Offseason In Review: Minnesota Twins


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A whirlwind offseason saw the Twins give out the largest contract in franchise history in order to retain their shortstop amid a series of other moves aimed at improving the defense and bolstering the depth up and down the roster.

Major League Signings

2023 spend: $56.33MM
Total spend: $243MM

Option Decisions

Trades and Waiver Claims

Notable Minor League Signings

Notable Losses

Following a quartet of straightforward option decisions — Sonny Gray’s $12.5MM option was an easy call to pick up, while options on Miguel Sano, Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer were easy in the other direction — the Twins set out to remake their roster, with stockpiling depth at the forefront of most of their dealings. The desire to re-sign Carlos Correa loomed large and would hang over their offseason until his wild free-agent saga drew to a close, but the Twins had other business to attend to in the meantime.

That started with a pair of trades in the run-up to the tender deadline. As they’ve been willing to do in the past, the Twins moved one year of control over a quality player — Gio Urshela — in exchange for some prospect depth and financial flexibility. With Jose Miranda’s arrival on the scene in 2022 and several other options at first base, moving Urshela both shed a sizable arbitration salary and cleared a path for Miranda to slide from first base back over to the hot corner.

The trade of Urshela was followed just hours later by a new acquisition — unsurprisingly, one with multiple years of club control. Kyle Farmer came to Minnesota with two seasons of control and recent experience as the everyday shortstop in Cincinnati. That gave the Twins a safety net in the event that Correa signed elsewhere and a versatile utilityman in the event that they succeeded in either retaining Correa or signing one of the market’s other top shortstops.

Farmer’s career .288/.345/.492 slash against left-handed pitching surely appealed to a Twins front office that saw its club post a collective .240/.310/.392 slash against lefties in 2022 — a middle-of-the-pack output in MLB. Farmer cost the Twins a pitching prospect of comparable value to the one acquired in the Urshela swap and came with a salary roughly half that of Urshela, making the effective swap of infielders generally sensible, even if many Twins fans were understandably upset to see a solid player like Urshela shipped out.

The Twins’ focus thereafter shifted to courting Correa and simultaneously looking to upgrade behind the plate. Minnesota showed some interest in Oakland’s Sean Murphy but presumably found the asking price too steep for their liking, as the decision was instead made to sign the free-agent market’s No. 2 catcher, Christian Vazquez. The Twins reportedly showed minimal interest in top free-agent backstop Willson Contreras, likely preferring a blend of Vazquez’s superior defense and more affordable price tag.

Vazquez’s three-year, $30MM deal fell generally in line with expectations, and he’ll give Minnesota an upgrade over outgoing Gary Sanchez, who somewhat surprisingly remains unsigned. The 32-year-old Vazquez has long graded as a quality receiver and shown a strong arm behind the plate. He’ll slot into a timeshare with incumbent Ryan Jeffers, and while both hit right-handed, Jeffers is a prototypical lefty masher with grisly numbers against right-handers, whereas Vazquez handles same-side opponents reasonably well. It won’t be a conventional platoon setup, but the Twins can maximize matchups against particularly tough opponents and feel good about the gloves behind the plate, as Jeffers is a strong defender himself.

Shortly after the deal with Vazquez, the front office received the news it had been dreading since Correa exercised the opt-out provision in his three-year, $105.1MM deal: a big-market club had put forth a historic offer that Minnesota couldn’t bring itself to match. The Twins reportedly had an offer in the neighborhood of 10 years and $285MM on the table to keep Correa when the Giants, fresh off being spurned by Aaron Judge, came in with a 13-year, $350MM offer that trounced what the Twins had been willing to commit.

Correa accepted what was then slated to be the second-largest free-agent deal in history, and the Twins were left reeling. There’d been interest in Xander Bogaerts as a fallback to Correa, but he shattered expectations by agreeing to an 11-year, $280MM deal with the Padres before Correa even agreed to terms with the Giants. Trea Turner had started the shortstop spending spree with a $300MM deal in Philadelphia. Dansby Swanson agreed to a seven-year deal with the Cubs not long after Correa agreed with San Francisco, and it looked for all intents and purposes like the Twins would head into the 2023 season with Farmer starting at shortstop.

As we all know now, Correa’s deal with San Francisco was only the first in a series of bizarre stops on a stunning path back to Minneapolis. The Giants called off Correa’s introductory press conference just hours before it was scheduled to take place. It eventually came to light that the team had medical concerns — specifically regarding a nearly 10-year old injury that Correa suffered as a 19-year-old in A-ball, when he fractured his tibia on a slide into third base. Surgeons placed a plate in his leg to stabilize the injury, which remains to this day. Both the Giants’ medical staff and a third-party expert voiced concern as to how Correa’s leg would hold up over such a lengthy term.

While Correa has never missed time in the Majors with a leg/ankle injury, he did have a scare late in the 2022 season, telling reporters after a play at second base that he’d been hit “in his plate” and experienced brief numbness and tingling. He walked off the field under his own power and enjoyed a strong finish to the ’22 campaign, however.

As the Giants debated how to proceed, Correa remained unsigned and available to negotiate with other clubs. Mets owner Steve Cohen, who’d previously lamented getting into the Correa market too late, swooped in and made a 12-year, $315MM offer that was also accepted — until the Mets raised similar concerns. A near two-week limbo period followed — partly due to the holiday season — where Correa’s fate remained wholly unclear. The Mets tried to restructure the deal, reportedly aiming to guarantee only half the proposed 12-year guarantee and then subject Correa to a series of conditional options based on the health of his leg.

At this point, the Twins had circled back, showing more confidence in Correa’s health over a six-year term than the Mets were willing to bet on. Minnesota handily topped the Mets’ reported annual salary of $26.25MM, offering Correa $33.33MM per year over a six-year term and including four club/vesting options that Correa can automatically trigger simply by hitting a predetermined number of plate appearances. Those four option years can tack on another $70MM, bringing the new contract to a potential $270MM over ten years and giving Correa a possible $305.1MM maximum over 11 years in Minnesota (including last year’s $35.1MM).

Unlike the scenarios that played out with the Giants and Mets, Correa’s physical was already largely concluded by the time word of his new deal with the Twins had begun to leak out. A day after he reportedly came to terms with the Twins, his new pact was announced, and the Twins improbably had the star shortstop they’d twice almost lost locked in on a contract that was more expensive annually than Correa’s shortstop peers but came with less long-term risk.

At the outset of free agency, a six-year term for Correa seemed implausibly light; there’s more risk to that six-year term than might’ve been expected, but the Twins have a generally clean financial outlook and have ramped payroll up into the $150-160MM range in recent seasons. They can afford the year-to-year gamble, and they’re more familiar with Correa’s recent medicals than any other team. For the second straight offseason, a bizarre series of twists effectively dropped Correa into their laps, and the Twins have to be thrilled to control him for as long as a decade but with “only” six of those seasons guaranteed.

The Correa deal undoubtedly changed the trajectory of the Twins’ offseason. Upon missing out on him, they’d signed Joey Gallo to a one-year upside deal and otherwise remained largely quiet as they regrouped. Were it not for the sudden turn of fortune, it might not have been a surprise to see the Twins retool, focus on development and make a few more value adds with an eye toward 2024 and beyond. Instead, the front office turned its sights to the top remaining need: the starting rotation.

Emboldened by the Correa reunion, the Twins bit the bullet and traded fan favorite infielder Luis Arraez to the Marlins in a deal that netted them two years of control over right-hander Pablo Lopez, plus top shortstop prospect Jose Salas and teenage outfield prospect Byron Chourio. It was a headline-grabbing move due in large part to the fact that Arraez had just won a batting title, albeit only by the slimmest of margins over AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Arraez may have the best best-to-ball skills in baseball, having fanned in just 7.1% of his plate appearances last year while batting .316/.375/.420 in a career-high 603 plate appearances. He’s an undeniably talented pure hitter, but the Twins had concerns about a growing history of leg injuries that have hampered Arraez before he even turned 26 years old. He’s also limited in terms of power and defensive value, with Minnesota shifting him to first base in 2022 even as second baseman Jorge Polanco missed time due to back and knee injuries. Arraez played a strong first base, by measure of most defensive metrics, but the Twins likely saw this as an opportunity to improve the defense and pitching staff simultaneously while also netting a touted shortstop prospect in Salas.

There’s certainly risk, as the Twins surrendered three years of Arraez for just two of Lopez, who is no stranger to injuries himself. Lopez made 32 starts and pitched 180 very strong innings in 2022, but he missed time in each of the 2018, 2019 and 2021 seasons due to shoulder troubles. A healthy Lopez is the Twins’ best starter and one of the better right-handers in the league, but the 2022 season was his first with more than 21 starts or 111 innings pitched.

After acquiring Lopez, the Twins remained active on the trade front, shipping a pair of relief prospects to the Royals for the final year of Michael A. Taylor’s contract. In Taylor, the Twins acquired one of the only outfielders in baseball who can rival Byron Buxton’s defensive wizardry. That’s particularly key early in the season, as the Twins will use Buxton primarily as a designated hitter while he eases back from a knee procedure. Once Buxton is up to full strength, the Twins can boast perhaps the game’s best contingent of outfield defenders; Gallo, who started the opener at first base but will see plenty of time on the grass, has a pair of Gold Gloves in the outfield. Max Kepler, who for much of the offseason looked as though he’d be traded, wound up staying put and has been one of the game’s strongest right fielders for years by measure of metrics like Defensive Runs Saved and Outs Above Average.

The Twins saved one final acquisition for the late stages of the offseason. After showing some interest in Yuli Gurriel, Minnesota instead added a more versatile right-handed bat in Donovan Solano. The 35-year-old Solano, like Farmer and (to a lesser extent) Taylor, has a track record of producing against lefties and can handle multiple positions. He gives the Twins a right-handed complement to first baseman Alex Kirilloff (once he’s back from a wrist injury) and can fill in at second base or third base as well. Solano is a contact-oriented hitter who’ll join a deep bench consisting of Farmer, Taylor (once Buxton is back to regular center field work) and utilityman Nick Gordon. That group gives manager Rocco Baldelli a series of quality defenders who can play multiple positions.

Minnesota left the bullpen largely untouched, retaining Emilio Pagan even after last year’s struggles. It’s a bet on the right-hander’s tantalizing raw stuff, but if he goes through similar bouts of homer susceptibility and blown leads, it’ll be rightly questioned. Then again, with last year’s deadline pickup of Jorge Lopez, the return of hard-throwing youngster Jorge Alcala, breakouts from Jhoan Duran and Griffin Jax, and the late-2022 emergence of southpaw Jovani Moran, Pagan now looks more like a middle reliever than a late-inning, high-leverage arm. If Lopez rebounds closer to his Baltimore form than his shakier second-half self, the Twins have the potential for a strong bullpen overall.

The rotation, too, looks quite deep. Each of Lopez, Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle and Kenta Maeda is at least a solid mid-rotation starter when healthy. The Twins may lack a prototypical ace, but they also don’t have a fungible “No. 5” starter in the mix. All of their top five starters fall somewhere between the “No. 2” and “No. 4” range — though numerical designations of pitchers is inherently subjective — and even sixth starter Bailey Ober makes for an unusually strong top depth option. He’d likely be locked into a rotation spot with many teams throughout the league but instead opens the season in Triple-A.

The Twins might not head into the 2023 season as the on-paper favorite in the AL Central, but this is the deepest roster and probably the best defense they’ve had under the current iteration of the front office. That’ll be extra beneficial if the injury bug again rears its ugly head for a Twins club that had more cumulative injured list days than any team in the American League in 2022. They’ll obviously be hoping for better fortune on that front this season, and if it plays out that way, the Twins will be right in the division mix with the reigning champion Guardians and a White Sox club also hoping for fewer injuries in 2023.

How would you grade the Twins’ offseason?

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