Posted on February 14, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Minnesota Twins
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Despite not accomplishing anything of substance in recent years, the Minnesota Twins have a lot of confidence in the young core of their team. On Thursday, they gave contract extensions to two of those young players. Both shortstop Jorge Polanco and outfielder Max Kepler have been signed to long-term deals that will make them financially set and keep them in Minnesota for many years to come.

The 25-year-old Polanco isn’t even set for his first year of arbitration until next offseason. Nevertheless, the Twins have given him a five-year deal worth $25.75 million. That will take care of all of his arbitration years, as well as his first year of free agency. His deal also includes two option years for the 2024 and 2025 seasons, potentially keeping him with the Twins for seven more seasons.

The switch-hitting Polanco has become a consistent offensive force since becoming Minnesota’s primary shortstop midway through the 2016 season. Obviously, the team wasn’t pleased that he missed the first half of last season after testing positive for a banned substance. But he bounced back in the second half, hitting .288 with an OPS of .773. Eventually, he may be forced to second base or third base by his modest defensive abilities, as well as shortstop prospects Nick Gordon and Royce Lewis. However, Polanco is clearly in the team’s plans as an important catalyst at the top of their order.

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As for Kepler, the 26-year old German has received a five-year, $35 million extension. He had previously agreed to a $3.125 million deal in his first year of arbitration. But the Twins have bought out his arbitration years at an average of $7 million per season. There is also a $10 million club option for the 2024 season that could keep Kepler in the Twin Cities for six more years.

The rebuilding Twins have been patient with Kepler, who has served as the team’s primary right fielder the past three seasons. He has provided steady production and increasing amounts of power during that time, hitting a career-high 20 home runs last season. Kepler has also continued to improve his numbers against left-handed pitchers, indicating that he will continue to develop as an everyday player rather than a platoon player. He also grades out as one of the better defensive right fielders in the American League.

Minnesota is expected to formally announce the deals for Polanco and Kepler at a press conference Friday. However, manager Rocco Baldelli did make general comments about the importance of giving extensions to young players.

“If we’re able to do that, I think it’s not just a good thing for the individual; it’s a good thing for the group,” said Baldelli said. “Any time you can keep good people in the group together, it’s definitely a positive thing for everybody.”

Baldelli is referring to a young core that includes Polanco and Kepler, as well as Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano, as well as several members of the Minnesota pitching staff. That group of players is poised to stay together for many years to come. Outside of a trip to the Wild Card Game in 2017, success has eluded them to this point. However, the Twins clearly believe that keeping this group of players together long-term will lead to success in the not-too-distant future.

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