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3 Twins who might not return next season: Kepler, Vazquez, Gordon

The Twins roster will have to undergo some changes this winter.
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The Minnesota Twins had a successful 2023 campaign, winning a division title and their first playoff game in 18 years. But ahead of the winter there are several changes that could be on the horizon.

The Twins' revenue situation is in flux with the end of their TV contract with Bally's Sports North and the uncertainty could have an impact on their offseason plans as John Bonnes of Twins Daily reported that Minnesota made $54.8 million in TV rights last season.

Although some of that money could be made up in a new TV deal as well as a potential advertising patch, the front office won't have time to wait as players become free agents the day after the conclusion of the World Series.

So which Twins could be on the way out this winter? There are plenty of names to discuss, but here are three position players to start thinking about. 

Christian Vázquez

The Twins signed Vázquez to a three-year, $30 million contract last winter but his first season in Minnesota didn't go as planned. 

Although he ranked fifth among American League catchers in SABR's defensive metric ratings, Vázquez had one of the worst offensive seasons of his career, hitting .223/.280/.318 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 102 games.

Vázquez's second-lowest OPS of his career (.598) combined with the emergence of Ryan Jeffers, who hit .276/.369/.490 with 14 homers and 43 RBI in 96 games, could make him expendable – especially at his $10 million salary.

This year's free-agent catcher class is weak with former Twins Mitch Garver and Gary Sánchez leading the group. With prospect Jair Camargo having a tremendous season at Triple-A St. Paul (.259/.323/.503 21 HR, 63 RBI in 90 games), trading Vázquez could be a cost-efficient way to fill a need elsewhere on the roster.

Max Kepler

The Twins have a decision to make on Kepler as he has a $10 million option for 2024. While Kepler ended the season strong, his inconsistent play could be the reason he may have played his final game in a Twins uniform.

Kepler got off to a rough start and was potentially on the verge of being designated for assignment after hitting .189/.261/.365 with seven home runs and 18 RBI in his first 46 games. But Kepler rebounded over his final 84 games, hitting .297/.368/.545 with 17 home runs and 48 RBI.

Overall, Kepler had his best offensive season since 2019, hitting .260/.332/.484 with 24 homers and 66 RBI. But it's concerning that it took him nearly four years to regain that form.

This is important considering the Twins log jam in the outfield. Matt Wallner provided similar production after hitting .249/.370/.507 with 14 homers and 41 RBI in 76 games and former first-round pick Trevor Larnach could be getting ready for his final chance to stick with the organization.

With the potential of moving other players to left field to make room for the return of Jorge Polanco or the arrival of top prospect Brooks Lee, the Twins could have an opportunity to trim the fat by declining Kepler's option.

Nick Gordon

Gordon became a forgotten man for the Twins after breaking his shin in June but Willi Castro's emergence as a utility player could have him looking for a new team this winter.

Gordon was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft and finally found a niche as a utility infielder the past couple of seasons. After hitting .272/.316/.427 with nine homers and 50 RBI in 136 games in 2022, he dropped off by hitting .176/.185/.319 with two homers and seven RBI in 34 games this season before his injury.

That opened the door for Castro, who played a similar role while hitting .257/.339/.411 with nine homers, 34 RBI and a team-high 33 stolen bases in 124 games. With his added dimension of speed, Castro serves as an upgrade over Gordon even if his production at the plate drops, which could mean the former first-round pick may have played his final game in a Twins uniform.