#AskBW (11/28): Thanksgiving, Free Agents & Offseason Hullabaloo

Please Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of what Jeff Bezos has worked out with the United States Postal Service, there’s no mail delivery this Thursday so I’m typing like heck to get this out before then.

What we have here is the Thanksgiving edition of #AskBW, and it’s really quite simple:

  • Ask (non-dumb) question
  • Get answer

There really isn’t much more needed in terms of an explanation, so let’s dive right in:


I’m assuming I can’t pick Rocco Baldelli, because he’d be No. 1 without hesitation. He might be one of the most interesting conversationalists in the entire game. He could easily carry a spirited dinner table discussion without ever raising his voice. Impressive.

So here are the three players I came up with — all in the organization but not necessarily in the big leagues:

  • Royce Lewis – An impressive young man polished well beyond his 20 years. Lewis is affable, always smiling and looks you directly in the eye every time he speaks to you.
  • Trevor May – You could ask him to explain why it rains so much in Seattle and he’d give you a detailed, dry and yet somehow entirely fulfilling answer. He’s the ginger ale of the Minnesota Twins — think about it.
  • Nelson Cruz – Dude’s been around forever — imagine the stories he could tell after a couple of brandys.

So my order of how I view their MLB futures might be not the consensus, but here goes:

  • Trevor Larnach – I really like this kid. I think he sprays the ball to all fields and has a terrific eye at the plate, and his .307/.385/.468 minor-league slash isn’t too far from what I think he could do perennially in the big leagues. His success at Pensacola last year (.842 OPS) as a 22-year-old is why I think it’s possible the Twins trade Eddie Rosario this offseason.
  • Nick Gordon – I’m not sure there’s a Twins prospect you might hear a more mixed voice on than Gordon, who hit a terrific .298/.342/.459 before a lower left leg bruise ended his season in August. I don’t think he’ll ever drive the baseball enough to create a ton of damage, so how about a .270/.340/.380 kinda guy with good wheels who might develop into a decent defender in due time. Right now I think he’s a second baseman. It might be hard to knock Luis Arraez off that post.
  • Brent Rooker – He might be one of the most affable Twins personalities on Twitter, and he destroys the baseball on the field as well. My issue with him is I’m not sure there’s a defensive home for him, but if the Twins non-tender C.J. Cron, it could definitely be at first base sometime this season. If he hits as he did at Rochester last season (.281/.398/.535), he’ll be a long-term fit at the position or at DH after Cruz departs. If he hits as he did at Chattanooga the year before (.254/.333/.465), his future is way murkier. Oh, I suppose I’m sandbagging here. How about a year-in, year-out line of like .280/.360/.480? That’d probably be something like his 75th percentile outcome, but he’s a smart hitter who knows what he’s trying to do in the box, and I have no reason to doubt his physical skills. If the worry was that he wouldn’t hit with wood bats, he seems to have put that question to bed.

Hmm, I’ve been thinking about this a lot but with Kyle Gibson signing with the Texas Rangers, it has changed a bit.

  1. Zack Wheeler
  2. Jose Berrios
  3. Jake Odorizzi
  4. Michael Pineda
  5. Rick Porcello

I think you sign Porcello to a one-year deal worth around $10 million with a second-year team option around $14-15m, and I think Pineda is in the same ballpark as well. What would that be on a rotation, about….$63-65 million? That seems more than reasonable. People will ask why this rotation doesn’t include Brusdar Graterol, Devin Smeltzer or Randy Dobnak, and the answer to that is fairly simple — those are your Nos. 6-8 starters.

Those types — starters beyond the top five — combined for just 16 starts for the Twins last year, but in 2018 that number was 31 and 39 in 2017. Those types will definitely be called upon — and even more so to cover the part of Pineda’s suspension to open the season if a bridge guy like Drew Smyly isn’t signed — it’s just a matter of how much. A team that won 101 games last year can’t leave that many games up to chance in a division that is quickly weaponizing.

It has been very quiet on the Buxton front so far this offseason, but keep an eye on how the Twins proceed this offseason. Will they trade Rosario? Maybe, maybe not, but might that have anything to do with how the Twins feel about Buxton’s health? Will they bring in any type of competition for playing time in the outfield, or perhaps more likely, how long of a look do Rooker or even Luke Raley get a look this spring. Gilberto Celestino can work himself into that conversation fairly quickly as well as a new member of the 40-man roster.

Don’t put too much stock into if the Twins add an outfielder — especially with 26-man rosters coming to MLB in 2020 — but there may be some context clues to read into as the offseason goes along. Stay tuned.

I don’t know why but I just see them landing Wheeler. Beyond that, I don’t know….Porcello? Sergio Romo? I think they find a pitcher whose value is depressed and try to rebuild him — Alex Wood, Porcello, maybe trade for Dylan Bundy — but to try to guess who at this point seems difficult.

I’m a really big football on Thanksgiving guy, but now that we have a two-year-old in the house — something Cory, a father of twin boys, can attest to — it really is all about the little ones on the holidays.

So we’ll watch whichever of the three Grinch movies she chooses — she has tabbed them “actual Grinch,” “old Grinch” and “soft Grinch” and she loves them each dearly but separately.

Then it might be something like Polar Express or Christmas Vacation depending on the company kept that night.

The Twins are going to have a good problem on their hands in a year when they have both Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers behind the plate. Let’s just say that. I also really think Travis Blankenhorn can play.


From Mark Drewe: “Considering the Twins are a 100-win team, and have really open money for their payroll going forward, will they/why aren’t they making a serious push for Strasburg or Cole?”

I want to word this carefully because I am a big believer in what the Twins are doing. I think at points they become as equally interested in the hunt as the game. I’ve long said this offseason that I think teams will much rather pay $20 million per year to Wheeler and try to coach him up rather than $35 million to Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole while simply hoping for the status quo, and I think the Twins fall squarely in that camp.

Sep 26, 2019; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) pitches against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

I think they just view flexibility as the most valuable asset in the game today. They are coming off a 101-win season yet only have about $95 million committed to next season’s payroll — according to Cot’s Contracts — and only about $30 million hard committed total beyond the season. It’d be easy to call that “cheap” but what the plan is here — as near as I can tell — is maximum fluidity to adapt to whatever the market shows.

The last two markets were extremely lean and the Twins adapted quite easily. Now there are a few more movers and shakers early in the 2019-20 offseason, and it’s on the Twins to show they can keep up with that trend as well. Time will tell.

From Michael Bates: “Match traditional Thanksgiving side dishes with their counterparts on the 2020 Minnesota Twins.”

  • Cranberries – Randy Dobnak: You aren’t sure where it came from or what form it should really take, but God is it good.
  • Stuffing – Willians Astudillo: You may not like it or love it but goddamn it’s here.
  • Mashed potatoes – Miguel Sano: I mean, come on.
  • Gravy – Byron Buxton: A true staple, but sometimes it’s better when it doesn’t run fast.
  • Corn – Ehire Adrianza: Way more versatile than you’re willing to give it credit for.
  • Green bean casserole – Jorge Polanco: Steady performer. You aren’t upset when you see some of it in the fridge on Friday.
  • Jello pretzel salad – Luis Arraez: Sometimes something so beautiful comes into your life that you explain it to other people and they just scrunch up their nose and don’t talk to you for like seven weeks. Which is fine.
  • Mac and cheese – Trevor May: Sure, you can have it every day the rest of the year. Oh, and also today, too.

From Kevin Votaw: “Dobnak 2020 candidates: who will be the dark horse impact players not currently on our radar?”

On the 40-man roster but haven’t played yet? I’d go with Dakota Chalmers (throws 96 with nasty delivery) or Matt Wisler (I believe in the reclamation), not on the 40 but with big-league experience I’m leaning Ryan Garton (who should throw more curveballs) and if you want all the way off the radar, how about….Tom Hackimer? He wasn’t added to the 40-man roster this winter but I think he’s got enough funk to come up and get some guys out. He was incredible — 27 strikeouts in 15.1 innings — at Fort Myers last year but merely *good* at Pensacola. He’s not far off.

From Kevin Votaw: “Favorite SP trade candidates/reclamation projects for Wes Johnson? Archer?”

I’d be embarrassed if I had to put an actual number on the minutes I think about this on a per-day basis. But here’s probably an incomplete list:

  • Dylan Bundy – Love the slider and think he’s a tweak — to keep the ball in the yard — away from being terrific.
  • Chris Archer – Hard to argue with the idea but I don’t think the Pirates are ready to move on yet, but I do really like Joe Musgrove, whom they have even less reason to deal but I digress.
  • Daniel Norris – Simply love the arm talent. Not sure you could compel the Tigers to deal him or Spencer Turnbull, but I’d try.
  • Sandy Alcantara – Not really a reclamation, just want to see Wes with a guy this young and talented. Would settle for Jose Urena/Jordan Yamamoto/Caleb Smith/Pablo Lopez.
  • Julio Teheran – Durable, though his stuff comes into question at times.
  • Porcello – See Teheran, but with a more recent ceiling scrape.
  • Jakob Junis – Just think he could be a real dude soon here with a tweak or two.
  • Aaron Sanchez – Can’t see Houston letting someone else take that over.

…and I’m sure there are a ton others I haven’t even thought about or can’t remember. I love the idea though.

From Kevin Votaw (he asks good questions): “Instead of signing a big-ticket SP free agent, could we snipe a big contract from a luxury tax challenged team? Is there a pitcher worth it? Sale or Price on Red Sox or anyone on the Cubs? Astros did it with Greinke…”

Well, one name comes to mind, but let’s head over to Spotrac and tick off a few names on their list:

  • Max Scherzer – $35.9 million in 2020 – Hard nope. No chance.
  • Zack Greinke – $35 million in 2020 – No-trade clause to Minnesota. Aside: The Astros have a ton of money into mid-to-late-30s pitchers in 2020.
  • Justin Verlander – $33 million in 2020 – Nope.
  • David Price – $32 million in 2020 – Pretty hard nope here. Due more than $95 million over last three years of the deal, and after throwing 200 innings six times in seven seasons between 2010-16, he hasn’t done so since. Two of the last three years have been injury-riddled and frankly just not at the vintage Price level. That doesn’t mean he’s done — just not a name to necessarily pursue at that cost.
  • Clayton Kershaw – $31 million in 2020 – Surprisingly only owed $62 million over next two years, but doesn’t seem like there’s any chance he’d leave Los Angeles.
  • The list goes on with Chris Sale (no), Jacob deGrom (dream on), Jordan Zimmermann (??) and Masahiro Tanaka (doubtful), but when we get down to Yu Darvish ($22 million), that might be our first hit.

There was a bit of a nebulous “rumor” if you could call it that floating around Twitter recently that the Cubs had discussed a deal for Arraez with the Twins. The speculation from this end — and it’d be, at best, informed speculation on an at best flimsy rumor — might be that it’d center around acquiring Darvish.

The Cubs have made no bones about their desire to stay under the luxury tax line moving forward, and that might be hard to do with a threshold of $208 million and projected CBT payroll of $213 million and change as of this writing. That’s without making any moves to a clearly flawed yet still quite good team, so Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein may have to manufacture some payroll flexibility by trading Darvish for a player like Arraez, with multiple years of cheap control left.

After a rough first half — 5.01 ERA, 10.3 K/9 and 1.34 WHIP — Darvish was absolutely lights out after the break with a 2.76 ERA, 13.0 K/9 and a WHIP of 0.81.

Would it make sense to get Darvish as a depressed asset with $81 million left on his deal? It’s hard to say since he’s entering his age-33 season, but if he was a free agent right now, and it’s just this writer’s opinion, it wouldn’t be hard to see him signing any deal worth $80 million this winter assuming even a semi-normal free-agent period.

This might be the path for the Twins to add their ace not only at a lower AAV cost, but acquisition cost as well.

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