Minnesota Twins: 2 MiLB Free Agents to Sign During the Lockout

It’s clear that the Minnesota Twins need more to revitalize the team in 2022, but with the MLB lockout in full swing and no end in sight, all major league free agent signings, trades and activities have been suspended.

With that being said, teams are still able to ink minor league deals. While huge free agents like Carlos Correa and Kyle Schwarber are unavailable, there are some sneaky minor league free agents that could be snatched up to give the Twins a boost back to contention in 2022.

Who are some MiLB players the Minnesota Twins could add during the lockout?

The team added Derek Fisher last week, which was a step in the direction, but the team could add a couple more players to help beef up their options in the minors and make the team a little deeper before the lockout ends, starting with Danny Santana.

Despite securing Byron Buxton’s future prior to the lockout, his frequent unavailability and Max Kepler’s inconsistent play over the past two seasons leave the Twins needing outfield help. Fisher was a good start, but more can always be done.

A reunion with Danny Santana would be a perfect addition to play alongside Fisher. It’s been tough sledding for Santana since 2019, who has played just 53 games in the past two seasons due to a foot infection, groin injury and COVID-19 positive test.

In 2019 when Santana was last healthy however, he raked. He slashed .283/.324/.534 for a .857 OPS over 130 games for the Texas Rangers and according to Statcast, finished 82nd in xwOBA. 82nd might not seem that great, but that’s better than superstars like Jose Ramirez, J.T. Realmuto and Trea Turner.

Furthermore, there’s no reason to platoon Santana. That year, the switch-hitter had nearly identical splits against righties and lefties. According to FanGraphs, he had a 110 wRC+ from the left side and a 112 wRC+ from the right side.

Next year, he’ll still only be 31 and perfectly capable of roaming the grass of Target Field. Santana placed in 74th percentile in both sprint speed and max exit velocity last year. If he can bounce back to his 2019 levels, an MiLB deal would be a steal.

Signing him to a minor league deal shouldn’t be difficult because he signed one with the Boston Red Sox for 2021. Santana is a great option to either come off the bench or fill in for Buxton should he face more injury troubles.

The Twins could use help elsewhere too. The biggest reason that the Minnesota Twins fell from first to last in the American League Central last year was the pitching. In 2020, the Twins placed fourth in team ERA with an excellent 3.58 mark. In 2021, the they fell all the way to 25th, with a gaudy 4.83 ERA.

Much of that was due to the regression of Kenta Maeda and Randy Dobnak, but the free agent additions didn’t help. Therefore, some help in the starting pitching department is needed. Former Colorado Rockies pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez still remains in the free agent pool.

If you look at his Baseball Reference page, you may wonder why anyone would want him to pitch for a Major League team. Over his last 121.1 innings pitched, he owns a brutal 6.53 ERA and 5.40 FIP. Not since his rookie season with the Texas Rangers has he had an ERA below 4.00.

However, Gonzalez has the right to make a couple of excuses. The two teams he’s played for, the Rockies and the Rangers, are notoriously bad as developing pitching talent. Gonzalez has also pitched in the worst stadium possible: Coors Field. That can partially excuse his high home run rate and low strikeout rate.

According to Statcast, there’s a lot to like about Gonzalez. He has solid spin rates, with a 77th percentile rate for his fastball and a 68th percentile rate on his curve. He also had a very low 6.3 walk rate.

Getting Gonzalez out of the thin air of Colorado and taking advantage of his solid spin rates could morph Gonzalez into an average starting pitcher. Signing him to a minor league deal should be easy given his last few unimpressive seasons. Give him some time at AAA St. Paul before bringing him up to the Minnesota Twins. If it doesn’t work out, oh well. That’s the beauty of the minor league deal.

If the Twins were to add Santana and Gonzalez, the team would have a boost for virtually no cost and risk going forward. Hopefully they can get a deal done.