It’s December 18th. Despite having upwards of $60 million to spend, the Minnesota Twins have missed out on all of the major free agents after Dansby Swanson agreed to a deal with the Chicago Cubs. Their free agency has resulted in two solid signings, but the team is a long way from complete.
With a catcher added and five solid starters available, the team’s biggest need now becomes shortstop. Filling Carlos Correa’s shoes is a nearly impossible task, and the group that the team has rostered to start 2023 with is less than impressive. The question has now become: what will the team do at shortstop?
The Minnesota Twins need a shortstop, and after missing out on the big free agents, what comes next?
We’ll start with the most clear answer: Royce Lewis. The former No. 1 overall pick stands out as the clear answer to star for the Twins in 2023. After an outstanding start to his season in Triple-A, Lewis lit it up at the major league level for the team in his twelve-game cup of coffee last season.
While it’s unlikely that he repeats his incredible .300/.317/.550 slashline from that span, he is likely to produce at a solid level, especially with his incredible speed and impressive power. He’s exceptionally talented, so even though there are still some questions about his durability and defense (he looked good last year, but he’s not a 100% lock to be a good defender there), he has the ability to be an excellent starter.
The only issue is his availability. Lewis tore his ACL in May of last season, and an aggressive estimate for his return would be June, but it’s not likely he returns until July. With him likely to be out for the first three months of the season (or at least not at the MLB level), who gets the starts?
There are only three current options on the 40-Man roster with shortstop experience: Kyle Farmer, Jorge Polanco, and Nick Gordon. Polanco’s days at short are done, as he’s found a home at second. Nick Gordon is a “break in case of emergency catcher”. This leaves Farmer.
I love the trade for Farmer. He’s a stellar team guy, leader in the locker room, and a versatile depth piece. He’s just not a starter at the game’s most important position. His defense is solid, but not good enough to be an everyday guy. If the answer isn’t currently on the roster, who can they add?
In free agency, the robust shortstop class has dwindled significantly. The top two options are now Jose Iglesias and Elvis Andrus, and while both are fine, they both would only serve as stopgaps until Lewis is healthy, as neither is a significant upgrade over Farmer, and both are far worse than Lewis was last season.
The trade market is barren as well, with most teams looking for shortstops, not selling them, and the Twins won’t want to give up major assets to add a player that likely will be replaced by Lewis within a few months.
The Minnesota Twins are stuck in between a rock and a hard place here, and their likely path of rolling with Farmer shouldn’t have anyone excited. Here’s to hoping Lewis is ready sooner rather than later.