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No, The Twins' Interest in Marwin Gonzalez is not an Issue
They need at least two infielders -- why not Marwin?
Late Tuesday evening, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweeted that the Minnesota Twins had shown interest in a reunion with utility player Marwin Gonzalez.
This sparked an immediate, almost universal outcry that the Twins weren’t aiming high enough, and that Gonzalez wasn’t a good fit for the roster.
I don’t think that could be further from the truth.
First of all, it’s undeniable that Gonzalez wasn’t terribly good with the Twins. Between his two seasons, he hit .248/.311/.387 (87 OPS+) and was worth 2.0 WAR by Baseball Reference’s reckoning and 1.6 WAR according to Fangraphs.
But let’s think about this rationally for a second. The Twins need two infielders. Not just want — need. Neither Travis Blankenhorn nor Nick Gordon can be relied upon for any sort of reliable MLB depth, and Royce Lewis is still a bit of a ways off after a weird year development-wise.
Ideally, one of the two infielders the Twins need would play shortstop in some form or fashion. Preferably, that would be a starting shortstop which would allow Jorge Polanco to function as a high-end utility guy — basically what the Twins hoped they were getting when they signed Marwin prior to the 2019 season.
Gonzalez wasn’t horrible in 2019, as he spelled Miguel Sano at third base to start the season — remember the ugly heel injury? — and also played all over as the need arose. That has value — and it especially will in 2021.
If the Twins are going to sign a true utility player, it makes sense to have one who can not only play the infield but the outfield as well. Gonzalez graded positively across the spectrum defensively with the Twins — plus-2.2 runs in 2019 and plus-0.3 in 2020 — and passes the eye test as at least passable pretty much wherever he stands.
The other thing is that he likely wouldn’t be reprising his role from the last two seasons. He played 167 of a possible 222 games (75.2 percent) — a number that would surely drop not only assuming the health of Josh Donaldson, Luis Arraez, Polanco and Sano but also pending the addition of another infielder, which again, the team needs.
Ehire Adrianza played in 127 games over the last two seasons and drew 337 plate appearances. In my estimation, Gonzalez would fill that role plus a little more since he can play the outfield. Let’s assume he can’t come anywhere close to the production he had in 2017, but he can be the sum of his last three seasons — a .248/.317/.397 hitter with acceptable defense all over.
That’s a 93 OPS plus — a sizable increase over Adrianza (87 in that span) with the added flexibility of playing the outfield capably. Gonzalez has hit passably against lefties over that span (95 wRC+ from 2018-20, 106 wRC+ if we crop his messy 2020) which also is another feather in his cap based on what the Twins will need.
To be sure, this move looks a lot better — emphasis on a lot — if/when the Twins add another infielder to the mix, depending on their skill level.
If it’s an Andrelton Simmons/Marcus Semien/Didi Gregorius, this is a terrific move. If it’s more along the lines of running it back with Adrianza, it becomes quite a bit more of an eyebrow-raiser.
But again, if he’s taking the plate appearances afforded to Adrianza, Willians Astudillo (204 in 2019, but only 16 in 2020) as well as shielding guys like Jake Cave and Alex Kirilloff from lefties a bit, it’s a wholly inoffensive move. At the very least, it’s not one that deserves the outcry the initial rumor — and keep in mind it’s only that, a rumor — received.
I’d assume the deal would be for one year in the $5 million range, which again is perfectly acceptable for a good, but not great utility player cut from a similar mold as Kiké Hernandez, who will probably ink a similar deal.
In tl;dr form:
Marwin + a starting shortstop - GREAT
Marwin + another utility guy - not ideal but still fairly innocuous