The Minnesota Twins are going to have to give something up in their pursuit of pitching. A free-agent market that is short on impact arms and a front office that usually lands second-tier players isn’t going to remake the starting rotation overnight. Therefore, trades will be the primary avenue for improvement and could create difficult conversations about several players.
A player they should be considering to shop is a fan-favorite, Luis Arráez.
Usually, Arráez is the type of player that the Twins should hold on to. At age 24, he’s young enough to be a cornerstone even if the Twins decide to rebuild. Four years from free agency, he’s cheap enough not to be a burden on the payroll. His offensive ability has Terry Francona saying he could win a batting title, and he plays adequate defense at several positions.
Everything screams that he should stay in Minnesota. But if the Twins want to compete next season, they have to be willing to let him go.
The Twins infield has become a log jam with players who can become long-term contributors. At age 28, Jorge Polanco has emerged as one of the best middle infielders in baseball and has an affordable contract. While he could arguably fetch the biggest return, he also is a player who should be considered part of Minnesota’s core.
Royce Lewis missed this season with a torn ACL but figures to be in the team’s plans. A move to the outfield is possible, but the Twins will likely try the former No. 1 overall pick at shortstop instead of trading him for pitching.
The future is just as cloudy for Austin Martin. Acquired in the José Berríos trade, Martin has defensive questions at every position on the diamond. The Twins will need to decide where he will play and who will have to be moved to give him a clear path to the majors before including him in a trade package.
If all three players are cornerstones, it creates an issue for Arráez. The Twins could use him as a super-sub, but that experiment failed after injuries mounted, and he was forced to play every day. They could also put him at third base if they trade Josh Donaldson, but his contact-heavy line (.285/.355/.367 with two homers) doesn’t make him a prototypical third baseman.
If he played an elite level of defense, his offensive profile could be overlooked. But Arráez is worth one out below average at third this season, according to Statcast. If they move Donaldson, Jose Miranda will likely take his place. Miranda has questions of his own in the field but makes up for it at the plate. With a .338/.394/.565 line and 28 homers this season, he should be a top-50 global prospect, one the Twins would probably like to have on their Opening Day roster.
This leaves the outfield, where the Twins have a logjam of talent. If the Twins decide to trade Miguel Sanó, Arráez could play in left field with Alex Kirilloff moving to first base. But the Twins also have to find room for Trevor Larnach, which again would relegate Arráez to the bench.
Instead of having a young, cheap talent struggling to find at-bats, the Twins can use Arraez to bolster their pitching staff.
The Twins had the same philosophy in 2012 when they traded two fan favorites in Ben Revere and Denard Span. Although Vance Worley and Alex Meyer were busts, the Twins acquired Trevor May, who became a high-leverage reliever. This front office would like to get more in return, and it could accelerate the rebuilding process if done successfully.
Trading Arráez won’t be a popular decision, and it could indicate a full-blown teardown. But the Twins have to do something to improve next year, and Arráez could be the odd man out.