OK, Twins fans, you can breathe.
The front office finally made a move you can feel good about by signing free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson to a four-year contract. Even better? Reports floated around that Donaldson was seeking $110 million, yet the Twins got him for ONLY $92 million…seems like a bargain, right?
OK, maybe not, but we agree that this is a good move, right?
For starters, you’re adding a consistent power bat to the lineup that just set the record for most round-trippers in a season. Every other batter in the Twins lineup will see better pitches because Donaldson, like Nelson Cruz, is a player that other teams have to pitch around.
Next, you’re helping the pitching staff because by adding Donaldson, you’re also adding a gold glove winner at “the hot corner,” a place where Miguel Sano was sufficient but didn’t field the position at the level that Donaldson has and is expected to.
Ah yes, the pitching staff.
Too bad Donaldson can’t throw strikes, because with his addition to the Twins attack, it only makes their starting rotation look that much worse by comparison, and that’s exactly why the Twins front office can’t stop improving the team now.
With Donaldson at third base, and Sano moving to first, the Twins now have a lineup, that even when figuring in the day-to-day changes that Rocco Baldelli is sure to make throughout the season, figures to be as good, offensively and defensively, as any team in Major League Baseball.
The Twins might be headed to arbitration with right-hander Jose Berrios, something history has shown they’d rather avoid. Berrios badly wants to be the ace of this staff, and at times, has looked every bit the part. But, his struggles in the second half of the season are well documented and suggest he’s not there yet.
The team was wise to bring back Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda, even with Pineda’s suspension for using a banned substance, a violation that will carry over into the first 39 games this season. Odorizzi is a “gamer” who’s going to give you his best effort every night, and like Berrios, isn’t satisfied being a team’s number two or three starter.
Sure, the Twins have added veterans Rich Hill and Homer Bailey in the off season, but both figure to be competing for back-end sports in the rotation along with returners Randy Dobnak, Devin Smeltzer, and perhaps, hard-throwing Brusdar Graterol.
Lefty Lewis Thorpe figures to get an opportunity to make the rotation. But, right now the Twins don’t appear to have enough pitching to survive Pineda’s remaining suspension, much less have an “ace” on their staff, and that’s why the Twins trade window must remain wide open.
To get something of value, you have to give something of value, and the Twins minor league system has promising young players in it to get us a top-notch pitcher. Or, when combined with a current player in our lineup, maybe two.
For years, Twins fans have been following the progress of minor leaguers Dee Gordon, Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and others from a distance.
The Twins moved Gordon around last season, trying to see if he can become the type of multi-skilled player who is highly valued in the game today. That being said, Gordon, like Lewis, is first and foremost a middle infielder, a place where the Twins already have youngsters with room for growth, including Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez.
Kirilloff and Larnach are both promising corner outfielders. With Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler already signed to “team friendly” long-term contracts, all four of them would draw a long look from most teams in Major League Baseball.
While I don’t relish the thought of losing established young players like Polanco, Rosario or Kepler, (I’m not touching Arreaz) or bright young prospects like the Gordon, Lewis, Kirilloff or Larnach, the thought of wasting a year with this much offensive talent is much less appealing.
For the Twins, the window to win another World Series is open right now, but to cash in, this team needs more top-end pitching if they’re going to be competitive.
Both the Indians and the White Sox figure to be much improved in 2020. So much so that many prognosticators had the Twins tabbed for third in the A.L. Central, prior to Donaldson’s acquisition.
Hold your breath Twins fans, the front office moves ain’t over yet! (Or, at least I hope they’re not).