Anyone who’s even loosely followed the 2021 MLB season knows it’s been a disaster year for the Twins. The American League Central’s last-place club, Minnesota has already traded Nelson Cruz, will likely trade Michael Pineda in the coming days and will surely have interest in several other key pieces. That said, given the team’s payroll space, cost-controlled group of young hitters, solid farm system and other factors, it’s long seemed likely they’ll aim to reload and be competitive again in 2022. Owner Jim Pohlad effectively confirmed that this week in an interview with Dan Hayes of The Athletic.
Asked by Hayes whether this nightmarish season could “change your direction to rebuilding,” Pohlad replied emphatically: “Absolutely not. We want to be in the win window all the time. We expected that to be the case this year.”
Obviously, that didn’t happen for the Twins, who have weathered absences for Byron Buxton, Mitch Garver, Luis Arraez, Max Kepler, Kenta Maeda, Pineda and others. More problematic has been that nearly all of Minnesota’s offseason free-agent expenditures (the since-traded Cruz being a notable exception) have failed to live up to expectations.
The subsequent 43-58 record has positioned the Twins as a clear deadline seller, but Pohlad’s comments today reinforce what was already widely expected: this isn’t likely to be an “everything must go” fire sale. The team is receiving interest in players controlled beyond 2021, most notably top starter Jose Berrios, but the asking price on him has reportedly been high and focused on near-MLB assets. Given Pohlad’s comments and the fact that the Twins zeroed in on Triple-A pitchers in last week’s Cruz trade — both Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman could be options in Minnesota this year — that focus on big-league-ready talent is to be expected.
All of this is particularly worth considering as the clock ticks toward Friday’s 4pm ET trade deadline. For instance, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweeted this morning that the Twins have had some early talks on Kepler. That was already known after multiple reports linked Kepler to the Yankees last week, but the broader question of Kepler’s general “availability” (or lack thereof) should be considered in conjunction with ownership’s comments. Were the Twins looking to completely start over, players like Kepler, Berrios, Taylor Rogers (prior to his finger injury) and others would be strong trade candidates. As it stands, they’re more long shots with weighty asking prices.
It’s also possible that some of the impending free agents who do seem like locks to move could be flipped and then again pursued in free agency. Pineda, who pitched well tonight in what could be his final start with the Twins, told reporters after the game that Minnesota has come to feel like home and he hopes to remain (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park). A trade still seems overwhelmingly likely, but Hayes tweets that Pineda would have interest in returning for 2022 and beyond even if (or when) he is ultimately traded this week.