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  1. Minnesota made multiple roster-altering trades over the last year, and those moves are a little easier to analyze because the team received something in return. For the players below, it was easy to see how any of them might fit into the team's plans moving forward. However, each moved on to a different organization, and their production levels have varied considerably. Michael Pineda, SP Michael Pineda made five starts for the Detroit Tigers so far in 2022. In 22 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.22 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and a 12-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Currently, Pineda has been on the injured list since mid-May after getting hit by a comebacker to the mound. He suffered a broken finger but was able to avoid surgery. He threw a bullpen session last week, which points to him being closer to returning. Much like his time in Minnesota, Pineda has been relatively effective when healthy. Detroit sits 11 games under .500 to start the season, so Pineda can provide a boost to the rotation when he can return. Andrelton Simmons, SS There is no question that Andrelton Simmons struggled during his Twins tenure, but his career-track record pointed to him being able to bounce back. His 58 OPS+ was nearly 30 points lower than his career mark, even if his defense continued to be strong. Simmons signed with Chicago this winter, and right shoulder inflammation has limited him to 19 games. Since returning from the IL, Simmons has been gone 8-for-49 (.163 BA) with no extra-base hits. He has a -2 OPS+ and nearly as many strikeouts (7) as hits (8). Now in his age-32 season, one must wonder if Simmons will be able to get back to the player he was earlier in his career. Willian Astudillo, UTL Fans fell in love with Willians Astudillo during his Twins tenure, but his value to the team declined as he couldn't play consistently behind the plate. Astudillo settled for a minor league deal with the Marlins, but the team has already needed to call him up during the 2022 campaign. In 12 games, he has gone 8-for-26 (.308 BA) with a home run. Like the Twins, the Marlins have used him at multiple infield positions and even as a reliever in one game. Astudillo will be a fan favorite wherever he plays, and Miami offered a better chance for him to get regular playing time in 2022. Rob Refsnyder, OF Rob Refsnyder burst onto the scene with the Twins last year as he hit .321/.371/.500 (.871) in his first 18 games with the club. Over his last 33 games, his OPS dropped to .524, and he posted a -1.34 Win Probability Added. His hot start may have convinced some fans that he could fill a fourth outfielder role, but his full-season numbers were closer to his career totals. He signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox, and they recently called him up. In his first five games, he has gone 3-for-11 (.273 BA), with two of his three hits being doubles. Refsnyder also made a highlight-reel catch that might have Boston fans feeling similar to what Twins fans felt at the beginning of last season. At this point, it seems like the Twins were correct in their assessment of moving on from all of these players. Do you think the team should have kept any of the abovementioned players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  2. For better or worse, the Twins moved on from multiple players this past off-season. How have those players done for their new organizations? Let's check in. Minnesota made multiple roster-altering trades over the last year, and those moves are a little easier to analyze because the team received something in return. For the players below, it was easy to see how any of them might fit into the team's plans moving forward. However, each moved on to a different organization, and their production levels have varied considerably. Michael Pineda, SP Michael Pineda made five starts for the Detroit Tigers so far in 2022. In 22 1/3 innings, he posted a 3.22 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP and a 12-to-4 strikeout to walk ratio. Currently, Pineda has been on the injured list since mid-May after getting hit by a comebacker to the mound. He suffered a broken finger but was able to avoid surgery. He threw a bullpen session last week, which points to him being closer to returning. Much like his time in Minnesota, Pineda has been relatively effective when healthy. Detroit sits 11 games under .500 to start the season, so Pineda can provide a boost to the rotation when he can return. Andrelton Simmons, SS There is no question that Andrelton Simmons struggled during his Twins tenure, but his career-track record pointed to him being able to bounce back. His 58 OPS+ was nearly 30 points lower than his career mark, even if his defense continued to be strong. Simmons signed with Chicago this winter, and right shoulder inflammation has limited him to 19 games. Since returning from the IL, Simmons has been gone 8-for-49 (.163 BA) with no extra-base hits. He has a -2 OPS+ and nearly as many strikeouts (7) as hits (8). Now in his age-32 season, one must wonder if Simmons will be able to get back to the player he was earlier in his career. Willian Astudillo, UTL Fans fell in love with Willians Astudillo during his Twins tenure, but his value to the team declined as he couldn't play consistently behind the plate. Astudillo settled for a minor league deal with the Marlins, but the team has already needed to call him up during the 2022 campaign. In 12 games, he has gone 8-for-26 (.308 BA) with a home run. Like the Twins, the Marlins have used him at multiple infield positions and even as a reliever in one game. Astudillo will be a fan favorite wherever he plays, and Miami offered a better chance for him to get regular playing time in 2022. Rob Refsnyder, OF Rob Refsnyder burst onto the scene with the Twins last year as he hit .321/.371/.500 (.871) in his first 18 games with the club. Over his last 33 games, his OPS dropped to .524, and he posted a -1.34 Win Probability Added. His hot start may have convinced some fans that he could fill a fourth outfielder role, but his full-season numbers were closer to his career totals. He signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox, and they recently called him up. In his first five games, he has gone 3-for-11 (.273 BA), with two of his three hits being doubles. Refsnyder also made a highlight-reel catch that might have Boston fans feeling similar to what Twins fans felt at the beginning of last season. At this point, it seems like the Twins were correct in their assessment of moving on from all of these players. Do you think the team should have kept any of the abovementioned players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  3. In this week’s AL Central Division update we see the consistency of play across the division that may go unmatched the rest of the way. Four of five teams are 5-5 over their last 10 with the Guardians being just 4-6. Minnesota still leads the division as we look to close out the second month of the season. The Standings: Minnesota 22-16 Chicago 19-19 Cleveland 16-19 Kansas City 14-23 Detroit 13-25 No team in the division currently has a winning streak going, while Cleveland is bringing up the rear holding a three-game losing streak. The Guardians have a +2 run differential despite being in third place while the White Sox have outperformed expectations given their -27 run differential. The Stories: While not to the level of Boston, the White Sox slow start is at least somewhat surprising. They’ve dealt with injury and been on the wrong side of some unfortunate games. Ultimately though, the White Sox have an ugly run differential and play some of the worst defense in the league. Tim Anderson is still hitting, but his work in the field has been atrocious. Jose Abreu has just a .625 OPS thus far and is well off his .832 mark from 2021. Despite the solid average, Luis Robert just crossed the .800 OPS threshold on Thursday. There should be plenty of room for that number to rise. Thus far, Tony La Russa’s management of a young star like Andrew Vaughn has been perplexing to say the least. This team has the talent to rush to the top, but it will be interesting to see how they manage their way forward. I’d wager that Terry Francona expected this Guardians team to be a bit better. Andres Gimenez has hit the ball well, and Jose Ramirez continues to be among baseball’s best at the hot corner. Cal Quantrill was solid again on Thursday but took a no-decision as Cleveland lacked run support. Shane Bieber hasn’t been the 2020 version of himself and Steven Kwan has come back down to earth a bit. Ramirez is the one to watch over the next week as he left Thursday’s game with a bruised shin and is being called day-to-day. Kansas City wasn’t expected to be good this year, but I don’t know if they were pegged to be this bad. Bobby Witt Jr. is settling into life as a Major Leaguer, and despite bumps in the road, has shown why his prospect stock was so high. Salvador Perez was recently placed on the injured list with a thumb sprain which opened the door for star prospect M.J. Melendez to enter the lineup. He and Witt both homered for the Royals against the White Sox on Wednesday night. Veteran outfielder Michael A. Taylor was placed on the Covid-IL before Wednesday’s game after being scratched from the lineup. There was reason to believe A.J. Hinch could take the Tigers a step forward this season but the results haven’t materialized. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to be placed on the injured list with what’s being called a “left-side” injury. Michael Pineda broke a finger last Saturday, and Casey Mize has been on the injured list since April 15 due to a right elbow strain. Matt Manning, already on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, is working his way back through a rehab assignment. Meanwhile, key free-agent signing Javier Baez is batting just .204 with a .554 OPS, and last year’s Rule 5 darling Akil Baddoo was optioned to Triple-A. The Week Ahead: Minnesota kicks off a weekend series against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium before returning home to host both Detroit and those same Royals. The Twins will be looking to exact revenge on the Royals after they dropped two of three during the season’s first month. Rocco Baldelli’s club already has a series sweep of the Tigers and owns a +12 run differential against the divisions cellar dwellers. Looking to close the gap at the top, Chicago has a tough test going out east to play the New York Yankees over the week. Aaron Boone has the Bronx Bombers currently going as one of baseball’s best teams. The White Sox do get a reprieve following an off day as the Red Sox come to town. Boston has failed to meet expectations thus far, and Tony La Russa’s club could be getting them at the right time. Similar to what Minnesota is seeing from a schedule construction standpoint, Cleveland hosts the Tigers for three at home before traveling to Houston for a three-game set. They’ll then close out the road trip with another series against Detroit. Between hosting and traveling to face the Twins, Kansas City gets a quick two-game set against the NL West Arizona Diamondbacks. What are you looking forward to for the Twins this week? How are you evaluating the competition? Share your thoughts in the comments below! View full article
  4. The Standings: Minnesota 22-16 Chicago 19-19 Cleveland 16-19 Kansas City 14-23 Detroit 13-25 No team in the division currently has a winning streak going, while Cleveland is bringing up the rear holding a three-game losing streak. The Guardians have a +2 run differential despite being in third place while the White Sox have outperformed expectations given their -27 run differential. The Stories: While not to the level of Boston, the White Sox slow start is at least somewhat surprising. They’ve dealt with injury and been on the wrong side of some unfortunate games. Ultimately though, the White Sox have an ugly run differential and play some of the worst defense in the league. Tim Anderson is still hitting, but his work in the field has been atrocious. Jose Abreu has just a .625 OPS thus far and is well off his .832 mark from 2021. Despite the solid average, Luis Robert just crossed the .800 OPS threshold on Thursday. There should be plenty of room for that number to rise. Thus far, Tony La Russa’s management of a young star like Andrew Vaughn has been perplexing to say the least. This team has the talent to rush to the top, but it will be interesting to see how they manage their way forward. I’d wager that Terry Francona expected this Guardians team to be a bit better. Andres Gimenez has hit the ball well, and Jose Ramirez continues to be among baseball’s best at the hot corner. Cal Quantrill was solid again on Thursday but took a no-decision as Cleveland lacked run support. Shane Bieber hasn’t been the 2020 version of himself and Steven Kwan has come back down to earth a bit. Ramirez is the one to watch over the next week as he left Thursday’s game with a bruised shin and is being called day-to-day. Kansas City wasn’t expected to be good this year, but I don’t know if they were pegged to be this bad. Bobby Witt Jr. is settling into life as a Major Leaguer, and despite bumps in the road, has shown why his prospect stock was so high. Salvador Perez was recently placed on the injured list with a thumb sprain which opened the door for star prospect M.J. Melendez to enter the lineup. He and Witt both homered for the Royals against the White Sox on Wednesday night. Veteran outfielder Michael A. Taylor was placed on the Covid-IL before Wednesday’s game after being scratched from the lineup. There was reason to believe A.J. Hinch could take the Tigers a step forward this season but the results haven’t materialized. Eduardo Rodriguez is expected to be placed on the injured list with what’s being called a “left-side” injury. Michael Pineda broke a finger last Saturday, and Casey Mize has been on the injured list since April 15 due to a right elbow strain. Matt Manning, already on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation, is working his way back through a rehab assignment. Meanwhile, key free-agent signing Javier Baez is batting just .204 with a .554 OPS, and last year’s Rule 5 darling Akil Baddoo was optioned to Triple-A. The Week Ahead: Minnesota kicks off a weekend series against Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium before returning home to host both Detroit and those same Royals. The Twins will be looking to exact revenge on the Royals after they dropped two of three during the season’s first month. Rocco Baldelli’s club already has a series sweep of the Tigers and owns a +12 run differential against the divisions cellar dwellers. Looking to close the gap at the top, Chicago has a tough test going out east to play the New York Yankees over the week. Aaron Boone has the Bronx Bombers currently going as one of baseball’s best teams. The White Sox do get a reprieve following an off day as the Red Sox come to town. Boston has failed to meet expectations thus far, and Tony La Russa’s club could be getting them at the right time. Similar to what Minnesota is seeing from a schedule construction standpoint, Cleveland hosts the Tigers for three at home before traveling to Houston for a three-game set. They’ll then close out the road trip with another series against Detroit. Between hosting and traveling to face the Twins, Kansas City gets a quick two-game set against the NL West Arizona Diamondbacks. What are you looking forward to for the Twins this week? How are you evaluating the competition? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
  5. The Twins completed an emotional three-game sweep of the reigning American League Central champion White Sox, while the Tigers lost two of three to the Rockies at home. Let’s preview this upcoming three-game series at Target Field. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are? View full article
  6. Growling Expectations The Tigers, coming off five straight losing seasons, expect to compete in 2022. They won 77 games in manager A.J. Hinch’s first season with the club, finishing in third place in the Central in 2021. While the Tigers surprised with nearly 80 wins, they feasted off a historically bad division. It hasn’t been a clean start, as the Tigers have won only six of their first 15 games. The offense has been poor, and they’ve dealt with many injuries. So far, performance hasn’t met the loftiest expectations Tigers fans have had since they won four straight AL Central titles from 2011 to 2014. How Detroit won 77 games in 2021 is somewhat remarkable. Tigers position players accounted for 9.4 fWAR, the third-lowest in MLB. The pitching staff accumulated 10.2 fWAR, tied for 8th-lowest. It wasn’t a good team, but it was a significant step forward in a new era with Hinch. There is reason for optimism in the Motor City. The Tigers' hopes start with former No. 1 pick Casey Mize, who is currently on the injured list with an elbow sprain. Lefty Tarik Skubal is off to a terrific start and harnesses a fastball in the mid-90s. The Twins have trouble against velocity-oriented lefties, and they’ll see Skubal in Thursday’s finale. Current Twins do have six homers in 73 plate appearances against him. Speaking of lefties, the Tigers signed former Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodríguez for five years and $77 million this offseason. Rodríguez has given up eight runs in 13 innings with an elevated fly-ball rate. He's set to pitch the series opener on Tuesday. Many Twins fans thought the team should bring back veteran Michael Pineda to round out the rotation. Instead, Pineda signed with the Tigers for one year and $5.5 million, and he pitched well in his first start, throwing 60 pitches and holding the Yankees down for five innings. Pineda will return to the Target Field mound Wednesday in a different uniform. The Tigers also added a new shortstop in Javier Báez on a six-year, $140 million deal. Báez is a divisive but highly talented player and can carry an offense for prolonged periods. He’s also an elite defender at shortstop, saving 46 runs since his debut in 2014. Of course, that comes with extreme swing-and-miss and long stretches of slumps Detroit’s offense posted a measly 93 wRC+ in 2021 (100 in league average), even with a Jeimer Candelario breakout and strong seasons from rookie Akil Baddoo and career minor-leaguer Eric Haase. This year, 2020’s first overall pick Spencer Torkelson joins the lineup. Torkelson looked like a complete hitter in the minors, and he enters the series hitting .217/.345/.435 in 15 games. The Tigers have a dynamic and semi-dangerous set of hitters, especially after the late addition of Austin Meadows. Mr. 3000 Miguel Cabrera is always a focus, and the Tigers have a group that could cause problems for the Twins. THREE SERIES X-FACTORS: 1. Carlos Correa Byron Buxton frankly took control of the Twins’ sweeping of the White Sox over the weekend. He leads the American League with 1.3 fWAR and a .946 slugging percentage. He can completely flip any game, and the Tigers certainly know the damage he is capable of. Carlos Correa, meanwhile, is hitting a light .192 with minimal power. If he can get going behind Buxton, the Tigers will have trouble keeping this lineup down for three games. 2. Javier Báez Báez is back after a thumb injury landed him on the 10-day injured list. He has the highest upside of any Tiger and is hitting the middle of the order. Báez, like Buxton, can heat up and dominate in a hurry. The Twins will feed him a steady diet of breaking balls, but if they hang it, he’ll bang it. Báez presents a simple but not easy challenge. 3. The bullpens The Tigers’ bullpen ranks first in the American League with a 2.30 ERA. Gregory Soto is evolving into an elite closer, and Michael Fulmer has found a new (and successful) home as a reliever. The Twins sport the 7th-highest bullpen ERA in MLB (4.16). If current trends hold, the Twins may be in trouble in the late innings. Pitching Probables Tues (6:40 CT): RHP Chris Paddack (0-2, 5.00 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 5.27 ERA) Wed (6:40 CT): RHP Joe Ryan (2-1, 1.69 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 0.00 ERA) Thurs (12:10 CT): RHP Bailey Ober (1-1, 2.81 ERA) vs LHP Tarik Skubal (1-1, 2.30 ERA) What do you think the keys to this week's series are?
  7. It's hard to erase the mess that was the 2021 Minnesota Twins from our collective memories. It was bad. The 2022 Minnesota Twins have a chance to be great. In this piece, we lay out some pathways for the Twins to finish their roster construction ahead of a new season and the outcomes they might produce. The availability heuristic is humanities’ tendency to use information that comes to mind quickly when making decisions, inferences, or predictions. Also known as recency bias, the concept is pervasive in sports. Try, for example, convincing yourself that the Vikings could do anything except sign a defensive tackle the minute free agency opens, it’s almost impossible. Baseball is no different than other sports in this regard. Consider the Twins' win-loss record over the last decade and it's easy to see why fans take a ‘what have you done for me lately’ approach to the team. This applies in numerous ways to Minnesota. It’s easy to assume that the White Sox will run away with a poor AL Central in 2022 after the Twins collapse in 2021, and they might. Take a peek under the hood, however, and the Twins are poised to compete. Let’s dig in. Baseball Prospectus dropped its initial PECOTA standings on Tuesday. If you’re not familiar, PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, that is used to simulate end-of-season records for all 30 teams. As of March 15th, PECOTA has the Twins finishing second in the Central at 84-78, not so terribly far behind the 91-71 White Sox. First of all, wow. I am deep in the weeds on Twins Twitter. It’s been understandably sour this offseason. Let’s ground ourselves in the fact that this team, as currently constructed, is a .500 team. Even though a large part of this stems from the Twins getting to play a lot of games against pretty bad teams, it still feels pretty hard to accept, given the Twins have just traded their best two right-handed hitters in Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver. Garver was a fan favorite and will be sorely missed. Donaldson was divisive and is probably undergoing mediation with Gerritt Cole in the parking lot of the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa. Jokes aside, we know the Twins still have plenty of work to do this offseason. I wrote this winter about the Twins' pursuit of a 40-WAR team in 2022, so let’s look at some possible remaining paths and what outcomes they might result in. The Twins currently sit in 16th with a cumulative fWAR of 36.3 (although this is changing by minute). Let’s examine some possible next steps for the Twins and how they might us towards that magical 40 fWAR mark. For the purposes of these pathways, I’m ignoring the bullpen for a couple of reasons; relief pitching doesn’t lend itself well to fWAR, and I ain’t got time for that. So, here goes. Pathway 1: Acquire an Elite Shortstop and an Elite Starting Pitcher Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR This would net the Twins around 7 additional fWAR and bring them to around a 43 fWAR projection. That’s well within playoff range, but also still a distance from the White Sox mark of 47 fWAR. This is a team ready to challenge for the division and certainly compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 2: Acquire an Elite Starting Pitcher and Mediocre Shortstop Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR In this package trade, the Twins acquire Montas and Andrus together, Andrus as a salary dump for Oakland. This would bring the Twins to a 40.5 fWAR and they likely compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 3: Acquire a Mediocre Starting Pitcher and Elite Shortstop The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR This is where we see the value of potentially adding Story for the Twins. This path would bring the Twins to a projection of 42.6 fWAR before any additional outfield, right-handed bat, and bullpen enhancements. In short, Trevor Story is by far the highest leverage player the Twins have a realistic chance of adding. Pathway 4: Mediocre Everything The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR I’m not suggesting the Twins would or should do this, I’m merely using it as an example as Andrus offers very little for 2022. In the ‘bare minimum’ pathway, the Twins get to 39.0 fWAR. After the tumult of trading Garver, flipping Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees, and trading away Donaldson, combined with the acquisition of Gray, this would be a brutal disappointment. Again, it’s just an example to underscore the divergence of the paths ahead for the Twins. The Twins are in a much better spot for 2022 than we are conditioned to think. How much they are willing to risk moving forwards will determine if this years’ team is likely to be average, or has a chance to be great. View full article
  8. The availability heuristic is humanities’ tendency to use information that comes to mind quickly when making decisions, inferences, or predictions. Also known as recency bias, the concept is pervasive in sports. Try, for example, convincing yourself that the Vikings could do anything except sign a defensive tackle the minute free agency opens, it’s almost impossible. Baseball is no different than other sports in this regard. Consider the Twins' win-loss record over the last decade and it's easy to see why fans take a ‘what have you done for me lately’ approach to the team. This applies in numerous ways to Minnesota. It’s easy to assume that the White Sox will run away with a poor AL Central in 2022 after the Twins collapse in 2021, and they might. Take a peek under the hood, however, and the Twins are poised to compete. Let’s dig in. Baseball Prospectus dropped its initial PECOTA standings on Tuesday. If you’re not familiar, PECOTA is Baseball Prospectus’ projection system, that is used to simulate end-of-season records for all 30 teams. As of March 15th, PECOTA has the Twins finishing second in the Central at 84-78, not so terribly far behind the 91-71 White Sox. First of all, wow. I am deep in the weeds on Twins Twitter. It’s been understandably sour this offseason. Let’s ground ourselves in the fact that this team, as currently constructed, is a .500 team. Even though a large part of this stems from the Twins getting to play a lot of games against pretty bad teams, it still feels pretty hard to accept, given the Twins have just traded their best two right-handed hitters in Josh Donaldson and Mitch Garver. Garver was a fan favorite and will be sorely missed. Donaldson was divisive and is probably undergoing mediation with Gerritt Cole in the parking lot of the Yankees spring training complex in Tampa. Jokes aside, we know the Twins still have plenty of work to do this offseason. I wrote this winter about the Twins' pursuit of a 40-WAR team in 2022, so let’s look at some possible remaining paths and what outcomes they might result in. The Twins currently sit in 16th with a cumulative fWAR of 36.3 (although this is changing by minute). Let’s examine some possible next steps for the Twins and how they might us towards that magical 40 fWAR mark. For the purposes of these pathways, I’m ignoring the bullpen for a couple of reasons; relief pitching doesn’t lend itself well to fWAR, and I ain’t got time for that. So, here goes. Pathway 1: Acquire an Elite Shortstop and an Elite Starting Pitcher Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR This would net the Twins around 7 additional fWAR and bring them to around a 43 fWAR projection. That’s well within playoff range, but also still a distance from the White Sox mark of 47 fWAR. This is a team ready to challenge for the division and certainly compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 2: Acquire an Elite Starting Pitcher and Mediocre Shortstop Twins trade for SP Frankie Montas: 3.2 fWAR Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR In this package trade, the Twins acquire Montas and Andrus together, Andrus as a salary dump for Oakland. This would bring the Twins to a 40.5 fWAR and they likely compete for a wild card spot. Pathway 3: Acquire a Mediocre Starting Pitcher and Elite Shortstop The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins sign SS Trevor Story: 4.5 fWAR This is where we see the value of potentially adding Story for the Twins. This path would bring the Twins to a projection of 42.6 fWAR before any additional outfield, right-handed bat, and bullpen enhancements. In short, Trevor Story is by far the highest leverage player the Twins have a realistic chance of adding. Pathway 4: Mediocre Everything The Twins sign SP Michael Pineda: 1.8 fWAR The Twins trade for SS Elvis Andrus: 0.9 fWAR I’m not suggesting the Twins would or should do this, I’m merely using it as an example as Andrus offers very little for 2022. In the ‘bare minimum’ pathway, the Twins get to 39.0 fWAR. After the tumult of trading Garver, flipping Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees, and trading away Donaldson, combined with the acquisition of Gray, this would be a brutal disappointment. Again, it’s just an example to underscore the divergence of the paths ahead for the Twins. The Twins are in a much better spot for 2022 than we are conditioned to think. How much they are willing to risk moving forwards will determine if this years’ team is likely to be average, or has a chance to be great.
  9. The upcoming MLB season – whenever it happens – is likely not one in which the Twins will be contenders. But that doesn’t mean they are destined to be terrible. Here’s how Minnesota can fix their rotation and have a competitive team in 2022. What do they have so far? The Twins ended the 2021 season with a depleted starting rotation, especially after the José Berríos trade and the Kenta Maeda season-ending injury. One can argue that it was depleted since the beginning of the season, with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker being part of it. But from such a dark year on the mound, two seemingly good arms emerged from the minors. Bailey Ober had his ups and downs but, overall, he had a very solid rookie campaign. His most impressive stretch of the season might have been the ten starts in July and August, in which he posted a 3.06 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, with 51 strikeouts and only 11 walks. With less than a hundred innings pitched on the major league level so far, you might argue that he isn’t a very reliable option just yet, but his first impression was not bad at all. Joe Ryan joined the organization in mid-July as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. After a couple of solid starts for St. Paul in August, he got called up in September, making his big league debut, and he probably couldn’t have asked for a better one. In his second start, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, on his way to a seven-inning shutout on only 85 pitches. Over his first four starts, Ryan maintained a very impressive 2.45 ERA and 2.49 FIP, keeping opposing batters to a .133 batting average. He struck out batters 25 times while walking them only three times. In his final start of the season, he gave up six earned runs against Detroit, spoiling his final numbers, but not the optimism around him going forward. To quote the great Do-Hyoung Park, from MLB.com, if all had gone according to plan for the Twins this season, they probably wouldn’t have discovered these two exciting, young arms. The third pitcher set to start the season on the Twins rotation is Dylan Bundy, whom Minnesota signed shortly before the league went into lockout. His career numbers aren’t impressive, and in 2021, he was moved to the Angels bullpen after struggling for the first half of the season. He did get back to the rotation in early August and closed out the season with a 3.31 ERA in the final four starts. In the shortened season of 2020, his first year with the Angels, Bundy had his best season in the majors, finishing ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after posting 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 138 ERA+, with 9.9 strikeouts per nine and only 2.3 walks per nine. Did Wes Johnson see anything in Bundy that can be tweaked into a 2020 version of him? How can they realistically fill the remaining gaps? Suppose you consider the aforementioned trio good enough to fill the bottom part of the rotation. In that case, the Twins can very well build a competitive group of starters by making only two additions. Here’s how I would go about filling the two remaining rotation spots. My favorite trade target is Frankie Montas. The A’s are believed to be on the verge of resetting, thus making their veteran starters available for trades. The Dominican righty is coming off a career year, having started 32 games for Oakland and accumulated 3.7 bWAR, both career-best marks for him. Over 187 innings of work in 2021, he was able to maintain a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 10.0 batters per nine and walking 2.7 per nine. Such numbers earned him a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award last season, and he is under team control for two more seasons. He produced at least twice as much bWAR as any Twins pitcher in 2021. In a rebound year for Minnesota, I can see him being the difference-maker for a team that wants to avoid a rebuilding process. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker wrote an in-depth article discussing Montas as a trade target, but not only him. He also wrote about Chris Bassitt and Luis Castillo. Since 2022 is likely not a year the Twins will be competing for a World Series, they should be looking for a proven veteran that can eat up innings and provide them with stability instead of an impact starter. In this scenario, two names come to mind, both of which are former Twins. Jake Odorizzi’s time with Minnesota didn’t end up well. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he struggled with injuries and missed the first portion of the season. He made only four starts that year and had an awful 6.59 ERA. He signed with the Astros for the 2021 season, and his beginning with the Houston organization was also rough, but he would eventually pick up. After struggling in his first six starts, he posted a 3.74 ERA in the final 18 starts of the season. Those numbers could indicate that he might be back on track and ready to be a reliable contributor once again. Trading for him makes sense, as you can potentially bring back a former All-Star who is still only 31 and is very likely to provide you with 150 innings, if healthy. Michael Pineda is another option I like, but many Twins fans are quick to dismiss. His time with Minnesota was stained by so much time he missed due to injuries and the suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that he delivered some very solid innings. In 21 starts in 2021, he pitched the second-most innings for the year (106 1/3 innings) and posted a very decent 3.72 ERA. Odorizzi and Pineda aren’t aces you can rely on for years to come, but either of them (or both) could help the Twins not to suck in 2022. The most important aspect of this season is to take pressure off the development of top pitching prospects who have already reached the major league level, like Ober and Ryan. If prospects like Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic make the leap to the majors this year, they could also benefit from that. Plus, a rotation like this could be considered much better than the one they had last year, so they could have a much better outcome than the one they had in 2021. What do you think? How would you fill those two rotation gaps differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email View full article
  10. What do they have so far? The Twins ended the 2021 season with a depleted starting rotation, especially after the José Berríos trade and the Kenta Maeda season-ending injury. One can argue that it was depleted since the beginning of the season, with J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker being part of it. But from such a dark year on the mound, two seemingly good arms emerged from the minors. Bailey Ober had his ups and downs but, overall, he had a very solid rookie campaign. His most impressive stretch of the season might have been the ten starts in July and August, in which he posted a 3.06 ERA, a 3.87 FIP, with 51 strikeouts and only 11 walks. With less than a hundred innings pitched on the major league level so far, you might argue that he isn’t a very reliable option just yet, but his first impression was not bad at all. Joe Ryan joined the organization in mid-July as part of the Nelson Cruz trade. After a couple of solid starts for St. Paul in August, he got called up in September, making his big league debut, and he probably couldn’t have asked for a better one. In his second start, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning, on his way to a seven-inning shutout on only 85 pitches. Over his first four starts, Ryan maintained a very impressive 2.45 ERA and 2.49 FIP, keeping opposing batters to a .133 batting average. He struck out batters 25 times while walking them only three times. In his final start of the season, he gave up six earned runs against Detroit, spoiling his final numbers, but not the optimism around him going forward. To quote the great Do-Hyoung Park, from MLB.com, if all had gone according to plan for the Twins this season, they probably wouldn’t have discovered these two exciting, young arms. The third pitcher set to start the season on the Twins rotation is Dylan Bundy, whom Minnesota signed shortly before the league went into lockout. His career numbers aren’t impressive, and in 2021, he was moved to the Angels bullpen after struggling for the first half of the season. He did get back to the rotation in early August and closed out the season with a 3.31 ERA in the final four starts. In the shortened season of 2020, his first year with the Angels, Bundy had his best season in the majors, finishing ninth in the AL Cy Young Award voting after posting 3.29 ERA, 2.95 FIP, 138 ERA+, with 9.9 strikeouts per nine and only 2.3 walks per nine. Did Wes Johnson see anything in Bundy that can be tweaked into a 2020 version of him? How can they realistically fill the remaining gaps? Suppose you consider the aforementioned trio good enough to fill the bottom part of the rotation. In that case, the Twins can very well build a competitive group of starters by making only two additions. Here’s how I would go about filling the two remaining rotation spots. My favorite trade target is Frankie Montas. The A’s are believed to be on the verge of resetting, thus making their veteran starters available for trades. The Dominican righty is coming off a career year, having started 32 games for Oakland and accumulated 3.7 bWAR, both career-best marks for him. Over 187 innings of work in 2021, he was able to maintain a 3.37 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 10.0 batters per nine and walking 2.7 per nine. Such numbers earned him a sixth-place finish in the AL Cy Young Award last season, and he is under team control for two more seasons. He produced at least twice as much bWAR as any Twins pitcher in 2021. In a rebound year for Minnesota, I can see him being the difference-maker for a team that wants to avoid a rebuilding process. Twins Daily’s Nash Walker wrote an in-depth article discussing Montas as a trade target, but not only him. He also wrote about Chris Bassitt and Luis Castillo. Since 2022 is likely not a year the Twins will be competing for a World Series, they should be looking for a proven veteran that can eat up innings and provide them with stability instead of an impact starter. In this scenario, two names come to mind, both of which are former Twins. Jake Odorizzi’s time with Minnesota didn’t end up well. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, he struggled with injuries and missed the first portion of the season. He made only four starts that year and had an awful 6.59 ERA. He signed with the Astros for the 2021 season, and his beginning with the Houston organization was also rough, but he would eventually pick up. After struggling in his first six starts, he posted a 3.74 ERA in the final 18 starts of the season. Those numbers could indicate that he might be back on track and ready to be a reliable contributor once again. Trading for him makes sense, as you can potentially bring back a former All-Star who is still only 31 and is very likely to provide you with 150 innings, if healthy. Michael Pineda is another option I like, but many Twins fans are quick to dismiss. His time with Minnesota was stained by so much time he missed due to injuries and the suspension, but that doesn’t change the fact that he delivered some very solid innings. In 21 starts in 2021, he pitched the second-most innings for the year (106 1/3 innings) and posted a very decent 3.72 ERA. Odorizzi and Pineda aren’t aces you can rely on for years to come, but either of them (or both) could help the Twins not to suck in 2022. The most important aspect of this season is to take pressure off the development of top pitching prospects who have already reached the major league level, like Ober and Ryan. If prospects like Josh Winder and Jordan Balazovic make the leap to the majors this year, they could also benefit from that. Plus, a rotation like this could be considered much better than the one they had last year, so they could have a much better outcome than the one they had in 2021. What do you think? How would you fill those two rotation gaps differently? Share your thoughts in the comment section! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook, or email
  11. The Minnesota Twins turned their front office over to Derek Falvey in October of 2016. After participating in his first offseason, the first club of record played during the 2017 season. In five years leading the organization, Falvey has orchestrated three postseason appearances. What are the moves he’s made to get there? 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 View full article
  12. 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
  13. Whenever a team signs a star in their prime, the pressure automatically mounts. Not just the stress of success, but the heat on how the team will build around that star. Will the Angels ever give Mike Trout enough pitching to win? Can the Phillies build enough strength around Bryce Harper? There’s a constant clock tick, tick, ticking. Trout, 30, has nine years remaining on his deal. How many more years can the Angels expect healthy, MVP-level production? Harper, 29, just won MVP for a Philadelphia team that missed the playoffs once again. $300+ million contracts considerably impact spending, even for teams like the Phillies, Angels, and Yankees. For one, that’s a lot of money on the books for a long time. Additionally, teams must supplement the stars they sign with other All-Star level players. For the Twins, a club that just handed out the second-largest contract in team history, the situation is the same. On a per-game basis, Byron Buxton is in the same tier as his $300 million counterparts. The only thing keeping him from that status is his injury history. Now that Minnesota decided Buxton is the building block, the front office must work to avoid wasting his prime. Buxton, 27, will never combine his elite speed and power more than now. In other words, this is likely the best version of Buxton we’ll ever see. Consider this scenario. The Twins continue to sit around in free agency and on the trade market and fail to muster enough pitching to compete in 2022. Let’s say, on top of that, Buxton plays 140 games and wins MVP. This situation is plausible. While Buxton is one of the most impactful players in MLB, he is only one player. See Harper, Bryce and Trout, Mike. By signing this deal, Buxton commits to a team coming off a last-place finish with an unknown road ahead. If he’s healthy, a gamble the Twins have already decided to make; they have to make it matter. Here’s how they can: 1. SIGN CARLOS RODÓN Rumored to be involved in his sweepstakes, the Twins have an opportunity to add an ace for a cheaper-than-usual price tag. Rodón’s injury history is enough to scare off even the riskiest of teams. He barely got through the 2021 season with dwindling velocity and more arm problems. The healthy version of Rodón was the best pitcher in the league, posting a 2.37 ERA and 35% strikeout rate in 132 2/3 innings. He’s the exact type of gamble a team like the Twins should make. 2. TRADE FOR CHRIS BASSITT Bassitt has the American League’s lowest ERA over the last two seasons (min. 200 innings) and is reportedly available. He works with a deep repertoire of pitches with clear room for improvement. He’d immediately join Rodón as a duo rivaling Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito as the best in the division. 3. RE-SIGN MICHAEL PINEDA Pineda had some hiccups over his three years with the Twins, but he was rock-solid and often gave them a chance to win. Pineda’s 3.80 ERA since 2019 is enough to run back for more. A top three of Rodón, Bassitt, and Pineda would enter the season as one of the best the Twins have ever had. (at least since the season they had Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda atop their rotation) What do you think? Does the Byron Buxton extension put more pressure on 2022? Do you like these moves? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  14. Byron Buxton’s health will once again play a huge role for the Twins in 2022. Of equal importance, though, is whether it will matter if he does stay healthy. It has to count. Whenever a team signs a star in their prime, the pressure automatically mounts. Not just the stress of success, but the heat on how the team will build around that star. Will the Angels ever give Mike Trout enough pitching to win? Can the Phillies build enough strength around Bryce Harper? There’s a constant clock tick, tick, ticking. Trout, 30, has nine years remaining on his deal. How many more years can the Angels expect healthy, MVP-level production? Harper, 29, just won MVP for a Philadelphia team that missed the playoffs once again. $300+ million contracts considerably impact spending, even for teams like the Phillies, Angels, and Yankees. For one, that’s a lot of money on the books for a long time. Additionally, teams must supplement the stars they sign with other All-Star level players. For the Twins, a club that just handed out the second-largest contract in team history, the situation is the same. On a per-game basis, Byron Buxton is in the same tier as his $300 million counterparts. The only thing keeping him from that status is his injury history. Now that Minnesota decided Buxton is the building block, the front office must work to avoid wasting his prime. Buxton, 27, will never combine his elite speed and power more than now. In other words, this is likely the best version of Buxton we’ll ever see. Consider this scenario. The Twins continue to sit around in free agency and on the trade market and fail to muster enough pitching to compete in 2022. Let’s say, on top of that, Buxton plays 140 games and wins MVP. This situation is plausible. While Buxton is one of the most impactful players in MLB, he is only one player. See Harper, Bryce and Trout, Mike. By signing this deal, Buxton commits to a team coming off a last-place finish with an unknown road ahead. If he’s healthy, a gamble the Twins have already decided to make; they have to make it matter. Here’s how they can: 1. SIGN CARLOS RODÓN Rumored to be involved in his sweepstakes, the Twins have an opportunity to add an ace for a cheaper-than-usual price tag. Rodón’s injury history is enough to scare off even the riskiest of teams. He barely got through the 2021 season with dwindling velocity and more arm problems. The healthy version of Rodón was the best pitcher in the league, posting a 2.37 ERA and 35% strikeout rate in 132 2/3 innings. He’s the exact type of gamble a team like the Twins should make. 2. TRADE FOR CHRIS BASSITT Bassitt has the American League’s lowest ERA over the last two seasons (min. 200 innings) and is reportedly available. He works with a deep repertoire of pitches with clear room for improvement. He’d immediately join Rodón as a duo rivaling Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito as the best in the division. 3. RE-SIGN MICHAEL PINEDA Pineda had some hiccups over his three years with the Twins, but he was rock-solid and often gave them a chance to win. Pineda’s 3.80 ERA since 2019 is enough to run back for more. A top three of Rodón, Bassitt, and Pineda would enter the season as one of the best the Twins have ever had. (at least since the season they had Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios and Michael Pineda atop their rotation) What do you think? Does the Byron Buxton extension put more pressure on 2022? Do you like these moves? Comment below! MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  15. There has been a flurry of free-agent signings with the looming lockout. Let’s revisit the top-five remaining free-agent starting pitcher options for the Twins. Minnesota’s current rotation is expected to include Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Other rotational options include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, and Lewis Thorpe. Some of the team’s top prospects are also on the 40-man roster, including Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, Drew Strotman, Chis Vallimont, and Josh Winder. Each of the players below is still available with the looming lockout on the horizon. Included with each player is his projected salary, according to the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. 5. RHP Michael Pineda TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million/season Twins fans are well familiar with Pineda, and he likely won’t get the fanbase excited about what he can bring to the rotation. He seems like an excellent candidate to be the team’s number three starter, but that would mean the Twins need to acquire two other arms to put ahead of him in the rotation. Pineda is a known quantity, and he has been a strong veteran presence during his time in Minnesota. He can add rotational depth, but he can’t be the team’s only offseason move. 4. LHP Yusei Kikuchi TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $15 million/season Kikuchi was an All-Star last season, but he struggled mightily in the second half with an ERA close to 6.00. He surrendered the hardest average exit velocity in baseball last season because he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. He will be a project for any team that signs him, but he’s left-handed and has a three-pitch mix, so that’s intriguing. 3. LHP Clayton Kershaw TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Kershaw is a future inner-circle Hall of Fame member, so it seems unlikely for him to sign with a Twins team coming off a last-place finish. In the twilight of his career, Kershaw can pick the right destination for him and his family. That destination won’t be in Minnesota. 2. LHP Carlos Rodon TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Earlier this week, KSTP reported that the Twins were taking a serious run at Carlos Rodon, an intriguing name. He was one of the American League’s best starters last season, but shoulder issues kept him out near the season’s end. Another item to consider is the White Sox didn’t make him a qualifying offer. Chicago knows Rodon’s health better than anyone, and they may believe his injury will continue to linger. 1. RHP Marcus Stroman TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $20 million/season Stroman is one of the last men standing out of the tier one starting pitchers. Twins fans may be suspicious of another pitch-to-contact arm at the top of the team’s rotation. He doesn’t have some of the injury question marks surrounding some of the other top names on this list. Also, his market is likely more extensive than the beginning of the offseason because the supply of top-tier pitchers is running low. Stroman seems like an excellent fit for the Twins, but will they outbid other teams to get an ace. There isn’t much left on the shelf for the Twins to spend money on this winter. Likely, this points to the team needing to make multiple trades to fill numerous rotation spots. Do you think the Twins will be able to add any of these starters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  16. Minnesota’s current rotation is expected to include Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Other rotational options include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, and Lewis Thorpe. Some of the team’s top prospects are also on the 40-man roster, including Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, Drew Strotman, Chis Vallimont, and Josh Winder. Each of the players below is still available with the looming lockout on the horizon. Included with each player is his projected salary, according to the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. 5. RHP Michael Pineda TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million/season Twins fans are well familiar with Pineda, and he likely won’t get the fanbase excited about what he can bring to the rotation. He seems like an excellent candidate to be the team’s number three starter, but that would mean the Twins need to acquire two other arms to put ahead of him in the rotation. Pineda is a known quantity, and he has been a strong veteran presence during his time in Minnesota. He can add rotational depth, but he can’t be the team’s only offseason move. 4. LHP Yusei Kikuchi TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $15 million/season Kikuchi was an All-Star last season, but he struggled mightily in the second half with an ERA close to 6.00. He surrendered the hardest average exit velocity in baseball last season because he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. He will be a project for any team that signs him, but he’s left-handed and has a three-pitch mix, so that’s intriguing. 3. LHP Clayton Kershaw TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Kershaw is a future inner-circle Hall of Fame member, so it seems unlikely for him to sign with a Twins team coming off a last-place finish. In the twilight of his career, Kershaw can pick the right destination for him and his family. That destination won’t be in Minnesota. 2. LHP Carlos Rodon TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Earlier this week, KSTP reported that the Twins were taking a serious run at Carlos Rodon, an intriguing name. He was one of the American League’s best starters last season, but shoulder issues kept him out near the season’s end. Another item to consider is the White Sox didn’t make him a qualifying offer. Chicago knows Rodon’s health better than anyone, and they may believe his injury will continue to linger. 1. RHP Marcus Stroman TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $20 million/season Stroman is one of the last men standing out of the tier one starting pitchers. Twins fans may be suspicious of another pitch-to-contact arm at the top of the team’s rotation. He doesn’t have some of the injury question marks surrounding some of the other top names on this list. Also, his market is likely more extensive than the beginning of the offseason because the supply of top-tier pitchers is running low. Stroman seems like an excellent fit for the Twins, but will they outbid other teams to get an ace. There isn’t much left on the shelf for the Twins to spend money on this winter. Likely, this points to the team needing to make multiple trades to fill numerous rotation spots. Do you think the Twins will be able to add any of these starters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  17. As we all know, the current Twins front office has had some whiffs when it comes to offseason pitching pickups. Addison Reed, Lance Lynn, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker and Alex Colomé are names that come to mind. While recency bias – primed by those last three names – might lead one to believe this leadership can do no right, that isn't the case. In looking at some of their most successful acquisitions, perhaps we can identify a formula for getting back on track this offseason. With a lens on 2022, we're judging these acquisitions in terms of immediate impact, so we'll rank them by the fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) in their first season after coming aboard. These are the seven names that stand out. 1. Michael Pineda, 2019 (2.6 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (2 years, $10M) This wasn't actually the first year after Pineda came aboard, because Minnesota signed him ahead of the 2018 season, knowing he'd miss most or all of it while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Once Big Mike was ready to get rolling in 2019, he was every bit the rock-solid mid-rotation starter they sought, posting a 4.01 ERA over 146 innings while leading the team to a 16-10 record in his starts. His PED suspension in September soured the overall season, especially because it prevented him from being able to make an impact in the playoffs (and led to Randy Dobnak starting Game 2). But all that aside, he was a key part of the team's success in 2019, and continued to provide value to the team after re-signing on another two-year deal, posting a 3.57 ERA between 2020 and '21. Takeaway: Patience is a virtue. The Twins were willing to commit money up-front and wait out Pineda's surgery rehab, and it has paid dividends for three years since. 2. Jake Odorizzi, 2018 (2.5 fWAR) Acquired from Tampa Bay in trade The Rays were looking to unload Odorizzi's salary ahead of the 2018 season. Finding a lack of demand in the market, they settled for a trade with Minnesota that brought back middling shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. It was a mystery to me why Tampa couldn't get more for Odorizzi, who posted solid numbers in 2017 and had two years of control remaining. Maybe it was the timing of the move, just before spring training. One could purport he fell into the Twins' laps, but alas, they made the move and no one else did. They were glad it was them. Odorizzi was once again solid in 2018, becoming a much-needed veteran fixture in a rotation that ended up getting nothing from Ervin Santana in the final year of his deal. (In fact, the condition of Santana's surgically-repaired finger when he showed up in camp was likely the primary driver of this move in the first place.) Of course, the real value in Odorizzi's acquisition came the following year, when he blossomed as an All-Star with 4.3 fWAR. Takeaway: If you're willing to take on salary from a small-market team, you can sometimes take advantage of weird desperation moves late in the offseason. 3. Kenta Maeda, 2020 (2.1 fWAR) Acquired from Los Angeles in trade Ranking Maeda third on this list doesn't do him justice. He is easily the most successful pitching acquisition by this front office. If you extrapolate his performance from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season into a 162-game sample, he'd have registered a 5.7 fWAR, which is Cy Young territory. (Accordingly, he finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting.) But to keep things consistent, we'll place him here, and it's fitting in a way, because he wasn't as much of a pure value-add as the two above. Whereas the additions of Pineda and Odorizzi cost the Twins only a bit of money and a dispensable minor-leaguer, acquiring Maeda required the organization to part with its top pitching prospect, Brusdar Graterol. Takeaway: Pay to play. The Twins' most impactful pitching acquisition during this regime has also required the greatest sacrifice. 4. Martin Perez, 2019 (1.9 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3.5 million) I know, I know. Many of you are rolling your eyes and scoffing at the notion of Perez as a "successful" acquisition. For what it's worth, I'd agree with you, and so would Baseball Reference's WAR calculation would agree with you (it had him at 0.1). For whatever reason, FanGraphs' version of the metric is charitable toward his 2019 season even though he posted a 5.12 ERA and 4.66 FIP, unraveling after a strong start. I will say this much: Perez took the ball every fifth day and did enough for an offense-driven club to go 17-12 behind him in 29 starts. Realistically that's probably the kind of thing we need to hope for from a Twins fourth or fifth starter next year. Moreover, while his poor results in 2019 were plain to see, Perez nevertheless found a new home in Boston the following offseason, and has made 48 appearances (34 starts) for the Red Sox over the past two years, not including his four appearances in the most recent ALCS (!). The Twins saw something in Perez and it's hard to say they were entirely wrong. Takeaway: This was an analytics play. The Twins were intrigued by Perez's late-season velocity jump in 2018, and by his experimentation with a cutter. They were onto something – his cutter held opponents to a .269 wOBA in 2019, during which he posted career-high strikeout and swing-and-miss rates. That just didn't end up being enough to offset his shortcomings. 5. Tyler Clippard, 2020 (0.8 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $2.75 million) The last three names on this last will have the same caveat applied as Maeda: their performances came in a shortened season, so the cumulative WAR comparison is not apples to apples. Clippard's 0.8 fWAR would've been pretty decent for a regular full season (Tyler Duffey was worth 0.8 fWAR this year), but when projected to 162 games he'd have been at 2.2, which is like, prime Joe Nathan territory. Clippard did everything for this bullpen. He opened, he closed. He was effective against righties and lefties. He threw strikes, he limited hits, he kept the ball in the yard. Clippard was everything you could ever want from a free agent reliever signing, albeit in an abbreviated sample. Takeaway: The free agent relief market is volatile, but sometimes when you take an inexpensive flier on a veteran who's been consistently good for many years, it works out. 6. Rich Hill, 2020 (0.7 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3 million plus incentives) We can't fairly extrapolate Hill's 2020 season in quite the same way as we can the others. He was recovering from elbow surgery and wouldn't have been available until June or July even if the season started on time. The late start enabled him to join the rotation out of the gates, and he proved to be a quality asset at the back end, posting a 3.03 ERA in eight starts. Nothing special, but for such a low-cost investment, this is exactly what you hope to extract. Takeaway: Like with Pineda, the Twins were rewarded for their patience. They were willing to pay up-front and wait out an elbow rehab. Sometimes that type of willingness can be a differentiator for mid-market teams seeking impact pitching talent. 7. Matt Wisler, 2020 (0.6 fWAR) Claimed off waivers from Seattle Wisler was waived by Seattle after posting a 5.61 ERA in 2019, then the Twins snagged him and watched him put up a 1.07 ERA over 25 ⅓ innings in 2020. It's the kind of fix-up we were hoping to see frequently from this front office, and seemingly a recipe they tried to replicate in 2021 with pickups like Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut and Shaun Anderson – to little success. Takeaway: The Twins love to find a slider they feel they can unlock and unleash. In this case, they were right on the money. In others, maybe not so much. This speaks to the hazardous nature of gambling on fringy talent discarded by other organizations. ~~~ So what did we learn here? What kind of insight can we extract from looking at these seven acquisitions from the past four offseasons? A few things strike me. Patience reaps rewards. The Twins were willing to wait on Pineda and Hill. This played to their advantage. Looking at the current market, one could apply this thinking to someone like Kirby Yates (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last March) or James Paxton (TJ surgery in April). Either one of these free agents could offer massive upside at a relatively low price. By the way, the patience factor also applies to the rhythm of the offseason itself, because this front office pulled off two of its best trades (Odorizzi and Maeda) in February. Rely on analytics to fill the fringes. Say what you will about Perez, but there was validity to the uptick detected in his arsenal. As a low-cost addition at the back of the rotation, he worked out fine. Wisler was a lower-tier bullpen cog, so his emergence was more of a luxury than a necessity, but it sure helped. So long as the Twins are making these kinds of bets in non-essential roles, I hope they'll keep making them. Go big or go home. While this front office has made several good pitching acquisitions, only one could be described as a true immediate slam dunk, and that's Maeda. The Twins needed an ace to slot in front of José Berríos – a monumentally tall task – and they managed to do it. The cost was a brilliant young arm in Graterol. We haven't seen this regime make such an aggressive bid for high-end starting pitching outside of that trade. The only starter they've signed to a multi-year deal is Pineda, which has turned out pretty well but was altogether low-stakes (in both cases). Their interest in Zack Wheeler was well known, and that obviously would've been a big hit if they could've made it happen. Will the Twins find a way to entice a top-tier target of their choosing this winter? The need has never been greater. Hopefully this front office can learn from what's worked – and what hasn't worked – during their first five years, and course-correct after a failed previous offseason. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  18. With a lens on 2022, we're judging these acquisitions in terms of immediate impact, so we'll rank them by the fWAR (Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement) in their first season after coming aboard. These are the seven names that stand out. 1. Michael Pineda, 2019 (2.6 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (2 years, $10M) This wasn't actually the first year after Pineda came aboard, because Minnesota signed him ahead of the 2018 season, knowing he'd miss most or all of it while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Once Big Mike was ready to get rolling in 2019, he was every bit the rock-solid mid-rotation starter they sought, posting a 4.01 ERA over 146 innings while leading the team to a 16-10 record in his starts. His PED suspension in September soured the overall season, especially because it prevented him from being able to make an impact in the playoffs (and led to Randy Dobnak starting Game 2). But all that aside, he was a key part of the team's success in 2019, and continued to provide value to the team after re-signing on another two-year deal, posting a 3.57 ERA between 2020 and '21. Takeaway: Patience is a virtue. The Twins were willing to commit money up-front and wait out Pineda's surgery rehab, and it has paid dividends for three years since. 2. Jake Odorizzi, 2018 (2.5 fWAR) Acquired from Tampa Bay in trade The Rays were looking to unload Odorizzi's salary ahead of the 2018 season. Finding a lack of demand in the market, they settled for a trade with Minnesota that brought back middling shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. It was a mystery to me why Tampa couldn't get more for Odorizzi, who posted solid numbers in 2017 and had two years of control remaining. Maybe it was the timing of the move, just before spring training. One could purport he fell into the Twins' laps, but alas, they made the move and no one else did. They were glad it was them. Odorizzi was once again solid in 2018, becoming a much-needed veteran fixture in a rotation that ended up getting nothing from Ervin Santana in the final year of his deal. (In fact, the condition of Santana's surgically-repaired finger when he showed up in camp was likely the primary driver of this move in the first place.) Of course, the real value in Odorizzi's acquisition came the following year, when he blossomed as an All-Star with 4.3 fWAR. Takeaway: If you're willing to take on salary from a small-market team, you can sometimes take advantage of weird desperation moves late in the offseason. 3. Kenta Maeda, 2020 (2.1 fWAR) Acquired from Los Angeles in trade Ranking Maeda third on this list doesn't do him justice. He is easily the most successful pitching acquisition by this front office. If you extrapolate his performance from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season into a 162-game sample, he'd have registered a 5.7 fWAR, which is Cy Young territory. (Accordingly, he finished runner-up in the AL Cy Young voting.) But to keep things consistent, we'll place him here, and it's fitting in a way, because he wasn't as much of a pure value-add as the two above. Whereas the additions of Pineda and Odorizzi cost the Twins only a bit of money and a dispensable minor-leaguer, acquiring Maeda required the organization to part with its top pitching prospect, Brusdar Graterol. Takeaway: Pay to play. The Twins' most impactful pitching acquisition during this regime has also required the greatest sacrifice. 4. Martin Perez, 2019 (1.9 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3.5 million) I know, I know. Many of you are rolling your eyes and scoffing at the notion of Perez as a "successful" acquisition. For what it's worth, I'd agree with you, and so would Baseball Reference's WAR calculation would agree with you (it had him at 0.1). For whatever reason, FanGraphs' version of the metric is charitable toward his 2019 season even though he posted a 5.12 ERA and 4.66 FIP, unraveling after a strong start. I will say this much: Perez took the ball every fifth day and did enough for an offense-driven club to go 17-12 behind him in 29 starts. Realistically that's probably the kind of thing we need to hope for from a Twins fourth or fifth starter next year. Moreover, while his poor results in 2019 were plain to see, Perez nevertheless found a new home in Boston the following offseason, and has made 48 appearances (34 starts) for the Red Sox over the past two years, not including his four appearances in the most recent ALCS (!). The Twins saw something in Perez and it's hard to say they were entirely wrong. Takeaway: This was an analytics play. The Twins were intrigued by Perez's late-season velocity jump in 2018, and by his experimentation with a cutter. They were onto something – his cutter held opponents to a .269 wOBA in 2019, during which he posted career-high strikeout and swing-and-miss rates. That just didn't end up being enough to offset his shortcomings. 5. Tyler Clippard, 2020 (0.8 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $2.75 million) The last three names on this last will have the same caveat applied as Maeda: their performances came in a shortened season, so the cumulative WAR comparison is not apples to apples. Clippard's 0.8 fWAR would've been pretty decent for a regular full season (Tyler Duffey was worth 0.8 fWAR this year), but when projected to 162 games he'd have been at 2.2, which is like, prime Joe Nathan territory. Clippard did everything for this bullpen. He opened, he closed. He was effective against righties and lefties. He threw strikes, he limited hits, he kept the ball in the yard. Clippard was everything you could ever want from a free agent reliever signing, albeit in an abbreviated sample. Takeaway: The free agent relief market is volatile, but sometimes when you take an inexpensive flier on a veteran who's been consistently good for many years, it works out. 6. Rich Hill, 2020 (0.7 fWAR) Signed as a free agent (1 year, $3 million plus incentives) We can't fairly extrapolate Hill's 2020 season in quite the same way as we can the others. He was recovering from elbow surgery and wouldn't have been available until June or July even if the season started on time. The late start enabled him to join the rotation out of the gates, and he proved to be a quality asset at the back end, posting a 3.03 ERA in eight starts. Nothing special, but for such a low-cost investment, this is exactly what you hope to extract. Takeaway: Like with Pineda, the Twins were rewarded for their patience. They were willing to pay up-front and wait out an elbow rehab. Sometimes that type of willingness can be a differentiator for mid-market teams seeking impact pitching talent. 7. Matt Wisler, 2020 (0.6 fWAR) Claimed off waivers from Seattle Wisler was waived by Seattle after posting a 5.61 ERA in 2019, then the Twins snagged him and watched him put up a 1.07 ERA over 25 ⅓ innings in 2020. It's the kind of fix-up we were hoping to see frequently from this front office, and seemingly a recipe they tried to replicate in 2021 with pickups like Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut and Shaun Anderson – to little success. Takeaway: The Twins love to find a slider they feel they can unlock and unleash. In this case, they were right on the money. In others, maybe not so much. This speaks to the hazardous nature of gambling on fringy talent discarded by other organizations. ~~~ So what did we learn here? What kind of insight can we extract from looking at these seven acquisitions from the past four offseasons? A few things strike me. Patience reaps rewards. The Twins were willing to wait on Pineda and Hill. This played to their advantage. Looking at the current market, one could apply this thinking to someone like Kirby Yates (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery last March) or James Paxton (TJ surgery in April). Either one of these free agents could offer massive upside at a relatively low price. By the way, the patience factor also applies to the rhythm of the offseason itself, because this front office pulled off two of its best trades (Odorizzi and Maeda) in February. Rely on analytics to fill the fringes. Say what you will about Perez, but there was validity to the uptick detected in his arsenal. As a low-cost addition at the back of the rotation, he worked out fine. Wisler was a lower-tier bullpen cog, so his emergence was more of a luxury than a necessity, but it sure helped. So long as the Twins are making these kinds of bets in non-essential roles, I hope they'll keep making them. Go big or go home. While this front office has made several good pitching acquisitions, only one could be described as a true immediate slam dunk, and that's Maeda. The Twins needed an ace to slot in front of José Berríos – a monumentally tall task – and they managed to do it. The cost was a brilliant young arm in Graterol. We haven't seen this regime make such an aggressive bid for high-end starting pitching outside of that trade. The only starter they've signed to a multi-year deal is Pineda, which has turned out pretty well but was altogether low-stakes (in both cases). Their interest in Zack Wheeler was well known, and that obviously would've been a big hit if they could've made it happen. Will the Twins find a way to entice a top-tier target of their choosing this winter? The need has never been greater. Hopefully this front office can learn from what's worked – and what hasn't worked – during their first five years, and course-correct after a failed previous offseason. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Order the Offseason Handbook — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  19. 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?
  20. This year’s MLB free agent class is deep, especially in the areas the Minnesota Twins have the greatest needs. Here’s how I’d rank the top 50 free agents this offseason plus notes on some players I could see being particularly good fits on the Twins. 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? View full article
  21. After a disappointing 2021 season the Twins have an interesting offseason ahead of them. How do they get themselves back into contention while simultaneously staying around their standard $130MM budget? The problem was that the money spent last offseason was not spent on the correct players. Here is my blueprint for a potentially successful upcoming offseason for the Twins. A lot of Twins fans are angered by the front office “refusing to spend big money”. The problem doesn’t lie in not spending, as we see yet another phenomenal season by the penny-pinching Tampa Bay Rays. In 2021, the Twins gave J.A. Happ a one-year deal for $8MM. He had a 63 ERA+ and was in the 5th percentile of all qualified pitchers in Barrel %. Here are his percentile rankings from Baseball Savant: Simply put, Happ was one of the worst pitchers in the league in 2021. Remember that the Twins signed him for a one-year, $8 million deal. Robbie Ray is probably going to win the American League Cy Young award in 2021. He posted an AL-leading 154 ERA+ and led all of MLB with 248 strikeouts pitchers in the league in 2021. He also decreased his walk rate from 17.9% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2021. Here are his percentile rankings: Ray was outstanding in 2021. He was a free agent before the 2021 season and re-signed very quickly with the Toronto Blue Jays. Guess what his contract was? If you guessed that his contract was one-year and $8 million, you would be correct. In November of 2020, Robbie Ray signed an identical contract to what J.A. Happ would receive two months later. It’s not that the Twins won’t spend money on players, it’s that they aren’t spending money on the right players. If you want to see another case of this, take a look at Corey Knebel’s 2021 numbers and know that the Twins paid Alex Colome $250K more than him in 2021. Without further ado, let’s get into my 2021-22 offseason blueprint. Using Twins Daily’s handy roster-building tool I created this roster: Let’s break this roster down. Starting Rotation It is no secret that this is the most important need on the roster. In 2021, the Twins starting pitchers finished dead last in bWAR in all of MLB. The only starting pitchers from 2021 still on the roster are Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom impressed in 2021 campaigns but are both still unproven. If the Twins want to contend in 2022, the front office needs to vastly improve their starting pitching. The first thing they should do is sign Carlos Rodon to a five-year, $115 million deal. If the White Sox choose not to extend Rodon after a Cy Young-caliber 2021 season, the front office needs to make him their #2 priority (more on that later). Rodon’s four-seamer was the most effective pitch in baseball in 2021 in terms of run value, being worth -26 runs. He also had the sixth most effective slider in baseball, worth -14 runs. And come on, just look at these percentile rankings. Rodon is not viewed by the general public as highly as other starters on the market such as Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and Marcus Stroman. I would pay Rodon more than all three of them. Despite his breakout season, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and him being signed for anything less than $20MM would be an absolute tragedy. The next starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Eduardo Rodriguez. The Twins should give Rodriguez a two-year, $24 million contract. There are a number of starters I could have targeted in this price range, including Jon Gray and Anthony DeSclafani. I went with Rodriguez because he may be undervalued because of his below-average 2021 statistics. When you look deeper, Rodriguez was one of the unluckiest pitchers in the league in 2021. Rodriguez has a lot of qualities I look for in a middle-to-top of the rotation starter. He doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, strikes out a good amount, and could blossom into a stud. I wrote about Rodriguez and other free agents here. The last starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Michael Pineda. Pineda is a familiar face for Twins fans, having spent the last four seasons with the organization. Pineda was solid, posting a 116 ERA+ in his three seasons in Minnesota. He rarely walks batters and has an above-average slider, having a whiff rate of 37.7% with the slider and allowing a miniscule .252 xWOBA on the pitch in 2021. He would provide a veteran presence and some familiarity to a Twins rotation. The offer to Pineda is a one-year deal worth $7 million. The Lineup Because in my blueprint I spent $42 million on starting pitchers, I'll have to scale back what the team can spend on the lineup. Let’s get into it. Going down the lineup, the first change we see is I made Alex Kirilloff the everyday first baseman. Kirilloff is a phenomenal young player who I believe will someday play in several all-star games. In 2021, Kirilloff had two outs above average at 1B compared to Miguel Sano’s -6. Sano will be the full-time DH who can occasionally play first base if Kirilloff needs a day off or plays in the outfield. The next change I made is signing Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $3 million deal. In my free agent target article, I mentioned maybe signing Carlos Correa or Chris Taylor to play the position. Unfortunately, that is not something the Twins could do while remaining around the $130 million budget because of the pitching needs. So instead, I am going to echo Nick Nelson's plan and sign Galvis on a cheap deal for one year with hopes Austin Martin or Royce Lewis could take the reins at shortstop in 2023 or even at some point in 2022. Galvis is not an outstanding player but is definitely serviceable. In the outfield, I have Brent Rooker starting the season in left field. Other guys who would be seeing time here would be Gilberto Celestino, Luis Arraez, Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Jose Miranda. This is by no means a set spot and whoever has a hot bat or the best matchup would be playing on any given day. In center field, the Twins give Byron Buxton a newly-inked deal. Extending Buxton is the top priority this offseason, no doubt. I wrote an extensive article highlighting what a potential deal should look like and why. It would be a seven-year, $133 million deal plus incentives for games played. The incentives are not set in stone. and I am open to listening to whatever Buxton’s side wants for incentives because as long as he’s on the field, he will be the team's best player and helping win games in so many ways. Our roster includes Trevor Larnach starting the season in right field. This is a little bit of a concern for me given his late-season struggles in 2021 and his demotion to St. Paul, but from the glimpses he showed earlier in the season and the potential he has, I have faith in Larnach to figure it out. This obviously raises the question: where did Max Kepler go? Kepler is a talented outfielder, and he is owed about $16 million over the next two seasons, which is a team-friendly contract for a player of his caliber. The Marlins are a young up-and-coming team that could use a solid outfielder and Kepler is exactly that. They are likely to value Kepler’s contract, and I believe the return could be good. This is why we should trade Max Kepler to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Twins would be receiving the Marlins sixth best-prospect, RHP Eury Perez, their seventh best prospect, LHP Jake Eder, and their 21st prospect, outfielder Griffin Conine. Perez is 6’8” and throws a fastball in the mid 90s. He had a very strong showing in High-A this year and is still only 18 years old. Eder had a very strong season in AA and features a fastball that has been up to 98 as well as a wipeout slider. Conine is a power-hitting corner outfielder who hit 36 home runs between high-A and AA in 2021. This is a very good return for Kepler so the Twins would add #19 prospect, RHP Cole Sands who had a good year in AA. According to baseballtradevalues.com, this is a very even trade. It would be a trade that would give the Twins some much needed pitching depth and add to a bright collection of pitching prospects. The Bullpen (Arm-Barn?) With the additions to the lineup and rotation, we don’t have a ton of spending flexibility for the bullpen. With Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar all returning, there are four spots to fill. Here is how I filled those spots: Randy Dobnak ($800K) is the long reliever. Dobnak is a good fit for this role if he can get back to his 2019-20 form. He is a strike-thrower who is efficient and could eat innings. He could also make a spot start, if needed. Ryan Tepera ($5 million) is the set-up man who could close a game too. I wrote about Tepera in my free agent targets article, and he would be an instant stud in the back end of the bullpen. He spent time in 2021 on both sides of Chicago and was excellent, being in the 96th percentile for xERA. With a nasty slider and fastball to pair with it, Tepera would be an excellent signing, especially given Rogers’ uncertainty. Heath Hembree ($1 million) is in a middle-relief role. I also wrote extensively about Hembree and his bad luck. Hembree’s high spin rates lead to exceptional strikeout numbers and with a little more luck in 2022, he would be a fantastic addition to our bullpen especially at this price. Griffin Jax ($600K) is also in a long relief role. Jax made quite a few starts in 2021 and was unimpressive. In a relief role he could let it eat a little more. If he revamps his pitch arsenal (more offspeed!), he would be a good pitcher in a long relief role. Jax’s slider had a xWOBA of .270 in 2021, compared to his fastball’s xWOBA of .402. He would be a fun pitcher to watch progress as he learns what does and doesn’t work at the major-league level. I think the poor bullpen in 2021 was a little fluky and keeping the same core four (Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar) along with adding a few good pieces could make our 2022 bullpen a lot better. They also could build bullpen depth with minor leaguers such as Jovani Moran, Ralph Garza Jr., and Jhoan Duran. Summary With this blueprint, I tried to keep it realistic with signings the Twins would be likely to make, and I tried to stay within a reasonable budget. For the most part, I want to not overcommit to free agency so the Twins can still have flexibility to build from within. I gave one or two year deals to Rodriguez, Galvis, Tepera, Pineda, and Hembree. Along with that, extending Buxton for seven years is big, and getting a stud starting pitcher in Rodon and the team could be ready to compete in 2022. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! What do you think of this offseason blueprint. 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 View full article
  22. A lot of Twins fans are angered by the front office “refusing to spend big money”. The problem doesn’t lie in not spending, as we see yet another phenomenal season by the penny-pinching Tampa Bay Rays. In 2021, the Twins gave J.A. Happ a one-year deal for $8MM. He had a 63 ERA+ and was in the 5th percentile of all qualified pitchers in Barrel %. Here are his percentile rankings from Baseball Savant: Simply put, Happ was one of the worst pitchers in the league in 2021. Remember that the Twins signed him for a one-year, $8 million deal. Robbie Ray is probably going to win the American League Cy Young award in 2021. He posted an AL-leading 154 ERA+ and led all of MLB with 248 strikeouts pitchers in the league in 2021. He also decreased his walk rate from 17.9% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2021. Here are his percentile rankings: Ray was outstanding in 2021. He was a free agent before the 2021 season and re-signed very quickly with the Toronto Blue Jays. Guess what his contract was? If you guessed that his contract was one-year and $8 million, you would be correct. In November of 2020, Robbie Ray signed an identical contract to what J.A. Happ would receive two months later. It’s not that the Twins won’t spend money on players, it’s that they aren’t spending money on the right players. If you want to see another case of this, take a look at Corey Knebel’s 2021 numbers and know that the Twins paid Alex Colome $250K more than him in 2021. Without further ado, let’s get into my 2021-22 offseason blueprint. Using Twins Daily’s handy roster-building tool I created this roster: Let’s break this roster down. Starting Rotation It is no secret that this is the most important need on the roster. In 2021, the Twins starting pitchers finished dead last in bWAR in all of MLB. The only starting pitchers from 2021 still on the roster are Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom impressed in 2021 campaigns but are both still unproven. If the Twins want to contend in 2022, the front office needs to vastly improve their starting pitching. The first thing they should do is sign Carlos Rodon to a five-year, $115 million deal. If the White Sox choose not to extend Rodon after a Cy Young-caliber 2021 season, the front office needs to make him their #2 priority (more on that later). Rodon’s four-seamer was the most effective pitch in baseball in 2021 in terms of run value, being worth -26 runs. He also had the sixth most effective slider in baseball, worth -14 runs. And come on, just look at these percentile rankings. Rodon is not viewed by the general public as highly as other starters on the market such as Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, and Marcus Stroman. I would pay Rodon more than all three of them. Despite his breakout season, he is one of the best pitchers in baseball and him being signed for anything less than $20MM would be an absolute tragedy. The next starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Eduardo Rodriguez. The Twins should give Rodriguez a two-year, $24 million contract. There are a number of starters I could have targeted in this price range, including Jon Gray and Anthony DeSclafani. I went with Rodriguez because he may be undervalued because of his below-average 2021 statistics. When you look deeper, Rodriguez was one of the unluckiest pitchers in the league in 2021. Rodriguez has a lot of qualities I look for in a middle-to-top of the rotation starter. He doesn’t walk a lot of hitters, strikes out a good amount, and could blossom into a stud. I wrote about Rodriguez and other free agents here. The last starting pitcher the Twins should sign is Michael Pineda. Pineda is a familiar face for Twins fans, having spent the last four seasons with the organization. Pineda was solid, posting a 116 ERA+ in his three seasons in Minnesota. He rarely walks batters and has an above-average slider, having a whiff rate of 37.7% with the slider and allowing a miniscule .252 xWOBA on the pitch in 2021. He would provide a veteran presence and some familiarity to a Twins rotation. The offer to Pineda is a one-year deal worth $7 million. The Lineup Because in my blueprint I spent $42 million on starting pitchers, I'll have to scale back what the team can spend on the lineup. Let’s get into it. Going down the lineup, the first change we see is I made Alex Kirilloff the everyday first baseman. Kirilloff is a phenomenal young player who I believe will someday play in several all-star games. In 2021, Kirilloff had two outs above average at 1B compared to Miguel Sano’s -6. Sano will be the full-time DH who can occasionally play first base if Kirilloff needs a day off or plays in the outfield. The next change I made is signing Freddy Galvis to a one-year, $3 million deal. In my free agent target article, I mentioned maybe signing Carlos Correa or Chris Taylor to play the position. Unfortunately, that is not something the Twins could do while remaining around the $130 million budget because of the pitching needs. So instead, I am going to echo Nick Nelson's plan and sign Galvis on a cheap deal for one year with hopes Austin Martin or Royce Lewis could take the reins at shortstop in 2023 or even at some point in 2022. Galvis is not an outstanding player but is definitely serviceable. In the outfield, I have Brent Rooker starting the season in left field. Other guys who would be seeing time here would be Gilberto Celestino, Luis Arraez, Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Jose Miranda. This is by no means a set spot and whoever has a hot bat or the best matchup would be playing on any given day. In center field, the Twins give Byron Buxton a newly-inked deal. Extending Buxton is the top priority this offseason, no doubt. I wrote an extensive article highlighting what a potential deal should look like and why. It would be a seven-year, $133 million deal plus incentives for games played. The incentives are not set in stone. and I am open to listening to whatever Buxton’s side wants for incentives because as long as he’s on the field, he will be the team's best player and helping win games in so many ways. Our roster includes Trevor Larnach starting the season in right field. This is a little bit of a concern for me given his late-season struggles in 2021 and his demotion to St. Paul, but from the glimpses he showed earlier in the season and the potential he has, I have faith in Larnach to figure it out. This obviously raises the question: where did Max Kepler go? Kepler is a talented outfielder, and he is owed about $16 million over the next two seasons, which is a team-friendly contract for a player of his caliber. The Marlins are a young up-and-coming team that could use a solid outfielder and Kepler is exactly that. They are likely to value Kepler’s contract, and I believe the return could be good. This is why we should trade Max Kepler to the Miami Marlins. In return, the Twins would be receiving the Marlins sixth best-prospect, RHP Eury Perez, their seventh best prospect, LHP Jake Eder, and their 21st prospect, outfielder Griffin Conine. Perez is 6’8” and throws a fastball in the mid 90s. He had a very strong showing in High-A this year and is still only 18 years old. Eder had a very strong season in AA and features a fastball that has been up to 98 as well as a wipeout slider. Conine is a power-hitting corner outfielder who hit 36 home runs between high-A and AA in 2021. This is a very good return for Kepler so the Twins would add #19 prospect, RHP Cole Sands who had a good year in AA. According to baseballtradevalues.com, this is a very even trade. It would be a trade that would give the Twins some much needed pitching depth and add to a bright collection of pitching prospects. The Bullpen (Arm-Barn?) With the additions to the lineup and rotation, we don’t have a ton of spending flexibility for the bullpen. With Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar all returning, there are four spots to fill. Here is how I filled those spots: Randy Dobnak ($800K) is the long reliever. Dobnak is a good fit for this role if he can get back to his 2019-20 form. He is a strike-thrower who is efficient and could eat innings. He could also make a spot start, if needed. Ryan Tepera ($5 million) is the set-up man who could close a game too. I wrote about Tepera in my free agent targets article, and he would be an instant stud in the back end of the bullpen. He spent time in 2021 on both sides of Chicago and was excellent, being in the 96th percentile for xERA. With a nasty slider and fastball to pair with it, Tepera would be an excellent signing, especially given Rogers’ uncertainty. Heath Hembree ($1 million) is in a middle-relief role. I also wrote extensively about Hembree and his bad luck. Hembree’s high spin rates lead to exceptional strikeout numbers and with a little more luck in 2022, he would be a fantastic addition to our bullpen especially at this price. Griffin Jax ($600K) is also in a long relief role. Jax made quite a few starts in 2021 and was unimpressive. In a relief role he could let it eat a little more. If he revamps his pitch arsenal (more offspeed!), he would be a good pitcher in a long relief role. Jax’s slider had a xWOBA of .270 in 2021, compared to his fastball’s xWOBA of .402. He would be a fun pitcher to watch progress as he learns what does and doesn’t work at the major-league level. I think the poor bullpen in 2021 was a little fluky and keeping the same core four (Rogers, Duffey, Alcala, and Thielbar) along with adding a few good pieces could make our 2022 bullpen a lot better. They also could build bullpen depth with minor leaguers such as Jovani Moran, Ralph Garza Jr., and Jhoan Duran. Summary With this blueprint, I tried to keep it realistic with signings the Twins would be likely to make, and I tried to stay within a reasonable budget. For the most part, I want to not overcommit to free agency so the Twins can still have flexibility to build from within. I gave one or two year deals to Rodriguez, Galvis, Tepera, Pineda, and Hembree. Along with that, extending Buxton for seven years is big, and getting a stud starting pitcher in Rodon and the team could be ready to compete in 2022. Thank you for reading, and Go Twins! What do you think of this offseason blueprint. 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
  23. Starting pitching is at the top of Minnesota’s off-season wish list, and there are plenty of arms to consider. Here are three buy-low candidates the Twins can consider for the rotation’s back end. Minnesota will have money to spend on the free-agent market, but that doesn’t mean the club has unlimited funds to spend. Finding value in the free-agent market is something successful organizations do well, and it is an area this front office needs to improve. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Projected Cost: $12 million At 28-years old, Rodriguez is relatively young to be reaching free agency, and there are multiple factors to consider when looking at his recent seasons. He missed all of 2020 after contracting COVID and later being diagnosed with myocarditis. His 2021 season was underwhelming as he posted a 4.74 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP in 157 2/3 innings. Even with these poor numbers, there were some positive signs. Rodriguez strikes out a ton of batters as he posted a career-high 10.6 SO/9 in 2021. Over the last four seasons, he has combined to post a 113 ERA+ with nearly 10 K/9. He has a 3.71 FIP compared to a 4.13 ERA, so there may be signs of some bad luck impacting his numbers. Getting out of the gauntlet that is the AL East can also help a pitcher to improve. Michael Pineda, RHP Projected Cost: $8 Twins fans are very familiar with Pineda after he has spent the last four seasons as a member of the organization. He isn’t someone to get overly excited about, but he is a constant veteran pitcher. During his Twins tenure, he posted a 3.80 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 282 innings. However, those numbers came with time missed due to injury and suspension. Pineda may seem like he has been around forever, but he is still only 32-years-old. Minnesota will need rotational depth, and Pineda can help a young pitching staff adjust to the big-league level. That being said, fans may be significantly underwhelmed by bringing back Pineda if it hinders the team’s ability to sign more significant free-agent options. Andrew Heaney, LHP Projected Cost: $5 million Heaney might be the lowest buy-low candidate as the Yankees designated him for assignment last year, and he went unclaimed. New York had acquired him from Los Angeles at the trade deadline for a pair of minor leaguers. His time in the Bronx was rough after he allowed 13 home runs in 12 appearances. His time with the Angels was slightly better as he posted a 5.27 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP. Like Rodriguez, Heaney has strong strikeout numbers even amid his 2021 struggles. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 9.9 K/9 mark with a 1.25 WHIP, and his 4.81 ERA is nearly half a run higher than his FIP. His fastball spin and his chase rate both rank in the 90th percentile or higher. Heaney clearly isn’t a top of the rotation starter, but finding a new organization might help him refocus his career. To read more about this year’s crop of free-agent pitchers, make sure to order your copy of the 2022 Offseason Handbook. If you order today, it will be sent directly to your email. Which pitcher do you think the Twins are most likely to target? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  24. Minnesota will have money to spend on the free-agent market, but that doesn’t mean the club has unlimited funds to spend. Finding value in the free-agent market is something successful organizations do well, and it is an area this front office needs to improve. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP Projected Cost: $12 million At 28-years old, Rodriguez is relatively young to be reaching free agency, and there are multiple factors to consider when looking at his recent seasons. He missed all of 2020 after contracting COVID and later being diagnosed with myocarditis. His 2021 season was underwhelming as he posted a 4.74 ERA with a 1.39 WHIP in 157 2/3 innings. Even with these poor numbers, there were some positive signs. Rodriguez strikes out a ton of batters as he posted a career-high 10.6 SO/9 in 2021. Over the last four seasons, he has combined to post a 113 ERA+ with nearly 10 K/9. He has a 3.71 FIP compared to a 4.13 ERA, so there may be signs of some bad luck impacting his numbers. Getting out of the gauntlet that is the AL East can also help a pitcher to improve. Michael Pineda, RHP Projected Cost: $8 Twins fans are very familiar with Pineda after he has spent the last four seasons as a member of the organization. He isn’t someone to get overly excited about, but he is a constant veteran pitcher. During his Twins tenure, he posted a 3.80 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP in 282 innings. However, those numbers came with time missed due to injury and suspension. Pineda may seem like he has been around forever, but he is still only 32-years-old. Minnesota will need rotational depth, and Pineda can help a young pitching staff adjust to the big-league level. That being said, fans may be significantly underwhelmed by bringing back Pineda if it hinders the team’s ability to sign more significant free-agent options. Andrew Heaney, LHP Projected Cost: $5 million Heaney might be the lowest buy-low candidate as the Yankees designated him for assignment last year, and he went unclaimed. New York had acquired him from Los Angeles at the trade deadline for a pair of minor leaguers. His time in the Bronx was rough after he allowed 13 home runs in 12 appearances. His time with the Angels was slightly better as he posted a 5.27 ERA with a 1.31 WHIP. Like Rodriguez, Heaney has strong strikeout numbers even amid his 2021 struggles. Over the last four seasons, he has posted a 9.9 K/9 mark with a 1.25 WHIP, and his 4.81 ERA is nearly half a run higher than his FIP. His fastball spin and his chase rate both rank in the 90th percentile or higher. Heaney clearly isn’t a top of the rotation starter, but finding a new organization might help him refocus his career. To read more about this year’s crop of free-agent pitchers, make sure to order your copy of the 2022 Offseason Handbook. If you order today, it will be sent directly to your email. Which pitcher do you think the Twins are most likely to target? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  25. The World Series kicks off on Tuesday night, and following its completion (which could be as early as Saturday), Minnesota will experience an exodus of players hitting free agency. How will the roster look different a week or so from now? Before taking a look at the upcoming Rule 5 draft, and the players Minnesota will need to protect, it’s worth getting the lay of the land for guys headed onto the open market. Minnesota has a handful of 40 man players that will be on their way out, and some minor leaguers will also be worth keeping tabs on once they exit the organization. First, let’s take a look at the guys currently on the 40 man roster: Michael Pineda, Alexander Colome*, Andrelton Simmons Both Pineda and Simmons are sure to be jettisoned this week. The former is a strong candidate to re-sign with the Twins, while the latter should be expected to wind up elsewhere. Given Minnesota’s 2022 pitching outlook, bringing Pineda back to bolster the starting rotation would be an excellent decision. The one uncertain candidate here is closer Alexander Colome. He fell flat for Minnesota but did rebound somewhat down the stretch. His career numbers have been better than in 2021, and free agency isn’t a straightforward process for him. Both parties have a mutual option for 2022, and the value checks in at $5.5 million. His $1.25 million buyout is forfeited if Minnesota exercises their option but Colome declines (which would seem the least likely scenario). Notable Minor Leaguers: Melvi Acosta, Adam Bray, Trey Cabbage, Wander Javier, Hector Lujan, Carlos Suniaga, Aaron Whitefield, B.J. Boyd The three most prominent names in this group are sandwiched in the middle. Trey Cabbage was a 4th round pick in the 2015 draft. He reached Double-A Wichita this season and posted an .882 OPS over 68 games. It was a solid season for the 24-year-old. Minnesota could consider a 40 man roster addition, but if not, he’ll reach the open market for the first time. Once a top prospect, Wander Javier finds himself at a critical juncture in his career. He’ll be 23-years-old next season and has played in just 226 professional games. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, things just have never followed the tools that have impressed through evaluations. Javier was at Cedar Rapids last season, although it did represent High-A this time around. He posted a sub-.700 OPS but did show flashes after a very slow start. He may find a better path forward in a different organization. Lujan represents a definite grinder when it comes to prospects. He was a 35th round pick back in 2015 but reached Double-A during the 2019 season. Pitching all of 2021 for Wichita, the numbers looked good enough for Triple-A or big-league consideration. Nothing is extremely flashy for the reliever, but there are solid numbers across the board, and he could factor as a depth middle-reliever. The other pitchers noted above have shown flashes of capability that could be useful at the big league level. Acosta, Bray, and Suniaga are more unknown names but have made a presence for themselves through performance. In the box, Whitefield has previously debuted with the Twins while Boyd put up strong numbers at Double-A in 2021. A whole host of veteran or non-prospect types will also hit free agency as Minnesota needs to decide who will be offered deals for the upcoming year. Free agency could also look slightly different this offseason, with the CBA negotiations likely dictating the ultimate timeline for players. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
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