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Offseason checklist: Twins’ needs and moves

@DKramer_ and @dohyoungpark
January 14, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins exceeded all expectations in 2019 with 101 wins -- the second most in franchise history -- and their first American League Central title since '10. The team's core of position players took a collective step forward and will remain mostly intact as Minnesota eyes a deeper

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins exceeded all expectations in 2019 with 101 wins -- the second most in franchise history -- and their first American League Central title since '10. The team's core of position players took a collective step forward and will remain mostly intact as Minnesota eyes a deeper run into the postseason next year.

With that in mind, this should be an active offseason for the Twins, who will need to bolster their rotation despite the relative stability and strong production anticipated elsewhere around the diamond. Can they build a pitching staff that will help carry their success into 2020?

MLB.com is keeping track of all of the Twins' moves here. As the offseason continues, be sure to check back for updates.

BIGGEST NEEDS

Starting pitching

The Twins' primary needs this offseason have unquestionably been in the starting rotation, though after losing out on prominent free agents that they were reportedly in on (Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Cole Hamels and Dallas Keuchel), they addressed the void by bringing in veterans Homer Bailey and Rich Hill on one-year deals alongside the returns of both Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda.

Given the dearth of free-agent starters left, the club could turn to the trade market, where a throng of prominent arms are reportedly avaialble, including David Price, Matthew Boyd and Robbie Ray among others. And Minnesota has the prospect depth to explore that market.

NEEDS FILLED

Backup catcher

Minnesota is mostly set in its lineup depth after rookie Luis Arraez emerged as a potential long-term solution in the infield, but with 2019's Opening Day backstop Jason Castro signing with the Angels, the Twins filled their need for a solid backup catcher by signing Alex Avila to a one-year, $4.25 million deal to pair with breakout star Mitch Garver, who will assume the starting duties in 2020.

Corner infield
The Twins created a need at either first base or third base when they non-tendered C.J. Cron at the Dec. 2 deadline and then emphatically filled that need by reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $92 million deal with Josh Donaldson, the best remaining free-agent hitter on the market. The move slid Miguel Sanó across the diamond to first base, where the slugger will assume the starting duties for the first time in his career after signing a three-year, $30 million extension.

MOVES MADE

Jan. 14: Donaldson reportedly agrees to deal with Twins

The Twins missed on the top free-agent pitchers? No problem. Instead of bolstering their run prevention capability, the Twins instead added to their already robust run creation ability by reportedly signing Donaldson to a four-year, $92 million contract, including an $8 million buyout on a fifth-year club option worth $16 million. The former American League Most Valuable Player Award winner not only brings consistent power (33 or more homers in four of the last five seasons) and career success at Target Field (1.283 OPS), but also a strong glove that should prove an upgrade over Sanó at the hot corner. Donaldson followed an injury-hampered 2018 with 37 homers in a .259/.379/.521 season for the Braves in '19.

Jan. 14: Sanó signs three-year extension

Sanó has said that he hopes to spend his entire career with the Twins, and he took a concrete step in that direction by agreeing to a three-year, $30 million extension with a $14 million club option for a fourth season that bought out the remainder of his arbitration years and up to two free-agent years. After recovering from a freak offseason injury that sidelined him for the start of the '19 season, Sanó posted his finest season as a professional with 34 homers in 105 games. The Twins are betting that Sanó has turned a corner from his inconsistency for good after he worked with renewed focus on his physique and flashed his exemplary power in '19 following his demotion to Class A Advanced Fort Myers during the '18 season. So far, so good.

Dec. 31: Twins fill rotation voids with Bailey, Hill

After losing out on the top and second tier starting pitchers on the free-agent market, the Twins struck one-year deals with veterans Homer Bailey and Rich Hill that -- beyond surface level -- emit intrigue. Bailey ($7 million) and Hill ($3 million) come as low-cost, high-risk additions, particularly given the dollars and years many free-agent starters have received this offseason. Hill (left elbow surgery) won't be back until at least June, which, coupled with Michael Pineda's 60-game suspension, leaves the Twins mounting their rotation for a mid-to-late-season run. Hill and Bailey don't necessarily fit the bill as an impact arm that the Twins have wanted to land, but they nonetheless make their rotation better.

Dec. 20: Twins add Romo, Clippard to fortify ‘pen

The Twins added two right-handed veterans who should help round out their bullpen, as Tyler Clippard and Sergio Romo each agreed to one-year, Major League contracts, the club announced. Romo’s deal is worth $5 million, according to MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal, and includes a club option for 2021, while Clippard reportedly signed for $2.75 million. Clippard finished with the most relief appearances of the past decade at 698, and Romo, his new teammate, ranks third on that list with 629. Acquired by the Twins from the Marlins ahead of last season’s Trade Deadline, Romo became a key cog for the AL Central champs, serving as the primary setup man for closer Taylor Rogers.

Dec. 2: Cron, Hildenberger non-tendered; Adrianza, Wisler avoid arbitration

The Twins did not tender contract offers to C.J. Cron or reliever Trevor Hildenberger following a persistent right thumb injury and subsequent offseason surgery for Cron and mechanical struggles amid a difficult 2019 campaign for Hildenberger. The club tendered contracts to seven other arbitration-eligible players: Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sanó, José Berríos, Taylor Rogers, Byron Buxton, Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. Two others avoided arbitration early, as utility infielder Ehire Adrianza and reliever Matt Wisler agreed to guaranteed, one-year contracts for the 2020 season.

Nov. 26: Twins sign three more to Minor League deals

Left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy headlined the Twins' second round of Minor League signings. Hardy had a career 3.73 ERA in 233 appearances over six seasons with the Tigers and reportedly has an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Hardy was joined by catcher Juan Graterol, who played a brief Major League stint with the Twins in '18 before spending '19 with the Reds, and right-hander Ryan Garton, who had been in the Mariners' organization and owns a 4.90 career ERA over parts of three Major League seasons with Tampa Bay and Seattle.

Nov. 20: Five prospects protected from Rule 5 Draft

Big right-hander Jhoan Duran headlined a group of five prospects that the Twins added to the 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The hard-throwing Duran, ranked No. 9 in the organization by MLB Pipeline, was joined by fellow top-30 prospects Gilberto Celestino (No. 20) and Travis Blankenhorn (No. 23). The Twins also protected right-hander Dakota Chalmers, who paired a strong fastball with a big curveball in Class A Advanced Fort Myers, and outfielder Luke Raley, who lost much of his 2019 season to a left ankle injury but is the closest of the bunch to the Major Leagues.

Nov. 14: Odorizzi accepts qualifying offer

The 29-year-old Odorizzi eased the Twins' offseason search for starting pitchers when he accepted the one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer. Though Odorizzi's work on his mechanics last winter paid off to the tune of a 3.51 ERA, a career-high 178 strikeouts and his first career All-Star nod in 2019, he said that he would prefer to gauge his value on the market without the attached Draft pick compensation and felt that he could be at the top of next offseason's free-agent starter class with another strong season.

Nov. 6: Twins sign Telis, Cheshire to Minor League contracts

The Twins began to rebuild their Minor League depth by agreeing to another Minor League deal with Tomás Telis, who hit .330/.364/.490 with eight homers as the primary catcher for Triple-A Rochester in 2019. Telis has appeared in 122 games over five Major League seasons for the Rangers and Marlins. Cheshire, 25, was brought back after he tossed 10 scoreless appearances for Double-A Pensacola in '19. He had previously been released from the Blue Jays' organization.

Nov. 4: Twins extend Odorizzi qualifying offer

Odorizzi was one of 10 players in the Major Leagues to receive the qualifying offer before Monday's 4 p.m. CT deadline, and the 29-year-old right-hander has 10 days to accept or reject the one-year, $17.8 million deal that could bring him back to Minnesota and give the Twins one fewer rotation spot to fill this offseason. Rotation-mates Gibson and Pineda were not given the qualifying offer, which makes the Twins ineligible for Draft pick compensation in the event of their departures in free agency.

Nov. 4: Cruz's option exercised; Pérez's option declined

To no great surprise, the Twins officially exercised their $12 million club option for designated hitter Nelson Cruz to bring back the veteran leader of their clubhouse, who also paced the Bomba Squad with his 41 homers and 1.031 OPS. The decision had been first reported in October. The Twins did not, however, exercise their $7.5 million club option on Pérez, instead paying the starter a $500,000 buyout after he posted a 5.12 ERA in 32 games, including 29 starts, during his first season with the Twins.

Nov. 4: Gonsalves lost to waiver claim; Stewart becomes free agent

The Mets claimed off waivers left-handed starter Stephen Gonsalves, who had been the Twins' No. 18 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and was the club's fourth-round selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Gonsalves has a 2.50 ERA over seven Minor League seasons and made his MLB debut in '18 before he was sidelined for most of '19 with an injury to his pitching elbow. Kohl Stewart was a former first-round selection who recorded a 6.39 ERA in nine MLB games during the 2019 season. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster and elected to become a free agent.

Oct. 31: Dyson elects free agency

Reliever Sam Dyson was outrighted off the 40-man roster and rejected the outright assignment, becoming a free agent. Dyson underwent season-ending capsule repair surgery on his right shoulder on Sept. 24 and was expected to miss much, if not all, of the 2020 season. Though Dyson had a 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances for the Giants when he was acquired at the July 31 Trade Deadline, he was limited to a 7.12 ERA in only 12 games for the Twins due to his arm issues.

Oct. 29: Twins claim Wisler off waivers

Right-hander Matt Wisler became the first addition to Minnesota's 40-man roster when it claimed the reliever off waivers from the Mariners. The 27-year-old Wisler posted a 5.61 ERA in 44 games with San Diego and Seattle in 2019, but he saw a huge spike in his strikeout rate, with 63 punchouts in 51 1/3 innings. The primary factor was his slider, which he threw a whopping 70.5 percent of the time, resulting in 57 of those strikeouts and a 40.8 percent whiff rate.

Oct. 28: Three players outrighted to Minors

The Twins took care of some housekeeping on their 40-man roster by outrighting outfielder Ian Miller, outfielder Ryan LaMarre and infielder Ronald Torreyes to the Minor Leagues. All three were September additions to the big league roster, with Miller and LaMarre providing needed depth due to a rash of outfield injuries and Torreyes giving coverage around the infield while Ehire Adrianza and Marwin Gonzalez were sidelined. LaMarre, 30, and Torreyes, 27, are eligible for salary arbitration, and they could be non-tender candidates.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Do-Hyoung Park covers the Twins for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @dohyoungpark and on Instagram at dohyoung.park.