Monday, July 26, 2021

As Buxton Hope Fades, Front Office Goes

Byron Buxton is quite arguably the most talented player in Minnesota Twins history. His athleticism is unmatched, and his production is unparalleled. Then there’s the caveat, when healthy.

With the hometown nine looking at the doldrums of the division, and the 2021 Major League Baseball trade deadline looming, plenty of storms are brewing on the roster construction front. One of the most reported is that of Minnesota’s failed attempts at a contract extension with their star centerfielder.

Currently shelved after being hit by a pitch, Buxton had rebuffed the latest seven-year, $80 million pact that would add addition earning opportunity through incentives. That deal was just a $7 million increase over the previous offer, and still nearly $20 million shy of where this front office paid another oft-injured 3rd basemen (who is five years older) just two seasons ago. 

The refrain regarding Buxton’s availability is a common one, he has been shelved often throughout his career. The reality though, is that it is through the injury history where the Twins find themselves offered grace. Because he’s been unavailable, Buxton’s $200 million or more payday is not going to happen. He would command plenty on the open market with more competition bidding on his services, but it’s the Twins who have the table and the realistic opportunity because of how his career has played out.

Coming into 2021 the team was expected to be good. Unfortunately, the front office has watched each of its offseason acquisitions tie together career-worst seasons, as well as regression from plenty of holdover talents. Unless there’s an admittance of poor talent assessment virtually across the whole roster, then there should be reason to look at this season as an outlier.

2022 represents an opportunity to reload. If the core of this club was seen as competitive before, and that’s been proven through their track record of winning, an alteration of that belief shouldn’t be so swift. To suggest there’s an attempt at competing in the year ahead while dealing the team’s best player would be hollow at best.

Certainly, both Jose Berrios and Buxton should command a haul when it comes to prospect capital in exchange for their services. The volatility of those players will always be high however, and you’d need at least two reaching something like the 95th percentile of their hopefully outcomes to feel good about what you gave up. Berrios would love a gaping hole in an already poor rotation, and Buxton’s presence would be missed on a nightly basis.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have put in an infrastructure of sustainability and competitiveness. They should be commended for that. Bailing on that process at the Major League level rather than supplementing what they have fostered would be a hard pill to swallow, and one worthy of substantial criticism.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Twins Go for Arms in Dealing Cruz

Nelson Cruz is the newest member of the Tampa Bay Rays. This offseason Tampa was among the final suitors in contention to land his services.


Minnesota ended up bring back the 40-year-old and he’s picked up right where he left off. Unfortunately for the Twins, their season has gone as anything but expected, and they find themselves as a clear seller. The best designated hitter in the American League stays in that role and gives Tampa another thumper in the middle of their lineup.


Given Cruz’s advanced age and contract status, it was hard to fathom much of a return. Minnesota instead included Calvin Faucher as a throw in prospect and landed Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, Tampa’s 10th and 17th best prospects per MLB pipeline. Both may be relievers, and are already past their 24th birthdays, but they have high velocity stuff and already are at Triple-A.


For an organization needing arm talent as both starters and in the bullpen, this is a real solid get for a guy that wasn’t going to be around in a couple of months. Ryan will need to be added to the 40 man this winter, with Strotman already holding down a spot. Cruz leaves as a fan favorite, one of the most productive players in history, and having done so as a leading member of a record setting homer club.


Here’s some instant analysis from industry experts:

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Rocco’s Next Act May Define Him


The 2021 Minnesota Twins have been terrible, there’s no denying that. Where blame lies is debatable, but the manager is dealing with a deck missing plenty of cards. He’s no absolved from any wrongdoing, but a “Fire Rocco” campaign is also shortsighted. Instead, 2022 is shaping up to be a defining act.


Through his first two seasons as the Twins skipper, Baldelli posted a 147-85 record. He led the club to back-to-back AL Central Division titles, and he took a team underperforming to new heights. After navigating a pandemic stricken season that included plenty of uncertainty, the only thing certain is that 2021 requires a reset.


In April, this club seemed to be dealt a good amount of bad luck. They were 9-15 despite a plus-two run differential. From there injuries and ineffectiveness took over, rendering most managerial decisions a moot point. This club wasn’t supposed to be bad, and they don’t have to be in the year ahead, but how their leader directs them could be somewhat of a career defining turning point.


Rocco is young, just 39-years-old, but was he a beneficiary of a team that blasted a boatload of homers and played a shortened season? Maybe he was snakebit by a team that couldn’t stay healthy and get out of its own way. No matter what the Twins have been with their new manager, 2022 has the opportunity to allow him runway for a new mark to be made.


I’d argue the Twins would be silly to rebuild. Plenty of this core was seen as impact players coming into the season. Unless that evaluation by the front office was completely misguided, shuffling in new parts makes a lot of sense. Allowing youth to get their feet wet in 2021 should benefit them in more substantial roles going forward. Even in a rebuild though, there’s opportunity to shine.


The Detroit Tigers were abysmal out of the gate and have since played a much stronger brand of baseball. A.J. Hinch was brought in as a replacement for Ron Gardenhire with the hope of leading a young roster back to relevance. He’s not going to do that this season, but they’re trending in the right direction, and it seems as though the Astros former skipper wasn’t just a by-product of a talented environment.


Rocco Baldelli doesn’t need to be defined by a record or banners in his first few seasons, but what he’ll have to prove in the year ahead is that process is driving results. We can throw away the present season and provide a pass given the circumstances, from there, a need to see more impact and growth resonating from the man in charge is a must.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will do plenty to outline the future’s course over the next week prior to the trade deadline. From there, Baldelli will have a clearer directive on what in front of him and showing an ability to navigate the path forward is his next challenge.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Keeping Up With Twins Picks: 2021 Edition


After Covid shortened the Major League Baseball amateur draft to just five rounds last year, we’re back to more of a traditional length with a 20 round event in 2021. The Twins have two first round selections and will bolster their farm system with new names.

As I have done in previous seasons, here’s a place you can track each of Minnesota’s selections in one place. The previous drafts can be found at the links below. This article will be updated throughout the draft.

2018 Class

2019 Class

2020 Class

The picks:

Round 1, Pick 26: Chase Petty, RHP Mainland Regional HS (@ChasePetty11)

Comp A, Pick 36: Noah Miller, SS Ozaukee HS (@NoahMiller_21)

Round 2, Pick 61: Steven Hajjar, LHP Michigan (@StevenHajjar)

Round 3, Pick 99: Cade Povich, LHP Nebraska (@Cpo22)

Round 4, Pick 128: Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B Oklahoma State (@c_encarnacion13)

Round 5, Pick 159: Christian MacLeod, LHP Mississippi State (@christian44mac)

Round 6, Pick 189: Travis Adams, RHP Sacramento State (@yah_travis4sf)

Round 7, Pick 219: Jake Rucker, 3B Tennessee (@jake_rucker)

Round 8, Pick 249: Noah Cardenas, C UCLA (@Noah_cards55)

Round 9, Pick 279: Patrick Winkel, C Connecticut (@patrick_winkel)

Round 10, Pick 309: Ernie Yake, SS Gonzaga

Round 11, Pick 339: Brandon Birdsell, RHP Texas Tech

Round 12, Pick 369: Kyler Fedko, OF Connecticut (@KylerFedko4)

Round 13, Pick 399: David Festa RHP Seton Hall (@DavidFesta13)

Round 14, Pick 429: Pierson Ohl, RHP Grand Canyon University (@Pierson_Ohl)

Round 15, Pick 459: Mikey Perez, SS UCLA

Round 16, Pick 489: Jonathan Lavallee, RHP Long Beach State (@jonathanlaval5)

Round 17, Pick 519: Dylan Neuse, 2B Texas Tech (@DNeuse_09)

Round 18, Pick 549: Mike Paredes, RHP San Diego State (@swanky_p)

Round 19, Pick 579: Jaylen Nowlin, LHP Chipola College (@NowlinJaylen)

Round 20, Pick 609: Dillon Tatum, C UC-Irvine

Monday, July 5, 2021

Trading Rogers is Risky for Twins


A handful of years back I wrote something along the lines of the Twins most necessary move was to deal Glen Perkins. He was competing at an All-Star level, and Minnesota was beyond terrible with no end in sight. A bad team didn’t need a closer, and the haul should’ve been handsome. In a similar spot, the Twins may be ill-advised to make that move with Taylor Rogers.


Yes, the Major League club is not good. No, the farm system doesn’t have a ton of immediate answers. This season isn’t going to result in a second-half turnaround, and a bullpen that’s already bad isn’t and hasn’t been saved by one good arm. The key difference here, however, is how Derek Falvey and Thad Levine view themselves in 2022.


Although good teams don’t necessarily need a closer, they absolutely need a strong bullpen. Moving Taylor Rogers with another year of team control, and as one of the most dominant relief arms in the sport, would suggest they don’t view a run coming in the year ahead either. Rocco Baldelli has seen his lineup come around over the past handful of weeks, but it’s still been pitching that has failed this club. While the rotation is chiefly to blame, supplementing and retooling the bullpen is a must for next season. Doing that with the additional hole that Rogers’ absence would cost becomes difficult.


This season Rogers owns a 2.65 ERA along with a 12.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. In 2020 he posted an outlying 4.05 ERA, but it was hiding a 2.84 FIP and still fell in line the strikeout and walk rates across his career. The uncharacteristic 1.500 WHIP got Taylor last year and pitching in a short season without opportunity for positive regression didn’t help. His counting numbers are now back to who he always has been, and what the expectation should be.


Baseball right now remains enamored with high leverage relievers. This winter we saw the Chicago White Sox drop $54 million on Liam Hendriks. I don’t now what Rogers will earn two seasons from now, but he’ll be hitting the free agent market at the same age Hendriks did this year. Saves are a goofy stat, but they do get paid for at least in arbitration, and Rogers currently has more than Hendriks did when he was signed by the South Siders.


Maybe a team will blow the Twins away with a couple of top tier prospects. That doesn’t seem like a great bet given the relief trade market often seems to be filled with organizations looking to be opportunistic and capitalize on a veteran’s immediate success without much of a long-term commitment. If Falvey can find a taker willing to pony up though, then that’s a move Minnesota should consider.


If flipping Rogers is being done because he fits the category of desirable asset and the return is just good enough, I’d hope that this front office would reconsider. Maybe they don’t have intentions to reload in 2022, or they see that as a lofty goal. Either way, venturing down the path to relevance in the season ahead gets unquestionable tougher by taking an arm like Rogers out of an already deficient area of this roster.


Maybe you shouldn’t pay for relief help. The Twins best bullpen acquisitions this year were a waiver claim and a guy that cost $2 million. You certainly shouldn’t piece out the pen before you have to when you’re trying to re-ignite it though.