It’s hot stove season in Major League Baseball and as far as speculation goes it’s one of the best times of the year. Now, MLB Trade Rumors has listed their idea of the top-50 free agents, and made predictions for all 50 landing spots. Should Twins pursue the 3 free agents suggested by MLB Trade Rumors?
The Twins were mentioned in excerpts for about a dozen players (see how this works?), and MLBTR picked 3 to land in Minnesota from that top-50 list.
Let’s explore whether the Twins should make a real run at…
I don’t have a good guess at the necessary contract here but Trade Rumors guessed it’ll be 4 years, $36 million. He’s spent his whole big league career in an Astros uniform, and by far his biggest year came in 2017, when he put up monster numbers en route to a World Series title. That season, the multi-position star hit .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs. Perhaps you didn’t hear much about him because Houston’s lineup also boasted Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and George Springer, to name a few. Gonzalez was a significant contributor, though, and if he could return to that level of performance, this would be a no-brainer pick-up for the Twins, and you’d figure out his position later.
Over the past 3 seasons, Gonzalez has hit .268/.331/.445 with 52 home runs combined. He’s also walked in 7.8% of his plate appearances compared with a 21.6% strikeout rate. (Think Eduardo Escobar or Mitch Garver in that regard.) Actually, Escobar is an interesting comparison, if you don’t believe that Gonzalez will duplicate his terrific 2017 campaign. The former Twins utility infielder hit .274/.338/.514 this year before signing a 3-year pact with the Diamondbacks. That’s more power that Gonzalez’s 3-year track record, but the former Astros do-everything switch hitter tops Escobar for best single season.
Like Escobar, Gonzalez plays all over the diamond. He’s split his defensive innings between shortstop and left field, primarily, and he’s also played at third base, second base and first base, depending on the need at the time. (He filled in for Altuve when he was hurt this year, and for Correa, too; his primary position on the healthy 2018 version of the Astros was in left field.)
Related listening: Josh Donaldson for the Twins: Yes or No?
Familia is an intiruging name, even if he’d only pitch 65-75 innings in the Twins’ bullpen. Based on his track record, he’s instantly become Minnesota’s most trustworthy late-inning reliever. And maybe one of the better pitchers on the staff as a whole.
Trevor May could get a look in the bullpen after some success in the role last year. Taylor Rogers is a lock for one of those late-inning roles, you’d have to figure. Familia, a right-handed sinker/slider pitcher, would jump into that mix. He averages 97 mph with his fastball, according to Brooks Baseball, and he’s top shelf when it comes to swinging strikes. Opposing hitters whiffed on 14.1% of their swings last year, in a season he split between the Mets and A’s. That helped him run up a 27.5% strikeout rate, which is on par with a guy like former Indians reliever Cody Allen — or just a bit below Rogers from last season.
For me, interest in Familia would hinge on wanting to assemble a bullpen like the A’s had last year. They added Fernando Rodney and Familia to a relief corps that already included Blake Treinen. They were good and deep, and it made them a potential October threat (although things didn’t play out that way). You’re never going to be quite sure what you get if you make a multi-year bet on a 29-year-old reliever. Over the past 3 seasons, he’s pitched to a 3.05 ERA in 174 1/3 innings, with a 26.2% strikeout rate and a 10.1% walk rate.
In short: Familia is a good but not an elite reliever, and the Twins need to upgrade their bullpen. They can afford to spend money to do so, and I’d expect to see them address that this winter.
I think Nelson Cruz is underrated. I think he’s consistently been at minimum a good hitter, and almost always great hitter, since 2008. Since the former M’s slugger made his first all-star game in 2009, he’s batted .277/.345/.528 with 328 home runs and averaged about 140 games per season. Oh, and over the past 5 MLB seasons, he’s averaged 40 homers a year. He doesn’t miss time, he hits home runs and he gets on base. That’s a recipe for a great player and it just seems like Cruz doesn’t always get his due on the national stage.
With that said, he’s also 38 years old and I’m not sure how much the Twins ought to count on a great hitter continuing to defy normal aging curves. It would be especially difficult to give such a big commitment to a player who, more than likely, will not play a defensive position for you.
He’s a better hitter than Robbie Grossman (and I like Robbie Grossman!) So if it’s for a short-term contract to fill a need at DH, then I think it could make sense for the Twins. If it’s more than that, it seems to me that the team has more pressing needs to address.
Phil Mackey and Derek Wetmore dive into Twins roster and offseason speculation on this episode of Touch 'em All. Phil thinks the Twins should target Josh Donaldson and move Miguel Sano to first base…
Posted by 1500 ESPN Twin Cities on Thursday, November 15, 2018