Heading into the offseason, the Minnesota Twins will once again have the luxury of spending some money. With very little committed to the 2019 payroll, I’d imagine the front office will target something close to the 2018 Opening Day number when the dust settles. Having the luxury of a team composed of players still in arbitration years helps to provide financial flexibility. It’s worth wondering where it will be allocated this time around.
Last offseason, it was hard to suggest that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine did anything short of knocking the ball out of the park. They were in on the most premiere free agent talent, and began the season with a strong influx of ability. As we saw this season, many of those acquisitions didn’t work out, and that’s why the year went as it did. While each player had their own shortcomings, one thing worth coming back to is the talk of one-year deals.
It has been brought up multiple times down the stretch that the Twins clubhouse was somewhat toxic this year. Having signed multiple guys on one-year deals, it’s worth wondering if there wasn’t more of a focus on a “me” game intended to land the next real paycheck. This winter, I’d imagine Minnesota would be more focused on landing guys believed to help the organization in the long term, and given a financial commitment to do so.
Although there’s plenty still up in the air as to how the 2019 Opening Day roster will look, here’s a free agent addition for each position group that could make a whole lot of sense:
Starting Pitcher- Patrick Corbin
To the casual observer, Dallas Keuchel is likely the big name when it comes to the 2019 free agent pitching crop. He’s not the Cy Young winner he was a few years ago, and he’s settled into more of a number two type role. What Keuchel does present is a good deal of consistency and reliability. I’d imagine he’ll be paid handsomely, and think there’s probably a better option out there.
Corbin is a year younger than the Astros starter, and he has had an incredible 2018. His 3.01 ERA and 11.2 K/9 are more than worthy of salivating over. What’s holding the Diamondbacks starter back is the lack of a true track record. He was pretty mediocre in 2017, and downright poor the season before that. Over the course of his career though, strikeouts have been a thing he can generate, and limiting walks has been a pretty safe bet. Teams will need to push down his ask a bit by noting that lack of consistency, but he’s the guy I’d pay for.
The Twins have run out more than a handful of starters once again this season, and only Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson should be 2019 rotation locks. Fernando Romero should be a mainstay and take another step forward, while the emergence of an arm from the group of Zack Littell, Stephen Gonsalves, Chase De Jong, and others would be a nice realization. Bringing in another top half hurler on a long-term deal makes sense for the Twins, and this could be their guy.
Other possibilities: Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, Hyun-Jin Ryu
Relief Pitcher: Kelvin Herrera
In 2019, Minnesota shed a ton of talent out of the bullpen. Guys like Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke were brought in on one-year deals making them expendable. Ryan Pressly, one of the best relief arms in baseball, was capitalized on in the form of a nice prospect return. Regardless of where they’re at now, the reality is that the Twins will need to re-tool.
Addison Reed will be in the final year of his deal, and the hope would be that he could rebound from a disastrous 2018. Taylor Rogers and Trevor Hildenberger look the part of developed talent, and should be able to bolster the back end of ball games. From there though, it’s a significant amount of question marks. Alan Busenitz, Tyler Duffey, and John Curtiss are getting to the point where feeling them out needs to produce results. Jake Reed and Nick Anderson should’ve already had a look, and Gabriel Moya must show more stuff than deception.
While signing relievers to long-term deals is never an ideal scenario, one or two coming in on two-year pacts makes some sense. In Herrera, the Twins would be getting a guy that throws hard, and knows the division. Kelvin has previous closer experience, and would be an immediate boost to the back end of the pen. There are a few other names that could be a fit, but this is the combination of stuff and results that jumps off the page for me.
Other possibilities: Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino
Starting Lineup: Eduardo Escobar
Trying to decipher how the Twins will line up to start 2019 is quite the question mark. There are plenty of bodies to put into positions, but the reality is that expectations are left unfulfilled all over the place. Miguel Sano needs a committed offseason, and Byron Buxton needs a bill of health. Does Joe Mauer return in a limited role, and what are the thoughts behind the plate?
From where we sit today, I think we can safely consider Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano to be starters. Byron Buxton and Max Kepler should be the second wave of near certainties, and that leaves just a handful of openings. What Minnesota does at first base remains to be seen, and the options aren’t ideal. Second base is open, and Nick Gordon doesn’t appear ready. Jason Castro should be back behind the plate with Mitch Garver spelling him, but it’s worth considering an upgrade.
As crazy as it sounds, the best fit from a constructive standpoint is superstar Manny Machado. He moves Sano to first, gets a mega deal from a team with money to spend, and becomes a cornerstone for a budding organization. It’s hard to live in that reality, so the next step down (and an obvious significant one) is the return of Eduardo Escobar. He can play second or third regularly, and his midline is one that still remains above league average.
The Twins front office probably has some relationship equity to regain here, but that’s not something that will be new to them this winter.
Other possibilities: Manny Machado, Yasmani Grandal, D.J. LeMahieu, Wilson Ramos