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  1. After winning two straight AL Central Division titles, the Minnesota Twins flopped and failed a three-peat before things got off the ground. They’ll watch this Postseason from home, but there’s still plenty of exciting talent worth tuning into. Running from the Wild Card round through the World Series, here’s who I’ve got and why: AL Wild Card Yankees over Red Sox In a one game, winner take all, I don’t think you can bet against Gerrit Cole, and the lineup New York currently has clicking. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have carried this team for weeks. The club nearly gave it away on the final day, but I think they beat their biggest rival at home. Boston owned a 10-9 record with a +1 run differential over the Yankees this season. New York will attempt to even that out. AL Division Series Rays over Yankees There’s no denying that New York has the better ace, but Tampa has owned this matchup all year. While New York is just 8-11 against the Rays in 2021, they have a -48 run differential. The Yankees do have some veteran leadership on their side, but I don’t know that Corey Kluber is a guy I want to hang my Postseason hopes on. The lineup is peaking, but it may have come a bit too soon. I think a very big X-factor here for Tampa Bay could be the usage of highly-touted prospect Shane Baz. Astros over White Sox A very small sample, sure, but Chicago was just 2-5 with a -12 run differential against Houston this season. Although the White Sox may have the better rotation, I’m not sure it’s that much of a discrepancy. Houston has largely flown under the radar this season, and the entire lineup is full of star power. Alex Bregman on a big stage always is must-see television. AL Championship Series Astros over Rays These two clubs played each other just six times in 2021, and they nearly split the action with just three runs separating the contests. Both forward-thinking approaches to the game, this should be a fun series. Tampa Bay is looking for a return trip to the World Series, but Houston gets an opportunity to distance themselves from the cheating scandal. NL Wild Card Dodgers over Cardinals Welcome to a year in which a team that won 106 games is playing in a one-game, winner-take-all, affair. The Dodgers have any number of arms to piece this one together, and their lineup should be expected to cause fits for whoever St. Louis puts on the bump. It’s a tough spot, but this is where’d you’d like to believe the best team shines. NL Division Series Dodgers over Giants San Francisco has been the best story of the season in my mind. A team expected to do so little comes out and wins 107 games. These two clubs nearly split their 19 contests and Los Angeles held a +2 run differential. It’s a lot tighter of a matchup than it may seem, but I think this is a spot where the higher tiered talent rises to the occasion. Clayton Kershaw being out hurts Los Angeles, but if there’s an organization with starting arms to make up for it, they are it. Braves over Brewers Initially I wanted to ride with Milwaukee’s pitchers, but Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff can’t do it all. Behind them is a rotation leaving plenty to be desired, and the lineup is more name than it is substance. Atlanta will have to prove that they’re more than an 88-win team coming out of a very mediocre decision, but Freddie Freeman can carry this club. Atlanta seems like a strong flier team, and one worth taking a shot on. NL Championship Series Dodgers over Braves If Los Angeles can get past the test that is their first two rounds, they should be looking at a trip to the World Series. Regardless of who comes out of the bottom half of the National League bracket, they should be facing an uphill battle. This is where Atlanta wears down and the Dodgers go back to seek a second-straight World Series. World Series The National League has won each of the past two World Series. No team has won back-to-back World Series since the New York Yankees ended their last three-peat in 2000. Houston and Los Angeles faced off during the 2017 World Series, which the Astros won over Dave Roberts. Dusty Baker is at the helm in Houston now and is looking for just the second pennant of his career, and first ring. Again, Houston’s ability has been overlooked much of the season and I think we see a replicated result from 2017. Your 2021 Major League Baseball Champions are the Houston Astros. Astros over Dodgers For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  2. The Minnesota Twins are one of the most well positioned franchises in baseball to acquire serious assets this month. Needing help on the mound, the optimal plan would be in acquiring two relievers and a starter. Without knowing how it will shake out, we do know that Derek Falvey's club has been connected to the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner. Should a deal be struck, what may that look like? Given the Giants current standing, and free agency looming for the pair, both Bumgarner and Will Smith have been the focus of numerous trade discussions. Any selling organization would almost certainly prefer packages for players that part out one asset at a time. While Minnesota could use both Smith and Bumgarner we can separate the two of them for the sake of this exercise. In his latest piece for The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal noted that Giants GM Farhan Zaidi prefers to get prospects closer to the majors. Not wanting lottery tickets and looking for an expedited rebuild, that's certainly an understandable plan. Prior to making any move, Minnesota must be convinced of what they'd be acquiring. Bumgarner's name is one inviting all of the stories. He's a former World Series hero and has been included in the ace discussion over the course of his career. Right now he's a pitcher with a 3.86 ERA backed by FIP and xFIP numbers that suggest the mark is true. His velocity is in a similar place to what it's always been and despite major injuries in recent years, consistency has been relatively reliable. There's no reason to think that any big league organization is trading for a player solely based on name recognition or pedigree. Falvey won't be lulled into the belief that this is the same guy who picked up a World Series MVP nod in 2014. If the scouting process reveals the soon-to-be 30-year-old has enough ability to bolster the rotation then a merit based acquisition would make plenty of sense. Now we get to the cost of a deal. This is a rental Minnesota would be taking on in hopes of a deeper Postseason performance yet this season. He's not going to slot in ahead of staff ace Jose Berrios and any belief that Bumgarner would cost the Twins one of their top three prospects seems absurd. Excluding Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, and Brusdar Graterol from this deal gives us a clearer layout of what assets to look for. Factoring in the Giants desire for players at the upper levels of the organization we can target players currently sitting at Double or Triple-A in the Minnesota system. Having such a deep and strong farm system the Twins can part out pieces and still be well set up for the future. Minnesota Twins acquire SP Madison Bumgarner. San Francisco Giants acquire OF Brent Rooker, INF Nick Gordon, and RHP Sean Poppen. With this return the Giants are getting a bit of everything. Rooker has a legit bat and would be in the big leagues for a significant amount of organizations right now. He plays on the corners, and there's questions about whether a move to first could happen with his current footwork. Swing and miss tendencies have slowed over the season with Triple-A Rochester and the power should play fine in any park. The Giants would be smart to ask for Trevor Larnach here, but he's further off and Minnesota should want to protect the upside there if they can. Former first round pick Nick Gordon has regained some of his promise. No longer a top 100 name, he is posting a .788 OPS during his second trip through the International League. Gordon isn't likely ever going to hit for power, but he's got a .291 average across 55 games at Rochester this season and is doing that with a serviceable .335 OBP. Speed is one of his best assets, and while he's not brother Dee, Nick can turn it on around the bases. You'd like to see a more even K/BB ratio, and he's more 2B than SS at this point, but there's a 23-year-old regular here. Poppen fits the mold of a solid trade candidate. He's 25 and at Triple-A for Minnesota, but there's more than a few arms slotted ahead of him for long term consideration. He had a mediocre start to the year at Double-A but has turned it on big time with Rochester. Posting a 10.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 49 innings at Triple-A this season, his 2.39 ERA is a career best. Sitting mid-90's with his fastball, this is a guy that can bolster the back end of a rotation and gets another boost pitching on the junior circuit. Obviously the names and talent included in this deal shifts if Will Smith is indeed paired with Bumgarner, but this seems like a decent framework to begin the process with. Over the coming weeks we'll find out what comes to fruition, but the certainty of a move for Minnesota seems imminent. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
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