Twins Daily Roundtable: Biggest Off-Season Need
Image courtesy of Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY SportsJohn Bonnes
Can I be so vague as to say "a middle-of-the-order bat?" The lineup's strength this year was supposed to be its depth, and that still might be the case with anticipated growth from Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. But when the middle-of-the-order bats fail to live up to their expectations, the team is left with an average offense. And a few injuries and it quickly becomes below average.
This offseason shouldn't be about filling in pieces. It should be about finding some foundational cornerstones upon whom the Twins can rely for the next four seasons at least.
How many times have I got to say this? Willians Astudillo lifetime contract. That's item No. 1.
Once that's worked out, the Twins are going to need to focus on quality. They already have quantity, but not a ton of players you can truly count on. I'd say the biggest need would be to find a threat to put into the middle of the lineup. I'm not confident Miguel Sano ever gets back to what he was, and as much as I love Eddie Rosario, if he's the best slugger in your 2019 lineup, you've got issues.
The pitching staff has its share of needs to address as well, but it's really difficult to win without a lineup that's able to produce on a consistent basis.
To a certain extent, the answer probably always needs to be pitching. It's great that the Twins have given Gonsalves, De Jong, Littell, and Stewart some run here down the stretch. It has been equally beneficial to see Andrew Vasquez coming out of the pen. The reality however, is that none of them look like anything close to a certainty opening the 2019 season.
Minnesota should have Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Jose Berrios penned into the rotation, but things are less certain behind them. Fernando Romero is likely a near lock to start in the big leagues, but another mid-to-upper level arm would be a big plus. The bullpen will need some retooling as well with the departures 2018 has seen take place. Although you can make arguments for bats around the diamond, lots depends on how the Twins want to configure their in-house options.
To me, one of the biggest issues with 2018 was the underperformance of key pieces in the line-up. That being said, players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Jose Berrios need to take the next step. If the Twins are going to contend, their young players need to turn into the team’s most valuable pieces.
Sano has already been discussing his weight and he hopes to come into next season after a strong off-season spent between Fort Myers and the Dominican Republic. Buxton needs to prove he can stay healthy and handle the rigors of a full big-league season. Berrios was an All-Star but there is certainly some room for improvement after some up and down moments this year. Kepler might never be a middle of the order bat, but he could certainly become more consistent.
There are obviously plenty of holes to fill in the roster but the Twins need their young core to take the next step.
With the Twins underachieving this year they sent off several veteran contributors and newcomers at the trade deadline, opening plenty of holes or questions for the 2019 season. Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Ryan Pressly, Lance Lynn, Fernando Rodney, and Zach Duke all found themselves in new places. That was nearly a quarter of their opening day roster.
You had an All Star second baseman, an extra-base-hitting-machine, shutdown set-up man, mid-rotation starter, and a closer in that group. You might lose Joe Mauer to retirement as well. Point is there are a lot of needs for this team.
When you ask me for the biggest need I’ll always point to starting pitching, however. Jose Berrios has had a great season and made the first of hopefully many All-Star teams, but he still has some development to turn into that “ace” we all covet. Thankfully the Twins lost out on Yu Darvish last year, but every team must spend money on pitchers at some point if they want to contend. With the payroll space they will have this offseason, they should shoot as high as they can to help their rotation.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Shifting Service Time
The Looming Mauer Decision
Grading the Front Office