Listeners of the Mackey & Judd show know that we serve as the home of reckless speculation and even devote our Thursday show to it. Sure, the trade ideas, or potential signings, might never happen but this is sports and it’s supposed to be fun.
The key is knowing how to interpret reckless speculation. What is folly and what is disguised as a guess but might very well contain a kernel of truth? Longtime baseball scribe Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic potentially provided us with the latter on Friday with a multi-topic column that included this heading: “Might Twins make a move at short?” (Subscription required)
Rosenthal wrote: The Twins, like all teams deep in young talent, are drawing trade interest in their upper-level prospects and major leaguers under long-term control. The potential to deal one of those major leaguers, second baseman Luis Arraez, creates an interesting scenario in which the Twins could move shortstop Jorge Polanco to second and either sign a free-agent shortstop or trade for a 2021-22 free agent at the position — say, the Indians’ Francisco Lindor or Rockies’ Trevor Story. … The likelihood of all that occurring is not terribly high, but the idea is not without merit.
Why give this item credence?
Because Rosenthal is probably as plugged in as any reporter covering the big leagues, and his speculation comes from a place of having talked to executives, managers and agents. It’s no secret that Cleveland is shopping Lindor, who is entering the last year of his contract. The same holds true for Story. That means Cleveland and Colorado would get a good return but not a great one, and the 23-year-old Arraez, who is under team control for five more seasons, would be a good starting point.
As Rosenthal also points out, Polanco has played second base before in the minors and, even if the Twins only had Lindor or Story for one season, they likely would have a capable replacement ready for 2022 in top prospect Royce Lewis.
The real question would be what would Cleveland, an AL Central rival, or Colorado want in addition to Arraez? Would outfield prospect Trevor Larnach and maybe one other lesser prospect get it done? Would the Twins be willing to entertain that for one year of a player?
Lindor, a four-time All-Star, hit .258/.335/.415 with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in 60 games last season in the pandemic-shortened year. In Lindor’s last full season, the 27-year-old slashed .284/.335/.518 with 32 home runs, 74 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 143 games. Story, 28, slashed .289/.355/.519 with 11 homers, 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 59 games last season. He hit 37 home runs in 2018 and 35 in 2019.
Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, proved last offseason that he’s willing to move a top prospect, if he gets the return he wants. Kenta Maeda, who proved to be the ace of the Twins’ staff in 2020, was acquired from the Dodgers in a deal that involved hard-throwing prospect Brusdar Graterol. But Maeda also arrived with four years remaining on his contract.
The upside to a trade that would bring a star talent to Minnesota would be the commitment it shows to winning now. The Twins did that last offseason by signing veteran free agent Josh Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract, but continued issues with calf problems cost him significant time in 2020. The Twins have won back-to-back AL Central titles but also have lost 18 consecutive playoff games, the longest postseason losing streak in the history of North American sports.
It might not be fair but simply making the playoffs isn’t going to cut it for much longer. Fans want results and, coming out of a pandemic that kept spectators away from Target Field, having a star player at shortstop would create plenty of excitement and likely help in the push to end that playoff losing streak. Does that mean the Twins are destined to make a major move? No. But it does mean Rosenthal’s speculation likely means the Twins have at least explored the possibility.