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Zulgad’s Roundup: Story Time? Twins can afford shortstop but that doesn’t mean they’ll sign him

MLB: Washington Nationals at Colorado Rockies
Sep 27, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) celebrates after scoring a run against the Washington Nationals in the ninth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins cleared approximately $41 million in payroll with a flurry of weekend trades that included sending third baseman Josh Donaldson and all the remaining $51.5 million of his salary to the New York Yankees. There also were reports the Twins have been in contact with the representative for free agent shortstop Trevor Story.

It doesn’t take much to connect the dots between Story and the Twins’ available cash — their projected payroll for 2022 currently is $94 million, approximately $40 million under the franchise record. The 29-year-old Story landing in Minnesota would create excitement for a team coming off a last-place finish in the American League Central, but it feels as if we have been down this path before only to end up disappointed.

Story, who had a rough 2021 season in his final year with Colorado, would fill an area of need for the Twins (they don’t know who their shortstop is going to be). Story turned down at least one nine-figure offer from a team because they wanted him to move positions, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. That wouldn’t be an issue for the Twins.

As logical as this type of move might seem, we’re also talking about making a major investment in a player just as the Twins were able to unload Donaldson. One projection has Story getting a four-year deal that could be worth nearly $100 million. Donaldson signed a four-year, $94 million free agent contract in 2020 with the feeling that he could be a key piece to a home run hitting team that had won the AL Central in 2019 before being swept in the playoffs by the Yankees.

Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, was limited to playing in only 28 of the 60 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season because of injuries. The Twins again went to the postseason but were eliminated by the Astros in two games. He played in 135 games last season but the Twins finished 16 games below .500.

Donaldson, 36, slashed .243/.355/.474 with 32 home runs and 83 RBIs in 163 games over two seasons with the Twins. He was traded, along with shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt, for third baseman Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez, who is is likely to be used as a designated hitter and backup catcher. Kiner-Falefa had been acquired from the Texas on Saturday in a trade that sent catcher Mitch Garver to the Rangers.

Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, also landed some much-needed starting pitching help on Sunday morning by acquiring veteran righthander Sonny Gray from the Reds for 2021 first-round pick Chase Petty, an 18-year-old righthanded pitcher. Gray provides  assistance for a work-in-progress pitching staff that still needs help.

Story is a guy who has pop in his bat (158 home runs in 745 games) and also is solid in the field. His presence would provide an indication the Twins feel they can bounce back and get themselves in the AL’s new six-team playoff field. So will it happen? When it comes to Minnesota sports teams, making assumptions is never a good idea.

  • There have been conflicting reports about whether the Twins will keep Sanchez, but ESPN’s analysis of Minnesota’s trade with the Yankees had some interesting stats on the 29-year-old: Sanchez was hitting .283/.353/.567 at the conclusion of the 2017 season and averaging 48 homers and 121 RBIs per 162 games played. He had a second-place finish in AL Rookie of the Year balloting, an All-Star appearance, a Silver Slugger award and even a few MVP votes. In the aggregate, since 2017, Sanchez has hit .201/.299/.444 and has become a defensive liability. So will getting out of New York help Sanchez find his previous form? He will be a free agent in 2023.
  • MLB’s new streaming agreements with Apple and Comcast’s NBCUniversal will increase the annual average of the league’s national media deals from $1.55 to $1.96 billion, according to Forbes. That money is split evenly among the league’s teams and represents a 26 percent increase annually over the league’s previous national media deals.
  • The Wild’s loss to Nashville on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center dropped them to 1-6-1 this season against Central Division rivals Colorado, Dallas, Nashville and St. Louis. The Wild appeared capable of a deep playoff run at one point, but that’s looking like more of a long shot by the day. Too many defenseman are struggling and the goaltending has become suspect. The NHL trade deadline is 2 p.m. next Monday. It will be interesting to see what moves, if any, Wild general manager Bill Guerin decides to make. The price on a big defenseman, something the Wild could really use, might be more than Guerin wants to pay.
  • The Wild have lost four of five at the X after being 16-2-1 in St. Paul before a 6-2 loss to Florida on Feb. 18. The Wild have been outscored 25-13 in the past five home games, giving up at least five goals in each.
  • Credit goes to the Wild for holding a first-class ceremony Sunday during which Mikko Koivu’s No. 9 was raised to the rafters at the X. While it can be debated whether Koivu should have had his number retired, the team did a tremendous job of honoring him and seeing Koivu shed tears during his speech was quite different for those who watched the stoic captain for so many seasons.
  • The NBA play-in tournament will be held Tuesday, April 12, through Friday, April 15. The Timberwolves currently would be headed to the tournament as the seventh seed in the Western Conference, meaning they would have two chances to win one game and qualify for the playoffs. The teams with the ninth and 10th seeds — currently the Lakers and Pelicans — would have to win two consecutive games to get in the playoffs. The Wolves entered Monday’s game at San Antonio only 1.5-games back of Denver for the sixth seed in the West. Finishing sixth would mean the Wolves would not have to worry about the play-in tournament.