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I love offseason outlooks. I love the offseason and I love looking forward to the pending season. I’ve gone away from making these predictions for a while, but now I’m enthusiastically looking forward to putting this together. I’m going to make this a mix of “what I would do” and “what I think will actually happen.” and I’m arrogant to believe that, given the right circumstances, that might just be what happens.
Let’s break this down into three parts. First, we’ll identify areas that will need to be improved externally, settle on an organizational philosophy (wherein I am a part of the organization) and then find some solutions to the problems that we find. Today, will start with the position players.
I wrote about the Twins surfeit of cash a couple of months ago, and started to look at the various positions and the depth at those spots. Not much has really changed in that time, though now it appears that the Twins are really going to have to figure out what they what to do at first base if Joe Mauer isn’t coming back. The most likely, low touch version, would be to move Tyler Austin to first. Failing that, they have a glut of outfielders that could be rotated to first as well, or one of the three catchers who deserve a spot on the Major League roster (most likely Mitch Garver).
As I noted, there is a glut of outfield depth, and I suspect the Twins will be more apt to trade from it, rather than add to it. Eddie Rosario is a lock, as is Jake Cave, more than likely. Byron Buxton and Max Kepler are way too young to give up on. Kepler might be destined to be a platoon player long term, but there isn’t enough evidence to say that Buxton won’t be great in the long term. The catcher spot is pretty settled as well, with Jason Castro under contract, Mitch Garver capable at the plate and Willians Astudillo just too darn popular to be anywhere but on the roster.
That leaves the infield. As it stands right now, the players left over from last year would be Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco and Ehire Adrianza. At the absolute, bare minimum, the Twins would probably like to add a utility player, if not someone who could move Jorge Polanco to 2nd, or even take over 2nd themselves. Without a good option pressing Sano at third, it’s likely his spot to lose, unless the Twins prefer Sano at first to Austin. The Twins do have Nick Gordon, but I think with his struggles in 2018, nothing will be committed to him quite yet.
The Twins have a bucket of cash, and the free agent market seems robust. Don’t let those things distract you from the fact that there really isn’t a real place in the free agent market for the Twins. First, as we saw, there isn’t really an opening that the Twins should overspend for on the offensive side of the ball. Second, the opening that the Twins do need filled probably won’t need to be filled long term. Third, Minnesota isn’t one of the premier markets in the league, and those places will also be investing heavily in the Bryce Harpers and Manny Machados of the world. Those guys aren’t coming to Minnesota, likely even if the Twins offer more money. Additionally, players that are interested in winning right now won’t see Minnesota as a viable option, and would need to be overwhelmed, probably financially, in order to choose Minnesota over, say, the Brewers (to name a similar market). With those things in mind, the lack of a true need to get a cornerstone player in free agency, and even because of last year’s follies on the free agency market, I would be very surprised to see any huge splashes for a position player.
I’m less wary of the trade market, and the new front office has done well, with small peripheral moves that pay big dividends. The moves for Jake Cave and Tyler Austin were wonderful, and the waiver claim of Ehire Adrianza has really worked out. That said, I don’t think there are many moves to make in this arena that will seem very dramatic either.
So, after all that, I think the Twins should and will make only 1 Major League signing this off season, and not a single trade that comes from anything but opportunity (such as the Jake Cave move last spring). I think the first choice will be to talk to Eduardo Escobar about a reunion. He’s popular in the clubhouse and seemed to enjoy his time here. Also, he gives the team flexibility, as he is capable of playing all o the infield positions, and has in fact played all of them during his time in Minnesota.
If Escobar has other better options he would like to pursue, Houston has a similarly talented pending free agent in Marwin Gonzalez. He’s a utility player that ha been recently overshadowed by Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. Make no mistake, Gonzalez is a regular, like Escobar, but he might be squeezed out by the glut of talent in Houston. Gonzalez helped that team develop before he reached the World Series, and perhaps he would value not only the opportunity to be an important cog in the machine in Minnesota, but also to help another young squad mature.
And if Escobar and Gonzalez are unavailable (Gonzalez has a career OPS+ of 103 with incredible versatility, and might be unattainable too) then I could see Brian Dozier stumbling back into town. There wasn’t a market for him for two years, it seemed. Why would it be as robust as he hopes now? Sign him again for a couple of years. He might grow to appreciate all the young talent acquired at the trade deadline this year.
What do you think? What kind of moves will the Twins make to change their position players?