Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of Twins Trade Talk. I’m your host, Ben Clemens, ostensibly a writer for FanGraphs but now an exclusive historian of Twin City swaps. Last week, Minnesota traded the AL batting champ Louis Araz I’m in a bargain Absolutely lovable. If that was the main course, Monday’s move was dessert:
The Twins acquire Michael A. Taylor from the Royals in favor of LHP Evan Sisk and RHP Steven Cruz, per source.
– Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 23, 2023
Let’s start here: I love this trade for both sides. Michael A. Taylor He’s been a good contributor when healthy for most of his career, and his last two seasons in Kansas City exemplified his career well. In short: a very good field defense is valuable. 249/.304/.357 in the blue and gold, but he was still worth a 3.5 WAR (by our calculations, 5.7 per baseball reference) over nearly 1,000 plate appearances because he’s one of the best defenders outfield. Depending on which defensive metric you like best, he’s either first (DRS), first (UZR), or second by one round (OAA) among all outfielders over the past two years.
Some of this value is due to Taylor’s suitability for the Royals’ home, Kauffman Stadium. It’s one of the strangest parks in the majors, especially in an age of cookie-cutter proportions. for every baseball world, was the sixth-best offense park of the past three years. It’s also a third-worst garden to run home. All this crime comes from my double and triple in her cavernous domain. There are more plays to be made out there, which makes above-average defenders shine.
Even without the tailwind of the field, Taylor is a master defender. However, as I mentioned above, he returns a lot of that value with his offense. Despite his strong World War II totals, I think he’s best selected as a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement at this point in his big league career. The league seemed to agree; He signed a two-year, $9 million contract prior to the 2022 season, which would manage you as a fourth outside player in free agency these days.
Fortunately for the twins, this is exactly the role they have in mind for him. They’ve been rocked by injuries last year – over 2,000 matches lost and nearly 10 WAR According to the Baseball Prospectusboth at the top of the table you really don’t want to be in – and those injuries were exacerbated by their lack of depth. Nick Gordon He made 443 plate appearances (that was good!). Gilberto Celestino Checked in at 347 (it wasn’t!). Jake howAnd Trevor LarnachAnd Kyle GarlickAnd Jermaine PalaciosAnd Wallner died She was more integral to the team’s success than Twins fans could have hoped. This didn’t even affect their shooting injuries, which were even worse.
In a sense, this is not surprising. Byron Buxton Not exactly known as Iron Man. He played 92 games last year, which is actually more games than his career average (he has appeared in 52% of the Twins’ games since making his full-time debut in 2016). If you’re designing a team around him, you need a competent reserve position player. Taylor fits the role perfectly; He’ll be a fringe player for a lot of teams, particularly if they need an outside defence, but he’s well above the bar as a fill-in.
Overall, the Twins have factored depth into their strategy this offseason. Paul Lopez Makes the spin deeper. Christian Vasquez turns up Ryan Jeffers In a qualified backup too much. Kyle Farmer Above average defensively at second, third, and shortstop. Edward Julien Not as far away as a DH/2B/1B option. If a team’s offense has been plagued by injuries this year, the first wave of reinforcements is one of the best in the majors.
It’s unfair to think of Taylor as an injury-only replacement. Even if Buxton plays a healthy season, the Twins will want to give him a break on the court, and they’ll be sitting a lot, too. Joey Gallo against leftists. Taylor has been much better against lefties than righties in his career — he’s left-handed, so this isn’t surprising — which fills another need. We’re expecting him to pop 364 boards, which seems about right to me.
A lot of those must come against left-wingers as well, which would be an insult to Taylor. As a full-time starter with the Royals over the past two years, 71% of his appearances at the plate have come against right. If he had posted the exact same splits but only faced right 60% of the time, AVG, OBP, and SLG would all be up by a single-digit average. Even if his platoon’s defections drop off dramatically, the broad point remains: His at bat is more usefully valuable against lefties, and the Twins have the team-building to put him in those positions more frequently than the Royals ever did.
In fact, I think Taylor is the best player in baseball the Twins could realistically have had as a fourth outfielder. They need a backup position player more than any other team in the game. They hire Gallo, perhaps a hitter who needs a platoon partner. Taylor would even let them slip Buxton into a DH on days they wanted to manage his workload while keeping his bat in the lineup. Late defensive pitches from Taylor, Buxton, and Max Kepler Probably the best in the league. Taylor may not raise the bar for the team by much, but he is strengthening his foundation admirably.
The Twins didn’t get Taylor for free; They sent the royal family two potential prospects in return. I was generally familiar with both shooters prior to this trade but was unaware of their meticulous bona fides and state of the art performance. As such, I asked Eric Longenhagen to provide feedback on both players, which I’ve compiled below.
Evan Sisk He’s a left-handed man who made the Triple-A roster last year and has yet to be added to the 40-man roster after coming to the Twins in 2021. JA Hap trade. It’s a left-handed option with a snappy/cutter/slider combination of a low armhole. There are a lot of modern shooting designs in his game; He pairs a sweeping slider with a tailed fastball and uses the cutoff more often than the changeup as a pitch for the right out. He sits 91-93 and occasionally touches 95, but his game is less quick than tricky.
Eric especially noted Siske’s cross-body delivery, and he gave me a shot Andrew Miller Feels in this specific way: He starts at the third base rubber and plants his foot close to first base, creating a solid angle. To be clear, it’s not Miller. It is five inches shorter and has a completely different tone mix. He’ll just give you flashbacks to this particular rendition thanks to his stride and arm opening. The part is seen statistically, too; He probably has a 40 command but still posted excellent double- and triple-A run blocking numbers last year. I think Sisk has a future as a reliably neglected up-and-down facilitator, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him end up as the best left in a bullpen one day, though that would certainly be an upside surprise.
Stephen Cruz He is a bigger prospect, both on our rosters and literally, although like Sisk he is not yet included in the 40-man roster. He’s a mountain man, 6-foot-7 and strong, which allows him to go over 100 mph with his fastball and sit in the upper 90s. Despite his height, his stride and arm opening give his fastball a shallow profile that allows four seamers to play well in the area. There is not much danger here of it being one of those hollow types.
However, there is a danger of it being one of those things that don’t require orders. He walked 35 batters in 56 innings last year, and that’s actually his lowest walk rate since his DSL 2017 debut. He throws a slider higher than the 80s, which Eric rates as a plus, but with the same caveat: it’s being reduced thanks to Trouble locating it. Cruz is a prototype for mean bulk disposal, in other words: bad stuff and a spotty idea of where the ball is going. These guys can make good contributors to the major leagues, but they rarely turn out to be elite relief options.
That’s a good deal for a Royals team who haven’t realistically been competitive this year, and it probably doesn’t hurt that their assistant outfield, Zack Boff, came from the Twins in this offseason, where he was a minor league assistant. Pitching coordinator (the title swell in baseball is very hot right now). Teams on competing windows either need to have painkillers like Sisk and Cruz in their system or replace them as needed. I don’t think either of them is of much value as a standalone piece of trade, but if the royals are good in a few years their shaft length will be greater as a result of this trade.
As an added bonus, Taylor’s transfer opens the door to a young team in need of major league experience. Drew Waters He’ll start the year at center, and while his star has been greatly fading in Atlanta, he’s the kind of player that non-contender teams should venture into. It has serious swing and misfire issues but there are plenty of tools to compensate for that. He may not be the starting quarterback for the upcoming Royals, but Taylor certainly won’t be, so giving Al Shabab an extra kick makes sense to me.
If there’s anything not to like about this trade on either side, it’s that the Twins have diluted their minor league shooting depth considerably. The current major league team hasn’t had room for either Sisk or Cruz, but as I mentioned above, contenders inevitably need to go deep into the bullpen due to injuries or ineffectiveness. If anyone Giovanni Moran or Caleb Thelbar Turns into a pumpkin, it would be nice to plug in a Sisk for a week or two. The same goes for Cruz, especially if he’s been driving the ball well at the time. It probably won’t hurt them, but it could, and that’s as negative as I can get on this trade.
Overall, I give it two thumbs up on both sides. The twins have needed someone like Taylor for years, and they’ve consistently failed to find a good match. In the past three years, the most notable midfielder outside of Buxton has been Celestino, Rob Refsnyderand cave. The Royals need talent and control on a team, and Taylor won’t exactly be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. When you put it this way, it’s not surprising that two sub-par rivals found common ground.