What Does An Impact Free Agent Look Like For the Twins?

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan (USA TODAY Sports)

With the season behind them, the Minnesota Twins will look to acquire an impact player this winter. There are several ways the Twins can do this, but the fastest way is to attack the free-agent market.

Three years ago, the Twins struck gold when signing Nelson Cruz. Cruz brought power to the lineup and transformed an average team into the Bomba Squad despite his age. They doubled down the following offseason by signing Josh Donaldson. While it didn’t have the same effect as Cruz, it did match their philosophy of winning with offense and added another dangerous at-bat to the lineup.

In both signings, the Twins addressed an area they wanted to improve and did so by acquiring the best fit at that position. So what kind of move could bring in an impact player that puts them over the top?

It starts with taking one last look at last season. While many Twins fans will demand that they add to the pitching staff, they could use one more impact bat.

The Twins were still a power-hitting team, ranking fifth in MLB with 228 home runs. Fans will likely remember the balls that went over the fence, but not their inability to create their own offense.

Minnesota ranked 16th with 729 runs scored last season and ranked 20th in batting average (.241), 18th in on-base percentage (.314), and 13th in OPS (.754). This means while they can launch balls into orbit, they need someone that can be a consistent producer at the plate.

The Twins also need to improve in the field. Minnesota ranked third in MLB with 107 errors and ranked 27th in fielding percentage.

Assuming Byron Buxton stays healthy (and the Twins don’t trade him), the outfield defense should improve by default. But the easiest place to make a change could be at shortstop.

The Twins thought they had the answer when they signed Andrelton Simmons last offseason, and they were right. Simmons ranked fourth among shortstops and sixth among all MLB defenders with 16 outs above average last season, but he left a gaping hole in the lineup with the second-lowest OPS (.558) by a shortstop in franchise history.

This leaves the Twins needing to find someone that can do both. Fortunately, this year’s free-agent class is loaded at shortstop.

The Twins could use revisionist history and sign Marcus Semien, who they were linked to last year. Although he spent last season playing second base for the Toronto Blue Jays, he has a history at short and can move over once Austin Martin or Royce Lewis is ready for the majors.

Another target is Carlos Correa, who was already linked to the Twins by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. Correa is a solid major league hitter with a career .277/.356/.481 line and recorded 12 outs above average this season, ranking sixth among MLB shortstops.

If they miss out on Corea, there are several other shortstops that the Twins could buy low on.

Javier Báez struggled in the field this season but led MLB with 31 outs above average in 2019. Trevor Story could be the top offensive shortstop on the market and flourish next to a Gold Glove third baseman. Even Corey Seager has been adequate and would make sense for a team looking for the best of both worlds.

But the biggest need for the Twins is on the mound. While the bullpen needs to be revamped, it’s unlikely a reliever would make a major impact on the team. That leaves the starting rotation, which ranked 25th with a 5.18 ERA last season.

Recently, the Twins have tried to sign stopgaps instead of breaking the bank for a starter. While acquiring pitchers in their mid-to-late 30s could backfire, signing one to a short-term deal could be the move that brings everything together.

Max Scherzer is at the top of the list, who continues to look like an ace at age 37. While his salary demands could be extraordinary, it’s unlikely he’s the type of arm who would command a long-term deal.

If the Twins want to go the high-risk, high-reward route, they could also roll the dice on Clayton Kershaw. The left-hander has been riddled by injuries but also possesses the upside that would be beneficial on a short-term deal.

And if the Twins want to get wild, why not take a flier on Noah Syndergaard? He spent most of last season on a rehab deal, but we’ve seen what kind of pitcher he can be when healthy.

Signing any of these players to a two or three-year deal would be an excellent gamble for the Twins, who need major league pitching in the worst way.

Whatever the Twins decide to do in free agency, it has to have a goal in mind. If they’re serious about contending in 2021, they’ll need to acquire players who can make an immediate impact.

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