The Twins Are Doing the Right Thing the Wrong Way With Royce Lewis

Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

When Carlos Correa bruised his middle finger, it sent a wave of sadness over the Minnesota Twins. The player they had signed to the largest free-agent contract in franchise history was likely to be out a couple of weeks. With his contract designed to be a one-year deal, it felt like this signing was another failure.

But the Twins called up Royce Lewis to replace him, and that sadness turned into excitement. The former No. 1 overall pick had been a mystery to Twins fans, but he was killing it with the St. Paul Saints. After taking to the majors like a duck to water, fans gravitated toward their new star. However, just as quickly as he arrived, Lewis was gone.

Twins fans woke up to the news that Lewis was optioned to Triple-A on Wednesday morning and immediately spewed anger across social media. Still, it isn’t all that shocking.

Since assembling the Bomba Squad in 2019, the Twins have operated with a long-term mindset. While sending Lewis down may be what’s best for the future, the fans usually get left behind.

Consider Lewis’s first stint with the Twins. He hit .308/.325/.564 with a pair of home runs over 11 games, and he hit .346/.370/.692 over his final seven games. His confidence grew with each at-bat. It wasn’t hard to see the Twins finding a way to squeeze Correa and Lewis into the same lineup.

But with Correa entrenched at shortstop, the Twins would have to put Lewis in an unfamiliar spot defensively. Lewis played 296 games at shortstop during his four seasons in the minors. Over the same time, he had four games at all other positions combined, never playing a complete game at any position other than shortstop.

That isn’t to say that Lewis couldn’t thrive while playing a different position. He won the MVP Award in the 2019 Arizona Fall League, playing exclusively in center field. His athleticism could allow him to play around the diamond as a super-utility man, but it might come at the cost of his development.

On the other hand, the Twins already have José Miranda on the roster. With 424 games of experience at first, second, and third base, Miranda has more experience where the Twins need it as Alex Kirilloff and Miguel Sanó work their way back into the lineup. Miranda has also been playing regularly over the past two years, which is something we can’t say about Lewis.

While the Twins haven’t put any restrictions on Lewis, learning several new positions on the fly could add too much to his plate. That’s especially true as pitchers adjust to Lewis throughout the season. Making those adjustments is easier in the minor leagues, but that might not be the real issue.

After the Twins sunk $35.1 million into Correa, Corey Seager got a 10-year, $325 million contract from the Texas Rangers last offseason. Therefore, the Twins might want to keep Lewis in Minnesota as long as possible before he hits free agency. The Twins can accomplish this by keeping Lewis in the minors, suppressing his service time, and having him take over in 2023.

Nobody cares about that, though. Twins fans are desperately looking for something to grab on to.

Consider the experience of heading to Target Field. Fans can go to a game and have a 33 percent chance that Byron Buxton doesn’t play. They have an even greater chance that the Twins will pull the starting pitcher from the game after five innings and that a beer and a hot dog will require a second mortgage.

That’s before mentioning that the Twins own an 18-game postseason losing streak, the longest in the history of North American professional sports, and may have signed Correa solely to compete for a wild card berth. That has created apathy within the fan base and has them 22nd in average attendance. But it may be for the best.

Imagine if the Twins had caved in and traded Lewis before this season. With the team trading like crazy to add starting pitching, it would have been easy to see Lewis them dealing him to the Oakland A’s for Frankie Montas or including him a part of a bigger deal to acquire an ace.

Seeing Lewis rake for another team would have raised the collective blood pressure of Twins Territory. Instead, the Twins have a building block for a future who suddenly looks much brighter after this past week. That won’t ease the frustration fans feel seeing Miranda and Nick Gordon struggle at the plate. But it could be enough to breed optimism when Lewis returns to the majors.

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Photo Credit: Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 season continues to be a rollercoaster for the Minnesota Twins. Delayed season due to the lockout. The flurry of roster moves in March. Signing Carlos […]

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