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  1. Time can change the view of a trades, so here’ what was said back in 2018 at the time of the deal. What Did People Say at the Time of the Trade? Lynn had only made 20 starts for the Twins at the time of the deal and he was excited to be heading to a contender. "As a fan of the game growing up, it's exciting for me as a young kid seeing them in their heyday winning a lot of World Series championships," Lynn said at the time. "You look at their team now, they're going for it. I'm excited for that opportunity and that challenge. It's going to be a different experience. I'm just going to go in there and try to do everything I can to help wherever that may be." Baseball Prospectus discussed Austin’s prospect status before he finally broke into the big leagues. “the Yankees have mostly used Austin as an up-and-down fill-in when their better plans at first base or designated hitter have gone awry. He’s continued to put up big numbers for the International League in his Triple-A stints, and he’s consistently hit for power if not average when in the bigs.” At the time, Tom wrote at Twins Daily and gave the Twins an A-grade for this trade. Lynn had been lackluster during his Twins tenure and Tom was surprised Lynn had this kind of trade value. He wrote, “Honestly, if this was Lynn for Luis Rijo straight up, I would have been impressed. Rijo has an insane 8.36 K:BB ratio in 125 ⅓ innings over his minor league career. He also tops out at 93 mph, so it’s not like it’s all just smoke and mirrors.” Lynn’s New York Tenure Lynn was joining a Yankees pitching staff that already had five starters in front of him. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray and JA Happ were ahead of Lynn in the rotation. Even with that depth, nine of Lynn’s 11 appearances with New York came as a starter. He posted a 4.14 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP in 54 1/3 innings. He posted a 102 ERA+ and struck out 61 while only walking 14. It was an improvement over his time with the Twins. In the playoffs, Lynn made two relief appearances in the ALDS and things didn’t go as well. He allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings with a 2.14 WHIP and as many walks (2) as strikeouts (2). New York fell to Boston in four games and Lynn signed a free agent deal with Texas that winter. Minnesota’s Return Austin played 37 games for the Twins over the next two seasons and hit .236/.298/.488 with nine home runs and five doubles. He struck out in nearly 32% of his plate appearances and the Twins dealt him to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Malique Ziegler. Since joining the Twins, Ziegler played in 18 games at High-A where he posted a .442 OPS and dealt with some injuries. He turned 24-years old in September and a lost 2020 season hurt his chances to get closer to the big leagues. Luis Rijo is a little more intriguing even though the Twins have left him unprotected in each of the last two Rule 5 Drafts. His last appearances came at Low-A back 2019, so that’s likely one of the biggest reasons a team hasn’t claimed him. In that season, he posted a 2.86 ERA with 99 strikeouts over 107 innings. All those appearances were as a starter, but the bullpen might be an intriguing option moving forward, especially since his fastball already sits in the mid-90s. Who Won the Trade? Another part of the trade was the fact Minnesota had to eat $4.5 million of Lynn’s contract. This likely allowed the Twins to get any kind of value back in this trade. While Austin didn’t exactly pan out, Rijo still has potential to be a viable pitcher at the big-league level and he might have a better chance to contribute if he can make a successful transition to the bullpen. It was lucky the Twins could get anything for Lynn after the way his career started with the team. Looking back, what do you think about the trade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series: -Brian Dozier Trade -Ryan Pressly Trade -Eduardo Escobar Trade MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. You’ll hear a player was “recalled” when put on the active roster and “optioned” when sent off the active roster. Both moves require a player stays on the 40-man roster. We’ve also learned that when a team wants to add a player to its 40-man and, likely, 25-man roster during the season, it “purchases” or “selects” a player's contract. This is also the correct time to use the term “called up.” So that leaves this question to answer: How do you take a player OFF the 40-man roster? Today, you’ll get to learn all about waivers and the ever-popular, designating a player for assignment. Almost exclusively during the season, when removing a player from the 25- and 40-man roster (unless traded), he is “designated for assignment (DFA).” That means the following things: The “designated” player is no longer on the 40-man roster (or the 25-man roster, if he was active), the team is immediately using that roster spot (either 25- or 40-man) for someone else, and that “designated” player goes into a place called “DFA limbo” (that’s not an official term) for up to seven days. So why DFA? It gives teams flexibility to make decisions. In early April, Jake Odorizzi threw a two-out clunker before Rocco and Wes turned to the bullpen to get 22 outs on 156 pitches. The bullpen was unexpectedly gassed and they needed reinforcements now. Because it happened within the first 10 days of the season and no one was injured, a player could not be recalled. So whoever was added could not be on the 40-man, which was full. Designating a player for assignment is the mechanism that allows a team to make that move immediately. Tyler Austin was DFA’d and Chase De Jong was selected from Rochester. Austin was removed from both the 25- and 40- man roster and De Jong was added to both. Ta-da. It also works out perfectly that we can just follow the paths of these two players to explain everything else. Tyler Austin was designated for assignment on Saturday, April 6. That starts the 7-day clock. While in DFA limbo, Austin will still be paid his major league salary and will still be credited with major league service time. (Sidebar: If a player was DFA’d in late December, Christmas Day through New Year’s Day are not counted… that is if a player was DFA’d on December 23rd, the seven day window would go from December 23 (24, January 2, 3, 4, 5) through January 6.) Once designated, the Twins worked to trade Austin, which they did to the Giants two days later. But what could they have done if they weren’t able to trade him? Well, the "for assignment" part of the transaction could be trade, outright waivers or release. Players don’t have to be DFA’d to be played on waivers. And we’ve already seen that players don’t have to subjected to waivers when DFA’d. It’s just very common to see these two things work in conjunction with each other. Our other player path was Chase De Jong. After being selected on April 6, De Jong was optioned only four days later. But while in Rochester, he was part of another transaction: he was placed on and cleared outright waivers. It was announced on the morning of April 26 that he was “outrighted” off the roster and assigned to Triple-A. There are a lot of things to clear up in this very simple paper move. After being selected on April 6, De Jong was optioned only four days later. De Jong stops collecting service time and a major league paycheck upon being optioned. As he wasn’t on the 40-man roster prior to joining the Twins, this is his first optional assignment of the season and 2019 would be his third and final option year. But while in Rochester, he was part of another transaction: he was placed on and cleared outright waivers. First off, being removed from the 40-man roster takes him off of optional assignment. If you count the days he was on optional assignment, it’s less than 20… so the option doesn’t count (yet) and 2019 isn’t his final option. Secondly, players spend two days on waivers. And the waiver period expires at 3pm (locally) each day. So working backwards, the Twins announced on April 26 that he cleared waivers and was outrighted. He actually cleared the afternoon before (25th), which means he was placed on waivers sometime between 3pm on the 22nd and 23rd. That left him available to be claimed for two business days. He was “outrighted” off the roster and assigned to Triple-A. Largely procedural, he was already in Rochester. The unique part of this move was that De Jong would have been informed by the Twins that he was being removed from the 40-man roster and had cleared waivers on the 25th. Because he had been outrighted (taken off the 40-man roster by clearing waivers) before, he had the option to refuse the assignment and become an immediate free agent. He turned that option down and will remain in the organization. Unless re-added to the 40-man roster, he will be a free-agent at the end of the season. GLOSSARY: Designate for Assignment (DFA): Being removed from the 40-man and 25-man roster to provide the team with an immediate roster spot. Players can be traded, placed on waivers or released. Outright waivers: The transaction that can occur either inside or outside of a DFA. Players must be offered to all other clubs before they can be sent to the minor leagues. Claiming teams must add immediately to 40-man roster (and 25-man roster if out of options). Often times this leads to another player being DFA’d.
  3. Well, that didn't take long. Days after being designated for assignment, Tyler Austin has been traded to the San Francisco Giants for minor league outfielder Malique Ziegler. Austin only received five plate appearances for the Twins this season. This brings an end to Austin's brief tenure with the Minnesota Twins. He was acquired July 30, 2018 in the deal that sent Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees.Heading into this offseason, it appeared Austin had the inside track at the starting first base gig. His overall batting line of .236/.294/.488 (.782 OPS) was uneven, but there's never been any questioning his power. Well, a C.J. Cron waiver claim and Nelson Cruz free agent signing later and Austin was quickly on the outside looking in. He was out of options, so when the Twins DFAed him over the weekend it appeared to be only a matter of time before he was with a new team. At least the Twins have something to show for him. Malique Ziegler was the Giants' 22nd-round pick of their 2016 Draft. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and played his college ball at North Iowa Area Community College. A right-handed hitting outfielder, Ziegler comes to the Twins having hit .245/.339/.376 (.714 OPS) in 143 career minor league games. Zigler has some speed, he's hit nine triples and has 38 stolen bases in his career, and has a knack for getting on base. He's drawn 66 walks in 627 career plate appearances, which works out to a solid walk rate of 10.5%. There's still a fair amount of swing and miss in his game, especially considering his relative lack of power, as Ziegler has 24.3 K%. Maybe the biggest shockwave from Austin's departure from the organization is in how it relates to the first base/DH depth chart. The Twins have some guys already at the major league level who are able to move around -- Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo both can play just about anywhere, Miguel Sano has some time a first base and Max Kepler spent quite a bit of time there in his minor league career. So there's no shortage of options should Cron or Cruz miss time. If you're someone knocking on the door, such as Brent Rooker or Luke Raley, however, Austin moving on represents one more road block removed on the road to the big leagues. Click here to view the article
  4. Heading into this offseason, it appeared Austin had the inside track at the starting first base gig. His overall batting line of .236/.294/.488 (.782 OPS) was uneven, but there's never been any questioning his power. Well, a C.J. Cron waiver claim and Nelson Cruz free agent signing later and Austin was quickly on the outside looking in. He was out of options, so when the Twins DFAed him over the weekend it appeared to be only a matter of time before he was with a new team. At least the Twins have something to show for him. Malique Ziegler was the Giants' 22nd-round pick of their 2016 Draft. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and played his college ball at North Iowa Area Community College. A right-handed hitting outfielder, Ziegler comes to the Twins having hit .245/.339/.376 (.714 OPS) in 143 career minor league games. Zigler has some speed, he's hit nine triples and has 38 stolen bases in his career, and has a knack for getting on base. He's drawn 66 walks in 627 career plate appearances, which works out to a solid walk rate of 10.5%. There's still a fair amount of swing and miss in his game, especially considering his relative lack of power, as Ziegler has 24.3 K%. Maybe the biggest shockwave from Austin's departure from the organization is in how it relates to the first base/DH depth chart. The Twins have some guys already at the major league level who are able to move around -- Marwin Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo both can play just about anywhere, Miguel Sano has some time a first base and Max Kepler spent quite a bit of time there in his minor league career. So there's no shortage of options should Cron or Cruz miss time. If you're someone knocking on the door, such as Brent Rooker or Luke Raley, however, Austin moving on represents one more road block removed on the road to the big leagues.
  5. Aaron and John return to the radio and talk about the ever-growing legend of Willians Astudillo, early impressions of Rocco Baldelli, Tyler Austin's brief stay on the roster, Byron Buxton's promising start, Michael Pineda showing big-time stuff, and joining the Costco world. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click this link.http://traffic.libsy...3?dest-id=74590 Click here to view the article
  6. It's been a long time since the Twins had a primary first baseman not named Mauer or Morneau (save for some short-term fill-ins). Fourteen years, in fact. Now, as they venture into a new era at the right corner of the diamond, the team is taking a frugal yet creative approach to filling the position, seemingly biding time for a more permanent solution.Projected Starter: C.J. Cron Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez Depth: Miguel Sano, Tyler Austin, Lucas Duda Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel THE GOOD Tasked with finding a replacement for Joe Mauer at first base, the front office decided to gather up a collection of intriguing low-cost parts rather than invest in a bona fide solution. Those hoping for a Paul Goldschmidt type splash were surely disappointed with the approach this past winter, but the Twins did well in patching together some viable options. Already the front office had acquired Austin from New York, in last July's Lance Lynn trade. The lefty-mashing slugger seemed to profile perfectly as half of a platoon with someone like – say – Duda, whom they added on a minor-league deal just ahead of spring training. Proceeding with those two would've been a sound short-term strategy, and perhaps Minnesota had plans along those lines heading into the offseason. But plans quickly changed when Cron became available on waivers in late November. Seeing a late-20s first baseman, with a solid track record, coming off a career year and available for nothing, was too much for the Twins to pass up at one of their clearest areas of need. Cron seems to offer a reasonably high floor along with a limited ceiling. The first part of that equation is valuable and sets him apart from the alternatives. Owner of a .289/.336/.500 line in the minors, he never posted an OPS below .739 in four MLB seasons prior to breaking out with an .816 mark and 30 home runs last year in Tampa. So even if he regresses a little, he probably won't fall too far. As a reference point, Mauer posted a .746 OPS overall in his five seasons as a first baseman. The Twins have lacked a reliable power bat at first base since Morneau suffered his concussion in 2010, so Cron looks like a breath of fresh air in that regard. And if something should go amiss with the projected starter during spring training, Minnesota is well equipped to absorb the blow. Austin and Duda have become fallback plans, and they're good ones at that. Austin is a muscle-bound, intimidating beast in the batter's box, and he put on a convincing power display after coming over from the Yankees last summer, blasting nine home runs in 35 games as a Twin. In 120 career big-league games, the 27-year-old has 24 jacks and a .469 slugging percentage. Duda has a lengthier track record of hitting with 152 home runs in 919 MLB games. He wasn't great last year between Kansas City and Atlanta, slashing .241/.313/.418, but that's respectable and the prior year he launched 30 homers with an .818 OPS. The 33-year-old has a career OPS+ of 118. One other creative addition from the offseason was Wilin Rosario, signed to play in Rochester after a three-year stint in Korea. Rosario was a quality bat for the Rockies before heading to Asia, and was a monster hitter for two years in the KBO (.961 and 1.060 OPS marks) before taking a step back in 2018. He's a longshot to make any impact but the Twins aren't counting on him for much – only to replace the departed Kennys Vargas as a readily available option in Triple-A. On the prospect front, 1B/OF hybrid Rooker is the most immediate possibility and could be up with Minnesota this summer if things break right for him. Trevor Larnach is more or less in the same boat, though he played only right field after being drafted last year. Sano might stop at first for awhile on his way to inevitably ending up at DH. But I believe the long-term vision is for Kirilloff to take over. He's got the bat, and while he has played outfield exclusively up to this point, he is not considered a special defender out there. With current Twins right fielder Max Kepler now locked up long-term, I expect we'll see the rapidly rising Kirilloff start to break in a first baseman's mitt this year. THE BAD Well, let's start here: The admirable present depth at first base is likely to evaporate by the end of spring training, because Austin is out of options (likely to be claimed on waivers) and Duda will undoubtedly opt out if he doesn't make the team, which he won't unless Cron or Nelson Cruz gets hurt. So then you're down to Cron and Sano probably sharing duties at first. I'd like to see Kepler play there too against the occasional tough right-hander, but that remains to be seen. Gonzalez's presence is helpful in the event of a Cron injury/implosion, as he can either fill in at first, or (more likely) at third with Sano sliding over. But none of these players are the kind of well rounded, dominant sluggers you ideally envision at first base. (Sano could be, but hasn't shown it since early 2017.) The Twins will gain more power at the position with Mauer gone, but they'll also lose two critical strengths – top-tier defensive prowess and strong on-base skills. No one is suited to match #7 in those traits, which are especially valuable on a team that features an iffy left side of the infield defensively, and a lineup already heavy on pop and light on OBP. Yeah, these guys the Twins have brought in can all hit the ball hard. But evidence suggests this isn't widely perceived as being all that valuable on its own. That's why Minnesota was able to get Cron on waivers, Austin as a trade toss-in, Duda on a minors deal, Rosario from Korea. THE BOTTOM LINE As far as stopgaps go, the Twins have done pretty well for themselves. Cron is a serviceable – albeit bland – starting option while Austin and Duda provide quality spring depth. There are also a number of players on Minnesota's roster (namely Sano and Gonzalez) who could become frequent plugs at the position, and possibly even regulars. That's the beauty of first base: it's on the far end of the defensive spectrum, meaning almost any capable hitter can end up there. So while there are no great "first base prospects" in the Twins' system right now, per se, there are plenty who could eventually take on that function as big-leaguers, with Kirilloff leading the pack in my mind. While the future at first is uncertain, it's hardly ominous, and the Twins have set themselves up for comfortable stability in the short-term. *** Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher Click here to view the article
  7. Projected Starter: C.J. Cron Likely Backup: Marwin Gonzalez Depth: Miguel Sano, Tyler Austin, Lucas Duda Prospects: Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Zander Wiel THE GOOD Tasked with finding a replacement for Joe Mauer at first base, the front office decided to gather up a collection of intriguing low-cost parts rather than invest in a bona fide solution. Those hoping for a Paul Goldschmidt type splash were surely disappointed with the approach this past winter, but the Twins did well in patching together some viable options. Already the front office had acquired Austin from New York, in last July's Lance Lynn trade. The lefty-mashing slugger seemed to profile perfectly as half of a platoon with someone like – say – Duda, whom they added on a minor-league deal just ahead of spring training. Proceeding with those two would've been a sound short-term strategy, and perhaps Minnesota had plans along those lines heading into the offseason. But plans quickly changed when Cron became available on waivers in late November. Seeing a late-20s first baseman, with a solid track record, coming off a career year and available for nothing, was too much for the Twins to pass up at one of their clearest areas of need. Cron seems to offer a reasonably high floor along with a limited ceiling. The first part of that equation is valuable and sets him apart from the alternatives. Owner of a .289/.336/.500 line in the minors, he never posted an OPS below .739 in four MLB seasons prior to breaking out with an .816 mark and 30 home runs last year in Tampa. So even if he regresses a little, he probably won't fall too far. As a reference point, Mauer posted a .746 OPS overall in his five seasons as a first baseman. The Twins have lacked a reliable power bat at first base since Morneau suffered his concussion in 2010, so Cron looks like a breath of fresh air in that regard. And if something should go amiss with the projected starter during spring training, Minnesota is well equipped to absorb the blow. Austin and Duda have become fallback plans, and they're good ones at that. Austin is a muscle-bound, intimidating beast in the batter's box, and he put on a convincing power display after coming over from the Yankees last summer, blasting nine home runs in 35 games as a Twin. In 120 career big-league games, the 27-year-old has 24 jacks and a .469 slugging percentage. Duda has a lengthier track record of hitting with 152 home runs in 919 MLB games. He wasn't great last year between Kansas City and Atlanta, slashing .241/.313/.418, but that's respectable and the prior year he launched 30 homers with an .818 OPS. The 33-year-old has a career OPS+ of 118. One other creative addition from the offseason was Wilin Rosario, signed to play in Rochester after a three-year stint in Korea. Rosario was a quality bat for the Rockies before heading to Asia, and was a monster hitter for two years in the KBO (.961 and 1.060 OPS marks) before taking a step back in 2018. He's a longshot to make any impact but the Twins aren't counting on him for much – only to replace the departed Kennys Vargas as a readily available option in Triple-A. On the prospect front, 1B/OF hybrid Rooker is the most immediate possibility and could be up with Minnesota this summer if things break right for him. Trevor Larnach is more or less in the same boat, though he played only right field after being drafted last year. Sano might stop at first for awhile on his way to inevitably ending up at DH. But I believe the long-term vision is for Kirilloff to take over. He's got the bat, and while he has played outfield exclusively up to this point, he is not considered a special defender out there. With current Twins right fielder Max Kepler now locked up long-term, I expect we'll see the rapidly rising Kirilloff start to break in a first baseman's mitt this year. THE BAD Well, let's start here: The admirable present depth at first base is likely to evaporate by the end of spring training, because Austin is out of options (likely to be claimed on waivers) and Duda will undoubtedly opt out if he doesn't make the team, which he won't unless Cron or Nelson Cruz gets hurt. So then you're down to Cron and Sano probably sharing duties at first. I'd like to see Kepler play there too against the occasional tough right-hander, but that remains to be seen. Gonzalez's presence is helpful in the event of a Cron injury/implosion, as he can either fill in at first, or (more likely) at third with Sano sliding over. But none of these players are the kind of well rounded, dominant sluggers you ideally envision at first base. (Sano could be, but hasn't shown it since early 2017.) The Twins will gain more power at the position with Mauer gone, but they'll also lose two critical strengths – top-tier defensive prowess and strong on-base skills. No one is suited to match #7 in those traits, which are especially valuable on a team that features an iffy left side of the infield defensively, and a lineup already heavy on pop and light on OBP. Yeah, these guys the Twins have brought in can all hit the ball hard. But evidence suggests this isn't widely perceived as being all that valuable on its own. That's why Minnesota was able to get Cron on waivers, Austin as a trade toss-in, Duda on a minors deal, Rosario from Korea. THE BOTTOM LINE As far as stopgaps go, the Twins have done pretty well for themselves. Cron is a serviceable – albeit bland – starting option while Austin and Duda provide quality spring depth. There are also a number of players on Minnesota's roster (namely Sano and Gonzalez) who could become frequent plugs at the position, and possibly even regulars. That's the beauty of first base: it's on the far end of the defensive spectrum, meaning almost any capable hitter can end up there. So while there are no great "first base prospects" in the Twins' system right now, per se, there are plenty who could eventually take on that function as big-leaguers, with Kirilloff leading the pack in my mind. While the future at first is uncertain, it's hardly ominous, and the Twins have set themselves up for comfortable stability in the short-term. *** Twins 2019 Position Analysis: Catcher
  8. Austin is among the Twins leaders in Grapefruit League plate appearances with 42, and in that sample he's batted .381 with a 1.024 OPS and three home runs. His easy power has been on display once again coming off a season where he launched 17 bombs in just 69 games between New York and Minnesota. Austin is out of options, meaning that he'll need to pass him through waivers in order to stay in the Twins organization if he doesn't make the 25-man roster out of camp. And since he's been outrighted in the past, Austin could elect free agency even if he goes unclaimed. So, if the Twins don't take the 27-year-old north, there seems to be a very good chance they'll lose him. And that's a disconcerting thought, because it's not hard to envision a scenario where he's one of the more intimidating (and affordable) power bats in the league over the next few years. Contemplating this dilemma, I asked two of the guys who will be primarily responsible for shaping the Opening Day roster about it. "Certainly it gets harder as you start kind of adding more people to the group of first base, DH," acknowledged Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey. He did note, however, that the flexibility across the rest of Minnesota's bench might make the notion more palatable. "We have a lot of multi-position players among the other bench-types that afford us an opportunity maybe, whereas a traditional bench you have your catcher, then you have your infielder, your outfielder, something like that." This is true. Through a pure roster-building lens, it's not infeasible you could carry Austin – while sending down a player with options remaining, like Jake Cave or Willians Astudillo – and still have all of your needs covered in terms of positional depth. But from a day-to-day operational standpoint? Things get trickier. "Tyler is certainly one of those guys that has put himself in a position where you are looking to find ways to get him in there," said manager Rocco Baldelli. "Because you know if you get him at-bats, that you feel good about him succeeding. So yeah, it's definitely something that I spend a lot of days thinking about, for sure." The caveat of his statement – IF you get him at-bats – reveals the ultimate problem. Here, the answers seem to run out. Where are Austin's at-bats coming from? C.J. Cron and Nelson Cruz are locked in as starters at first base and DH, which are the only positions Austin plays (the Twins clearly have no interest in using him as an outfielder). And both of those players swing from the right side, so you're not gaining any kind of platoon advantage that'd justify rotating him through those spots regularly. At best, Austin's probably starting once a week to spell one of those guys, while pulling in the occasional pinch-hit at-bat. Not only is this a suboptimal use of a roster spot, but it's also completely unfair to Austin. You can't expect a hitter to produce with such sporadic playing time, and this is quite problematic when said player's value is tied solely to his bat. From a logical view, I think we all have to acknowledge that as long as Cron and Cruz stay healthy for the next week, Austin isn't making this team. It's clear that both Falvey and Baldelli would love to keep him around, but neither could offer a specific rationale for doing so given the layout of the roster. And that's because there just isn't one to be found. The manager can keep spending his days thinking about it, but no answers are going magically emerge. So, with one week left to go before Opening Day, it comes down to figuring out what to do with him. Obviously the Twins want to avoid a scenario where they lose a talented player for nothing. But strikeout-prone sluggers with no positional flexibility aren't in demand these days. And perhaps this reality might portend our ideal outcome: Austin slips through waivers because other clubs are facing similar roster crunches, and he accepts the assignment to Triple-A because he recognizes an MLB job is not available at the moment. Minnesota's depth at first base and DH will look a whole lot better if Austin's a phone call away in Rochester.
  9. There’s no place in today’s game for a weak-side platoon bat who offers little defensive value. It’s really difficult for me to see the value in the Twins keeping Tyler Austin on the active roster. That all changes in 2020. The MLB announced a series of rule changes that will dramatically change a player like Austin’s future outlook. He’s exactly the type of player who will benefit most from these updates.One of the challenges the Twins face in retaining Austin will be trying to fit him on the roster, which will more than likely feature a three-man bench for the majority of the season. He’s out of options, and power is typically very expensive. If the Twins place him on waivers, I have little doubt the majority of rebuilding teams would be salivating over the thought of bringing him in. We learned today that an extra roster spot will be added next season, making it much easier for a team to carry a bat-only type player. That’s huge for a guy like Austin. One of the other significant changes coming is the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But there’s a twist. Starting in 2020, a pitcher must either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. So it’s not a strict three-batter minimum rule, but it will make it more difficult for teams to deploy specialist pitchers. Austin has been phenomenal against left-handed pitching over his young career (.937 OPS), but right-handers have mostly had their way with him (.664 OPS, 39.0 K%). As it stands right now, it’s not always easy to take advantage of that platoon split, but it will become much easier with these new restrictions. A lot of the focus on this rule change has revolved around how it impacts bullpen usage. While that’s certainly the most obvious element to the rule and the thing it aims to adjust, I believe this change (in addition to the extra roster spot) means pinch hitters suddenly become a great deal more valuable than they’ve been in the era of the 13-man pitching staff. These tweaks have the potential to change a slugging pinch hitter from a luxury most teams cannot afford to shoehorn onto their rosters to a potential integral part of the makeup of each team’s bench. While Austin’s potential value is boosted by these changes, there were already some good reasons for the Twins to try to keep him in the org. Nelson Cruz has been arguably the best power hitter in baseball over the past few years, but nobody escapes Father Time. He does an incredible job at taking care of himself but you never know when a dropoff or significant injury may come. C.J. Cron had a breakout year last season and is a much more established player than Austin, but what if he can’t replicate that success? What if he's LoMo 2.0? The Twins are only committed to Cruz and Cron for this upcoming season, though both can be brought back in 2020 if the team so chooses – Cruz has a $12 million option and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t set to become a free agent until 2024. The Twins also have some nice bats down on the farm who figure to be factoring into the 1B/DH conversation before too long. Brent Rooker also seems to be a big beneficiary of these rule changes, but a bat in the hand is worth two in the rack. I have not been a big supporter of Tyler Austin in the past because it’s difficult to see much value in a player of his profile the way the game is being played today. With a tweak in the rules must also come a reevaluations of how we value certain players. While these rule changes aren’t so dramatic to cause any kind of a seismic shift, I do believe they have a significant impact on players of Austin’s specific profile. The only question is can they find room for Austin throughout the entire 2019 season? Full Rule Changes Here’s a link to the full press release. For 2019: -Inning breaks reduced to two minutes. They were previously 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for national broadcasts. -There will be a single July 31 trade deadline. No more separate wavier trade deadline. -Updates to All-Star Game voting and a $1 million bonus to the Home Run Derby winner. For 2020: -Active roster to expand one spot to 26. -Rosters will only expand to 28 in September instead of 40. -Undetermined cap on the number of pitchers on an active roster. This will be determined by a joint committee. -Pitchers will need to either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. -Injured list goes back up to 15 days instead of 10. Click here to view the article
  10. One of the challenges the Twins face in retaining Austin will be trying to fit him on the roster, which will more than likely feature a three-man bench for the majority of the season. He’s out of options, and power is typically very expensive. If the Twins place him on waivers, I have little doubt the majority of rebuilding teams would be salivating over the thought of bringing him in. We learned today that an extra roster spot will be added next season, making it much easier for a team to carry a bat-only type player. That’s huge for a guy like Austin. One of the other significant changes coming is the three-batter minimum for pitchers. But there’s a twist. Starting in 2020, a pitcher must either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. So it’s not a strict three-batter minimum rule, but it will make it more difficult for teams to deploy specialist pitchers. Austin has been phenomenal against left-handed pitching over his young career (.937 OPS), but right-handers have mostly had their way with him (.664 OPS, 39.0 K%). As it stands right now, it’s not always easy to take advantage of that platoon split, but it will become much easier with these new restrictions. A lot of the focus on this rule change has revolved around how it impacts bullpen usage. While that’s certainly the most obvious element to the rule and the thing it aims to adjust, I believe this change (in addition to the extra roster spot) means pinch hitters suddenly become a great deal more valuable than they’ve been in the era of the 13-man pitching staff. These tweaks have the potential to change a slugging pinch hitter from a luxury most teams cannot afford to shoehorn onto their rosters to a potential integral part of the makeup of each team’s bench. While Austin’s potential value is boosted by these changes, there were already some good reasons for the Twins to try to keep him in the org. Nelson Cruz has been arguably the best power hitter in baseball over the past few years, but nobody escapes Father Time. He does an incredible job at taking care of himself but you never know when a dropoff or significant injury may come. C.J. Cron had a breakout year last season and is a much more established player than Austin, but what if he can’t replicate that success? What if he's LoMo 2.0? The Twins are only committed to Cruz and Cron for this upcoming season, though both can be brought back in 2020 if the team so chooses – Cruz has a $12 million option and Cron has one more year of arbitration eligibility. Austin, meanwhile, isn’t set to become a free agent until 2024. The Twins also have some nice bats down on the farm who figure to be factoring into the 1B/DH conversation before too long. Brent Rooker also seems to be a big beneficiary of these rule changes, but a bat in the hand is worth two in the rack. I have not been a big supporter of Tyler Austin in the past because it’s difficult to see much value in a player of his profile the way the game is being played today. With a tweak in the rules must also come a reevaluations of how we value certain players. While these rule changes aren’t so dramatic to cause any kind of a seismic shift, I do believe they have a significant impact on players of Austin’s specific profile. The only question is can they find room for Austin throughout the entire 2019 season? Full Rule Changes Here’s a link to the full press release. For 2019: -Inning breaks reduced to two minutes. They were previously 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for national broadcasts. -There will be a single July 31 trade deadline. No more separate wavier trade deadline. -Updates to All-Star Game voting and a $1 million bonus to the Home Run Derby winner. For 2020: -Active roster to expand one spot to 26. -Rosters will only expand to 28 in September instead of 40. -Undetermined cap on the number of pitchers on an active roster. This will be determined by a joint committee. -Pitchers will need to either face three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning. -Injured list goes back up to 15 days instead of 10.
  11. FT. MYERS - Blue Jays prospects pummeled Twins pitching on Sunday in a 10-1 decision. Shortstop prospect Bo Bichette led off the game with a home run onto the berm beyond the left field fence, and Twins starter Jake Odorizzi did not complete the first inning. He talked about his outing, and several other notes from Sunday in Ft. Myers.Spring Training stats don’t matter at all. We know that. And whenever a player or pitcher struggles in spring training, we repeat that sentence over and over. That is the key point when looking at veteran Jake Odorizzi’s pitching line from Sunday. He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning. Odorizzi noted after his outing, “Hopefully it (today’s outing) means good things because I think I gave up one run last year and it didn’t go very well. So I hope so. It’s spring training; I was trying to work on offspeed a lot today.” Veteran starting pitchers come to spring training knowing their sole job in the spring is to be ready by Opening Day. Sometimes that means working on fastball command, or offspeed pitches. For Odorizzi on Sunday, it was the secondary stuff. “I mixed all my pitches. I didn’t throw too many fastballs, but that was by design. It probably played a bit of a role getting behind in counts, but I’m not going to my good stuff that I know well while spring training when I want to work on getting the other stuff that’s not as good up to that. I could have very easily started throwing my pitches how I would have in the game, but that’s not going to make you any better.” Rocco Baldelli came out of the dugout and removed Odorizzi from the game with two outs in the first inning. Pat Dean needed just one pitch to end the inning. Baldelli said, “Odo has a very mature approach to everything he does. He’s got a very good head on his shoulders. He went out there today and he was using this as one, a way to prepare and get himself in shape and also work on some things.” He continued, “He was able to go finish his work and complete his preparation on the side. These sort of things do happen, and in the regular season the leash is probably also a little bit longer than it would be in a fairly early spring start.” Odorizzi’s work was not complete. Because he didn’t reach a total pitch count goal for the day, he went down to the bullpen where he continued to work. He wanted to throw 36 more pitches. While he didn’t get more game-situation work, he tried to replicate it as much as possible in the bullpen. “I had (assistant pitching coach) Jeremy Hefner stand in and bounce back and forth from righty and lefty. And I would do up-downs. So I would throw 12 pitches, sit down, watch whoever was hitting at that point, and just treat it as a game situation. Obviously it’s not the same max effort as a game, but I treated it just like a normal game with batters in the box. So it was good. Got the same sweat I got going on in the bullpen as in the game. It was a little warm out there. For us, it’s really about the up-downs, and building your pitch counts in the spring.” In years past, Odorizzi threw both a slider and a cutter, but he decided in the offseason to just focus on one of the two and put all his efforts into the cutter. He said, “I decided this offseason I wanted to focus on one pitch and give all my effort to that instead of spreading it out where you have two average pitches and maybe one's even below-average. You take that away, and just focus on one and make it as best as you can. It's worked out really well for me so far.” “And like a good teammate, he has been sharing information on his pitches. “I actually taught it to Martín (Perez) the other day, and it's been working well for him in spring training so far from everything I've been told. So I'm helping guys with it while helping myself at the same time. If we can make each other better in here.” He continued, “It's good for me to sometimes talk it out with people. It helps me talk about my mindset, if I'm trying to teach it to somebody, it kind of gives you that teaching point as well. ” GAME NOTES/QUOTES Blue Jays Prospects The Blue Jays announced before the game that top prospect Vlad Guerrero, Jr. will miss about three weeks due to a mild oblique strain. If I were to venture a guess, it will likely cause him to start the season in Triple-A before being called up to the major leagues about three weeks into the season. Other top Blue Jays prospects made the trek down from Dunedin and were very impressive. Shortstop Bo Bichette led off the game with a home run. In his next at bat, he lined a double down the left field line. Later in the game, he hit an opposite field homer off of Michael Pineda. Seth Stohs Slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez had three hits including a first-inning homer off of Odorizzi and a sixth-inning homer off Pineda. Cavan Biggio was in a car accident a couple of days ago. On Sunday, he went 2-for-5 with a home run off of Matt Magill. Pineda Throwing Ball “Pretty Well” Pineda gave up three runs over his three innings of work, including the two home runs. However, Baldelli believes he is healthy and throwing the ball well. “He's healthy and ready to go. He's actually throwing the ball pretty well. His arm strength is good. He's spinning the ball well, and for him, that's what it comes down to in a lot of ways. He's a guy that, when he's been very good in the past, a big part of his game is spinning the ball and cutting the ball and doing things like that. He is back to that now. You could look at a couple of different pitches here and there, but overall, I thought it was a very successful outing for him. Just getting out here and making some good pitches and doing it in this sweatbox that we do it in every day -- it's good for all the players, especially the pitchers, to get out there and do the work in that environment. I think it's helpful in preparing them for the year. I think Michael looks great." Return of Marwin A look at Monday’s lineup shows that Marwin Gonzalez will be leading off and playing third base. He has been out of the lineup in recent days due to a shoulder injury. Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli said that Gonzalez is ready to return. “Marwin declared himself beyond ready to go today but we wanted to give it one more day and we had it scheduled and we ended up rolling with it. Yeah, we expect him out there and all systems go.” That has long been a Twins thing. When a player says that he’s ready to play, and the training staff agree, give him one more day to be more certain. Especially in spring training, it’s the right thing to do. Tyler Austin Making His Case On Friday, Tyler Austin went 3-for-3 to raise his spring batting average to .318. On Sunday afternoon, he went 3-for-3 again and now has a .400 batting average. Seth Stohs CJ Cron is most likely going to be the Twins primary first baseman. However, Austin is out of options and it’s hard to imagine that the team is going to want to lose him for nothing. Could he compete with Willians Astudillo for the final roster spot? Could a trade be possible? Torreyes Impresses Ronald Torreyes, playing third base on Sunday, made a couple of really nice defensive plays. He is not a big man, but he also can hit. He has impressed his new manager both on and off the field. Seth Stohs “He does everything right. He does everything right from the moment he walks on the field every morning. He's got a great energy. He's a clubhouse favorite. The guys love him. The staff loves him. He couldn't handle himself any better in the clubhouse or on the field. He's a good player. Move him anywhere. He makes all the plays. He's a headsy player. He's a baseball player. He has all good at bats. I enjoy being around him. I know I'm not alone in that thought.” Click here to view the article
  12. Spring Training stats don’t matter at all. We know that. And whenever a player or pitcher struggles in spring training, we repeat that sentence over and over. That is the key point when looking at veteran Jake Odorizzi’s pitching line from Sunday. He gave up five runs on four hits and two walks in 2/3 of an inning. Odorizzi noted after his outing, “Hopefully it (today’s outing) means good things because I think I gave up one run last year and it didn’t go very well. So I hope so. It’s spring training; I was trying to work on offspeed a lot today.” Veteran starting pitchers come to spring training knowing their sole job in the spring is to be ready by Opening Day. Sometimes that means working on fastball command, or offspeed pitches. For Odorizzi on Sunday, it was the secondary stuff. “I mixed all my pitches. I didn’t throw too many fastballs, but that was by design. It probably played a bit of a role getting behind in counts, but I’m not going to my good stuff that I know well while spring training when I want to work on getting the other stuff that’s not as good up to that. I could have very easily started throwing my pitches how I would have in the game, but that’s not going to make you any better.” Rocco Baldelli came out of the dugout and removed Odorizzi from the game with two outs in the first inning. Pat Dean needed just one pitch to end the inning. Baldelli said, “Odo has a very mature approach to everything he does. He’s got a very good head on his shoulders. He went out there today and he was using this as one, a way to prepare and get himself in shape and also work on some things.” He continued, “He was able to go finish his work and complete his preparation on the side. These sort of things do happen, and in the regular season the leash is probably also a little bit longer than it would be in a fairly early spring start.” Odorizzi’s work was not complete. Because he didn’t reach a total pitch count goal for the day, he went down to the bullpen where he continued to work. He wanted to throw 36 more pitches. While he didn’t get more game-situation work, he tried to replicate it as much as possible in the bullpen. “I had (assistant pitching coach) Jeremy Hefner stand in and bounce back and forth from righty and lefty. And I would do up-downs. So I would throw 12 pitches, sit down, watch whoever was hitting at that point, and just treat it as a game situation. Obviously it’s not the same max effort as a game, but I treated it just like a normal game with batters in the box. So it was good. Got the same sweat I got going on in the bullpen as in the game. It was a little warm out there. For us, it’s really about the up-downs, and building your pitch counts in the spring.” In years past, Odorizzi threw both a slider and a cutter, but he decided in the offseason to just focus on one of the two and put all his efforts into the cutter. He said, “I decided this offseason I wanted to focus on one pitch and give all my effort to that instead of spreading it out where you have two average pitches and maybe one's even below-average. You take that away, and just focus on one and make it as best as you can. It's worked out really well for me so far.” “And like a good teammate, he has been sharing information on his pitches. “I actually taught it to Martín (Perez) the other day, and it's been working well for him in spring training so far from everything I've been told. So I'm helping guys with it while helping myself at the same time. If we can make each other better in here.” He continued, “It's good for me to sometimes talk it out with people. It helps me talk about my mindset, if I'm trying to teach it to somebody, it kind of gives you that teaching point as well. ” GAME NOTES/QUOTES Blue Jays Prospects The Blue Jays announced before the game that top prospect Vlad Guerrero, Jr. will miss about three weeks due to a mild oblique strain. If I were to venture a guess, it will likely cause him to start the season in Triple-A before being called up to the major leagues about three weeks into the season. Other top Blue Jays prospects made the trek down from Dunedin and were very impressive. Shortstop Bo Bichette led off the game with a home run. In his next at bat, he lined a double down the left field line. Later in the game, he hit an opposite field homer off of Michael Pineda. Seth Stohs Slugging first baseman Rowdy Tellez had three hits including a first-inning homer off of Odorizzi and a sixth-inning homer off Pineda. Cavan Biggio was in a car accident a couple of days ago. On Sunday, he went 2-for-5 with a home run off of Matt Magill. Pineda Throwing Ball “Pretty Well” Pineda gave up three runs over his three innings of work, including the two home runs. However, Baldelli believes he is healthy and throwing the ball well. “He's healthy and ready to go. He's actually throwing the ball pretty well. His arm strength is good. He's spinning the ball well, and for him, that's what it comes down to in a lot of ways. He's a guy that, when he's been very good in the past, a big part of his game is spinning the ball and cutting the ball and doing things like that. He is back to that now. You could look at a couple of different pitches here and there, but overall, I thought it was a very successful outing for him. Just getting out here and making some good pitches and doing it in this sweatbox that we do it in every day -- it's good for all the players, especially the pitchers, to get out there and do the work in that environment. I think it's helpful in preparing them for the year. I think Michael looks great." Return of Marwin A look at Monday’s lineup shows that Marwin Gonzalez will be leading off and playing third base. He has been out of the lineup in recent days due to a shoulder injury. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1104902812113272832 Following Sunday’s game, Rocco Baldelli said that Gonzalez is ready to return. “Marwin declared himself beyond ready to go today but we wanted to give it one more day and we had it scheduled and we ended up rolling with it. Yeah, we expect him out there and all systems go.” That has long been a Twins thing. When a player says that he’s ready to play, and the training staff agree, give him one more day to be more certain. Especially in spring training, it’s the right thing to do. Tyler Austin Making His Case On Friday, Tyler Austin went 3-for-3 to raise his spring batting average to .318. On Sunday afternoon, he went 3-for-3 again and now has a .400 batting average. Seth Stohs CJ Cron is most likely going to be the Twins primary first baseman. However, Austin is out of options and it’s hard to imagine that the team is going to want to lose him for nothing. Could he compete with Willians Astudillo for the final roster spot? Could a trade be possible? Torreyes Impresses Ronald Torreyes, playing third base on Sunday, made a couple of really nice defensive plays. He is not a big man, but he also can hit. He has impressed his new manager both on and off the field. Seth Stohs “He does everything right. He does everything right from the moment he walks on the field every morning. He's got a great energy. He's a clubhouse favorite. The guys love him. The staff loves him. He couldn't handle himself any better in the clubhouse or on the field. He's a good player. Move him anywhere. He makes all the plays. He's a headsy player. He's a baseball player. He has all good at bats. I enjoy being around him. I know I'm not alone in that thought.”
  13. We never expect players signings not to work - but some of them just don’t. Last year was a lesson for Twins fans in that sense, with big splashes like Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison and Addison Reed underperforming. A lot of people would include Jake Odorizzi in that category too, though he was acquired via a trade. So, in a way, sometimes it's wise to lower expectations about new players, in order to be pleasantly surprised down the road.Longtime club hero Joe Mauer officially announced his retirement from baseball on Nov. 9, at age 35. Mauer still was a vital part of the team’s lineup, having a .351 OBP, which ranked second on the team. He also slashed .407/.500/.617 with RISP and .333/.443/.468 with men on while playing Gold Glove level defense. And 2018 was, by far, one of the worst years of his career. So talk about big shoes to fill at first base. Less than two weeks after the retirement announcement, the Tampa Bay Rays designated C.J. Cron for assignment, even after his career year in which he hit 30 home runs, while also being a LHP’s nightmare. The Twins claimed him off waivers six days later, making him, at least in theory, the new everyday first baseman. But was his career year enough to give him such big job security? Let’s talk about possible backup plans the club may have, in case Cron doesn’t repeat his last year’s performance. It’s important to explain why my faith in Cron is shaky at this point. Playing for four years with the Angels before heading to the Rays, he had slashed .262/.307/.449 and not once had hit more than 16 home runs in a season. Granted, he had never had more than 445 PA in a season before 2018, so he did make the best when given a real shot. Still, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be back to his old self. Even having the best season of his career so far, Cron’s secondary numbers weren’t so different from the previous seasons. When talking about his plate discipline, there’s even a considerable drop. He had a career-low Contact% of 72.6, which was 2.1% lower than in 2017 and 3.7% lower than his career average. He also struck out more than any time before, having a career-worst 25.9 K%, 3.3% higher than his career average. Are all those numbers indicators that he is bound to fail as a Twin? Absolutely not. I just believe that they are evidence that going all in on Cron, parting ways with good possible replacement or platoon options, could turn out to be too costly later on. If the Twins actually choose to go all in on him, could this threaten Minnesota’s chance to contend? Not necessarily. But I don’t think it would hurt them to be extra cautious here. Before the Cron signing, Tyler Austin was seen as the natural replacement. Now, everything seems to point to the fact that Rocco Baldelli and his staff will have to choose between one or the other, since Austin doesn’t have any minor league options left in his contract. But one thing is absolutely clear as well: if Austin had no chance to at least fight for that position, he would already have been cut. So, why believe in Austin? For starters, we’re talking about a younger, not so much less productive than Cron alternative. Of course, his track record is much smaller, but his .758 career OPS is not too far from Cron’s .772. Last season, with both of them having their breakout seasons, their performance against lefties weren’t extremely different, with Cron having a .930 OPS facing southpaws and Austin .846. Plus, the former Yankee was able to hit 17 home runs in 2018 despite being given only 268 PA (a career high), while the 30 times Cron went yard came with 560 PA, more than twice as much. Like I said before, if the Twins thought Austin didn’t stand a chance against Cron, they would have gotten rid of him long ago. It all comes down to what the club has in mind. Cron is the obvious choice if you want an experienced, low risk bet, that might have turned the corner and should be able to help the team now (but it’s worth remembering that we thought the same about Logan Morrison a year ago). On the other hand, if you have a younger option, with similar production, who could help the team long-term, Austin should be your guy. He’s no kid, but he seems to have more potential. With only 404 career PA, he has produced eight more home runs, 12 more runs batted in and more than twice as many walks as Cron did when he had reached that many PA. One extra piece of information to the mixture. Minnesota’s current contract with Cron has him earning $4.8 million this season. But according to last week’s “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast, if the club were to decide to cut him before Opening Day, they would only owe him 25% of that amount ($1.2 million). Of course, they would not have claimed him off waivers if they didn’t believe he is their guy, but having that exit possibility sure makes things easier if they don’t like what they see from him in spring training. And just when we thought this decision couldn’t get any more complicated, the Twins proved us wrong. Less than ten days ago, the club signed a minor-league contract with LHH and former MVP-candidate Lucas Duda. Ted Schwerzler wrote this great piece analyzing how the 33-year old could help Minnesota. It would be tricky to try to fit him in this packed Twins roster, although the team wouldn’t need a fifth starter until mid-April, allowing the bench to have a fourth player. It’s hard to see him making the Opening Day roster and remaining there for the rest of the year. But if Duda were to accept a job at Rochester for most of the year, he could either become a good option in case of injury or even a trade asset eventually. Since all of their offensive numbers look rather similar, if you’re still undecided on which one is your favorite, you can also look at their defense. But bad news: none of them compares closely to what Joe Mauer was in that department. The future Hall of Famer has had impressive numbers overall in the five full years as a first baseman. Last year wasn’t the best example, but his numbers were still better than the Cron-Austin-Duda trio. Mauer had .996 FP, 3 DRS and 2.7 UZR in 2018, but was even better the year before, posting a.998 FP, 7 DRS and 6.9 UZR. He was shockingly snubbed from the Gold Glove award that year. But let’s steer clear of the Mauer nostalgia and see where do his successor candidates stand in comparison to his defense. Again, we have pretty similar metrics, when looking at their 2018 final numbers, so you will be the judge: C.J. Cron - .993 FP, -2 DRS, 1.3 UZR Tyler Austin - .997 FP, 1 DRS, -1 UZR Lucas Duda - .995 FP, 0 DRS, -0.1 UZR Numbers aren’t everything when talking about defense. You have to take into account experience and athleticism. Duda is obviously the most experienced and his defensive numbers aren’t the worst of the three, but he has the smallest odds of making the team, in theory. Austin, of the three, looks like the most athletic, but he’s by far the least experienced. Of the three, Cron has the worst fielding percentage and defensive runs saved. You make the call on which defender you like best. All we fans can do right now is wait for spring training action. There’s a lot at stake for those three guys. Follow @TwinsBrasil on Twitter. Click here to view the article
  14. Longtime club hero Joe Mauer officially announced his retirement from baseball on Nov. 9, at age 35. Mauer still was a vital part of the team’s lineup, having a .351 OBP, which ranked second on the team. He also slashed .407/.500/.617 with RISP and .333/.443/.468 with men on while playing Gold Glove level defense. And 2018 was, by far, one of the worst years of his career. So talk about big shoes to fill at first base. Less than two weeks after the retirement announcement, the Tampa Bay Rays designated C.J. Cron for assignment, even after his career year in which he hit 30 home runs, while also being a LHP’s nightmare. The Twins claimed him off waivers six days later, making him, at least in theory, the new everyday first baseman. But was his career year enough to give him such big job security? Let’s talk about possible backup plans the club may have, in case Cron doesn’t repeat his last year’s performance. It’s important to explain why my faith in Cron is shaky at this point. Playing for four years with the Angels before heading to the Rays, he had slashed .262/.307/.449 and not once had hit more than 16 home runs in a season. Granted, he had never had more than 445 PA in a season before 2018, so he did make the best when given a real shot. Still, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be back to his old self. Even having the best season of his career so far, Cron’s secondary numbers weren’t so different from the previous seasons. When talking about his plate discipline, there’s even a considerable drop. He had a career-low Contact% of 72.6, which was 2.1% lower than in 2017 and 3.7% lower than his career average. He also struck out more than any time before, having a career-worst 25.9 K%, 3.3% higher than his career average. Are all those numbers indicators that he is bound to fail as a Twin? Absolutely not. I just believe that they are evidence that going all in on Cron, parting ways with good possible replacement or platoon options, could turn out to be too costly later on. If the Twins actually choose to go all in on him, could this threaten Minnesota’s chance to contend? Not necessarily. But I don’t think it would hurt them to be extra cautious here. Before the Cron signing, Tyler Austin was seen as the natural replacement. Now, everything seems to point to the fact that Rocco Baldelli and his staff will have to choose between one or the other, since Austin doesn’t have any minor league options left in his contract. But one thing is absolutely clear as well: if Austin had no chance to at least fight for that position, he would already have been cut. So, why believe in Austin? For starters, we’re talking about a younger, not so much less productive than Cron alternative. Of course, his track record is much smaller, but his .758 career OPS is not too far from Cron’s .772. Last season, with both of them having their breakout seasons, their performance against lefties weren’t extremely different, with Cron having a .930 OPS facing southpaws and Austin .846. Plus, the former Yankee was able to hit 17 home runs in 2018 despite being given only 268 PA (a career high), while the 30 times Cron went yard came with 560 PA, more than twice as much. Like I said before, if the Twins thought Austin didn’t stand a chance against Cron, they would have gotten rid of him long ago. It all comes down to what the club has in mind. Cron is the obvious choice if you want an experienced, low risk bet, that might have turned the corner and should be able to help the team now (but it’s worth remembering that we thought the same about Logan Morrison a year ago). On the other hand, if you have a younger option, with similar production, who could help the team long-term, Austin should be your guy. He’s no kid, but he seems to have more potential. With only 404 career PA, he has produced eight more home runs, 12 more runs batted in and more than twice as many walks as Cron did when he had reached that many PA. One extra piece of information to the mixture. Minnesota’s current contract with Cron has him earning $4.8 million this season. But according to last week’s “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast, if the club were to decide to cut him before Opening Day, they would only owe him 25% of that amount ($1.2 million). Of course, they would not have claimed him off waivers if they didn’t believe he is their guy, but having that exit possibility sure makes things easier if they don’t like what they see from him in spring training. And just when we thought this decision couldn’t get any more complicated, the Twins proved us wrong. Less than ten days ago, the club signed a minor-league contract with LHH and former MVP-candidate Lucas Duda. Ted Schwerzler wrote this great piece analyzing how the 33-year old could help Minnesota. It would be tricky to try to fit him in this packed Twins roster, although the team wouldn’t need a fifth starter until mid-April, allowing the bench to have a fourth player. It’s hard to see him making the Opening Day roster and remaining there for the rest of the year. But if Duda were to accept a job at Rochester for most of the year, he could either become a good option in case of injury or even a trade asset eventually. Since all of their offensive numbers look rather similar, if you’re still undecided on which one is your favorite, you can also look at their defense. But bad news: none of them compares closely to what Joe Mauer was in that department. The future Hall of Famer has had impressive numbers overall in the five full years as a first baseman. Last year wasn’t the best example, but his numbers were still better than the Cron-Austin-Duda trio. Mauer had .996 FP, 3 DRS and 2.7 UZR in 2018, but was even better the year before, posting a.998 FP, 7 DRS and 6.9 UZR. He was shockingly snubbed from the Gold Glove award that year. But let’s steer clear of the Mauer nostalgia and see where do his successor candidates stand in comparison to his defense. Again, we have pretty similar metrics, when looking at their 2018 final numbers, so you will be the judge: C.J. Cron - .993 FP, -2 DRS, 1.3 UZR Tyler Austin - .997 FP, 1 DRS, -1 UZR Lucas Duda - .995 FP, 0 DRS, -0.1 UZR Numbers aren’t everything when talking about defense. You have to take into account experience and athleticism. Duda is obviously the most experienced and his defensive numbers aren’t the worst of the three, but he has the smallest odds of making the team, in theory. Austin, of the three, looks like the most athletic, but he’s by far the least experienced. Of the three, Cron has the worst fielding percentage and defensive runs saved. You make the call on which defender you like best. All we fans can do right now is wait for spring training action. There’s a lot at stake for those three guys. Follow @TwinsBrasil on Twitter.
  15. The reality is that there’s a decision looming on Tyler Austin. Of this trio, he’s the guy out of options and has the shortest track record. Acquired from the Yankees in exchange for Lance Lynn last season, he performed admirably in 35 games with Minnesota down the stretch. The .782 OPS was hardly otherworldly, but it was enough to warrant a longer look. Through three big league seasons, Austin has just 404 plate appearances to his credit and has never gotten consistent playing time. For that to change with the Twins in the year ahead, we’d probably be in for some sort of surprise. C.J. Cron is the expected heir to Joe Mauer at first base. The .816 OPS he posted during 2018 was a career high, and it came during his age-28 season, his first and only with the Tampa Bay Rays. After launching 16 long balls in three consecutive seasons, he turned in 30 over 140 games as a regular. Batting right handed, Cron doesn’t have traditional platoon splits. He owned a .767 OPS vs righties and a .930 OPS vs lefties in 2018. While it’s obvious that he performs better against southpaws, the power was almost entirely skewed the opposite way. Only eight of his 30 home runs came against lefties, though the doubles production was more evenly distributed. As an arbitration player, Cron will make $4.8 million this season. Minnesota’s front office grabbed Duda on a non-guaranteed pact that will pay him $1.75 million if he’s on the big-league roster. Per Jon Heyman, there are incentives in the deal that could push it north of $3 million in total compensation. At 33-years-old, and a traditional platoon player, that could push the Twins bill north of $7 million if they go with this combination. Given the production though, it could be a nice tandem. A down year last year saw Lucas own just a .731 OPS, coming off an .818 mark in 2017. From 2011-2015, he owned an .803 OPS and averaged right around 20 bombs per season. On Rocco Baldelli’s squad there isn’t room for him to be a regular, but the left-handed side of a platoon makes sense. Last season he saw 265 plate appearances vs righties and put up an .813 OPS with 12 of his 14 home runs. Over the course of his big-league career, the split disparity plays out as well. Duda owns an .839 lifetime OPS against righties as opposed to just a .642 OPS against lefties. Should the Twins go this route, it would also need to fit into their current roster construction. Assuming the starting lineup is composed of the usual suspects, we should have a pretty good idea of the bench as well. Mitch Garver is going to be the backup catcher, with Ehire Adrianza acting as the utility infielder and Jake Cave operating as the fourth outfielder. This blueprint leaves only a spot for a fourth bench bat should the Twins begin season with 12 pitchers. Not needing a fifth starter until into April, that seems like a pretty good bet. Garver bats right-handed, while Cave is a lefty, and Adrianza can do both. Garver is the only guy in that trio with any semblance of being a power bat however, so Duda can bring that dynamic as well. If I had to put odds on it right now, I’d imagine that both Cron and Duda are teammates out of the gate. Austin would hurt to lose, so I think the Twins would be best served finding a trade partner, but he’s semi-redundant playing behind C.J. The likelihood of just a three-man bench doesn’t seem like great roster management either, so thinking both players are on the outside looking in would strike me as odd. We’ll see how each player is deployed throughout February and into March. At 33 and off a down year, Duda could be cooked and this all becomes clearer. For now, though, the speculation is all we’ve got.
  16. TwinsFest is done and the Winter Meltdown was a resounding success. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend and make this event a great gathering of fans from throughout Twins Territory. Even with the sub-arctic temperatures across the upper Midwest, spring training is quickly approaching. There are plenty of unanswered questions left about the Twins before the season starts. Make sure to follow me on Twitter so you can be part of next week's mailbag. Ideally, Byron Buxton’s leash won’t have to be tested this season. Last week, I identified Buxton’s emergence as one of the keys to the 2019 club. It’s easy to be discouraged after his 2018 season. Buxton rebuilt his body this off-season by adding 21 pounds of muscle. The extra weight can hopefully increase his durability and keep him on the field when he is bouncing off the outfield grass and crashing into centerfield walls. Even if Buxton’s bat struggles again, he continues to provide value through his defense and base running abilities. I believe the team will bat him near the bottom of the order to keep some of the pressure off him. He needs to figure it out at the big-league level, so I think the team is going to sink or swim with Buxton in the line-up this year. Minnesota will likely use a few different players at first base this season and the starter could be tied to the player with the hottest bat. Each of the most likely first base options were added to the roster in the last year. C.J. Cron was claimed off waivers this off-season despite a 30-home run campaign in 2018. Tyler Austin saw some action for the Twins last year after being traded from the Yankees. Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver are also possibilities to see time at first. If I’m picking the Opening Day starter now, Cron would be my pick. As far as a replacement for Robbie Grossman, Jake Cave seems like he already started to do that last year. Cave played in 91 big league games and racked up over 300 plate appearances. He hit .269/.316/.481 with 32 extra-base hits. The club also used him at all three outfield positions, so it seems likely for him to continue to be used in a fourth outfielder role. If the Twins are done adding players, there seems to be a pretty clear starting situation for the Twins. No one knows how Rocco Baldelli is going to approach lineup construction, but Minnesota has nine players that should be regulars. Here’s how I would construct the Opening Day lineup: 1. Jorge Polanco- SS 2. Eddie Rosario- LF 3. Nelson Cruz- DH 4. Miguel Sano- 3B 5. CJ Cron- 1B 6. Jonathan Schoop- 2B 7. Max Kepler- RF 8. Jason Castro- C 9. Byron Buxton- CF As I mentioned before, Tyler Austin will probably get some at-bats at first base. The second half of the lineup could be altered depending on who has the hot hand. Buxton might start the year at the bottom of the order, but it will be key for him to be batting near the top by season’s end. This is certainly an intriguing question. In three of the last four seasons, Manny Machado has posted a WAR greater than 6.0. For the Twins, you also need to consider the players he would be replacing. Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco are currently penciled in to play on Machado’s side of the infield. As Thieres Rabelo wrote about last week, Polanco might be as potent on offense as Machado. Polanco could slide over to second base but then he would be taking Jonathan Schoop’s spot in the line-up. Schoop was only worth 0.5 WAR last season and his career high WAR total was 3.8 back in 2017. That being said, Machado is one of the best players in the game. Over the course of 162 games, he could add 2-3 wins to the club. This might all be purely hypothetical because it sounds like the front office isn’t adding Machado or Bryce Harper. Season ticket sales are usually tied to the team’s performance in the previous season. Last year, the Twins were coming off a playoff appearance and their young players seemed poised to take the next step. The club also had veteran stars like Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier that can help to drive sales. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were a disappointment in 2018 and Mauer and Dozier are no longer with the club. Also, the team didn’t make the playoffs. Nothing drives ticket sales like having a consistently winning product on the field. Season ticket data won’t be released until later in the year. It seems likely that sales will be down, and the demand will be low for the current team. However, winning cures everything. TwinsFest is a wonderful weekend of events and activities for the entire family. Yes, the organization covers the traveling cost for players to attend. While the players are in town, the club usually completes some of the players' physicals so they can save time when players get to Florida. Twins President Dave St. Peter has done a good job of building relationships with former players. Luckily, the dates for the event are almost always the last weekend in January. This can make it easy for players to plan their attendance at the event. That being said, a lot of fans want to get autographs from the newer players and the former players aren’t as big of a draw. (Ask Corey Koskie about that.) Click here to view the article
  17. https://twitter.com/gary_pecinovsky/status/1089634127882653698 Ideally, Byron Buxton’s leash won’t have to be tested this season. Last week, I identified Buxton’s emergence as one of the keys to the 2019 club. It’s easy to be discouraged after his 2018 season. Buxton rebuilt his body this off-season by adding 21 pounds of muscle. The extra weight can hopefully increase his durability and keep him on the field when he is bouncing off the outfield grass and crashing into centerfield walls. Even if Buxton’s bat struggles again, he continues to provide value through his defense and base running abilities. I believe the team will bat him near the bottom of the order to keep some of the pressure off him. He needs to figure it out at the big-league level, so I think the team is going to sink or swim with Buxton in the line-up this year. https://twitter.com/hotts58/status/1088824695116521472 Minnesota will likely use a few different players at first base this season and the starter could be tied to the player with the hottest bat. Each of the most likely first base options were added to the roster in the last year. C.J. Cron was claimed off waivers this off-season despite a 30-home run campaign in 2018. Tyler Austin saw some action for the Twins last year after being traded from the Yankees. Miguel Sano and Mitch Garver are also possibilities to see time at first. If I’m picking the Opening Day starter now, Cron would be my pick. As far as a replacement for Robbie Grossman, Jake Cave seems like he already started to do that last year. Cave played in 91 big league games and racked up over 300 plate appearances. He hit .269/.316/.481 with 32 extra-base hits. The club also used him at all three outfield positions, so it seems likely for him to continue to be used in a fourth outfielder role. https://twitter.com/C__Lee/status/1088544039408988161 If the Twins are done adding players, there seems to be a pretty clear starting situation for the Twins. No one knows how Rocco Baldelli is going to approach lineup construction, but Minnesota has nine players that should be regulars. Here’s how I would construct the Opening Day lineup: 1. Jorge Polanco- SS 2. Eddie Rosario- LF 3. Nelson Cruz- DH 4. Miguel Sano- 3B 5. CJ Cron- 1B 6. Jonathan Schoop- 2B 7. Max Kepler- RF 8. Jason Castro- C 9. Byron Buxton- CF As I mentioned before, Tyler Austin will probably get some at-bats at first base. The second half of the lineup could be altered depending on who has the hot hand. Buxton might start the year at the bottom of the order, but it will be key for him to be batting near the top by season’s end. https://twitter.com/Mike_AnthonyFL/status/1088813118552186880 This is certainly an intriguing question. In three of the last four seasons, Manny Machado has posted a WAR greater than 6.0. For the Twins, you also need to consider the players he would be replacing. Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco are currently penciled in to play on Machado’s side of the infield. As Thieres Rabelo wrote about last week, Polanco might be as potent on offense as Machado. Polanco could slide over to second base but then he would be taking Jonathan Schoop’s spot in the line-up. Schoop was only worth 0.5 WAR last season and his career high WAR total was 3.8 back in 2017. That being said, Machado is one of the best players in the game. Over the course of 162 games, he could add 2-3 wins to the club. This might all be purely hypothetical because it sounds like the front office isn’t adding Machado or Bryce Harper. https://twitter.com/C__Lee/status/1088813937511022594 Season ticket sales are usually tied to the team’s performance in the previous season. Last year, the Twins were coming off a playoff appearance and their young players seemed poised to take the next step. The club also had veteran stars like Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier that can help to drive sales. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano were a disappointment in 2018 and Mauer and Dozier are no longer with the club. Also, the team didn’t make the playoffs. Nothing drives ticket sales like having a consistently winning product on the field. Season ticket data won’t be released until later in the year. It seems likely that sales will be down, and the demand will be low for the current team. However, winning cures everything. https://twitter.com/Hey_Yo_Its_GMan/status/1088830128786980864 TwinsFest is a wonderful weekend of events and activities for the entire family. Yes, the organization covers the traveling cost for players to attend. While the players are in town, the club usually completes some of the players' physicals so they can save time when players get to Florida. Twins President Dave St. Peter has done a good job of building relationships with former players. Luckily, the dates for the event are almost always the last weekend in January. This can make it easy for players to plan their attendance at the event. That being said, a lot of fans want to get autographs from the newer players and the former players aren’t as big of a draw. (Ask Corey Koskie about that.)
  18. https://twitter.com/C__Lee/status/1080852468936916992 New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli is coming from the Tampa Bay organization, which used the “opener” strategy quite frequently last season. That being said, I think he will utilize this strategy throughout the 2019 season. Trevor May seems like a strong candidate to slide into an “opener” role, especially with his previous starting experience. Minnesota started using an “opener” at Double-A and Triple-A last season so younger pitchers are starting to get accustom to this process. The club has shared information with players about the benefits of using this strategy and I think the club will use it even more in 2019. https://twitter.com/hockeyjoe123/status/1080833096168210433 Sano is not facing any legal situations in his home country. Earlier in the off-season, he ran over a police officer, breaking one of the officer's legs. He showed up for his court date and the police found no intent on his part to hurt the officer. Rocco Baldelli recently visited Sano in the Dominican Republic and the Twins slugger posted about it on Instagram. In the photos, Sano looks like he has dropped some weight. There have been some issues in the past with him showing up to spring training with extra weight. Hopefully, his demotion and time in the minors last season allowed him to reflect on his career and what he wants for the future. This is a pivotal off-season for him as he can hopefully regain his All-Star form from 2017. https://twitter.com/PaulLovesTacos/status/1080912060978946048 Trading Buxton simply doesn’t make sense. His value is probably at an all-time low. He just turned 25 and he is coming off his worst professional season. Look at a player like Aaron Hicks. Many fans wanted him traded and out of Minnesota. Over the last three seasons, Hicks has been the 10th most valuable AL outfield during his age 26-28 seasons. Be patient with Buxton, he needs to be part of the Twins solution and he certainly isn’t part of Minnesota’s problem right now. https://twitter.com/Hey_Yo_Its_GMan/status/1080916130204663809 I think Tyler Austin has some continued value to the team, especially with no established first baseman currently under contract. There are other options at the back-end of the 40-man that could slip through the waiver wire. Zack Granite is coming off a rough year in the minors and there is a lot of outfield depth on the 40-man. Willians Astudillo has been tearing the cover off the ball this winter but the club will likely break camp with Jason Castro and Mitch Garver as the club’s catchers. Does that make Astudillo replaceable? Adding Blake Parker might make another relief pitcher expendable (see Tyler Duffey or Matt Magill).There are always options and I don’t think the club is done adding pieces before the start of the season. https://twitter.com/Daviddix69/status/1080849558018629632 Alex Kirilloff is coming off a huge season in the minor leagues, as he was named MiLB’s Breakout Player of the Year. He missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery so it was nice to see what he could do when he was back and healthy. He finished the 2018 campaign at High-A so he could spend the majority of 2019 at High-A and Double-A. If he hits like he did in 2018, it’s not out of the question for him to make his big-league debut at some point next season. He is the type of prospect that might not need any playing time at Triple-A. A lot is going to depend on how he performs in 2019 and if the big-league club has a need in the outfield. https://twitter.com/PrimeKirilloff/status/1080830170502742017 For the second year in a row, the free agent market has been cold as ice. Dallas Keuchel is considered the best starting pitcher on the market, but the Twins might not be looking to add another starter. Michael Pineda was signed last off-season to join the rotation in 2019. Other free agent starting options include Gio Gonzalez, Derek Holland, Wade Miley, and other lower tier options. Relief pitchers like Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, and Andrew Miller have all signed for $25 million or more. It doesn’t make sense to overspend on relief pitchers and the Twins might be satisfied with the players already on the roster. Reports on Monday had the club signing Blake Parker. My guess is they will take a flyer on a couple of other relief options, but it might be closer to when spring training starts. Thanks to everyone for their questions. Make sure to follow me on Twitter, as I will probably do multiple mailbag segments in the weeks ahead. Now, it’s your turn. How would you answer these questions? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  19. Up to this point, Austin has shown some ability as a major-league hitter. Through his age 26-season, he owns a .758 OPS in 404 MLB plate appearances. This year between New York and Minnesota he slugged .480 in 268 PA; that's a higher mark than Eddie Rosario finished with, and barely below what Cron produced in a career year with Tampa. In many ways, Austin looks like the prototypical "change of scenery special." He showed promise with the Yankees but couldn't differentiate himself in a system full of big power bats. Having acquired him in the Lance Lynn deal, the Twins found themselves with a prime opportunity to give Austin a prolonged look, with first base becoming vacant, but instead they chose to go with Cron – a similar if not redundant player. Austin's solid overall production has been highly polarized in its concentration. Against right-handed pitchers he's been ineffective, with a .211/.259/.405 slash line and 39% K-rate. Against lefties he's been DOMINANT, at .272/.345/.592 and 32%. The way to best utilize such a player seems clear: partner him with a lefty swinger who can mash righties, and let Rocco Baldelli play the platoon game while also enjoying some great strategic pinch-hitting options. Cron throws a wrench in that, swinging from the same side as Austin. In fact, given his neutral platoon splits and his success in a full-time role this year, it seems likely Cron will be penciled as the everyday starter at first. This leaves only one path for Austin, who's out of options next spring and likely to land elsewhere if he doesn't make the roster: designated hitter. There is still opportunity there for the Twins to leverage Austin's strengths and deploy him impactfully. They can't trust him as full-time DH. It'd be irresponsible to go with Austin as the full-time solution, given his ugly numbers against righties. But if you equip the team with a lefty bat that can frequently plug in at DH? Then we're cooking. Theoretically, this can be accomplished with the existing setup. Roll with a bench of Mitch Garver, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave, then rotate Cave (or Eddie Rosario) through the DH spot against righties. It'd be a good way to keep arguably your reigning two best hitters (Rosario and Cave) in the lineup regularly. Another bench construction that would intrigue me, if Garver is deemed good to go at catcher, would be swapping out Astudillo (who has an option remaining) for outfielder LaMonte Wade, recently added to the 40-man roster. He'll be 25 on Opening Day, has ample experience at Triple-A, and would help balance out a roster short on patience and plate discipline. Wade has a .391 OBP in the minors and walks more than he strikes out against right-handers. Alternatively, the Twins could seek out another lefty bat via trade or free agency to complement Austin as a DH/bench piece. It'd need to be someone with a bit of positional flexibility since the team surely isn't gonna carry three first basemen. These are scenarios in which Minnesota could still roster Austin and maximize his value. But the simple reality may be that they just don't see the 27-year-old fitting into their plans. Cron's addition already hinted toward this (why not just skip him and set up the Austin platoon at first?) and the reported serious interest in Nelson Cruz would be another indicator. If the Twins sign Cruz, Austin's out – that feels like a safe assumption. In fact, signing Cruz and essentially locking him in for 600 plate appearances at DH would all but eliminate any room for creative platoons or rotations, which strikes me as odd for a team that claims to be focused on sorting out existing assets and developing its core. Giving up on Austin wouldn't necessarily be malpractice, given that he's so one-dimensional both offensively and defensively, and so very very strikeout-prone. But based on the pure slugging prowess he showed during his short time in Minnesota this year, and his proven ability to terrorize southpaws, he certainly seems worthy of a longer look. For his part, Austin is undoubtedly tracking the front office's movements at the Winter Meetings as closely as any fan, knowing that the addition of Cruz would turn his grasp on a roster spot from precarious to perilous.
  20. When the Twins added C.J. Cron and essentially tabbed him as their 2019 first baseman, the move puzzled me. Not because of Cron so much as what his addition seemed to say about the lone incumbent at first base. Is Tyler Austin being written out of Minnesota's plans already? Or is there still a way his very specific, very potent skills could be optimally put to use?Up to this point, Austin has shown some ability as a major-league hitter. Through his age 26-season, he owns a .758 OPS in 404 MLB plate appearances. This year between New York and Minnesota he slugged .480 in 268 PA; that's a higher mark than Eddie Rosario finished with, and barely below what Cron produced in a career year with Tampa. In many ways, Austin looks like the prototypical "change of scenery special." He showed promise with the Yankees but couldn't differentiate himself in a system full of big power bats. Having acquired him in the Lance Lynn deal, the Twins found themselves with a prime opportunity to give Austin a prolonged look, with first base becoming vacant, but instead they chose to go with Cron – a similar if not redundant player. Austin's solid overall production has been highly polarized in its concentration. Against right-handed pitchers he's been ineffective, with a .211/.259/.405 slash line and 39% K-rate. Against lefties he's been DOMINANT, at .272/.345/.592 and 32%. The way to best utilize such a player seems clear: partner him with a lefty swinger who can mash righties, and let Rocco Baldelli play the platoon game while also enjoying some great strategic pinch-hitting options. Cron throws a wrench in that, swinging from the same side as Austin. In fact, given his neutral platoon splits and his success in a full-time role this year, it seems likely Cron will be penciled as the everyday starter at first. This leaves only one path for Austin, who's out of options next spring and likely to land elsewhere if he doesn't make the roster: designated hitter. There is still opportunity there for the Twins to leverage Austin's strengths and deploy him impactfully. They can't trust him as full-time DH. It'd be irresponsible to go with Austin as the full-time solution, given his ugly numbers against righties. But if you equip the team with a lefty bat that can frequently plug in at DH? Then we're cooking. Theoretically, this can be accomplished with the existing setup. Roll with a bench of Mitch Garver, Ehire Adrianza, Willians Astudillo and Jake Cave, then rotate Cave (or Eddie Rosario) through the DH spot against righties. It'd be a good way to keep arguably your reigning two best hitters (Rosario and Cave) in the lineup regularly. Another bench construction that would intrigue me, if Garver is deemed good to go at catcher, would be swapping out Astudillo (who has an option remaining) for outfielder LaMonte Wade, recently added to the 40-man roster. He'll be 25 on Opening Day, has ample experience at Triple-A, and would help balance out a roster short on patience and plate discipline. Wade has a .391 OBP in the minors and walks more than he strikes out against right-handers. Alternatively, the Twins could seek out another lefty bat via trade or free agency to complement Austin as a DH/bench piece. It'd need to be someone with a bit of positional flexibility since the team surely isn't gonna carry three first basemen. These are scenarios in which Minnesota could still roster Austin and maximize his value. But the simple reality may be that they just don't see the 27-year-old fitting into their plans. Cron's addition already hinted toward this (why not just skip him and set up the Austin platoon at first?) and the reported serious interest in Nelson Cruz would be another indicator. If the Twins sign Cruz, Austin's out – that feels like a safe assumption. In fact, signing Cruz and essentially locking him in for 600 plate appearances at DH would all but eliminate any room for creative platoons or rotations, which strikes me as odd for a team that claims to be focused on sorting out existing assets and developing its core. Giving up on Austin wouldn't necessarily be malpractice, given that he's so one-dimensional both offensively and defensively, and so very very strikeout-prone. But based on the pure slugging prowess he showed during his short time in Minnesota this year, and his proven ability to terrorize southpaws, he certainly seems worthy of a longer look. For his part, Austin is undoubtedly tracking the front office's movements at the Winter Meetings as closely as any fan, knowing that the addition of Cruz would turn his grasp on a roster spot from precarious to perilous. Click here to view the article
  21. In one of their first moves this offseason, the Minnesota Twins plucked C.J. Cron off waivers after he was jettisoned by the Tampa Bay Rays. Following a 30-home run breakout campaign and having established relationships with the likes of Rocco Baldelli and Josh Kalk, the slugging first basemen seems like a decent gamble. What’s worth wondering though is whether Cron slots in as Joe Mauer’s replacement, or just another body on the 25 man. No matter what his role, the Twins do have Tyler Austin to worry about, and what’s next could be described as some uncertainty. The Twins acquired Austin and pitching prospect Luis Rijo in exchange for Lance Lynn at the 2018 trade deadline. After seeing little playing time with the Yankees over the past three seasons, Austin got in consistent run with Minnesota down the stretch. From August through the end of the season, he played in 35 games for Paul Molitor’s club. His .782 OPS was a career best, and the nine longballs were also reflective of his power stroke. Now recently turned 27 years-old Austin looked to be in line for an expanded role with the Twins, but that may not be guaranteed. Projecting the possible roster openings, we can guarantee that nine players fill out the lineup with another five in the starting rotation. A 13 man pitching staff has been customary for the organization of late, so an eight-man bullpen also seems probable. In that scenario there’s just three bench spots up for grabs, likely taken up by backup catcher Mitch Garver, utility man Ehire Adrianza, and fourth outfielder Jake Cave. At this point we’ve yet to consider Austin’s place meaning he’d need to start at either first base or designated hitter. Although the Twins aren’t locked into Cron to start the season, a $4.8 million deal tendered to the former Ray suggests he’s in their plans. Whether that means he starts at first base or takes the bulk of the designated hitter reps remains to be seen. It would be my hope, and a logical expectation, that Minnesota is not yet done adding bats. Obviously, Jorge Polanco needs an up the middle partner, but a higher ceiling fit for first or DH still has plenty of promise. The duo of Cron and Austin would be passable, but the front office would also be plenty open for criticism if such a low reward avenue was embarked upon. Next week the Winter Meetings commence in Las Vegas and we’re almost certainly (err, hopefully) going to see the free agent market pick up. Minnesota may let some of the chips fall first, but they’ll need to fill the necessary holes (middle infield, bullpen) at some point. Another bat entering the picture would only further signify what could be a suboptimal development for the one-time Yankees prospect. For a guy like Austin these situations are never ideal. We saw him produce at a higher level down the stretch when given consistent playing time. He’s out of options however and could be up against a numbers crunch in a position Minnesota stands to benefit from improvement. A Cron and Austin tandem in the lineup would signify somewhat of a disappointing effort to acquire talent, but an improvement could make the stay in Twins Territory a quick one for Tyler. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  22. Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported the Mariners are telling teams “they’re fine” with holding on to Santana, but that they’ve also had trade conversations with multiple teams about moving him. I can’t imagine it would cost a great deal to acquire him. The big piece of value in the trade that sent Jean Segura to Philadelphia was J.P. Crawford, who Baseball America had as its No. 16 prospect in the game heading into last season. Santana basically has something like $41.7 million guaranteed to him over the next two years (there’s a team option for a third season, I included the buyout in that estimate). That’s a lot, but it’s only two years. The Twins don’t have much in future liabilities, and there’s always the chance they can get Seattle to eat some of that money. So that’s why the Mariners would likely be open to moving him, but why the Twins would want to bring him aboard? First off, Santana had more walks (110) than strikeouts (93) last season. His 16.2 BB% trailed only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto. A switch-hitter, Santana also comes with no platoon concerns. He has a career .816 OPS against lefties and an even .800 OPS versus right-handers. He’s also been incredibly durable, reaching at least 600 plate appearances for eight straight seasons. He’s a guy who you can count on in the middle of your lineup everyday, no matter who is on the mound. How about that on-base ability? On the downside, his .352 OBP was the lowest he’s posted in seven seasons. The plus side is that’s still well above league average (.318). Also, part of that dip in his OBP was due to the fact Santana had a career-low .231 BABIP in 2018 (his career BABIP is .265). The 2019 Steamer projections like Santana to bounce back, projecting his wRC+ to jump from 109 this past season to 122 next year. That same system is forecasting a 102 wRC+ from Tyler Austin. Speaking of which, Santana’s arrival would certainly push Austin out the door. Maybe he could be a piece that heads to Seattle in the deal to acquire Santana, who knows? I’m starting to sour on the idea of Austin getting regular playing time with the Twins next season. Ted was also wondering aloud in the blog section how much longer Austin would be around. Strikeouts are bearable, but only to a certain point. Consider this: Tyler Austin 36.6 K% Miguel Sano 36.3 K% Byron Buxton 31.7 K% You just can't have an everyday lineup that includes all three of those guys. Jake Cave also has some contact issues (33.0 K%) so it’s not like you’d be getting any relief in the event Buxton went down with an injury. In case you were wondering, Cron has a 22.6 K% for his career, that was up slightly to 25.9 last season. Santana’s career K% is just 16.6, and that was all the way down to 13.7 last year. Santana is a guy who can stabilize the middle of Minnesota’s lineup, provide a veteran presence and combat a few issues that appear to be concerns for the Twins right now.
  23. Nick did a nice job highlighting the Twins’ need for OBP in a piece earlier this week. His focus was on potential upgrades among the free agent options. I’d like to add a potential trade target for consideration: Carlos Santana. But wait, didn’t Santana just get traded? Yup, to the Seattle Mariners. That means he essentially got traded straight to the trade block. The M’s just dealt away Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz and Jean Segura, so it’s not like they’re gearing up to have a competitive season.Jayson Stark of The Athletic reported the Mariners are telling teams “they’re fine” with holding on to Santana, but that they’ve also had trade conversations with multiple teams about moving him. I can’t imagine it would cost a great deal to acquire him. The big piece of value in the trade that sent Jean Segura to Philadelphia was J.P. Crawford, who Baseball America had as its No. 16 prospect in the game heading into last season. Santana basically has something like $41.7 million guaranteed to him over the next two years (there’s a team option for a third season, I included the buyout in that estimate). That’s a lot, but it’s only two years. The Twins don’t have much in future liabilities, and there’s always the chance they can get Seattle to eat some of that money. So that’s why the Mariners would likely be open to moving him, but why the Twins would want to bring him aboard? First off, Santana had more walks (110) than strikeouts (93) last season. His 16.2 BB% trailed only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto. A switch-hitter, Santana also comes with no platoon concerns. He has a career .816 OPS against lefties and an even .800 OPS versus right-handers. He’s also been incredibly durable, reaching at least 600 plate appearances for eight straight seasons. He’s a guy who you can count on in the middle of your lineup everyday, no matter who is on the mound. How about that on-base ability? On the downside, his .352 OBP was the lowest he’s posted in seven seasons. The plus side is that’s still well above league average (.318). Also, part of that dip in his OBP was due to the fact Santana had a career-low .231 BABIP in 2018 (his career BABIP is .265). The 2019 Steamer projections like Santana to bounce back, projecting his wRC+ to jump from 109 this past season to 122 next year. That same system is forecasting a 102 wRC+ from Tyler Austin. Speaking of which, Santana’s arrival would certainly push Austin out the door. Maybe he could be a piece that heads to Seattle in the deal to acquire Santana, who knows? I’m starting to sour on the idea of Austin getting regular playing time with the Twins next season. Ted was also wondering aloud in the blog section how much longer Austin would be around. Strikeouts are bearable, but only to a certain point. Consider this: Tyler Austin 36.6 K% Miguel Sano 36.3 K% Byron Buxton 31.7 K% You just can't have an everyday lineup that includes all three of those guys. Jake Cave also has some contact issues (33.0 K%) so it’s not like you’d be getting any relief in the event Buxton went down with an injury. In case you were wondering, Cron has a 22.6 K% for his career, that was up slightly to 25.9 last season. Santana’s career K% is just 16.6, and that was all the way down to 13.7 last year. Santana is a guy who can stabilize the middle of Minnesota’s lineup, provide a veteran presence and combat a few issues that appear to be concerns for the Twins right now. Click here to view the article
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