FORT MYERS, FLA. – The Twins are working to sign some of their young players to multiyear contracts and could announce some of those deals by the end of the week.
The contracts are a sign that the club is encouraged with the development of a young core and is willing to offer players some security while avoiding their arbitration-eligible seasons, during which their salaries could increase exponentially.
Twins pitchers and catchers report to training camp Wednesday.
Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey, speaking as a group of players finished informal workouts on Monday at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, would not be specific about who the Twins are eyeing for multiyear deals. But it’s not hard to imagine that two of their targets could be outfielder Eddie Rosario and righthander Jose Berrios.
Rosario, 27, has posted back-to-back seasons of more than .800 OPS (on base-plus-slugging percentage). He led the Twins with 24 homers and 77 RBI last season while batting .288 and ranked fifth among left fielders in defensive runs saved.
Berrios, 24, was 12-11 with a 3.84 ERA last season and was named an All-Star for the first time. He struck out 202 batters, the first Twins pitcher to reach 200 strikeouts in a season since Francisco Liriano in 2010.
“The goal for us has been to talk about potential opportunities should they present themselves,” Falvey said. “We have talked about those things, and we’re hopeful we get to a place where those conversations with some of those players come to completion.
“We have talked about this young core. We still believe in it and we think it is a group that can propel us forward. Having those guys under control for longer than what they presently are would be a good thing, in our minds.”
Infielder Jorge Polanco, lefthander Taylor Rogers and outfielder Max Kepler also could be among players the Twins are eyeing for multiyear deals either now or in the near future.
And righthander Kyle Gibson, the veteran of the group at age 31, could be approached by the Twins after agreeing to an $8.125 million deal for 2019 to avoid arbitration. Without a contract extension, Gibson will become a free agent after the season.
Indications are the team will take a wait-and-see approach with third baseman Miguel Sano and outfielder Byron Buxton. Both players are attempting to bounce back from 2018 seasons in which they battled injuries and underperformed. Both spent the offseason focusing on conditioning, for different reasons: Sano dropped 25 pounds in an effort to get into better shape, while Buxton added 20 pounds to help deal with the pounding he takes in center field.
Sano and Buxton are potential cornerstones if they show the form that made them top prospects in recent seasons.
With a 2019 payroll projected at slightly less than $100 million — and with the only money current on the books for 2020 a $300,000 buyout for Nelson Cruz — the Twins certainly have the means to proactively sign their players to new deals. These would be the first multiyear contracts they have given to homegrown players since signing Brian Dozier to a four-year, $20 million deal before the 2015 season and Glen Perkins to a three-year, $10.3 million deal before the 2013 season.
“It’s helpful to know you are going to be able to plan out a number of years with a lot of young players,” Falvey said. “While we don’t have commitments in terms of free-agent dollars right now, we certainly feel we have a lot of players under control who are going to be through arbitration and otherwise, still controlled.”
Falvey joined the Twins before the 2017 season from Cleveland, where in the 1990s then-Indians executive John Hart began the trend of locking up promising young players through their arbitration seasons. The rest of the league followed suit as Hart’s successors in Cleveland — Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti — continued the practice. Falvey worked under Shapiro and Antonetti before joining the Twins.
And Falvey, later this week, is expected to culminate several weeks of discussions with a few signings. The Twins approached some of the same players last year about long-term deals but were unable to gain any traction. That doesn’t appear to be the case this time around.
“Any time you talk about long-term extensions during arbitration, or even before, there’s that dialogue that comes up naturally,” Falvey said. “I would say that typically these things, while some of them happen during the winter, a lot of them happen around spring training time. I would hope that we would have some of that here, too.”