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The Twins lastly snapped their ignominious playoff drought, breaking an 18-game postseason shedding streak by sweeping the Blue Jays within the Wild Card Series. After being eradicated by the defending champions within the second spherical, they flip their consideration to an offseason that might see some turnover amongst what was arguably the game’s finest rotation.
- Club holds $10.5MM possibility on 2B Jorge Polanco ($1MM buyout); deal additionally contains ’25 workforce possibility
- Club holds $10MM possibility on RF Max Kepler ($1MM buyout)
2024 monetary commitments (assuming each choices exercised): $88.025MM
Total future commitments (assuming each choices exercised): $358.775MM
Arbitration-Eligible Players (salaries projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
Non-tender candidates: Farmer, Luplow, Alcalá, De León
After disappointing seasons in 2021-22, the Twins returned to October. Minnesota’s 87 wins had been sufficient to handily take the AL Central in one other down 12 months. After knocking out the Blue Jays within the first spherical, Minnesota dropped a four-game Division Series to the Astros. Their efforts to return to the playoffs start in a pair weeks, with the beginning rotation the first focus.
After years of maligned rotations and fast hooks for starters, Minnesota turned its rotation into an overwhelming energy. Only three groups relied on their rotation for extra innings. The Twins trailed solely the Padres in beginning pitcher ERA, whereas the workers narrowly topped the Rays’ for the very best strikeout charge within the majors.
The workforce MVP might have been Sonny Gray. The veteran righty pitched to a 2.79 ERA throughout 32 begins. He made his third All-Star Game and will safe a prime three Cy Young end for the second time. It was a really perfect time for arguably one of the best season of an excellent profession, because the 10-year veteran is just a few weeks from his first journey to free company.
Minnesota will make Gray a qualifying supply, which he’ll definitely decline. That’d entitle them to a draft alternative if he indicators elsewhere. Gray has spoken positively of the group, whereas president of baseball operations Derek Falvey mentioned they’ll stay involved all through the offseason. While Minnesota retaining Gray can’t be completely dominated out, the group could also be reluctant to satisfy an asking worth that ought to simply prime the $63MM secured by Chris Bassitt and will push in direction of 9 figures.
Gray will likely be joined in free company by two different Minnesota starters. Dallas Keuchel heads again to the market and certain received’t be retained after posting a 5.97 ERA throughout 10 outings. More impactful is the potential departure of Kenta Maeda. The 35-year-old has had a powerful if risky few seasons since being acquired from the Dodgers within the Mookie Betts three-team blockbuster. He was the Cy Young runner-up after twirling 11 begins of two.70 ERA ball throughout the shortened season. He adopted up with an ERA approaching 5.00 in 2021 earlier than present process Tommy John surgical procedure in direction of 12 months’s finish. Rehabbing that harm saved him out for all of 2022.
Maeda returned to publish a 4.23 ERA by way of 104 1/3 innings this previous season. That’s inflated by a 10-run drubbing by the hands of the Yankees on April 26, which instantly preceded a two-month injured record keep as a result of a triceps pressure. From the time of his return on June 23, Maeda labored to a 3.36 ERA with a wonderful 29% strikeout charge whereas holding opponents to a .219/.279/.401 batting line in 88 1/3 frames.
As with Gray, Maeda is eligible to obtain a qualifying supply. Unlike his rotation mate, Maeda would possibly fortunately take a one-year deal within the $20.5MM vary if the Twins put it on the desk. Whether to make him the QO is among the largest selections for Falvey and his entrance workplace firstly of the offseason. A full season of Maeda’s second-half manufacturing could be properly value that worth. Whether he can maintain that up for one more 12 months is a matter of debate, as he’ll be 36 in April and has a checkered harm historical past.
The Twins are a mid-market franchise. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, they ran a payroll within the $154MM vary this 12 months — the #17 determine within the majors. Pending a pair of apparent possibility selections (extra on these in a bit), they’ll start the offseason with roughly $88MM in assured contracts for 2024. The arbitration class is projected to tack on round $17MM, though a non-tender of infielder Kyle Farmer would subtract practically $7MM from that sum.
That ought to afford the entrance workplace some freedom for a lofty one-year wage in the event that they really feel Maeda is able to one other robust 12 months. Falvey famous final week that the collapse of Diamond Sports Group — the dad or mum company of the Bally Sports TV networks that had carried Twins’ in-market broadcasts — provides some uncertainty to the offseason funds. There’s nothing to recommend the group is about to dramatically slash payroll, nonetheless, and the membership did get a lift within the type of 4 house playoff video games this fall.
Whether Gray or Maeda return, three-fifths of the rotation is settled. Pablo López had one other wonderful 12 months in his first season after being acquired within the Luis Arraez commerce. Joe Ryan has a safe maintain on a rotation spot regardless of a tough second half. Righty Bailey Ober had a really robust 12 months to solidify himself as a mid-rotation arm.
Chris Paddack figures to carry the fourth spot. Acquired within the Taylor Rogers commerce simply earlier than Opening Day 2022, Paddack made 5 begins earlier than present process the second Tommy John process of his profession. He was out into September, returning for 5 aid appearances between the common season’s remaining week and the playoffs. Minnesota signed him by way of 2025 final spring, shopping for out his first would-be free agent 12 months whereas giving the righty some stability midway by way of his rehab.
The prime possibility past that group appears to be right-hander Louie Varland. The 25-year-old (26 in December) has been more practical out of the bullpen than the rotation in his temporary MLB profession. He had a powerful season within the rotation for Triple-A St. Paul, posting a 3.97 ERA whereas putting out 1 / 4 of opponents in 81 2/3 innings. Varland may get a crack at a back-end job out of camp or start the season within the main league aid corps with the potential to maneuver to the rotation if vital.
If every of Gray and Maeda stroll, Minnesota may go into the center tiers of free company for a veteran starter. Players like Michael Lorenzen, Sean Manaea (if he opts out of his take care of the Giants) and outdated buddy Kyle Gibson are among the many choices. Signing a veteran to eat some innings may maintain the likes of Varland, Brent Headrick and Simeon Woods Richardson in aid and/or enhance the potential of buying and selling from that group for bullpen or place participant depth.
Minnesota’s robust rotation efficiency is made all of the extra spectacular by the absence of Tyler Mahle. The Twins obtained simply 5 begins this 12 months from the right-hander, considered one of their prime deadline acquisitions in 2022. That commerce turned out to be a serious misstep, as each Spencer Steer and Christian Encarnacion-Strand seem like long-term infielders for the Reds. Mahle battled shoulder points in 2022 and suffered an elbow harm that required Tommy John surgical procedure this May.
That takes him out of consideration for the qualifying supply as he nears free company for the primary time. Mahle ought to discover a two-year deal that offers him up-front safety whereas he rehabs within the quick time period. A signing workforce would doubtlessly welcome Mahle again late subsequent season whereas getting a mid-rotation starter at a below-market worth in 2025. It stays to be seen if the Twins would have curiosity in such an association, which may examine in between $15MM and $25MM whole.
Minnesota’s bullpen wasn’t pretty much as good because the rotation, though it held up properly sufficient. Flame-throwing Jhoan Durán is an elite possibility within the ninth. Brock Stewart went from unheralded minor league signee to high-leverage weapon. Griffin Jax had a rocky second half however stable peripherals and an honest 3.86 ERA general. Veteran Caleb Thielbar and rookie Kody Funderburk make for a promising pair of left-handed choices.
The Twins may add yet one more arm within the center to late innings. Emilio Pagán rebounded from a horrible first season in Minnesota to publish a 2.99 ERA whereas main the aid corps with 69 1/3 innings. He is headed to free company, so re-signing Pagán or bringing in one other arm to tackle that workload needs to be of curiosity.
Minnesota’s slate of impending free brokers on the place participant aspect is pretty modest. The group is headlined by Michael A. Taylor, who hit 21 house runs whereas taking part in typically robust heart discipline protection following an offseason commerce with the Royals. While Taylor’s offensive upside is capped by a poor strikeout and stroll profile, the ability and glove have made him a low-end common for the higher a part of a decade. He ought to discover a multi-year deal this winter.
Taylor’s preliminary acquisition got here as a shock, since an excellent portion of Byron Buxton’s worth is in his capability to play an elite heart discipline. Buxton battled proper knee points all season and couldn’t play protection, although, spending your complete 12 months as a chosen hitter. He not too long ago underwent arthroscopic surgical procedure that’ll hopefully permit him to get again on the sphere in 2024. Given his litany of accidents typically and issues with the knee particularly, Buxton is probably not an on a regular basis possibility in heart discipline at this level.
How snug the Twins are with the previous Gold Glove winner’s well being will play an enormous function in how they method the outfield this offseason. Exercising a $10MM choice to retain Max Kepler is an apparent name after a wonderful second half. The German-born outfielder may return to an everyday proper discipline function whereas providing cowl for Buxton in heart if Taylor walks. If the Twins aren’t snug with Buxton or Kepler assuming common heart discipline work, retaining Taylor or bringing in somebody like Harrison Bader is smart.
Even if/after they let Joey Gallo depart in free company, Minnesota could have their typical abundance of left-handed hitting outfielders. The likes of Alex Kirilloff, Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach and Nick Gordon (together with Kepler himself) had been the topic of commerce hypothesis each final offseason and on the deadline. Aside from Kepler, Wallner is the one one of many group who has improved his commerce worth over the previous few months.
Kirilloff, who has moved more and more to first base over the nook outfield, continues to battle harm points. He hung out on the IL with a proper shoulder pressure. Continued ache finally compelled him off the playoff roster and would require labrum surgical procedure subsequent week. Kirilloff hit properly when wholesome — .270/.348/.445 in 88 video games — so it’d be a shock to see the Twins transfer him whereas his worth is at a low ebb.
Wallner, in the meantime, has settled in properly as an influence bat who can rotate by way of the nook outfield and DH. That’s the function the group had envisioned for Larnach, a former first-round draftee who hasn’t hit persistently over elements of three massive league seasons. He has carried out properly regardless of elevated strikeout tallies in Triple-A and will have enchantment to a non-contender that may afford to offer him a full season of reps in left discipline. Gordon, in the meantime, seemed like a top quality bat-first utility possibility in 2022 however missed most of this previous season with a damaged leg.
There’s an analogous depth of expertise on the infield. The membership holds a $10.5MM possibility on Jorge Polanco, one other straightforward name to train. The switch-hitter put collectively a .255/.335/.454 displaying in 80 video games and has been an above-average hitter in 5 of the previous six seasons. He can break up his time between second and third base. Even if the Twins felt that they had sufficient infield expertise to make Polanco expendable, there’d be surplus worth on the choice. Exercising that provision and buying and selling him is extra believable than declining the choice completely, though the likeliest final result is solely that they maintain him for 2024.
Polanco would break up time with a pair of kids on the infield. Edouard Julien had a powerful rookie season offensively. He may be higher fitted to DH or first base than constant run within the center infield, however he’ll be within the lineup someplace.
Former first general choose Royce Lewis seized the third base job with a monster second half, which he carried into the playoffs. Lewis was the Twins’ finest participant down the stretch and appears like a possible franchise participant after coming back from a second ACL tear. With 5 seasons of membership management, there’s no urgency for Minnesota to speak extension. Lewis seems just like the participant the Twins anticipated after they drafted him six years in the past, so they may at the least gauge his asking worth on a possible early-career deal — as they signed with Polanco and Kepler again in 2019.
Carlos Correa will likely be again at shortstop. The first season of his $200MM deal didn’t go as deliberate. Correa had a below-average .230/.312/.399 displaying within the worst full 12 months of his profession. The two-time All-Star performed by way of plantar fasciitis in his left foot and appeared inhibited for a lot of the season. They’ll hope an offseason of relaxation will get him again to his typical stage of manufacturing.
The mixture of Lewis’ return to well being and Julien’s emergence may lead the Twins to subtract an infielder. Opening Day third baseman José Miranda has plummeted down the depth chart, though it’s a suboptimal time to commerce him coming off season-ending shoulder surgical procedure. Farmer and Willi Castro are veteran utility choices who’re into their arbitration years.
Farmer has the loftier projected wage ($6.6MM in opposition to $3.2MM) and performed much less of a job down the stretch. Assuming the Twins retain Castro, non-tendering or buying and selling Farmer for a minimal return to clear payroll room is smart. Perhaps they may reallocate that cash to Donovan Solano, who hit .282/.369/.391 in 450 plate appearances. He’s headed again to free company and certain earned a increase over this previous season’s $2MM wage. Headed into his age-36 season, he’s probably nonetheless taking a look at one-year provides — whether or not from the Twins or elsewhere.
There’s little suspense behind the plate. Ryan Jeffers is among the recreation’s higher catchers. He’ll take the vast majority of taking part in time, with Christian Vázquez available as a top quality #2 possibility.
Despite the potential lack of this 12 months’s prime starter, the Twins are properly positioned going into 2024. They received 87 video games with out a lot of a contribution from Buxton or Correa and slightly greater than a 3rd of a season out of Lewis. Even if the beginning pitching takes a step again, a lineup that ranked tenth in run scoring this 12 months may push nearer to prime 5 with higher well being from its stars. Whatever they do that winter, they need to enter subsequent season because the favorites to repeat in an AL Central that will once more be the game’s least proficient division.