Before the start of the 2021 season, the Minnesota Twins were a firm candidate to fight for the American League Central crown with the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians.
Their chances went out the window with a bad start and with Byron Buxton’s hip injury in May.
Buxton is extremely important to the Twins: he is currently the second-ranked player in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with 3.5 even though he has played 56 games.
For context, the team leader, Jorge Polanco, has played 148 games.
After losing Buxton (.291/.346/.601) for an extended period of time, the Twins couldn’t reverse their fortunes and ended up selling at the trade deadline.
Reshaping The Roster
Berrios was under control for 2021 and 2022, but the Twins’ chances of extending him weren’t particularly good, so they took an incredible offer (two top-50 prospects) from the Toronto Blue Jays and didn’t look back.
The bad start, crucial injuries besides Buxton, Kenta Maeda’s poor performance, and the traded players meant that Minnesota wouldn’t be contending anymore in 2021.
In fact, they bottomed out and currently occupy the cellar in their division, with a 70-87 record.
But the situation is not as bad as it seems, as they are the best of the last-placed teams.
The Twins, if they move their chips correctly, have a chance of competing as soon as 2022.
In fact, they might want to line up all their resources to making a run at the playoffs next year, because it’s the last one in which they will have control over Buxton contractually.
The 2022 campaign will be Buxton’s last under the arbitration system: after that, he will hit the market unless the Twins and his camp can agree on a contract extension.
During this year’s trade deadline, there was some chatter that Minnesota could have been entertaining offers for him, but they ultimately held on to him.
Next year, as a result, will be crucial for the franchise one way or another: they will either make a run at the postseason with Buxton, returning to relevancy in the process, or they will trade him if they can’t extend him.
They May Compete In 2022
Minnesota may have enough human resources to compete next year even if 2021 was a waste.
Both minor leaguers they got for Berrios, outfielder Austin Martin and pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson, have a chance to contribute next year.
The Twins trade deadline haul:
-SS/OF Austin Martin
-RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson
-RHP Joe Ryan
-RHP Drew Strotman
-RHP John Gant
-LHP Evan Sisk
-RHP Alex Scherff
— Lucas Seehafer (@seehafer_) July 30, 2021
They have Polanco (.271/.324/.502, 31 home runs), outfielders Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach, third baseman Josh Donaldson, a good tandem of catchers in Mitch Garver and Ryan Jeffers, and pitchers Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Caleb Thielbar, Tyler Duffey, and Taylor Rogers, among others.
Re-signing the free-agent-to-be Cruz is another possibility, too, as the player left the door open for a reunion this winter.
There is a foundation for the Twins to return to relevancy in 2022, but they need to resolve Buxton’s future.
An extension would be ideal, as he has shown the talent of a game-changer even if he is injury-prone.
There is work to be done on that front, though.
Sources confirm Twins & Byron Buxton have been unable to reach a deal on an extension. Minnesota offered 7 years at about $80M. Buxton’s injury makes a trade this week less likely, but an offseason trade becoming increasingly realistic. @Ken_Rosenthal & @DanHayesMLB were on it.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) July 25, 2021
All things considered, the Twins’ season didn’t go as expected in 2021, but there is no reason why they can’t give it another go in 2022.