Twins could add vet pitcher for depth, leadership
MINNEAPOLIS -- One of the major takeaways from TwinsFest over the weekend is that the Twins are still looking for outside help via free agency, and they are specifically targeting a veteran leader.
Although Minnesota reports for Spring Training in two weeks, it's continuing to monitor the free-agent market, and it has been linked to veterans such as Justin Morneau, Mike Napoli and Craig Breslow. The fits for Morneau and Napoli are questionable, however, given the club's depth at first base and designated hitter with Joe Mauer, Byungho Park and Kennys Vargas on the roster.
It appears more likely that the Twins are looking for pitching help based on general manager Thad Levine's comments at TwinsFest on Sunday while talking on stage to 1500 ESPN.
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"I would expect, in between now and Opening Day, we'll have added at least one or two pitchers to our mix to enhance both the depth and the quality within our 12-man staff," Levine said.
Levine had previously said that he expects whoever they add to have leadership qualities, as it's something the Twins believe they lacked last year after the retirement of Torii Hunter.
"We've been very consistent in our messaging this offseason that we have a desire to bring in players we feel have leadership skills," Levine said. "It could help accelerate the development of some of our young players. We've been dependent on LaTroy Hawkins, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer to help us identify which players have leadership talent and abilities. I think any moves we make from this point forward will have an eye toward that."
Cuddyer said he's been called upon several times this offseason for his advice on veteran players that he both played with and against to help the front office get a better feel. He said he's also been in contact with Morneau, who is actively looking for a job after hitting .261/.303/.429 with six homers and 25 RBIs in 58 games with the White Sox in 2016.
"He's doing well," Cuddyer said. "He's preparing his body to play. Obviously, there are still a lot of bats out there on the market. He'd like to play, but you've got to find a job."
Morneau or Napoli would certainly add veteran leadership to the Twins, and the organization is plenty familiar with both players -- especially given Morneau's history in Minnesota and that Napoli played for both the Indians and Rangers under front offices with chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and Levine, respectively. But given the Twins' crowded corner-infield situation and the fact they're not expected to contend coming off a 103-loss season, neither Morneau or Napoli is a perfect fit for Minnesota.
But there are plenty of options still out there, especially on the pitching side. Notable starters on the market include Jason Hammel, Colby Lewis and Doug Fister, while there are glut of quality relievers available such as Breslow, Joe Blanton, Sergio Romo, Boone Logan and Noel Salas.
"We feel as if there's a wealth of quality free agents still on the market," Levine said. "For whatever reason, as the calendar turns to February, there are a lot of players without homes. So, we're in active conversations with agents to monitor the market. We're having numerous conversations that I'd consider to be active. But it's hard to handicap what will come to fruition."