Inbox: Where are Twins at in Darvish pursuit?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers fans' questions

January 4th, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's the first Inbox of 2018 and the Twins were busy late in '17, signing closer and lefty Zach Duke to one-year deals to improve the bullpen.

The top priority, however, remains acquiring a frontline starting pitcher, but that market has moved slowly this offseason. It's bound to pick up soon, with Spring Training a little more than a month away, which brings us to our first question of this week's Inbox:

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The Twins still are very interested in Darvish, who remains their top target in free agency, and the right-hander confirmed that Minnesota was among six finalists for his services. Darvish has reportedly met with clubs such as the Cubs, Astros and Rangers, but has yet to meet with the Twins.

This fact doesn't worry the Twins, as general manager Thad Levine has a strong relationship with Darvish and his representatives from their time together in Texas. Levine was assistant general manager with the Rangers when Darvish signed with Texas in 2012.

But it's unclear at this point where Darvish is leaning toward signing and his decision appears to be holding up the market, as other top starters such as , and Alex Cobb remain unsigned.

There were reports on Christmas Day that the Twins were having extensive talks with Mike Napoli, but's Mark Feinsand reported those talks were overblown and nothing has come of it since. It doesn't mean the Twins won't eventually sign Napoli, but Levine said at the Winter Meetings the club is more comfortable rotating players such as , Joe Mauer, , Robbie Grossman and at designated hitter than having a full-time DH.

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But Napoli is regarded as a clubhouse leader and the front office is familiar with him from his time with the Indians and Rangers. The Twins could use a right-handed power bat, but they also like having roster flexibility at the DH spot. The 40-man roster is also currently full so they'd have to trim it to make room for a player like Napoli.

Lewis, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, had an excellent first year in the Minors and the shortstop is likely to see most of his playing time at Class A Cedar Rapids this year.

Rooker, the No. 35 overall pick in the Draft, also had a strong debut, reaching Class A Advanced Fort Myers and showing off his immense power. He's expected to open at Fort Myers, but is likely to reach Double-A Chattanooga if he continues to dominate offensively.

Gordon, the club's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, is likely to open the year at Triple-A Rochester and is a strong candidate to reach the Majors this season. The issue going forward remains where he'll play with at shortstop and at second base. Dozier, though, is in the last year of his contract and many believe Polanco is better suited defensively at second base. Gordon is also a potential trade chip, so it'll be interesting to see what happens with him this year.

Considering the Twins haven't added a starter via free agency or trade, it's still a little early to predict, but I do think they'll find a way to acquire a starter to join and atop the rotation. pitched well enough in the second half to be the club's No. 4 starter, while the fifth spot is up for grabs.

is a candidate for that spot, while Phil Hughes has to prove he's healthy after undergoing a second rib surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome. Prospects and will be in the mix, but likely to start at Triple-A Rochester, while likely won't be ready to join the Opening Day rotation coming off Tommy John surgery.