Tuesday, October 30, 2018

First Round Fall on Minnesota 40 Man

With the regular season and Postseason now in the books, the Minnesota Twins are joined by every other major league team in the offseason. Joe Mauer is a free agent for the first time in his career, and the front office has plenty of 40 man roster decisions to make. Prior to bringing in new talent the organization must decide who will be kept from within. At this juncture, there's a very real possibility a first round pick could see his time come to an end.

Recently on Twins Daily, Seth Stohs did a great job highlighting the minor leaguers with impending 40 man additions looming. Although the Twins don't have much in the form of guaranteed adds, there's a couple of big name prospects that are part of the group. Nick Gordon and LaMonte Wade will certainly be added to the 40 man roster, but there's zero certainties given to former 6th overall pick Tyler Jay.

Set to follow in the footsteps of Phil Hughes and Matt Harvey, Jay was destined for surgery to address Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. After getting in just 11.2 IP during 2017, Jay opted to pass on the surgical route and believed rest and rehab had addressed the issue. Returning for Arizona Fall League action, Jay got in 9.2 innings before his offseason began. In 2018 Jay returned to Double-A and spent the entire season there. Pitching just shy of 60 innings, he turned in a lackluster 4.22 ERA that was bolstered by a career worst 7.4 K/9.

Selected by Terry Ryan in the 2015 Major League Draft, Jay looked like an odd fit from the get go. He was a dominant closer at the University of Illinois, but had never worked as a starter, and the frame didn't suggest great things would be in store. Ryan had made a habit of going with relievers early in drafts during the final years of his tenure as Minnesota's GM, but the track record in developing them was poor at best.

Prior to the front office change the Twins attempted to work Jay as a starter. He made just 18 starts, and while the numbers weren't bad, the quality of his stuff sagged across the board. As a reliever the velocity and strikeouts were his best assets, but the unfortunate shoulder issues changed things significantly as well.

At this point in the game shoulder problems are significantly more damning to the effectiveness a pitcher will display as their career continues. While Tommy John surgery carries the name recognition and the lengthy timetable, the reality is that it's a standard operation and pretty well understood. Shoulders and the injuries related to them, are a much bigger wildcard, and we see a minefield of guys that will look back and wonder what could've been.

It's really too bad that Jay is going to be at this crossroad, but the climb through minor league baseball is not an easy one. He'll be 25 next season, and hasn't been a top prospect for three years. Having relievers like Jake Reed and Nick Anderson more deserving of the roster spots, it's hard to make a case based solely on pick pedigree.

On the flip side, there is a decent possibility that the Twins may not lose Jay through the Rule 5 draft. The same hurdles in front of him for Minnesota are present anywhere else. He wasn't good last season, health remains a question mark, and jumping up to the big leagues likely doesn't provide ideal results. Another year in a system he's grown acquainted to could be a good thing for both the player and the organization.

Looking back it would've been great if Terry Ryan's run on early round relievers would've worked out. It was a low ceiling with an even lower floor approach though, and it's a process that yielded projectable results. Adding Jay to the list of misses would be the final nail in the coffin, but we could certainly be embarking upon that reality soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Aggressive Moves on the Twins Radar?

Looking ahead to the 2019 Major League Baseball season, it’s relatively apparent that this is a year that looms large for the Minnesota Twins front office. Embarking on year three, and with their hand-picked managerial candidate soon to be announced, the impact of change must be felt at the major league level. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have done a good job revamping the organization, but the fruits of their labor must start to show promise. In an offseason of massive proportions, some aggressive moves could be on the table.

I’m not sure how to categorize each of these scenarios other than to catalog them as realistic possibilities. Without attempting to venture down a hot take hole, each of the following situations could play out, but shouldn’t necessarily be banked on either. Minnesota has a significant amount of money to spend, and new talent should flood onto the 25 man roster this year. Noting both of those things as definitive truths, we could certainly see some interesting avenues explored when blueprinting how things look in March.

Eddie Rosario Doesn’t Play for Minnesota in 2019

If the Twins want to make a big move on the trade market, dealing from the outfield could be the option they explore. Max Kepler could be had by an opposing team, but obviously brings back a significantly muted return. Byron Buxton combines a low value and high ceiling to find himself in a relatively untouchable form. In Rosario Minnesota would be capitalizing on a player at his peak. Eddie would bring back the most talent and would be of benefit to another organization for the next few seasons.

At this point we’ve seen Rosario establish himself as a near All-Star caliber type of player. I don’t think the ceiling is much higher, but he’s also helped to cement the floor as being respectable as well. It would hurt the Twins to lose him, but there’s other avenues to make up the loss in outfield ability. Should the Twins pull off a big swap, I’d much prefer to see it include this name as opposed to some of the top prospects.

Nick Gordon Gets Dealt This Winter

Thinking along similar lines to any Rosario deal, Gordon is the prospect I’d try and entice another organization with. He’s still entrenched among Top 100 lists, and he’s just 23 years old. To be frank, that’s where the good news ends. Gordon has played 556 minor league games and owns just a .704 OPS. His only solid offensive output came over the course of 42 Double-A games while repeating the level to begin 2018.

At this stage of his career it doesn’t seem like Gordon will stick at shortstop either. Destined for second base, light hitting, and lacking ideal on-base skills, he seems like a decent type of prospect to include in a trade to sweeten the deal. Should the Twins sign a middle infielder this winter (and they need to) Gordon falls further down the depth chart as well.

Miguel Sano Is Done at Third Base

There’s a lot of assumptions built into this one, but I don’t think any of them are a relative leap. Joe Mauer appears to have player his last game in the major leagues, and that leaves the Twins with an opening at first. The free agent market for the position is beyond ugly and dealing for some thump could prove to be an unwise endeavor. Reports on Brent Rooker in the outfield aren’t good, and they aren’t much better at first.

Miguel has looked passable at times when it comes to his defensive ability, but it almost solely falls on his drive to be great. There’s a lot riding on how he prepares this offseason, and a move to first could allow him to slack further. That said, Minnesota can upgrade at the hot corner and grab the best bopper for first base from their own team. Both Mauer and Justin Morneau could help Miguel (if he’s willing) take to his new role this spring.

Addison Reed Rebounds in Year 2

Going the one-year contract route on a few relievers, it was Reed who grabbed $16.75MM from Minnesota on a two-year deal prior to 2017. The numbers looked good for the home team, and Reed was expected to be every bit worth of that contract. Fast forward to today, and we saw a guy be both bad and hurt most of the season.

Reed’s average velocity dipped to 91.3mph last year, which represented a career low and third straight season of decline. He’ll be just 30 years old  however, and a clean bill of health should help significantly when it comes to righting the ship. Missing bats was the biggest problem for Reed last year, and that was evidenced by a career worst 7.1 K/9. Ticking the velocity back up and staying in front of hitters, he should see an ERA more in line with the 2.66 mark put up between 2015-17.

Once the offseason gets started the Minnesota Twins are going to be a team with plenty of intrigue. The front office knows what is expected of them, and there’s more than one way they can execute upon vast improvement for the year ahead. After a winter where baseball mostly froze out free agents, I’d expect a significantly different couple of months this time around.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Mr. Miami in Twins Territory?

Right now, the most pressing question for the Minnesota Twins revolves around who will be managing the club during the 2019 Major League Baseball season. Beyond that however, the questions revolve around how the club will allocate something like $50 million in salary dollars to round out their squad for the upcoming season. Two names highlight this free agent class, and one of them is worth taking a deeper look into. The stage is yours Mr. Machado.

Entering free agency for the first time in his career, Manny Machado will have just experienced a new clubhouse for the first time as a big leaguer. Being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he’ll have some knowledge as to what awaits him in acclimating to what could end up being his third team in the last calendar year. With just over $34 million in career earnings to date, the massive payday awaiting him is one that should destroy historical precedents.

Given the level of talent Machado possesses, and combined with the expected digits on a check presented to him, it’s fair to wonder why the Twins in this scenario. There’re more than a few reasons in which a marriage of the two makes a good deal of sense.

Minnesota Needs a Shortstop

Jorge Polanco has dedicated himself to his craft, and the strides he’s made at short have been admirable. Having initially been nothing short of a complete abomination, he’s embarked upon the category of passable. The reality though is that his arm still plays better at second base, and he could end up being the answer to who replaces Brian Dozier is he moves over to the right side of the diamond.

Yes, the best prospect in the Twins system is a shortstop, and there’s ever reason to believe that Royce Lewis is destined to be a superstar. You don’t pass up franchise altering players for the possibility of how a prospect may round out. Lewis looks like a better bet to stick at short now than he did at the time he turned pro, but there’s plenty of positional flexibility to be had. Two or three years from now is when the alignment should enter the equation.

The Dollars Make Sense

Joe Mauer and his $23 million average annual value are removed from the books. Even if Machado were to command something like 10 years and $300 million, Minnesota has the financial flexibility to absorb the deal. In an uncapped sport, there’s always going to be money to spend, but the reality is that payrolls are reflections of revenues driven largely by TV contracts. Yes, the Pohlad’s are rich, but so is every other owner in the sport. Sticking within logical spending parameters Minnesota can add Machado and still afford multiple other upgrades.

There’s little reason to believe that the Twins wouldn’t need to slightly overpay in acquiring Machado’s services, but we aren’t talking about a bottom of the barrel organization here. Minnesota plays in a poor division and is embarking upon a window of contention. Machado didn’t have a choice in his Orioles assignment but will go to a much better place this time around. Also, should he be coming off a World Series victory, priorities regarding winning or financial capital could also be impacted.

A Trial Run

Last season Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were in the running for premiere starting pitcher Yu Darvish. At this point, it certainly looks like a good thing that the Twins lost the contest, but they were right near the finish line according to reports. Given that they were involved with the “must have” free agent a season ago, this green front office isn’t afraid or unaccustomed to making a big move.

At 26, and looking for a mega-deal, Machado would be in an entirely different category. The practice and knowledge gained from last offseason certainly isn’t going to hurt the Twins front office however, and it could better position their tactics this time around. Looking to find players worthy of long-term commitments appears to be part of the goal as well, and this is about as long as it gets.

I could make a list of positives as long as I’d like, but there’s no denying that the detractors would dwarf the total. Any time the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, or Boston Red Sox are going to be involved on a player, everyone else is put on notice with a wait a see plan of action. Fortunately for Twins, the biggest market players are relatively set at the position Machado would most like to play. That won’t stop them from flashing cash, but it could temper the level to which the pursuit is made.

When the dust settles, the Minnesota Twins are always going to face long odds when it comes to landing the biggest fish. There’d be some irony in it happening following the retirement of their last big fish however. Joe Mauer provided the hometown team with an inside edge and replicating that type of a contract would be contingent upon an incredible sell. If there’s an opportunity to make it happen however, Falvey and Levine are staring it right in the face.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Outlining the Offseason: Names to Consider

Although the Postseason continues to press onwards with the League Championship Series round, the Minnesota Twins are firmly entrenched in their offseason. The front office has begun interviews of possible managerial candidates, and the free agent market looms right around the corner. Recently I looked at a handful of positions the Twins need to fulfill for the 2019 season, and now it’s time to put some names to those groups.

Given the free agent class, more loaded at the top than displaying real significant depth, there’s opportunity for Minnesota to get better through the trade market as well. Having financial flexibility plays on both the open market, as well as being able to absorb a contract in trade. On top of dollars, the Twins organization boasts one of the best farm systems in baseball, and while Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff are untouchable, that’s probably where the designation ends.


A season ago, the Twins brought Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke in on one-year deals. Addison Reed was given a  two-year contract and responded with the worst year of his career. Although it’s a toss up giving lengthy deals to relievers, there’s two names that have age and ability on their side. Both Kelvin Herrera and Jeurys Familia have yet to reach 30 and are among the premiere relief options in the game. Closing experience resides in both, and Herrera obviously has divisional familiarity through his time with Kansas City.

Minnesota isn’t going to acquire either of those guys on the cheap, and a two-year deal around $20 million for each seems logical. That’s a pretty big chunk to spend on the pen, so a lesser option for just a year could come into play as well. Zach Britton isn’t the impact arm he used to be, and he’s never been a big-time strikeout guy. Given the expected market there, I think that’s a pretty safe pass. Joe Kelly and Adam Ottavino are both guys that would be huge boosts to the pen, and I’d think the one-year route could be doable there. As things stand now, the Twins don’t have a proven closer, so they could make a big play for Craig Kimbrel. He’s elite but will be paid as such also. Kimbrel well beyond a pace to shatter Mariano Rivera’s records, so he’ll need the 9th no matter where he ends up.

1st Base

In my initial breakdown, it was first base that I saw Minnesota looking to explore when it comes to the infield corners. Joe Mauer looks to be hanging them up, and that would leave a significant hole there. Obviously, the caveat is whether Miguel Sano slides over, but still just 25 and with more of a commitment, third base would be the ideal role from the Twins perspective.

From a point of talent acquisition, it’s relative negligible when it comes to what infield corner is being acquired. The market for first basemen is incredibly thin, bearing no starting caliber talents. On the hot corner side, you’ve got the injury plagued Josh Donaldson, or the utility man Eduardo Escobar. Minnesota has bridges to mend with Eduardo, and Donaldson will likely be given a deal that puts an organization in the unenviable position to be burned. If there’s an opportunity for the Twins to make a trade, this could be it.

There’s no doubt that the Phillies showed up in 2018, and probably outperformed a certain level of expectations. In signing Carlos Santana last winter though, they positioned youngster Rhys Hoskins well out of position and were worse off for it. They then also acquired Justin Bour, and now have a glut of options at the position. Both Bour and Santana are coming off down seasons and could be nice candidates to have bounce back performances. Santana is owed another $40 million over two years, while Bour is under team control through 2020. Either of those options would look nice in a Twins uniform, and they’d bring some significant thump to the lineup.

2nd Base

After deciding to hold off on any extension talks with Brian Dozier prior to the 2018 season, hindsight makes the decision look even better. In a contract year, Dozier put up his worst numbers as a pro, and he may need to settle for a one-year deal in hopes of recouping some future value. Minnesota could look to former utility man, and Fogo de Chao connoisseur, Eduardo Escobar here. Again, that’d have to include some mended feelings, and reunions aren’t often seen that quickly through free agency.

You’d have to put Logan Forsythe squarely in the running for a return to Minnesota. He played great defense and showed a capable bat down the stretch. There isn’t much youth to be had, and D.J. LeMahieu is the youngster of the class at 30. The falloff from Coors is real for LeMahieu, and he provides little else besides contact offensively. Asdrubal Cabrera could be a nice option, and there’s power in his bat that doesn’t typically show up at the position. I can’t see Minnesota being enticed by a 37-year-old Ian Kinsler, or an expensive Daniel Murphy however.

In an ideal world, Manny Machado makes too much sense for the Twins on paper. He’d be able to take over at short, pushing Jorge Polanco to second base. After rating horribly at the position with the Orioles, the more analytically inclined Dodgers had Machado looking like a new man. He’s elite, and at the top of this class however, so even if the Twins wanted to go all in, Manny would need to meet them there.

Starting Pitcher

Given the internal depth of Minnesota’s rotation, this is a much less pressing need than it has been in previous seasons. Fernando Romero looks ready to assume a regular big-league role, and unless the Twins want to add a top three starter, I’d rather not see him get bumped from that position. Should there be money left over however, slotting another arm in with Jose Berrios and Kyle Gibson would only improve what should be a respectable group.

When it comes to hurlers Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin headline the talent. The New York Yankees have already indicated their intentions to pursue Corbin, and his figure is going to get quite high. Keuchel isn’t the Cy Young winner of a few years ago, but he won’t come cheap either. Minnesota could acquire either, but it’d likely come at the detriment of another position group.
Operating on two ends of the spectrum, both J.A. Happ and Gio Gonzalez are names that would be a fit. At 36, Happ isn’t the type you’d go more than a year or two on, but it certainly seems like there’s plenty left in the tank. Gonzalez will be 33 and has proved a timely addition for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch. Both should be in the mid-level category when it comes to a payday, and there’s little doubt that they’d pitch as one of the Twins three best starters.

Looking at more of a dice roll Trevor Cahill could be an option. He was solid this season for the Athletics, and while his track record isn’t great, the cost shouldn’t be significant either. I’d have trouble trusting him among the top half of the rotation, but he’d be a worthy addition to supplement the overall depth. Following along a similar train of thought used with Michael Pineda in 2018, Garrett Richards is a very enticing arm as well. He has a horrible time staying healthy, having not pitched a full season since 2015, but he’s very good when available. He’ll be 31 next year and is still recovering from Tommy John surgery in July. The stuff is hard to shy away from however, and if you can make the dollars work, there’s certainly appeal here.

If we’ve learned anything thus far about this front office, it’s that they have done a very solid job when it comes to talent acquisition. Regardless of how it worked out, the names brought in last winter were all good ones. Getting a big-league starter under team control for a flier prospect was also a shrewd move. I’d expect Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to be active on both fronts, and it should only push the envelope for Minnesota’s relevance next season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Outlining the Offseason: Areas of Addition

As the 2018 Major League Baseball Postseason continues to rumble on down the tracks, the Minnesota Twins are nearly two weeks into their offseason. Paul Molitor has been let go as manager of the club, and the winter ahead looks to be the most critical in the Derek Falvey and Thad Levine tenure. Despite a 78 win season for the hometown nine, this is still a collection that should compete next year in a weak AL Central. To best position the club however, the front office has some work to do.

With departures, and dollars coming off the books, Minnesota should have something like $50-60 million to spend on talent before Opening Day 2019. That's a good chunk of change, presumably one of the higher numbers in the sport, but before looking at names we'll need to blueprint the areas of focus. There's a handful of holes that need to be filled, and prioritizing them is part of the process as well. Let's take a look at what the blueprint may look like.


In 2017 the Twins owned the 22nd best relief ERA in baseball at 4.40. The front office responded by signing Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney, and Addison Reed in hopes of an uptick. In 2018 the relief corps owned the 22nd best relief ERA in baseball at 4.45. Looking ahead to 2019, two of those free acquisitions have since been traded (both were on one year deals), and Reed put up a clunker. Elite arm Ryan Pressly was also dealt from the group.

Taking a look at holdovers Minnesota really only has three certainties. Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor Hildenberger look like capable high-leverage options. Outside of that trio however, Minnesota's bullpen is somewhat of a black hole. Names like Alan Busenitz and Tyler Duffey haven't seen consistent big league success, and internal options appear to be running relatively thin. Given the impact relievers now have on the game, it's hard to suggest less than two impact arms be acquired by the Twins.

Right now this collection doesn't have the "proven closer" type, although I'm not certain that's a necessity. If Reed can return to form, giving him the 9th wouldn't be such a bad idea. Pairing the internal trio with a couple more firemen that can be leaned out to get big outs would lighten everyone's workload, and raise the overall water level.

1st Base

Given where things stand currently, it seems near certain that Joe Mauer's playing career is over. I don't see how he'd be able to top the moment he left Target Field on, and a season of questions doesn't strike me as something the Minnesota native would welcome. Add in the fact that he'd be learning another new manager, along with his changing family dynamic, and I just can't find a way it makes sense. That means the Twins need someone new to start at first.

Tyler Austin is going to be in this mix, and he certainly should be, but there's a lot to be desired defensively from his candidacy. With Mauer out of the mix, the Twins could go the more traditional route of a power hitter at the corner spot. Miguel Sano could definitely be moved off of the hot corner, but again would need to show the defensive chops worthy of regular time there. Brent Rooker still remains a bat only prospect, and Zander Wiel probably isn't ready for that type of promotion.

How the Twins decide to address this spot is going to be interesting. All of the internal options have a couple of warts, and Mauer held the position despite being non-traditional in the stat producing categories. When a legend hangs them up you've got big shoes to fill, but how the front office goes about this fix should be worth watching.

2nd Base

From 2013-2018 the Minnesota Twins employed the 3rd best second basemen in baseball (in terms of fWAR). Brian Dozier also hit a position leading 166 homers in that time span. In fact, since Dozier came into the league in 2012, no second basemen has hit more than his 172 longballs. Transforming himself from a failed shortstop into a slugging two-bagger was an incredible feat. Don't let any of that cloud your judgement though, as Minnesota did the right thing.

In the final year of his deal Dozier owned a .712 OPS through 104 games for the Twins. It was apparent that a qualifying offer wasn't going to be an option for the organization, and getting assets in return was a very good proposition. Brian went on to post a .650 OPS in 47 games with Los Angeles, and hasn't started a Postseason game.

When looking to fill holes up the middle, the Twins have a few options. Although Jorge Polanco is miscast as a shortstop, he's certainly not an abomination. He could be shifted though, and a shortstop could be targeted instead. Nick Gordon struggled mightily at Triple-A and isn't a big league option right now. Really, you'd need to go down to Royce Lewis before you find a true shortstop in the system.

At the end of the day, expecting peak Dozier production from the replacement is a losing proposition. Second basemen typically don't launch 30 or 40 homers in a season. Polanco may be the best bat available, and Minnesota has some flexibility in that regard with how they'll fill the other position. An up the middle player is needed however, and it'll need to be one of starting caliber.

Starting Pitcher

You could arguably put starting pitcher among the list of needs on a continual basis for eternity. That said, seeing it this far down the priority list when looking at the Twins is quite a nice development. Kyle Gibson, Jose Berrios, and Jake Odorizzi have spots locked in for 2018. Michael Pineda is also going to be in the rotation if he's healthy. From there, it's up to the Twins depth.

The front office could deem that Fernando Romero is ready to be the 5th starter right from the get go. That would hardly be a poor decision, but it would be a significant gamble in the depth department. Should the Twins go out and sign a guy that can slot into the top three of their rotation, the overall quality rises, and Romero immediately becomes a strong first depth option.

It was nice to see guys like Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, and Aaron Slegers get run this year. In 2019 names like Lewis Thorpe and Brusdar Graterol could vault to the next level as well. The more patient the organization can be in terms of readiness however, the better results can be expected from the big league group. Minnesota could make a relative splash here, and with the talent already in house, it would make for a very strong overall positional group.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Twins Nearing Some Key Crossroads

With the Minnesota Twins missing the Postseason in 2018, the 78 win campaign simply wasn't good enough. Although Paul Molitor isn't the sole owner of fault, he deservedly took the fall after being spared a season ago. Recently I took a look at a few players that began to develop in big ways for the organization. On the flip side of that, there's some players that are watching time run out.

As was the case going into 2018, the Minnesota Twins should be expected to challenge the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. With talented youth, and money to spend, there's opportunity to shake up the division at the top. If that's going to happen however, the players mentioned below need to become more known commodities as opposed to wild cards.

Miguel Sano

There's arguably no player wasting talent more right now than Minnesota's third basemen. Regardless of weight and conditioning issues, it's always appeared to be a work ethic situation for the Dominican Native. A healthy Sano could probably hit 30 homers in a full year without much effort. In his present state, that also likely comes with a record setting strikeout total and a hollow defensive effort.

For Sano to return as the All Star caliber player he was in 2017, Minnesota needs more. This offseason Miguel has to live and breathe his craft. Being involved with a sexual assault case, and more recently, an accident involving a police officer, the organization needs a character reset as well. At 25 years old, Sano isn't a kid anymore, and his actions have consequences. Sano becomes a free agent in 2022 and is arbitration eligible in 2019. You can bet he's already bleeding money, but the career arc needs a turnaround, and fast.

Byron Buxton

Unlike Sano, Buxton has never had a questionable work ethic. As a tireless competitor, and someone with a never ending drive, it's availability that has held Byron back. Over the offseason, and in the year ahead, Minnesota needs their centerfielder to stay healthy and get reps. Having endured what amounts to as a lost year, the Georgia native did little for his development in the past 12 months. That will need to change in 2019.

There's no denying Buxton will always be a significant asset in the field. If he can stay healthy through his exploits in center, it will come down to consistency at the plate. He's shown plenty of ability to hit during his rise in professional baseball, and there's too much talent to write that aspect off. That said, Byron is soon to be 25 and the clock is ticking there as well. Minnesota isn't in a spot to give up on either player, but as the current foundation of a promoted prospect group, they must come through.

The Bullpen

Naming a single player leaves too many variables out in this equation. It seems Minnesota has real assets in Trevor Hildenberger, Taylor Rogers, and Trevor May. Behind them though, no one has stepped forward and that's a problem. Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, Tyler Duffey, and a handful of others have gotten their shot but failed to capitalize. With numbers that look promising on the farm, major league success has yet to follow any of those arms.

You can probably expect Thad Levine to target at least a couple impact arms in relief this winter. Losing Ryan Pressly, though I agree with the premise of the trade, will need to be addressed. Although there's plenty of options internally, very few of them are looking like anything of consequence. At this point, the group mentioned above is rounding out some of their last opportunities before roster trimming begins.

Without going into every area or instance that could be improved upon, the above trio of suspects is simply more vital than the rest. Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton have always had the ability to be franchise altering players, and their realization of potential is integral to sustained success in the near-term. Given the Twins draft strategy in the late years of the Terry Ryan regime, generating something of substance from the glut of middling relievers is a must at this point. Once that group is passed by, there's little to feel good about in terms of a return.

Over the winter, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will embark upon one of the most critical offseasons in recent memory. No matter what they do however, the emergence, development, and turnaround of the names above represents the largest piece to the puzzle.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Feeling Out the Front Office

Over the course of the past two seasons I have seen plenty of comments directed towards the Minnesota Twins front office. With Derek Falvey and Thad Levine replacing the Terry Ryan regime, much has been made of their age and new-fangled way of doing things. When looking at it objectively however, are there really any egregious missteps, and isn't this the way baseball is run around the league?

From many around the media landscape, nicknames have been given to the duo sitting at the top of 1 Twins Way. Whether calling Falvey and Levine the "Boy Wonders" or "Baseball Nerds," there continues to be monikers that poke at the age and data driven ideology disseminated from the Twins organization. From my vantage point, this either speaks to a lack of knowledge regarding the current game, or a level of malice intended towards individuals deemed unfit for the role.

At any rate, using analytics as a buzzword remains out of touch in today's game. Baseball, and front offices in general, have long since incorporated data driven practices to set forth at least a portion of what they do on a daily basis. This isn't specific to the Twins, and it's certainly not new to the game. When attempting to carve out competitive advantages, continuing to do the things you have always done will quickly get you left in the dust.

In an effort to attack some of the misconceptions head on, I posed this question last night on Twitter:
The responses were aplenty, but genuinely surprised me. Maybe it's because of my follower base being of the more informed variety, but there simply weren't the frustrated and shortsighted responses I expected to get. Sourcing through a few of the comments, I did want to do my best to rebut a few things that I thought lacked context.
A couple of comments surrounded the handling of Byron Buxton, which has been a horse I've severely beaten. The FO looks silly for how they handled that, and regardless of the business aspect, you'd have to be looking through a very narrow vacuum to argue in favor of it.

The other point that's touched on regards Matt Belisle and the 25 man roster. If there's criticism I believe is fair, it's how the 25 man roster was handled at times this season. It's hard to know what level of impact Paul Molitor needed or wanted over who he managed, but aging veterans were often preferred over potentially more impactful youth. Should that be a reality we move away from in 2019, one can assume Molitor's hand may have been in that process as well.

From there, we get into a few complete fallacies.
I don't know how you could realistically look back at the offseason and come to the above conclusion. Logan Morrison was added for nearly nothing after hitting over 30 longballs in 2017. Lance Lynn was a big rotation boost, and was brought in late in the game. Although not a free agent, acquiring multiple years of Jake Odorizzi for a low-level prospect was another shrewd move. The winter as a whole was hit out the park by the front office. We know how the talent performed on the field, but there's zero argument to be made against the moves being sensible at the time.
Looking across the organization, I'm not sure how there could be a conclusion that the Minnesota Twins aren't in a significantly better position than they were two years ago. The developmental staff of coaches and scouts has been beefed up significantly, and the influx of talent has followed suit. Drafting first overall in 2017, Falvey and Levine put together a very strong class. They then followed up that group with another good set of youth this past season. Supplementing amateurs with prospects acquired through trades this season, identifying talent genuinely seems like something they've excelled at.

At this point in the game, you need to come to the table with something better than stathead or moniker driven detractions for the Twins front office. It's not as though computers run the game of baseball, but data driven analysis has turned into an exploitable competitive advantage. Marrying that notion with the human element and squeezing the most out of the on-field product remains the optimal goal.

We're embarking on year three for this front office, and the offseason is an incredibly critical one. 2019 remains a season that Minnesota should compete at a high level, and expecting a full tear down or rebuild is nowhere in the blueprint of what is currently taking place. Although being left out of the postseason isn't fun, an objective view of the current landscape should be viewed with a level of positivity.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Molitor Out. Falvine In.

Today the Minnesota Twins announced that Paul Molitor will not be brought back as Manager in 2019. With two years remaining on his freshly signed three year deal, it may come as a surprise to some, but it really shouldn't. While it hasn't been a certainty that the Twins front office would make a change, the signs have been there for some time. Now with the opportunity to hire their guy, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine prepare for a pivotal offseason.

Molitor was offered a three-year extension following the 2017 season. Despite looking like he would be let go last season, Molitor's Twins got into the playoffs and he earned a Manager of the Year award because of it. With the Manager of the Year award being loosely tied to surprise performances, it's not a huge shock he was the one voters selected. Had he missed the postseason however, the award likely lands elsewhere, and the three-year deal never gets done.

Being brought back this season, it appeared that Minnesota's front office thought long and hard about the decision. He was not immediately re-upped last winter, and there was never any glowing indications of support from the top during the 2018 slate. While he was offered a three-year contract, a two-year deal after such a close decision for change likely would've looked like little more than a placeholder.

Certainly there will be some Twins fans that can't wrap their head around guys like Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar being gone in the same season. Adding St. Paul native Paul Molitor to that list isn't going to do management any favors with that crowd. However, give the front office credit for not concerning themselves with those opinions. Making baseball decisions based on feelings or how an individual relates to an organization is a good way to quickly venture down a wrong road. At the end of the day, fans clamor for winning more than anything else, and being solely focused on that purpose is of the utmost importance.

Embarking upon one of the most important offseasons in recent memory, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will now begin with a managerial search. They are able to bring in someone of their choosing, and internal candidates such as Derek Shelton and Jeff Pickler could be waiting in the wings. The ties to Texas and Cleveland still reside in both, so Sandy Alomar or Jeff Bannister may be of some intrigue as well. I'm not sure where they turn, but I'm of the opinion that it will be a good source regardless.

While there's been some in-season roster decisions I've found myself in disagreement with the front office, the vast majority of trades, acquisitions, and moves have been well executed. Although it's easy to mock a process that seems new or uncertain, it's also hard to really dig in and not see positive ripples reflecting throughout the system.

Managers don't make an incredible impact during a Major League Baseball season, but Paul Molitor generally did less with more during games. He left opportunity on the table, and neither Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano truly developed under his tutelage. The organization wanting to get someone on staff that can take the big league club to new heights is a worthy ask. Now that Molitor is out, Falvine is in and it's on them to find who's next in charge.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Twins Developments Worth Watching

There's no denying that the 2018 Minnesota Twins fell short of expectations. This club came into the year having played in the Postseason a season ago, and they were looking to target the Cleveland Indians at the top of the AL Central division. Winning just 78 games, that didn't happen, but there was plenty for this group to hang their hats on.

Obviously a season in which we saw Paul Molitor's squad take a step backwards, there's a few key areas needing improvement. Before getting into those narratives however, we need to take a look at which positive launching points could loom large for the offseason and year ahead.

Kyle Gibson

Mid-way through the 2017 Major League Baseball regular season, it looked as though the former 1st round draft pick would be a non-tender candidate at the end of the year. Then things clicked, and he posted a 3.76 ERA over his final 13 starts. What's only made it look better, is that Gibson has carried the strong performance into 2018.

He wrapped up the year trailing only Jose Berrios in terms of fWAR among Twins pitchers, and his 3.62 ERA was easily a career best. The FIP and xFIP numbers suggest there's some room for regression, but it isn't too worrisome. Another key development is that Gibson showed a heightened ability to get batters out on his own. With a career high 8.2 K/9, his strikeout numbers were notable for the first time in his career. Thanks to the emergence of Gibson, and presence of both Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, the Twins rotation is in a good place.

Jake Cave

In baseball, you are rarely afforded multiple significant opportunities to make an impact. After being pulled from the Yankees glut of outfielders, the Twins afforded Cave an opportunity and he ran with it. As a 25 year-old rookie, he's a bit past the typical prospect shine. That said, he posted a more than enticing .797 OPS and showed plenty of power potential.

Right now, he's locked in as nothing lower than the 4th outfielder for the Twins going into 2019. Cave took the run likely tabbed for Zack Granite coming into the season, and he could very well push Robbie Grossman out of the organization as well. If there's an area to focus on when it comes to development, it's easily plate discipline. A 102/18 K/BB ratio leaves plenty of room for a higher level of on-base prowess to rear its head.

Taylor Rogers

Losing a bullpen piece like Ryan Pressly was going to create opportunity for another arm to step up, and Rogers did in a big way. Leading the Twins in fWAR out of the pen, Taylor posted a career best 2.63 ERA. It was the third straight season in which he's lowered his ERA, and he finished with a career best 9.9 K/9. Although velocity isn't his game, he gets pitches by batters, and doesn't give up free passes.

On top of being dominant as a whole, Rogers wasn't simply a LOOGY either. Sure, he nuked lefties to the tune of a .428 OPS, but he only allowed righties to post a .643 OPS against him in the process. Across over 68 innings this season, he only allowed three longballs, and he pitched his way to the back of the Minnesota pen.

Eddie Rosario

Spanning the group of exciting prospects that rose the Twins ranks together, it's probably a bit surprising that Rosario has emerged the most. That said, we're absolutely at that point in their collective development. After an .836 OPS season in 2017, Rosario solidified his ability by performing at an All-Star level in 2018.

From where I sit, I don't think there's much more to the ceiling of the Minnesota left fielder, but the floor shouldn't be significantly lower either. A guy that has a cannon in the outfield, and can hit as a middle-of-the-order threat, he's going to be a guy that makes sense for a long term extension. Rosario can be a star for the Twins, and that came somewhat out of nowhere.