With the offseason in full swing, it’s time for the Minnesota Twins to start chipping away at their To Do list. Finding a way to replace Sonny Gray and ensure starting pitching remains a strength is at the top of the list, but it’s not the only thing the team needs to do.
Positional depth is something the Twins are going to rely on to try and acquire a front-line starter, but it could also lead to some moves in free agency to replenish the roster. Minnesota has a wealth of young talent set to hit the Majors next season, which will help, but it would be surprising to see the team avoid spending at all to add pieces that hopefully take the team even further in October next year.
One of those areas is in the outfield.
Questions remain about how impactful Byron Buxton will be, and Max Kepler might be wearing another uniform when Opening Day rolls around. Joey Gallo and Michael A. Taylor were depth additions last year but won’t be in the picture in 2024. Matt Wallner and Trevor Larnach could help fill in some gaps but it’s likely that the Twins look to the outfield market in free agency to try and see if there’s anyone who can provide a spark.
Best available free agent outfielders
Note: These rankings will be updated as players sign and are taken off the board for Minnesota.
- Teoscar Hernández (4.3 WAR)
- Hunter Renfroe (3.1 WAR)
- Randal Grichuk (0.4 WAR)
- Wil Myers (0.3 WAR)
- Tyler Naquin (0.1 WAR)
- Kevin Pillar (0.1 WAR)
- Kole Calhoun (-1.3 WAR)
If some of these names seem familiar, it’s because we’ve heard them batted around in rumors before. Former Seattle Mariners outfielder Teoscar Hernandez is near the top of the list, as he was four months ago.
At the trade deadline last season, Hernandez was slashing .295/.315/.568 off lefties with six home runs and six doubles in 92 plate appearances. That’s the sort of production the Twins need, and it’s why he was such a talked about trade target. While nothing happened then, Minnesota is in a position to grab him now without having to give up any assets — the dream scenario the front office was hoping for across the board.
The issue now could be money, as Hernandez’s market value is hovering around $16 million which is pretty rich for the Twins fiscally anemic blood. Someone like Adam Duvall would be a much more affordable option at around $5.5 million, especially since he’s not far behind Hernandez in terms of a right-handed hitter who mashes left-handed pitching.
Hunter Renfroe was another name that got tossed around as a potential target, but unlike
- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (3.2 WAR)
- Joc Pederson (2.7 WAR)
- Tommy Pham (2.5 WAR)
- David Peralta (1.8 WAR)
- Michael Brantley (1.4 WAR)
- Joey Gallo (1.4 WAR)
- Travis Jankowski (1.0 WAR)
- Jurickson Profar (0.6 WAR)
- Jordan Luplow (0.5 WAR)
- Eddie Rosario (0.2 WAR)
- Robbie Grossman (0.1 WAR)
- Corey Dickerson (-0.2 WAR)
- Ben Gamel (-0.2 WAR)
- AJ Pollock (-0.4 WAR)
- Austin Meadows (-0.5 WAR)
Perhaps the most notable name here is Tommy Pham, who it felt like the Twins might trade for before the deadline last year but ended up passing on. He checked a ton of boxes then that he still does now, as he might be the most intriguing right-handed hitting outfielder who can help Minnesota’s lineup against lefties.
It’s no surprise that he ended up being a pretty important contributor to an Arizona Diamondbacks team that went to the World Series this year, and it’s hard to not imagine what he might have done with the Twins.
Over the last two seasons Pham is slashing .259/.331/.456 against lefties with 28 extra base hits and 15 home runs. He won’t come cheap, but he’s a much more affordable option than others, and the Twins might be able to get him at around $8 million AAV (he’s projected for two-year, $16M).
Joc Pederson is also an intriguing candidate, although he’s a left-handed hitter who isn’t nearly as successful as Pham and would cost almost double his salary.
There are a couple of potential Twins reunions to watch as well. It’s a long shot, but both Robbie Grossman and Eddie Rosario are free agents who Minnesota is familiar with. They’ve each had varying degrees of success since leaving the Twins, with Grossman winning a World Series this year in Texas while Rosario contributed to a 114-win Braves team.
- Cody Bellinger (5.9 WAR)
- Kevin Kiermaier (3.2 WAR)
- Michael A. Taylor (3.2 WAR)
- Adam Duvall (2.9 WAR)
- Harrison Bader (2.5 WAR)
- Aaron Hicks (2.5 WAR)
- Rafael Ortega (1.2 WAR)
- Jake Marisnick (0.7 WAR)
- Billy Hamilton (-0.1 WAR)
- Adam Engel (-0.4 WAR)
- Kyle Lewis (-0.8 WAR)
- Jackie Bradley Jr. (-0.9 WAR)
While there’s a need for right-handed hitting corner outfielders who excel against lefties, there’s no greater question for the Twins than in center.
Byron Buxton played exactly zero games in the field last year (although he played a bit while rehabbing in St. Paul), which threw everything out of whack. Michael A. Taylor ended up being a godsend, as he turned into the team’s everyday centerfielder and played so well that he’ll likely parlay his season into a decent contract this winter. There’s a chance he comes back but it’s looking increasingly slim with teams like the Mets showing an interest.
The most ideal situation is that Buxton returns to the lineup and stays healthy all season, thus untangling the knot that appears to be tightening in centerfield. Austin Martin could be an internal option alongside Nick Gordon and Willi Castro but the Twins might look to find a proper centerfielder to replicate the strategy that worked so well with Taylor last year.
If this is the case, Cody Bellinger is the obvious top option since he also fills a need for depth at first base. He’s the most coveted outfielder this side of Shohei Ohtani, though, which means the Twins are likely to get priced out before they even finish thinking about signing him.
Kevin Kiermaier feels like a realistic option for Minnesota, as does the aforementioned Duvall. Harrison Bader’s name has been kicked around a bit, which makes him another guy to keep an eye on as the market settles.
One name that hasn’t been mentioned but could be another in a long line of classic low-risk veteran gambles is Jackie Bradley Jr., the former Red Sox star. He’s far removed from his best years in Boston and toiled away with the Royals last season, but the Twins are on a tight budget and they love to try and squeeze something out of name-brand veterans (see: Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo).
He’s not the greatest hitter against lefties, though, which sort of tanks his stock but the price might be right to take a flier.