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SB Nation offseason sim: Twins wrap and day four review

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Trades, signings, and decisions are finished. How do the Jesse-controlled Twins look for 2015?

Duane Burleson

In the first two years that SB Nation ran this sim, the final day was usually pretty slow. But this year things actually went crazy at the deadline. All four of my moves today happened, I'm pretty sure, in the final hour.

Twins trade Max Kepler to Brewers for Jason Rogers

As the half dozen teams interested in Josmil Pinto were paired down, the Brewers continued to try to keep him in a deal. "When things came to a close last night, we more or less had come to the conclusion that we would be better off keeping Pinto than trading him for the offers that were floating in," admitted Lund. "But we knew that if we were trading Pinto, number one, we'd need to find another catcher, and number two, he needed to be part of a package that brought in a pitcher. And not just any pitcher; I was looking for something pretty specific."

Instead, negotiations with the Brewers came down to a need. Lund wanted a versatile player for his bench. "The roster was more or less set as of 8:00 this morning, but I wanted to make us the best team possible."

Rogers fit that description. The 26-year old made his Major League debut for Milwaukee this season, appearing in eight games. He played mostly third base in 2014 in the Brewers' minor league system, but is also capable of playing first base and left field. In 57 games at Triple-A, he hit .316/.379/.568.

Twins trade Mike Pelfrey and Eddie Rosario to Cubs for Felix Doubront and Ryan Sweeney

As Lund made pleas for teams to take on his bad contracts, he found one suitor in the Chicago Cubs. "We needed to give up something of value to get another team to take negative value off of our hands. Rosario was a compromise between what Chicago wanted and what we offered, and ultimately by acquiring Randal Grichuk on Monday we felt this was a move we could absorb.

As the Cubs take on all of Pelfrey's $5.5 million dollar salary, the Twins take on lesser arbitration salaries of Doubront and Sweeney. "They'll have an opportunity to come to spring training and compete," said Lund of his two acquisitions, "but it'll be difficult. The outfield is set, so Ryan will really need to blow our socks off. Doubront could wind up in a bullpen role. We'll have a look at him and see if our new pitching coach can't help him get those strikeouts back."

Twins trade Ricky Nolasco, Travis Harrison, and $2 million to Nationals for Bryan Harper.

No, not Bryce Harper. No, not Brian Harper. Bryan Harper is Bryce's brother, and is organizational depth in the bullpen. But this was obviously a trade to clear Ricky Nolasco's salary.

"Ricky is going to bounce back this season. He's going to be better than he was last year, I have no doubt about that. But my aim is to put the best team on the field as possible, and I had an opportunity to add another pitcher at a similar price who fits my philosophy more closely. It's not that I think Ricky is a bad pitcher, but for his salary I have an expectation of what kind of tools that guy needs to have."

Twins sign Francisco Liriano to three-year contract

With surprisingly little buzz surrounding Liriano in the sim, Lund first inquired on his interest in returning to Minnesota on Tuesday afternoon. "I had irons in the fire on a number of starting pitchers around the league, but either teams wound up not wanting to move their best arms or, in one or two circumstances, the other team eventually backed away or wanted more than we were willing to give. And I'll be honest: for a top flight pitcher, we were willing to give away quite a bit.

But instead of a Clay Buccholz, Mike Minor, or Mike Wheeler, the Twins ended up in a position to bring back Liriano on a three-year, $36 million dollar contract. "We have a new staff here in Minnesota, a new culture," said Lund on the negotiations. "He wanted to come back here. It was just a matter of making it happen. I needed to find a team, or teams, to take on dollars that nobody wanted to take on. I paid to make it happen, but it worked in our favor."

Liriano also costs Minnesota their second round pick, but in Lund's estimation it's a smart move. "We want pitchers who are capable of missing bats, and we absolutely needed to improve our rotation. Bringing back Liriano accomplishes both of those goals.

Summary

Assigned payroll: $94 million
Actual payroll: $95.4 million

Rotation: Phil Hughes, Francisco Liriano, Kyle Gibson, Kris Medlen, Trevor May
Long relief: Alex Meyer
Middle relief: Lester Oliveros, Michael Tonkin, Caleb Thielbar, Felix Doubront
Set-up and Closer: Casey Fien, Glen Perkins

Catcher: Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto
Infield: Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, Eduardo Escobar, Jason Rogers
Outfield: Dexter Fowler, Colby Rasmus, Oswaldo Arcia, Jordan Schafer

Lineup
RF - Dexter Folwer
1B - Joe Mauer
2B - Brian Dozier
DH - Kennys Vargas
RF - Oswaldo Arcia
3B - Trevor Plouffe
CF - Colby Rasmus
C - Kurt Suzuki
SS - Danny Santana

Bench: Josmil Pinto, Eduardo Escobar, Jason Rogers, Jordan Schafer

How did the farm system do?

Lost: Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Stephen Gonsalves, Travis Harrison, Michael Cederoth
Gained: Randal Grichuk

Considering how much better my Major League team is, I don't mind this at all. The guy I'm the saddest to see go is Gonsalves. But the addition of Grichuk, a 23-year old who can play left and center field and who has some real power, more than balances the loss of Rosario. I think he's a borderline top ten prospect in 2015 for the Twins.

  1. Byron Buxton
  2. Miguel Sano
  3. Alex Meyer
  4. Jose Berrios
  5. Nick Gordon
  6. Kohl Stewart
  7. Jorge Polanco
  8. Lewis Thorpe
  9. Randal Grichuk
  10. Nick Burdi
Technically, I could put Trevor May on that list. But it still looks outstanding without him.

Favorite move: acquiring Dexter Fowler


It was a real effort, but I knew he was a great target for the Twins. He's a perfect fit at the top of the lineup, isn't a great center fielder but should be good in left, and he's a short-term commitment.

Least favorite move: losing Eddie Rosario in the Pelfrey trade

I thought I could get rid of Pelfrey for a lesser prospect, since $5.5 million wasn't great, but in my desire to stay as close to the given payroll limit of $94 million as possible I knew I needed to shed as much money as I could. I consoled myself by knowing that Grichuk was already in-hand.

General thoughts and confessions

I targeted Jon Jay and Dexter Fowler from the outset. Right away I just wanted one of them for left field, but that changed as things went along and I realized I could add two outfielders. When I thought I had Jay I really went after Fowler; the Jay trade was simple (although failed as a mix-up), the Fowler trade was a long process. But I liked him for left field, or center if I was forced to put Grichuk into the starting lineup, and I wanted an on-base guy for the top of the batting order.

When negotiations were ongoing for Rasmus, I did get into talks with the Rockies for Drew Stubbs. He wasn't ideal, but he was still a better option than not bringing in another guy - especially if he could put together a decent offensive year.

I'm a big fan of Kris Medlen. He might be better in the long relief role right away as we see what shape his arm is in, in which case Alex Meyer would slide into the rotation which is no bad thing, but Medlen was a very good pitcher before his injury. On a two-year deal with a third year option, all at a reasonable price, I really think he could be a bargain for that rotation.

I genuinely did try to move Josmil Pinto. At one point I thought I had him going to Boston in a package that would return Clay Buchholz and other parts, and from there I'd send prospects to Atlanta for Evan Gattis since they were looking to dump him. Neither of those moves panned out, obviously, but it would have been a lot of fun.

In the end, outside of the outfielders and Medlen, I couldn't do much. I didn't want to really block anyone like Miguel Sano or Byron Buxton, and I didn't want to take playing time away from Santana, Arcia, or Vargas. The only other thing I could do was get a better starting pitcher, and to do that I had to bombard people with emails to see what it would take for them to absorb the contracts of Nolasco and Pelfrey.

As always, I feel like I come away from this exercise with a better understanding of what it takes for a front office to put a team together. Yes, it's easier to spend someone else's money (some teams went over their payroll limit shamelessly), but I tried to operate under the constraints I was given. Even though I was quite happy to move prospects for the right player, I don't think I was necessarily bowled over in my liberal approach to the idea.

My plans changed a number of times, and it's an interesting process to adjust your thinking and re-plan your moves, because every time you do that you should have multiple avenues to achieve your new goals. When I considered trading Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer (in separate deals), I was already thinking two moves ahead to determine how likely it would be for me to still put together a team I'd be happy with. In some circumstances I could, in others (in Sano and Mauer's cases) it would have been a very, very hard sell.

In the end I'm happy with the results. I stayed in range of my given payroll target; I didn't give up any of the Twins' best or irreplaceable prospects; I made the rotation better; I made the offense better; I made the outfield defense better; I didn't block any of the really good prospects that could be ready in 2015; and I shed some bad money.

So, two questions for you folks. 1 - How much noise could this team make in the AL Central? 2 - How did I do?