FORT MYERS, Fla. – Health plays a role, of course, and contract status does, too. The risk of losing a player forever hovers over some decisions, and the possibility of suddenly acquiring an upgrade from outside the organization is always present. Even the weather factors in, at least this year.
The Twins have to turn a 36-man clubhouse into a 25-man Opening Day roster over the next six days, and while it’s easy from afar simply to scratch out 11 names and admire the finished product, the actual process of sifting through all the variables is considerably harder, according to those who do it.
“You open camp with more than twice as many players as you end up with, and the number of scenarios we evaluate in sorting them out is probably greater than that,” General Manager Thad Levine said. “Anticipating the many possibilities is an underrated aspect of building a roster, but that preparation can absolutely have an impact on your opportunities for success.”
And while these next few days will be focused on the players who have been in the clubhouse for six weeks, the Twins haven’t stopped scanning the horizon for talent.
“Now’s the time when you check in with other clubs [about] where your surplus is and where are your needs, to see if maybe there’s alignment,” said Derek Falvey, the Twins’ chief baseball officer. “You’ll hear from clubs [about] two to three guys that are on the bubble for their club that are out of options — ‘Hey, if you have interest, let us know.’ ”
Putting aside the possibility of last-minute trades or waiver claims, however, the Twins’ decisions appear to come down to five or six roster spots, perhaps seven. The nine projected starting position players, plus backup catcher Mitch Garver, appear to be safe. Same goes for the five-man pitching rotation — manager Rocco Baldelli has made it clear he wants to bring all five north, even if they don’t get many starts at first — plus relievers Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers, Taylor Hildenberger and Addison Reed.
Miguel Sano and Gabriel Moya will start the season on the injured list; it’s possible that Addison Reed, whose late-season ineffectiveness has extended into a rough spring performance, could as well while the Twins attempt to find the cause of his slump.
That leaves 14 players competing for five roster spots, perhaps six. Half are pitchers, with two to four jobs available; seven are position players, up for three or four spots. April weather, and MLB’s decision to schedule five off days in the season’s first 15 days, is playing a role in deciding how many jobs are available, Falvey said.
“We’ve had some internal dialogue about the benefits of carrying an extra position player vs. an extra pitcher,” Falvey said. “Especially in light of [the decision] that Martin [Perez] will pitch out of the bullpen [until mid-April], so that gives us an additional option.”
A couple of decisions will likely come Friday, the day before lefthander Tim Collins and infielder Adam Rosales must be informed they will make the team or be paid a $100,000 retention bonus to be assigned to the minors.
The position battles are straightforward: Jake Cave and Michael Reed trying to become the fourth outfielder. Reed got a late start, due to a sore back, but he’s out of options and cannot be demoted to the minors without passing through waivers, while Cave can. That could be a factor in the Twins’ decision. Similarly, Ehire Adrianza and Ronald Torreyes have had strong camps while competing for a utility infield job, but the incumbent, Adrianza, is out of options while Torreyes is not. The job itself was in jeopardy when the Twins signed Marwin Gonzalez, but Sano’s injury likely will tie the newcomer to third base most days.
Tyler Austin, Willians Astudillo and Rosales are the remaining position players, with Astudillo’s versatility — he’s started at catcher, third base and the outfield this spring — along with his contact skills making him a favorite to survive the final cuts. Austin is also out of options and his performance this spring — five extra-base hits and a .381 average — increases the likelihood that cutting him would mean losing him. But the health of first baseman C.J. Cron and DH Nelson Cruz at Austin’s positions may limit his playing time and squeeze him off the roster.
“That’s something we have to think about every day when we’re assembling this team,” Baldelli said. “Tyler is certainly one of those guys where you are looking to find ways to get him in there.”
In the pen
Options may dictate the bullpen survivors, too. Adalberto Mejia and Matt Magill may be lost if they’re cut, so the Twins are reluctant to do so. Fernando Romero’s transition to the bullpen started strong, but he’s issued five walks and allowed nine runs in his last two outings; he could be returned to Class AAA Rochester if the Twins want to give him more time.
Pitchers Preston Guilmet, Mike Morin and Ryne Harper all have showed effectiveness in camp but would have to be added to the 40-man roster in order to make the team.
“My hope is we’re not running this thing right down to the end,” Falvey said. “It’s good for guys, peace of mind or otherwise, to have [it settled before] the last few days. But you don’t want to make early decisions if you don’t have to, either.”