As the 2023 season began, Jorge Polanco was on the injured list and Edouard Julien was in Triple-A. By the time it ended, both were integral parts of the Twins’ lineup.
Polanco, the veteran, returned to the field and was his reliable self when he was healthy, and Julien, the rookie, had seemingly cemented himself in the Twins’ plans for years to come.
When the Twins left spring training camp in March, Polanco stayed back in Fort Myers, Fla., rehabbing from a knee injury that had cost him the end of the 2022 season as well. Before he returned, the Twins had called up Julien and given him his first taste in the major leagues. When Polanco came back on April 21, Julien was optioned back to Triple-A.
Julien returned to the majors a month later when Polanco landed on the injured list with a hamstring strain. When he returned, it was back to Triple-A again for Julien.
Polanco came back and suffered another hamstring strain and this time Julien was in the majors for good, getting called up on June 10 and cementing his place in the lineup. This time, when Polanco returned, the Twins had him shift over to third base.
Both players wound up seeing some time at designated hitter down the stretch.
Julien, in his rookie season, finished the year hitting .263 with a .840 on-base percentage and 16 home runs. Though his strength is certainly with his bat, Twins coaches applauded him for the work he put in to improve defensively.
Polanco, because of injury, wound up playing in 80 games, but posted a 115 OPS+ (100 is league average) when he was on the field.
The Twins will need to make some decisions — and soon.
They signed Polanco to a five-year extension ahead of the 2019 season with two club options. Within five days after the end of the World Series, they must decide if they are picking up Polanco’s $10.5 million club option.
It seems likely that they will.
Once that happens, the Twins will have to best decide how to configure their infield. Royce Lewis will be their starting third baseman, though Polanco can shift over there occasionally while also taking DH at-bats and seeing most of his playing time at second base. Julien can play a bit of first base, while also DHing and playing second base as well.
Or, the Twins could explore a trade for Polanco — who has an option for the 2025 season as well — with Julien occupying second base and Brooks Lee moving his way up the minor-league system. Lee has not played second base in the minor leagues but with Lewis at third and Carlos Correa entrenched at shortstop, perhaps it’s something that might be considered.
The Twins will also need to decide if they’re bringing back Kyle Farmer via arbitration. If they do, Farmer can move around the infield, playing some third, short and second.
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