No rush: Twins' window is just opening

Though some are calling for club to make a FA splash, Minnesota is set up for long-term success

February 27th, 2018

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Twins' run to the postseason last fall was something of a surprise following their 103-loss season in 2016, but it might just be the beginning of a successful run in Minnesota.
The emergence of young stars such as , and as difference-making players -- and the impending expiration of Joe Mauer's $184 million contract -- have the Twins in an envious position for the next few years.
With Mauer's $23 million coming off the books after the season, plus 's $13.5 million, 's $9 million and another $9.5 million for the expiration of the deals for , and Zach Duke respectively, the Twins have approximately $39 million in guaranteed commitments for 2019.
After that season, Phil Hughes ($13.2 million), ($8.5 million), ($8 million) and ($8 million) will all be free agents, while and have options for 2020. That means the Twins don't have a single guaranteed dollar committed for the 2020 season, though some of their young players will be arbitration-eligible and will begin seeing their salaries rise.
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"We feel like we're set up well with some of our young players over the next few years," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "With the way our division is tracking, we obviously know where Cleveland is. But maybe a couple other teams, where they're shooting more for a rebuild stage right now, we know we need to take advantage of that. We know there's opportunity with our payroll flexibility, with where our young players are in their paths in terms of their career arc, we feel like we're setting up really nicely for '19, '20 and '21."
Under the watch of Falvey and general manager Thad Levine, Minnesota bounced back from its difficult 2016 season, winning 85 games before falling to the Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game.

Buxton was the breakout star, appearing regularly on highlight reels while raising his OPS more than 300 points from July 1 through the end of the season (.552 to .896). hit 28 home runs in 114 games, Rosario had 27 homers and an .836 OPS while Berrios won 14 games in his rookie season despite not joining the rotation until mid-May.
The Twins themselves were uncertain what to think of their season as late as last July, acquiring lefty on July 24 before shipping him to the Yankees six days later. They then dealt All-Star closer to the Nationals, but the selling didn't discourage the young core, which went 35-24 during the final two months to earn Minnesota its first postseason berth since 2010.
"I think you have to think of in terms of something like a window," Falvey said. "Last year, we saw a team take a big step forward toward opening up the window. It could have been that we took a step last year where the window would still be closed, and we're not quite there yet, but we took that jump, and now it's opening up.
"We do know we finished 17 games behind the Indians last year; we recognize that, but we're closing that gap. We feel like we're closer to that team than we were a year ago, but until you knock off the division champion, they're the division champion. We feel like we're getting closer, and we feel we're set up even better for the years subsequent to '18."
Familiar territory
Rob Thomson stood behind the batting cage at Steinbrenner Field during batting practice Monday afternoon, a spot he's occupied hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of times since the ballpark opened in 1996.
This time was different, though; it marked Thomson's first appearance at the Yankees complex since he joined the Phillies as Gabe Kapler's bench coach, ending his run of nearly three decades in the Yankees organization.

Thomson, who served in the same position with the Yankees in 2008 and again from '15-17, was one of the candidates to interview for the team's managerial job last fall, but he was passed over in favor of Aaron Boone.
"I've been here 28 years, but it is what it is, as they say," Thomson said. "You move on. We have great people over here [with the Phillies], a lot of talent, great coaches that I've really enjoyed being with. It's different, but it's good."
Never one to be the center of attention, Thomson almost seemed uncomfortable as one member of the Yankees after another made their way over to exchange a hug and a few words. Was there anything different about this current trip to Tampa, a place that previously served as his second home?
"The red," he said with a laugh, pointing to his Phillies pullover.
No ordinary Joe
Another familiar face turned up at Steinbrenner Field on Monday, as Joe Torre was in the ballpark to meet with the Yankees to go over the new pace-of-play rules, among other items.

Boone, who played for Torre in 2003, was asked if he got any managerial advice from the Hall of Famer during their visit.
"He always gives me a little advice," Boone said. "He's always a phone call away for me, and it's always good to see him. But today, we were getting down to business in our meeting going over the rules stuff."