The frenetic post-lockout environment has made this difficult to put together, but better late than never.
JohnFoley’s Offseason Plan
What kind of plan is this?
This is a plan focused on improving the club in 2022, but with an eye toward bolstering the Twins' next competitive window starting in 2023. I've written before about what I think the Twins are doing in terms of strategy. This coming season is going to be a development year, but I also want to put a decent product on the field, too. On the mound, we'll make heavy use of piggy-backing and multi-inning appearances as a way to sort out the young pitchers and protect the veterans who are vulnerable multiple times through the lineup. The offensive and defensive lineup is mostly set with the trade of Mitch Garver for Isiah Kiner-Falefa. A veteran catcher and a more suitable backup option for center field are gaps to fill, but could possibly be done through minor league free agent deals.
What payroll limit did you set?
2022 Guaranteed Contracts
Josh Donaldson — $21.75MM
Miguel Sanó — $10.583MM
Max Kepler — $6.75MM
Jorge Polanco — $5.0MM
Kenta Maeda — $3.125MM
Randy Dobnak — $800K
Byron Buxton — $9.143MM
Dylan Bundy — $4.0MM
Sonny Gray -- $10.366MM (acquired from Cincinnati)
Tyler Duffey — $3.8MM
Caleb Thielbar – $1.3MM
Jharel Cotton — $700K
Total Payroll = ~$77.32MM
Taylor Rogers — projected $6.7MM
Mitch Garver — projected $3.1MM (traded to Texas)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa -- projected $4.9MM (acquired from Texas)
Luis Arraez — projected $2.0MM
Non-move: I thought quite a bit about an extension for Arraez, but ultimately decided against it. A big driver in my hesitancy to secure his services (and costs) for future years was his inability to stay healthy and play a full season. While he has elite plate discipline and contact skills (things that are becoming increasingly valuable as the game moves to more and more three true outcomes), his lack of power and defensive value limit the risk of a big season driving up his costs in arbitration and there just isn't much value to be had by buying out his remaining arbitration years and early parts of free agency. Moreover, with similarly skilled potential utility guys coming up the pipeline (Miranda, Martin), Arraez could end up superfluous to future rosters.
Total Payroll = Estimated $90.92MM, pending arbitration outcomes
Pre-Arbitration on the 40-man roster
Under the terms of the new CBA, players on the active roster earning the MLB minimum salary will be paid $700K in 2022.
Pitchers (16): Jorge Alcala, Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, Blayne Enlow,
Ralph Garza Jr., Griffin Jax, Jovani Moran, Bailey Ober, Joe Ryan, Cole Sands, Cody Stashak, Drew Strotman, Lewis Thorpe, Chris Vallimont, Josh Winder. Ronny Henriquez
Position Players (9): Ryan Jeffers, Ben Rortvedt, Nick Gordon, Royce Lewis, Jose Miranda, Gilberto Celestino, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach, Brent Rooker
Move 1: Re-sign RHP Michael Pineda (1 year, $10-million, with $10-million option for 2023)
There is not a ton to explain here. Big Mike is steady and solid, the Twins need veteran innings. Pineda was an obvious trade chip last summer, but the Twins chose to keep him for the stretch to eat innings. Following that decision by re-signing him for another contract now is one of the few ways their decision to keep him last summer makes sense. The option for next year is an important part of the puzzle.
Move 2: Sign LHP Drew Smyly (1 year, $7-million)
Smyly makes sense for the Twins as part of my piggy back/multi-inning pitching plan. He's struggled with injuries throughout his career, making him hard to trust with a full starter's workload and he has experience working in relief in longer stints. His recent numbers also suggest he can be successful if limited to just a time or two through the order. Last season he was about league average (.324 wOBA) the first time through, worse but passable (.346 wOBA) the second time, and terrible (.400 wOBA) the third time.
Beyond that, Smyly has some potential untapped upside thanks to an adjusted cutter that he worked in late last season. He added several inches more drop on the pitch, helping distinguish it better from his four seamer and giving him a stronger third pitch to go with his fastball-curveball combo. By the Stuff+ measure that Eno Sarris helps maintain ($) for The Athletic, Smyly had the best stuff of any remaining free agent besides Carlos Rodón when the lockout began.
There are two left-handed pitchers that Twins fans are very familiar with -- Matthew Boyd and Danny Duffy -- that would make quite a bit of sense for this plan, but they are both coming off flexor tendon/forearm surgeries that will keep them out until mid-season (at least June). The uncertainty of the injuries might take these players off the board for the Twins because their most acute need is for capable innings early in the season while the majority of the prospect pitchers marinate in the minors. Perhaps Boyd and Duffy make sense on something like the original Pineda deal, where he was signed while injured, rehabbed with the Twins, and then built up late in the season to be a viable starting option the following year. In the end, I decided not to make this move.
Notable Minor League Free Agent Signings:
LHP Danny Coulombe, RHP Jake Faria, RHP Trevor Megill, OF Derek Fisher, RHP Dereck Rodriguez, 1B Curtis Terry, SS/UT Tim Beckham, UT Daniel Robertson, RHP Daniel Gossett, SS Elliot Soto, OF Kyle Garlick, LHP Devin Smeltzer, RHP Ian Hamilton, RHP Juan Minaya, OF Jake Cave
I'd seek to add another veteran catcher to have at AAA as depth. The free agent pickings for a MLB-level free agent catcher are pretty slim. Brian Navarreto was a Twins draft pick in 2013, is currently a minor league free agent and would fit the bill.
Another need is to add someone capable of playing center field. Gilberto Celestino is likely the Twins next man up in center in the event of a Buxton injury and Nick Gordon showed last year that he's an option in a pinch. I'd look to add someone like Travis Jankowski or Tim Locastro on minor league deals to add to that depth.
Any and all non roster pitching fliers are worth taking in my mind. RHP Chad Kuhl was non-tendered by Pittsburgh earlier this offseason and has good velocity and strong breaking pitchers. He's long seemed to be a few adjustments away from being quite useful, and could be worth a shot to work with Wes Johnson, especially if he could be had on a minor league deal. Other pitchers that I would have interest in on non-roster deals include RHP Yusmeiro Petit, LHP Steven Brault, RHP Chris Martin, RHP Robert Gsellman, RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Dan Winckler, and RHP Jakob Junis.
Many of those names have multi-inning ability and traits the Twins tend to like (deceptive fastballs, good sliders). Several might end up finding major league deals, but the rush to Spring Training and game of musical chairs for roster spots might lead to some taking non-roster opportunities to compete for the roster, especially on a team like the Twins with many holes to fill on the mound.
Twins acquired INF Isiah Kiner-Falefa and RHP Ronny Henriquez from Texas Rangers for C Mitch Garver
Twins acquired RHP Sonny Gray and RHP Francisco Peguero from Cincinnati Reds for RHP Chase Petty
In general, moving on from catchers in their 30s is usually a smart play. Garver is clearly an excellent offensive catcher, when he's available. Since his bonkers 2019 campaign, he has not been as available. I don't think the addition of Kiner-Falefa and the departure of Garver changes the 2022 Twins' outlook demonstrably in either direction. But, it fills a major hole on the 2022 roster, helps the piece parts of the roster fit together better, adds insurance against Royce Lewis and Austin Martin's development as shortstops, and creates more flexibility for 2023. Plus, the throw in of Henriquez adds another interesting arm that fits the Twins time window.
I was pretty surprised that Petty alone was the cost for acquiring Gray. I had expected a deal like that to require Larnach or Jeffers being on the move to Cincinnati. Instead, the Twins get an established starter that can be controlled through 2023 for the cost of a high-variance, teenage pitcher who is 4 or 5 years away from impacting the major league team and most likely projected as a reliever anyways. Of course, there is a (small) chance that Petty's development blows up in the Twins face down the line and he turns into the stud his raw stuff suggests he could be.
Your 26-man (or 40-man) roster and final summary
- Lineup (13):
C: Ryan Jeffers ($700K)
1B: Alex Kirilloff ($700K)
2B: Jorge Polanco ($5.0M)
3B: Josh Donaldson ($21.75M)
SS: Isiah Kiner-Falefa ($4.9M)
LF: Luis Arraez ($2.0M)
CF: Byron Buxton ($9.143M)
RF: Max Kepler ($6.75)
DH: Miguel Sanó ($10.583M)
BN: C Ben Rortvedt ($700K)
BN: UT Jose Miranda ($700K)
BN: OF Kyle Garlick ($700K) -- wins a roster spot as non-roster invitee to Spring Training
BN: UT Nick Gordon ($700K)
- Pitching Staff (13):
SP1: RHP Sonny Gray ($10.366)
SP2: RHP Michael Pineda ($10M)
SP3: RHP Dylan Bundy ($4.0M)
SP4: RHP Joe Ryan ($700K)
SP5: RHP Bailey Ober ($700K)
SP/Bulk: RHP Randy Dobnak ($800K)
SP/Bulk: LHP Drew Smyly ($7.0M)
RP: RHP Cody Stashak ($700K)
RP: RHP Jharel Cotton ($700K)
RP: RHP Jorge Alcala ($700K)
RP: LHP Caleb Thielbar ($1.3M)
RP: RHP Tyler Duffey ($3.8M)
RP: LHP Taylor Rogers ($6.7M)
Total Payroll = $114.92M
- Rest of 40-man roster (14, all minimum salaries, $700K)
27: RHP Griffin Jax
28: OF Gilberto Celestino
29: SS/OF Royce Lewis
30: RHP Jordan Balazovic
31: RHP Jhoan Duran
32: RHP Blayne Enlow
33: RHP Kenta Maeda
34: LHP Jovani Moran
35: RHP Cole Sands
36: RHP Drew Strotman
37: RHP Chris Vallimont
38: RHP Josh Winder
39: RHP Ronny Henriquez
40: OF Trevor Larnach
Removed from 40-man roster: RHP Ralph Garza Jr., DH Brent Rooker, LHP Lewis Thorpe
60-Day Injured List candidates: Kenta Maeda and Blayne Enlow likely will be moved to 60-Day IL once the season begins, opening up two roster spots to help with roster churn.
Most of the players on the "rest of the 40-man" part of this roster will find themselves in the major leagues this season. I anticipate making heavy use of churning the roster to manage the workloads of the young pitchers and the goal would be try to sort them into possible roles for 2023. Ryan and Ober need to build their innings and the others need to determine if they can be starters/multi-inning guys or need to be limited to shorter relief stints. I expect that Lewis and Martin will both make their debuts at some point in 2022 and expect that Martin will be the Twins everyday left fielder beginning in 2023. Ideally, Larnach will force the teams hand with regard to right field and could potentially make Kepler available as a big part of a mid-season trade for additional impact pitching. There is a still a chance he could be moved before the start of the season (San Diego might make sense) and that pitching could come to Minnesota sooner.
I don't think this team as constructed above is contending for a playoff spot, but it's not out of the question if the pitching surprises and Sanó and Buxton have healthy, big years. Instead, this team is probably around .500ish, but will have plenty of reasons for some excitement as the next crop of young players begins to show up mid-summer.