Change is coming. This is certain after the Twins‘ second consecutive losing season, including a second-half fade in which an injury-ravaged roster stumbled at a 90-loss rate for four months and completely collapsed in September.
Last offseason, after breaking a 73-89 record, the Twins traded three key veterans in Josh Donaldson, Mitch Garver and Taylor Rogerseach of which ended up having bad 2022 campaigns for their new teams.
This offseason, there are also three veterans who stand out as trade candidates, including one of the Twins’ oldest players. Let’s take a look at why the Twins would be inclined to move them, what sorts of business value they could get in return, and the ramifications of replacing them.
Max Kepler, RF
Max Kepler garnered some interest ahead of the 2021 trade deadline and was apparently a prime trade candidate this past offseason, but the Twins opted to hang on to their longtime right fielder. Now he’s coming off his worst season, hitting just .227/.318/.348 with nine homers in 115 games, including .179 with zero homers in the second half before being shut down with toe and wrist injuries.
Kepler once had decent trade value, but that’s probably no longer the case for his 30-year-old season. Trading him now would be less about return value and more about losing his $8.5 million 2023 salary while clearing the right field for Trevor Larnach Where Matt Waller. However, impending rule changes limiting substitutions could make the Twins somewhat hesitant to simply drop Kepler.
Because he rarely uses the opposite field and constantly shoots balls to the right of second base, Kepler is one of the MLBthe easiest hitters to defend. He’s faced a change in at least 90% of his plate appearances over the past three years, but has shown a frustrating inability to take what the defense gives him, leading to a career batting average of .232 despite a low strikeout rate.
This will change in 2023, when defenses will no longer be able to stack defenders precisely where Kepler hits the ball most often. He thinks he benefits from the inbound lag limitations more than almost any other hitter, and the lack of an “infield” playing short right field should be especially helpful. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Kepler is due for a breakout, or even a rebound.
Initial analysis offset limits suggest the overall impact could be relatively minimal, even for hitters like Kepler. And given how much his output has dwindled after a career year in 2019 – he hit 0.220/0.314/0.392 for a 98 OPS+ in 284 games since – adding a handful of singles won’t do much to move the game. ‘needle. But that might be enough to convince other teams he’s worth targeting.
Kepler is an elite defensive right fielder, so even a modest offensive improvement to league average status would make him a quality regular. And for $8.5 million in 2023, plus a $10 million option or $1 million buyout in 2024, it could still be attractive to other teams. It could also be appealing to the Twins, but it would be understandable if they decide it’s just time to move on.
Nice dive catch by Max Kepler! pic.twitter.com/RdcP9epEUJ
— Mr. Matthew CFB (@MrMatthewCFB) August 30, 2022
Gio Urshela, 3B
A lot has gone wrong for the Twins in 2022, but the decision to get rid of Donaldson wasn’t one of them. Donaldson’s production fell off a cliff at 36, as he hit .223 / .310 / .381 for a 96 OPS+, his first below-average mark since his rookie year in 2012. The loss of his contract helped make room for Carlos Correa and now the Twins don’t have Donaldson on the books for $21 million in 2023.
Even better, the trade to dump Donaldson brought back Gio Urshela, who took over as the starting third baseman and outscored Donaldson by 70 OPS points while being paid $6.55 million. Urshela isn’t flashy, but he was a solid and versatile third baseman who contributed on both sides of the ball, ran through plenty of clutch points, and garnered praise for his clubhouse leadership.
Urshela is under team control for next season through arbitration and his projected salary of $8.5 million is reasonable for an average starting third baseman. He was worth more than double in 2022 and, at 31, similar plans for 2023. Bringing him back would make sense for the Twins, except they might be willing to give up third base at 24. Jose Miranda.
Miranda played primarily first base as a rookie due to the presence of Urshela, an upper fielder, but he was primarily a third baseman at high minors and started 26 games there for the Twins. . If they believe Miranda can be a palatable third baseman, moving him there would free up $8.5 million and keep first base and designated hitter open for various hitters with less defensive ability.
Teams that need third base help won’t make Urshela their primary target, but he should have at least some trade value, in addition to the value of giving the Twins an extra $8.5 million. to spend this offseason. If there’s no market, he can become a non-soft candidate if the Twins don’t want to revive him with Urshela at third base and Miranda bouncing between the corners.
Great double play launched by Gio Urshela at third base. pic.twitter.com/HQesAzukBf
—Aaron Gleeman (@AaronGleeman) September 11, 2022
Emilio Pagan, PR
Negotiate for Emilio Pagan right before opening day and giving him late-inning bullpen work throughout the first half was one of the most damaging aspects of the Twins season. Not only did he post a 5.23 ERA with eight homers allowed in 33 innings in the first half, but his struggles were amplified because they occurred in high-leverage, game-changing situations. gives, often against the rival. Guardians.
Despite this, the Twins clung to Pagán all season, continuing to turn to him regularly in a low-leverage role. He was less terrible in the second half, posting a 3.95 ERA with four homers allowed in 27 innings, in line with his career 3.90 ERA. They could have turned to someone else to absorb the low-leverage innings, so keeping Pagán signals the Twins believe he still has future value.
Pagán is under team control for next season through arbitration and his projected salary of $4 million is reasonable for a veteran reliever, but it’s awfully hard to imagine the Twins wanting a recall. However, if other teams see him as a worthy recovery draft, the Twins could trade Pagán for a low-level prospect rather than simply not submitting him by the early December deadline.
As difficult as it may seem for Twins fans, Pagán generated slight interest ahead of the August 2 trade deadline. Considering the Twins targeted him in a trade this spring despite a bad stretch run in 2021 and stubbornly continue to view him as a viable bullpen piece, it’s not that far of a stretch to think that one of the other 29 teams might also be willing to look past Pagán’s tough in 2022.
(Photo by Gio Urshela: Joe Nicholson/USA Today)