The 2021 season has been a disaster for the Minnesota Twins, a team with World Series aspirations after two fantastic regular seasons (2019 and 2020) with early-round playoff exits.
However, a combination of key injuries (most notably center fielder Byron Buxton), underperformance (most notably Kenta Maeda, Alex Colome, Miguel Sano, and Andrelton Simmons) left them with no playoff chances.
With a 49-65 record, the Twins are, as of Wednesday afternoon, the worst team in the American League Central division.
They were widely expected to fight for the division with the Chicago White Sox, yet the South Siders are 18 games ahead at this point.
In June, it was evident that Minnesota wasn’t going anywhere, and they decided to sell.
Unlike the Chicago Cubs, the Twins didn’t tear it all up, but instead, they traded a few selected assets.
A Carefully Designed Retooling Phase
But their master move was moving Jose Berrios.
My favorite move of this deadline is the Twins getting Austin Martin & Simeon Woods Richardson for Jose Berrios. I’m shocked Minnesota was able to get that much value back.
— ⭐️ (@allstarcedric88) July 30, 2021
Berrios is a fine pitcher (3.48 ERA in 121.2 innings this season), but he is not quite an ace.
The Toronto Blue Jays, however, paid the price to acquire him before the trade deadline, sending outfield prospect Austin Martin and pitcher Simeon Woods Richardson to Minnesota.
Both are top 100 prospects, and Martin is comfortably in the top 50, with excellent ability to get on base.
Cruz and Happ weren’t going to be 2022 contributors, and while Berrios would have, the team wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of paying him millions of dollars to stay in the organization for the long-term.
The trade deadline, therefore, was a success for Minnesota.
So, I’ve been pretty critical of some twins front office moves, but these moves at the deadline have been solid, in my opinion…I love Cruz and Berrios, but for the players we got back-Martin, Ryan, Richardson, Gant, and more-well done, Twins💪🏻👊🏻
— Brian Bushman (@BushmanBg9) July 31, 2021
It was also a clear message to the league: ‘We are not going to compete in 2021, but we intend to be back in 2022.
Well, they managed to keep most of their best players and inject the organization with talented, near-MLB ready prospects.
They Have The Pieces To Compete Soon
Buxton is far and away their best player, and despite interest from several organizations, Minnesota was able to hold on to him.
If he is healthy, the Twins will have a fighting chance.
Jorge Polanco, the team leader in Wins Above Replacement with 2.8, is signed for cheap through 2023 with an option for 2024.
Of the prospects that came around the deadline, Martin, Woods Richardson, and Ryan could be ready to contribute at some point in 2022, and they are all very, very good.
Yes, not having Cruz and Berrios around lowers the floor of the organization as a whole.
However, all the prospects in Double-A, Triple-A, and the young big leaguers already gaining experience like Jeffers and Larnach certainly raise the ceiling.
Minnesota could be back contending in 2022.