In 2018, the Minnesota Twins lost more games than they won, with a record of 78-84. I wrote an article at this time last year suggesting that the Twins had the chance to turn things around and build a playoff team for 2019. However, I never could have guessed that the Twins would stampede their way to the playoffs with a mind-boggling 101 wins.
The 2019 Twins broke new ground thanks in large part to the hiring of an inexperienced 37-year-old manager named Rocco Baldelli. Twins beat reporter Do-Hyoung Park reports that part of Baldelli’s influence involved his focus on “building relationships and creating a fun, comfortable clubhouse environment to empower his players.” Under Baldelli’s guidance, the Minnesota Twins shocked the baseball world by setting a new all-time record for most team home runs in one season and broke the 100-win threshold for the first time in over 50 years. Last week, Baldelli was recognized for his extraordinary efforts with the AL Manager of the Year award.
All of this sets the stage for a very exciting 2020 season. Baldelli has proven his effectiveness as a manager and the Twins once again have plenty of room on their payroll to afford the more expensive players in the free agency. The gaping hole for the team this offseason is in their starting rotation; four of the five Twins starting pitchers have reached the end of their contract. Last week, the Twins resigned Jake Odorizzi, one of those four pitchers, to a one-year, $17.8M deal. This was a necessary move, as a hole this large would be very difficult to fill entirely with free agents.
Regarding the other three vacancies in the starting rotation, the Twins should dream big. There are plenty of well-established pitchers on the market and the Twins have plenty of cash to spend. I hereby advise that the Twins sign two major starting pitchers: Hyun-jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel. One is a former Cy Young award winner and one is a runner-up. Both are seasoned MLB veterans who aren’t looking for a ridiculously long-term deal. Both are rumored to be searching for a three- or four-year deal for a considerable, but not unreasonable, sum of money.
Other worthy candidates for a deal with the Twins include Wheeler, Hamels, Roark, Anderson or Lyles. These pitchers would come at a slightly lower cost but still offer the Twins a great talent. Perhaps the Twins sign either Ryu or Keuchel and then select from my basket of other options. Or perhaps they don’t read the Manitou Messenger. At the very least, they need to somehow acquire two more above-average starting pitchers in order to construct a 2020 postseason team.
Still, that leaves one starting rotation spot empty. However, the team can (and likely will) fill this spot from within the organization. The best option at this point is Randy Dobnak, who rocketed through the minor leagues last year and impressed in the majors with a 1.59 ERA through 28.1 innings. Suffice to say, Dobnak will be able to fill in the back end of the rotation. If he hits a rough patch, the Twins still have internal options for a fifth starter in Brusdar Graterol or Devin Smeltzer.
All in all, the Twins are poised for another terrific season in 2020. With a bright young manager, one of the best lineups in the game and an opportunity to improve pitching this offseason, there’s no reason they shouldn’t repeat as AL Central Division Champions.