The Twins have gotten calls on their left-handed hitting outfielders, president of baseball operations Derek Falvey told the beat this evening (relayed by Do-Hyoung Park of MLB.com). Falvey suggested the front office is willing to consider offers but unsurprisingly said the club would have “a high bar” to clear to move any of those players.
Minnesota’s left-handed outfield depth has been a subject of some attention dating back to the offseason. Minnesota didn’t pull the trigger on a deal over the winter, though, instead carrying five lefty-swinging outfielders (plus first baseman/corner outfielder Alex Kirilloff) on the 40-man roster. Nick Gordon has been out for a couple months after breaking his right shin but the rest of the group remains.
Max Kepler, Trevor Larnach and Matt Wallner stand as the most viable possibilities for a deal. Kepler is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. He’s making $8.5MM, while the club holds a $10MM option for next year. The 30-year-old has a league average .230/.295/.439 batting line over 75 contests on the season. He’s been on a tear of late, though, hitting .299/.351/.493 since the start of July.
Larnach and Wallner are less established but more affordable younger players. Larnach is a former first-round pick and top prospect who hasn’t found his stride in parts of three MLB campaigns. He’s a career .223/.315/.379 hitter. Larnach has plus exit velocities and solid grades for his defense at both corner outfield spots. Swing-and-miss has been the big concern, as he’s gone down on strikes in over a third of his plate appearances. The Twins have bounced him on and off the active roster this season. He’s hitting .213/.311/.400 in the majors and .230/.351/.467 in a very hitter-friendly Triple-A setting.
Wallner, 25, only has 37 big league games under his belt. That’s in large part thanks to the Twins’ outfield surplus, as he’s acquitted himself well in that limited look. The Southern Miss product carries a .250/.370/.390 batting line at the MLB level and has mashed at a .291/.403/.524 clip through 67 games in Triple-A this season. Prospect evaluators have raised concerns about his range in the outfield, although he has elite arm strength.
Minnesota doesn’t have to move anyone in the group, of course. The Twins lead the AL Central by four games. If they did seriously consider dealing any of that trio, it stands to reason they’d want MLB help in another area of the roster.
The rest of the Twins’ outfield options seem unlikely to move. Kirilloff has taken over as the everyday first baseman and is hitting .282/.371/.465 in 66 games. There’s little reason for Minnesota to consider dealing him. They’d probably be hard-pressed to find much interest in Joey Gallo, who is playing the season on an $11MM free agent deal. Gallo got off to a scorching start in the Twin Cities but is hitting .149/.237/.391 while striking out in almost half his plate appearances since the start of June, bringing his overall batting line to .176/.295/.452. Gordon’s injury takes him out of the equation, while the switch-hitting Willi Castro frequently draws into the lineup against left-handed pitching as a utility option.
Interestingly, the outfield isn’t the only area of the roster in which Minnesota has apparently given some thought to dealing from its depth. Britt Ghiroli of the Athletic reports the Twins had given some thought to dealing Kenta Maeda earlier in the season. That would’ve presumably been to make way for Dallas Keuchel in the starting rotation, as the former Cy Young winner is having a strong year in Triple-A after signing a minor league deal.
It doesn’t seem that’s likely at this point. Maeda has been excellent in six starts since returning from a triceps issue. The veteran righty has worked to a 2.48 ERA with a massive 34.4% strikeout rate in 32 2/3 innings. Relinquishing that kind of production while the team tries to hold onto a division title would probably be too risky. Keuchel forewent an opportunity to opt out of his deal last week but can do so again on Tuesday. Ghiroli reports that he’d be guaranteed a prorated $2.05MM base salary if Minnesota calls him up. The Twins could bring him up for a multi-inning role out of the bullpen if they don’t feel there’s room in the starting staff at present.