. Arraez currently has a .277 batting average, but his xBA is over 30 points higher as he ranks in the top 3% of the league. Arraez provides an energy at the plate and the Twins offense has been struggling to find energy in recent weeks with him out of the line-up Andrelton Simmons: 9 Outs Above Average The Twins signed Simmons to provide a defensive upgrade and he has certainly come as advertised on that side of the ball. Only three players have produced an outs above average total of nine as Simmons is joined by Matt Chapman and Nick Ahmed. His recent play has moved him up this list so it will be intriguing to see if he can stay healthy and producing on the defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, his strikeout numbers have made him a disappointment on the offensive side, but he might be on his way to winning another Gold Glove. As a veteran with an expiring contract, the only question that remains is whether or not he is with the Twins after July. Nelson Cruz: 10.5 Barrels/Plate Appearance % Like Simmons, Cruz struggled mightily in the month of May, but this was on the heels of a torrid stretch at season’s start. Only five AL batters have a higher Barrels/PA % than Cruz and that isn’t the only Statcast metric where he ranks near the top of the league. He ranks well in barrel % (Top 7%), max exit velocity (Top 1%), and hard hit % (top 5%). His xwOBA over his last 100 plate appearances is dropping faster than Rob Refsynder running into the outfield wall in Baltimore. Is age catching up to Cruz or will he be able to solve his offensive woes? Which one of these Statcast numbers stands out the most to you? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. Defensive metrics have come a long way in recent years, so there are plenty of ways to judge a team's defensive value. Minnesota’s front office added pieces this winter to improve the team’s overall defense. Andrelton Simmons being signed allowed Jorge Polanco to move to a stronger position. Whichever position he plays, Alex Kirilloff has the potential to be an upgrade over Eddie Rosario in left field and Miguel Sano at first base. Also, a healthy Josh Donaldson adds plenty of defensive value that the club didn’t get to see in 2020. Outs Above Average There are three key players when it comes to Minnesota’s defense. Andrelton Simmons, Josh Donaldson, and Byron Buxton are among baseball’s best defenders at their individual positions. Outs above average helps fans to quantify how many runs a player has saved because of their range. All three of Minnesota’s top defenders rank among the league’s best when it comes to saving runs. Simmons currently ranks fourth overall in outs above average, which places him as the second-best shortstop and the best middle infielder in the American League. Buxton currently ranks 16th in OAA with two center fielders from Tampa Bay ranking ahead of him in the positional rankings. Donaldson comes in at 27th overall with only one AL third baseman, Matt Chapman, having accumulate more OAA. This isn’t the only defensive metric that can be used to look for improvements from the team. Defensive Runs Above Average FanGraphs uses Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) to measure a team’s defensive value relative to league average. One benefit of this stat is that it adds in the positional adjustment so that you can compare defensive value across positions. During the 2020 campaign, the Twins ranked 10th in baseball with a 6.9 DEF. Only four AL teams ranked higher than Minnesota, but two of those teams (Cleveland and Chicago) were from the AL Central. So far in 2021, the Twins have posted baseball’s seventh best DEF total (6.7 DEF). There are three AL teams with a higher DEF ranking than the Twins including Chicago, Baltimore, and Houston. Minnesota has seen many of their top defensive players miss time this season and that has an obvious impact on their overall defensive output as a team. Simmons, Donaldson, and Buxton are critical for improved defensive and any time they miss has reverberating effects on the rest of the team. Ultimate Zone Rating Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) is another popular defensive statistic that can be used to examine how many runs a team or player saved or surrendered due to their fielding. It combines a variety of other defensive metrics based on runs including outfielders’ arms, double plays, range, and errors. Last year, Minnesota ranked 11th overall in UZR (4.9) with five AL teams finishing ahead of them. All the AL Central clubs ranked in the top 13 according to UZR during the shortened 2020 campaign. Minnesota is up to seventh overall in UZR (6.7 UZR) so far in 2021 and the club already has more UZR than all of 2020. From the Twins perspective, the most alarming change might be how much the White Sox have improved defensively. In 2020, Chicago finished behind Minnesota in UZR by 2.7 runs. This season the White Sox rank second overall with a 12.1 UZR. The Twins have certainly seen some improvements, but will their defense continue to show improvements throughout the rest of the season? How improved is the team’s defense? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Andrelton Simmons, SS Contract: 1-year/$10.5 million Minnesota signed Simmons for his elite defensive skills, but he has provided plenty of offensive value so far in 2021. In 10 games, he has hit .355/.474/.452 with three extra-base hits. His 0.6 WAR ranks fourth on the team and that total is already higher than his entire 2020 season. Obviously, his positive COVID test puts a damper on his start to the year, but hopefully he comes out of it healthy, and he can continue to produce at a high level. Alexander Colomé, RP Contract: 1-year/$6.25 million Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly so far during Colomé’s Twins tenure as he has posted a 5.68 ERA. He’s allowed four earned runs and seven runs have scored with him on the mound. Minnesota’s bullpen has struggled through much of the season’s early innings especially in the last week when the bullpen’s ERA was north of 9.00. He has been a very successful closer in the past so Twins’ fans have to hope he finds his former form in the weeks ahead. J.A. Happ, SP Contract: 1-year/$8 million Happ missed time at the beginning of spring training as he tested positive for COVID. This set him back a little in his preparation, but his early results have been good, especially for a back of the rotation starter. Through two starts, he has allowed three runs on seven hits in 8 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. This is more than adequate for a 38-year-old in his 15th big league season. Happ won’t light the world on fire, but he fills a role nicely for the Twins that can be supplemented by the likes of Randy Donak or Lewis Thorpe at different parts of the season. Matt Shoemaker, SP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Like Happ, Shoemaker was slated to be penciled into the back of the rotation with a hope that he could add some rotational depth. Randy Dobnak had a chance to fill in the final rotation spot, but many teams are struggling with how they will cover innings in 2021. So far in 2021, he has allowed five earned runs across 11 innings, which isn’t terrible for a number five starter. He hasn’t pitched over 78 innings since 2016, so the team will need to continue to monitor his health. Hansel Robles, RP Contract: 1-year/$2 million Robles was a little bit of a wild card when the Twins signed him as he struggled with a 10.26 ERA last year. This year he has made six appearances and allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. His role with the Twins might not yet be fully defined, but the Twins took a flyer on him. If the bullpen continues to struggle, Robles might get an opportunity to pitch in some higher leverage situations. The bullpen has been a mess, so Robles certainly hasn’t been the team’s biggest concern. What have been your impressions of these players so far in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. Byron Buxton Finishes in the Top-3 for AL MVP Buxton only has two years remaining until free agency, so there is an incentive for him to stay on the field and produce at a high level. There have been glimpses of his potential at the big-league level, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together over the course of 162-games. Even if he plays 140-150 games, he should accumulate enough WAR to be in the MVP discussion. Last season, he finished eighth highest WAR among AL position players, and he played fewer than 40 games. His defense is always going to provide value, so he will need to put up offensive numbers that match. Can he hit 30+ home runs? Score 120+ runs? Steal 30 bases? It’s fun to consider the possibilities. Twins Players Win Four Gold Gloves The Twins might have the best defense in team history and this can result in a record amount of Gold Gloves. No team has ever won five Gold Gloves in one season and that might not be out of the realm of possibility. Looking around field and there are potential Gold Glove winners at nearly every position. Byron Buxon and Andrelton Simmons are two of the best defenders over the last decade. If healthy, they are both front-runners for the award at their position. Max Kepler has been one of the best defensive right fielders for years and just hasn’t been awarded the top defensive honor. On the mound, Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios are two of the best pitchers at fielding their position. Add in Jorge Polanco and his switch to a less demanding defensive position and the Twins have six-seven candidates around the diamond. Minnesota Wins the AL Central by 10 Games or More The White Sox are getting a lot of love as the season starts and they look like a team that will be a thorn in the side of the Twins for years to come. It just isn’t going to be this season. Eloy Jimenez and his recent injury showcases their lack of depth around the diamond. Chicago is also relying on some of their young players putting it all together and there is no guarantee that happens. Minnesota will take care of business against the bottom teams in the AL Central and fare better than expected against Chicago and Cleveland. This can give the Twins an opportunity to be the number one seed heading into the AL playoffs and the road to the World Series will come through Target Field. It will be up to the club make sure some winning baseball happens in October. What are your bold predictions for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Projected Starter: Andrelton Simmons Likely Backup: Jorge Polanco Depth: Luis Arráez, Nick Gordon Prospects: Royce Lewis, Wander Javier THE GOOD Simmons isn't just a good defender, or a great defender, or even an elite defender. He is a generational icon, whose name already sits beside Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel in the annals of all-time gloves at shortstop. At Baseball.FYI last summer, Jacob Kornhauser suggested that Simmons may go down as MLB's best defensive player ever, period. His article points out that Simmons has accumulated 26.7 dWAR through nine seasons in the majors, already good for 14th in history and putting him on track to eventually surpass the all-time leader Smith, who took 19 years to reach 44.2 dWAR. "He makes the hard plays look routine and makes the routine plays look downright boring," Kornhauser wrote of Simmons. That's an apt description for the four-time Gold Glover in action. With his supernatural instincts and unparalleled arm strength, he's a marvel to behold at the infield's most challenging position. You'll see what I'm talking about in the highlight reel below. (Jump to the ~6:30 mark, and Simmons' play against Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets, for a prime example of a play that would simply never happen with Jorge Polanco – or virtually any other player – at short.) By nudging Polanco to second base and joining forces with a hopefully-healthy Josh Donaldson on the left side, Simmons represents a clear and decisive upgrade for Minnesota's defensive unit, potentially helping turn it into one of the league's most effective. Simmons' offense certainly pales in comparison to his defense, but he's far from a major liability at the plate. In six of his nine MLB seasons, his OPS+ has fallen between 90 and 110, which is basically within a standard deviation of average. He's a high-contact guy who puts the ball on the ground a lot, and will probably bat at the bottom of the Twins order. If Simmons simply hits to his .269/.317/.379 (.696) career line, he'll be a fairly typical producer compared to league-wide norms in the No. 8 and 9 lineup spots. The Twins can live with that given their offensive strength at every other position. Even with the consistently ordinary bat, Simmons has earned MVP votes on three separate occasions, including 2017 when he finished eighth and 2018 when he finished 15th. The defense is simply that good, and that impactful. If he's back on top of his game in 2021, Simmons will be a transformative figure for the Twins. THE BAD The 2020 season is one Simmons would like to forget. He hurt his left ankle for a second consecutive year, produced little punch at the plate (zero home runs and seven doubles in 127 PA), and opted out with a handful of games remaining, later revealing his struggles with mental health. There's no reason to think he can't put all that behind him and move forward with a fresh slate. But what's difficult to shake when evaluating the 31-year-old's latest campaign is the conspicuous drop-off in defensive metrics. Advanced fielding stats are inexact, prone to variation and noise. But up until last year, Simmons has consistently rated very, very well in these metrics, pretty much across the board. As you can see below, his Outs Above Average according to Statcast sat between 15 and 19 in the prior four years (with the highest total coming in 2019, when he was limited to 103 games). Last year, OAA had him at NEGATIVE-one in 30 games. Here's how Simmons has compared to his peers by OAA over the past four years: 2017: 99th percentile 2018: 98th percentile 2019: 99th percentile 2020: 24th percentile That's an astonishing drop-off that is impossible to ignore, samples aside. Switching views to another metric, here's how Simmons has rated according to UZR/150 since he arrived in the majors in 2012 (keep in mind this is a rate stat, not a counting stat, so it should theoretically not be as effected by the shortened season): 2012: 26.1 2013: 14.4 2014: 16.0 2015: 17.8 2016: 18.1 2017: 18.5 2018: 19.5 2019: 13.8 2020: 4.0 Again, what is so striking here is how incredibly consistent Simmons' top-tier defensive production was year after year, up until it plummeted. Clearly Simmons had a lot going on last year, physically and mentally. If he can turn the page and return to form, he's a slam-dunk addition with the deal Minnesota landed him on (one year, $10.5 million). But the fact they were able to get him on such favorable terms, while both other members of free agency's leading shortstop trio (Didi Gregorius and Marcus Semien) both got much more guaranteed money from other teams, leads to the inescapable conclusion there's a widespread skepticism about that scenario playing out. THE BOTTOM LINE The Simmons signing is the most interesting we've seen from this Twins front office, in terms of strategic vision and implications. If it works out as hoped, he'll have a dramatic impact on this team and its fundamental strengths. With so much offseason talk about pitching, and consternation over the failure to add big-name arms, not enough attention is paid to moves like this. Run prevention is the name of the game, and planting elite defenders at crucial positions in the field supports that directive. At the height of his powers, Simmons will make Twins pitchers, as well as the fielders around him, better. But that's dependent on his defense rebounding in a big way after taking an unprecedented downturn in 2020. As Kornhauer noted in his piece at Baseball.FYI: "In his nine seasons, Simmons has posted an overall WAR of 36.3, 26.7 of which is from his defense. In other words, he likely wouldn't be in the league anymore if it weren't for his defensive prowess." The return of that prowess, and to what extent, will define his value to the Twins in 2021. If he can't answer the call or stay healthy, Minnesota has a fine backup in Polanco, but their secondary depth is very iffy and Polanco is already a starter elsewhere. For this reason, I'll be curious to see if the Twins carry another SS-capable player like J.T. Riddle or Andrew Romine at the end of their bench. For now, we eagerly await Simmons' spring debut following a late arrival in camp. It sounds like that may come Friday. READ OTHER 2021 POSITION ANALYSIS ARTICLES Catcher First Base Second Base Third Base
  23. When a sports fan hears that a player on their favorite team is unavailable or late to a season because of “visa issues,” their mind seems to default to Hollywood scripts with the player in a back alley of a dodgy third world country, sweet talking a fat guy smoking a stogie between games of canasta. My personal experience, having processed over 500 such visas, is that little is known about the day to day processes most foreign-born athletes have to go through to get travel and work authorization to enter the United States. Then, when a situation happens like Dominican pitcher Fernando Romero’s now famous attempt to smuggle marijuana into the country, or off-the-field behavior like Sidney Ponson dealt with following an assault charge in his native Aruba, the “misbehavior” tag begins to be more readily applied to players awaiting visa issuance in their home country after the open of camp. But the truth is that the vast majority of visa delays, especially during a pandemic where consulates and embassies around the world are closed or short-staffed, are simply that – delays. They are often caused by bureaucratic headaches more than anything to do with the applicant. These same delays affect heads of Fortune 500 companies, families wishing to visit DisneyWorld, or even crewmembers on airplanes and cruise ships. For baseball players, while the skids are usually greased far more than they would be for you and I applying to work abroad, challenges can still present themselves on frequent occasions. Remember that MLB and its minor league affiliates have a higher percentage of athletes from poorer countries than any of the other major sports leagues. (The MLS is the only comparable league in American sports). As a result, its clubs have become more familiar with not only documentation issues arising from availability and legitimacy of birth certificates, criminal records checks, and even passports, but also a heightened degree of scrutiny among US consular and border officials in places like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Curacao, and Mexico than would be found in Canada or Western Europe. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the standard process a foreign-born athlete deals with once they agree to play for a team. The P-1 Petition While not every baseball player has a P-1 visa, the vast majority do. The P-1 is available specifically to: “a professional athlete employed by: (1) a team that is a member of an association of 6 or more professional sports teams whose combined revenues exceed $10,000,000 per year, if the association governs the conduct of its members and regulates the contests and exhibitions in which its members regularly engage, or (2) any minor league team that is affiliated with such an association.” As such, nearly any foreign athlete who signs a contract with a Major League Baseball team is eligible for a P-1, issued for five years or the length of the contract, whichever is shorter. While some apply for heightened visas (allowing them to stay year round) or even green cards due to their level of play, the vast majority use the P-1 classification. When a player signs with a new team in the offseason, or even if they re-sign with their old employer after their previous entry period expired, that team must file a “Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker” with the Department of Homeland Security to secure approval in the classification for the athlete. From a timing perspective, this is generally done concurrently with, or immediately after signing the player and adding them to the roster, to ensure that they meet the DHS requirement that a contract be enforceable at the time the Petition is filed. The sponsor or “Petitioner” of a P-1 Petition is the team itself. In almost all cases, it’s the team who signs the P-1 Petition and then an agent or immigration lawyer (like myself) ushers it through the process. For a $2500 fee to the government, this Petition can be expedited with DHS for adjudication within 15 calendar days, and often major league teams see that time shortened down to the better part of a week to ten days. But during the pandemic, the full 15 day period has become more common as in-office staffing at the agency has been reduced and workers have been moved offsite. Interestingly, when a player is traded midseason, the P-1 classification enables the player to play for the new team automatically for 30 days, allowing time for the new Petition to be filed by the new team. As we will see in the next section, the interplay between the Petition and the issuance of a visa can lead to challenges at the border for newly traded athletes, which comes into play in the rare instance the Twins would be playing in Toronto in late July or early August (or through some less common situations I’ve seen arise and mention below). But, with only one Canadian team in baseball, the issue can usually be avoided in baseball better than it can, for example, in the NHL. Consular Visa Issuance Once the P-1 Petition is approved, and the hard copy approval notice issued to the team (which can again be delayed in 2021 due to staffing issues), the Department of Homeland Security then notifies the consular post at the foreign athlete’s country of residence. Note that this not always the country of their passport or country of birth, such as with Cuban players who have taken residence in the Dominican Republic, or a player who may sign from the Blue Jays who has been living in Canada) but it most commonly is. As you can imagine, this means the Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic is quite familiar with P-1 visas for baseball players and generally tries to beef up staff in January and February of a given year to deal with the rush. However, the process of filing the visa paperwork online and getting a visa appointment is not always straightforward. Even in a standard year, a player may have to wait two to three weeks for a visa appointment, and since March 2020, when most consular posts have either been closed completely or offering limited services, even emergency requests such as are available to professional athletes are extremely limited. As an example, most Twins fans are now becoming familiar with, the Embassy in Willemstad, Curacao, a country of less than 160,000 people, is likely prepared to issue less than five to ten visas a day TOTAL. This includes anyone wishing to travel to the United States for personal or business tourism, anyone with a work authorized visa such as an athlete or worker moving to the US, and even those traveling through the United States en route to a third country. With limited flights out of Curacao, many locals fly through New York or Miami to get to Europe, for example, and they all require physical visas to transit through our country. What does this mean? That even in the best of times, clubs, agents, and immigration attorneys are often forced to wait in line to get their athlete into the building to have his visa issued. This year? If a player signed after January 1, they likely didn’t have an approval until close to February 1, and are even more likely not to have their day at the Embassy until mid-February. While we hope that athletes are prepared with all the documentation required to get their visa on the day, it also happens on occasion (primarily to younger minor league players) that they don’t have the requisite passport photos, forgot to bring the copy of the receipt for visa payment (which was probably made on their behalf), or simply left some portion of the Petition packet (as they generally carry a copy of the entire 50-80 page Petition and approval notice with them) at home. This won’t result in them having to get back in line to make a whole new appointment, but it can delay things a few days until the consulate can see them on a walk-in basis, especially considering COVID restrictions. Once the approval is finalized, however, they can expect the visa to be physically printed in their passport (and that of their family members) and delivered to them within a few days. While this is a fairly pro forma process and is derailed generally only by a situation where the athlete was arrested in the offseason (which often requires a stateside review of the charges to assess their seriousness and therefore, whether they can result in a bar to entry to the US), it still can have delays – everything from a passport expiring too soon to a delay in the cabling (yes, the DHS literally still sends approvals to their offshore counterparts in the Department of State by “cable”) of the approval. These things happen all the time and are part of the common parlance of any foreign national working in the United States. Do athletes have less of this than the stories you hear about your coworker’s cousin? Undoubtedly – but they still are quite common and frequent. Once the athlete receives the visa, annotated with the name of the employing team on it, it’s time to pack up and fly. In the case of Spring Training, they usually leave the next morning with a duffel bag or travel sized suitcase and quite commonly arrive ahead of their family members who the team works with to pack up the majority of their belongings that they will need for the season. The Border With a P1 visa in tow, the rest of the process should be easy, but as anyone who has ever crossed an international border knows, it is not necessarily over with. This is the lesson that Fernando Romero learned last year when he had a legitimate visa but was identified with carrying a controlled substance over the border, a “crime” (literally and figuratively) that now requires him to apply for a waiver of his prohibition on entering to enter the United States, potentially preventing him from entering the United States for as long as a few years. I can also name a half dozen cases where I’ve been called by teams because a guy missed a domestic US court appearance while he was outside of the country. Or, as I inferred in the first paragraph, a player took a quick trip to meet with his family in Mexico on an off day in Dallas after having been traded, forgetting that he required a new visa to enter the United States even though he didn’t need it to stay and work. Less serious border issues are usually a delay of an hour or two, such as when I traveled with a major leaguer into the US from Curacao last year and the computer couldn’t match his with those he had given earlier in the offseason at the consulate. (He was signed in November, so was able to take care of it early). It took almost 90 minutes before a US border official acknowledged that the callus he had formed on his index finger from his throwing workouts were the cause. I hope this quick primer, which is essentially the same that I offer to teams, agents, and new athletes, has helped the reader understand the three-step process involved in a player changing teams and securing the right to join his new team at the start of a season. Again, if the signing doesn’t happen until after January 1, it can be a very tight window to get the visa prior to the opening of camp. In the case of Andrelton Simmons in 2021, he signed January 31, likely didn’t have everything available for review by the consulate before about February 20, and is likely to have his day in Willemstad, Curacao any day now, following on the footsteps of his countrymen who either re-signed late in the offseason or changed teams, like Didi Gregorius and Jurickson Profar, respectively. When that happens, all will once again be right in the world. Cory Caouette is Managing Partner of BSIS, a professional immigration firm with a reputation for securing visas for foreign athletes. Who's Who of Corporate Immigration Law 2020 referred to BSIS and Mr. Caouette as "the go-to for sports immigration" and he has secured visas and permanent residence for athletes and teams in all four major sports leagues, as well as the PGA, UFC, ATP Tour, and several other athletic organizations.
  24. The Twins front office has proven themselves to be masters of free agent spending efficiency. This offseason, they have spent around $37.5MM, accruing an additional 7.2 fWAR (ZiPS). Baseball is not a salary capped sport, but imagine how effective the Twins would be at managing it if it were. I respect the hell out of how the Twins get their WAR. I decided to dig in and compare the makeup of the 2021 roster with previous seasons. Not Their First Rodeo It’s worth starting before the 2018 season to understand the evolution of the Twins consistent approach to the offseason. Prior to the 2018 season with the Twins, Falvey and Levine waited out the market and signed Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn late in the day. Neither move worked out well. Morrison, coming off an exceptional 2017 season, was hampered by injuries, and Lynn looked sweaty and uninterested on his way to a 4.77 ERA. He was later traded away to the Yankees. This approach however, foreshadowed the organizational approach to free agency which has evolved and improved in each of the seasons following 2018. 40+ WAR for the Playoffs? There is a common maxim in baseball that just north of 40 WAR makes you a playoff contender. When comparing the 2021 and 2019 rosters (the Twins last full season), it’s easy to just make rote comparisons between players, without also examining how the units of infield, outfield, and pitching may function. Coming into this offseason, the Twins had a significant amount of holes to fill, with Cruz, Romo, May, Clippard, Wisler, Marwin Gonzalez, Odorizzi, and others becoming free agents. An additional constraint was a moderate (self-imposed) payroll reduction, coming off a year with decreased revenues due to a shortened season and no fans in the stands. The front office didn’t blink. In the space of 10 days the Twins signed J.A. Happ, Andrelton Simmons, re-signed Nelson Cruz, and added Alex Colome. Let’s look broadly at the cumulative impact of those moves on each aspect of the Twins roster using the Twins 2019 and 2020 counterparts for comparison. Rotation Depth J.A. Happ currently slots into the fourth rotation spot where Rich Hill pitched in 2020. Happ is projected 1.6 fWAR in 2021 making $8MM, a similar amount to Hill with his incentive laden 1 year deal in 2020. While Hill didn’t get the opportunity to pitch a full season for the Twins, this move is essentially a wash, with Happ having shown over the last 10+ years that he is a slightly above average MLB starter. This pushes Randy Dobnak into the 5th rotation spot. At 1.7 projected fWAR, he is, in fact, tied with Chris Paddack for the highest projected fWAR of any number five starter. The Twins could stand to add depth to their rotation and bullpen and while it remains to be seen if the rotation has enough ceiling to dominate in the playoffs, the pitching staff as a whole is projected to be the 6th best in baseball, per Fangraphs depth charts. Bullpen There’s a ton of flux in the bullpen for 2021, with May, Romo, Wisler, and Clippard departing. The Twins have added a stable of good velocity fastball, wipeout slider guys to compete for the 8th spot in the pen, but prior to that, made another great efficiency move. The Twins turned down a $5MM option on the soon to be 38 year old Romo for 2021, instead signing Alex Colome, former White Sox closer and five years Romo’s junior for the same price. Colome for Romo is another excellent example of the Twins efficiency leading up to the 2021 season, Colome is younger, better, and has outperformed his peripherals in each of his previous eight MLB seasons. Which back end would you rather have in 2021, Rogers, Duffey, Romo, or Rogers, Duffey, Colome? We can assume the latter, and Romo and Colome would have cost the Twins the same price in 2021. Infield Improvements The infield has seen a seismic shift, adding actual wizard Andrelton Simmons, pushing Jorge Polanco to 2B, where the Twins feel like he can be an above average fielder, and shunting Luis Arraez into a super utility role which limits his defensive shortcomings (and use of his ankles). To illustrate this impact, I compared the 2019 (last full 162 game season) and 2021 occupant of each infield position by projected fWAR in 2021 and compared their OAA averaged over the last 3 seasons at that position (if available). Essentially, I am trying to answer the question; what are the Twins looking at for infield quality in 2021, compared to what they had in 2019? I realize the shortcomings of using projections, but the comparison effectively illustrates the Twins accomplishment in improving both offensive and defensive production from their infield unit as a whole over the last 2 years. SS: Andrelton Simmons projected 2.7 fWAR (averaged 9.3 OAA) in for Jorge Polanco projected 2.7 fWAR (averaged -10.5 OAA) 2B: Jorge Polanco, projected 2.7 fWAR (no OAA data for 2B) in for Luis Arraez projected 2.9 fWAR (averaged -4.5 OAA) 3B: Josh Donaldson, projected 3.1 fWAR (averaged 4.5 OAA) in for (mostly) Miguel Sano 2.7 fWAR (averaged -3 OAA) Util: Luis Arraez, projected 2.9 fWAR (average -4.5 OAA) in for Marwin Gonzalez projected 0.9 fWAR averaged (2.3 OAA) Net projection: +2.2 fWAR, +15.4 OAA Will this is of course, an overly simplistic approach, the projections call for the Twins infield to improve by over two wins in 2021 (mostly subbing Arraez for Marwin). Additionally, they significantly increased the quality of their infield defense. It’s also worth noting that Marwin Gonzalez made a comparable salary in 2019 and 2020 to the one Andrelton Simmons will make in 2021. The Other Side of the Coin: The LA Dodgers The Dodgers mercifully ended Trevor Bauer’s free agency by signing him to a contract which will pay him $40MM in 2021 (market value-ish for his projected 4.4 fWAR). While loathe to write about Bauer, the Dodgers move is useful in illustrating the opposite of the Twins approach. The Dodgers careened through the luxury tax threshold and paid a premium for their WAR. This is a perfectly fine approach, but given that it’s not one the Twins will be taking anytime in the near future, I hope Twins fans can appreciate the nimbleness of this front office in constructing a consistently excellent, flexible roster. The Twins have likewise continued to prioritize preserving their farm system and the ability to have a sustainable winner over the next 3-5 years. What do you think of the Twins roster makeup and balance in 2021? What are areas of concern or areas you believe need strengthening to make a playoff push (or win a single game)? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Looking Back: The Glenn Williams Story — The Twins Interest in Matt Shoemaker is Intriguing — Twins Daily 2021 Top Prospects: 11-15
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