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  1. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will ultimately steer the direction of the 2022 club this offseason. It’s a very stripped-down roster compared to how this season started in terms of expectations, and how the front office decides to rebuild or retool is yet to be determined. However, there are still pieces in place, and answering questions about three key subjects could determine Minnesota’s outlook in the year ahead. Max Kepler Signed to an extension at the same time as Jorge Polanco, Kepler was given the larger contract. He responded by posting a career-best .855 OPS and was a key contributor on the Bomba Squad. In 155 games since he’s posted just a .737 OPS and 103 OPS+. To say he’s failed expectations would be putting it lightly. Still just 28 years old, Kepler does hope for a prime resurgence to be in front of him. Minnesota dreamed of a player ready to take a step forward, and they saw it for just a single season. Much of how the Twins were expected to compete in 2021 and beyond was reliant on the core of Kepler, Polanco, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton. Those players reaching the peaks of their potential at the same time was always the developmental hope. As pointed out by Twins Daily contributors Nash Walker and Tom Froemming, there’s a lot under the hood to like about Kepler. He’s a strong defender, and the inputs still suggest that production has room for positive regression. It’s getting late early, though, and the reality is results must follow. The Twins outfield could be crowded next season, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach joining Buxton and Kepler on more of a full-time basis. This winter, the front office may be tempted by dealing the German-born corner. What is the next step for Kepler, and does it happen with the Twins? Miguel Sano On the books for $9.25 million in 2022, Miguel Sano would seem to be in the Twins plans for the upcoming year fiscally. While there were times he looked essentially unplayable at the beginning of 2021, the reality is that he’s a hulking power hitter that’s always been susceptible to cold streaks. The timing wasn’t there out of the gate, but not playing him has often been fruitless. Since July 4, Sano has posted an .865 OPS, which has jumped up to an .895 OPS in September. He’s an asset at the dish while being a patient and potent slugger. The ability at first base leaves plenty to be desired, but there’s an argument to be made that keeps his head in the game rather than just having him hit. Presumably, the Twins won’t have a consistent designated hitter in 2022, which would seem optimal when it comes to roster construction. With Kirilloff worth taking time at first base and Josh Donaldson benefitting from days off in the field, rotating through bats makes sense. Where Miguel Sano fits into the Twins plans next season remains to be seen. Is he cast entirely as their designated hitter, how much time does he split with Kirilloff at first, and is the club more adequately prepared to ride with him through the low points? Starting Rotation Surprisingly the Twins bullpen has taken a positive turn down the stretch, and a unit that was a complete zero to start the year has produced in the latter half of the season. There are usable pieces there looking ahead to 2022, and even Alex Colome could wind up finding his option selected by Minnesota. When it comes to the rotation, the front office has its hands full. Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan look like future pieces, but counting on either of them to be the Opening Day starter seems like an acceptance of futility. Depth and quality would suggest a need for a higher ceiling option to be brought in, and where or how high Falvey aims should say plenty about the intentions for competitiveness. As was the case coming into 2021, Minnesota has plenty of top prospects on the pitching side. Many were shelved at different points throughout this season after having a year off in 2020, and relying on them as more than a bonus seems foolhardy. However, building a group punctuated with retread veterans shouldn’t be expected to move the needle much either. Derek Falvey’s calling card in coming to the Twins was pitching prowess, and while he’s helped develop some throughout the system, an overhaul like this will take some serious architecting. 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. Former Twins World Series MVP brought up the idea that the organization has failed and changed direction due to the results of 2021. He’s not alone in suggesting that narrative, but to say such a result reflects organizational failure also conveniently ignores what took place the previous four years of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine’s tenure. There’s no denying that 2021 has gone poorly. Most importantly, the Twins pitching has fallen flat. The front office banked on J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and some mediocre bullpen additions to supplement a roster looking to rise. As injuries took their toll and ineffective play became prevalent, the entirety of the ship went up in flames. Looking back, though, this front office helped to architect a 26-win improvement and Postseason berth in their first season, as well as having won the division in back-to-back seasons before this year. 2019 will forever go down as among the best in franchise history, and the installment of Rocco Baldelli in 2019 has led to a .550 winning percentage through his first three seasons. Now that praises have been sung, and reality has been levied, it’s time for the trio to grow. For the first time in their tenure, Falvey and Levine fell short. They flopped on Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison previously, but this is a club that had heightened expectations, and virtually every acquisition or move of substance from this offseason went up in flames. Without embarking on a complete rebuild, they’ve traded the club’s ace and now could be without Kenta Maeda in the year ahead as well. The Twins don’t have the best farm system in baseball, and although they’ve been ranked closer to the middle, intriguing depth is there. Unfortunately, there’s been a host of arm injuries across baseball following the 2020 shutdown in the minors, and Minnesota’s best prospects have been hit especially hard. Falvey and Levine will need to work with internal staff to ensure those players' health and future projection while not relying solely on them for a return to relevance in 2022 and beyond. The duo will need to make a better showing than their track record has proven on the acquisition front. Unfortunately, free agency is often a field of landmines, but some teams avoid hitting them all, and Falvey will need to stop the string of consistent blowups. Spending should remain relatively intact, but supplementing the Twins back to the top won’t come entirely through the dollar on the open market. There should be belief in the infrastructure set up since Falvey and Levine have taken over. From baseball operations to the development and coaching staff, there are plenty of talented individuals guiding players down the right path. Putting moldable pieces in front of them should continue to be the goal, and the assumption is that the process will bear positive results. In the dugout, Rocco has his first chance to grow as well. Having dealt with adversity that everyone experienced in 2020 is different than fighting through a season in which results consistently left something to be desired. Baldelli has done well to connect with his players, and he’s been praised for decisions when things have gone right. Unfortunately, all of the coin flips went wrong to start the year, and he’s doubled down with some questionable steps at times since. For the former Rays star, the expectation should be that new faces (and possibly some younger ones) will filter into Target Field during the final month and into 2022. Baldelli will have to put his best foot forward when maximizing their potential while putting them in a position to best capitalize on the opportunity. Right now, the answers aren’t immediately evident, and this writer doesn’t pretend to have them all. That said, it will be on Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, and Rocco Baldelli to show they have the chops to find them. Everyone feels content when things are going well, but through adversity, you’re able to grow and presented with it for the first time that trio has their most significant opportunity yet. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. No, the problem is not that the Twins don’t spend money, but rather that they don’t know HOW to spend money. Said another way, they don’t correctly know how to spend money. As we embark upon a quasi-deadline for homegrown talents like Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, it seems the front office is faced with a decision to extend or deal both talents. Buxton would be looking at a payday north of $200 million as a free agent coming off a season of health. Jose Berrios wants to max out his value, and it seems he’s all but gone in this club’s mind. Those are problems, but only because they compound an already developing issue. Way back when the Twins paid Joe Mauer. He was worth every penny and was underpaid throughout his career. Nothing about his contract hamstrung a mid-market team without a salary cap. What prevented the hometown nine from winning was the lack of supplementation on the roster, both in youth and acquired talent. Fast forward to where we are now, and once again, the Twins are showing a lack of ability to spend wisely. This club paid Josh Donaldson nearly $100 million following one season with Atlanta. The Bringer of Rain posted a .259/.379/.521 slash line in 2019 while playing in 155 games. His first year in Minnesota was challenging in that the pandemic cut short any real season, but nagging leg injuries kept him to just 28 games and out of the most important during October. Look at what Donaldson has done for Minnesota, however, and it’s nothing short of what this club should’ve hoped. After his 124 OPS+ in Atlanta, Donaldson has posted a .244/.358/.485 slash and 135 OPS+ with the Twins. The slugging has slid a bit, but the ball has changed, and arguably the only knock has been losing a step defensively. After an injury-plagued season a year ago, he’s been one of the most consistently available Twins in 2021. So, here we are with a big contract given out to a free agent that’s performing, and Minnesota is looking at a teardown. Donaldson could be had for salary relief, Berrios could command prospects, and Buxton may be the most exciting asset the sport has seen in a long time. Once again, though, this club looks to have failed to spend. Over the winter, the thought process should’ve been acquiring talent to supplement this group. Alex Colome and Hansel Robles had appeal on paper, but neither is the impact arm the provides insurance for the group headlined by Taylor Rogers and Tyler Duffey. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were veteran starters with relatively decent floors, but neither would push Berrios or Kenta Maeda for the top of the rotation duty. When acquiring talent to raise the water level, this organization changed out oars and continued to tread water. Donaldson was a significant expense, and nothing was done to truly supplement him. Here we are now facing an awful result, and the outcome could be moving assets for hope in the future. Target Field was opened under the assumption that Minnesota would be able to retain its homegrown talent. Watching Buxton and Berrios be moved isn’t a reality that is supposed to take place. Suppressed payrolls for much of the past decade should pave the way for an influx of dollars to be utilized around a core that’s shown it can compete. Right now, it feels like that couldn’t be further from the truth. I don’t believe that Minnesota’s strategy should be to play in the pool near a $200 million mark. Acquiring top-tier talent only to keep them on an island and then piecing things out for another cycle when things go wrong looks like a misappropriated allocation of funds. Development isn’t linear and should be the focus internally. Still, it’s time this organization made financial commitments to those they’ve seen bear fruit and then continue to support the roster as a whole with acquired talent that makes more sense than just cents on the dollar. 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. Coming into 2021 this was supposed to be a good Major League roster. Rocco Baldelli was piloting a club coming off two-straight AL Central division titles, and there was no reason to believe they wouldn’t contend with the rival Chicago White Sox. Fast forward to where we are now, and the reality couldn’t be further from that promise. Minnesota has dealt with a plethora of injuries. Byron Buxton leads the team with 2.7 fWAR yet has played just 27 games. Kenta Maeda took massive steps backwards, Josh Donaldson has been good not great, and injuries have crushed the roster all over. Ineffectiveness first from the bullpen, and then sustained by the rotation, have worked wonders to sink an already bludgeoned ship. So, it’s not about if pieces move; that’s a certainty. Now, we’re going to find out if the front office sees a way forward, or if they’re admitting a massive miscalculation in what they have. As Nick Nelson pointed out yesterday, the Twins most desirable talents are a duo (trio?) of players they shouldn’t want to trade. Jose Berrios and Taylor Rogers (along with the unmentioned Buxton) are worthy of the biggest haul. For a team that should be in a position to retool and reset before 2022 kicks off, moving any of them would suggest a disbelief in that being a workable process. There’s no doubt that signing Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton to long term deals makes sense from a talent perspective. They aren’t players you can just replace, and without considering alternative ramifications, they are assets you should want on your roster until they leave on their own volition. It also stands to reason that dealing them prior to their final year of team control would increase the return. No matter what prospect capital is brought back, the impact won’t immediately be felt and may never come to fruition. Maybe Miguel Sano and Max Kepler aren’t the players Derek Falvey and Thad Levine envisioned them to be when offering contract extensions. That’s an unfortunate reality, more so with the tools Kepler should possess, but one that’s ultimately understandable. You’d be trading either at a low point in their value, but there’s a very clear backup plan in each scenario as well. Making deals that involve either of those two wouldn’t necessarily shift the future course for this club. On the flip side, having to replace the ace of a staff on a bad rotation, the lockdown arm in a bad bullpen, or arguably the most athletically-gifted player in the sport is going to be a catastrophic hurdle in the near future. If that’s what’s deemed necessary, then the ultimate direction envisioned by this front office has been incredibly poorly executed, and we’re starting over from the prospect level. Give it to Falvey and Levine; their infrastructure has seemed sound. There’s been decent development on the farm, and while injuries have hurt that progression plenty in 2021, it doesn’t take away from what appears to be coming. If a complete rebuild of the Major League roster needs to take place at this point though, it looks as if the last two division titles and supplementation of that core may have been more about timely circumstances than well designed execution. The duo doesn’t have a great free agency track record, and while they’ve made a few shrewd deals, largely they’ve failed to evaluate their own near-ready and currently available big league talent. When the calendar flips on July the Twins should have a vastly different looking roster. That’s expected. If even one of three key names move, well then, this front office has much less going for it than was originally thought. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises during the 2017 season after losing an MLB high 103-games the previous season. As the calendar turned to July, the Twins found themselves two games behind the Cleveland and the team stayed within striking distance for much of the month. However, as July ended and the trade deadline approached, the club lost seven of nine games and sat 6.5 games back in the division. The team went from buyers to sellers over a few days and that’s how the deadline played out. Falvey and Levine made it clear entering the deadline that the team wasn’t going to sway from their long-term vision. "In order to accomplish that, we maybe started the year not anticipating being a clear buyer at the Deadline," Levine said at the time. "I don't think we feel that's changed dramatically, other than maybe adding his one qualifier: We're probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets, but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.” The 2017 season impacted the team’s decision making at the trade deadline, because it shifted them from being likely sellers to contemplating buying. The team held on to veterans like Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, and Joe Mauer. There was also the debacle that was the Jaime Garcia trade as the front office went from buyers to sellers in less than a week. After the deadline, the team went on a run to finish in the second Wild Card spot, but there might be some lessons learned by the front office. During the 2021 season, Minnesota is having another surprising season, but it is for all the wrong reasons. The Twins entered the season believing they would be fighting for a third straight AL Central title and now the club sits double digit games out of first. Looking at the team’s upcoming schedule and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the club might be facing a 2017 decision before the trade deadline. Leading into the All-Star Game, the Twins have 12 straight intra-division games including six against the division leading White Sox. The Twins have too much talent to be this far below .500 for the entire season, so they may accidentally improve as the season progresses. Minnesota’s pitching has improved, and the offense has become more of the force they were expected to be at season’s start. There’s certainly a realistic chance of the Twins being within 6.5 games or better at the trade deadline. This can put them in a similar position as 2017, but this time the team was expected to be a contender. Many expect the Twins to be sellers before the trade deadline, but they hold their destiny in their own hands. Veterans like Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, and Michael Pineda can be dealt, but the club might also find themselves back in the playoff race with plenty of lessons learned from 2017. Do you think the front office learned from 2017 deadline? How will it impact the 2021 trade deadline? 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
  6. Across the division in Cleveland, Falvey grew a reputation for being able to develop pitching. Minnesota needed to overhaul that aspect of their development, and the early returns were promising. Despite the Bomba Squad emerging in 2019, Minnesota also became the best pitching version of itself that the franchise had seen in years. Taylor Rogers was elite, Tyler Duffey was transformed, and a number of fliers worked out. Enter 2021 and things couldn’t be further from that reality. This Twins club owns the 29th overall fWAR mark from their pitching staff, and both starters and relievers have been collectively terrible. The lineup took a bit to get going, but it hasn’t been an issue for weeks. With the White Sox now having all but ended Minnesota’s chances in the year ahead, a look at 2022 puts both Falvey and Levine squarely on the hot seat. Given the amount of talent eyeing a return on this roster, and the unexpected nature of these results, a full rebuild should not be the course of action in 2022. Reloading and trying it again with some new pieces makes all the sense in the world. What the front office must not do again however, is look to shop in the bargain bin and think the process will entirely translate into results. I have long harped on the infrastructure brought in by this front office as being exceptional. That still rings true. Wes Johnson is a good pitching coach, and throughout the farm there’s intelligent instructors. At some point though, you can’t bank entirely on a blueprint squeeze more juice from an already cashed fruit. J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker were fine back-end additions, but they both relied entirely on depth with nothing done to raise the water level. From the vantage point we have now, walking through this smoldering warzone, Falvey has virtually nothing to show for this season. The plethora of waiver claims all failed to pan out, save for the small sample of Luke Farrell. Happ and Shoemaker have been terrible. Randy Dobnak was extended, then optioned, and has never had a real defined role. On the farm, each of the top prospects has now gone down with arm issues, likely due to the year off. Yes, Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic look good, but there’s more reason to be cautious than excited at this point. In the year ahead it will be on the Twins to use their depth as a fall back plan rather than seeing it as a source of reliance. Signings like Happ and Shoemaker indicated a belief one or both would soon be bumped as prospects came for their spots. Now Shoemaker is gone entirely, and the lack of options becomes even more glaring with yet another miss added to the books. Jose Berrios has been good, but not yet elevated to the next step, and now the talk of trading him lands even more into a questionable realm for me. Over the winter the plan has to be pitching, spending on it, and making sure it’s right. Relief arms are generally fickle year over year. Expecting Alexander Colome to fall this hard wasn’t a good bet. In 2022 you can reshuffle that group and bring in new faces, but they can’t be supplemented with a bunch of fall back options just ran out in case of emergency. The starting staff needs a legit arm that slots in to the top three, and that’s on top of paying or at least keeping Berrios. One bad season in the midst of such turnaround isn’t going to cost the front office their jobs, but there is plenty of reason to question why Derek Falvey hasn’t come through with his calling card should we see two years’ worth of these results. It’s time to right this ship, fix it, and prove the belief has been warranted. Dollars, development, whatever path you want to take, pitching can not be a problem for the Twins in the year ahead. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. There’s no way of putting this lightly, the Twins have been awful in 2021. After starting 5-2 they have fallen, tripped, and smacked their faces right on the proverbial sidewalk. Rocco, the front office, and players all deserve a differing part of the blame, but the results have been nothing short of terrible. I don’t expect that to continue over a full 162 games, but regardless of what happens, this strikes me more as outlier than indicative of the future. Why is that important? Looking at 2022, the Twins will need to decide a path forward. That starts now and the groundwork begins to be laid. Someone very likely needs to be fired for this debacle. Maybe that’s the hitting coach, or maybe it’s a clubhouse attendant. I don’t really care who it is, and I’m not sure it’s productive in many veins other than sending a message. That said, unless the analysis by so many was so wrong, then there’s plenty to build from here. Could the front office have done more this offseason? Potentially, but the landmines are all over the place there. Trevor May would be nice, but goodbye to Andrelton Simmons or Nelson Cruz then. Other bullpen pieces with ties have all been bad save for Liam Hendriks, who would’ve been a substantial cost in only helping one area. Maybe a better 4th starter made sense, but hey, James Paxton is already done for the year and Corey Kluber has been a bit more lucky than good despite his recent no hitter. What they could’ve done and what they did on the open market isn’t too wide of a divide. That brings us to the reality moving forward. What the Twins have in terms of relevance still banks heavily on pieces that were committed to on the basis of assumed production. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano were all signed to extensions on the basis of upward trajectory. It’s fair to assess all three as having fallen short of expectations, but where do they fit going forward. Is it so bad that they aren’t lineup fixtures at all? If so, that’d be damning for the front office and quite a fall in terms of development. Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton remain as key pieces, while Josh Donaldson still has multiple years left on his deal. From there Minnesota was always going to be in a place of opportunity. Cruz, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Simmons are all on one-year deals. So too is Alex Colome and Hansel Robles. The front office gave themselves flexibility in this roster construction to re-tool rather than rebuild. Alex Kirilloff has an opportunity to establish himself, as does Trevor Larnach. Down the stretch guys like Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic should become potential solutions, and they’ll all provide a clearer picture heading into 2022. If there’s uncertainty for the year ahead, it’s whether the season happens at all given the MLBPA and MLB’s looming CBA discussions. Should cooler heads prevail though, tearing this down and starting over would seem like a rash over reaction by this front office. They’ve put the right developmental and coaching pieces in place, and we’ve seen that bear fruit throughout the organization. Rather than second guessing that at this point, it makes sense to crumple up this calendar, toss it out, and recalibrate with new assets from a position that should be relatively similar to where they found themselves after 2020. A weird year interrupted by pandemic issues likely hid some of the more notable regression we may have seen from some major league contributors. Now having that rear its head, deciding whether it’s a small sample or indicative of more remains the key focus going forward. This ship will turn some the rest of the way, and although the Twins won’t make the Postseason, they shouldn’t embark on an offseason with any less certainty as to who they are than they entered 2021 with initially. 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. When a team is successful, it’s only natural for other organizations to want to try and steal some of that success. That can come from hiring away other team’s front office personnel and coaches. The Twins have seen multiple coaches be snagged by other teams over the last handful of years, but the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine combo have stayed together at the top of the organization. However, they may not stay together forever. After just 21 games, the Colorado Rockies are looking for a new person to take over their general manager role. This is the first time since 2014 that Colorado is looking for a new general manager. Jeff Bridich resigned earlier in the week and it sounds like the club will wait until this winter to hire a permanent replacement. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Levine is “the leading candidate to become only the fourth Rockies’ GM in history.” Levine has ties to the Rockies organization as he served in a variety of roles with the club from 1999-2005 including senior director of baseball operations. He left for Texas after that and joined the Twins back in 2016. Colorado isn’t exactly an easy place to be a general manager. Just this winter, the former GM was forced to trade All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado in a deal that included the Rockies paying $51 million of his remaining $199 million salary. Trevor Story, now the team’s best player, will be a free agent at season’s end. They also have one of the worst ranked farm systems in baseball, so there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism moving forward. Next season will be Colorado’s 30th and the team has never won a division title. Things aren’t looking that great for 2021 either as the team currently sits at 8-14, the lowest winning percentage in the National League. The Twins were coming off some rough seasons when Levine joined the organization, but they weren’t nearly as big of a mess as the current state of the Rockies. Other organizations have shown interest in Levine over the last three years. Back in 2018, the Mets were interested in interviewing Levine for their GM spot. This past offseason he was one of the top contenders for the President of Baseball Operations position in Philadelphia. He took his name out of the running for that job, because he was committed to his role with the Twins. In fact, he is signed with Minnesota through 2024. It seems likely for Levine to have a chance to take over his own front office at some point in the future. His name is going to continue to be floated out there for nearly every opening. There are clearly some connections to his time in Colorado, but the Rockies are a mess of a franchise. It doesn’t seem like the right opportunity, but that doesn’t mean Levine will be a Twin for life. Do you think Levine will seriously consider the Rockies job? Leave a COMMENT and join 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
  9. Position: RHP Age: 22 (DOB: 9-17-1998) 2019 Stats (Low-A/High-A): 93.2 IP, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 12.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 ETA: 2022 2020 Ranking: 5 2019 Ranking: NA National Top 100 Rankings BA: NR | MLB: 97 | ATH: 63 |BP: NR What’s To Like Canada hasn’t exactly been a hotbed of MLB pitching talent, but Balazovic looks to buck that trend in the years to come. Last year, he was added to the organization’s alternate site in St. Paul before ending the year in the team’s instructional league. By season’s end, he was added to Minnesota’s 40-man roster and that leaves him even closer to making his big-league debut even though he has yet to make an appearance above the High-A level. One positive to come out of last year’s pandemic was Balazovic was able to concentrate on adding weight to his lanky frame. When Minnesota selected him in the fifth round, he was a long and lean 17-year-old that was listed at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds. Since then, he has added two inches in height and bulked up to 217 pounds. This has helped his fastball move from the high-80s into the mid-90s. Many scouting reports praise him for his pitching deception as hitters can’t pick up the ball well out of his hand. Typically, he uses his fastball at the top of the zone, and it has helped him to post SO/9 totals north of 11.0 over the last two seasons. He throws strikes and he has four pitches that he isn’t afraid to throw in any situation, which make him a very projectable big-league arm. What’s Left To Work On Like many budding pitching prospects, Balazovic continues to refine his secondary pitches. His change-up is the biggest work in progress, but he has made significant strides since joining the organization and it has a chance to be an above average pitch. This pitch will help him to attack left-handed hitters, but he might already be able to do that since lefties only hit .189/.232/.269 against him in 2019. Currently, his slider is his out pitch although he uses his curveball to get strikes as well. He has yet to pitch over 100 innings in any professional season, so that will be an important milestone for 2021. His violent delivery helps to add some deception, but this can also be a concern. Some pitchers with violent deliveries suffer from health or control issues, but neither of these have been a concern so far in Balazovic’s career (knock on wood). What’s Next Last season, Balazovic worked hard to make sure he got invited to the alternate site before the season ended. This allowed the coaching staff to work closely with him and for the front office to get a better idea of how ready he was to take the next step. As mentioned last week, he is good friends with Blayne Enlow, another Twins top pitching prospect, and they keep pushing each other up the organizational ladder. How aggressive will the Twins be with Balazovic this season? It seems most likely that he would spend the majority of the season at Double-A with an outside chance of appearing with St. Paul before the season is complete. Last winter, president of baseball operation Derek Falvey said that he expected Balazovic and Jhoan Duran to make their MLB debuts. It didn’t happen in 2020, so the time might be right in 2021. Do you think Balazovic should be the Twins top pitching prospect? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Twins Daily 2021 Top 20 Prospects Honorable Mentions 20. Bailey Ober, RHP 19. Jose Miranda, INF 18. Alerick Soularie, OF 17. Ben Rortvedt, C 16. Edwar Colina, RHP 15. Cole Sands, RHP 14. Misael Urbina, OF 13. Matt Wallner, OF 12. Brent Rooker, OF/1B 11. Gilberto Celestino, OF 10. Blayne Enlow, RHP 9. Matt Canterino, RHP 8. Aaron Sabato, 1B 7. Keoni Cavaco, SS 6. Jordan Balazovic, RHP Stop by tomorrow for prospect #5! 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. A younger generation of fans might not recall that for a stretch in the 2000s, the Twins’ pitchers were a perennial top-10 strikeout staff. That was mostly due to one man: Johan Santana. In 2006, with Santana and Francisco Liriano in the same rotation, they led the American League while finishing behind only the Chicago Cubs in strikeout rate overall. It was a glorious era of missing bats in Minnesota. The Johan Santana trade happened right as strikeouts began to skyrocket. The Twins, however, never got the memo. From 2008 until 2016 they never finished higher than 23rd out of the 30 teams. By 2011 Minnesota was ensconced as the anti-strikeout team, actively bragging about their ability to hit bats and finishing last in strikeouts. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what was to blame. There were obvious factors like targeting free agents with low strikeout arms, a philosophy of developing sinkerball pitchers, and encouraging quick contact (“I’m not trying to strike people out,” Nick Blackburn readily admitted in 2012). Meanwhile pitchers with swing-and-miss potential like Liriano and Scott Baker battled injuries and ineffectiveness. They were also pushed by coaches toward pitching to contact. When it became beyond apparent that the game had shifted toward big velocity, the front office tried to course correct by drafting college power arms, trading a future Gold Glove shortstop and two starting center fielders for more hard-throwers. Prompted by 2016’s “Total System Failure”, ownership finally accepted that it could no longer continue on the same path. And because a lot of the failure stemmed from years of poor pitching performances and inability to develop it consistently, it was no surprise when the person chosen to lead baseball operations was a pitching savant. Interestingly, Falvey and company did not make any sudden or major moves. With the exception of adding Jason Castro and Chris Gimenez as catchers -- one a strong framer, the other a strong clubhouse presence -- the 2017 team advanced with the same set of arms as the previous year. They retained the same pitching coach. By simply progressing to the mean, the Twins’ pitching staff finished a half-run better in ERA, 20 points lower in batting average and winning 26 more games overall. Yet at the conclusion of Falvey’s first year, the staff dropped to 28th in strikeout rate. That wasn’t necessarily by design but it was clear that Falvey spent his first season evaluating what he currently had at his disposal. After that task was completed, the real work began. It was that offseason in which the organization held a pivotal meeting. The Twins had recently hired two key people to lead the pitching development process: Pete Maki from Duke to be the team’s minor league pitching coordinator and pitching analyst Josh Kalk from the Tampa Bay Rays. In order to create a unified vision for the team’s pitching, they hosted a summit with coaches, coordinators, front office members and former players turned advisors. With so many great minds in one room, there is potential danger for certain personalities to dominate the conversation. Front office officials, based on their title alone, might carry more sway in the conversation. Long-time instructors could have belittled and dismissed ideas from newly hired college coaches. A former pitcher-turned-advisor might be vocal about how things were done in his day and poo-poo this new age technobabble nonsense. None of that happened, however. “You almost set ground rules for things like that. Where you start at the outset and say, this is egoless, hierarchy doesn't matter, this is about us brainstorming and think-tanking,” said Falvey, discussing the team’s pitching summit in the winter of 2018. “Let's vet it. Let's talk about it. Let's disagree.” Falvey came away impressed by the group’s dynamic. “I know we are in a good place organizationally when we were sitting in that room and two guys had totally different opinions and they went back and forth and then the meeting ended and they still talked and walked out the room. That's a healthy place to be. Because we're never going to agree completely, if we do that just means we are saying yes to one idea. If we can disagree and actually, genuinely talk about different perspectives, we’ve got a chance to make up ground and be better.” What is notable is not just the brainstorming, but Falvey’s emphasis on allowing for disagreement. Research has shown that creativity is substantially increased when members are allowed to criticize one another’s ideas. Provided that the criticism goes beyond the “oh man that will never work” shutdown, it can spark a cycle of critical feedback that can lead to creative breakthroughs — such as entertaining the notion of hiring a major league pitching coach straight from the college ranks. Wes Johnson’s name likely did not arise at the gathering that year. Still, that mindset eventually led the organization in the right direction. If they had stayed within the pool of established pitching coaches -- as was the norm -- it is hard to say where the team would be right now. “This is the way we’ve always done it” is considered a poisonous phrase. It is partially responsible for why the Twins held so tightly to a pitching philosophy long after it became productive to do so. The new front office fought hard to avoid that from happening again. It was preferable, but not necessarily a prerequisite, to hire employees who came from outside of baseball. Those hires wouldn’t be tainted by a preconceived notion of how things are done in professional baseball. With new eyes comes fresh ideas. Similarly, on the field the Twins added Johnson and Jeremy Hefner, who had no coaching experience, as the primary and assistant pitching coach in 2019. Throughout the organization, coaches and instructors were given free reign to try new methods and techniques at the lower levels -- some of which led to significant changes at the big league level (i.e. the catchers one-leg stance). If you follow them on Twitter, you will find the coaches as a collective very active during the offseason, sharing new research, training methods and working on things. No one is sitting around and waiting for spring training to start. “If you wait to know if you’re right about something, you will never try,” the Twins’ assistant GM Jeremy Zoll said on The Mound Visit podcast last April, expressing the organization’s willingness to challenge existing ideas. Minor league coaches were given resources to experiment. Nothing was off-limits but results had to be documented and demonstrated useful. Not everything they have tried worked but they were trying. While some teams choose a top-down method -- planning with a select leadership group at the top and distributing the marching orders to staff in the field -- members of the Twins organization spoke highly of the way the senior officials of the front office and major league coaching staff looked to them for suggestions. Rather than top-down, ideas are shared in every direction. Ultimately the strikeouts themselves came from the players. Players who embraced ideas and concepts generated from people throughout the organization. Those ideas and concepts made it to the players because the organization created an open flow of communication. To wit: One reason the team’s swing-and-miss numbers spiked in 2020 was due to the well-designed pitch sequencing and strategies created by Kalk and his team of analysts. A major change made during Falvey’s tenure was an increase in slider-driven pitchers. Pitchers in the system had been encouraged to transition away from curveballs and into sliders. Sliders, Kalk found, had the ability to hide in a fastball’s tunnel longer. As a game-calling strategy, these were summoned more frequently than any other team in the league: In 2020, Twins catchers flashed the slider sign 28% of the time -- well above the league average of 18%. What’s more is that they were not afraid to come at hitters with back-to-back sliders more often than any other team. Aided by technology, the Twins created a development plan to help their pitchers increase break in their sliders. The front office also targeted available pitchers who had the foundations of a solid slider but just needed a slight tweaking (Matt Wisler, Kenta Maeda) to supercharge that offering. To implement this plan on the field, the Twins turned to Wes Johnson. Johnson’s reputation as an educator and innovator preceded him. He spent a significant amount of time on the speaking circuit, providing other coaches with glimpses into the methods he used to make college pitchers better. His ability to distill difficult biomechanical insights into transferable skills is lauded throughout the industry. And there’s little question that pitchers have benefited from his tutelage. Of course, Derek Falvey’s mission wasn’t to improve the team’s strikeout rate. Similar to how Moneyball was not about finding cheap players through statistics, Falvey’s overhaul of the organization was not focused on increasing strikeouts -- it was to create an environment that works to stay ahead of current trends and continuously adapt. While high fastball and sharp sliders are in vogue now, hitting styles might adjust. The best organizations are the ones that are constantly trying to push convention and establish new ideas. Those organizations are built to last. Ending the year sixth in strikeout rate is about as minor of a victory as one can get. But the consistent upward mobility in that category is a sign that Falvey’s plan of improving pitching overall is progressing. It might not be a World Series title but climbing the ladder in strikeout rate is at least worthy of a low-key fist pump.
  11. It’s completely tone deaf to suggest that owning a major league sports franchise is a losing business venture, the reality is that revenues won’t be at their traditional levels in 2020. With no fans in the stands organizations have lost out on lucrative ticket sales, concessions, and other traditional operating dollars. Because of this, the assumption is that payrolls across the league will take a step backwards in 2021. What we don’t know if where the ripple effect will end. Free agency and talent acquisition still take place on a competitive market. There are 30 suitors for any one position (as long as the designated hitter remains universal), and varying levels of need and risk factors that come into play. Attempting to land a non-committed player will likely never be as straightforward as a one-way exchange of figures. However, was does reduced cash flow throughout the sport look like, and how does a potential lockout in 2022 impact things further? While doing our Offseason Live show focused on the Twins 2021 payroll, the general assumption is some level of decrease. Without knowing the percentage, we are operating in a world of hypotheticals. It is fair to suggest that a non-tender of Eddie Rosario is probably the most logical cost cutting move to make. The next biggest swing comes in the form of a reunion with designated hitter Nelson Cruz. Likely representative of the Twins big splash for 2021, his price tag won’t be cheap. Where things get interesting is when the market starts to bear fruit. In a normal scenario a guy like Cruz, coming off the season he had, might be looking at something like $14-16 million per year. He wants a two-year deal, and though that’s a fair ask, he’s still going to be 41 years old. Dealing with a new set of parameters, does the market value for all players take a percentage step backwards in relation to that of the payroll? Say a 20% decrease in year over year spend, does that make Cruz’s new best get something like $11-12 million? To me, it’s in that question that we see just how aggressive Minnesota can be in filling their needs. Coming into 2020 with a $140 million commitment, there should be no reason they don’t continue to dole out cash as they supplement a window of opportunity. That can still take place even if it’s in a different form. Maybe they jump from 17th overall in payroll to the top 15. Maybe instead of a 20% cut they only step backwards 10%. Whatever happens, the Twins will need to be ready to pivot and pounce. Right now, the goal should be to start making assessments on what virtually every player will make and be worth. Once the first couple of deals have been made, assess and compare. From there you should have a good idea as to how to approach potential fits and keeping in mind a need for aggressiveness should be at the forefront. Today we can make determinations on what needs are there, and even predict some of the departures. Understanding how to put the puzzle together when we don’t know how many pieces it is will prove tricky. 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. The lineup should remain virtually unchanged going into 2021. Eddie Rosario is a prime non-tender candidate given his production and assume cost. Also noting that both Brent Rooker and Alex Kirilloff appear major league ready, there’s an immediate replacement to be had. If Nelson Cruz is retained, and hopefully only on a reasonable contract, then much of the punch should be back. Where Derek Falvey has work to do is on the pitching front. Minnesota was actually very good on the bump each of the past two seasons, but there’s an exodus of sorts that is taking place this winter. Only three of the rotation spots are accounted for, and finding more pitching is the goal of every organization. For a guy familiar with the former Cleveland Indians pitcher, a reunion between Derek and Trevor Bauer makes a lot of sense. Here’s the deal though, it’s highly unlikely and that’s because every team in baseball could use Trevor Bauer. He knows that, and every front office around the league knows that. Whether a multi-year deal is struck, or he sticks to his guns as a hired assassin on one-year pacts, the payday is going to come. Expected to be named the National League Cy Young winner, Bauer posted a ridiculous 1.73 ERA across 73.0 innings in 2020. He owned a 12.3 K/9 with just a 2.1 BB/9 en route to a 276 ERA+. Arguably no one in the game knows their body better than Bauer knows his, and he’s continued to push the boundaries of what can be expected from him. Turning 30 in January, there’s also expected to be plenty of mileage left on his arm. He wants to extract the most from himself in terms of performance and was able to convince the Reds to allow him an opportunity to pitch on just four days rest. Sustaining that throughout a full season would be a throwback of sorts, but he has it down to a science in order to make it work. Those additional trips to the mound would seemingly provide more value to any suitor, especially if only carrying the risk for a single season at a time. Circling back to what Minnesota has in front of them, they’re coming off inking the largest free agent contract in history. However, prorated pay in a Covid shortened sprint had the total expense checking in just north of $55 million, or 18th in baseball (and two spots shy of league average). Despite the losses in fan generated revenues this season, the reality is no franchises find themselves in a place of struggle, and especially not a Twins team right in the heart of their competitive window. It makes sense for the front office to spend a bit on the bullpen, hand out a nice chunk of change to Nelson Cruz, and maybe find a utility man that requires a little bit more of a monetary commitment. In all of that though, there’s not really an avenue to a significant expense. Minnesota will be up against plenty of competition for Bauer’s services, but handing him a blank check would be ego stroking and potentially enough to get it done. This should be great theater to watch unfold, and Twins Daily Women in Baseball participant Rachel Luba is going to have a field day representing her high-profile client. Where the Twins can allow themselves to enter the ring is in saying the top of the staff is yours, write the amount that will get it done. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  13. Here’s the deal, Rob Manfred opened the floodgates and is allowing everyone and their dance partner into the Postseason. With a shortened 60-game sprint, there’s not going to be any significant distance between the top and bottom teams (except, well, sorry Pittsburgh). That means that with over 20 games to go teams with poor records aren’t incentivized enough to blow things up. A single hot streak could get you right back in the thick of things. Then you also have the added wrinkle of what is being swapped from the contenders. In a traditional year you’d have prospects moving to new homes in favor of proven big-league veterans. This year only players in the 60-man player pool are available to be traded. Guys outside of that group can be included in deals but must be done so as players to be named later or PTBNL. There’s also the reality that while Major League Baseball is making information from alternate sites available to clubs, there’s been no MiLB season and development in 2020 has likely been lackluster at best. Finally, consider that anyone being swapped could choose to opt out on their own volition, and well, we’re dealing with an incredible amount of volatility here. Now, back to Trevor Bauer. He’s the guy. Not Johnny Cueto, not Matt Boyd, and certainly not Lance Lynn. No, if the Minnesota Twins are set on bolstering their starting rotation for the Postseason the lone avenue to do so is grabbing an ace in the form of Bauer. He’s an impending free agent and currently playing on a prorated portion of a $17.5 million deal. He looks the part of a current National League Cy Young candidate, and he’s nuked 49 batters through his first 32.2 IP in 2020. After being largely mediocre for the first six years of his career, Bauer had a coming out party in 2018. He posted a 2.21 ERA and led the league with a 2.44 FIP. The Indians hurler made his first All-Star game and finished 6th in Cy Young voting. A slight step backwards in 2019 paved the way for where we are now. Bauer owns a dazzling 1.65 ERA, league leading 13.5 K/9, and also holds MLB best marks in WHIP (0.735) and H/9 (4.1). He’s always been a high strikeout guy, but command is now better than ever and he’s honed in on his stuff. Arguably the most interesting pitcher in baseball, Bauer certainly comes with his quirks. He was someone I misunderstood for a time in Cleveland but have now very much come to appreciate. It’s clear his intention is to grow the game and engage with fans. Through his , media company, and social media outlets, you may learn more about Trevor Bauer the person than you could ever understand about Trevor Bauer the baseball player. On top of that, it’s not an accident he’s a very good pitcher.As a Driveline disciple, Bauer works with his stuff as much as anyone in the game. His fastball sits at 93 mph this year, but it’s the spin and movement he puts on it that make him unhittable. He’s a nightly feature on Pitching Ninja peek-ins, and his results light up the Statcast leaderboards. In short, this is the pinnacle of what you seek to acquire or develop on the pitching front. Now let’s throw some water on all of this. The Cincinnati Reds are 11-16, but that’s just two games back in the win column from inclusion as the final Postseason participant in the National League. On top of that, the organization went in hard this offseason signing guys like Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas. Those moves weren’t made with the idea of blowing it up just over 30 games into the season. If a deal is to be struck, it’s not going to come cheaply. While Bauer is a free agent at the end of the year, and he’s more than made it clear his intention is to go year-by-year the rest of his career, the Reds will want a healthy return right now. Minnesota has significant ammo with top prospects galore at their alternate site, but what price is too steep for a guy that may not be around a few months from now? Derek Falvey certainly has a familiar relationship with Bauer given their time together in the Indians organization. Maybe even Twins Daily can broker the deal with Bauer’s agent Rachel Luba having been featured among the Women in Baseball series. No matter what level of comfort however, the uncertainty regarding a move now, and how little value it may provide down the road, should be reason for all parties to pause. At the end of the day, Bauer is probably a pipe dream. There’s a reason Cueto is seen as the most likely prize on the starting pitching market. However, if it’s the rotation Minnesota wants to work on, there’s only one way for the organization to take a big step forward. It’s with the guy who plays with drones and mows down the opposition. Plus, the season series with the Royals is done, so we won’t have to worry about him sending anything the rest of the way. 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. Derek Falvey talked to media members on a Zoom call on Tuesday afternoon about a variety of topics including the upcoming trade deadline and how the prospects in St. Paul could develop and contribute as soon as needed. He also reiterated that the Twins goal for the 2020 season remains the same as it was when they arrived in Ft. Myers in February. ““They’re going out there to compete every night to win this World Series. That’s the goal. That hasn’t changed from the day we showed up in Ft. Myers to the day we restarted here in Summer Camp.” The trade deadline is obviously different in this 2020 season in which so many things are different. There was no July 31st trade deadline as the season wasn’t even a week old at that time. There is, however, a trade deadline on August 31st. At Twins Daily and elsewhere, you will find articles on who the Twins should consider adding or not, which positions do the Twins need help and more. While many believe that the trade deadline will be quieter than normal, in large part due to more teams being in some sort of contention still, there will be players that could be dealt in the right deal. Falvey noted, “If there are ways to help our club and opportunities that present, certainly, but we are going to do it on the backs of a lot of the people that are already in the organization.” Now, as you know, the only players who can be traded are players on the 60-player pools. Of course, the Player To Be Named Later could very possibly be a popular name heard over the next week. Teams are not going to want to trade their top prospects for an impending free agent. One of those things that teams, front office members, media types say or write each year is that getting Player X or Pitcher Y back is as good as making a trade. A lot of fans hate that, but this year in particular, it is true for the Twins. Consider this group of players could also return within the next couple of weeks: Michael Pineda’s suspension is complete and he should be inserted into the Twins rotation. He’s been progressing nicely in St. Paul, working in simulated or intrasquad games the past month. We may easily forget that when his suspension kicked in late last year, he was clearly the Twins top starting pitcher. If he can come back near that form, that is going to be impactful. Falvey said that he was hitting 94 this past weekend. Josh Donaldson should be returning, potentially as early as the next homestand sometime. He has now been getting at bats in intrasquad games in St. Paul and still getting his ground ball work in at Target Field too. Falvey acknowledged that they have been “slightly conservative” but for good reason. “He has had a history with calf issues in the past. He has had a history at one point in time maybe rushing it back a bit to try to get back on the field as quickly as possible.” Byron Buxton is feeling “much improved” according to Falvey. “He’s on a good track. He’s on a good course.” Mitch Garver - He’s been getting treatment and improving, but his return will not be in ten days. “He’s focused more on the recovery part right now than he is on the rehab exercises.” Cody Stashak - According to Falvey, he was feeling good through rehab, but did experience some not-unexpected soreness. Jake Odorizzi - He is with the team. He is feeling better, but there is still bruising and soreness. Reports to Falvey indicate that he is getting better day-by-day, but he’s not able to let loose at 100% yet. Zack Littell - He’s had his forearm and elbow checked out. Falvey noted that if not for a need in the bullpen at the time, he may have just been able to miss three or four games. That said, there are several teams that are going to be looking to trade, and they will be asking for the Twins top prospects, so what are they up to? MINOR LEAGUERS KEEP WORKING, PROGRESSING Let’s start with some good news. Derek Falvey announced yesterday that Nick Gordon has cleared COVID testing protocol and the Orlando native will soon head to Ft. Myers to begin the rehab process. “We’ll anticipate seeing him progress from a strength and conditioning standpoint first, and then we’ll go into baseball activities. That could take a few weeks.” At that point, he can head to St. Paul and be added into the 60-player pool. The players in St. Paul have been there for about six weeks. Aside from those who have been called up to the Twins or took a road trip with the team on the taxi squad, things can get a big monotonous. Derek Falvey said he spoke this week with the coaching staff and some of the players and it isn’t necessarily easy. “It feels quite a bit like Groundhog Day. There’s no way around that. They don’t play another team. They face each other every day. We’re trying to come up with some fun ideas to have some interesting competitions which our guys have really adapted to.” In talking with some of the players, they have worked to avoid boredom away from the ballpark with going on some hikes, playing video games and streaming television and movies. But the important stuff is that they are working and able to improve under a structured system. They are really able to focus on areas of their game. “We spend some days focused on individual skill development, in a way that we normally wouldn't over the course of the regular season.” Falvey continued, “I’ve always wanted that to some degree. Our minor league seasons, they play a game every night. Sometimes you can’t focus as much on the individual skill development.” But they are playing games. Yes, intra-squad games or simulated games for pitchers. And, although to this point we can’t watch those games anywhere on TV or online, we do know there are some very talented prospects there. Let’s start with the hitters. Falvey said they are all doing well. “In terms of the games, really a lot of our guys have looked good. Ryan Jeffers, before he came over, was swinging the bat well. I think Trevor Larnach has continued to progress. Alex Kirilloff. Royce Lewis. All of these guys on the offensive side, some of our premium prospects, have really swung the bat well.“ In addition, Travis Blankenhorn provides some versatility and power. With such a left-handed heavy lineup, Brent Rooker and maybe Zander Wiel and their power potential could be options as well. Speaking of Royce Lewis, since Byron Buxton’s injury, I have heard many people ask if Royce Lewis is getting any time in center field in St. Paul. Since he went to the Arizona Fall League last year (where he was named league MVP) and played centerfield and third base and second base, Twins fans are curious about his future position. A source in the state’s capital city tells me that Lewis has only practiced and played shortstop at CHS Field and has been told there is no plan to alter that any time soon. There are several really exciting arms in St. Paul too. Falvey went into some detail on two pitchers who are on the 40-man roster and made a strong impression at Summer Camp. “Jhoan Duran has thrown the ball well for a good portion of camp. We’ve been really careful with him just to make sure, for all the pitchers, and for a lot of reasons as we look at challenges for pitchers with the second restart across the game, making sure that we’re being particularly careful. Dakota Chalmers’ stuff has looked really good. Command still remains an area of focus for him.” In addition, when discussing players that may be able to contribute to a September run, he mentioned a name the Twins fans are starting to hear more and more often. “Edwar Colina came back and he’s throwing the ball well, as well.” Of course, aside from rehab players and some hardship cases such as international players unable to travel, the Twins minor league facilities in Ft. Myers are not yet open. That’s true across MLB organizations. At this point, there still aren’t any official plans for fall or winter leagues or the option for teams to bring in players for camps. There is no timeline. There are, however, discussions on if, when and how something can happen for all those minor league players who are currently at their homes working out, trying to remain ready when needed. Falvey said, ““I hope we’ll be doing something for them toward the end of this year. To this point, we’ve had some conversations with Major League Baseball about the potential for what the Fall can look like. There have been rumors about the Arizona Fall League and the Instructional League and different things that we can do for those players.” Right now, the only players that teams are allowed to work with (except rehab players) are guys in the 60-player pools. They can’t bring in players to do anything, or even allow players who want to just be there to work out in Ft. Myers. For those players, at this time, they are doing some work remotely. Falvey said that they have and are “building some developmental plans and training plans throughout our system for players who aren’t here.” Until they are allowed to do more, their hands are tied. Lewis Thorpe has joined RHP Juan Minaya and UT Willians Astudillo on the Twins taxi squad in Cleveland in case there is a need. The rest of the players, those in St. Paul, will get up and go to work at CHS Field again tomorrow, and the next day, trying to avoid boredom, and more importantly, trying to improve and be ready when called upon. So to summarize, the Twins will take and make phone calls with other MLB teams over the next week. They will listen. If there are deals that make sense for the Twins in 2020 and beyond, a deal could be consummated. If not, the Twins have some talented veteran hitters and pitchers who could return from injury or suspension in the very near future and contribute mightily. They also have some great hitting and pitching prospects who are ready, or nearly ready, if an opportunity presents itself. It should be an exciting week, but more important, it should be an exciting next month, or hopefully two, for the Twins and their fans!
  15. The Minnesota Twins are good. They were expected to come into 2020 and compete as one of the best teams in the sport. That has been true, and teams like that often bolster their positioning prior to the Postseason in an effort to make a run at the World Series. If Minnesota is going to go down that path, and they should, it will likely come in the form of pitching. Going into the year a starter was the presumed acquisition, and it may still be. The Texas Rangers are not good, and despite hanging in near .500 at this point, they don’t seem likely to factor in as one of two third place teams playing in October. Assuming they feel the same way, veteran starter Lance Lynn could be on the trade block. He’s 33 years old and signed through the 2021 season at a modest $9.3M next year. Besides being on a bad team, there’s a lot to like here. Lynn currently owns a 1.37 ERA through six starts, and he’s sitting down 9.6 per nine innings. He posted a 3.67 ERA across 208 innings in 2019 and topped 10 strikeouts per nine for the first time in his career. Finishing 5th in the Cy Young voting, it’s fair to say that Lynn has been everything for the Rangers that Minnesota thought they were getting when grabbing him off the free agent market in 2018. Now we’ve come full circle, Lance Lynn has already been with the Minnesota Twins. It did not go well. Lynn made just 20 starts before being sent to the New York Yankees. It seemed apparent he viewed the deal as a below-market offer that begrudgingly was accepted late into Spring Training. He’s not a small guy normally, but came into camp looking out of shape, and stamina often looked concerning when taking the ball. The results came out to the tune of a 4.77 ERA and 4.4 BB/9 that ultimately contributed to career lows across the board. It’s also clear that Lynn isn’t the same pitcher he was in that outlier of a season. His average fastball velocity is higher now than it was when Minnesota signed him, and some of the supporting numbers are better than they’ve ever been. Statcast numbers view him favorably in comparison to his competition across the league, and you absolutely can’t argue with the results. Where it breaks down for me in regards to Lynn is what you’ll need to give up, and what you may be getting back into. Maybe it’s somewhat hollow to suggest a team not acquire a guy that previously didn’t work out, but I think there’s some merit to that. It’s not as though there’s been an overhaul in the organizational structure since Lynn was last here. There has been coaching staff changes that could potentially take him to even higher heights, but the bosses that handed him a paycheck deemed subpar still remain in place. Neither side got what they wanted out of the deal, and mentally that likely plays a factor. On the basis of baseball merit, Lynn could quite possibly be the best starting asset acquirable at the deadline. His production has been top notch for the past year and a half, and Texas also has him under team control for another season. They should be asking for a nice return and dealing some combination of top prospects for that type of return seems underwhelming. Postseason starting pitching isn’t as much about depth as it is having horses. With only three guys truly necessary and a fourth being arguable, the length of the rotation is called more into question. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill are both proven and capable of being aces of a staff. Jose Berrios still is Minnesota’s internally developed ticket there, and Michael Pineda will be back in due time. For that group to include another member, the argument should be that they’re clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Despite what the numbers may say, I don’t think that’s a case you can make for Lynn. It’s anyone’s guess how this trade deadline is going to play out. No one has seen much of what prospects are doing at their alternate sites, and there’s been no actual minor league action to evaluate talent real time. Throw in the wrench that Major League Baseball invited everyone to the end-of-year party and the incentive to sell is minimized. Maybe Minnesota goes the path of adding to their stable of relief arms, but if it’s a starter, I’d shy away from Lynn. 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. Major League Baseball sent iPads to every team, including Minnesota, pre-programmed with ambient ballpark noise, from cheers to claps to walk-up music. The Twins, while grateful for the gesture, are following their own path as they prepare to play ball in an empty Target Field. “Man oh man, do I love Chumbawamba,” said Derek Falvey, the team’s President of Baseball Operations, referencing the British band behind the hit 1997 single “Tubthumping.” Multiple team sources confirm that the song will replace applause, boos, chants, and organ sounds. Batters can still use their preferred walk-up music, provided that the song’s creator has covered “Tubthumping” and they use that cover. “It defaults back to the original otherwise,” noted Falvey. Players were confused, but said they’d adjust. “What’s a Chumbawamba,” asked catcher Mitch Garver. “I honestly don’t know.” “The ‘I get knocked down’ song, oh yeah, I remember that,” said prize free agent acquisition Josh Donaldson. “I’ve played at Tropicana Field in September, this will only be stranger on the margins.” Falvey says the 7th inning stretch will also sound different. “Obviously, there won’t be fans around to stand up and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ so we won’t be playing it,” said Falvey. “However, we will be playing ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba.” As for the National Anthem, the Twins will continue rising to salute America prior to the first pitch. “That is one tradition we don’t mess around with,” said Falvey. “We’ll continue to stand, remove our caps, and honor America every night. However, instead of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ we’ll be singing ‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawamba.” Falvey, who joined the Twins in 2016, said he’s hopeful that the team can reach the playoffs in this shortened season. “We have about two months to gel as a team and get to the ultimate prize,” said Falvey. “The Fall Classic, with Chumbawamba throwing out the first pitch then playing their hit song ‘Tubthumping’ on the outfield grass. It’s what every player and every fan dreams of.” Image license here.
  17. In a zoom meeting with media on Friday afternoon, Derek Falvey mentioned that Willians Astudillo and one other Twins player had tested positive for COVID-19 during the intake process (players reporting and being tested). Astudillo is in Minneapolis. "He is presently asymptomatic, feeling fine. He is quarantined here." Falvey said that Astudillo has given his permission for his name to be announced. There is still some steps in the intake process that have to be completed. Falvey was not able to comment on the identity of the second player at this time. "We will now subsequently go through a protocol where after a minimum period of time, we can then test him again. The way the protocol works, when he tests negative twice, subsequent to a positive test, you can then be brought back into the environment." Falvey continued, "We will likely test him above 48 to 72 hours from now. Then subsequently test him a couple of days after that. If he clears two negative tests, he would then be someone who could re-enter." Shortly before the press conference, MLB announced that 38 of the 3,185 people tested (1.2%) were positive. 31 of those were players and the other seven were staffers. 19 of the 30 MLB teams had at least one positive result. Falvey noted, "I'm really happy to hear that a lot of players and staff, wherever they were over the past several months, they were able to keep themselves healthy and in a safe place and limited their contact outside of their home environments." In addition to the two MLB players, both Edwar Colina and Nick Gordon had positive COVID-19 tests recently. They had their tests administered prior to the baseball testing this week. Falvey said, "Those guys are here. They're rostered, and hopefully eventually will be cleared. In Colina's case, he has already cleared and a subsequent test since he has tested negative for the virus, but we are being cautious." He believes both players should be in Minnesota later this weekend. There were some other Twins minor leaguers who also tested positive in Ft. Myers when the facilities were shut down across baseball. Colina was there when he tested positive. Falvey noted that there has been "a wide range of perspectives" on their return to Target Field. "They walk in and see masks, and the clubhouse doesn't look like it used to look. It's a bit jarring initially for some folks. That said, you get back to seeing some people. You get in the clubhouse, get dressed, get out. It's an interesting set up in the ballpark right now." "Some are throwing with their mask on while they're out there. Everyone's trying to get used to it. It's a range of feeling. Some guys are a bit anxious and that's real, and then some guys are really excited to be back and ready to go, and just trying to figure it out. Anything that's different from the norm, it's going to take some time." -------------------------- Falvey also noted that Byron Buxton and Cody Stashak are not in camp. They have been excused for personal reasons. Buxton's wife Lindsey is due to have the couple's second child any day now. Stashak's wife, Taylor, gave birth to the couple's first child in mid-June. Update - Today (Friday), Lindsey Buxton gave birth to a baby boy. They named him Blaze Jett. --------------------------
  18. Minnesota fans had every reason to be optimistic entering the 2020 season. A relatively easy division, a potent 1-9 lineup, and improved rotation options all led to confident predictions of postseason baseball. Still, things sometimes just don’t work, be it a due to injury or regression or clubhouse strife. The Twins have surmounted those obstacles so far and are guaranteed to be in first place come Memorial Day. “There haven’t been any games,” said manager Rocco Baldelli. “I mean, yes, technically we’re in first place, but so is everyone else. “There’s a pandemic,” he added. While the Twins have held their own, they are joined in first place in the AL Central by Cleveland, their consensus rival for the division crown. Joining them are the surprising White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. “I don’t know what this means,” said Twins outfield Max Kepler. “This is very confusing to me.” No team in the rest of the American League has broken from the pack. We asked Twins center fielder Byron Buxton if he felt this improved the odds for a deep postseason run. “What’s wrong with you,” said the speedy outfielder. “Stupid. Just stupid.” With the team competitive as June nears, we asked Twins President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey if the front office was working the phones to make some moves in advance of a possible pennant run. “We are not in the office right now,” said Falvey. “There’s no season right now. Are you OK?” One thing is for sure, Twins fans are excited and ready to go for what promises to be a thrilling summer at Target Field! “We probably won’t be able to have fans in the stadium this summer even if we can play,” said Falvey. “You really seem like you’re not well?” Image license here.
  19. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the top of the front office prior to the 2017 season. While a substantial part of the scouting and draft focused contingent remained in the organization, the overall infrastructure has changed. Falvey and Levine have instituted a significant expansion of analytical models, as well as people to cultivate those initiatives. Developmental staff has been brought in across the farm, and voices through the system seem more aligned than ever. Although the post-draft process of skill development and progression remains the most vital piece in generating a big leaguer, it’s also very much about nailing the makeup and tools of each guy selected. With just five rounds to get it right this year, it’s worth looking at how the last three tries in that same space have gone. 2017 Picks: Royce Lewis (1, 1), Brent Rooker (1, 35), Landon Leach (2, 37), Blayne Enlow (3, 76), Charlie Barnes (4, 106), Andrew Bechtold (5, 136) In their very first draft Falvine went big on upside. Royce Lewis was selected over players like Hunter Greene and Kyle Wright. He’s got the makeup of a star player and still trends towards being a difference maker up the middle for the Twins. Rooker was a bat only prospect, but it’s played as expected at every level thus far. The power is real and he’s near Major League ready. In going after Leach, Minnesota was able to bank some money to entice Enlow. Landon hasn’t established himself much in pro ball yet, but Enlow looks to be one of the better arms in the entire system. Barnes has been a consistent lefty without much flash. He reached Triple-A last year and could project as a back-end starter. While Bechtold was seen as a very nice JUCO get he’s still waiting to establish himself. The Appy League debut was a good one but a .738 OPS at Single-A, where he was old for both leagues, didn’t light the world on fire. Overall, this group looks to have two guaranteed Major League talents, and one that could absolutely be a star. Throw in Enlow’s upside and another potential lottery pick on one of the remaining to call it a very solid first showing for the front office. 2018 Picks: Trevor Larnach (1, 20), Ryan Jeffers (2, 59), DaShawn Keirsey (4, 124), Cole Sands (5, 154) Just four picks in the top five rounds this year, Minnesota had to do more with less. Larnach was a College World Series star and brings exit velocity in spades. He’s since become a very similar comp to another Twins prospect, Alex Kirilloff. That’s great company and there’s a significant ceiling to be fulfilled. Jeffers is the best catching prospect in the organization, and while touted for his offense, he’s transformed into more of a complete player. Until now Keirsey hasn’t yet taken hold. He posted a .798 OPS in his pro debut but owned just a .436 OPS last year playing 43 games. Cole Sands looked like a gem when he did debut last year. He made it all the way to Double-A and dominated to the tune of a 2.68 ERA with a 10.0 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. Once again, this looks like a strong core group. Larnach and Jeffers are great headliners with Sands trending way upwards. Keirsey could be a miss, but three of four looking like Major League assets this early is a solid set of circumstances. A smaller group, but a good one here. 2019 Picks: Keoni Cavaco (1, 13), Matt Wallner (1, 39), Matt Canterino (2, 54), Spencer Steer (3, 90), Seth Gray (4, 119), Will Holland (5, 149) The Twins went with the helium to start last year’s draft. Cavaco vaulted up boards but was not necessarily expected to go this high. He really struggled from the get-go but showed up to Spring Training looking very strong. Wallner is a local product and was a standout at Southern Miss. Both he and Matt Canterino looked like tested amateurs that can contribute at a very high level. Adding infield talent was the theme of a run in rounds three through five. Steer made quick work of the Appy League and held his own for the Kernels. Gray showed well for Elizabethton and made a brief cameo with Cedar Rapids. Holland was the pride of a very good Auburn squad and is seen as a very good defender. The bat didn’t play in year one but it’s far too early to make assessments there. Lots of uncertainty in regards to trend lines for this group at an early stage, but I think it’s fair to say both Wallner and Canterino impressed. Looking back at the last three drafts Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown there’s people in all of the right places across the Twins organization. It’s hard not to be excited about the top of any of these groups, and even moreso considering the futility the previous regime showed in regards to recent top picks. Minnesota only has four picks (27, 59, 99, and 125) to make in June and they’ll need to supplement the system as best they can. With an unlimited number of undrafted signees also on the docket, enticing amateurs with the revamped development infrastructure should be a selling point as well. Before we’ll get any live action in 2020 the draft is going to take place, and thankfully for Twins fans, there’s a group in place capable of hitting a home run. 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. Dan Hayes wrote a story on Tuesday at The Athletic that focused on the acquisitions of Rich Hill and Homer Bailey. The former is a top-notch arm that struggles to stay healthy, and the latter represents a solid addition to the floor of the starting rotation. What neither of them accomplish is the impact pitching that Minnesota suggested they were targeting. Thad Levine told Hayes, “The one thing we’ve learned over the years is that you can’t just have a Plan A. Tomorrow’s Plan B becomes the next day’s Plan A.” Derek Falvey went on to suggest he “may rue the day I ever mentioned that (impact) as a singular word.” More swiftly than a dancing Michael Jackson, Minnesota’s top duo is moonwalking their opening comments backwards. There is truth to Falvey’s suggestion that the current Twins roster has impact all over it. They won 101 games, returned a significant amount of talent, and have added to the point where they are better now than when the season ended. All of that is true, but the goal this winter should be to expand upon the opportunity currently in front of them. You can’t fault the Twins for being shut out by uninterested free agents. Gerrit Cole wasn’t coming here, and Stephen Strasburg wanted a Washington reunion. Madison Bumgarner told everyone "No" because he loves his horses, and Zack Wheeler preferred family ties (although the Twins offer being $18MM short probably made that decision easier). Where blame can start to be placed is when obvious opportunity is met with only moderate execution. Enter Josh Donaldson. As Levine suggested, the Twins plans have now shifted. The starting pitching market is largely bare, and unless they’re going to swing a trade (they still should), Hill and Bailey represent the lone new additions. Upgrading elsewhere makes sense, and the former Braves third basemen is an ideal fit for the Bomba Squad. With C.J. Cron onto Detroit, Rocco Baldelli is tasked with designating a new first basemen. Miguel Sano has proven limited, especial going to his left at third base, and would be an ideal candidate to make the switch. Generating 15 DRS a year ago, Donaldson would provide a defensive boon in the infield, and it’s a unit that needs to take a significant step forward. Throw in his .900 OPS from 2019 and you’ve got the makings of a superstar. Reports suggest that Donaldson has at least three four-year offers, coming from Minnesota, Washington, and Atlanta. He’s had the Twins ask for over two weeks though, and that’s where my problem lies. The Nationals are synonymous for deferrals, so it’s fair to assume that could be prohibiting them from being in contention. Atlanta is best positioned geographically, and it was said the third basemen was simply waiting on a guaranteed fourth year from his hometown club. Dangling in front of him is the Twins payday that’s not quite good enough to make a decision. Ken Rosenthal reported on Friday night that Donaldson is waiting for a team to hit his number, believed to be near $110 million. There's possibility Donaldson is angling for Atlanta to be his destination while increasing the take; after all suggestions indicate the Braves will get an opportunity to match before this is done. What also is apparent through Ronsethal's report is that Minnesota isn't there. Expected to be around the 4yr/$100MM range, the Twins leave it to chance to dictate an outcome. Derek Falvey should be on the phone with MVP Sports Group offering up $120 million over four and calling it a day. We can discuss value forever, and there's inherent risk any time you sign a big-dollar free agent. The reality though, is that injury concerns don't subside simply because you end negotiations at $100 million. Also, after pivoting to this plan, are you really interested in going to Plan C because the cost of what amounts to a relief arm ($5 million AAV over the four years) is too much? It’s probably unfair to be frustrated about simply being "in" on free agents. That’s going to happen, and you’re not completely interested in every player you’ve been tied to. Minnesota has been set on two players this offseason however, and they’re now in jeopardy of losing the second because of playing the value game. At some point need and opportunity should factor into the discussion, and by the time Falvey and Levine get there this time around, it may be too late. This offseason would presently be graded as a “C” which is fine if you’re ok with status quo. Looking to take the next step, and truly capitalize on your opportunity, pushing for an “A” is a must. There’s one bullet left, but you actually have to take the shot. 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. When Thad Levine was introduced, the talk was about collaboration. Their organizational restructure has been focused around internal infrastructure. Upon entering a competitive window in 2020, the suggestion was for a necessary "impact" pitching addition. Each of the small quips or phrases allude to a larger story or goal, but it is there they will now be held accountable. Impact pitching is now gone from the open market. When the Toronto Blue Jays landed Hyun-Jin Ryu, there were officially no arms left that would slot into the upper half of Rocco Baldelli’s rotation. That leaves us questioning where the club turns, but it’s worth suggesting that this front office very likely may have intended this path all along. Jim Pohlad has not protected his pockets against this duo, and Falvine has not collaboratively come up with black eyes like “bilateral leg weakness.” No, this front office bided their time before appointing a Manager of the Year-quality leader in his rookie campaign. They nabbed a topflight collegiate pitching coach, they’ve overhauled the Baseball Operations department, and they’ve pilfered talent from all over the nation no matter what notch had been achieved on their target's belt. In short, they’ve laid a foundation for a successful and sustainable plan designed around competition. Not surprisingly, that’s also how they’ve handled the offseason thus far. Thad Levine suggested that the initial goal was to “stabilize” the roster, and then move toward a position of “impact.” In retaining top talent and filling out the bullpen, it’s now reached the critical juncture of impact acquisitions being the only thing left to accomplish. If the offseason ended today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Twins fan pleased with where things stand. Fortunately, it doesn’t end today, and that’s where our focus should be. Given the goodwill generated by shrewd and well-timed decision making thus far, it’s hard to imagine a complete failure waiting in the weeds. The Twins have something like $30 million yet to hand out, and those impact moves they’ve preached have yet to be made. Rather than operating from the standpoint that it was all just talk, the surmise that we will see those "impact" developments is a very exciting one. I can listen on Terry Ryan failing to land big fish. Maybe the Pohlad’s weren’t willing to open their pocketbooks for the necessary resources. We haven’t ever seen otherwise at this point, but the circumstances today are not what they were a decade ago. This offseason won’t be defined by what Minnesota has always done, or how the former regime operated. This all comes down to the execution plan from a dual-headed monster that has done everything to position the club in its current state as favorites within the AL Central Division. Should the buzzwords end up going undefined and unfulfilled once the club heads to Twins Territory South down in Fort Myers, a full-on roast should be sent toward 1 Twins Way. Until that point however, the anticipation of impact and belief in those having fostered all this promise seems like a far fairer expenditure of emotional resources. 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. No, that’s not coming from the front office. I think that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine could take a quick look on the Twitter machine and realize pitchforks and brimstone flow heavily through Twins Territory. Doom and gloom is the mood with some big arms being off the board, and the fear of being left out in the cold has set in. All is not lost though, there’s still plenty of time and assets still to be sifted through. All we must do is wait. I have a tough time listening to arguments about what Minnesota has traditionally done. This front office has been in place for three years, and they’ve yet to be in a position where opportunity and trajectory point towards a path of sensible spending. They’ve opened a sustainable window of winning that we’ve not really seen the dual-headed monster work within. In short, this is uncharted territory. On top of all of that, this front office is directly responsible for the positioning that the Minnesota Twins are currently in. The farm system is loaded, and the infrastructure designed around development and advancement is derived from their vision. Internal talent is being explored and cultivated, while major league success looks here to stay. Through those happenings, it’s hard not to argue a benefit of doubt should be granted. As I wrote back in early November, the Twins can take a page from the book of Houston and Chicago in creating their juggernaut. Now is a time to supplement, spend, and add, but it isn’t the only time that will ring true in the years ahead. This needs to be a strong and consistent build. A right foot forward is put forth this offseason with that being doubled down upon in the immediate future. The gnashing of teeth is far from unexpected. We live in a world searching for immediate gratification and behind a “what have you done for me lately” ideology. It can be increasingly hard to separate from that, but there’s solace in understanding deadlines allow for processes to play out as well. The Twins didn’t need to make all their moves during the Winter Meetings, and free agents weren’t tied to accepting contracts while executives were out in San Diego. We’re exactly two months from the first spring training workout in Fort Myers, and plenty of work remains. From the outset of the offseason Thad Levine noted the Twins goal was to add “impact pitching.” If they don’t like what is presented to them, further supplementing the offense is another way to increase the water level. What can’t happen is a stagnant display of standing pat, but I’d have to imagine two intelligent guys that have orchestrated an organizational turnaround are aware of that fact. Until the dust settles, the point is this; breathe. Allow Falvey and Levine to cash in on some of their generated benefit. Trust that a similar process instituted to right the organization will be utilized to bolster the roster. When Bumgarner or Ryu sign elsewhere, assume that there’s a plan and other irons in the fire. All the way up until we get our first play ball from Twins Territory south, pump the brakes. If we’re still in a similar situation at that point, then, burn it all down. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. There isn’t a soul within the organization or outside of it that will tell you Minnesota doesn’t need more pitching. Despite his efforts down the stretch, rookie Randy Dobnak in Yankee Stadium during the ALDS was hardly an ideal scenario. That said, the situation isn’t at all as dire as one may assume. From June 1st onward the Twins had the sixth best rotation in baseball, as well as the third best in the American League. That was on top of employing the now departed Kyle Gibson, who posted a 5.26 ERA over that stretch. So far this offseason has included the Twins bringing back Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda. The former graciously accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer, while the latter is being had just south of that same dollar amount over the course of two years. Talking to reporters on Monday, GM Thad Levine said the team needed to be stabilized and “now we have the ability to impact it significantly.” Making sure the foundation is laid is something this front office has carried as a premise throughout their time, but this is the first opportunity to make a substantial impact. When looking at the free agent market, there’s scrutiny at every turn. Do you want to bet on Madison Bumgarner holding up despite the mileage? Is Hyun-Jin Ryu going to be any good if he keeps getting hurt? Is Dallas Keuchel really any better than a mid-rotation arm? All of those questions are entirely fair, and they’re being asked because teams must commit substantial sums to players seeking their next opportunity. Unless you want the certainty of the elite, and that comes with the unlikely proposition of outspending (and being more desired) than the big boys, this is the landscape the Twins must traverse. On the flip side, you’ve got the trade market. You can bet that the Chicago Cubs would love to have Gleyber Torres right about now, but I’d also assume they’re more than happy to have ended their World Series drought. Detroit probably wishes they’d hit on more for Justin Verlander, and the Pirates are no doubt kicking themselves for the gaffe that was the return for Chris Archer. Win some and lose some there too, but the risk is not much different. As Minnesota looks to make moves and additions that significantly impact the major league club, it becomes a chess game of evaluation. Is there enough information on free agents to hand out paydays, and is it detrimental to give up dollars if the deals go sideways? The farm system has both height and depth. Does that make it more enticing to part with a known commodity to acquire something that hasn’t been cast off by a former employer? This organization is often chided about spending, or lack thereof. Now with the first legitimate opportunity to do so in quite some time, it comes down to which risk factors are weighed most heavily by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine. The payroll needs to be north of $135 million going into 2020, but there’s more than one avenue to get there. Before the dust settles it will be hard to present an argument for any real hand wringing, but a reflective analysis is certainly going to be on the table. At the end of the day we can pick apart what’s on the open market and push toward the trade route. We can also overvalue certain prospects and shy away from making that big move. What we can’t do is operate on both of those levels to the full extent and fail to make a well-timed acquisition solely because of inherent risk. The front office has worked their way into deserved trust, and now they need to cash the check and stand by their decision. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  24. Over the next four days, we will hear about teams talking to teams, and agents talking to GMs. We’ll have to work hard (or at least think hard) about many of the vast rumors that we will hear and read about. Many will fall into the “That’s Silly” category. Others will warrant interest and discussion. But it’s important to remember that the Winter Meetings are just that. They are a series of meetings. Minor league teams will be there, sitting in on meetings. Independent Leagues will have representatives there, going to meetings. There will be a lot of college kids and others, wearing suits, trying to line up jobs in baseball. It isn’t just about making roster transaction. https://twitter.com/DWolfsonKSTP/status/1203804282350395393 Let’s admit it though. That’s the only part we care about. So, let’s discuss what the Twins need to do yet this offseason, while at the same time reminding us all that it doesn’t have to all be done by Thursday. ~~ Read Nick’s Offseason Update ~~ Here are some things to watch this week: Number One: Add an Impact Starting Pitcher The Twins have Jose Berrios under team control, signed Jake Odorizzi to the qualifying offer and are a passed physical from having Michael Pineda inked up. While not as exciting to bring back players, two of those players could have been lost via free agency and now will return. However, we all know that the Twins need an “Impact” starting pitcher to give themselves a better chance to compete not only in the AL Central but in short series in the playoffs too. I think we can all understand that they aren’t going to get Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. But they have clearly been involved in conversations for the next level. They were involved in Zack Wheeler discussions. They clearly have strong interest in lefties Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Is either interested in leaving California for Minnesota? If not, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will likely need to shift gears and start contemplating trade options for an impact starter. A call to Colorado’s front office to discuss Jon Gray or German Marquez might make a lot of sense. What other starters might be available in trade? Number Two: A Second High-Quality Starting Pitcher Even if they add an impact arm, the Twins front office will need to ask itself another question. Do they want to bring in one more starting pitcher or do they want to trust their young pitchers and player development to fill one of the five rotation spots? Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and Lewis Thorpe all showed signs in 2019 that they are either ready to pitch in the big leagues in 2020 or are very close. Brusdar Graterol will likely get another opportunity to start at some point in 2020. But could the front office bring in another veteran pitcher or two to compete for a roster spot. Last week, I mentioned Kevin Gausman as a possibility for a veteran coming off a tough year who could potentially be a #3 type of starter if Wes Johnson & Company are able to help him. Also, Julio Teheran fits into that category. Both of them are still well under 30 years old. Number Three: Who’s on First? Last week, the Twins non-tendered first baseman CJ Cron. That opens up a roster spot, if the Twins front office wants it to. One option, of course, would be for Miguel Sano to stay at third base and Marwin Gonzalez to play first base. Or vice versa. Ehire Adrianza is the utility man, and Willians Astudillo remains in the picture. There are also other internal options for first base. But if the Twins are unable to convince Bumgarner or Ryu to take their money, maybe they chose to offer it to a position player. They could get someone like Mitch Moreland within a budget to do a nice job defensively at first base, saving errors for the other side of the infield. Or, they could make the move of Sano to first base and sign someone like Josh Donaldson for big money. Maybe a trade for an all-star, like Matt Chapman, could also be explored. Number Four: The Bullpen While I don’t think that the Twins bullpen would be considered a strength, it certainly can be solid. The Twins have not been mentioned in rumors around relievers, with the possible exception of bringing back Sergio Romo, so it’s hard to know how active that have been or will be in the bullpen market. In general, the bullpen market has been fairly quiet so far. Taylor Rogers has turned into a great late-inning reliever, but the Twins may be interested in adding another lefty (though Smeltzer and Thorpe could compete for a spot as well). They have added Blaine Hardy on a minor league deal and he is certainly an option. Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Zack Littell were all really good in 2019. Cody Stashak showed a lot, and Fernando Romero is out of options. Matt Wisler signed for $700K. I can certainly see the Twins looking to add one more high-quality late-inning reliever, if not two. Number Five: Rule 5 On Thursday, the Rule 5 draft will take place. The Twins 40-man roster is currently at 35. With the additions of Alex Avila and Michael Pineda (whenever they are announced), they will be at 37. They could add a free agent or two and still have a 40-man roster spot for a Rule 5 pick. Without knowing who might be available for the Twins to consider, teams should absolutely always consider adding in the Rule 5 draft. It is a good, cheap way to potentially add talent. With rosters jumping up to 26 in 2020, the Twins - and every other team - may use the Rule 5 draft more liberally as an opportunity to add a piece. While I think it’s something to be considered, I don’t necessarily think it’s likely for the Twins to add a player in the Rule 5 draft. As Twins fans, we will likely be paying attention more out of concern for potentially losing high-talent prospects like Wander Javier and Luis Rijo or near-ready talents like Griffin Jax or Tom Hackimer. ---------------------------- So there you have five things to watch for during the Winter Meetings in San Diego. As always, the Winter Meetings will be complete on 12th, so not all of these things will need to be answered by then. Be sure to refresh Twins Daily often as we will try to keep close tabs on any Twins news and rumors. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. The more I worked through my own disappointment regarding the reality that Wheeler would not be coming to Twins Territory, the more I concluded that my expectations are largely built on straightforward belief. The Twins have a substantial amount of unallocated cash flow to deal with. They also have a very distinct area of need, even before considering corner infield and backup catcher. From there it’s pretty simple to assume that pieces are plugged in following a linear decision-making process and that it resembles the simplicity of a puzzle coming together. One of the greatest impressions this front office has made on me since taking over however, is the depth and talent within an infrastructure that supports all the club does. From fresh and progressive coaches and coordinators in the player development realm, to outside-the-box thinkers on the big-league side, everything about the way Minnesota is building looks different than ever before. Rather than simply operating from the standpoint that Madison Bumgarner is now the best available talent with a logical degree of signability, Minnesota is likely considering previously glossed-over factors. Wes Johnson has brought a wealth of knowledge and information, but which arms will be most open to latching onto it and utilizing suggestions. Does the loss of assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner pose challenges in the relay or dissemination of information? Are there talented players that simply won’t fit within the confines of how the Twins work toward performance growth? I think that may be true now more than ever, and it’s beyond just a changing culture. With so much money, and plenty of holes yet to fill, finding angst in who or what opportunities Minnesota passes on in December or January is a losing proposition. This free agent cycle has certainly started better than those in years past, and that gives us a bit of belief that the offseason will truly conclude before spring training begins. Until that dust settles though, there isn’t much reason to make conclusive statements on the pending number of transactions. Although the Twins are going to be building to repeat as AL Central Division winners and sustain a high level of performance, we should be trying to find the takeaways from each addition that they make. There’s a high level of intrigue regarding who steps in to important roles vacated by Hefner and Derek Shelton. There’s an even higher level of intrigue regarding the free agents or trade acquisitions and what their profiles tell us about how Minnesota assesses them internally. Maybe I’m reaching a bit too far into the realms of uncertainty here, but I think the takeaway from the next few months will be an additional understanding of what this front office is trying to construct. The Twins have overhauled a process and blueprint and have positioned themselves to be a force for the foreseeable future. Finding the right pieces to capitalize on that, both coaching and players, is more about spending on the right assets than the expected ones. Certainly, there’s an intersection of those two narratives combining forces, but part of this whole process will be understanding which situations that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine find worthy of pulling the trigger on. Sign me up for the shopping spree, but we already know that needs to take place. To whom the checks are written and what they tell us going forward is the chapter I’m excited to read. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY - Wheeler’s Gone, But Bumgarner Would Give the Twins Plenty to Work With - Twins Announce Plans to Extend Netting at Target Field - Twins Making Sweeping Changes on the Diamond
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