Free-agent signings have dominated the early stage of the MLB offseason, with more than $3 billion in contracts being handed out while few noteworthy trades have been completed. Even the Twins, who have signed just one free agent to a major-league contract in Christian Vázquez, were so focused on their pursuit of Carlos Correa that trades have been put on the back burner until now.
“Trade markets tend to take more shape after free-agent markets have dried up to some degree,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said last week at the Winter Meetings in San Diego. “If teams can use their free-agent dollars to access that same talent, they prefer to do that. There are times when you have to be patient waiting out whatever the market is going to bear.”
At some point there’s going to be a run on trades — across MLB and specifically in Minnesota — and when that happens Max Kepler is the Twins’ most obvious trade candidate. Part of the Twins’ core for the past seven years, Kepler is now coming off a career-worst season and turns 30 soon. He’s also entering the last guaranteed year of his contract, with younger alternatives waiting in the wings.
Falvey declined to comment publicly about the possibility of trading Kepler, but did discuss why the Twins may be inclined to deal from the MLB roster rather than dipping further into a depleted farm system and why trading from an area of depth is always preferable. And left-handed-hitting outfielders are certainly an area of depth for the Twins, in the majors and the high minors.
“Your hope sometimes is that you find a need-for-need match,” Falvey said of trade talks. “Maybe there’s a balance in an area you feel you have a little depth. Maybe an area where there’s a match or a fit. Some of those conversations have been happening right now, but I would say that at this stage there’s a free-agent conversation that needs to happen before people shift to the trades.”
Kepler has been too unproductive for too long to be the centerpiece of a trade that nets a star player or top prospect in return, but league sources confirm the Twins’ internal belief that he still has positive trade value relative to a contract that will pay him $8.5 million in 2023 and a $10 million option or $1 million buyout in 2024.