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Twins enter 2018 looking to build on success

Front office sees Minnesota going in right direction after surprise run to AL Wild Card Game
MLB.com @RhettBollinger

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a six-year postseason drought, things are looking up for the Twins, who have one of the youngest teams in baseball and are coming off a surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game in 2017.

The front office, led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, is looking to build a consistent winner going forward, and it believes Minnesota is going in the right direction -- but can still get better.

MINNEAPOLIS -- After a six-year postseason drought, things are looking up for the Twins, who have one of the youngest teams in baseball and are coming off a surprise run to the American League Wild Card Game in 2017.

The front office, led by Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, is looking to build a consistent winner going forward, and it believes Minnesota is going in the right direction -- but can still get better.

Here's a look at five questions facing the Twins in 2018 after their successful '17 season:

Will Minnesota acquire a front-line starter?
The Twins have already signed Michael Pineda to a two-year deal and closer Fernando Rodney to a one-year pact with a club option, but they remain highly interested in the top starters available in free agency: Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Minnesota could also go the trade route, but the front office has made it clear that acquiring a top-of-the-rotation starter is a priority this offseason.

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Video: Levine happy to add Pineda to the Twins

Which contracts will be extended?
The front office has made it clear it would like to explore extensions with its young core of players, such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler. Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario are also candidates, while veterans such as Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer are in the final years of their contracts. The Twins, though, aren't going to focus on potential extensions until Spring Training, once they turn their focus away from free agency. Dozier and Mauer are the two biggest leaders in the clubhouse, and it'll be interesting to see if either is re-signed past this season.

Will Buxton take another step forward?
With his tools, the sky is the limit for Buxton, who could develop into one of the game's premier players. He's already the best defensive player in baseball, winning the Platinum Glove Award and being named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, and his Sprint Speed is the fastest, according to Statcast™. He broke out offensively in the second half, hitting .300/.347/.546 with 11 homers and 13 stolen bases in 57 games, and if he can replicate anything close to those kinds of numbers, he could be a Most Valuable Player Award candidate. But it's hard to predict how young players will do, as his inconsistencies on offense could continue. Either way, it'll be fun to see how Buxton develops.

Video: Buxton to showcase defense, improving offense in 2018

How will the bullpen fare?
The Twins solved their short-term need for a closer by signing Rodney, but the bullpen remains inexperienced. Minnesota could add another reliever via free agency or trade to join Rodney, as strikeouts remain an issue. The Twins will mostly count on youngsters such as Trevor Hildenberger, Alan Busenitz and Taylor Rogers while hoping Ryan Pressly and Tyler Duffey bounce back. Trevor May is a wild card who will get stretched out to start coming off Tommy John surgery, but he could be moved to the bullpen.

Video: Bollinger on impact of Twins inking Rodney

Will the Twins make the postseason again?
Minnesota was perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball last year with its run to the AL Wild Card Game, but now it'll be playing with expectations. Other clubs with similar records, such as the Yankees and the Angels, have made several high-profile moves, which makes the Twins' road to the postseason even more difficult. Much of it depends on how that young core fares and if Minnesota has enough starting pitching to contend.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

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