There's still a microscopic chance the Twins make things interesting in the AL Central with the Indians, but considering Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Ryan Pressly, Zach Duke and Lance Lynn were all traded within the last six days, the Twins are planning what the team could look like in 2019 and beyond.
Next year will be filled with questions:
- Will Byron Buxton ever figure it out?
- Is Miguel Sano going to return to All-Star form?
- Can Kyle Gibson put together another good season?
- Will Jose Berrios make a big jump and become a bonafide ace?
- How much will the Twins spend in free agency?
- Will Paul Molitor be back to manage the team?
Those are just a handful of the questions that we'll have to wait for answers to. But looking further down the road, the Twins could be sitting on a loaded, young roster if a bunch of their best prospects continue to improve.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo says the Orioles are the only team to improve their farm system more than the Twins did at the trade deadline.
"Minnesota didn't pick up any elite-level players, but it did add five new members to its Top 30, to go along with a few non-ranked players. The Twins had a solid farm system heading into the Deadline period, with some serious high-end talent at the top of the list. Right-hander Jorge Alcala, who came over from the Astros in the Ryan Pressly deal, is the best player they acquired, slotting in at No. 11. The Twins are under .500, but they aren't floundering in last place, with young talent in the big leagues and the upper levels. They brought in some guys with some upside, even if they are a little farther away, and can be patient in allowing them to develop."
The "serious high-end talent" Mayo refers to is a reference to players like shortstop Royce Lewis, outfielder Alex Kirilloff, middle infielder Nick Gordon and right-handed pitcher Brusdal Graterol, among others.
Gordon will undoubtedly get some MLB experience this season and compete for a starting job with the Twins next spring. The other names mentioned above could be in a Twins uniform by 2020 or 2021, maybe sooner in some cases.
What might the 2019 Twins lineup look like? Here's a shot in the dark without adding anyone in free agency, which Minnesota will have the power to do considering they currently only have $42 million committed to salaries in 2019, according to Spotrac.
Mitch Garver and Jason Castro are under team control, so there shouldn't be much change behind the plate other than Garver, who's been on fire with his bat of late, and Castro returning from season-ending menisci surgery.
Joe Mauer's $23 million contract annual deal with the Twins is up at season's end, so the Twins could bring him back at a cheaper price or say "so long!" If he is gone, the most likely internal candidates to take over at first are Tyler Austin and Brent Rooker.
Austin smashed a 454-foot homer in his first game at Triple-A Rochester after coming over from the Yankees in the Lynn trade. Rooker is crushing the ball at Double-A Chattanooga, hitting .278 with 20 homers, 28 doubles, four triples and 67 RBI in 101 games.
Since June 1 (as of July 30), Rooker was batting .313/.398/.627 with 13 homers in 51 games. His 1.025 OPS was the highest among Double-A hitters over that span, according to MiLB.com.
With Dozier gone and Logan Forsythe, whom the Twins acquired in the Dozier deal, set to become an unrestricted free agent, there's a great chance that Nick Gordon is Minnesota's everyday second baseman next season.
Gordon is hitting just .219 in 65 games at Triple-A Rochester this season, but as the No. 3 prospect in the Twins' system, there's pressure for him to be ready to go in 2019.
This has got to be Miguel Sano's job to lose, and assuming he doesn't need another titanium rod surgically implanted in his lower leg like he did this past offseason, he should come into spring training in shape and on a mission to return to his 2017 All-Star form.
Jorge Polanco probably won't be suspended 80 games like he was this season after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, so the Twins are essentially set at shortstop.
Eddie Rosario deserved an All-Star nod this season and didn't get it, and with Dozier and Escobar gone, the Twins will rely on Rosario as one of the team's leaders in 2019.
Byron Buxton is arguably one of the most injury-prone players in the majors, and he's had a hard time staying healthy at Triple-A Rochester as well. If he ever figures it out at the plate and stays healthy for a full season, he could be an elite talent.
Remember the national bloggers who were picking Buxton as a dark horse MVP candidate this season? Well, they'll never do that again, but he still has all the tools to be great. It's just a matter of putting the pieces in place.
Max Kepler owes Minnesota a really good season, too. He's been healthy but he has to show that he's able to be more than a .235 hitter with sub-20 home run power if he's going to lock down a corner outfield position for the long haul.
Logan Morrison has a vested option for 2018, which essentially guarantees his contract if he reaches a certain level of production. We're going to go out on a limb here and speculate that a .193 batting average with 13 homers and 37 RBI isn't quite good enough, so his future in Minnesota is in doubt.
The DH spot could very well go to Austin or Rooker, whoever doesn't win the starting job at first base.
Put all of those names together and this is what a potential batting order, made up of players currently in the system, could look like.
- Byron Buxton, CF
- Jorge Polanco, SS
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Miguel Sano, 3B
- Mitch Garver, C
- Max Kepler, RF
- Tyler Austin, 1B
- Brent Rooker, DH
- Nick Gordon, 2B
Clearly, there's a lot of potential and even more uncertainty.
It isn't sexy, but it should be good enough to compete. Jose Berrios, Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi will all be back next season, so at this point the fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs between the likes of Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Michael Pineda, and Adalberto Mejia.
Of course, it'd be nice if the Twins took the $23 million they could save on Mauer and use it to sign someone like Dallas Kuechel or another stud free agent starter.
It's reassuring to know that Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, Taylor Rogers, Trevor Hildenberger are under team control next season. But they could use some consistently dominant arms in the 'pen.
One possibility is Michael Pineda, who will be fully healthy next spring after missing this season to Tommy John surgery. He struck out 207 batters in 175 2/3 innings during his 2016 season with the Yankees, which is impressive considering he made half of his starts in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
Pineda could be a sneaky option out of the bullpen.