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  1. Last season Bailey Ober made his Major League debut starting 20 games for a bad Twins team. A 12th-round pick in 2017 and never a top prospect, Ober performed well above his expected water level. The 4.19 ERA wasn’t earth-shattering, but it came with over a strikeout per inning, and if he was able to be just a bit more stingy with the longball, another step forward could be taken. Despite a brief stint on the injured list this season, Ober has now made five starts and owns a 2.55 ERA. His 3.26 FIP suggests he’s not pitching much over his head, and while the strikeouts have tailed off a bit, he’s allowing just 0.7 HR/9 and has cut the H/9 down by one to 8.0. In an age where velocity reigns supreme, Ober is doing it with a fastball that averages just 92 mph. Of course, the fact that he’s 6’9” and basically putting the ball across the plate out of his hand doesn’t help opposing hitters to sit on his pitches. The step forward is also evident in the peripherals. Ober is allowing 5% less hard contact this season, dropping the hard-hit rate against him down to 32%. Both his xFIP and xERA are hovering in the 4’s, but his whiff and chase rates are both slightly up from where they were last season. It’s a small sample size thus far in 2022, but the body of work is starting to become substantial. The thought on Ober was that he’d provide Minnesota great depth if pushed to Triple-A. Instead, he was tabbed as a rotation mainstay from the get-go and has continued to look the part of found money when it comes to projecting prospects. On the flip side, Joe Ryan has been a top-100 prospect after being drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft. It will forever be mind-boggling that Minnesota wrangled him from the Rays in exchange for a few months of an aging Nelson Cruz, but here we are. Ryan’s debut was extremely limited last season. He made five starts down the stretch and posted a 4.05 ERA. The 3.43 FIP suggested more was there and the 10.1 K/9 was hard not to get excited about. If Ober’s numbers were small and tough to get behind, however, then Ryan’s were minuscule. Instead of hedging their bets, Minnesota named Ryan their Opening Day starter even after acquiring potential ace Sonny Gray. Now eight starts into his 2022 campaign, Ryan may be the frontrunner for the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year award. He has a dazzling 2.28 ERA and is still sitting strong with an 8.7 K/9. Maybe being helped by the deadened baseball, his 0.6 HR/9 is more than halved from what it was a season ago, but the 3.24 FIP suggests his stuff is as good as advertised. Like Ober, Ryan doesn’t pump velocity on his fastball. Averaging just 92.4 mph on the pitch, which is a one mph jump from 2022, his ability to spin the pitch and get movement is where the success comes from. Minnesota has gotten Ryan into a more slider-focused repertoire this season, pushing roughly 10% of the fastball usage to his newly featured offering. The results haven’t produced a shift in chase rate or whiff rate, but they’ve helped to hold the status quo on what were already impressive results. Admittedly we’re still early in the 2022 season. The combined total here is just 13 starts. Knowing the rotation needed to be reconfigured though, both Ober and Ryan were immediately penciled in as key pieces and that may have seemed like a leap. The Twins' front office seemingly knew what they had, however, and the developmental path for both arms continues to remain strong.
  2. 10. Jorge Polanco: 30 HR Polanco has become one of Minnesota's most valuable contributors, and he is one of 22 second basemen to hit more than 30 home runs in a season. During the 2019 season, Minnesota coughed up a ninth-inning lead only to have Polanco hit a walk-off in the tenth inning. 9. Joe Mauer: 32 HR Mauer wasn't known for his home run prowess and his best home run season came at the Metrodome. His first walk-off home run was worth the wait as it came in his 14th big-league season. 8. Josh Willingham: 33 HR Willingham's home run prowess gets a little lost because he played on some bad Twins teams. However, he hit one of the most valuable home runs in Target Field history. With the Twins down to their final out, Willingham sent the fans home happy. 7. Nelson Cruz: 36 HR What is left to say about Cruz? His Twins tenure was full of remarkable moments, and he seemed to be the glue behind Minnesota's record-breaking home run season. The Twins don't have a lot of good memories against the Yankees, but his walk-off home run against Aroldis Chapman has to be one of the best. 6. Byron Buxton: 38 HR Buxton's long-term deal means he will continue to move up this list in the years ahead. However, he already hit a memorable home run during the 2022 season. His 469-foot moonshot was the longest walk-off home run in the StatCast era. Which one of these home runs stands out most to you? How high will Buxton get on this list before the end of his career? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. PREVIOUS POSTS IN THE SERIES -Home Run Hitters: 11-15
  3. In recent years, Nelson Cruz was penciled in as the team's primary designated hitter, and he performed at a high level in this role. Throughout the offseason, the Twins planned to rotate through various players in the DH role, but there has been a roster turnover since the lockout ended. Here are some of the names expected to fill the DH role in 2022. Gary Sánchez 2021 Stats: .204/.307/.423 (.730), 13 2B, 23 HR, 121 K, 117 G It seems likely for Sánchez to get the majority of his at-bats in the DH role this season because he is atrocious behind the plate. Sánchez has played 74 games as a DH for his career while hitting .224/.306/.469 (.775) with 11 doubles and 19 home runs. If Ryan Jeffers misses time or struggles, Sánchez will be pressed into service behind the plate. He's also in his final year of team control, and he likely wants to hit the market known for being a catcher and not just as a DH. There is an outside chance that Minnesota will include Sánchez in a trade before Opening Day, and then the team will have to turn to other DH options. Miguel Sanó 2021 Stats: .223/.312/.466 (.778), 24 2B, 30 HR, 183 K, 135 G Expectations were for Sanó to be used more regularly at the DH spot this season with Cruz out of the picture. Since switching to first base, he's made marginal defensive improvements, but SABR's SDI ranks him as the second-worst defensive first baseman. Also, Sanó isn't a stranger to the DH position as he's played nearly as many games at DH (155) as first base (195). He has a .753 OPS as the DH for his career, which is lower than when he plays a defensive position. Minnesota has a $14 million team option attached to Sanó with a $2.75 million buyout for next season. That's a steep price to pay for someone that has shifted to a more regular DH role. Brent Rooker 2021 Stats: .201/.291/.397 (.688), 10 2B, 9 HR, 70 K, 58 G Rooker has run out of things to prove in the minor leagues as he has a .932 OPS in nearly an entire season at Triple-A. The 27-year-old was used sporadically at the big-league level in 2020-21, and a DH role might be his best shot to earn a permanent role. Last season, he lost out on an Opening Day roster spot because the team was concerned with his defensive ability in the outfield. Those concerns likely remain, but Rooker is already behind the aforementioned names, and he may be relegated to a bench role this season. Other Options All three players mentioned seem to fit the prototypical DH mold, but others on the Twins roster will have the opportunity to fill the DH spot. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has preached a mantra around giving players adequate rest, including moving a regular position player to the DH role for the day. Four outfielders currently project to make the Opening Day roster, so one of those players could fill in at DH on any given day. Besides the outfielders, Luis Arraez and Jorge Polanco have played through in-season injuries in the past. A day at DH may take some of the wear and tear off their knees (Arraez) and ankles (Polanco). Jose Miranda is also coming off a tremendous season, but he doesn't have a clear roster spot this spring. Would the team consider bringing him up to get at-bats in a DH role? Some other powerful prospects like Matt Wallner and Aaron Sabato are also working their way towards Target Field. Minnesota's DH plan seemed much clearer at the beginning of the offseason, but those plans have changed. Now, these options seem worse than the Twins' production out of the DH spot with Cruz. Should Twins fans be worried about production from the DH spot? 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
  4. The Minnesota Twins' starting rotation is in shambles at this point. Dylan Bundy is the only starter signed before the lockout, and Carlos Rodon is the only realistic upper-tier target that still seems plausible. With those parameters, it seems a good bet that the Twins turn to the trade market, a place they’ve been expected to dabble all along. For Falvey, this is probably the optimal outcome. While free agency has been a malady of misses, the trade front has actually worked out well for this front office. I’m still baffled how an aging Nelson Cruz was parlayed for two legitimate arms, and that was after the Jake Odorizzi trade had already tipped the scales against the Rays for Minnesota. Throw in getting a haul for Jose Berrios when the organization had decided against extending him, and you have to be happy with the results. Looking at the prospect rankings and, more importantly, the organizational location for Minnesota, it’s clear they need external help. The Twins farm system shows up consistently at the bottom of the teens, and outside of Jordan Balazovic, there isn’t an arm on the farm that’s a top 100 talent and ready to immediately contribute. An explanation for much of the feelings regarding the Twins system relates to the missed time the past few seasons. The depth is there, while the floor currently trumps many of the ceilings. Parlaying a few arms into one big one could be the ideal action plan. Oakland has plenty of arms on the block, and stud Frankie Montas is among the best of them. Cincinnati could be a willing partner with either Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, or Tyler Mahle. Houston might be willing to flip Odorizzi back to Minnesota. There is any number of possibilities for the front office to explore. It would be wise to assume that frameworks have been discussed before the lockout, and things should come together quickly when we get a resumption. If and when Minnesota swings a deal, there should be a level of trust built from how Falvey has constructed previous swaps. There’s going to be hurt in prospect capital, especially for a top-level arm, but betting on the Twins knowing their talents and the warts they may have is an earned belief. An ideal trade has both sides winning when the deal is struck, but Minnesota continuing to come out on top, in the long run, is something every fan can get on board with. Derek Falvey needs to keep stacking the positive results in that category. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. It’s understood that owners want the DH to protect their pitchers, but they do not want to pay for what that would mean. If they want to pay pitchers more and protect them, having another player to pay is the only option. The effect is twofold. First, it's 15 more jobs for which MLB owners wouldn't have to pay premium prices. The National League would then have to pay a decent salary for a decent hitter. Or a position player would have to move into the DH role. So, which is more important to the owners? Are they protecting the pitcher or saving money? The Twins are not strangers to the designated hitter. The American League began playing with a DH nearly 50 years ago. It would not make a difference to the AL teams if Major League Baseball implemented the universal designated hitter. The managers know who they have, what they need, where their strengths and weaknesses are in the lineup. With that stated, bringing on a designated hitter from outside the organization is not in the Twins' best interest (sorry, Nelson Cruz fans). The Twins need a hitter that they can rely on to hit, bring in runners and get on base themselves. After Nelson Cruz was traded, the Twins used several different players as DH, particularly a hobbling Josh Donaldson. When using position players from the roster, while the DH can give a player a break, a team runs the risk of more injuries and fewer players to DH. Players are more likely to get hurt playing their position playing the field, which would remove them from playing DH, putting it on someone else. Having a full-time or tandem DH is what makes sense. It is common knowledge that the front office will find ways to save every penny they can. $30-40 Million left in revenue to spend is a fair chunk of change. However, if the Twins use someone already on the roster, they can use that money to bring in the pitching they desperately need. So what do the Twins do at the designated hitter spot? I am glad you asked. **Takes audible deep breath** Miguel Sano. Hear me out. There is a great divide in the Minnesota fanbase over Sano's ability to hit. He is a very streaky hitter. Last season, he reached 1,000 strikeouts in the fewest games (661) in MLB history. He lacked plate discipline at times. If he sees a ball in his zone, he swings at it. Pitchers are not afraid to pitch to him because of his strikeouts and lack of consistent content. However, they also know that he can hit a ball-into-next week if his timing is right. During the 2019 season, the newly-acquired Nelson Cruz saw Sano struggling and took an interest in helping him improve his plate appearances. Cruz invited Sano to meet with him and hitting coaches Edgar Varela and Rudy Hernandez, who Cruz frequently used to help him improve his hitting and technique. Sano put in the hard work, not shying away from asking questions and even calling Valera or Hernandez to discuss mechanics when they weren't meeting. In 2019 Sano had an outstanding season. His contact was harder, balls went farther and faster off the bat. His stance, timing, and mechanics also improved. His ability to be patient and read pitchers became an asset. Nelson Cruz had not only stepped in as a father figure but also as a friend and a coach. Sano may not have had a 'record-breaking year' in 2021; in fact, he was streaky at best throughout the first half of the season, but because Alex Kirilloff kept getting hurt, Sano stayed in the lineup and worked hard to stay where he was. Last season, Sano had a career-low strikeout percentage (32.3%). He relied on his timing and mechanics shown to him by Cruz and the coaches to help him drive in 75 runs and launch 30 home runs into the stands. Sano made significant improvements to his plate appearances, and he is not the greatest at first base. Taking him off of first base would not be a loss for the Twins. Sano has firm control of his swing, and even in Twins losses, his presence adds excitement to the game and runs to the board. Sano easily is the best choice for a full-time designated hitter. There could be an argument for Josh Donaldson joining in tandem due to his already high-cost contract and consistent hitting. Donaldson may need a break from third base, and a rotating DH position for him wouldn't be out of the question. Donaldson is one of the best hitters on the team for the Twins, he has a batting average of .247 and an equally impressive OPS of .827, but has pre-existing injury conditions and he has a consistently declining batting average. Miguel Sano has less time on Injured Reserve and would be on the roster more consistently than Donaldson. Sano was shown how to get the most out of an at-bat by the best-designated hitter in the league, and he was also not afraid to put in the work to improve. His batting average may be lower than Donaldson’s, but this past season, in 2021, he had more at-bats of any year - showing that he is consistently on the roster more. When Nelson Cruz left on July 22, 2021, Sano quite literally slid into Cruz's pants and poured his heart and work ethic into his plate appearances to show the clubhouse and the fans that in his final season (before the 2023 club option), this is where he deserves to be. Who's on first? So naturally, the next question would be who would play first base? The Twins have moved players up and down from St. Paul to see what fits. There has been success with Alex Kirilloff. First base and the outfield have a few players that could easily take over that position and even leave room to bring up a St. Paul player if needed to another position. Alex Kirilloff has proven to be an asset to the Twins 40-man roster. Kirilloff was drafted 15th overall in the first round of the 2016 MLB draft. He was a hot commodity, and the organization knew it. He has spent his entire career from the minors to the majors with the Twins organization rotating between the corner outfield positions and first base, showing that he has some versatility. Kirilloff is a good outfielder but is best served at first base, and he could potentially be a gold glove contender. Last season, he showed that he deserves to be in the big leagues. In 215 at-bats, Kirilloff hit .251 with eight home runs and a .722 OPS. Barring any complications from his wrist surgery, this writer believes Kirilloff would make an outstanding first baseman. The Twins have an arsenal of players at their disposal for not only the lineup, but it also leaves the ability to move players around and still have depth. The Twins farm system was ranked number 12out of 30 by MLB Pipeline. Alex Kirilloff was ranked number 26 in the top 100 prospects by MLB Pipeline a year ago and was the Twins Daily top prospect. The farm system is doing the work that the Twins need to create a strong team that will hopefully take them to the postseason. What do you think the Twins should do at the Designated Hitter position in 2022?
  6. As a disappointing 2021 season came to a close, Minnesota's front office faced plenty of questions about the club's future direction. With the team's current roster make-up, it's clear the club doesn't want to enter a long rebuilding phase. Plus, there are multiple reasons why it is a terrible time to try and rebuild. "I fully anticipate, this offseason, we're going to try to find a way to get better for '22 and beyond," Derek Falvey told reporters. "I've approached each of the last three offseasons, really even going back after '17, with an approach: 'How do we find a way to get better now and in the future?' We talk about sustainability. In order to do that, you have to keep an eye on short-term and long-term." Patience and attempts to find good value have been the critical factors in many of the team's offseason moves under the current regime. That strategy has played itself out in recent years. 2021 Offseason Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Andrelton Simmons, Alexander Colomé, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker Minnesota's five most significant moves last winter came after the start of the new year. The Twins were patient with Cruz as he tested the market, but the NL not having the designated hitter limited his potential landing spots. Simmons was one of the best available free agent shortstops, but the Twins only turned to Simmons after Marcus Semien signed with Toronto. Semien finished third in the AL MVP vote, and Simmons had a career-worst season. The trio of free-agent pitchers signed by the Twins seemed like cheap deals at the time, but there was little upside involved. In hindsight, all three contracts ended up being poor as both starting pitchers were out of the organization by the season's end. Colomé improved throughout the year, but his terrible first month put the Twins into a hole from which they couldn't recover. 2020 Offseason Key Moves: Josh Donaldson, Kenta Maeda, Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, Homer Bailey, Sergio Romo, Alex Avila, Rich Hill, Tyler Clippard This was a massive offseason with Minnesota spending north of $150 million and trading for Kenta Maeda. Like other offseasons, things didn't go exactly as planned. Rumors were linking the Twins to some of the top free-agent pitchers, but none of those deals worked out for various reasons. Luckily, the front office pivoted and signed Josh Donaldson to the biggest free-agent contract in team history. Donaldson's deal fell to the Twins after other free agents went by the wayside. Bailey and Hill's contracts followed a similar pattern of the front office looking for cheaper one-year deals, but once again, there was little upside involved with either arm. As with previous offseasons, Minnesota waited for other teams to make moves, and they examined what was still available. Names at the top of the team's wish list were already signed, so the club had to shift to a different strategy. 2019 Offseason Key Moves: Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop, Martin Perez, C.J. Cron Signing Cruz became one of the best free-agent moves in franchise history. He immediately impacted the line-up and helped transform the Twins into the Bomba Squad. At the time, Gonzalez looked like an intriguing signing after his impact on the Astros World Series run. Schoop and Cron projected to add some pop to the line-up, and Perez was a rotational boost. The AL Central was wide open, but the team only made marginal moves. All of the acquisitions provided a boost to the team, and the team went on to win over 100-games. However, Minnesota followed a similar offseason plan as they waited out the market and signed players late into the winter. At the time, Falvey and Levine made it clear that they believed in the club's core. That mantra may hold true for the 2022 offseason, but it's tough to be overconfident in the current core. It's hard to argue with the front office's strategy since the team has won two division titles in the last three years. However, the lockout impacts Minnesota's ability to sign players later in the cycle. The new CBA may also add a wrinkle to the team's offseason plans as there is a potential to add a payroll floor. If this happens, small payroll teams will be looking to add players that have typically been Minnesota's fallback options. Do you feel the front office's off-season strategy doesn't work this winter? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  7. 2020 was admittedly a bad start to the four-year, $92m contract the Twins gave Josh Donaldson after whiffing on a big-name starting pitcher the offseason before. The former MVP missed more than half of the 60-game season with injuries including the best of three playoff series that ended in a whimper from the offense. Per game, however, Donaldson was the same star hitter he always has been, and he showed that across a much bigger body of work in 2021. For those unfamiliar with MLBs use of Statcast measurements, these numbers read in percentiles, meaning Donaldson is in the 99th percentile in average exit velocity, 95th percentile in barrel percentage, etc. In most offensive measurements, Donaldson’s raw skills were among the top 5-10% in all of baseball. For a season many considered disappointing, I think such a strong showing deserves some context. As you can see, Donaldson actually bested fan-favorite Nelson Cruz in many raw measurements in 2021 according to Statcast. It’s interesting to look at considering one of these players is discussed as the cornerstone of whatever lineup he’s in while the other is being discussed as a possible salary dump. Why might that be? 2020 Left a Bitter Taste 2020 was a season that likely had the front office wishing for a do-over on the largest free-agent contract the team had ever handed out. There was an understandable amount of frustration as the biggest addition to the team was nowhere to be seen for most of a season where the Twins captured their second consecutive division title only to be swept out of the playoffs once again. To make matters worse, those feelings of frustration had gasoline thrown onto the fire when Donaldson injured his hamstring on opening day 2021 and missed a chunk of time. For many, their minds were made up. Donaldson’s availability down the stretch was an incredible accomplishment, however, and showed that while his injury concerns are very much a reality, he’s still capable of being an everyday player across a full season. To once again make a Cruz vs. Donaldson comparison, DH Nelson Cruz played in 140 games compared to Donaldson’s 135 in 2021 which may surprise even the biggest Twins fans to hear. 2021 Was Unlucky The ongoing joke in 2021 was the continued use of the phrase “bad luck” as so much went wrong that it’s impossible to chalk it all up to misfortune. For Donaldson however, we have Statcast measurements saying his raw offensive ability hasn’t declined at all at age 35. His .247 average was much lower than his .268 expected batting average. His .475 slugging percentage was much lower than his .541 expected slugging. He also hit four fewer home runs than expected given the way he impacts the ball. His speed on the bases may be a partial explanation for these discrepancies but his hampered legs can only explain away a portion of these gaps in expected performance. If you aren’t a believer in expected stats, it’s still difficult to look back and be disappointed in his body of work that included a triple slash of .247/.352/.475, good for 24% above league average. Repeating that line would be just fine for 2022, but he appears to still have the physical capabilities to garner MVP votes if he can remain on the field as he did in 2021. So why point out Donaldson’s impressive performance in 2021? To be honest, he doesn’t get the appreciation he deserves. His impact would have essentially erased a disappointing 2020 in the eyes of fans had he performed exactly the same and the team hadn’t crumbled. Statcast says he could have performed even better. He’s talked about like he’s over the hill and his contract needs to be dumped before it’s too late so the Twins can improve. In reality, however, Donaldson is probably one of the three most important pieces of the Twins offense in 2022. Without Nelson Cruz, Donaldson is an important figure on the team not just on the field, but as a veteran-hitting savant who can have a huge impact on the upcoming prospects. It’s entirely possible that Donaldson’s health in 2022 could go the way of 2020 rather than 2021. That being said, at bat for at bat there still aren’t a ton of players you want in the heart of your lineup over Josh Donaldson, and he’s still a tantalizing talent that should have Twins fans looking forward to the beginning of the 2022 season. — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Cody Pirkl on Twitter here
  8. Sports fanatics classify the term 'journeyman' as someone who has spent an arm and a leg in the league bouncing between teams with adequate success but nothing special. Zack Greinke crosses off a few of those checkmarks; he isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore and the eephus-touting free agent has played for six teams throughout the course of his MLB career. For the lack of success part? Not so much. A six time all star with a Cy Young award (has also finished top ten in voting three times) and four gold gloves, Greinke has maintained a level of consistency that is rare for veteran pitchers who've long surpassed their peak years. The hitting-loving, burrito connoisseur finished last season in Houston with an 11-6 record and 4.16 ERA before electing free agency. That steeps above his career ERA of 3.41 but through the lens of "he's 37 and battled a variety of injuries," it's still impressive. His 29 starts in 2021 are on par with the high 20's-low 30's range that cemented his 'glory days' in Kansas City. Greinke may not have the flashy appeal of other names on the free-agent market like Carlos Rodon and Clayton Kershaw. Yet in addition to his consistency, Greinke's value to the Twins could extend far beyond metrics on the mound. It's a move that coincides with previous organizational patterns and one that could lay the foundation in a young Twins rotation. Aged like Fine Wine As expected, one of the biggest rebuttals to signing Greinke is his age, lack of strikeouts, and low velocity. All of these are valid concerns; Greinke's 120 strikeouts and 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2021 were the lowest number in his career (in a full season). The late 30's have presented him a somewhat high-density of minor injuries in the past few years, including a neck injury in 2019 and shoulder and abdominal injuries in 2021. None of those injuries landed him on anything longer than the 10-day Injured List; pretty impressive. Minus the 2006 season when he prioritized his mental health, Greinke has pitched close to a full season throughout the entirety of his career. There are a couple of things that contribute to his longevity; Greinke knows what works for him and what doesn't. While many pitchers toss out the '”I pitch 100% all the time," he doesn't. He knows what works for and what doesn't in terms of maximizing his value and health. Take this 2014 article from Yahoo! Sports as an example; Greinke admits that he has become more selective with his slider due to the strain it previously presented to his elbow. The epitome of work smarter, not harder, Greinke's pitch arsenal is a testament to his lengthy career. According to Baseball Savant, 67% of his pitches in 2021 consisted of fastballs (averaging at 89 MPH) and changeups (averaging at 86 MPH). That means that less than a third of his pitches are curveballs and sliders, two pitches that tend to shred the arm. And no, fans won't be shouting "throw 'em the heater, Zacky!" when he's on the bump, they never have. That doesn't matter when a pitcher hits his spots. Greinke only walked 36 batters in 2021, scoring him in the 95th percentile for walks across Major League Baseball. The 'ground out/pop up out' brand of pitcher has been a constant for the Twins over the years. Yet few have nailed the craft to a T as consistently and accurately as Greinke has. Old Bull Among Young Calves With the absences of José Berríos (traded to Blue Jays) and Kenta Maeda (Tommy John Surgery), the Twins starting rotation is faced with crossroads of uncertainty. Michael Pineda is expected to return in 2022 but is a free agent and has drawn interest from some of his previous teams. A few things are certain; offseason addition Dylan Bundy will play a role in the rotation and young bucks Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan will have ample opportunities to soak their feet in the pond of Major League pitching. Scraps and appetizers of the meal are there, but the entrée is missing; a well-seasoned veteran who has experienced success throughout his career yet has endured experiences that have shaped him as a pitcher and potential mentor for young, undeveloped talent. Greinke certainly has his quirks, we all do. Yet it's tough to imagine Greinke not being an excellent mentor for young pitchers like Ober and Ryan. His career has encountered trades, free agency, winning teams, abysmal teams, and everything in between. Frankly, he's seen the game of baseball from all different angles and perspectives. Ryan and Ober come to the Twins from very different paths; Ober was drafted by the organization in 2017 and developed as 'in-house' talent whereas Ryan came to the Twins last season via the Nelson Cruz alongside Drew Strotman. And while Ober has a bit more experience under his belt than Ryan, a guy like Greinke could prove valuable to help weather the mountains and valleys that come with the territory of being a young MLB Pitcher. To top it off, Greinke's arsenal parallels Ober and Ryan to an extent. Both youngsters rely heavily on a fastball in the low 90's and have untapped potential with their respective off-speed pitches. Not the First Rodeo It's no secret that the Twins have developed a reputation for signing and trading for high-quality players who may be past their prime but haven't hit E on the tank yet. The previous regime did it with names like Jim Thome and Ervin Santana and the current leadership continued the pattern with Maeda, and most notably, Nelson Cruz. It's become a way of life for the Twins, a mid-market team that frankly doesn't have the 'street cred' of Los Angeles, New York, or even Chicago. The latter doesn't mention names like C.J. Cron or Logan Morrison, veteran acquisitions that perhaps didn't come to fruition the way that the front office would have liked. Zack Greinke isn't Logan Morrison though. The only 'eye sore' season in his decorated career was almost two decades ago and his progression only elevated following his time off in 2006. Just a few years later, the Royals' ace was a Cy Young winner. Another appeal? Given his age, Greinke is likely to be in the $12-15 million range (estimation by Twins Daily's Nick Nelson and others); those are numbers that the Twins can work with. Given the Buxton extension and the fact that the Twins play in the AL Central (as opposed to a division like the AL East or NL West with two-plus legit contenders), the focus of going all-in and forgoing a rebuild is a legitimate (and almost expected) possibility. Greinke's familiarity with the Central and the division's ballparks, playing styles, etc. is only gravy on top. The cry for starting pitching has resounded loudly throughout Twins Territory during this long and dark offseason. Don't be surprised if the organization alleviates those cries by making a move on a pitching who could change the outlook of the pitching rotation drastically.
  9. Saddled with Paul Molitor to start his tenure, Falvey tabbed Rocco Baldelli as manager before the 2019 season. A breath of fresh air and a new perspective, Baldelli represented a complete change from the Twins' old guard. While the losing in October hasn’t ceased yet, the club has stockpiled a plethora of solid prospects and could be on the verge of another sustained run. Here’s one writer's opinion of the five best moves Minnesota has made during Derek Falvey’s tenure: 5. Nelson Cruz Signing (Twice) Looking to add thump to their lineup, Falvey inked the long-time designated hitter to a one-year deal worth $14 million (and a second-year option at $12 million). At 38-years-old, there was cause for concern, and he was coming off a slide posting just an .850 OPS for the Mariners. His services were hotly contested, and he wound up being a catalyst for the Bomba Squad. Cruz’s 1.031 OPS was a career-best, and he finished 9th in the American League MVP voting after blasting 41 dingers. His value was estimated as being worth more than $34 million that season by Fangraphs. 4. Nelson Cruz Trade After bringing Cruz back on a one-year deal for $13 million, Minnesota saw the writing on the wall as they slipped down the AL Central standings in 2021. Having posted a .907 OPS through 85 games for the Twins, Cruz was still productive at 40. Despite half of the sport not using the designated hitter, and even fewer teams needing one, Falvey orchestrated a coup in a deal from the Tampa Bay Rays. Acquiring Team USA ace and top-100 prospect Joe Ryan for a few months of Cruz would’ve been great on its own. Minnesota also netted Drew Strotman (a recent Twins Spotlight guest), another strong pitching prospect, and despite Cruz’s greatness here, they couldn’t have packed his bags fast enough for that return. 3. Michael Pineda Signing Signing someone while injured is always a tricky situation, but that’s what Falvey opted to do with Michael Pineda. Needing starting arms, the Twins came to an agreement with the former Yankees starter while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2018. Paying him just $10 million over two years, Minnesota got to monitor Pineda’s rehab and set him up to be a rotation mainstay for them in 2019. He turned in a strong 4.01 ERA and was among the many reasons the club was so good. In 2019 alone, Fangraphs valued Pineda’s production north of $20 million. Pineda has been unquestionably the best free-agent move on the pitching front from this front office, taking steps forward in each of the next two seasons. 2. Jorge Polanco Extension After a career-best .773 OPS in 2018, Minnesota decided to lock Polanco up long term. He was signed to a five-year deal with two additional options. The guaranteed portion was for just $25.75 million, or $5.15 million per year. Polanco became a first-time All-Star in 2019, posting an .841 OPS and generating MVP votes for the first time in his career. His 2020 was a slide backward as he dealt with nagging ankle issues, but a switch to second base and a clean bill of health had him rebounding to an .826 OPS in 2021, and he launched a career-best 33 homers. Polanco is among the best second basemen in baseball, and this contract looks like one of the most team-friendly deals across the entire sport. 1. Byron Buxton Extension This one takes the top spot mainly for the impact it could have and would have had it not gotten done. Buxton is a generational talent, and the only thing that has sapped his earning potential is the ability to stay on the field. Now signed to a seven-year, $100 million contract, Buxton looks to expand upon three seasons totaling an .897 OPS. He’s arguably the best defensive outfielder in the game and has come into his power potential; the speed asset to his game is just a cherry on top. Minnesota needed to get this done, and now both parties stand to benefit plenty from one another. What are some of the moves made under Derek Falvey that you would place here? Is there a favorite I missed? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  10. As players age, their physical abilities deteriorate and they often can not play as well as they used to play.. So when a player 35 or older has a great season, it is remarkable. Veterans are usually good locker room presences and leaders for younger players, but if they can also be one of the best players on the team, that is an added bonus. In this article, we will look at the top five seasons by hitters in Twins history over the age of 35. If a player has multiple great seasons over the age of 35, I picked their best one. All of the players on this list have had illustrious careers and while their production in these seasons wasn’t as high as they had in their primes, they still were very impactful players on their teams. 5. Josh Donaldson, 2021 - 2.2 fWAR When Josh Donaldson made news in 2021, it was for sparking a sticky controversy with White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito and for feuding with Gerrit Cole. Despite being one of the most controversial players in baseball, Josh Donaldson has also been one of the best. Since 2013, he has the third highest WAR in all of baseball, trailing only Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. In Donaldson’s prime, he was a 6-8 WAR player, winning AL MVP in 2015 and finishing in the top 10 four times. In 2021, he was only worth 2.2 WAR, making him the third best player on the Twins behind Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco. Donaldson hit .247/.352/.475 (.827) in 135 games. He had a wRC+ of 124, meaning he was 24 percent better than league average at creating runs for his team. He also had a keen eye at the plate, leading the Twins with 74 walks. When you dive deeper into the numbers, Donaldson was even more impressive. He ranked 4th in MLB in average exit velocity (94.1), 3rd in Barrels per plate appearance (11.2 percent), and 11th in hard hit rate. Below are his Baseball Savant percentile rankings. In nearly all of the offensive categories, Donaldson ranked in the top 10 percent of all hitters. This is incredible for a player who is 35 years old. As Donaldson ages, he will get more time in the DH role as the Twins look to younger players like Luis Arraez and Jose Miranda to occupy third base to keep Donaldson’s bat in the lineup more regularly. Donaldson had a good 2021 and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his production improve in 2022 as a 36 year old. 4. Paul Molitor, 1996 - 2.5 fWAR After an outstanding career in Milwaukee and Toronto, Hall-of-Famer and native Minnesotan Paul Molitor returned to play in his homeland for the final three years of his career. As is the case with most veterans, Molitor was mostly a designated hitter in his tenure with the Twins. During his career, Molitor’s versatility was one of his best assets so confining him to DH took a lot of his value away. Still, the future Twins manager was able to post 2.5 WAR in 1996, his first season with the Twins. In Molitor’s prime, he was consistently a 4-6 win player for the Brewers and Blue Jays. He won the World Series in 1993 with the Blue Jays and was named World Series MVP, going 11-for-24 with five extra base hits, seven RBI, three walks, and no strikeouts in six games. He also tied the World Series record for most runs in a series with 10 runs scored. In 1996, Molitor hit .341/.390/.468 (.858) for a 114 wRC+. Molitor led the American League with 225 hits, which is the third most for a single season in Twins history. He also drove in 113 runs and hit 41 doubles in that year. During that season he became the first player to hit a triple for his 3000th career hit. Molitor was a great veteran addition to a Twins team that needed some guidance. 3. Jim Thome, 2010 3.1 fWAR As a player who spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, Twins fans did not associate Jim Thome with good memories. In his career against the Twins, Thome hit an ungodly .314/.415/.635 (1.049) with 61 home runs in 196 games. In 2010, the Twins decided that if you can’t beat him, join him, so they signed Thome to a one year deal worth $1.5 million. In his age 39 season, Thome was outstanding. He appeared in 108 games and hit .283/.412/.627 (1.039) for a 177 wRC+. Among players 39 and older who appeared in 100 or more games, the only players in MLB history with a higher OPS than Thome were Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron. Thome posted 3.1 WAR in only 108 games despite only playing DH. The only primary DH’s in MLB history with more WAR in a similar amount of games are Yordan Alvarez and David Ortiz. Thome hit his 600th career home run with the Twins in 2011, but his signature moment as a Twin was this walk-off home run he hit in August of 2010, the first walk-off homer in Target Field history. Thome was also an outstanding clubhouse presence, being named the nicest player in baseball by his fellow players, a nice touch on an outstanding career. 2. Harmon Killebrew, 1971 3.9 fWAR Killebrew was an outstanding player for the entirety of his career. He actually had two seasons that would’ve placed him on this list but I chose to go with the better of the seasons, 1971. Killebrew was already on his way to the Hall of Fame before he turned 35, having hit 487 home runs in his career. But in his age 35 season, Killebrew had a great season. By this time, Killebrew’s outfield days were behind him and he was splitting time between first base and third base. In 1971, Killebrew hit .254/.386/.464 (.850) for a wRC+ of 137. He led the American League in RBI (119) and walks (114). He was named to the final all-star game of his fantastic career. In late July of this year, Killebrew hit his 499th homer. For the next 16 games, Killebrew went into a slump, not able to hit his 500th. But in the 17th game, Killebrew hit home runs 500 and 501 at Metropolitan Stadium to cement his legacy as an all-time great. Killebrew was relieved, telling the Associated Press he could finally breathe a sigh of relief again. “When people keep asking you when you’re going to hit it, you try a bit harder. The only time I thought about it was when people were asking me about it”, said Killebrew. 1. Nelson Cruz, 2019 - 4.3 fWAR The ageless wonder, Nelson Cruz, was a fantastic signing for the Twins in the 2019 offseason. In his age 38 season, Cruz turned the Twins from a mediocre team into a 100 game winner. The Dominican slugger helped guide young Hispanic sluggers Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario to career highs in home runs. Cruz had such a profound impact on Sano that Sano decided to name Cruz the Godfather of his daughter. He also won the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award for all of the great work he does in the community. Along with his great leadership, Cruz was one of the best hitters in the league. In 2019, Cruz hit .311/.392/.639 (1.031) for a wRC+ of 164. His .639 slugging percentage was the best single season slugging percentage in Twins history. He hit 41 home runs and drove in 108 runs. He also led MLB in Barrels per Plate Appearance, Hard Hit Rate, and Average Exit Velocity. The combination of this means that he hit the ball harder than anyone else did more consistently than anyone else. This led to a lot of success for Cruz. Nelson Cruz had two more good seasons for the Twins before he was traded during his age 40 season to the Tampa Bay Rays for Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman. Cruz has a strong impact on baseballs and teammates, making him a great addition to any team. Conclusion Throughout the Twins history, they have had some great seasons by older players, proving that baseball isn’t always a young man’s game. Hopefully another great season by Donaldson next year can move him up on this list, but don’t look for many Twins to make this list in the near future as the Twins will try to get younger players more experience. Who did I miss on this list? What would you change about the order? Is Cruz the best power hitter in Twins history? Leave a comment below! Let me hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins!
  11. Below is a rundown of the back half of the top-20 stories here at Twins Daily over the last calendar year. Take a look back at some of the most significant events and stop back later to look at the top-10 stories. 20. José Berríos Traded to Blue Jays Published: July 30 Author: Matthew Taylor After the season went south, the José Berríos trade was one of the biggest stories of the year. Not only did it impact the second half of the 2021 season, but the trade also has ramifications felt into the current off-season as the team looks to rebuild the pitching staff. Minnesota was able to get two top-100 prospects, and the Blue Jays eventually signed Berríos to a long-term deal. 19. Trade Deadline Tracker: Twins' News and Rumor Roundup Published: July 29 Author: Matthew Taylor There's no question that Twins fans were interested in the 2021 trade deadline as Minnesota had multiple big-league assets tied into the rumor mill. One of the day's biggest stories was the Brewers trading for old friend Eduardo Escobar. Rumors also swirled about a potential José Berríos trade that happened the next day. 18. Nelson Cruz Saga Illuminates Shrewdness of Falvine Published: February 5 Author: Nash Walker Last winter, one of the team's most significant decisions was whether or not to bring back Nelson Cruz. Minnesota's front office was patient, and the National League never added the designated hitter. This left few contending teams in need of Cruz's services. Falvine got Cruz to sign on their terms, and he'd be part of another big story later in the year. 17. Potential Trade Packages for José Berríos Published: May 29 Author: Matthew Lenz Even at the end of May, it was clear the Twins would be in sell mode before the trade deadline. Not only did Matthew connect the Blue Jays as a potential suitor for a Berríos trade, but he also hit on one of the prospects the team got as part of the return. 16. Are the Twins About to Build a Radically Unconventional Pitching Staff? Published: November 11 Author: Nick Nelson The Twins didn't sign any of the top-tier free-agent starting pitchers, and this article gives insight into what the team might be planning. Thad Levine and the front office may consider a nontraditional approach to filling the rotation. When the lockout ends, this approach will be something to keep an eye on as the roster comes together. 15. End of the Line for Brent Rooker? Published: September 25 Author: Cody Pirkl Brent Rooker finished his age-26 season, and he has yet to put it all together at the big-league level. He has little left to prove at Triple-A, and now the question remains as to what his future may hold with the Twins moving forward. Can he be a bench option for the Twins in 2022, or has he reached the end of the line? 14. Twins Trade Nelson Cruz to the Rays for Two AAA Starting Pitchers Published: July 22 Author: Seth Stohs Tampa Bay didn't wait around until the trade deadline to make their move as they wanted Cruz on their roster for an extra week and a half. Even with Cruz on an expiring deal, the Twins acquired two pitchers that are close to big-league ready. It was Minnesota's first big trade before the deadline, and it wouldn't be their last move. 13. Do the Twins Already Have the Next Brian Dozier? Published: March 1 Author: Cody Christie Brian Dozier was a late bloomer that came through the Twins system to have some monster seasons at the plate. Nick Gordon made his debut in 2021, and he also fits into the late-bloomer category. He may never develop Dozier's power, but he seemed to fit nicely into a utility role in the season's second half. 12. Twins Finalize Opening Day Roster Published: March 29 Author: Seth Stohs Minnesota was coming off of back-to-back AL Central titles, so there was plenty of hope associated with the Opening Day roster. One of the team's final decisions was to keep Kyle Garlick over Rooker. Garlick led the team in home runs throughout the spring, so it took an impressive showing for him to make the squad. 11. Ranking the Top-5 Remaining Free Agent Starters Published: December 1 Author: Cody Christie Minnesota had yet to acquire any starting pitching outside of Dylan Bundy, with the lockout looming. There were some clear names at the top of the free-agent rankings, but things dropped off in a hurry. One of the players has already signed, but the other four players are still available if Minnesota wants to pursue them for 2022. Stop back and check out the top stories of the year. Which of these stories will you remember the most? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. 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
  13. 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?
  14. 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
  15. 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
  16. 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!
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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!
  20. (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.
  21. 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
  22. 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!
  23. 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
  24. 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
  25. 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
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