Offseason checklist: Twins’ needs and moves

February 5th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- It felt in many ways like 2020 was supposed to be the Twins' year of arrival as a full-blown force in the American League and a bona fide World Series contender, given the maturity of the position player core, the acquisition of a marquee free agent in Josh Donaldson and several other finishing pieces added on short-term deals.

Instead, after another short-lived foray into the playoffs, the next core of position players is starting its push into the big leagues, while several of those veteran finishing pieces are bound for free agency, leaving holes all over the roster and questions of where all that young talent might fit in the immediate future.

After a slow start to the offseason in line with the rest of the league, Minnesota has picked up the pace with several impact signings following the new year, highlighted by the acquisition of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, a reported reunion with team leader Nelson Cruz and needed bullpen help in the form of Alex Colomé.

What are the Twins' biggest needs this offseason -- and what have they done to address them? Check back throughout the offseason for updates.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Starting pitchers
The rotation looked to be the Twins' biggest area of depth heading into 2020, but that no longer appeared to be the case entering the offseason when and left for free agency. The signing of to a one-year, $8 million deal fills one of those spots with a reliable and durable veteran presence, and the Twins could either acquire another arm to fill out a proven rotation or hand the fifth spot to . Either way, and should also be around if needed, and top prospects Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic will also enter the picture at some point in ‘21, giving the club both immediate and future candidates to fill out its depth.

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Relief pitchers
There's plenty of upside in the pipeline, but there's still a need for experience after the departures of , , and following the 2020 season. Continued development from , , and should help to some extent, but this was still a mostly inexperienced group entering the offseason, with reinforcements needed to maintain the strength of a bullpen that ranked third in MLB in Wins Above Replacement in 2020, per FanGraphs. The Twins have picked up the pace with the additions of and Colomé to their late-inning possibilities and a handful of less-experienced options, with the possibility of more help yet to come.

NEEDS MET

Designated hitter
There were other options available, both external and internal, but a reunion for Cruz and the Twins was significant for both sides. It not only ensured the Twins would keep some stability in the heart of their order after parting ways with Eddie Rosario, but it also maintained an important presence in a clubhouse that should grow younger with the promotion of several top prospects in 2021. Cruz has thus far defied the aging curve -- and the Twins will count on that trend continuing for another year.

Multipositional options
Most of the Twins' roster flexibility went out the door with the departures of and , leaving a glaring need on the bench. But the signing of shortstop Andrelton Simmons may have addressed that, especially with the shaky health records of and as well as back-to-back offseason surgeries for , who will slide over to second. The Simmons signing means that the Twins have replaced Gonzalez with Arraez, who might not be as good of a defender but has a better bat and is nearly a decade younger.

MOVES MADE

Feb. 5: Claimed Hamilton off waivers
Another day, another reliever with a promising slider. This one is right-hander Ian Hamilton, who most recently pitched for the White Sox but has bounced around between the Mariners, Phillies and now the Twins this offseason.

Feb. 4: Traded Wade for Anderson
The Twins were looking for bullpen options and had an excess of outfielders, so it made sense to trade LaMonte Wade Jr. to the Giants for controllable right-hander Shaun Anderson, who comes armed with 46 games of MLB experience and a good slider (to no surprise) but some control issues.

Feb. 3: Agreed to terms with Colomé
Colomé's peripherals have never been exceptional, but he's delivered results throughout his eight-year career to the tune of a 2.95 career ERA, including his just-completed two-year stint with the White Sox. It's a one-year, $5 million deal and a mutual option for 2022 worth $5.5 million, with a $1.25 million buyout paid to Colomé only if the Twins opt out.

Feb. 2: Agreed to deal with Cruz
It's no real surprise that the Twins and Cruz have reportedly agreed to run things back with a one-year, $13 million deal, considering both sides had been interested in a reunion since the end of the 2020 season. All the same, it was still significant for the Twins to bring back their best hitter and clubhouse leader.

Jan. 31: Signed SS Andrelton Simmons
The Twins have their new starting shortstop after inking Simmons to a one-year, $10.5 million deal. It's an addition that figures to benefit Minnesota in several different ways, as Simmons not only provides a steep defensive upgrade, but also addresses the Twins' need for a utility player.

Jan. 22: Agreed to terms with veteran lefty Happ
In an attempt to shore up the back end of their bullpen, the Twins finalized a one-year, $8 million deal with . The 38-year-old is fresh off a solid 2020 season in which he pitched to a 3.47 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, the latter being the best mark of his career.

Dec. 29: Signed veteran reliever Robles
Looking to give their bullpen a jolt, Minnesota agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with veteran right-hander Hansel Robles, who can earn $500,000 in performance bonuses based on games finished.

Dec. 17: Granted release to Romero
Former top pitching prospect Fernando Romero didn't participate in organized baseball activity with the Twins throughout 2020 after he experienced visa issues in transit to Spring Training. He was on the restricted list for the entire regular season.

Dec. 17: Signed eight players to Minor League contracts
All eight players have prior Major League experience and received invites to Major League Spring Training: Danny Coulombe, Juan Minaya, Tomás Telis, Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Glenn Sparkman, Rob Refsnyder and Tzu-Wei Lin.

Dec. 2: Non-tendered Rosario, Wisler
The Twins didn't tender contracts to longtime left fielder Eddie Rosario and breakout reliever Matt Wisler. Rosario's departure wasn't a surprise due to his on-base struggles and increasing salary, while Wisler's exit was less anticipated after he posted a 1.07 ERA in 2020.

Nov. 20: Selected Balazovic, Ober, Rortvedt to 40-man roster
Balazovic is the No. 4 prospect in the organization per MLB Pipeline (and top pitching prospect), and he was a no-brainer for inclusion. Catcher Ben Rortvedt ranks No. 27, while right-hander Bailey Ober is unranked but comes with a sparkling track record in the Minors.

Nov. 2: Activated Gordon off 60-day IL
missed the entire 2020 season after testing positive for COVID-19. He never made it to the alternate training site and instead started ramping up to baseball activity in September.

Oct. 30: Claimed Gibaut, Waddell off waivers
The waiver claims of , who had been with the Rangers, and former Pirates hurler brought the 40-man roster to 33.

Oct. 29: Declined Sergio Romo's club option
The Twins turned down the $5 million club option they held for the veteran late-inning reliever and paid a $250,000 buyout.