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I mean it could be, but it’s far more likely it isn’t than it is. I’m not sure how Buster Olney connected the dots that the Twins could be in on one of the higher-priced guys, but it’s not as though the theory lacks logic.

The Twins could easily fit that kind of contract into their budget as things currently stand — no questions asked.

But with that said, I think the Twins are still hanging in the weeds to fry a bigger fish for their rotation. I have no idea who it is, but I still think Martin Perez is more protection on the back end in case that fish never manifests itself, as opposed to solution A for how they hope to open this season, 1-5.

Yep. They get a chairs — and eventually also a new copier.

Very slim. It doesn’t make any sense to me to show all this financial restraint — as Mike Berardino said on the most recent episode of Midwest Swing, the Twins have $300k committed past this season, easily the least in baseball — and then blow it on the most volatile resource in the game. I just don’t see it. If Kimbrel takes a below-market deal — and believe me, I’m not advocating that based on where the game is financially — he’d probably do it with either Boston or Atlanta.

I’m putting $750 on Byron Buxton and $250 — hypothetically, of course — on Miguel Sano. It’s not necessarily that I believe in Buxton three times as much as Sano, but rather than the avenues for Buxton becoming a star are far, far easier to grab.

Buxton posting a .750 OPS over a full season would make him a star, because he’d play Gold Glove-caliber defense and probably steal something like 45-50 bases. That’s a five- or six-win player.

Sano needs to stay healthy — also a consideration with Buxton, to be fair — and probably post a .900 OPS while overcoming strikeout issues as well as below-average defense at a position far easier than center field from a value standpoint.

For the better, honestly. Guys aren’t exactly bouncing off the walls, but it was a very, very somber place when I first started covering the team regularly in 2013. I think the biggest thing was that there were a lot of kids still trying to find their way in the big leagues, and a lot of the older guys were just veterans who didn’t talk much and some relievers like Casey Fien and Jared Burton.

The last few years have had Chris Gimenez, Zach Duke, Bobby Wilson and Torii Hunter as valuable communication resources — just to name a few — with Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar also filling those roles capably as they rose to higher prominence. The earlier teams had more laid-back, quiet veterans like Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit who maybe didn’t scorn talking to the media, but definitely weren’t nuts about it.

I think Nelson Cruz will provide a very key role in this clubhouse in 2019.

As I’ve emphasized elsewhere, it’s still not close to the start of the season. I also think the biggest thing here is that if things had gone better last year, the Twins probably would have already put this money toward extensions for guys like Buxton, Polanco and maybe even Rosario.

LISTEN: Mike Berardino breaks down his Hall of Fame ballot, and his diagnosis as to why the Minnesota Twins are spending the way they have this offseason

Again, this is not me saying $96 million is a reasonable number — and honestly, Berardino laid out some reasons that it’s probably closer to $10 million higher than that with Phil Hughes, Logan Morrison and Ervin Santana dollars — but that I also don’t think it makes a lot of sense to spend wildly on a team whose needs will possibly vacillate greatly depending on how this season goes.

And with that said, I still fall back on the idea that I would have definitely been in on Yasmani Grandal at what he cost the Brewers, and Charlie Morton’s deal with the Tampa Bay Rays looks really good right about now as well.

But the Twins have virtually zero dollars committed after this year, and it’s hard for me to imagine they don’t have some kind of plan for that.

If people are upset about that, I get it. But the best way to protest that is to not go to games or not watch them on TV. Hit ownership where it hurts — the pocketbook.

If the team starts to win, they’ll fill the seats whether the payroll is $96 million or $196 million, and I think that’s the leverage ownership will eternally have over any fanbase — and Minneapolis is certainly no exception.

I did, however, say that I think it makes sense to supplement these kids as they’re figuring things out, rather than after. The longer down the road this goes, the more expensive the Buxtons, Sanos and Rosarios get in the grand scheme of things.

So Burnes came up around midseason, threw 38 innings with the big club and then nine more in the postseason. He finished with seven wins, three holds and just one save, and 15 of his 30 appearances came with an adjusted leverage index (aLI on Baseball Reference) of 1.00 or higher (which is considered average pressure).

That usage remained fairly consistent in the postseason as he was 3 for 6 in being used in high-leverage spots, but he got multiple outs in four of those outings and in 10 of his 30 regular season appearances. Throw in his 19 appearances (13 starts ) at Colorado Springs, and Burnes finished with a little under 120 innings on the season.

He had a 5.15 ERA at Colorado Springs by the way. Ah, the PCL.

My gut says…no, probably not. I think they’re willing to buck convention when it means the team can have a better chance to win, but I don’t think it’s easy to make an apples-to-apples comparison when the workload is split between the minors and the majors. I also, again, am not sure about cutting back Romero’s workload when he’s gone from 90.1 innings in 2016 to 125 in 2017 to 146.1 last year between all levels.

Coming off missing 2015 for Tommy John surgery, Romero is now at the cusp of reaching the 180-inning threshold that has kind of become the new 200 innings for big-league starters. Is it worth ditching that progress for a chance at a really, really great reliever?

Beyond that, is that progress actually scuttled if they do make him a reliever? Could he throw 180 innings in 2020 if he only throws say…70 this year as a reliever? I don’t have all the answers, so I’m glad I’m not making that decision directly.

At this point, I feel like the clocks in baseball have become more of a soft guideline than anything, and haven’t altered the in-game experience — even to a die-hard baseball fan like me — one bit. I don’t know that I’d add any more regulations like that, but I think we’re in a good place for now.

Good question. I suspect it would have to come with limits, such as number of active pitchers who can be used on a given day — o/u at say…nine or 10 — with an emergency pitcher who can go in case of the game going, say, 13 innings. But when you really think about it, nine or 10 doesn’t sound like many but when you subtract the four starters not going that day, it’s plenty.

I think the player’s union would go for it because it means more money for players — a big-league salary for 30 more men at a time — and I do think it’d have to come at the expense of September roster expansion in some form or fashion. Again, it’s good for the player’s union to see more players drawing a big-league check, but it really can drag out the length of a game.

I mean maybe? But what’s a bigger deal than Manny Machado and Bryce Harper being free agents? My galaxy-brain idea might be that they try to sign Francisco Lindor or Mike Trout when they become free agents, but to me that’s hanging a lot of hope on something that isn’t terribly likely for any of the MLB’s 30 teams to bank on, let alone the Twins.

I suspect they have something in mind, but until we see what it is, it’s hard to put much faith in that if you’re a Twins fan — and I get it.

In 1987, the Twins traded for Jeff Reardon on Feb. 3 and Dan Gladden on March 31. As Andy MacPhail says to this day, “We were just trying to get organized, and we won the World Series.” I don’t think there’s a hard-and-fast rule, though honestly, I think something really could still come down this spring if the right deal comes along.

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From Michael Gasser: I long dream of a midwest World Series between my beloved Brewers and an AL Central team. Will the Brewers and Twins ever be relevant at the same time?

I think it could be as soon as next year, as the Brewers only have about $50 million hard committed to next year’s roster. Having a very, very team-friendly deal on the reigning NL MVP certainly helps, as does the cheap firing squad of Jeremy Jeffress, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader. Once Orlando Arcia takes off — which I fully expect — I’d imagine the winning window in Milwaukee is still here to stay for a few more years.

And the Twins have so much financial flexibility in the years to come that I can’t see any way they don’t stay in the winning window once it opens. So my official answer is 2020.

From David Schlenk: How much does a bucket of balls cost?

A dozen MLB-caliber pills costs $72, and four dozen fit into a bucket. So that puts a retail cost of $288 out there — though it’s likely MLB teams pay far less than that.

And a bucket of baseballs like we know it is probably the one they use for batting practice, which is full of scuffed-up game-used balls. I think there’s a double meaning there in just a bucket of balls, and that buckets are usually the balls that are damaged goods.

From Daniel Fox: Who do you think will shine this season and who might have a down year?

I think a fully healthy Eddie Rosario might have an even bigger breakout this season, but I also think Jorge Polanco has a lot to prove, and could be a real asset in the leadoff spot.

I also think Jake Cave is going to have a hard time repeating his 2018 season. It’s not often that a player can sustain an .800 OPS with more than a 5-1 K/BB ratio.

From Daniel Kaushagen: Biggest offseason move not involving a guy named Harper?

I’ll leave Machado out of this because he and Harper are one and the same when it comes to talent, but Grandal signing a one-year deal, because I think it’s going to be Exhibit 1A as to the increasing unrest between players and ownership when the next CBA needs to be negotiated here after the 2021 season.

From Andrew Jore: Out of all the interview questions you’ve asked of players, what are some of your favorite responses?

I like any player who gives me something I hadn’t previously thought about. Twice, Kyle Gibson has done this for me. He told me that pitchers always want to shape their changeups like their fastballs — similar plane, just slower and thrown with the same arm slot — and to me, that seems obvious now, but at the time was great insight.

He also mentioned to me that one thing he likes to do with his pitches is keep them in the hitting zone as little as possible if they’re called strikes, and as long as possible if they’re going to wind up outside the zone. That is, running a two-seamer back over the inside corner against a lefty that bites back late, or a slider that is over the heart of the plate on the way there, but breaks off the plate when it gets to the hitting zone.

Again, that’s something that seems fairly obvious, but was cool to have explained by a guy whose career has depended on it over the last year or so.


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