The Twins were arguably the most pleasant surprise of the season last year, winning over 100 games and breaking the home run record. They could walk into next season with the same roster and probably win the division, but if they fill out their offense, and more importantly, improve their pitching staff, this could be a serious World Series contender. Luckily for them, they have practically no long-term commitments on the books, and also have a top-notch farm system to work with.
Expected Direction: Adding A Lot of Pitching In Order To Be a World Series Contender
Twins Sign SP Michael Pineda
Contract Details: Two Years, $17.8 Million
Even after signing starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the qualifying offer, the Twins obviously remained in the market for more starting pitching. Well, they’ve brought back another familiar face, signing Michael Pineda to a prorated two-year, $20 million deal- due to him being suspended for the first 40 games, he’ll only earn $7.8 million next season. Still, once he returns, there’s no reason Pineda won’t be a nice middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher for them. In 146 innings pitched last season, the 30-year-old had a solid 4.18 skill interactive ERA (SIERA), which also came with a great 1.73 BB/9. Obviously, with a 4.30 xFIP and not an exciting pitching arsenal, he’s anything “special”, but on a relatively short-term deal, I like this investment for the Twins; Pineda also might be better in his second season back from Tommy John surgery, as he had a 3.05 FIP over his final 16 starts last season.
Twins Sign C Alex Avila
Contract Details: One Year, $4.25 Million
The Twins have found their replacement for Jason Castro- they signed Alex Avila to a one-year contract to be their new backup catcher. Avila, 32, has been in a limited role with the Diamondbacks over the past two seasons, but even then, he’s been very productive. Although strikeout issues make him no more than a league-average hitter, his walk rate of 17.9% was absurdly high, and against righties, he had a 101 weighted-runs-created plus and 20% walk rate- his platoon splits are favorable, since starter Mitch Garver destroys lefties. Plus, with Arizona, he completely reworked his defensive skills; he ranked in the 92nd percentile in framing, according to Baseball Savant. This is a tremendous signing for Minnesota, who not only improves their depth at a critical position with a perfect complement for Garver, but at $4.25 million for one year, are almost guaranteed to receiver surplus value.
Twins Re-Sign RP Sergio Romo
Contract Details: One Year, $4.75 Million ($5 Million Club Option 2021 With $250K Buyout)
Bringing back a familiar face, the Twins have re-signed reliever Sergio Romo to a one-year contract worth $4.75 million, with a $5 club option for the following season with a $250K buyout. Romo, 36, came to Minnesota via a midseason trade from the Marlins, where he thrived with a 3.91 xFIP and 6.8 K-BB ratio in 22.2 innings. Then again, his overall 4.68 xFIP was definitely below-average, as his strikeout rate regressed (8.95 K/9). Still, considering that Romo ranked in the 100th percentile in hard-hit % allowed, there’s a lot of intrigue with him, especially if his improved strikeout rate with the Twins was legitimate. $5 million isn’t a small amount considering Joe Smith, a superior reliever, signed for $4 million per year, but still, I don’t see much downside with this deal for Minnesota.
Twins Sign RP Tyler Clippard
Contract Details: One Year, $2.75 Million
After bringing back Romo, the Twins have added yet another veteran reliever, this time Tyler Clippard on a one-year deal. Clippard, 34, had a very successful season on the surface with a 2.90 ERA, but was it actually sustainable? That’s the question, as he had a very poor 4.94 xFIP, had walk rates and home run rates much lower than usual, and also saw a decline with his strikeout rat; his fastball velocity decreased over 1 MPH to 90.2 MPH. Yet, there are signs that Clippard’s success could be sustainable. A change in his pitch usage, in which he threw more breaking balls and fewer fastballs, may have helped, as was his ability to limit hard contact. Since he ranked in the 98th percentile in exit velocity allowed, it comes as no surprise that Clippard’s expected statistics were extraordinary, the point where I can somewhat overlook his .204 BABIP and 31.6% ground ball rate. Clippard’s a boom-or-bust type of signing, as he either will make good on his statcast numbers, or could regress back to his prior form. However, for $2.75 million, he’s worth the gamble for a team with a lot of financial flexibility and a need for bullpen depth.
Twins Sign SP Rich Hill
Contract Details: One Year, $3 Million ($9.25 In Incentives)
In the first of two pitching signings made on New Year’s Eve, the Twins have, adding significant upside to their pitching staff, bringing in Rich Hill on a one-year contract. Hill, 39, is a significant injury risk, but when he’s healthy, he’s a terrific pitcher; he only pitched 58.2 innings last season, but he had a 3.41 xFIP and 11.05 K/9. Now, he had to have surgery this offseason to repair a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, so he probably won’t be ready to pitch until midseason, but when he’s ready to pitch, he’ll be a huge boost to what figures to be a likely playoff push for the AL Central’s undisputed best team. It’s a low-risk, high-reward type of move, which is what Minnesota has mastered over the past couple offseasons.
Twins Sign SP Homer Bailey
Contract Details: One Year, $7 Million
On top of Hill, the Twins have also made a less flashy addition to their rotation, signing Homer Bailey to a one-year contract worth $7 million. After multiple poor seasons, Bailey, 33, rebounded in 2019 with the Royals and A’s, posting a 4.43 xFIP with an increased 8.21 K/9. Even better, upon being traded to Oakland, a much more analytically-inclined team, he had a 4.5 K-BB ratio and 4.17 xFIP, so perhaps his pitch usage was off. Yet, even those numbers, which came in a small sample size, aren’t that inspiring, and aside from using his slider less, there’s not much that Bailey changed in 2019. Perhaps Minnesota sees something in him, but until further notice, he looks like an expensive source of mediocre innings.
Twins Extend 3B Miguel Sano
Contract Details: Three Years, $30 Million ($14 Million Club Option 2023)
Continuing to lock up their core players, the Twins have extended corner infielder Miguel Sano to a three-year deal worth $30 million, with a club option for the 2023 season. The Dominican slugger had two years of arbitration left, so if the option is exercised, Minnesota will be buying out two years of his free-agent years. Sano, 26, hasn’t quite lived up to the hype as a former top prospect, but as he showed this season, he’s a very talented player. His 137 wrc+ this season was a career-high for a full season, and better yet, his exit velocity and hard-hit rate, per Baseball Savant, ranked in the 100th (!!) percentile. He’s not a good defender at third base, but his offensive production is hard to match, and with this extension, the Twins secure Sano’s services for the rest of his prime years, but no further. After extending Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco last offseason, they’ve clearly struck gold once again with this extension.
Twins Sign 3B Josh Donaldson
Contract Details: Four Years, $92 Million (Club Option That Could Make It Five Years, $100 Million)
In a stunning blockbuster signing, the Twins have brought in star third baseman Josh Donaldson in a four year, $92 million contract, which includes a $16 million club option with an $8 million buyout for the fifth year- if the club option is exercised, the deal will be for five years and $100 million. On the surface, it’s a shocking amount for a 34-year-old, but on the other hand, you can see the appeal for Minnesota. After betting on himself by taking a one-year pillow contract, Donaldson was excellent for the Braves, posting a 4.9 WAR and 132 wrc+. Even better, his expected statistics were even better than his actual statistics, which is a product of him ranking in the 97th percentile or higher in exit velocity and hard-hit rate, per Baseball Savant. Plus, he’s also still an elite defender, as evidenced by his 15 defensive runs saved (drs) and 8 outs above average (OAA) from this past season. Oh, and the defensive improvement is two-fold; this moves Sano, a poor defender, to first base, where he’ll likely fare better. This makes the Twins a dramatically better team at the moment, even greater than any pitcher would’ve. Will they regret this on the back-end? There’s a chance. However, the main concern with Donaldson would be a decline in his defense, and if that’s the case, the designated hitter slot is a great backup plan. Plus, for around $23 million per year, should he maintain his elite performance for at least the next two seasons, Minnesota will likely feel somewhat satisfied by this contract.
Twins Acquire SP Kenta Maeda From Dodgers
Full Trade: Twins Acquire SP Kenta Maeda, $10 Million In Exchange For RHP Brusdar Graterol, 67th Overall Pick, and OF Luke Raley
NOTE: At the time of the article, Graterol was going to Boston. He now will head to Los Angeles as this is now a two-team trade.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Twins Make