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Report: Twins depth could be fuel for 'significant' offseason trade

With top names off the market and the Twins looking to cut payroll, Minnesota look destined to trade to fill pitching needs

If it's true that four-fifths of the Minnesota Twins' 2024 starting rotation is complete, then who is going to be the the fifth member of a presumed five-man rotation? The current four include Pablo Lopez, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober and Chris Paddack, who returned from Tommy John surgery to pitch of the bullpen late last season. 

Kenta Maeda signed with the Tigers and Sonny Gray inked a deal with the Cardinals, so the Twins need to either believe in an arm within their system (Hi, Louie Varland), trade for a starter or scour the free-agent market for a capable name.

After spending a team-record $156 million on the 2023 squad, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey told media at the winter GM meetings that he expects that figure to go down in 2024. A reduced payroll coupled with a rather weak free-agent market means a trade could be the most likely route to pitching upgrades. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported earlier this offseason the Twins are "planning to use their position player depth to acquire arms in trades."

"Based on correspondence with agents, it's been crickets [with] Twins and free agency," KSTP's Darren Wolfson told SKOR North's Mackey & Judd show Tuesday. "They've been working on trade possibilities going back weeks. So, I think, whoever the replacement is, it's going to be via trade."

MLB Network's Jon Morosi, earlier this month, reported that "there is a very strong chance that the Twins will in fact move Jorge Polanco this winter." 

The Twins have an abundance of talented infielders and outfielders in the system and many of them could be expendable depending on which direction the Twins want to go with the starting lineup. 

For example, if Royce Lewis, Carlos Correa and Eddy Julien are locks to start in the infield next season, then the likes of Jorge Polanco, Alex Kirilloff, Yunior Severino, Jose Miranda, Kyle Farmer and Austin Martin could all be trade bait. 

That's not even taking into account star prospect Brooks Lee, who surged to Triple-A last season and could be knocking on the big-league door in no time at all. 

The same situation exists in the outfield as the Twins will have to choose three starters between Max Kepler, Byron Buxton, Matt Wallner, Trevor Larnach, Willi Castro, Nick Gordon and power-hitting prospect Emmanuel Rodriguez. 

The Athletic's Keith Law wrote Tuesday that the Twins "have some position player depth from which to trade, at least enough to make one significant move for pitching if they choose to go that route."

Tampa's Tyler Glasnow has been heavily rumored to be on the trade block but may be cost a significant trade package on top of a hefty new contract. Dylan Cease (White Sox) and Shane Bieber (Guardians) would be two interesting names to watch but the inter-division trade aspect could see the Twins forced to give up more than they would want to acquire either pitcher, and both will be expensive.

"I was told they had, at least at one point, some trade discussion with Tampa about Manuel Margo when thinking about adding a righty bat in the outfield," said Wolfson. "I'm just thinking, but do you ask about Tyler Glasnow? If you're talking to Tampa in a trade, I think you need to bring up the name Tyler Glasnow."

"My understanding is they have planted a seed, probably like 10 other teams, with Milwaukee about Corbin Burnes," Wolfson continued. 

  • Glasnow in 2023: 3.53 ERA, 163 strikeouts in 120 innings
  • Burnes in 2023: 3.39 ERA, 200 strikeouts in 193.2 innings

Burnes would be another pricey trade candidate with Wolfson speculating it would take Polanco plus a big package of prospects to complete the trade.

Glasnow is due $25 million in 2024 and is set to become a free agent after next season. Burnes is projected to earn just over $14 million through arbitration in 2024 and is also a free agent in 2025, so trading for either would likely mean the Twins think they can re-sign one of them to a long-term extension. 

Another name often connected to the Twins is Oakland's Paul Blackburn, a 29-year-old right-hander who posted a 4.43 ERA and 1.54 WHIP last season. Blackburn, however, wouldn't fit Law's "significant" move narrative.

"I think the big pitching move they're working on is a trade as opposed to signing a free agent," said Wolfson.