The Twins have plenty of challenges this offseason if they are serious about putting a competitive, contending team on the field for 2022. Finding a shortstop shouldn't be one of them.
But it is.
Their carefully constructed plan to prepare 2017 No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis to be ready to take over next season was ruined when Lewis suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during February workouts and was forced to miss all of 2021.
So for the second consecutive offseason, add finding a solution at short to the Twins' offseason goals. Those goals include crafting a quality starting rotation and making another run at signing Byron Buxton to a long-term deal. But one of the premium positions on the field needs attention as well, as Andrelton Simmons, who was signed to a one-year deal, is not expected to be brought back.
Before I offer my solution, some background is needed.
Once the Twins decided to move Jorge Polanco to second base, they envisioned bringing in a quality glove at short who also would be able to take Lewis under his wing and provide guidance that would help Lewis make a smoother transition to playing shortstop in the major leagues.
Simmons wasn't their first option for the role. The Twins held multiple conversations with Marcus Semien about a one-year deal in which he could mentor Lewis while building his market value for the following offseason. The Twins liked their chances to sign Semien. But he signed with the Blue Jays, where he played all 162 games in 2021 — mostly at second base — while batting .265 with 45 home runs and 102 RBI.
It was after missing out on Semien that the Twins eventually signed Simmons for $10.5 million.
A year later, they are right back where they were at the end of 2020.Options ...
Lewis? He still hasn't played a game at Class AAA.
Austin Martin? He's in the fold, here now as part of the package from Toronto in exchange for Jose Berrios. Both Lewis and Martin can play center field as well and will have to prove they can stick at short.
Veteran signing? Yes, the mentorship program is once again an option for 2022.
"I would say that we are definitely open to that conversation again, for the same reason we were a year ago: the development, the mentorships of young shortstops," President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said. "We're going to spend some time this offseason with Austin Martin, too, in terms of his work there. I know he has a desire to continue to work on the dirt and play in the infield, too. So, we're hoping we have a couple of guys in the mix there that can go play shortstop and be in the mix in the middle of the diamond."
Semien will join a loaded shortstop free-agent class that includes Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and others who will land lucrative multiyear deals. But given the dire situation with the Twins rotation — rookies Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober will be their top two returning starters — any penny spent by the Twins should be allocated to improving the staff, buttressing the bullpen or re-signing Buxton.
The answer is right in front of Falvey.
They already have a power-hitting middle infielder in Polanco, who batted .269 with 33 home runs and 98 RBI this season. He has played 495 games in his career at short and occasionally played there this season.
Making Polanco the everyday shortstop again is the solution. He's not an elite defender there — some defensive metrics are not kind to him —so theTwins would have to hope he can be adequate there.
Luis Arraez and Nick Gordon can share second. Polanco can tutor Lewis and Martin as they fine-tune their games. Once one of them is ready. Polanco can move back to second and Arraez and Gordon can move around the field.
Make Polanco a shortstop again. Spend the money on pitching.