Now that the Twins have inked some more offense, how will it impact the rest of the roster?
"The reality of it is we tried to spend more money this offseason. We probably found out the hard way we were going to have to overpay in certain spots. We offered more money to certain guys who chose to go elsewhere. It is what it is, but as the season progresses and we can do something that we think is a good baseball decision, the money will be there to allocate."
Minnesota clearly valued their draft picks, at least in relation to the players who had compensation attached to them this season. Waiting until the draft before swooping in and sniping a legitimate player away from better teams with better odds of playoff contention constitutes a shrewd move by the Twins' brain trust. But was it a good move, and what does it mean for the rest of the roster?
Generally speaking, I find this to be a solid move because it doesn't mortgage the future for marginal gains in the present. The contract for Kendrys Morales is a contract for $12,000,000 pro-rated over the remainder of the season for a paycheck of roughly $7.6 million. ZiPS projects him to bat .274/.327/.446 with 13 home runs over the remainder of the season, which would make him worth 1.2 wins above replacement as a designated hitter. That's roughly league average production for a designated hitter, but for a team that has been shifting DH duties to a number of different players recently (seven players have started for the Twins in their last 21 games with a DH) all it means is that there won't be a lot of playing time lost for players who really deserve it - mainly Josmil Pinto and Danny Santana.
How can we continue to get the younger players at-bats?
Pinto was the Twins' DH in 17 of their first 32 games but has done the job just twice since. Santana, meanwhile, has had the job for the last two games but has largely been playing center field with a little bit of shortstop. How can they continue to get playing time?
- Pinto has been starting for Samuel Deduno and Kevin Correia since early May. By continuing to start in 40% of the team's games at catcher, and with a start at designated hitter once a week, he'll get more playing time than he's already getting. I agree that Pinto should be getting more playing time than he already is, but that will happen naturally as the season goes along and Kurt Suzuki's numbers slowly decline.
- Danny Santana can continue to take two starts a week in center field, one start at shortstop, and an occasional go at third base and designated hitter. It should be feasible to still get Santana four starts a week.
- Kendrys Morales should get most of the designated hitter duties, with a start at first base every week or two.
Who goes to make room for Morales?
Someone has to go to make room for Kendrys Morales on the roster, and the likely candidates are Chris Parmelee
and Jason Kubel. In Minnesota's last 13 games, Kubel has made one start at DH, on start in right, and two starts in left. Parmelee, meanwhile, in the same period, has made one start at first base, one in left, and one in right. One of these two players is batting .224/.313/.295, and the other is hitting .161/.209/.306. I'm not sure it matters who is who.
Parmelee and Kubel are largely the same player right now, with the one difference being that Parmelee can also play first base. They both hit left-handed, so there's no matchup advantage either. With neither player hitting and neither player being good in the field, they're both highly replaceable. One of them could go or, alternatively, both could go and the Twins could add both Morales and Sam Fuld
to the roster. But talking about Fuld is getting a bit further afield than we need to at the moment.
The most popular mutation of this plan involves Josmil Pinto returning to Triple-A, where he would have the opportunity to play everyday. This would require the Twins to recall Chris Herrmann. It also doesn't address Morales, which means we're still looking at losing one of Kubel and Parmelee.
Since May 1, Kubel is batting .158/.264/.158. I have to believe he'll be the first on the block, and it honestly wouldn't surprise me to see him retire. If the Twins do decide to try to pass Parmelee through waivers for the second time this year, it wouldn't surprise me to see him slip through considering how he's played.
Regardless of how the Twins choose to address the 25-man roster, they'll also need to make a corresponding move to the 40-man roster. If Pinto is involved in the roster update it's irrelevant to this discussion, since his replacement is already available. Parmelee would, as discussed, need to pass through waivers. Kubel would also be exposed to waivers, but in his case I have to believe it would be of the "release" variety.
The Twins knew they had money to spend, and they went out and spent it. Acquiring a league average player, especially at this point in the season, is almost impossible on a one-year contract worth $7.6 million. It's a deal that doesn't impact the future in any discernible way, but it does give the Twins some power for the middle of the lineup and gives them a player whose projected production over the rest of the year is more reliable than the young players who would be otherwise relied upon. Even better, the addition of Morales still allows those young players to get a similar amount of playing time going forward.
If Morales has a great rest of the season, Minnesota can't extend him a qualifying offer since he was signed post-draft. But it does leave Morales eligible for the trade deadlines in July and August.
Even by the simple philosophy of cutting dead weight from the roster, adding Kendrys Morales makes the Twins a better team. Remember Chris Colabello and his blistering start? The bottom fell out after 83 plate appearances. Danny Santana has logged 72 plate appearances after today's game. How long can he continue to hit like an All-Star? Slowing things down a little bit isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Finally, does the addition of Morales mean the Twins think they're in with a chance of contending this year? Maybe. Either way, this move is a sign of one of two things.
- The Twins saw an opportunity to improve the team that cost them nothing more than dollars, or...
- They really do think there's an outside chance at competing.
If it's the former, great. I appreciate that the team is willing to throw more money at the team to make it better, even if the end game for this season is limited. But if it is the latter, then the front office needs to be just as bold with the moves they need to make elsewhere on the roster. That means cutting ties with Kevin Correia and calling up Alex Meyer or Trevor May. It also means having a longer look at other positions, such as what short-term improvements can be made at third base.
It's a long season and there are still questions to be answered for this team. But Morales does make the Twins better. Hopefully this front office can back it up by making other intelligent personnel decisions, both in terms of potential additions and ensuring the playing time the players of the future need.