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Donaldson move a watershed moment for Twins

@dohyoungpark
January 23, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was almost exactly a year ago when Twins general manager Thad Levine sat in front of a crowd of fans on the club level of Target Field and claimed that he felt the right time for a major acquisition would be when his club was looking to

MINNEAPOLIS -- It was almost exactly a year ago when Twins general manager Thad Levine sat in front of a crowd of fans on the club level of Target Field and claimed that he felt the right time for a major acquisition would be when his club was looking to "put their foot down" and considered the favorites for the division.

Four years and $92 million worth of commitments to Josh Donaldson later, and the Twins are now thinking forward from their largest free-agent splash in franchise history, hoping that this move is a sign of things to come in what could be a long window of contention in the American League Central.

The highlights of Donaldson's Twins introduction

"Obviously, the ownership here gave [president of baseball operations Derek Falvey] and [general manager Thad Levine] a green light very early on to be aggressive and to pursue opportunities that were going to have impact and make us better," said Twins president Dave St. Peter. "Derek and Thad and the entire baseball operations group have worked incredibly diligently. There are no details left uncovered, so to speak."

While there was consternation among fans last offseason when the club added only Martín Pérez and Blake Parker to its pitching group, Minnesota also added Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez to round out a historic offense. The Twins' patience and player development group paid off in the form of a largely homegrown bullpen that consolidated into one of the best in baseball.

Coming off a 101-win season, Minnesota's young core proved that it's ready to win now, and after locking up Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sanó to long-term extensions, the time was right for the Twins to make that splashy move that Levine talked about a year ago.

With that in mind, the Twins did feel that they have a strong pitch to available top-level players and agents. Even when pitching targets like Zack Wheeler turned elsewhere, they maintained that the coaching staff, clubhouse environment and winning prospects would prove to be an extremely competitive pitch on the open market.

Due in part to the idea that the Twins' largest previous commitment to a free agent had been the four-year, $54 million deal accepted by Ervin Santana before the 2015 season, Falvey acknowledged the presence of the narrative among many fans that the Twins -- and Minnesota -- had not been an appealing destination. But he strongly denied that he's ever felt that to be a factor in actual negotiations -- other than as an asset.

"It's a narrative that’s out there because it's just what's happened," Falvey said. "It's fact. It transpired. I think current players, my experience with this ... is that current players, they look at the team. Do they want to be a part of that? And if the financial part of that lines up, great, they’ll move forward. I don't think we ever ran into a perception issue when we talked to other players or other agents about it."

"People love [manager Rocco Baldelli] and the staff and the group," Falvey added. "We heard a lot through this offseason, watching the team play last year how much fun the guys were having, how loose it was, the environment -- players like that. We knew that we were an attractive destination."

Their pitch was clearly good enough for Donaldson, and St. Peter hopes that the Twins can start to put that old narrative to bed and focus on the new storyline that brought the best position player remaining on the market to Target Field.

"It feels good to bring one of these over the finish line," St. Peter said. "I think it'll be the first of many."

"We think we have a great story to tell," he added. "If there's one thing that this signing demonstrates, it's that the story is compelling when Thad Levine and Derek Falvey are telling it, when Rocco Baldelli is telling it.

"In the future, we'd like Josh Donaldson to help tell it."

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