Does Adding Josh Donaldson Make The Minnesota Twins A Significant Challenger To The Yankees?

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Does Adding Josh Donaldson Make The Minnesota Twins A Significant Challenger To The Yankees?

Post by admin » Fri Jan 17, 2020 7:56 am

In a few weeks preseason forecasts will start emerging first in annual baseball preview magazines and then in newspapers towards the end of spring training.

Many will project the Yankees to be a clear favorite in the American League, especially after adding Gerrit Cole and perhaps even more so with the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox in the wake of the sign stealing scandal after the findings of the investigation led the firings of managers A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora.

That news happened Monday and Tuesday. Another significant event that occurred Tuesday were reports of Josh Donaldson signing with the Minnesota Twins, a team whose 101 wins were two fewer than the Yankees last season and a team who set the all-time record with 307 homers, earning the moniker of "The Bomba Squad."

By adding Donaldson and being under the belief the Astros and Red Sox are weakened following the implications of the cheating scandal, it is natural to wonder if the Twins are the team who can challenge the Yankees for frontrunner status in the American League.

If they are, that would be a good thing for the Twins since it would avoid a division series matchup with the Yankees. Entering last year's ALDS, it was believed to be the most evenly matched series of the five times the Twins and Yankees have faced off.

That was way wrong as the Yankees outscored the Twins by a 23-7 margin in a three-game sweep.

But this year while the Yankees biggest move was getting Cole and signing him to the biggest contract to a free agent pitcher, the Twins improved by adding Donaldson, a player who has a history of success against New York teams in both leagues.

Donaldson earned the four-year, $92 million deal by hitting 37 homers in 155 games with Atlanta and producing a .900 OPS. He hit nine of those homers with a .388 average against the Mets, giving Met fans similar nightmares as Yankee fans during his peak years in Toronto.

Donaldson emerged on the scene as a big-time power hitter in his final two seasons in Oakland when he hit 53 homers in 2013-14. Upon being dealt to Toronto, he continued it with 41 homers and 123 RBIs in his MVP season of 2015, 37 homers in 2016 and 33 in 2017 when he was limited to 113 games due to injury.

In those seasons, he hit 10 homers against the Yankees, though it seemed like it was more. In the first two seasons in Toronto, the Yankees lost the AL East to Toronto due to Donaldson's presence.

Donaldson's presence doesn't guarantee anything but the Twins are playing in the AL Central where there should be able to rack up wins against the Royals and Tigers, who made incremental moves. They could face their main competition from the retooled Chicago White Sox, who added Dallas Keuchel and Yasmani Grandal as pieces around a young core. They could also face a decent competition from the Cleveland Indians, even after they dealt ace Corey Kluber to Texas.

Outslugging teams worked significantly well as Minnesota set a major league record by having five players hit 30 homers or more. The group of Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver combined to slug 172 homers.

The Twins being a strong second-best team would have been enhanced if they added to their starting pitching by signing one of the trio of Madison Bumgarner, Zack Wheeler and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The trio of free agent pitchers signed contracts that combine for 14 years, $283 million.

The good news for the Twins is only Ryu signed with an American League team when he agreed to a four-year deal worth $80 million.

The Twins wound up spending $20 million to retain Michael Pineda for the next two seasons and Jake Odorizzi accepted the $17.8 million qualifying offer. They also are taking their chances on Homer Bailey, who has an extensive injury history but also went 13-9 last season. They also gambling on Rich Hill, who will be a 40-year-old recovering from elbow surgery.

Plenty of teams have gotten by the regular season and piled up wins with outslugging and adequate pitching but if there was a year for the Twins to finally challenge the Yankees for AL supremacy perhaps this is it given the unsavory events that have unfolded with Boston and Houston.

Houston still is the AL favorite but could be facing more competition in the AL West with Oakland always finding a way and Texas and the Los Angeles Angels making improvements. Boston took a step back with spotty starting pitching that led to 84 wins after a championship in 2018 and the Red Sox have not added much this offseason.

There may be a time when the Twins actually are better than the Yankees. For skeptics who have seen the postseason between the two teams, it's a believe it when they see it kind of thing. By adding Donaldson, perhaps this is the year the Twins go neck-and-neck with the Yankees for the best record in the AL and avoid them in the nightmare known as the Division Series.

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