Twins remain focused on shortstop with Correa on radar

Catcher and right-handed bat are other pressing needs

December 8th, 2022

The free-agent dominoes are starting to topple at last -- and the Twins hope they’ve put themselves in position to catch when he lands. 

The biggest piece of the offseason puzzle fell into place in the very early hours of Wednesday morning, when Aaron Judge agreed to a nine-year, $360 million deal to return to the Bronx. That began a cascade of lesser free-agent deals in quick succession -- but there still hasn’t been action on the shortstop that Twins fans care most about.

Even after manager Rocco Baldelli had a meal with Correa and the discussion between the sides continued, Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey maintained through these Winter Meetings that there was nothing new to report in terms of their traction with Correa -- but that could change quickly now that Judge is off the board.

Since the Giants missed on Judge, will they intensify their free-agent push around Correa or turn elsewhere to make a big splash? How intensely will the opposition come from other impact-seeking teams? We could find out soon.

1. Shortstop:
The Twins’ current plan is to play the newly acquired at multiple infield positions, so there’s still the glaring need at shortstop. A report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on Wednesday suggested that the Dodgers may not be interested in Correa due to his presence on the 2017 Astros team, which could eliminate a big possible suitor.

But if the Giants choose to pivot to Correa, the Twins could run into a deep-pocketed and highly motivated competitor on the market. With Trea Turner already off the board to the Phillies and Xander Bogaerts reportedly headed to the Padres, the number of other significant options could be dwindling.

2. Catcher: Falvey said that the catching market is perhaps moving more quickly for the Twins right now, and it remains an acute area of need following the departures of both Gary Sánchez and Sandy León in free agency, leaving without a timeshare partner. Christian Vázquez, Mike Zunino and Omar Narváez are among the biggest names left on the market after Willson Contreras reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with the Cardinals on Wednesday.

3. Right-handed bat: This becomes more of an issue if the Twins lose out in the bidding for Correa, as they won’t have many impact right-handed hitters in the lineup alongside and . A proven bat who could flex between designated hitter and outfield -- where the Twins like to platoon -- still makes sense here.

The Twins neither acquired nor lost any players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft, which came as no surprise, as the Twins entered the day with 39 players on their 40-man roster while still needing to make their offseason moves.

Furthermore, the Twins have typically run into 40-man roster crunches during the regular season due to their roster usage, so it would have been difficult for them to keep any Rule 5 player on their MLB roster throughout the year, as would be required to ultimately keep that selection in the organization. The Twins haven’t made a selection in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft since 2017, when they took right-hander Tyler Kinley from the Marlins.

The Triple-A phase was busier, as the Twins selected outfielder Armani Smith from the Giants’ organization, outfielder Yoyner Fajardo from the Pirates’ organization, shortstop Yohander Martinez from the Astros’ organization and right-hander Seth Nordlin from the Rangers’ organization. They also lost right-hander Bradley Hanner to Cleveland and right-hander Ryan Shreve to St. Louis.

“Yes, when [the first big deals] go off, that does tend to accelerate the next wave of it. I think a lot of people believe it's easy to preempt that market, right? ‘Oh, just make an offer now before a guy gets a little further down the chain.’ That doesn't necessarily always get it going.

“You want to make sure you're aware if it's moving. And sometimes, we do that. We've made offers to players, this cycle and others, that might not be the top of each position group, and then get really no actual momentum. But there's no disrespect or anything like that. It's much more like it's not really time for that part of the market to be defined.” -- Derek Falvey