Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Building The 2017 Minnesota Twins

There's no denying that 2016 has been a colossal disappointment across Twins Territory. Even if you weren't among the group of believers thinking this club could be a playoff team, you likely didn't see this level of disaster. That being said, it's probably past time to begin looking at next year. When doing so, maybe the most important factor is what names fill up the 25 man roster.

Here's some stipulations for this exercise. I won't be using trades to acquire anyone. First, I'm not a great matchmaker, and predicting who may or may not be available just isn't a rabbit hole I want to dive down. Secondly, I won't be taking any stabs at arbitration salaries. It's a complicated process, and while I'll note guaranteed salaries and any free agent dollars, I will merely mention players that will be arbitration eligible as well as referencing their 2016 dollars.

With that out of the way, here we go:

Starting Lineup (9)

  • 1B Joe Mauer $23 million
  • 2B Brian Dozier $6 million
  • 3B Trevor Plouffe Arbitration Eligible ($7.25m in 2016)
  • SS Jorge Polanco Pre-Arbitration
  • C Wilson Ramos $20 million (5 year, $100 million)
  • LF Eddie Rosario Pre-Arbitration
  • CF Bryon Buxton Pre-Arbitration
  • RF Max Kepler Pre-Arbitration
  • DH Miguel Sano Pre-Arbitration
I'm not of the belief that Brian Dozier should be dealt. He may be the Twins best trade chip, but having not bought into his free agent years hurts the Twins some. Play him up the middle with Jorge Polanco and let them be the catalyst of the Minnesota lineup. My thoughts on Plouffe coming back have been fleshed out here, although I'm nervous to see what he gets in arbitration. By allowing him to play the field, Miguel Sano can focus on being a hitter, what he does best.

Obviously the biggest splash here is the Wilson Ramos acquisition. He's the best hitting catcher in the big leagues, and that deal may even be a bit light. Considering he just turned 29 and won't be 30 until the end of next season, I'd look to wrap him up for at least five years. He'll have plenty of suitors, and there's no telling what his feelings towards the organization are. Minnesota has serious catching issues. Don't keep putting a band-aid on them, the new GM can make a splash and fix this spot almost immediately.

Bench (4)
  • Eduardo Escobar Arbitration Eligible ($2.15m in 2016)
  • Mitch Garver Pre-Arbitration
  • Daniel Palka Pre-Arbitration
  • Byung Ho Park $2.75 million
When it comes to utility infielders, it's basically between Escobar and Danny Santana for the Twins. I'm really not concerned about Santana being out of options, and his positional flexibility doesn't mean much when he's below average everywhere. Give me Escobar to spell the infield. I'm more than ok with the idea that Mitch Garver can leap frog recently acquired John Ryan Murphy. The former Yankees backstop has struggled all year, and the Twins home grown product has done anything but. Garver can spell Ramos when needed.

In this scenario, Palka essentially replaces Robbie Grossman, who I don't think has a place on the 2017 Twins. Palka's power is real, he should be a very capable bench power bat, and can start in either corner outfield spot one or two days a week. Palka will strike out plenty, but I think he's shown just a bit more than the other guy I considered here, Adam Brett Walker.

That leaves us with Byung Ho Park. 2016 has been a disappointment for the Korean slugger. He's been nagged by a wrist issue, but I think there's a significant learning curve he's struggling with too. 2017 may see him head back to Triple-A again, but from the get go, let him rotate in at first base and designated hitter.

Starting Rotation (5)
  • Ervin Santana $13.5 million
  • Phil Hughes $13.2 million
  • Kyle Gibson Arbitration Eligible ($586k in 2016)
  • Trevor May Pre-Arbitration
  • Jose Berrios Pre-Arbitration
Having nearly $27 million tied up in two average starters isn't ideal, but the rest of the Twins rotation comes on the cheap. I'd struggle with dealing Santana in part because of Hughes' injury concerns, as well as knowing the open market has next to nothing that you could replace him with. Minnesota will need to hope Hughes returns healthy and at least somewhat effective to start the 2017 season.

After the top two guys, it's youth all the way. Trevor May to the rotation is not something I've ever been convinced of, but his back suggests he needs to be back there. If he can pitch anything like he has as a reliever, Minnesota may have a high strikeout guy here which is something they desperately need. Speaking of strikeouts, Jose Berrios should provide plenty if he can get locked in as well. Something has to click, but I think he'll be fine.

I'd really rather see Adalberto Mejia in this five somehow, but I'm just not sure where he fits. If you deal Santana or Hughes can't stay healthy, then there's obvious room. There should be plenty of steam behind Stephen Gonsalves being an early season addition as well.

Bullpen (7)
  • Glen Perkins $6.5 million
  • J.T. Chargois Pre-Arbitration
  • Taylor Rogers Pre-Arbitration
  • Tyler Duffey Pre-Arbitration
  • Brandon Kintzler Arbitration Eligible
  • Michael Tonkin Pre- Arbitration
  • Ryan Pressly Arbitration Eligible ($520k in 2016)
There's some real concern as to whether or not Perkins is ever effective again. Either way, I'd start sliding Chargois into some save situations sooner rather than later. Rogers has been lights out for Minnesota this season, and I think it's just the tip of the iceberg. Light is another hard thrower, coming over from Boston in exchange for Fernando Abad, and he could help the Twins push the strikeout total in relief.

When it comes to holdovers, Tonkin and Pressly both seem no brainers for me from the get go. I'm not sure Tonkin is a long term option, but I think he's too good to cut bait with from the get go. Pressly has been one of the Twins best relievers since 2014, and the former Rule 5 pick continues to be as trustworthy as they come in relief.

Probably the toughest to pin down for me is Brandon Kintzler. He's pitched himself into the immediate 2017 plans for the Twins, but he's not a piece of the future either. Operating as a closer, he's done admirably. Striking out just 5.5 per nine though, there's little upside here. I think he warms a 7th inning spot for the likes of Jake Reed, Pat Light, or Zack Jones in the not-so-distant future. If Minnesota gets any trade offers for him, I'd move him immediately.

If there's a surprise in this group, it's my inclusion of former starter Tyler Duffey. He was a reliever in college, and his lack of a solid third pitch has hurt him significantly as a starter. He profiles as a guy who could be very good in short bursts, and even if he's your long man, the Twins are better positioned with him out of the rotation.

As things sit right now, I feel pretty good about the above landscape. Sure, players like Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas are jettisoned from the organization as they are out of options, but trading them prior to losing them would be a good way to go about things. I have a hard time believing the Twins are destined for greatness in 2017, but think the above provides a solid foundation to begin to go for it in 2018.

While there's not a massive overhaul, I don't think there really needs to be either. Seeing the Twins turn the page the past few months, this current group is capable of playing competitive baseball. If the 2017 group I've laid out can play good baseball on a nightly basis, they'll hang around .500 long enough to be relevant all season. At the end of the day, they're going to need to pitch, which has been the organization's downfall. The pen is set up to be creative and cheap, while the rotation relies on arms that should have higher ceilings than those that have been run out in the not so distant past.

Should the Twins spend this offseason, it needs to be at the catcher position. With a free agent class void of any real diamonds, throwing money around with capable internal options doesn't seem ideal. That may not provide fireworks, but keeping a focus on the future needs to be the goal.

1 comment:

  1. Love adding Ramos. I'm sure that will be a high priority for any incoming GM. A great catcher could help reshape the existing pitching staff as well. I'd love to see a trade for a #1 starter, but no matter who takes the reigns I won't hold my breath on that one.