An Offseason of Intrigue
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsLast winter free agents were met with a depressed market. Despite some players holding out and still finding acceptable deals, there were plenty of solid names to be had late in the game. As organizations see results indicating mega-deals to players at or beyond 30 years of age aren’t good business, the sport has begun to take corrective action. For Minnesota, the acquisitions were mainly of the one-year variety, and it was a plan the front office has since reconsidered.
Going into 2019, opportunity is present largely due to Minnesota having the fourth lowest amount of committed money. Accounting for Ervin Santana’s $1MM buyout, the Twins have just $33.5MM in guaranteed salaries for next season. Obviously that number will rise with players arbitration and pre-arbitration values, but regardless, there’s a significant chunk of change to be spent. If the payroll gets to something like $60MM before any additions, the front office should have roughly $50-60MM at their disposal to acquire talent. So, how do they use it?
Looking at the free agent landscape this offseason, it’s hard not to stare directly at the top. No one knows yet where Bryce Harper or Manny Machado will go. Pitchers like Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel headline available arms, but it falls off considerably behind them.
For Minnesota specifically, the greatest areas of improvement will be focused in the infield. Miguel Sano could stick at third, or he could be asked to take over for Joe Mauer at first base. Nick Gordon doesn’t yet appear ready for the big leagues, and Brian Dozier isn’t in the organization any longer. Although Jorge Polanco appears as though he can hold down short right now, there’s the possibility that a better option may exist.
Although it was a lost season for Byron Buxton, you’d have to consider it an upset if he’s not the Opening Day starter in center field. Eddie Rosario is entrenched as an All-Star, and Max Kepler is probably entering a make-or-break season. Jake Cave looks the part of a capable fourth outfielder, and the next emerging prospect could soon enter the picture. When shopping for talent, outfield doesn’t appear to be an area of great concern.
Falvey and Levine have helped to establish some relative pitching depth, which is something the Twins haven’t had in quite some time. With four of the rotation spots already accounted for, an upper echelon arm to take the fifth spot could make a good deal of sense. Michael Pineda didn’t debut in 2018 for the Twins, but that acquisition still looks like a worthwhile investment by the front office. With Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, and a handful of other prospects ready and waiting, there’s reason for optimism on the bump.
Really, what it all boils down to, is that the Twins need to knock this winter out of the park. After experiencing the level of turmoil this team did in 2018, a 78-win season is hardly bottoming out. Minnesota should be well positioned among the AL Central in 2019, and the competitionbelow them should continue to be lackluster.
Above them, Cleveland’s offseason path might be determined by their playoff performance. Starting the playoffs with a series against the World Champion Astros is no easy task. If you’re planning to bet one way or the other, Bovada will have the latest odds, so make sure to read their review if you’re looking to bet. However it goes, the Indians might conclude they need to add significant pieces now that they’re competing with the big boys.
The Twins are not at that level but we hope they will be, depending on the development of the likes of Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. That said, this offseason can help to supplement that core and carry the organization into the next era highlighted by Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff. If we saw anything from the Minnesota Twins and the divisional foes this season, it’s that this group isn’t all that far away. By locking down key talent both internally and externally, the corner could again be turned towards a situation of sustained excellence.
On paper, Falvey and Levine had a stellar offseason going into 2018. They can take the shortcomings that were revealed in game action and utilize that learning process to really nail it this time around. There are expectations now, and responsibility for meeting those expectations hinges on what happens over the next few months, and Minnesota fans should certainly buckle in for what should be an intriguing ride.
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