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Offseason Status Update: Setting a Floor – Twins

Since we last checked in, the Twins have made news with a number of noteworthy moves: trading third baseman Gio Urshela, acquiring shortstop Kyle Farmer, tendering reliever Emilio Pagan.

Let’s take a quick look at the details behind each of these decisions, and where they leave the state of the roster as the Winter Meetings fast approach on December 4th.

Twins trade Urshela to angels

Just ahead of the arbitration contract tender deadline on November 18th, the Twins shipped one of their eligible players – the most difficult decision among them – to the Angels in exchange for minor-league pitcher Alejandro Hidalgo.

A 19-year-old right-hander who hasn’t yet advanced past Low-A ball, Hidalgo is a modestly intriguing young man, but the return for Urshela was expectedly small. He’s a valuable player, but at his projected arbitration cost in the $9 million range, a bit less appealing – especially for a Twins team that hopes to usher Jose Miranda in as regular third baseman next year.

For the Angels, Urshela is an odd fit. Like the Twins, they seem to view him as strictly a corner infielder … but they already have Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh entrenched at third and first, with Shohei Ohtani typically occupying DH. It is very difficult to understand LA’s motivation in making this move from the current view.

Hidalgo’s your usual big-stuff/bad-control lotto ticket. Certainly a preferable outcome to non-tendering Urshela for nothing in return.

Pagan Is Coming Back for Another Year

With Urshela shipped out, the Twins tendered contracts to all of their remaining arbitration-eligible players – including, controversially, the embattled Pagan. He’ll earn a projected $3.7 million in his final year of team control, coming off a season where he earned the ire of fans with numerous lapses in crucial moments.

He was the poster child for a bullpen that helped derail a promising Twins season. Now we’ll see if he can become the figurehead for its triumphant turnaround.

Amidst all the backlash this decision understandably provoked, I tried to explore the team’s reasoning, noting that Pagan saw improved results down the stretch with a pitch mix change under pitching coaches Pete Maki and Colby Suggs. It’s hard to give up on stuff of that caliber, and the upside it entails.

While many fans struggle to make sense of it, Pagan does seem to be viewed much more highly in baseball circles than on the outside. Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported that the reliever “drew much more interest” than Urshela ahead of the non-tender deadline.

Farmer Enters the Fold

Not long after parting with some veteran depth in Urshela, the Twins quickly backfilled with the addition of Farmer, acquired from the Reds in exchange for minor-league righty Casey Legumina.

This deal was, in many ways, the reverse of the Urshela trade: Farmer is a valuable enough player, but it wasn’t that valuable to Cincinnati at his arbitration price point, so they sent him to a team that could use the depth in exchange for a pitching flier.

In this case, it’s much easier to see the fit for Farmer, who could fill a number of different roles depending on what the Twins do elsewhere. For now, he’s slotted in as their starting shortstop, and an adequate interim fill-in for Royce Lewis if that is the front office’s leaning.

In addition to his defensive flexibility, one aspect of Farmer’s profile that surely attracted the Twins is his excellence against left-handed pitching. This looks like an effort to offset one of the offense’s key weaknesses in 2021, when they slashed .240/.310/.391 against southpaws.

Twins Showing Interest in Rodon

Hayes wrote in a roster projection column over the weekend that the team has “definite interest” in Carlos Rodon, which comes as no surprise. However, Hayes adds, “his contract is likely to sore to areas it might not feel comfortable paying, perhaps as high as $160 million over five years.”

In a column unpacking the troubling realities of buying high on free agent pitching, I examined this very conundrum: Rodon is exactly the kind of proven ace that the Twins should be looking for land this offseason. He’s a dominant force coming off an excellent season, and his addition would energize the fanbase while fortifying the rotation.

But, he’s also entering the market at peak value, have pressed a career-high workload upon a shoulder that has endlessly tormented him. With Rodon, you’re going to be paying purely for the upside we just saw, and hoping it sustains. And the price tag will be quite high, with the free-spending Dodgers already in the mix as suitors.

One current opening on the 40-Man Roster

As a sum result of all this moving and shaking, along with the additions of prospects Edouard Julien, Brent Headrick, and Matt Canterino to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, Minnesota’s 40-man roster currently stands at 39:

Should the Twins need to be make room for more additions, the most vulnerable 40-man spots likely belong to Mark Contreras, Cole Sands, and Trevor Megill.

Roster and Payroll Projection: v2

Looking at the projected 2023 roster in its current form, you can see how the twins are setting a floor.

They’ve basically got all they need to field a competent ballclub next year: a rotation with five proven big-league starters, a fairly deep bullpen with back-end power, and a credible – albeit somewhat underwhelming on whole – stable of position players . The only openings are a backup catcher and utility infielder for the bench, easily filled.

That is not to say going forward with this group would be acceptable in anyone’s eyes. But the point is that the Twins aren’t back into any corners, needing to allocate their funds in any specific way – just how they like it. With nearly $50 million in spending room just to get back to the 2022 payroll baseline, we’ll see how opportunistic this front office can be, free from any kind of restraint.

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If you want to read up on all of the team’s many options available at positions across the board, the Offseason Handbook is now available in full to download, with 39 pages covering the Hot Stove landscape from every angle. It’s free to all Caretakers! Grab a copy and build your own 2023 blueprint.

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