I’ll be honest — this is my favorite part of the offseason.
We’re still all running off the sugar high of the World Series — and for some of us, our children’s Halloween candy — and the specter of an eventful offseason still looms for every single one of MLB’s 30 fanbases.
We all like to put on the hypothetical GM hat to think about what moves we’d make if we were in charge of the local nine — and that’s where the idea of offseason blueprints was basically devised.
We’ll see what happens this winter, but I think it’d be fun to do a few of these. Maybe an aggressive one, a moderate one and a conservative one.
But this time around, we’re going to take a look at what I believe the Twins will do.
Let’s start with the arbitration guys. For the sake of consistency, we’ll take the average of the three figures MLB Trade Rumors posted here for the estimates of what we’ll pay the guys we tender in this exercise:
Jose Berrios - $5.87 million (tender)
Byron Buxton - $4.8 million (tender)
Tyler Duffey - $1.93 million (tender)
Mitch Garver - $1.83 million (tender)
Taylor Rogers - $5.66 million (tender)
Eddie Rosario - $10.37 million (non-tender)
Matt Wisler - $1.33 million (tender)
I don’t think any of this is terribly surprising. I’ve spilled much digital ink in this space suggesting Rosario is as good as gone, and I think — again, as I’ve said — he’ll wind up with James Rowson in Miami (or Boston if he somehow got that managerial job).
With Brad Hand getting his option declined, there’s been some talk about if Rogers’ salary is prohibitive, but I think he’s just on the edge of that. Well, to be honest, I think he’s in the “just fine” range and so was Hand, but once we adjust for what’s bound to be a strange offseason, I think Rogers is still coming in at a reasonable number for how good he’s been the last few years, 2020 notwithstanding.
For the sake of simplicity/rounding, we’ll place all pre-arb players in the class of making exactly $600k. The MLB minimum was a touch over $563k last season — or at least it would have been — so this way, if nothing else, we aren’t undershooting.
Anyway, here we go:
C: Garver - $1.83 million
1B: Sano - $12.33 million
2B: Arraez - $600k
3B: Donaldson - $21.75 million
SS: Polanco - $4.33 million
LF: Cave - $600k
CF: Buxton - $4.8 million
RF: Kepler - $6.5 million
DH: Cruz - $12.5 million (one year, $12.5 million with option for ‘22)
Salary total: $65.24 million
In this case, Nelson Cruz would be coming back on a one-year deal with an option for 2022. I initially thought he could command $30ish million on a two-year deal, but that was before it became likely the National League wasn’t going to adopt the universal DH and before we truly had any idea how frigid the market would be.
I think one year plus an option is about what he’d get anywhere else, so why not run it back with the Twins as long as their offer is as good as anyone else’s?
Everything else is business as usual except for Cave in left. That’s just a placeholder for Alex Kirilloff, who’ll be up within the first few weeks or maybe within a month of the season for….well, reasons.
C: Jeffers - $600k
IF: Adrianza - $1.5 million
IF: Hernandez - $5 million (two years, $10 million)
OF: Wade - $600k
Salary total: $7.7 million
If I’m being honest, I’m not really sold on a Garver/Jeffers platoon. It’s not that they aren’t both good — it’s that they’re both good. There’s no rhyme or reason on how to deploy them because they’re both good right-handed hitters with different strengths defensively. I still think trading Garver and bringing back Jason Castro might be the move here, but I don’t suspect the Twins see it that way. Either way, this is a heck of a lot of talent behind the plate no matter how it’s sliced.
The Twins need a backup shortstop and Adrianza is coming off a tough 2020 season. I think it makes sense for both sides to pursue a reunion in hopes that he can play a little closer to his 2018-19 numbers to get a look at a more prominent role elsewhere after 2021, when the Twins will have more help in the shortstop department as well.
If you follow me on Twitter, I’ve made no attempted to hide my feelings for Kiké Hernandez as a fit on this team. He hits lefties, is a good clubhouse personality and can play all over. He’s especially valuable as a potential left fielder against lefties early in the season until Kirilloff is called up, and at second base with Luis Arraez struggling a bit against southpaws so far in his career.
Wade deserves a longer look in the big leagues and in this case he’d be getting it. It’s not an ideal outfield for him to try to crack, but in a lot of ways I think he can be the second coming of Robbie Grossman — but a little better defensively. That’s definitely not a bad thing.
This might not seem like a super exciting bench, but it works well for what the Twins need.
SP1: Maeda - $3.125 million
SP2: Berrios - $5.87 million
SP3: Pineda - $10 million
SP4: Gausman - $12 million (three years, $36 million)
SP5: Odorizzi - $10 million (one year, $10 million)
Salary total: $40.995 million
The Nos. 1-3 spots are locked up, and you could easily make a case that Randy Dobnak should have the first crack at No. 5. I don’t disagree with that, but I also think it’s a great idea to have more than five capable MLB starters for five spots. This would push Dobnak and Devin Smeltzer to the outside looking in — and in many cases, that means absolutely nothing once the season gets going.
Dobnak wasn’t supposed to start the season in the rotation and didn’t end it there, either, and still made 10 starts — more than anyone not named Jose Berrios or Kenta Maeda. He can also definitely help the Twins as a swingman-type out of the bullpen — especially with his propensity for inducing grounders, which is very valuable in tight spots where a double play can get a team out of danger.
So I do think the Twins might go the extra mile to fill the last two spots in the rotation. Running it back with Odorizzi makes a ton of sense, and as I’ve said before I think I’d go $10 million in base salary with an extra million for every 20 innings he pitches. Given the financial landscape we seem to be seeing in the game, it might not even require that. We shall see.
But for the other spot, I think grabbing Gausman, who is coming off a really nice rebound season with the Giants — 1.3 bWAR, 3.62 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 59.2 innings, 11.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 1.11 WHIP — is a great consolation prize to losing out on Zack Wheeler last winter. In fact, I think Gausman could be 85-90 percent of the pitcher at about half the AAV of Wheeler’s deal ($24-25ish million moving forward) with a shorter commitment to a younger pitcher, besides.
RP1: Rogers - $5.66 million
RP2: Duffey - $1.93 million
RP3: May - $6 million (two years, $12 million)
RP4: Wisler - $1.33 million
RP5: Stashak - $600k
RP6: Thielbar - $900k
RP7: Alcala - $600k
RP8: Dobnak - $600k
Salary total: $17.62 million
There’s nothing too crazy here. Thielbar doesn’t show up as free-agent eligible or arbitration-eligible anywhere except Cot’s Contracts, but we’ll roll with their $900k estimate for the rejuvenated lefty.
Beyond that, running it back with May makes plenty of sense. With that said, any number of pitchers can be used here, including Minnesota native Brad Hand, or reunions with Sergio Romo and/or Tyler Clippard.
Overall team salary total: $131.555 million
This is almost exactly in lockstep with what the team’s 2020 salary structure would have been if 2020 had gone off without a hitch. Cot’s has that at $132 million and change.
Note: Free-agent values largely influenced by this tremendous Craig Edwards piece from Fangraphs