MINNEAPOLIS -- With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, the Twins are free to resume their preparation for the 2022 season -- and a good deal of work remains to be done.
While the Hot Stove cranked up to scorching levels ahead of the stoppage, the Twins were largely absent from that flurry despite their bevy of needs on the pitching staff. Now, the race is on again for teams to take stock of their rosters amid the new landscape of the league, with very little time remaining before Spring Training gets underway.
Let's take this moment to look back at what the Twins accomplished before the shutdown and the state of the team heading toward the season.
What deals have already gotten done?
The Twins did get one significant deal done ahead of the shutdown, and it's likely the one that will loom largest in the years to come. Star center fielder Byron Buxton, coming off his most explosive season yet, inked a seven-year, $100 million extension with significant incentive to remain in Minnesota for the foreseeable future.
Buxton's fate was one of the two most pressing questions that the Twins faced entering the offseason; by keeping their superstar-caliber outfield centerpiece in the fold long term, they backed their assertion that they weren't intending on a rebuild, even after trading longtime front-of-rotation fixture José Berríos to the Blue Jays at the 2021 Trade Deadline.
As for the Twins' other pressing question -- their extensive needs in the starting rotation -- the club emerged from the aggressive run on starting pitchers pre-shutdown with only right-hander Dylan Bundy, who will slot into Minnesota’s rotation plans on a one-year, $4 million deal with a club option as he eyes a bounceback campaign after recording a 6.06 ERA in an injury-shortened 2021.
What are the biggest remaining needs, and who might they target to fill these holes?
Minnesota still needs a good deal of pitching. With the likes of Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Kevin Gausman, Alex Cobb, Jon Gray, Alex Wood, James Paxton, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman already off the board in free agency, there's a good chance the Twins will need to be active in the trade market to bolster their current starting mix, which includes youngsters Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Randy Dobnak and Lewis Thorpe.
"We've had a lot of discussion about potential trade fits, what those could look like, trying to lay some groundwork for those, really, from the beginning of the offseason until now," president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said on Dec. 1. "I would say that we've looked at that maybe moreso than even some of the free-agent conversations."
On Saturday, the Twins filled their need for a shortstop by dealing Mitch Garver to the Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and right-hander Ronny Henriquez.
Which of their free agents have already signed elsewhere?
The Twins' departing free agents are Michael Pineda and Andrelton Simmons. Alex Colomé also hit the market after Minnesota declined its end of a mutual option, and John Gant elected for free agency after he cleared outright waivers. The Cubs reached an agreement on a one-year, $4 million deal (plus incentives) with Simmons, a source told MLB.com. Colomé agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockies, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
A reunion with Pineda would make sense for both sides, considering he'll likely come at a reasonably controlled cost and he has arguably been the Twins' most consistent starter across his three seasons with the club, which would be a good fit amid their depleted rotation situation. He's also a respected and well-liked figure in the clubhouse and he already has rapport with the coaching staff.
Are there any players they are looking to trade?
It's not that the Twins are necessarily looking to ship away any players, but they certainly have areas of depth on the Major League roster that could help them net the pitching they need. Possible trade candidates include Max Kepler, a cost-controlled outfielder who can hit for power and play some center field, and Luis Arraez, who could be an impact bat for any team but could become redundant in Minnesota with the emergence of No. 8 prospect Jose Miranda.
What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
Arraez and Taylor Rogers have not yet agreed to deals for the 2022 season. The Twins already have agreed to contracts with Tyler Duffey ($3.8 million), Caleb Thielbar ($1.3 million) and Jharel Cotton ($700,000), avoiding arbitration.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
The 40-man roster is currently at 39 players. The Twins will also eventually place right-hander Blayne Enlow on the 60-day injured list as part of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. They previously cleared space on the roster by outrighting Jake Cave and Charlie Barnes (who has since signed in Korea), releasing Willians Astudillo and non-tendering Juan Minaya, Danny Coulombe and Trevor Megill.