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  1. With the trade of Luis Arraez to the Marlins, the Twins are taking a risk by swapping a critical bat in their line up in the hope of pitching depth. But as many analysts here have shown, the trade leaves quite a few questions. So is it possible the Twins know something about the health of their players that we currently do not? Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports The Twins neither had to drop one of the best bats in the American League nor acquire more pitching depth to technically have a successful off season. In fact, the hitters are now almost obviously in a worse place without Arraez leading off every day. But this is also a team prone to injuries—so much it led to a new trainer coming in this off season—and it is likely the Twins made this trade on knowledge of what team might be playing in 2023. Let’s start on the pitching side. Depending on who you talk to, the Twins either had eight starting pitchers heading into the off season or two. Although no longer requiring the services of the Dylan Bundys and Chris Archers of the world, the rotation set up for this year has been beaten and bruised in recent years: Tyler Mahle’s shoulder, Bailey Ober’s groin, Tommy John for Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddack (the Twins at least seem some potential upside with Paddack, signing him to an extremely team friendly extension). Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan made it through the season quite well, but neither grabbed enough innings to even qualify for awards at the end of the season. The prospects show a lot of upside, but none are an ace. With Correa and Buxton both hitting their peak seasons, the Twins aren’t necessarily interested in a bet when the American League Central remains easily taken. Lopez thus seems like an easy, but not necessarily ideal, addition to the team. He’s certainly a great, and possibly All Star caliber pitcher, but is clearly a step below what many Twins fans hoped for at the beginning of the season. Additionally, he has similar injury questions over the last couple years. However, one way the trade makes more sense is if you assume that those possible injuries are not just hypotheticals but still real. Maeda and Ober last year seemed to be mysteries waiting in the wing for returns with deadlines kicked down the can. Falvey and co. have painted an optimistic picture but have seemingly remained tight lipped on what to expect, particularly on Mahle. If the Twins know if any of these pitchers are actually in the same trouble as before, the Lopez trade becomes not so much as padding as a necessity. The Twins themselves have hinted at returning Ober to Triple A, perhaps in part due to maybe looming injury concerns. On the upside of things, this also means the Twins have likely been able to see enough upside finally on Alex Kirilloff. Anytime the word “experimental” is used to describe a surgery can cause worry, but the Twins likely knew enough that they could trade their All Star first baseman as Kirilloff was ready to fill the void. According to Aaron Gleeman at The Athletic, “Whereas last offseason Kirilloff had to shut down his hitting for a month, this year there have been no such shutdowns.” The various projection models seem at least positive on him, hitting around .260 and a positive WRC+, which would nowhere near put him in the All Star level but also help clear the way for the next round of prospects as Jose Miranda eventually makes a mid season move there. The question for Kirilloff is not necessarily that he be fantastic as much as healthy on the field. The Twins, it seems, have seen enough to pull the trigger on what would otherwise be a somewhat alarming trade, especially after Arraez won a Gold Glove for his work at the position. Nobody truly loves this trade, but the problem seems to in part by seeing the Twins at full strength rather than what might actually be the case. Sometimes front offices do have to make bets, but they know quite a bit more about the status of the players coming into camp next month. If the Twins see two pitchers go down by the end of April, having Lopez will be an absolute welcome. And if Kirilloff plays well enough, Arraez’s production will still be aesthetically missed, but not necessarily lost. If anything, knowing they should make this trade only confirms the worries that the team that won't be obvious to us until players report to Fort Meyers. View full article
  2. The great Johan Santana spoiled Twins fans in the mid-2000s, and they’ve been begging for another bonafide ace since he was traded to the New York Mets. While it’s unfair to compare anyone in the current rotation to peak-Johan, the newest member of the staff boasts a similar primary weapon. Image courtesy of © Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports Pablo Lopez may be seen as a pitcher in a similar mold to his new rotation counterparts. He, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, and Joe Ryan are all seen as solid number two or three starters but are a rung short of landing on the ace level of the pitching ladder. Lopez, however, may have the best chance of taking his game to the next level if he can find a way to ride his already-lethal changeup. If the Twins can work with him to maintain the effectiveness of his off-speed offering while improving the shape and efficacy of his four-seam fastball, they could finally find their long-awaited ace. Hitters already had a hard time squaring him up last season, as evidenced by his overall chase rate (70th percentile) and Hard-Hit percentage (71st percentile). The changeup is a major part of that. In 2022, he threw that pitch 35.3% of the time and saw strong results. Opposing hitters batted just .220 (.233 expected) with a .374 slugging percentage (.366 expected) on his changeup, making it an ideal chase pitch when the count reached two strikes. When he got to that point in an at-bat, he threw his changeup 39% of the time, which is second-most among all qualified starters. There’s a good reason for that. Rylan Domingues of Tread Athletics pointed out that their grading program ranked Lopez’s changeup as being 16% better than an MLB average changeup when it comes to pure wStuff+. That uses pitch metrics such as movement, shape, and velocity without knowing the pitch location. Beyond that, Lopez’s changeup was elite when the location was considered. Tread Athletics rated it as an eye-popping 64% better than the league average based on wExecution+. Overall, they rated Lopez as having the fourth-best changeup in all baseball in 2022. It averaged 17.3 inches of horizontal break, which is 2.5 inches (19%) above average. No wonder he used it so much with two strikes. That’s got to have Twins fans rubbing their hands together and licking their lips. A legitimate, elite out pitch can be extremely hard to develop and maintain, but the club feels like Lopez has a chance to take it to the next level. To do that, Lopez will have to rework his four-seam fastball so it can be as effective as it was in the first half of the 2022 season. For the changeup to be most successful, it needs to deceive the batter into thinking that they’re getting a different pitch so that they either miss the ball entirely or make weak contact. Esteban Rivera of Fangraphs described the issues that Lopez’s fastball faced after a liner struck him on his right wrist in mid-June. From that point on, Lopez started using a slightly lower release point, which caused him to lose active spin on his heater. Was he pitching hurt, or was this a subconscious result after the injury? Either way, the event changed the shape of his fastball and, in turn, made it easier for hitters to identify the subtle differences between that pitch and his changeup. When he lost that deception, he lost the swing-and-miss stuff that made his off-speed so successful. If pitching coach Pete Maki can reestablish the proper release point on that fastball, or at least find a way to shape it so that it tunnels with the path of his changeup, they could rediscover what gave Lopez a sterling 2.86 ERA in the first half of last season. That ceiling has been seemingly absent in the last two seasons. Gray, Ryan, and the rest have shown the capability of being quality starters in that time, but they’ve stalled out before reaching that last rung of the ladder. Don’t be mistaken; their presence is incredibly valuable in a rotation. But Lopez’s changeup gives him greater reach when he stretches toward the top level. And if he can’t get there? Fans always have the option to watch those old Johan highlights. View full article
  3. On paper, the Twins have depth in the starting rotation for the first time in years. However, the front office's path to building this rotation could be more sustainable. Image courtesy of Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports Last week, Minnesota completed a trade that will add Pablo Lopez to a starting rotation that includes Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Kenta Maeda. None of these pitchers is considered an ace, but all five have shown the ability to be playoff-caliber starters at different points in their careers. Also, the Twins didn't develop any of these pitchers, which might become a problem for the front office. Maeda was the first of the group to join the Twins rotation. Minnesota acquired Maeda along with Jair Camargo for Brusdar Graterol and Luke Raley. Graterol was one of the Twins' best pitching prospects at the time of the trade, but it was expected that he would shift to a bullpen role. Now, he has only pitched 106 1/3 innings with a 7.8 K/9. Maeda finished runner-up for the Cy Young during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and will return to the mound in 2023 following Tommy John surgery. He is a free agent following the season and has been limited to 173 innings in a Twins uniform. Ryan was the next pitcher acquired among this group. The Twins traded Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher to the Rays for Ryan and Drew Strotman at the 2021 trade deadline. Cruz was integral to Minnesota's success during the 2019 season, but he wasn't on an expiring contract. Tampa is known for its ability to develop pitching, and Ryan was nearly big-league-ready. In two seasons, he has posted a 3.63 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 9.4 K/9. Since he debuted at age 25, the Twins have team control over Ryan into his early-30s. The Twins had to give up a substantial amount to acquire Sonny Gray during the last off-season. Minnesota had selected Chase Petty with the 26th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. Gray is no stranger to trades because he was traded three times in six seasons. In 2022, he pitched 119 2/3 innings with a 125 OPS+ and 8.8 K/9. Like Maeda, he can be a free agent following the 2023 campaign. Minnesota reengaged Cincinnati at last year's trade deadline to acquire Mahle. This time the cost was significantly more, with the Twins trading multiple top prospects, including Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Steve Hajjar, and Spencer Steer. Mahle was limited to 16 1/3 innings with the Twins due to a shoulder injury, but the Twins hope he's healthy in 2023. This trade may haunt the front office if Mahle's shoulder continues to be an issue. The Lopez trade differed from many others mentioned above because both teams included an established big-league player. Lopez and Ryan are the only two pitchers under team control beyond the 2023 season. Over the last three seasons, Lopez has posted a 3.52 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP while averaging 113 innings per season. Fans will expect a lot from Lopez, mainly since the Twins traded fan favorite Luis Arraez. One of the reasons Minnesota hired Derek Falvey was because of the pitching pipeline he helped develop in Cleveland. So far, the Twins have yet to see the results of pitchers developing in the organization's farm system. Every team needs more than five starting pitchers, and the Twins will use homegrown players like Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, Louie Varland, and Jordan Balazovic. Minnesota's top pitching prospects, Connor Prielipp and Marco Raya don't figure to impact the 2023 roster. Starting pitching depth is critical, but the Twins might not be able to continue to trade for rotational help. Time will tell if the Twins surrendered too much to acquire their projected starting rotation. Minnesota has shown a tendency to avoid long-term contracts for starting pitchers, and that's why the trade market has been their go-to method for acquiring talent. The organization's farm system already ranks in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league, so it is unsustainable to think the front office can continue to trade prospects to acquire talent. Mid-market teams like the Twins thrive with young players supplementing the big-league roster, and that can't happen if the team continues to trade away prospects. Is this model of building a rotation sustainable for the Twins? Will any of the organization's homegrown pitchers break out in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  4. Pablo Lopez may be seen as a pitcher in a similar mold to his new rotation counterparts. He, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, and Joe Ryan are all seen as solid number two or three starters but are a rung short of landing on the ace level of the pitching ladder. Lopez, however, may have the best chance of taking his game to the next level if he can find a way to ride his already-lethal changeup. If the Twins can work with him to maintain the effectiveness of his off-speed offering while improving the shape and efficacy of his four-seam fastball, they could finally find their long-awaited ace. Hitters already had a hard time squaring him up last season, as evidenced by his overall chase rate (70th percentile) and Hard-Hit percentage (71st percentile). The changeup is a major part of that. In 2022, he threw that pitch 35.3% of the time and saw strong results. Opposing hitters batted just .220 (.233 expected) with a .374 slugging percentage (.366 expected) on his changeup, making it an ideal chase pitch when the count reached two strikes. When he got to that point in an at-bat, he threw his changeup 39% of the time, which is second-most among all qualified starters. There’s a good reason for that. Rylan Domingues of Tread Athletics pointed out that their grading program ranked Lopez’s changeup as being 16% better than an MLB average changeup when it comes to pure wStuff+. That uses pitch metrics such as movement, shape, and velocity without knowing the pitch location. Beyond that, Lopez’s changeup was elite when the location was considered. Tread Athletics rated it as an eye-popping 64% better than the league average based on wExecution+. Overall, they rated Lopez as having the fourth-best changeup in all baseball in 2022. It averaged 17.3 inches of horizontal break, which is 2.5 inches (19%) above average. No wonder he used it so much with two strikes. That’s got to have Twins fans rubbing their hands together and licking their lips. A legitimate, elite out pitch can be extremely hard to develop and maintain, but the club feels like Lopez has a chance to take it to the next level. To do that, Lopez will have to rework his four-seam fastball so it can be as effective as it was in the first half of the 2022 season. For the changeup to be most successful, it needs to deceive the batter into thinking that they’re getting a different pitch so that they either miss the ball entirely or make weak contact. Esteban Rivera of Fangraphs described the issues that Lopez’s fastball faced after a liner struck him on his right wrist in mid-June. From that point on, Lopez started using a slightly lower release point, which caused him to lose active spin on his heater. Was he pitching hurt, or was this a subconscious result after the injury? Either way, the event changed the shape of his fastball and, in turn, made it easier for hitters to identify the subtle differences between that pitch and his changeup. When he lost that deception, he lost the swing-and-miss stuff that made his off-speed so successful. If pitching coach Pete Maki can reestablish the proper release point on that fastball, or at least find a way to shape it so that it tunnels with the path of his changeup, they could rediscover what gave Lopez a sterling 2.86 ERA in the first half of last season. That ceiling has been seemingly absent in the last two seasons. Gray, Ryan, and the rest have shown the capability of being quality starters in that time, but they’ve stalled out before reaching that last rung of the ladder. Don’t be mistaken; their presence is incredibly valuable in a rotation. But Lopez’s changeup gives him greater reach when he stretches toward the top level. And if he can’t get there? Fans always have the option to watch those old Johan highlights.
  5. Last season the Minnesota Twins sold fewer tickets than they have at any point over the past decade. Attendance at Target Field dipped to levels that we haven’t seen since the Metrodome, and for the second straight season, a losing record was partly to blame. After announcing discounted tickets, Luis Arraez was traded, and fans now have voices with dollars again. Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports What Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are betting on is that winning will matter most. There is no denying that Luis Arraez is a good baseball player. He was an All-Star while winning a Silver Slugger and being crowned the American League batting champion in 2022. His .316 average and .375 on-base percentage were noteworthy, and he posted those numbers while transitioning to an entirely new position. When the Twins re-signed Carlos Correa this offseason, he was reunited with an infield he got to know last year. Arraez was his first baseman, and the group with Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco became friends. It was a tight-knit infield, and moving on from any of them would bring up a few hurt feelings. What Correa wants to do, however, is win, and that’s where the front office is focused as well. It’s not as though the Twins couldn’t win with Arraez, but they certainly have more options at first base than they do in the starting rotation. Pablo Lopez was acquired not to be an ace but instead to fill a need to stock the starting five with as many quality arms as possible. With Lopez raising the bar and providing more pitching depth, it should be expected that Minnesota’s chances go up for the season. When it was announced that Arraez was being dealt to the Miami Marlins, many fans would miss their batting champion. The last time a reigning batting champ was dealt came at the hands of Minnesota as well, when Rod Carew was sent to the Angels before the 1979 season. Having been fondly compared to each other and being someone incredibly easy to root for, a departure of Arraez was never going to sit well with many. Entering the 2023 season, Lopez needs to pitch well for the sake of doing so and will forever be connected as the guy Minnesota acquired in giving up Arraez. Fans didn’t need to view Arraez through the same lens as they did Willians Astudillo. The former is a good player with actual utility, whereas the latter was much more of a mascot to distract from poor play. The casual fan may have ventured out to the ballpark wanting to see Arraez, and maybe they’ll stay away scorned at his departure. What has to matter most is generating as many wins as possible. The Twins need to be both exciting and good at the same time. Eighty-one home games is a substantial amount, and the Twins look to pull as much as possible from ticket sales. There has never been a more affordable sport to watch in person than baseball, yet a team with Arraez and Correa last season wasn’t enough to break records. Wanting to flip the script on another losing season, figuring out a way to push the win total up is where Minnesota knows the money is. As the 2023 Major League Baseball season gets underway, many fans will still be disappointed that Arraez isn’t in the dugout or taking the field. When the dust settles in October, plenty more fans will have shown up to a team that is committed to winning and puts the right foot forward on a nightly basis. It’s never easy for a front office to trade a fan favorite, but Minnesota is not Pittsburgh dealing in only goodwill. This team can be good, and when Correa throws over to Alex Kirilloff in securing a postseason victory, everyone will have forgotten about what was while enjoying what is. View full article
  6. What Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are betting on is that winning will matter most. There is no denying that Luis Arraez is a good baseball player. He was an All-Star while winning a Silver Slugger and being crowned the American League batting champion in 2022. His .316 average and .375 on-base percentage were noteworthy, and he posted those numbers while transitioning to an entirely new position. When the Twins re-signed Carlos Correa this offseason, he was reunited with an infield he got to know last year. Arraez was his first baseman, and the group with Jose Miranda and Jorge Polanco became friends. It was a tight-knit infield, and moving on from any of them would bring up a few hurt feelings. What Correa wants to do, however, is win, and that’s where the front office is focused as well. It’s not as though the Twins couldn’t win with Arraez, but they certainly have more options at first base than they do in the starting rotation. Pablo Lopez was acquired not to be an ace but instead to fill a need to stock the starting five with as many quality arms as possible. With Lopez raising the bar and providing more pitching depth, it should be expected that Minnesota’s chances go up for the season. When it was announced that Arraez was being dealt to the Miami Marlins, many fans would miss their batting champion. The last time a reigning batting champ was dealt came at the hands of Minnesota as well, when Rod Carew was sent to the Angels before the 1979 season. Having been fondly compared to each other and being someone incredibly easy to root for, a departure of Arraez was never going to sit well with many. Entering the 2023 season, Lopez needs to pitch well for the sake of doing so and will forever be connected as the guy Minnesota acquired in giving up Arraez. Fans didn’t need to view Arraez through the same lens as they did Willians Astudillo. The former is a good player with actual utility, whereas the latter was much more of a mascot to distract from poor play. The casual fan may have ventured out to the ballpark wanting to see Arraez, and maybe they’ll stay away scorned at his departure. What has to matter most is generating as many wins as possible. The Twins need to be both exciting and good at the same time. Eighty-one home games is a substantial amount, and the Twins look to pull as much as possible from ticket sales. There has never been a more affordable sport to watch in person than baseball, yet a team with Arraez and Correa last season wasn’t enough to break records. Wanting to flip the script on another losing season, figuring out a way to push the win total up is where Minnesota knows the money is. As the 2023 Major League Baseball season gets underway, many fans will still be disappointed that Arraez isn’t in the dugout or taking the field. When the dust settles in October, plenty more fans will have shown up to a team that is committed to winning and puts the right foot forward on a nightly basis. It’s never easy for a front office to trade a fan favorite, but Minnesota is not Pittsburgh dealing in only goodwill. This team can be good, and when Correa throws over to Alex Kirilloff in securing a postseason victory, everyone will have forgotten about what was while enjoying what is.
  7. The Twins neither had to drop one of the best bats in the American League nor acquire more pitching depth to technically have a successful off season. In fact, the hitters are now almost obviously in a worse place without Arraez leading off every day. But this is also a team prone to injuries—so much it led to a new trainer coming in this off season—and it is likely the Twins made this trade on knowledge of what team might be playing in 2023. Let’s start on the pitching side. Depending on who you talk to, the Twins either had eight starting pitchers heading into the off season or two. Although no longer requiring the services of the Dylan Bundys and Chris Archers of the world, the rotation set up for this year has been beaten and bruised in recent years: Tyler Mahle’s shoulder, Bailey Ober’s groin, Tommy John for Kenta Maeda and Chris Paddack (the Twins at least seem some potential upside with Paddack, signing him to an extremely team friendly extension). Sonny Gray and Joe Ryan made it through the season quite well, but neither grabbed enough innings to even qualify for awards at the end of the season. The prospects show a lot of upside, but none are an ace. With Correa and Buxton both hitting their peak seasons, the Twins aren’t necessarily interested in a bet when the American League Central remains easily taken. Lopez thus seems like an easy, but not necessarily ideal, addition to the team. He’s certainly a great, and possibly All Star caliber pitcher, but is clearly a step below what many Twins fans hoped for at the beginning of the season. Additionally, he has similar injury questions over the last couple years. However, one way the trade makes more sense is if you assume that those possible injuries are not just hypotheticals but still real. Maeda and Ober last year seemed to be mysteries waiting in the wing for returns with deadlines kicked down the can. Falvey and co. have painted an optimistic picture but have seemingly remained tight lipped on what to expect, particularly on Mahle. If the Twins know if any of these pitchers are actually in the same trouble as before, the Lopez trade becomes not so much as padding as a necessity. The Twins themselves have hinted at returning Ober to Triple A, perhaps in part due to maybe looming injury concerns. On the upside of things, this also means the Twins have likely been able to see enough upside finally on Alex Kirilloff. Anytime the word “experimental” is used to describe a surgery can cause worry, but the Twins likely knew enough that they could trade their All Star first baseman as Kirilloff was ready to fill the void. According to Aaron Gleeman at The Athletic, “Whereas last offseason Kirilloff had to shut down his hitting for a month, this year there have been no such shutdowns.” The various projection models seem at least positive on him, hitting around .260 and a positive WRC+, which would nowhere near put him in the All Star level but also help clear the way for the next round of prospects as Jose Miranda eventually makes a mid season move there. The question for Kirilloff is not necessarily that he be fantastic as much as healthy on the field. The Twins, it seems, have seen enough to pull the trigger on what would otherwise be a somewhat alarming trade, especially after Arraez won a Gold Glove for his work at the position. Nobody truly loves this trade, but the problem seems to in part by seeing the Twins at full strength rather than what might actually be the case. Sometimes front offices do have to make bets, but they know quite a bit more about the status of the players coming into camp next month. If the Twins see two pitchers go down by the end of April, having Lopez will be an absolute welcome. And if Kirilloff plays well enough, Arraez’s production will still be aesthetically missed, but not necessarily lost. If anything, knowing they should make this trade only confirms the worries that the team that won't be obvious to us until players report to Fort Meyers.
  8. The Minnesota Twins dealt Luis Arraez last week and, in doing so, created a hole at both first base and atop the lineup. While Pablo Lopez is a nice get in return, he’s not going to bat leadoff, and a new alternative must be found. Image courtesy of © Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK As manager for the Minnesota Twins, Rocco Baldelli has tried to remain relatively consistent with his lineups. Although shuffling has been necessary due to injury or ineffectiveness, nothing was more certain than Luis Arraez's batting leadoff last year. In 92 of the 144 games he appeared, it was Arraez stepping into the box first. We know that Alex Kirilloff is all but ticketed to start at first base now, but we have yet to see who will replace Arraez in the lineup. A potential candidate could be slugger Byron Buxton, which may be where Baldelli starts. Although Buxton doesn’t have the on-base prowess of a prototypical leadoff man, checking in at just .316 over the past four seasons, an additional 30 at-bats should be valuable for one of the team's best hitters. There is something left to be desired from Buxton atop the lineup if he’s going to hit for power, however. In a breakout of long balls, Buxton blasted 28 a year ago. Leading off, plenty of those will wind up being solo shots and limit run production potential. He also has significantly dialed back stolen base attempts in recent seasons, creating less noise on the base paths. While not attempting to take Buxton out of the equation entirely, a recent acquisition could be the best bet. Enter Joey Gallo. The former Texas Rangers star would love to throw away his 2022. From flopping in New York to only a mild production boost with the Dodgers, there is nothing pretty about his career low 79 OPS+. It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that Gallo may find it again with Minnesota, and despite being known for his power production, he will rely upon plenty in the field. Baldelli could also peg him as his leadoff hitter, and a greater swing in styles seems unfathomable. In 2021 with the Rangers, Gallo led the league in strikeouts. His 111 walks also led the league, and to quantify how little batting average matters, his .199 was coupled with a .351 on-base percentage. As a first-time All-Star in 2019, Gallo posted a .389 OBP, which Arraez only surpassed during his rookie season that same year. Along the same lines as Buxton, it may seem counterproductive to put Gallo’s home run prowess in the leadoff spot. Ideally, you’d like him to hit with runners on base and drive them in, but he could provide those opportunities for the likes of Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Alex Kirilloff. By leading off Gallo, Minnesota would have one of its best on-base threats stepping in early, and combining that with the threat of a home run immediately puts pressure on an opposing pitcher. Last season Gallo never hit at the top of the lineup for the Yankees or Los Angeles. In fact, across his 752 career games, he has never made a start while batting leadoff. Conventional wisdom says to hit someone like Gallo in the heart of the order or down near the seven-spot. Minnesota has been progressively managed and worked with new initiatives under this regime, however, and a change like this could make some sense. If I were betting on it right now, I’d still lean towards Buxton being the first batter for the Twins on Opening Day. I don’t think it should be a shock to see Gallo get his first start there this season. However, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it became something of a trend. View full article
  9. Minnesota's 2023 roster has started to come into focus after the front office completed multiple trades in the last week. Here is how the team projects to start Opening Day. Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers Minnesota's catching duo has been set since the club signed Vazquez to a multi-year deal. It was clear from the onset of the off-season that the Twins targeted Vazquez and paid a premium to sign him. The Twins have six catchers among their non-roster invitees to spring training, including veterans Tony Wolters, Grayson Greiner, and Chance Sisco. Teams rarely rely on just two catchers for an entire season, so the Twins will likely need help from these veterans to play at some point during the 2023 campaign. Infielders (5): Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco Adding Correa to this group pushed Farmer to a utility role, which might be a better fit for his skill set. Miranda is getting the full-time job at third base after the team traded Gio Urshela earlier this winter. Polanco figures to get most of the playing time at second base, but it will be interesting to see if he feels any pressure from the team's top prospects. Kirilloff will get time at first base, but the team might have another option (see below) if the team wants him to get regular rest at the season's start. Top prospects like Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Edouard Julien, and Austin Martin can add depth to this group in the second half. Outfielders (6): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino**, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor By adding Taylor, the Twins have three former Gold Glove winners in the outfield and another Gold Glove finalist. Minnesota's outfield defense has the potential to be one of baseball's best, but all four players can't fit in the outfield at the same time. Gallo has logged over 746 innings at first base, so the team might be comfortable moving him to the infield so Kirilloff can slowly work his way back. Gilberto Celestino can start the year at Triple-A, a level where he has played fewer than 25 games. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options, so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner add depth to the organization's outfield, but they will have to power their way from St. Paul to Minneapolis. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan Some Twins fans were disappointed the Twins traded Arraez, but Lopez lengthened the Twins' starting rotation. Depth was needed because there are injury concerns surrounding numerous players in the rotation. Since the last projection, Bailey Ober got bumped to Triple-A because of the Lopez addition. Other young pitchers like Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Jordan Balazovic will be waiting for an opportunity. It is one of the deepest rotations the Twins have had in recent memory, and the club will have to rely on that depth if/when the injury bug strikes again. Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill** Minnesota has done little to address the bullpen this winter, but that has been a common theme for a front office that relies on veterans and internal options. Since Twins Daily's initial roster projection, all of the above names have stayed the same. Duran and Lopez should get the bulk of the high-leverage opportunities. Jax and Thielbar will combine to be a bridge to the late-inning arms. Pagan is a wild card, but the Twins are hoping for a better performance from a player with good stuff. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder. How do you feel about the team's depth at multiple positions? What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. View full article
  10. It is no secret that every Twins fan on social media wants pitching. When Carlos Correa signed for at least six more years, many fans still asked, “can he pitch?” or “why aren’t we getting any pitchers?” Every pitching acquisition comes with a cost, whether money or players. Good pitching costs more than good hitting, and the Twins were in a perfect situation to acquire pitching. Let’s dive into it. Image courtesy of Bruce Kluckhohn/USA Today Last year, the Twins starting pitching ranked 20th in ERA, 18th in FIP, 23rd in K/9, and allowed the 11th most HR/9. If this team was going to improve from a .500ish team to a playoff team, starting pitching needed to be upgraded. Enter Pablo López. In case you haven’t seen, All-Star 1B/DH Luis Arraez was traded to the Miami Marlins for López, INF Jose Salas, and OF Byron Chourio. Arraez hit .316/.375/.420 last year with a 131 wRC+. López was 10-10 with a 3.75 ERA and a 3.71 FIP. Arraez put up a 3.2 fWAR season compared to López’s 2.8. However, Arraez has an extra year of team control, which is why the Twins had such a high asking price for the 25 year old. According to Baseball Prospectus, Salas is the 93rd-best prospect, and Chourio had a .838 OPS in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. More than ever, pitching is at a premium in Major League Baseball. In the 2022-23 offseason, MLB teams usually receive more bang for their buck when signing position players instead of starting pitchers on the free agent market. As we have seen in the past few years, the current Twins front office prefers to trade for starting pitchers, and this premium on the free agent market could be the main reason. Using Steamer’s 2023 projection system, we can see how each player projects in the 2023 season. In the age of analytics, the primary statistic that gets players paid is Wins Above Replacement. On average, the top 31 free-agent starting pitchers this offseason signed for $7.21 million per WAR accumulated. On average, the top 31 free-agent position players signed for $6.44 million per win. This shows how much pitching is valued in today’s game and how teams are willing to spend more money to get more pitching. Like many professional sports executives, Derek Falvey was an economics major and knows that running a successful business or franchise is challenging. To get something, you must give something in return. The first two economic principles you will learn in an ECON 101 class are scarcity and opportunity cost. Scarcity means that the demand for a good (or, in our case, player) will always be greater than the availability of that good. In the current game of baseball, above-average pitching is more scarce than a first baseman with an OPS of around .800. Pitching is so valuable, and every team needs it. While Arraez is a great player and probably more valuable by WAR than López, he plays a position full of guys who can produce offensively, reducing his value. As we saw with the Twins last year, good pitching is scarce. López is not an ace by any means, but he would've led the Twins staff in pitching WAR (2.8) and innings pitched (180) in 2022. Above-average pitching isn't something the Twins have had much of in recent years, so López should significantly improve their pitching staff. Opportunity cost is the second economic principle used in every business decision. Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Every dollar you spend on a player is a dollar you can’t pay another player. Every dollar you give Correa is a dollar you can’t spend on pitching, and vice versa. This Twins front office may see it advantageous to spend big money on position players, given the market premium for pitching. The opportunity cost of trading Arraez is lower than one may think. You may get a slight decrease in production at first base from Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff, but both have shown that they are more than serviceable options. You are downgrading slightly in the infield and effectively upgrading from Bailey Ober to López while adding to the improved rotation depth. Another reason the Twins could trade Arraez was their surplus of infielders. The Twins now have seven infielders on their 40-man roster. They are Correa, Jorge Polanco, Miranda, Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Kyle Farmer, and Edouard Julien. Correa, Polanco, and Miranda are all but penciled into the opening-day lineup. Kirilloff has had some of the best batted-ball data in the league when his wrist has been healthy. Lewis looks to be a future difference-maker once he returns mid-season from his second torn ACL. Farmer is a utility infielder who is solid defensively everywhere and hits lefties well. Julien had a .931 OPS in AA last year and a 1.248 OPS in the Arizona Fall League across 96 plate appearances. The only infielder among these seven who is worse defensively than Arraez is arguably Kirilloff, but he is first base only as a left-handed thrower. Arraez was only seen as a 1B/DH by the Twins' front office, significantly diminishing his value as a player. Once Lewis is ready to go, and Brooks Lee gets to the majors, Miranda would move to first, creating an odd-man-out situation. Having so many infield options that could be plugged in and perform well is a good problem. Economics always factor into these decisions that can make or break a franchise. Many decisions come down to opportunity cost and all the different routes front offices can take from offseason to offseason. Nobody likes it when their favorite player is traded. It sucks. It can make it less enjoyable to watch a team, and Arraez is one of the most fun Twins players in the last ten years. But putting all personal bias aside, from a business standpoint, this move makes sense. You are giving up a player at a position where you have a surplus of options in exchange for a position with less talent. Thank you for reading, and Go, Twins! View full article
  11. By trading for Pablo López as their big offseason rotation addition, the Twins followed a familiar script, leveraging talent to acquire cost-controlled pitching while allocating their budget primarily to the offense. For better or worse, it's grown clear this strategy is very intentional. Image courtesy of Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports Earlier this month, the Twins shocked the baseball world by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million contract. The move would've seemed inconceivable for this franchise as recently as five years ago, but in recent offseasons, Minnesota has signaled its willingness to start wading into the deeper end of the spending pool. After all, they first signed Correa just a year ago, albeit to a short interstitial deal that paved way for this one. Months earlier, the Twins had extended Byron Buxton with a $100 million contract, two years after handing free agent Josh Donaldson a then-record $92 million. Compared to the previous regime, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown a drastically greater willingness to profer these kinds of large-scale contracts, which are somewhat rare for teams in their class. (For context, Chicago's $75 million deal for Andrew Benintendi last month was the largest free agent commitment in White Sox history.) Notably, however, this appetite has been limited entirely to the position player side. Minnesota's current front office has been comparatively averse to investing dollars on the pitching side. Pablo López falls in line with a distinct pattern when it comes to acquiring rotation help: they trade talent (in this case Luis Arraez) for a cost-controlled starter who fits snugly into the budgeting forecast for multiple seasons. Minnesota did the same thing with Tyler Mahle at the deadline last year, and with Sonny Gray the prior offseason. They did it with Chris Paddack, and Kenta Maeda, and Jake Odorizzi. They traded away José Berríos, in part, because he was reaching the end of that cost-controlled window. Only in one case have these situations ever led to the Twins paying a remotely market-rate salary for one of these frontline starters: in 2020, when Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer to earn around $18 million. Of course, the club ended up paying out less than half that amount due to the truncated COVID season. Outside of that instance, Gray's $12.5 million salary this year will supplant Lance Lynn in 2018 ($12 million) as the highest salary paid to any pitcher acquired by this front office in seven years. Michael Pineda's two-year, $20 million contract signed in December of 2019 – also prorated down, because of his carryover suspension – remains the largest Falvey has given a pitcher. It's 10% of the amount they just guaranteed Correa. So like I said, the pattern is pretty stark. The question is, what's driving it? Why are the Twins comfortable allocating such an outsized proportion of their available budget to position players while persistently minimizing money tied up in arms? I think it comes down to volatility and risk. Back in November, I wrote an article on the troubling realities of buying high on free agent pitching. I was citing a dynamic that I believe prevents the Twins – and really, the vast majority of mid-market teams – from winning bids for top free agent pitchers available at their peak. Namely: you are paying the utmost long-term premium for pitchers in their late 20s or early 30s who are hitting the sharp downward slope of the aging curve. Look back no further than last year's free-agent class to see the pitfalls of this buy-high philosophy: Robbie Ray, for example, got a $115 million deal from the Mariners coming off a breakout Cy Young year and then reverted right back to his previous ordinary form. The contract already looks like a hindrance for them. There are worse outcomes. Signing up commit pay big bucks to starting pitchers, who've already often logged 1,000+ innings, through their mid-30s is flat-out hazardous. The Yankees bought high on Carlos Rodón and earmarked $162 million to lock him up through age 35. The upside he brings as a true ace exceeds almost any bat you can buy on the market, but it's counterbalanced by the tremendous risk of his shoulder issues flaring up and making him a non-factor. With their financial inhibitions, New York can afford to assume that risk without catastrophic collateral downside. Most teams operating in lesser markets can't or won't. Of course, there's even more risk in simply not acquiring pitching talent. It's not an option if you want to compete, and you lack the elite development machines of a Tampa or Cleveland. For Minnesota, the preferred course has been to trade for second-tier starters in their prime. This prevents risky long-term commitments and keeps the rotation's budget share in check, enabling the Twins to invest in building around the likes of Correa and Buxton, who now occupy a third of the payroll with almost 300 million in combined dollars owed. I'm not going to say staking the franchise's future on Correa and Buxton is WITHOUT RISK, of course, but star position players tend to age a bit more reliably than standout starting pitchers, in part because they have more "outs." If injuries continue to impact Buxton, he can still make a real difference while spending time at DH, as we saw last year. If Correa's ankle forces him off shortstop, he can move to third, as he planned to with the Mets. When you're paying top dollar for a starting pitcher and they get struck by injuries that keep them off the mound or diminish their performance, it's harder to maintain that value equation. For teams with finite spending capabilities (self-imposed as they may be), that matters. Continually trading quality prospects to replenish their rotation will not necessarily be a viable strategy for the Twins going forward, so the success of this approach really comes down to how well their efforts with the pitching pipeline come together. The front office has put in place a potential lineage to support sustained rotation success – with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson followed by the likes of Marco Raya, Connor Prieilipp, and more – but pressure is rising to see it pay off and embed some legitimate fixtures so they don't have to keep trading their way to patchwork solutions. In theory, allocating your funds to superstar everyday players and relying on a sustained and regenerative pipeline of younger, fresher, lower-cost pitchers is a savvy strategy. In theory. View full article
  12. Last week, Minnesota completed a trade that will add Pablo Lopez to a starting rotation that includes Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Kenta Maeda. None of these pitchers is considered an ace, but all five have shown the ability to be playoff-caliber starters at different points in their careers. Also, the Twins didn't develop any of these pitchers, which might become a problem for the front office. Maeda was the first of the group to join the Twins rotation. Minnesota acquired Maeda along with Jair Camargo for Brusdar Graterol and Luke Raley. Graterol was one of the Twins' best pitching prospects at the time of the trade, but it was expected that he would shift to a bullpen role. Now, he has only pitched 106 1/3 innings with a 7.8 K/9. Maeda finished runner-up for the Cy Young during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and will return to the mound in 2023 following Tommy John surgery. He is a free agent following the season and has been limited to 173 innings in a Twins uniform. Ryan was the next pitcher acquired among this group. The Twins traded Nelson Cruz and Calvin Faucher to the Rays for Ryan and Drew Strotman at the 2021 trade deadline. Cruz was integral to Minnesota's success during the 2019 season, but he wasn't on an expiring contract. Tampa is known for its ability to develop pitching, and Ryan was nearly big-league-ready. In two seasons, he has posted a 3.63 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with 9.4 K/9. Since he debuted at age 25, the Twins have team control over Ryan into his early-30s. The Twins had to give up a substantial amount to acquire Sonny Gray during the last off-season. Minnesota had selected Chase Petty with the 26th overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. In his age-19 season, the Reds pushed him to High-A, and he compiled a 3.48 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 8.8 K/9. Gray is no stranger to trades because he was traded three times in six seasons. In 2022, he pitched 119 2/3 innings with a 125 OPS+ and 8.8 K/9. Like Maeda, he can be a free agent following the 2023 campaign. Minnesota reengaged Cincinnati at last year's trade deadline to acquire Mahle. This time the cost was significantly more, with the Twins trading multiple top prospects, including Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Steve Hajjar, and Spencer Steer. Mahle was limited to 16 1/3 innings with the Twins due to a shoulder injury, but the Twins hope he's healthy in 2023. This trade may haunt the front office if Mahle's shoulder continues to be an issue. The Lopez trade differed from many others mentioned above because both teams included an established big-league player. Lopez and Ryan are the only two pitchers under team control beyond the 2023 season. Over the last three seasons, Lopez has posted a 3.52 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP while averaging 113 innings per season. Fans will expect a lot from Lopez, mainly since the Twins traded fan favorite Luis Arraez. One of the reasons Minnesota hired Derek Falvey was because of the pitching pipeline he helped develop in Cleveland. So far, the Twins have yet to see the results of pitchers developing in the organization's farm system. Every team needs more than five starting pitchers, and the Twins will use homegrown players like Bailey Ober, Josh Winder, Cole Sands, Louie Varland, and Jordan Balazovic. Minnesota's top pitching prospects, Connor Prielipp and Marco Raya don't figure to impact the 2023 roster. Starting pitching depth is critical, but the Twins might not be able to continue to trade for rotational help. Time will tell if the Twins surrendered too much to acquire their projected starting rotation. Minnesota has shown a tendency to avoid long-term contracts for starting pitchers, and that's why the trade market has been their go-to method for acquiring talent. The organization's farm system already ranks in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the league, so it is unsustainable to think the front office can continue to trade prospects to acquire talent. Mid-market teams like the Twins thrive with young players supplementing the big-league roster, and that can't happen if the team continues to trade away prospects. Is this model of building a rotation sustainable for the Twins? Will any of the organization's homegrown pitchers break out in 2023? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  13. When I published these rankings for the sixth time this year, I mentioned how much more challenging I found the exercise than in the past. "For one thing," I wrote, "it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th." Sure enough, we've seen plenty of upheaval since, and it's not even January 30th yet. The blockbuster moves that took place within the past two weeks have shaken up the franchise's talent layout in profound ways, to the extent that it feels worthwhile to revisit those rankings. The Twins shattered their precedent by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million deal. They traded an controllable young All-Star and batting champ in Luis Arraez for a new pitcher. How do these additions fit into the overall hierarchy of talent in the organization? Let's take a look. The Original Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023 The idea of these rankings was to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal was to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? I published my latest annual rankings at the beginning of January. You can read the explanations for each in that four-part series of articles ... Part 1: #20-16 Part 2: #15-11 Part 3: #10-6 Part 1: #5-1 ... But to summarize, here are the original 2023 rankings as I had them laid out: Byron Buxton, CF Brooks Lee, SS Joe Ryan, RHP Jorge Polanco, 2B Royce Lewis, SS Bailey Ober, RHP Jhoan Durán, RHP Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF José Miranda, 3B Luis Arraez, IF Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Connor Prielipp, LHP Austin Martin, OF Trevor Larnach, OF Ryan Jeffers, C Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Jorge López, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Louie Varland, RHP Matt Wallner, OF Now the Twins have re-signed their reigning team MVP to a six-year contract, and traded the player previously ranked #10 for a pitcher and two prospects. How do these game-changing moves affect the big picture? I took a shot at updating my rankings and here's where I landed: The Revised Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023 Byron Buxton, CF Carlos Correa, SS Brooks Lee, SS Joe Ryan, RHP Jorge Polanco, 2B Royce Lewis, SS Bailey Ober, RHP Jhoan Durán, RHP Pablo López, RHP Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF José Miranda, 3B Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Connor Prielipp, LHP Austin Martin, OF Trevor Larnach, OF Ryan Jeffers, C Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Jorge López, RH Louie Varland, RHP Matt Wallner, OF There are a few significant changes in this update, including a shakeup in the top 10. Here's a look at the additions and subtractions, and how the thought process played out: Correa is in at #2. Locking up a superstar player for six years at age 28 on a contract like this, with team-friendly terms at the back end, can't be viewed as anything more than a huge win. I contemplated putting him ahead of Buxton but Correa has his own unique heightened injury risk attached and his deal isn't quite so favorable to the team as Buck's. Either way, these are clearly their two foundational assets going forward. Pablo López is in at #9. This felt like the right spot to me. He's got two years of control remaining compared to five apiece for Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, so I don't view him as quite the same level of value even if he's probably a cut above in terms of talent. Still, a big addition for a franchise that really needed more controllable starting pitching. Previously I had Arraez ranked as the #10 asset, so this looks like a winning trade through that lens even before you account for prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio, who would likely fall in the 25-35 range. Gray drops out from #18. The addition of Lopez also makes Sonny Gray a bit less indispensable, in my mind. I had him 18th in the original rankings because, "As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023." That's no longer the case. With López aboard, and under control for an additional year, I actually think the Twins could feasibly trade Gray if the right offer came along, which wasn't much of an option before. (That's not to say I would advise it.) When I assembled these rankings the first time around, I was feeling pretty decent about the state of the Twins franchise both today and going forward. Needless to say, I'm feeling even better now. While the loss of a top-10 asset in Arraez hurts, the Twins recouped that value and then some by acquiring López and a pair of high-upside teenaged prospects. Meanwhile, the stunning Correa signing reshapes this franchise's future, embedding another true MVP-caliber talent in his prime alongside Buxton to lead the way. Simply put, the Twins are in a significantly better place now than they were a month ago. Catch up on past editions of the top 20 Twins asset rankings: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2022
  14. At the turn of the new year, I took a shot at ranking the top 20 assets in the Twins organization, in an attempt to contextualize the players and prospects most vital to fulfilling a championship vision. Some major developments have since taken place, so it feels appropriate to try and update the list. Image courtesy of Michael McLoone, Tommy Gilligan, Tim Heitman–USA Today Sports When I published these rankings for the sixth time this year, I mentioned how much more challenging I found the exercise than in the past. "For one thing," I wrote, "it feels like we're in the midst of a slow-developing offseason journey with big twists still ahead. I have a strong feeling there will be noticeable changes to this list by March 30th." Sure enough, we've seen plenty of upheaval since, and it's not even January 30th yet. The blockbuster moves that took place within the past two weeks have shaken up the franchise's talent layout in profound ways, to the extent that it feels worthwhile to revisit those rankings. The Twins shattered their precedent by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million deal. They traded an controllable young All-Star and batting champ in Luis Arraez for a new pitcher. How do these additions fit into the overall hierarchy of talent in the organization? Let's take a look. The Original Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023 The idea of these rankings was to provide a relative view of Twins players and prospects by appraising their big-picture value to the organization. The goal was to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion? I published my latest annual rankings at the beginning of January. You can read the explanations for each in that four-part series of articles ... Part 1: #20-16 Part 2: #15-11 Part 3: #10-6 Part 1: #5-1 ... But to summarize, here are the original 2023 rankings as I had them laid out: Byron Buxton, CF Brooks Lee, SS Joe Ryan, RHP Jorge Polanco, 2B Royce Lewis, SS Bailey Ober, RHP Jhoan Durán, RHP Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF José Miranda, 3B Luis Arraez, IF Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Connor Prielipp, LHP Austin Martin, OF Trevor Larnach, OF Ryan Jeffers, C Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Jorge López, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Louie Varland, RHP Matt Wallner, OF Now the Twins have re-signed their reigning team MVP to a six-year contract, and traded the player previously ranked #10 for a pitcher and two prospects. How do these game-changing moves affect the big picture? I took a shot at updating my rankings and here's where I landed: The Revised Top 20 Twins Assets of 2023 Byron Buxton, CF Carlos Correa, SS Brooks Lee, SS Joe Ryan, RHP Jorge Polanco, 2B Royce Lewis, SS Bailey Ober, RHP Jhoan Durán, RHP Pablo López, RHP Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF José Miranda, 3B Simeon Woods Richardson, RHP Connor Prielipp, LHP Austin Martin, OF Trevor Larnach, OF Ryan Jeffers, C Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B Jorge López, RH Louie Varland, RHP Matt Wallner, OF There are a few significant changes in this update, including a shakeup in the top 10. Here's a look at the additions and subtractions, and how the thought process played out: Correa is in at #2. Locking up a superstar player for six years at age 28 on a contract like this, with team-friendly terms at the back end, can't be viewed as anything more than a huge win. I contemplated putting him ahead of Buxton but Correa has his own unique heightened injury risk attached and his deal isn't quite so favorable to the team as Buck's. Either way, these are clearly their two foundational assets going forward. Pablo López is in at #9. This felt like the right spot to me. He's got two years of control remaining compared to five apiece for Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, so I don't view him as quite the same level of value even if he's probably a cut above in terms of talent. Still, a big addition for a franchise that really needed more controllable starting pitching. Previously I had Arraez ranked as the #10 asset, so this looks like a winning trade through that lens even before you account for prospects Jose Salas and Byron Chourio, who would likely fall in the 25-35 range. Gray drops out from #18. The addition of Lopez also makes Sonny Gray a bit less indispensable, in my mind. I had him 18th in the original rankings because, "As things currently stand, Gray is the only pitcher in the organization who can credibly be looked at as a dependable frontline starter for 2023." That's no longer the case. With López aboard, and under control for an additional year, I actually think the Twins could feasibly trade Gray if the right offer came along, which wasn't much of an option before. (That's not to say I would advise it.) When I assembled these rankings the first time around, I was feeling pretty decent about the state of the Twins franchise both today and going forward. Needless to say, I'm feeling even better now. While the loss of a top-10 asset in Arraez hurts, the Twins recouped that value and then some by acquiring López and a pair of high-upside teenaged prospects. Meanwhile, the stunning Correa signing reshapes this franchise's future, embedding another true MVP-caliber talent in his prime alongside Buxton to lead the way. Simply put, the Twins are in a significantly better place now than they were a month ago. Catch up on past editions of the top 20 Twins asset rankings: Top 20 Twins Assets: 2018 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2019 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2020 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2021 Top 20 Twins Assets: 2022 View full article
  15. Last year, the Twins starting pitching ranked 20th in ERA, 18th in FIP, 23rd in K/9, and allowed the 11th most HR/9. If this team was going to improve from a .500ish team to a playoff team, starting pitching needed to be upgraded. Enter Pablo López. In case you haven’t seen, All-Star 1B/DH Luis Arraez was traded to the Miami Marlins for López, INF Jose Salas, and OF Byron Chourio. Arraez hit .316/.375/.420 last year with a 131 wRC+. López was 10-10 with a 3.75 ERA and a 3.71 FIP. Arraez put up a 3.2 fWAR season compared to López’s 2.8. However, Arraez has an extra year of team control, which is why the Twins had such a high asking price for the 25 year old. According to Baseball Prospectus, Salas is the 93rd-best prospect, and Chourio had a .838 OPS in the Dominican Summer League as a 17-year-old. More than ever, pitching is at a premium in Major League Baseball. In the 2022-23 offseason, MLB teams usually receive more bang for their buck when signing position players instead of starting pitchers on the free agent market. As we have seen in the past few years, the current Twins front office prefers to trade for starting pitchers, and this premium on the free agent market could be the main reason. Using Steamer’s 2023 projection system, we can see how each player projects in the 2023 season. In the age of analytics, the primary statistic that gets players paid is Wins Above Replacement. On average, the top 31 free-agent starting pitchers this offseason signed for $7.21 million per WAR accumulated. On average, the top 31 free-agent position players signed for $6.44 million per win. This shows how much pitching is valued in today’s game and how teams are willing to spend more money to get more pitching. Like many professional sports executives, Derek Falvey was an economics major and knows that running a successful business or franchise is challenging. To get something, you must give something in return. The first two economic principles you will learn in an ECON 101 class are scarcity and opportunity cost. Scarcity means that the demand for a good (or, in our case, player) will always be greater than the availability of that good. In the current game of baseball, above-average pitching is more scarce than a first baseman with an OPS of around .800. Pitching is so valuable, and every team needs it. While Arraez is a great player and probably more valuable by WAR than López, he plays a position full of guys who can produce offensively, reducing his value. As we saw with the Twins last year, good pitching is scarce. López is not an ace by any means, but he would've led the Twins staff in pitching WAR (2.8) and innings pitched (180) in 2022. Above-average pitching isn't something the Twins have had much of in recent years, so López should significantly improve their pitching staff. Opportunity cost is the second economic principle used in every business decision. Opportunity cost is the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Every dollar you spend on a player is a dollar you can’t pay another player. Every dollar you give Correa is a dollar you can’t spend on pitching, and vice versa. This Twins front office may see it advantageous to spend big money on position players, given the market premium for pitching. The opportunity cost of trading Arraez is lower than one may think. You may get a slight decrease in production at first base from Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff, but both have shown that they are more than serviceable options. You are downgrading slightly in the infield and effectively upgrading from Bailey Ober to López while adding to the improved rotation depth. Another reason the Twins could trade Arraez was their surplus of infielders. The Twins now have seven infielders on their 40-man roster. They are Correa, Jorge Polanco, Miranda, Kirilloff, Royce Lewis, Kyle Farmer, and Edouard Julien. Correa, Polanco, and Miranda are all but penciled into the opening-day lineup. Kirilloff has had some of the best batted-ball data in the league when his wrist has been healthy. Lewis looks to be a future difference-maker once he returns mid-season from his second torn ACL. Farmer is a utility infielder who is solid defensively everywhere and hits lefties well. Julien had a .931 OPS in AA last year and a 1.248 OPS in the Arizona Fall League across 96 plate appearances. The only infielder among these seven who is worse defensively than Arraez is arguably Kirilloff, but he is first base only as a left-handed thrower. Arraez was only seen as a 1B/DH by the Twins' front office, significantly diminishing his value as a player. Once Lewis is ready to go, and Brooks Lee gets to the majors, Miranda would move to first, creating an odd-man-out situation. Having so many infield options that could be plugged in and perform well is a good problem. Economics always factor into these decisions that can make or break a franchise. Many decisions come down to opportunity cost and all the different routes front offices can take from offseason to offseason. Nobody likes it when their favorite player is traded. It sucks. It can make it less enjoyable to watch a team, and Arraez is one of the most fun Twins players in the last ten years. But putting all personal bias aside, from a business standpoint, this move makes sense. You are giving up a player at a position where you have a surplus of options in exchange for a position with less talent. Thank you for reading, and Go, Twins!
  16. The addition of Pablo Lopez gives the twins, some much needed depth in their rotation. How does he impact the likes of Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and other young Twins pitchers?
  17. The addition of Pablo Lopez gives the twins, some much needed depth in their rotation. How does he impact the likes of Kenta Maeda, Josh Winder, Bailey Ober, and other young Twins pitchers? View full video
  18. As manager for the Minnesota Twins, Rocco Baldelli has tried to remain relatively consistent with his lineups. Although shuffling has been necessary due to injury or ineffectiveness, nothing was more certain than Luis Arraez's batting leadoff last year. In 92 of the 144 games he appeared, it was Arraez stepping into the box first. We know that Alex Kirilloff is all but ticketed to start at first base now, but we have yet to see who will replace Arraez in the lineup. A potential candidate could be slugger Byron Buxton, which may be where Baldelli starts. Although Buxton doesn’t have the on-base prowess of a prototypical leadoff man, checking in at just .316 over the past four seasons, an additional 30 at-bats should be valuable for one of the team's best hitters. There is something left to be desired from Buxton atop the lineup if he’s going to hit for power, however. In a breakout of long balls, Buxton blasted 28 a year ago. Leading off, plenty of those will wind up being solo shots and limit run production potential. He also has significantly dialed back stolen base attempts in recent seasons, creating less noise on the base paths. While not attempting to take Buxton out of the equation entirely, a recent acquisition could be the best bet. Enter Joey Gallo. The former Texas Rangers star would love to throw away his 2022. From flopping in New York to only a mild production boost with the Dodgers, there is nothing pretty about his career low 79 OPS+. It shouldn’t be controversial to suggest that Gallo may find it again with Minnesota, and despite being known for his power production, he will rely upon plenty in the field. Baldelli could also peg him as his leadoff hitter, and a greater swing in styles seems unfathomable. In 2021 with the Rangers, Gallo led the league in strikeouts. His 111 walks also led the league, and to quantify how little batting average matters, his .199 was coupled with a .351 on-base percentage. As a first-time All-Star in 2019, Gallo posted a .389 OBP, which Arraez only surpassed during his rookie season that same year. Along the same lines as Buxton, it may seem counterproductive to put Gallo’s home run prowess in the leadoff spot. Ideally, you’d like him to hit with runners on base and drive them in, but he could provide those opportunities for the likes of Buxton, Carlos Correa, and Alex Kirilloff. By leading off Gallo, Minnesota would have one of its best on-base threats stepping in early, and combining that with the threat of a home run immediately puts pressure on an opposing pitcher. Last season Gallo never hit at the top of the lineup for the Yankees or Los Angeles. In fact, across his 752 career games, he has never made a start while batting leadoff. Conventional wisdom says to hit someone like Gallo in the heart of the order or down near the seven-spot. Minnesota has been progressively managed and worked with new initiatives under this regime, however, and a change like this could make some sense. If I were betting on it right now, I’d still lean towards Buxton being the first batter for the Twins on Opening Day. I don’t think it should be a shock to see Gallo get his first start there this season. However, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it became something of a trend.
  19. Last season, the lockout forced MLB to allow teams to begin the year with 28-man rosters. The lockout forced a shortened spring training, and baseball was worried about an increased chance of player injuries. For 2023, teams must narrow their final roster to 26 players. Players listed below with the ** are on the bubble for the final roster spots. Catchers (2): Christian Vazquez, Ryan Jeffers Minnesota's catching duo has been set since the club signed Vazquez to a multi-year deal. It was clear from the onset of the off-season that the Twins targeted Vazquez and paid a premium to sign him. The Twins have six catchers among their non-roster invitees to spring training, including veterans Tony Wolters, Grayson Greiner, and Chance Sisco. Teams rarely rely on just two catchers for an entire season, so the Twins will likely need help from these veterans to play at some point during the 2023 campaign. Infielders (5): Carlos Correa, Kyle Farmer, Alex Kirilloff**, Jose Miranda, Jorge Polanco Adding Correa to this group pushed Farmer to a utility role, which might be a better fit for his skill set. Miranda is getting the full-time job at third base after the team traded Gio Urshela earlier this winter. Polanco figures to get most of the playing time at second base, but it will be interesting to see if he feels any pressure from the team's top prospects. Kirilloff will get time at first base, but the team might have another option (see below) if the team wants him to get regular rest at the season's start. Top prospects like Royce Lewis, Brooks Lee, Edouard Julien, and Austin Martin can add depth to this group in the second half. Outfielders (6): Byron Buxton, Gilberto Celestino**, Joey Gallo, Nick Gordon**, Max Kepler, Michael A. Taylor By adding Taylor, the Twins have three former Gold Glove winners in the outfield and another Gold Glove finalist. Minnesota's outfield defense has the potential to be one of baseball's best, but all four players can't fit in the outfield at the same time. Gallo has logged over 746 innings at first base, so the team might be comfortable moving him to the infield so Kirilloff can slowly work his way back. Gilberto Celestino can start the year at Triple-A, a level where he has played fewer than 25 games. Nick Gordon is out of minor-league options, so the Twins will keep him based on his breakout performance in 2022. Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner add depth to the organization's outfield, but they will have to power their way from St. Paul to Minneapolis. Rotation (5): Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan Some Twins fans were disappointed the Twins traded Arraez, but Lopez lengthened the Twins' starting rotation. Depth was needed because there are injury concerns surrounding numerous players in the rotation. Since the last projection, Bailey Ober got bumped to Triple-A because of the Lopez addition. Other young pitchers like Louie Varland, Simeon Woods Richardson, and Jordan Balazovic will be waiting for an opportunity. It is one of the deepest rotations the Twins have had in recent memory, and the club will have to rely on that depth if/when the injury bug strikes again. Bullpen (8): Jhoan Duran, Jorge Lopez, Griffin Jax, Caleb Thielbar, Emilio Pagan, Jorge Alcala**, Jovani Moran**, Trevor Megill** Minnesota has done little to address the bullpen this winter, but that has been a common theme for a front office that relies on veterans and internal options. Since Twins Daily's initial roster projection, all of the above names have stayed the same. Duran and Lopez should get the bulk of the high-leverage opportunities. Jax and Thielbar will combine to be a bridge to the late-inning arms. Pagan is a wild card, but the Twins are hoping for a better performance from a player with good stuff. ZiPS projects feel like the Twins' bullpen is top-heavy, which makes sense considering the recent track record of players expected to be on the roster. Minnesota will have some decisions at the bullpen's backend with other 40-man roster options like Ronny Henriquez, Cole Sands, and Josh Winder. How do you feel about the team's depth at multiple positions? What changes will happen to the team's roster before Opening Day? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. Trading Luis Arraez for a package centered around right-handed starter Pablo López was no easy decision for the Twins front office. They did it, though, both because of some things López already does that fit beautifully with their organizational pitching philosophy, and because they see some ways in which they can help him get to another level. Image courtesy of © Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports Pablo López , who will turn 27 in March, has five pitches, and he’s tinkered with his arsenal several times in the past few years, as he and the Marlins have tried to accomplish the ascension from mid-rotation starter with upside to ace. The Twins will try to further refine that mix. It all starts, though, with the two pitches that require little in the way of further polish: his fastball and his changeup. When it comes to heaters, the Twins have a type, in more ways than one. Firstly, they like four-seamers, not sinkers. Only the Dodgers threw more four-seamers than did the Twins in 2022, and only the Dodgers threw fewer sinkers. Fastball Usage, MLB Teams, 2022 Highest Four-Seam % Lowest Sinker % Team % Team % Dodgers 43.9 Dodgers 6.1 Twins 42.3 Twins 6.9 Reds 41.7 Guardians 8.3 Astros 41.1 Reds 9.5 White Sox 40.1 Mariners 10.0 Source: Pitch Info, via FanGraphs López has both pitches, and the Twins aren’t dogmatic about this, so it’s possible they’ll allow him to keep using each. (Sonny Gray , who came over from a team with similar fastball tendencies in the Reds, threw his sinker more than a quarter of the time last year–though he did throw the four-seamer more, for the first time since 2019.) On balance, though, they’re much more likely to have him eliminate the sinker, because (like Gray) he has a four-seamer with the other characteristic they love: a very flat Vertical Approach Angle (VAA). In the world of pitching nerds, VAA is all the rage. We'll take a deep dive into why, and also discuss why Lopez's best pitch - his notorious changeup - is such an unusual weapon. Plus, we'll touch on the pitch selection adjustments he is likely to make. But that kind of 1800-word deep-dive analytics-driven story can't be financially supported by ad revenue in this world, so we reserve it for our Caretakers, who support that kind of content. Eventually, we hope we'll have enough Caretakers to provide it on a regular basis for everyone, but in the meantime, you can see it by becoming a Caretaker. You'll love it. You'll get more meaty stories like this, plus get perks like Winter Meltdown tickets, and other special recognition. And you can join for as little as $4/moth. You can read all about it and signup here. Those benefits are all nice, but the real reason to sign up is this: 100% of all Caretaker money is channeled directly back into the site. By signing up to be a caretaker, you’re supporting writers you value, and enabling deeper dive Twins-specific content like this that isn’t dependent on ad revenue. We hope you’ll consider it. We expect you’ll love the benefits, and we would love to have you take the next step in supporting the Twins Daily community. View full article
  21. Pablo López , who will turn 27 in March, has five pitches, and he’s tinkered with his arsenal several times in the past few years, as he and the Marlins have tried to accomplish the ascension from mid-rotation starter with upside to ace. The Twins will try to further refine that mix. It all starts, though, with the two pitches that require little in the way of further polish: his fastball and his changeup. When it comes to heaters, the Twins have a type, in more ways than one. Firstly, they like four-seamers, not sinkers. Only the Dodgers threw more four-seamers than did the Twins in 2022, and only the Dodgers threw fewer sinkers. Fastball Usage, MLB Teams, 2022 Highest Four-Seam % Lowest Sinker % Team % Team % Dodgers 43.9 Dodgers 6.1 Twins 42.3 Twins 6.9 Reds 41.7 Guardians 8.3 Astros 41.1 Reds 9.5 White Sox 40.1 Mariners 10.0 Source: Pitch Info, via FanGraphs López has both pitches, and the Twins aren’t dogmatic about this, so it’s possible they’ll allow him to keep using each. (Sonny Gray , who came over from a team with similar fastball tendencies in the Reds, threw his sinker more than a quarter of the time last year–though he did throw the four-seamer more, for the first time since 2019.) On balance, though, they’re much more likely to have him eliminate the sinker, because (like Gray) he has a four-seamer with the other characteristic they love: a very flat Vertical Approach Angle (VAA). In the world of pitching nerds, VAA is all the rage. We'll take a deep dive into why, and also discuss why Lopez's best pitch - his notorious changeup - is such an unusual weapon. Plus, we'll touch on the pitch selection adjustments he is likely to make. But that kind of 1800-word deep-dive analytics-driven story can't be financially supported by ad revenue in this world, so we reserve it for our Caretakers, who support that kind of content. Eventually, we hope we'll have enough Caretakers to provide it on a regular basis for everyone, but in the meantime, you can see it by becoming a Caretaker. You'll love it. You'll get more meaty stories like this, plus get perks like Winter Meltdown tickets, and other special recognition. And you can join for as little as $4/moth. You can read all about it and signup here. Those benefits are all nice, but the real reason to sign up is this: 100% of all Caretaker money is channeled directly back into the site. By signing up to be a caretaker, you’re supporting writers you value, and enabling deeper dive Twins-specific content like this that isn’t dependent on ad revenue. We hope you’ll consider it. We expect you’ll love the benefits, and we would love to have you take the next step in supporting the Twins Daily community.
  22. Earlier this month, the Twins shocked the baseball world by signing Carlos Correa to a $200 million contract. The move would've seemed inconceivable for this franchise as recently as five years ago, but in recent offseasons, Minnesota has signaled its willingness to start wading into the deeper end of the spending pool. After all, they first signed Correa just a year ago, albeit to a short interstitial deal that paved way for this one. Months earlier, the Twins had extended Byron Buxton with a $100 million contract, two years after handing free agent Josh Donaldson a then-record $92 million. Compared to the previous regime, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have shown a drastically greater willingness to profer these kinds of large-scale contracts, which are somewhat rare for teams in their class. (For context, Chicago's $75 million deal for Andrew Benintendi last month was the largest free agent commitment in White Sox history.) Notably, however, this appetite has been limited entirely to the position player side. Minnesota's current front office has been comparatively averse to investing dollars on the pitching side. Pablo López falls in line with a distinct pattern when it comes to acquiring rotation help: they trade talent (in this case Luis Arraez) for a cost-controlled starter who fits snugly into the budgeting forecast for multiple seasons. Minnesota did the same thing with Tyler Mahle at the deadline last year, and with Sonny Gray the prior offseason. They did it with Chris Paddack, and Kenta Maeda, and Jake Odorizzi. They traded away José Berríos, in part, because he was reaching the end of that cost-controlled window. Only in one case have these situations ever led to the Twins paying a remotely market-rate salary for one of these frontline starters: in 2020, when Odorizzi accepted the qualifying offer to earn around $18 million. Of course, the club ended up paying out less than half that amount due to the truncated COVID season. Outside of that instance, Gray's $12.5 million salary this year will supplant Lance Lynn in 2018 ($12 million) as the highest salary paid to any pitcher acquired by this front office in seven years. Michael Pineda's two-year, $20 million contract signed in December of 2019 – also prorated down, because of his carryover suspension – remains the largest Falvey has given a pitcher. It's 10% of the amount they just guaranteed Correa. So like I said, the pattern is pretty stark. The question is, what's driving it? Why are the Twins comfortable allocating such an outsized proportion of their available budget to position players while persistently minimizing money tied up in arms? I think it comes down to volatility and risk. Back in November, I wrote an article on the troubling realities of buying high on free agent pitching. I was citing a dynamic that I believe prevents the Twins – and really, the vast majority of mid-market teams – from winning bids for top free agent pitchers available at their peak. Namely: you are paying the utmost long-term premium for pitchers in their late 20s or early 30s who are hitting the sharp downward slope of the aging curve. Look back no further than last year's free-agent class to see the pitfalls of this buy-high philosophy: Robbie Ray, for example, got a $115 million deal from the Mariners coming off a breakout Cy Young year and then reverted right back to his previous ordinary form. The contract already looks like a hindrance for them. There are worse outcomes. Signing up commit pay big bucks to starting pitchers, who've already often logged 1,000+ innings, through their mid-30s is flat-out hazardous. The Yankees bought high on Carlos Rodón and earmarked $162 million to lock him up through age 35. The upside he brings as a true ace exceeds almost any bat you can buy on the market, but it's counterbalanced by the tremendous risk of his shoulder issues flaring up and making him a non-factor. With their financial inhibitions, New York can afford to assume that risk without catastrophic collateral downside. Most teams operating in lesser markets can't or won't. Of course, there's even more risk in simply not acquiring pitching talent. It's not an option if you want to compete, and you lack the elite development machines of a Tampa or Cleveland. For Minnesota, the preferred course has been to trade for second-tier starters in their prime. This prevents risky long-term commitments and keeps the rotation's budget share in check, enabling the Twins to invest in building around the likes of Correa and Buxton, who now occupy a third of the payroll with almost 300 million in combined dollars owed. I'm not going to say staking the franchise's future on Correa and Buxton is WITHOUT RISK, of course, but star position players tend to age a bit more reliably than standout starting pitchers, in part because they have more "outs." If injuries continue to impact Buxton, he can still make a real difference while spending time at DH, as we saw last year. If Correa's ankle forces him off shortstop, he can move to third, as he planned to with the Mets. When you're paying top dollar for a starting pitcher and they get struck by injuries that keep them off the mound or diminish their performance, it's harder to maintain that value equation. For teams with finite spending capabilities (self-imposed as they may be), that matters. Continually trading quality prospects to replenish their rotation will not necessarily be a viable strategy for the Twins going forward, so the success of this approach really comes down to how well their efforts with the pitching pipeline come together. The front office has put in place a potential lineage to support sustained rotation success – with Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson followed by the likes of Marco Raya, Connor Prieilipp, and more – but pressure is rising to see it pay off and embed some legitimate fixtures so they don't have to keep trading their way to patchwork solutions. In theory, allocating your funds to superstar everyday players and relying on a sustained and regenerative pipeline of younger, fresher, lower-cost pitchers is a savvy strategy. In theory.
  23. Aaron and John talk about the Minnesota Twins' controversial trade of Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link. View full article
  24. With the acquisition of Pablo López, the Minnesota Twins confirmed their favorite style of starting pitcher to acquire: a troubled, perhaps underperforming arm capable of becoming something more with a few tweaks. Image courtesy of Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports Broadly speaking, that outline covers Chris Paddack, Tyler Mahle, and now López; one could argue that Kenta Maeda fits the mold as well. The idea probably stems from two sources: first, the Twins acknowledging themselves as an undesirable home for arms. Big-name starters have eschewed Minnesota for years. Despite recent infamous twirls with Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler, Michael Pineda remains the richest starter to brace the cold under Derek Falvey’s watch. Realizing that players have no say in trades, Falvey and Co. decided to force the issue, utilizing the lack of consent involved in deals to pool together talented arms. The second part is the more interesting one—and its assumptions will likely decide how successful the Twins are with their strategy. Pitching in the modern baseball landscape is—and this is the technical term for it—absolutely bonkers. Arms become studs overnight—hello, Evan Phillips—as hefty advancements in technology make adjustments a science, no longer an art only understood by a few masters of the craft; a good pitching coach must communicate what the computer knows. Good teams aren't alone in claiming these resources; every team in MLB has them. But the most consistent franchises identify players most capable of breaking out, freeing them from the clutches of an ignorant team while reaping the rewards of a flourishing arm. The pickpocketed squad has no clue what happened. The Pirates lose 100 games. Looking beyond the horrifying societal implications of technological modernity, the scientific pitching movement hasn’t created an abundance of frustratingly talented pitchers—those will always exist—but it has made it tantalizingly irresistible to acquire them. “I can fix him,” thinks a team watching a guy with an ideal fastball get crushed for a 4.70 ERA. Phil Maton has pitched for three teams over six seasons. Phil Maton’s career rWAR is negative. Phil Maton will continue to have a bullpen spot on one of the smartest teams in baseball. Perhaps hearing the same information from a new source proves to be the catalyst. Or, as sports fans have known for decades, a guy just needs a change of scenery. If it doesn't work, the team may look silly, but that's the price of doing business. Minnesota took this concept and ran with it in 2021. They acquired Paddack, one of the more notorious problems in baseball, pulled some strings on his pitching package, and came out with a renewed starter… until he got injured. Players still have ligaments, after all. They then acquired Mahle, watched him be exactly as maddening as he was in Cincinnati for 16 1/3 innings, and failed to help him realize his potential… because he, too, got injured. This pitching business sounds hazardous. Whether López’s tale differs is up to him and whatever sacrifices the baseball gods choose to accept. While Minnesota hasn’t yet experienced success with the plan, other teams have reaped great riches. Perhaps most famously, Houston understood that Gerrit Cole should not be throwing sinkers, thank you very much, and they enjoyed two years of some of the most dominating starting pitching baseball has seen in recent years. Toronto somehow didn’t give up on Robbie Ray, transforming him into a Cy Young winner after a year where he walked nearly 18% of all hitters. Kevin Gausman evolved from pitching in relief for Cincinnati in 2019 into a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Minnesota hasn’t yet seen a transformation like the previous arms, but it injuries are the culprit, not poor targeting. Rather than tinker with potential, why not shoot for the best of the best? For starters, the most impactful arms in the game command a royal ransom in return, something that few teams are ok with meeting these days. You can criticize Minnesota for not going after Zac Gallen, but remember that no team yet has met Arizona's asking price for him; the Twins aren't an anomaly. Also, there just aren't many available aces these days. Sandy Alcántara is going to remain a Marlin for a few years, Milwaukee shut down trade noise, and Oakland is currently a picked-over walrus carcass. Is Cole Irvin your fallback plan? This isn’t to say that all their pitchers will figure it out eventually because, well, if everyone is super, then no one is. The game is in upside: what can you do in the future with your raw stuff? A player’s past hardly defines them; their measurables reign supreme and the Twins have gathered a hearty assortment of players with fascinating under-the-hood numbers. We shall see if the plan works. View full article
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