MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have historically stayed quiet at the Winter Meetings, but with their emphasis on acquiring a frontline starting pitcher this offseason, it could be a different story this year.Minnesota will be looking to acquire pitching, or at least lay the groundwork for future moves during at the
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have historically stayed quiet at the Winter Meetings, but with their emphasis on acquiring a frontline starting pitcher this offseason, it could be a different story this year.
Minnesota will be looking to acquire pitching, or at least lay the groundwork for future moves during at the Winter Meetings, which will be held from Dec. 11-14 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
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The biggest splash the Twins have made at the Winter Meetings came in 2014, when they signed right-hander Ervin Santana to a four-year, $55 million contract, which remains the largest free-agent deal in club history. That move has panned out -- Santana is the club's ace -- and now Minnesota is looking for a veteran to join him atop the rotation.
The Twins still remain interested in the top starting pitcher on the market in right-hander Yu Darvish, while also being linked to other starters such as Jacob Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. Relief help remains an emphasis as well, but finding a starter is the top priority.
Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb each received qualifying offers, which means the Twins would lose their second selection in the 2018 Draft and $500,000 from their international bonus pool. But management has indicated it won't stop the club from going after any of those three starters.
Starting pitching: The rotation is expected to include Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Santana, but the last two spots are up for grabs, and the Twins would like a top-of-the-rotation veteran to take one of those spots. They do have several internal options such as Adalberto Mejia, Phil Hughes, Trevor May and prospects such as Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero, but the club wants a more stable presence in its rotation. Darvish or Arrieta might prove to be too costly if the Twins are looking to improve the bullpen as well, but pitchers such as Lynn and Cobb are realistic targets.
Bullpen: With Matt Belisle and the traded Brandon Kintzler both free agents, the Twins currently don't have a closer on their roster. Minnesota could look to bring one or both back but will be looking for high-strikeout type relievers to join the bullpen. Wade Davis is the only reliever likely out of the club's budget, so there will be plenty of options in free agency.
Right-handed bat: The Twins tendered a contract to Robbie Grossman, which means he could return to the same role as a part-time designated hitter and outfielder. He's an on-base machine, but he lacks the power that usually comes with being a DH and corner outfielder. Minnesota would like more right-handed power, and it could take a flier on a veteran on a one-year deal such as Mark Reynolds, Yonder Alonso or Mike Napoli.
Who they can trade if necessary
The Twins aren't actively looking to trade away Major League talent, but shortstop Jorge Polanco could be expendable if they believe Nick Gordon, ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, is close to being Major League ready. But that move isn't likely to happen just yet. Polanco is coming off a strong second half and could move to second base after this season if James Dozier departs via free agency. Otherwise, the Twins could look to trade designated hitter Kennys Vargas to clear up roster space for a right-handed power hitter, but wouldn't get much of a return. Fourth outfielder Zack Granite, the club's Minor League Player of the Year in 2016, could also be traded if another club sees him as a future starter in the outfield.
Per MLBPipeline.com, the Twins' top 10 prospects are shortstop Royce Lewis, Gordon, Gonsalves, Romero, shortstop Wander Javier, outfielder Alex Kirilloff, right-hander Felix Jorge, left-hander Tyler Jay, right-hander Kohl Stewart and first baseman Lewin Diaz.
Gordon, Gonsalves, Romero and Jay could all make their Major League debuts this season, but Stewart and Diaz were left unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft. Lewis, Javier and Kirilloff remain a long way from the Majors. Jorge made his MLB debut in '17.
Rule 5 Draft
The Twins have a roster spot open if they want to make a selection, but given they have the No. 20 pick and are looking to compete this season, it's not as likely they make a pick. But they are expected to lose Stewart to another club, while Diaz is unlikely to be selected because he's too far from the Majors.
Big contracts they might unload
The Twins are fortunate that they have no large contracts; no one on the club is signed past the 2019 season and only Jason Castro and Hughes are signed through '18. There was talk last year of trading Dozier or Santana, but with Minnesota coming off a Wild Card berth and looking to compete this year, that's no longer the case.
The Twins have roughly $85 million in payroll commitments for next season, including projected arbitration raises, so they have some flexibility considering their Opening Day payroll was $108 million last year. Minnesota is likely to try to extend some of its young core, but with no long-term contracts on the books, it shouldn't have much of an effect on free-agent spending this offseason.
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.