MINNEAPOLIS -- It's set to be an incredibly interesting offseason for the Twins, who have to replace manager Paul Molitor and have the payroll flexibility to improve a roster that took a step backward in 2018.There's plenty of uncertainty on how the front office will approach the next few months,
MINNEAPOLIS -- It's set to be an incredibly interesting offseason for the Twins, who have to replace manager Paul Molitor and have the payroll flexibility to improve a roster that took a step backward in 2018.
There's plenty of uncertainty on how the front office will approach the next few months, so let's jump right into the first Twins Inbox of the 2018-19 offseason.
It's still early in the process, but there are some candidates who are expected to get a look as the possible next Twins manager. Internally, bench coach Derek Shelton is a candidate as is Major League coach Jeff Pickler and Triple-A manager Joel Skinner.
External candidates who could be interviewed by the Twins include Indians bench coach Brad Mills, Indians Minor League defensive coach John McDonald, Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., Rangers coach Jayce Tingler, Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada.
There are also others with managerial experience available such as Joe Girardi, Brad Ausmus, Buck Showalter and Jeff Banister, but it doesn't seem as likely they go that route. Among current managers, Rays manager Kevin Cash would be the strongest candidate. Other options could obviously emerge, but those are some of the names floating around early so far. A replacement isn't expected to be named until after the conclusion of the World Series.
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It made sense for the Twins to at least try the opener strategy after being out of the race, as the strategy has merits with the ability of the primary pitcher to avoid facing the top of the order three times. But it's also worth noting they tried it in September with expanded rosters, so it could operate differently with a 25-man roster.
Overall, the Twins posted a 5.09 ERA in games in which they used an opener, but it was better after a rough start with a 3.39 ERA over their final seven games using an opener. Right-hander Kohl Stewart seemed to fare best in his role as a primary pitcher with a 6.61 ERA in four starts but a 1.33 ERA in four appearances after an opener. But even then, it's hard to say if he just matured more as a pitcher throwing more strikes, or if the strategy actually helped him.
I could see the Twins using it here and there next year, but much of it depends on how aggressive they are in terms of acquiring another starter this offseason to a rotation that is expected to include Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda with plenty of internal options for a fifth starter including Stewart, Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Zack Littell, Adalberto Mejia and Chase De Jong.
Bringing back Eduardo Escobar, 29, still isn't out of the question, as he remains a strong fit both on the field and in the clubhouse. But he's going to get offers for an everyday role, so the Twins will have to convince him he's not coming back to simply be a utility player. As for James Dozier, it appears the ship has sailed and it would be a surprise if he returned to Minnesota this offseason. Reunions with other traded players such as Lance Lynn or Zach Duke also are highly unlikely.
Trevor May's return was incredibly encouraging and he has the makings of a future closer, but I still see the front office looking to acquire a veteran closer much like they did with Fernando Rodney last offseason. May could be the club's most dominant reliever next year, but it's more likely to come in a setup role to open the season.
The Twins do host a weekly Hot Stove Show during the offseason, which features regular appearances from both chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine. The podcast begins again on Nov. 28 and can be found here.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.