The other night, I was talking to a friend about the Twins as they approach the trade deadline. After such a dismal end to June, I had been thinking about the offseason, and what the Twins might do with themselves. I thought I had a good case for tearing everything down to the studs, and making aggressive moves, a la the White Sox of the past couple of years, and trading even top talent for a surfeit of high end prospects.
I thought the Twins might be ready to supplement their prospect pool and regroup to make an even more assertive effort at rebuilding after the Terry Ryan led charge seems well on it’s way to fizzling out. Naturally, after many long difficult years, Twins fans might not have the stomach for this type of drastic action. Still, this is only the second season with Derrick Falvey and Thad Levine in charge. They might be more inclined to take decisive action.
They are going to look at their decisions with a business like acumen. What will the be the most viable course to success. Going into this offseason, will they feel they have only a few holes keeping the team from success, or will they have many flaws that will take years to address? If it is the former, then they can approach this offseason as an opportunity to make another run at the postseason. If it is the latter, they will likely be inclined to extract whatever value they can out of nearly every available asset.
The only logical thing, then, was to aassess exactly what the Twins have to work with. What would the Twins look like if they didn’t retain any of their pending free agents, and none of the options that are presently pending? Here is a chart that I came up with, containing all the players on the current roster, as well as top 30 prospects in the organization that have reached Rochester, and players in Rochester that have played with the Twins.
If you are a pessimist, as I think most Twins fans are at this point, the first thing you notice is the glaring holes in the depth chart. How is it possible that there aren’t any third or first basemen available? The outfield remains a concern if you are unconvinced of their development, as Byron Buxton is a primarily glove oriented player, and Max Kepler hasn’t really broken out yet. And who is the DH? The Twins have gone with Robbie Grossman in the past couple of seasons, but I think everyone agrees that that isn’t the best option.
There are definitely flaws, but at the other side of the ledger, we will need to take into account the assets that the team has before we really judge whether or not the team should consider blowing everything up. The first that really stands out to me is the pitching. Not only would there be some veteran options, like Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson, but there is also talent on the way. Looking at the options, I would pencil in Fernando Romero as the fifth starter, but Adalberto Mejia, in particular, has made a case for being in the rotation this year, as have Zach Littell and Aaron Slegers.
The bullpen is frustrating this year thanks to overuse and inconsistency from the veterans. The good news is, there are players that will hold over into next year, and those holdovers are probably the best pitchers left in the bullpen, except for Fernando Rodney. Addison Reed has struggled this year, but he is clearly better than Zach Duke or Matt Belisle. The most promising arms in the pen are Trevor Hildenberger, Ryan Pressly and Taylor Rogers, and they are all going to be back. Alan Busenitz and Gabriel Moya are guys I like, and they would have more room to work in the pen, while Trevor May and Tyler Duffey would have opportunities to work in the bullpen as well.
Then there are the positions I didn’t mention as weaknesses. Up the middle, the Twins are solid. The front office has the catcher they want in Jason Castro, and Mitch Garver might be overmatched as a starter, but he would be fine as a back up. Jorge Polanco is a natural second baseman, and Nick Gordon is the top prospect in Rochester that hasn’t yet made it to the Majors, and is likely the short stop of the future. Eddie Rosario is the best player on the team, and is either the anchor to build on, or the first player traded in a rebuild.
This all goes without saying that Byron Buxton, while perhaps not the player many fans expected, is one of the best defensive center fielders to ever play the game. Not only would that secure him a spot on any team, but it also makes the pitching staff a lot better.
So what will the Twins do? I think they will look to reload, and not tear it down and rebuild from scratch. The greatest holes I mentioned, third and first base, as well as DH, have some of the top prospects in the organization looming, ready to take over in the next couple of years, with Royce Lewis and Brett Rooker capable of manning a couple of those positions. If you feel better about Miguel Sano, then that’s even better.
In the short term, I think there are a few obvious maneuvers in order to make a concerted effort in 2019 and beyond. They should attempt to re-sign Joe Mauer and Eduardo Escobar, in order to work as placeholders at the corners until fresher help arrives, in the form of Lewis or Rooker. More controversially, they should trade Kyle Gibson now, while his value is at it’s highest, and provide opportunity for younger, but still talented pitchers. There is depth, and there are good options there.
The biggest advantage the Twins have for an immediate attempt at a return to contention is one I haven’t mentioned yet. It’s their payroll situation. By 2020, the Twins have 0 dollars committed to their roster. They can think about extensions now, to retain players like Rosario or Berrios for the long term, and they can make serious runs at free agents that they feel could round out the team. Perhaps they would like another outfielder if they don’t feel Max Kepler is a capable option. Maybe they think Royce Lewis is going to play somewhere else, aside from third. The Twins have the financial room to make a move for Josh Donaldson, because once again, they have absolutely zero financial commitment beyond next season.
This team is about as torn down to the studs as they can get it, and they have the resources to start piecing everything back together sooner rather than later. This has been a rough season, but the Twins are in a much better position than it seems.