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  1. Luis Arraez became the fifth Twins player to win an American League batting title when he hit .316 over 144 games in 2022. He joined Hall of Famers Tony Oliva (3), Rod Carew (7) and Kirby Puckett (1), along with future Hall of Famer Joe Mauer as batting champs. He was an All Star in 2022. He was named a finalist for a Gold Glove at first base. Tonight, he becomes the first Twins player since Nelson Cruz took home the Silver Slugger for DH in 2020. The 25-year-old from Venezuela hit .316/.375/.420 (795) with 31 doubles, a triple and eight home runs. He also walked 50 times and struck out just 43 times. His eight home runs are two more than he had hit over his previous three seasons. The Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winners are voted on by MLB managers and coaches. They are based on offensive stats including OBP, OPS, OPS+, home runs, hits, RBI, batting average as well as "managers' and coaches' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value."
  2. The battery is an essential component of the game, and catchers are the magicians who orchestrate it all. Let's look at what a catcher does and which Minnesota Twins catchers were the best at each job that a catcher does behind the plate. Terry Steinbach - The Toughest Catcher It's one of the most demanding positions to play on the baseball field: Catchers are constantly beaten up and hit with bats, balls, and sometimes players. They must squat down on their knees for nine or more innings, catching hundreds of pitches of varying speeds, movements, and breaks. A catcher must be in peak physical shape to stay in the game. MLB made a change to emphasize player safety in 2011 after a collision at home plate that saw star catcher Buster Posey suffer a season-ending ankle injury. Before the rule change where a player could no longer run through a catcher, Terry Steinbach was one of the best but most beat-up-on catchers during his time in MLB. Steinbach was no stranger to catching injuries. In 1988 he was hit by a thrown ball during batting practice, suffering five fractures around his left eye and requiring surgery. He also had a collision with future teammate Kirby Puckett just four days after returning from the injured list. Steinbach took a forearm to the jaw from Hall of Famer Cal Ripken during a collision and, later in the season, was hospitalized after taking a hit to the head from pitcher Bobby Thigpen in a contentious, tied late game. Steinbach, a Minnesota native who started his career on the west coast but ended with the Twins, spent 14 seasons behind the plate. As one of the Twins' best catchers, he also had his best season when he came to join the Twins in 1996 with 34 home runs, and his 100 RBI were the most by an Athletics catcher since Mickey Cochrane in 1932. He also caught Eric Milton's no-hitter in May of 1999 before retiring. Joe Mauer - The Best Defensive Catcher The catcher helps dictate the game because they touch the ball on nearly every pitch. They help set the players before the game and let players know where to stand based on different hitters. Crouched behind home plate, they call and receive pitches from the pitcher, frequently field bunts, and throw out runners trying to steal bases. Catchers frame close strikes, blocks balls in the dirt, and react with lightning quickness as the entire game plays out before them. The position requires a rare combination of spryness, strength, durability, and leadership. Joe Mauer, the best Minnesota Twins catcher in history, won three consecutive gold glove awards from 2008 through 2010. He had a lifetime .995 fielding percentage as a catcher and a caught-stealing percentage of 33%. Mauer led AL catchers multiple times in caught-stealing and fielding percentages. Brian Harper - The Modest Catcher It may seem cruel and unfair, but it's the truth. When watching a game, the focus will always be on the pitcher and their performance. Being able to put aside ego and pride is a huge thing for someone in this position. They have to know that while they contribute heavily in many ways, it's ultimately about the pitcher and helping them succeed. Having humility and the ability to selflessly support the staff, unseen, takes a special person, Brian Harper was that Minnesota Twin. Harper spent six of his 16 MLB seasons with the Minnesota Twins. One of the best catchers in the organization, he was the primary catcher behind the plate for the Twins during the early 90s. He and Jack Morris created a duo in two games that would be integral in the Twins winning the 1991 World Series. In Game 4, Harper stood out when he received a perfect relay throw from Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch and endured a massive collision with Lonnie Smith at home plate. He held on to the ball through the clash to secure the out. In Game 7, Harper not only caught all 10 innings of Jack Morris' legendary shutout but also turned the pivotal 3-2-3 double play with Kent Hrbek to end the eighth inning and squelch the Braves' most dangerous scoring threat of the game. Other catchers that have stood out for the Twins are guys like Mitch Garver and A.J. Pierzynski, rare examples of backstops who can really bring it with the bat. As we get ready for 2023, looking at what is coming up, do you think the Twins will ever have another catcher that can do what any of these three brought to the table?
  3. Over the past few seasons, Derek Falvey, Thad Levine, Rocco Baldelli (and Paul Molitor before him) have seen their starter behind the plate be a revolving door. It’s certainly not an easy position to generate consistency from, but since 2014 Minnesota has had the same catcher in the Opening Day lineup in three consecutive seasons just twice. Kurt Suzuki and Jason Castro, both free-agent veterans at the time, can make that claim. Since, Mitch Garver has drawn two starts with Ryan Jeffers being back there in 2022. From Opening Day 2004 through 2013, the Twins started a catcher not named Joe Mauer just once, when Mike Redmond was tasked with the job to start 2009. Over a stretch of ten years, Mauer was the most given thing in any Twins lineup. Finding something reminiscent of that run must be a goal for the current roster construction. Up-the-middle positions in baseball may be the most impactful players on the diamond. Joining a lack of consistency behind the plate is a shortstop revolving door that has seen no player remain more than the back-to-back Opening Day starter since Cristian Guzman in 2004. That laundry list of talents paired with an ever-changing catching situation is something that begs Twins fans to recall Mauer’s greatness. We’ll likely never see another catcher do what Joe Mauer could. Winning a batting title from that position is difficult, and doing it three times is otherworldly. Mauer’s MVP award in 2009 was one of the best seasons we’ve seen in baseball history. Consistently being able to play at such a physically-demanding position is also not something we see in today's game. Maybe Jeffers winds up developing into a consistent talent for the Twins. After all, the team was substantially higher on him in the draft than most. Jeffers could represent a strong step forward at the position given his relative youth. Even the best free agent available, Willson Contreras, is no sure thing to remain as a backstop for years since he is already 30 years old. Even if Jeffers never shows a shred of Mauer’s total ability, providing stability at such a necessary position would go a long way for the Twins roster construction. We’re just a year away from Mauer’s debut on the Hall of Fame ballot. He will likely garner strong consideration to be inducted in that cycle. Eventually, he should find his way in, the numbers are too staggering in his favor. What will be worth wondering is whether Minnesota can find the replacement they’ve been looking for since Mauer moved to first base, and if it happens before his plaque is hung in Cooperstown.
  4. Despite what looked to be like a quality lineup on paper, the 2022 Minnesota Twins found themselves struggling to put runs on the board. This issue only worsened as the injuries mounted, but losing one of their best offensive players in Carlos Correa certainly isn’t going to help things. Needing to replace his presence and improve upon what returns, maybe the Twins look to make a splash behind the dish. Last spring, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine swung a deal that sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers. Ultimately that made it possible to pivot from Josh Donaldson and land former slugger Gary Sanchez from New York. The hope was that a fresh start could bring better production. It flopped miserably as Sanchez posted a career-worst 89 OPS+. With Ryan Jeffers missing a substantial amount of the season due to injury, there was little offense from the catching position. As he returns in 2023, there remains plenty of promise in a bat that was his calling card when drafted. We have seen it produce in short bursts, and the front office is undoubtedly hoping 2023 is the breakout season. However, he needs someone to work alongside him, or potentially in front of him. Catcher doesn’t seem like a position the Twins will splurge on, and there are not a ton of options. Grabbing the best catcher available, Willson Contreras, could make some sense. There have been indications that the club would prefer a left-handed bat to platoon with Jeffers behind the plate, but the only free-agent options available are Omar Narvaez, Jason Castro, and Tucker Barnhart. Although Contreras is the same handedness as Jeffers, he would immediately represent a substantial upgrade at the position and give the Twins something similar to that of Garver’s Silver Slugger winning season. Contreras owns a career 115 OPS+ and has routinely launched 20 homers a season while producing a .349 career on-base percentage at a position that does not typically provide offensive production. Contreras is bucking the trend. The Twins signing Contreras would fulfill a need in the form of a big bat, and take them out of having to rotate in veteran retreads as they did with Sandy Leon a season ago. Contreras will be 32 next season, and he has spent a considerable amount of time behind the plate, but positional flexibility is something he has also shown over the course of his career with the Cubs. Ultimately it would seem like a longshot for the Twins to grab the top player on the market at a position, although it just happened eight months ago in the form of Correa. Contreras could help to soften that blow and bring stability to a position where the Twins haven’t had any since Joe Mauer moved to first base.
  5. This past season, Luis Arraez became the first Minnesota Twin to claim a batting title since Joe Mauer last did it in 2009. That was, of course, an MVP season for Mauer, and it marked his third time in four years leading the American League in batting average. As we all know, Mauer was something of a unicorn: the third backstop ever to become a batting champ, and the first to do it in the AL. Needless to say, it has been a historical rarity, but the shifting tides of the game make me wonder if we'll ever see it happen again. In 2009, Mauer was one of nine catchers to qualify for the batting title. Same thing in 2008, and 2006, when he won his other two crowns. Compare that to five catchers who qualified this year, and just two (!) in 2021. Around the major leagues, clubs have progressively altered the way they manage catchers, opting in most cases to spread out the workload rather than placing the full burden on one player – a movement the Twins have fully embraced. Sure, there are still some throwbacks out there like Sean Murphy and J.T. Realmuto, but they're few and far between, and none of them are hitting like prime Joe Mauer. The current landscape really puts into perspective how incredible Mauer was. We're less than a decade removed from a stretch where he bore the rigors of catching over 10 years (albeit with some injury issues mixed in) and slashed .323/.405/.469. He made enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title in seven of those campaigns. It's a stretch of performance that, in my opinion, should (and will) get him into the Hall of Fame. But enough reminiscing about the past. Let's turn the clock forward to present day. The Twins now find themselves with a need at catcher, and it's one they could seek to address in a profound way. The big name on this year's offseason class, as covered in our extensive Offseason Handbook chapter on the subject, is Willson Contreras. One of the better free agent catchers to hit free agency in some time, Contreras received his third All-Star nod in 2022 while slashing .243/.349/.466 for the Cubs. His .815 OPS would've ranked third among all Twins, behind only Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton. Contreras is a highly-regarded star player and easily the pinnacle of the catching market. He's in his prime and coming off a career year. It'll take a very big contract to land him – I guessed 5/100 as a starting point in the Handbook – and that raises some challenging questions about the logic of spending so much on what is, essentially, a part-time player. He's a perfect example of the diminishing durability benchmark for the modern catcher. Despite avoiding major injuries, and producing at an elite rate when on the field, Contreras has qualified for a batting title only once (sans-2020) since debuting back in 2016. That was aback in 2018, when he was 26 and made 544 plate appearances over 138 games (a typical, if not light, workload for a Mauer campaign). Twenty million dollars is a lot of money in annual salary commitment for a team like the Twins. They've got to be smart in how they use it. Allocating such a big share to a player who has played 120 games per year on average, and would probably be in line for a timeshare of sorts here, if the Twins adhere to their existing philosophy ... it could be tough to stomach. And that's beyond all the other built-in risk with a player like Contreras who might have to move off catcher in the coming years anyway. As the mechanisms of Major League Baseball shift, we'll start seeing financial implications play out. With the expectation for a starting pitcher's workload being more in the 150-170 range as compared to the 180-210 range of previous eras, teams will start scaling back the relative amount they're willing to invest in starters (if they haven't already). We'll very likely see a similar effect in the catching market, and Contreras will be a fascinating example to follow. The Twins are among the few franchises to hand out a true mega-deal to a catcher, having signed Mauer for $184 million in 2010. They did so with the belief that he'd continue, at least for a while, to catch 900-1,000 innings per season. It's hard to realistically expect the same from someone like Contreras, who himself will be in the market for a mega-deal. Circling back to the original question posed in this article, the heart of the matter is not so much asking whether a catcher will win a batting title ... but whether it makes sense to invest heavy resources into players who might never qualify for one.
  6. Ever since Luis Arraez took a 9th inning walk coming into the game cold against an 0-2 count and star closer Edwin Diaz, there was something different about him. He had the plate antics of a confident hitter, and his diminutive stature might have drawn comparisons to Rod Carew before we knew the bat would. Now having chased down the Twins first batting title since that of Joe Mauer, Arraez made his mark plenty this offseason. This season Arraez posted three separate four-hit games, and another thirteen three-hit games. Without singling out specific balls in play, these are the five most impactful games Arraez put forth at the dish in 2022 in terms of Win Probability Added (WPA) 5. July 4 vs Chicago White Sox 0.256 WPA Playing as the designated hitter and batting leadoff on Independence Day against the division rival White Sox, Arraez had five plate appearances. Johnny Cueto had been rolling for Chicago and despite being a right-handed pitcher, he still should’ve been expected to keep it going against Minnesota. Arraez led off the game with a double, his first of two on the day. After his second double, Byron Buxton’s fifth-inning home run brought Arraez home as part of Minnesota’s first two runs. Needing a 10th inning and forcing the inherited runner, Arraez delivered when his single off Kendall Gravemen brought Gilberto Celestino home to give the Twins a lead. This was also the game that the Twins turned a ridiculous 8-5 triple play. 4. June 11 vs Tampa Bay Rays 0.268 WPA Again batting leadoff, Arraez began this game as the Minnesota first baseman, a position he learned on the fly in 2022. After a lineout against Rays Shane Baz in his first plate appearance, Arraez blasted a grand slam in the 3rd inning to score Gilberto Celestino, Nick Gordon, and Ryan Jeffers. That was going to be tough to top, but Arraez added two more singles on the day to grab a three-hit game. His grand slam added 26% of win probability to Minnesota’s chances for the contest. 3. August 7 vs Toronto Blue Jays 0.270 WPA Another extra-inning affair, Arraez was off his feet in this one as Minnesota’s designated hitter. Facing Toronto Blue Jays star pitcher Kevin Gausman, one would think he’d have an uphill battle at the dish. Gausman did get him to fly out in his first at-bat, but then Arraez went to work. A line drive double in the 3rd inning was his first hit of the game before a single moved Celestino to second base in the 5th inning. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th inning with one out, Arraez drove in Tim Beckham to force extras. The Twins wound up losing this one in extras after Major League Baseball made a mess of themselves calling Whit Merrifield safe after he was thrown out at home and tagged by Gary Sanchez. 2. June 21 vs Cleveland Guardians 0.310 WPA Despite being his second most impactful game of the season, this is Arraez’s first on the list in which he had just two hits. Timing and circumstance are weighed heavily into WPA, and we see that here. Going 0-for-2 in his first two plate appearances, Arraez got on the board with a 5th inning double off of Cleveland starter Aaron Civale. Needing a run in the 7th inning to tie the score at three, Arraez did the Twins much better. Tagging Eli Morgan for a three-run blast scoring Trevor Larnach and Ryan Jeffers, Minnesota was positioned to win this one before an Emilio Pagan meltdown. 1. July 2 vs Baltimore Orioles 0.323 WPA Just a couple of days prior to the Independence Day heroics, Arraez started at first base against Jordan Lyles and the Orioles. Another two-hit contest here, it was a pair of doubles that created the greatest impact in a single game of Arraez’s season. Down 2-0 in the 3rd inning, Arraez doubled and pushed teammate Gio Urshela to third base. Ultimately Carlos Correa and Max Kepler left them stranded, but it was the start of a rally. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Arraez’s second double put Celestino in position to score on a sacrifice fly. Jorge Polanco homered off now-teammate Jorge Lopez in the bottom of the 9th inning to tie it before Jose Miranda walked it off. What have been some of your other favorite moments from Luis Arraez’s league-leading season?
  7. My day job is copywriting for a local independent regional craft brewery. That brewery also hosts concerts in its backyard, often featuring popular recording artists from around the world. Occasionally, those shows attract local and even national celebrities. On Wednesday, popular Sad Dad favorites The National played a killer show there. (If you’ve never heard of them, that’s fine, but just know that Taylor Swift has). As I wandered around the grounds, one of my friends said, “Hey, Joe Mauer is here.” I didn’t believe them. I guess I don't really know what Joe Mauer's musical tastes are, other than "What You Know" being his walk-up music for 100 years. Then a local journalist mentioned that he chatted with Mauer and his wife for a bit. Given that he covers baseball for his job, I took him at his word. And sure enough, standing there just to my right and towards the front of the stage? Joe Mauer, Cretin-Derham Hall Class of 2001. These are my observations. He’s tall! You know how some athletes look “normal” on TV because they’re surrounded by absolute leviathans? Joe Mauer is crazy tall! He was wearing a baseball cap. On brand! That’s what he wore at his old job! He did the classic “dad at a rock concert head nod,” for when you’re not going to throw horns or dance, but still want to rock out a little bit without making a scene. Reliable sources tell me his wife is a huge fan of The National and indie rock/alternative in general. I share those interests, which gives me the wild hope that I’ll run into the Mauers at the McLusky show at the Turf Club in December so we can shout along to “Reformed Arsonist Seeks Child Bride.” I didn’t bother him to say hi or buy him a beer. Let the guy enjoy retirement and go to shows. I also remember how much his last contract was worth thanks to years of numbskulls getting mad at him on talk radio and god’s own internet for hitting singles and making $23 million per year. He probably doesn’t need a Furious on the house. That said, Joe, if you’re reading this and want some IPAs, let me know. Perkins has my phone number. There’s no way Joe Mauer is reading this. This also means I didn’t ask him about Rocco pulling Joe Ryan during a no-hit bid. Had I done this, I hope someone reading this would have the decency to beat me to death with a shovel. The last time I saw him in person was the game where he got the concussion that ended his catching career. This was a better day! This was the most famous person I’ve seen at work since Woody Harrelson attended a Gary Clark, Jr. show while in town filming a movie. Apologies to Jason DeRusha, who I think is a very kind man but he wasn't on Cheers.
  8. TOM KELLY (MANAGER, 1986-2001): Just a great gal. Broke out of the gate quickly, lightning fast down the stretch, amazing haunches. So powerful. Always left the track in a good mood when she ran. [INFORMED THAT THIS IS NOT QUEEN ELIZABETH II, THE GREYHOUND KELLY WAGERED ON AT ST. CROIX MEADOWS, BUT RATHER THE HUMAN WOMAN] Oh. Well, that’s a shame. What country? EMILIO PAGAN (PITCHER, 2022): I was fortunate enough to meet her on a visit to Great Britain in 2018. I even threw her a baseball for a photo op. She hit it 440 feet. I tip my cap to her. ANDRELTON SIMMONS (SHORTSTOP, 2021): 96-year-old woman dies after getting the COVID vaccine? Coincidence? Yeah, right. JOE MAUER (CATCHER, 2004-2018): Wow. Pretty big deal. NICK PUNTO (INFIELDER, 2004-10): I slid headfirst into Buckingham Palace once. Guards got all bent out of shape about it and I’m like, “Hey, hustling doesn’t stop at the water’s edge, muchacho.” Anyway, that’s the only other time I had to fight extradition for wanting it more. RIP get money. JUSTIN MORNEAU (FIRST BASE, 2003-16): As a Canadian, this means one thing: I must take up arms for the crown. If (Glen) Perkins or (Dick) Bremer get in my way, so be it. GLEN PERKINS (PITCHER, 2006-2017): You know, it’s a complicated legacy. I th—wait a minute, what is (Justin} Morneau doing with…is that a musket? DICK BREMER (TWINS PLAY-BY-PLAY, 1983-PRESENT): That’s a musket. Take cover, Glen. Fortunately, I’ve been to a St. Cloud State Homecoming or two in my day. [LIGHTS MOLOTOV COCKTAIL, HEAVES FLAMING COUCH AT POLITE YET FERAL SASKATOON HORDE] BRAD RADKE (PITCHER, 1995-2006): I don’t think she was much of a fisherman, right? BYRON BUXTON (OUTFIELDER, 2015-PRESENT): England is a country where I’ve never had a devastating injury. Liz is good by me. ROCCO BALDELLI (MANAGER, 2019-PRESENT): Was following Phish around the country in 2015, just chill vibes for days. They played Alpine Valley and on night 1, the minute they kicked into “Tweezer,” who gets up on stage but the Queen herself? Just started jamming with Trey, couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone says I was “feeling the effects” so to speak and there’s no video evidence, but I know what I saw. Her Majesty could shred. DAN GLADDEN (OUTFIELDER, 1987-1991; RADIO ANNOUNCER 2000-PRESENT): America fought a damn war for me not to care about this. I tell you what though, if the Queen came out to the farm and helped me move some earth, lay some sod, get her hands dirty, and maybe punch that egg-sucking bastard Steve Lombardozzi right in the solar plexus, I’d pay my respects. Image license here.
  9. Joe Mauer Reviews Minnesota State Fair Attractions “I don’t really like spicy food, but it’s cool what they do with butter.” NOTE: RandBall’s Stu is moving his youngest child to college this weekend. He asked former Twins great Joe Mauer to step in and write about the great Minnesota get-together. Thanks for helping out, Joe! Hey guys, it’s Joe Mauer from St. Paul. Like a lot of you I love going to the State Fair. If you’re new to Minnesota or haven’t gone in a while, here are some cool things to do. THE GIANT SLIDE A lot of you probably saw that picture of me and the kids on the Giant Slide last week. It was a pretty cool deal, but I made sure we hopped on right when we got there, before eating any of the food. When I was a kid, Jake (Mauer, Joe’s brother) got on it after eating a bunch of Fresh French Fries and he got a stomachache. We had to leave early so he wouldn’t barf. Mom was so steamed. THE BUTTER SCULPTURE I don’t really like spicy food or carving things (“Knives are the devil’s middle finger,” Mom says), but it’s cool what they do with butter. SWEET MARTHA’S COOKIES They give you a whole bucket of chocolate chip cookies! Las Vegas is supposed to be this cool, anything-goes city but I’ve been there, and guess what? No cookie bucket. What happens in Falcon Heights stays in Falcon Heights. THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE Went in here with (former Twins player and coach) Scott Ullger one time. Said one of the monarchs disrespected him. The next day he waved Jason Kubel home even though the shortstop had the ball. I don’t want to talk about it. THE MIRACLE OF BIRTH CENTER Mom doesn’t let us go in here but I’ve heard it’s pretty wild! 4-H BARN Lotta cute animals if that’s your thing. It smells kinda like that one time Corey Koskie ate Indian food in Fort Myers, so just know that going in. Pretty strong! THE HAUNTED HOUSE Not a chance! THE MIDWAY I keep winning all the big prizes at the throwing games and the carnies get mad at me. Also if anyone wants 17 giant stuffed tigers shoot me a DM. ALL YOU CAN DRINK MILK Holy cow! LOL, pun intended. Brother, you can sit me down there all day with a cold glass of 1% and keep them coming! Everyone there calls me “Norm.” I don’t correct them, figure they have their reasons. PRONTO PUPS You guys know I’m not a guy who’s going to do a bunch of hot takes, but I’m just going to say it: Pronto pups are the real deal. Lotta pals love corn dogs, Glen Perkins says they’re “the glizzy” and I’m pretty sure that’s a Stillwater swear. For me, though? A pronto pup with just a bit of ketchup. Too much of the big red will get you antsy in the pantsy. Go easy. Thanks for reading! Image license here.
  10. Every year around the Mid-Summer Classic, it can be fun to scroll through the list of former All-Stars for your favorite franchise. There are all-time great players, but there are also some less familiar names like John Roseboro, Ken Landreaux, and Dave Engle. It can be an entertaining review of team history to look back at All-Stars from yesteryear. I created an entire team roster in the roster below, but there were a few stipulations. Some players on the roster played multiple positions in their careers, but they had to be placed in the position from their All-Star season. Also, a player couldn’t be on the list multiple times. For instance, Johan Santana was great in the 2000s, but he only gets to be in the rotation once. Without further ado, here is the All-Time Twins All-Star Roster. Catcher: Joe Mauer (2009) Joe Mauer’s MVP season is one of the best overall seasons in franchise history. In franchise history, there have been seven other All-Star catchers, but none of them compare to Mauer. 1B: Rod Carew (1977) Rod Carew’s MVP season in 1977 is hard to top, even with other All-Star sluggers like Justin Morneau, Kent Hrbek, and Bob Allison. Luis Arraez made the 2022 All-Star team at first base, but Carew still gets the nod. 2B: Chuck Knoblauch (1996) Minnesota has only had three All-Stars at second base, including Carew, Knoblauch, and Brian Dozier. Fans may forget, but Knoblauch was one of baseball’s best players in the mid-90s as he was elected to the Mid-Summer Classic in four different years. 3B: Harmon Killebrew (1969) Harmon Killebrew made the All-Star team at three different positions, but third base was his best spot to crack this roster. During the 1969 season, he won his only MVP and led baseball in home runs (49) and RBI (140). SS: Zoilo Versalles (1965) The 1965 Twins were the first in franchise history to make the World Series, and Versalles can get forgotten among some of the other greats on that squad. He was awarded the AL MVP for his 1965 season, and he’s the only Twins shortstop to make multiple All-Star appearances. OF: Kirby Puckett (1988), Tony Oliva (1970), Byron Buxton (2022) For Twins fans, this might be a dream outfield. Kirby Puckett was a 10-time All-Star, and Baseball-Reference pegs his 1988 season as his most valuable (7.8 WAR). Tony Oliva made eight-straight All-Star appearances from 1964-1971, and he compiled a 7.0 WAR in 1970. Byron Buxton is on pace for his best season, and MLB awarded him with his first All-Star start. Other Twins outfielders in the conversation include Torii Hunter and Bob Allison. DH: Nelson Cruz (2021) Nelson Cruz is the only player in Twins history to be selected to the All-Star Game as a designated hitter. He combined for a 129 OPS+ and 32 home runs during the 2021 season. Rotation: Johan Santana (2004), Francisco Liriano (2006), Jack Morris (1991), Bert Blyleven (1973), Frank Viola (1988) It doesn’t get much more exciting than this starting rotation. Johan Santana was arguably the best pitcher on the planet in 2004. By 2006, Francisco Liriano joined Santana and was at the top of the baseball pitching world before his elbow gave out. Frank Viola won the World Series MVP in 1987 and was even better in 1988 by winning the AL Cy Young. Plus, there are two other Hall of Fame pitchers to add to the mix, including Jack Morris from his memorable World Series run and a young Bert Blyleven. Overall, this rotation is stacked. Bullpen: Rick Aguilera (1991), Joe Nathan (2004), Jeff Reardon (1988), Glen Perkins (2013), Eddie Guardado (2002) Minnesota has been lucky to be home to some of baseball’s best closers. Except for Reardon, all these relievers were selected for multiple All-Star Games. It’s hard to imagine the starters listed above needing much help from the bullpen, but this group was dominant in late-inning situations. Here is the updated list of the team’s All-Stars directly from the Twins. What changes would you make to this All-Star roster? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  11. The Twins had an opportunity to add to this list during the 2022 Home Run Derby, but Byron Buxton turned down an invitation to participate. Buxton wasn't the only player to turn down an invite, as some All-Stars need to get as much rest as possible even when attending the week's festivities. Still, there are plenty of other Home Run Derby moments that some fans may or may not remember. 5. Joe Mauer Holds His Own Fans don't typically associate Joe Mauer with home runs, but his sweet swing can produce power. During his MVP season, Mauer was selected to participate in the Home Run Derby in St. Louis. He missed the second-round cut after losing a swing-off to Carlos Pena and Albert Pujols. Former Twin Nelson Cruz finished second in the Derby to Milwaukee's Prince Fielder. 4. Metrodome Hosts First Official Home Run Derby At the 1985 All-Star Game, Minnesota hosted the Mid-Summer Classic for the second time. Part of these hosting duties included hosting the first HR Derby. Since then, the Derby has come a long way with the hype on TV and social media and tons of sponsorships. Dave Parker was named the champion with six home runs, while Minnesota's Tom Brunansky finished tied for second with four homers. 3. Miguel Sano Falls Short in Final In his only All-Star appearance, Miguel Sano finished one home run behind Aaron Judge in the 2017 HR Derby Final. Sano had clobbered 21 home runs during the first half, so he was a deserving participant. He showed up on the big stage and had a chance to be the club's second HR Derby champion. Current Twin Gary Sanchez was one of the players Sano had to defeat to make the final. 2. Target Field Provides Picture Perfect Derby Backdrop The 2014 All-Star Game festivities occurred at Target Field, and the HR Derby line-up included multiple current and former Twins. Brian Dozier got to represent Minnesota, but he struggled and only hit two home runs. Other Twins-related contestants were former Twin Justin Morneau and future Twin Josh Donaldson. Yoenis Cespedes walked away with the title, and a passing storm provided a full rainbow over the stadium. 1. Justin Morneau Upsets Josh Hamilton's Show Justin Morneau is the only player in franchise history to compete in multiple Home Run Derbies. In the 2007 Derby, he finished fifth and missed the cut to make the second round. He returned in 2008 and got an upset win at Yankee Stadium. Josh Hamilton smashed 28 home runs in the first round, but Morneau was more rested and took home the title. It's the franchise's only HR Derby win, and it came from one of the best power hitters in franchise history. What do you remember about the Home Run Derbies mentioned above? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  12. There’s zero comparison between a Hall of Famer with over 3,000 hits to a lovable utility guy with 300 games under his belt. However, it’s undeniable to see the similarities in style between that of Rod Carew and Luis Arraez. Carew entered the league a year younger than Arraez and won his first batting title during just his third professional season. Minnesota’s current utility man is now in his fourth year and recently turned 25. Like Carew, Arraez is now a second basemen while routinely getting reps at first base with Minnesota in a pinch. Longevity aside, Carew’s career .328/.393/.429 slash line is not far off for Arraez who sits at .322/.387/.409. This season has been especially fun for Arraez who has been virtually unstoppable against right-handed pitching. In an era where power reigns supreme, Arraez is slashing a ridiculous .401/.482/.497 against righties. He’s well below average contributing just a .220/.304/.220 slash line against southpaws, but Minnesota has done well to limit the exposure giving him just 46 plate appearances in those situations. With predominantly more right-handed arms as starting pitchers than left-handed, it stands to reason that Minnesota could continue to see additional output from Arraez as the season goes on. Thus far he’s topped out at a .367 average, that coming just a few games ago. In comparison to Carew, that would rank behind just his .388 season back in 1977. Batting average has long gone away as a stat indicative of true performance in and of itself. For a player like Arraez, or even Carew before him, the metric being so lopsided does explain itself, however. Additionally, Arraez contributes in the more definitive on-base area. With 25 walks to just 18 strikeouts, Minnesota’s utility man has captured the ability to not only hit his way on base, but force the opposition into his plan of attack at the plate. Leading baseball with a .444 OBP, Arraez is currently at a mark north of everything Carew hit save for that 1977 year. Considering the change in how baseball is played, it’s fair to argue that Arraez’s performance today may be more substantial than what Carew did all those years ago. All of this comes with the caveat that we still have a long ways to go, and that Arraez has previously missed time due to injury. Even at a young age, his knees are bulky and no yearly awards are won in June. Trying to extrapolate anything from a one-year sample is also not a fair situation to put Arraez in. Carew is a legendary name both in Minnesota and Major League Baseball, but it’s certainly hard not to see how closely they relate. It’s somewhat a breath of fresh air that we’re seeing a player go against the trends of the sport so heavily. The Twins have largely been shut out in terms of individual awards since the peak of Mauer, and turning the focus back to this organization for that reason is a fun one. Arraez has a long way to go for the rest of 2022, but it’s hard not to look down the path of this coming to fruition. What do you think? How closely do you see Arraez relating to Carew? Does the former win his first batting title this season?
  13. The Twins are no strangers to having rookies on the verge of becoming superstar players go down for a long stretch of the season due to injury. The latest of this collective is Twins top prospect Royce Lewis. Today it was announced by manager Rocco Baldelli that Lewis has a partial tear to the same ACL he injured in February of 2021. The surgery will keep Lewis out until the middle of next season at the earliest. With the news of Lewis out for another year, Twins Daily will take a look back at lauded Twins rookies that have had career set back by major injuries. Here are three other former Twins superstars that found themselves in the same boat as Lewis has today. Joe Mauer, 2004 Left Medial Meniscus Joe Mauer was no stranger to IL stints throughout his career. Most famously Mauer landed his first stint on the IL during his second game as he tore the left medial meniscus in his knee which forced him out until June of 2004. Mauer returned only for a month with the Twins until the knee injury forced him out for the season. This would only be the beginning of many knee injuries that would set back Mauer throughout his career. But the injury did not keep Mauer from becoming one of the best catchers in his generation that set him on a hall of fame trajectory. Twins fans do not need much of a reminder on where Mauer's career went following this injury. He still lived up to the potential of his career and did not start to experience decline in his performance until 2014 during his age 31 season and full-time move to first base. Francisco Liriano, 2006 Tommy John Talk about an extensive injury that kept a player out longer than expected. Francisco Liriano looked to be the second coming of Johan Santana during his 2006 rookie campaign, posting a 2.16 ERA in 16 starts. But he strained his ulnar collateral ligament midyear, ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery and was on the shelf until 2008. Today, pitchers receiving their first Tommy John Surgery usually recover quicker than Liriano did at the time, but it still kept a promising future star for the Twins rotation on the shelf for a year and a half, and Liriano never turned into the next Santana. Liriano still had a few solid seasons with the Twins in 2008 and 2010, and rebounded with more success later with the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2013-15. Even with later success, Liriano never met his full potential after that first Tommy John surgery. Jason Kubel, 2004 Knee Injury Jason Kubel had a delay to the start of his MLB career just like Royce Lewis. After appearing in 23 games with the Twins in 2004, Kubel found himself in the Arizona Fall League playing every day. That was until he suffered a knee injury that caused him to miss all of the 2005 season. The injury set back Kubel's chances to play for the Twins full time until 2006 when he found himself as a backup outfielder to Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, and Lew Ford. Then in 2007, Kubel finally had his breakout season with the Twins as an everyday outfielder hitting 20 home runs, driving in 72 runs, hitting .272 with a .785 OPS. Kubel's best years were only ahead of him with the Twins following the 2005 injury. Kubel was arguably the most crucial bat in the Twins lineup behind Mauer and Morneau from 2008-2011. He hit an average of 20 home runs, 83 RBI, a .340 on-base percentage, and .810 OPS over that time span. Kubel's knee injury that kept him out all of 2005 still could have dented a lot of potential he had for the Twins over the years. Commonalities Even with these injuries dealt to such great players, Mauer, Kubel, and Liriano all found success in the latter half of their careers to some degree. Does this mean the second ACL tear to Lewis could set him back even further with his potential like it did for those who came before him? It’s too early to tell. Lewis just turned 23 last Sunday but will likely be 24 by the time he returns from this injury. Both Mauer and Liriano were younger than Lewis was during the time of their injuries in their career and still turned into all-star level players after those injuries. For now, Twins fans can still hope for a great season even without their top prospect playing until next year.
  14. 10. Jorge Polanco: 30 HR Polanco has become one of Minnesota's most valuable contributors, and he is one of 22 second basemen to hit more than 30 home runs in a season. During the 2019 season, Minnesota coughed up a ninth-inning lead only to have Polanco hit a walk-off in the tenth inning. 9. Joe Mauer: 32 HR Mauer wasn't known for his home run prowess and his best home run season came at the Metrodome. His first walk-off home run was worth the wait as it came in his 14th big-league season. 8. Josh Willingham: 33 HR Willingham's home run prowess gets a little lost because he played on some bad Twins teams. However, he hit one of the most valuable home runs in Target Field history. With the Twins down to their final out, Willingham sent the fans home happy. 7. Nelson Cruz: 36 HR What is left to say about Cruz? His Twins tenure was full of remarkable moments, and he seemed to be the glue behind Minnesota's record-breaking home run season. The Twins don't have a lot of good memories against the Yankees, but his walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman has to be one of the best. 6. Byron Buxton: 38 HR Buxton's long-term deal means he will continue to move up this list in the years ahead. However, he already hit a memorable home run during the 2022 season. His 469-foot moonshot was the longest walk-off home run in the StatCast era. Which one of these home runs stands out most to you? How high will Buxton get on this list before the end of his career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THE SERIES -Home Run Hitters: 11-15
  15. The Twins had many routes to choose from this offseason. It started with the most impactful decision: what to do with Byron Buxton. After the team rightly extended him for seven years and $100 million, it became clear that they couldn’t punt on his age-28 season. The idea of Buxton finally staying healthy and putting together an MVP-level campaign only to miss the playoffs was untenable. The Twins picked the path to competition. With all of the uncertainty, the money available, and the robust free-agent class, there was one certainty: the Twins weren’t landing Carlos Correa. A $300-plus million talent, Correa topped the market. The Twins have never actually paid more than $50 million to a free agent, an incredible fact and one that placed them firmly outside of Correa’s stratosphere. It was almost more unlikely to happen if Correa wanted a shorter-term deal. Why wouldn’t handfuls of teams line up for a shorter, high-AAV deal for Correa’s prime years? The Twins weren’t the destination, not even close. Until they were. If you’re not *still* shocked, I don’t believe you. The Twins took advantage of a surprisingly depressed market and made Correa the highest-paid infielder in MLB history. With one swift and stunning move, the Twins added the best player they’ve had since Joe Mauer’s heydays (in addition to Buxton). So, just how good is he? Correa produced 7.1 r-Wins Above Replacement(WAR) in 2021, which would place him in the top-10 for all-time Twins position-player seasons. No Twins hitter has eclipsed 7 WAR since Mauer in 2009, and Chuck Knoblauch's 1996 season was the most recent before Mauer, and that was way back in 1996. The Twins have never had a shortstop like Correa. His great 34.1 WAR would rank first in Twins history through a position player’s age-26 season, and it isn’t close. Only four Twins hitters have ever eclipsed 6.5 WAR in a season. Correa has done it three times on his own. Among shortstops who played at least 500 games through their age-26 season, Correa ranks fourth in WAR, and has played in a combined 1,090 less games than the three players ahead of him. Those players? Alex Rodríguez, Cal Ripken Jr., and Robin Yount. And that’s just the regular season. The Twins’ postseason hits leader is Kirby Puckett with 30. Correa has 82. Correa has driven in 59 runs in the playoffs, more than the top-four Twins leaders combined (54). Correa has played more postseason games (79) than the Twins have in their 121-year franchise history (74). (Of note, this isn't completely an apples-to-apples comparison as MLB has more playoff rounds than there were in 1987 and 1991, which was more than 1965.) The Twins have *never* had an in-their-prime, all-around star with Correa's track record. Only two Twins in team history can match the 7.1-WAR, 25 home run season Correa put together last year: Bob Allison in 1963, and yes, you guessed it! Mauer in 2009. If Correa’s career ended today, he’d rank 8th in Twins' position-player history in WAR, ahead of Allison (30.6), Gary Gaetti (27.1), and Torii Hunter (26.4). Among Twins with at least 700 games played, Correa would rank 6th in OPS+ (127), ahead of Mauer (124) and Puckett (124). Of course, Correa has played a total of zero games with the Twins to this point and we don't know exactly how long his tenure with the team will last. It certainly is exciting to think about what type of talent he can be. Defensively, Correa saved 20 runs in 2021, per FanGraphs. Only one Twin in team history has ever eclipsed that mark: Buxton in a Platinum-Glove winning 2017 when he saved 22 runs in centerfield. Like his similarly talented teammate in centerfield, Correa does it all. In no way am I discounting the great players we’ve seen excel for the Twins. They have a rich history of outstanding, Hall-of-Fame level performers. Correa tracks for similar status, and he’s in the middle of his prime. Enjoy the (likely one-year) ride. 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. Baseball America became the first place to rank prospects on a national level in 1990. Since that time, other national outlets like Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com have also grown in popularity. The top-5 prospects in Twins history were all considered among baseball's top-10 prospects at some point in their professional careers. 5. Francisco Liriano Top-100 Peak: 6 Liriano came to the Twins in one most lopsided trade in franchise history. He was a top-100 prospect entering the 2003 season, but his 2005 minor league campaign put him on the prospect map. As a 21-year-old, he posted a 2.63 ERA and 1.05 WHIP with 11 SO/9 at Double- and Triple-A. He was electric at the beginning of his career as he was an All-Star in 2006. Unfortunately, his elbow gave out, and he missed the end of 2006 and all of 2007. Some have argued the 2006 Twins had a chance to win the World Series with Johan Santana and Liriano at the top of the rotation. 4. Royce Lewis Top-100 Peak: 5 Expectations are high for any player taken with the first overall pick. After a .788 OPS in his pro debut, Lewis was a consensus top-30 prospect. His 2018 performance moved him even higher as he posted an .803 OPS at Low- and High-A. Unfortunately, Lewis struggled through parts of the 2019 season, and he hasn’t played a professional game since that year. A knee injury took away his 2021 season on the heels of the pandemic canceling the 2020 campaign. His stock has dropped this winter as many evaluators have moved him off top-100 lists. Now, he will have plenty to prove when the lockout finally ends. 3. Miguel Sano Top-100 Peak: 4 Sano may or may not have lived up to his expectations, but he was clearly among the best prospects in Twins history. He appeared on national top-100 lists for five consecutive offseasons, and multiple lists included him as a top-15 prospect for consecutive seasons. Sano was an easy prospect to be intrigued by with light-tower power and a .932 OPS throughout his minor league career. His big-league career has had ups and downs, but the power he showcased as a prospect has been his greatest tool. He has the 12th most home runs in franchise history, and seven home runs this season will move him into the top-10. His .491 slugging percentage only ranks behind Harmon Killebrew in team history. 2. Byron Buxton Top-100 Peak: 1 Buxton‘s five-tool talent was evident early on in his professional career. All three national prospect rankings ranked him number one entering the 2014 season. Over the remainder of his minor league career, some ranking dropped him to second behind Chicago’s Kris Bryant. However, there were some tremendous prospects in the minors simultaneously as Buxton, including Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager, and Lucas Giolito. Many of these players scored big contracts over the last couple of offseasons. Thankfully, Minnesota was able to work out a deal to keep Buxton in a Twins uniform for the prime of his career. 1. Joe Mauer Top-100 Peak: 1 Minnesota selected Mauer as the number one overall pick in 2001, so plenty viewed him as one of baseball’s best prospects. Baseball America immediately included him in baseball’s top-10 prospects as he ranked seventh entering the 2002 campaign. He ranked as baseball’s top prospect in two consecutive off-seasons. He’s the only player in Twins history to accomplish this feat. Mauer went on to a tremendous career as he is considered one of the best players in Twins history. Do you feel like these are the best prospects in Twins history? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POST IN THE SERIES — Prospects 6-10 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. There is some debate over how far back to go into the franchise's history regarding Minnesota's Mount Rushmore. The Twins moved to Minnesota before the 1961 season, but the franchise came from Washington with an already established legacy. They recently discussed Minnesota's Mount Rushmore on MLB Network and included Walter Johnson, one of the best pitchers in baseball history. He never played a game in Minnesota, so it doesn't seem right to include him. Since 1961, there have been some clear favorites to include on the team's Mount Rushmore. Many of the great players in team history have their numbers retired, including Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Bert Blyleven, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Joe Mauer. An argument can be made for a handful of players outside the team's inner circle, but those players are the most straightforward selections for being the organization's all-time great players. Founding Fathers Killebrew and Carew are two of the easiest choices on the team's Mount Rushmore. Killebrew is the George Washington-like figure in Twins history as he came with the organization from Washington and was the team's first star. According to Baseball-Reference, only one Twins player ranks higher than him when it comes to WAR in a Minnesota uniform. Killebrew became the first player to don a Twins hat in Cooperstown as he was a 13-time All-Star and an MVP. Killebrew was in his early-30s when Carew made his big-league debut, but there was an evident passing of the torch between these two players. Carew quickly became the team's most consistent hitter and a perennial MVP candidate. He leads the franchise in WAR, which is crazy considering he added even more career WAR in his seven seasons with the Angels. Both Carew and Killebrew separated themselves enough to be locks for the team's Mount Rushmore. Just Missed Oliva and Blyleven played in the same era as the Founding Fathers mentioned above, but their greatness might not have been fully appreciated in their time. Both players had a long wait before being elected to Cooperstown, but each has provided a long-term connection to baseball in the Upper Midwest. Blyleven is in the conversation for best pitcher in team history with players like Brad Radke, Johan Santana, and Jim Kaat. Oliva might be the best pure hitter in team history, but injuries kept him from reaching his full potential. An argument can be made for both players to be on the team's Mount Rushmore, but for me, they fall just short. Hrbek is a Minnesota legend, and he ranks in the top-8 for franchise WAR. He provided some of the most important World Series moments in team history, including his tag on Ron Gant and his Game 6 grand slam in 1987. Like Oliva and Blyleven, he has become part of the baseball culture in Minnesota, but it isn't enough to include him on the team's Mount Rushmore. Final Spots No history of the Minnesota Twins is complete without Kirby Puckett. Even with an injury-shortened career, he ranks fourth in franchise WAR. He also provided some of the most dramatic moments in arguably the greatest World Series of all time. Some may move him off the franchise's Mount Rushmore due to his off-the-field issues, but many in Twins Territory still see him as a hero. Puckett gets one of the four spots for his Hall of Fame career on the field while still acknowledging that he was far from perfect off the field. For the final spot, Joe Mauer gets the nod over some of the other Twins legends. According to Baseball-Reference, he only ranks behind Carew and Killebrew in franchise WAR. Mauer is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, but his case is strong for induction when he appears on the ballot. He was one of the league's best hitters while playing a grueling defensive position. According to JAWS, Mauer ranks as the seventh-best catcher in baseball history, and his seven-year peak puts him in the top five. He's a franchise great that deserves Mount Rushmore recognition. Who would you put on Minnesota's Mount Rushmore? 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
  18. If you missed the first half of the series, take a look back at some of the year's other top stories. Below is a rundown of the top-10 stories of the year at Twins Daily. 10. Three Starting Pitchers to Trade for this Winter Published: September 19 Author: Cody Pirkl Trading for starting pitching might be the most logical path to building Minnesota's 2022 rotation, and that was even before Minnesota missed out on many of the top-tier free agent arms. There are multiple teams with controllable arms that offer intriguing trade options. Which player makes the most sense for the Twins? 9. Get Ready for the Opposite of Joe Mauer Published: November 18 Author: Ted Schwerzler With Joe Mauer, the Twins paid a premium for one of baseball's best players. He was coming off an MVP season, and his hometown connections were tough to ignore. Like Mauer, Byron Buxton was a homegrown star on the cusp of free agency. Luckily, the Twins didn't bypass a Buxton extension. Fans may continue to connect Mauer and Buxton because of their injury histories, but Twins fans won't have to watch Buxton in another team's uniform. 8. The 10 Best Twins Target Among Remaining Free Agents Published: January 17 Author: Nick Nelson Last winter, multiple free agents seemed like fits for the 2021 Twins. Two of the names identified ended up signing with the Twins, and both players signed for one-year deals. This leaves the Twins looking for replacements for these players during the current off-season. Also on the list, there were some names that Minnesota was lucky to avoid 7. 4 Possible Teams Interested in a Byron Buxton Trade Published: June 15 Author: Cody Christie During the summer, rumors swirled about the Twins and Buxton not reaching an agreement on a contract extension. It seemed like a very real possibility the team would entertain trading their Gold Glove center fielder. Imagining Buxton in a Yankees or Red Sox uniform might have been tough to swallow for Twins Territory. Luckily, fans won't have to worry about that for the foreseeable future. 6. Sano Sets Strikeout Record Published: September 18 Author: Seth Stohs When he was a top prospect, Miguel Sano breaking a record was something all Twins fans hoped for, but this probably isn't the record most fans had in mind. Not only did he set the record for fastest player to 1,000 career strikeouts, but he also smashed the record. The other players on the list aren't exactly a group of Hall of Fame players, but this is the type of player Sano has become throughout his career. 5. Notebook: Twins Have Offer Out to Veteran SP Published: February 11 Author: Matthew Lenz Twins fans were excited about the possibility of adding a veteran pitcher to Minnesota's starting staff. Unfortunately, the signing became one of the worst free-agent moves under the current regime. Other news covered in this story included the Twins claiming Kyle Garlick, who eventually made the team's Opening Day roster over Brent Rooker. 4. Simmons Wants to Know the Real Story Behind Reliever's Broken Hand Published: October 1 Author: Randballs Stu Randballs Stu offers a little humor to the Twins Daily site, and this piece was one of multiple he has in the top stories of the year. After celebrating the team's playoff-clinching victory, Milwaukee's Devin Williams broke his hand. Andrelton Simmons, a player with a known anti-vaccine stance, questions whether fans are getting the full story with the relief pitcher's injury. 3. What Happened Between Josh Donaldson and Luis Arraez? Published: July 18 Author: Tom Froemming There were plenty of frustrations with the Twins in the middle of the season. During the middle of July, Josh Donaldson got frustrated with Luis Arraez during a game in Detroit. Arraez was slow to get his lead off second base with Donaldson batting. This caused Donaldson to call time and step out. Eventually, the two had a heated discussion with Nelson Cruz playing mediator. 2. 5 Things to Know About Twins Deadline Centerpiece Austin Martin Published: July 30 Author: Nick Nelson After his blockbuster trade to the Twins, fans were excited to know more about Austin Martin. Austin Martin immediately entered the conversation as one of the team's top prospects after being a 2020 top draft pick. His college experience and defensive flexibility make him one of the exciting prospects in the Twins farm system. 1. Rare Unwritten Rule Triggers Name Change for Minnesota Twins Published: May 21 Author: Randballs Stu Baseball's unwritten rules can undoubtedly cause some on-field headaches. Randballs Stu painted a satirical picture of how ridiculous these rules can be when teams follow some of these old-school mentalities. It might be fun to have some Minnesota Cocaine Dentist gear. I wonder if MLB.com still has some available? Which of these stories will you remember the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 1 A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 2 Jim Pohlad tosses and turns in bed and finally awakens with a start. He gasps and feels his pajamas, which are soaked in sweat. He reaches for his end table and takes a big drink of water. He isn’t sure why, but he is absolutely parched. “Oh, my, what a terrible dream,” Pohlad says. “And stupid because that story has a happy ending, we got our stadium.” He pulled his sleep mask over his eyes and fell back into a deep slumber, but it didn’t last long. He was awakened again by the sound of cleats on the floor. Pohlad awoke and asked “Kirby? Is that you again?” But this time it wasn’t Puckett at all. It was a tall, quiet, side-burned figure wearing a Twins jersey outlined in beautiful Kasota gold. His name, he explained, was Joe Mauer. The Ghost of Christmas Present. Without a word, Pohlad is taken to a big convention center full of happy people. There are hands shaking everywhere they looked and happy agents calling their clients. They were at the MLB Winter Meetings. There was Max Scherzer shaking hands with Mets GM Billy Eppler. On the other side of the room Robbie Ray shook hands with Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto. Free agents were signing at a record pace and everyone seemed to be very happy. Suddenly, Mauer led Pohlad to an alleyway behind the convention center. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were looking tired while picking through the offerings near the dumpster. A Dylan Bundy here, a Michael Wacha there… there simply wasn’t much for the duo to choose from. “Thad, I don’t know what we are going to tell Mr. Pohlad if we come up empty here,” Falvey said. “I’m afraid we won’t have enough pitching for the upcoming season and if we don’t start winning some games, we might not have a job soon.” “Don’t worry Derek, everything will work out for us in the end,” Levine said, with more than a little hint of doubt in his voice. Suddenly, Mauer and Pohlad were standing outside of a house in Burnsville. Inside was a family of meager means and a child was opening a present. Inside was a pair of tickets for a Twins game and a Jose Berrios jersey. “I know Berrios isn’t on the team any more son, and I know he was your favorite player. But the Twins simply couldn’t afford to pay him anymore,” the dad said. “Jerseys nowadays are so expensive but this one was on clearance so we could finally afford one. “You see, the Twins are just a small-market team that cannot afford to pay any players. Sure, there is no salary cap and the owners have money they could never spend in seven lifetimes, but something something TV contracts. “I worked overtime to get us two tickets to see the Twins play against the Tigers this April,” the dad said. “It was outside of our normal budget, but you have been so good and loyal that I wanted to reward you this year.” The child thanked the dad and gave him a big hug. “That dad works 50 hours a week to put food on the table,” Mauer explained. “He had to work overtime to be able to afford two tickets to take his baseball-loving kid to a Twins game, even though they won’t be very good this year, especially without Jose Berrios.” He explained that sometimes people spend more money than they maybe want to in order to show someone that they appreciate them. He called this phenomenon ‘reciprocation.’ Mauer then shows Pohlad the 2022 MLB Standings. The Twins have finished with a record of 54-108. “If you don’t change your ways, Jim, this is what you have to look forward to,” Mauer warned. Suddenly, Jim Pohlad was back in bed and again soaked in sweat. He began to think he was losing his mind but he was so, so tired. He went back to sleep. Check back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to... A Minnesota Twins' Christmas Carol. A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 1 A Minnesota Twins Christmas Carol - Part 2
  20. If you don’t know who I’m talking about by now, it’s Joe Mauer. Other than my parents, there is nobody I idolized more growing up than Joe. Joe Mauer was an extremely talented hitter and it was evident from the moment he put on a Twins uniform that he would do great things for the Twins organization. Young Prodigy When Mauer was four years old, he was asked to leave his youth tee-ball league because he hit the ball too hard for the other kids. When he was in high school, he might have been the best athlete in the entire country. A three-sport athlete at Cretin-Derham Hall, Mauer excelled in all three sports. In baseball, he hit a remarkable .605, hit a home run in seven consecutive games, and only struck out once in his entire career. In football, he threw for 5,528 yards and 73 touchdowns over a two-year career, being named National Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year. He had a verbal commitment to play college football for Bobby Bowden at Florida State had he not been drafted by the Twins. 247 Sports ranked him as the 17th best football player in the country, ahead of Frank Gore and Larry Fitzgerald. In basketball, he averaged 20 points per game and was named All-State his junior and senior years. Meteoric Rise In the 2001 draft, Mauer was selected first overall by his hometown Twins. He started in rookie ball the summer of 2001 and dominated, hitting .400/.492/.491 in 32 games there. In 2002, he played in A ball with the Quad Cities River Bandits and continued to perform well, hitting .302 with a .785 OPS while walking more than he struck out as a 19 year old. In 2003, Mauer split time between high A ball and AA, and combined to hit .338/.398/.434 with 30 doubles. This accumulation of great performance earned Mauer the #1 prospect ranking in all of baseball heading into the 2004 season. Because of Mauer’s readiness for the big leagues, the Twins traded their starting catcher, AJ Pierzynski, to the San Francisco Giants for Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan, and Francisco Liriano. In 2004, Mauer started out hot before suffering a sprained left knee. He returned in June of that year and appeared in 35 games, hitting .308/.369/.570 with six home runs. In 2005, Mauer was able to stay healthy and played 131 games, hitting .294/.372/.411 while also throwing out 43 percent of base stealers (league average was 30 percent) for a 3.4 WAR season. It was clear that Mauer and his beautiful swing were close to breaking out and he was already a major contributor for the Twins. Prime Years 2006 was the year Mauer took a big step forward. He started off the season hitting an absurd .378/.446/.535 with 40 extra base hits and a 157 wRC+ before the all-star break. He was named the starting catcher in the all-star game for the first time in his career. Mauer finished that season as the batting champion, hitting .347/.429/.507 with 13 home runs and 84 RBI while accumulating 5.8 fWAR. He was named the AL Silver Slugger at the catcher position and finished 6th in MVP voting while teammate Justin Morneau won it. Mauer led the Twins to a 96-66 finish and a division title. In 2007 Mauer took a minor step backwards, only hitting .293/.382/.426 (.808). He had his best defensive season yet, posting 7 Defensive Runs Saved. In 2008, Mauer won the AL batting crown again, hitting .328/.413/.451 while winning his first Gold Glove and his second Silver Slugger. He was once again named an all-star and finished 4th in MVP voting while posting a 6.4 WAR. MVP In 2009, Mauer missed the first month of the season due to a back injury. He made his season debut on May 1st and hit a home run in his first at bat. That was only the start of a historic season. Through his first 185 plate appearances, Mauer was hitting an otherworldly .429/.497/.756 with a 225 wRC+ (125 percent above league average). He was named AL Player of the Month in May. He was named an all-star and finished the season hitting .365/.444/.587 (1.031) with 28 home runs. He led the American League in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, wRC+ (170), and was second in fWAR (8.4). He won the AL MVP and received 27 of 28 first place votes. This was the second best season in Twins history in terms of WAR only behind Rod Carew’s 1977 MVP year. He also won his third silver slugger and his second gold glove. Go Get Paid On March 21, 2010, Mauer was given a large 8 year, $184 million extension. This was the biggest contract in Twins history and remains the biggest. In the 2010 season, Mauer continued his excellence, hitting .327/.402/.469 (.871) with 43 doubles and nine home runs in the Twins first year at Target Field. He was worth 5.7 WAR and led the Twins to another division title. He won his fourth silver slugger and third gold glove. In 2011 and 2012, the Twins were terrible, averaging 64.5 wins. Mauer however was a bright spot, hitting .308/.397/.419 (.816) with an average of 3.3 WAR. 2013 was more of the same, but Mauer started off great. Then August 19th came along. On August 19, 2013, Mauer took a foul tip off the mask and suffered a concussion. He hit .324/.404/.476 (.880) with a 143 wRC+ and won his fifth silver slugger while being named to his sixth all star game. But he was never the same after the concussion. Mauer’s concussion greatly affected his vision, and his stats can back it up. Pre-Concussion (2004-8/19/2013): (.323/.405/.468) .873 OPS, 134 wRC+, 12.2 BB%, 11.1 K% Post-Concussion: (8/20/2013-2018): (.278/.359/.388) .747 OPS, 103 wRC+, 11.1 BB%, 16.2 K% First Baseman In 2014, the Twins announced they were going to make Joe Mauer into their full-time first baseman because of his concussion risk and they thought he would be able to stay in the lineup more if he played first base. They were right, as he averaged 136 games played from 2014 to 2018. However, he was a shell of his former self, only accumulating 6.4 WAR in those five seasons. He went from being 34 percent better at hitting than league average while excelling at a premium defensive position to only being 3 percent above league average while playing first base, not a premium position. Final Goodbye In 2018, there had been ramblings about Mauer potentially retiring at the end of the season, as his contract was due to expire. In his final game against the White Sox, he had quite the final send-off. In his final at bat as a Twin, he got to a full count and hit a hard line drive into the left-center gap for a double. Mauer always used the whole field so it was fitting that his final at bat was a hard hit double the other way. In the ninth inning, there was a slight delay in starting the inning, and there was no catcher behind home plate. Mauer emerged from the tunnel in catcher’s gear, and the stadium gave him a standing ovation. Mauer caught just one pitch before getting pulled for Chris Herrmann, and got yet another lengthy ovation from the home faithful. This was Mauer’s first time catching since 2013 so it was a very emotional moment. A month later, Mauer penned a retirement letter to Twins Territory, citing health reasons and wanting to be with family as a couple of main reasons for retirement. Conclusion Joe Mauer was a fan favorite for many years. Seeing an athlete play for his hometown team, dominate, and do it all with class made Mauer one of the most likable athletes in Minnesota history. Mauer had five seasons of 5+ WAR in his career. Only three catchers in MLB history have more. These catchers are Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and Gary Carter. Mauer finished his career with 52.5 WAR (3rd in team history), 2,123 hits (2nd), 428 doubles (1st), 1,018 runs (3rd), 923 RBI (5th), 939 walks (2nd), and 143 home runs (12th). A personal note - Joe Mauer is my favorite athlete of all-time. Right when I started playing sports as a kid, Mauer was in the midst of his prime and he was very fun for me to watch. A couple years for his birthday, I sent him a letter and he responded. This made me into a fan of his for life. Mauer was a fantastic player but an even better person and this makes him the fourth best Twin of all time and eventually, a Hall of Famer. Stay tuned for the tenth day of Twinsmas! Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! Read Previous "12 Days of TwinsMas" articles here: #12 - Torii Hunter #11 - Chuck Knoblauch #10 - Jim Kaat #9 - Frank Viola #8 - Kent Hrbek #7 - Tony Oliva #6 - Johan Santana #5 - Bert Blyleven #4 - Joe Mauer #3 - Coming Soon!
  21. When it comes to the rankings below, there are many factors to consider. Should the rankings be based on the team’s best players of all time? Should the rankings be associated with players found later in the draft that provided tremendous value? In the end, it’s likely a combination of multiple ranking methods. 5. Kent Hrbek, 1B Twins WAR: 38.6 There were 431 players taken ahead of Hrbek in the 1978 MLB Draft, but he made a life-long impact on the Twins franchise. His hometown team drafted him in the 17th round, and he went on to be a fixture on the team’s 1987 and 1991 World Series titles. His 293 home runs rank second in team history behind only Harmon Killebrew. At 34-years old, he retired earlier than some, so his career numbers may have looked even better if he continued playing. 4. Brad Radke, RHP Twins WAR: 45.3 Fans might not realize how good Radke was during his 12-year career because he was part of some terrible Twins teams. Only one pitcher in team history has accumulated a higher WAR (see below). The Twins selected Radke with their 8th round pick (206th overall) in 1991. He averaged over 200 innings pitched during his career with a 1.26 WHIP and a 113 ERA+. Some of his other numbers aren’t as impressive because he was one of the team’s original pitch-to-contact arms. He provided durability and consistency for the Twins rotation as the team came back to prominence in the early 2000s. 3. Bert Blyleven, RHP Twins WAR: 48.9 Blyleven was MLB.com’s pick for the best draft pick in team history, and he has an argument for the top spot. Both of the players listed below were taken in the first round of their drafts, which can come with high expectations. Blyleven was a third-round pick, and 54 other players were taken ahead of him in 1969. His 22-year career saw him play for five franchises, but he accumulated more WAR during his Twins tenure than any other pitcher in team history. He was a great pitcher and a steal in the third round, but the players below should be ranked higher than him. 2. Joe Mauer, C Twins WAR: 55.2 It’s hard to fathom the amount of pressure Joe Mauer had to feel when he was taken with the first overall pick by his hometown team. Not only did he live up to the hype, but he also went on to have a career that has him in the Hall of Fame conversation. According to Baseball-Reference, only two players in Twins history have accumulated more WAR in a Twins uniform, Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew. Both of these players are in Cooperstown, and Mauer hopes to join them in the years ahead. 1. Kirby Puckett, CF Twins WAR: 51.2 Puckett’s path to the Twins was a unique one as the team drafted him third overall in the 1982 MLB January Draft. This now-defunct draft is different from the regular draft used to select all the other players on this list. That being said, it’s hard to ignore what Puckett did in a Twins uniform. Minnesota’s assistant farm director Jim Rantz stumbled across Puckett while watching his son play, and the rest is history. Puckett was a critical piece to both of the franchise’s World Series titles, and he was a first-ballot Hall of Fame player. How would you rank these players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. I explained my process of how I chose these players in the first part of this trilogy, so if you didn’t read that, I recommend reading this so this article will make more sense. Taking all of the position player seasons over 4 WAR, I found salary data for 86 players. Using these 86 players, I compared their equivalent 2021 salaries with their season WAR’s and constructed the graph below. The names highlighted in yellow are the players who made the starting lineup As was the case in part 1, the bottom right of the graph is where you want to have your players be, signifying a lot of WAR for not a lot of 2021 money. There were some very tough decisions in constructing this lineup, but these are the position players I decided would make the best team in Twins history. Catcher: 2009 Joe Mauer - $15.69M translated salary, 7.8 WAR Because of his lackluster production despite a large contract in the latter part of his career, some Twins fans see Joe Mauer as a bust and not as one of the best players in Twins history. In reality, over the course of his career, Mauer vastly outproduced his contracts. Adding in 2018 to these totals, Mauer made just over $218M in his career but according to FanGraphs, he was worth over $307M. Mauer was so phenomenal early in his career that he completely outperformed his rookie contract and arbitration deals. It makes you wonder what he would’ve done if not for his concussion problems later in his career. Mauer’s best year was 2009. He slashed .365/.444/.587 for the second highest single-season OPS in Twins history of 1.031. Mauer also hit a career high 28 home runs, had a wRC+ of 170, walked more than he struck out, and was an above average defensive catcher in his MVP campaign. In 2009, Mauer had a salary of $10.5 million. This translates to over $15 million in 2021, meaning his contract efficiency number was 0.497. Mauer outperformed his contract not just in 2009, but over the duration of his entire career and he should be inducted in the hall of fame. First Base: 1977 Rod Carew - $10.93M translated salary, 9.7 WAR In 2021, Rod Carew would not be your stereotypical first baseman. Today, first basemen are power-hitters who strike out quite a bit, hit home runs, and don’t steal a lot of bases (see Sano, Miguel). Carew was the greatest player in Twins history and in 1977, he had the greatest season in Twins history. In Carew’s historic 1977 season, he stole 23 bases, slashed .388/.449/.570 for an OPS of 1.019, and had a 135 wRC+. He had a Twins franchise record 239 hits, his .388 average was a franchise record, and he won the MVP award. In 1977, Carew had a salary of $180,000. This translates to just shy of $11 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.888. Carew was an outstanding player, will bring some defensive quickness to first base, and would be an outstanding leadoff hitter for this dream-team. Second Base: 1995 Chuck Knoblauch - $13.44M translated salary, 6.7 WAR Even though Chuck Knoblauch isn’t Keith Olbermann's favorite player, he still had an outstanding tenure as a Twin. Knoblauch was a four-time all-star with the Twins before contract disputes led to him becoming a Yankee. In 1995, Knoblauch batted .333, had a .911 OPS, stole 46 bases, and won the American League Silver Slugger at second base. Although Knoblauch’s best season may have been a year later in 1996, he still accumulated nearly 7 WAR in 1995 on a cheaper contract. In 1995, Knoblauch had a salary of nearly $3 million. This translates to $13.4 million in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 0.499. Knoblauch was a great all-around player for the Twins and is the greatest second baseman in Twins history, so it is only right to put him here. Third Base: 2001 Corey Koskie - $606K translated salary, 6.3 WAR One player who was always undervalued for the Twins was Corey Koskie. In the early 2000’s, you could tell Koskie was a very solid player for the Twins but if you look at him in a more advanced scope, you can see that Koskie was a great player for the Twins and they did not have to pay much for him. In 2001, Koskie slashed .276/.362/.488 for an OPS of .850 and a wRC+ of 119. He led the team in slugging percentage, walks (68), RBI (103), and WAR (6.3). He was an outstanding defender at third base, racking up 1.9 defensive WAR which ranked 4th among third basemen in MLB. Combining above average offense with a stellar glove at third base makes Koskie an easy choice to be our third baseman. In 2001, Koskie had a salary of only $300K. This translates to only $606K in 2021 for a contract efficiency number of 10.39, which was the highest contract efficiency number out of all of the top 100 WAR seasons in Twins history. Getting a 6 WAR player for nearly league minimum does not happen very often so we can save a lot of money while getting a lot of value out of Koskie at 3B. Plus, the man is a townball star Shortstop: 1965 Zoilo Versalles - $7.63M translated salary, 7.2 WAR When building this team of superstars, Zoilo Versalles was the most confusing player I researched. He only had 12 career WAR, and over half of it came in this MVP 1965 campaign. Versalles was the Baha Men of 1965, a one-hit wonder. Digging deeper into his MVP season, he only had a wRC+ of 116 and led the American League in strikeouts. The reason Versalles was so good in 1965 was that he was the best defensive shortstop in the league. He led all MLB shortstops with 3 defensive WAR, also the best mark for any shortstop in Twins history. Versalles’ defensive prowess coupled with his above average offensive abilities (led AL in runs, doubles, and triples) made him the best player in the AL in 1965 and the best shortstop in Twins history. In 1965, Versalles had a salary of $28K, which translates to $7.63 million in 2021. His contract efficiency number (0.944) was very good. Cristian Guzman was also in contention for this spot with an extremely cheap contract, but Versalles accumulated 2.4 more WAR than Guzman so I thought it was a worthwhile trade-off. Left Field: 1992 Shane Mack - $5.44M translated salary, 6.5 WAR One of the most overlooked Twins of all-time is World Series Champion outfielder Shane Mack. After being the Twins Rule 5 draft pick in 1989, he had a great five-year stretch with the Twins. In those five years, he slashed .309/.375/.479 (.854) while hitting 119 doubles, 67 home runs, and stealing 71 bases. His best year of that stretch was 1992, having a wRC+ of 142, hitting 31 doubles, 16 home runs, and stealing 26 bases. He also led the American League with 15 hit by pitches. In 1992, Mack had a salary of $1.075 million, which translates to $5.44 million in 2021. He posted a WAR of 6.5, so his contract efficiency number was very good at 1.195. Mack is one of the most underrated players in Twins history and was frankly one of the best outfielders in Twins history. Center Field: 1992 Kirby Puckett - $6M translated salary, 7.2 WAR Undoubtedly the most beloved figure in Twins history, Kirby Puckett is also the best outfielder in team history and delivered some unforgettable moments, like his walk-off home run in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. Kirby joins fellow ‘92 outfielder Shane Mack on the team. One of Kirby’s best seasons was 1992. He hit .329/.374/.490 (.864) while leading MLB in hits (210). He had 110 RBI, a wRC+ of 136, hit 38 doubles, 19 home runs, and had a defensive WAR of 1 while manning center field for the reigning World Champs and being a clubhouse leader. In 1992, Puck had a salary of $2.97 million, which is about $6 million today. He had a 7.1 WAR so his contract efficiency was about 1.184. Puck would be the heart and soul of this team and bring some much needed energy and leadership to the team. Right Field: 1964 Tony Oliva - $2.12M translated salary, 6.8 WAR Recent Hall of Fame inductee Tony Oliva joins the squad with his phenomenal rookie season of 1964. Oliva is one of the greatest hitters in Twins history and a Twins great, hitting .304/.353/.476 (.830) over his 15-year career with the Twins. Oliva was phenomenal in his rookie season, winning rookie of the year and finishing fourth in AL MVP voting. He had a wRC+ of 148, led the AL with a .323 batting average, 109 runs, 43 doubles, and 217 hits while posting a .916 OPS and clubbing 32 home runs. In 1964, Oliva had a salary of $7,500, which translates to $2.12 million in 2021. He accumulated 6.8 WAR, so his contract efficiency was 0.73. Oliva has always been an excellent representative of the Twins organization both on and off the field, so he is a great addition to the team. Designated Hitter: 1963 Bob Allison - $8.75M translated salary, 7.4 WAR The last hitter we have in the lineup is Bob Allison. Allison was ahead of his time. He was more of a three true outcomes hitter than most people in his time. Allison was one of the original Twins, coming from the Washington Senators. He is one of the more underrated players in Twins history and he was one of the leaders on the 1965 World Series team. Allison was a star in 1963, hitting .271/.378/.533 (.911). He led the American League in WAR (7.4), OPS, and wRC+ (150). He hit 35 home runs and was solid defensively, posting a defensive WAR of 1.1 as a right fielder. Somehow, he finished 15th in MVP voting despite leading the league in all of these categories. If they could revote today knowing what actually makes a player valuable, he would most definitely finish in the top 3. In 1963, Allison had a salary of $29,250, translating to a $8.75 million salary today. His contract efficiency was 0.846 so he would be a great bopper in a lineup full of them. Harmon Killebrew was also considered for this position but Allison edged him out in WAR and was slightly cheaper. Summary Overall, the Twins lineup would bolster some heavy hitters and some very high on-base guys, creating a high-powered offense that would wreck the league. These hitters accumulated 65.6 WAR and would be worth $70.6 million translated to 2021 salaries. Part 3 will cover the bullpen and bench, so stay tuned for that. Thanks for reading, and Go Twins!
  23. It finally happened. The Twins have signed Byron Buxton to a huge deal, $100 million deal over seven years and a bunch more incentives per Ken Rosenthal. Twins fans are very excited right now, but not every big contract pays off. While this is an excellent deal for the Twins and exciting for the fan base, it is more than fair to be concerned about the health of Buxton and how much time he can stay on the field. Buxton has only appeared in over 100 games once in his career. That was in 2017, when he appeared in 140 games. $15 million per year with incentives is not an insufficient salary for a player who has trouble staying on the field. While this investment could work out for the Twins, it could also go wrong if Buxton doesn't stay healthy. When Buxton is healthy, he is easily the best player on the field and in the lineup. He’s made clutch catches and his batting average in 61 games this year was .306 . He made those 61 games count. The incentive for him to stay healthy? $500K each for reaching 502, 533, 567, 600, and 625 plate appearances. It is an incentive to stay healthy. The gamble is Buxton is like other players who have had outstanding years and been an asset to their team. This article is not meant to say that Buxton is not an asset, or will not fulfill the contract. When he is on the field, he is a solid asset to the team. He is a hard-nosed player who rehabs hard and does go all out. The concern of this writer, and some other fans, is that larger deals with players who are prone to injury can be exciting while still being concerning. Some players got long-term, big contracts and then busted after the ink had dried. Here are three such examples: Gary Matthews Jr had an outstanding year with the Rangers in 2005. He hit .313 and drove in 79 runs with 19 home runs. The Angels liked what they saw and offered him five years and $65 million. He was barely productive with the Angels posting a .248 hitting average, ten home runs, and totaled just 55 RBI in three seasons. The contract amount is comparable to what we are looking at in terms of length and desired production for Buxton. Jeffrey Hammonds signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Brewers. In 2001 that was a fairly large deal but it wasn’t the largest or craziest. Milwaukee saw Hammonds hit.335 and drive in over 100 runs while posting an OPS over .900 the year before. Hammonds only played 49 games due to injuries in 2001 and never lived up to his contract or potential. Looking for an example with the Twins? Well, the largest contract the Twins have signed was with Joe Mauer. He was coming off of an MVP season and a year away from free agency. At the time, the Yankees and Red Sox likely would have been competing for his services, so the Twins didn’t let him get to free agency. They locked him up for eight years and $184 million. The Twins were about to move into Target Field and the local boy turned future Hall of Famer had to be retained. Was he worth the $184 million during that contract? No. He fought some knee injuries and a concussion that altered the trajectory of his career. He struggled some and had to switch positions. Like Mauer a dozen years ago, the Twins could not afford to lose Byron Buxton this offseason. Of course, the ultimate hope would be to see Buxton have an inverse career to that of Mauer. Buxton has fought injuries before signing his nine-figure deal. Hopefully he will be able to remain healthy after signing the deal. The Twins are signing Buxton based on his previous field production and his immense talent and ceiling, but also considering his on-field time missed. There have been notable times when players have been signed and gone downhill. The contract shows that the Twins have the means to make big contracts happen. Not all large contracts are bad. The Twins certainly are showing us that they are willing and able to make commitments to players and I believe this is a good sign for the organization and fans alike. I know there is still plenty of time left and about $50 million left, so now with Buck locked in and a good outfield roster, we can focus on putting that money into pitching - both starters and relief. While I am cautious about what this will mean for the Twins in the long run and the team if they have to continually cover for Buxton if his injurious state does not improve, it is proof that the organization is willing to do what it takes to retain players. The fans who were putting all their hopes into the organization, I just hope it’s enough. Now we can take a quick sigh of relief and hope the Twins make some pitching moves that will help the team in 2022 and beyond. But will they sign anyone before the CBA comes to an end and signings will be on a freeze.
  24. In March of 2010, Minnesota inked hometown hero Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension. He’d played in 699 games to that point and tallied three batting titles along with an MVP. With free agency looming, the Twins did the right thing and signed him to a deal that kept him from being paid by the Boston’s or New York’s of the baseball world. Because we know that we can’t have nice things as Twins fans, Mauer’s career would be forever changed due to injuries. He’s still a Hall of Famer, and he was still underpaid, but what could’ve been is something we can always wonder about. Due to those injuries changing production Mauer’s contract was long a point of consternation for fans. Working through revisionist history, detractors will often suggest a desire to have let Mauer walk and watch larger markets pay him more. As luck would have it, those same people may now have their day. Coming into 2022, Byron Buxton will have played 493 games for the Minnesota Twins. He’s owned an .897 OPS over the past three seasons and has a Platinum Glove to his credit before turning 28-years-old. An expected prime still ahead of him, this is a player that’s one of the ten best in the sport when he’s healthy. That’s where we pick up this story. Unlike Mauer, Buxton has experienced injury issues early on in his career. Also, unlike Joe, those injuries are the only reason Minnesota has a chance to sign the superstar in the first place. Reportedly offering an $80 million deal, Minnesota has not yet pushed to the $100 million asking price even with a valuation that would far exceed that number with an average bill of health. Instead of being asked to pay $250 million or more to keep their home-grown talent, the Twins are being asked to pay pennies on the dollar to factor in the availability, or lack thereof, that comes with Buxton. Instead of jumping at that chance, they are said to be leaning in the opposite direction. This isn’t a scenario in which history can be aligned to Terry Ryan’s ultimate gaffe regarding David Ortiz. No one is getting released, and the Twins will undoubtedly get something in exchange for Byron. The problem is that no player as valuable can be had for the same dollar amount, and a move regarding someone so intertwined with the fan base will forever cause ripple effects that only Mauer could’ve mirrored. We should know soon how the front office is going to play this situation. Maybe they’ve purposely been leaking misinformation to increase their negotiating stance. However, time is running out on wondering what may happen as we are less than a year from knowing what will. Byron Buxton might not be from St. Paul, Minnesota. Still, the Baxley, Georgia, native is every bit as Twins Territory as it gets and there isn’t an opportunity to put the band-aid back on this bullet wound once the trigger is pulled. Target Field was sold as an opportunity to keep the internal stars. That rung hollow when flipping Jose Berrios, and it hits rock bottom in moving on from Buxton. Whether he stays healthy or not isn’t the question for now. It’s whether or not you are willing to keep your best talent or continually recycle it. 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. On the surface, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey seem to have similar cases for Cooperstown. Mauer hit .306/.388/.439 (.827) while earning three Gold Gloves, five Silver Sluggers, and six All-Star appearances. Posey hit .302/.372/.460 (.831) while earning a Gold Glove, four Silver Sluggers, and seven All-Star appearances. Both players won an MVP, and Posey won two fewer batting titles than Mauer. JAWS is one way to measure a player’s Hall of Fame worthiness as it averages their career WAR with their 7-year peak WAR. Mauer currently has the seventh-best JAWS total among catchers as he trails only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlton Fish, Mike Piazza, and Yogi Berra. Those are the best catchers in baseball history. Posey doesn’t rank quite as well, according to JAWS, as he finished his career ranked 14th. This puts him below the average of the Hall of Famers at this position. However, other factors impact Posey’s candidacy. He was a three-time World Series champion, and that certainly plays a role in his Cooperstown case. Mauer and Posey both have some unique characteristics for the voters to consider. Mauer is the only catcher to win three batting titles, and he topped the .400 OBP mark in six of his seasons at catcher. Posey finished in the top-20 for MVP voting in six seasons, including three in the top-10. Mauer finished in the top-20 in MVP voting in five different seasons with four seasons in the top-10. Posey is in elite company when narrowing down his career to a six-year window. From 2012-2017, only Mike Trout had a higher fWAR total, and the next closest player is Josh Donaldson. Mauer’s best six-year stretch (2005-2010) ranks him as having baseball’s fourth-highest fWAR total behind Albert Pujols, Chase Utley, and Alex Rodriguez. He also played 70 fewer games than any of the players ahead of him on the list. Another commonality between Posey and Mauer is that their careers ended earlier than some of the other greats at the position. Posey is walking away at age-34 after one of the best seasons of his career. After concussions, Mauer retired following his age-35 season, which forced him to become a primary first baseman for his final five seasons. It seems like both players have a good chance of eventually getting inducted. Mauer becomes eligible for the first time in 2024, while Posey will be eligible in 2027. There will be plenty of talk about Posey being a Hall of Fame player as he rides off into the sunset. If that is the case, Mauer’s credentials should make him a lock for Cooperstown. Do you think both Mauer and Posey will be elected to the Hall of Fame? 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
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