The Twins are performing at a higher level than even I had expected. I felt that the Twins would be a 75-win team and they are on a .500 pace. Things will change, and I still think that 75 wins is their ceiling. However, there are a few moves that the Twins could make to optimize their active roster and put out an even more competitive team. The Twins' good start is like money in the bank. If they can improve their active roster going forward, they might be able to maintain or even better their current pace.
Here are five moves that I would make as soon as possible. I believe these moves create the best possible roster with the players available to the team.
Move #1 - Install Josmil Pinto into the lineup permanently.
The Twins made one of the moves I was going to propose, calling up Chris Herrmann earlier this week. I would keep Herrmann around permanently mostly because it will keep Ron Gardenhire from stressing out about losing his catcher in the middle of a game. This is important because Pinto is one of the Twins' best hitters and the lineup is better when he's included. Pinto is second on the team in OPS, slugging percentage, and home runs.
The problem is that he's only playing about half of the time right now. I'm not sure that will change much this week, as the Twins won't have a DH while in San Diego and San Francisco. That San sucks, but what can you do? Starting next week, I'd keep Herrmann on the active roster and use Pinto as an everyday player. He's young, exciting, and he's earned it.
Speaking of moves to make after this week...
Half of this move is a complete no-brainer. Arcia hasn't mastered MLB pitching yet, but he has very little to prove at AAA. Arcia is also one of the more exciting players on the 40-man roster and a player who is a very important part of the Twins' future. The easy move would be to bring Arcia up after the California trip and move Herrmann back to AAA. I prefer to keep Herrmann's versatility and ditch Kubel's one dimensional profile.
All Kubel can do at this point is hit. He was once a decent defender, then a serviceable defender and now he's just a bad defender. I liked the idea of keeping Kubel on the bench as a lefty masher, but I'm not so sure he can do that any longer. He started off hot and he's still hitting .289/.349/.371 against right-handers. However, he also has a .458 BABIP and a 34.9% strikeout rate against right-handers. One of those figures is luck-based and the other is skill-based. The skills seem to be eroding and it could be why he's hitting .240/.321/.240 in May (through Sunday's game).
Getting the band back together always seems like a good idea, but not when guys can't play their instruments any longer. Speaking of the old band...
Move #3 - Call Michael Tonkin up from AAA and DFA Matt Guerrier.
- Player A is 35, he's coming off of three straight seasons with a below-average ERA+ and he's absolutely not a part of the Twins' future.
- Player B is 24, throws hard, did hit a little rough patch recently but has the stuff to overcome it, and is hopefully a part of the Twins' future.
You don't even really have to play this silly game with these two because anyone with any sense would agree that Michael Tonkin should be on the active roster and Matt Guerrier should be elsewhere. The Twins might be holding out some sort of weird hope that Guerrier is worth holding onto to try to trade him later, but come on. Last season, the Dodgers traded Guerrier to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol and cash. Carlos Marmol is a net loss, so I hope that was a lot of cash.
A rebuilding or retooling team should be giving young players opportunities. This is especially true when the young player is more talented than the old player. Tonkin had a few bad outings, but he needs to be given time to work through them when the team can suffer a few losses without those losses compromising a playoff run. Guerrier was a great guy to have around back in the 2000s, but those days are gone. It's nothing personal.
This one is a riskier. May has been impressive with Rochester, but his stock had slipped a bit after his 2013 season with New Britain. That said, he's a guy who can strike batters out and he has at every level. He's walking fewer batters this season and it's time to capitalize on May's improved performance. I think he projects as a 4th starter at his peak, but one who can be durable and flash number 2 stuff from time to time. Plus, who doesn't love a good MLB debut?
Getting rid of Correia altogether is hasty. I'll agree with that. He could be a trade chip if he can get things together. Let's be honest, what is Correia's trade value, even at his peak? He's 33, he can't strike anyone out and he gives up hits in bunches. It's almost June, when's he going to regain his value? What team is going to fall for a few good starts anyway? Francisco Liriano put together a run of great starts after a terrible start back in 2012, and all he brought back in trade was a utility infielder (sorry, Eddie) and a number 7 starter. Liriano has much more talent than Correia and was five years younger.
Plus, the starting pitching depth isn't actually all that bad. Alex Meyer is looming and will need a spot by the end of the season. Logan Darnell has been great in AAA. Kris Johnson seems capable. Scott Diamond is still around. Mike Pelfrey is coming back soon. Besides Meyer, those guys aren't super exciting, but each is capable of performing at Correia's level or better. I see no reason to keep Correia in the rotation and I don't think he'd be effective in the bullpen either.
Correia was much better than I expected in 2013 and I'll gladly admit that I was wrong about his signing. However, he's not pitching well, he isn't talented enough to turn it around and he isn't part of the future. He's still due a decent chunk of money, but that's a sunk cost. It's time to thank him for the serviceable 2013 and part ways.
Since I mentioned Pelfrey, he'd be in the bullpen upon his return, if I had any say. Until he proves that he can pitch better than Sam Deduno, I don't see how Pelfrey ever cracks this rotation. Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson are set. I want May to replace Correia. That just leaves Deduno's spot. Deduno has a 108 ERA+ over the past two seasons and Pelfrey has a 73 ERA+. I'm no Deduno supporter, but he gives the team a better chance to win, even if I have no clue how he does it. Pelfrey might actually be more effective as a reliever. Who knows? I'm not sure how he fits on this team right now, to be honest.
Move #5 - Re-jigger the lineup just a bit
Brian Dozier is the best hitter on the team right now. His batting average is climbing and his power appears to be real. He's walking a lot and he can steal bases, so he fits in the leadoff spot, but I think he would be more productive a little lower in the lineup. I'd swap Dozier and Joe Mauer, putting Mauer in the leadoff spot and moving Dozier to the two-hole.
Dozier has eleven home runs and nine have come with no one on base. Mauer reaches base in roughly 40% of his at-bats. Simple math and logic would assume that Mauer would have been somewhere on the bases for three or four of those home runs. That's three or four extra runs. It's not a ton, but every little bit helps. The Twins don't operate the top of their lineup in a traditional sense anyway. Mauer doesn't bunt Dozier to second after a leadoff single (nor should he), so why not put the more powerful hitter behind the better OBP guy?
Lineup optimization hasn't proved to be as worthwhile as many thought, but this is such a simple change and it makes so much sense. Mauer would be an excellent leadoff hitter and it might take some of the pressure from fans off of him. He'd score even more runs with Dozier behind him and Dozier would drive in more runs with Mauer ahead of him. Does that make either guy more valuable? Not really, but I still think it's still a logical move.
These five moves create a more optimal lineup, a more talented bullpen, a more talented rotation, give young guys time to develop and grow, and doesn't cost the team anyone valuable. These five moves could also greatly change the character of the clubhouse and that might be exactly why none of them will happen.
I fully expect Arcia to return after the California trip, but I'd guess Herrmann, Chris Colabello or Danny Santana are sent to AAA. I think Correia will be the next player to suffer a phantom injury, opening a hole in the rotation for Pelfrey. I am sure Tonkin will get a lot of chances in Rochester. Kubel and Guerrier will continue to provide leadership or whatever. Josmil Pinto will continue to produce in limited duty. I'll bang my drum on Twitter but the Twins will do what they think is best.
What moves would you make? Do you think my proposals are crazy? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you!