Despite still more postseason futility, the Minnesota Twins are back-to-back A.L. Central division-winners. They won 101 games in 2019 and played at a 97-win clip in a shortened 2020 campaign.
While the front office and manager are entrenched and aren’t going anywhere — nor should they — the men who actually participate in the games will almost surely see some significant turnover prior to Spring Training 2021.
I’ve already examined the players who are under team control and are most likely to be traded this winter. Now, let’s talk a look at the players who will be free agents but are candidates to return to the Twins this offseason.
First, here are the list of players that will hit the market, not including Sergio Romo, who has a team option: Jake Odorizzi, Nelson Cruz, Tyler Clippard, Trevor May, Alex Avila, Marwin Gonzalez, Rich Hill, and Ehrie Adrianza.
3. Jake Odorizzi
You have to feel for Odorizzi, who accepted the qualifying offer ($17.8 million) this year, hoping to follow-up his career-best 2019 campaign with another All-Star season. That would have made him one of the biggest pitching names in free agency, and he would have received a huge payday.
Alas, Odo battled through numerous injuries, including a couple of fluky ones, and ultimately started only four games. He was on the postseason roster but didn’t appear in a contest in the two-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.
Odorizzi will still get paid handsomely on the open market, as the leaps he made in 2019 seem to be for real. The Twins only have Kenta Maeda, Jose Berrios, and Michael Pineda set in stone for their 2021 rotation, and depending on what happens with the team’s payroll (and trade candidates such as Eddie Rosario) they may have the cash to bring him back.
Odorizzi has already made it clear that he enjoyed his time with the Twins and one can assume that Minnesota will have a leg-up on signing him if all things are equal.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Odorizzi back in a Twins uniform come spring.
2. Tyler Clippard
Yes, this is a fairly unsexy pick to be second-most-likely to re-sign (sorry, Tyler), but it seems right.
Clippard and Trevor May are the two bullpen pieces that are about to hit the market, and May has a better chance of leaving, given his arm talent and the upside that Trevor has still only barely scratched. It’s easy to see another team giving May a big one- or two-year deal and hoping they can take him to the next level. The Twins may simply back-fill May’s spot with a hard-throwing prospect like Jorge Alcala.
Clippard, on the other hand, has been a mercenary of sorts, not playing full seasons in back-to-back years with any teams since 2013 and 2014 with Washington. But he’s almost always been really good, and the Twins like his change-of-pace out of the bullpen.
He should be fairly affordable, too, and depending on what the Twins choose to do with Romo, could use a right-handed veteran out of the ‘pen.
1. Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz was paid only $12 million this year after making $14 million in 2019. He’ll turn 41 years old during the 2021 season and struggled with some injuries and lack of pop in the final couple weeks of the 2020 campaign.
But it’s more likely than not that Cruz will have at least one more effective year in him, and the Twins and Cruz are already communicating/making puppy-dog eyes to one another through the media.
What’s a fair number for Cruz to be at in 2021? That’s a tough question to answer, but the Twins may also be considering the possibility of allowing Josh Donaldson to DH a bit more often to try and keep the biggest free-agent signing in team history on the field more often.
No matter where everyone lands, it seems more likely than not that Boomstick is back at Target Field as a Twin in 2021.
Next up, we’ll look at the three pending free agents who are least likely to be back...