Friday Files (5.29.21): 2022 Shortstop, Dobnak Commitment, Trade Buxton?
Welcome back to a weekly edition at Access Twins 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. And sometimes when we’re traveling — like we are this Memorial Day weekend — we’ll post these on Saturday.
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Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:
So I’m assuming this is Jasson Dominguez, the uber outfield prospect for the New York Yankees who was Baseball America’s No. 26 prospect with their most recent update (No. 33 entering the season).
Also, in “you are old” news, he was born during my junior year of high school. Wow, very cool!
For the sake of discussion, no I don’t see how the Yankees would do this. Even with Aaron Hicks shelved I just don’t think they’d see a compelling enough reason to try acquire another talented center fielder who hasn’t been able to stay healthy — let alone pay this kind of premium.
But let’s say the Twins could get a prospect from that general area.
Let’s say between Nos. 25-35 from the updated list that Baseball America posted:
No. 25 - Drew Waters, OF - Braves
No. 26 - Jasson Dominguez, OF - Yankees
No. 27 - Jordan Groshans, SS - Blue Jays
No. 28 - Logan Gilbert, SP - Mariners
No. 29 - Luis Campusano, C - Padres
No. 30 - Asa Lacy, SP - Royals
No. 31 - Brandon Marsh, OF - Angels
No. 32 - Trevor Larnach, OF - Twins
No. 33 - Joey Bart, C - Giants
No. 34 - Corbin Carroll, SS - Diamondbacks
No. 35 - JJ Bleday, OF - Marlins
Call me crazy, but I’m more apt to see what Buxton can do over the next year and a half as opposed to taking a shot on any of these guys with the exception of Dominguez. But even with Dominguez, it’s hoping and dreaming on the sky-high potential of a guy who still hasn’t played a game in pro ball yet.
I like each of these prospects a fair deal, but I just don’t see what the benefit would be. I’m still holding out hope for Buxton to have a solid season and pay him what it’ll take to keep him around. He’s that kind of talent.
Now as far as actual prospects, I’ll refer to this top-30 list from Baseball America. My assumption is that we aren’t talking about guys like Yennier Cano, who could get a shot but are in their later 20s and are less likely to be big stars as opposed to useful regulars or guys who can help but aren’t household names.
As I’ve said before in this space, it’s kind of tough. Larnach and Alex Kirilloff are already up. Royce Lewis is hurt. Ryan Jeffers is already kind of yo-yo’ing back and forth.
Would Jhoan Duran and/or Jordan Balazovic be in the big leagues — or at least close to it — if there was minor-league baseball last year? In the case of Duran, who has looked pretty good at St. Paul, the answer is probably yes. The answer is murkier with Balazovic, who didn’t join the alternate training site until later in the season, isn’t quite as far along as guys like Duran and is right now working his way back from a back issue.
Some of the more moderately interesting prospect types are already in the big-league mix, too. Cody Stashak has struggled. Ben Rortvedt has debuted but looked better defensively than at the plate. Jorge Alcala has his moments.
So unless someone like Matt Canterino or Josh Winder make a late charge, it might be “what you see is what you get” unless the Twins look to get a long look at Gilberto Celestino, which would *shudder* likely involve a long-term injury to one of the starting outfielders (you probably know which one).
It’s a five-year extension for basically middle reliever money, if even that. If it’s five and dive for the Twins and Dobnak, he’s guaranteed $8.25 million — total.
It’s a nice chunk of change — life-altering money — for a guy who deserves every penny as one of the best stories to come through the Twins organization in years.
But it hardly defines him as indispensable. He deserves a long look at the No. 5 spot. Matt Shoemaker has nothing left to give the Twins, in my opinion, and Dobnak should get an extended look at this point.
The numbers won’t look kindly on Dobnak’s appearance Friday night, but he truly pitched pretty well. For all the people upset about Rocco Baldelli’s supposed “short” leash on starting pitchers all season, they were awfully quiet when Dobnak was permitted to face and allow the first three batters to reach in the seventh.
But I would be also fairly shocked if Dobnak is making starts for this team at the end of his contract. But if he is, the Twins are adequately positioned to pay him up to $21.5 million for his ages 31-33 seasons. If he makes that jump, it’s because he’s turned into Kyle Gibson II with a strong mix of grounders and enough strikeouts with the slider to keep the sinker effective.
And if not, he’s a guy who can come out of the bullpen to give them length, work as a bulk guy behind an opener or even come in and get a big double play in a tight spot in the mid to late innings.
He’s still a plenty valuable member of the team even if he never settles in at the No. 3 or 4 starter.
The better question is if the Reds would sell low on Castillo, and the answer is almost certainly no. Even amidst his struggles, he won’t get terribly expensive anytime soon and isn’t a free agent until after 2023. The Reds are working toward becoming one of the best analytically-driven pitching development teams in the game, so if they don’t believe they can fix Castillo — and there’s no proof they feel that way — then it’s probably not a good sign.
That’s not to say I don’t like the way you’re thinking here. The Twins definitely need another starter. Getting one with multiple years of control would be a huge plus.
And not only that, but it’s not something they’d be locked into. If Castillo proved unfixable or worse yet, just not a good fit with the organization, it’s as simple as non-tendering him or finding another team willing to give him a shot like the Twins were in that case.
The only thing really lost, in that case, would be whatever was traded to the Reds to acquire Castillo in the first place.
But that’s also the hangup. There’s really no reason to believe the Reds are itching to get rid of Castillo right now, when they’re in a similar position to the Twins in terms of contention and have all the time in the world to be patient with him.
I dig it. I still believe in the talent. They need to get healthy — and fast. But I’m not closing up shop after one loss to the Royals just like I wasn’t going nuts after three wins over the Orioles.
And you can say “well you seemed pretty into the idea of the Twins still being able to contend” after the Orioles series, but I’ve been there all season.
This is still a Twins team with a lot of talent. It’s time they put this thing together.
I lean toward no. While I think obviously framing will become a lost art, there’ll still be plenty to be gained from employing catchers who call a good game. That’s something we don’t really have a way to evaluate in the wild — maybe someday — but I think teams will still value it over the long term.
Throwing guys out stealing bases will also still matter — and maybe even more so to the point where we’ll see the paradigm shift towards defensive catchers who have cannons back there.
Will that be enough to save the jobs of guys like Jeff Mathis and Drew Butera in the future? Maybe not. But will it make guys like Salvador Perez even more valuable? Absolutely, I think.
I’m of the mind that the Twins will look to make a splash at the shortstop position next offseason. They’re hard-committed for under $50 million as of this writing for 2022 according to Cot’s Contracts here.
As I’ve noted multiple times across many platforms, it’s the winter of the shortstop even with Francisco Lindor inked long term with the Mets. Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien and even Andrelton Simmons will all be free agents this offseason.
Call me crazy, but I’m looking at Baez in this group. He’s not only Jose Berrios’ brother-in-law, but he’s in the midst of a stretch that’ll likely make his value difficult to agree upon with the Cubs.
Baez was brutal in 2020 but has picked it up in 2021. Combined, he’s hit .226/.263/.418 over his last 104 games for an 85 OPS+ and an astonishing 139-13 K/BB ratio.
Despite that, he’s a magnificent defender and as noted by his play against the Pirates earlier this week, he’s an incredibly fun player to watch nevertheless.
I’ve described him to others as Eddie Rosario, but who plays bad-ass defense at short. At his best, he’s an MVP-caliber player who simply doesn’t take walks. At his worst, he’s basically going to give you similar production to Andrelton Simmons (85-90 wRC+, great defense).
Bringing on Baez on a bridge deal to help him build some value while building increased good will with Berrios seems, to me, like a slam dunk idea.
A bridge deal like this — let’s say, two years and $35-40 million — gives time for the Twins to figure out what the future is with Lewis coming off his ACL issue.
And if that future is in center — with Buxton slated to hit free agency after next season — it again allows them the flexibility to make that happen without too much pressure on Lewis in his first experience in the big leagues, whenever that comes.
So I’m Team Baez. Or Team Story. Or even Team Bring Back Simmons.
But it’s going to be fun to watch.
I really think tightening up the bullpen with one more pitcher and adding another starter are the two ways to go — and they shouldn’t be difficult.
If the team trusts the rotation of Berrios, Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda enough to be the foundation in October — again this is a huge leap considering where the Twins are right now! — then maybe adding another guy who can compete for innings with Dobnak and J.A. Happ is the way to go. Someone like Mike Minor comes to mind.
As far as the bullpen goes, it depends on how the sand shifts out there. Have Taylor Rogers, Hansel Robles, Alexander Colome and Tyler Duffey figured it out well enough for them to be the Four Horsemen late in the season? Or do you need to shift one of those guys into more of a Stashak/Alcala role and add someone who can lock down bigger innings late?
A good place to look for options is here, the 2021-22 Free Agent List at MLB Trade Rumors.
Off the top of my head, I like guys like Ian Kennedy and Mychal Givens among guys who shouldn’t cost a ton to acquire, and maybe guys like Archie Bradley among those who’ll cost a bit more.
But at the end of the day, we might be asking ourselves what we think the Twins should be getting back in return for guys like Robles, Colome and maybe even Duffey or Rogers.
There’s so much we don’t know between now and when/if Cave comes back. But I really like what we’re seeing out of Rob Refsnyder right now. He could take over a wide-ranging utility role once guys get healthy, as he’s got plenty of experience playing second and first base in the big leagues in addition to some outfield.
But let’s also not lose sight of the fact that it’s 13 games and 43 plate appearances. It’s basically the equivalent of spring training. Refsnyder was a career .217/.305/.297 hitter with four (!) MLB teams in 181 games and 457 plate appearances prior to this.
Maybe he’s the new Lew Ford? Or maybe he’s just Glenn Williams — a 27-year-old journeyman who inexplicably hit .425/.452/.450 in 43 (!) plate appearances for the Twins in 2005.
I agree with Shiddy, whose post was true when he posted it prior to Friday night’s loss. I still think this team has it in them to get going. Don’t make me mention the Washington Nationals from a couple years ago (ha!).
But again, yes — I still believe in the talent here.
Donaldson won’t talk about it with the media, but I’m curious what ever becomes of this. And, you know, if there are any Twins/Braves/Blue Jays/A’s comrades on it.
It’s endlessly fascinating but I don’t think anything will come of it.
Baseball is in a tough place, though. Offense is down, but I don’t think it’s for the reasons people generally think.
I think it’s the combination of shifts and pitchers throwing 92 mph sliders. Hitters will adapt. They have no choice. It’ll probably still take the better part of a half-decade — just my estimate — but when jobs are at stake, hitters are smart guys.
I hear you. Zack Littell was extremely my dude when he was with the Twins.
With that said — and while I’m still not really sure why the Twins moved on — it’s pretty early to get charged up. Littell has only thrown 12.2 innings with the Giants. He’s not really striking anyone out, and hasn’t really had enough time for his batted-ball data to come to roost (0.71 ERA/3.79 xERA).
I’ll be curious to see how two things proceed with Littell. One is his velocity; he’s averaging 94.8 mph (career 93.3 mph average). Secondly, I’ll be monitoring his groundball rate. It’s not really close to stabilizing yet, but he’s at 55.9 percent right now. His career rate was closer to 40 percent coming into this season, but this would be a welcome change.
Still, he’s not getting an excessive number of swinging strikes (11.1 percent against a career rate of 10.1 percent) and he’s only struck out 20.4 percent of the batters he’s faced.
All of this is driven by a small sample size, but I’m not all in on Littell right now. I sure hope he keeps doing it, though.