We’re more than two months into the lockout without an end in sight. Meaningful games haven’t been placed on the chopping block yet, but we’d be naive to think that isn’t coming in the near future.
And while your definition of “meaningful” may vary — many players I’ve spoken with say spring training is a bit too long, but no two answers are the same — it’s no doubt disappointing to see how this situation has been handled by MLB ownership in conjunction with commissioner Rob Manfred.
So where does that leave us as consumers of baseball?
We’re in a weird spot where mentally we’re about one-third of the way through the offseason, mixed with almost done with it, mixed with however much time is going to be left for player movement once this thing finally gets resolved.
And while admittedly I allowed myself the thought that there was still time to get things done, you can’t deny right now that the Twins have a lot more work to do today than they did on Dec. 1 — even though actual “time” has not passed with the players locked out.
I’m not sure if that makes sense, even. I try to be measured in my analysis, but without knowing it’d be more than a month before any meaningful discussions were had between the union and the owners, I think I did the best with the information I had at my fingertips.
Anyway, the Twins will have to act, and act quickly, when the opening bell rings again and players start moving like Walmart televisions the day after Thanksgiving.
I still think the Twins can be a good team, but they have a lot of work to do to make that happen in 2023.
This is what I’d do:
Sign Trevor Story (six years, $150 million)
This, to me, is a no-brainer. Take the money that would have gone to Jose Berrios and give it (plus a little more, most likely) to a terrific shortstop who can be every bit as good as the Carlos Correas and Corey Seagers of the world, but is coming off a slightly down season.
Great teams are strong up the middle. Mitch Garver, Story, Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton is one hell of a quartet up the middle.
We’ve seen with hitters like DJ LeMahieu in recent seasons that simply leaving Coors doesn’t make a hitter’s skills evaporate, and beyond that, he’s a strong defensive shortstop who can swipe 20 bags a season and hit 30-35 home runs.
They don’t make too many of these guys. And as we’ve seen this offseason, the other ones have gotten closer to $200-300 million.
It’s hard to get value in free agency. This would be adding a potential superstar on a very reasonable contract which can be structured in a way to ramp up when Josh Donaldson’s contract expires, if one so desires.
Yeah, the Twins need pitching. But ramping up in other areas frees up the Twins to pursue pitching via other avenues.
Trade Austin Martin and Matt Wallner to the A’s for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino
I don’t want the Twins to trade Martin. You don’t either. But here we are. If the Twins are going to add any top-of-the-rotation help like they desperately need, they’re going to have to make some moves that make fans shift in their seats a bit.
The perception of Royce Lewis doesn’t seem to be as strong as Martin right now — and for good reason, as he’s missed the bulk of the last two seasons for reasons out of his control — and the reality is the Twins could, in theory, keep both, or trade from a position of strength to help clean up their biggest weakness.
You could sell me on Sean Manaea here. You could also sell me on Chris Bassitt. What I like about Montas is I think the potential ceiling is a bit higher, and he’s got two years of club control left. I would try to sign him to an extension right away — say, five years and $80 million — to help stabilize the top end of a rotation that should be boosted by prospect graduation, the continued growth of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober and hopefully the return of Kenta Maeda late in the season.
Sign Yusei Kikuchi (two years, $28 million)
If you want Michael Pineda on a more modest deal, I won’t fight that. What I want is a fairly strong starter who can anchor the middle of my rotation. I still love the idea of signing Carlos Rodon, but the risk that goes along with signing him is a big deal. I can understand why the Twins wouldn’t do it, even at say, three years and $75 million — a reasonable price for a pitcher as good as he can be.
With Kikuchi, I’m nabbing a fireballing lefty who I think even at age 30 still has room to grow and improve.
He strikes out a batter per inning, has reasonably good command and gets grounders. Can I work on his sequencing to help him give up fewer home runs? Do I scrap his cutter altogether (.889 OPS against) in favor of a four-seam fastball-slider-changeup trio?
I would definitely consider the latter, not only because the Twins have shown an affinity for sliders but because Kikuchi’s changeup has been quite strong (.504 OPS against 517 of them in his three-year MLB career).
Sign Jorge Soler (one year, $6 million w/ $8 million option for 2023)
The best way to try to replace Nelson Cruz is to find the next one. Sure, we can be almost certain nobody will ever be the next Nelly, but Soler is worth a look. He’s not a good defensive outfielder, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world for him to stand out there for a few innings in a real pinch.
In the ridiculous run environment that was the 2019 season, Soler mashed to the tune of a .265/.354/.569 line with 48 home runs for the Royals.
Since then, he’s hit .224/.319/.435 in 776 plate appearances, though he did hit .269/.358/.524 during the pennant race for the Braves last year and .242/.342/.606 in the postseason (in 38 plate appearances).
I’ll take a shot on the power and the idea that either he and/or Miguel Sano will be good enough to hold down first base and DH (or Alex Kirilloff can move into the dirt and play first if not).
Sign whatever flier starting pitcher you prefer for one year and $5-7 million
Basically, this would be some sort of hybrid between the Matt Shoemaker and J.A. Happ signings (monetarily, that is). Really, I’m just trying to find a guy where I think I can find some lightning in a bottle with. I really like Danny Duffy, but other guys I’m not opposed to would be Brett or Chase Anderson, Tyler Anderson (probably prefer him, honestly), Jakob Junis, Carlos Martinez, Zach Davies, Garrett Richards or even Drew Smyly.
Sign two fairly solid relievers to modest one-year deals
Basically here you’re replicating the Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard signings. And wouldn’t you know it, but both of those guys are available.
Here are the names I’d consider (probably just a sampling, honestly):
- Archie Bradley (highly preferable)
- Brad Boxberger
- Tyler Clippard
- Jesse Chavez
- Sergio Romo
- Mychal Givens
- John Curtiss
- Alex Colome (yes I’m serious)
- Joe Kelly
- Ian Kennedy
- Adam Ottavino
- Juan Minaya
- Yusmeiro Petit
- Richard Rodriguez
- Ryan Tepera
- Andrew Chafin
- Jake Diekman
- Sean Doolittle
- Brad Hand
- Daniel Norris
- Andrew Miller
- Tony Watson
As you can see, we’re casting a wide net here. I’m not on board with spending a lot on relief pitching, so we’re going with a quantity over quality approach. I’m sure that won’t be popular, but it’s what teams like the Rays do every year and they put together some pretty good bullpens.
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