As the Major League Baseball offseason begins to heat up, many people talk about what teams can potentially add. The Minnesota Twins front office will certainly consider acquiring players through trades and free agency, however, it may not be their top priority. An important aspect of the Twins offseason will be exploring multi-year deals with players under team control. Players on the Twins who fall into this category include Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Jose Berrios. These may not be the flashy moves that get headlines, but they are oftentimes the ones that build perennial World Series contenders.
These deals are tricky for both sides, and always come down to balancing risk and reward. Both the team and player are taking a significant risk by agreeing to this type of contract. However, both sides also have the potential to benefit. For the team, the risk is overpaying a young player who doesn’t pan out during the arbitration years. For the player, the risk is settling for a small contract, and then becoming worth much more. The reward for the team is locking down a young player before they can reach the open market. Players can benefit from this type of deal because it gives them guaranteed money in case of injury or poor play. It may seem logical for teams to pursue these types of deals, but many teams prefer to use excess money to bring players in. If the Twins sign Buxton and Sano to multi-year deals this offseason, they will not have as much to spend on free agents like Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn.
The Kansas City Royals were in a similar situation four years ago and failed to reach these types of contracts with players like Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas. They instead invested their money in veterans like Ian Kennedy, Jason Vargas, and Alex Gordon. They are now set to lose Hosmer, Cain, and Moustakas in free agency, however, the veteran free agents they signed helped them win a World Series in 2015. The Cleveland Indians have taken a different approach agreeing to multi-year deals with many of their stars such as Corey Kluber, Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Yan Gomes, and Carlos Santana. Cleveland has already been to one World Series with this core, and they are primed to contend for the foreseeable future because of these contracts.
The way things sit now, the Twins have four or five years to win a World Series. Buxton, Sano, and Rosario will all become free agents following the 2021 season. At the conclusion of 2022, Polanco, Kepler, and Berrios will all hit the open market. These young players make up the core of the Twins, and any success they have over the next decade will likely be centered around them. Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey was part of Cleveland’s front office when the Indians agreed to many of the long-term deals listed above. Expect Falvey to employ the Cleveland model this offseason in Minnesota.
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