Saturday, January 30, 2021

Baseball Card School is in Session

Let’s get this out of the way from the jump, I’m by no means an expert. I, like many of you, remember picking up packs of cards at the local department store as a kid. The hobby has evolved a ton since then, and having gotten back in full force during 2017, I have often shared my passion on Twitter. Now, it’s time to provide an outlet for knowledge.


A couple of days ago I put out a tweet asking if it would be helpful to answer questions about all thing’s baseball cards. The response was overwhelmingly positive and given the amount of direct messages or inquiries I receive, I thought this may be a fun avenue to share my passion for the hobby and connect with fellow Twins baseball fans in the process.

Maybe you want to know what products to start with, how to value your cards, if it’s all a huge money pit, or if grading pieces of cardboard is really a worthwhile venture. No matter what your interest level, or experience in the market, there should be good information and questions both shared and asked.


I’m hardly a savant, and I have plenty of things I’m sill learning. That said, I do have a firm grasp on the way in which I’ve approached my collection and have a good handle on my focus going forward. So, here’s the particulars:


When: Wednesday February 3, 2021

Where: Twitter Live @tlschwerz

Time: 8:30 pm central time


Whether you are planning to participate with questions through Twitter Live, or simply tune in for new information, there should be something for everyone. The video will also be recorded on Twitter, and then uploaded to this space should you miss the discussion while it’s taking place. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Simba Brings Defensive Pride to Minnesota


All offseason I’ve been preaching that patience should be exhibited in regards to the Minnesota Twins. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have earned the benefit of doubt and shown that they are sound decision makers. Tonight, that came to fruition.


After *missing* out on Marcus Semien as one of the interested parties, they quickly pivoted to the best defender in this free agent class. Andrelton Simmons, formerly of the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels, the Platinum Glove defender makes a tandem of sorts with Byron Buxton. He’s been worth 191 defensive runs saved over the course of his career. Paired with Josh Donaldson on the left side of Minnesota’s infield, opposing batters will face a black hole.


As important as signing Simmons is, it’s also what the acquisition does for the roster construction of the Twins that makes a bigger splash. Jorge Polanco has been miscast as a shortstop for the entirety of his big-league career. His range is limited, and the arm strength has been problematic. Moving him to second base, he brings an offensive prowess that the position is often void of, and he moves a career 121 OPS+ hitter in Luis Arraez to super utility. Minnesota satisfied two separate needs with this one decision.


Sure, it’s Polanco’s move to the other side of the diamond that will draw the immediate interest but being able to deploy Arraez all over the field is a great boost for Rocco Baldelli. The favorite to win a batting title can now spell guys on a regular basis, play corner outfield, and fill in at both second and third base. Arraez was initially mentioned as a trade chip to acquire pitching, and while I do still think the Twins flip players for another arm, this role seems to perfect of a fit for him to part with.


Now that there’s some roster certainty thanks to Simmons sorting out the infield, there should be little waiting for Minnesota when it comes to Nelson Cruz. The reunion has always seemed like a logical one, and the designated hitter has been reported as not being universal for the upcoming season.


We’ve waited all winter for moves to happen, and this Simmons signing feels like a dam breaking decision that gets the ball rolling in terms of locking everything else up. The Twins may look at holdovers on the relief market, but I’d hardly be shocked if their DH and starting pitching options aren’t decided upon quickly.


The White Sox raced out to start the offseason, and the Padres have taken plenty of the spotlight, but this is a move that puts Minnesota right back on top of the Central.

Trusting the Twins Pen Plan


Earlier this offseason the Minnesota Twins started to reconstruct their bullpen. Losing Trevor May was always going to be a big blow, and there hasn’t been much in the form of names yet, but it’s a process the front office has earned trust in.

A pair of big-name free agents with Minnesota ties have already come off the board but deals for either Liam Hendriks or Brad Hand always seemed far-fetched for the Twins. It’s not that they don’t have the money to spend, or need in relief, but nothing about either of those players fits the process of what this organization has done of late. Hendriks got $54 million from the White Sox over three years, while Hand got $10.5 million from the Washington Nationals. The last time Minnesota paid big on a reliever was Addison Reed, and it went up in smoke.

It would be silly to suggest that every reliever be viewed through the same lens as the failed Reed deal, but more realistically there’s the reality of what Minnesota has done with less. Look at some of the names from recent seasons, and the ERA’s posted by players on deals all at $2.75 million or less. It’s not that the Twins purposely set out to be bargain shoppers, but instead identify outliers very well and get the most out of castoffs from elsewhere.


This season Ian Gibault and Brandon Waddell were both claimed off of waivers at the end of October. They each claim a current 40-man spot and feature a slider. It’s a pitch that Wes Johnson and the coaching staff has targeted for some time, and it’s sensible to believe both are currently penciled into the bullpen. Hansel Robles is the lone larger expense thus far, and the former Angels closer was inked to a one-year deal paying him just $2 million. There’s probably at least one more spot open, and you can bet that Minnesota has a type rather than a name in mind. 

From my vantage point Trevor Rosenthal looks like the best option remaining, and I loved the fit last year as he returned from injury. He’s going to come with a price tag near the upper levels of single digits however, so that may not be the way they go. There should be a solid grouping of guys like Tyler Clippard and Alex Colome left at the end however, and those pacts should fall within the same range as the Colome deal.

Dating back to 2015 Major League Baseball has shifted a pitching philosophy to a construction of an elite bullpen. How teams get there or create that though, are all made differently. The reality is that often times the mega deals for relievers go up in smoke (hello Wade Davis), and understanding how to best utilize what’s in front of you is the easiest path to success. There’s no denying that a group including Hand or Hendriks has a safer floor on paper, but it all comes down to execution.

On their own the Twins organization has turned Tyler Duffey into one of the best relievers in baseball. Taylor Rogers has looked the part of a lock down piece, and it was his recent seasons in the pen that got Trevor May paid. Edwar Colina could join this group, and Jorge Alcala has already flashed that promise. Sure, Minnesota hasn’t made any big splashes for their bullpen, but it’s probably more about what’s going on behind the scenes and the execution of who the tab, rather than the exciting names, that get the job done.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Twins Free Agency is Happening


This afternoon the Minnesota Twins made their first big splash of the winter in signing former Yankees starter J.A. Happ. He’s nothing flashy by any means, but the $8 million pact will move the salary needle.


Here’s the deal with Happ, he was passable in 2020 and his Baseball Savant metrics paint a prettier picture than a 4.57 FIP can (even with a 3.47 ERA). He was victimized by the longball at Yankee Stadium more often than he has been previously in his career, but he’s just a modest strikeout pitcher. Ultimately, he takes the place of Rich Hill on the 2021 Twins club and there’s nothing wrong with that.

If Wes Johnson can utilize Happ as a 5th starter that eats innings and keeps the offense within striking distance, he’ll make turns all season long. If he posts a 5.00+ FIP a la 2019 he could be a candidate to be bumped when Randy Dobnak or one of the other prospects force their way into the picture. It’s not glamorous, but it doesn’t preclude them from making any other moves.


Minnesota still needs a better arm in the rotation, and I have made the point since the beginning of winter that a trade seemed likely for a rotation arm. With Happ in the fold, I’m more confident than ever it will happen. Assuming Nelson Cruz is eventually brought back as the team’s designated hitter, plopping down $12 million or so on Jake Odorizzi becomes less feasible. A controllable starter still in arbitration can be had for less, and the prospect capital is where the spend comes.


I don’t think Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will fill out their bench solely with internal options, and at least one other relief arm still needs to be acquired. By allowed something like $14 million after a Cruz deal, there’s enough left on the bone to make a handful of different directions work.


Right now, just one of the four open spots on the 40-man roster has been utilized, and there could be more opened up with a player in that group sent as part of any package. There’s less than a month until Spring Training is supposed to kick off, and I told you it would be busy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Architecting the 2021 Twins Roster


Despite being less than a month from Spring Training (or at least as it’s presently scheduled) there’s still something like 75% of eligible free agents unsigned across baseball. Huge names like Bauer and Springer are homeless, and the Minnesota Twins specifically have four empty spots on their 40-man roster. Moves are coming, but who and when?


I’ve thrown out a handful of names in this space as well as on Twitter this offseason, and now I’ll put some pen to paper. Using the Twins Daily created I plugged in names to a roster matrix. This would probably be a mix of what I’d like to see happen, and what I think is feasible.

Starting Lineup


Ultimately, I believe Nelson Cruz is back as the Twins designated hitter. That worries me as time is undefeated and he struggled down the stretch against fastballs in 2020. However, the fit is there, and I don’t know that we see a universal DH in 2021 (which is too bad). I’m hoping Minnesota avoids a two-year deal, and maybe an option for 2022 is enough to get that done. If it’s not Cruz, I’d prefer a two- or three-year pact with Marcel Ozuna or Michael Brantley. Both of them have positional flexibility, and a bit more long-term belief.


It should be a no-brainer that Alex Kirilloff will take over for Eddie Rosario in left field. Sure, the Twins could play the service time game, but that would be short-sighted given their window of contention right now. Allow him to make his $600k and roll with your best option out there.


There’s still plenty of reason to believe that Trevor Story could be a very good fit for this club through trade, and someone from the pool of Gregorious, Semien, or Simmons makes sense as well. I like the idea of one-year deals with the current roster construction, and there’s no reason why moving Jorge Polanco off of shortstop is a bad thing.




Ryan Jeffers is about the only player I’m confident in from this group. He and Mitch Garver should create a very solid backstop tandem, even if they’re both right-handed hitters. Jake Cave would make sense as the fourth outfielder, although I’d like to see Brent Rooker’s bat somewhere. Minnesota needs a utility player and signing either Kike Hernandez or Tommy La Stella is a good get there. I like Jurickson Profar the most of that group, but think he’ll get paid more than he’s ultimately worth. If you’re filling out the roster with an additional utility type, Travis Blankenhorn makes a lot of sense internally. I have no idea how this front office views former first-round pick Nick Gordon, but it would make sense for him to be in the conversation as well after a solid second season at Triple-A. The missed time in 2020 did him no favors, however.


Starting Rotation


There should be no pushback on Minnesota needing to acquire a fourth starter. The top three are solid and set, but another arm is a must. From the jump Jake Odorizzi looked like the second-best starter behind Trevor Bauer on the free agent market. He’s still out there, and there’s been buzz from other organizations having interest, but it would be nice to see him return healthy to the Twins. I still wonder if there’s not a good bit of reason to believe this arm could be acquired via trade, and anyone from Jon Gray to Sonny Gray could be exciting.


Randy Dobnak has pitched himself into the conversation for earned starts, and whether that begins 2021 in the big-league rotation or as a first man up type, he should see plenty of work. Minnesota will likely unveil one or both of Jordan Balazovic and Jhoan Duran this season but pushing all of those arms back a bit with starting depth seems necessary.




Although he’s the hometown guy, I’m not necessarily particular to Brad Hand. I do think someone of that ilk is a must though, and Trevor Rosenthal fits the bill. There are probably just three spots left to fill out the relief corps, and Cody Stashak should absolutely claim one of them. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have targeted a few waiver claims in the form of Ian Gibault and Brandon Waddell but there may only be room for one. Looking for this year’s Matt Wisler, the spring slate should sort that out.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Twins Can Optimize With One-Year Pacts


As things stand right now the Minnesota Twins have what can be considered an incomplete 26-man roster. There’s work yet to be done, as there is for most teams in baseball, and the front office may find favor in one-year agreements for 2021.


The reality right now is that teams are using the lack of traditional revenues as reasons to spend less for the 2021 Major League Baseball season. On top of that, there’s uncertainty regarding the 2022 season due to an expiring CBA and the previous history between the league and Players Association. While the Twins may see reduced payroll as a way forward in terms of financial flexibility, one-year deals may be an outlier allowing them to still maximize a competitive window.


It’s a pretty hard sell for the Pohlad’s to suggest they are committed to winning while instructing Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to take their foot off the gas in the midst of developmental emergence. This organization signed their biggest free agent in history just last offseason, and not pairing him with more talent as the home-grown group has emerged would be a head-scratcher at best. While it wouldn’t necessarily reduce the bill for 2021, removing future monetary commitment is a practice that makes some sense this time around.


Think back to 2018 for a moment. Minnesota made a splash with Spring Training already underway. In a less than ideal market for both players, the secured the services of Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison. Both players came in a bit disgruntled at the process they witnessed over the winter, and their output left plenty to be desired. At that time, the suggestion of hired hitman brought forth the discussion as to whether chemistry was ever truly able to be established. With a different set of parameters this time around, a similar plan could be truly beneficial.


Thus far the only deal of consequence for Minnesota has been the acquisition of former Angels closer Hansel Robles on a one-year deal. Internally, he joins Michael Pineda as a free agent following the 2021 season. There’s a sunk cost already with Josh Donaldson, and then much of the Twins roster is on team-friendly extensions, or just into the arbitration process. In short, there’s not much of a massive monetary leap year over year from what’s already committed to.


Enter the onslaught of one-year deals. Kris Bryant for $18 million, yep, sure. Trevor Story at the same price, why not. How about Sonny Gray for just over $10 million, or Jon Gray coming in just under $6 million. The reality is that while all of those players are substantially more costly than a prospect at the league minimum, the future financial fear is off the table. You could add Nelson Cruz and his $16 million ask to this group as well. The point isn’t that the money is inconsequential, but that you’d be maximizing your opportunity while still having flexibility in the seasons ahead.


For years Major League organizations have seen record growth and financial dividends. 2020 provided an unprecedented halt to those trends, but the reality for the vast majority of the league is that a profit was still turned. Having the ability to regain that opportunity in the near future remains a priority for ownership, and this would give them a clear vision to see that come to fruition.


Players in the final year of contracts, and especially those with hefty price tags, should not require a ransom be paid in exchange for their services. The Rockies Story is an elite talent, but plenty of Minnesota’s system should stay intact. Bryant would seemingly have even less of a required package, and the same could be said about Colorado’s Gray. I don’t know how Falvey and Levine will navigate these waters when they finally dip their oars in, but this seems like a plausible path forward.


In a traditional cycle I’d be less interested in a team full of short-term reinforcements. If it means that talent is bolstered and payroll flexibility is still to be achieved, this could be a blueprint that satisfies all needs.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Critical Point on Berrios Extension


Coincidentally I am writing this on the exact same date I suggested a similar result last year. The Minnesota Twins have not effectively developed a starting pitcher in quite some time, and with Jose Berrios being the best thing to happen in that period, locking him up long term makes some sense.


Last year the suggestion came on the heels of extensions for the Phillies Aaron Nola and Yankees Luis Severino. Those were both four-year extensions and paid $45 and $40 million apiece respectively. Going into 2021 Berrios is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility. For 2021 he’ll pitch for $5.6 million, just over a $1.5 million increase from his 2020 salary. With a final year of arbitration eligibility in 2022, he should see a number get very near the $10 million mark.


Coming off somewhat of a down season, Berrios posted a 4.00 ERA for the first time in his career. It was just a 12-game sample size and the 5.92 ERA through his first five turns really did him in. From that point he posted a 2.79 ERA across 38.2 IP and allowed opposing batters just a .598 OPS the final seven times he took the mound.


Over the past few seasons velocity has been a chief concern regarding Berrios’ output. Having focused on an offseason training regimen that builds endurance to withstand the rigors of a full season, Minnesota had keyed in on their Puerto Rican starter being able to avoid his August and September swoon. We never got to see that in action during 2020 due to the truncated season, but the 9.7 K/9 was a career high, and a 94.9 mph average fastball velocity also topped the charts.


Jose is still just 26 years old and will turn 27 shortly after the 2021 campaign gets underway. He should just now be entering his prime, and looking for him to take another step forward remains a key focus for the Twins. If that should happen, he could find himself among the Cy Young conversation for the first time in his career, and knocking on the door of a big payday, that’s hardly a bad resume builder.


Minnesota has recently locked up Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Miguel Sano. Although there’s been suggestion of a slightly decreased payroll, future cost certainty is always of importance to organizations, and Berrios provides a very compelling opportunity. Both Kepler and Polanco took what appear to be team friendly deals. The Twins had to rebuild some favor with Jose and did so in the form of a $500k incentive this offseason. Maybe there’s a middle ground where the two sides can hammer out something more substantial.


Even if Jose Berrios never develops into a bonafide ace for the Twins, pitchers of his caliber don’t come around too often, and he’s going to get paid handsomely on the open market. If there’s a way for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine to keep him around long time, exploring that option this offseason makes a good deal of sense.

Monday, January 4, 2021

40 Man Suggesting Shuffles for Twins


After the Minnesota Twins signed veteran reliever Hansel Robles to a Major League deal this offseason, their 40-man roster was down to just four openings. Needing significant reinforcements still, it’s a good bet that addition by subtraction could be coming.


By my estimation Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have no less than players yet to acquire, but a more comfortable reality is probably in the ballpark of six. With that in mind, a shortage on 40-man spots becomes a reality, and swinging a deal including a player from that group makes some sense.


As things stand today, with Minnesota having made virtually no moves of any real substance, I’d think they need no less than two infield/utility types, another relief arm, and at least one starting pitcher. You can push the argument for a second starting arm, as well as another reliever, and the designated hitter vacancy still must be filled. That’s anywhere from four to seven fresh faces.


So, what happens next?


There’s been plenty of talk regarding the Twins making a move for a shortstop. In that scenario Jorge Polanco can either become a utility option, or he assumes the role of starting second basemen and Luis Arraez goes into flux. I like Arraez moving around a bit more, though he’s also been noted as a trade chip. Regardless of how it shakes out, there’s two 40-man players currently waiting on standby.


When looking at the arms, it’s hard to see many that won’t fit. Both Ian Gibaut and Brandon Waddell we’re claimed off waivers and are penciled onto the big-league roster as of now. It’s fair to believe one of them could be upgraded, but neither should be looked at as a trade chip. Both top pitching prospects Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic are on the 40-man, so if either are swapped for a veteran asset, that’s one way to create a net-zero addition.


There’s little incentive to outright LaMonte Wade and Gilberto Celestino has had plenty of positive talk the past few months among outfielders. Willians Astudillo isn’t really a catcher despite being included in that grouping, but Ben Rortvedt may not be an ideal leap from Double-A being more of a defense only asset at this point. If there’s a position player not expected to be on the Major League roster that gets included in a trade, I think it’s former first round draft pick Nick Gordon.


Over the course of his pro career Gordon has followed a pretty consistent path in that he’s succeeded the second time through a level. He’s no longer much for prospect status, and he’s not a shortstop anymore either. Gordon won’t bump either Arraez or Polanco off second base, and I don’t know that his bat does enough to be the utility guy. I believe there’s a legitimate big-league player here but have contended for a while it will come in a different organization. Now may be the time.


When the dust settles, I think the most likely position Minnesota trades for is starting pitching. Jake Odorizzi would be a good addition, but they aren’t getting Trevor Bauer and everyone else has their own warts to consider. Plucking from another organization and swapping prospect capital looks like a pretty good fit.


I’d be surprised if we saw just a straightforward addition of four new players and throwing a trade in allows a good opportunity to tweak the 40-man openings.