The busiest stretch of 2022 for the Minnesota Twins could make any fan dizzy.
Things heated up when they traded away Mitch Garver, then jettisoned slugger Josh Donaldson and newly acquired shortstop Isaiah Kiner-Falefa to the Yankees for Gio Urshella and Gary Sanchez. Suddenly, the Twins had flipped their roster on its head. Now they have a hole with an even bigger issue on the left side of the infield at shortstop. They also traded for Sonny Gray, who should be Minnesota’s ace.
Last weekend’s moves had to indicate something big was coming. The Twins had extra cash to spend and traded for a 32-year-old pitcher. Like the Donaldson trade, that deal was struck in the middle of the night and once again raised eyebrows in Twins Territory and across the league. Carlos Correa, the top free agent on the market, signed a 3-year deal worth over $35 million per year with Minnesota.
Correa and Gray are significant upgrades for two positions that were weaknesses last year. And according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the Twins remain active in the sweepstakes for pitchers Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics. Adding either arm to the rotation would bolster an overhauled pitching staff.
Those following the Twins during the winter had to wonder if the team would be serious about competing in 2022. A letdown season in 2021 and a high number of near MLB-ready prospects had many wondering if the team would punt on this year. They could sort out the roster and get those guys experience before going all-in in 2023. Instead, the front office has signaled that they are ready to compete this year by bringing in a star like Correa. But because he’s on a year-to-year contract, they may be taking a one-year shot.
I’m not saying this team will only be good in 2022. There is a boatload of prospects who the Twins seem to be high on and are ready to break into the big leagues. But it feels Derek Falvey and Thad Levine constructed the major league roster with only this season in mind.
Correa signed a three-year deal, but he has an opt-out in 2023 and 2024. It is likely just a one-year deal for Correa in the Twin Cities. The Twins will probably turn the keys over to either Royce Lewis or Austin Martin in 2023. Minnesota expects both prospects to be with the big league club soon. They could even play a small role in 2022, although that seems unlikely right now.
The Twins could potentially have one of the best stop-gap players in their history in Correa. The former Houston Astros shortstop slashed .277/.356/.481 with 133 home runs and 489 RBIs while recording a 25.1 fWAR in his seven seasons. His postseason experience and pedigree on both sides of the plate will make him a great mentor to the young shortstops in Minnesota’s system.
If Lewis or Martin eventually take over at shortstop, it would be safe to expect a bit of a learning curve compared to a star like Correa. Lewis needs to get in as many at-bats as possible this season because he is playing in his first season since 2019. Martin is entering his first full season in the Twins system. While Correa was able to jump right into the big leagues in 2015, remember guys like Byron Buxton took a few seasons to acclimate themselves to the bigs. That’s not to say they can’t contribute right away. Lewis and Martin have the potential to be great players. But it will be a tall task if they want to replace the level of production Correa can bring to a lineup in their first taste of big-league action.
Trading for Gray was another big move the Twins made over the last week. His contract will keep him on the books past this season, but only until after the 2023 season. Fortifying the rotation with either Montas or Manaea would give the Twins more high-end firepower, but they could feel like rental players. Montas seems to be the one most teams have their eyes on, and he is only under contract for this season. Manaea, like Gray, isn’t scheduled to hit free agency until 2023. Nabbing either pitcher is a move the team needs to make to pair with their new stars, even if they do it just for the 2022 season.
Another couple of players who could be on a different team next season include Sanchez and Sano. Both of them are expected to hit free agency next season. While the Twins may not include Sano and Sanchez in their long-term plans, both of them figure to have significant roles in the starting lineup with the power they present to the middle of the Twins batting order.
The Falvey and Levine offseason plan has an affinity for one-year contracts since taking over the front office after the 2016 season. Outside of Jason Castro, Nelson Cruz (whose second year was a team option), Marwin Gonzalez, and Josh Donaldson, the Twins have mostly handed out one-year deals. Minnesota has had additional flexibility regarding payroll because they don’t have big contracts bogging down spending. That flexibility allowed them to pay Correa the second-highest salary behind only Mike Trout. He could theoretically do it again with another free agent next season should he opt-out after this year.
The Twins have undergone a lot of turnover. Consider that the “Bomba Squad” Twins broke up in just two seasons after their historic 2019 campaign when the Twins moved on from Cruz, Mitch Garver, and Eddie Rosario. That doesn’t mean Twins fans shouldn’t be excited about the 2022 squad. They are spending money and being competitive in putting a quality team on the field.
Twins fans should be excited that Falvey and Levine have assembled this current group, no matter how long that lasts. This isn’t a “World Series or bust” team. With some talented young guys on the way, this is just the start of a new competitive window, even if this season has turned into a mini “all-in” year to make the most out of additions like Correa and Gray.
After a terrible 2021 season, the Twins will not sit by and wait for 2023. The team is going for it with big trades, free agent signings, and potentially more big moves on the way. It’s almost like a second window that is opening for the Twins with the new crop of prospects. However, there is still too much talent on this roster to wait. Adding Correa and others for this season will help the team try to become contenders again, even if the squad will look different by this time next year.