Where the off-season in the NBA and NFL are often filled with urgent flurries of transactions right from the jump, the baseball off-season tends to be more of a slow burn. Within that, though, are certain days on the winter calendar that tend to spur many small transactions. Today, the deadline for teams to tender contract offers to their arbitration-eligible players, is usually one of those days and it especially was for the Twins.
The day began with the Twins’ new look's big reveal and stayed busy until the early evening with contract offer decisions and a couple of trades that swapped around some infield pieces and moved some prospect pitchers.
Entering the off-season, the Twins had twelve players headed for arbitration:
- Gio Urshela, Emilio Pagán, Tyler Mahle, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge López, Danny Coulombe, Chris Paddack, Jake Cave, Luis Arráez, Cody Stashak, Jorge Alcalá, and Kyle Garlick
After a few weeks of roster machinations, seven of those players remain arbitration eligible and were offered contracts by the Twins:
The #MNTwins tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligibles. That covers:— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) November 18, 2022
Including OF Kyle Garlick, who reached a deal with the club for 2023 earlier this week, eight of those initial twelve players remain with the Minnesota organization.
Previously, LHP Danny Coulombe and RHP Cody Stashak both elected minor league free agency after clearing waivers and being outrighted. OF Jake Cave was also waived and subsequently claimed by the Baltimore Orioles, who then avoided arbitration and signed Cave to a split contract for 2023.
Trading Gio Urshela
If you’re doing the math, that leaves just third baseman Gio Urshela from the original twelve to discuss. Despite a solid season for Minnesota in 2022, Urshela was seen as a potential non-tender candidate because of his projected $9.2M arbitration salary for 2023 and the emergence of José Miranda in the same position. But, with a historically weak third base market in free agency, letting Urshela go for free seemed undesirable, leading others to see the most likely course of action to be a trade.
That latter group was proven correct earlier today when the Twins agreed to a trade that sent Urshela to the Los Angeles Angels:
The trade created an opening on what had been a full 40-man roster because the return, Venezuelan RHP Alejandro Hidalgo, is a 19-year-old prospect who pitched last season in Low-A. Hidalgo was ranked as the Angels’ 11th-best prospect by FanGraphs before last season and was listed as their 22nd-best prospect by MLB Pipeline earlier today. He’s been added to the Twins list at #25. He works in the low-90s with a promising curveball and changeup and gets praise for his “advanced pitchability at times, especially for his age.”
It’s become a bit of a trend for some of the more analytically inclined MLB organizations — particularly Cleveland (see Shane Bieber) and Seattle (George Kirby) — to target young pitchers with pitching and command acumen, but perhaps less than premium stuff, and then work to increase the quality of their stuff through data analysis and pitch design work. Perhaps this move will be along those lines for Minnesota. Time will tell.
Keeping Emilio Pagán
Most of the remaining arbitration-eligible decisions — Tyler Mahle, Jorge López, Luis Arráez, Caleb Thielbar, Chris Paddack, and Jorge Alcalá — were clear-cut and expected. But, if you looked closely at the list of players above that the Twins tendered contracts to today, you surely noticed that it also included one Emilio Pagán.
(pause for groans, boos, and items being thrown)
Despite the facts that, since 2020, Pagán ranks 29th in appearances and 22nd in innings pitched but 136th in fWAR and HR/9, 128th in FIP, and 140th in WPA, among 141 qualified relievers, he was apparently an attractive target on the trade market today:
Heard Emilio Pagán drew far more interest from other teams than Gio Urshela did ahead of tonight's non-tender deadline. Pagán's stuff and 12 Ks per nine had a lot of teams asking.#MNTwins— DanHayesMLB (@DanHayesMLB) November 18, 2022
That apparent interest surely informed the decision to offer him a contract, instead of letting him go for nothing. The Twins seemingly did not find a deal to their liking and decided to hang on to Pagán for at least a bit longer.
Trading for Kyle Farmer
Just as we were all coming to terms with that, word broke that the Twins had made another trade:
Twins acquiring Kyle Farmer from Reds, pending a review of medical records, sources tell me and @DanHayesMLB.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 19, 2022
Infielder Kyle Farmer, 32, is one of those rare players that has successfully moved up the defensive spectrum as his career has progressed. He debuted with the Dodgers in 2016 as a catcher/corner infielder but has primarily played a passable shortstop and solid third base for the Reds the past couple of seasons.
As a multi-position, right-handed hitter with strong numbers against left-handed pitching (career .288/.345/.492, 122 wRC+) Farmer can be seen as a bit of a replacement for Urshela, but with greater flexibility to play up the middle. That offers a marginal improvement over Urshela’s fit with the Twins' roster construction and also serves as shortstop insurance should the Twins' other efforts to add a shortstop not turn out. By fWAR, Farmer (3.3) has a small edge over Urshela (3.1) in the past two seasons, albeit in 32 more games played.
Farmer is arbitration-eligible for the second time and is projected to earn $5.9M through that process. Against Urshela’s projected mark, this move serves to free up about $3.3M in payroll space. To acquire Farmer, the Twins gave up RHP Casey Legumina, their #27 prospect, who was just added to the 40-man roster earlier this week.
Summing it All Up
The Twins' 40-man roster currently sits at 39 players after starting the day full. It includes Emilio Pagán and Kyle Farmer but does not include Gio Urshela or Casey Legumina. It is now a bit more flexible, includes an insurance option for shortstop, and is projected to cost about $3.3M less than it did at the start of the day.
Those cost savings might not seem important, but $3.3M is more than enough to add a quality free-agent reliever to the bullpen mix. Or, you know, they could also be used as part of an offer to a certain free-agent shortstop:
Lots of Correa chatter at MOA. Here's a sampling from Buxton and CEO/president Dave St. Peter on where negotiations stand.— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) November 18, 2022
Buxton: "He wants to be here. Up to us to go get him." #MNTwins pic.twitter.com/qXalVC79NT