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Young Twins will get fresh start in 2017

New leadership will seek pitching to surround likes of Buxton, Kepler and Co.
September 30, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS -- It will be an important offseason for the Twins, who are coming off a highly disappointing year and will have a new leadership team in place, with former Indians assistant general manager Derek Falvey taking over as the president of baseball operations.Falvey, 33, replaces longtime general manager Terry

MINNEAPOLIS -- It will be an important offseason for the Twins, who are coming off a highly disappointing year and will have a new leadership team in place, with former Indians assistant general manager Derek Falvey taking over as the president of baseball operations.
Falvey, 33, replaces longtime general manager Terry Ryan, who was dismissed in July after the Twins couldn't build on their surprising showing in 2015. Falvey inherits an organization that has young talent such as Byron Buxton, Miguel Sanó, Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco as well as a top farm system, but the Major League team is coming off a 100-loss season and lacks pitching.
After early stumble, Twins never found footing
Many changes are expected this offseason, but manager Paul Molitor has been assured by ownership that he'll be back next year. There are plenty of unknowns heading into next season, however, and Molitor is grateful he'll get another shot to help turn around the franchise under Falvey.

"I think everyone realizes we had expectations and we fell short," Molitor said. "Sometimes people have to fall when those things happen. I'm fortunate to be in a position where they're going to give me a shot to do a little bit better next time around."
Free agents:Kurt Suzuki
Arbitration-eligible:Trevor Plouffe, Tommy Milone, Eduardo Escobar, Héctor Santiago, Kyle Gibson, Ryan Pressly, Brandon Kintzler, Logan Schafer
Catcher: Suzuki is Minnesota's lone free agent, and outside of pitching, catching is the club's biggest question mark. The Twins traded for John Ryan Murphy from the Yankees before the season to be the catcher of the future, but he struggled offensively and spent most of the year at Triple-A Rochester. Juan Centeno performed admirably as a backup, but he had trouble with wild pitches and passed balls. Minnesota will look to acquire a starting catcher via free agency or trade this offseason.
First base:Joe Mauer got off to a strong start in 2016, but he had trouble staying healthy down the stretch, as he was limited by strained quads that drained his production over the last two months. Mauer, though, is firmly entrenched at first base with two more years left on his contract. ByungHo Park was brought over from Korea, but he struggled in his first taste of the Majors, but he could bring much-needed power if he gets back on track next year once he adjusts to the pitching and culture. Kennys Vargas fared well in his limited appearances in the Majors, and he could be a trade chip because of Minnesota's crowded corner infield.

Second base: Dozier was undoubtedly Minnesota's MVP, becoming just the second Twins player to hit 40-plus homers in a season, joining Harmon Killebrew. Dozier is the club's most valuable trade piece -- but it could be tough to part with him, because he's become the face of the franchise. A trade would signal the Twins are rebuilding.
Shortstop: Polanco had a solid rookie season, and he emerged as the club's everyday shortstop the last two months of the year. But his defense at short remains a work in progress, and there are those within the organization who believe he's better suited to be a second baseman. He could move to second if the Twins decide to trade Dozier, or he could even be traded if the Twins decide to keep Dozier but don't feel Polanco can handle short. Eduardo Escobar remains on the roster, but he lost his starting job to Eduardo Núñez early in the year before again losing it to Polanco late.

Third base: Plouffe is heading into his final year of arbitration, and he could be a trade candidate this offseason to make room for Sano at third. Plouffe's value was hurt by a season that saw him placed on the 15-day disabled list three times, including a season-ending oblique injury. Sano remains raw at third, but he has surprisingly nimble feet and a strong arm. He's vowed to lose weight heading into next year to increase his athleticism. The Twins don't want Sano to be limited to being a designated hitter at 23, but at least he knows he won't be asked to play outfield again.
Outfield: With his strong showing in October, Buxton silenced doubters and showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect. He's essentially a lock to be the club's center fielder next year, while fellow rookie Kepler also solidified himself as the right fielder of the future. Left field is a little bit more up in the air, but Eddie Rosario played better after getting sent down to Triple-A Rochester. Danny Santana and Robbie Grossman figure to be back as extra outfielders, while Schafer could be non-tendered. The Twins could look to improve their outfield situation via free agency or trade, but it's not a high priority.
Designated hitter: The Twins would love for Park to establish himself as their regular DH, but he has plenty to prove after a disappointing first year in the Majors that saw him undergo season-ending hand surgery after being sent down to the Minors. Vargas is also a candidate to see some time at DH, while the Twins will continue to rotate players such as Mauer and Sano at DH here and there.
Rotation: Twins starters finished with the worst ERA in the Majors despite a strong showing from veteran right-hander Ervin Santana. The veteran righty was mentioned as a trade candidate at the non-waiver Deadline, and those talks could continue this offseason. But it could be tough for the Twins to trade away their lone dependable starter. Veteran lefty Hector Santiago was better after a rough start to his Twins career, and he is due for a raise via arbitration. Right-hander Phil Hughes is coming off rib resection surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. Gibson was arguably Minnesota's best starter in 2015, but he reverted to his inconsistent ways and needs to prove himself. He's also due for his first raise via arbitration. Rookie José Berríos still should have a bright future given his stuff, but he lost some luster with his struggles. Right-hander Tyler Duffey could be headed to the bullpen. Trevor May is expected to be converted back to starting, while prospect Adalberto Mejía was acquired for Nunez. It's considered a weak free-agent class for starters, so the Twins might need to get creative to improve their rotation.

Bullpen: Three-time All-Star Glen Perkins is coming off major surgery to repair his labrum, and there are no guarantees he'll be able to bounce back to his old form. Kintzler performed well as the club's closer, but he didn't get many save opportunities. Pressly and lefty Taylor Rogers both had solid years in relief, while J.T. Chargois showed promise down the stretch. The Twins are still waiting on highly regarded relief prospects such as Nick Burdi, Trevor Hildenberger and Mason Melotakis to make their debut.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for since 2011. Read his blog, **Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter [@RhettBollinger](** and listen to his podcast.