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  1. Over the last two-and-a-half years, Nelson Cruz quickly became a fan favorite for Minnesota Twins fans and a leader both on and off the field for the Twins. Upsetting as it was for Twins fans to see him be traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in July, it was not unexpected. And so far, the return for Cruz from the Rays with Joe Ryan has looked promising for the Twins. Cruz once again joins the free agent market for the third time in the last four offseasons. The largest difference with this offseason compared to the previous when Cruz was a free agent is the possibility that 15 more teams could be in contention to sign him if the designated hitter is added into the National League in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Until the results of the next CBA are announced, the Twins do remain one of the top American League teams in contention to go after Cruz. The other two AL teams that are looking to be contenders to sign Cruz this offseason are former teams of his as well; the Rays and Seattle Mariners. With these contenders in consideration for Cruz, the question that remains for all of them is who will be the most committed to offering Cruz the salary he deserves? Over the last three seasons, Cruz’s salary has ranged between the $12-$14 million range. MLB Trade Rumors has Cruz listed on their top 50 free agents with the prediction he will earn $12 million on his next contract. Spending wise, the Twins likely could afford Cruz for $12 million while still having the budget to pursue high-end free agent starting pitchers. Last offseason the Twins re-signed Cruz to a one-year $13 million contract. Not counting Cruz’s 2021 salary, the Twins also have $37.5 million freed up from players no longer on the roster. This includes players who were on one-year deals as well as the expiration of Michael Pineda’s contract. Affordability of Cruz is not a question for the Twins like it is for the Rays. The larger question for the Twins with re-signing Cruz, is if they still see him as a stronger presence for the team both inside the clubhouse and in their lineup? Cruz’s power numbers showed no sign of regressing in 2021 as he turned 41 in July. He hit 32 home runs, drove in 86 runs, and posted a .832 OPS. Cruz’s overall batting average dipped below .287 for only the second time since 2015, however, he only hit .226 in 55 games with the Rays. That may be a concern for some, but for someone going into their age 41-42 season, Cruz is still seen as an elite hitter. Even if Cruz does show some signs of regression, there is still hope that in the Twins lineup Cruz could hit anywhere from 25-30 home runs and drive in 75-90 runs with an OPS over .800. As a presence in the clubhouse, Cruz has unquestionably been the leader for many Twins players since he first arrived in Minnesota in 2019. Many players floated to him for advice over his two-and-a-half seasons in Minnesota. His bond with Miguel Sano has been crucial to Sano’s own success as a hitter. So much so that Cruz is the godfather of Sano’s first daughter. With the majority of starting position players from 2019-2021 still on the Twins, it may make sense for everyone’s benefit to reunite Cruz with his former teammates. Ruling out National League teams for now as they have not officially earned the DH role for the 2022 season, the Twins biggest competition to re-signing Cruz is Seattle. The Mariners have only four guaranteed contracts going into 2022 and their highest paid player is Marco Gonzalez at $5.75 million. The Mariners young up-and-coming players certainly could use the leadership of Nelson Cruz, and their offense would improve greatly toward another 90 win season with Cruz in it. The Twins top priority in free agency should remain starting pitching. However if they are to go after one batter this offseason, it should be a reunion with Cruz. The main thing currently that could keep the Twins from resigning Cruz is the Mariners having more payroll flexibility. If the Mariners or a National League team end up signing Cruz, the Twins still have plenty of DH options to work with, most notably Josh Donaldson as he saw more time there in 2021. Still, a reunion with Cruz would be a treat all around for the Twins clubhouse and their fans. What do you think? Should the Twins bring back Nelson Cruz in 2022? Comment below! FOR MORE TWINS CONTENT: — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. 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?
  3. Considerations: Expectations Projections Results Injury Leverage/Value *MINIMUM 200 PLATE APPEARANCES TO QUALIFY* ALEX KIRILLOFF 2021: 59 games, .251/.299/.423 (98 OPS+), 8 HR, 11 2B, 3B, 34 RBI, 22% K, 6% BB Kirilloff went 0-for-15 to start his MLB career, with hard-hit outs dominating his results. Once a few dropped in, they didn’t stop. The rookie had an excellent 15-game stretch where he hit .306/.343/.581 (.924) with four homers and five doubles, separated by an IL stint. Even with a torn wrist ligament, Kirilloff posted some of the gaudiest Statcast numbers in the league. He slugged just .423 on the season, but that number should’ve been over 100 points higher based on the quality of contact. His season ultimately ended in July when he chose to undergo surgery. It was a disappointing finish to a promising debut. Assuming his wrist heals, Kirilloff figures to man a spot in the heart of the Twins’ order in 2022 and beyond. He also looked strong at first base and held his own in the outfield. GRADE: B BYRON BUXTON 2021: 61 G, .306/.358/.647 (171 OPS+), 19 HR, 23 2B, 32 RBI, 9/10 SB, 24% K, 5% BB Buxton’s season was nothing short of incredible. It was also incredibly short. Buxton appeared in 61 games, missing extended time with a hip injury and a broken hand. It was his brightest flash of upside, maintaining massive power and blazing speed and adding it to the best centerfield defense in the world. Buxton had one of the best months in Twins history in an MVP April and looked on his way to the season-long award. The complete package of a superstar was on display. Buxton recorded 42 extra-base hits and 4.5 bWAR in just 254 plate appearances. Therein lies the excellence and frustration with Buxton, whose future could depend on what the Twins decide to do this offseason. Will they extend, hold, or trade their most talented (and arguably best) young star since Joe Mauer? GRADE: A- MAX KEPLER 2021: 121 G, .211/.306/.413 (98 OPS+), 19 HR, 21 2B, 3B, 54 RBI, 10/10 SB, 20% K, 11% BB Kepler reverted to his offensive profile from the first three years of his career, which is a less-than-solid, low-OBP, low-AVG contributor. Then and now, Kepler is a borderline asset because of his superb defense in right field. Kepler ranked second to only Manuel Margot in Outs Above Average (8) among right-fielders. But how much is that defense worth? It’s a tricky question. This version of Kepler is a below-average hitter and especially below-average for a right-fielder. He limits a lineup that carried more potential than results over the last two years. Kepler was 19% better than the league in his last 182 games heading into the season, so maybe 2021 was just a down year. Or perhaps it was Kepler coming back to earth. The Twins have a decision to make on him this winter, with a potential $25.25 million owed through 2024. GRADE: C- LUIS ARRAEZ 2021: 121 G, .294/.357/.376 (105 OPS+), 2 HR, 17 2B, 6 3B, 42 RBI, 10% K, 9% BB Arraez worked through a knee issue and hit his customary .317 with a .380 On-Base Percentage over his first 326 plate appearances. Rumblings of a potential batting title loomed until Arraez hit a snag at the end. The 24-year-old throwback hit just .241/.291/.302 (.593) over his final 33 games. This stretch sapped his last line, making year three look more mediocre than anything. Arraez may have been hurting, worn down, or a mixture of both, but his streakiness is a significant development. When he’s not roping singles or walking, it’s hard to justify keeping Arraez in the lineup. He can be a liability defensively with very little power. Arraez is under contract through 2025 but could be surprising trade bait this winter. GRADE: B- TREVOR LARNACH 2021: 79 games, .223/.322/.350 (88 OPS+), 7 HR, 12 2B, 28 RBI, 35% K, 10% BB It was a tale of two seasons for Larnach, who the Twins called up to provide left-handed spank when Kirilloff went down. Larnach immediately went 2-for-15 out of the gate and looked understandably over his skis. Not so fast: a 3-for-5 game against Oakland kicked off an excellent stretch for the rookie. From mid-May to early July, Larnach slashed .274/.365/.452 (.817) with seven homers and seven doubles. He was controlling the strike zone like a veteran while hitting for power. But this game can be cruel. Pitchers responded and started dicing Larnach up, beating him regularly with offspeed before gradually blowing fastballs by him. Larnach’s season turned. He went 13-for-88 (.148) with 43 strikeouts and 11 walks over his final 27 games. The future remains bright for Larnach, but he may need some extended time in St. Paul to get things together at the plate. GRADE: C+ BRENT ROOKER 2021: 58 games, .201/.291/.397 (89 OPS+), 9 HR, 10 2B, 16 RBI, 33% K, 7% BB The primary beneficiary of the Nelson Cruz trade, Rooker was recalled on July 23rd and looked to be taking advantage of a new opportunity. He hit .281/.361/.625 (.986) with three homers in 32 at-bats after the promotion. Rooker started 37 of the Twins’ next 55 games but hit just .203/.306/.375 with 50 strikeouts and 11 walks in 147 plate appearances. Rooker hit the ball hard and consistently found the barrel but struggled to make contact at times and didn’t walk much to make up for it. With an open DH spot on the 2022 team, the Twins may benefit from giving Rooker more chances to tap into his immense power profile. For now, it’s still potential. GRADE: D+ NELSON CRUZ 2021: 85 G, .294/.370/.537 (148 OPS+), 19 HR, 13 2B, 3B, 50 RBI, 18% K, 10% BB Cruz capped off his unbelievable tenure in Minnesota with another terrific 85 games. He was once again the Twins’ best hitter and remained a terrifying power bat until he was traded before the deadline. On top of his production, Cruz allowed the Twins to acquire Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman from Tampa Bay, with Ryan looking like a staple in the rotation for years to come. Cruz hit .304/.386/.598 with 76 home runs in 258 games as a Twin, solidifying himself as one of the great signings in team history. The impact he had on the organization will be felt for much longer than he spent playing for them. GRADE: A WILLIANS ASTUDILLO 2021: 72 games, .236/.259/.375, 7 HR, 8 2B, 21 RBI, 6% K, 1% BB Astudillo entered 2021 as basically a career league-average hitter in 95 games. He hit .295 with a 99 OPS+ in three seasons, with the ability to catch, play first and third base, and even pitch. The beloved utilityman crashed at the plate in 2021. Astudillo’s .634 OPS placed him more than 25% below MLB average. He appeared as a catcher in only nine games, illustrating the Twins’ faith in him behind the plate. Astudillo added some value with four electric innings out of the bullpen (2.25 ERA), but it seems his time in Minnesota could be over. He’s owed an estimated $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration. GRADE: D- OTHER GRADES: INFIELD STARTING PITCHERS RELIEF PITCHERS... COMING SOON! 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
  4. After the Minnesota Twins fleeced the Tampa Bay Rays by swapping Nelson Cruz for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, they officially ended their two-and-a-half year run with a consistent designated hitter. For the first time since 2018, Rocco Baldelli had to consider who would take on that role each night when filling out his lineup card. Cruz had earned top-10 American League MVP consideration each of the past two seasons, but moving on was the right choice. A free agent looking ahead to 2022, Cruz could undoubtedly be brought back by the Twins if the parties wanted. Considering that he’s now 41-years-old and posted just a .725 OPS in 55 games with Tampa Bay, a reunion seems unnecessary. Minnesota’s lineup should be viewed as a strength with players currently within the organization plugged into it. The need for another bat-only type of player falls well down the ladder on the list of essentials. Most important, though, lineup flexibility is paramount to the playing time of talent at the big league level. Baldelli needs to figure out how to accommodate Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff, and Miguel Sano on a near-nightly basis. Brent Rooker hasn’t quite established himself as a necessary piece for me, but he’s in the mix, and Trevor Larnach should be expected to re-emerge quickly too. That’s a total of five names for two positions and comes without even mentioning Twins Daily Minor League Hitter of the Year Jose Miranda. Given the reality that Josh Donaldson is entrenched at third base (but would benefit from rotational DH duties) and Jorge Polanco will play up the middle, having rotation ability at the designated hitter spot makes too much sense. I have no idea whether Miranda will hit at the big-league level like he did at Double and Triple-A. I would assume that he’s ready but will take his lumps like any young player. Larnach and Rooker both have plenty to prove, and to be frank, so too does Kirilloff. Sano is a streaky hitter but benefits from consistent at-bats and possesses 30 home run power. While you’re dealing in uncertainty with this blueprint, the same could be said about a reunion with a 41-year-old displaying a slight decline. Even if the idea is not Cruz, signing anyone to take up 140 games worth of designated hitter at-bats would be putting roster construction in a corner for the Twins. Arguably the most significant positive here is that allocation of funds can be focused elsewhere. It’s not as though Cruz’s $13 million pact in 2021 was back-breaking, but re-upping on that or doling out something similar for another option (though I don’t think Kyle Schwarber hits the open market) would be taking away funds from more pressing needs. Many teams have made a rotational designated hitter work. It’s great to have a guy you can count on to go out and rake. Still, it’s also limiting in terms of flexibility, and as the Twins transition towards a new identity (this doesn’t need to be the Bomba Squad anymore, and hasn’t been), finding who fits the mold offensively is about pushing the right buttons. Allow the skipper to do so. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. Spoiler Alert: Your NLCS MVP is Eddie Rosario Unsurprisingly, Eddie Rosario was named the NLCS MVP last Saturday, surrounded by his loved ones including his parents, wife, children, and closest inner circle at Truist Park. Lest we forget that Rosario was DFA’d by the Twins last offseason, signed by Cleveland, and subsequently traded to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval, who had the third slowest sprint speed of all active players. As Jesse Sanchez of MLB said in his profile of Rosario’s humble upbringing to his MVP honor, Rosario was “born to hit” and “may be the best unknown player in baseball”. Give it up one more time for Ed-die, Ed-die, Ed-die! Nelson Cruz won the Roberto Clemente Award Last night, Nelson Cruz won the coveted Roberto Clemente award for philanthropy, joining the ranks of Clayton Kershaw, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, and many others. Cruz was awarded this honor for his tremendous philanthropic efforts in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic throughout the pandemic. Here’s a list of some of Cruz’s philanthropic efforts that he aided in this past year: Provided financial support to over 1,200 families who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic Helped feed over 700 struggling families Gifted a firetruck, ambulance, and 80 uniforms to the town after a childhood friend’s home was burned down in a fire Organized dentists and optometrists to provide check-ups, dental services, glasses, and dental services Began construction of an education center And more! Not only is Cruz one of the most beloved players of all time, but he’s also an exemplary human being. Congratulations Nelson! Josh Donaldson watched a LOT of baseball Josh Donaldson was all of us, live-tweeting during every playoff game. Max Kepler snuggled a Frenchie *Googles how to become a bulldog* Randy Dobnak wasn’t a regular mom; he was a cool mom The man induces ground balls and is the biggest hype man on the planet. Everyone needs a friend like Randy. Louie Varland caught a big fish Devin Smeltzer caught an even bigger fish Sorry Louie Brent Rooker missed Jake Cave ....and we all now know where Cave stands on duck, duck, goose. Which other Twins would you like to see here in the future? Let us know down below in the comments!
  6. It's hard to fathom just how valuable Nelson Cruz was during his time as a Twin. It was clear what he could provide with his on-field performance, but he meant just as much off the field. In parts of three seasons, he hit .304/.386/.598 (.984) with a 162 OPS+. His Twins tenure started with the record-breaking Bomba Squad and ended with him traded for two pitching prospects that look to be part of the team's long-term plans. Cruz seemed to be defying Father Time over the last handful of seasons. That was one of the reasons the Twins were able to sign him for $13 million this past winter. After being traded to the Rays, age might have started to catch up to Cruz. In 55 games, he hit .226/.283/.442 with 21 extra-base hits. In the ALDS, he went 3-for-17 with a home run before Tampa was eliminated. Players over 40 rarely find success, and those that do are Hall of Fame-caliber hitters. According to FanGraphs, Cruz's 2021 season ranks as the 17th best age-40 season in baseball history. This performance ranks him ahead of future Hall of Famers like Reggie Jackson (21st), Craig Biggio (24th), Paul Molitor (25th), and Derek Jeter (26th). Many of those players declined significantly after age-40 or decided to retire. Minnesota can go in a few different directions for 2022 and beyond when it comes to designated hitter. Bringing Cruz back is undoubtedly an option, but it seems more likely for the team to go in an alternate direction. The Twins have players like Josh Donaldson, Miguel Sano, and Brent Rooker, who can rotate through the DH role. It seems likely for Sano to get the majority of those at-bats with Alex Kirilloff taking over as the full-time first baseman. Another wrinkle in a Cruz reunion is the good chance that the National League adds the designated hitter. Minnesota had little competition to sign Cruz last winter because only the American League had the DH, and not every AL team was looking to be competitive or had an open DH role. Cruz can fill at least a part-time DH role on a contending NL team that feels like he has something left in the tank. Cruz has provided immeasurable value to the Twins organization, and his impact will be felt long after he retires from baseball. Questions remain about whether or not the Twins will be contenders in 2022. This makes it easier to pass on the possibility of a Cruz reunion. Will the Twins explore a Nelson Cruz reunion? 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
  7. 10. April 6th: Byron Buxton off Jose Cisnero Distance: 451 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.1 mph, Launch Angle: 38° On the sixth day of the Twins’ young and (at the time) hopeful season, Byron Buxton came up in the eighth with the Twins trailing the Tigers by a run. He did his thing. This 451-foot blast tied the game, only to set the stage for the Twins’ second of many early season extra-inning losses. Interestingly, this homer has the highest launch angle of this list by far, and was the fifth-highest lofted homer of the Twins season. 9. June 30th: Nelson Cruz off Dylan Cease Distance: 453 feet, Exit Velocity: 110.9 mph Launch Angle: 25° This homer would be a lot cooler if the Twins weren’t getting throttled 11-1 by their division rivals at the time it was hit, but 453 feet is 453 feet. That eventual 13-3 loss was also the middle game of a three-game sweep for the White Sox that was played out over the backdrop of drama surrounding Josh Donaldson accusing Lucas Giolito of cheating. So, yeah, it’s safe to say that this is one of the most forgotten long homers of the year. But 453 feet is 453 feet. 8. April 1st: Byron Buxton off Eric Yardley Distance: 456 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.4 mph Launch Angle: 24° Man, early-season Buxton was a sight to see. Five days before hitting the first homer on this list, he hit this behemoth on Opening Day against the Brewers. The two-run shot came in the seventh with the Twins already leading by one, so it looked like the club was going to start the year on the right foot. Unfortunately, early-season Alex Colome was a sight to see for the opposite reason and blew a three-run lead, leading the Twins to their first extra-inning loss of the young campaign. T-6. June 10th: Nelson Cruz off Aroldis Chapman Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.4 mph Launch Angle: 23° This bomb carries a lot more cachet than Cruz’s first entry on this list. It wasn’t only against the hated Yankees, but it was a walk-off against the hated Yankees. And, Cruz turned around a 98-mph Aroldis Chapman fastball to do it. It did go to potentially the ugliest part of Target—landing somewhere in the vertical waste area between the bullpen and the batter’s eye—but who actually cares. It was a monster shot that made sure the good guys came out on top, at least for that night. (Nash named it the Best Moment for the 2021 season.) T-6. September 10th: Byron Buxton off Daniel Lynch Distance: 457 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.9 mph Launch Angle: 29° So, it turns out that Byron Buxton only hits massive homers in extra-inning losses. In this particular instance, Buxton’s 457-foot poke led off the game for the Twins and this was the first of four first-inning runs that only gave the Twins a one-run lead thanks to three Royals’ runs in the first. Kansas City got that run back and two more in the 11th to seal the Twins’ fate. For Buxton, this homer came amidst his coldest stretch of the season, but of course he got hot again, spawning hundreds of “please pay Buxton” takes from the contributors to this website. 5. July 26th: Brent Rooker off Matt Manning Distance: 460 feet, Exit Velocity: 111.1 mph Launch Angle: 29° As Ted tweeted, Brent Rooker murdered this baseball, and he chose the third deck in left field for its burial site. That’s super interesting and all, but the best part about this is Michael Pineda’s reaction. His extended grimace at watching Matt Manning’s hanger get demolished showed admirable loyalty to his fellow pitcher out there laboring on the mound. 4. May 24th: Trevor Larnach off John Means Distance: 461 feet, Exit Velocity: 112.2 mph Launch Angle: 24° Okay, so balls don’t land here. Larnach’s beautifully struck, 461-foot whopper landed perfectly in the Delta 360 Suite above the batter’s eye. That’s not a part of the park where you’re expecting a home run ball. Anyway, this was only Larnach’s second homer of his MLB career and launched him towards a pretty productive June and early July. Larnach later struggled as pitchers adjusted to him, but he remains a big part of the club’s future, and his 460+ foot power is a big reason why. 3. July 28th: Miguel Sanó off Joe Jimenez Distance: 473 feet, Exit Velocity: 114.8 mph Launch Angle: 30° Welcome to the Miguel Sanó portion of this list. Our favorite three-outcome hitter (only) hit three homers over 450 feet, but they were all over 470 feet. This particular bludgeoning (I’m running out of homer words) traveled 473 feet and was a part of a ridiculous, pitching-optional 17-14 loss to the Tigers. This was also Sanó’s second homer of the game and 17th of the year, reminding us all why we just can’t quit him. 2. August 18th: Miguel Sanó off Zach Plesac Distance: 475 feet, Exit Velocity: 113.9 mph Launch Angle: 27° This ball landed in Section 237, which is interesting for two reasons. First, there’s absolutely no way those green-shirted kids packed into the very cheap group-rate seats were expecting a home run ball, which is kind of cool. And secondly, the ball was hit (just barely) to the opposite field, and a 475-foot Oppo Taco is very cool. Sanó is nothing if not a very strong man. 1. August 25th: Miguel Sanó off Nick Pivetta Distance: 495 feet, Exit Velocity: 116.7 mph Launch Angle: 24° Speaking of balls landing where they’re not supposed to… what even happened here? Balls leave Fenway Park and spill onto Lansdowne Street all the time, but they don’t go to that part of Lansdowne Street. Balls will carry those Green Monster billboards every now and then, but they don’t carry that billboard and certainly not by that much. I mean, this ball might’ve put that famous Citgo sign in danger. Sanó’s nuke travelled 20 feet further than the next-longest Twins homer and was the longest in the majors by nine feet. Ted Williams famously hit a 502-foot blast in Fenway, but you’d be hard pressed to find another ball hit harder in that place's history than Sanó’s moonshot. Which homer from this year was your favorite? Let us know in the comments! 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. 3. Buxton Blasts Burnes The Twins looked to flush a forgettable Opening Day in Game 2 of their season in Milwaukee. José Berríos started and dominated the National League Central champions. Berríos pitched six innings of no-hit ball with 12 strikeouts and zero walks. It was one of the best performances of his career and further evidenced his immense talent. Berríos would’ve owned the stage if not for Corbin Burnes, who matched him with six walk-less and hit-less innings. Burnes went on to lead baseball with an incredible 2.43 ERA, 1.63 FIP, and 6.88 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Byron Buxton still wouldn’t be denied. With Burnes eight outs from a perfect game, Buxton roped a painted 96 mph cutter to Toyota Territory. It was the beginning of one of the most remarkable months by a player in Twins history. The Twins won 2-0. 2. Saturday Sanó Storm With the season quickly spiraling into the abyss and losses in eight of their last nine games, the Twins needed something positive. They trailed 4-2 with runners on the corners and two outs in the bottom of the eighth. Oakland turned to Jake Diekman to face Miguel Sanó, who was 8-for-67 (.119) with only two extra-base hits in 21 games up to that Saturday. In one of the unlikeliest and best moments of the year, Sanó used his strength to muscle a homer just over the limestone in right field. It was precisely what he and the team needed, and it created hope that there could be something more in 2021. Of course, it was just a brief positive amid a lot of negativity. For Sanó, the homer kicked off a 10-game stretch where he hit six homers, three doubles, and produced an OPS over 1.150. 1. Crushing Chapman Once again at risk of a sweep to the Yankees, the Twins needed a miracle late. Aroldis Chapman trotted out from the bullpen with a two-run lead and a 0.39 ERA in 23 games. Opponents were hitting .097 and had struck out in over 50% of plate appearances against Chapman to that point. He might beat you nine times out of 10, but not that night. The Twins ambushed the imposing lefty. In just nine pitches, Chapman gave up four hits, including two monstrous two-run homers to Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. Beating the Yankees is always satisfying. To watch the two leaders of the team smash one of the best closers in the game at home made it extra special. Donaldson and Cruz showed Twins fans what could’ve (and should’ve) been in 2021’s best moment. That ninth inning also began a stretch where Chapman allowed 14 runs in 5 2/3 innings. What were your favorite moments from the season? Comment below!
  9. (Editor's Note: Before we get started, join me in welcoming Sherry to the front page. This is her first promoted article. You have likely seen some of her writing on the Twins Daily blog pages. In her first front page article, she's got some ideas for the Twins front office.) After an arduous baseball season from the Twins, the fans are left with one question: “what’s next?”. We have all been asking ourselves that question since the Twins took a nosedive in May. Plagued with injury and ailment, the Twins limped through the summer trying to find their stride while also bringing up and sending down player after player. There seemed to be no relief. As players such as Josh Donaldson, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco healed and made their comeback so did the overall growth, demeanor and mindset of the team to finish out the season strong. While the Twins were nowhere near a run for the playoffs, let alone the Wild Card, they played as if they were and left the fans with a hopeful taste in their mouth as the season closed. So, what is next? There are a few things I can think of that will instantly make a difference. #1 No More Andrelton First things first, Andrelton Simmons' contract is officially up as soon as the World Series is complete! Let’s be honest, this was one of the worst Twins acquisitions, maybe not of all time, but for sure in the amount of time that I have been a fan, which is a fairly long time. I recall when the Twins gave him the contract, I was irate. I got blown to bits on Twitter for my “bad take” and he was a “gold glove winner”. (blah, blah, blah.) I am not an elite baseball mind, but I do have a serious appreciation for usable talent. Simmons was not that. Sure, on paper he looked good. His baseball-reference stats show that from 2016 through 2020 Simmons had a solid batting average. He was hitting .283 on average over those seasons, basically his tenure with the Angels. During those years he stayed above .250. As much as I didn't want to, I did count 2020 in the stats, but it was a shorter season, fewer games, so his batting average is going to look/be a little better. What caught my eye was his errors, he had 49 errors over four years. This year, Simmons was tied for sixth out of 22 shortstops in errors. I know that shortstops tend to make the most errors on the team, but I am not sure what made the Twins think that he was going to be anything but a train wreck. What made this even more frustrating was the fact that the Twins have players who could have played shortstop and got paid less. I am not advocating for Billy Beane baseball, but with assets like Jorge Polanco, Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon, it was really disappointing to have someone like Simmons in the line up, especially in the second half. It's a collective sigh of relief that Simmons is becoming a free agent. #2 Rebuild the Rotation Next... to the mound. The pitching (or lack thereof) has been the biggest thorn in the Twins' side. Thanks to trades and bold moves the Twins acquired some young arms that are going to be around for quite awhile if the front office plays their cards right. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, John Gant, Ralph Garza Jr, and Griffin Jax have breathed new life into the rotation, providing solid innings, more strikeouts and confidence that the front office may be actually understanding the assignment. The one thing that teams in the playoffs have is solid pitching. Having a good starting rotation and bullpen is important. There is less stress, leaving the line up to have enough energy to do their job and hit dingers. While there was a lot of anger due to trading Nelson Cruz, there has been less frustration with the pitching which came as a result of the trade. If there are going to be any changes in the rotation, acquiring at least two or three starters that they will leave in through the sixth inning would be beneficial. I am not sure what Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson thinks they are doing pulling guys in the sixth inning. This isn’t college baseball with a lot of depth. This is the big leagues, where guys are conditioned for longevity. The new guys that were brought in learned in a different system, potentially with different techniques and philosophies. Wes Johnson has not had a chance to them yet. The class of Free Agents looks like a platter for the next season and there is some amazing talent could be acquired, such as Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, and Max Scherzer. While we all have differing opinions on who is less effective, any of these pitchers would be a good buy in a 2 or 3 starter spot while we look in house for our #1 starter. #3 Bring Back the Boomstick The third thing would be bringing back Nelson Cruz to finish beefing up the batting line up. Cruz will be a free agent after his playoff run with Tampa Bay. That was a trade that sucker-punch to the fan base. While I personally was sad to see him go, the trade was one that the front office could not pass up. The return is exactly what this team needed. I can’t imagine that bringing back Cruz was not brought up in the clubhouse prior to the trade, but the tears, hugs and words spoken by the team surrounding the trade mean his teammates would love for him to come back. He, like the rest of the squad, definitely struggled a bit in the beginning of the season. The 41-year-old has shown few signs of slowing down or falling apart outside a thumb sprain early in the season. Since being in Tampa Bay, he has continued to soar and could help get the Rays to the World Series. His presence with the bat and in the clubhouse are something you rarely find, and it may be a fight to get him back. We saw this with Miguel Sano. Nelson Cruz was a guiding force into Sano's performance with the bat, and it's one relationship that has created a life-long bond. In reality, Cruz’s numbers are too good to ignore, as well as his ability to bring a smile and cohesion to the clubhouse. His impact on Sano was so great that the day Cruz was traded, Sano honored him by wearing his pants in that night's game. “The pants brought Sano a little bit of luck. He went 1-for-3 with a walk, double and run scored in his Minnesota Twins’ 3-2 loss to the Angels” writes Jesse Johnson of USA Today Sports. One thing is for sure, Nelson Cruz has always been and will always be a class act, even going out of the way to meet the pitcher that took his place in the clubhouse. You can’t replace a person like that. These are just a few of the things that would help the team see not only a higher finish in the standings, but also the potential to return to the playoffs. I love the old adage - “Offense wins games, Defense wins championships." I believe it’s true. If the Twins would be able to get a solid pitching staff, a defense that was less messy, and consider bringing back Nelson Cruz, that would be a start to creating a winning team for the 2022 season.
  10. Some of these players had memorable Twins tenures, while others might not have gotten a full opportunity. Either way, they are in the thick of the playoff hunt as their team’s search for October glory. Division Leaders Tampa Bay: Nelson Cruz, DH Nelson Cruz was dealt at the trade deadline in a move that brought back two top pitching prospects, including Joe Ryan. Since the trade, Cruz has posted a .776 OPS, which is 130 points lower than he had with the Twins this year. He still has a 117 OPS+, and he has some big hits in a Rays uniform. Tampa looks to go back to the World Series with Cruz as their veteran leader. Chicago: Liam Hendriks, RP Chicago paid Liam Hendriks a ton of money this winter to bring him to the Southside, and he has lived up to the hype. He leads the American League in Saves, and he has a career-high strikeout rate. Minnesota never gave Hendriks a chance in the bullpen, and some question the team’s decision to let him go. Either way, Chicago paid him to perform like this and to help the team in October. Houston: Ryan Pressly, RP Pressly was dealt to the Astros back in 2018 for Jorge Alcala and Gilberto Celestino. Both of these players have impacted the 2021 Twins, and they look to have bright futures. Ryan Pressly is in the midst of a tremendous season at the backend of the Astros bullpen. He has a sub 1.00 WHIP for the second time in his career, and his chase rate ranks in the 94th percentile. Wild Card Contenders Boston: Martin Perez, SP Twins fans may not have fond memories of Martin Perez as he posted a 5.12 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in over 165 innings back in 2019. His time in Boston has only been slightly better. In the season’s first half, he posted a 4.04 ERA, which isn’t easy to do in the AL East. His average exit velocity and BB% both rank in the 60th percentile or higher. Toronto: Jose Berrios, SP On Sunday, Jose Berrios made his first career start against the Twins, and the Blue Jays walked away with the win. Berrios was part of a blockbuster deadline deal that brought Austin Martin and Simeon Woods Richardson to Minnesota. Toronto didn’t need Berrios to be an ace, and he has posted a 130 OPS+. Also, he has been worth more win probability added for the Blue Jays this season than with the Twins. New York: Luis Gil, SP In 2018, Gil was sent to the Yankees for Jake Cave, but he was a long way from making an impact at the big-league level. He’s been impressive across six big-league starts this season by posting a 3.07 ERA and 11.7 SO/9. Right now, the Yankees are on the outside of the playoffs, but Luis Gil might be one of the pieces to get them back into the postseason. Oakland: Deolis Guerra, RP Deolis Guerra was part of the Johan Santana trade, and Oakland is his sixth organization since leaving Minnesota. Oakland also has former Twin Sergio Romo, but Guerra has been the more valuable player this season. He ranks in the 84th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, xwOBA, xSLG, hard-hit %, and chase rate. Which of these players has the most significant impact on the playoff races? 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
  11. This offseason, the Minnesota Twins made six free agent signings and all of them (save for Nelson Cruz) blew up in their faces. The Minnesota Twins front office misfired badly and the losing season they are going through is the result. But what if things played out differently? In a “hindsight is 20/20” thought exercise, let’s play out what the ideal version of the 2021 offseason would have looked like for the Minnesota Twins and see how the Twins front office could have best spent their offseason dollars. In this thought exercise I am giving the Minnesota Twins the same budget as they spent in their actual offseason, which was approximately $41.75M. Additionally in this exercise, the Twins’ “ideal” offseason signings will need to be signed at a 20% increase over what they actually signed for in the offseason. This 20% increase would account for the the Twins prying away the players from the teams they actually signed with, making this a more realistic scenario of what could have been. Are “what if” games pointless as they have no bearing in reality? Probably. Are they fun? You bet they are! So let’s run through these... Designated Hitter Actual Offseason signing: Nelson Cruz - 1 year, $13MM Ideal Offseason signing: Nelson Cruz - 1 year, $13MM The only of the six offseason signings from the Twins’ offseason that they would redo in our ideal version would be bringing back Nelson Cruz on a 1 year, $13MM deal. In his 214 plate appearances with the Minnesota Twins this season, Cruz posted a .907 OPS, which led the team and was third-best in baseball after Shohei Ohtani and J.D. Martinez. The Twins had a clear need at designated hitter and opted to fill that slot with Cruz which was the right choice, which is why the Twins would make that same move again, if they knew then what they know now. Middle Infield Actual offseason signing: Andrelton Simmons - 1 year, $10.5MM Ideal Offseason signing: Kolten Wong - 2 year, $21.6MM After Nelson Cruz, the Andrelton Simmons signing was the largest investment that the Minnesota Twins made last offseason. The thought was that Simmons’ bat would play well enough and that his glove would completely transform the team. While his glove has been solid (though not spectacular), Simmons is having one of the worst offensive seasons in team history, with his OPS of .565. In our ideal offseason, the Minnesota Twins would have signed Kolten Wong for a 2 year, $21.6MM contract. Wong has been excellent with the Milwaukee Brewers this year and owns a .810 OPS. Wong is only 30-years-old and would be under contract again for the Twins next season. Wong plays second base, which means the Twins would’ve needed to keep Jorge Polanco at shortstop under these circumstances, but at 2.7 fWAR compared to Simmons’s -0.3, signing Wong over Andrelton would’ve made a big difference for the Twins. Starting Pitcher Actual offseason signing: J.A. Happ - 1 year, $8MM Ideal Offseason signing: Robbie Ray - 1 year, $9.6MM The Minnesota Twins signed J.A. Happ last offseason hoping that he could fill the fourth starter role for the Twins in 2022. Instead, Happ completely imploded for Minnesota, posting a 6.77 ERA in 19 starts. What makes the Happ signing hurt even more for the Twins is that southpaw Robbie Ray signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for the identical 1 year, $8MM deal that J.A. Happ signed for. Under this exercise, the Twins would’ve needed to pay a 20% premium to guarantee Ray’s services, but for a 1 year, $9.6MM the Twins could have signed Ray who has a 2.71 ERA on the season and just became the all-time leader in K/9 in MLB history. Starting Pitcher Actual offseason signing: Matt Shoemaker - 1 year, $2MM Ideal Offseason signing: Carlos Rodón - 1 year, $3.6MM While J.A. Happ pitched terribly for the Minnesota Twins during his tenure here, Matt Shoemaker was even worse. In 16 appearances with the Twins, Shoemaker posted a 8.06 ERA and was worth -0.7 fWAR before getting DFA’d and ultimately released. At a 20% premium, the Minnesota Twins could have signed Carlos Rodón for just $3.6MM and gotten a pitcher who has been a revolution for the White Sox this year, with a 2.43 ERA and a 12.8 K/9. Relief Pitcher Actual offseason signing: Alexander Colomé - 1 year, $6.25MM Ideal Offseason signing: Sergio Romo - 1 year, $3MM Moving to the bullpen, Alexander Colomé was yet another disastrous signing for the Minnesota Twins this offseason, as he has a 4.26 ERA, six blown saves and the worst win probability added on the team. In their ideal offseason, the Minnesota Twins would have simply brought back Sergio Romo, who they let walk last offseason, for half of the price of Colomé. Romo has put together a 3.18 ERA in 54 appearances with the Oakland Athletics and has thrived there in a high-leverage role. Relief Pitcher Actual offseason signing: Hansel Robles - 1 year, $2MM Ideal Offseason signing: Collin McCugh - 1 year, $2.16MM Finally, in their ideal offseason the Minnesota Twins would have avoided Hansel Robles and his 4.91 ERA in Minnesota in favor of Collin McHugh for nearly the same price tag. McHugh signed with Tampa Bay this offseason and has been spectacular, featuring a 1.40 ERA and 11.6 K/9. Overall let’s compare the actual offseason for the Minnesota Twins to what the ideal offseason would have looked like: Actual offseason $ spent: $41.75MM Ideal offseason $ spent: $42.16MM Actual offseason fWAR acquired (with Twins): 0.2 fWAR Ideal offseason fWAR acquired: 14.4 fWAR Again, hindsight is always 20/20 and ideal history is always going to be an unfair game to play, but laying out what the ideal offseason for the Twins would have looked like is not only fun, but interesting to look at the types of players that succeeded as we try to find free agent options for the 2022 season. What trends stick out to you from the list of “ideal” free agents above? Which of the above names were you clamoring for the Twins to sign at the time? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!
  12. Box Score Pineda: 2.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K (82.9% strikes) Home Runs: Rooker (5) Bottom 3 WPA: Pineda -.237, Gant -.138, Larnach -.133 Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs) Friday night was an emotional affair for the Twins at Target Field even before the first pitch. For starters, the organization kicked off the “1991 Reunion Weekend” celebrations, with fans being able to take pictures with some World Series champions. Then, Gophers football head coach P.J. Fleck threw the ceremonial first pitch. But none of that seemed to be as big as the return of an old friend. Nelson Cruz played his first game as an opponent of the Twins since May 27, 2018, and the first one at Target Field since May 14 from that same year. Batting third for the Rays, he received a standing ovation from Twins fans, to whom he tipped his helmet. He also got shown some love from his old teammates, like Miguel Sanó, who crashed Nelly’s Zoom call with the media, asking “Papá Cruz” to go easy on the Twins. Cruz may have done what his friend and mentee asked him to do in his first at-bat – he struck out on three pitches. But his new teammates sure weren’t going to do the same. Brandon Lowe had hit a leadoff single to open the game before Cruz’s at-bat. Then, after it, Randy Arozarena hit a long double off the wall at center field, driving in Lowe. During the second inning, the Rays scored a couple more runs. Yandy Diaz hit a leadoff home run, and Mike Zunino scored after Pineda gave up back-to-back singles, followed by a wild pitch. Something seemed off with “Big Mike.” He faced Cruz for the second time in the game to open the third inning, and, this time, Nelson didn’t go easy. He crushed a hanging changeup to the left corner for a line-drive home run that left his bat at nearly 111 MPH. The Rays took an early 4-0 lead. After that, Pineda induced a couple of ground ball outs, but before he could finish the inning, he departed the game with an apparent injury. Pineda didn’t have a lot of problems throwing strikes (39 out of 47 pitches), but his velocity was slightly below his season average, perhaps making it easy for Tampa Bay hitting to get six hits off him. Twins try to rally multiple times, Rays always respond Making his Twins debut, veteran Nick Vincent came in relief of Pineda to get the last out of the third. Then, he gave up a solo home run to Zunino in the fourth, making it 5-0 Rays. But other than that, the 35-year old managed to limit the damage to the one run for the remainder of his outing. During the bottom of the fourth, the Twins offense finally posed its first threat to Rays’ starter, Shane McClanahan, putting two men on. Sanó singled to the gap to score Brent Rooker from third, putting the Twins on the board, before stranding both runners left. Minnesota kept hitting the ball hard, trying to spark a rally. After Vincent pitched a scoreless fifth, Ryan Jeffers led off the home half of the inning with a single. Then, Rooker, with his third hit of the night, pushed him across. Josh Donaldson had the chance to cut the Rays’ lead to only one run, but he ended up striking out, ending the threat. In the following inning, Tampa Bay responded right back, with an inside-the-park home run by Kevin Kiermaier, making it 6-2. He hit a flyball to deep right, which looked like a triple, but Jorge Polanco juggled the ball before being able to get Kiermaier at home plate. Mitch Garver and Rob Refsnyder opened the bottom half of the sixth with back-to-back singles, and Sanó made it three consecutive hits with an RBI single to score Garver. Suddenly, the Twins had two men on with no outs, down by only three runs. That was Miggy’s second RBI of the night. But once again, Tampa’s pitching frustrated Minnesota’s offense and spoiled their rally, ending the inning with a ground ball double play. Rays explode for a four-run seventh John Gant gave up that inside-the-park home run in the sixth, but he settled in and retired the following three batters. With the bullpen needing to eat up innings, he was brought back to pitch the seventh, and that’s where things went sour. Tampa produced four runs on three hits and a sac-fly off him, putting this game well out of reach, 10-3. Even with such a large deficit, Minnesota didn’t give up. Rooker got his fourth hit of the night with a two-out solo home run in the home half, cutting Tampa’s lead to six. Donaldson and Garver hit back-to-back singles after him, and once again, the Twins were one swing away from getting right back in the game. But they couldn’t capitalize again. Making his second appearance as a Twin, Edgar García pitched a couple of scoreless frames to close up the game, providing yet another very effective outing. The offense fell in order in the bottom of the ninth, and Tampa ran away with the win. Postgame Interview Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet MON TUE WED THU FRI TOT Barnes 68 0 0 0 0 68 García 32 0 0 0 27 59 Gant 0 11 0 0 41 52 Vincent 0 0 0 0 37 37 Colomé 0 10 14 0 0 24 Thielbar 0 0 20 0 0 20 Duffey 0 15 0 0 0 15 Minaya 0 0 15 0 0 15 Coulombe 0 0 0 0 0 0
  13. DH Nelson Cruz to Rays for RHPs Joe Ryan and Drew Stotman Many of the Twins' moves project to have positive results. On an expiring contract, Nelson Cruz was dealt for two pitchers that are close to big-league ready. There are plenty of questions about the team’s rotation for 2022, so adding two more pitchers to the mix can only help the organization’s pitching depth. The Cruz deal was far from the only one that made headlines. RHP Jose Berrios to Blue Jays for SS/OF Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson José Berríos was dealt for a pair of top-100 prospects, which seems like a high price to pay for just over a year of Berríos. The Dodgers traded for starting pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner and received a similar trade package in return. Even the website, Baseball Trade Values believes the Blue Jays overpaid. LHP J.A. Happ to Cardinals for RHP John Gant and LHP Evan Sisk Speaking of teams that overpaid, the Twins found a taker for JA Happ, as the Cardinals were willing to trade for him. He’s been bad for most of the season, and his recent numbers don’t point to him improving. It seemed more likely for the Twins to designated him for assignment instead of finding a trade partner, but it was a crazy trade deadline, to say the least. RHP Hansel Robles to Red Sox for RHP Alex Scherff Robles, like Cruz, was on an expiring contract and plenty of contenders were looking for relief help. Minnesota signed Robles for $2 million this off-season and he's had some up-and-down moments as part of a Twins bullpen that has struggled for the majority of the season. Relief pitching can be fickle and Boston hopes Robles can find some of his previous successes. From Minnesota's perspective, the front office has to be happy to get any value back for a player that wasn't part of the team's long-term plans. Who Wasn't Traded? Not every part of the trade deadline was positive for the Twins. Minnesota had multiple players on expiring contracts that stayed with the team, including Michael Pineda and Andrelton Simmons. Pineda is the biggest head-scratcher as the trade market seemed hot for starting pitching. As the smoke cleared, the front office said the right things, but there doesn’t seem to be much value in keeping him around until season’s end. There were plenty of other rumors circulating on Friday, including some big names for the Twins. There was a chance of a Byron Buxton deal with multiple teams interested in the centerfielder. For good reasons, Minnesota’s price was likely high, and there will still be an opportunity to revisit trades this winter. There may also be a chance to revisit a contract extension with Buxton, especially with the young core the organization has built in the minor leagues. Another missed opportunity was parting ways with Josh Donaldson, as his name had been out in the rumor mill throughout the last few weeks. Minnesota signed Donaldson to his four-year deal, knowing that he may decline toward the backend of the contract. He has been relatively healthy this year and producing as one of the league’s best third basemen. This trade deadline might have been his peak trade value, especially since it’s tough to imagine the Twins contending in 2022. Overall, this might go down as a franchise-altering day in Twins history. However, there were some missed opportunities along the way. Now it might be a couple of years before fans know if the team indeed won or lost the 2021 trade deadline. Do you think the Twins were winners or losers at the trade deadline? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Weekly Snapshot: Mon, 7/19 through Sun, 7/25 *** Record Last Week: 3-5 (Overall: 42-58) Run Differential Last Week: -5 (Overall: -71) Standing: 5th Place in AL Central (17.0 GB) Last Week's Game Recaps: Game 93 | MIN 3, CWS 2: Jax Deals, Twins Steal One in Extras Game 94 | CWS 5, MIN 3: Berrios Goes Deep, Then Sheets Does Game 95 | CWS 9, MIN 5: Bullpen Implodes in Five-Run 8th Inning Game 96 | MIN 7, CWS 2: Polanco, Kepler Power Twins to Split Game 97 | LAA 3, MIN 2: Cruz-less Offense Comes Up Short Game 98 | MIN 5, LAA 4: Aggressive Baserunning Sparks Win Game 99 | LAA 2, MIN 1: Twins Narrowly Avoid Getting No-hit Game 100 | LAA 6, MIN 2: Bats Go Silent Once Again NEWS & NOTES The sell-off has officially begun. Nelson Cruz always ranked No. 1 on the list of Twins players most likely to be traded, and the front office didn't waste time, striking a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays eight days ahead of the deadline. Losing Cruz is painful in the sense that he's a legendary and incredibly likable player, but this is best for all involved. He ends up on a contending team where he makes a huge difference. Tampa reached the World Series last year and Nelly can help propel them back. Meanwhile, the Twin landed a pair of intriguing pitching prospects who are verging on big-league ready. And those prospects now have a much clearer path than in Tampa's crowded pitching pipeline. Naturally, we had plenty of coverage here; I recommend reading the articles below, which include Seth's instant report, Lucas' breakdown of the return package, John's reaction to the deal, and Nash's tribute to Cruz. Twins Trade Nelson Cruz to the Rays for Two AAA Starting Pitchers, by Seth Stohs Twins Minor League Pitching Report: Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, by Lucas Seehafer Three Things to Like (and Hate) About the Nelson Cruz Trade, by John Bonnes Thank You Nelson Cruz! By Nash Walker We won't be seeing Cruz in a Twins uniform again this year. Nor Alex Kirilloff. The rookie outfielder opted for wrist surgery after reporting that the pain stemming from a torn ligament had intensified recently. His rehab will carry through the rest of the season but he'll have plenty of time to get ready for 2022, which is really all that matters at this point. Kirilloff finishes his first MLB campaign with a .251/.299/.423 slash line and eight home runs in 59 games. Adding to the exodus of high-quality hitters, Luis Arraez hit the Injured List on Saturday after injuring his knee early in the week. Thankfully, his absence looks to be more temporary than the other two, although his continuing knee troubles don't bode well for the 24-year-old. While the Twins suffered some tough losses last week, they did also get some guys back. Mitch Garver returned with a bang on Monday, launching home runs in his first two at-bats. Brent Rooker was recalled after mashing in Triple-A, and should get an extended look at DH in Cruz's stead. Jake Cave was also activated following a two-month stay on IL. HIGHLIGHTS With the trade deadline fast approaching, it's possible we'll see the Twins part with one or more of their foundational building block type players. Jorge Polanco is probably not among them, which is just fine because he's been busy proving he still deserves to be in that class. Polanco struggled last year and throughout the early weeks of 2021. He entered June with a sub-700 OPS but then finally started to find his groove again, swinging with greater authority and driving the ball with more consistency. Finding himself back near the top of the order regularly, Polanco is keying the offense right now; the past week saw him chip in a pair of three-hit games and two home runs, finishing 10-for-25 with six RBIs. Dating back to the start of June he's slashing .297/.346/.506, which is nearly identical to his overall line in 2019 (.295/.356/.485). On Wednesday, Michael Pineda took the mound for the first time in two weeks, and it was a big step in the right direction at a crucial moment. Through five efficient innings, Pineda held the White Sox to one run on four hits, striking out three and walking one. It wasn't a dominating whiff clinic like we saw earlier this year when Big Mike was at his best, but a reassuring performance nonetheless for any interested buyer. Pineda's slated to face the Tigers on Monday – his last turn before the deadline. Whatever Pineda gets back in a trade, it won't be much. To really score a haul, the Twins will need to give up one of their most in-demand pitching assets, and both are doing plenty to stoke their markets. Taylor Rogers tossed a pair of scoreless innings with three strikeouts, while José Berríos was masterful in his Saturday night start, allowing just two unearned runs over seven innings against the Halos. LOWLIGHTS The front office would surely love to unload Andrelton Simmons and the remaining millions he's owed before re-entering free agency at season's end. Problem is, they might be hard-pressed to find a taker. Simmons has been good in the field, but not good enough to offset the complete and total lack of offense. With each passing week, the shortstop slides further and further into futility at the plate. He went 2-for-22 in the most recent one, and is now slashing a woeful .220/.287/.288 with a negative WAR. Is any contending team really going to view him as enough of an upgrade to take on his remaining $4 million or so in salary? Getting back any kind of prospect is out of the question. Another dead-end move from the past offseason for this front office. It's beginning to look like we can place Hansel Robles in that bucket too. The Twins are more likely to find a buyer for him than Simmons, given the lesser money involved and the ubiquitous need for relief pitching, but he's not making himself a prized asset. Robles pitched twice this past week and gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits, including a back-breaking home run against the White Sox on Tuesday. Robles has a 5.32 ERA over his past 24 appearances, with opponents hitting .292/.376/.528 against him. One way or another, Robles will be gone after this year. Alex Colomé too. Rogers is "likely to be dealt" at the deadline according to Ken Rosenthal. Beyond Tyler Duffey there is no continuity built into this bullpen, especially because Jorge Alcala has obliterated all confidence. The right-hander is completely unraveling, and the past week added to his woes with five runs allowed over three innings of work. In his past dozen appearances Alcala has taken three losses, blown two saves, and given up 14 earned runs on 19 hits in 10 ⅓ innings (12.20 ERA). It's not even clear he should be in the majors right now, let alone pitching meaningful innings. You look at this relief corps in its current state, and it's just so immensely difficult to envision the kind of abrupt and drastic turnaround needed for the Twins to return to contention in 2022. Which may partially explain why the front office has seemingly softened its commitment to holding players with control beyond this year. This is starting to look more like a full-on rebuild. TRENDING STORYLINE The biggest storyline trending around the Twins right now is a deeply disheartening one: Byron Buxton reportedly rejected the team's contract extension offer as the two sides sought to find common ground, at perhaps their last opportunity to do so. It sounds like the club's final offer to Buxton was around $80 million plus incentives, which understandably wasn't enough to entice the superstar center fielder's camp as free agency looms. Hitting a wall in extension negotiations will compel the Twins to fully explore Buxton's trade market, but probably not until the offseason. The more immediate names to watch are guys like Berríos, Rogers, and Josh Donaldson, who could all be shipped out this week along with impending free agents. The deadline falls on Friday at 3:00 PM – and it's a hard deadline this time, with no post-waiver avenue available. Buyers need to stock up, nor or never. How different will the Twins' roster, and future, in a week? We should all be bracing ourselves for a major shakeup. LOOKING AHEAD The July 30th trade deadline is, of course, the date to circle. Rumors are sure to be flying throughout the next four days, with all the action building up to Friday afternoon. Berríos is scheduled to pitch for the Twins that night; will he still be here? Or have we already seen him for the last time in a Twins uniform? MONDAY, 7/26: TIGERS @ TWINS – TBD v. RHP Michael Pineda TUESDAY, 7/27: TIGERS @ TWINS – LHP Tyler Alexander v. RHP Kenta Maeda WEDNESDAY, 7/28: TIGERS @ TWINS – RHP Wily Peralta v. LHP J.A. Happ FRIDAY, 7/30: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP José Berríos v. LHP Wade LeBlanc SATURDAY, 7/31: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Bailey Ober v. RHP Jake Woodford SUNDAY, 8/1: TWINS @ CARDINALS – RHP Michael Pineda v. RHP Johan Oviedo MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  15. Just minutes ago, several national baseball writers, including Jeff Passan announced that the Twins and Rays have reached a deal for the reigning AL champions from Tampa to add slugging DH Nelson Cruz. According to Bob Nightengale, the deal will involve four players including pitcher Drew Strotman. The Twins have made it official, noting the Wichita right-handed reliever Calvin Faucher will also be going to the Rays. In return, the Twins will get pitchers Strotman and Joe Ryan. The Players Drew Stotman is a 24-year-old right-handed pitcher. He has spent 2021 with the Rays Triple-A affiliate in Durham, NC. He is 7-2 with a 3.39 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP. In 58 1/3 innings, he has given up 50 hits, walked and struck out 62 batters. He was the Rays fourth round pick in 2017 out of St. Mary's in California. Joe Ryan is a 25-year old right-hander. He has spent the season with Triple-A Durham as well. He is 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a 0.79 WHIP. In 57 innings, he has given up 35 hits, walked just ten and struck out 75 batters. He was the team's 7th round pick in 2018 out of Cal State-Stanislaus. The two have combined to make 23 starts for Durham and worked twice out of the bullpen. Ryan ranks as the Rays #10 prospect while Stotman ranked #17. Calvin Faucher was the Twins 10th round pick in 2017 out of UC-Irvine. In 30 2/3 innings with Double-A Wichita, he posted a 7.04 ERA and a 2.05 WHIP. He is a good athlete on the mound. But let's be honest, we're here, right now, to learn about the prospects coming to the Twins from the Rays organization, and to thank Nelson Cruz for two-and-a-half terrific seasons. Nelson Cruz won the AL Silver Slugger for DH his first two years with the team. He finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting both years as well. In 2021, at 41, he is again having a terrific season and represented the Twins at the All-Star game last week. In his time with the Twins, Cruz played in 258 games. He hit .304/.386/.598 (.984) with 435 doubles, 76 home runs and 191 RBI. He was clearly the leader in the clubhouse. He has won humanitarian award for his community service in the cities he has played in as well as his home in the Dominican Republic. The Rays head into Thursday games with a 57-39 record, one game back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East. They are the current leader in the race for an AL Wild Card spot. They have a need at DH. The Rays need a right-handed power bat. Please feel free to share your thoughts on Nelson Cruz's time with the Twins, today's trade to the Rays, the two pitchers they received in return.
  16. When initially coming back to the lineup from his stint on the Injured List, Kirilloff noted that he would be playing through pain, and it was all about tolerance. Surgery was never ruled out, and as can be the case with these types of injuries, it seemed like a matter of when, not if. Through 47 games back in the lineup, Minnesota’s rookie slashed .260/.316/.387. The first two numbers aren’t bad, but the slugging percentage leaves plenty to be desired from a guy who has shown so much more power potential. The “more” is why 2022 looks to be a really exciting opportunity for Kirilloff. Assuming surgery goes well, and rehab is straightforward, the inputs for substantially better outputs are already there. Kirilloff’s xwOBA in 2021 sits at .365, nearly 60 points higher than his .308 mark. His .288 xBA is more than 30 points higher than his .251 avg, and his xSLG at .532 is a far cry more impressive than the actual .432 mark he compiled. In the Statcast numbers, we can see what he can become, or maybe even should’ve been. Kirilloff crushed opposing pitching to a similar tune as teammate Nelson Cruz. The difference is that one has a healthier (Cruz dealt with a ruptured tendon in recent seasons) wrist, which enables strength through the point of contact. Looking at Kirilloff’s assessment of projected and actual outcomes, we can see a stark difference between what was and what is. Notably, the max exit velocity and hard-hit percentage are substantially lower than what you’d expect for someone with consistent exit velocity and a high barrel rate. It’s why, and you can gravitate towards any batter’s expected outcomes, there’s reason to believe that future reality skews more towards the expected than actual production. So, what does that mean for the Twins and their star rookie? If there’s a positive when it comes to such an injury, it’s that a cleaner bill of health should allow runway for a loftier set of expectations to be reached. I wouldn’t put it past Kirilloff to contend for a batting title; his swing is that pure. What should be a near-certain bet is multiple 30 homer seasons once settling in at the highest level. The Twins look to have played this timeline correctly. Kirilloff more than got his feet wet this season and was able to adjust to the opposition on the fly. He now has an entire offseason to rehab and get right while also understanding what lies ahead in terms of competition. The results aren’t where he’d have liked them to be, and surgery isn’t an ideal scenario, but he’s best equipped to attack the competition in the season ahead. Bet on Alex bouncing back well, and those expected outcomes should soon start to become a reality. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. What’s Their Situation? As usual, the Rays are exceptional. As of July 22nd, their record stands at 57-39, 7th best in baseball, with the fifth-best run differential. The reigning AL champions will have their eyes set on another deep playoff run after being beaten by the Dodgers at the final hurdle in 2020. The Rays currently sit a game behind the surprising Boston Red Sox in a log-jammed AL East. The Blue Jays and Yankees are comfortably behind them but within a good week of breathing down their neck at the top of the division. At the time of writing, Tampa Bay has a 73% chance to make the playoffs, according to Fangraphs, comfortably fourth-best in the AL, behind the Red Sox, White Sox, and Astros. The Rays have a 2021 payroll of just over $69 million (makes you think), a whopping $59 million below league average. They can add and add creatively, but don’t expect them to take on any massive contracts. That’s not what they do. What Do They Need? Like most great teams, the Rays don’t have a lot of holes. By fWAR, they boast the 6th best offense and 9th best pitching staff in MLB. Their bullpen is solid (3rd best in MLB), while their starting pitching is less robust (16th). While their offense is potent, it’s aided by solid defense and excellent baserunning. Their 100 team wRC+ is good for 12th in baseball, even behind the eighth-place Twins (103). Which Twins are the Best Fit? Nelson Cruz was the primary Twins' trade target linked to the Rays, and for good reason. The Rays were keen to sign Cruz before he initially landed in Minnesota and could use a power boost to a robust and deep lineup which Cruz could provide. The Rays don’t have a glaring hole at DH, with the excellent Austin Meadows (122 wRC+) getting plenty of at-bats there. Still, Cruz is the type of luxury item you purchase in a season in which you want to return to and win your first World Series, particularly when you would only need to pay a prorated portion of his 2021 salary. Starting pitching is the other area the Rays could strengthen. While he’s a fit in that he’s excellent, it’s hard to see the Rays pursuing Jose Berríos when they have Tyler Glasnow on the shelf and a stable of outstanding pitching talent close to MLB ready. Michael Pineda is a more logical fit to provide solid innings through the remainder of the season, which offers little respite in the AL East. Like Cruz, Pineda would be a rental. He would also be relatively cheap, compared to Cruz. Who Could the Twins Get Back? Examining the Rays top 30 prospects is genuinely a pleasure. Behind all that incredible MLB talent, they have a deeply stocked pantry of prospecty goodness. In choosing potential Twins targets, I’ll admit to being ambitious. Each of the Rays top five prospects are consensus top 100 MLB prospects, so I stuck to more projectable prospects in the 6-15 range, acknowledging that due to the strength of the Rays farm system, their 6-15 is better than most. Here are three prospects the Twins would likely covet from the Rays system. Greg Jones, SS, A+ Jones and Ryan Jeffers have UNC Wilmington in common, the former being a supplemental first-rounder in 2019. As a prospect, Jones is an incredible athlete, showcasing 70-grade speed. He is a solid hitter who generates good bat speed and makes solid contact from both sides of the plate. Jones showcases the ability, athleticism, and defensive chops to stick at SS or move to 2B. However, some see it as likely he will eventually transition to CF at the MLB level. Cole Wilcox, RHP, A The Padres drafted Wilcox as the 80th overall pick in 2020. He was promptly shipped to Tampa Bay as part of the Blake Snell trade. Wilcox has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, which he uses consistently up in the zone, a strong slider, and an emerging changeup. Some believe Wilcox will eventually transition to a bullpen role. In 44 IP at High A so far this year, he sports a 2.03 ERA with 52 Ks. Seth Johnson, RHP, A The Rays took Johnson as the 40th overall pick in the 2019 draft. He has a big fastball which tops out at 98 mph but usually sits 92-95 mph. Johnson also showcases an outstanding swing and miss slider and a loopy curveball. Johnson may end up as a reliever given his reliance on his fastball/slider combination but has the tools and athleticism to develop into an MLB starter if he continues to develop his third pitch successfully. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  18. What’s Their Situation? The Brewers have put some distance between themselves and the rest of the NL Central but still need to close the gap on the top of the NL West if they want to have a chance at home-field advantage. The Brewers currently have the 7th-best odds of winning the World Series, according to Vegas Insider, and their deadline mentality should be “we’re going for it.” They may not match up perfectly, but there is no way the Brewers don’t call the Twins and vice versa. There is too much that the Brewers could use that the Twins have for them to not have conversations for at least a few players. What Do They Need? If the Brewers intend to go for it, they need to do it at their most significant areas of weakness: First base (-2.0 bWAR, last in NL) and third base (-1.2 bWAR, 13th). Milwaukee needs to do something at these positions to give themselves a shot at postseason success. The Brewers may also want to improve their bullpen. Don’t get me wrong, the Brewers bullpen, led by Josh Hader, has been terrific in 2021. It ranks 7th in opposing batting average (.221) and is tied for first in strikeouts per nine (11.0). But aside from Hader, who has posted otherworldly numbers (15.6 K/9, 281 ERA+), plus the rebounding Devin Williams, Brad Boxberger, and Brent Suter, there are places to upgrade. Which Twins Are the Best Fit? Josh Donaldson would fill the Brewers’ greatest on-field need. It’s the other stuff - contract and injuries - that give Brewers fans pause. And that doesn’t even get into all the other recent happenings that could potentially make Donaldson not well-liked in other clubhouses. Jose Berrios, under control in 2022, is an excellent fit for 29 teams not named the Twins and the Brewers are no exception, but he, like Taylor Rogers, would both be luxuries, and it’s hard to say how much the Brewers want to deplete their farm system. Nelson Cruz isn’t an obvious fit for a National League team, but Craig Counsell is well known for doing things out of the ordinary. And even Brewers bloggers are sipping that Kool-Aid. At a minimum, could you imagine having that option on the bench every game? Plus, there are DH days available in September with trips to Cleveland and Detroit, not to mention a late August visit to none other than Target Field. Additionally, Michael Pineda as a #4 starter, Hansel Robles as another mid-innings option, and Miguel Sano getting a change of scenery and opportunities at first and/or third base might all be things the Brewers front office discusses. Who Could The Twins Get Back? Unless the Twins are moving Berrios, I can’t believe any of Garrett Mitchell, Brice Turang, or Hedbert Perez would be available. Ethan Small and Aaron Ashby are probably safe to be included in that group as well. The strength of the Brewers system is behind the plate. Depending on which ranking outlet you prefer, the club boasts six catchers in their Top 22 prospects, or maybe you want to call it three in the top 10. It’s not that the Twins don’t have catching options, but quick, who’s their highest-rated catching prospect? (I’ll give you a hint, when you take Jeffers and Rortvedt out, neither MLB.com nor Baseball America has a catcher listed. TwinsDaily’s midseason rankings go 20-deep… no catchers.) Nick Kahle, C, 23yo - Kahle is probably the most likely match from a value perspective. He would profile as a backup with a chance to be more, considering he’s still got a few years to up his stock and has only played 76 games since being drafted. Kahle did play in both the American Association and Australia during the 2020 season to work on his development. Abner Uribe, RHP, 20yo - You’re not going to find Uribe at the top of any prospect lists… unless you sort by mph. He’s a lottery ticket, no doubt, and he’s already spending most of his time coming out of the bullpen, but he’s a flamethrower who’s broken 100 mph. Zavier Warren, C, 22yo - The Twins would be wise to ask about catcher/utility player Warren, who may have the chops to stick behind the plate, but has the bat and athleticism to play elsewhere. Antoine Kelly, LHP, 21yo - Kelly projects as one of the higher-ceiling pitchers in the system after being drafted in 2019 and showing off his powerful fastball in rookie league. He impressed during his stint at the alternate training site, but momentum was lost when he underwent Thoracic Outlet Surgery this spring. An already high-risk/high-reward prospect has seen the gap between his floor and ceiling widen even further and is a huge question mark. But that’s the fun of the trade deadline.
  19. What’s Their Situation? The Oakland Athletics currently find themselves second in the American League West with a record of 52-40. They are 3.5 games back of the Houston Astros and have a 3.5 game lead on the Seattle Mariners for the 2nd Wild Card spot. Ideally, this is a team angling for a postseason berth. Unlikely to have the firepower necessary to catch Houston, hanging onto a Wild Card spot and going from there would seem to be a good goal. Traditionally the Athletics aren’t big spenders, but it’s hardly uncommon for them to see their names in the thick of things when the dust settles on the season. After beating the White Sox in the Wild Card round a year ago, Oakland would love to exact revenge against the division-rival Astros, who they bowed out against in the Division Series. What Do They Need? Bob Melvin’s club could probably use a bit more hitting help than pitching, given they’re within the top 10 in the latter while being outside it in the former. There’s power in the lineup, but the designated hitter spot could use an upgrade, and that’s exactly where rumors have them focusing. Jon Heyman recently noted that Oakland would be seen as a legitimate landing spot for the services of Twins slugger Nelson Cruz. Oakland’s starters have been a top 10 group in baseball, but their bullpen has compiled just the 21st ranked unit in terms of fWAR. Plucking from the 25th best unit in Minnesota doesn’t provide many options, but there are at least two that come to mind. Which Twins Are the Best Fit? Buyers for a designated hitter aren’t plentiful. Only half of the sport uses one, and half of that half are uncompetitive. Cruz works in Oakland though, and he’d have to be seen as their most desired target from Minnesota. Should the Twins want to try and increase the return, packaging the Dominican slugger, adding an arm makes some sense. Taylor Rogers is the most premium of relief options, but someone like Hansel Robles could help as well. They have made impact moves for starters previously, and Jose Berrios would resemble that, but Minnesota also has both J.A. Happ and Michael Pineda on the block. Who Could the Twins Get Back? There’s not much hope for a massive return when considering any of the expiring veteran contracts the Twins have. As good as Nelson Cruz has been, the market simply won’t be there to drive the price up too high. That being said, the Athletics have some nice names in their system, and throwing in someone like Taylor Rogers may move the needle. Arguably the most untouchable from Oakland would be 18-year-old shortstop Robert Puason. Short of including Jose Berrios, he’s not coming back to the Twins. Someone like Daulton Jefferies or Greg Deichmann could have appeal as they are both now older prospects. Jefferies is a former first-round pick who got blasted in his big league debut and has scuffled at Triple-A this year. Deichmann was a 2017 2nd round pick but is now having his best pro season as a 26-year-old at Triple-A. If Minnesota wants to try and get creative, working a way to nab Jesus Luzardo would be somewhat of a coup. He hasn’t panned out as expected, but the prospect hype was all there, and a change of scenery could do him well. I can’t imagine anyone from 15-30 in the Athletics prospect rankings being off the table in a swap that includes Nelson Cruz. Grant Holmes is a 25-year-old Triple-A arm, and Austin Beck was the 6th overall pick as an outfielder back in 2017.
  20. Don’t get me wrong, I remember Thome’s time with the Twins fondly. His first season, the year Target Field opened, the slugger that tormented Minnesota for all those years put up a 1.039 OPS across 108 games. A year later he’d record his 600th career home run, only further cementing his place in Cooperstown. Thome was adopted as the Twins lumberjack, and his power played in the role perfectly. When Thome was dealt however, it was clear this was the beginning of the end. Not only did the Twins stink, but he’d lost over 200 points on his OPS from the year prior and sending him to a mediocre Cleveland club was about a proper sendoff as much as it was an asset acquisition. He’d make stops in Philadelphia and Baltimore during 2012, but the end came just 58 games into his season. At the end of the day, Thome was an integral part of a very good 2010 club, but then watched as the age counter flipped to 40 and Father Time proved undefeated yet again. Enter Minnesota’s current designated hitter. Nelson Cruz has now played 247 games in a Twins uniform. That’s roughly 50 games more than Thome, but Cruz went through the shortened 2020 season stunting that growing total. He was the unquestioned leader of the Bomba Squad, a club that hit a Major League record 307 dingers. Despite playing for the organization between ages 38-41, he’s compiled a .307/.389/.607 slash line and 75 homers across that stretch. Age notwithstanding, he’s been among baseball’s best in his latest years. When Derek Falvey ultimately deals Cruz later this month, it will feel different as well. He’s not going back to Seattle or Texas. This isn’t a sendoff and Cruz isn’t riding off into the sunset. Two likely landing spots include the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. Minnesota will be looking to maximize value, and Cruz will be counted upon as a lineup fixture. This is a true asset, no longer a privilege for Minnesota to enjoy because the 2021 season fell flat. It’d be silly to assume that Cruz will continue this level of production for another decade. Even another couple of years would be unprecedented. What he’s doing now though, is something that any contending team needing a designated hitter should covet. That makes his market limited in that half the league is then cut in half again, but you can bet that suitors will fight for his services. There’s also not going to be a reunion tour. Minnesota and Cruz’s camp played a staring contest this winter. Neither wanted to blink first, but a return always seemed to be the best fit for both sides. As the Twins head into 2022 with uncertainty, the luxury of a big money designated hitter doesn’t seem reasonable. On top of that, we won’t know the direction chosen by the front office until July 31 comes and goes with Taylor Rogers, Jose Berrios, and Josh Donaldson still wearing Twins threads. When the dust settles on this eventual move the Twins will have dealt one of the best power hitters ever to wear a Minnesota uniform. While Cruz’s time was ultimately brief, the impact (and especially that felt in 2019) will be talked about for years to come. Nelson was a late blooming player that never stopped getting better, has continued to impart wisdom on the game’s next generation, and his absence will sting more than just a bad team shedding moveable parts. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  21. White Sox, Relief Pitcher Trades within the division can be tough, but every contending team needs bullpen help down the stretch. With the Twins wanting to contend next year, it doesn’t seem likely for the club to send Taylor Rogers or Tyler Duffey to a division rival. This makes Robles more of a logical choice with his late inning work this season. He will need to show he can be back to the player he was earlier this season before a deal can get done. Potential Fit: Hansel Robles Cleveland, Starting Pitcher Derek Falvey came to the Twins from Cleveland’s front office, so he is likely well familiar with many of the players still in their system. Cleveland’s pitching staff has dealt with plenty of injuries, so more starting pitching depth might be at the top of their list. Pineda is on an expiring deal, and he won’t cost that much to acquire. His performance will need to improve now that he is back from injury. Potential Fit: Michael Pineda Red Sox, Left-Handed Bat MLB.com identified first base as a need for Boston, but their bigger need might be adding a left-handed bat. Only two everyday players, Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo, are lefties. There’s no question that Kepler has struggled this season, but lately there have been some signs of life with his bat. Kepler is on a very team friendly deal, and he has some defensive flexibility. The emergence of Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach makes Kepler expendable, but the team can also wait until the off-season to trade him. Potential Fit: Max Kepler Rays, Designated Hitter At the beginning of last month, I wrote about the Twins trading Cruz to the Rays. Tampa has previously been interested in him and he adds a big bat to the middle of their line-up. He’s having one of the best seasons ever for a player over 40 and there is likely a small market of contending teams vying for his services. Tampa has one of baseball’s best farm systems so that makes things even more intriguing. Potential Fit: Nelson Cruz Blue Jays, Relief Pitcher Realistically, Toronto might be interested in multiple players on the Twins roster. Besides relievers, the Blue Jays are likely interested in adding starting pitching (Jose Berrios) or designated hitter (Cruz) This is a team that wants to win now, and the AL East is baseball’s toughest division. It’s not out of the question to think the Twins might ship multiple players to Toronto before the deadline. Potential Fit: Taylor Rogers Astros, Relief Pitcher Minnesota’s current front office has previously completed a trade with the Astros that involved a reliever with team control. Ryan Pressly has gone on to a tremendous career in Houston, but he is currently one of the team’s only late-inning options. Adding Rogers to the mix is the kind of one-two punch teams need for deep October runs. Potential Fit: Rogers Athletics, Designated Hitter Minnesota might be able to create a small bidding war, if they can pit Toronto, Oakland, and Tampa against each other for Cruz’s services. Oakland is very familiar with Cruz from his time in Seattle and their line-up can use the powerful upgrade that he can provide. One of the biggest questions is if teams like Tampa and Oakland can take on the remaining salary on his contract or will the Twins have to send cash to pay down his expiring contract. Potential Fit: Cruz Which of these deals is most likely to happen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  22. Minnesota was one of the biggest surprises during the 2017 season after losing an MLB high 103-games the previous season. As the calendar turned to July, the Twins found themselves two games behind the Cleveland and the team stayed within striking distance for much of the month. However, as July ended and the trade deadline approached, the club lost seven of nine games and sat 6.5 games back in the division. The team went from buyers to sellers over a few days and that’s how the deadline played out. Falvey and Levine made it clear entering the deadline that the team wasn’t going to sway from their long-term vision. "In order to accomplish that, we maybe started the year not anticipating being a clear buyer at the Deadline," Levine said at the time. "I don't think we feel that's changed dramatically, other than maybe adding his one qualifier: We're probably not going to be inclined to spend lavishly on short-term assets, but we would be very open to spending aggressively on assets that we could use to propel our team forward this year and for years to come.” The 2017 season impacted the team’s decision making at the trade deadline, because it shifted them from being likely sellers to contemplating buying. The team held on to veterans like Brian Dozier, Ervin Santana, and Joe Mauer. There was also the debacle that was the Jaime Garcia trade as the front office went from buyers to sellers in less than a week. After the deadline, the team went on a run to finish in the second Wild Card spot, but there might be some lessons learned by the front office. During the 2021 season, Minnesota is having another surprising season, but it is for all the wrong reasons. The Twins entered the season believing they would be fighting for a third straight AL Central title and now the club sits double digit games out of first. Looking at the team’s upcoming schedule and it’s easy to imagine a scenario where the club might be facing a 2017 decision before the trade deadline. Leading into the All-Star Game, the Twins have 12 straight intra-division games including six against the division leading White Sox. The Twins have too much talent to be this far below .500 for the entire season, so they may accidentally improve as the season progresses. Minnesota’s pitching has improved, and the offense has become more of the force they were expected to be at season’s start. There’s certainly a realistic chance of the Twins being within 6.5 games or better at the trade deadline. This can put them in a similar position as 2017, but this time the team was expected to be a contender. Many expect the Twins to be sellers before the trade deadline, but they hold their destiny in their own hands. Veterans like Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, and Michael Pineda can be dealt, but the club might also find themselves back in the playoff race with plenty of lessons learned from 2017. Do you think the front office learned from 2017 deadline? How will it impact the 2021 trade deadline? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  23. The Twins roster isn’t this bad. Heck, the team entered play on Monday half of a game ahead of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central standings. Yes, this is the same Tigers squad that has lost 98 or more games in each of the last three full seasons. Detroit is trotting out plenty of replacement level players and prospects as a club that is clearly rebuilding. Yet, the Twins find themselves playing catch up in the division with nearly half the season finished. Minnesota’s failings have been well documented at Twins Daily. So far, the pitching staff has been arguably the worst in team history, but an influx of younger pitchers in the second half might help to boost the team. Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ have not worked out as planned but adding in other players like Bailey Ober and top prospect Jordan Balazovic might bring some excitement to a non-contending team. Unfortunately, many prospects will be on an innings limit due to the lack of a 2020 minor league season and Jhoan Duran, the team’s other top prospect, recently landed on the IL. From a draft standpoint, it helps to for the Twins to continue to be bad, because that results in a higher draft pick during the 2022 MLB Draft. Minnesota will likely deal away players on expiring contracts like Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda, and Andrelton Simmons and this might result in the team being even worse after the trade deadline. However, the players replacing these veterans will also likely have something to prove. So, what parts can improve as the season progresses? Byron Buxton has been the team’s best player when he has been on the field. In Monday’s update of the All-Star Game fan vote, he is still in the top-3 among AL outfielders and that lines him up to be in a starting role. If he continues to play this way, he can insert himself back into the MVP conversation. Buxton isn’t the only position where the Twins can see some accidental improvement. Max Kepler recently returned from injury, and he can help improve a right field group that has accumulated the sixth lowest AL WAR total. Before his gruesome injury, Mitch Garver seemed to be swinging the bat like the 2019 version of himself. He can add even more offensive depth when he returns. Minnesota has been underperforming throughout the 2021 season and there is too much talent on the roster for the team to play at such a low level. Entering play on Monday night, Baseball Prospectus has the Twins projected to finish the season at 83-79, which is quite the turnaround. Cleveland and Chicago are projected to finish at 87-75, which certainly puts the Twins in the conversation for the division by season’s end. Before the All-Star Game, the Twins have 25 straight games against the AL Central, which means the team has their fate in their own hands. Minnesota has a chance to improve, and it may be an accident waiting to happen. Do you think the Twins will accidently improve? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
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