First, they introduced clean, crisp jerseys Friday. Then the Twins cleaned up their roster.
A little over a week after Derek Falvey wondered if the Twins had “square pegs, round holes” in a crowded infield, he helped reorganize the Twins’ roster before the 8 p.m. ET non-tender deadline.
First, the Twins traded veteran third baseman Gio Urshela to the Los Angeles Angels for a minor-league pitcher. Later, the Twins acquired veteran infielder Kyle Farmer from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a minor-league pitcher.
The moves reduce the team’s clutter at the corners while providing another player, Farmer, who can handle shortstop. Though the Twins have clearly set their sights on retaining free-agent shortstop Carlos Correa, they acquired insurance in Farmer, who has appeared at shortstop 219 times in the past two seasons.
“We’ve been able to creatively mix and match and make that work,” Falvey said last week at the general managers meetings in Las Vegas. “I still think every player mentioned can fit on the same roster in some construct. It doesn’t mean we won’t need complements to make some additions along the way. But I feel like we’ve got a lot of really good young players who are yet to find who they are as major leaguers, and we’re going to learn a lot more about that in the short to medium term. But we have had conversations candidly with teams where we’ve said we may have areas of depth in some spaces.”
The emergence of rookie Jose Miranda during the 2022 season made it easier for the Twins to trade Urshela, who put together a strong season after he was acquired from the New York Yankees in March. The team’s Opening Day starter at third, Urshela, who came over with Gary Sánchez in a deal that shipped Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa to New York, provided steady defense and a clutch bat.
Urshela batted .285/.338/.429 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 551 plate appearances. He was even better in late-and-close situations, posting an .863 OPS in those spots. Overall, Urshela produced 2.7 aWAR.
Miranda followed a breakout 2021 season at Double A and Triple A with a good one in the majors.
Shaking off a slow start and a phantom demotion (he was sent down May 29 but called up hours later when Royce Lewis tore his ACL), Miranda showed signs of developing into a middle-of-the-order bat during the middle of the summer and became difficult to sit.
He hit .268/.325/.426 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs.
Miranda played 77 games at first base in part because of injuries to Alex Kirilloff and Miguel Sanó. The Twins are hopeful Kirilloff’s wrist is healthy after surgery, which would give them multiple options at first base along with batting champ Luis Arraez.
With Kirilloff and Arraez expected to mostly handle first, the Twins acknowledged late in the season that they were considering more future playing time at third for Miranda. Miranda appeared in 34 games at third base, and although he’s clearly not as good defensively as Urshela, the Twins believe he has room for growth.
“We want to keep third base in (Miranda’s) mix, for sure,” Falvey said on Oct. 10. “We think he can play over there, it just worked out roster-wise that (first base) is where he had to play a lot. I think our best team, our healthiest team, has Jose playing a lot of games at third, and ultimately some at first, but we want him to play both corners.”
Kyle Farmer goes deep and the Reds are up 2-0 early! pic.twitter.com/f2rVDAeNqD
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) July 13, 2022
That left Urshela, who is set to earn between $8 million and $10 million in his final year of arbitration, in limbo leading up to the non-tender deadline. In mid-September, a rival evaluator said Urshela was a “good player, but one you love at $5 million and not $8-9 million.”
Although the Twins felt they had ample options at the corners in 2022, they weren’t as flush at shortstop after Lewis blew out his knee for the second consecutive season. Correa made sure the team’s lack of depth at shortstop wasn’t an issue by playing 136 games, but he opted into free agency earlier this month.
The Twins want to bring Correa back on a long-term deal, but the current roster was threadbare at shortstop because Lewis isn’t expected to return until July 1. Nick Gordon, who has made 31 career appearances, was the only other player on the 40-man roster with experience at shortstop.
Enter Farmer, who occasionally hits for power and was sound enough at shortstop to make 212 starts there for the Reds the past two seasons. Farmer, who batted .255/.315/.386 with 14 homers and 78 RBIs last season, isn’t a standout defensively but hasn’t been a hindrance, either.
Farmer was valued at two Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop in 2021 and was neutral in 2022. The veteran could earn nearly $6 million in his final season of arbitration.
Farmer not only gives the Twins a player who can move all around the infield as a utility man but also could serve as insurance in case the club can’t acquire an impact option at shortstop.
Either way, the Twins have made it clear they’d love to bring back Correa, who surpassed their expectations after stunning baseball by signing with them in March.
As they rolled out a new line of uniforms at the Mall of America on Friday, team president Dave St. Peter continued to speak optimistically about the possibility of a deal for Correa. Joe Pohlad echoed the same optimism in an interview with The Athletic on Thursday.
That the Twins are still willing to publicly discuss the possibility of Correa’s return means the concept isn’t dead just yet.
While the possibility of another return seemed dormant much of the offseason, the Twins somewhat surprisingly offered a one-year contract to reliever Emilio Pagán on Friday. Pagán finished the season with a 4.43 ERA and blew seven of 16 save tries while allowing 12 homers in 63 innings in 2022.
Despite his struggles, a team source said Pagán drew far more interest than Urshela as Friday’s deadline approached. Perhaps that’s because Pagán features electric stuff that allowed him to strike out 84 batters last season, at a rate of 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Pagán should earn around $3.5 million next season.
(Photo: Charles LeClaire / USA Today)