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5 questions facing Twins this offseason

September 30, 2019

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's no question that 2019 was a ringing success for the Twins organization. Minnesota stunned Cleveland, as the Twins brought their fans their first American League Central championship since 2010. That occurred due to a combination of powerful free-agent signings -- headlined by Nelson Cruz, one of the

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's no question that 2019 was a ringing success for the Twins organization.

Minnesota stunned Cleveland, as the Twins brought their fans their first American League Central championship since 2010. That occurred due to a combination of powerful free-agent signings -- headlined by Nelson Cruz, one of the most successful acquisitions in club history -- and intelligent player development, during which several homegrown stars took big steps forward and unheralded pitchers blossomed into capable Major Leaguers.

Even with a 101-win campaign, a postseason berth and MLB's all-time single-season home run record in the rearview mirror, it doesn't look like the Twins are done. Most of that successful young core in the lineup and bullpen will remain intact for years to come. Several of the organization's top prospects -- Royce Lewis, Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach -- are knocking at the door of the Majors, and, in Brusdar Graterol's case, have already arrived.

That doesn't mean that it will be an easy offseason for chief baseball officer Derek Falvey, general manager Thad Levine, manager Rocco Baldelli and the club's support staff. Here are five questions that the Twins will face this winter.

1. What will the starting rotation look like in 2020?

This is, without question, the biggest uncertainty that the Twins face as they enter this offseason. Minnesota's five primary starters -- José Berríos, Jake Odorizzi, Kyle Gibson, Martín Pérez and Michael Pineda -- combined to make 145 of the Twins' 162 starts this season, but only Berríos is currently a lock for the 2020 rotation.

First, the Twins will need to figure out which of their impending free agents they want to bring back. Gibson is a homegrown player that has set down roots in Minnesota and has openly expressed his desire to return to the team. But he's coming off a challenging season due to health issues. Odorizzi, coming off an All-Star year, will likely seek a multiyear commitment. Pineda was the Twins' most consistent starter in the second half, but he will miss the first 39 games of the '20 campaign due to his suspension.

The Twins will also need to evaluate their Minor League talent to see if they might fill some vacancies from within. Randy Dobnak has emerged as a clear candidate following his phenomenal conclusion to '19, and Devin Smeltzer, Lewis Thorpe and potentially Stephen Gonsalves could figure into the conversation.

2. Will the Twins make a splashy offseason move?

The final piece of that puzzle will be for the Twins to decide whether or not the time -- and price -- is right to make a major move in free agency or via trades. The Twins certainly have the talent in a deep farm system to move the needle in the trade market with lower-level prospects like Wander Javier or Jordan Balazovic. Levine has also indicated in the past that the current timing could be right for such a move.

"My view ... is the best time to acquire players of that magnitude is when your window to win is wide open -- not when you’re got your fingers underneath the window and you’re trying to jam the window open," Levine said last offseason. "I want to do it when we’re projected to win the Central, and we’re ready to put our foot on someone’s throat."

The Twins likely don't have room around the diamond for a player like Anthony Rendon, but there could definitely be space in the rotation for someone like Zack Wheeler, or perhaps even Gerrit Cole.

3. How will the Twins handle a crowded outfield situation?

This is more a long-term question than short-term. Assuming good health, the Twins' starting outfield will almost certainly remain Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler for the time being. But that picture could get quite crowded as soon as next season.

Not only are Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade Jr. also capable Major League outfielders, but top prospects Kirilloff (No. 2 in the organization) and Larnach (No. 5) should climb the ladder to Minnesota in the next two seasons to further complicate the picture. Rosario is under team control through 2021. Buxton? 2022. Kepler? 2023, and potentially 2024.

As is often said in baseball, roster crunches like this tend to have a way of sorting themselves out. But could the Twins think about using some of their projected outfield depth as trade chips this offseason?

4. Which relievers will be stretched back out?

It's difficult to foresee how the expansion of the active roster to 26 players next season will impact the composition and usage of pitching staffs around the league, but the Twins' all-hands-on-deck bullpen usage in 2019 involved several career starters in the Minor Leagues being converted to relief roles.

Zack Littell and Fernando Romero appear likely to remain relievers for the foreseeable future. Others like Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe and Devin Smeltzer will likely be stretched back out to starting roles. But how about the intriguing cases of youngsters Graterol and Jorge Alcala?

There's undoubtedly a ton of potential for Graterol, the Twins' No. 3 prospect, as a possible frontline starter, but could the Twins be tempted by the possibility of Graterol pumping triple-digits out of the bullpen instead of continuing to develop as a starter in Triple-A? Alcala is also a career starter, but the 24-year-old has seen more success since he was converted to relief earlier this summer.

5. Will the Twins face turnover on the coaching staff?

Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost both elected to retire from baseball. The Padres have already let go of manager Andy Green, the Cubs are parting ways with Joe Maddon and Clint Hurdle's tenure in Pittsburgh is over. All that's to say: There are already a lot of teams in the market for managerial help this offseason.

The Twins have several talented coaches that could draw interest on a staff that helped to guide Minnesota to a franchise-record 102 wins and an AL Central title. Bench coach Derek Shelton, who has been a deeply valuable and experienced voice at Baldelli's side, and hitting coach James Rowson, who directed the record-breaking Bomba Squad, were reportedly in the mix for managerial vacancies last offseason and could be considered again.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.