Monday, November 4, 2019

Planning the Twins Winter Moves

Today officially marks the beginning of free agency for the 2020 Major League Baseball season. The Minnesota Twins have some serious work to do with four-fifths of their starting rotation up for grabs, and a 100-win season to replicate. Rocco Baldelli will be angling for a second straight AL Central Division title, and the goal for the foreseeable future in Twins Territory will be Postseason berths.

While working through a full blueprint to outline a 25-man roster for the Twins I found myself getting hung up on a few key areas. I think we’re going to see a handful of moves that may come as a surprise, and rather than trying to pinpoint each, a better plan of action seemed to come with a top down view. While remaining somewhat specific, here’s how I’d handle things going into 2020:

Start with the Rotation:

Jose Berrios is locked in. I’d try to get him extended on a long-term deal again. Minnesota has approached his camp previously, but talks have not moved forward. He’s a few steps from a Cy Young arm, and at that point, he won’t have interest in avoiding the open market. Even if the Twins offer Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg significantly over market rate, I’d imagine both say no. Falvey should be all in on both arms, but the lure of a bigger market or home on the west coast probably proves too strong. This is where you pivot.

Zack Wheeler is the best pitcher available in the Twins wheelhouse, and he’s a very good one. Make him a priority and get that done as soon as possible. Two 2019 options should also be leveraged as possible returnees. Minnesota should offer both Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda a qualifying offer. The former could turn that into a two or three year deal while the later could then be had at roughly $13 million accounting for his remaining suspension.

The final rotation spot would then be filled out by a trade. There’s too much firepower on the Twins farm not to execute something, and Eddie Rosario represents an expendable big-league asset. Utilize the depth to go and get someone like Jon Gray, Joe Musgrove, or Matt Boyd. Aiming even higher to a proven commodity as Twins Daily’s Nick Nelson suggested might be interesting as well.

Add to the Lineup:

It’s fair to assume that regression is going to hit for the 2020 Twins. What’s also worth noting is that any changes to the baseball will have a widespread impact. Minnesota hit bombas because of a strong plate approach, and that will play regardless of what composition the baseball encompasses. That being said, a great deterrent to a step backwards offensively is adding more offense.

The Twins have a boatload, something like $70 million, to spend this offseason. With Wheeler being the likely high-water mark on the mound, there’s going to be plenty to go around. Instead of overpaying similar candidates on the bump, choose the guy(s) that makes the most financial sense add allocate the funds towards high impact help elsewhere.

I’ve talked myself into this, look at Anthony Rendon. The Twins could bring back C.J. Cron, and barring better wrist health, he should see a nice boost. They could also move Miguel Sano across the diamond and angle for a substantial upgrade at the hot corner with some intriguing options. Rendon is an MVP-type superstar and has plenty of good years ahead of him. I’m not as keen on 34-year-old Josh Donaldson as I was last year, because he’ll now want a multi-year deal, but that’s not a bad option either. If the Cubs are truly inclined to move Kris Bryant, and there’s a belief in his health, I’d absolutely explore that scenario as well. At the end of the day it comes down to this; if you can’t spend the money on pitching, you need to spend it elsewhere and aiming high is far better than adding quantity.

Rounding out the offense would include an additional outfielder and a catcher. Whether or not Eddie Rosario is traded a guy that could be had on a one-year deal makes sense. I like the idea of Corey Dickerson as a corner outfielder with on-base skills and some pop. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also a very strong defender, which is a facet of the game Minnesota needs to improve on. Cameron Maybin is also somewhat intriguing with the ability to play some centerfield.

Behind the plate you operate with Mitch Garver as the starter. He needs to play more often than he did in 2019, but there could be a decent amount of truth to him being at his best with significant rest. Pairing him with a nice defender that can also hit makes sense and going the route of former Houston Astro Robinson Chirinos is to my liking. He’s got good on base skills, hits better than a traditional catcher, and isn’t a hack behind the plate.

Shore up the Bullpen:

Coming out of the winter and into Spring Training there was nothing more problematic than Minnesota’s bullpen. It looked the part of a dumpster fire that was going to struggle getting anyone out. Then the development of some internal arms took place and Baldelli’s group was one of the best in baseball down the stretch. Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, and Trevor May have all worked their way into a circle of trust. Wes Johnson will still need three or four other arms to complete the group, however.

Rather than pushing Lewis Thorpe or Brusdar Graterol to the pen full time, bringing in some hired guns is the way to go. Sergio Romo should be welcomed back, but there’s no reason to pigeonhole that move either. Drew Pomeranz could be a nice second lefty, and any number of arms make sense to round out the group. Will Smith is the cream of the crop, but Will Harris and Jake Diekman types have purpose as well.

To summarize how I’d plan I’ll say this: For the first time in a while, spend. The window is open, you know what you have, and the prospect depth is coming close to maturation. Whether you can land the big fish on the mound or not is always going to be tough with plenty of suitors and a less-than-ideal-destination, but those resources need to go elsewhere then. Minnesota should clear $140 million in payroll this winter, and $150 million is far from unrealistic. Do as much as you can on the mound, and then look to make the additional impact throughout the roster.

Minnesota is no longer in a wait and see mode. The capability of youth has been understood, the veterans have provided plenty of production, and the circumstances are now on your side. There’s been complaints for years that have been somewhat misguided without that trifecta being a reality. In 2020, there’s nothing holding the organization back but itself, and it’s time to remove that barrier.