Minnesota Twins Should Focus on Adding Positional Versatility

It seems like an offseason ritual that baseball fans alike discuss starting pitchers the Minnesota Twins should target. However, this drag of an offseason is different: the Twins should focus on adding defensive versatility.

It was just a mere season ago that the Twins possessed quite possibly the best offense in Major League Baseball from a talent and production standpoint. That aspect of their roster took an enormous step back in the sport’s 60-game regular season.

Outside of Nelson Cruz and Luis Arraez, manager Rocco Baldelli‘s offense was a unit of sole power threats who struggled to get on base. The Twins finished the regular season 15th in MLB in OPS (.743), 18th in runs (269) and batting average (.242), and 20th in hits (468). For perspective, the Twins finished second in MLB in all four offensive categories in 2019.

The Twins have a core capable of bouncing back. An offense that includes the likes of Arraez, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, Mitch Garver, Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton can be one of the most lethal units in MLB. Plus, a healthy Josh Donaldson, who was limited to 28 games in his debut season with the Twins in 2020 due to a calf injury, is a considerable threat from the right side.

Concurrently, Cruz remains a free agent and the organization non-tendered Eddie Rosario, who posted a combined .810 OPS from 2017-20.

Furthermore, the Twins have lost in the early stages of the MLB playoffs in each of the last two seasons. What has been the main culprit for their postseason shortcomings? Incredibly, they’re offense. They scored a combined two runs in their Wild Card Series matchup with the Houston Astros and just seven runs in their American League Division Series matchup with the New York Yankees in 2019.

Case in point: they could use more bodies in the field.

Brad Miller and Travis Shaw present ideal infield options.

Miller has lengthy experience starting at all positions outside of catcher and right field. Meanwhile, he hits for power and has posted a combined .853 OPS over the last two seasons.

Shaw swings a power stick and plays both corner infield positions. He could be the Twins’ immediate backup at first and third.

Re-signing Marwin Gonzalez is a viable option, too. He has started at both corner infield and outfield positions for the Twins over the last two seasons.

Joc Pederson and Tyler Naquin would fill out the Twins outfield rotation.

Pederson starts and/or has started at first base and all three outfield positions. The left-handed hitter is a year removed from blasting 36 home runs.

Naquin has been a rotation outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, playing both center and right. He has committed just two career errors and is a career .274 hitter.

Even if the Twins re-sign Cruz they need more depth. On the other hand, if Cruz doesn’t re-sign they could utilize Sano as the designated hitter and/or give some of their veterans a day off in the field.

All of the aforementioned players are versatile. They’re starting-caliber players who can function at another position on a dime which would come in handy for the Twins with individuals like Buxton, Donaldson, and Sano spending a reasonable amount of time on the injured list in recent memory.

Yes, the Twins have possessed one of the best offensive attacks in MLB since 2017. Also true: the Twins starting rotation has been an inconsistent bunch and long-time reliever Trevor May departed Minnesota in free agency. At the same time, they have a rotation that could be a sturdy force in 2021.

Kenta Maeda was stellar last season, posting a 2.70 ERA, an 0.75 WHIP, and 80 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .168 batting average across 11 regular season starts. Jose Berrios had a turbulent campaign but has been Minnesota’s ace for the bulk of the last three years; he can return to being an overpowering, off-speed assassin.

Randy Dobnak had his ups and downs but was an overall pleasant development in his first season starting every fifth day last season; he can only improve. Michael Pineda is a hard-throwing, right-hander who provides length.

They have a plausible rotation quartet that’s capable of being one of the premier rotations in the sport. Therefore, the Twins don’t have to pony up a multi-year, eight-figure per year contract to retain veteran right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Meanwhile, they have a respectable bullpen with Tyler Duffey, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcala, and Taylor Rogers appearing in the late innings.

The rotation should be better, the bullpen is on the right track, and the offensive depth chart is full of proven commodities. The Twins gave up just seven runs in the Wild Card round. They didn’t lose because of their pitching staff: they lost because they couldn’t come through with clutch hits.

The Twins enter 2021 with the talent to win the World Series — again. It’s a matter of execution: they’re either going to hit in the postseason or they’re not. They have the young vibrancy and veteran pedigree to do damage at the plate in crunch time. Adding more veterans enhances that ability.

All Baldelli and general manager Thad Levine can do is add roster variety. Be deep enough to withstand injuries, have different types of hitters from a tendency standpoint, and be loaded enough to the point where an everyday player is on the bench to take the place of a starter if 2020 offensive struggles drag into next season.

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