Throughout the early stages of the offseason, Minnesota Twins fans have been obsessed with acquiring pitching. In fact, who could blame them? After getting the most out of Kyle Gibson and Martin Perez in the opening months of 2019, the rotation fell apart as the season went along and ended with a thud against the New York Yankees in the ALDS.
Even the Twins front office declared their pursuit of "impact pitching" to be a priority, but it seems like even the second and third tier of starting pitchers on the market have no interest in coming to Minnesota. This has put everyone in a full-blown panic, but there is one option that can help salvage hopes for the 2020 season.
Sign Josh Donaldson.
No, Donaldson is not in the process of transitioning from third base to starting pitcher. He is, however, one of the top infielders on the market and with the Twins moving on from first baseman C.J. Cron, there is a gaping hole in the infield needing to be filled.
As the Twins have reportedly offered the 34-year-old a four-year contract, it's easy for Minnesota fans to wonder: "What the heck are they doing?" But getting Donaldson's signature on the dotted line could have a similar impact to what Nelson Cruz brought to the Twins a year ago.
An offensive powerhouse
The Twins' pursuit of starting pitching was pushed to the forefront with a miserable performance against the Yankees, but do you know what else faltered in the postseason? The Twins bats.
In true Minnesota sports fashion, a team that hit an MLB record 307 home runs during the regular season couldn't find a way to put a rally together against New York. In fact, the Twins struck out 36 times in the three-game series. That's 44% of their recorded outs in the three games.
Add in that the Twins lost C.J. Cron and his 25 home runs last season to a nagging thumb injury, and a Twins offense that couldn't cut it in the spotlight took a bigger blow than most people realize.
This is where Donaldson would come in. By adding Donaldson, the Twins would actually become more potent on offense. Throwing out his injury-marred 2018 season, Donaldson has averaged 37 home runs over his past four healthy seasons and has an OPS over .900 in all four of those campaigns. This means that Donaldson not only can hit the ball a mile but also draw a walk if needed.
While it's likely the baseballs won't be as reactive in 2020 as they were in 2019 – like the super ball you bought for your kid at the arcade last week – Donaldson is another professional hitter to add to the lineup, which was already good to begin with.
Improving the defense in the infield
You may also say that the Twins already have a pretty good third baseman in Miguel Sano. Offensively, it's hard to argue with that point. The 26-year-old crushed a career-high 34 home runs even after missing the first two months of the season, making an already potent lineup into a full-blown Bomba Squad.
The part that wasn't so appealing about Sano at third base was his defense. Although he has been an average defender over the past couple of seasons according to his UZR (fancy stat to suggest how good a player is defensively), the wheels came off last season with Sano posting a UZR of -6.7. FanGraphs extrapolated this number to costing the Twins 19.9 runs over 150 games, which means the Twins are having the right train of thought if they're looking to move Sano off the hot corner.
Even if you go by more traditional numbers, Sano was tied for second in the MLB with 17 errors at third base. Again, Sano only played 91 games (86 starts), which is another reason to sound the alarm.
Not only is Donaldson a machine with his bat, but he would also represent an instant upgrade for the Twins at third base. While his UZR isn't off the charts, saving 2.4 runs per game at third base (per FanGraphs) would help whoever is on the mound for the Twins and help fans not worry about being pelted with an errant throw.
There's also the matter of his age, which has scared some people off when thinking about adding Donaldson. Truth is that Donaldson only had one injury-plagued season in 2018 and rebounded to play 155 games for the Atlanta Braves last season, who do not have the benefit of the designated hitter spot playing in the National League.
The Twins would actually be doing something
The pitching staff still needs to be upgraded before the Twins report to spring training, but this would at least signal a start. Donaldson is 34 but the Twins also forked out $14 million to then 38-year old Nelson Cruz last offseason and that worked out wonderfully.
With Donaldson, you know what you're getting. The combination of upgrading the offense and defense with one signing would be appealing and moving Sano to first base seems like something that was eventually going to happen anyway. If the Twins can get him to come to Minnesota, it will at least be a step in the right direction heading into 2020.