Last season, there were strong teams in both leagues, with three teams winning 100 games or more. The Twins finished at 87-75, enough to win the AL Central by nine games, but it was the lowest win total of any division winner. Before free agency starts, clubs must evaluate their own roster and decide on their individual needs.
FanGraphs and MLB.com combined resources to compile a list of the best rosters entering the offseason. As part of these rankings, Mike Petriello used FanGraphs’ depth charts and projects to find each team’s highest needs while ranking the clubs based on their current roster. Here’s a look at how the Twins ranked and some other questions facing the club this winter.
How High Do the Twins Rank?
Honestly, I clicked on the article and thought the Twins would rank in the middle of the pack. So I was surprised to see that MLB.com ranked the Twins as the sixth-best roster (41.3 WAR) entering the offseason. The teams ranking higher than the Twins are the Braves (51.4), Astros (46.6), Rays (45.9), Blue Jays (42.2), and Dodgers (41.5). It’s an interesting list of teams ahead of the Twins, with three teams winning 99+ games last season and the other two being Minnesota’s playoff opponents from last season. Also, the Twins are less than 1.0 WAR from moving into fourth place. Overall, it is an exciting place to start the winter, but there are other questions to answer.
How Will the Twins Replace Sonny Gray?
The Twins aren’t re-signing Gray, so the club must look into other options to fill his pivotal role at the top of the rotation. Internal options exist to recoup some of Gray’s lost value, including Chris Paddack and Louie Varland. However, neither of these pitchers is expected to perform at a Cy Young caliber level, and the Twins will want at least one more playoff-caliber starter. Last winter, the club traded for Pablo Lopez and developed him into one of the league’s best pitchers. The front office is expected to attempt to trade from the club's position player depth to improve the rotation.
How Can the Twins Fill Holes in Center Field and First Base?
According to FanGraphs ' depth chart and projections, center field and first base are the club’s other needs. Byron Buxton didn’t log a single inning in center field last season, and Michael A. Taylor is heading to free agency. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Kevin Kiermaier, an elite defensive player, but he comes with his own injury history. There is a chance the Twins could turn center field over to a prospect like Austin Martin or DaShawn Keirsey, which likely wouldn’t happen until later in the season.
The Twins received positive news regarding Alex Kirilloff’s shoulder surgery, giving hope that he can fully recover and produce at the big-league level. He’s missed significant time in recent seasons with various injuries, so his inclusion in the line-up is not guaranteed. Minnesota can try to work Jose Miranda back into the mix at first base after he missed time with his own shoulder injury. Another option is to give Edouard Julien more time at first base, which seems like an appropriate adjustment for his sophomore season.
Where Do the Other AL Central Teams Rank?
Based on current rosters and projections, the Twins are the odds-on-favorites to win the AL Central. Cleveland, 15th overall, is the closest team to Minnesota in the rankings and sits 4.4 WAR behind the Twins. Detroit finished ahead of Cleveland last season, but the Tigers rank 23rd with a 31.7 WAR. The Royals (26th) and the White Sox (29th) rank among the baseball’s bottom five teams, with the Rockies being the lone team with a worse WAR than Chicago. The Twins should easily win a second consecutive division title in MLB’s worst division.
How Does Payroll Dropping Impact These Projections?
Last week, reports surfaced from the GM meetings that the Twins payroll is expected to be $15-30 million below last season’s $155 million total. The team’s current revenue tied to its TV deal is in flux for next season, which is the biggest reason for the decrease in spending. Minnesota will likely trade away veteran players like Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Kyle Farmer to clear some money off the books. With less veteran depth, the Twins will likely see their projected WAR drop unless they improve their starting pitching.
What are your thoughts on these rankings? Do the Twins have a top-10 roster entering the offseason? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.