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  1. The pace of the Twins offseason went from zero to 100 once the lockout ended, with a flurry of moves by Minnesota’s management duo (President of Baseball Ops Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine) leading to a radically different opening day lineup. And the pace has not slowed down. Shortly after moving closer Taylor Rogers and prospect Brent Rooker to the Padres for pitchers Chris Paddack and Emilio Pagan, the team announced that they traded team mascot TC Bear to the Jacksonville (FL) Zoo and Gardens. In return, they’re receiving a significant number of snakes, reptiles, and other creatures. “I’m just going to come right out and say that I don’t know what we’re going to do with a half-dozen Burmese pythons,” said Falvey. “But we hadn’t made a trade in a good 2-3 hours, and the rush of acquiring and sending away assets is unbeatable. We’re hooked, baby!” Levine, who said he hasn’t slept since Monday afternoon, was equally enthused if unclear about the trade. “Do you know if a monitor lizard is cool with letting relievers ride him out of the bullpen,” said Levine. “I don’t want to get on PETA’s radar, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know where we’re going to put him otherwise. GOD I LOVE TRADING, CAN’T BEAT IT.” Neither Falvey nor Levine would comment on the fact that TC Bear is not a real bear, but in fact a person in a pretend bear costume who is being sent to a zoo to live among real bears that will likely visit mind-bending violence upon him. “He’s dealing with it as best he can,” said a source close to the man who wears the costume. “Is it as bad as when (former Twin) Andrelton Simmons demanded to speak to the mayor of the talking bear village where TC Bear lives about repealing their mask mandate? No. Still, the threat of mauling is one he takes seriously.” The team says there are no further moves in the offing, and rumors that Minnesota is trading an old Metrodome urinal trough for a shoebox of expired prescription drugs are unfounded but they're very open to it and would throw in a gently-used Mike Maksudian.
  2. In the fanfare and celebration of signing Carlos Correa, you'd be forgiven if you missed the Twins inking 38-year-old Joe Smith to a one-year pact. Smith, an MLB pitcher since the Bush administration, is precisely the style of reliever favored by Falvey and company. His average fastball hasn’t tickled 90 MPH in years, and much of his effectiveness is rooted in “funkiness,” a pitching trait in the Potter Stewart philosophy of “I know it when I see it.” In the case of Smith, his unique, low arm slot is his special calling card. Smith now joins the likes of Matt Belisle, Fernando Rodney, Zach Duke, Sergio Romo, and Tyler Clippard as an “unusual Twins reliever” acquired during the Falvey regime. That is to say, these bullpeners are (or were) atypical in their archetype—age or poor fastball velocity lowered the industry opinion of them, whether fair or not. But the Twins, perhaps believing in a philosophical blind spot, decided to trust in their past effectiveness and were rewarded with mixed but generally positive results. Belisle caught fire in the second half of 2017 to help lead the team to their first playoff appearance in seven years, Rodney and Duke both performed just well enough to net prospects in 2018, Romo was crucial in cementing a shaky Twins bullpen in 2019, and Clippard was a quality reliever for the Twins during the truncated 2020 season. Of course, the Twins haven’t solely focused on cast-offs from the island of misfit toys; they have signed or acquired more prototypical relievers like Addison Reed, Sam Dyson, and Alex Colomé on top of their usual assortment of unique funkmasters. Funny enough, it seems like they have had better fortune with odd relievers than with your more standard ones, but that isn’t quite the point of this article. Why ignore velocity? The Twins, as pointed out by Tom Froemming, had a velocity problem in May 2021 and had not fixed that issue by October 2021. It is March 2022, and the symptoms still persist. None of the four assumed starters possess an average fastball velocity that tops 93 MPH—a fact entirely at odds with the front office’s implications that velocity would be a top priority when they took over command of decision-making in 2016. Both newly-acquired starters, Sonny Gray and Dylan Bundy, are more masters of breaking balls than fireballers. Taylor Rogers and Jorge Alcala are the only true flamethrowers established in the bullpen. When diagnosing the malady, we must remember that there is nuance in team building; teams like the Twins count all their chips to the last penny as their room for error is smaller than other franchises. The team could quickly cash in and deal their top prospects for high-octane arms or sign the fastest-tossing relievers with little care for the long-term implications of those decisions. Still, such moves would not only likely hurt the franchise, but it would also open them up to being dunked on by randoms on Twitter years in the future, and that’s a risk no one wants to take. Why ignore velocity? Velocity is expensive, perhaps too much so. Corey Knebel (96.5 MPH) signed for $10 million, Joe Kelly (98.1 MPH) signed for $17 million over two years, and Kendall Graveman (96.5 MPH), signed for $24 million over three years. With no disrespect, none of those three players have been particularly consistent in their performance (or with health), but teams see their “stuff” and can’t help but imagine a perfect world where it all comes together for such a player. Trading for velocity can also be expensive. The White Sox parted with two young, talented players in Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer to acquire Craig Kimbrel, the Padres gave up their 9th best prospect, Mason Thompson, for half a season of Daniel Hudson, and the fact that the Twins received anyone for Hansel Robles showed that teams are willing to ignore performance in favor of the allure of stuff. The same can be said for prospects. Arms that can sit in the high-90s are valued highly because the upside of that player is tantalizing. We’ve seen the natural sheen of “stuff” blind teams into ignoring risk because they see the next Roger Clemens in an arm that will likely flame out in high-A. The Twins have recognized this and seem to tap their higher-velo arms in deals; Huascar Ynoa, Luis Gil, Brusdar Graterol, and Chase Petty all own big fastballs, but now pitch for other organizations. The guess is that the team is leveraging industry opinions on fastball velocity to acquire major-league talent they otherwise could not have if the pitcher were your average 93-95 MPH Joe. Or, to simplify, they think other teams over-value fastballs and are trying to find value in overlooked arms. Consider the Smith signing; $2.5 million for Joe Smith’s consistency is a bargain if you choose to look at his performance absent velocity implications. The Gray trade looks exquisite as well. Acquiring a great starting pitcher for a pitcher four or so years away from debuting is a masterclass in fleecing. Has it worked? The results are iffy. Twins pitching was undeniably elite in 2019 and 2020 when their team average fastball velocity sat in the bottom five of the league but fell off entirely in 2021. We shall see how 2022 plays out, but the prospects so far do not look good. Shoot, 43-year-old Johan Santana might be an upgrade to the starting rotation. That isn’t to say the team is completely ignoring velocity. Jordan Balazovic is capable of sitting 94-95, Jhoan Duran hits 100 daily, Josh Winder can sit in the mid-90s, and Matt Canterino can do the same. The team is still focusing on velocity, but more on developing said heat, not paying for it upfront. If a pitching prospect can throw hard, great, but their velocity isn’t as prioritized as other aspects of their game. If another team overvalues a prospect’s velocity? Ship him off and receive a more bountiful return than expected. Again, it is unclear if the plan has been successful or not, but the Twins unquestionably believe in their process.
  3. If there were two takeaways from this morning’s press conference, Carlos Correa was impressed with Twins leadership and that he’s here to win. Derek Falvey noted his appreciation of the support from ownership in saying, “A momentous day like this, a significant contract like this with a player of Carlos’s stature only happens with the partnership and support of ownership.” Leadership starts at the top, and Correa noted the warmth he felt in an initial Zoom call with Falvey and new manager Rocco Baldelli. “I talked to Rocco, I talked to Derek and Thad, and they made me feel like this was the place for me to be. They made me feel like this was going to be my next home. And when I got off the Zoom call, I told Scott, let’s make it happen. And I told my wife to start packing.” Communication is a big thing for Correa, and in talking through his desires to be in Minnesota, he continued to communicate a desire for winning. Going to a place where he could win was necessary, and there’s no ambiguity as to whether he feels the Twins are a team capable. “I told Rocco, and I told Derek, we’re not seeing this like a one-year thing, we’re seeing this as I want to build a championship culture in this organization, I want to show you guys what I can do, what I can bring to the table, so we can have a long-term relationship at some point.” While there is an opt-out following the first year, Correa’s agent Scott Boras sees this as an opportunity for Carlos to do damage in a place he’s been very successful. “He had told me, 'these are some of the places I see the ball really well.' When he mentioned Minnesota and I went and looked up, and I said, wow, he just has a very small 1.200 OPS over there… I know this, all the AL Central, the Twins have a new explosion weapon, C4.” Correa has played for some great managers in A.J. Hinch and Dusty Baker. Knowing that communication is so vital between the leader of the team and a leader in the clubhouse, it was exciting to hear how glowingly the new shortstop talked of his skipper. “For me, it was just the vibes I got and how they made me feel, especially talking to Rocco and hearing so many great things about him from all the players that played for him. I want to be in a place where I want to feel like I can communicate with my manager, and my manager's going to have my back all the time. That's exactly what I got from Rocco, and he's the guy I'm going to be working closest with. When I feel like I have a manager that I can trust, and I can communicate with, for me, that's a game-changer." A critical focal point remained as the conversation drew on for Correa and the Twins. This was going to be a partnership about winning. Correa has been in situations where the results have taken time, but he’s also experienced the pinnacle of a World Series ring. He said, “The conversations we had were about two and a half hours…it was all about winning. When I get that from them, that makes me excited because I want to take up that challenge. It was not long ago that I was playing for an organization that was last in the big leagues the year before I got there—losing 100-plus games. I know what it takes to build a championship culture within the clubhouse. It starts within the clubhouse and all the way up to the front office. I see that here with the talent that we have, and I see that we can get so much better in order for us to accomplish that goal to ultimately win a championship." Correa was taken the pick before Minnesota Twins Byron Buxton in the 2012 draft. He’s excited to play up the middle with him and has a history of playing alongside him in showcases as they were growing up. He fondly remembers the pre-draft process in Minnesota, “A 17-year-old hitting tanks in Target Field felt pretty cool.” It may be surprising that the Twins are landing such a supreme talent, but Boras thinks that will become more part of the norm. Taking over Correa’s free agency in January after his previous representation went through changes, Boras noted that Minnesota is a place he has young guys like Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Austin Martin. Also, in talking about the vast revenues clubs see before the season even starts, he shared a belief talent acquisition will change, saying, “The truth of it is, you’re going to see franchises sign a franchise player, maybe the top franchises will sign two or three. That kind of thing. You’re going to see that with regularity in the game because frankly, it’s a component that is necessary for winning.” At the end of the day, it’s more than apparent that Carlos Correa is extremely excited to be in Minnesota and believes in the ability to lead this organization to a championship and have the leadership in place to supplement him getting there. After a few days focused on public relations, it was back to business for the talented shortstop. He took live at-bats for the first time since the World Series, and he said he hopes to see game action for Minnesota by this weekend. While we may still be pinching ourselves, this is now very much real life. The Twins hauled in a big fish, and it seems like he wants to be here to stay. 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. When the deal for Carlos Correa became official, the Twins went from having no shortstop to arguably the best in baseball. Inked to a three-year contract worth $105.3 million, Correa gives Minnesota a strong option at a position of need. However, what immediately became apparent in the deal is that there’s an opportunity for everyone to shift things in the future. Correa’s contract includes a limited no-trade clause for 2022, presumably only being open to contenders. Then there are opt-outs for both 2023 and 2024, with full no-trade clauses should he stay with the Twins. Making $35 million this season, Correa has the opportunity to bet on himself should he desire a long-term deal next offseason. Minnesota can pivot from a star talent if things go belly up, and they could really be on the hook for just $35 million should the former Astros star go elsewhere. Before acquiring Correa, Minnesota moved on from Josh Donaldson and the $50 million remaining on his contract. Spending just two seasons in Minnesota, one of which was truncated due to Covid, Donaldson earned just $30 million of his near $100 million contract after becoming the largest free-agent signing in Twins history. Despite a productive 2021 season, in which his legs remained relatively healthy, Falvey chose to pivot from Donaldson and turn the roster over. We’ve seen this shake out as the front office sent Jose Berrios to the Toronto Blue Jays rather than being the ones to pay him. Instead of inking their frontline starter to a long-term deal, Minnesota picked up top prospects and then swung a trade for another arm that looks very similar to Berrios. A few seasons ago, we watched Minnesota swing a deal for Jaime Garcia, then with the Atlanta Braves, only to make one start before sending him to the New York Yankees. The 2017 club went on to make the American League Wild Card game, but it was buying and selling at the deadline that helped them go from three games below .500 to seven games above. I’ve been adamant that Minnesota didn’t need to dump Donaldson’s contract to sign Trevor Story (or, as we found out, Carlos Correa). The front office apparently agrees with that sentiment as well, and the greater plan was to shift the roster around. Having acquired a new third baseman, catcher, and now shortstop, there’s plenty of talent to challenge the American League Central and beyond. There are more additions coming for this roster, and ultimately it comes down to who Falvey sees as the best combination of talents and personalities. Over the years, we’ve heard plenty about the Twins being reluctant to sign a free agent pitcher to a long-term deal. That’s generally what the market trends have suggested needs to happen, but we are being shown Minnesota’s willingness to get creative for top talent in ways that don’t hamstring future flexibility. Maybe Sonny Gray isn’t with the Twins past the 2023 season, and maybe Carlos Correa decides to go elsewhere after 2022, but there’s no denying that this front office continues to find a way to give themselves flexibility. Adding talent isn’t a straightforward practice, and having dollars doesn’t necessarily mean spending them on the first long-term deal to be accepted is the best get. Patience is hard to practice while holes need to be filled and options fly off the board. You have to give it to this regime, though; they know what they’re doing even if they march to the beat of their own drum. 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. Correa, who had only been linked to the Twins in the most daydreamy of scenarios (if that), put pen to paper on a 3-year, $105.3 million contract, making him the highest-paid infielder in MLB history. He will immediately slot in as the team’s starting shortstop and help form one of the league’s most dynamic up-the-middle trios alongside Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton. The 2012 No. 1 overall pick lived up to the hype during his seven seasons with the Houston Astros, slashing .277/.356/.481 and slugging 133 home runs, culminating in a 5.8 fWAR performance last summer that netted him a top five finish in MVP voting. But his excellence isn’t secluded to the plate. He’s also pretty proficient with the glove, registering 12 outs above average in 2021 and 27 since Statcast was implemented in 2016. (He won the American League’s Platinum Glove last summer, joining Buxton as the only Twins to have brought home the award.) To put it bluntly: In a league replete with shortstop talent, Correa is without question among the best, if not the best all around. Baseball is not like other sports in that a supreme individual talent can single-handedly carry a team into World Series contention. One need not look any further than the Los Angeles Angels for proof. However, the signing of Correa lends even further credence to the Twins’ belief that they can compete not only for an American League Central title, but perhaps more this season. Correa’s signing coupled with the trades for Sonny Gray, Gio Urshela, and Gary Sanchez has transformed the Twins from a team with two starting pitchers and no clear plan for the future to one that is perhaps a single piece away from being a true threat in the A.L. And with rumors swirling that they have significant interest in Oakland A’s pitchers Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea — both of whom figure to be very gettable at the moment — that single piece may soon arrive. The Twins now boast a lineup consisting of three players — the aforementioned Buxton, Correa, and Polanco — who registered at least 3.9 fWAR last season, with Sanchez, Urshela, and Max Kepler having accomplished the feat in the past as well. Add in promising youngsters Alex Kirilloff, Ryan Jeffers, and Trevor Larnach as well as the ever-steady Luis Arraez and the Twins could have a lineup on par or greater than 2019’s much-beloved Bomba Squad. However, their offseason remains incomplete. The Twins still need to add at least one more starting pitcher as well as a bullpen arm or two. They could also use another veteran catcher to supplement Jeffers and Sanchez, neither of whom is considered a sure thing at the moment. At this point, there is little reason why the Twins shouldn't open the gates to their farm system to usher in a Montas-caliber pitcher. While they lack elite truly elite prospects — though many have made the argument that Austin Martin is — the overall depth of the Twins' system is undoubtedly enticing to other teams. They could part with multiple of their top 10 prospects and still be full of talent. As such, this is the exact moment in which they should be aggressively shopping their minor league prospects and it would come as a bit of a shock if they weren't. But despite the prolonged nature of the offseason and the periods of wondering what the heck they were up to, the patience of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine once again paid off. The Twins have their shortstop (albeit perhaps for only one season). The Twins have their top-end starting pitcher (and perhaps another on the way). The Twins have had a great offseason. Now all that can be done is to wait to see how they tie a bow on it all. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — Read more from Lucas here
  6. Since the beginning of the offseason, it’s been apparent that the Twins needed a shortstop. Andrelton Simmons wasn’t likely to be welcomed back, and Royce Lewis hadn’t played in a game since 2020. Watching options fall off the board, it looked like Story or bust, but mainly because the assumption has always been Correa would return to the Astros. In signing with Minnesota, there’s no denying he immediately becomes the best to play the position in franchise history. Just how good is Correa, though? It’s fair to argue he may be the best in baseball. Recently running down their “Top 10 Right Now” lists, MLB Network slated Correa as the third-best shortstop in baseball. They’ve got him placed behind the oft-injured Fernando Tatis Jr. and the versatile Trea Turner. It’s fair to argue for either of those two as being better, but what exactly does Correa bring to the table? Last season the former Astro won his first Gold Glove. That award can often be scrutinized through the lens of an offensive producer that gets additional consideration defensively for their bat. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth when considering Correa in 2021. His 20 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2021 was a career-high, and he’s never posted lower than 4 DRS in a single season. To contextualize that performance, 20 DRS is something like former Twins shortstop Andrelton Simmons in his prime. The caveat for Correa is that it comes with a strong .837 OPS. No matter where you look for metrics, they view Correa in the same vein. Major League Baseball’s Statcast has Correa worth 12 outs above average (OAA) in 2021, which ranked 6th among shortstops across the league. He was also credited with preventing nine runs. The beauty of Correa is that he’s a true five-tool player. For everything noted defensively, it only scratches the surface of his actual impact on the game. Correa’s Statcast percentile rankings from 2021 are basically just the fire emoji. Drafted one pick higher than new teammate Byron Buxton, Carlos Correa is an absolute menace in the box. Under this new regime, the Twins have long been fans of exit velocity and hard-hit rates. Last season Correa’s max exit velocity ranked in the 97th percentile across MLB. His expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) was a robust .373, and his 41.6% ground ball rate was near a career-low. In the box, it basically boils down to Correa hunting to do damage every time he swings the bat. In a lineup that has some swing and miss, it’s worth noting that Correa’s plate discipline will also be welcomed. Last season a 27% chase rate was a career-low, and his 8.2% whiff rate checked in with the same designation. Swinging at pitches in the zone, Correa makes contact nearly 90% of the time. Considering the approach to doing damage, putting the bat on the ball with pitches that can be handled is about the ideal outcome you can hope for. There’s just no way to summarize any of this other than in the middle of the night Derek Falvey signed the best free agent in organization history and very possibly the best at his position across the sport. Structuring his contract with opt-outs gives both sides future flexibility, and there’s still no hampering any future impact top prospect Royce Lewis could have at the position. Right now, I’d bet Lewis is excited to learn from one of the games best, and Baldelli’s lineup just got infused with an otherworldly talent. Is there a shortstop you’re taking over Correa? The best part of it is that any answer is hypothetical, and this one is now Minnesota’s. 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. Over the past three months, Derek Falvey’s staff in Twins Baseball Operations has remained busy. They’ve been crunching numbers, reading and inputting scouting reports, signing minor league free agents, and all the while planning for this day, the day baseball would be back, and the offseason could continue. The only thing is… it is beginning as spring training is about to start. Sunday is the mandatory report date for 40-man roster players. Next Friday is, at least tentatively, the first scheduled spring training game. And, Opening Day (April 7) is less than a month away. As soon as the owners ratified the new CBA, baseball was back in business. Thankfully, Falvey was willing to take some time to answer questions for Twins media. He notes that they have been following the negotiations closely, especially the past few days. Falvey said, “Obviously, over the last couple of days, following closely with the information and the news that was coming out and feeling like things were getting closer, it’s just great for our group. We’re all here. We’re in the office. Once we knew everything was good, we ordered in food and said, ‘We might be here awhile.’” We haven’t seen free agency like this in baseball before, except to some degree right before the lockout. With about 300 free agents still unsigned, this has the potential to look a lot like NFL and NBA free agency over the coming days. It’s not something any of the front offices have navigated before, but Falvey and his team are ready for it. “A lot of groundwork was laid before the lockout with players, with agents, with front offices around trades, so I would just tell you we’re picking up really where we left off. Now I recognize during that period of time, things may have changed for individual players, for teams, and their plans, so we’ve already done our dividing up of clubs among a bunch of us and making sure that we’re checking back in tonight to know where things stand with those teams. It’s going to be difficult. I’m not going to sugarcoat that.” Falvey said that his first call after news broke of an agreement went to Twins player representative Taylor Rogers. “He and I talked a ton going up and into the lockout and all the COVID protocols and everything else we had to navigate over the last couple of years. We had an awesome conversation. He’s excited to get here. He said he’s talked to a bunch of guys that feel the same.” While Rogers appears to be fully recovered from his finger injury that cost him the final two months of the 2021 season, he is just one pitcher. Last year, the Twins used 35 pitchers. So there is work to be done. Regarding pitching, Falvey said, "I think we made no secret that's a focus and an area we need to spend some time and we're going to. We've talked about trade market and free-agent market. We're excited about some of the young guys that are coming. I think we look at our stable of young pitchers who have been in our camp. I've been watching Simeon Woods Richardson the last week, the way he's throwing the ball. Matt Canterino is healthy and throwing the ball as well as anybody. We're excited about the young guys on our roster that we haven't yet seen, the Josh Winders and Jhoan Durans and Jordan Balazovics, guys we think are going to be another part to join the Joe Ryans and Bailey Obers and that group. But we know we need some veteran presence too so that's going to be a focus of us here. We're going to contact as many teams and agents as possible to work that market." The other "area of focus" for the front office is shortstop. Falvey said that Jorge Polanco could play there, and that Luis Arraez can play around the infield. He also mentioned some younger players. "Some of our young players who aren't quite at the major league level yet but could be really interesting fits for us along the way. And whether that's the Nick Gordons of the world who haven't had as much experience. [Jermaine] Palacios has been in camp here and watching him go. We're excited to see Royce [Lewis] come in, though we recognize he's had a lot of downtime here with his injury. So I can't answer that today perfectly that we're going to seek to see what the market might bear in that space." The players will start reporting this morning (Friday, March 10), at least the players who live nearby Ft. Myers. They will have physicals and a short workout in the late morning. The mandatory report date will be Sunday, March 13. It will not be an easy task in some cases, especially for players from other countries. But, the Twins have been preparing for this day for a while. Falvey noted, “We did all we could before the lockout, knowing that could become an issue at some point during the winter so that agents, players knew what their status was, what the situation was. Certainly players under control with us. We got ahead of that as much as we could. We’re hoping now that we can accelerate that process. Amanda Daley does a great job for us, making sure that all the details are taken care of in that space. I would anticipate that with 30 clubs trying to navigate some of these travel visas and work visas in the Dominican or Venezuela, places where a lot of our players come from, it can be a challenge.” Tentatively, the first spring training games will be played next Friday, March 18th. That will be after just four full-team practices. To help with that, the team will soon be announcing a group of non-roster invitations to big-league spring training. And, as they have always done, they can pull guys over from the minor league side to play in games. Because teams have been able to have zero contact with any of the 40-man roster players, there was some anxiety, hoping players such as Royce Lewis and Blayne Enlow were rehabbing appropriately. Falvey said, “We want to get those guys going. Obviously, in Royce’s case, losing the minor-league season was difficult because that’s just lost development time. He was at the alternate site (in 2020). He used that time really productively. He’s been in the Fall League (2019). Had some of those experiences. But ultimately losing last season due to his ACL reconstruction, it’s difficult.” Regarding Lewis and right-handed pitcher Blayne Enlow, working his way back from Tommy John surgery last June. The Twins prepared them before the lockout began for this time away. Falvey said, “our medical people did a really good job, and so did our folks in strength and conditioning and rehab side of things, and position coaches talked to him about how they would want to navigate his offseasons, whether this happened or not.” He noted that Enlow would be a little bit behind the timeline. That was known. As for Royce, they know he works with his agency (Scott Boras) to “prep and get himself ready. He’s a tremendous worker, and he’s going to put in his time and efforts, so I’m confident in guys like that have put themselves in good positions.” Opening Day will be at Target Field on April 7th. It will likely be a sprint for these next four weeks. Twins President Dave St. Peter said that the fans have been great. “They want to see games. The volume of concern went up exponentially when you started to cancel regular-season games. So the last ten days, I will tell you, we heard from a lot of fans. We’ve been trying to actively engage with them and try to assure them that there was still a path to play a full 162 games, and I’m just absolutely thrilled today that that vision ultimately is going to be possible. I wasn’t always sure it would be.” Ultimately, the Twins will miss a couple of weeks of spring training, and the season will start one week late, but there will be a 162-game season and a lot of the Ultimate this deal will hopefully help grow the game, and there can be extended peace again between the owners and the players as there had been for nearly 30 years. St. Peter thinks that it’s time to heal and move forward. “It’s paramount that we as an industry do a better job of building trust with our players. There are so many exciting things happening in baseball. For those things to ultimately transcend the game, for us to ultimately move the game forward to where it’s incrementally more relevant amongst young people, where it’s more relevant around the globe — for us to really achieve those goals, we’re going to need incremental alignment with our players. And I hope this agreement allows us to move forward in a way to where we can be better aligned and in partnership. That’s ultimately in the best interests of the players, and it’s certainly in the best interests of the industry.” A challenge for Twins fans will be to move forward too. Ultimately, we will get a 162 game schedule, more playoffs, and more. It will be an interesting and exciting time over the next few days, and the Twins should be active, not only through the weekend but right up to the season. Twins Daily has provided anywhere from three to seven articles every day since the lockout began (and obviously before that). We sure hope that we have kept you entertained, enlightened, and updated. Thank you all so much for sticking by the site, and we sure hope that we will celebrate a winning season in 2022. Oh, by the way, Friday is the first day that teams can place players on the 60-Day Injured List. It’s also the first day that players can be placed on waivers. We should get a list of non-roster players soon too. 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. With the draft season just starting to get going, we’re going to take a week to look back to 2012 (and before) and pull back the covers on what all went into making Byron Buxton a Minnesota Twin. Twins Daily had a chance to talk recently with Jack Powell, the area scout responsible for signing Buxton. Powell gives us a front-row seat to everything that happened. “I first saw Byron at East Cobb during the summer going into his junior year of high school and didn’t know who he was,” Powell explained. “But I noticed his body and the way he threw the ball in long toss. Then warming up and running sprints. The way he swung a bat and got out of the box. I knew this kid was going to be special.” That first look put Buxton on the Twins' radar, but due to the lack of draftable talent in his area, Powell didn’t get to see Buxton at all during his junior baseball season. It was also known that Buxton was being recruited to play football and baseball at the University of Georgia and, at the time, it wasn't clear that Buxton would choose the diamond. “Then I saw him again at East Cobb Pro with (Twins scout Tim) O’Neill going into his senior year. For as good as he looked the year before, this time he looked even better. Byron could just dial it up.” “We went back to watch him play football that fall, and he switched between playing quarterback and wide receiver. I think his first three catches went for touchdowns,” Powell chuckled, “Who knows, he would probably have made the NFL if he wanted to.” A contingent of Twins personnel, including Powell, O’Neill, and former scouting director Deron Johnson, met with Buxton and his parents and Powell left that meeting impressed. “There was just something different about him. He had great parents, very supportive. He was so quiet and unassuming. It definitely took him a while to get to know people and open it. But I’ll never forget during that first meeting, I watched him out on the driveway playing pickup basketball with a big group of neighborhood kids. They were probably 8-12 years old. He was so great with them. He’d let them score and then tell them, ‘I’ll remember that.’ He made those kids feel great.” Unlike the previous year, Powell spent “all spring” watching Buxton play. “I’ll never forget at one of his games, I was taking video and Byron hit an absolute missile. I sent it to DJ and he called me right away and said, ‘Are you trying to kill me!?’ I didn’t know what he meant and he says, ‘I watched that video and almost wrecked.’” The excitement of potentially adding Buxton had spread throughout the organization. “We saw him at least a half dozen times. We were sold. (General Manager) Terry (Ryan) was sold.” The last day of Buxton’s high school career came as a doubleheader in the state championship. “Byron pitched the first game. He was 94-98 mph off the mound and am pretty sure he hit a home run. In the second game, he was in centerfield, catching everything and making highlight plays. He hit a line drive so hard past the second baseman, the kid didn’t even have time to put his glove up. He absolutely dominated that day.” But there was still time to go before the draft and, of course, the Twins were drafting second and didn’t know if Buxton would still be available. “We knew the Astros were considering Byron and Carlos Correa. We didn’t know who they would take. We knew that we would take Byron if he was available. We, the Twins, have a good working relationship with Byron’s agent, Al Goetz, and felt that we could get the deal done if he got to us. Al has been so great for Byron and his family.” The Twins got their wish. The Astros took Correa. “It’s been fun watching Byron now and seeing how much he’s improved his game. Injuries and luck are part of baseball and Byron hasn’t had great luck, but we’re going to see peak Byron Buxton this year. As guys mature they learn their limits. Rocco has done a great job helping Byron understand that he doesn’t always have to try to move the outfield wall. As Byron ages, his game may change, but he’s going to be better from this point forward.” When asked about Buxton’s names being in trade rumors over the past year, Powell said, “I never had the first feeling we’d trade him…unless someone was offering the ‘27 Yankees. Everyone understands how impactful Byron is.” And not only did the Twins hold onto Buxton, but they also wrapped him up for the next seven years with a $100 million contract. Buxton invited Powell to Target Field to celebrate that moment with him. “I’m so grateful that Byron and Derek (Falvey) and Thad (Levine) made that happen. He’s come so far since being the best high school player I’ve scouted since Josh Hamilton.” There were a few players that Powell mentioned as comparisons for the then-high school phenom: Eric Davis, Andruw Jones, and Hamilton. “They were all players with phenomenal tools who could carry teams. Davis took the Reds to the World Series. We saw Hamilton do it in Texas and Cincinnati. And it’s a shame that Jones isn’t in the Hall of Fame.” Speaking of Andruw Jones, Powell mentions his son, Druw as one of the “impactful players” that he hopes to see available when the Twins are on the clock, picking 8th in the 2022 draft. There are other prep players that he has seen in his area. “Druw reminds me of Buxton. Elijah Green has a little more swing-and-miss in his game right now than Buxton did in high school. Termarr Johnson is another one. They’re all going to be impactful players.” Like with Buxton, it’s going to be a wait-and-see when it comes to who’s available when the draft eventually happens. “I’ll see a couple hundred games between March 1 and July 1. Practices. Workouts. I’m not sure any of those three (mentioned above) will be available, but anything can happen between now and the draft.” And a lot of things will. For now, though, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that we get to see Byron Buxton patrolling Target Field again soon… and a lot over the next seven years.
  9. Maybe the idea that the Twins had little chance in a five-team American League playoff field was accurate. But if it was, it wasn’t a slam dunk proclamation, and with an extra team (or two) added, there are no excuses left for this front office. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have preached a desire for “sustained success” during their tenure running the Twins. They felt the breeze from a wide-open contention window following a two-year run where the Twins led the American League in regular-season wins. Many believe the team shouldn’t even try to get better one offseason later. It’s an understandable viewpoint. The American League is ratcheting up, even more so than what we’re accustomed to. The East has four legitimate World Series contenders, with the Mariners in the West looking to knock off the powerhouse Astros. In the Central, the White Sox sit at the peak of their powers, with the Tigers and Royals hoping to take steps forward. It won’t be easy. The belief that the Twins, coming off a horrifically disappointing 73-win season *can’t* improve enough to win is giving too much slack to this front office. Ownership hired them to build a sustainable winner, a team that would compete every year. They failed in 2021. Does that mean a “punt” in 2022 should be easily forgiven and understood? I’m not convinced. Listen, I understand there's a pitching pipeline coming. I cover the Minor League system on a daily basis, and I'm equally excited. Why does investing in the 2022 team automatically take away from the future? There's a happy medium here. The Twins signed Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract to compete for the duration. They traded Brusdar Graterol for Kenta Maeda to solidify a rotation needing assistance. They extended Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Miguel Sanó to build around. Did they really extend Byron Buxton just to waste his age-28 season? Deciding to throw away an entire season by not making impactful additions is not acceptable, especially with an expanded postseason. Why build all of that financial flexibility? For nothing? The Boston Red Sox won 24 out of 60 games in the shortened 2020 season. That followed an incredibly disappointing follow-up to a dominant World Series run, one that looked to set the tone for years to come. Instead of folding for 2021, the team invested by signing Kiké Hernández and Hunter Renfroe and trading for Adam Ottavino. Those moves weren’t earth-shattering, as the Red Sox had the offensive pieces in place to score runs in bunches. The rotation looked bleak, with Eduardo Rodríguez still recovering from myocarditis, Nick Pivetta struggling mightily in 2020, and Nathan Eovaldi throwing just 116 combined innings over the prior two seasons. Boston didn’t throw in the towel. They gave themselves a fighting chance, relied on a potent offense, and eventually appeared in the ALCS. I agree the Twins shouldn’t trade away the entire future, but they can give themselves a chance in a six or seven-team field with the right moves. This current Twins roster has little upside, but the floor is high enough offensively that the team could surprise this summer with substantial additions. It’s disheartening that the pain of the 2021 season eliminated this reality from so many minds. We shouldn’t let it. Don’t let this front office off the hook. They were brought in to build a consistent winner. The jury is out whether they'll stick to their word. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook , or email
  10. The Minnesota Twins' starting rotation is in shambles at this point. Dylan Bundy is the only starter signed before the lockout, and Carlos Rodon is the only realistic upper-tier target that still seems plausible. With those parameters, it seems a good bet that the Twins turn to the trade market, a place they’ve been expected to dabble all along. For Falvey, this is probably the optimal outcome. While free agency has been a malady of misses, the trade front has actually worked out well for this front office. I’m still baffled how an aging Nelson Cruz was parlayed for two legitimate arms, and that was after the Jake Odorizzi trade had already tipped the scales against the Rays for Minnesota. Throw in getting a haul for Jose Berrios when the organization had decided against extending him, and you have to be happy with the results. Looking at the prospect rankings and, more importantly, the organizational location for Minnesota, it’s clear they need external help. The Twins farm system shows up consistently at the bottom of the teens, and outside of Jordan Balazovic, there isn’t an arm on the farm that’s a top 100 talent and ready to immediately contribute. An explanation for much of the feelings regarding the Twins system relates to the missed time the past few seasons. The depth is there, while the floor currently trumps many of the ceilings. Parlaying a few arms into one big one could be the ideal action plan. Oakland has plenty of arms on the block, and stud Frankie Montas is among the best of them. Cincinnati could be a willing partner with either Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, or Tyler Mahle. Houston might be willing to flip Odorizzi back to Minnesota. There is any number of possibilities for the front office to explore. It would be wise to assume that frameworks have been discussed before the lockout, and things should come together quickly when we get a resumption. If and when Minnesota swings a deal, there should be a level of trust built from how Falvey has constructed previous swaps. There’s going to be hurt in prospect capital, especially for a top-level arm, but betting on the Twins knowing their talents and the warts they may have is an earned belief. An ideal trade has both sides winning when the deal is struck, but Minnesota continuing to come out on top, in the long run, is something every fan can get on board with. Derek Falvey needs to keep stacking the positive results in that category. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  11. Through 2018, Jorge Polanco had played 288 games for the Twins. He owned a career .272/.329/.420 slash line and was still trying to find himself as a hitter. Polanco has never played in more than 133 games during a season and topped 80 just once. He wasn’t a big strikeout problem, but his on-base prowess wasn’t exactly pronounced either. Having come through the system as a shortstop, Polanco played three infield positions for Minnesota in 2016 before assuming shortstop full-time each of the next two years. His .773 OPS in 2018 seemed to indicate a breakout may be coming, and while there were concerns of his ability to stick at short, the bat was where hope resided. We all remember how 2019 went as the Bomba Squad came on the scene, and Polanco was right in the center of that. His career-best .841 OPS was the offensive explosion Falvey banked on, and his 22 home runs were nearly double his previous career-high. Arguably one of the best offensive teams in Twins history, Polanco helped bolster a lineup with much bigger bats around him. We’ve seen Polanco move off shortstop and deal with some ankle issues in the two years since. After a second surgery in 2020, his 2021 season re-established his place as one of baseball's best up-the-middle hitting infielders. The rebound to an .826 OPS with 33 big flies was truly a remarkable performance. Polanco has played more than 150 games in two of the past three seasons. He experienced his first All-Star game and picked up MVP votes. Signed for $25.75 million over five years, with two vesting/team options in 2024 and 2025, there was very little way for the deal to go pear-shaped on Minnesota. Despite coming off another impressive season, Polanco will make just $5.5 million in 2022 and $7.5 million in 2023. Fangraphs estimates Polanco’s value has been worth $32.7 million in 2019 alone and $70.3 million through just the first three years of his extension. He’s nearly tripled the value paid to him, and there are still two years left on the deal. Tied to Polanco in terms of timing was Kepler. Before doing his deal, Kepler had played in 419 games for Minnesota. He owned a .233/.313/.417 slash line and had recorded 56 homers. With just a 96 OPS+, Kepler was a solid defender that looked to have more in his bat. Like Polanco, the return on investment immediately was realized in 2019 as Kepler posted a career-best .855 OPS backed by 36 dingers for the Bomba Squad. He was a middle-of-the-lineup bat that commanded the zone and generated solid contact. From there, though, the approach has fallen off. The past two seasons, Kepler has posted .760 and .719 OPS marks with a combined 28 homers in 169 games. A guy with good hard hit numbers, he finds himself too often driving the ball into the ground rather than elevating it. Kepler walks a relatively fine line between a productive contract and unfortunate placement. His hard-hit rate in 2021 (35.6%) wasn’t where it was in 2019 (42.4%), but the flyball rate has also decreased in each of the past two seasons. Kepler is among the best defensive right-fielders in the game, and getting the most out of his bat would be the last segment of his game for the Twins to unlock. Even without the complete package that Polanco has become, Falvey doing Kepler’s deal at $32.13 million over five years with a 2024 team option was never going to get the organization burned either. Fangraphs has Kepler’s 2019 alone being worth $35.6 million, and the total production over his first three years adds up to $58.4 million in value. He’ll likely double the contract value in 2022, and a great season or two could line him up for the payday Minnesota would no doubt love to consider. At the time both deals were struck, neither seemed outlandish. Both players had come up through the system with plenty of projection, and the dollar value was Minnesota’s front office capitalizing on timing before production. These are two of the best contracts in baseball, and there’s only room for each to rise in the returned value. Where do you think we see Polanco and Kepler go from here? 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. Last season, the AL Central was a case of the haves and have nots. Both Chicago and Minnesota were expected to contend while Cleveland sat in no man's land, and Detroit and Kansas City floundered. It was easy to see that the Tigers were building something under A.J. Hinch, and the Royals have a glut of exciting talent ready to help at the big-league level. Because baseball is locked out and transactions are frozen, we don’t know how rosters will finalize, but there’s plenty to draw off now. ZiPS sees the White Sox as the cream of the crop again, which should be expected. The 88 win total is a good spot, given the projection system. With room to fluctuate on both sides, it’s fair to assess the AL Central Division winner will again come in with a win total in the low-90s. From there, every other team is within four games of each other, and no one has a win total of fewer than 74 games. How these clubs are constructed currently is what makes this interesting. Chicago might have already spent on most of their additions in adding Kendall Graveman and re-signing Leury Garcia. They will actively look to shop Craig Kimbrel, but the return doesn’t likely make them a better team. It’s anyone’s guess what the Guardians do as they haven’t spent money and are going the wrong way. Detroit made their big splash in paying for Javier Baez, and the Royals will probably rely more internally than anything. That leads us to the Twins. Minnesota is currently projected for 75 wins, and that’s with at least two openings in the rotation and a shortstop needing to be addressed. I think it’s a good bet to plan on Derek Falvey acquiring a starter via trade, and then signing someone like Michael Pineda, Zack Greinke, or another veteran presence is a good step forward. Minnesota still has $50 million or more to spend, and being valued as such with the present roster is a testament to the lineup. There’s no denying that the Twins should hit. They have one of the better lineups in baseball when things are clicking, and adding a healthy Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach should only help cement that reality. Rocco Baldelli’s club will go as far as the pitching staff allows it to, and that group will be as capable as the dollars or acquisition cost is stretched towards. A year ago, the AL Central might have been the weakest division in baseball, but in 2022 it may wind up being the group with the most parity. Some of those teams on the bottom have strong farm systems ready to bear fruit, and that’s only going to ratchet up their overall competitiveness. Right now, the Twins are in a good place that allows them to put 2021 in the rearview mirror, but they must be committed to making that season little more than a blip on the radar. Transactions will come quickly once the lockout is lifted, but how many wins the Twins can add from them will directly correlate to the quality of each move.
  13. As a disappointing 2021 season came to a close, Minnesota's front office faced plenty of questions about the club's future direction. With the team's current roster make-up, it's clear the club doesn't want to enter a long rebuilding phase. Plus, there are multiple reasons why it is a terrible time to try and rebuild. "I fully anticipate, this offseason, we're going to try to find a way to get better for '22 and beyond," Derek Falvey told reporters. "I've approached each of the last three offseasons, really even going back after '17, with an approach: 'How do we find a way to get better now and in the future?' We talk about sustainability. In order to do that, you have to keep an eye on short-term and long-term." Patience and attempts to find good value have been the critical factors in many of the team's offseason moves under the current regime. That strategy has played itself out in recent years. 2021 Offseason Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Alexander Colomé, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Minnesota's five most significant moves last winter came after the start of the new year. The Twins were patient with Cruz as he tested the market, but the NL not having the designated hitter limited his potential landing spots. Simmons was one of the best available free agent shortstops, but the Twins only turned to Simmons after Marcus Semien signed with Toronto. Semien finished third in the AL MVP vote, and Simmons had a career-worst season. The trio of free-agent pitchers signed by the Twins seemed like cheap deals at the time, but there was little upside involved. In hindsight, all three contracts ended up being poor as both starting pitchers were out of the organization by the season's end. Colomé improved throughout the year, but his terrible first month put the Twins into a hole from which they couldn't recover. 2020 Offseason Key Moves: Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Sergio Romo, Alex Avila, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard This was a massive offseason with Minnesota spending north of $150 million and trading for Kenta Maeda. Like other offseasons, things didn't go exactly as planned. Rumors were linking the Twins to some of the top free-agent pitchers, but none of those deals worked out for various reasons. Luckily, the front office pivoted and signed Josh Donaldson to the biggest free-agent contract in team history. Donaldson's deal fell to the Twins after other free agents went by the wayside. Bailey and Hill's contracts followed a similar pattern of the front office looking for cheaper one-year deals, but once again, there was little upside involved with either arm. As with previous offseasons, Minnesota waited for other teams to make moves, and they examined what was still available. Names at the top of the team's wish list were already signed, so the club had to shift to a different strategy. 2019 Offseason Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, Martin Perez, C.J. Cron Signing Cruz became one of the best free-agent moves in franchise history. He immediately impacted the line-up and helped transform the Twins into the Bomba Squad. At the time, Gonzalez looked like an intriguing signing after his impact on the Astros World Series run. Schoop and Cron projected to add some pop to the line-up, and Perez was a rotational boost. The AL Central was wide open, but the team only made marginal moves. All of the acquisitions provided a boost to the team, and the team went on to win over 100-games. However, Minnesota followed a similar offseason plan as they waited out the market and signed players late into the winter. At the time, Falvey and Levine made it clear that they believed in the club's core. That mantra may hold true for the 2022 offseason, but it's tough to be overconfident in the current core. It's hard to argue with the front office's strategy since the team has won two division titles in the last three years. However, the lockout impacts Minnesota's ability to sign players later in the cycle. The new CBA may also add a wrinkle to the team's offseason plans as there is a potential to add a payroll floor. If this happens, small payroll teams will be looking to add players that have typically been Minnesota's fallback options. Do you feel the front office's off-season strategy doesn't work this winter? 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
  14. There was never any question that losing Pressly would hurt the Twins in the short term. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA with Houston over the final half of 2018. In 139 1/3 innings since Pressly has tallied a 2.45 ERA to go with an 11.8 K/9. He had become one of baseball’s best relievers with the Twins and has only ratcheted that up with the Astros. After making 60 appearances in 2021, Pressly’s team option vested into a fully guaranteed $10 million deal for 2022. He’ll hit the open market again before 2023 for his age 34 season. On the Twins side of things, they’ve seen a bit of what both Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino can do, but 2022 should represent an opportunity for both to establish themselves completely. Let’s start in the bullpen with Alcala, as he’s a much more integral piece of the immediate puzzle. Pitching 59 2/3 innings last year for the Twins, Alcala owned a 3.92 ERA to go with a 9.2 K/9. Despite the 0.97 WHIP, his bugaboo was a 1.5 HR/9, pushing his FIP to 4.06. However, what’s worth noting is that it was a tale of two seasons for the Minnesota reliever. Through 40 appearances, he posted a 5.73 ERA and had allowed nine home runs in just 37 2/3 innings. A stretch of 22 innings pitched from that point forward, Alcala owned a 0.82 ERA, keeping opposing batters to a .420 OPS. His 27/3 K/BB was incredible, and only one ball left the yard. That’s what we must hope for coming into 2022. Derek Falvey didn’t flip Ryan Pressly for what Jorge Alcala was at the time, but he did make that move for what he could be now. At just 26-years-old, Alcala is still pre-arbitration and won’t hit free agency until 2026. Getting an elite level of production out of him for pennies on the dollar over the next four seasons would be a massive victory. He looks the part of a late-inning arm and could undoubtedly eat up closer opportunities should they present themselves. That alone would make the deal worth it, and we’ve yet to discuss Celestino. Forced into action early from Double-A after a run on outfield injuries last season, Celestino appeared in 23 games for the Twins. It went as to be expected, and he posted just a .466 OPS. Defensively the skills looked very close, but the bat needed more time to mature. Going to Triple-A St. Paul the rest of the way, Celestino made his case. Over 49 games with the Saints, he slashed .290/.384/.443 with 18 extra-base hits included five home runs. It was unquestionably his best offensive showing in the minors and should help re-establish his confidence in the future. Minnesota is always going to need a solid fourth outfielder behind Byron Buxton. I have some feelings about who they should look at outside of the organization, but Celestino could easily play himself into a better option for that role. Without needing to be an impact player immediately on Opening Day, it’s more than fair to suggest Celestino could parlay his strong finish at Triple-A into a forced promotion early on in 2022. Hitting on both inclusions in the Ryan Pressly trade would be the type of result Falvey had undoubtedly envisioned. It’s never easy to evaluate a baseball trade when it is made with an indication of how it will pan out. You can draw conclusions based on the level of prospect returned, but the real evaluation always takes place once players have had an opportunity to develop. Minnesota has pushed both talents through their system and is now ready to cash them in. It could soon become time to call this swap a victory.
  15. Saddled with Paul Molitor to start his tenure, Falvey tabbed Rocco Baldelli as manager before the 2019 season. A breath of fresh air and a new perspective, Baldelli represented a complete change from the Twins' old guard. While the losing in October hasn’t ceased yet, the club has stockpiled a plethora of solid prospects and could be on the verge of another sustained run. Here’s one writer's opinion of the five best moves Minnesota has made during Derek Falvey’s tenure: 5. Nelson Cruz Signing (Twice) Looking to add thump to their lineup, Falvey inked the long-time designated hitter to a one-year deal worth $14 million (and a second-year option at $12 million). At 38-years-old, there was cause for concern, and he was coming off a slide posting just an .850 OPS for the Mariners. His services were hotly contested, and he wound up being a catalyst for the Bomba Squad. Cruz’s 1.031 OPS was a career-best, and he finished 9th in the American League MVP voting after blasting 41 dingers. His value was estimated as being worth more than $34 million that season by Fangraphs. 4. Nelson Cruz Trade After bringing Cruz back on a one-year deal for $13 million, Minnesota saw the writing on the wall as they slipped down the AL Central standings in 2021. Having posted a .907 OPS through 85 games for the Twins, Cruz was still productive at 40. Despite half of the sport not using the designated hitter, and even fewer teams needing one, Falvey orchestrated a coup in a deal from the Tampa Bay Rays. Acquiring Team USA ace and top-100 prospect Joe Ryan for a few months of Cruz would’ve been great on its own. Minnesota also netted Drew Strotman (a recent Twins Spotlight guest), another strong pitching prospect, and despite Cruz’s greatness here, they couldn’t have packed his bags fast enough for that return. 3. Michael Pineda Signing Signing someone while injured is always a tricky situation, but that’s what Falvey opted to do with Michael Pineda. Needing starting arms, the Twins came to an agreement with the former Yankees starter while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018. Paying him just $10 million over two years, Minnesota got to monitor Pineda’s rehab and set him up to be a rotation mainstay for them in 2019. He turned in a strong 4.01 ERA and was among the many reasons the club was so good. In 2019 alone, Fangraphs valued Pineda’s production north of $20 million. Pineda has been unquestionably the best free-agent move on the pitching front from this front office, taking steps forward in each of the next two seasons. 2. Jorge Polanco Extension After a career-best .773 OPS in 2018, Minnesota decided to lock Polanco up long term. He was signed to a five-year deal with two additional options. The guaranteed portion was for just $25.75 million, or $5.15 million per year. Polanco became a first-time All-Star in 2019, posting an .841 OPS and generating MVP votes for the first time in his career. His 2020 was a slide backward as he dealt with nagging ankle issues, but a switch to second base and a clean bill of health had him rebounding to an .826 OPS in 2021, and he launched a career-best 33 homers. Polanco is among the best second basemen in baseball, and this contract looks like one of the most team-friendly deals across the entire sport. 1. Byron Buxton Extension This one takes the top spot mainly for the impact it could have and would have had it not gotten done. Buxton is a generational talent, and the only thing that has sapped his earning potential is the ability to stay on the field. Now signed to a seven-year, $100 million contract, Buxton looks to expand upon three seasons totaling an .897 OPS. He’s arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game and has come into his power potential; the speed asset to his game is just a cherry on top. Minnesota needed to get this done, and now both parties stand to benefit plenty from one another. What are some of the moves made under Derek Falvey that you would place here? Is there a favorite I missed? 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. If you’ve been reading Twins Daily lately, I hope you haven’t missed Nick Nelson's piece on the front office avoiding free-agent starters. Derek Falvey has largely missed on the names he’s targeted, and he’s sat out on most of them. Length has been this club’s sticking point, and as Nick points out, it’s also been the track record of this front office. Cleveland sustained winning through pitching. The arms were developed internally, inexpensively, and near-peak of their projections. Given the success Falvey has seen using this blueprint and operating with the same parameters that Minnesota is not a sought-after destination, it’s understandable for him to get creative. That leaves opportunity on the trade market, like sending a high-end reliever in Brusdar Graterol to the Dodgers for an established arm like Kenta Maeda. I believe at least one trade will bring in a top-of-the-rotation starter, but dollars still need to be allocated. How about looking at this route. Come on down, Kris Bryant. Going into 2021, I had made a couple of points to suggest dealing for the former Cubs third basemen made a lot of sense. He can play left field and first base and had just a year left on his deal while fully intending to hit free agency. Minnesota declined, and the San Francisco Giants utilized him for their stretch run. Now a free agent, Bryant is a better fit for the Twins than you imagine. Even with the Cubs manipulation of the Vegas natives’ service time, Bryant will play 2022 at just 30 years old. His “injuries” have been largely overstated in that he’s missed significant time in just two of his seven big league seasons. When healthy, he’s been among the best in the sport. Coming off a 2021 in which he posted an .835 OPS with 25 homers, Bryant flashed his versatility played every position except for second base and catcher. He’s best suited on the corners, either in the infield or outfield, and that’s where the fit lies with the Twins. Josh Donaldson was mostly fine last season, posting an .827 OPS. He played in 135 games but was immediately on the Injured List with a leg issue to start the season. Donaldson needed significant time in the designated hitter spot to be eased back in, and he’s now another year older. Luis Arraez plays second base for Minnesota, but not well, and has bulky knees. Jose Miranda has forced his way into time, but that could come anywhere. What version of Miguel Sano shows up in his final contract year remains to be seen. Alex Kirilloff figures to play more first base than anything, and Trevor Larnach’s rebound is uncertain. Maybe the most significant linchpin here is if and when Max Kepler is moved. That’s a ton of moving pieces, but just one (with Kepler being the most likely), needs to be moved for a perfect set of musical chairs. Spending on bats seems to be much more fruitful on the free-agent market, and giving Bryant a three-to-five-year deal may be enough to have him call Twins Territory home. This lineup should already do plenty of damage when on, and adding Bryant to it only helps to supplement a pitching staff that would leave plenty to be desired. Spending dollars on his bat gets easier as the top of the Twins farm assumes rotation spots, and his versatility doesn’t hamstring any single player. With the Giants interested in retaining his services, the Seattle Mariners lurking, and Scott Boras angling for the biggest deal, there’s plenty of reasons this won’t happen before even considering the Twins. That all being said, the fit is there, and spending needs to happen regardless. Rather than continuing to do nothing with the funds freed up in trading Jose Berrios, it certainly makes sense to grab a player of impact instead of spreading them out between roster filler. Kris Bryant doesn’t pitch, and he isn’t a shortstop, but somehow this still seems to work. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. Interior: Target Field. It is December 24th. The snow is falling. It is dark outside and the staff is working in candlelight. A Houston Astros-logoed trash can burns in the corner of the room for heat. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are at their desks, tired and nodding off, poring over the Bill James Handbook from 2018 and a back issue of Baseball America from 2017, looking for pitchers. Always looking for pitchers. An old, chipped rotary phone across the room rings. Falvey stands up, blows warm air on his hands and picks up the receiver. “Well, that certainly is a great deal for us,” Falvey exclaims before his face suddenly drops. “I just don’t think Mr. Pohlad will go for it, certainly not around Christmastime when budgets are even tighter.” Falvey listens to the voice on the other end of the phone before agreeing to ask his boss about this proposition. He tentatively approaches Levine and whispers into his ear. As he listens, Levine begins to perk up and get excited. He agrees that Falvey should approach Mr. Pohlad about this proposition and even offers to accompany him to Pohlad’s office. Behind a cracked door, Minnesota Twins owner Jim Pohlad sits at a large desk in his office. He is carefully counting receipts from hot dog sales and entering them into a primitive counting machine. There is a knock at the door. “WHO IS IT,” Pohlad’s voice booms from behind the door. “It’s us, Thad and Derek, sir,” Levine sheepishly replies. “WELL COME IN, YOU ARE LETTING ALL THE HEAT OUT OF THE OFFICE,” Pohlad impatiently replies. Falvey and Levine hesitate, with each of them wanting the other to enter the room first. Finally, Levine sighs and heads inside, trailed by Falvey. They approach the desk holding a notebook. “Good evening sir and Merry Christmas,” Lavine says before cringing as he hears Pohlad’s response begin to leave his lungs…. “CHRISTMAS?! THE SEASON OF GIVING?! BAH HUMBUG!.” Pohlad snarls through gritted teeth. “I CAN’T STAND THE THOUGHT OF SPENDING THE MONEY I WORKED SO HARD TO EARN. “Do you see these hot dog receipts? EVERY one of these hot dogs sold for $8. Do you know how much they cost us? One dollar!,” Pohlad said with a devilish grin on his face. “Now THAT’s the kind of GIVING I like, people GIVING me their money for MY hot dogs. I call it ‘the Target Field Experience,’” he said before trailing off into a soft cackle. “Never mind that, what is it that you interrupted me for?” “Well, sir, you see, free agency has been really wild this year, and a lot of the top pitchers have already gone off the board…..” Levine began, but he was cut off immediately by a furious Pohlad. “TOP pitchers? TOP?!? Haven’t I already explained to you that we cannot AFFORD TOP PITCHERS,” Pohlad raged. “That’s why I got you the Bill James Handbook from 2018 at a garage sale. You are to find pitchers who performed well during that season and figure out how to make them good again.” “Yes, sir, I understand, but I just got off of the phone with the agent for Kevin Gausman and he wants to sign with the Twins… it’s a Christmas miracle!” Falvey said. “He is willing sign for five years and $125 million… it’s a bargain for us---“ “ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE MILLION?! DOLLARS?!,” an angry Pohlad replied. “For ONE pitcher? Did I not just give you four million dollars for Dylan Bundy?!” “Yes, sir, you did and that was very, very generous of you,” Levine said. “However, Gausman is a major upgrade over the pitchers we have now and a proven commodity.” Mr. Pohlad frowned and pointed his finger toward the door. “We are a small market club, Derek, and I don’t appreciate you coming in here trying to convince me to spend money we certainly don’t have here.” “But, sir, the fans would really…,” Falvey begins before he is shouted down by Pohlad. “The FANS?! The FANS?!,” Pohlad yells. “The FANS are lucky to have a baseball team at all! I will hear no more of this about the FANS! “The FANS are expected to buy tickets, a jersey to wear to the game, a $12 beer and $8 hot dog and just be happy to be outside watching baseball. ‘Your ticket to summer,’ remember?” Pohlad stands up, puts on his overcoat and summons his butler, Rudy. Rudy emerges from a side room and helps Pohlad put on his gloves, hat and shoes. Falvey and Levine watch out the window as Pohlad climbs into his Porsche and heads to his home in Edina. Falvey and Levine watch to make sure Pohlad is gone then carefully pack up their supplies to head home for the holidays. Falvey puts a grocery-bag book cover on the Bill James Handbook and Levine carefully puts out the fire in the Astros trash can. “Merry Christmas, Thad, “ Falvey says. “Merry Christmas, Derek,” Levine replies. Check back for Part 2, coming soon!
  18. Right now, we sit in the midst of a lockout with no end in sight and no moves on the horizon. Before the shutdown, Minnesota’s only move of consequence was in signing starter Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal. The rotation remains bare, but at this point, the free-agent market could be categorized as roughly the same. Short of signing Carlos Rodon to a deal, Minnesota will get better by swapping assets rather than paying for them. With that in mind, it could be believed that much of the talent at Rocco Baldelli’s disposal in 2022 already has a spot on the roster. Minnesota currently has just two spots open on their 40 man roster, although there’s undoubtedly possible maneuvering that could take place. Those on the 40 man, though, especially on offense, make up a group expected to produce a year ago. Jorge Polanco turned in a strong year in which he bounced back from injuries and looked the part of his 2019 self. Cemented as the second basemen (hopefully), the goal would be for others to join him. Byron Buxton was an MVP candidate but played in just 61 games. Luis Arraez played in only 121 games and hit below .300 for the first time in his three big-league seasons. Miguel Sano started incredibly cold before finding his stride. Although Josh Donaldson produced, his .827 OPS was boosted mainly by a stretch surge. Alex Kirilloff didn’t acclimate as expected, and Trevor Larnach didn’t deliver. Mitch Garver was limited, and Ryan Jeffers took a step backward. Maybe Max Kepler isn’t on the Opening Day roster, but the hope would be that there’s more from him as well. That group of bats is virtually the same core that was a terror to opposing pitching staffs in 2019 and much of 2020. Jose Miranda should be expected to join them at some point in 2022, and while Nelson Cruz is no longer here, freeing up the designated hitter spot should work in favor of Minnesota when it comes to lineup construction. There’s a lot of opportunity for progress there, even if that leaves the door open to uncertainty. The reality is that aside from a shortstop, Falvey had little need to spend on bats. When it comes to pitching, there are certainly roles that need answers. The rotation is incomplete, and while it won’t stay that way, internally, the options are less evident. However, what is worth noting is that the stable of prospects should be near-ready to be unleashed. There are no less than five top options that Falvey has cultivated over the past few years. Nick Nelson recently wrote a great piece exploring why the Twins may be hesitant to spend on pitching. It all comes back to this group. Had 2020 gone off as expected, the injuries to these arms likely would have been less prevalent in 2021, and we’d have seen more opportunity at the highest level for this group. It all amounts to a situation where the front office could be near suggestive of simply running it back. That may not wind up in a dominant season, but it’s also an understandable stance given where internal development lies. There are needs in the middle infield and rotation, but there’s also the expectation of multiple prospect options that should be called upon in a season or less. Without backing yourself into a corner with dollars and long-term deals, there’s a tightrope to walk if the path is playing a waiting game. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. After signing Dylan Bundy to a one-year deal with a 2023 option, Minnesota effectively has three of the five spots filled in their rotation. Kenta Maeda will be out for the season due to Tommy John surgery, and Jose Berrios is long gone. This group includes Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, but it was intended to be more flush with homegrown talent. The 2020 Minor League Baseball season being non-existent was always going to hurt the development of prospects, but the ripple effect that lacking game action had on injuries was crippling. All of the Twins top arms dealt with time on the shelf last season, which halted any of them being options for the 2022 Opening Day roster. Derek Falvey is supposed to be a pitching guru, and developing arms was his calling card with the Cleveland Guardians. That’s yet to bear any fruit in Minnesota, but there’s a group very close to bursting through. Take your pick from this lot: Jhoan Duran, Jordan Balazovic, Matt Canterino, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, and Blayne Enlow. All of them are expected to provide varying degrees of rotational talent. Each of them has also been on the injured list during the past year, and whatever projection for a debut is further away than it once seemed. This is where opportunity presented itself for the Twins. In 2021 the big league roster was intended to again compete for an AL Central Division title. That fell flat because the pitching wasn’t good. With essentially the same roster intact, a re-do on the rotation is a quick way for Rocco Baldelli’s club to regain its status among the best in the sport. Bundy isn’t enough to do that on his own, and the options left available are now bare. Carlos Rodon is essentially a must for Minnesota. His shoulder issues are concerning, but there’s no denying he’s the ace-level pitching that could anchor the rotation. If the front office wants to play in those waters, they have to be willing to outspend the competition, especially when they shy away from duration. Trades also make sense for this club and worrying about how all the arms fit shouldn’t be part of the equation. As we just established, there’s been a run on injuries throughout the system and last year's depth was hardly the asset it once seemed. Much like position prospect Royce Lewis, the pitchers being shelved for long enough to delay debuts changed the plans for Minnesota. However, that’s been established for months, and the club did little to play in the free-agent waters. It’s now time that a substantial step forward is taken on pitching, spending and dealing, to establish a group capable of supporting what should be a strong lineup. It’s too bad that Falvey’s farm system hasn’t yet developed from the top group, but there are plenty of names that could stick. In the meantime, giving the big league club the additional firepower should be of the utmost importance. MORE TWINS CONTENT — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  20. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine needed to extend Byron Buxton. It was paramount for the franchise. The organization preached Target Field being a vehicle to keep homegrown talent, and Jose Berrios had already departed. Losing Buxton would’ve opened the door to the flip side of Joe Mauer’s situation, and having the power to negotiate singularly with a mega-talent on depressed dollars was unfathomable. Thankfully they pulled through and agreed. Seven years, $100 million. He’s here to stay. Now, what’s next? I’m the “freaking offseason” guy, and if there’s a way for Minnesota to have anything but this winter, it’s by failing to complete these two tasks: 1. Spending Must Remain Constant Derek Falvey and Thad Levine took over the Twins front office for the 2017 Major League Baseball season. The 2016 Twins were coming off a disastrous 103-loss campaign, and organizational upheaval was afoot. Roster turnover immediately began, and despite being saddled with Paul Molitor as an incumbent manager, the front office spent to the tune of $100.7 million, slightly behind the $104 million a year prior. A step backward is expected when competitiveness wanes. However, the opposite is true when you’re on an upswing, even when results are not necessarily indicative of expectations. After winning 85 games in 2017 and finishing second in the AL Central, Minnesota spent roughly $125 million for the 2018 season. A new franchise record payroll had been established. That team failed to live up to expectations. Despite finishing second in the division, they were 78-84 on the year. Falvey and Levine saw what they had and needed to push forward. Welcome to the Bomba Squad. The 2019 Twins pushed the payroll north of $125 million and were one of the best teams in franchise history. Setting a single-season record for home runs, this group was bounced early from the Postseason but looked poised for more. Covid then gave us a truncated 2020 season, and owners suggested revenues were down. While they may not have turned the same profit, the assumption should be that many organizations still operated in the green. The Twins signed veteran Josh Donaldson to a $100 million contract before Spring Training and essentially held serve from where their 2019 spend ended. For 2021 the commentary was about decreased payrolls for owners to make up the lost dollars. The Twins cut back to $118 million, just over a 5% decrease from the year prior. Regardless of the misstep in record, it’s clear that this club is on the precipice. Donaldson is here for two more seasons. Buxton has been locked up to a ridiculously affordable pact. The prospects are near the top of the system, and the graduations have all been meaningful ones. It’s time to take another step forward this season and push the bottom line. A bare minimum spend for Minnesota this season should be $130 million. Going to $135 or even $140 million makes a good deal of sense as well. They’d have to splurge pretty heavily to account for that amount, but the rotation remains bare, and a top free agent could certainly be had. That brings us to the second point. 2. Allocate the Berrios Dollars There’s no denying that Minnesota easily could’ve matched the seven-year, $131 million deal that Jose Berrios just got from the Toronto Blue Jays. That’s hardly bank-breaking and would’ve been an excellent opportunity to keep their homegrown talent. The problem seems to be in length; this front-office isn’t giving a pitcher anything over five years. So be it, that’s a fine and understandable stance considering the uncertainty that comes with arms (even if Berrios has been an incredibly durable one). What that means is the money needs to be ticketed elsewhere and on the same scale. $18 million per year is roughly what Berrios got from Toronto. I’m not interested in types like J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda combining to make that money. A true frontline starter has to be acquired in hopes of carrying Berrios’ load. Understandably, the name may come via trade, be under team control, and cost more in prospect capital than dollars. Should that be the case, a strong foot forward for starters number two and three should be shown. This front office has to be willing to overpay on shorter deals if they’re unwilling to hand out the length of their competitors. Last season the largest misstep was acquiring arms filling the back of the rotation rather than finding a middle-to-upper tier talent that could bolster the top half. Pineda would be a nice get to return, but he should be the worst starter they acquire. The goal needs to be setting Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan up for no more than a 4th and 5th option in a competition as we careen towards Opening Day. Falvey has established an infrastructure that supports talented arms when they’re available. Minnesota’s starters ranked 5th and 7th in 2020 and 2019 by fWAR, and that was without a splash for Wes Johnson. Go get him a great piece or two and let him work. Is there’s another area that’s a must this offseason for you to believe in the 2022 Twins chances? Any deal breakers for you? 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. What’s striking about Atlanta’s July makeover is they didn’t even go big. Their front office made several key improvements to the outfield, but taking on salary meant they didn’t have to give up much to make those upgrades. It’s pretty incredible what can be done if a team’s willing to invest. Not even go for broke, simply try. We don’t have to look back far to find a Twins team that’s comparable to this year’s Atlanta club. Back in 2017, the first year of Derek Falvey & Co.’s tenure, the Twins had one of the strangest deadlines in recent memory. They decided to go for it, then changed their minds. The Twins traded for Jaime Garcia on July 24, when they were 49-49, three games back in the division. They traded Garcia away on July 30, when they were 50-53, seven games back in the division. All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler was also dealt away on the 31st, leaving Matt Belisle to close out games. The 2017 club responded to that slight sell-off by going 20-10 in August. Back then, there was still an opportunity to make trades during August via waivers. There were some valuable pieces moved that month, but none of them to the Twins. Entering play on Aug. 31, 2017, the Twins still trailed Cleveland by seven games but were only a game back of the Yankees for the top wild card spot. Is it crazy to think a couple of improvements and a show of good faith by the front office may have resulted in the Twins catching the Yankees and having home-field advantage in that Wild Card Game? Maybe that wouldn’t have mattered and the Yankees were going to overcome the Twins no matter where the game was played, but I can’t help but wonder ... It’s hard for me to ignore the fact that Ervin Santana, who started that Wild Card Game, posted a 4.16 career ERA at Target Field and a 6.50 ERA at Yankee Stadium. José Berríos, who also ended up pitching in that 2017 Wild Card Game, has an even more extreme split, with a 3.61 ERA in Minnesota and a 6.43 mark at Yankee Stadium. At the very least, having that game played in Minnesota certainly couldn’t have hurt. The 2017 Twins were the first team in MLB history to make the postseason a year after losing 100 games, so it would be unfair to look back at that season as a failure. A missed opportunity? I think that’s fair. Even if the Twins had beaten the Yankees, they still would have had to overcome Cleveland and Houston, both of whom won more than 100 games that year. Seems far-fetched, but it’s also about as unlikely as this 2021 Atlanta team beating the 95-win Milwaukee Brewers and 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Highly unlikely, but not impossible. This 2021 Atlanta team shows that every front office in the league should be obligated to improve their club if they’re near .500 and have any shot of a postseason berth. A lot can happen over the final two months of the regular season. The New York Mets taking a nosedive definitely helped Atlanta’s ascension, but they definitely don’t get as far as they have without Eddie Rosario, Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Joc Pederson. Nobody saw this coming, postseason baseball is unpredictable and a hot team can punch above its weight on paper in a series. Give your team a chance and you never know what might happen. With 20/20 hindsight, the other issue with the 2017 decisions by the Twins front office is they hurt the club in both the short and long run. Huascar Ynoa was traded away and none of the prospects added in the second Garcia swap (Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns) or the Kintzler deal (Tyler Watson) made a big long-term impact with the Twins. It’s all water under the bridge at this point, of course, but here’s hoping this Twins front office learned its lessons and is paying attention to what Atlanta has accomplished this October.
  22. 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
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
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