Can you believe that the Winter Meetings are already just around the corner, less than a week away? Let’s take an early look at where the Twins’ needs stand ahead of baseball’s annual get-together.
1. A Correa reunion
On a macro scale, it seems that the course of this Twins offseason will come down to the question of whether they’ll be able to bring back Carlos Correa and keep the star shortstop in a Twins uniform for the foreseeable future.
Even with Kyle Farmer in the mix following a trade with the Reds, the Twins have money to spend, a preexisting relationship with Correa and a need for difference-making talent. By all accounts, from Correa himself to his teammates, the shortstop really did enjoy his time in Minnesota -- but selling a star-level player on the Twins is never a given.
If the Twins are going to commit long-term to a player in a manner that this front office hasn’t before, Correa would fit the bill perfectly as a player who is still only 28, is a key clubhouse leader and, again, really enjoyed Minnesota.
“I talk to him just about every week,” Byron Buxton said. “Me and him have a great relationship. I know what he wants to do. He knows what he wants to do. It's up to [the Twins] to go back and get him. So it's the bottom line. He wants to be here. It's up to us to go get him.”
2. A timeshare catcher
With Gary Sánchez, Sandy León and Caleb Hamilton all gone, the Twins have only Ryan Jeffers on their 40-man roster to cover catching duties. Their strong preference under manager Rocco Baldelli has been to split time behind the plate between two players, and president of baseball operations Derek Falvey has indicated that will, once again, be Minnesota's goal.
The Twins don’t have internal options either, meaning that they’ll either have to dive into a free-agent class headlined by Willson Contreras (with Mike Zunino or Omar Narváez behind him) or swing a trade, perhaps with the catching-heavy Blue Jays (though Minnesota's farm system is already rather depleted by its flurry of trades).
3. A right-handed bat (perhaps in the outfield)
The Twins’ corner outfield options skew quite heavily left-handed, and that grows even more imbalanced when Buxton has been sidelined by injury. Kyle Garlick and Gilberto Celestino are the other right-handed outfielders, meaning that a productive right-handed hitter with some pop who is capable of playing outfield (and DHing) could do a lot to round out this roster construction. Mitch Haniger could be an interesting name.
4. A top-tier starter
The high end of the starting market currently involves Carlos Rodón, Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom, and all come with their risks (and competition). But especially if the Twins miss on Correa and the other big shortstops, there’s an argument that now is a better time than any for Minnesota to make a riskier pitching acquisition.
The club already has a full starting five -- Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda, Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober -- with depth behind them in Josh Winder, Louie Varland and Simeon Woods Richardson. There’s no need to raise the floor. The way to make a difference would be to invest in a pitcher who would raise the ceiling -- and all that depth (including the full starting five on paper) could help mitigate the downside of injury risk.
Among players with at least 20 tracked “competitive runs” in 2022 by Statcast, it’s no surprise that Byron Buxton ranked first on the Twins in sprint speed. Who ranked second?
A) Jorge Polanco
B) Gilberto Celestino
C) Nick Gordon
D) Matt Wallner
Luis Arraez earned just about every accolade he could have hoped for in 2022. Not only did he claim his first American League batting title on the final day of the regular season, but he was also an All-Star for the first time, earned the AL Silver Slugger Award for utility players, and even got down-ballot AL Most Valuable Player Award votes.
“It's special,” Arraez said. “It's special, especially for my family, too. I just play hard for -- not for me, but I play hard for my family, for my teammates. I want to say thanks to my teammates. They supported me a lot.”
So, what’s his next goal?
“I want to win the Gold Glove one time,” Arraez said. “I want to win the Gold Glove. I just need to work hard and stay healthy.”
He actually got close to that this season, too, finishing as an AL Gold Glove finalist at first base, where Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ultimately took home the hardware. Considering Arraez’s defense has never been the strength of his game, that’s already significant progress -- but he’s been hard at work with Nelson Cruz during the offseasons to work on his troublesome knees and overall physique to ensure that he’s in better position on the defensive side, too.
An additional challenge for Arraez is that he doesn’t know where to prepare defensively, as the Twins are likely to want Alex Kirilloff to get frequent action at first base, with Polanco also set at second base. Arraez has already had to move around according to the Twins’ needs over the years, from second to third to left field to, now, first base.
How will he prepare for an uncertain defensive future?
“I just want to work hard in how I take ground balls,” Arraez said. “If I take ground balls at shortstop, especially, I can take ground balls at any position.”
D) Matt Wallner
You might not think of the slugging corner outfielder as being a burner on the basepaths, but the numbers don’t lie: Wallner’s sprint speed was comparable to Royce Lewis in a small sample size this season. Once the big man (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) gets going, he’s moving.
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