Injuries to a number of key players on this year’s Twins team has forced the organization to dip into their minor league system for reinforcements.
Joe Mauer, Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others have missed significant time. In their place, the Twins have called on Gregorio Petit, Jake Cave, and Bobby Wilson to fill in. Even Ryan LaMarre, who’s become a regular player on this year’s team, has already had two stints in the minors in-between filling in for Buxton in center. On the pitching side, injuries haven’t been as big an issue, but Matt Magill and David Hale are among those who’ve been called upon to replace ineffective or overworked relievers.
Every team experiences injuries throughout a long year, and is forced to rely on their organizational depth while big league regulars heal. As such, making proper decisions on fringe 40-man roster players is an important—and perhaps underrated—job of the front office.
Hindsight is 20/20 on these type of moves, of course. Every organization sees released or traded players find success elsewhere. Nevertheless, it’s worth monitoring how a front office performs in crafting the back-end of their 40-man roster, and how the players they let go are producing relative to the ones who replaced them.
A number of fringe 40-man players who competed on last year’s Rochester and Chattanooga clubs have seen success with other organizations in the big leagues this year. Most were DFA’d by the Twins, while one was traded away. Could any of those players have helped this year’s injury-plagued team? Let’s take a look.
How he left: After spending most of 2016 and the first four months of 2017 in Triple-A Rochester, where he struggled offensively, Murphy was traded to Arizona for reliever Gabriel Moya at last year’s trade deadline.
2018: Since going to Arizona, Murphy has been crushing the ball. After hitting well in Triple-A last year, he got a September call-up to the Diamondbacks. This season, he’s hitting .247/.277/.546 with eight home runs and five doubles in 102 plate appearances through play Sunday. He’s been among the most productive offensive catchers in the game, and combines that with solid defense behind the plate. He’s now Arizona’s starting catcher, and has a shot to make the All-Star game.
Could he help the Twins: Yes. With the season-ending injury to Jason Castro, the Twins have been forced to rely on Mitch Garver and Bobby Wilson behind the plate. Garver has a nice bat (though his OPS is just .638 this year), but has struggled defensively behind the plate. Wilson’s defense and pitch-framing are strong, but he provides little offensively. It’s safe to say John Ryan Murphy would not only help this year’s team, but be a significant upgrade at the position, assuming his current production. Moya has a chance to be a nice reliever, but the Twins probably wish they had Murphy in their system right now.
How he left: The Twins outrighted Goodrum off the 40-man roster in November. Although he cleared waivers, Goodrum was eligible for minor league free agency, and signed as a minor league free agent with Detroit. It’s unclear if Minnesota made an offer to retain him.
2018: The versatile Goodrum—who can play every position but pitcher and catcher—has played well for Ron Gardenhire’s Tigers this season. Goodrum’s started eight games at first, seven at second, seven at third, three at shortstop, six in left field, and six in right field. He’s a true super-utility player. That type of player is only valuable if they can perform serviceably at the plate, of course, and Goodrum’s done that. In 155 plate appearances, he’s hit a respectable .232/.316/.428 with sixteen extra base hits for the surprising Tigers.
Could he help the Twins: Yes. Goodrum’s defensive flexibility would have been valuable to a Twins team that’s been without their starting third baseman, shortstop, first baseman and center fielder for much of the year. Goodrum’s offense is superior to what they’ve gotten from Ehire Adrianza and Petit, and he’s a defensive upgrade over Robbie Grossman in the outfield. If he was still in the organization, the guess here is Goodrum would be seeing significant time all over the diamond.
How he left: The Twins DFA’d Palka in November, opting at the time to keep Kennys Vargas, who was later DFA’d as well and eventually cleared waivers. The White Sox claimed Palka.
2018: After being called up to the White Sox in late-April, Palka’s hit very well in his first stint in the big leagues. In 131 plate appearances, he’s slashing .264/.298/.520 with six home runs and 17 total extra base hits. That’s in line with what he did in the minors, where he raked at every level. Had he not injured his finger and missed substantial time last year, there’s a good chance he’d have been a September call-up.
Could he help the Twins: Probably. Palka’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, but his bat certainly plays as a DH/corner outfielder. His offensive production is significantly better than Grossman this year, who’s been the primary DH since Mauer went down and Logan Morrison took over at first base. If the Twins were willing to sacrifice some defense for the offensive production, Palka could have played a corner outfield spot, with Max Kepler or Eddie Rosario moving to center. For a team that’s struggled offensively, Palka’s bat would have been a nice addition.
How he left: The Twins DFA’d Chargois at the beginning of spring training, and he was claimed by the Dodgers. Minnesota made the move in part due to the signing of Anibal Sanchez, who had to be added to the 40-man roster. Sanchez was released a few weeks later. The Twins decided to DFA Chargois over Dietrich Enns, who was later DFA’d and cleared waivers, remaining in the organization.
2018: Chargois got off to a blistering start for the Dodgers. Through May 8, he had a 1.35 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 13 innings, while pitching mostly in high-leverage situations. He struggled with control later in May, and was sent down two weeks ago after a series of poor outings.
Could he help the Twins: Probably. The Twins’ bullpen has struggled a bit this year. They currently have the fifth worst bullpen ERA in the American League. (Fun fact: the bottom five are all AL Central teams). Chargois would likely be among the relievers shuttled between Rochester and Minnesota, along with Alan Busenitz, John Curtiss, and Tyler Duffey.
How he left: The Twins DFA’d Rosario in November, and he was claimed by the Cubs. The move was a bit surprising, because the then 23-year-old Rosario was listed among the Twins’ top 30 prospects.
2018: After posting a 0.47 ERA with Triple-A Iowa, Rosario was called up to the Cubs in May. In 10.2 innings with the big league club, Rosario has a 0.84 ERA and has pitched in the late innings for Chicago in most of his appearances.
Could he help the Twins: Yes. Lefties Taylor Rogers and Gabriel Moya have struggled this year for Minnesota as the left-handed options out of the ‘pen behind Zach Duke. Moya is now in Rochester, and Rogers, after a stellar year last season, isn’t getting as many high-leverage innings as was expected. Given what he’s done in Triple-A and the majors this year, Rosario would have been a nice option for the Twins.