The Twins face major decisions Friday at baseball's non-tender deadline, and some arbitration-eligible players' short stints with the team could be coming to a close.
The most likely to leave: Gio Urshela and Emilio Pagan.
The Twins have eight salary arbitration-eligible players on the roster and must offer them a tender by 6 p.m. Friday or lose them to free agency. One, batting champ Luis Arraez, is a no-brainer. Pitchers Tyler Mahle, Jorge Lopez, Caleb Thielbar, Chris Paddack and Jorge Alcala are likely still part of the Twins' plans in 2023 and beyond.
But Urshela and Pagan present interesting cases, for different reasons.
Urshela came to the Twins in spring training from the Yankees and immediately filled the third base spot Josh Donaldson vacated. The 31-year-old native of Colombia has seven big-league seasons with four teams, but he's never been a standout at any of those stops.
Still, Urshela quietly held down the left side of the infield, turning strong defensive plays alongside shortstop Carlos Correa. And he reached a career high of 144 games, hitting .285 — including a .333 average in September and October — with 64 RBI and 13 home runs.
"We use the term 'unsung hero.' … He's been a constant from the day he showed up here in his work, in his play, offensively, defensively, in the clubhouse. He's been a really, really good addition to our group," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Urshela after an October game. "He sets the tone. He's the guy that's in the dugout at the exact same time every single day, 21 minutes before the game. And then he goes out there, and he plays like that when the game starts."
The hang-up is salary. He could earn $9.2 million through arbitration, a big bump from the $6.55 million he made this season. That number would make him the third-highest paid Twins player behind centerfielder Byron Buxton ($15 million) and starting pitcher Sonny Gray ($12.7 million).
The Twins also need some capital to fill their shortstop need, with Correa opting out of the rest of his contract.
Should the Twins let Urshela walk, they do have a succession plan, necessary given a cool free agent market for third basemen. Third base is Jose Miranda's primary position. The rookie had a breakout year, batting .268 with 66 RBI and 15 home runs while playing mainly at first base. Urshela's absence would allow Miranda to find a home at third while utilityman Arraez could finally settle in at one position, first base.
Pagan's predicament has more to do with performance, since the reliever is in line to make $3.7 million next season through arbitration. The 31-year-old came to the Twins from the Padres before Opening Day and struggled pretty much from the start. In 63 innings through 59 games, he collected a 4.43 ERA and 4-6 record, allowing 12 home runs. He was responsible for seven blown games officially, though he was a part of a handful more, including some notable ones against eventual Central Division champion Cleveland.
"Emilio is a tough conversation because there were some really rough outcomes through the course of the season, and no one felt worse about those than Emilio did," said Derek Falvey, president of baseball operations. "At the same time, there were aspects of what Emilio did well that we saw. We saw the ability to get swing and miss, to find a way to go two innings at times. ... But I recognize some of the batted-ball outcomes and the home runs and some of those big moments were challenging."
Paddack's season ended after Tommy John surgery, and he'll likely miss most or all of next season as well. The team has control of him through 2024.