The Twins have a TBD situation at shortstop after free agent Carlos Correa said no to a future in Minnesota and accepted a reported 13-year, $350 million deal with the Giants. In an interview with Sports Headliners after the Correa bid fell through, Derek Falvey talked what’s next at the position and a lot more including his view about the team’s outlook for 2023.
The offseason started with Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson being the most coveted free agent shortstops in MLB. Now all four are gone, with the latest news that Swanson is headed to the Cubs on a reported seven-year, $177 million deal.
The Twins were interested in Swanson who had a proven resume in the field and at bat with the Braves. ”…We’ve maintained contact with his representatives and a number of other free agents, and we have to, and we should,” said Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “So, I expect we’ll continue to have those conversations over the next few weeks as well.”
Sports Headliners can confirm the Twins offered Correa $285 million, reportedly for 10 years. Would the Twins use at least a portion of what was targeted for Correa on other talent outside the organization?
“It’s definitely something that we’re open to,” Falvey said. “…I think the baseline here is that the Pohlads (ownership group) have continued to support investment in this team, and if we find the right path and the right avenue to acquire a free agent at those dollars…we have the ability to do so. There are paths, though, where we aren’t spending all of that money. We’re not just going to spend it to spend it. …”
One path, at least for the short-term, is making Kyle Farmer the opening day shortstop. Farmer, 32, was acquired in a November trade as “insurance” for the club. He played in 145 games for the Reds last season, hitting .255 with 78 RBI and he is a versatile player in the field who has even been a catcher.
Falvey describes Farmer as “a really good stabilizing force at the position” while knowing the team has other options including within the organization where the shadow of Royce Lewis looms large. The former No. 1 draft choice got hurt last season while playing center field and is rehabbing from ACL surgery.
Falvey said Lewis’ recovery is going fine and all are hopeful he can be on a baseball field next summer. And at shortstop. “That’s what he views himself to be,” Falvey said. “(However,) he will play anywhere. He’s said that. He said, ‘Listen, you just give me a location on the field, and I’ll play.’
“He’s such a good athlete. He was an outfielder, some in high school. He played second and third base in high school as well. This guy has the type of athleticism that’s going to translate to any position. We need him to play but we do believe that he can play shortstop.”
Regarding Correa’s final decision, Falvey said the Twins made their best offer based on what was comfortable for them. Correa’s deal with the Giants takes him through age 41, a time when his skills might not even allow him to play. “I think for us, it wasn’t something we were in the conversation to do,” Falvey said about the length of contract.
Did Minnesota finish second in the sweepstakes for the team’s 2022 MVP? “That’s a good question,” Falvey said. “I’ll never know. You know, I’m guessing we did but I can’t say I know that for sure. No way to know.”
Going into the offseason the Twins’ highest priorities were shortstop and catcher. Now they have signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year contract worth $30 million. Vazquez, 32, split last season between the Red Sox and Astros, hitting .274 while finishing tied for first in the American League among catchers in throwing out base runners (16). He tied for fourth among big league catchers with 11 defensive runs saved (per FanGraphs).
Falvey, GM Thad Levine, manager Rocco Baldelli and catching coach Hank Conger interviewed Vazquez via zoom before signing him. They were impressed as he talked baseball and what a catcher does including how to work with young pitchers. “We had heard good things, but it’s nothing like actually hearing it from the player himself,” Falvey said. “What he was talking about (included)…how to navigate a game, how to control the running game, how to kind of pace some young pitchers all the way through whether we have a veteran guy or guys that just showed up in the big leagues looking. …I think he’s going to be a huge value-add for us.”
Falvey believes Vazquez will catch about 60 percent of the time, with Ryan Jeffers handling the other 40 percent of the 2023 season. The Twins’ boss said the catchers will work with a pitching staff he is optimistic about, pointing out it’s been some time since the club will begin a season with as many proven starting pitchers as they have in Sonny Gray, Kenta Maeda, Tyler Mahle, Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan.
Falvey likes the bullpen, too, referring to Jhoan Duran “as one of the best relievers in the game.” Jorge Lopez can be a closer, too. Relievers Falvey likes earlier in games include Griffin Jax and Caleb Thielbar. “…I would tell you that from a backend bullpen standpoint, I think we actually have one of the better, better groups that we’ve had in a long time,” Falvey said.
The Twins signed free agent slugging outfielder Joey Gallo after last week’s interview with Falvey. Able to play all three outfield positions, Gallo fits in with a versatile roster the Twins value. Players like AL batting champ Luis Arraez, Nick Gordon and Jose Miranda can play in multiple spots.
The Twins were in first place in the Central Division much of last season until fading in September when injuries did them in. Falvey has respect for division rivals including the Guardians who were champions last season and the White Sox who could be favored in 2023. “But we feel this is a division that we can compete in, no matter what the current construct of our roster looks like. Because of the depth we have, because of the young players we have. Guys are going to need to step up in order to do so but I feel like we’re really in a good place for that.”
Players like center fielder Byron Buxton, first baseman-outfielder Alex Kirilloff and others who were injured last year are recovering in the offseason. The collective health of the team will determine a lot about whether, and how much, the Twins can improve on last season’s 78-84 record.
Falvey said tell him on April 1 what kind of injury run the team will have, and he can make an accurate prediction. “I can probably tell you where we’re gonna land.”Comments Welcome