Roster Revamp 2022-23: Minnesota Twins
Editor’s note: For the first time this offseason, welcome back to the Roster Revamp series! In each article, BTV Associate Editor Joshua Iversen will be completing a team’s offseason by compiling different user-submitted proposals from the site’s trade boards into a single plan. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.
The 2022 season did not go as planned for the Minnesota Twins. Their battles with injuries and underperformance resulted in a second-half collapse, leaving the playoff hopefuls sitting in a distant third place (and under .500) in the weak AL Central. Things don’t look any easier this offseason, as star shortstop Carlos Correa hit free agency expecting much more than the pillow contract the Twins signed him to last March (and, may or may not be receiving it from the New York Mets, pending a physical). Minnesota’s farm is depleted from their postseason push, meaning they may have to get creative to catch up with the young, scrappy Cleveland Guardians and the still-dangerous Chicago White Sox.
Where they stand
There’s a strong core in place here. You could do much worse than Luis Arraez, Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco at the top of your lineup, and Minnesota has all three in place for the foreseeable future. Jose Miranda has worked his way into the team’s long-term plans, and former top prospects Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach could really lengthen the lineup if they could just stay healthy.
The rotation is solid, too. Sonny Gray is a rock, and Joe Ryan looks like one of the league’s most underrated young arms. A healthy Tyler Mahle is an excellent number three, and if Kenta Maeda can regain any of his 2020 form in his return from Tommy John Surgery, he’ll be a valuable contributor as well.
Payroll isn’t a concern, either. According to FanGraphs’ Roster Resource, the Twins finished 2022 at $142M, but currently stand at just $118M. Theoretically, they could have brought back Correa (or added another top free agent) and still had some room for further additions, without even surpassing their 2022 figure. But so far, they have opted for some smaller additions and project to open the 2023 season at a lower budget than their 2022 figure.
The caveat with almost every player on the Twins is health, and that starts with Buxton. The spectacular defensive center fielder was limited to 92 games last season (34 as a DH) yet still managed to produce 4.0 fWAR – MVP-caliber production if extrapolated over a full season. Unfortunately, you can’t do that; Buxton is, at this point, highly unlikely to ever play a full season. Arraez, Larnach, Kirilloff and others were banged up as well, Maeda is a huge question mark coming off TJS at age 34 and Mahle spent the second half bouncing on and off the Injured List with a shoulder ailment. Perhaps it’s no surprise that one of Minnesota’s first moves this offseason was adding a new head athletic trainer, Nick Paparesta, formerly of the Oakland A’s.
What they’ve done
The Twins started their offseason by losing a lot more than they added. The team declined club options on 1B/3B Miguel Sano and RHPs Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy, obvious choices given their 2022 performances and 2023 salaries. Exercising Sonny Gray’s club option was also an easy decision, as was Correa’s to opt out of his deal.
But Minnesota continued to shed salary from there, sending infielder Gio Urshela ($0.4M median trade value) to the Los Angeles Angels for RHP prospect Alejandro Hidalgo ($2.0M). Urshela was solid, but unspectacular for the Twins in 2022, and his $9.2 million expected arbitration salary was nearing his projected field value. The club then turned around and flipped another RHP prospect, Casey Legumina ($1.2M), to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for utility man Kyle Farmer (-$0.3M). Farmer is a worse hitter than Urshela, but a much better defender and a capable shortstop, an absolute must for a team at risk of losing a player like Correa. He’s also projected to earn $3.3 million less than Urshela in arbitration.
In the weeks leading up to the holidays, the Twins made their first two upgrades of the offseason, adding catcher Christian Vazquez on a three-year, $30 million contract and outfielder Joey Gallo on a one-year, $11 million deal. Our model had the Vazquez deal as a significant overpay, leaving the backstop with a median trade value of -$14.2M. The veteran clearly benefited from being one of the last viable options on a busy catching market.
The Gallo deal ($1.2M) appears much better by our model, and is certainly more interesting. The slugger looked lost with the Yankees and Dodgers in 2022, but perhaps a change of scenery and the new limitations on this shift could help him regain his prior levels of production. His presence also makes a Max Kepler ($7.6M) trade – previously heavily speculated – even more likely.The Twins also made the somewhat curious decision to tender a contract to RHP Emilio Pagan. Pagan, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres last offseason in the Chris Paddack/Taylor Rogers trade, is projected to earn $3.7M in his final year of arbitration. That’s a very fair price to pay a reliable reliever, but Pagan has been anything but – by fWAR, he hasn’t been a positive contributor since 2019. The fly ball pitcher has consistently spoiled solid strikeout and walk rates with ugly home run numbers. Maybe the Twins think they can take another crack at fixing him, but to us, he just looks like a warm body in the ‘pen.
What they still need
As has been the case for many years in Minnesota, the bullpen is an obvious weak spot. In 2022, the Twins ranked 20th in baseball in bullpen fWAR and 18th in Win Probability Added. Michael Fulmer remains a free agent, and while he wasn’t anything special after joining the team at the trade deadline, he’d be an upgrade over the current back half of Minnesota’s bullpen. Above all else, the team could really use a reliable late-inning option, especially given Jorge Lopez’s struggles (4.37 ERA after also being acquired at the 2022 deadline).
Beyond that, the Twins are in an unenviable spot – good, but not great, almost across the board. From top to bottom, their lineup and rotation both look fine, just not exciting. One of the toughest upgrades to make is from average to above average production, especially without a ton of value on the farm to consolidate.
A stable rotation presence would be welcome. While their current starting five of Gray, Ryan, Mahle, Maeda and Bailey Ober features five quality arms, it also features plenty of health questions. It wouldn’t be wise to pencil any of the five in for 30 starts in 2023, and many of the team’s depth arms after that group struggled in 2022. While adding an ace may not be feasible (or necessary), a veteran mid-rotation or back-end starter would help the team get through 162.
Shortstop is the obvious weak link in the offense with Farmer projected to start. But all of the top free agent options are off the board, and the trade market at the position is weak. Unless Minnesota opts for Elvis Andrus or Jose Iglesias, it seems it may be Farmer’s job to lose, at least until Royce Lewis returns from his mid-2022 knee surgery or top prospect Brooks Lee charges through the upper minors.
What they have
The easiest way for the Twins to make a splash would be moving Lee ($38.9M). But if they aren’t willing to move on from their 2022 first-round pick so quickly, the obvious position of strength is the outfield. Buxton and Gallo are locks, leaving Kepler ($7.6M), Trevor Larnach ($14.6M), Alex Kirilloff ($11.9M), Matt Wallner ($7.3M), Gilberto Celestino ($1.8M) and Kyle Garlick ($0.0M) to battle for the third starting spot (in addition to an important bench role, given Buxton’s injury history).
On the farm, outfielder Emmanuel Rodriguez ($14.2M) is the only name beyond Lee with notable value. UT Austin Martin ($7.5M) has seen his value tank since joining Minnesota in the 2021 Jose Berrios trade, and could be a change of scenery candidate. 2022 breakout infielder Eduoard Julien ($7.5M) could be a trade chip, or his presence could make fellow infielder Luis Arraez ($26.6M) more expendable, as the team has reportedly explored trading him this offseason. The Twins also have a group of arms ranging from Connor Prielipp ($5.9M) to Blayne Enlow ($2.2M) that could be moved.
Finally, Minnesota has a tradeable Competitive Balance Pick valued at $6.0M.
What they could do
|Twins get:||Yankees get:|
|RHP Frankie Montas||$10.1M||OF Max Kepler||$5.8M*|
|RHP Chris Paddack||$5.5M|
The Yankees are a popular fit for Kepler, given their need for a left-handed hitting corner outfielder and the clean fit for his pull-happy profile with the short porch. He’s cost-controlled, earning $8.5 million in 2023 and a $10 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2024. His presence would bump Oswaldo Cabrera into a super-sub utility role, and provide another outfield option to keep Aaron Judge, Harrison Bader and Giancarlo Stanton fresh.
After this trade (from user TraderCupofJoe) was posted, Kepler’s value was bumped up slightly to account for inflation and other market factors. So while Paddack might not be the best fit for the Yankees (given his fly ball tendencies and current elbow injury), he could cleanly be subbed for another optionable depth arm – say, Jordan Balazovic ($2.8M).
The Twins targeted Montas while the A’s had him on the block. He even became something of a cult favorite among the Minnesota fanbase. But he was dealt to New York at the 2022 deadline and struggled to a 6.35 ERA in pinstripes, reminding many Yankee fans of Sonny Gray’s struggles after a similar deadline deal. After signing Carlos Rodon, Montas is now penciled in as New York’s fifth starter, ahead of Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt. Other possibilities include the out-of-options Deivi Garcia and rising prospect Randy Vasquez. The Yankees could afford to lose Montas, and removing his projected $7.7 million arbitration salary makes the Kepler addition nearly cost-neutral for 2023. While Montas had shoulder issues of his own in 2022, he still made 27 starts (and 32 the season prior) and would make for strong mid-rotation depth in Minnesota, with potential tp be more.
One Carlos Out, One Carlos In
|Twins get:||Mets get:|
|RHP Carlos Carrasco||-$4.7M||RHP Brayan Medina||$0.3M|
|UT Luis Guillorme||$5.2M|
Perhaps adding a second starter after Montas would be too much. But given the questions surrounding many members of that rotation, adding another quality arm in Carrasco couldn’t hurt. Carrasco’s own health concerns have him underwater on his $14 million contract. While Steve Cohen’s Mets don’t seem to have a real budget, they’ll also be deep into the highest luxury tax tier if the Correa signing goes through, and they’ve reportedly been shopping Carraso as a result.
The Twins, meanwhile, still have some budget space to go before hitting their 2022 mark, and adding another solid starter – as well as a possible upgrade at shortstop in Guillorme – wouldn’t be a bad way to spend it. It isn’t likely that all seven of Carrasco, Montas and Minnesota’s current projected rotation would make it through Spring Training healthy, and on the off chance they do, Ober could start the year in Triple-A and Maeda in the bullpen to limit his innings. Guillorme, superfluous to the Mets after the Correa signing, forms a natural platoon partner with Farmer and the pair could be above average on both sides of the ball.
New York’s return would be minimal, and could go in any direction. Brayan Medina would be a decent low-minors lottery ticket, or the Mets could opt for higher-minors pitching depth like LHP Brent Headrick ($1.2M) or an outfielder like Celestino or Garlick.
This specific deal (from user doctorgast) may not be the perfect fit for both sides; if the Twins felt their rotation was too crowded after adding Montas, maybe the two teams could agree on a more valuable arm like Matt Canterino ($5.3M) or Simeon Woods-Richardson ($5.4M). But I think there’s something here, and the Twins could do a whole lot worse than a Guillorme/Farmer platoon.
On the Hunt
|Twins get:||Nationals get:|
|RHP Hunter Harvey||$2.2M||1B Aaron Sabato||$1.5M|
The Twins already tried their hand at one former Orioles top prospect, when Dylan Bundy ate some innings for the team in 2022. Why not try another? Harvey found success in a relief role for the Nationals last season, but due to his lengthy injury history and short track record, he would still come cheap in a trade. Rather than giving up multiple top prospects in a deal for David Bednar ($21.9M) or Alexis Diaz ($24.9M), Minnesota could gamble on Harvey as they did on Jorge Lopez at the 2022 deadline.
Aaron Sabato is a powerful first baseman with strikeout issues. But like the prospect names in the previous deal, he could be subbed for one of many Twins prospects in that value range if Washington preferred.
Thanks to user twinscenter for this proposal.
These moves fill Minnesota’s shortstop hole and rotation, but leave room in the bullpen for a reunion with Fulmer if so desired, or adding a similar free agent reliever. They could also use an upgrade at designated hitter, where utility man Nick Gordon is currently penciled in. However, they like to keep the position open to give Buxton half-days off, so perhaps a part-time option who could also spell Luis Arraez at first base would make sense. Jesus Aguilar, Brandon Belt or a flier on Dominic Smith could work – or, the team could leave the position open and see if Kirilloff, Julien or Wallner impress in spring.
By letting Correa walk and not replacing him with another star free agent – either at shortstop or in the rotation – the Twins have left themselves in a tough spot. As a team unable to spend at the level of the Yankees, Dodgers or Mets, and also lacking a deep farm like the Rays or Guardians, Minnesota will be forced to shuffle pieces and add at the margins if it wants to cash in on its current window. With moves like these, I think it’s possible. But the Guardians are only improving and the White Sox aren’t going away quite yet, so the time to act is now.
What do you think about this plan? What moves would you make instead? Which teams would you like to see revamped next? As always, feedback is more than welcome. And keep on submitting trade proposals – they just might end up featured in a later installment of this series.