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.