1. Plan Summary
Before last season I wrote that the focus for the front office was going to be on improving in 2022 while simultaneously setting things up for 2023 when a new young core would be ready to compete. The Twins’ actual behavior in making trades and signings both before last season and at the trade deadline aligned with that view and now 2023 looks like it could be promising.
My goals with this plan are to raise the ceiling of the roster, especially on the mound, solidify shortstop and catcher, and make the rest of the roster a little more position- and role-flexible via multi-position players and multiple-inning relievers. All of that will also serve to bring aboard more capable depth to deal with the injuries that *will* happen. If we’ve learned anything from the past couple of seasons, it’s that hoping for better health is not a plan.
Nonetheless, the core of a contending roster is mainly assembled, and I see this as the time to invest to push this club over the hump.
2. What is your payroll limit?
3. 2023 Guaranteed Contracts
- Byron Buxton – $15.0M
- Max Kepler — $8.50M
- Jorge Polanco — $7.50M
- Kenta Maeda — $3.125M
- Randy Dobnak — $1.50M (no longer on the 40-man roster)
Total Salary Commitment: ~$35.625M
4. 2023 Contract Options
- Miguel Sanó — $2.75M buyout. This is the end of the line for the Twins and Sanó.
- Sonny Gray – Pick up the $12.0M option. This is a no-brainer. Gray was excellent when healthy last season and figures to be solid again in 2023.
- Dylan Bundy – $1.0M buyout. I appreciate Bundy’s efforts to soak up some innings last year, but the Twins have other internal options with more upside.
- Chris Archer – $0.75M buyout. I remain curious about how Archer’s stuff would play in a more limited relief role but that would require a smaller contract and it’s unclear if he’d be open to or capable of doing that, given his extensive physical maintenance routines.
Total Salary Commitment: $16.5M here, $52.125M running total
- Gio Urshela – $9.2M - tender
- Tyler Mahle – $7.2M - tender
- Luis Arráez – $5.0M - tender
- Jorge López – $3.7M - tender
- Emilio Pagán – $3.7M - non-tender
- Chris Paddack – $2.4M - tender
- Caleb Thielbar – $2.4M - tender
- Kyle Garlick – $1.1M - non-tender
- Jorge Alcalá – $0.8M - tender
- Cody Stashak – $0.8M - non-tender
Nothing too out of the ordinary here. Non-tendering Kyle Garlick leaves a hole for right-handed batting corner position pop that I’ll need to fill. Garlick served that need against left-handed pitching (career 126 wRC+), but he has been close to unplayable against right-handed pitching (63 wRC+) and hasn’t been able to stay healthy, so I think it’s worth trying to do better. Ideally, that right-handed hitter will also have some position flexibility to play first or third base, in addition to the outfield corners.
I’m not sure the Twins actually will move on from Emilio Pagán. They’ve carried him this long for reasons that escape most of us, so I’m not sure what would change that now. That said, I see little reason to hang on to a near $4M pitcher who has been among the worst relievers in the sport since 2020. Aggregating 2020-2022, among 141 qualified relievers, Pagán ranks 29th in appearances and 22nd in innings pitched but 136th in fWAR and HR/9, 128th in FIP, and 140th in WPA. Say what you want about the quality of the stuff, and it does grade well above average per measures like Stuff+, but at some point, results have to matter. Perhaps there is a route to include him in a trade to someone else who thinks they can fix him — lots of teams can’t resist a pitching project with good stuff – but if no deal is found I’d just non-tender him and re-allocate the funds.
I like Cody Stashak, but he’s missed most/all of the past two seasons with injuries and now has to return from major shoulder surgery. I’d definitely be interested in re-signing Stashak to a non-roster deal, but it’s hard to justify keeping him on the 40-man given the injury history and that he’s probably going to miss the first third of the 2023 season.
Gio Urshela might be the biggest question mark here, not because he’s unworthy of that arbitration salary (although it’s not exactly cheap) but because the Twins have José Miranda available to plug in at third base every day and could apply Urshela’s funds to other needs. That said, I don’t think the decision about tendering Urshela a contract is very difficult.
For starters, Urshela was productive last season, hitting .285/.338/.429 with 13 home runs and 27 doubles in 131 games. The defensive metrics disagree with each other on his work – DRS (+4) and UZR (+2.6) have him comfortably average-average, while Statcast (-5) sees him comfortably below – so on balance, he provided something near league average defense as well. Altogether, that worked out to 2.4 fWAR and was valued at $18.9M by FanGraphs, easily out-pacing his cost.
More than that, though, I’m choosing to offer a contract to Urshela because this is one of the weakest third-base markets in recent memory. The free agent class is very weak, especially now that Nolan Arenado did not opt out of his deal with St. Louis and the trade market does not look much better. While Urshela’s performance means I’d be happy to keep him, even with Miranda ready to take over third base daily, and Urshela’s anticipated price tag means he does not have a lot of surplus trade value, he could make for an attractive and modestly priced trade target for a club willing to pay up for a third base upgrade. So, I think the best move is to tender him a contract and see how things shake out.
Total Salary Commitment: $30.7M here, $82.825M running total
6. Pre-Arbitration on the 40-man roster
Under the terms of the CBA, players on the active roster earning the MLB minimum salary will be paid $720K ($0.72M) in 2023.
Pitchers (13): Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, Bailey Ober, Griffin Jax, Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Jovani Moran, Ronny Henriquez, Trevor Megill,
Cole Sands, Louie Varland, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Blayne Enlow
Position Players (9): José Miranda, Nick Gordon, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Gilberto Celestino, Royce Lewis, Matt Wallner,
I’d make two adjustments here, which are taking OF Mark Contreras and RHP Cole Sands off the 40-man roster. Hopefully, both get through waivers and stay in the organization as depth. If Contreras batted right-handed, he might have a better shot to stick, but he doesn’t, so he becomes the new Jake Cave. He’s below (and potentially superfluous with) the trio of young lefty-hitting outfielders already on the 40-man (Larnach, Kirilloff, and Wallner, not to mention Nick Gordon).
With the ascension of Henriquez, Varland, and Woods-Richardson, and the bullpen performance of Jax and Megill last season, I think Sands is replaceable and that roster spot can be better used in free agency or to protect one of the prospects needing to be added below. If Sands were to stay in the organization, I would want to convert him to relief full-time, à la Jax last season, and see what happens with a breaking-ball-heavy approach. We’ve seen enough to know he does not have the command or the third pitch needed to be an effective starter.
My plan includes Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Griffin Jax, Jhoan Duran, and the improved Jovani Moran being on the opening-day roster, with Winder, Megill, Henriquez, Varland, and Woods-Richardson awaiting their chances at St. Paul.
On the hitter side, José Miranda, Nick Gordon, Ryan Jeffers, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, and Gilberto Celestino will all be part of my opening-day roster.
Total Salary Commitment: $7.92M here, $90.745M running total
7. Free Agents
Sign LHP Carlos Rodón (4 years/$130M, AAV: $33.5M, Opt Out After Year 2)
As the feature photo above indicates, this is the big move and largely reallocates the funds previously soaked up by Carlos Correa. The Twins have developed and acquired quality depth in the pitching staff, but they lack top-of-rotation guys and don’t appear to have one among their bevy of young pitching prospects. If you watched any playoff baseball, I think you saw that there is a significant gap between the front of the rotation the Astros, Phillies, Yankees, Braves, and Padres were throwing and what the Twins currently have.
Philosophically, I tend to agree with the approach of avoiding getting into long-term commitments in free agency, especially with pitchers. That said, there is a high degree of risk inherent in any pitching acquisition (see: Tyler Mahle), and you have to do enough to win the auction in free agency, which often means spending more to make shorter deals more appealing.
This winter’s market offers two prime candidates who are better than the Twins' current starters and who come with question marks that might make creative, shorter duration, high annual average value deals enticing – LHP Carlos Rodón and RHP Jacob deGrom. Both have extensive injury histories that increase their risk, but their performance when healthy is undeniable.
Among pitchers with at least 50 starts in the past two years, Rodón is first in strikeout rate (12.2/9), second in OPS against (.567), and fourth in ERA (2.67) and has an even better FIP (2.42). He’s posted back-to-back ~5+ WAR seasons and last season he made a career-high 31 starts while posting a 2.88 ERA and 2.25 FIP across 178 innings, making him a true frontman that the Twins need to make a serious playoff run. deGrom needs no such justification because he is Jacob deGrom, which is synonymous with “the best pitcher on planet Earth when healthy.”
Of the two, I think the 30-year-old Rodón is the more likely to move in free agency. The Twins were rumored to have been in hot pursuit of Rodón last winter and again at last summer’s trade deadline, so I have chosen him for the Twins on a four-year deal here. Other teams might be willing to go five-plus years for Rodón, so my goal would be to out-spend those deals in the first two seasons by front-loading the structure ($67M in the first two years) and offering an opt-out after year two to let Rodón get another crack at free agency at age 32.
Similarly, I’d be opportunistic if the market plays out such that deGrom is not finding the deal he wants. I’d be very comfortable offering him a 1-year contract for $40M+ that pays him very well and gives him a chance to put together a full, healthy season from which to go back into free agency next winter (much like the Carlos Correa deal). That said, I don’t foresee Mets’ owner Steve Cohen letting Jacob deGrom walk over money and years and this seems like a vanishingly small possibility. (But, I also didn’t think Carlos Correa was a realistic option last winter. You never know.)
Sign COF/1B Wil Myers (2 years/$15M, AAV: $7.5M )
The Twins ranked 15th in plate appearances taken by right-handed hitters against left-handed pitching and 19th in production against left-handed pitching last season. With Garlick out of the picture, the Twins' have a critical need for right-handed hitting corner defenders to complement all their lefty bats, Myers makes all kinds of sense.
While he never fully lived up to his prospect billing and big early career contract, he’s got a long track record of being an average or slightly above-average defender both in the outfield and at first base and producing well against left-handed pitching (.255/.351/.453, 119 wRC+) while also being serviceable against righties (.254/.320/.438, 106 wRC+). In Minnesota, Myers can be the primary right fielder against left-handed pitching, you can feel decent about him making a start or two a week at first base or DH against right-handed pitching, and he’d make for a quality mid-game pinch-hitting option to complement Larnach, Kirilloff, and Arráez.
Sign RHP Rafael Montero (2 years/$18M, $12M option for ‘25, or $2M buyout)
The 2022 Twins bullpen was 20th in fWAR, and 17th in FIP and WPA, so some help is sorely needed. Some improvement can be expected with the addition of some of the younger pitchers to bullpen roles and (fingers crossed) a return to health of Jorge Alcalá, but the Twins' low-cost lottery ticket strategy for the ‘pen has left them vulnerable the past two seasons. Spending money on relievers is hardly a guaranteed solution, but Montero, with Duran, Thielbar, López, Moran, and Jax should make for a solid group.
Montero worked 68.1 medium to high-leverage innings for Houston in 2022, plus another 9.1 in the playoffs, and was very effective throughout. In the regular season, he pitched to a 2.37 ERA/2.64 FIP and fanned 27% of opponents against an 8.5% walk percentage. For the Twins and their bullpen’s propensity for blowing up, it’s worth noting that Montero had just 5 meltdowns — defined as a WPA below -0.06 — in his 71 appearances, tied for 8th fewest among 152 qualified relievers last season.
Along with the strikeouts and limited walks, Montero has also posted a grounder rate above 50% in each of the last two seasons, and his average fastball sits just a bit below 97 MPH. While Montero has been effective across the board, he’s shown minor reverse platoon splits thanks to a plus changeup, giving the Twins a chance to improve on their 18th-ranking for relievers against left-handed batters without carrying another left-handed pitcher that could be vulnerable to right-handed batters.
Sign C Omar Narváez (1 year/$4M, $5M option for ‘24 or $1M buyout)
While the Twins have shown they believe in Ryan Jeffers behind the plate, he’s been a black hole offensively against right-handed pitching (.270 wOBA, 72 wRC+) and beset by injuries the past two seasons, making it clear that he needs a job-share partner, preferably one that hits left-handed.
Enter Omar Narváez. At various points in his career, the 31-year-old Narváez has been both an above-average hitter (for a catcher) and an above-average defender behind the plate. The catch is that he has rarely, if ever, been those things at the same time, which is why he is available at this kind of price point.
In recent seasons, the lefty-hitter has had a defense-first profile, producing some of the game’s best pitch-framing marks (league leader in 2020, 2021, ranked 9th-best in 2022, per Statcast). Nonetheless, the potential for the bat to perk back up is there, and, even if it doesn’t, Narváez would be an improvement defensively behind the plate from Gary Sánchez who also makes contact and gets on base at higher rates.
Sign RHP Trevor Williams (1 year/$3M)
I’ve had Williams on my Twins’ target list for a couple of years now and he would essentially fill the Michael Fulmer role in the Twins ‘pen. After many years as a back-end starter for Pittsburgh and a swingman last season with the Mets, Williams put up good numbers in relief (2.47 ERA, 3.03 FIP, 25.8% strikeouts, 7.0% walks), particularly against right-handed hitters (.206 average against, .261 wOBA, 34.1% strikeouts). This is a bet that there is still a little more to come from Williams in a full bullpen role, especially if the Twins can be smart about limiting the number of left-handed batters Williams faces (.324 average against, .376 wOBA), but also gives some needed flexibility for multiple-inning length when necessary.
In addition to the major league signings above, I’d look to target some of these free agents for non-roster depth and Spring Training competition: RHP Jharel Cotton, LHP Danny Coulombe, RHP Chad Green (2-year deal, Tommy John recovery, à la Michael Pineda), RHP Craig Stammen, RHP Matt Wisler, LHP Zack Britton, RHP Josh Lindblom, RHP J.B. Wendelken, INF Matt Duffy, OF Kevin Pillar, OF Brett Phillips, C Austin Romine, C Sandy León
You might have gathered above that I did not address shortstop in free agency and I’ve already spent the money earmarked for Correa in other places. I don’t love the free-agent shortstop options after the big four (Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson). Elvis Andrus could turn (back) into a pumpkin any day now (and the Twins just recently did a similar experiment with Andrelton Simmons, which I did not enjoy). José Iglesias is a free swinger that doesn’t get on base and has been showing a decline defensively. I’m also not comfortable leaving the job to an existing internal option. So, I will be making a trade to address the middle infield.
Trade OF Max Kepler to the New York Mets for SS/2B/UTIL Luis Guillorme and a non-40-man roster pitching prospect.
Guillorme has been in a utility infielder role for the Mets the past several seasons, has one minor league option remaining, and will be under cost-effective team control through arbitration through 2025.
With Francisco Lindor locked in at short in New York, the lefty-hitting Guillorme has not yet gotten an everyday opportunity but has been productive in the chances he’s gotten. Last season was Guillorme’s most extended stretch in the majors and he hit .273/.351/.340 (106 wRC+) with a 10.1% walk rate and 13.7% strikeout rate in 102 games split across second base (67), third base (22), and shortstop (15).
Defensively, Guillorme measured average or better at each of those spots per Statcast (DRS agreed, but UZR had him slightly below average at shortstop), and his prospect scouting reports projected him to be a plus defender at shortstop and an 80-grade defender at second base, with “perhaps the best hands in the Minor Leagues.”
Much like last off-season’s Mitch Garver for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Ronny Henriquez trade, Guillorme fits for Minnesota as a way to bridge the system’s shortstop gap without blocking the future. Thanks to his glovework, contact skills, and ability to get on base (career .354 OBP), Guillorme should be a reasonably high-floor shortstop in the near term while Royce Lewis recovers and the Twins find out if Brooks Lee will stick at the position.
In the (desired) event either of them proves able to bump Guillorme off the position every day, Guillorme’s profile and price point would again make him a fantastic utility infielder that can also excel at shortstop. That’s something the Twins don’t currently have in the upper levels of their system with the defensive questions that persist about Nick Gordon and Austin Martin.
On the Mets’ side of this, they figure to have a need in the outfield with Brandon Nimmo and Tyler Naquin hitting free agency. Kepler, who might be quickly replaced in Minnesota with Larnach, Kirilloff, or Wallner anyways, gives New York a solid option in right field who can also fill-in in center field and/or form a platoon with Mark Canha if they spend big on a free agent outfielder like Aaron Judge.
While Baseball Trade Values assesses Guillorme’s availability in trade as “low”, it’s possible the Mets might see Guillorme as expendable because top prospects Brett Baty and Mark Vientos, both corner infielders, and Ronny Mauricio, a shortstop, are knocking on the door to the majors, giving them some infield depth from which they can deal to fill other needs.
9. Adding Rule 5 Eligible Prospects
I will add three prospects to the 40-man roster: RHP Matt Canterino, OF Misael Urbina, and 2B Edouard Julien. Alex Isola or another upper-level catcher (David Banuelos or Andrew Bechtold?), if they make it through the rule 5 draft process, could make sense as an early season 40-man roster add when players like Lewis and Chris Paddack can be moved to the 60-day injured list. My preference is to have three catchers on the 40-man roster by Opening Day.
10. Final 40-Man Roster
Summary: I think this plan mostly accomplishes what I set out to do. Rodón and Montero add higher-level performance to the existing pitching staff. Williams adds depth and the possibility of some length to the bullpen. Myers and Guillorme address current needs while offering flexibility to maximize platoon advantages, adjust to injuries, and be positioned to navigate unforeseen future changes. Narváez seems like an easy fit with Jeffers behind the plate.
I looked pretty hard to find a trading partner for Urshela but didn’t end up finding a match I liked with the teams that seem likely to want a third baseman. I’m comfortable just keeping him. With injuries, days off, and platoon matchup considerations, I think there will be plenty of reps available for Miranda at third base, even with Urshela around. Another item left undone from my initial list was improving the quality of the depth behind Byron Buxton in center field. Instead, this plan will rely on continued growth from Gilberto Celestino and Nick Gordon.
Lastly, I think this winter is a good time to think about some early career extensions for Joe Ryan, Jhoan Duran, Luis Arráez, and Miranda.
What do you think about this plan? Let us know in the comments! Use our Offseason Plan creator to put together your own perfect Twins team for 2023.