The Twins certainly kept their fans guessing this off-season about how they would address the vacancy at SS. In 2021, it was Andrelton Simmons at the position, providing lots of defense, but not much in the way of offense. He was only signed to a 1 year deal, at the time it was assumed that he was just keeping the position warm for prospect Royce Lewis. Instead, Lewis had an ACL tear which ended his 2021 season in Spring Training. This was especially troubling because the 2020 season was lost for Lewis due to the pandemic and no Minor League season being played.
So what were the Twins going to do for 2022?
Luis Arraez - If you can't find a free agent or trade option, and the prospects aren't ready yet, you've got to turn to your 26 Man roster. Luis Arraez was used all over the field in 2021, though SS was not one of those places. He appeared at SS 8 times in his major league career, all in his rookie year of 2019, before a couple knee surgeries. The early rumors were that the Twins might try an infield of Donaldson at 3B, Polanco at 2B, and Arraez as the everyday SS. This thankfully for all involved did not happen. I love Luis Arraez, he's versatile in the field and an extremely entertaining hitter but to play him at short is not putting him in a position to be successful.
Jorge Polanco -
Not so long ago, Jorge Polanco was the starting Shortstop for the AL at the All-Star Game. Why not have him go back to Short? Arraez can play 2B, Donaldson at 3B, and there you go! Well, not so fast... Polanco was moved off of SS for reasons very similar to Arraez. An ankle injury torpedoed Polanco's 2020 season, and his speed and defensive range were tested throughout the season, when he was healthy enough to play. For 2021, the Twins added Andrelton Simmons so Polanco's bat could stay in the lineup and provide defense at 2B. Even so, the off-season word was that the Twins might consider moving Polanco back, at least until the young guns were ready to go. Not ideal, to be sure, as Polanco proved he was able to capably play 2B and stay in the lineup for a full season, AND most importantly, put up big offensive numbers at the same time.
Royce Lewis - All this talk about giving the prospects time to develop made some fans wonder . . . maybe don't? Royce Lewis was the #1 overall draft pick in 2017, and had been making steady progress through the minors when COVID hit in 2020 and wiped out the minor league season. Even so, the prevailing thought was that Lewis could debut in 2021, and presumably take the everyday gig by Opening Day 2022. That is, until he tore his ACL in Spring Training 2021. Even with that injury, there was talk that a strong Spring might convince the Twins to let Lewis loose on the league after all. It's for the best that they will let him learn and develop instead.
Austin Martin - arriving along with Simeon Woods-Richardson from the Blue Jays in the Jose Berrios trade, Austin Martin is listed as a short stop. The book on Martin, however, seems to imply that his big league position might be in the outfield or 3rd base rather than short. There wasn't really much chance of Martin being the Twins' everyday SS to begin the 2022 season, but it was still possible if they didn't want to go with Lewis, and didn't add anyone in a trade or free agency.
Jermaine Palacios - Wasn't going to happen, but Palacios remains an interesting prospect. He was originally signed by the Twins in 2014 as an international free agent. He was included in a trade to Tampa for Jake Odorizzi in 2016, then came back to the Twins in 2020 as a minor league free agent. He spent 2021 in AA Wichita, and started showing some power for the first time in his professional career. He had 19 homers to go along with 18 stolen bases. He's been with the Major League club all spring in 2022, but he's likely going to start the year back in the minors. He's still only going to be 25 this season.Isiah Kiner-Falefa -
If you're not comfortable with the internal options, it's time to make a trade. Adding Kiner-Falefa cost the Twins dearly, as they traded away arguably one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. The need for a steady defender at SS was obvious, and IKF certainly can provide that for the Twins. Throw in a minor league pitching prospect, and Texas, you've got yourself a deal!
Gio Urshela - Um, ok then, just trade Kiner-Falefa away, I guess. So... now what? Gio Urshela is going to play SS? But who's playing at 3B, you also traded away Donaldson. Arraez at 3B? I guess that might not be the worst thing. Heck, I like Gio Urshela. I wanted the Twins to get him when the Yankees got him back in 2018 off waivers from Toronto. He was a great fielder in Cleveland, I was a reluctant admirer of his for years, so why not? Yeah, I can warm up to this plan. I bet Urshela can play SS just fine. But he's probably better at 3B. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.
Trevor Story - Now this is exciting! Rumor has it after the trade with New York that the Twins were still not done shopping. They've been linked to Trevor Story, which would maybe seem out of character for the Twins, but remember they overpaid to get Josh Donaldson a few years ago, so the old song and dance about the penny pinching Pohlads (Twins' team Owners) is officially played out. They spent to keep Buxton too, so there's some reason to believe they'd at least make an offer to Story. The type of deal he's looking for is very steep for the Twins (or most teams, really), but it would be hard to top this player in the lineup. There are questions about his bat away from Coors, so it might be an overpay, but I think of the total package. Story is not only a slugger. He's an excellent defender and an elite baserunner. He provides value regardless. If the Twins could sign Story, they'd instantly improve.
Sub-Zero (Bi-Han) - I ranked all of these in order of the likelihood of the Twins' starting each player as their Opening Day SS. Here's what I learned about Sub-Zero from the Mortal Kombat Wiki: Before his death, Bi-Han was the original Sub-Zero, one of the most powerful and devout warriors of the Lin Kuei clan. While essentially neutral, he was a cold-blooded, vicious assassin whose soul had become corrupted from years of violence and remorseless killing. All traits that lend well to the middle infield, I'd say. It might cause some issues with the League Office, though.
Carlos Correa - This was by far the least likely possibility, at least in the minds of Twins fans. Correa was almost certainly getting a contract like Corey Seager (10 years, $325 Million), seeing as he's younger and has an even better track record. The #1 Overall pick of the 2012 Draft, Correa has won a Platinum Glove (Gold Glove plus the best overall fielder at any position in the league), is a 2 time All-Star (remember that Polanco beat him out in one of those years), was the 2015 Rookie of the Year, and is coming off a season in which he piled up a career best 7.2 WAR. He was the biggest name free agent this off-season, and somehow the Twins managed to sign him. His contract has an opt out after this season (and after next season if he decides to stay), but that only seems to make the deal better for both sides. If he opts out it means he had a great season, which is exactly what the Twins want. He makes his Spring Training debut for the Twins tomorrow!