At 4:00 pm CT this afternoon, the Twins will be able to negotiate possible deals for any free agent in baseball.
As much as I love the actual game of baseball itself and how exciting the Twins ere this year, we are now getting back into my wheelhouse as the focus shifts from playing the games to building the roster. Unlike last year, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will actually settled into their front office roles once free agency opens.
While the Twins played well in 2017, they have a number of holes to fill in order to improve on their success next year. I already went over how the Twins did at each position in 2017, highlighting where the team could improve.
Going into the offseason, I think the Twins have solid depth in the Majors and at Triple-A. I think both Mitch Garver and Zack Granite should start the season in Triple-A and provide depth there as the first call-ups in case of injury. This leaves the team with its eight starting position players, Robbie Grossman, and three bench players in Chris Gimenez, Eduardo Escobar, and Ehire Adrianza.
So who should fill the Twins final roster spot for position players? There are in-house options and trades are a possibility, but lets look at some of the potential free agent pickups that could help fill the spot.
1B/DH - Carlos Santana
Robbie Grossman had a .828 OPS in 2016 (which was great), and a .741 OPS in 2017 (which was okay). I like Robbie Grossman, and think he deserves at bats for the Twins. So me saying we should add Santana doesn't mean I hate Grossman, but adding him takes the Twins offense from great to epic, in part because of the flexibility it gives the team with Grossman on the bench.
Consider this potential Opening Day lineup:
- 2B- Brian Dozier
- 1B- Joe Mauer
- 3B- Miguel Sano
- DH- Carlos Santana
- LF- Eddie Rosario
- SS- Jorge Polanco
- RF- Max Kepler
- CF- Byron Buxton
- C- Jason Castro
The first 5 players in this lineup had OPS's above .800 in 2017, with four of them hitting over 20 home runs. The 6 to 8 spots had OPS's above .723 and it leaves Escobar's .758 OPS and Grossman's .741 OPS on the bench. Grossman could platoon for Kepler and Rosario against lefties while being a legitimate fourth outfielder (sorry Adrianza) and help spell Buxton by shifting Kepler to center field for a day.
Playing Santana at first base against lefties (.815 career OPS against them) would allow Mauer to sit and Sano to DH, resting two important bodies at the same time without weakening the lineup too much. Santana's presence would also provide more elite power behind Sano and Dozier, helping a team that finished 9th in the American League in home runs.
How realistic is the possibility of the Twins signing Santana? Cleveland would be foolish to let him go, and despite being 32 for next season, Santana will require a hefty contract. But with his connection to Derek Falvey, it remains a possibility.
Potential: Pipe dream... but maybe?
OF - Melky Cabrera
Melky Cabrera would act as the team’s fourth outfielder and occasional DH, giving the Twins another corner outfielder-type like Robbie Grossman, but with more pop and less plate discipline. Cabrera is probably comparable or slightly worse than Grossman defensively in the corners at this point, but still has doubles power and is more of a long term threat than Zack Granite has shown to be at this point.
He had a .785 OPS against lefties in 2017 and an OPS over .840 against lefties in 2016, so he could help platoon Kepler against left-handed pitching while still being useful against righties to spell Buxton, or DH. Cabrera played 152 games as a 32-year-old in 2017, and I'm not sure he would be willing to take a cut in playing time, even for a potential contender like the Twins.
Potential: A smart move, but not probable
DH - Mike Napoli
Napoli hit a paltry .193 last season, although he maintained a decent OPS thanks to hitting 29 home runs. He would be a poor man's Carlos Santana who would be best suited to only DH against lefties and occasionally pinch hit off the bench. He will be 36 next year, but like Cabrera, I don't know if he would take the cut in playing time. He has ties to both halves of Falvine, so if they trust he can regain some contact, he may be a worthwhile pickup.
Potential: Possible but not the greatest way to improve the roster
LF/INF - Howie Kendrick
After a lackluster year in 2016, Kendrick posted a .844 OPS in 334 plate appearances in 2017. Kendrick has never been a power hitter, but he takes professional at bats and posted a .901 OPS against lefties last year and a .777 OPS against lefties over his career. He is passable in left as well as second base, and can even play third or first in a pinch. Of course, there is fear of regression based on last year's sample size and his age.
Potential: No smoke to the fire, but a solid idea
OF - Craig Gentry
Ties to Thad Levine, positive platoon splits against left handed pitching, and the ability to play decent corner outfield? Craig Gentry would be a lack luster signing, but something that is mildly possible.
Potential: Possibly a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training. Look for the Twins to sign multiple Gentry-like players to minor league deals, like all teams do.
If I were in the Twins front office, I would push for adding one of the experienced players mentioned above. Carlos Santana is the dream and the move that has been most noted in the blogosphere, although he would be an expensive pickup and would limit some at bats for players like Grossman and Escobar.
I'm not saying that any of these specific moves will happen, but they would help make the Twins lineup even more potent. Once free agency opens, we should hear rumors quite quickly if the Twins are in on a bat like Santana or Cabrera and later in the winter we should expect a few minor league contracts to go to older veterans like Gentry or waived players unknown to us at this time.
We will be back with a look at our pitching staff soon, but in the mean time, what position players do you think the Twins should look at this offseason?