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Friday Files (6.25.21): 2022 Roster Speculation, Franchise Cornerstones & Contract Predictions

Brandon Warne

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Welcome back to a weekly edition called “Monday’s Mail.” Except now, it’s going to be “Friday Files” until the end of the regular season. Then, we’ll do Flashback Friday and move the mail back Monday.

If you’d like to be involved, there are a few ways you can do so:

  • Tweet @brandon_warne or @accesstwins with the hashtag #askBW
  • if Twitter isn’t your thing, send an email to brandon.r.warne@gmail.com with the subject “Monday Mailbag/Friday Files”
  • Watch for sporadic Facebook posts asking for questions

Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:

From Cory Engelhardt: "You mention Baez as the opening day shortstop next year, granted there isn’t a strike (crossing fingers.) Is he truly who you believe will be there opening day? If not, who could be some legitimate options?"

No, I won’t put my neck on the line like that. I do think there are a lot of reasons to like the guy I call “Eddie Rosario with badass infield defense” and it’s not just because he and Jose Berrios are brothers in law.

Baez will potentially be looking for a bridge deal to hit the market again in a couple years. I can’t say for sure, but it’s hard to imagine he can command as much money as Carlos Correa or Corey Seager, and one could probably put Trevor Story on the list ahead of him even though he hasn’t had the best 2021.

So if Baez is amenable to a shorter-term deal — let’s say, two years and $35-40 million — that feels like the sweet spot for the Twins, who haven’t really shown a tendency to hand out long-term contacts outside of the Josh Donaldson deal.

That also allows the Twins time to bring Royce Lewis along a bit more slowly — especially now that he won’t have played in competitive games in roughly two years when his ACL is fully healed — without the pressure to take over the shortstop job, if he ever even does that. There’s still a chance that the team’s next shortstop isn’t Lewis, but someone they sign this offseason or who knows, maybe someone we aren’t even thinking about yet.

So I think Baez would be the right move. The Twins will have some payroll wiggle room with Andrelton Simmons — another shortstop hitting the market this winter — and Nelson Cruz, among others, ticketed for free agency.

My take, and I’m sure I’ll dive into this more in the weeks and months to come, is that the Twins should look to sign one of the big shortstops and probably one of the better starting pitchers even before considering what internal extensions they should consider. More on that later.

I don’t think you can rule out the team bringing Simmons back, though I suspect it would be on a much more modest deal (say, one year and $6-8 million). Maybe some team views him as the missing piece on a contending team — like the Twins did this winter — but I think he’ll fall by the wayside with the previously mentioned shortstops available, in addition to Marcus Semien who has been brilliant for the Blue Jays while playing second base.

That’s a long way of saying this is how I’d go in terms of preference:

  1. Baez
  2. Semien
  3. Simmons

My assumption is that Seager, Correa and Story will be too spendy for the Twins, and if they’re going to make one really, really big acquisition I think signing a pitcher like Kevin Gausman is the way to go. Gausman plus bringing back Simmons would be a really nice start to a stellar offseason.

From Sean Maertens: Predict the Twins 2022 opening day 26 man roster. Can be either realistic, idealistic, or both for roster construction.

OK, since you’ve put me on the spot a bit, let’s see what we’ve got here. I’m fairly up to speed with what the offseason marketplace will look like, but I usually spend a couple of weeks studying it before releasing my annual winter free agency preview.

I’m going with the notion that the Twins will make one big-ticket acquisition, and then will go pretty low-key the rest of the way. I’m not going to crunch any numbers so I’ll do my best to keep this reasonable from a financial standpoint as well.

Here we go:

  • C- Mitch Garver
  • 1B- Alex Kirilloff
  • 2B- Jorge Polanco
  • 3B- Josh Donaldson
  • SS- Andrelton Simmons
  • LF- Trevor Larnach
  • CF- Byron Buxton
  • RF- Max Kepler
  • DH- Miguel Sano

———

  • C- Ryan Jeffers
  • IF/OF- Luis Arraez
  • IF/OF- Nick Gordon
  • OF- Gilberto Celestino

———

  • SP- Kevin Gausman
  • SP- Kenta Maeda
  • SP- Jose Berrios
  • SP- Michael Pineda
  • SP- Jhoan Duran

———

  • RP- Taylor Rogers
  • RP- Tyler Duffey
  • RP- Archie Bradley
  • RP- Daniel Norris
  • RP- Jorge Alcala
  • RP- Caleb Thielbar
  • RP- Luke Farrell
  • RP- Bailey Ober

From Jason Torkelson: Who would you say is the Cornerstone of the Twins Team? Buxton, Lamarch, Kiriloff, Rooker?? This leaves NO PITCHERS ...The age old question. Is it best to develop pitchers (Twins have had no luck) or pursue in free agency (more often than not teams overpay)?

It’s still Buxton for me, but if you’re talking about the future, it’s Lewis or bust. It’s not that I don’t think Larnach or Kirilloff can be great players — or even All-Star-caliber — but how many corner guys are true superstars/cornerstones? Juan Soto? Vladimir Guerrero Jr.? Certainly, there are a few more, but it’s mostly up-the-middle guys.

I also think no matter how high someone is on Duran or Balazovic, it’s just so hard for a pitcher to be any sort of cornerstone. Those are the Justin Verlanders and Max Scherzers of the world, and even then they have other guys on the team who could feasibly garner than moniker as well.

But I think we all know developing pitchers is the way to go. It’s what Cleveland has done so well for the better part of two decades — and it’s the envy of everyone else in the league.

From Jesiah Waldner: What prospects do u want to see on the twins this year

Who’s left?

Kidding aside, pretty much all of the pitching prospects are hurt (Jhoan Duran, Cole Sands, Blayne Enlow, among others) or still a bit off (Josh Winder, Matt Canterino).

Everyone on the 40-man roster is either up, hurt or Brent Rooker.

So from that point, it’s really about a possible reliever like Yennier Cano (not great so far at St. Paul) or Charlie Barnes (non-overpowering lefty who has been really, really good for the Saints).

The cupboard is entirely bare position-player-wise at St. Paul. Rob Refsnyder, Gordon, Rortvedt, Jeffers, you name it. Outside of Rooker they’ve all passed through Minneapolis recently and are either there, or hurt.

From Dave Mencarelli: What are the chances of a Keon Broxton or Jimmy Kerrigan call up?

Virtually zero. There’ve been countless injuries in the outfield and neither has come close to being called up.

Broxton has played 37 games for the Saints and is hitting .149/.252/.202 with 66 strikeouts in 131 plate appearances. He’d have to go 8 for his next 8 just to get his batting average over .200. He’d have to go 25 for his next 25 to get his batting average over .300.

He’s striking out more than half the time (50.4 percent). He’s closer to being released than promoted.

Kerrigan is hitting .196/.313/.352 with 38 strikeouts in 115 plate appearances. I just don’t see how he could be any kind of factor.

From Ross Brendel: I believe Twins fans will be surprised when the return for Robles is more than the return for Cruz. Reason, Robles can be traded to any contending team, Cruz to only a handful of teams. Poor take?

Probably a pretty good take, again assuming it will happen. I’m not saying it’s going to be a Josh Willingham situation — quick, name the pitcher he was traded for — but teams don’t typically add a DH for the stretch run if the price is terribly high.

And the price for Robles might not be terribly high, either. Would it be higher than the Nationals paid to acquire Brandon Kintzler from the Twins? That was Tyler Watson, who is no longer in the organization.

We’ll have a lot more clarity between now and the deadline (obviously), but I get this weird sense that the deadline is going to leave a lot of people feeling….nonplussed. The guys the Twins are likely to move just aren’t going to bring back needle-movers.

Oh, and it was Jason Adam the Twins acquired for Willingham.

From Jerry Fury: What is your contract for Berrios and Buxton? Length and dollars

I’d be willing to give Berrios four years and $80 million with two option years tacked on the back for $25 million each on the high end. He’s been solid and durable, and $20 million isn’t ace money. It’s hedging against him becoming an ace versus who he is right now, while also telling him that if he’s here for the long haul it’s because he’s remained healthy and as good as he’s been to this point (or better).

I just can’t see him getting a better deal elsewhere. If he thinks he can, good on him.

For Buxton, I’m offering five years and $100 million. A healthy Buxton playing like he has this year is a $30 million a year player. Fangraphs says the value he’s provided to this point alone this season is worth in excess of $20 million.

But at the end of the day, George Springer signed for six years and $150 million with the Blue Jays. That’s $5 million more per year and an extra year — and Springer is two years older — but the track record for the former Astro is much, much longer and healthier, this year notwithstanding.

I just don’t see how Buxton can balk at $100 million over five years with his injury history, but I also can’t see how the Twins can feel good about letting him walk without putting together a really, really strong offer like this. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they already have done this and he rebuffed their offer. But $100 million is the sweet spot for me.

From Andrew Bieganski: What’s the more underrated horrendous move by the fo Letting curtiss go for nothing or anderson for nothing. I know Anderson’s out for the year but anderson had a couple elite seasons and curtiss has been consistently really good.

I don’t know that either is what you’d call “horrendous.” Anderson was definitely a miss, but also didn’t debut until he was nearly 28 largely due to some self-inflicted off-field issues. Still, they should have called him up and given him a chance at the end of 2018. There’s no denying that.

Curtiss’ numbers look very good over the last few years, but he just isn’t working high-leverage spots with any regularity. It’s puzzling as to why, because again, the numbers look very good: 2.35 ERA in 57.1 innings, 9.1 K/9, 1.6 BB/9, 1.06 WHIP and just six home runs allowed.

His win probability added last season was 0.34, but this year it’s just 0.07. By comparison, Matt Wisler — who was non-tendered by the Twins and recently DFA’d and traded by the Giants — had a 0.32 mark last season. This year’s mark of 0.07 ranks 248th out of the 692 pitchers who’ve seen action in MLB this season.

I think he can be pretty good — but for some reason, nobody wants to give him the chance.

From Doug Munson: Who would you say are the most likely Twins to get traded, and is there one player who most might not think would be traded who actually might go

Any possible free agent is on the list — Cruz, Pineda, J.A. Happ, Robles — but as far as players people might not expect? Man, I don’t know. I really, really, really don’t think they’re going to do too much to alter the guts of this team with the idea that this year was an aberration as compared to the previous two.

Is that the right move? I can’t say for sure. But again, I still see this as an immensely talented team that has underperformed due, at least in part, to injuries this season.

I might be the last person who believes it, but I think so. Buxton and the Twins still have so much evaluation to do to find a common ground on an extension, and the bad luck on these injuries has to run out soon, doesn’t it?

I just don’t like the idea that breaking his hand by getting hit by a pitch is another strike against him being injury-prone, and I hope he can come back with a vengeance and show he’s worth investing in long-term.

He’s the most physically gifted player the organization has ever had, in my opinion.

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Warne has covered the Minnesota Twins in some form or fashion for more than a decade, and before that grew a fan of the team. He lives in the suburban Twin Cities area with his wife Amanda and daughter Harper.

Minneapolis, MN
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