Minnesota Twins Offseason Blueprint -- Version I

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The celebratory alcohol is barely dry on the shirts handed out to the Boston Red Sox after winning the World Series on Sunday night, but in a news cycle that never sleeps, we’re already moving onto the 2019 season via offseason moves.

The Minnesota Twins are facing a pivotal offseason. The brain trust of Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have overseen a swinging pendulum so far through two seasons, and are coming off a big hire in new manager Rocco Baldelli late last week.

How will they attack an offseason with ample cash to spend, a few big holes on the roster and a handful of youngsters with plenty to prove at this level?

Well, here’s what I’d do:

Arbitration Decisions (numbers from Matt Swartz, MLB Trade Rumors)

  • Jake Odorizzi – $9.4 million (tender)
  • Kyle Gibson – $7.9 million (tender)
  • Eddie Rosario – $5.0 million (tender)
  • Robbie Grossman – $4.0 million (non-tender)
  • Max Kepler – $3.2 million (tender)
  • Miguel Sano – $3.1 million (tender)
  • Ehire Adrianza – $1.8 million (tender)
  • Taylor Rogers – $1.6 million (tender)
  • Byron Buxton – $1.2 million (tender)
  • Trevor May – $1.1 million (tender)

Most of these are pretty easy. I have no gripes with Grossman — he’s plenty useful from an on-base and pinch-hitting standpoint — but I think the Twins can go younger, cheaper and more defensively able in the outfield with Jake Cave, Johnny Field or even Zack Granite.

Free-Agent Signings

  • C Yasmani Grandal – four years, $80 million
  • 2B Jed Lowrie – two years, $16 million
  • IF Daniel Descalso – two years, $10 million
  • RP David Robertson – two years, $22 million
  • RP Cody Allen – one year, $8 million (plus incentives)

October swoon be damned, but players of Grandal’s caliber behind the plate rarely hit the free-agent market. It’s unclear if the Dodgers want him back — they’ve got some bigger fish to fry, and could go with Austin Barnes until Will Smith is ready — but he’s a great fit for a lot of teams, including the Twins.

Oct 26, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal hits a single against the Boston Red Sox in the fifth inning in game three of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

He may want five years — he won’t turn 30 until this offseason — but going fewer years and more money makes sense in this case.

Lowrie is a good bridge to either Nick Gordon or Royce Lewis in the infield, and he can move around a little bit if the Twins need depth behind Miguel Sano at third base. He’s got some pop (averaged 18.5 homers over last two years) and has walked 70-plus times in the last two seasons, and heading into his age-35 season shouldn’t require too big or long of a deal.

Sep 29, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics second baseman Jed Lowrie (8) celebrates his solo home run against the Los Angeles Angels with teammates in the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Decalso is an intriguing fit here. The evolution of the game to position fluidity like we saw from the Los Angeles Dodgers — where guys like Max Muncy, Kiké Hernandez and others played all over — is something the Twins should consider, especially with the volatility of some of their younger players. Descalso played third, second and first base as well as some left field this year, and has played at least 300 MLB innings at every infield position as well as in left. He just turned 32, and is coming off the finest offensive season of his career (.238/.353/.436 in 138 games with Arizona).

Sep 28, 2018; San Diego, CA, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Daniel Descalso (3) argues with umpire Ed Hickox (15) after striking out in the ninth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Spending considerable money on relief help is always a questionable idea — see Addison Reed this past season — so going for some stability in the form of Robertson makes plenty of sense. Robertson has thrown between 60 and 70 innings in each of the last nine years, and over that stretch has a 2.72 ERA, well over a strikeout per inning (12 K/9) and a WHIP of 1.11. He makes lots of sense as the next closer on this team (137 career saves) and gives them protection on the back end of a bullpen that could be pretty good but is largely unproven.

Oct 9, 2018; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher David Robertson (30) pitches during the sixth inning against the Boston Red Sox in game four of the 2018 ALDS playoff baseball series at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Allen had a rough 2018 season at the worst possible time — just before hitting free agency — but a bridge deal to get him back on the market in a year makes a lot of sense. Heading into 2018, Allen had a career ERA of 2.67 with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP of 1.16. One down year — before he’s 30, even — is no reason to completely bury him, and odds are he’s very familiar with Falvey, and vice versa. He feels like one of the best buy-low candidates on the market this season.  

Aug 26, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37) pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports


  • Jason Castro to the New York Yankees for Sonny Gray

The money isn’t too far off — about $1 million in Gray’s favor — and Castro would make for a terrific backup/caddy to Gary Sanchez, who is coming off a tough year and definitely could use help defensively.

Sep 11, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray (55) pitches in the third inning against Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Gray, on the other hand, is a classic change-of-scenery guy who had much more success in Oakland than New York. He’s coming off a rough 4.90 ERA, but the tenets are there — 4.17 FIP, 50 percent groundball rate, 0.97 HR/9 — for a return to form in a lower-pressure spot.

Offseason Housekeeping Considerations

  • Hire Joe Mauer to the same role as Torii Hunter, LaTroy Hawkins and Michael Cuddyer
  • To extend or not extend — Gibson, Rosario, Berrios
  • Try to retain Garvin Alston, James Rowson and Jeff Pickler in some form or fashion
  • Would keep Eddie Guardado and Gene Glynn as well (but realize team may see differently)
  • Replace Rudy Hernandez and hire Jeff Smith to roving catcher instructional role across minors

Nothing too drastic here. Would Gibson take 3/$36? Would you offer it?

Potential Fits on Minor-League Deals or Low Base with Incentives

  • C Chris Gimenez/Bobby Wilson/Rene Rivera
  • 1B/DH Lucas Duda/Logan Morrison/Evan Gattis
  • IF Brad Miller/Logan Forsythe/Sean Rodriguez/Adeiny Hechavarria/Jordy Mercer
  • OF Craig Gentry/Cameron Maybin/Carlos Gomez/Austin Jackson/Brandon Guyer/Matt Joyce
  • SP Jaime Garcia/Drew Pomeranz/Jason Hammel/Francisco Liriano
  • RP Tony Barnette/Daniel Hudson/Ryan Madson/Trevor Rosenthal/Zach McAllister/David Phelps/Adam Warren/Tyler Clippard/Drew Storen/Fernando Rodney/Zach Duke/Tyler Lyons/Justin Wilson/Jake Diekman/Tony Sipp/Jerry Blevins/Aaron Loup/Boone Logan

Nothing too wild here. It would be nice for Rochester to have more depth this season than last, especially on the position player front.

Lineup (9)

  • C Yasmani Grandal ($20 million)
  • 1B Tyler Austin ($555,000)
  • 2B Jed Lowrie ($8.0 million)
  • 3B Miguel Sano ($3.1 million)
  • SS Jorge Polanco ($555,000)
  • LF Eddie Rosario ($5.0 million)
  • CF Byron Buxton ($1.2 million)
  • RF Max Kepler ($3.2 million)
  • DH Willians Astudillo ($555,000)

There are plenty of moving parts here, and who doesn’t love a lineup with Astudillo in it as a regular? His line of .355/.371/.516 was plenty of fun, but it was just 97 plate appearances. It would be nice to give him a longer look — and this is probably the best way — with plenty of insurance on the roster behind him such as Sano DH’ing and Descalso playing third, for instance. Or Nick Gordon eventually coming up and filling a spot in the infield with the deck shuffled a bit.

Aug 30, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano (22) reacts after striking out in the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

But ultimately, that’s going to be a need for this team is to be positionally fluid, so that the team is protected against injuries, regression and just the everyday happenings of a big-league season.

This is a bunch that should not only score runs, but also prevent them.

Salary Total: $42.165 million

Bench (4)

  • C Mitch Garver ($555,000)
  • IF Ehire Adrianza ($1.8 million)
  • IF Daniel Descalso ($5.0 million)
  • OF Jake Cave ($555,000)

There’s ample depth here, with some offense and defense. I’m not sure what more a bench can provide than this.

Salary Total: $7.91 million

Rotation (5)

  • Jose Berrios ($555,000)
  • Kyle Gibson ($7.9 million)
  • Michael Pineda ($8.0 million)
  • Jake Odorizzi ($9.4 million)
  • Sonny Gray ($9.1 million)

It’s kind of wild that the guy making the least — by a heck of a lot — fronts the band, but that’s the reality with this group. There’s lots of potential for a really, really great rotation here, and plenty of backup at Rochester if anyone falters.

Sep 14, 2018; Kansas City, MO, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Jose Berrios (17) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

Possible note of concern, however — Berrios is the only one signed past 2019.

Salary Total: $34.955 million

Bullpen (7)

  • Trevor May ($1.1 million)
  • Addison Reed ($8.5 million)
  • Taylor Rogers ($1.6 million)
  • Trevor Hildenberger ($555,000)
  • Oliver Drake ($555,000)
  • David Robertson ($11 million)
  • Cody Allen ($8.0 million)

There are legitimately three guys in this bunch who have closed games in the past, and that doesn’t even include the guy who was pitching big late innings for the Twins last year — May.

Sep 17, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Minnesota Twins catcher Willians Astudillo (64) and relief pitcher Trevor May (65) celebrate after defeating the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

This bunch has guys who can do a little bit of everything, and the Drake spot can remain fluid if someone like Jake Reed, Nick Anderson, Andrew Vasquez or any number of other pitchers force the team’s hand.

Salary Total: $31.31 million

Non-roster money owed ($7.95 million)

  • Phil Hughes ($5.95 million)
  • Logan Morrison buyout ($1.0 million)
  • Ervin Santana buyout ($1.0 million)

Total Payroll: $124,290,000 — $4,423,226 less than 2018 Opening Day Payroll

In the Pipeline (Next in Line)

  • C Brian Navarreto
  • 1B Brent Rooker/Zander Wiel/Luke Raley
  • IF Nick Gordon
  • OF Johnny Field/Zack Granite/Lamonte Wade
  • SP Fernando Romero/Lewis Thorpe/Chase De Jong/Adalberto Mejia/Stephen Gonsalves/Aaron Slegers/Zack Littell/Kohl Stewart
  • RP Gabriel Moya/John Curtiss/Tyler Jay/Jake Reed

Verdict: This is the roster of a team that would win 90-92 games.

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