Twins

#AskBW (1/6): Trade SZN, 2020 Foresight & Are the Twins Done?

Please Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I hate doing intros and you all asked a ton of good questions. Let’s just dive right in.

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Frankly, I just don’t think there’s a good reason to trade him. They don’t have a starting-caliber shortstop behind him — Royce Lewis is definitely not MLB-ready — and it would make for pretty bad optics to move a guy a year after he signed a below-market deal to stay with your team for the foreseeable future.

I don’t see any way that trade happens without probably both Alex Kirilloff and Lewis. Nolan Arenado and Jon Gray are simply too good to trade away for any other reason. Also — if they’re trading Arenado and Gray, they have zero use for Eddie Rosario.

Oh yeah, he’ll be down there rehabbing. That’s basically the hub of the organization when it comes to that sort of thing. He might stay down there for a while once the season starts, even.

He’s a fine, but not great option at first base if the Twins don’t make any other moves. He’s just not exciting at all, but if you don’t let him face lefties he’s the exact kind of guy they’d consider targeting. The same is true for Eric Thames, as far as not facing lefties that is, but he’d be a more exciting fit with a bit more pop and a better walk rate.

Honestly, I don’t think it’s so much looking for a third baseman specifically, but a corner infielder. Marwin Gonzalez could fill either spot competently, but he’s better used when he’s available to play all over something like four times a week and as protection for something like Miguel Sano getting hurt — as he did with the heel last winter. They have the prospect capital for an Arenado or Kris Bryant, but until we see Derek Falvey and Thad Levine cash some of that in for a big-time player, it’s easy to remain skeptical.

Does it make more sense to acquire a younger player like Dominic Smith? Or a one-year flyer on someone like Moreland or Thames with someone like Kirilloff not too far off? They have a lot of flexibility here, which is the way they like it.

My expectation would be that they either make a big trade — because they’re still seeking an impact talent — or fill in with a value free agent they like at a reasonable price. I keep coming back to Thames in that respect. Good player, good clubhouse guy and he won’t cost a ton. He’ll move the chains until a prospect is ready.

Until the brass shows any indication they’re going to do something like this, I’d say pretty low. Maybe 25 percent? But that’s something people don’t think about much in sports — you’re only who you are until you do something else. If the Twins landed Josh Donaldson, are they still cheap? Or afraid to take risks? The Twins have never handed out a contract even close to $100 million in free agency, but if you believe the reports, they’ve certainly offered them — this year especially. If you offer them and they aren’t accepted, are they still cheap? Are you still averse to taking risks? I’d say no — but I know that is a minority opinion.

For better or worse, it’s hard for me to say yes. This feels a little like Joe Mauer swinging at first pitches. If you’re a Hall of Fame-caliber player — or in this case, a front office who just engineered a team from 100 losses to 100 wins in the span of three seasons — are you really going to feel a strong need to go against what got you there?

…and honestly, if they can get just one pitcher to emerge from within as a steady No. 2-3 starter, they’re pretty close to where they want to be. Is that an unreasonable ask of someone like Lewis Thorpe? Or maybe Brusdar Graterol? Or Jordan Balazovic sooner rather than later? Maybe Jhoan Duran? There are a lot more options here than in previous seasons, when the team needed more like two or three guys to emerge like that.

Yeah, I think so. Max Kepler and Rosario can play center, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Luke Raley are in the mix and Gilberto Celestino probably isn’t terribly far off considering they added him to the 40-man roster. Cave’s a really, really nice fourth outfielder but not the kind of guy to take off-limits, in my opinion.

Semi-random note: Celestino can really go get it in center. He’s not Buxton — not many are — but he’s good out there.

This is a really good question. I think the rotation is OK — definitely not horrible but still not where it needs to be. Ideally, they’ll add one more pitcher before spring training starts. But with 26-man rosters coming in 2020, the Twins can add some protection in their bullpen if they’d like. Maybe someone like Devin Smeltzer doesn’t make the rotation, he’d be a really, really useful long(ish) guy. Especially since the rotation doesn’t, at least not right now, project to have a lefty in it to start the season unless Thorpe makes it.

Eh, like a B or a B- maybe. You can win in October with Jose Berrios, Rich Hill, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda — but you have to get there, first. I think they need one more project-type who doesn’t have to give them a ton of innings in Pineda’s absence, but it probably has to be someone who is going to be ready to be the No. 5 starter on Opening Day. Is that Jerad Eickhoff? Taijuan Walker? Alex Wood? None of the above, but maybe a trade for Caleb Smith?

I think they’re going to have to massage the concept of an “impact” starter between Hill and another acquisition — or maybe Bailey pitching as he did in Oakland for a full season — but it’s not as dire as some people might think.

I’m not sure they will. Here are his splits by field from last season:

  • Left – .790 OPS
  • Center – .942 OPS
  • Right – .799 OPS

Sure, teams can take away the middle of the field, but I don’t see a dead spot here.

His directional stuff is interesting, though:

  • Left (push) – 36.7 percent of batted balls
  • Center – 34.3 percent
  • Right (pull) – 29.0 percent

Where he gets into trouble is when he pulls the ball — where he has a 59.3 percent groundball rate. For a normal hitter, I think that’d be more worrisome. For a hitter who isn’t super pull-happy, I’m less concerned.

For the sake of comparison and simplicity, let’s say someone who has never played a big-league game, right? I mean Randy Dobnak is still rookie-eligible and would probably be an easier choice if that was the bar to leap. If that’s the case, I think it could be Brent Rooker. The Twins might not go big at first base, leaving the opportunity for him to come in and slug his way into the lineup there or if Nelson Cruz shows any age at designated hitter.

Rooker was absolutely brilliant at Rochester last year — .281/.398/.535 (139 wRC+) — though the strikeouts (34.7 percent) could be a concern. Still, as a right-handed bat who is already 25 and has accomplished this much in the minors, he seems like an easy choice.

I’m really uncomfortable advocating moving some of these guys since I’m still developing media relationships with them, but I would still be really surprised if either of the top-two guys goes. It’d have to be multiple years of control for a top-level guy. To me, only Gray from Colorado really checks off all those boxes right now. Robbie Ray only has one year of control left. Matt Boyd isn’t quite at that level yet. Joe Musgrove is close, but I can’t imagine he’ll be available. Chris Archer could be at that level, but has a lot to prove, you know?

Pretty well, I think. Cleveland did some great things with minimal contributions — for different reasons, of course — from Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. People might forget that Mike Clevinger missed a big part of the season with a back issue. Trevor Bauer was traded in July. They never really had their best guys all going at the same time. But then again, they won’t this year, either. Clevinger, Shane Bieber and Carrasco are a really good 1-2-3, and I think Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac are a solid back-end pair, but I don’t trust the bullpen beyond Brad Hand — weakened by Tyler Clippard leaving for the Twins, for what it’s worth — and the offense just isn’t good.

They’re stuck in purgatory — like say, 85 wins, I think — and there’s no easy way out. If they trade Francisco Lindor — and I’ve said this multiple times — should they keep going? Should they then trade Jose Ramirez? Clevinger is 29, which older than people might think, but he’s a stud nonetheless. The Indians could easily gut the farm system of, say, the Dodgers in a trade for Lindor and/or Clevinger, but should they?

I like the moves Chicago has made, but I still have some questions about them:

  1. What if Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez pitch like 4-5 starters instead of the 2-3 roles they’re expected to hold?
  2. Who is going to get on base? (which, to be fair, was the same question the Twins faced a year ago and handled well)
  3. How will the kids acquit themselves? I think Nick Madrigal is relatively safe as far as prospects go, but Luis Robert is a wild card.
  4. Can they get anyone out in the 7-8-9th innings?

I think Nomar Mazara and Reynaldo Lopez are candidates to take leaps forward, and I think the Yasmani Grandal pickup was terrific. But this team might have the most volatility of any in the American League. They could win 75 games or they could win 95 — and neither would surprise me.

They hit an astonishing .270/.338/.494 last year for a 116 wRC+. That came out to a .347 wOBA — and a .347 xwOBA. For the uninitiated, that means the Twins weren’t super lucky to post that mark. Their team BABIP was .300, which was pretty much in the middle of the pack in MLB as well (tied for 12th). I’m not totally sure that a team BABIP can be wildly out of whack due to sample size, but being in the middle of the leaderboard feels like a good spot to be.

So then we have to consider the juiced ball, right?

In 2016, there were zero teams to post a mark over 112 in wRC+ — and the Twins were at 96. The league average the last two years was 97 — with a .320 league wOBA in 2019 and a .315 in 2018.

The Twins return basically the same offense in 2020, at least as of right now, but we have no idea what’ll happen to the baseball. Of course, that’d be reflected in the league average wRC+ — which is why it was the same in 2018 and last year — but we don’t really know how it affected specific types of players. Would a hitter like Mitch Garver gain more with his batted-ball profile than, say, Nelson Cruz?

A lot of this is to say we don’t have a super-strong way to regress any of this, but if the Twins can post something like a 110 wRC+ as a team, that’d still be pretty strong. In 2018, that would have been the fourth-best mark. In 2019, that’d have been fifth.

I feel pretty confident the Twins have a top-five offense right now.

OK, let’s see here. Cot’s has Berrios at a touch under $5 million in 2020 with two more arbitration years after that. For the Twins to consider a deal, they’d probably want one or two years of free agency covered. For Berrios, he’d probably want those years guaranteed and at a pretty healthy salary.

Let’s spitball here:

  • 2020 – $4.75 million
  • 2021 – $8 million (?)
  • 2022 – $12 million (?)
  • 2023 – $15 million
  • 2024 – $20 million

What’s that come out to in terms of earnings — about $60 million? To get Berrios to accept, the Twins would probably have to nudge up the next three years of salaries under club control to say $6, 10 and $14 million and maybe have the two years of free agency both be at $20 million to get him to think about it. Maybe both sides blink and it’s $20 million for each year but they’re both team options?

If that happens, you’re looking at five years and $70 million. Does Berrios want to hit free agency at age 29 with about $30 million banked over the next three years, or at 31 with $70 million banked? The Twins could maybe push it to $75 million to get something done, and maybe Berrios — knowing the potential to get injured by simply being a pitcher — accepts? I can’t say for sure.

It could be. He was really, really hitting well before he hurt the wrist and was playing pretty good defense at first base, too. But his offensive production, on the whole, is pretty replaceable — he’s a career .258/.311/.462 hitter and .253/.317/.482 over the last two years — especially when considering the position he plays. Moreland had a nearly .900 OPS against right-handed pitching and could be adequately protected by Gonzalez playing first base against lefties, and he won’t cost even the $6 million and change Cron got from the Tigers, let alone the nearly $8 million MLB Trade Rumors projected back in October.

It seems like it was a pretty minor infraction — flipped from criminal to civil, according to the Boston Globe — and they paid a small fine and that was about it.

It seems the Patriots paid a bigger price, if you catch my drift.

(No, not really)

It’s about accommodating a really good defensive third baseman at the expense of Sano, who is certainly not bad in my opinion but not as good as someone like, say, Josh Donaldson.

Now is he worth moving if the team signs Todd Frazier? That I’m less sure of.

But the primary chatter around moving him is — or was — because Donaldson is a super defensive third baseman. Frazier is pretty good, too.

It’s a valid question. He probably deserved to move up before getting hurt last year, but the offense was just clicking so well I think manager Rocco Baldelli was hesitant to make any changes. Could you hit Buxton sixth or seventh based on how he played last year? For sure. But does it make sense to make that move and shift someone like Rosario to eighth or ninth? I don’t know. It’s nice to have a speed guy who can get on base a little in the No. 9 spot when you turn the order over, too.

It sure seems like it, right? They’re going to have some questions to answer once Lewis is ready — including where he’ll play, even — and might it result in Royce at third, Arraez at second and Jorge Polanco at short? Would Sano play first in that situation? Would he DH and Kirilloff plays first? How much muddier would those waters have gotten if they’d have signed Donaldson?

If Arraez simply meets his modest, yet still strong 2020 Steamer projection — .311/.369/.415 and 2.6 fWAR — that’s a really nice building block. So for now, I’ll say yes, he is the future over there.

I can’t say one way or the other but let me say this — the Twins were done prior to 2018, and then they signed Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison. The Twins were done before 2019 — and they signed Marwin.

This front office never, ever tips their hand and I don’t think they ever stop trying to improve. I still think they have something cooking.

I don’t really hate this, but I do think they need one more pitcher. I’m still a big believer that Dobnak, Smeltzer and Thorpe should be the Nos. 6-7-8 starters when Pineda returns in May.

  1. Berrios
  2. Odorizzi
  3. Bailey
  4. OPEN
  5. Dobnak/Smeltzer/Thorpe until May, then Pineda

How do you fill that open spot? I think they still have to answer that question outside of the organization.

Unpopular opinion:

Garver should lead off against lefties, and I think I’d lead Polanco off against righties. I think there’s a viable reason to have Arraez (takes pitches) or Kepler (takes walks) lead off, but for me, Polanco takes the best plate appearances on the team.

So I might go something like this as of now against righties:

  1. Polanco SS
  2. Arraez 2B
  3. Cruz DH
  4. Kepler RF
  5. Sano 3B
  6. Garver C
  7. Rosario LF
  8. Gonzalez 1B
  9. Buxton CF

…and against lefties, maybe:

  1. Garver C
  2. Polanco SS
  3. Cruz DH
  4. Kepler RF
  5. Sano 3B
  6. Gonzalez 1B
  7. Rosario LF
  8. Arraez 2B
  9. Buxton CF

I think both of those are a little on the high side. If the Twins get 200 innings from the two — let’s say, 150 and 50 — that should be the expectation with 220 being a success and 240-plus eluding elation from Falvey and Levine. Make no mistake, if the team has to dig into the wallet to pay Hill his incentives, it’ll be worth it.

This is a great question. I suspect no one we’ve really heard of — maybe someone internally — for the bullpen coach job and I suspect most of the minor-league jobs will go to under-the-radar college coaches. I hope that isn’t a copout, but these guys have a type.

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From Phil Wiese: After the latest twins signings have they given up on finding upgrades at starting pitcher?

I don’t think so. These guys leave no stone unturned to improve the team — even if it isn’t conventional or particularly popular. See the Hill and Bailey moves.

From Don Lokken: Good faith? Way to put the pressure on. Chance of Byron Buxton playing …..140 games in 2020?

I’m going to say 65-70 percent. That’s entirely a guess, but I have faith Buxton takes the next step this year. If 2020 isn’t a good year for him, it might be time to consider alternatives. Not necessarily moving Buxton, but maybe having a strong contingency plan behind thim than moving Kepler over and starting Cave or Wade.

From Jeremy Johnson: If we didn’t add a big name number 1 or 2 starter and go with the guys we have which includes hill and Bailey, how many games do you see us winning with our current roster?

With some regression baked in from Chicago improving, I think you’re looking at about a 95-win Twins team. That’s not a bad thing. They’re still constructed fairly well and have a lot of near MLB-ready guys who can be asked to contribute. Depth is a plus.

From Nick Staska: Will the Twins offer Rosario a deal?

I can’t see any way this happens. He’s far more likely to be dealt than extended. There’s simply too much depth behind him in the minors and he isn’t a sabermetrically-friendly player.

Oct 7, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins right fielder Eddie Rosario (20) greets third base coach Tony Diaz (46) after hitting a solo home run during the eighth inning of game three of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the New York Yankees at Target Field. Please Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

From Kevin Votaw: So you have to trade one of the following for a pitcher: Rosario, Buxton, Sano, Lewis, or Kirilloff. Who are you trading and who are you getting? Why?

Well, we have to consider that each player would bring back a different caliber of pitcher. Rosario could have one foot out the door for all we know, but if he only brings back a Smith from Miami or a Spencer Turnbull from Detroit, is that worth it? I think so, but fans and the front office may differ. To move Lewis or Kirilloff, you need a stud with multiple years of control coming back. There aren’t many of those in existence, let alone available. So you’re left with Buxton (selling low) or Sano (probably more valuable to the Twins than an acquiring team) as the other options.

I’d have to lean Rosario, primarily because I think he’s the most available and I think he can still be moved to fill that need for the lottery-ticket starter I think the team still needs.

From MIchael Pearson: What percentage of Twins fans would you say only care about going to the ballpark to enjoy a game with no worry of how the roster is put together?

Oh gosh, something like 80-85 percent? Honestly I think it’s a vocal minority of people on Twitter who are the die-hard fans about years of control, prospects, trades, free agency and that sort of thing. Remember the outcry when the team moved Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar for prospects? Both of those guys were free agents that offseason — or were going to be — and would have been free to return with the Twins simply pocketing prospects on two-month rentals.

The deals made a ton of sense at the time — yet were met with huge blowback in the comments sections. A vast majority of fans want to buy a t-shirt or a jersey and have that player stick around for a long time. But also not be bad. It’s kind of a weird marriage.

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#AskBW (7/20): Trade Deadline Bonanza, Batting Gloves and Cryptic Tweets

Please Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t like awkward introductions. Let’s just dive right in. Twitter: Who do you most want the Twins to acquire via trade? Give me a realistic option […]

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