In 2017, the Minnesota Twins became the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs the year after losing 100+ games. In 2018, however, the team saw significant regression in this inexperienced ballclub. I could spend this whole article complaining about the team’s shortcomings, but I would much rather talk about what the team can improve on. The truth is, the Twins can absolutely still reach the postseason in 2019 or 2020.
The most obvious problem is the failure of high-potential players like Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to put the bat on the ball. At this point, both of them have received all the help they can get from the minors. If they can put together a decent showing in Spring Training, the best move would be to lock them into the active roster and give them starting roles. In spite of his hitting flaws, Buxton is still arguably the best defensive center fielder in the game, and Sano is still a solid cleanup hitter if he can stay healthy.
The bigger question is what the Twins will do with their offseason budget. For the first time, we could see some surprising acquisitions. The Twins are no longer tied down to Joe Mauer’s nightmarish $184 million deal and they’ve also freed up some payroll space by getting rid of Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier and Logan Morrison. This gives them the flexibility to enter the bidding for some top-tier players, and it’s an opportunity that the team simply can’t pass up.
I’m not calling for the Twins to sign Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but they will certainly be exploring other prominent names on the market. To take the place of Brian Dozier at second base they could look to a veteran like DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Murphy, Jed Lowrie or Ian Kinsler. A wise, short-term investment for the Twins would be to fill the DH spot with Nelson Cruz, one of the most reliable bats in the game. There’s also a variety of solid starting pitchers on the market like Nathan Eovaldi, Charlie Morton or Dallas Keuchel, who can enter the rotation of a team with too many young and unproven starters.
The Twins also have the perennial problem of a sub-par bullpen that they have recently only tackled one year at a time. Their acquisitions of three adequate relievers last offseason didn’t do much to fill that hole. This year, I would suggest a slightly different approach: the team should spend a little more money to acquire a pair of stronger relievers to provide greater support. Some names of interest include Jeurys Familia, Kelvin Herrera, Zach Britton, Santiago Casilla and Justin Wilson.
Certainly, Minnesota will be as hesitant as always to get stuck with a hefty contract, and they might have more interest trying their luck in some other areas. They’ve already found a cheap first baseman in CJ Cron, and they may look to other low-cost solutions. Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison are solid, low-cost utility players who can fill in just about anywhere on the field. The Twins are also likely to snatch some second-rate players off of waivers, but they should be especially mindful of their financial flexibility this offseason. That, combined with a new manager and coaching staff, and with the AL Central still being the weakest division in the game, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the Twins’ ability to reach the postseason in the next couple of years.