As the off-season really gets underway this week, as free agency opens up to the league, and you might start to see a few trades brewing in the rumor mill, many outlets are starting to read the tea leaves, trying to see what their team of choice might have in mind for the tumultuous GM and Winter Meetings. I’m not above following along with the crowd, so I have put together a to-do list for Derek Falvey and Thad Levine this offseason.
1. At the GM meetings, listen for offers on Ervin Santana: I’m not saying that the Twins should be trying to actively move Santana, but they should definitely keep an open mind. Santana put up excellent numbers in 2017, but he is also in his mid-30s, had a heavy workload last season and terrible peripherals. If the Twins can get good value for him, they should absolutely deal him away. He is a ticking time bomb, looking much more ominous than Phil Hughes, who already exploded. Of course, there are some very good reasons to keep Santana. For one, his skill set plays up thanks to the exceptional outfield behind him, and you could worry about the messaging to fans and the team if you traded him away after the team made t’s first playoff trip in years. For that reason, you wait for the right move, not force any move, and then drop it after the GM meetings early next week.
2. If Santana does get traded, make a bigger trade to bring back a pitcher: The Twins wouldn’t be selling on Santana as part of a rebuild, and the team would need to make that abundantly clear from the outset. The Twins can and will be better without him, especially if they get a controllable, top of the rotation starter. I would love to keep Nick Gordon, but if he needs to be a part of a package to add Marcus Stroman or Chris Archer or someone else I mentioned here, do it. People would get over Santana being moved off the roster pretty quickly.
3. If Santana doesn’t get traded, be more conservative on the trade market: There won’ be the need, for one thing, to mollify the team and fans if Santana remains on the roster, but also, there will be fewer spots to fill. Perhaps some projects can be added, or a depth starter to fill out the rotation to hold a spot for one of the handful of prospects that are already in the system can fully develop. If the team feels strongly about the future of someone like Stephen Gonsalves, this might be the preferred route, but such a laid back approach to filling out the rotation will frustrate a lot of people, especially those that expect a change to the organizational mindset. Also, if Santana does falter and the team is still in contention, they will still have room to add a replacement for the playoff push.
4. Add any bullpen arm that is interested in coming here: How often are good bullpen stories just “out of nowhere” sensations? It definitely happens for the Twins pretty regularly (Fernando Abad and Brandon Kintzler come to mind recently). Don’t be shy about adding failed starters either. Their stuff can play up in shorter bursts, like it did with LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado almost 20 years ago and Glen Perkins in the past few years.. Don’t waste time with signing big named relievers, because a bad outing or two can completely sink the investment.
5. Lock some guys up long term: Given that most of the moves I have in mind for the Twins this off-season revolves around the rotations, which may suggest to you that I don’t have any real qualms with the offense. This is true, I don’t! There aren’t really any positions at which I am itching for the team to make a big splash to improve. Let’s make sure some of the guys on the roster stick around for the long haul. Here are some guys that you could buy out a couple of years of free agency this winter, and I would have no complaints. No pressure on signing an extension, just let them know that they are wanted.
Brian Dozier and Jorge Polanco might eventually be replaced by Nick Gordon or Royce Lewis, so maybe an extension there isn’t in the cards. Everyone else, if they want it, they got it. Keep ’em around, and they may want to stick, especially if they see the Twins are striving to build their pitching staff for the future.
The Twins should make this an interesting off-season, whether they follow my plan or not. The Twins appear to be at the precipice of another golden age, whether or not that is true, or even if the Front Office is confident of that opinion. It behooves the organization to make it look like they are making strides to get closer, even if those moves fringe moves that preserve the core of the team, and allow the prospect depth more time to develop. I’m very interested too see how this goes.