Bolstering bullpen is Twins' Meetings priority
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have been active this offseason and will continue to look for ways to upgrade the roster at next week's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
The Twins already traded for catcher John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees and won the bid for Byung Ho Park before signing the Korean slugger to a four-year deal, but now look to address the pitching after improving their offense.
Adding much-needed bullpen help remains the top priority for general manager Terry Ryan and his staff as they head to Nashville. The Twins usually don't make a splash at the Winter Meetings and even if they don't this year, they can lay the groundwork for moves to come later this offseason.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 10 a.m. CT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 9 a.m. CT.
Below is a look at Minnesota's checklist for the Winter Meetings, which will be held Monday through Thursday.
Bullpen: Their top priority remains upgrading the bullpen, as Twins relievers combined to strike out the fewest batters in the Majors last year. The Twins will look to add one or two high-quality veteran relievers to add to a core that includes Glen Perkins and Kevin Jepsen. A left-hander would make sense, especially if Perkins remains the club's closer.
Starting pitching: The Twins have plenty of options to start next season as they've been building rotation depth over the last few seasons and could decide to stand pat, but they lack a true frontline starting pitcher. The Twins aren't expected to shell out for an ace like Zack Greinke, who appears headed to Arizona, but could look to deal for an established starter if the right deal arises.
Fourth outfielder: Minnesota has several young outfielders including Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Max Kepler and potentially Miguel Sano, but they don't have a capable backup outfielder on the roster. Shane Robinson filled that role last year, but signed a Minor League deal with the Indians. So the Twins aren't looking to make a splash but could try to add to their outfield depth.
Who they can or need to trade:
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe remains the most likely of Minnesota's regulars to get traded, as it would open up third base for Sano. But the Twins like what Plouffe brings offensively and defensively and could opt to hold on to him, which would mean Sano would move to the outfield.
Outfieder Oswaldo Arcia showed promise in 2014, hitting 20 homers in 103 games as a 23-year-old, but really struggled in 2015, playing only 19 games in the Majors. Trading him would be selling low, but he seems to have been passed up on the depth chart by several other young outfielders.
First baseman/designated hitter Kennys Vargas, like Arcia, followed a promising year with struggles, as he failed to build on his strong rookie season from 2014. And with the Twins signing Park, Vargas doesn't appear to have a role with the Twins next season.
The Twins' Top 10 prospects, per MLBPipeline.com, are Buxton, Jose Berrios, Tyler Jay, Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon, Kepler, Kohl Stewart, Alex Meyer, Stephen Gonsalves and Adam Brett Walker.
Of that group, only Buxton and Berrios are regarded as untouchable, while Polanco and Stewart remain intriguing potential trade pieces.
Rule 5 Draft:
The Twins have long been active in the Rule 5 Draft, uncovering gems such as Shane Mack and Johan Santana. They took reliever J.R. Graham from the Braves last season and he was able to remain on the roster the entire season to give the Twins an intriguing arm going forward. The Twins could look to add another hard-throwing arm via the Rule 5 Draft, but pick much later this time by virtue of their 83-79 record last season.
Big contracts they might unload:
The only big contract the Twins could look to move is right-hander Ricky Nolasco's, but it doesn't seem likely. Nolasco is still owed $25 million over the next two seasons after signing a four-year deal worth $49 million. He's posted a 5.64 ERA in 196 1/3 innings with the Twins over the last two seasons, so he doesn't have much trade value. The Twins would have to eat most of his salary unless he's traded for another unfavorable contract.
The Twins have a little more than $100 million in payroll commitments for 2016, but have some flexibility. Ryan has indicated payroll will not be an issue this offseason and he's free to upgrade the roster as he sees fit.