The Minnesota Twins spent the end of the week making moves on the periphery as they dealt with a few arbitration decisions.
At first glance, it may appear as though the Twins simply shuffled the deck a bit, but it was more than that. The roster is better than it was earlier in the week, and the Twins are better prepared for future moves.
Kyle Farmer is a better fit for the roster than Gio Urshela
In a vacuum, it may not appear that there is much of a difference between Gio Urshela and Kyle Farmer in terms of on-field impact.
According to Fangraphs, Farmer has a 3.3 WAR over the last two seasons while Urshela has turned in a mark of 3.1 WAR. Urshela would seem to have the overall edge on the offensive side of the ball, with the former Twin turning in a slash line of .285/.338/.429 last season while Farmer up a .255/.315/.386.
However, Farmer’s platoon splits are real, while Urshela’s have been mild at best over the course of his career.
Against lefthanders, Urshela has a career On-Base Plus Slugging (OPS) of .764, which is only 20 points higher than the .744 he’s managed against righties. Farmer, on the other hand, has an OPS of .837 against lefties, including a .492 slugging percentage. That’s compared to a measly .650 against righthanded pitchers. Or, said another way, Farmer’s tOPS+, which measures a player’s OPS split relative to his total mark, is a 136 for his career. That means that he’s been 36 percent better when facing lefties.
The Twins’ struggles against lefthanded pitching have been well-documented; they put up a team OPS of just .701 against lefties in 2022 — and that wasn’t the first season it’s been an issue.
Defensively, Farmer and Urshela are both best-cast as third basemen and have shown the ability to play shortstop when called upon. Urshela wasn’t asked to do that at all in Minnesota, whereas Farmer played more at short in Cincinnati than he did at the hot corner. If the Twins re-sign Carlos Correa or sign a different starter in free agency, Farmer will likely take over the backup shortstop role from Polanco and keep the Twins from ever having to play Nick Gordon at the position.
The biggest benefit is the platoon split improvement and the flexibility that the Twins will now have with that advantage. The infield corners include Luis Arraez and Jose Miranda, with Farmer the primary backup and option against left-handed pitching. For as good a hitter as Arraez is, he had stark splits last season. And, if the Twins need to rest their starting shortstop against a lefty, then Farmer can step in there, too.
Even if Urshela and Farmer are similar players in a vacuum, the construction of the Twins’ roster is better suited for Farmer than it is for Urshela, both from a positional flexibility standpoint and from the platoon perspective.
On top of that, Farmer has an additional year of team control, and Urshela is sure to make more money in arbitration than Farmer. That means that the Twins may also save a few million that can be used in free agency.
The prospect swap may also be a positive
While it’s impossible to know for sure, the Twins may have also come out on top in what was effectively a prospect swap.
Minnesota acquired Alejandro Hidalgo, a 19-year-old pitcher, from the Angels. Hidalgo was No. 11 on the Angels’ prospect list and MLB.com has added him at No. 25 for the Twins. Later in the day, the Twins sent Casey Legumina, a 25-year-old pitcher who was No. 27 on the Twins’ list. So, for what it’s worth, the Twins traded their No. 27 prospect for a player who is now two slots higher on their own board, according to MLB.com.
The Twins improved on offense, in flexibility, and in the minors
To recap, the Twins improved their roster flexibility and platoon splits on offense by sending out Urshela and bringing in Farmer. Farmer is at least a viable emergency shortstop option and a far better hitter against lefties.
They also saved somewhere between $2-3 million in salary in going from Urshela to Farmer, and gained an extra year of team control. Urshela would have been paid too much in arbitration this year and then hit free agency next winter. Instead, the Twins get Farmer through the 2024 season.
On the minor-league side, the Twins sent out their No. 27 prospect and landed a prospect who is six years younger and immediately slotted. inat No. 25 on their list.
No, these moves won’t win the Twins the division on their own. The win projection needle has not moved because of these trades, and nobody on a national level will be writing about these moves during spring training. But incremental improvement matters, and the moves that the Twins front office is making on the periphery have absolutely improved the team’s roster and future outlook.