The Minnesota Twins introduced the dawn of a new chapter by unveiling five new uniform designs on Friday morning. It got fans thinking about what the future holds for their ball club, both on the field and off. What kind of additions will they make in an effort to improve the club? Will the overall health of the roster hold up? Will anybody seize a leadership role within the clubhouse after some recent notable departures? And will Target Field ever work in conjunction with Hormel foods to return the fabled Dome Dog to its home in Twins Territory?
For each of those questions (aside from the Hormel one, maybe), a reunion with Taylor Rogers could be a possible solution.
Of course, exploring a reunion with the former Twins’ closer has various pros and cons. He’s certainly not the same version of himself that fans may be used to, but he could slide into a bullpen group that is still relatively in flux around the edges. It’s not a perfect fit for the biggest hole in the team’s puzzle, but could Rogers still find a place to slot in?
The case for moving on
Rogers was mostly fantastic with the Twins from 2016 to 2021, but there’s a reason why the team felt comfortable trading him just days before Opening Day. While fans were ready to grab their torches and pitchforks after news of the deal broke, it turns out that Minnesota’s call may have been justified, even if it wasn’t a clean break.
Rogers was as great as ever in his first two months away from the Twins. Through May 27, he accumulated 17 saves for the San Diego Padres, twirling 20 innings of 0.44 ERA ball along the way. During that time, bullpen performance was one of the biggest thorns in Minnesota’s side, and Rogers’ success was seen as a cruel joke to many who criticized the move in the first place.
But from that point on, Rogers struggled mightily. He stumbled for the remaining four months of the season, with a brutal 6.75 ERA and an abnormally high 1.41 WHIP in 40 innings pitched. San Diego shipped him off to the Milwaukee Brewers in the trade that sent Josh Hader to San Diego at the Aug. 2nd deadline. But even the change in scenery couldn’t save his once-promising season.
Now, Rogers enters the free agent market for the first time in his career. His 2022 struggles aside, Rogers is a lock to get a major league deal and could even warrant a multi-year pact depending on how the market shakes out. Based on the early signings of Edwin Diaz (five years, $102 million with the New York Mets) and Rafael Montero (three years, $34.5 million with the Houston Astros), even damaged goods are going to get paid this offseason.
So if Rogers is going to command a two- or three-year deal, would that really fit into Minnesota’s plans? MLB Trade Rumors predicts he’ll land a three-year contract worth about $30 million. That feels pretty steep, but it shows the price of poker in today’s free-agent frenzy. The Twins might need to prepare themselves for the possibility that Rogers will want the biggest free agent deal this front office has ever given to a pitcher. However, that is a comically low bar to clear (Addison Reed’s two-year contract worth $16.75 million).
It’s not a monumental price in the grand scheme, but are Rogers’ services really necessary? The club will have the back end of their bullpen in place with Jhoan Durán, Jorge López, and Griffin Jax all returning, and lefty Caleb Thielbar was one of their unsung heroes in 2022. Jovani Moran is another southpaw bound to get some looks moving forward, and he’ll only cost the minimum salary. Will the Twins really want Rogers making the most money to be the fourth- or fifth-best member of the relief corps?
Reasons to get the gang back together
After the Twins traded Rodgers days before the start of the 2022 season, it clearly threw the vibes off. He brought countless intangibles as a clubhouse leader and a veteran presence to a club amid substantial growing pains. Rogers was the team’s representative for the MLB player union. He donated his time and money to multiple charities in the Twin Cities and his home state of Colorado. He was also popular with the local media.
That’s worth something, even if it doesn’t show up in the box score.
While his surface numbers were rather unsightly in 2022, Rogers’ under-the-hood stats painted a different picture. His strikeout rate was the second-highest mark of his career (11.75 K/9) and ranked in the 90th percentile in all of baseball. Rogers’ walk rate wasn’t anything spectacular, but they still ranked in the 61st percentile. He still got a ton of swinging strikes (12.3%), and his WHIFF% (contactless swings) was in the 84th percentile.
A major factor in the decision to let Rogers go was the uncertainty surrounding the health of his finger that cost him the final two months of the 2021 season. While his results took a hit upon his return to the field, at least he proved that he was healthy enough to make it through a whole season unscathed. Maybe he can continue to progress as more time separates him from that injury, which can often be the case with pitchers.
If Rogers were to return on a reasonable deal, it would be a sound gamble on a former fan favorite. His ceiling would be that of a high-leverage, late-inning reliever who can mix and match with Durán and López. His floor would be a specialist that mostly sees action against fellow lefties in low-leverage spots.
By no means should signing Rogers be a priority for a Twins team that currently boasts a gaping hole at shortstop and catcher. But sometimes the moves along the fringes can have major payoffs down the road. And if it fosters some better vibes in the clubhouse, that’s all the better. Bringing Rogers back answers some of the questions fans have as they look forward to the 2023 season and beyond.
They’ll know who’s fortifying their bullpen.
They’ll know who can step up in a leadership role behind the scenes.
Now, if they can only get a hold of Hormel…