LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Just 15 minutes before Twins manager Paul Molitor took the podium at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, the club announced it had signed right-hander Michael Pineda to a backloaded two-year deal worth $10 million.But with Pineda likely to miss most of the 2018 season after
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Just 15 minutes before Twins manager Paul Molitor took the podium at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, the club announced it had signed right-hander Michael Pineda to a backloaded two-year deal worth $10 million.
But with Pineda likely to miss most of the 2018 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 18, Molitor said Minnesota still has its eye on more pitching help for next season, both in the rotation and in the bullpen.
• Winter Meetings interview with Paul Molitor
"It's been a busy few days as far as the amount of people we've talked to, free-agent board, trying to find potential matches with other teams," Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence that the next wave of people from our organization is going to be more swayed to the pitching side than the position side. I'm still optimistic that something really good is going to happen for us here."
Molitor said the emphasis remains more on starting pitching at the moment, and he's been helping out in the recruiting process, talking to free agents by phone, including Pineda. Molitor confirmed the Twins have interest in the top starter available in Yu Darvish, but he said he hasn't talked to the free agent yet this offseason.
"A lack of starter depth is concerning for me," Molitor said. "I think over the course of a long season and the amount of innings you have to fill, depth in that rotation is maybe a tick higher for me [than bullpen help]. Obviously, I would love to do a little bit on both ends of the pitching."
Molitor, though, did say he'd like to see the Twins acquire a closer this offseason after Brandon Kintzler was traded at the non-waiver Trade Deadline and Matt Belisle became a free agent.
"I think the emphasis on the last nine outs has grown, not just the back end, and we need to figure that out," Molitor said. "I would really like to, the best we can, stay away from having a tryout for closer in Spring Training."
Molitor added that the goal this season is win to the American League Central after their surprise run to the AL Wild Card Game last season. He said he's hopeful that adding more pitching this offseason will help the Twins close the gap with the Indians, who remain the heavy favorite to win the division title for a third straight year.
"I would like to think so," Molitor said. "You respect who's out in front of you. Your goal is to be a division winner, which helps your path of your ultimate goal. So you have to try to find a way to chase them down, if you will, and without discarding the other team at the same time."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.