The Minnesota Twins will have a new manager in 2019 and presumably some other news faces. Could some free-agent acquisitions help Rocco Baldelli make the Twins a contender next season? With the offseason and free agency upon us, FOX Sports North runs down some (and certainly not all) possibilities for the Twins.
RP Tyler Clippard
Minnesota's front office brought in some experienced arms last offseason (Zach Duke, Addusib Reed, Fernando Rodney), so might they go that route again this offseason to help stabilize the bullpen? Clippard, who turns 35 in February can offer some durability (he's pitched 60 innings or more in each season since 2009) and can close in a pinch if necessary (68 career saves). Coming off a subpar year in 2017, he signed for just $1.5 million with Toronto last year and proceeded to have a 3.67 ERA, 1.165 WHIP and 11.1 K/9 over 68 2/3 innings. He'd probably get more than that this offseason, but he's not going to break the bank like some of the relievers in this free-agent class.
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DH Nelson Cruz
The Twins need some pop in their lineup. Minnesota hit just 166 home runs last season, fourth-worst in the American League. Robbie Grossman -- he of the 36 career home runs and .378 slugging percentage (5 and .394 in 2018) -- batted cleanup 28 times for Minnesota and 14 times he was fifth, meaning he was in a traditional power spot for roughly 1/4 of the Twins' games. In the past five seasons, Cruz has hit 40, 44, 43, 39 and 37 home runs. The problem is he's a DH only (he's played a smattering of games the past couple of years in right field when Seattle played in a National League park), so it doesn't offer much lineup flexibility. But he's a safer choice than say someone like Logan Morrison and you can pretty much pencil in at least 35 homers.
DH Evan Gattis
If you like the idea of a power-hitting designated hitter, but also one who can play a position on occasion, then maybe Gattis is the answer. He's hit 21+ home runs in each of his six major-league seasons save one -- 2017 when he played in just 84 games but still hit 12 with a .457 slugging percentage. Despite hitting 25 home runs last season, Gattis is coming off his worst season, setting career lows in batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.284) and slugging percentage (.452). However, he could fill in as a backup (or third-string) catcher and/or first baseman.
SP Gio Gonzalez
Unless you're counting on youngsters Stephen Gonsalves and/or Adalberto Mejia to be in Minnesota's rotation, Minnesota won't have a left-handed starter. Gonzalez could fix that. Since becoming a regular in Oakland's rotation in 2010, Gonzalez is 120-86 with a 3.49 ERA in 283 starts. Gonzalez was stellar in 2017 for Washington with a 2.96 ERA and 1.179 WHIP, but struggled in 2018 before being traded to Milwaukee at the deadline. Gonzalez reverted to old form (and then some) with the Brewers, posting a 2.13 ERA and 0.947 WHIP in five starts. There's definitely risk (as there is with most pitchers), but there's also certainly some potential big upside.
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UT Marwin Gonzalez
We don't know how Baldelli will manage, position flexibility is all the rage in MLB and with his background in Tampa Bay it wouldn't be a surprise if Baldelli liked to move players around the field. Gonzalez fits this new-wave type of player to the bill. Last year with Houston he played at least 24 games at first base, second base, shortstop and left field, as well as a smattering of games at third, right and center. Gonzalez had a huge season in 2017 (.303/.377/530, 23 HR), which seems something of an outlier when compared to the rest of his career, but he still popped 16 homers in 2018 and has a career .419 slugging percentage. With potentially holes at a number of positions around the infield, Gonzalez might be a nice luxury for a rookie manager.
SP J.A. Happ
The Twins reportedly have interest in the left-hander, who is coming off three straight strong seasons. He won 20 games in 2016 with Toronto, sporting a 3.18 ERA and 1.169 WHIP. He followed that up with a 3.53 ERA in 2017 in 25 starts and a 3.65 ERA and 1.131 WHIP, along with 9.8 K/9, this past season with the Blue Jays and Yankees (he was 7-0 with 2.69 ERA for the latter). Happ just turned 36 in October but is expected to be sought-after by many teams and should command a nice contract. He made $13 million each of the past two seasons.
2B/3B Josh Harrison
From 2014-17, Harrison was a nice, steady hitter for Pittsburgh, combining to slash .290/.331/.428 in that span while stealing at least 10 bases each season. He hit a career-high 16 home runs in 2017, but injuries curtailed him last year and he batted just .250/.293/.363 with eight homers in 97 games. Minnesota might need a second baseman, depending how the Twins feel about the readiness of prospects, and while there's a lot of free agents available, none of them are under 30 (currently, that is, there could be some who are arbitration eligible and non-tendered, like Jonathan Schoop). Harrison will be 32 in July and could be looking for a one-year prove-it deal for a better contract in 2020. That could well fit into Minnesota's timeline as well. Plus, he can play third base if/when the Twins opt to rest Miguel Sano, or move him to first base or DH.
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RP Kelvin Herrera
Might Herrera want to get back over to the AL Central with a chance to close again? Herrea posted a 2.75 ERA and 1.154 WHIP with 60 saves for Kansas City before being traded at the deadline to Washington, where he allowed 24 hits and nine runs in 18 2/3 innings (4.34 ERA). There are a lot of potential closers on the market (Cody Allen, Zach Britton, Craig Kimbrel and David Robertson, to name just a few) and just so many teams looking to fill the back end of the bullpen.
RP Joe Kelly
After some middling success as a starter, Boston converted Kelly to a full-time reliever and he's done quite well for himself in that role, most prominently greatly increasing his strikeout production. In 2017 he had a 2.79 ERA with a 1.190 WHIP and 8.1 K/9 in 58 innings while this past season he was fourth in the American League in appearances (78) and had a 4.39 ERA, 1.355 WHIP and 9.3 K/9. Kelly helped make a name for himself in the World Series -- and perhaps upped his price tag -- when he pitched six scoreless innings in five games, allowing four hits with 10 strikeouts. He'd be a boon to any bullpen.
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1B Joe Mauer
You know the deal. Mauer is either going to retire or sign a team-friendly one-year contract with the Twins (it's hard to imagine him playing for anyone else, isn't it?). After donning catcher's gear one more time in the final game of the season it seems like Mauer was headed towards not playing again, but there's been no announcement yet and you never know how time away from the game can change things.
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RP Andrew Miller
From 2014-17, Miller was one of the most -- if not the most -- devastating relievers in the game. In 297 games over that span he had a 1.82 ERA, allowed 5.1 hits per nine innings with 14.5 K/9. But he struggled in 2018 due to injuries and pitched in just 34 innings, with a 4.24 ERA and 1.382 WHIP. His 11.9 K/9, while good, was his lowest rate since 2012. His season didn't end well, appearing in two playoff games for Cleveland but getting just one out while allowing a hit and three walks (one intentional) and throwing a wild pitch. Miller is reportedly healthy, but teams might be skeptical and perhaps he'll need to sign a prove-it deal to help get a better contract in 2020. Minnesota can also likely offer him a chance to close.
SP Charlie Morton
Morton might be flying under-the-radar compared to other starters on the market, such as his Houston teammate Dallas Kuechel (who has a qualifying offer thus a team would have to give up a draft pick to sign). Morton thrived in his two years with the Astros, recording a 3.36 ERA, 1.176 WHIP and 10.4 K/9 over 55 starts. He has had trouble staying healthy -- last season was the first time he reached 30 starts and just the second time he surpassed 160 innings. There's definitely risk (health, age (34) and if he can repeat what he's done outside of Houston), but, as with Gonzalez, there's upside.
RP Sergio Romo
Romo has a history with Baldelli, having pitched for the Rays in 2017 and '18, and it the new Twins manager is anything like his former boss in Tampa Bay, Kevin Cash, the reliever will know what to expect. Romo had 25 saves for the Rays last season but also was used as an "opener" five times. On the downside, Romo will be 36 in March and had a career highs in ERA (4.14) and WHIP (1.262), although to be fair he allowed four runs in 4 2/3 when he started and he did still strike out 10.0 per nine innings.
IF Neil Walker
Another position flexible player, Walker mainly can man first, second or third, although he also played some outfield last season for the Yankees. Walker had been a pretty steady player in his career, bating around .265-.270 with a slugging percentage around .430-.440, until 2018 when he slumped to .219/.309/.354 with 11 home runs in New York. Perhaps the 33-year-old just needs (another) change of scenery.
RP Justin Wilson
Taylor Rogers was Minnesota's only consistent left-hander in the bullpen last season -- Zach Duke was traded, Gabriel Moya struggled in his time there and Andrew Vasquez had little opportunity. Perhaps the latter two will get a chance in 2019. If not, Wilson could fit the bill. He's durable, having pitched in at least 65 games each of the past three years, and has struck out 10+ batter per nine innings in each season over the same span. He has allowed 7.4 hits per nine over his career, but does have control issues (4 BB/9) and has walked 5.4 per nine innings in each of the last two seasons (but there's room for hope -- he allowed 3.0/9 in 2015 and 2.6/9 in 2016).