Minnesota Twins Offseason Blueprint — Version II

Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

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.

READ: Brandon’s first offseason blueprint here.

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, Michael Reed or Zack Granite.

(v1 Changes: none)

Free-Agent Signings

OF A.J. Pollock – three years, $54 million ($18 million AAV)
2B Jed Lowrie – two years, $16 million ($8 million AAV)
SP Trevor Cahill – one year, $5 million (plus games started incentives)
RP David Robertson – two years, $22 million ($11 million AAV)
RP Cody Allen – one year, $8 million (plus incentives)

Pollock might feel superfluous with the Twins having an outfield with such young, dynamic potential — key word being potential — but what good teams do at this time of year is protect themselves. What kind of bind would the Twins be in if Pollock, Rosario, Kepler and Buxton all start clicking?

Well, that’d be a good problem to have.

Sep 26, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock (11) slides into third base safely ahead of the tag of Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) for a triple during the second inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

But the Twins can also get Kepler looks at first base. The first base market this winter is pretty bleak, and he’d make a great platoon partner with Tyler Austin, who can also mix in at DH as well.

Have Kepler reprise the Nick Swisher/Cody Bellinger role — again, positional fluidity is extremely valuable in present-day MLB — with the hope that Buxton and Pollock can both stay healthy. Pollock is heading into his age-31 season, and while he’s been a terrific center fielder, he’s also played more than 130 games just twice in his career and not since 2015. When he’s healthy, he’s an absolute stud, and the Twins would do well do capitalize on a guy whose market may be slightly weakened by a player’s injury propensity.

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.

Cahill may not be an extremely familiar name to Twins fans, but he’s been in the big league since debuting with the A’s back in 2009. Still, he’ll be just 31 in March, and his price will be down because he hasn’t thrown 180 innings since 2012 with the Diamondbacks.

So why is he a good fit? Well first of all, his tendency to miss time allows the Twins to figure they’ll have innings for the potential emergence of Fernando Romero, Zack Littell and others, and secondly, his skill set is pretty great. He’ll strike out more than his share of batters — 9.0 K/9 or more in two of the last three years — and he’s a big-time groundball guy.

In a lot of ways, he’d be like adding another 2017 version of Mr. Gibson at a very reasonable price. The Twins should be all over that.

Not convinced? How about this:

Sep 24, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Trevor Cahill (53) tears off his shirt as he celebrates with teammates following a 7-3 victory against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. Oakland clinched a wild card with a loss by Tampa Bay earlier that day. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

That’s the kind of guy I can get behind.

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.

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.

(v1 Changes: subtract Grandal and Descalso, add Pollock and Cahill)


No trades in the pipeline here.

(v1 Changes: subtract Castro for Gray trade)

Offseason Housekeeping Considerations

  • Hire Joe Mauer to 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 Jason Castro ($8 million)
  • 1B Max Kepler ($3.2 million)
  • 2B Jed Lowrie ($8.0 million)
  • 3B Miguel Sano ($3.1 million)
  • SS Jorge Polanco ($555,000)
  • LF A.J. Pollock ($18 million)
  • CF Byron Buxton ($1.2 million)
  • RF Eddie Rosario ($5.0 million)
  • DH Willians Astudillo ($555,000)

This is still a pretty solid lineup, with the ability to platoon Kepler is his lefty splits don’t translate or just letting Austin DH to keep him healthy.

How’s this for a batting order?

  1. Lowrie 2B
  2. Pollock LF
  3. Rosario RF
  4. Sano 3B
  5. Polanco SS
  6. Kepler 1B
  7. Buxton CF
  8. Astudillo/Austin DH
  9. Castro C

(v1 Changes: subtract Grandal and Austin, move Kepler and Rosario, add Castro and Pollock)

Salary Total: $47.61 million

Bench (4)

  • C Mitch Garver ($555,000)
  • UTIL Tyler Austin ($555,000)
  • IF Ehire Adrianza ($1.8 million)
  • OF Jake Cave ($555,000)

The bench is cheap, versatile and has some pop. Put Cave in the mix for DH at bats with Austin and Garver and you’ve got a pretty nice slate of hitters.

(v1 Changes: Descalso out, Austin in)

Salary Total: $3.465 million

Rotation (5)

  • Jose Berrios ($555,000)
  • Kyle Gibson ($7.9 million)
  • Michael Pineda ($8.0 million)
  • Jake Odorizzi ($9.4 million)
  • Trevor Cahill ($5 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.

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

The rationale for Cahill above remains, but he just adds a nice piece of depth and if he gives the Twins 180 innings, it’s certainly possible to consider re-signing him to a longer deal.

(v1 Changes: Gray out, Cahill in)

Salary Total: $30.855 million

Bullpen (7)

  • Trevor May ($1.1 million)
  • Addison Reed ($8.5 million)
  • Taylor Rogers ($1.6 million)
  • Trevor Hildenberger ($555,000)
  • Matt Magill ($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. This bunch has guys who can do a little bit of everything, and the Magill spot can remain fluid if someone like Jake Reed, Nick Anderson, Andrew Vasquez or any number of other pitchers force the team’s hand.

(v1 Changes: Drake out, Magill in)

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: $121,190,000 — $7,523,226 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 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: Still see this as a contender for the division, perhaps winning 89-90 games. The added payroll flexibility makes a big trade at the deadline much, much more of an option.

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