When looking at the 2022 Minnesota Twins’ current roster, there are two main areas with a drastic need for improvement if our beloved Twinkies hope to make the playoffs. The first is the starting rotation, which I will examine in another piece. The second is shortstop.
With spring training set to begin in a week and the regular season in just under a month, it’s time for solutions.
So what options are remaining for the Twins at shortstop?
Since we can all agree the Twins won’t be forking up $300 million to pay Carlos Correa, let’s take a look at the other free agent shortstops that could find their way to the Twin Cities.
Trevor Story is the only player of this group that Twins fans should be excited about. Story hit .251/.329/.471 for an OPS+ of 103 in the extremely hitter-friendly Coors Field last year. While those numbers are uninspiring, the rest of Story’s career shows an elite hitter with a solid defensive track record. Additionally, his advanced numbers from Baseball Savant paint him in a bit of a better light.
Frankly, even if he is just a league-average hitter, that would be a major upgrade from anyone else on this list. However, I would still be hesitant to lock him into a long-term contract. After a down year, I would see if he would be willing to come to Minnesota and rebuild some of his value.
The two other free agent options are Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons. Throughout his career, Iglesias has been a consistent singles hitter without much pop. If you can’t convince Story to join the Twins, Iglesias would be my next choice. There are plenty of worse options for a one-year stopgap.
On the other hand, Andrelton Simmons had arguably the worst offensive year of his career in 2021, ranking at or towards the bottom in almost every conceivable offensive metric. Every Twins fan groaned when they saw him in the lineup every day. He doesn’t strikeout and he still may be one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, but he doesn’t bring many other positives to the table. (Note: Rosenthal reported yesterday that Simmons signed with the Cubs. Thank goodness.)
With Simmons, you are banking on last year being an aberration and showing a bit more offensive upside in 2022.
While it may be unlikely, what happens if the Twins don’t make any further additions?
For starters, there is always the option of moving Jorge Polanco back to short and giving Luis Arráez or Jose Miranda the opportunity to play more at second. If the Twins don’t add another shortstop, this will likely be used in spurts, but I wouldn’t bank on Polanco being the everyday shortstop. He excelled at second base in 2021 after being a well-below-average defender at short earlier in his career. Additionally, I don’t think the Twins want to put any more stress on his surgically repaired ankle than they have to.
Nick Gordon looks better used as a utility man, and I wrote a few weeks ago about the (un)likelihood of Tim Beckham contributing to the major league ball club.
What about the kids?
The Twins have two top prospects that could (theoretically) play shortstop in Austin Martin and Royce Lewis, but both have their concerns. Martin has hit for a great average but the power has yet to develop as well as the Twins would like, hitting .270/.414/.382 between Toronto’s and Minnesota’s Double-A teams. There is also concern about Martin’s long-term ability at short, having split his time between there and centerfield in 2021.
Royce Lewis, meanwhile, has the athletic profile of a high-caliber shortstop, but his defensive consistency has been worrisome, with some scouts pegging him as a better third base or outfield defender. Additionally, Lewis hasn’t played a professional baseball game since 2019 due to the COVID-cancelled 2020 minor league season and injuries last year. Even if he is the potential long-term answer, asking a player who hasn’t seen the field in two years and played all of 33 games at AA before that is setting yourself up for failure.
Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are much smarter than I am in many respects. They have earned the benefit of the doubt. However, both the short- and long-term prospects at shortstop are grim. It may be time to look to the trade market, but that’s for another article.