Who is likely to leave the Twins via free agency?
MINNEAPOLIS (FNS) — Though the 2019 season ended earlier than Twins fans would have hoped, the Bomba Squad spent an entire season entertaining fans around Twins Territory before that, blasting its way into the record books.
It did so with an ever-changing roster, one that looked much different in late March than it did in late September. Come next March, that roster will look even more different. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how different, it’s not too early to examine who might not be back as multiple players hit free agency.
The Twins’ starting staff is the piece of the team likely to experience the most turnover. Of the five starters who pitched most of the season, only all-star Jose Berrios is under contract for next season.
The Twins have a team option on Martin Perez for $7.5 million. After a solid start to the season, Perez tailed off in the second half and was left off the playoff roster. Starter Kyle Gibson, the longest-tenured Twins player, is a free agent. So are Michael Pineda and all-star Jake Odorizzi.
Gibson, 31, went 13-7 with a 4.84 earned-run average in 29 starts, but he dealt with health issues throughout the season and finished out the year out in the bullpen. He made $8.1 million in 2019.
Pineda, 30, was the Twins’ best starter in the second half. He went 8-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 11 starts from late June through the end of his season before he was suspended in September after testing positive for a banned diuretic. He will be suspended for the first 39 games of the season and if the Twins do decide to reunite with him, he will come at a lower cost than he would have otherwise because of it.
Odorizzi, 29, was the team’s most consistent starter throughout the year, a first-time all-star who went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts. The right-hander will be looking to cash in on his biggest contract to date — he made $9.5 million in 2019 — and there will be other suitors.
Of all Minnesota’s free agents, Odorizzi would be the hardest to replace. As it sits, it’s possible 80% of the rotation is gone, but the Twins have many avenues to look down — free agency, the trade market and internal options — to fill the rotation behind Berrios.
The Twins built a nice little bullpen nucleus with young relievers Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Zack Littell last season. They just have to add some pieces around them.
Trade deadline acquisition Sergio Romo, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Marlins last offseason, will be a free agent once again. He pitched well for the Twins down the stretch, which could help spark interest in a reunion. Sam Dyson, the team’s other trade deadline acquisition, will be rehabbing from shoulder surgery for most of, if not all, 2020 and there’s a good probability he will be non-tendered.
The Twins have a few decisions to make with their position-player group, some easier than others.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop is a free agent after signing a one-year deal last offseason. After he was passed on the depth chart by rookie Luis Arraez, it appears likely he will be headed to a different team this offseason.
Catcher Jason Castro is also a free agent, and while Mitch Garver figures to get a bulk of the at-bats behind the plate, the Twins had success with the platoon in 2019 and Castro — who made $8 million in the last of a three-year deal — provides a valuable veteran presence at catcher. “I’m sure we will be in touch with him, as well,” manager Rocco Baldelli said, “because he could be a tremendous guy to have here next year.”
The Twins must also decide whether they’d like to tender a contract to first baseman C.J. Cron, who is arbitration-eligible. Cron was claimed off waivers last winter and earned $4.8 million in 2019. His numbers dropped late as he dealt with a nagging thumb injury (the Twins were having that checked again) but Cron was a key piece for the AL Central Division winners and would be in line for a raise for 2020. He provides power and plays a solid first base.
While most of the position-player core seems solidly in place, the Twins also could opt to trade from the group to acquire pitching.