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Odorizzi deal shows Twins plan to contend again

If Minnesota adds another top arm, it could cement place in AL's elite
MLB.com @RichardJustice

As first steps go, the Twins could hardly have done better than right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Now what? Isn't that the bottom line? If this is the only upgrade to Minnesota's rotation, it may not be enough.

Not in the American League Central, where the Indians are heavily favored to win again -- and not in an AL Wild Card race that could have the Red Sox, Angels and Blue Jays all competing for the two berths.

As first steps go, the Twins could hardly have done better than right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Now what? Isn't that the bottom line? If this is the only upgrade to Minnesota's rotation, it may not be enough.

Not in the American League Central, where the Indians are heavily favored to win again -- and not in an AL Wild Card race that could have the Red Sox, Angels and Blue Jays all competing for the two berths.

On the other hand, this strange offseason still has all kinds of possibilities -- and that, almost certainly, is what the Twins are thinking. Odorizzi alone isn't enough. Not for a team this close.

The Twins acquired Odorizzi from the Rays on Saturday for shortstop prospect Jermaine Palacios. Odorizzi is still two seasons from free agency, and his $6.3 million salary should leave enough payroll space for another addition.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Luckily for the Twins, three top free-agent starters -- Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn -- remain on the market. Putting any of them alongside Odorizzi would create a strong 1-2 punch in front of youngsters Jose Berrios and Adalberto Mejia.

Here's the exciting part for Twins fans. Once ace Ervin Santana returns from surgery on his right middle finger in May or June, it would give Minnesota a rotation capable of playing deep into October.

Video: Falvey on Twins' improvement, looking to 2018

At the very least, it would send a message to every player in the Twins' organization that this front office believes in this group of players and is going to give them every chance to make a second straight trip to the postseason.

The Twins surprised plenty of people last season by making the postseason for the first time since 2010 (before losing the AL Wild Card Game to the Yankees). They got there by riding a young core of position players -- especially center fielder Byron Buxton, who played like a franchise cornerstone after the All-Star break (.893 OPS with eight doubles, five triples, 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases in 57 games).

Along with shortstop Jorge Polanco, third baseman Miguel Sano, left fielder Eddie Rosario and right fielder Max Kepler, the Twins have a great core of players age 26 or younger.

With executive vice president and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey adding Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney to the back of his bullpen, the Twins are on the cusp of making this a great baseball summer in the Twin Cities.

Video: Outlook: Rodney can still be effective as a closer

Odorizzi averaged 30 starts and 167 innings over the past four seasons in Tampa Bay. His 3.81 ERA over that span in a tough AL East seems to translate nicely to the AL Central, and he'll only be 28 years old on Opening Day.

When the Twins have Odorizzi and Santana at the top of their rotation, they will be in a great spot. Mejia and Berrios are high-ceiling young guys, and Minnesota's top pitching prospect, Stephen Gonsalves, could make his debut this summer.

If the Twins get to the postseason again, who knows what can happen? That's one of the lessons of this era of parity in baseball. Regardless, it's cool to see a franchise slide its cards onto the table and say, "We're in for this season."

One more move ought to do it.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Minnesota Twins, Jake Odorizzi