Baseball

Twins Notes: Margot, Farmer, Lewis

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The Twins made a Spring Training acquisition this afternoon, bringing in Manuel Margot from the Dodgers. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey told reporters that adding a right-handed hitting outfielder has been the team’s primary focus for the last couple weeks (link via Aaron Gleeman of the Athletic).

While Falvey didn’t rule out the possibility of further acquisitions, he implied the bulk of the offseason team-building is complete. “Realistically, with where our team is, with how the roster now is built out, with the way it looks, obviously we’ll keep monitoring where our roster is, the health of it. But this was the primary focus for us over the last little bit. I would say that’s by and large the big-picture items, but we’ll keep an open mind about different opportunities that present along the way,” the baseball operations leader said (via Gleeman).

Roster Resource calculates their payroll in the $127MM range, which aligns with early-offseason reporting that they were targeting a payroll between $125MM and $140MM. Margot adds insurance behind Byron Buxton, who is returning to center field after knee injuries limited him to designated hitter a year ago. He also adds a righty complement to left-handed hitting corner outfielders Matt Wallner and Max Kepler. The Twins recently brought in Carlos Santana — a switch-hitter who typically fares better from the right side — to balance a lineup that was quite a bit better against righty pitching than left-handed arms a year ago.

They’re also retaining righty-hitting utilityman Kyle Farmer for a second season. Minnesota acquired Farmer from the Reds last winter. He had a decent year, appearing in 120 games and hitting .256/.317/.408 with 11 home runs. Between league average offense and the ability to handle anywhere on the infield, Farmer is a good depth player. Still, his rising arbitration price led to speculation he’d be traded or non-tendered, particularly with the Twins announcing early in the winter they were scaling back spending relative to last year.

Farmer acknowledged this weekend that he doubted whether he’d be back in Minnesota (link via Bobby Nightengale of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune). “I always saw myself here, but all the trade rumors and non-tender stuff, I figured I wasn’t going to be here. It worked out good,” Farmer said. He admitted that it wasn’t until the late-January deal sending Jorge Polanco to Seattle that he was confident he’d remain with the Twins.

Minnesota and Farmer agreed to a $6.05MM salary for his final season of arbitration. He’ll likely collect a $250K buyout in lieu of a $6.25MM mutual option and become a free agent for the first time next winter. Farmer should occupy a similar multi-positional role as he played a year ago. Edouard Julien is stepping in at second base alongside Carlos CorreaRoyce Lewis and the Santana/Alex Kirilloff tandem throughout the infield.

Lewis showed the kind of talent that made him the first overall pick seven years ago. He raked at a .309/.372/.548 clip in 58 regular season contests and blasted four homers in six playoff games. He’s locked in as the starter at third base and looks like a franchise building block so long as he can stay healthy after twice tearing the ACL in his right knee.

The Twins have Lewis under club control for another five seasons. He’ll play this year on a near-minimum salary and qualify for early arbitration as a Super Two player next winter. There’s no particular urgency for Minnesota to try to lock him up on a long-term deal, which Lewis acknowledged (via The Athletic’s Dan Hayes).

I would love to hear anything, but I don’t think right now they’re in a position to do that,” Lewis said about an extension. “Especially with the payroll and the TV stuff going down, they have some stuff financially they have to figure out first. I’m last on the totem pole.” The 24-year-old indicated he’d be receptive if the organization did make extension overtures but downplayed any urgency to lock in short-term earnings. Lewis acknowledged he’s “definitely financially secure” after signing for a $6.73MM bonus out of high school.

His asking price on an extension would only escalate so long as he remains healthy into his arbitration seasons. Yet it’s understandable if the Twins want to see a full year against MLB pitching (to say nothing of gaining clarity on their local TV deal) before seriously engaging in talks. Falvey spoke broadly of a willingness to consider extension possibilities with the team’s young players but told Hayes and other reporters the focus with Lewis is “(making) sure he’s on the field the full year and (continuing) to build into what he’s already scratched the surface on in his career.

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