The winning window is open. All offseason we heard from the front office that they would be aggressive in the trade and free agents markets when they felt that the Twins had the team and positioning to make a playoff push. With the 2019 squad currently sporting the best record in the American League, it is time for Falvine to fulfill their promise.
Falvey and Levine have been prudent in their moves so far, not signing any long-term or high-dollar contracts and dealing all their expiring free agents last year at the trade deadline (as well as Ryan Pressly). It will be interesting to see how they will approach the trade market in July as well as the free agent market this offseason. To understand how the current roster will impact those moves, here’s a look at the contract status for Twins by position.
Position Players (year indicates free agent year)
C: Mitch Garver - 2024, Jason Castro - 2020 (Free Agent)
1B: C.J. Cron - 2021 (Arb Eligible 2020)
2B: Jonathan Schoop - 2020 (Free Agent)
SS: Jorge Polanco - 2024, Ehire Adrianza - 2021 (Arb Eligible 2020)
3B: Miguel Sano - 2022
OF: Eddie Rosario - 2022, Max Kepler - 2024, Byron Buxton - 2023
UTL: Marwin Gonzalez - 2021
DH: Nelson Cruz - 2020 (team option for 2021)
Most of the lineup is locked up for at least the next two to three seasons, a good sign for a Twins team that is mashing the baseball. Garver, Polanco, and Kepler seem like cornerstones that will be in the lineup through the 2023 season. Rosario and Buxton have been two of the Twins’ most valuable players in 2019, and hopefully Falvine can ink one or both before they hit the free agent market in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Sano is probably the least likely to be resigned once he becomes a free agent, though the Twins don’t have much organizational depth at third base.
Cron will almost certainly be back for the 2020 season, but that seems unlikely for Schoop, as he will probably pursue a new multi-year deal if can keep up his current performance. There’s a chance the Twins will want to keep him around for another year or two though, as there have been multiple reports of his clubhouse demeanor is making a positive difference. Gonzalez is likely a stopgap until 2021, and Adrianza will probably be jettisoned from roster then (or before then) as well. If Cruz can stay healthy and continue producing the Twins should pick up his option and keep him around for 2020.
Prospects (parenthesis are MLB.com’s ETAs, ranking from MLB.com)
C: #16 Ryan Jeffers - (2021)
2B: #13 Yunior Severino (2022), #14 Jose Miranda (2021), #17 Luis Arraez (2020)
SS: #1 Royce Lewis (2020), #4 Wander Javier (2021), #10 Nick Gordon (2019)
OF: #2 Alex Kiriloff (2020), #5 Trevor Larnach - (2021), #6 Brent Rooker - (2019) #12 Akil Badoo (2021), #15 Gilberto Celestino (2021), #20 Misael Urbina (2023)
Others close to contributing: OF Lamonte Wade (AAA), C Ben Rortvedt (AA), 3B Travis Blakenhorn (AA), Willians Astudillo (AAA), Jake Cave (AAA)
Looking at the Twins farm system and their organization as a whole, there is a lot of talent and depth in the outfield. If the Twins go big in the trade market, this could make dealing Kirilloff an easier pill to swallow. While it’s unlikely he gets dished, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see one or two of the Twins’ minor league outfielders in different organizations come August.
The infield talent is a little more volatile, as none of the Twins infield prospects are having great 2019 campaigns besides Arraez. Lewis and Polanco look to be the middle infield duo of the future, though that might not happen until 2021 with Lewis’ struggles this season. The corner spots don’t have a clear cut up-and-comer, though Rooker or Kirilloff could transition to first and Blankenhorn is having a nice season in Double-A.
SP: Jake Odorizzi - 2020 (Free Agent), Kyle Gibson - 2020 (Free Agent), Michael Pineda - 2020 (Free Agent), Jose Berrios - 2023, Martin Perez - 2020 (team option for 2021)
RP: Taylor Rogers - 2023, Blake Parker - 2021, Trevor May 2021, Matt McGill - 2024, Ryne Harper - 2025, Mike Morin - 2022, Tyler Duffey - 2023, Ryan Eades - 2025
It’s likely that the Twins pitching staff will look quite different in 2020, as Michael Pineda, Jake Odorizzi, and Kyle Gibson will all be free agents. The Twins could make a move for a top-tier starter in the trade market that will have more than a few months left on his deal, and that may be necessary to making a World Series run anyway. While most Twins fans may scoff at the feasibility of this happening, that kind of move would make both short-term and long-term sense for the Twins. I would guess that the Twins resign one of their impending free-agent starters, which means they will likely have to trade for or acquire one or two in free agency. The top names in the latter group will include Gerrit Cole, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Wheeler.
The bullpen situation is often fluid for many teams, but the Taylor Rogers is the only reliever that I could point to right now as someone I would still expect to be reliable and on the team in two years. There could be some help coming from the minor leagues, and there’s a decent chance they also require a reliever or two that is more than just a rental at the trade deadline. I would also expect the Twins to be more aggressive in the free agent market for relief help next offseason.
RHP: #3 Brusdar Graterol (2020), #7 Jhohan Duran (2021), #9 Blayne Enlow (2021), #18 Jorge Alcala (2020), #19 Jordan Balazovic (2021)
LHP: #8 Lewis Thorpe (2019), #11 Stephen Gonsalves
Others close to contributing: Zack Littell (AAA), Griffin Jax (AA), Devin Smeltzer (AAA), Kohl Stewart (AAA), Fernando Romero (AAA), Adalberto Mejia (Rehabbing Injury)
The Twins have some high-upside fireballers in the minor league ranks, though none of them are especially close to being an automatic starter in the rotation next year. If Graterol can bounce back from his injury and finish the season strong, he could be a candidate for the 2020 rotation, though he would likely be on an innings cap if that were the case. Alcala, Duran, and Balazovic all are high upside guys, with the latter of the three having an excellent season now in High-A. I wouldn’t expect any of those three to make a real impact at the big league level until 2021, reinforcing the idea of trading for a top-tier starter with a bit of team control. Thorpe could also be converted into another left-handed option out of the ‘pen, while I still think the Twins believe that Fernando Romero will eventually become a back-end of the bullpen option.
Main Takeaways for the Trade Deadline
There’s a chance you read all that and thought to yourself, “Why should I care about any of this now?” Well, almost all of Falvine’s moves seem to have a long play in mind -- which will be a big factor again when they attempt to supplement the 2019 squad with trade pieces in July. Here’s a few key takeaways relevant for the next few months of Twins baseball.
- A trade for a top-tier starter (with some team control) will be beneficial now and for the next couple of years for the Twins, unless they are confident that they will resign two or three of Pineda, Odorizzi, and Gibson.
- The Twins will most likely deal for a left-handed reliever. There is not much help in this area down on the farm, unless they convert Smeltzer or Thorpe into a bullpen option or Mejia proves himself worthy of non-garbage innings. Even if those things happen, a big-league lefty seems likely to be in the cards at the deadline.
- The Twins will most likely trade from their outfield depth. With a solid trio at the MLB level and a variety of talents in the minors, look for one of more of the Twins outfield prospects to be dished.
- Look for the Twins to target both starters and relievers with more than just a few months left on their contracts. These players might cost a bit more in prospect capital, but the Twins have the depth to doll out some prospects, a topic I will be touching on again later this week.
- Unless someone gets hurt or goes into a major slump, don’t expect any trades for hitters. Some have suggested a right-handed corner outfield bat, but the shrewd move may be to instead call-up AAA outfielder Brent Rooker to see if he can prove himself. Rooker has been red-hot lately with a .963 OPS in the last 30 days, including an eye-popping .484 OBP in that timespan.