Twins

Who Should the Twins Bring In To DH?

Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The initial wave of transactions from this offseason has been trickling in over the last couple of weeks. So far, one of the biggest moves in free agency has been All-Star and 2020 AL MVP José Abreu reportedly agreeing to a contract with the Houston Astros.

Outside of some minor additions, the Minnesota Twins have been relatively quiet. However, they are still in play to sign Carlos Correa. But even if the Twins land Correa, there are still more positions and spending cash for the Twins to address the roster, especially designated hitter.

Abreu was the top option for any team in baseball looking to address their first base/designated hitter positions. The Twins are likely among that group of teams looking for another big bat in the middle of their lineup. Abreu is a walking production machine with a career stat line of .292/.354/.506 with 243 home runs and 863 RBIs through his nine-year career.

So the Twins are out on Abreu. That’s not the end of the world, but the team will likely need to bring in some proven veteran bat to fill the DH spot. Given the team’s thin farm system, trading for one of those hitters seems unlikely. Finding that addition through free agency seems like the most logical play.

Minnesota’s recent history with designated hitters likely suggests that such a move would be one of those short-term contracts. Perhaps it’s a one-year deal like the team tried with Logan Morrison or two years with a team option in the second year like their initial offer to Nelson Cruz. That would allow the Twins to pay anywhere in that $5 to $15 million range like they have with the previous sluggers.

That kind of contract should be attainable even with a big extension for Correa. They should be able to do it even if they land a free-agent deal for an ace pitcher or add a starting-caliber catcher if the Twins can’t bring back their shortstop. There are a couple of different options the Twins can consider on the open market.

Ideally, the Twins should add another right-handed bat to the lineup, but that shouldn’t be a requirement for the team. Also, having someone with first-base experience like Abreu is of value, but Luis Arraez, Alex Kirilloff, and José Miranda all have experience at first. The Twins could also pursue a free agent who can play the corner outfield spots, which seems like a bonus. Another outfielder would give the Twins some defensive depth and flexibility.

Josh Bell and Wil Myers are a couple of options. The former San Diego Padres would be ideal candidates for the DH spot as additional right-handed bats. Bell slashed .266/.362/.422 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs between San Diego and the Washington Nationals in 2022. He made $10 million, so his 2023 salary would be around that same figure. Bell has a handful of corner outfield experience but is mainly a first baseman.

Myers slashed .261/.315/.398 with only seven home runs in 77 games for San Diego. Bell is the better hitter of those two, but Myers has experience at first base and outfield. So if the Twins are looking for more production at the plate, Bell is the guy. If defensive flexibility is the priority, it’s Myers.

However, the Twins might have already shown who their preferred candidate is. Last week, Joe Doyle of Prospects Live suggested they are interested in former Seattle Mariners DH Mitch Haniger.

Haniger has a career .261/.335/.476 slash line with 112 home runs and 323 RBIs with an average of 113 wRC+. In 2022, he only played in 57 games but did still hit 11 home runs. Haniger’s power makes him so enticing to the Twins. His 91.9 MPH average exit velocity this season was the second-best in his career, while the 47.2 hard-hit percentage was his career-best.

A right-handed bat like Haniger helps Minnesota’s issues against left-handed pitchers. He has an .853 career OPS against lefties. That’s not amazing, but it would undoubtedly help a Twins lineup tied for 20th in baseball with a .701 team OPS against left-handed pitching.

Haniger’s issue has been his health. Missing over 100 games in 2022 due to a combination of COVID, followed by back injuries and a high-ankle sprain. The Twins aren’t the only team in the Haniger sweepstakes. The same report also linked the Atlanta Braves to the outfielder, and multiple teams are also reportedly in on acquiring Haniger.

A handful of teams that are in on Haniger could make it tougher for the Twins to land the outfielder. And I know fans might not initially want a player with an injury history like Haniger’s. In 2019, he only played in 63 games after a fastball to the groin from Justin Verlander kept him out for the season. Then, a back injury kept Haniger out for the entire 60-game 2020 season. Haniger has only played over 100 games only twice in his seven-year career.

That can be concerning, especially given the Twins’ recent injury woes. But I also think it means other good teams like Haniger despite the injury concerns. That and the two seasons where he could stay healthy, he mashed. In 2021 Haniger had his best season with a .253/.318/.485 slash line, 39 home runs, and 100 RBIs.

Haniger would slot in as the designated hitter. He has experience in all three outfield spots and played 47 games as an outfielder last season. So keeping him in that role primarily instead of the outfield could help keep Haniger healthier in 2023. Even if he has to play the corner outfield spots, he is an excellent foil to the likes of left-handed hitters in Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach, and Kirilloff. The Twins would be able to upgrade from Kyle Garlick to Haniger as a right-handed hitting outfielder.

Haniger made $7.75 million in 2022. All of the competition for his services seems like he’ll be making north of $10 million in 2023. The Twins will likely need to be one of the higher bidders to get Haniger to choose Minnesota over places like Los Angeles or Atlanta. A high-paid one-year prove-it deal might be the best avenue to get him to Target Field. Either that or the possibility of some kind of team or player option to give him enough security to accept an offer from the Twins.

There are some options the Twins have to consider when it comes to their next DH. A right-handed bat with plenty of power in Haniger gives the lineup some thump who can hit against lefties. Plus, he is added corner outfield depth if Haniger needs to be in the field. A healthy Mitch Haniger as Minnesota’s DH in 2023 can get this lineup back to a playoff-caliber unit.

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Photo Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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