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Wetmore: No traction yet in Twins contract talks; who could be next in line for a deal?

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Minnesota Twins signed two core players to long-term contracts during spring training last year, when they found common financial grounds with Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco. That could happen this year, as well, although two sources with knowledge of these talks said that there’s no traction yet.

Maybe that comes later this spring, as agents filter through camps and stop by the Twins’ facility. Which players could make sense for a contract extension in Minnesota? Here are 10 thoughts on the topic.

Eddie Rosario?

In recent years we’ve seen deals get done for players that have years to go before free agency. Rosario is getting so close that you’d have to imagine his price tag will be high. And while the Twins won’t necessarily shy away from high price tags, they’ll probably choose to weigh that price vs. the prospects graduating to the big leagues to take that spot — Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Brent Rooker have the bats to make noise.

I’m not in the negotiating room, so maybe the two sides are closer than I expect on a big-money deal. If I had to guess, though, I would say that I’d be surprised if anything gets done this spring between the Twins and Rosario.

José Berríos?

He’ll be with the team a few years, whether or not a long-term deal gets done. He’ll make a shade over $4 million this year, but I’d have to imagine that he’s open to a dialogue on securing more than that for him and his family. Where’s the bar?

Well, last offseason Luis Severino signed for $40 million over 4 years. (He got hurt, but that shows the risk-reward balance that teams and players face in these deals.) Aaron Nola, who is more similar to Berríos in service time, got $45 million over 4 years last spring; Carlos Martinez was in the same boat when he got $51 million over 5 years just a couple offseasons ago.

Jake Odorizzi?

Already the deserving recipient of a $17.8 million qualifying offer, Odorizzi is in a good spot. He’ll earn good money this year while attempting to prove to the league that his career-best year is no fluke but in fact his new normal.

I think it shows something, too, that he wanted to return to Minnesota and took the deal, rather than reject the offer and hit the market, where he almost definitely would have made more. Odorizzi wants to be in Minnesota. If the Twins want to add more years to his stay, how many more years? And would they find a number that would cause Odorizzi to pass on the chance to be a free agent?

Wetmore’s 5 thoughts: What to make of Twins extensions for Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler

Nelson Cruz?

I know, it’s unusual. When Thad Levine during TwinsFest brought up the possibility of keeping Cruz around for longer, I think a lot of people were surprised. Cruz will be 40 in July. Major Leaguers at 40 usually aren’t productive. And while Cruz could very well be the exception to that rule, it is fair to say that most 40-year-olds are not in the market for a contract extension.

It is hard to overstate the impact Cruz had in his first year with the Twins. And he’s absolutely the kind of retired player that I’d want spending time around the organization, if I was the Twins. This spring training they have LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, Johan Santana, and the word is soon Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer will be in Fort Myers, too. Actually, that underscores the point pretty well:

Mauer is 36 years old; Morneau is 38; Cuddyer and Johan are 40.

Mitch Garver?

I can tell you that Garver would be open to it. And these are the type of deals that teams look for more and more these days. When a player is years away from free agency, it’s much more tempting to take some financial security up front (and a strong commitment) rather than hold out and try to one day squeeze every dollar out of the system.

After his breakout season last year, Garver is still so early in his career that he hasn’t hit arbitration yet. Meaning he’ll make close to the league-minimum salary, and well shy of $1 million. But if you’re the Twins, maybe you let him prove it again this year, believing that a bigger contract could be a possibility one year from now, too. Garver is 29 years old.

Taylor Rogers?

There is a theory among some front offices that it’s best to invest in pitching over a short term. And I’m guessing that’s doubly true for relievers. You don’t see many relievers signing 4- and 5-year deals, and it’s particularly rare to see a reliever extended before free agency. One exception that comes to mind is Craig Kimbrel, who was at this stage of his career when he signed for $42 million over 4 years with the Braves.

I think Rogers is great. I also think history would have us betting against a long-term deal this spring. But who knows!

Tyler Duffey?

If you don’t count partial-season breakouts, this year will be Tyler Duffey’s breakout. He helped power one of the best bullpens in baseball over the final two months of the season, and he was arguably the standout.

Will he be one of the best relievers in baseball this year? It’s within his reach. He’ll also have two more years of arbitration raises before he can become a free agent, so I’m not sure which side of this negotiation would have more urgency to get something done.

Trevor May?

Similar story to Duffey’s, except with free agency much closer. May broke out in a big way last year, and he’ll be expected to be a force once again for the Twins’ bullpen in 2020, a year in which he’ll earn $2.2 million. Then he’s a free agent.

So, you could argue that he’d be a good guy for the Twins to bet on now, since his star appears to be on the rise. At the same time, if you’re May, wouldn’t it be tempting to pitch again this year, expect yourself to have another strong (and full) season, and then see what the market holds next winter? Drew Pomeranz got $34 million this offseason; Will Harris got $24 million; bounceback candidates Dellin Betances and Blake Treinen each got at least $10 million for one year this winter, although those last two names also illustrate the risk of multi-year reliever contracts, don’t they?

Byron Buxton?

I looked for a prospect to plug into this place instead of Buxton. But maybe I just need a little help. Can you find a prospect to extend this spring that would make sense for Twins, and for the player? That person would need to tick a few boxes, such as: an immediate path to playing time, a fair bet to be a long-term starter, a late-bloomer, so to speak, because first-round picks all have inked nice signing bonuses, tipping the scales away from the cash-now, ownership-friendly contracts. Maybe Luis Arráez? But even there, if I was him I would like to put in another good year to show the Twins I’m worth more than a can’t-lose contract for their books.

So I’m going with Buxton. Last year went a ways toward repairing the relationship that I perceived to be fractured the winter before. We’ll see if that amounts to anything meaningful this spring. A deal here would also go a long way toward telling us the Twins’ tolerance for risk under Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.





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