The thing about doing offseason blueprints is that it’s kind of like putting together a puzzle. In some ways, it’s also not unlike doing a mock draft.
Both can be fun in their own ways, but if you mess up a piece early, you really don’t have any way to get back on track.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at each of the areas of the field, and what players make the most sense for the Twins too look at as we hunker down for any fallout from the GM Meetings in advance of pretty much all the free-agent action to come:
As far as the position is concerned, the Twins have three players who each have their pros and cons behind the plate. Jason Castro is coming off a serious knee injury — not the first time he’s battled this — and is better on defense than offense. Mitch Garver is the opposite, and still has the concussion question he’ll have to answer. Willians Astudillo is a wild card, and probably can’t be relied upon for much more than as a backup/utility-type role.
If the Twins make a move here, it really should be for a franchise-altering catcher.
- Yasmani Grandal – Dodgers: Very good defender, can really hit. Will have lots of suitors.
- Wilson Ramos – Phillies: Despite durability “questions” played 111 games last year. 31 years old. Poor man’s Grandal with less stable bat, acceptable but not nearly as good D.
Nobody else makes much sense here, though the Twins have been tied to former Rays/Rangers backstop Robinson Chirinos. In a different spot, someone like Devin Mesoraco, Brian McCann or Jonathan Lucroy would work, but adding question marks to a muddled situation helps nobody.
Don’t be surprised if Chris Gimenez comes back. He told Zone Coverage late last season that he’d only consider signing with a few teams — with the Twins being one.
There are some serious questions marks here. How much can Miguel Sano be trusted to play at third base? Gone is the insurance policy of Eduardo Escobar from last year, and Nick Gordon isn’t quite ready to come up and be a part of this infield — regardless of position — early on in the season.
Furthermore, will Sano settle in at third base over the medium term, or is a move to first base still a possibility?
Knowing these unknowables — at least as far as the public is concerned — is paramount to figuring out exactly which free agents the Twins will pursue. Let’s assume they look in this direction for one player, and a decent one — they have money to spend after all — and consider the rest of the ranking via the law of diminishing returns.
Note: Adrian Beltre would also be a good fit, but it’s almost impossible to imagine him playing anywhere other than Texas.
- Josh Donaldson – Indians: Elite hitter who’ll come at a discount in price/years due to injury. Brief numbers last year showed he can still swing it, and he’s good 3B insurance for Sano.
- Mike Moustakas – Brewers: Seems to be a guy people say numbers don’t accurately reflect the value of. May not be long for 3B with knee issues, but he’s good over there and is a championship-caliber glue guy in the clubhouse.
- Daniel Murphy – Cubs: Can still really hit but isn’t a fit anywhere other than DH or first base.
- Matt Adams – Cardinals: Career .279/.330/.495 hitter against righties and can be used at DH as well. Good mix-and-match potential with Adams, 30, and Tyler Austin.
Let’s just get out of the way that I don’t see them going after Manny Machado, who would be No. 1 with a bullet.
In that case, the needs are some type of a stopgap at second base/a shortstop worth moving Jorge Polanco over to second and probably some type of a utility guy, perhaps on the high end if they’re expected to play regularly rather than battling Ehire Adrianza for a bench role.
There are a lot of layers here, but this is what I see.
- Marwin Gonzalez – Astros: Going to be hotly contested for his versatility. Turns 30 in March, plays everywhere but has career OPS+ of 103. Subtract tough first two MLB seasons and it’s 111, but there’s not much here for OBP and 2017 (146 OPS+) looks like the outlier.
- Jed Lowrie – A’s: Might actually be No. 1 on this list. Back-to-back years with .800 OPS, double-digit homers and 70-plus walks. Has also played more than 1,000 defensive innings at third base. Heading into age-35 season, so price/years should be reasonable. Could be a fixture atop Twins order.
- Asdrubal Cabrera – Phillies: Can really hit, is only heading into his age-33 season despite 12 years MLB experience and nobody would know him better than Falvey (eight years in CLE). Could start at 2B and provide 3B insurance.
- D.J. LeMahieu – Rockies: The 30-year-old’s FA will be polarizing. Adjusted stats unfavorable (90 wRC+), raw stats (.298/.350/.406) much better. Gets dinged for Denver, but is contact/groundball hitter, so could avoid significant regression. Career .264/.311/.362 hitter away from Coors.
- Daniel Descalso – Diamondbacks: Better fit than Harrison because he plays more positions, won’t have name value and is coming off a better year.
- Jose Iglesias – Tigers: Exactly the kind of defender the Twins should seek if they want Polanco to settle in at second base. Good bridge to Royce Lewis/Nick Gordon. Some speed, will run into one now and then but almost never walks/strikes out.
- Freddy Galvis – Padres: Somewhere between very good and elite defensively, has some pop but very little on-base ability. Questionable if he’d be worth moving Polanco to second base for. Turns 29 this month.
- Jordy Mercer – Pirates: Does a lot of things Iglesias and Galvis do, but is four years older and not quite as good of a defender.
- Ian Kinsler – Red Sox: He’s more name value than anything at this point coming off 87 wRC+ with Angels/Red Sox. Still a great defender, but will be 37 next June. Rebound unlikely.
- Josh Harrison – Pirates: Might not be as good of a hitter as people think (97 career OPS+) and hasn’t played any shortstop since 2014. Just 92 OPS+ over last four years.
- Neil Walker – Yankees: Just a year removed from hitting .265/.362/.439 with Mets and Brewers, but got nothing going in the Bronx (81 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR) this year. Only 33, and really good before this past year, so rebound potential?
- Brian Dozier – Dodgers: Went from bad (92 wRC+) to worse (83) after the trade, and just doesn’t feel like he would be interested in a reunion. One-year rebound deal likely for Dozier, who turns 32 in May.
- Adeiny Hechavarria – Yankees: Virtually the same as other three shortstops up top but even worse offensively.
- Logan Forsythe – Twins: Appeared finished at 31, hitting just .232/.313/.291 in 120 games between Dodgers and Twins. Can play 2B/3B and enjoyed Minneapolis, but will probably have to settle for a minor-league deal.
- Brad Miller – Brewers: Can hit (99 wRC+) but isn’t much of a defender, but there has to be some other reason why he can’t hold onto a job a full year ahead of turning 30. Just seems strange.
Really the only thing that makes sense as far as pursuing an outfielder is to add talent to a group that is already very talented — but inconsistent. That means either high-end players who allow the Twins to be a bit more positionally fluid, or potential low-risk, high-reward guys in addition to your typical fourth or fifth outfielder types.
Oh, and Bryce Harper doesn’t really merit mention here. He’s going to get $30 million-plus per year, and that just isn’t happening here.
- A.J. Pollock – Diamondbacks: Turns 31 in December, coming off playing fewer than 150 games for the sixth time in seven MLB seasons, which may keep his price down a bit. Good extra-base pop, good for 20-25 steals per year and should move to a corner nicely to flank Byron Buxton on one side, perhaps allowing Max Kepler to play first base.
- Nelson Cruz – Mariners: He makes almost too much sense in this spot. Cruz is a 38-year-old masher who can only DH but has posted wRC+ numbers of 130 or higher in each of the last five seasons. He’ll probably push for two years, but one plus an option seems doable.
- Andrew McCutchen – Yankees: The MVP-caliber days are gone, but he’s just barely 32 and coming off back-to-back years of 120-plus wRC+. He’s OK defensively in a corner and is still good for a 20-15 season, and would also allow the Twins to make a Kepler shift to 1B. This feels like a possible bargain of the winter.
- Michael Brantley – Indians: Another possible bargain with injury past hurting his market. Turns 32 in May, and is coming off a nice season — 3.5 fWAR, 124 wRC+ — while getting into 140 games for the first time since 2014. Might be hard to pry away from Cleveland.
- Carlos Gonzalez – Rockies: Will spend all next season at age 33, and is coming off fine raw numbers — .276/.329/.467 — but poor adjusted ones (96 wRC+). Will make for an interesting “what will he do outside of Denver” case. Decent defender.
- Nick Markakis – Braves: Turns 35 this month, and is coming off best offensive season — .297/.366/.440 — in quite some time (2012). Didn’t deserve a Gold Glove necessarily, but catches the ball, doesn’t strike out and takes his walks. Unspectacular, but could be a nice one-year, under-the-radar flyer for someone.
- Brandon Guyer – Indians: Falvey factor looms here. Twins have two starting LHH outfielders; Guyer is a career .274/.376/.449 hitter v. LHP. Might as well start looking for apartments in Uptown.
- Lonnie Chisenhall – Indians: Another Falvey guy. Has only played 111 games the last two years, but in the process hit a solid .297/.368/.503. So-so corner outfield defense, but maybe a move to DH would agree with him as far as health is concerned?
- Evan Gattis – Astros: This was the first year of his career that he was a below-average hitter, and it was just barely (99 wRC+). He hits the hell out of the ball from the right side, won’t cost much and has a sweet beard.
- Matt Joyce – A’s: Nothing more than a flyer on a 34-year-old outfielder who hit .243/.358/.470 between 2016-17.
- Adam Jones – Orioles: Needs to move to a corner, and even then still won’t have the OBP to carry the position. Hard to imagine other teams will value him like Baltimore did.
- Denard Span – Mariners: Really shouldn’t be playing center, but still does his job atop the order (.261/.341/.419). Would make a great fourth outfielder if willing to accept the role.
- Carlos Gomez – Rays: Turns 33 next month, one good year in the last four. Doesn’t really feel like a fit.
- Cameron Maybin – Mariners: Turns 32 early next season, still has never really found a consistent identity. Has hit, run and caught the ball at times in recent years, but almost never in sync with each other. Has never really hit lefties, so not much of a fit.
- Jon Jay – Diamondbacks: Garden-variety fourth outfielder heading into his age-34 season. No power, but at his best gets on base and won’t hurt you in the outfield.
- Gerardo Parra – Rockies: Nori Aoki’s brother from another mother. Adjusted stats hate him, but might not paint a clear picture. Will be someone’s fourth outfielder and might be OK at it.
With the space the Twins have financially, they can at least theoretically be in on some of the higher-end pitchers.
And really, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to be in on more 3-5 types to muddy the already cloudy waters in that part of the rotation.
- Patrick Corbin – Diamondbacks: Found a new gear in the desert this year, posting 6.3 fWAR with 11.1 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and 48.5 percent groundball rate. That’s the holy grail for starters. The trouble is — he’s never been close to that before. Will he again? He’s had brushes with success before — 6.5 fWAR between 2013 and 2017 combined — but this is uncharted territory. It’s not necessarily buyer beware, but the potential for a big investment not to completely pay off.
- Dallas Keuchel – Astros: Thing 2 among elite lefty starters in this year’s market, Keuchel’s skill set works with almost every team based on his ability to get many grounders, keep the ball in the yard and walk almost no one. Without strikeouts he’s a nice 2-3 starter; with them, he contends for Cy Young awards.
- Charlie Morton – Astros: He’s just about to turn 35 and coming off back-to-back terrific years for the Astros, where he re-invented himself as a flamethrower in addition to his penchant for grounders. Houston needs him more than ever with Lance McCullers Jr. undergoing Tommy John surgery, but if he starts taking offers, the Twins should show interest.
- J.A. Happ – Yankees: Quietly has posted four straight years of sub-4.00 ERAs while pitching mostly in the AL East. That’s no small feat. At his best he’ll mix in strikeouts, grounders and very few walks, and at his worst they’ll waver a bit and he’ll allow a few homers. He’s among the more stable assets in this marketplace, even though he just turned 36.
- Trevor Cahill – A’s: Strikeouts and grounders and reasonably priced — oh my! Cahill hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2012, and could make for a good tandem with guys like Fernando Romero to give the Twins 200 innings between the two of them.
- Garrett Richards – Angels: This year’s Drew Smyly/Michael Pineda. Coming off Tommy John surgery, but with no pitchers signed past 2019 except Jose Berrios — in terms of hard dollars — it could be a nice gamble.
- Nathan Eovaldi – Red Sox: Had a wonderful season and was absolutely nails in October for the Red Sox, throwing darts all over the place near the triple-digit mark. But is he fool’s gold on a four-year deal worth $15m-plus per year? With his injury history, it’s very possible.
- Gio Gonzalez – Brewers: Nothing jumps off the stat page but he just gets it done. He’ll be 33 all next year, and a two-year deal would be a good gamble for both sides. Can struggle with command at times, but strikeouts and grounders are a solid combo in any ballpark. He’s going to be underrated.
- Drew Pomeranz – Red Sox: He’s coming off a disastrous 2018 season (6.08 ERA), but the previous two years were both 3.0-plus fWAR seasons. He turns 30 later this month. A one-year deal with incentives and an option makes sense for a lot of teams.
- Matt Harvey – Reds: He’ll turn 28 in spring training and showed some signs of life with the Reds, but he still wasn’t back to being the guy who threatened 96 mph regularly before arm issues. Slider was much sharper with Reds, so don’t sleep on a return to form — even if it’s unlikely.
- Ervin Santana – Twins: Gave the Twins absolutely nothing in 2018, but was good enough the previous two years to get another look at the right price.
- Martin Perez – Rangers: The Levine factor is in play here, and his stuff (92-93 mph fastball from the left side with a good slider/change) has never played up as it should. Could be a good reclamation project. He turns 28 in April.
It would be nice if the Twins could add at least one of the higher-end pitchers on this list to help build a bridge to the closer — whoever that is — and give support to some of the existing guys like Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger. Maybe a bounce-back season from Addison Reed is in the cards as well?
Either way, adding at least one more legit arm just gives them added depth — something they haven’t had out there in a long time.
In this case, I omitted Craig Kimbrel because I just don’t see the Twins paying what he’ll command on the market. That’s not a bad thing.
- David Robertson – Yankees: Not sure if this is the consensus ranking for D-Rob, but he’s posted nine straight seasons of 60-70 innings pitched with double-digit strikeout rates in each year and a 2.88 ERA backed by peripherals (2.81 FIP). Even heading into his age-34 season, he’s about as safe of a bet as there is on this market.
- Jeurys Familia – A’s: Had a bit of a hiccup with command in 2017, but has otherwise been terrific the last five years with solid strikeout numbers, good command and plenty of grounders. Should close for someone next year.
- Kelvin Herrera – Nationals: Doesn’t have the peripherals one might like from someone with his repertoire, but hard to argue with 8.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 47 percent GB rate and a 2.82 ERA in 460 career innings. Turns 29 on New Year’s Eve.
- Cody Allen – Indians: A one-year deal to rebuild value in Cleveland makes a ton of sense, but the 30-year-old (later this month) could still find a nice deal elsewhere. His ERA of 4.70 was nearly two runs over his 2017 mark (2.94), and still wasn’t enough to raise his career number over 3.00 (2.98). Could be a nice one-year value play.
- Andrew Miller – Indians: Miller’s availability was spotty all year due to shoulder, knee and hamstring issues, and heading into age-34 season the market will be a little less forgiving than he might like. Still should be able to lock in a two-year deal for pretty good cash, though.
- Zach Britton – Yankees: Continued his progress back to his old ways with the Yankees, posting a 2.88 ERA (4.08 FIP) with 77.8 percent groundball rate after the trade. Without strikeouts returning, he’s an eraser coming into jams and a solid set-up man. If strikeouts return, he’d be No. 1 on this list. He’s only 31 in December; someone could get a steal here.
- Adam Ottavino – Rockies: Was virtually untouchable (.154 BAA) all year, posting a 2.43 ERA and 13 K/9 in 77.2 innings. Easily the best year of his career at age 32, and is coming off a nightmarish 2017. Good luck working out the logistics there, interested teams.
- Joakim Soria – Brewers: Coming off another terrific year as he heads into his mid-30s. In 60.2 innings between Royals and Brewers, he fanned well over a batter per inning, allowed just 0.59 HR/9 and posted a walk rate below his career mark (2.4).
- Nick Vincent – Mariners: The 32-year-old righty has quietly posted a 3.17 career ERA (3.09 FIP) over 332 innings in the last seven seasons. Exactly a strikeout per inning, and for the most part has kept the ball in the yard despite not getting many grounders (33.4 percent). Underrated.
- Brad Brach – Braves: Turns 33 early next year. Is coming off a bit of a hiccup in command and BABIP, but has been a good reliever for a few years now. Might be a sneaky pickup this offseason.
- Joe Kelly – Red Sox: Throws the hell out of the ball but hasn’t quite pieced it together. The pieces are in place for an elite reliever, however.
- Jesse Chavez – Cubs: Pitched like his hair was on fire for the Cubs down the stretch with a 1.15 ERA in 39 innings, and will be an interesting case heading into his age-35 season. Still could be used in a swingman role, which may give him added value.
- Shawn Kelley – A’s: On-mound tantrum aside, he had a really nice rebound year for the Nationals and A’s — 2.94 ERA, 3.71 FIP — and should pitch sixth innings for someone this year.
- Adam Warren – Mariners: Just gets it done without big-time stuff. Good fastball and solid slider, and he’s only really had one down year in the last four.
- Mark Melancon – Giants: Forearm issues cost him the first two months of the season, and he wasn’t quite himself but was still pretty good in 39 innings down the stretch. Is return to pre-2017 form likely? Probably not. But heading into age-34 season, combining last two years into one is still a useful reliever.
- Ryan Madson – Dodgers: Was betrayed by his strand rate this year (64.5 percent) which resulted in a 5.47 ERA but 3.98 FIP. Will be 38 most of next season and could still be solid six- or seventh-inning guy.
- Greg Holland – Nationals: Had a nightmarish 25-inning stretch with the Cardinals (7.92 ERA, 4.56 FIP) before going back to old self in 21.1 innings with Nationals (0.84 ERA, 2.97 FIP). Won’t get big bucks and maybe not even multiple years, but he can help someone.
- Oliver Perez – Indians: Quietly nuked batters on both sides of the plate last year and has six straight years of 10-plus K/9. Will be 37 most of next season, and should still be able to find work as a specialist who can get a RHH out now and then.
- Tyler Clippard – Blue Jays: Turns 34 early next year and quietly had decent year in Toronto last season (3.67 ERA, 4.24 FIP in 68.2 IP). Homer issues especially concerning with 19.2 percent groundball rate.
- Carson Smith – Red Sox: Barely pitched for Boston due to shoulder issues, but career numbers in five years are very good (2.21 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 2.33 FIP). Will need prove-it deal heading into age-29 season.
- Tony Barnette – Rangers: Could be a perfect storm of Twins (had interest when he first signed) and Levine (in Texas when he signed) as the 35-year-old is coming off good, albeit abbreviated, 2018 run — 8.9 K/9, 51.4 percent GB rate, 2.39 ERA.
- A.J. Ramos – Mets: Complete disaster in 2018 and not very good in 2017, but at his best, he keeps walk rate in check — relatively speaking — and strikes guys out with a devastating changeup.
- Zach Duke – Mariners: Great clubhouse guy who’ll take the ball anytime and messes with funky angles to keep hitters off-balance. Posted 3.01 FIP between Twins and Mariners last year.
- Randall Delgado – Diamondbacks: Was terrific in relief in 2017 (3.59 ERA, 8.6 K/9, 45.9 percent GB rate) but missed almost all of 2018 with oblique and shoulder issues. Only 29 (in February).
- Aaron Loup – Phillies: Numbers are all over the map for the 31-year-old lefty, but he’s made life difficult for LHH (.232/.301/.317) in his career.
- Tyler Lyons – Cardinals: Complete disaster in 2018 (8.64 ERA in 16.2 IP), but 3.33 in 162 IP over previous three years with 9.7 K/9. Lefty, breathing and only 31 (in February).
- Jake Diekman – Diamondbacks: Has seen big-league time ravaged by battle with Crohn’s disease, but put up really good numbers early in his career. Familiar with Levine from Texas, too.
- Zach McAllister – Tigers: Completely derailed in 2018 (6.20 ERA in 45 IP) but from 2015-17 had 2.99 ERA, more than a strikeout per inning and 3.60 FIP.
- Boone Logan – Brewers: They don’t need a situational lefty at all, but he’s 34 and despite his struggles has fanned 10-plus batters per nine every year since 2012. Could be worth a look in spring training.
If you disagree with any of these assessments, feel free to air your grievances in the comments section or directly to me @Brandon_Warne on Twitter.
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