Minnesota Twins: Kepler, Polanco extensions may have been best offseason move

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DETROIT, MI - JUNE 9: Jorge Polanco #11 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates with Max Kepler #26 of the Minnesota Twins after a 12-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 9: Jorge Polanco #11 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates with Max Kepler #26 of the Minnesota Twins after a 12-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 9, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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The Minnesota Twins made a decision back in February to commit to Polanco and Kepler and it has paid huge dividends this season.

In February, the Minnesota Twins re-signed Jorge Polanco to a six-year, $35 million contract extension and Max Kepler to contract extension of $25.75 million for seven years. The two were the longest tenured Twins after being signed in 2009 and both were approaching arbitration. The moves were questioned at the time as neither looked like All-Stars, but  Polanco hit decently for average and Kepler had already hit 56 home runs in three seasons in Minnesota.

Through one season of those deals, however, the questions have quickly been erased. For Polanco, the results have been clear and immediate. Polanco had been a relatively good hitter prior to 2019, batting over .280 twice and striking out only 16.2% of the time. He had his detractions, like a 80 game suspension for PEDs and a below average OPS, but that didn’t matter much to the Twins, who signed up for potentially seven more years, betting that this year would be the big breakout year for shortstop.

They were right as Polanco broke out with a .326 average, 11 HR, 39 RBI and a WAR of 2.8 so far in 2019. He’s on pace to be the starting shortstop for the American League All-Star team and smash every one of his career-highs. Polanco has made his part of the move look like a massive success and helped solidify the middle of the order while putting together an excellent season and his metrics show he has no signs of slowing down.

With Kepler, his season has been just as enlightening. Kepler had even more question marks coming into his extension, with a poor on-base percentage, batting average, and a so-so WAR. The only thing the Twins were certain about was his power, and they bet the other tools would catch up.

After just one year, they were proved right. Kepler is on pace for 40 home runs, 100 RBI, a .900 OPS, and a .270 batting average, which would all be career-highs. It’s criminal he’s not in competition to be an All-Star starter, but his stats should land him in the game as a reserve. His metrics aren’t as good as Polanco, but still show nothing but sustainable success.

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So far, both of the signings has shown up as incredible success. The Twins avoided arbitration and locked down two cornerstone pieces for the better part of the next decade. The moves showed savvy and foresight and will set the team up for years to come.

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