Happy holidays to all in Twins territory! As a Minnesota native and proud graduate of St. Paul Central High School, I'm thrilled to be returning home from the San Francisco Bay Area to take over for Rhett Bollinger as your Twins beat reporter for MLB.com.Rhett leaves big shoes to fill,
Happy holidays to all in Twins territory! As a Minnesota native and proud graduate of St. Paul Central High School, I'm thrilled to be returning home from the San Francisco Bay Area to take over for Rhett Bollinger as your Twins beat reporter for MLB.com.
Rhett leaves big shoes to fill, but I learned a lot from him as his associate reporter in 2016 and I'm very glad that he can be closer to his family in Southern California. I hit the ground running at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas earlier this month, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you all on the Winter Caravan, at TwinsFest and throughout this upcoming season. Please don't be strangers -- I'm here to serve you, after all.
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So, without further ado, let's get going on this inaugural Twins inbox and have some fun together.
It's hard to deny the talent level of the in-house core, right? Just look back to 2017, when Jose Berrios and Eddie Rosario started coming into their own and Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton played closer to their potential. The Twins played in the American League Wild Card Game. If that year was any indication, this young core is certainly capable of pushing a team to the postseason -- with the right supplementary pieces -- when things are clicking.
That's why the one-year contracts do make sense. If this high-potential young core clicks this season, and come the Trade Deadline the Twins are more confident they can contend in 2019 and beyond with this group, then there's payroll flexibility to add the finishing pieces -- perhaps at higher cost -- to a playoff contender in the coming years. Of course, with the payroll as low as it stands at the moment, there's still plenty of wiggle room for multiyear offers in the coming months.
And the pair of one-year contracts to Jonathan Schoop and C.J. Cron in particular make a lot of sense -- they're low risk and have high ceilings. The other top free agents at second base (Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy) are all 30 or older, will land multiyear deals and have lower upside than Schoop, who is still 27. As for Cron, he's got 30-homer power and worked with Rocco Baldelli in Tampa Bay.
Given the talent of this young core, an "assessment year" doesn't necessarily mean the team can't contend.
Are the Twins hoping for a healthy, productive, no off-the-field-problems Sano?
In the hopes that they can sell high on him?
This is where I'd pump the brakes. As I alluded to in my previous answer, a healthy, productive Sano could mean the Twins' young core is making noise in the AL Central, in which case it wouldn't make more sense to trade him off a team that could be a multi-year contender, with Sano, Rosario, Berrios, Buxton and Max Kepler all under team control through at least 2022. A trade could make sense if the Twins feel they won't contend in that window with that core, even with a productive Sano.
Trevor May will be a reliever in 2019. Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine told the Minnesota media at the Winter Meetings that May expressed a desire to remain in the bullpen last season, as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery. He showed good results down the stretch as a reliever, finishing the season with a 3.20 ERA, a career-low walk rate (1.8 BB/9) and a career-high strikeout rate (12.8 K/9). The front office feels that leaving him there is best for him and the club.
May could certainly be an option to close, as he recorded a 1.59 ERA with 10 strikeouts and one walk in six appearances in the ninth inning last season. The Twins believe that among other in-house options, Fernando Romero could fit as a starter or reliever and that he has the mindset to close as well. But at the Winter Meetings, Twins brass also indicated the club is looking at external options to fill the closer role.
The Twins feel set that four of the five rotation spots are secure among Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi. There are a host of in-house candidates to compete for that fifth spot, with Adalberto Mejia, Chase De Jong, Kohl Stewart, Stephen Gonsalves, Aaron Slegers, Zack Littell, Romero and others who could factor into that conversation. But Falvey also indicated that he's still not sure whether any of the Twins' young pitchers are currently where they need to be to establish themselves at the Major League level.
While the Twins do want to get experience for their young arms, the front office is remaining "open minded" about potential additions in the offseason. Given that pitcher health is no sure thing, the club is trying to bolster its depth as much as possible.
Despite my Minnesota upbringing, I've never actually had a Jucy Lucy -- I don't like the taste of cheese. I'm so, so sorry. Please don't banish me from the Midwest.
Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.