Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey met with reporters last weekend to discuss the team’s activity leading up to the trade deadline (video clip available from KSTP-TV). Minnesota’s baseball ops head also offered some hints at the team’s plans for the upcoming offseason, unsurprisingly suggesting they’re eyeing a return to contention as soon as 2022.
“(This year) has not been what we wanted. But we still feel we have a lot of talent in the clubhouse for 2022, 2023 and beyond,” Falvey told reporters. Not coincidentally, the Twins generally acquired prospects at the higher levels of the minor leagues with a chance to contribute at the major league level in the near future. Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, acquired from the Rays for Nelson Cruz, are both at Triple-A. The players acquired from the Blue Jays for José Berríos — Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson — are both in Double-A, as is Alex Scherff, whom the Twins added from the Red Sox for Hansel Robles.
Moving Berríos for Martin and Woods-Richardson was obviously the Twins’ biggest deadline decision. Falvey indicated the club saw both players as among the top 50 prospects in the league, and he was particularly effusive in his praise of Martin, whom Minnesota viewed as one of the top two talents in the 2020 draft class. The 22-year-old split his time evenly between shortstop and center field in the Blue Jays’ system, and Falvey indicated Martin would continue to see action at both positions in his new organization.
While there’s certainly reason for excitement regarding the young players added to the system in recent weeks, the front office clearly needs to add immediate big league help this offseason if the Twins are to challenge the White Sox. That’s most apparent in terms of the starting rotation, which has lost Berríos, J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker from the season-opening group and could also see Michael Pineda depart in free agency this winter. Kenta Maeda will obviously be among the starting five next season, and young right-hander Bailey Ober has probably shown enough promise to have the inside track on a spot as well.
There’s very little clarity beyond those two. Falvey pointed to Randy Dobnak, who struggled early in the year and has been out since mid-June with a finger injury, as a potential internal option. Minnesota has been giving starts to Charlie Barnes and Griffin Jax of late, and it’s possible Ryan or Strotman get their first big league calls later this season. Someone from that group could pitch well enough down the stretch to earn a permanent spot, but there’s enough uncertainty overall that Falvey flatly acknowledged “we’re going to need to add to that” via trade or free agency this winter.
The Twins should have the financial resources to make a couple noteworthy additions on the pitching staff. The team has just $49.2MM in guaranteed commitments on the books for next season, in the estimation of Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Arbitration raises for Byron Buxton, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Luis Arraez will probably add somewhere in the $20MM range to that ledger, but that’d still leave quite a bit of breathing room relative to their approximate $125MM payroll for 2021.
The position player group looks mostly set. Core players like Buxton, Josh Donaldson, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Arraez and the catching tandem of Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers are under team control, as are highly-touted young players like Trevor Larnach, Alex Kirilloff and top prospect Royce Lewis. (Miguel Sanó is under contract as well, although he’s amidst a second consecutive disappointing season, so it’s arguable the Twins should pursue a first base upgrade).
That lineup core still looks like a potentially productive one, although the Twins are now without their best hitter of the past few seasons after trading Cruz to the Rays. Before the trade, Cruz was quite vocal about his affinity for the Twins organization, and Falvey said the front office would “never rule anything out” regarding the possibility of making a run at the 41-year-old in free agency this winter.