When I did this exercise in September of 2013, I was hoping that the Twins would be more aggressive in turning over their roster. It would open up opportunities for the younger players who deserved them, and it would also grant the front office the flexibility it needed in order to bring in new talent.
They weren't as aggressive as I'd have liked. But with an ever stronger impetus to do something, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Twins cut a few more ties this season. Here's a run-down of who I think will be in and out.
In: A.J. Achter, Logan Darnell, Casey Fien, Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Kris Johnson, Trevor May, Tommy Milone, Ricky Nolasco, Lester Oliveros, Glen Perkins, Ryan Pressly, Stephen Pryor, Anthony Swarzak, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin (16)
Out: Jared Burton, Brian Duensing, Mike Pelfrey, Yohan Pino, Aaron Thompson (5)
There's a chance for the front office to trim even more fat here. I've included Burton (whose $3.6 million dollar option will not be exercised), Duensing and Swarzak (who would both be up for another raise through arbitration) as well as aging minor league veterans Pino and Thompson. Do you think guys like Achter, Darnell, Johnson, Pressly, and Pryor could be on the block as well? An argument could be made for those five guys, too, and it wouldn't be a difficult one. I also think that the Twins will just eat the money they owe Pelfrey, unless they think they can salvage a bit of value through the bullpen.
On the other hand, it is hard to entirely gut your Triple-A pitching staff. Not all 40 players on any Major League roster will boast a pitching staff full of quality arms and the Twins are no different. If they decided to cut more than five from the 20-man pitching staff I'd be surprised, although not necessarily in a bad way.
In: Josmil Pinto, Kurt Suzuki (2)
Out: Eric Fryer (1)
I'm not sure what role Fryer can fill that any other catcher in the organization could not, other than a little bit of Major League experience. That can only take a guy with fringe talent (at best) so far. If the Twins want to add another catcher from the system to the 40-man roster, or if they want to add another free agent catcher, they're welcome to do so - and I hop that they DO do so. But Fryer's time should be coming to a close.
Pinto and Suzuki are making the roster, obviously.
In: Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, Jorge Polanco, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas (7)
Out: Doug Bernier, Chris Colabello (2)
Bernier is 34 and is a quality minor league veteran, but if he's being asked to play Major League inning then something has gone wrong. Colabello is the feel-good story we all loved back in April, but even after a late start to his career it's hard to see much upside in a guy who will be 31 later this month and has hit .214/.284/.364 in 114 games. The Twins are deep at first base and designated hitter, and for a team that needs to win more games in 2015 it would be impossible to find him enough playing time worth clearly a 40-man roster spot for.
Of the seven infielders to make the cut, the entire starting infield and designated hitter are listed. Along with a versatile backup in Escobar, and a potential star-in-waiting with Polanco. Unless the Twins decide to start Santana in center field next season so that the team can snag a good shortstop from somewhere, there aren't likely to be any changes in the Twins infield this winter. More likely we're going to be biding time until Miguel Sano takes over third base.
In: Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Max Kepler, Jordan Schafer (4)
Out: Chris Herrmann, Eduardo Nunez, Chris Parmelee (3)
The three players to be cut can be defined by one common trait: they are easily duplicated or exceeded in talent by another player on the roster. Herrmann, like Fryer, has value in Triple-A but not on a Major League roster. Parmelee is 27 years old and has failed to take advantage of the playing time that's been given to him. Nunez is somewhere between Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Escobar - without Plouffe's bat (such as it is) and without Escobar's glove.
After the debacle in center field the last two seasons, I can see the Twins choosing to keep Schafer as an insurance policy. Arcia and Hicks, barring any surprises, are likely to be two of the three starting outfielders on Opening Day. Kepler made gradual improvements this season, and will have a telling season in 2015.
If the Twins make the number of cuts I'm seeing, they'll have eleven open spots on the 40-man roster - with potential for that number to grow depending on fringey players like the pitchers I mentioned and Jordan Schafer. That would leave more than enough room for the organization to protect the players that need protecting in advance of the Rule 5 draft while also leaving them the flexibility to add a pitcher, left fielder, and perhaps something else as well.
None of the purge guarantees the team to be better in 2015, but it's a necessary start. Get rid of the players who are easily replaceable, and see if you can fill their spots with guys who aren't as easily duplicated.