We’ve considered at length the offseason plan for the Minnesota Twins, as the team seemed to need a wealth of starting pitching, and the team seemed to have the resources to invest heavily in that realm. Instead, we have learned that the team was more interested in a practical solution and a comprehensive plan for the future. Or as many fans called it “being cheap”.
The Twins added extensively to their bullpen, which was a disaster in 2017, added a slugging DH to round out the lineup at an affordable cost, but didn’t make the splash many expected for their rotation. They traded for Jake Odorizzi and signed Anibal Sanchez, but have not, and don’t seem interested in, signing any of the remaining free agent pitchers.
It seems as though the prohibitive factor for the likes of Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb or Jake Arrieta might just be the attached draft pick compensation. The money wasn’t an object for Yu Darvish, because the Twins would still keep their first round pick this summer. This goes well towards a proper reanalysis of the off season to date. The Twins were in favor of getting better, but not at the expense of their future.
So now, there is a logical next step to this train of thought. What will the Twins do with their extra money? What will they do for next year? This is why you have started hearing stories about the Twins interest in signing Byron Buxton to an extension, speculation on Joe Mauer’s future and most recently, Brian Dozier’s anticipation of becoming a free agent next season.
Buxton’s comparables suggest that he is in line for a 6 year, $30m extension, or something close, which is extremely reasonable. A contract offer with a greater total cost commitment wouldn’t be a bad thing either, as his future earnings only go up as he gets more comfortable in the Majors. Buxton offers something not easily found on the open market: Speed, defense and the potential to be an above average hitter. If Buxton is willing, an extension is a no brainer.
Mauer similarly offers something that isn’t available elsewhere. Tenure. His current unpopularity revolves entirely around his salary, so opting to stay in Minnesota on a reduced salary (especially if it comes with good health) would likely return Mauer back to good standing in the eyes of Minnesotans. If he is anywhere close to the batter he was last year, then that is just a bonus.
Dozier, on the other hand, shouldn’t be as excited about his prospects on the free agent market. First, he can consider how tepid the trade market was for his services when he was made eminently available by the Twins last off season. For those that don’t remember, the rumored offer for Dozier was ultimately sent to the Rays for Logan Forsythe. There weren’t any other suitors, aside from the Dodgers, who ended up with Forsythe. Second, he can look at Neil Walker’s plight. Walker is a serviceable second baseman. At this point, he is probably the superior second baseman when compared to Forsythe, and at this moment, he remains unemployed. In fact, it sounds like he might not even get a Major League deal as a 32 year old still fully capable of playing the position.
The market doesn’t look much more forgiving for Dozier next year, either. Perhaps, he believes that the Twins are a fallback option if others fail to materialize, but the Twins front office have proven to be nothing if not calculated in exposing their players to a potential departure. The Twins won’t spend a boat load of cash on Dozier for two reasons. 1) They think they can get him to stay on the cheap and 2) if he leaves, they have Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon and Royce Lewis as potential replacements.
The abundance of middle infield prospects with a chance to take over when or if Dozier leaves is a direct result of the conservative approach to the pitching market this offseason. The cash available to sign Buxton and Mauer to deals is a credit to the responsible spending this offseason. That the Twins aren’t signing players and losing draft picks is a sign that the Twins want to have the opportunity to continue this strategy for the long term.
Even if fans and writers have had a narrow focus on the off season, the Twins clearly haven’t. I believe that they would be more aggressive on a short term fix if they felt more confident that they were on the verge of something great, but they were a team that slipped into the playoffs after finishing slightly above .500 last season. This wasn’t the time to reset the franchise, but to shore it up for the future. The Twins saw things the same way.