Twins 'retool' at '21 Deadline, eye 2022 run

July 31st, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- The Twins shipped away their best pitcher at Friday's Trade Deadline, sending José Berríos north of the border to Toronto in a move that undoubtedly made the club's pitching situation in 2022 more tenuous.

But still, there was also an eye-opening group of players whom the Twins didn't move before the 3 p.m. CT cutoff for deals, with the likes of Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, Max Kepler and Josh Donaldson still in Minnesota uniforms once all of the dust settled on a dizzying array of major moves that drastically shifted the landscape of Major League Baseball -- though the Twins did reportedly shop many of those players in case they could find particularly strong value.

"Our view of this is sustainability," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. "We know what this year has been. I’ve talked about that at length. It has not been what we wanted, but we still feel, even as José walked out the door here ... we have a lot of talent in that clubhouse coming back in '22 and '23 and beyond.

"So how do you build a sustainable group? You’ve got to retool it sometimes."

Ultimately, that's what the Twins feel they did at a Deadline that was actually quieter than expected (for them, at least), as part of which they traded away Nelson Cruz to Tampa Bay, Berríos to Toronto, Hansel Robles to Boston and J.A. Happ to St. Louis for a combined haul of a Major League reliever and six prospects -- all at the Double-A level or higher, and four of whom now populate the club's top 15 prospects.

"We hope that that whole contingent, along with some of the guys that are already here in the big leagues that are going to be a big part of what we have going forward, gives us a chance to be sustainable and to impact us soon," Falvey said. "We think that’s a really good nucleus to build around as we continue to try to compete as often as we can, ultimately."

The top-tier talent headlining the Twins' activity came as part of the Berríos deal, in which Minnesota grabbed a pair of top 70 overall prospects in shortstop/center fielder Austin Martin, the No. 16 prospect in the Majors per MLB Pipeline, and right-hander Simeon Woods Richardson, ranked No. 68. They will both start with Double-A Wichita and slot in as the Nos. 2 and 3 prospects in the organization, respectively, just behind shortstop Royce Lewis.

And though Martin and Woods Richardson might still be a year or two away from impacting the Major League roster, Minnesota also got a pair of high-upside pitchers who should be in the Majors by next season at the latest in Triple-A starters Joe Ryan (No. 8 in the organization) and Drew Strotman (No. 15), both of whom arrived from the Rays in the Cruz deal.

John Gant -- acquired from the Cardinals alongside Double-A left-hander Evan Sisk -- has had control issues, but he also owns a history of avoiding barrels and is controllable through next season. Alex Scherff, the return from the Red Sox in exchange for for Robles, owns a 2.45 ERA this season across High-A and Double-A following his transition into the bullpen.

The hope, then, is that those new players will continue their development near the Major League level for the rest of this season and join the group of existing prospects that should also impact the Twins within the next two years, a contingent that includes Lewis and pitchers Jordan Balazovic, Josh Winder, Jhoan Duran and Matt Canterino.

And it's not like the Twins have exactly torn this roster to the ground -- they still have the likes of Donaldson, Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco, Maeda and Buxton under club control, many of whom have performed as part of an offense that has actually been more productive than the club's record would indicate this season.

Perhaps, with some savvy offseason moves, there could be the makings of a winning team in 2022 -- not to mention in '23, when much of this talent could be coming into its own.

"Listen, we recognize that we’re trading away talent right now in a season where things have not gone our way," Falvey said. "We can’t let this season where we’re struggling go for nothing, right? We have to find a way to continue to develop the young players we have, refresh our system, get more players that are going to be a part of this and then we have a whole offseason to continue to work to build around it."

All this is not to mention the top prospects that have already graduated to the Majors this season, a group that includes outfielders Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach and catcher Ryan Jeffers.

There could perhaps still be more trades coming this offseason to stockpile additional young talent as part of that developing core, but even a veteran like Donaldson, who is under contract for at least two more seasons and on track to not appear in the playoffs for just the third time since 2012, still finds reason to be excited about the immediate future.

"I’m excited to be here for the fact that I still think we have a window to win here," Donaldson said. "I wouldn’t have signed here if I wanted to go somewhere else. This is where I want to be. I want to win here. I want to help the guys that are here continue to learn that process as well."