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Monday's Mail (3.29.21): Opt-Out Clauses, the AL Central in 2026 and Jose Berrios
Welcome back to a weekly edition at Access Twins called “Monday’s Mail.” 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
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Should be pretty easy, right? Let’s talk to it:
I think they’re useful. It’s always good for a veteran player to retain a measure of control over where he gets to play — even during the regular season. I think the idea of going to a Triple-A team at age 30 with a cup of coffee in my stomach wouldn’t sit too well, but if I’m playing at St. Paul as a shortstop and I see a team lose their guy for a month, I’m going to want to see if they’d have any interest in my services if my opt-out is coming near.
It’s a good way to do right by older players with some service time but not a ton.
It’s worth remembering that Robbie Grossman was at Triple-A Columbus in 2016 when he opted out of his deal with Cleveland and signed with the Twins — who promoted him just a few days later.
Now if Grossman had simply asked for his release but didn’t have an opt-out in his contract, perhaps Cleveland would have granted it out of a desire to do right by the player — but he wouldn’t have it in his contract so I would suspect the Indians wouldn’t have done it.
So in general, I’m in favor.
Well, to know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been, right? Let’s look at the AL Central five years ago (2016):
Kansas City: 81-81
Yeesh, was that season really already five years ago? How can something simultaneously feel a long time ago but also like it happened yesterday.
Actually, now I’m thinking of how time has worked during COVID, so don’t answer that question.
The short answer is that a lot can change in five years!
If I’m being honest, though, I do think the Twins are doing things in a sustainable manner such that they can continue to be in the upper half of the division over the long-ish haul.
It feels like five years from now, Cleveland could be in the throes of the rebuild it’s trying to avoid. It also feels like Detroit and Kansas City should be better — but rebuilds are tricky. Development is rarely linear. We’ve seen that with the Twins over the last half-decade — see above — and I really do think we’ll see that with the White Sox this season.
So here’s my stab for 2026 standings:
I think it’s pretty clearly the top of the rotation. Mitch Garver has Ryan Jeffers, Luis Arraez is the backup across pretty much the entire infield and the outfield has Jake Cave, Kyle Garlick and Alex Kirilloff as depth.
One could make the case for the back of the bullpen, but I think they’ll roll four deep with Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Alex Colome and Hansel Robles with a handful of other guys in the mix to swap in and out based on how they pitch.
But if the Twins were to be without Jose Berrios or Kenta Maeda for any length of time, the rotation gets thin pretty quickly. I like Michael Pineda more than most and I’m eager to see what the Twins have cooked up for J.A. Happ’s pitch mix to see if he can keep the ball in the ballpark a bit better than he did with the Yankees.
Similarly, I think Randy Dobnak’s slider could be the story of the spring and Matt Shoemaker has been pretty good when he’s been healthy in the past. But the rotation is much, much better with Shoemaker and Dobnak battling for the last spot with Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe waiting in the wings.
Everything shifting up to move one of those latter two guys into a full-time spot gives the Twins significant issues when it comes to matching up rotation-wise with Chicago and even Cleveland.
Now with that said, the Twins still have a strong, well-balanced roster. They could very well be OK if that happens. But it would be, bar none, the most worrisome situation the Twins could face.
It….could get messy. The jockeying back and forth over money in 2020 left a sour taste in a lot of mouths — fans and players, specifically — and it’s not likely that bad blood will simply dissipate after a year and change.
For fans, it’s mostly going to boil down to which of the two sides of rich people will blink first — just like it did last season. If the dollar figure ends in -illions, chances are most fans will pretty much treat the two as the same and be more inclined to be mad at the players for not playing rather than the owners for not negotiating in good faith.
But this isn’t designed to be a referendum on the casual fan. Enjoy the game how you want to.
The issues are plenty and possibly very contentious. Service-time manipulation will be a front-burner issue. Free agency negotiations have been largely a mess the last few offseasons. There’s no real certainty on situations like the universal DH, expanded playoffs, division of new revenue streams, tanking and other issues I’m sure I’m missing.
From my point of view, there’s going to be a lot of jockeying back and forth on some of the lesser issues — but I think service-time manipulation and division of new monies from television and expanded playoffs will be the most contentious.
I think we’ll have a universal DH. I think we’ll have some kind of rule shift when it comes to service-time manipulation. I think we’ll have expanded playoffs.
But man, when it comes to money — I have no idea. It’ll probably land somewhere in the middle, with neither side being happy but with both acknowledging some baseball is better than none.
And that, my friends, would make the fans happy — which is really what we care the most about as readers, right?
I really think it’s as simple as smoothing out or narrowing the rough patches he seems to have each season. It feels like he has a funk of like three or four starts every season that make his ERA jump a half-run from where it otherwise would be.
Last season, he had a 5.92 ERA through his first five starts and a 2.79 over his last seven.
In 2019, he had a five-start stretch with an ERA of 8.07. His ERA before that stretch was 2.80. His ERA after that stretch was 3.08.
It’s clear the physical tools and everything are in place for Berrios, it’s just a matter of consistency. And if he never quite finds it, he’s simply a nice No. 2 starter instead of an ace.
Plenty of guys never develop past that and still make a hefty chunk of change in their careers. Hopefully, that won’t be the case with Berrios because he’s still so young and frankly, so close to breaking through, but it wouldn’t be tragic if he simply stayed this good.
If Matt Canterino is too obvious of a choice, I’ll go with Brandon Waddell. No, that’s not what it’s called when I walk away from Golden Corral — he’s a lefty who, coming into Monday, had fanned 15 of the 31 batters he’d faced this spring.
The Twins scooped him up for nothing off waivers last fall and passed him through waivers, so he’s in the organization for the duration barring something unforeseen.
Waddell had a cup of coffee with the Pirates last season and showed good velo from the left side (93.2 mph average fastball). It’ll be worth monitoring what changes the Twins have made with him and what kind of pitch design and sequencing Wes Johnson and Co. have crafted for him.
I think he’ll turn a lot of heads — first in St. Paul, then in Minneapolis — this season.
Sooo….what he’s referring to is my OOTP 6.5 league here that’s in the year 2057. I’ve been playing with this group of guys since the real year 2007 in some form or fashion, and we’ve started twice from the year 2004 with real MLB rosters, though of course, by 2020 or so it’s almost all fictional players.
Still, it’s a fun, easy-to-use simulation and we’re always looking for new owners, so drop me a message on Twitter if you’re interested. It’s free to play and doesn’t take much time or effort.
Anyway, what will baseball look like 35-plus years from now?
I think we’ll have the universal DH, 36 teams, pitchers throwing 110 mph and the 2019 baseballs will be a regular thing.
MLB.tv will still be blacked out in your home market for some reason, but it won’t matter because literally everyone will have figured out a workaround by then.
Krew Harper will be in the twilight of a tremendous MLB career, and will be making $75 million a year for the Las Vegas Gamblers of the NL Far West.
We can skip the obvious with guys like Kirilloff and Jeffers, so I think it’s going to be a lot of guys in the bullpen.
I think Edwar Colina (health-willing), Dakota Chalmers, Bailey Ober and Lewis Thorpe are guys on the 40-man roster who aren’t on the Opening Day roster who’ll play a larger role than we might expect at this point.
The difference with this year’s bullpen is that there aren’t any Sergio Romos, Trevor Mays or Tyler Clippards to leapfrog for spots in the bullpen. Hansel Robles could be really good, or he could be cooked and DFA’d within a month or so. Beyond that, these guys will get cracks over the likes of Cody Stashak, Caleb Thielbar and the like with what I estimate to be only three bullpen spots etched in stone — Rogers, Duffey and Colome.
A year ago, we thought Zack Littell was going to be a lock for the bullpen all season, and now he’s with the Giants. There’s nothing to say that Jorge Alcala is guaranteed a spot all season, though the Twins clearly hope he’ll be as big of a factor as he was in 2020 over the full season.
We’re going to see a ton of guys shuttled through this bullpen this season, and I think the endgame will be another really, really strong group on the whole.