I spent more than an hour with Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey on Thursday.
I told him he should sign outfielder Nelson Cruz and closer Cody Allen.
But he didn’t shoot down the idea that the Twins might be looking at those or similar moves.
The Twins signed first baseman C.J. Cron, who, combined with Tyler Austin, would seem to fill the first base and designated hitter slots in the lineup.
The more Falvey talked about the kind of hitter he might be interested in as a free agent, the more he sounded like he might be talking about Cruz.
Will he sign a designated hitter despite the presence of Austin and Cron? “It’s a trade-off,” he said. “There’s some long-term benefit of seeing some young players play and developing them, and there are times when you feel like you have good fits in terms of your club — a really good bat, an established bat, one that takes pressure off other guys in the lineup.
“How could this player affect the players in the lineup next to him two years down the line? That could be real. And so I’ve seen that before and sometimes getting on base is infectious. You see a player extend at-bats and take a pitcher deep in his pitch count and that’s really valuable for a lineup.
“So we feel like there’s still an opportunity on the board to bring in someone who will help our lineup. Now, it may displace someone, and that’s the hard part of the job. But we have to take that into consideration.”
The Twins need a closer, whether that’s Allen or someone else.
Cruz is more intriguing. He is a 38-year-old native of the Dominican Republic with 360 career home runs. Miguel Sano is a 25-year-old native of the Dominican Republic who is trying to restart his career with intense winter workouts.
Cruz’s presence in the lineup and clubhouse could help Sano reach his star potential, and could give the Twins a suddenly scary batting order.
At his age, is Cruz worth a two-year contract worth $30 million? Maybe.
Would he be worth that much money if he could help Sano return to All-Star form? Then it would be a relative bargain.
New Twins manager Rocco Baldelli recently visited Byron Buxton in Atlanta, where the center fielder is working out this winter, and Sano in the Dominican Republic.
Buxton and Sano remain the Twins’ biggest reasons for grand hopes, as well as the biggest reasons for last year’s disappointing finish.
Falvey has been texting Buxton constantly, telling him how important he is to the franchise. Buxton was upset that Falvey didn’t call him to the big leagues last September, but the two are communicating frequently, and the Twins might have acted wisely in not risking a long-term injury to Buxton’s wrist, which was sore at the time they made the decision.
The Twins have sent at least two people to check in with Sano, and are monitoring Sano’s workouts via video. In the one I saw, he looks comfortable doing agility drills and looks lean and strong.
The irony of Falvey’s tenure is that he is adhering to many of the core principles of his predecessor, Terry Ryan, even if they reach their conclusions differently. Ryan relied on a handful of key advisers and his own eyes; Falvey is building a large and expensive research and development department with a bunch of whiz kids and welcomes input from just about anybody.
Yet they both believe in giving the Twins’ young players every chance to succeed, and neither believes that good teams are built through free agency.
Someone like Cruz could be the exception, because he can be signed to a short-term deal at a position where he wouldn’t be blocking a top prospect or current young player.
“The text messages I’ve had with Byron, let’s just say we feel really good about where he’s headed,” Falvey said. “If we’re going to be the team we want to be, these two have to be a big part of it.”