After making the playoffs in 2017, the Twins regressed in 2018, finishing 78-84. The talent is still in place though, and with better seasons from Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, a playoff push could be in reach with improvements in the lineup and in the bullpen.
Current State: Playoff Contender
Twins Sign 2B Jonathan Schoop
The Twins have signed second baseman Jonathan Schoop to a one year, $7 million contract. Schoop, 27, had a rough season last year. He had just a .682 OPS with just a 1.4 WAR, and an OPS of just .577 after being traded to the Brewers. Still, he’s a year removed from a 2017 campaign in which he had a .841 OPS and a 5.2 WAR with the Orioles. He’s doesn’t possess ideal on base skills (.338 in 2017 is his career best), but he’s a power threat at second base who will play average defense. He was showing signs of breaking out with Baltimore until he got traded, and if he regains his form with the Twins, he’ll be one of the biggest bargains from this free agent market. It’s a risk, but on a one year deal for just $7 million, it’s a great gamble for the Twins, who could benefit greatly in the hopes of winning the division if Schoop bounces back.
Twins Claim and Sign 1B CJ Cron
After claiming him off waivers from the Rays, the Twins have signed first baseman CJ Cron to a one year, $4.8 million deal. Cron, 28, had a career year with the Rays in 2018. He had an OPS of .816, slugged 30 home runs, and had a WAR of 2.0. Like Schoop, Cron is a power threat without the on base skills that teams look for, while playing average defense, so you wonder if the Twins are investing too heavily in these types of players. Nonetheless, he’s an upgrade over Tyler Austin at first base who will boost the Twins power in the middle of the order. At $4.8 million, the Twins gave Cron market value for a 30 home run slugger who doesn’t offer a whole lot else. It’s not a great deal, but it’s definitely not a bad deal by any means.
Twins Hire Rocco Baldelli as Manager
The Twins have hired Rocco Baldelli to be their new manager. Baldelli, 37, was drafted by the Rays with the 6th pick of the 2000 draft, and finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2003. A muscular disorder cut his career short, and he transitioned into the Rays front office in 2011. Last season, the Rays invented a role for him, making him their major league field coordinator. Essentially, according to Sports Illustrated, he was “third in command” to manager Kevin Cash and new Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. Considering that the Rays are ahead of the MLB curve with their talent development and new methods, such as the opener, Baldelli is certainly an intriguing hire. His age makes him extremely relatable for the players, and he presents a much different vibe than former manager Paul Monitor did. Baldelli is a tremendous choice in trying to develop young players such as Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, while banking on bounce back candidates such as Jonathan Schoop. His communication skills and his commitment to analytics may make him a terrific manager in short term’s notice.
Twins Sign DH Nelson Cruz
The Twins have signed designated hitter Nelson Cruz to a one year, $14.3 million contract. This deal also comes with a club option for 2020 worth $12 million. Cruz, 38, has been one of the more consistent sluggers over the past few years. In the past six years, he’s had an OPS of atleast .833 and he had a .915 OPS or better in three of his seasons with the Mariners. Last season, he had a .850 OPS with 37 home runs and a .342 on base percentage. Those numbers may seem down, but Cruz may have been a victim to some bad luck. His expected batting average, according to Baseball Savant, was .285. That’s much higher than his actual .256 batting average, while his .554 expected slugging percentage is significantly higher than his actual .509 slugging percentage. His 51.5 hard hit percentage remained amongst the best in baseball, and he’s actually continued to get better rather than slowing down. Therefore, there should be no concern with giving Cruz a one year commitment. Considering Edwin Encarnation is getting paid $20 million, getting Cruz at $14.3 million with a $12 million team option is an absolute bargain. This is definitely one of the best contracts in terms of the high chances that Minnesota receives surplus value from this deal.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Twins Make