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  1. Minnesota made multiple roster-altering trades over the last year, and those moves are a little easier to analyze because the team received something in return. For the players below, it was easy to see how any of them might fit into the team's plans moving forward. However, each moved on to a different organization, and their production levels have varied considerably. Michael Pineda, SP Michael Pineda made five starts for the Detroit Tigers so far in 2022. In 22 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.22 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and a 12-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Currently, Pineda has been on the injured list since mid-May after getting hit by a comebacker to the mound. He suffered a broken finger but was able to avoid surgery. He threw a bullpen session last week, which points to him being closer to returning. Much like his time in Minnesota, Pineda has been relatively effective when healthy. Detroit sits 11 games under .500 to start the season, so Pineda can provide a boost to the rotation when he can return. Andrelton Simmons, SS There is no question that Andrelton Simmons struggled during his Twins tenure, but his career-track record pointed to him being able to bounce back. His 58 OPS+ was nearly 30 points lower than his career mark, even if his defense continued to be strong. Simmons signed with Chicago this winter, and right shoulder inflammation has limited him to 19 games. Since returning from the IL, Simmons has been gone 8-for-49 (.163 BA) with no extra-base hits. He has a -2 OPS+ and nearly as many strikeouts (7) as hits (8). Now in his age-32 season, one must wonder if Simmons will be able to get back to the player he was earlier in his career. Willian Astudillo, UTL Fans fell in love with Willians Astudillo during his Twins tenure, but his value to the team declined as he couldn't play consistently behind the plate. Astudillo settled for a minor league deal with the Marlins, but the team has already needed to call him up during the 2022 campaign. In 12 games, he has gone 8-for-26 (.308 BA) with a home run. Like the Twins, the Marlins have used him at multiple infield positions and even as a reliever in one game. Astudillo will be a fan favorite wherever he plays, and Miami offered a better chance for him to get regular playing time in 2022. Rob Refsnyder, OF Rob Refsnyder burst onto the scene with the Twins last year as he hit .321/.371/.500 (.871) in his first 18 games with the club. Over his last 33 games, his OPS dropped to .524, and he posted a -1.34 Win Probability Added. His hot start may have convinced some fans that he could fill a fourth outfielder role, but his full-season numbers were closer to his career totals. He signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox, and they recently called him up. In his first five games, he has gone 3-for-11 (.273 BA), with two of his three hits being doubles. Refsnyder also made a highlight-reel catch that might have Boston fans feeling similar to what Twins fans felt at the beginning of last season. At this point, it seems like the Twins were correct in their assessment of moving on from all of these players. Do you think the team should have kept any of the abovementioned players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  2. The Standings: Minnesota 22-16 Chicago 19-19 Cleveland 16-19 Kansas City 14-23 Detroit 13-25 No team in the division currently has a winning streak going, while Cleveland is bringing up the rear holding a three-game losing streak. The Guardians have a +2 run differential despite being in third place while the White Sox have outperformed expectations given their -27 run differential. The Stories: While not to the level of Boston, the White Sox slow start is at least somewhat surprising. They’ve dealt with injury and been on the wrong side of some unfortunate games. Ultimately though, the White Sox have an ugly run differential and play some of the worst defense in the league. Tim Anderson is still hitting, but his work in the field has been atrocious. Jose Abreu has just a .625 OPS thus far and is well off his .832 mark from 2021. Despite the solid average, Luis Robert just crossed the .800 OPS threshold on Thursday. There should be plenty of room for that number to rise. Thus far, Tony La Russa’s management of a young star like Andrew Vaughn has been perplexing to say the least. This team has the talent to rush to the top, but it will be interesting to see how they manage their way forward. I’d wager that Terry Francona expected this Guardians team to be a bit better. Andres Gimenez has hit the ball well, and Jose Ramirez continues to be among baseball’s best at the hot corner. Cal Quantrill was solid again on Thursday but took a no-decision as Cleveland lacked run support. Shane Bieber hasn’t been the 2020 version of himself and Steven Kwan has come back down to earth a bit. Ramirez is the one to watch over the next week as he left Thursday’s game with a bruised shin and is being called day-to-day. Kansas City wasn’t expected to be good this year, but I don’t know if they were pegged to be this bad. Bobby Witt Jr. is settling into life as a Major Leaguer, and despite bumps in the road, has shown why his prospect stock was so high. Salvador Perez was recently placed on the injured list with a thumb sprain which opened the door for star prospect M.J. Melendez to enter the lineup. He and Witt both homered for the Royals against the White Sox on Wednesday night. Veteran outfielder Michael A. Taylor was placed on the Covid-IL before Wednesday’s game after being scratched from the lineup. There was reason to believe A.J. Hinch could take the Tigers a step forward this season but the results haven’t materialized. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to be placed on the injured list with what’s being called a “left-side” injury. Michael Pineda broke a finger last Saturday, and Casey Mize has been on the injured list since April 15 due to a right elbow strain. Matt Manning, already on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, is working his way back through a rehab assignment. Meanwhile, key free-agent signing Javier Baez is batting just .204 with a .554 OPS, and last year’s Rule 5 darling Akil Baddoo was optioned to Triple-A. The Week Ahead: Minnesota kicks off a weekend series against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium before returning home to host both Detroit and those same Royals. The Twins will be looking to exact revenge on the Royals after they dropped two of three during the season’s first month. Rocco Baldelli’s club already has a series sweep of the Tigers and owns a +12 run differential against the divisions cellar dwellers. Looking to close the gap at the top, Chicago has a tough test going out east to play the New York Yankees over the week. Aaron Boone has the Bronx Bombers currently going as one of baseball’s best teams. The White Sox do get a reprieve following an off day as the Red Sox come to town. Boston has failed to meet expectations thus far, and Tony La Russa’s club could be getting them at the right time. Similar to what Minnesota is seeing from a schedule construction standpoint, Cleveland hosts the Tigers for three at home before traveling to Houston for a three-game set. They’ll then close out the road trip with another series against Detroit. Between hosting and traveling to face the Twins, Kansas City gets a quick two-game set against the NL West Arizona Diamondbacks. What are you looking forward to for the Twins this week? How are you evaluating the competition? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
  3. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are?
  4. The availability heuristic is humanities’ tendency to use information that comes to mind quickly when making decisions, inferences, or predictions. Also known as recency bias, the concept is pervasive in sports. Try, for example, convincing yourself that the Vikings could do anything except sign a defensive tackle the minute free agency opens, it’s almost impossible. Baseball is no different than other sports in this regard. Consider the Twins' win-loss record over the last decade and it's easy to see why fans take a ‘what have you done for me lately’ approach to the team. This applies in numerous ways to Minnesota. It’s easy to assume that the White Sox will run away with a poor AL Central in 2022 after the Twins collapse in 2021, and they might. Take a peek under the hood, however, and the Twins are poised to compete. Let’s dig in. Baseball Prospectus dropped its initial PECOTA standings on Tuesday. If you’re not familiar, PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, that is used to simulate end-of-season records for all 30 teams. As of March 15th, PECOTA has the Twins finishing second in the Central at 84-78, not so terribly far behind the 91-71 White Sox. First of all, wow. I am deep in the weeds on Twins Twitter. It’s been understandably sour this offseason. Let’s ground ourselves in the fact that this team, as currently constructed, is a .500 team. Even though a large part of this stems from the Twins getting to play a lot of games against pretty bad teams, it still feels pretty hard to accept, given the Twins have just traded their best two right-handed hitters in Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver. Garver was a fan favorite and will be sorely missed. Donaldson was divisive and is probably undergoing mediation with Gerritt Cole in the parking lot of the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa. Jokes aside, we know the Twins still have plenty of work to do this offseason. I wrote this winter about the Twins' pursuit of a 40-WAR team in 2022, so let’s look at some possible remaining paths and what outcomes they might result in. The Twins currently sit in 16th with a cumulative fWAR of 36.3 (although this is changing by minute). Let’s examine some possible next steps for the Twins and how they might us towards that magical 40 fWAR mark. For the purposes of these pathways, I’m ignoring the bullpen for a couple of reasons; relief pitching doesn’t lend itself well to fWAR, and I ain’t got time for that. So, here goes. Pathway 1: Acquire an Elite Shortstop and an Elite Starting Pitcher Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR This would net the Twins around 7 additional fWAR and bring them to around a 43 fWAR projection. That’s well within playoff range, but also still a distance from the White Sox mark of 47 fWAR. This is a team ready to challenge for the division and certainly compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 2: Acquire an Elite Starting Pitcher and Mediocre Shortstop Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR In this package trade, the Twins acquire Montas and Andrus together, Andrus as a salary dump for Oakland. This would bring the Twins to a 40.5 fWAR and they likely compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 3: Acquire a Mediocre Starting Pitcher and Elite Shortstop The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR This is where we see the value of potentially adding Story for the Twins. This path would bring the Twins to a projection of 42.6 fWAR before any additional outfield, right-handed bat, and bullpen enhancements. In short, Trevor Story is by far the highest leverage player the Twins have a realistic chance of adding. Pathway 4: Mediocre Everything The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR I’m not suggesting the Twins would or should do this, I’m merely using it as an example as Andrus offers very little for 2022. In the ‘bare minimum’ pathway, the Twins get to 39.0 fWAR. After the tumult of trading Garver, flipping Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees, and trading away Donaldson, combined with the acquisition of Gray, this would be a brutal disappointment. Again, it’s just an example to underscore the divergence of the paths ahead for the Twins. The Twins are in a much better spot for 2022 than we are conditioned to think. How much they are willing to risk moving forwards will determine if this years’ team is likely to be average, or has a chance to be great.
  5. What do they have so far? The Twins ended the 2021 season with a depleted starting rotation, especially after the José Berríos trade and the Kenta Maeda season-ending injury. One can argue that it was depleted since the beginning of the season, with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker being part of it. But from such a dark year on the mound, two seemingly good arms emerged from the minors. Bailey Ober had his ups and downs but, overall, he had a very solid rookie campaign. His most impressive stretch of the season might have been the ten starts in July and August, in which he posted a 3.06 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, with 51 strikeouts and only 11 walks. With less than a hundred innings pitched on the major league level so far, you might argue that he isn’t a very reliable option just yet, but his first impression was not bad at all. Joe Ryan joined the organization in mid-July as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. After a couple of solid starts for St. Paul in August, he got called up in September, making his big league debut, and he probably couldn’t have asked for a better one. In his second start, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, on his way to a seven-inning shutout on only 85 pitches. Over his first four starts, Ryan maintained a very impressive 2.45 ERA and 2.49 FIP, keeping opposing batters to a .133 batting average. He struck out batters 25 times while walking them only three times. In his final start of the season, he gave up six earned runs against Detroit, spoiling his final numbers, but not the optimism around him going forward. To quote the great Do-Hyoung Park, from MLB.com, if all had gone according to plan for the Twins this season, they probably wouldn’t have discovered these two exciting, young arms. The third pitcher set to start the season on the Twins rotation is Dylan Bundy, whom Minnesota signed shortly before the league went into lockout. His career numbers aren’t impressive, and in 2021, he was moved to the Angels bullpen after struggling for the first half of the season. He did get back to the rotation in early August and closed out the season with a 3.31 ERA in the final four starts. In the shortened season of 2020, his first year with the Angels, Bundy had his best season in the majors, finishing ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after posting 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 138 ERA+, with 9.9 strikeouts per nine and only 2.3 walks per nine. Did Wes Johnson see anything in Bundy that can be tweaked into a 2020 version of him? How can they realistically fill the remaining gaps? Suppose you consider the aforementioned trio good enough to fill the bottom part of the rotation. In that case, the Twins can very well build a competitive group of starters by making only two additions. Here’s how I would go about filling the two remaining rotation spots. My favorite trade target is Frankie Montas. The A’s are believed to be on the verge of resetting, thus making their veteran starters available for trades. The Dominican righty is coming off a career year, having started 32 games for Oakland and accumulated 3.7 bWAR, both career-best marks for him. Over 187 innings of work in 2021, he was able to maintain a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 10.0 batters per nine and walking 2.7 per nine. Such numbers earned him a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award last season, and he is under team control for two more seasons. He produced at least twice as much bWAR as any Twins pitcher in 2021. In a rebound year for Minnesota, I can see him being the difference-maker for a team that wants to avoid a rebuilding process. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker wrote an in-depth article discussing Montas as a trade target, but not only him. He also wrote about Chris Bassitt and Luis Castillo. Since 2022 is likely not a year the Twins will be competing for a World Series, they should be looking for a proven veteran that can eat up innings and provide them with stability instead of an impact starter. In this scenario, two names come to mind, both of which are former Twins. Jake Odorizzi’s time with Minnesota didn’t end up well. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he struggled with injuries and missed the first portion of the season. He made only four starts that year and had an awful 6.59 ERA. He signed with the Astros for the 2021 season, and his beginning with the Houston organization was also rough, but he would eventually pick up. After struggling in his first six starts, he posted a 3.74 ERA in the final 18 starts of the season. Those numbers could indicate that he might be back on track and ready to be a reliable contributor once again. Trading for him makes sense, as you can potentially bring back a former All-Star who is still only 31 and is very likely to provide you with 150 innings, if healthy. Michael Pineda is another option I like, but many Twins fans are quick to dismiss. His time with Minnesota was stained by so much time he missed due to injuries and the suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that he delivered some very solid innings. In 21 starts in 2021, he pitched the second-most innings for the year (106 1/3 innings) and posted a very decent 3.72 ERA. Odorizzi and Pineda aren’t aces you can rely on for years to come, but either of them (or both) could help the Twins not to suck in 2022. The most important aspect of this season is to take pressure off the development of top pitching prospects who have already reached the major league level, like Ober and Ryan. If prospects like Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic make the leap to the majors this year, they could also benefit from that. Plus, a rotation like this could be considered much better than the one they had last year, so they could have a much better outcome than the one they had in 2021. What do you think? How would you fill those two rotation gaps differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  6. Saddled with Paul Molitor to start his tenure, Falvey tabbed Rocco Baldelli as manager before the 2019 season. A breath of fresh air and a new perspective, Baldelli represented a complete change from the Twins' old guard. While the losing in October hasn’t ceased yet, the club has stockpiled a plethora of solid prospects and could be on the verge of another sustained run. Here’s one writer's opinion of the five best moves Minnesota has made during Derek Falvey’s tenure: 5. Nelson Cruz Signing (Twice) Looking to add thump to their lineup, Falvey inked the long-time designated hitter to a one-year deal worth $14 million (and a second-year option at $12 million). At 38-years-old, there was cause for concern, and he was coming off a slide posting just an .850 OPS for the Mariners. His services were hotly contested, and he wound up being a catalyst for the Bomba Squad. Cruz’s 1.031 OPS was a career-best, and he finished 9th in the American League MVP voting after blasting 41 dingers. His value was estimated as being worth more than $34 million that season by Fangraphs. 4. Nelson Cruz Trade After bringing Cruz back on a one-year deal for $13 million, Minnesota saw the writing on the wall as they slipped down the AL Central standings in 2021. Having posted a .907 OPS through 85 games for the Twins, Cruz was still productive at 40. Despite half of the sport not using the designated hitter, and even fewer teams needing one, Falvey orchestrated a coup in a deal from the Tampa Bay Rays. Acquiring Team USA ace and top-100 prospect Joe Ryan for a few months of Cruz would’ve been great on its own. Minnesota also netted Drew Strotman (a recent Twins Spotlight guest), another strong pitching prospect, and despite Cruz’s greatness here, they couldn’t have packed his bags fast enough for that return. 3. Michael Pineda Signing Signing someone while injured is always a tricky situation, but that’s what Falvey opted to do with Michael Pineda. Needing starting arms, the Twins came to an agreement with the former Yankees starter while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018. Paying him just $10 million over two years, Minnesota got to monitor Pineda’s rehab and set him up to be a rotation mainstay for them in 2019. He turned in a strong 4.01 ERA and was among the many reasons the club was so good. In 2019 alone, Fangraphs valued Pineda’s production north of $20 million. Pineda has been unquestionably the best free-agent move on the pitching front from this front office, taking steps forward in each of the next two seasons. 2. Jorge Polanco Extension After a career-best .773 OPS in 2018, Minnesota decided to lock Polanco up long term. He was signed to a five-year deal with two additional options. The guaranteed portion was for just $25.75 million, or $5.15 million per year. Polanco became a first-time All-Star in 2019, posting an .841 OPS and generating MVP votes for the first time in his career. His 2020 was a slide backward as he dealt with nagging ankle issues, but a switch to second base and a clean bill of health had him rebounding to an .826 OPS in 2021, and he launched a career-best 33 homers. Polanco is among the best second basemen in baseball, and this contract looks like one of the most team-friendly deals across the entire sport. 1. Byron Buxton Extension This one takes the top spot mainly for the impact it could have and would have had it not gotten done. Buxton is a generational talent, and the only thing that has sapped his earning potential is the ability to stay on the field. Now signed to a seven-year, $100 million contract, Buxton looks to expand upon three seasons totaling an .897 OPS. He’s arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game and has come into his power potential; the speed asset to his game is just a cherry on top. Minnesota needed to get this done, and now both parties stand to benefit plenty from one another. What are some of the moves made under Derek Falvey that you would place here? Is there a favorite I missed? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. Whenever a team signs a star in their prime, the pressure automatically mounts. Not just the stress of success, but the heat on how the team will build around that star. Will the Angels ever give Mike Trout enough pitching to win? Can the Phillies build enough strength around Bryce Harper? There’s a constant clock tick, tick, ticking. Trout, 30, has nine years remaining on his deal. How many more years can the Angels expect healthy, MVP-level production? Harper, 29, just won MVP for a Philadelphia team that missed the playoffs once again. $300+ million contracts considerably impact spending, even for teams like the Phillies, Angels, and Yankees. For one, that’s a lot of money on the books for a long time. Additionally, teams must supplement the stars they sign with other All-Star level players. For the Twins, a club that just handed out the second-largest contract in team history, the situation is the same. On a per-game basis, Byron Buxton is in the same tier as his $300 million counterparts. The only thing keeping him from that status is his injury history. Now that Minnesota decided Buxton is the building block, the front office must work to avoid wasting his prime. Buxton, 27, will never combine his elite speed and power more than now. In other words, this is likely the best version of Buxton we’ll ever see. Consider this scenario. The Twins continue to sit around in free agency and on the trade market and fail to muster enough pitching to compete in 2022. Let’s say, on top of that, Buxton plays 140 games and wins MVP. This situation is plausible. While Buxton is one of the most impactful players in MLB, he is only one player. See Harper, Bryce and Trout, Mike. By signing this deal, Buxton commits to a team coming off a last-place finish with an unknown road ahead. If he’s healthy, a gamble the Twins have already decided to make; they have to make it matter. Here’s how they can: 1. SIGN CARLOS RODÓN Rumored to be involved in his sweepstakes, the Twins have an opportunity to add an ace for a cheaper-than-usual price tag. Rodón’s injury history is enough to scare off even the riskiest of teams. He barely got through the 2021 season with dwindling velocity and more arm problems. The healthy version of Rodón was the best pitcher in the league, posting a 2.37 ERA and 35% strikeout rate in 132 2/3 innings. He’s the exact type of gamble a team like the Twins should make. 2. TRADE FOR CHRIS BASSITT Bassitt has the American League’s lowest ERA over the last two seasons (min. 200 innings) and is reportedly available. He works with a deep repertoire of pitches with clear room for improvement. He’d immediately join Rodón as a duo rivaling Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito as the best in the division. 3. RE-SIGN MICHAEL PINEDA Pineda had some hiccups over his three years with the Twins, but he was rock-solid and often gave them a chance to win. Pineda’s 3.80 ERA since 2019 is enough to run back for more. A top three of Rodón, Bassitt, and Pineda would enter the season as one of the best the Twins have ever had. (at least since the season they had Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda atop their rotation) What do you think? Does the Byron Buxton extension put more pressure on 2022? Do you like these moves? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  8. Minnesota’s current rotation is expected to include Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Other rotational options include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, and Lewis Thorpe. Some of the team’s top prospects are also on the 40-man roster, including Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, Drew Strotman, Chis Vallimont, and Josh Winder. Each of the players below is still available with the looming lockout on the horizon. Included with each player is his projected salary, according to the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. 5. RHP Michael Pineda TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million/season Twins fans are well familiar with Pineda, and he likely won’t get the fanbase excited about what he can bring to the rotation. He seems like an excellent candidate to be the team’s number three starter, but that would mean the Twins need to acquire two other arms to put ahead of him in the rotation. Pineda is a known quantity, and he has been a strong veteran presence during his time in Minnesota. He can add rotational depth, but he can’t be the team’s only offseason move. 4. LHP Yusei Kikuchi TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $15 million/season Kikuchi was an All-Star last season, but he struggled mightily in the second half with an ERA close to 6.00. He surrendered the hardest average exit velocity in baseball last season because he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. He will be a project for any team that signs him, but he’s left-handed and has a three-pitch mix, so that’s intriguing. 3. LHP Clayton Kershaw TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Kershaw is a future inner-circle Hall of Fame member, so it seems unlikely for him to sign with a Twins team coming off a last-place finish. In the twilight of his career, Kershaw can pick the right destination for him and his family. That destination won’t be in Minnesota. 2. LHP Carlos Rodon TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Earlier this week, KSTP reported that the Twins were taking a serious run at Carlos Rodon, an intriguing name. He was one of the American League’s best starters last season, but shoulder issues kept him out near the season’s end. Another item to consider is the White Sox didn’t make him a qualifying offer. Chicago knows Rodon’s health better than anyone, and they may believe his injury will continue to linger. 1. RHP Marcus Stroman TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $20 million/season Stroman is one of the last men standing out of the tier one starting pitchers. Twins fans may be suspicious of another pitch-to-contact arm at the top of the team’s rotation. He doesn’t have some of the injury question marks surrounding some of the other top names on this list. Also, his market is likely more extensive than the beginning of the offseason because the supply of top-tier pitchers is running low. Stroman seems like an excellent fit for the Twins, but will they outbid other teams to get an ace. There isn’t much left on the shelf for the Twins to spend money on this winter. Likely, this points to the team needing to make multiple trades to fill numerous rotation spots. Do you think the Twins will be able to add any of these starters? 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
  9. With a lens on 2022, we're judging these acquisitions in terms of immediate impact, so we'll rank them by the fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) in their first season after coming aboard. These are the seven names that stand out. 1. Michael Pineda, 2019 (2.6 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (2 years, $10M) This wasn't actually the first year after Pineda came aboard, because Minnesota signed him ahead of the 2018 season, knowing he'd miss most or all of it while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Once Big Mike was ready to get rolling in 2019, he was every bit the rock-solid mid-rotation starter they sought, posting a 4.01 ERA over 146 innings while leading the team to a 16-10 record in his starts. His PED suspension in September soured the overall season, especially because it prevented him from being able to make an impact in the playoffs (and led to Randy Dobnak starting Game 2). But all that aside, he was a key part of the team's success in 2019, and continued to provide value to the team after re-signing on another two-year deal, posting a 3.57 ERA between 2020 and '21. Takeaway: Patience is a virtue. The Twins were willing to commit money up-front and wait out Pineda's surgery rehab, and it has paid dividends for three years since. 2. Jake Odorizzi, 2018 (2.5 fWAR) Acquired from Tampa Bay in trade The Rays were looking to unload Odorizzi's salary ahead of the 2018 season. Finding a lack of demand in the market, they settled for a trade with Minnesota that brought back middling shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. It was a mystery to me why Tampa couldn't get more for Odorizzi, who posted solid numbers in 2017 and had two years of control remaining. Maybe it was the timing of the move, just before spring training. One could purport he fell into the Twins' laps, but alas, they made the move and no one else did. They were glad it was them. Odorizzi was once again solid in 2018, becoming a much-needed veteran fixture in a rotation that ended up getting nothing from Ervin Santana in the final year of his deal. (In fact, the condition of Santana's surgically-repaired finger when he showed up in camp was likely the primary driver of this move in the first place.) Of course, the real value in Odorizzi's acquisition came the following year, when he blossomed as an All-Star with 4.3 fWAR. Takeaway: If you're willing to take on salary from a small-market team, you can sometimes take advantage of weird desperation moves late in the offseason. 3. Kenta Maeda, 2020 (2.1 fWAR) Acquired from Los Angeles in trade Ranking Maeda third on this list doesn't do him justice. He is easily the most successful pitching acquisition by this front office. If you extrapolate his performance from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season into a 162-game sample, he'd have registered a 5.7 fWAR, which is Cy Young territory. (Accordingly, he finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting.) But to keep things consistent, we'll place him here, and it's fitting in a way, because he wasn't as much of a pure value-add as the two above. Whereas the additions of Pineda and Odorizzi cost the Twins only a bit of money and a dispensable minor-leaguer, acquiring Maeda required the organization to part with its top pitching prospect, Brusdar Graterol. Takeaway: Pay to play. The Twins' most impactful pitching acquisition during this regime has also required the greatest sacrifice. 4. Martin Perez, 2019 (1.9 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3.5 million) I know, I know. Many of you are rolling your eyes and scoffing at the notion of Perez as a "successful" acquisition. For what it's worth, I'd agree with you, and so would Baseball Reference's WAR calculation would agree with you (it had him at 0.1). For whatever reason, FanGraphs' version of the metric is charitable toward his 2019 season even though he posted a 5.12 ERA and 4.66 FIP, unraveling after a strong start. I will say this much: Perez took the ball every fifth day and did enough for an offense-driven club to go 17-12 behind him in 29 starts. Realistically that's probably the kind of thing we need to hope for from a Twins fourth or fifth starter next year. Moreover, while his poor results in 2019 were plain to see, Perez nevertheless found a new home in Boston the following offseason, and has made 48 appearances (34 starts) for the Red Sox over the past two years, not including his four appearances in the most recent ALCS (!). The Twins saw something in Perez and it's hard to say they were entirely wrong. Takeaway: This was an analytics play. The Twins were intrigued by Perez's late-season velocity jump in 2018, and by his experimentation with a cutter. They were onto something – his cutter held opponents to a .269 wOBA in 2019, during which he posted career-high strikeout and swing-and-miss rates. That just didn't end up being enough to offset his shortcomings. 5. Tyler Clippard, 2020 (0.8 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $2.75 million) The last three names on this last will have the same caveat applied as Maeda: their performances came in a shortened season, so the cumulative WAR comparison is not apples to apples. Clippard's 0.8 fWAR would've been pretty decent for a regular full season (Tyler Duffey was worth 0.8 fWAR this year), but when projected to 162 games he'd have been at 2.2, which is like, prime Joe Nathan territory. Clippard did everything for this bullpen. He opened, he closed. He was effective against righties and lefties. He threw strikes, he limited hits, he kept the ball in the yard. Clippard was everything you could ever want from a free agent reliever signing, albeit in an abbreviated sample. Takeaway: The free agent relief market is volatile, but sometimes when you take an inexpensive flier on a veteran who's been consistently good for many years, it works out. 6. Rich Hill, 2020 (0.7 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3 million plus incentives) We can't fairly extrapolate Hill's 2020 season in quite the same way as we can the others. He was recovering from elbow surgery and wouldn't have been available until June or July even if the season started on time. The late start enabled him to join the rotation out of the gates, and he proved to be a quality asset at the back end, posting a 3.03 ERA in eight starts. Nothing special, but for such a low-cost investment, this is exactly what you hope to extract. Takeaway: Like with Pineda, the Twins were rewarded for their patience. They were willing to pay up-front and wait out an elbow rehab. Sometimes that type of willingness can be a differentiator for mid-market teams seeking impact pitching talent. 7. Matt Wisler, 2020 (0.6 fWAR) Claimed off waivers from Seattle Wisler was waived by Seattle after posting a 5.61 ERA in 2019, then the Twins snagged him and watched him put up a 1.07 ERA over 25 ⅓ innings in 2020. It's the kind of fix-up we were hoping to see frequently from this front office, and seemingly a recipe they tried to replicate in 2021 with pickups like Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut and Shaun Anderson – to little success. Takeaway: The Twins love to find a slider they feel they can unlock and unleash. In this case, they were right on the money. In others, maybe not so much. This speaks to the hazardous nature of gambling on fringy talent discarded by other organizations. ~~~ So what did we learn here? What kind of insight can we extract from looking at these seven acquisitions from the past four offseasons? A few things strike me. Patience reaps rewards. The Twins were willing to wait on Pineda and Hill. This played to their advantage. Looking at the current market, one could apply this thinking to someone like Kirby Yates (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last March) or James Paxton (TJ surgery in April). Either one of these free agents could offer massive upside at a relatively low price. By the way, the patience factor also applies to the rhythm of the offseason itself, because this front office pulled off two of its best trades (Odorizzi and Maeda) in February. Rely on analytics to fill the fringes. Say what you will about Perez, but there was validity to the uptick detected in his arsenal. As a low-cost addition at the back of the rotation, he worked out fine. Wisler was a lower-tier bullpen cog, so his emergence was more of a luxury than a necessity, but it sure helped. So long as the Twins are making these kinds of bets in non-essential roles, I hope they'll keep making them. Go big or go home. While this front office has made several good pitching acquisitions, only one could be described as a true immediate slam dunk, and that's Maeda. The Twins needed an ace to slot in front of José Berríos – a monumentally tall task – and they managed to do it. The cost was a brilliant young arm in Graterol. We haven't seen this regime make such an aggressive bid for high-end starting pitching outside of that trade. The only starter they've signed to a multi-year deal is Pineda, which has turned out pretty well but was altogether low-stakes (in both cases). Their interest in Zack Wheeler was well known, and that obviously would've been a big hit if they could've made it happen. Will the Twins find a way to entice a top-tier target of their choosing this winter? The need has never been greater. Hopefully this front office can learn from what's worked – and what hasn't worked – during their first five years, and course-correct after a failed previous offseason. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. Here’s my list, be sure to join in the discussion on who your favorite Twins targets would be down in the comments. 1. Carlos Correa, SS, Houston Astros 2. Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers 3. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves 4. Marcus Semien, 2B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays It’s difficult for me to envision the Twins shopping at the top of the market, but they did show interest in Semien last winter. There are five great shortstop options available on this year’s free agent market and at 31-years-old, Semein is the oldest. Could this be a situation where there's more supply than demand? 5. Trevor Story, SS, Colorado Rockies 6. Nick Castellanos, OF/DH, Cincinnati Reds 7. Kevin Gausman, SP, San Francisco Giants 8. Max Scherzer, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers 9. Kris Bryant, OF/3B, San Francisco Giants 10. Marcus Stroman, SP, New York Mets Short-term fixes are not solving the Twins pitching problems. It would surprise me to see the Twins trade away José Berríos and immediately sign a pitcher to a long-term deal, but I think Stroman is the safest bet among starting pitchers on this year’s market. Some hurlers have higher upsides, but I love Stroman’s high floor. 11. Robbie Ray, SP, Toronto Blue Jays 12. Javier Baez, SS/2B, New York Mets 13. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers 14. Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets Cody Christie recently wrote about Syndergaard and Carlos Rodón as possible pitchers to take a gamble on, check it out. 15. Chris Taylor, OF/IF, Los Angeles Dodgers Do the Twins need a high-end utility man like Taylor? That a question Cody Pirkl pondered in a recent article. 16. Starling Marte, CF, Oakland Athletics 17. Carlos Rodón, SP, Chicago White Sox 18. Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Boston Red Sox If his 4.74 ERA and 1.39 WHIP scare teams away, Rodriguez could be a great rotation target. His FIP was nearly a run and a half lower than his ERA and he had the highest BABIP among starting pitchers with at least 150 innings … by 37 points! E-Rod had a .363 BABIP despite being in the top 87th percentile in hard-hit rate. Rodriguez has been a common target around these parts, mentioned in recent articles from Nick Nelson, Cody Christie and Andrew Mahlke. 19. Raisel Iglesias, RP, Los Angeles Angels 20. Kyle Schwarber, OF/1B, Boston Red Sox 21. Kenley Jansen, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers 22. Jon Gray, SP, Colorado Rockies I like Gray as a fit for the Twins but question whether Colorado will let him out of their grasp. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s extended a qualifying offer tomorrow. The Rockies have discussed extensions with him recently and I expect them to be proactive about trying to bring him back. It’s just so difficult for them to land free agent pitchers. Gray has had positive things to say about the org, so I’m anticipating a reunion, unfortunately for the Twins. 23. J.D. Martinez, DH/OF, Boston Red Sox 24. Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets 25. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants 26. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, New York Yankees 27. Justin Verlander, SP, Houston Astros Verlander is said to be seeking a multi-year deal, and after making just one start over the past two seasons, I have a hard time believing the top destination teams are going to be jumping at that. This Twins front office hasn’t been averse to adding aging players in the past (Nelson Cruz, Rich Hill, J.A. Happ), so I could see them kicking the tires on the future Hall of Famer. 28. Jorge Soler, OF/DH, Atlanta Braves 29. Avisail Garcia, OF, Milwaukee Brewers Pitching is clearly the Twins biggest need, followed by shortstop, but they could also use a right-handed bat. Garcia has obliterated lefties over his career, posting a .294/.363./.464 line (.827 OPS). Lucas Sheehafer recently wrote about the need for improvement out of left field, check it out. 30. Alex Wood, SP, San Francisco Giants 31. Anthony DeSclafani, SP, San Francisco Giants 32. Eduardo Escobar, 3B/2B, Milwaukee Brewers 33. Nelson Cruz, DH, Tampa Bay Rays 34. Eddie Rosario, OF, Atlanta Braves 35. Alex Cobb, SP, Los Angeles Angels You may know Cobb from such roles as the mystery player in my most recent article. 36. Mark Canha, OF, Oakland Athletics 37. Zack Greinke, SP, Houston Astros 38. Steven Matz, SP, Toronto Blue Jays 39. Michael Pineda, SP, Minnesota Twins Pineda has been a Twin for the past four years (though he spent the first rehabbing), could he be back for 2022? Not many free agents will view Minnesota as an attractive destination, but Big Mike loves it here. A reunion for his age-33 season would make a lot of sense for both sides. 40. Danny Duffy, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers 41. Corey Kluber, SP, New York Yankees 42. Corey Knebel, RP, Los Angeles Dodgers There are a number of relievers in this 40-50 range and several more who just missed my list. Knebel is the guy who intrigues me most. He missed the entire 2019 season recovering from Tommy John, then was terrible in a short sample in 2020. He missed three months of this season due to a back injury, but looked great from there and capped things off with an impressive postseason. 43. Kendall Graveman, RP, Houston Astros 44. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Philadelphia Phillies 45. Kyle Seager, 3B, Seattle Mariners 46. Collin McHugh, RP, Tampa Bay Rays 47. Yusei Kikuchi, SP, Seattle Mariners 48. Jonathan Villar, IF, New York Mets 49. Joc Pederson, OF, Atlanta Braves 50. Mark Melancon, RP, San Diego Padres See some surprises? Me too, actually. It’s funny, if you had me re-rank these guys a couple of weeks from now I’m sure I’d have a few things slightly different. This is a good, deep free agent class and there’s not a lot that separates some of these players. In the video below I called out some of the guys I felt were most likely I had too low. Who are your favorite potential Twins targets on this year’s free agent market?
  11. A lot of Twins fans are angered by the front office “refusing to spend big money”. The problem doesn’t lie in not spending, as we see yet another phenomenal season by the penny-pinching Tampa Bay Rays. In 2021, the Twins gave J.A. Happ a one-year deal for $8MM. He had a 63 ERA+ and was in the 5th percentile of all qualified pitchers in Barrel %. Here are his percentile rankings from Baseball Savant: Simply put, Happ was one of the worst pitchers in the league in 2021. Remember that the Twins signed him for a one-year, $8 million deal. Robbie Ray is probably going to win the American League Cy Young award in 2021. He posted an AL-leading 154 ERA+ and led all of MLB with 248 strikeouts pitchers in the league in 2021. He also decreased his walk rate from 17.9% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2021. Here are his percentile rankings: Ray was outstanding in 2021. He was a free agent before the 2021 season and re-signed very quickly with the Toronto Blue Jays. Guess what his contract was? If you guessed that his contract was one-year and $8 million, you would be correct. In November of 2020, Robbie Ray signed an identical contract to what J.A. Happ would receive two months later. It’s not that the Twins won’t spend money on players, it’s that they aren’t spending money on the right players. If you want to see another case of this, take a look at Corey Knebel’s 2021 numbers and know that the Twins paid Alex Colome $250K more than him in 2021. Without further ado, let’s get into my 2021-22 offseason blueprint. Using Twins Daily’s handy roster-building tool I created this roster: Let’s break this roster down. Starting Rotation It is no secret that this is the most important need on the roster. In 2021, the Twins starting pitchers finished dead last in bWAR in all of MLB. The only starting pitchers from 2021 still on the roster are Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom impressed in 2021 campaigns but are both still unproven. If the Twins want to contend in 2022, the front office needs to vastly improve their starting pitching. The first thing they should do is sign Carlos Rodon to a five-year, $115 million deal. If the White Sox choose not to extend Rodon after a Cy Young-caliber 2021 season, the front office needs to make him their #2 priority (more on that later). Rodon’s four-seamer was the most effective pitch in baseball in 2021 in terms of run value, being worth -26 runs. He also had the sixth most effective slider in baseball, worth -14 runs. And come on, just look at these percentile rankings. Rodon is not viewed by the general public as highly as other starters on the market such as Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and Marcus Stroman. I would pay Rodon more than all three of them. Despite his breakout season, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and him being signed for anything less than $20MM would be an absolute tragedy. The next starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Eduardo Rodriguez. The Twins should give Rodriguez a two-year, $24 million contract. There are a number of starters I could have targeted in this price range, including Jon Gray and Anthony DeSclafani. I went with Rodriguez because he may be undervalued because of his below-average 2021 statistics. When you look deeper, Rodriguez was one of the unluckiest pitchers in the league in 2021. Rodriguez has a lot of qualities I look for in a middle-to-top of the rotation starter. He doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, strikes out a good amount, and could blossom into a stud. I wrote about Rodriguez and other free agents here. The last starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Michael Pineda. Pineda is a familiar face for Twins fans, having spent the last four seasons with the organization. Pineda was solid, posting a 116 ERA+ in his three seasons in Minnesota. He rarely walks batters and has an above-average slider, having a whiff rate of 37.7% with the slider and allowing a miniscule .252 xWOBA on the pitch in 2021. He would provide a veteran presence and some familiarity to a Twins rotation. The offer to Pineda is a one-year deal worth $7 million. The Lineup Because in my blueprint I spent $42 million on starting pitchers, I'll have to scale back what the team can spend on the lineup. Let’s get into it. Going down the lineup, the first change we see is I made Alex Kirilloff the everyday first baseman. Kirilloff is a phenomenal young player who I believe will someday play in several all-star games. In 2021, Kirilloff had two outs above average at 1B compared to Miguel Sano’s -6. Sano will be the full-time DH who can occasionally play first base if Kirilloff needs a day off or plays in the outfield. The next change I made is signing Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $3 million deal. In my free agent target article, I mentioned maybe signing Carlos Correa or Chris Taylor to play the position. Unfortunately, that is not something the Twins could do while remaining around the $130 million budget because of the pitching needs. So instead, I am going to echo Nick Nelson's plan and sign Galvis on a cheap deal for one year with hopes Austin Martin or Royce Lewis could take the reins at shortstop in 2023 or even at some point in 2022. Galvis is not an outstanding player but is definitely serviceable. In the outfield, I have Brent Rooker starting the season in left field. Other guys who would be seeing time here would be Gilberto Celestino, Luis Arraez, Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Jose Miranda. This is by no means a set spot and whoever has a hot bat or the best matchup would be playing on any given day. In center field, the Twins give Byron Buxton a newly-inked deal. Extending Buxton is the top priority this offseason, no doubt. I wrote an extensive article highlighting what a potential deal should look like and why. It would be a seven-year, $133 million deal plus incentives for games played. The incentives are not set in stone. and I am open to listening to whatever Buxton’s side wants for incentives because as long as he’s on the field, he will be the team's best player and helping win games in so many ways. Our roster includes Trevor Larnach starting the season in right field. This is a little bit of a concern for me given his late-season struggles in 2021 and his demotion to St. Paul, but from the glimpses he showed earlier in the season and the potential he has, I have faith in Larnach to figure it out. This obviously raises the question: where did Max Kepler go? Kepler is a talented outfielder, and he is owed about $16 million over the next two seasons, which is a team-friendly contract for a player of his caliber. The Marlins are a young up-and-coming team that could use a solid outfielder and Kepler is exactly that. They are likely to value Kepler’s contract, and I believe the return could be good. This is why we should trade Max Kepler to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Twins would be receiving the Marlins sixth best-prospect, RHP Eury Perez, their seventh best prospect, LHP Jake Eder, and their 21st prospect, outfielder Griffin Conine. Perez is 6’8” and throws a fastball in the mid 90s. He had a very strong showing in High-A this year and is still only 18 years old. Eder had a very strong season in AA and features a fastball that has been up to 98 as well as a wipeout slider. Conine is a power-hitting corner outfielder who hit 36 home runs between high-A and AA in 2021. This is a very good return for Kepler so the Twins would add #19 prospect, RHP Cole Sands who had a good year in AA. According to baseballtradevalues.com, this is a very even trade. It would be a trade that would give the Twins some much needed pitching depth and add to a bright collection of pitching prospects. The Bullpen (Arm-Barn?) With the additions to the lineup and rotation, we don’t have a ton of spending flexibility for the bullpen. With Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar all returning, there are four spots to fill. Here is how I filled those spots: Randy Dobnak ($800K) is the long reliever. Dobnak is a good fit for this role if he can get back to his 2019-20 form. He is a strike-thrower who is efficient and could eat innings. He could also make a spot start, if needed. Ryan Tepera ($5 million) is the set-up man who could close a game too. I wrote about Tepera in my free agent targets article, and he would be an instant stud in the back end of the bullpen. He spent time in 2021 on both sides of Chicago and was excellent, being in the 96th percentile for xERA. With a nasty slider and fastball to pair with it, Tepera would be an excellent signing, especially given Rogers’ uncertainty. Heath Hembree ($1 million) is in a middle-relief role. I also wrote extensively about Hembree and his bad luck. Hembree’s high spin rates lead to exceptional strikeout numbers and with a little more luck in 2022, he would be a fantastic addition to our bullpen especially at this price. Griffin Jax ($600K) is also in a long relief role. Jax made quite a few starts in 2021 and was unimpressive. In a relief role he could let it eat a little more. If he revamps his pitch arsenal (more offspeed!), he would be a good pitcher in a long relief role. Jax’s slider had a xWOBA of .270 in 2021, compared to his fastball’s xWOBA of .402. He would be a fun pitcher to watch progress as he learns what does and doesn’t work at the major-league level. I think the poor bullpen in 2021 was a little fluky and keeping the same core four (Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar) along with adding a few good pieces could make our 2022 bullpen a lot better. They also could build bullpen depth with minor leaguers such as Jovani Moran, Ralph Garza Jr., and Jhoan Duran. Summary With this blueprint, I tried to keep it realistic with signings the Twins would be likely to make, and I tried to stay within a reasonable budget. For the most part, I want to not overcommit to free agency so the Twins can still have flexibility to build from within. I gave one or two year deals to Rodriguez, Galvis, Tepera, Pineda, and Hembree. Along with that, extending Buxton for seven years is big, and getting a stud starting pitcher in Rodon and the team could be ready to compete in 2022. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! What do you think of this offseason blueprint. 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  12. Minnesota will have money to spend on the free-agent market, but that doesn’t mean the club has unlimited funds to spend. Finding value in the free-agent market is something successful organizations do well, and it is an area this front office needs to improve. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Projected Cost: $12 million At 28-years old, Rodriguez is relatively young to be reaching free agency, and there are multiple factors to consider when looking at his recent seasons. He missed all of 2020 after contracting COVID and later being diagnosed with myocarditis. His 2021 season was underwhelming as he posted a 4.74 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP in 157 2/3 innings. Even with these poor numbers, there were some positive signs. Rodriguez strikes out a ton of batters as he posted a career-high 10.6 SO/9 in 2021. Over the last four seasons, he has combined to post a 113 ERA+ with nearly 10 K/9. He has a 3.71 FIP compared to a 4.13 ERA, so there may be signs of some bad luck impacting his numbers. Getting out of the gauntlet that is the AL East can also help a pitcher to improve. Michael Pineda, RHP Projected Cost: $8 Twins fans are very familiar with Pineda after he has spent the last four seasons as a member of the organization. He isn’t someone to get overly excited about, but he is a constant veteran pitcher. During his Twins tenure, he posted a 3.80 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 282 innings. However, those numbers came with time missed due to injury and suspension. Pineda may seem like he has been around forever, but he is still only 32-years-old. Minnesota will need rotational depth, and Pineda can help a young pitching staff adjust to the big-league level. That being said, fans may be significantly underwhelmed by bringing back Pineda if it hinders the team’s ability to sign more significant free-agent options. Andrew Heaney, LHP Projected Cost: $5 million Heaney might be the lowest buy-low candidate as the Yankees designated him for assignment last year, and he went unclaimed. New York had acquired him from Los Angeles at the trade deadline for a pair of minor leaguers. His time in the Bronx was rough after he allowed 13 home runs in 12 appearances. His time with the Angels was slightly better as he posted a 5.27 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP. Like Rodriguez, Heaney has strong strikeout numbers even amid his 2021 struggles. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 9.9 K/9 mark with a 1.25 WHIP, and his 4.81 ERA is nearly half a run higher than his FIP. His fastball spin and his chase rate both rank in the 90th percentile or higher. Heaney clearly isn’t a top of the rotation starter, but finding a new organization might help him refocus his career. To read more about this year’s crop of free-agent pitchers, make sure to order your copy of the 2022 Offseason Handbook. If you order today, it will be sent directly to your email. Which pitcher do you think the Twins are most likely to target? 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
  13. Before taking a look at the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and the players Minnesota will need to protect, it’s worth getting the lay of the land for guys headed onto the open market. Minnesota has a handful of 40 man players that will be on their way out, and some minor leaguers will also be worth keeping tabs on once they exit the organization. First, let’s take a look at the guys currently on the 40 man roster: Michael Pineda, Alexander Colome*, Andrelton Simmons Both Pineda and Simmons are sure to be jettisoned this week. The former is a strong candidate to re-sign with the Twins, while the latter should be expected to wind up elsewhere. Given Minnesota’s 2022 pitching outlook, bringing Pineda back to bolster the starting rotation would be an excellent decision. The one uncertain candidate here is closer Alexander Colome. He fell flat for Minnesota but did rebound somewhat down the stretch. His career numbers have been better than in 2021, and free agency isn’t a straightforward process for him. Both parties have a mutual option for 2022, and the value checks in at $5.5 million. His $1.25 million buyout is forfeited if Minnesota exercises their option but Colome declines (which would seem the least likely scenario). Notable Minor Leaguers: Melvi Acosta, Adam Bray, Trey Cabbage, Wander Javier, Hector Lujan, Carlos Suniaga, Aaron Whitefield, B.J. Boyd The three most prominent names in this group are sandwiched in the middle. Trey Cabbage was a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft. He reached Double-A Wichita this season and posted an .882 OPS over 68 games. It was a solid season for the 24-year-old. Minnesota could consider a 40 man roster addition, but if not, he’ll reach the open market for the first time. Once a top prospect, Wander Javier finds himself at a critical juncture in his career. He’ll be 23-years-old next season and has played in just 226 professional games. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, things just have never followed the tools that have impressed through evaluations. Javier was at Cedar Rapids last season, although it did represent High-A this time around. He posted a sub-.700 OPS but did show flashes after a very slow start. He may find a better path forward in a different organization. Lujan represents a definite grinder when it comes to prospects. He was a 35th round pick back in 2015 but reached Double-A during the 2019 season. Pitching all of 2021 for Wichita, the numbers looked good enough for Triple-A or big-league consideration. Nothing is extremely flashy for the reliever, but there are solid numbers across the board, and he could factor as a depth middle-reliever. The other pitchers noted above have shown flashes of capability that could be useful at the big league level. Acosta, Bray, and Suniaga are more unknown names but have made a presence for themselves through performance. In the box, Whitefield has previously debuted with the Twins while Boyd put up strong numbers at Double-A in 2021. A whole host of veteran or non-prospect types will also hit free agency as Minnesota needs to decide who will be offered deals for the upcoming year. Free agency could also look slightly different this offseason, with the CBA negotiations likely dictating the ultimate timeline for players. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 50 INNINGS TO QUALIFY* KENTA MAEDA 2021: 21 starts, 106 1/3 IP, 4.66 ERA (91 ERA+), 25% K, 7% BB After a career year in 2020, expectations were through the roof for Kenta Maeda in 2021. He was now the clear No. 1 on the staff, with PECOTA projecting him to be the third most valuable pitcher (by WARP) in the American League, behind only Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole. PECOTA cast him as a top-six starter in all of baseball, ahead of aces Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Corbin Burnes. It was apparent from Opening Day that wasn’t going to happen. Maeda’s command was faulty for much of the first half, contributing to a 5.56 ERA in his first 12 starts. His fastball velocity was down an entire tick from 2020, a key warning sign for his eventual elbow surgery. Before he was pulled for good at Yankee Stadium, Maeda was on an eight-start stretch where he posted a 2.98 ERA, 3.08 FIP, and a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk rate, in line with 2020. He was replicating the dominance, but it wouldn’t last long. Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery on September 1st, knocking him out until next June at the absolute earliest. It was an injury-riddled, forgettable season for Maeda, although he did pitch well for much of his second half. GRADE: C- JOSÉ BERRÍOS 2021 (with Twins): 20 starts, 121 2/3 IP, 3.48 ERA (122 ERA+), 25.7% K, 6.5% BB For the first time since his breakout in 2017, Berríos entered the season as the Twins’ second-best starter. He dazzled the Milwaukee Brewers in the second game of the year, pitching six perfect innings and further flashing his immense talent. Would this be his Cy Young tour? It wasn’t, but Berríos was still very good for the Twins. He replicated his numbers to this point of his career, which paints him as one of the best 20 or 30 starters in baseball. Berríos carried the Twins’ rotation through injuries and ineffectiveness, leading the team in innings despite being traded in July. José’s 2021 season, along with his career as a Twin, will be remembered in a very positive way. He’s the Twins’ best homegrown pitcher since Johan Santana, and he regularly gave them a chance to win. GRADE: B+ MICHAEL PINEDA 2021: 21 starts, 109 1/3 IP, 3.62 ERA (117 ERA+), 19.2% K, 4.6% BB We won’t know the full effects of the 2020 Covid season for quite some time, but it impacted Pineda. Because of his suspension, he pitched only 26 2/3 game innings from September of 2019 to April of 2021. On the one hand, Pineda barely surpassed 100 innings and required numerous IL stints throughout the year. His fastball velocity was down, and his strikeout rate was the lowest of his career. But here’s the beauty with him: it often doesn’t matter. He gets outs. Pineda was solidly above league-average with depleted stuff and ranked 20th in ERA+ (117) among 64 American League pitchers who threw at least 100 innings. Pineda was also outstanding in September, posting a 1.85 ERA in five Twins wins. The righty could return for another run if both sides see fit. GRADE: B MATT SHOEMAKER 2021: 11 starts, 60 1/3 IP, 8.06 ERA (53 ERA+), 14.1% K, 9.5% BB It may be hard to believe, but Shoemaker’s $2 million deal with the Twins initially looked savvy. He had a track record of injuries but also of success. Shoemaker entered the year with a career 103 ERA+, placing him above league average in over 600 innings. It was a reasonable plan: get as many quality innings as possible from Shoemaker and replace him with Randy Dobnak if need be. Great in theory, awful in practice. Shoemaker exploded after a strong debut in Detroit, allowing 53 runs over his next 54 1/3 innings. Shoemaker allowed opponents to hit .297/.367/.537 with 15 homers in just over 60 innings. His opponent’s OPS of .903 matches Kirby Puckett’s All-Star campaign in 1986, when he won the Silver Slugger award and finished sixth for MVP. Woof. GRADE: F- J.A. HAPP 2021: 19 starts, 98 1/3 IP, 6.77 ERA (63 ERA+), 17.3% K, 7% BB The J.A. Happ signing is an excellent example of ceiling and floor. The Twins inked Happ with an expectation of 150 innings of decent ball. Happ owned a 3.74 ERA in over 900 innings since 2015, so the veteran seemed like a sure thing. “Happer" was off and running with a sterling 1.91 ERA and .509 opponent’s OPS over his first five starts. With Alexander Colomé struggling, Matt Shoemaker matching him, and Andrelton Simmons middling, did the Twins make the right call on Happ? Oh, no, no, no. Unfortunately, the declining strikeout rates and fastball velocity were indeed an omen. The towering lefty got crushed by the White Sox in his next start and never looked back. From that point on, Happ allowed 92 runs in 124 innings. The Twins needed him, and he responded by allowing 28 homers, or over two per nine innings. Happ was slightly better than Shoemaker but did his damage over a larger sample. He was traded for RHP John Gant at the deadline. GRADE: F- BAILEY OBER 2021: 20 starts, 92 1/3 IP, 4.19 ERA (102 ERA+), 25.3% K, 5% BB Let’s get back on track with a promising rookie. Any reasonable expectation for Ober’s 2021 likely involved a late-September call-up, despite awe-inspiring numbers in the minors and increased velocity. Ober blew that out of the water. He had a 5.84 ERA after six starts, but his response was everything. Ober emerged as the Twins’ best starter with a 3.59 ERA and .282 opponent’s On-Base Percentage over his final 14 starts. Ober shut down prolific offenses along the way. He held the Red Sox scoreless at Fenway, stymied the White Sox at Target Field, and finished his campaign with five-plus great innings against a desperate and outstanding Blue Jays lineup. For someone who very few even mentioned among the Twins’ best handful of pitching prospects, he did pretty well. Most impressively, Ober still posted a better-than-average ERA despite allowing more homers (20) than walks (19). There’s room for growth. GRADE: A RANDY DOBNAK 2021: 6 starts, 14 games, 50 2/3 IP, 7.64 ERA (56 ERA+), 11.8% K, 5.3% BB "Dobber" signed an extension after shining for much of his first two seasons as a Twin. He posted a 3.12 ERA and 3.56 FIP in a combined 75 innings. In 2020, Dobnak’s sinker had more horizontal movement than any sinker in baseball (min. 300 pitches). You’d have to double the 3.4 inches of break on second-placed Adrian Houser’s sinker (3.4) to even get near Dobnak (7.8). Due to his finger injury or strange usage patterns early in the season, Dobnak never got on track in 2021. He was largely poor out of the bullpen and equally struggled as a starter. He got crushed with a declining groundball and strikeout rate. Hope for Dobnak remains. His sinker movement was still in elite territory but was down significantly from 2020. If he can get healthy and shore up his command, a bounce back in 2022 is definitely in the cards. GRADE: F GRIFFIN JAX 2021: 14 starts, 82 IP, 6.37 ERA (67 ERA+), 18.1% K, 8.1% BB Jax, like Ober, carried little expectations going into the season. He’d posted solid minor league numbers but remained under the radar due to less-than-stellar velocity or strikeout rates. Called up in early June, Jax entered his first four games as a reliever before making his first start on July 3rd in Kansas City. He became a fixture in the rotation, starting 14 games and working through massive home run issues (23 allowed in 82 IP). It’s hard to post a 6.37 ERA and *increase* your stock, but Jax had drastic splits. He held opponents to a .175 average and .597 OPS the first time through the order. This shows that Jax’s stuff can play, just maybe not as a starter. With a slider averaging nearly 3,000 RPMs of spin and a fastball that can reach 95, a future bullpen role looks promising. Spot him up against mostly righties with an exclusive fastball-slider combo and enjoy the results. GRADE: D+ 2021 MINNESOTA TWINS GRADES Starting Pitchers Infielders - Coming Soon! Relief Pitchers - Coming Soon! Outfielders - Coming Soon! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email — For The Locked On Twins Podcast, Click Here
  15. Leading into the 2018 season, the Twins took a unique approach to add to the starting rotation. Michael Pineda was recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he didn't appear in a game for the club that season. Minnesota was showing faith in Pineda, and he rewarded that faith during his Twins tenure. There are usually struggles in a player’s first season back from Tommy John surgery, but Pineda slid into the Twins rotation and posted a 113 ERA+. His 4.01 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in a heightened offensive atmosphere helped the Twins clinch the AL Central for the first time since 2010. Unfortunately, Pineda wasn’t able to help the Twins in October. He was handed an 80-game suspension in early September for taking a banned diuretic. The suspension was later reduced to 60 games after he and his representation argued that he was using it to control his weight, not as a masking agent for performance-enhancing drugs. It was still a blow to the Twins as the team started rookie Randy Dobnak in the ALDS Game 2 at Yankee Stadium. Entering that off-season, Pineda was a free agent, and his Twins tenure could have ended at that point. However, Minnesota showed confidence in him and his abilities by signing him to another two-year deal. He missed the start of the 2020 campaign, but the team thought they’d have him to upgrade the rotation before the All-Star Break. The 2020 season didn’t start like anyone planned, which meant Pineda couldn’t debut until the season’s final month. He made five starts and allowed three earned runs or fewer in each appearance. Pineda didn’t have a chance to make an October start, but he ended the year with a 3.38 ERA and a 25 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio in 26 2/3 innings. His performance gave hope that he could help the Twins contend again in 2021. Things haven’t gone perfectly for Pineda in 2021, as he missed six weeks on the injured list with an oblique strain and forearm inflammation. When on the mound, he provided value with 117 ERA+. He made 53 appearances with the Twins and held opponents to three or fewer earned runs in 83% of those outings. His strikeout per nine is lower than his career total, but he has also reduced his walk rate. His steadying presence is something the organization might need moving forward. Looking to 2022, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan are the only starters penciled into the starting rotation. Pineda is a veteran that can add depth to a rotation even if he isn’t a high-end starter that can push the Twins back into contention. “He’s been about as important of a member of this group over the last three years as anyone,” Rocco Baldelli told reporters. “He’s been a constant, his performance has been a constant, his leadership has been a constant, and his personality, too, which matters.” Pineda isn’t an ace, but the Twins need pitching depth, and he is a known quantity. He’s made it clear that he wants to stay in Minnesota, but the two sides will need to work out a fair deal for each sides. Do you think Pineda has made his last start in Minnesota? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  16. Box Score Starting Pitcher: Pineda 5.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K Homeruns: Polanco (32) Top 3 WPA: Pineda (0.181), Polanco (0.163), Duffey (0.121) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Jorge Polanco Give Twins Early Lead The Twins bats got off to a quick start in this ballgame providing some instant offensive support for Michael Pineda. Luis Arraez got things started with a single and advanced to second on a weakly-hit infield single from Byron Buxton. This set the table for Jorge Polanco, who promptly drove the very next pitch out of the ballpark, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Michael Pineda Has Strong Final Start of the Season With the Twins season coming to an end on Sunday, this was almost assuredly the final start of Michael Pineda’s season, and potentially his final start in a Twins uniform, as he will be a free agent at season’s end. Pineda held the Tigers offense scoreless on three singles through the first three innings of the ballgame, before surrendering his lone run of the game in the fourth. Robbie Grossman got the Tigers fourth started with a single, before Pineda struck Miguel Cabrera with a pitch. Grossman advanced to third on a Jeimer Candelario fly out, and then scored on this comebacker that struck Pineda. Twins Add Insurance Runs in the 8th Protecting small leads in the 9th have plagued the Twins all season, so the offense adding two insurance runs in the 8th inning to double their lead felt bigger than they usually would. After making a great catch to end the top of the inning, Byron Buxton led off the bottom of the inning and was hit by the first pitch he saw. Buxton then stole second, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Tigers catcher Eric Haase. Buxton would later come in to score on an RBI base-hit from Max Kepler. Miguel Sano followed the Kepler hit with a one-out walk to load the bases for Nick Gordon who hit a shallow fly ball to center that did not appear deep enough to score Josh Donaldson from third, but he tagged up anyway and scored the Twins fifth run of the game thanks to an off target throw home. Bullpen Usage Chart FRI SAT SUN TUE WED TOT Garza Jr. 0 0 18 19 0 37 Vincent 0 0 33 0 0 33 Thielbar 0 0 17 13 0 30 Coulombe 0 37 0 0 0 37 Farrell 0 18 0 0 0 18 Duffey 17 0 0 18 21 56 Barraclough 0 33 0 0 0 33 Colomé 5 0 0 26 18 49 Minaya 19 0 0 0 22 41 Moran 0 19 0 0 0 19 Alcalá 6 0 0 10 0 16 What's Next? The Twins have their final home game of the 2021 season on Thursday night, as they look to complete the three-game sweep of the Tigers. Joe Ryan is scheduled to pitch for the Twins opposite Tarik Skubal. First pitch is scheduled for 6:40 pm CDT. Post Game Interviews
  17. Box Score Pineda: 5 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K Home runs: Gordon (4) Top 3 WPA: Garver .245, Gordon .202, Buxton .180 Win Probability Chart (Via FanGraphs) The Minnesota Twins leaned on Michael Pineda on the mound tonight in what could be one of his final starts as a member of the organization. Big Mike provided a steady start for the Twins, tossing five innings, allowing just eight hits and two runs and striking out two. The first run the Blue Jays scored was right away in the top of the second inning when Lourdes Gurriel knocked an RBI double. The Twins quickly rebounded in the third inning, though, when they got a leadoff double from Byron Buxton followed by an RBI single from Jorge Polanco and later an RBI single from Mitch Garver. The Blue Jays quickly rebounded in the fourth inning when Teoscar Hernandez hit a solo home run off of Pineda to tie the game, his 30th home run of the season. After that, though, it was all Minnesota the rest of the way, highlighted by the bat of red-hot Nick Gordon who smashed a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning and an RBI single in the seventh. The home run was Gordon’s fourth on the season, and his four-RBI game marks a career high for the long-time Twins prospect. Nick Gordon’s batting average is now up to .263 on the season with a respectable OPS of .711. Gordon continues to make a case for a roster spot on the 2022 team. The Twins’ bullpen was nails in relief of Michael Pineda as they received four scoreless innings from a combination of Nick Vincent, Caleb Thielbar, Luke Farrell and Ralph Garza, Jr. In the end, the Twins took the game 7-2 and won their third straight game to move their record to 68-85 on the season. Postgame Interviews What’s Next The Minnesota Twins will continue their four-game home series against the Blue Jays on Friday night, sending Bailey Ober to the mound to face off against former Twins’ ace, José Berríos. Bullpen Usage Chart SAT SUN TUE WED THU TOT Barraclough 32 0 35 0 0 67 Vincent 0 40 0 0 13 53 Thielbar 0 22 16 0 14 52 Minaya 0 36 0 13 0 49 Moran 34 0 0 0 0 34 Farrell 0 34 0 0 19 53 Duffey 0 0 11 12 0 23 Alcalá 0 0 10 10 0 20 Colomé 0 0 7 24 0 31 Garza Jr. 17 0 0 0 16 33 Coulombe 0 0 17 0 0 17
  18. Box Score Pineda: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K (71.9% strikes) Home Runs: Polanco (31), Donaldson (23), Sanó (29), Rooker (8) Top 3 WPA: Rooker .141, Buxton .117, Donaldson .095 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Minnesota’s first trip to Rogers Centre in almost two and a half years became fun very early. Both starters, Michael Pineda for the Twins and Hyun Jin Ryu for the Blue Jays, pitched economical, scoreless first innings. But then both teams combined for nine runs in the following two innings. Miguel Sanó drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second and scored a couple of at-bats later on a Brent Rooker double, putting the Twins ahead. But an awful defensive mistake in the bottom half of that same inning gave Toronto a couple of runs that put them ahead. With two outs, Pineda induced a weak ground ball that would have ended the inning. However, Jorge Polanco overthrew Sanó, allowing Corey Dickerson to score from second and Danny Jansen to reach first. Then, Jake Lamb doubled to score Jansen, making it 2-1 Toronto. Minnesota makes it ugly for Ryu In a quick “Bomba Squad” flashback, the Twins exploded for five runs on five hits in their half of the third, including three home runs, before Toronto could record a single out! The game was suddenly tied after Ryan Jeffers hit a leadoff single and Byron Buxton pushed him across with a double. Then, Polanco redeemed himself from his previous error and regained the lead for Minnesota with a two-run shot. The party wasn’t over. Josh Donaldson, who got a warm welcome from the Jays fans earlier, made it back-to-back with a bomb to right field, giving the Twins a three-run lead, prompting some Donaldson-jersey-wearing Toronto fans to boo him. That was fun. Not so much for Ryu, who was immediately pulled from the game by Jays’ manager Charlie Montoyo. That was Donaldson’s 64th home run at Rogers Centre, the most by any active player in the majors. Miggy Smalls didn’t want to feel left out, so he followed Donaldson’s homer with a dinger of his own, his 29th of the season. That was also the 160th long ball of his career, putting him even closer to the Twins’ all-time top 10 in total home runs. He needs four more on the year to drop Tom Brunansky from 10th place. In the bottom half of the inning, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. got one run back to Toronto, hitting a rocket (111 MPH exit velocity) to left field, his 46th home run of the season. Pineda, bullpen finish off strong Big Mike got in the zone after that Guerrero Jr. home run in the third. Pineda retired eight in a row from that moment on, with a couple of 1-2-3 innings. After throwing 45 pitches to complete 2 1/3 innings, he needed only 30 to complete the next 2 2/3 innings. Rooker gave Pineda even more run support hitting a solo home run in the top of the sixth, making it 7-3 Minnesota. Pineda came back and retired the first two batters of the sixth on only four pitches, making it ten batters in a row retired. But he lost Teoscar Hernández on a ten-pitch walk, causing Rocco Baldelli to take him out of the game. Jorge Alcalá took care of the inherited runner for him, concluding Pineda’s solid line for the evening. Is it possible that tonight’s outing from Big Mike might have changed Twins Daily’s Cody Pirkl’s mind about a possible reunion in 2022? Alcalá came back for the seventh, and he continued his amazing second-half run. By pitching a clean, seven-pitch inning, the Dominican flamethrower has now posted a 1.42 ERA since the start of August. He needed only 13 pitches to get four outs, 10 of which were strikes. He also maxed out at 99.8 MPH. Tyler Duffey was equally brilliant, striking out the side for a 1-2-3 eighth. Alexander Colomé closed out the game with a scoreless inning of his own, securing the win. A fun stat from the Twins bullpen: according to Fangraphs, before tonight's game, the Twins bullpen has ranked 8th in ERA (3.64) since the start of August. Could we be seeing some encouraging signs for 2022? Bailey Ober will try to keep the winning streak in Toronto tomorrow against Steven Matz. With Friday's win, the Twins haven't lost a game at Rogers Centre since Aug 26, 2017. Saturday's first pitch is scheduled for 2:07 CDT. Postgame Interviews Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Duffey 38 0 0 0 16 54 Colomé 27 11 0 0 14 52 Barraclough 23 16 0 0 0 39 Farrell 34 0 0 0 0 34 Moran 0 0 34 0 0 34 Coulombe 0 27 0 0 0 27 Vincent 0 0 21 0 0 21 Alcalá 0 8 0 0 13 21 Minaya 0 13 0 0 0 13 Thielbar 11 0 0 0 0 11 Garza Jr. 6 0 0 0 0 6
  19. Box Score Michael Pineda: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K Home Runs: Byron Buxton (13), Jorge Polanco 2 (29), Nick Gordon (2), Max Kepler (17) Top 3 WPA: Michael Pineda .169, Jorge Polanco .167, Byron Buxton .095 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco announced their presence in the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back home runs, setting the tone for the Twins’ offense for the remainder of the game. Nick Gordon followed with a solo shot of his own one inning later, and Max Kepler contributed another in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Polanco’s second dinger of the evening extended the Twins’ lead to 6-1, which was more than enough to propel them to victory. Polanco finished the evening with three hits in five plate appearances and raised his slash line to .280/.336/.520 in 133 games. His 29 home runs represent the most in franchise history by a switch-hitter and by a second baseman not named Brian Dozier. With his performance Saturday evening, Polanco eclipsed the 4.0 fWAR mark, placing him inside the top 25 performers on offense this season. While he did not make the All-Star team and got off to a slow start while still recovering from back-to-back ankles surgeries, Polanco’s second-half eruption is worthy of garnering MVP votes come season’s end despite the Twins being among the worst teams in all of baseball. He won’t get many — heck, there’s a good chance that he won’t get any — but few players have had a more impressive August and early September than the Twins’ second baseman. Even though Polanco and the Twins’ offense stole the show, Michael Pineda’s start should not be overlooked. The impending free agent lowered his ERA to 3.87 on the season and has allowed two or fewer runs in seven of his last 10 appearances. His overall strikeout numbers are down this year, and some of his advanced metrics suggest that he hasn’t been quite as good as his box score numbers, but overall his performance this season, when healthy, has been admirable. The Twins and Royals conclude their series on Sunday afternoon when Bailey Ober (2-2, 4.00 ERA) is expected to face off against Kris Bubic (4-6, 5.07 ERA). First pitch is slated for 1:10 PM CST. Postgame Interviews Coming soon... Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet TUE WED THU FRI SAT TOT Minaya 21 0 0 40 0 61 Thielbar 25 8 0 0 26 59 Farrell 0 0 32 0 12 44 Colomé 17 0 0 12 0 29 Coulombe 0 0 15 0 23 38 Duffey 0 17 0 11 0 28 Alcalá 19 0 0 9 0 28 Garza Jr. 0 0 19 0 0 19 Moran 0 0 0 0 0 0 MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
  20. Pineda has been one of the success stories of the current front office when it comes to free agent acquisitions. In between a suspension and time on the Injured List, he threw 260 innings across three seasons and accumulated a 3.94 ERA. It seemed like it was a given Pineda was on his way out at this July’s trade deadline. Lo and behold, here we are near year’s end and Pineda is still in Minnesota. It was reported that there just wasn’t a whole lot of interest in Big Mike from contenders at the deadline, and for several good reasons. The Twins may be wise to consider these reasons this winter as they weigh the idea of bringing Big Mike back to Target Field. Declining Health It may be jumping the gun to say Pineda’s health is “declining” as he’s had somewhat frequent IL trips for the entirety of his Twins career. The Twins originally signed him coming off of Tommy John surgery. After an expected debut late in the 2018 season was called off due to a torn meniscus, Big Mike was on and off the IL in 2019 with recurring knee issues. He then had a freak forearm injury after being hit with a comebacker earlier this year and just recently was reactivated after missing time due to an oblique strain. Pineda will be 33 years old in 2022. While many pitchers can continue being effective into their early and mid 30s, Pineda’s body has been through a lot in his career. Things like knee injuries and pulled obliques can have long standing repercussions with athletes and can certainly be recurrent injuries. Teams in need of a starting pitcher at the deadline likely weighed the chances of Pineda actually being healthy down the stretch and passed. Rightfully so, as Pineda still didn’t look right and hit the IL shortly thereafter. The Twins have a significant amount of innings to fill in 2022. They may be wise to consider just how many of those innings they can really count on Pineda to fill. Walking the Tightrope For the first time since Pineda became a full time member of the Twins rotation, it’s fair to question just what quality of innings you can expect from him moving forward. Once possessing a mid 90s fastball, Pineda averaged a respectable 92.5 on his heater in 2019 and 92.1 in 2020. In 2021 Pineda is averaging just 90.1 mph, two entire ticks off of his fastball in just one year. More recently it’s been rare to see Pineda even hit 90 mph. This decline in velocity could be tied to the aforementioned injuries he’s dealt with this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can be disregarded. Pineda likely isn’t getting any healthier and his fastball has already declined to the point where not being at 100% appears to leave him with a sub 90mph fastball. We’ve seen the high-wire act it takes to succeed in the majors with a fastball that fails to reach 90. Arms like Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe have flashed success but have never been able to fully maintain Major League success for long periods. Pineda, whose repertoire consists of two pitches being thrown near 85% of the time, likely wouldn’t be an exception. Big Mike may not have been on the field as often as the Twins hoped these last three years, but he’s been one of their steadiest arms when healthy. Headed into a season where every pitching acquisition will be incredibly important, Pineda is a risk to both the quantity and quality of innings he can provide. It’s entirely possible that Pineda tries to leverage his successful three years in Minnesota into one last payday. In a vacuum, his previous performance could likely net him another multi-year deal with upwards of $8-10m per year, and it’d be fair to look for good money. I’d argue that in order for Big Mike to return to Minnesota, it likely has to come on a much cheaper deal to account for the risk involved on the Twins end. The Twins need to avoid making such a risky pitcher one of their main additions to a currently bare 2022 starting rotation just because he’s a familiar face. Pineda was passed by at the deadline by contenders for several concerns that still very much exist. The Twins, having several additions to be made and needing to hit on all of them, need to be extremely careful if they want to pursue a reunion. Do you agree? — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  21. Below I will outline a plausible path to a good Twins rotation in 2022. Not an elite rotation – that's probably a bridge too far at this point – but a good one with five solid-or-better starters, capable of competing for a postseason spot and maybe more. There is inherently some optimistic thinking involved here, but I don't think any of these scenarios are out of question. 1. Bailey Ober proves to be the real deal Among starting pitchers currently controlled by the Twins, Ober is the only stable fixture looking ahead to 2022. But he's establishing himself as a pretty viable building block. How did the big right-hander go from relative unknown to indispensable rotation cornerstone in one year's time? By adding 3-4 MPH to his fastball and shedding his label as a "soft-tosser." A few extra ticks of velocity have made a world of difference for the rookie, who is now sneaking heaters past MLB hitters and playing up his lesser offspeed stuff. Toss in excellent command, and you've got a good recipe for success. As we've seen. Ober's overall numbers with the Twins this year are good – 3.98 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 77-to-17 K/BB ratio in 74 ⅔ innings – but even better when you break them down to parse out his progression. His K/BB ratio in the latter sample is legitimately elite (only two qualified MLB starters are averaging more than six strikeouts per walk, and they are Cy Young candidates Corbin Burnes and Gerrit Cole). When you're missing bats, limiting walks, and keeping the hits in check, you're in line for good outcomes. Ober has shown the ability to do all these things, and he's only getting better at each of them. Home runs will be something to monitor, and could sidetrack him if they re-emerge as a weakness, but at this point there's no reason to think a healthy Ober won't be at least a quality #3 or 4 starter in 2022. 2. Twins sign a #2/3 starter in free agency No, they're not going to sign Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. Probably not Noah Syndergaard either. Even someone like Marcus Stroman or Justin Verlander may be a tad too ambitious. But with ample flexibility (should they choose to keep payroll steady or raise it slightly), there are several names in the next tier that should be within range, and it's not that hard to see one of them settling in as a mid-rotation caliber starter or better. Names in this category include Corey Kluber, Charlie Morton, Alex Cobb, Andrew Heaney, and others. 3. Acquire a #2/3 starter via trade Last year, the Twins acquired Maeda and watched him blossom into a Cy Young caliber performer. This year, their division rivals have done the same with Lance Lynn. We don't need to set our sights that high, though it'd be nice. Jameson Taillon is a less idealistic example. He wasn't a star for Pittsburgh, and the Yankees didn't have to part with top-tier prospect talent to acquire him. But he has served as a very solid mid-rotation arm for New York, at a low price and with multiple years of control remaining. The Twins didn't trade away any of their system's depth last winter, and have only added to it this year by selling at the deadline. Additionally, they have a few semi-redundant pieces at the major-league level that could have value to other clubs (Max Kepler, Mitch Garver ... Luis Arraez?) The front office will have assets to deal for pitching if they are so inclined. 4. Re-sign Michael Pineda The door definitely seems wide open for a reunion, as each side has openly expressed affinity for the other, and with Pineda's challenges this year, he should be pretty affordable – maybe $4-5 million. Given those challenges, I'm sure most Twins fans aren't enthused about the idea of bringing back Pineda. But let's look at the big picture here: the 32-year-old has posted a 3.98 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 during his time with the Twins. That includes his recent struggles, which can likely be attributed somewhat to health. In his first 36 starts with Minnesota, the team went 24-12. His circumstances, and a theoretical desire to return here, could enable the Twins to score Pineda at the cost of a back-end starter, while hoping an offseason of rest and strengthening returns him to his previous state or close to it. 5. Get Randy Dobnak back on track As with Pineda, it's easy to get caught up in Dobnak's recent struggles while losing sight of his previous success. In fact, it's a lot easier, because Dobnak does not have nearly the track record of Pineda. But through the first 14 outings of his MLB career, the Dobber was simply phenomenal, posting a 1.69 ERA with four home runs allowed over 58 ⅔ innings. This after a tremendous minor-league career that saw him perform well at every level. Dobnak's effectiveness was no accident – the bottom simply fell out on his pitches, making them excruciatingly difficult to lift, and he consistently threw them in the zone. Things went south late in the 2020 season, but Dobnak rebounded with a dominant spring that compelled the Twins to invest with a modest long-term contract. And then the bottom fell out on Dobnak. We all know this season has been a complete and total disaster for the right-hander, but it's unclear to what it extent that owes to injury issues. When you're a slider-reliant sinkerballer who goes from allowing four homers in your first two seasons to allowing 11 in your third, before going on IL for multiple months with a strain in the middle finger that is so crucial in creating that sink ... Well, it points to a natural explanation. There's no guarantee that time off will correct this issue, but we'll at least start to get an idea when Dobnak returns to the rotation on Friday. Regardless of how things go for the rest of this season, he'll most likely get a crack at the 2022 rotation given that he's under guaranteed contract. If he gets back on track and is anywhere close to the version we saw early on in his big-league career, well that's a hell of a good fifth starter. 6. The minors provide depth and jolts Above, we've accounted for all five season-opening rotation spots. And we haven't yet tapped into the impressive minor-league pipeline this front office has built up. Between Joe Ryan, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino and Josh Winder, you have a bevy of high-upside arms that are all verging on MLB-ready, if not already there. Granted, it's tough to depend on any of these prospects short-term, given that none have yet appeared in the majors (save Ryan, who debuted impressively on Wednesday) and the group is riddled with significant injury concerns. But that's why I'm not penciling them into any of the top five spots. We can account for those otherwise and keep these exciting arms in reserve, while knowing that just about any one of them has the potential to be a game-changing force for the Twins pitching staff if things break right. Look, I get that it's hard to envision multiple positive scenarios playing out in this fashion, especially with the way faith has been understandably eroded in the this front office over the past year. But one thing I find myself frequently reminding others – and myself – is that things change fast in this game. In 2016 and 2018, nobody was foreseeing good things on the near horizon. The Twins made some mistakes last offseason, but have also been the victims of absolutely horrible luck. This front office and coaching staff have proven their mettle in the past. If they can learn from those mistakes and the pendulum of fortune swings in the other direction, it's not all that difficult to envision a pitching staff capable of supporting what could be a very strong offense to push Minnesota back into contender status. 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. Box Score Starter: Bailey Ober 4.0 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K Home Runs: Jorge Polanco (27), Byron Buxton (11) Top 3 WPA: Polanco (.240), Pineda (.192), Buxton (.096) Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) At this point in the season, it feels like a Bailey Ober start is appointment viewing to get a further glimpse at what the Twins may have in him for next season. Pineda almost stole the headlines as he was activated from the IL to piggy-back Ober. Still, it was truly Polanco who once again stole all the attention away from anyone else on the field Monday night in Cleveland. The Twins got their scoring going early. Buxton was able to get an infield single to lead off the game. Polanco lined his 30th double of the season to advance Buxton to 3rd base. Then one of the more unusual 3-hole hitters for the Twins, Rob Refsnyder, drove both Twins base runners home with an opposite-field single to put the Twins up 2-0 over Cleveland. As the 3rd inning came around, so did Polanco’s spot in the lineup again. In his second at-bat as a righty against the left-handed Logan Allen, Polanco hit his 27th home run of the season. Polanco wasn’t finished for the night either. He would end the night going 4-for-5 with three doubles and a home run. Buxton is Back Buxton has looked good and healthy since returning from the injured list from the running and fielding standpoint. His bat has been quiet. Yesterday it began to awaken, and tonight that awakening continued. In addition to his 1st inning single, Buxton also hit his 11th home run of the season which gave the Twins a 4-2 lead in the 5th inning. Ober Continues His Growth One of the few storylines many fans are watching as the season winds down continues to be an impressive one. Ober continued his excellent stretch of pitching on a night he knew he would be limited and piggy-backed by Michael Pineda. Ober made a mistake with Franmil Reyes' at-bat, and he blasted a hanging slider for a 2-run home run. Besides that run-scoring opportunity, Ober continued to look strong as he challenged Cleveland batters inside, struck out four and walked none. Pineda Returns to the Mound With plenty of questions surrounding where Pineda will be for the 2022 season, Pineda made his return starting the 5th inning after Ober was finished for the evening. Big Mike put together a respectable line of 3.0 IP, 2 H, 3 Ks, and 1 BB. The results were there, but questions still remain around the stuff and/or command being fully back. That is a question that will need to be answered as the Twins consider whether or not they will make Pineda a contract offer for 2022. It was a fun night in Cleveland for the Twins. They will go back at it tomorrow as John Gant takes the mound against Aaron Civale. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet WED THU FRI SAT SUN MON TOT Gibaut 24 0 0 47 0 0 71 Colomé 0 0 0 11 23 9 43 Minaya 11 0 0 21 0 0 32 Garza Jr. 0 0 8 23 0 0 31 Thielbar 0 0 0 0 28 0 28 Duffey 0 0 0 0 10 8 18 Alcalá 0 0 0 0 15 0 15 Coulombe 10 0 0 0 0 0 10
  23. What's Their Situation? Coming into the season, everyone expected the Padres and Dodgers to be battling it out for the NL Central crown, which the Padres haven't won since they went back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. To almost everyone's surprise, neither team is in first place, as the San Francisco Giants have been baseball's best team over the first 94 games of the season. And even though they find themselves 5.5 games behind the division leader and in third place, FanGraphs has their odds to make the postseason at 92.3-percent, making them the second Wild Card team and likely facing the Dodgers or Giants in the Wild Card round. Currently, the Padres are tied with the Mets with an 8.0-percent chance to win the World Series, which is 5th best in the league. What Do They Need? Like the Dodgers, but even more so, the Padres need starting and relief pitching. The Padres are 23rd in all of baseball in getting innings from their starters, leading them to use their relievers the most in baseball. Aside from Yu Darvish, who is currently on the IL and has struggled since the MLB cracked down on "sticky stuff," they don't have any top-end arms in their rotation or bullpen. That said, they have gotten good production from Joe Musgrove (SP), Emilio Pagan (RP), Pierce Johnson (RP), and Austin Adams (RP). They could also use a right-handed bat as they are a mediocre team against left-handed pitching. Which Twins Are The Best Fit? It remains to be seen if anyone will be willing to add any of the Twins expiring contracts who are at least partially responsible for the Twins being sellers in 2021. That said, I think the Twins could DFA Alex Colomé, Hansel Robles, J.A. Happ, or Matt Shoemaker on August 1st if they aren't moved the day before. In short, they would likely take anything (PTBNL or cash) as their return on investment rather than just giving up the players for free. Of course, the headliners for the Twins are José Berríos, Taylor Rogers, and Tyler Duffey, but I think Michael Pineda and Caleb Thielbar could be intriguing trade candidates as well. Thielbar is one of the most under-appreciated Twins, and despite being 34-years-old, he still has three years of team control remaining. What Could the Twins Get Back? The Padres have been very active on the trade market in recent years yet boast one of the best farm systems in baseball. They feature four to five top-100 guys depending on the source and two guys in the top-10. Moreover, many of their top prospects are close to getting their crack at contributing in the Major Leagues. You'll notice that shortstop CJ Abrams, a headliner prospect, isn't on this list because he recently fractured his leg, and I don't see the Padres willing to "sell low" on a player with such a high ceiling. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, 22yo - Gore is one the best prospects in all of baseball and would require a haul to acquire from the Padres if he's even available at all. That said, aside from 101 innings in 2019, he's struggled in the Minors, where he has a 5.85 ERA and is issuing 5.4 walks per nine innings. He fits the current Twins mold, high 90's fastball with a slider, and maybe his struggles have the Padres ready to move on. Robert Hassel, OF, 19yo - I'd be remiss if I didn't have Hassel on this list as he's a high-level prospect that would be hard to pass up if he's available, but he is another left-handed hitter of which the Twins are loaded (Luis Arraez, Jorge Polanco, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Matt Walner). That said, with his upside, it could provide a future replacement if they were unable to extend Byron Buxton, although his defense obviously would be a significant downgrade. Ryan Weathers, LHP, 21yo - despite having less than 130 innings in the minors, Weathers has been forced to the Majors, where he has fared pretty well thru 58.2 innings. His xERA (5.29) and FIP (4.54) aren't favorable, but to this point, he has posted a 2.91 ERA and a K/BB of 2.33, which is decent. Like Gore, Weathers has a high-velocity fastball and a slider, although his best secondary pitch is his change-up. He's a step down from the first three prospects mentioned and thus more available and cheaper. Reggie Lawson, RHP, 23yo Justin Lange, RHP, 19yo Anderson Espinoza, RHP, 23yo I grouped these guys because they are intriguing, a tier or two below weathers, and have flaws that would make them cheaper. All would be a risk to take on, especially Lawson and Espinoza, who have battled injuries in their time in the Minors. Lawson, who just recently returned to the mound, has a mid-90's fastball with plus offspeed. Espinoza, who hadn't pitched since 2016, has struggled this year to be expected after such a long layoff and was pumping high 90's in spring training. The risk in adding Lange is that he's only 19-years-old who can hit triple digits, making his health and development a bit of a wild card.
  24. The Twins made their first big move sending Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay in exchange for two pitching prospects. There were reports over the weekend that Byron Buxton won't be signing a contract extension with the club and rumors of willingness to listen on team-controlled players such as Jose Berrios, Taylor Rogers, and Max Kepler. So, where do we go from here? We're going to start with the players on expiring contracts. Trade Andrelton Simmons to the Reds for SS Gus Steiger. Steiger, who is from Minnetonka and played collegiately at South Dakota State, signed with the Reds as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and would provide organizational depth in Fort Myers. The Twins would send no cash in the deal, leaving the Reds on the hook for the remaining $3.5 million on Simmons' contract. Trade Michael Pineda to the Astros for P Misaell Tamarez. Tamarez has less than 75 professional innings under his belt and has a walk rate over six, but he also strikes out more than a hitter per inning and has some ceiling. Tamarez would join the Fort Myers staff, where he could start or relieve. The Twins would get all of next year to evaluate Tamarez before deciding whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster. Pineda has $3.4 million left on his contract, which the Astros would pick up. I'd also expect Big Mike to be back with the Twins on a two-year deal this offseason. Trade Hansel Robles to the Red Sox for RP Durbin Feltman. Boston will give up Feltman, who may help in a bullpen someday, for Robles, who will help them in the bullpen for the rest of the year. Robles is owed less than $700,000 for the remainder of the year. Feltman, who has seen his velocity dip since turning pro in 2018, is the type of prospect on who the Twins could take a chance. If they can unlock some of that lost velocity, there is a chance he could be added to the 40-man when first eligible this upcoming offseason. Trade J.A. Happ to the Phillies for a PTBNL or cash. Happ broke into the big leagues with Philadelphia in 2007 and can provide rotational depth. The return for Happ would likely be a little bit of cash to offset his contract. He's still owed just shy of $3 million. The Twins would stay on the hook for almost all of that. The only other impending free agent is Alex Colome, who has been bad this year. If there's a team interested, he could be had for a meager price. Even if the Twins pay the remainder of his salary, the return will be low… in fact, it would be a win if someone else would be responsible for buying out his option. Before going on to the next - and definitely more debatable - part, one thing that needs to be discussed (because it will get a lot of consideration) is the 40-man roster. Except for Drew Strotman, none of the actual or projected returns to this point include someone on the 40-man roster. The Twins also have five players on the 60-day IL that will need to be activated this offseason. Now, granted, the roster has several fringe-40-man players that can be removed, but the organization has to be very careful about the position they put themselves in with acquiring players. Part of the reason Tampa Bay was ok giving up two of their top prospects for Cruz likely had to do with the crunch they were going to face this offseason. (They probably would have lost Strotman on outright waivers.) Just by my quick estimation, there are eight players (seven pitchers!) that I think are more likely to get added to the 40-man than not either later this season or in the offseason. If the Twins are going to rebuild, they would be wise to acquire prospects who are at least a year away from needing to be added to the 40-man roster. Whatever Taylor Rogers did to his finger last night puts his status on the trade market in question. If healthy - and if I were calling the shots - I would have him very available. But for this exercise, he will remain with the Twins. I'm not going to trade Josh Donaldson either. My stance would be that I would make him available, but I want a fair prospect return. The money complicates that. The Twins, in my opinion, will move Donaldson if someone is willing to take on the remainder of his contract. That will minimize the return. Josh Donaldson is too good of a baseball player just to give away. I'll listen on Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, but I don't see either getting moved. Kenta Maeda as well. For an overpay, I'd move every one of them. Now for the big dogs… Not only do I think Byron Buxton will not be moved, I believe a whirlwind Trade Deadline Week is going to be capped off with a Byron Buxton extension. Maybe it won't be Friday because the front office will be busy. But soon enough that the fanbase won't be able to check out for the year. Jose Berrios is a different story. Even a week ago, I wasn't convinced that Berrios was going anywhere. Now I've done a complete 180 and think there is no way he's not traded. And there's going to be a market. Take your pick… San Diego is aggressive, has prospects, and is forward-thinking enough to pull off another blockbuster. Would they include any of their four top prospects? Would MacKenzie Gore, who's been a mess lately, even be enough? Or would the Twins shoot for the injured CJ Abrams or Robert Hassell? Could the Twins bring back Eric Hosmer's bad contract to help the Padres out financially and ask for another top prospect too? The Dodgers don't want to share the spotlight. Is it really a possibility that they offer Dustin May? If so, that is a conversation that needs to be had. Maybe the Giants won't want to be outdone, and though they can't offer a top-end pitching prospect, they do have prospect currency, including SS Marco Luciano and C Joey Bart. There should be enough interest that the Twins don't have to settle for prospects that aren't in the top tier. The AL East is also worth watching. Toronto (P Nate Pearson and SS Austin Martin) and New York (P Deivi Garcia) would both be able to move the needle. The NL East is just as interesting. The Mets have the prospects, but all are a few promotions from the major yet. (Plus, Kevin Mulvey is no longer available.) The Braves could be a match. So what would I do….? I'd call Trader Jerry and make a deal with the Mariners. The basic framework would be Jose Berrios for P George Kirby. Kirby is a Top 20 prospect and hasn't reached AA yet (but will soon). The Mariners are also in the market for an infielder. Does expanding the deal to include Jorge Polanco make sense? Would the Mariners have any interest in taking on Josh Donaldson? Does DiPoto want to roll the dice on Taylor Rogers being ready soon and helping out down the stretch? It would be hard to bet against the Mets, Dodgers, Padres, or Yankees in a bidding war, but the Mariners are a longshot who could make the best deal for both teams. Maybe the holes these trades would create would have to be filled internally, which may not seem to scream "we're competing in 2022," but in a season with so many questions and so few answers, do we really want to be tricked into thinking that's possible anyway?
  25. What's Their Situation? When writing the title for this article, I thought to add a question mark after the word "Mariners." Such a thing would have served two purposes. The first would have reflected the surprise some may have when they realize that the Seattle Mariners are in wild card contention (1.0 games out as of Tuesday morning), with the second being the enigmatic future of the team. Will they buy? Will they sell? Quite honestly, I am not even sure that Jerry Dipoto knows. On Tuesday, they swung their first major deal in an odd swap with the Astros that, according to Dipoto, will make sense once all of their planned deals have been completed. The team was also in on Adam Frazier before San Diego, as per usual, swooped in to pick him up. In the dead of night on Tuesday, Tyler Anderson was swiped from under the Phillies nose. Knowing Dipoto’s love of deals, we are in for some truly wild stuff. What Do They Need? Bats, and a lot of them. The team has just a 91 wRC+ as a whole as their team batting average infamously dipped below the Mendoza line for a portion of the year. They have somewhat rebounded as their wRC+ since the start of June is 100, but holes still exist at significant positions. Second base has been a particularly nasty position for them as either Dylan Moore or Shed Long Jr. have participated there this season with little success. They also have no significant prospects at the position. Beyond that, there is no real clear-cut need in the lineup. Many of the Mariners' position players are either in flux due to injuries or are just warming the spot of a significant prospect. Even with their poorly performing players, I find it challenging to put together a trade because the team is in such a major transition. Perhaps they usurp one of those prospects with an unexpected deal, but I do not see that happening. Again, I must stress that nothing is out of question with Dipoto, to the point that them bringing in Miguel Sanó or Max Kepler would not be out of the question. Their starting rotation, however, is more apparent as a point of concern. Yusei Kikuchi has been outstanding, and Logan Gilbert looks to be the real deal, but the rest is uninspiring. Chris Flexen is hilariously overperforming, Marco Gonzales has regressed, and Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield have been flimsy during their time in the majors. They have prospects to fill these spots, but most of them will not be ready until 2022 or beyond. They did fill a need by acquiring Anderson. Which Twins Are The Best Fit? In a beautiful twist, the best fit may be an ex-Mariner. Michael Pineda would be a consistent presence in a rotation full of youthful arms. He could provide the exact type of 5-6 inning guarantee that few other pitchers on their roster can promise. Depending on the price, the team may add him for a more negligible cost than what other, more major names may net. A shocking trade for José Berríos may not be out of play. The Mariners have well learned that pitching prospects are far from promises, and Jerry Dipoto is an absolute madman, so a move for an established arm could be in their plans. Still, Berríos looks to depart after 2022, and that kind of uncertainty will probably turn off a team looking towards the future. If you squint hard enough, then a surprising deal for Luis Arraez also may be in the cards. The second base position has been a black hole for the team, and they could use a long-term player with the ability to play third as Kyle Seager is unlikely to return following the end of the season. The team knows this as well-they tried to acquire Frazier, as mentioned earlier, and other second baseman have been connected to them Still, the Twins' asking price for Arraez and the Mariners' willingness to meet that mark are probably on two separate continents. Beyond them, the team may look to add a bullpen depth piece like Tyler Duffey. Originally I had written Hansel Robles in here as well, but his performance on Tuesday reflects a player who is anything but valuable. Do you like pitching prospects? Good. Their top 7 or so prospects are likely untouchable, but beyond them, they have: Wyatt Mills: A 26-year-old pure reliever with enough funk to make George Clinton proud. Eric Longenhagen wrote that Mills' "combo of repertoire depth (though he's been exclusively fastball/slider so far in the big leagues) and command are both rare for a reliever." Yes, a pure reliever prospect is not the most exciting option, but he would satisfy a desperate need. Sam Carlson: A 22-year-old Minnesota boy with upside. Carlson is almost entirely unknown as a prospect as a combination of Tommy John surgery and an absent minor league season in 2020 forced him to go four years between throwing a pitch in a professional setting. In any case, Carlson's pedigree as a 2nd round pick reflects an arm with potential. Matt Brash: A more typical hard-throwing righty with quality stuff. Brash is a prototypically modern pitching prospect who possesses great ability with questionable command. If he reigns it in, he's an All-Star; if not, he's a reliever. He can be yet another lotto ticket in the Twins farm. Review: Quite frankly, a trade with the Mariners made much more sense a week ago-when this article was first written. The Cruz trade and the Anderson deal have thrown any predictions out the window. All I can really say now is "be prepared for something weird from this team." The Mariners are genuinely in the great unknown as a team. All signs point towards them selling, but their record so far has gifted them a chance to become soft buyers in the hope that other franchises crash and burn around them. Players like Duffey, Pineda, and potentially Robles may be of interest to them. The partnership is certainly odd, but it would not be all too surprising if the two teams find a way to make a deal with each other. Remember, the Twins did trade Zach Duke to the Mariners in 2018, so a prior relationship does exist.
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