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Don’t call it a rebuild

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Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels - Game One Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

The Twins should be selling assets this summer, but we should not be discussing a “rebuild.” This team still has too much young, cheap talent to build around. A rebuild is what you do if you’re the 2021 Cubs—and your core players are getting old, expensive, and moving on anyway. That is not the boat the Twins, largely, find themselves in.

Anything that isn’t nailed down this winter could be moved—Nelson Cruz, Michael Pineda, Hansel Robles, Andrelton Simmons, and others are on expiring contracts and should be flipped for prospects if possible. None of these players are really the Twins’ core though, and even without them, this team has much more talent than their record would suggest. At this point, a bizarre amount of injuries has as much to do with the record as anything. No team in the league can go six deep in a premier defensive position.

The Twins are poised to be competitive again in 2022 or 2023, they don’t need to wait on players deep in the farm system to develop. By the end of this season, they’ll have emptied their top prospects into the majors. Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach are already here, and look good. So are Ben Rortvedt and Ryan Jeffers, although good is a bit more relative there. Gilbert Celestino is up now due to necessity, but is learning on the job. Brent Rooker got a cup of coffee last year. Bailey Ober has already debuted, and Griffin Jax wasn’t called up for nothing. Lewis Thorpe still has some potential, and Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, and Matt Canterino are not far from the bigs either.

Meanwhile, the team these guys are joining is home to a good core of “young veterans” that will be around for awhile, and not terribly expensive either. Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Miguel Sano all signed team-friendly extensions. Kenta Maeda’s entire contract is basically performance incentives. Jose Berrios and Byron Buxton both have at least another season under team control. Luis Arraez and Mitch Garver have even longer.

In fact, if you add Royce Lewis into the mix, once healthy, you have a pretty solid roster already mentioned in this post— Kepler, Larnach, Kirilloff, Rooker, Celestino, and Buxton gives you a great talent base to draw three starting outfielders from, and you’ve probably got a first baseman there—or at least his backup. Sano could potentially stay at first, or move to DH. Polanco, Arraez, Lewis, Nick Gordon, and a free agent or two would fill out the infield nicely, and of course you have four catchers under team control to choose from—Garver, Rortvedt, Jeffers, and Astudillo.

Speaking of free agents though, the Twins do need to consider shopping that market—but not in the way rebuilding teams do. In a rebuild, guys like Robbie Grossman get signed, and get regular playing time. The Twins aren’t going to give significant time, at least if players remain healthy, to placeholders, fillers, and replacement level veterans. They might, however supplant their core with a couple solid pieces. Andrelton Simmons might not be working out exactly as planned, but you can’t fault the thought—and this offseason will contain a bumper crop of shortstops, even if Lindor is locked up in New York. The Twins need to dip into the middle infielder market, perhaps, and of course look for a high-end starter. Assume Pineda is traded, you still have Berrios, Maeda, Dobnak, and your pick of the prospects to fill the rotation—you don’t need to add JA Happ or Matt Shoemaker this winter, but another top-of-the-rotation type is always helpful.

All that to say, don’t call it a rebuild. The Twins are not in that position, thankfully. No matter how bad 2021 goes, 2022 and 2023 are still primed to be solid squads.