The Minnesota Twins have no shortage of options when it comes to addressing the team’s needs this off-season. Re-signing superstar shortstop Carlos Correa is undoubtedly a priority, and the club will always be looking for high-upside starting pitching. But not far off from those items on the shopping list should be a big bat that can help balance an unsteady lineup.
Twins fans were rubbing their hands together and licking their chops at the idea of bringing in José Abreu last week, and for good reason. Abreu is a bonafide star slugger. He bats from the right side and wouldn’t warrant an exorbitant mega-contract.
Well, now that the former Twin-killer has signed a deal with the Houston Astros, Josh Bell could offer those same benefits plus more.
Don’t get me wrong, this move probably can’t be made before the Correa sweepstakes have ended. But whether singing Bell would be a consolation prize — or even, dare I say, a complimentary move — he would be a major cog in the middle of the lineup for years to come.
As things currently stand, the Twins are set to feature Luis Arraez and Alex Kirilloff at first base going into 2023. On its own, that tandem is solid. Arraez is the reigning American League batting champion, and Kirilloff has the prospect pedigree, along with a few brief flashes of success in his young MLB career. But the combo isn’t a clean fit and offers seemingly more questions than answers.
For example, both are left-handed hitters, meaning the platoon split is far from ideal. Arraez can also play second base, but that supplants Jorge Polanco. Kirilloff can play either corner outfield spot, but the Twins currently have a small army of left-handed outfielders on their roster.
Granted, both players (along with many other players on the roster) have missed considerable time due to injuries in the past. Roster crunches have a way of playing themselves out as the season goes on. But a first baseman needs to be in every lineup, and the club would be better with a slugger that can do serious damage against opposing southpaws.
That’s where Bell chimes in.
The hulking switch-hitter has mashed against lefties for the last two years. Since the start of the 2021 season, he has a 127 wRC+ in those instances, which translates to 27 percent better than league average. That would play extremely well in a righty-heavy lineup that could look something like this:
|Player||Pos.||2022 wRC+ vs. LHP|
That is a powerhouse of a lineup. Sure, it would look even better with Correa in the fold. But for now, we’ll roll with Farmer as the shortstop (168 wRC+ vs. LHP).
While Bell’s greatest benefit to the Twins would be his output against southpaws, he can certainly hold his own against right-handed pitchers. From a power perspective, he might even be better against righties. Here’s how a Twins lineup could look against right-handed pitching:
|Player||Pos.||2022 wRC+ vs. RHP|
Again, this lineup looks excellent and would look even better with an upgrade at backup catcher. Someone like Omar Narvaez (career 106 wRC+ vs. RHP) or Tucker Barnhart (career 86 wRC+ vs. RHP) would offer a step up from *checks notes* the blank space currently inhabiting the second catcher spot on the roster.
The point remains – Bell would balance out this lineup on both ends of the split. That’s the beauty of having a legitimately good switch-hitter from both sides. And while he shouldn’t get more attention from the Twins compared to Correa or an ace-caliber pitcher like Carlos Rodón, he also won’t have to be paid like them. MLB Trade Rumors projects Bell to reel in a four-year deal worth roughly $64 million. That seems like a solid payday for a 30-year-old first baseman/designated hitter and wouldn’t preclude the club from spending money elsewhere on the roster.
Signing Abreu would have been great, especially since he was a star for one of the Twins’ biggest rivals. His offensive firepower and mid-tier contract size would have made him a perfect target. But now that he’s gone, it could be beneficial to look at Bell, as he offers many of the same qualities.