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The Twins’ improved depth is already looking extremely important

The front office did its job this offseason, making some extremely fortuitous moves

MLB: Spring Training-Minnesota Twins Photo Day
Kyle Farmer will be an important depth piece for the Twins this season.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the 2022 Minnesota Twins centers around early overachievement by a mediocre pitching staff, some midseason regression to the mean, a pile of unfortunate injuries, and a September collapse that plummeted them to third place in the A.L. Central.

Between last year’s trade deadline and this offseason, the Twins front office has addressed the pitching staff in a variety of ways, acquiring bullpen help in the form of Jorge Lopez and starters Pablo Lopez and Tyler Mahle. The staff’s talent level is much greater than it was even 12 months ago, with late-spring training acquisitions Emilio Pagan and Chris Paddack in the fold as well, although the former struggled mightily last year and the latter is out for several more months after Tommy John surgery.

The other issue that the front office had to address is purely related to depth, and now, only a week into the Spring Training schedule, we’re already starting to see why an improved depth chart was so incredibly important.

Outfield Depth

Earlier this week, last year’s primary fourth outfielder and frequent Byron Buxton fill-in, Gilberto Celestino, ruptured a ligament in his thumb and is out for six to eight weeks.

Celestino had already been surpassed on the depth chart by new acquisition and defensive wizard Michael A. Taylor and was certain to start the season at Triple-A St. Paul. Additionally, likely everyday left-fielder Joey Gallo has the ability to play center field as well, and in the event of a Buxton injury, the Twins’ likely solution would be to call up Trevor Larnach to play left field and slide Gallo over to center.

But if the Twins had not acquired Taylor, Celestino would have been in play as one of the primary backup options to Buxton. And with this injury, the Twins would have already been scrambling to cover center field.

Now, the Twins have Taylor, plus the Larnach/Gallo option, before they run into issues. Nick Gordon would also have been a fill-in option in center field, but...well, that serves as a segue to the infield discussion...

Infield Depth

Last year, Nick Gordon was the Twins’ primary utility option at virtually all positions. That figured to be the case heading into 2023 as well, but Gordon sprained his ankle in the Twins’ game on Friday. It’s reportedly a high-ankle sprain, which is often a fickle injury that could only keep him out a few days but also could linger much longer.

Last year, the Twins would have been in trouble. Jermaine Palacios was called up as a depth option in the middle infield and was largely overmatched. Luis Arraez played several positions but mostly settled in at first base before ultimately being best-suited as a designated hitter due to lingering injury issues with his legs. Journeyman Tim Beckham was a midseason emergency option as well.

This winter, the Twins acquired Kyle Farmer, a former catcher-turned-shortstop who is best-suited to play second base and third base, but can also play corner outfield and is generally a passable shortstop. There was a chance that Farmer would be the Opening Day shortstop for the Twins, but the re-acquisition of Carlos Correa bumped Farmer to a super-utility role.

Without Gordon, the need for Farmer becomes that much greater. He plays everywhere that Gordon does, save for center field — but that’s exactly why the Twins acquired Taylor.

It was only a week ago that the Twins inked Donovan Solano to a one-year major-league deal and there was some light head-scratching over acquiring yet another utility-type player. The assumption was that Solano would mostly platoon at first base with a hopefully-healthy Alex Kirilloff, but now, Solano could be in line for additional backup time at second base and third base if respective starters Jorge Polanco and Jose Miranda end up being shuffled around the diamond after the Gordon injury.

Of course, the hope is that these injuries, and the Gordon one in particular, don’t linger. But if they do, and/or if there are other ailments that crop up, the front office’s choices to add depth pieces such as Taylor, Farmer, and Solano are already looking extremely fortuitous.