This past weekend, SBNation writers donned their front-office executive hats and simulated the offseason’s roster-building activities over a ~48-hour flurry. I had the honor of representing the Twins this year for the first time, after our long-time former blog boss T.J. pulled a Gardenhire, and went to work for the Detroit Tigers. (He didn’t change his loyalties, but we needed each team to have a rep, so he volunteered to help out. You can read about his work for the Tigers.)
This annual event is organized by Max Rieper of our sister site Royals Review and it takes a ton of work to pull together. Huge kudos to Max for making this happen and taking on everything that goes into it. All the rules are spelled out here and you can read Max’s roundup of all the activity here.
We play under the assumption the GM has resigned and we have replaced them, free to pursue our own organizational philosophy. We make decisions about options, qualifying offers, arbitration-eligible players, make trades, and try to sign free agents with a soft target budget from ownership. Also worth noting is that we do not include working out extensions for currently rostered players, which is something I otherwise would have been doing for some of the Twins’ young core.
With the Twins coming off a division title and returning the main core of the roster next season, my goals were as follows:
- Replenish depth and flexibility, especially pitching. Target controllable starters and lengthen the bullpen. Make Louie Varland SP6 and Trevor Larnach OF5.
- Add balance to the offense; prioritize guys who make contact, get on base, and have smaller platoon splits than players being replaced
- Find a strong “backup” Centerfielder as Buxton injury insurance
- Be open to selling high on young players (especially bats) who attract trade interest
The simulation’s recommended budget for me was $ 161 million, which I thought was probably a bit higher than is realistic given the Twins’ TV revenue uncertainty. (And that was before Derek Falvey told the media that the Twins planned to reduce payroll.) I decided to try to work to something around $140 million.
All my moves and some of my thinking behind them are written out below. Here’s the snapshot view of my final 40-man roster:
The first moves I made were standard early offseason roster cleanup actions:
- Picked up options for 2B Jorge Polanco ($10.5M) and OF Max Kepler ($10.0M)
- Extended the qualifying offer ($20.325M) to free agent RHP Sonny Gray
- Non-tendered arbitration-eligible players Jordan Luplow and Jose de Leon
There isn’t much in need of explanation with these. Picking up Polanco and Kepler’s contracts for next season gives me options and different paths I can explore this winter. Giving Sonny Gray the qualifying offer ensures I recoup a high draft pick – either a Comp A or B round, pending on Gray’s free agent deal – if Gray signs elsewhere.
With about $98 million in payroll committed when the offseason began, those moves left me with a little more than $20 million to play with.
Trade #1: OF Matt Wallner and UT Austin Martin to Washington for OF/1B Mark Canha, OF Stone Garrett, RHP Kyle Finnegan, RHP Tanner Rainey, and RHP Zach Brzykcy
BaseballTradeValues didn’t love this one, estimating that I gave up about $27 million of surplus value and received about $19 million in return.
Right from the start of the sim, I received a lot of trade interest from multiple teams about OF Matt Wallner. Trading Wallner to address other needs fits well with my strategy because I believe that I am selling high on him after his 144 wRC+ 2023 season.
I am probably lower on Wallner than some others. Still, given that he’s a defensively inflexible, three-true outcomes type of player who probably can’t hit left-handed pitching and who is a below-average outfield defender, I don’t see him as an everyday player. With the DH spot mostly spoken for by Edouard Julien or Byron Buxton, I am happy to trade him while his value is considered high.
Canha was one of my main targets after the Brewers declined his $11.5M 2024 option in the sim. He’s a 34-year-old right-handed corner defender who gets on base (.370 OBP since 2019), who hits lefties well (120 wRC+ career) and has also been a little better than league average against right-handed pitching, too (111 wRC+). A former prospect third baseman, he’s been a solid defender in right field, and also been mostly capable in left, center, and at first base.
In addition to Canha, Washington gave two quality MLB-level relievers with closing experience in right-handers Tanner Rainey and Kyle Finnegan, both 2nd-year arbitration eligible (projected as $1.5M and $5.1M, respectively). Both are prototypical two-pitch power relievers, with Rainey deploying four-seamers and sliders and Finnegan four-seamers and splitters.
Outfielder Stone Garrett, still pre-arbitration with 3 minor league options, helps replace the loss of Wallner in terms of controllable outfield depth. A late-blooming 8th-rounder, Garrett has produced about 20% better than the league average in limited roles across two partial MLB seasons with Arizona and Washington, hitting both lefties and righties decently, and playing average-ish defense in the outfield corners.
Brzykcy (“Brick-see”) is a right-handed, probable middle-relief prospect who was about ready to debut before succumbing to Tommy John surgery and missing last season. He offers a big, riding fastball in the upper 90s and two average-ish secondaries from a deceptive, high release point. Public scouting reports suggest he could be a leverage reliever with another half-grade of command.
Trade #2: 1B/OF Alex Kirilloff to Pittsburgh for RHP Johan Oviedo
I had no designs to trade Kirilloff before the simulation started, and certainly not after moving Wallner, but when Pittsburgh reached out and offered RHP Johan Oviedo, I became interested.
Oviedo is a 6’5, 245-pound 25-year-old who is still pre-arbitration and just completed his first full MLB campaign as a starter. He made 32 starts and worked 177.2 innings last season with a 4.31 ERA and 4.49 FIP. He works in the mid-90s with his fastball, and can really spin the ball with a slider and curveball that have both been well above average in terms of run value results (98th percentile). He also mixes in an occasional changeup.
Johan Oviedo, Vicious Sliders. pic.twitter.com/5d3LmH5kO9— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 15, 2023
While Oviedo’s results and developmental projection are more than enough to justify this trade – especially given Kirilloff’s continued injuries and increasing cost – I was also interested in him because he appears ripe for an adjustment that could take him to another level.
Despite its velocity, Oviedo’s four-seamer isn’t very good because of its poor vertical movement. It generated a -12 run value and allowed .376 wOBA against last season and it’s been below average each season he’s pitched in the majors.
He’s a prime candidate, as multiple FanGraphs writers have pointed out, to ditch four-seamers and move to a cutter-sinker pairing for his fastballs, much like Milwaukee ace Corbin Burnes did before he broke out. The Twins have had prior success helping pitchers optimize their fastballs and this trade is partly a bet that they can do the same with Oviedo.
Trade #3: OF Max Kepler and RHP Ty Langenberg to the New York Mets for RHP Tylor Megill and RHP Dominic Hamel
Having traded Kirilloff, I now had a hole at first base that I knew I would probably need to fill in free agency. With Canha’s money eating into some of my available cash, I thought it was best to make some salary room by trading Kepler.
The Mets were interested and willing to part with the 6’7 Megill (the brother of former Twins reliever Trevor Megill), another pre-arbitration right-hander with options and big stuff who has shown the ability to start. Megill has started 52 games for the Mets in the last three seasons, with mixed results (4.72 ERA, 4.65 FIP). He has a solid floor in relief.
Tylor Megill, Nasty Slider and Changeup. pic.twitter.com/AZqVItwCLs— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 4, 2022
I also pried away Hamel, a 6’2 Double-A right-handed starter who operates with a four-pitch mix that plays up due to excellent spin characteristics. He’s held back a bit by inconsistent command (10.1% minor league walk rate), which could push him to relief if it doesn’t continue to clean up (9.3% last season). He’s rule 5 eligible this winter and will require a 40-man roster spot.
Free Agent Move #1: Sign LHP Alex Vesia to a 3-year, $18M contract
The Los Angeles Dodgers surprisingly non-tendered the arbitration-eligible Vesia (27), who has been a reliable piece of their bullpen mix the past three seasons (3.40 ERA, 3.57 FIP) by operating heavily (~70%) with a well-above-average four-seamer up in the zone and a slider. When he became unexpectedly available, I targeted him in free agency to add some quality, experienced, left-handed relief.
Nothing against Vesia, who has been a good reliever for multiple seasons, but I was crushed by feelings of buyer’s remorse almost immediately after making this signing. The length and total dollars of this deal violated my principles about handling relievers, who tend to spontaneously combust. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen.
Trade #4: RHP Kyle Finnegan to Houston for CF Jake Meyers and RHP Shawn Dubin
Early on in the sim, I was discussing various trades with Arizona, who has a stable of young outfielders that could be had in trade. I was excited about potentially acquiring AAA prospect CF Jorge Barrosa to be my Buxton insurance policy, but Arizona ended up sending him to Oakland as part of a larger deal.
Still needing a CF-capable outfielder that can play a significant role, I identified Meyers from the Astros as a target. Houston was interested in relief pitching and asked about Finnegan. With Finnegan projected to earn $5.1 million via arbitration, and that I’d just spent more than I should have on Vesia, this seemed like a good way to get multiple things done in one trade.
Meyers, 27 and pre-arbitration, is a very good defender who racked up +9 OAA in a part-time role last season and +21 OAA in just more than a full season’s worth of playing time the last three seasons. A right-handed hitter, Meyers hasn’t been afforded an extended, regular opportunity with the deep Astros roster and he has hit .235/.296/.379 in 664 career PAs. The glovework gives him a high floor if pressed into regular duty and maybe there is more to come from the bat.
Getting a solid CF option with maybe some additional upside potential and Dubin, a 28-year-old right-handed reliever who debuted last season with two 60-grade pitches (fastball, slider), while also shedding Finnegan’s salary made this a pretty easy decision. The surplus value delta in this deal also got me nearly back to even on the Wallner trade above.
Free Agent Deal #2: Sign OF Michael Brantley to a 1-year, $12 million contract with $4 million in playing time incentives
This signing came about when I missed out on my primary target for first base, Justin Turner. I was planning to use this money to add a veteran, all-around hitter. Turner, coming off a solid .276/.345/.455, 23-homer season in Boston, fit that bill and my need at first base.
Unfortunately, the bidding for Turner ended up going multiple years and up to $26 million, so I bowed out after offering a 1 year, $14 million deal with an option for 2025.
Pivot to “Professional Hitter” Michael Brantley, whom you all know well. I was able to land Brantley for the same contract he signed with Houston last winter.
YOU STILL NEED A FIRST BASEMAN!
By this point, there were only a few hours left in the sim and the more well-rounded options for first base were getting thin. I explored bringing back Gio Urshela to play first base on a 1-year deal, but his price tag got up to $10 million, which I decided didn’t make sense after he was salary dumped for $9 million last winter.
I looked into the trade market for a first baseman that might work, but the pickings were pretty slim. Kansas City was making Vinnie Pasquantino available, who is a player that I like, but would have been prohibitively expensive in terms of prospects to acquire. There were also some minor league first basemen that appeared blocked in their current systems, like Tristin English in Arizona and Dustin Harris in Texas, but I didn’t think either would be much of an improvement over José Miranda.
Free Agent Deal #3: Sign IF Donovan Solano to a 1-year, $2.5 million contract
One of the first free agent offers I made in the simulation was to Solano to be my fallback plan at first base. With my other options seemingly exhausted, I moved to get Donnie Barrels back in the fold and was successful.
With José Miranda still on the roster and hopefully ready to bounce back after last year’s terrible performance and injury, I plan to mix and match at first in 2024. Edouard Julien also makes sense to spend time there, along with Solano, Miranda, or Canha. It’s not great, but it could be passable in the aggregate.
Minor Trades: UT Nick Gordon and RHP Cole Sands to Miami for 3B/2B Jordan McCants and OF Dane Myers
This was actually two trades in the sim. Given the acquisitions I had already made, I needed to clear some roster space. I tried to find a taker for Kyle Farmer and his $6.6 million arbitration price tag but didn’t have much luck and I didn’t want to just dump him for nothing.
With Farmer and Willi Castro returning for infield depth, plus Brooks Lee waiting in AAA for an opportunity, and the outfield depth secure, Gordon was deemed superfluous. Similarly, Sands was surpassed on my depth chart by the pitchers acquired above.
Myers, 27, debuted in Miami last season after a great minor league season and adds some additional outfield depth. He was a two-way player in college and was drafted as a pitcher in 2017. He became a full-time position player in 2021 and has rapidly ascended since. He wasn’t exactly the player I thought I’d target because he requires a roster spot, but I liked the potential. I can outright another player, perhaps Simeon Woods-Richardson or Brzykcy.
McCants is an athletic and toolsy 21-year-old and a flier for the future.
Free Agent Deal #3: Sign RHP Nick Martinez to a 1-year, $5 million contract with $1.5 million in incentives, and a $5 million club option for 2025 ($1 million buyout)
This was the very last transaction completed in the simulation, finalized just a few minutes before things ended. Martinez, 33, declined a $16 million, two-year option with San Diego at the beginning of the sim and was an interesting target as a swingman for me. I expected to be priced out on him given how expensive free-agent pitching was (more on that below), but he was there at the end with only short and small offers. So I went for it to round out my pitching staff with an option that can take a few starts and otherwise work in relief.
Since returning from Japan before the 2022 season, Martinez has pitched 216.2 innings over 110 appearances (19 starts) with a 3.45 ERA and 4.17 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates are about average and he gets ground balls (~50%) with a five-pitch mix led by an above-average changeup.
Nick Martinez, Disgusting Changeups. pic.twitter.com/IeUBqlOaiN— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 12, 2022
Minor League Signings: RHP Lou Trivino, RHP Chris Flexen, 1B Trey Mancini
Trivino is coming off Tommy John but has been a useful reliever with big stuff in the past, so I’ll see about Brock Stewart’ing him. Flexen is a depth starter. Mancini has had some big seasons in the past but has fallen off significantly in the last two seasons. He’s here to compete for 1st base in spring training.
Twins 2024 Roster
In the end, I think I mostly met the goals I set. Brantley and Canha bring quality at-bats to the lineup and I acquired additional outfield depth (Meyers, Garrett, Myers) to back up Buxton and guard against other injuries. Oviedo has a chance to take a leap with some adjustment and Vesia, Megill, Rainey, Martinez, and Dubin add some flexibility and depth to the pitching staff. You can go either way (starting or relieving) with Varland. Brooks Lee is the first man up if there is an issue in the middle infield and Miranda is the same for the infield corners. First base is probably a weakness, but corner bats are usually something in deep supply around the trade deadline.
Here’s the link to the final $143M roster, which also includes a timeline tab that maps out the years of control for each player.
Other Odds and Ends From Around the Sim
Here are the contracts for some players you might have an interest in. Max posted the blow-by-blow of the entire simulation here.
- Sonny Gray - Reds, 6/$145M (Twins will get a Comp A draft pick)
- Kenta Maeda - Dodgers, 2/$23M
- Tyler Mahle - Pirates, 3/$30M
- Joey Gallo - Brewers, 1/$5.5M
- Shohei Ohtani - Mets, 15/$845M
- Gary Sánchez - Guardians, 2/$12M
- Emilío Pagán - Mets, 1/$3M
- Mitch Garver - Marlins, 5/$80M
How do you think I did? Let me know in the poll and the comments. I would be happy to discuss any of my thoughts!
What grade would you give my offseason?
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How many games will this Twins roster win in 2024?
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Fewer than 70