Twins Rumors: Correa, Arraez, Rotation, Catcher

The Twins are set for another in-person meeting with Scott Boras this week to discuss Carlos Correa, Darren Wolfson of SKOR North Radio and 5 Eyewitness News reports in his latest podcast (Correa/Twins talk beginning at 10:10). The Twins have already discussed various contract structures with Boras and Correa, reportedly putting forth multiple offers.

Correa, of course, has a broad range of interest, having been connected to the Giants, Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Orioles and Dodgers, among others. ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote last week that Correa could be the first of the four big-name shortstops to come off the board, calling his market “excellent” and noting that the Twins have been “making a strong push to re-sign him and build their franchise around” Correa. If, however, Correa ultimately signs elsewhere, Minnesota’s upcoming meeting with Boras could serve dual purposes; Boras also represents Xander Bogaerts, who is reportedly of interest to the Twins in the event that Correa departs.

While Correa is the focus at this point, pitching upgrades have been a perennial need at Target Field as well. The team has a decent rotation group consisting of Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober, but each of Gray, Mahle and Maeda can become a free agent next winter. (Maeda is also returning from 2021 Tommy John surgery, so his workload could well be monitored.) The Twins have quite a few MLB-ready arms behind that group — Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson, Matt Canterino — and could also get Chris Paddack back from Tommy John surgery next summer.

That said, the potential departure of three starters next winter and lack of proven options behind them at least has the Twins thinking creatively about ways to add high-end, controllable pitching. To that end, The Athletic’s Dan Hayes reports that Minnesota’s front office has at least discussed the possibility of trading reigning AL batting champion Luis Arraez — if the deal could net them a high-end rotation upgrade. To be clear, there’s no indication that the team plans to aggressively shop Arraez.

Arraez, 25, enjoyed an outstanding .316/.375/.420 output at the plate in 2022, tallying eight home runs, 31 doubles and a triple in 603 plate appearances. Since making his MLB debut in 2019, he’s been one of baseball’s hardest players to strike out, fanning in just 8.3% of his plate appearances and walking at an even-higher 8.7% clip. Arraez’s bat-to-ball skills are practically unmatched, and he’s been fairly disciplined, walking at a roughly league-average clip.

Defensively, Arraez climbed through the minors as a second baseman but has settled into a more nomadic position on the Twins’ roster. With Jorge Polanco locked in at second base (and unlikely to move back to shortstop, where he was a sub-par defender even before a pair of right ankle surgeries), Arraez has logged time at both infield corners, at designated hitter and in left field over the past few seasons. The Twins deployed him primarily at first base in 2022, due in part to injuries to Miguel Sano and Alex Kirilloff. Despite a lack of experience, he handled the position quite well in the estimation of Defensive Runs Saved (4), Ultimate Zone Rating (2.2) and Outs Above Average (1).

Excellent as Arraez is on the whole, however, it might be tough for him alone to net the Twins the type of impact arm they’d require to actually consider moving him. At this point, while Arraez is still young, he’s already “only” under club control for another three seasons. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him to earn $5MM next season in his second year of arbitration as a Super Two player.

Given that the point of even considering an Arraez deal would be to acquire pitching they can control beyond the upcoming season, they’d likely be looking for at least two years of control in said starting pitcher; giving up three years of Arraez isn’t likely to return a high-end starter with multiple years of club control remaining — particularly not when (as Hayes lays out in greater detail), Arraez has a history of knee troubles dating back to a torn ACL as a minor leaguer in 2017. The Twins could add in some minor league talent to help sweeten any deal, but that’d only further complicate the equation. It’s certainly of note that they’re open to the idea, and it’d be a surprise if other teams didn’t reach out to see just what it might take to pry Arraez loose, but an actual trade seems like a long shot at this time.

The Twins’ other focus as they look toward the 2023 season and beyond has been behind the plate. President of baseball operations Derek Falvey has said he’d like to add another catcher to the mix, and the Twins have spoken at multiple points about wanting to deploy a timeshare behind the plate, splitting time fairly evenly between incumbent Ryan Jeffers — who thrives against left-handed pitching — and a new acquisition. A left-handed bat would best fit the bill, but any catcher who can provide some more offense against right-handed pitching would make some sense.

Wolfson suggests that the Twins don’t appear to be after Willson Contreras as of right now but have spoken to the Athletics, Blue Jays and Braves about their catching depth. The A’s are expected to trade Sean Murphy as the next step in their rebuilding process, while the Jays are dealing with something of a surplus, having Danny Jansen, Alejandro Kirk and Gabriel Moreno as MLB-caliber options on the 40-man roster. Atlanta has Travis d’Arnaud signed for $8MM this coming season plus a 2024 option at the same price, and William Contreras’ breakout could make it easier to part with d’Arnaud, speculatively speaking. The Braves also have veteran Manny Pina signed at a year and $4.5MM, but he played just five games last year before requiring season-ending wrist surgery and, as a career-long defensive-minded backup, wouldn’t fit the Twins’ stated preference of adding a catcher who can provide more offense.

As far as free agents go, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Twins are among the many teams with some interest in Christian Vazquez. While Vazquez is similar to Jeffers as a right-handed hitter who handles lefties better than righties, his career platoon splits are more even than those of Jeffers, who tattoos lefties but has been vastly below-average against right-handed opponents.

Vazquez, 32, is regarded as a premium defensive option as well, which further adds to his appeal. He’s thrown out a hefty 34% of opponents who attempt to steal against him, consistently drawn plus framing marks, and more broadly has been credited with 51 Defensive Runs Saved in parts of eight MLB seasons. Vazquez was a glove-first player for much of his early big league tenure, but dating back to 2019 he’s turned in a .271/.318/.416 batting line. We predicted a three-year, $27MM deal for Vazquez on our annual Top 50 Free Agent rankings, and Rosenthal reports that Vazquez is indeed likely to command a three-year deal based on the current interest.

However things shake out, it’s shaping up to be another active offseason for the Twins, who are going to be quite involved in both the shortstop and (to a lesser extent) catcher markets in the coming weeks. With their current projected payroll of about $98MM sitting more than $40MM shy of where they opened the 2023 season — and no indication that number serves as a ceiling — the Twins should have the latitude to pursue just about any target they choose, but it’s quickly become clear that their general offseason direction hinges on Correa.

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