Minnesota Twins (85-77)
Additions: SP Lance Lynn, SP Jake Odorizzi, SP Michael Pineda, RP Addison Reed, RP Fernando Rodney, RP Zach Duke, 1B Logan Morrison, OF Jacob Pearson, C David Banuelos, SS Erick Aybar (minor-league deal), OF Chris Heisey (minor-league deal), 1B Brock Stassi (minor-league deal)
Subtractions: SP Glen Perkins (retired), SP Bartolo Colon, SP Anibal Sanchez, SP Dillon Gee, RP Matt Belisle, SS Jermaine Palacios, C Chris Gimenez, C Hector Santiago
The Twins are coming off a turnaround season for the ages in 2017, becoming the first team in MLB history to make the postseason after losing more than 100 games in the previous year. Their bounce-back performance shifted the mentality in Minnesota from rebuilding to trying to make a deeper run into October.
Their first priority in achieving that goal this winter was signing manager Paul Molitor to a three-year extension on Oct. 9. Molitor, who was only the eighth manager in club history to take the Twins to the playoffs, will provide stability to a team in which the core of its players is still young.
After bringing back Molitor, the Twins went after their weakest link that ultimately doomed them in the AL Wild Card game against the Yankees: pitching.
They started with their bullpen, as they signed relievers Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke. By signing Reed to a two-year, $16.75 million deal to be their setup man, Rodney to a one-year, $4.5 million deal to be their closer and Duke to a one-year, $2.15 million deal to be their seventh/eighth inning man, the Twins have a more seasoned bullpen than they did a year ago when they had the fourth-worst batting average against (.261), had the fifth-worst strikeout total (482) and tied for the ninth-worst ERA (4.40) in the majors.
While going after relievers, the Twins tried their hardest to land top-flight starter Yu Darvish. They had reportedly made a formal offer to Darvish right after ace Ervin Santana broke his hand. The deal was either for four or five years, but Darvish turned it down and instead signed a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.
Even though they fell short in their pursuit, the Twins went on to add some quality starters, as they acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Rays and signed Lance Lynn to a one-year, $12 million deal. Both additions were steals for the Twins, as they only had to give up shortstop Jermaine Palacios for Odorizzi, who is under control through 2019, and they only have to pay Lynn — who was regarded as one of the top free agent starters this year along with Darvish, Jake Arrieta and Alex Cobb — $12 million guaranteed and $14 million maximum if he reaches his performance bonuses this year.
Lynn and Odorizzi will be part of a rotation that includes Santana (when he returns in May), Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and possibly Michael Pineda, who they signed to a two-year, $10 million deal as well despite him being sidelined following Tommy John surgery. Pineda may come back in September at the earliest, giving the Twins a rotation that could be dangerous if they get to the playoffs again.
Along with the pitching upgrades, the Twins also inked first baseman Logan Morrison to a one-year, $6.5 million contract to boost their lineup, which led the majors in runs in the second half of the season last year. Minnesota’s lineup becomes one of the tougher lineups in the AL now that they have a 30-plus homer player in Morrison, Joe Mauer, Miguel Sano, Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario in the first half of of the order, even if Sano may possibly miss time to start the season. Sano is currently under investigation by the league for violating its domestic violence policy after being publicly accused of unwanted sexual advances by freelance photographer Betsy Bissen.
Because they filled their biggest needs, the Twins are done looking for pieces for now. Depending on what happens with the Sano situation or if there are any setbacks with Santana, they could try to become buyers at the trade deadline this season. After all, the Twins want to prove that last year’s dramatic turnaround and run to the playoffs wasn’t a one-hit wonder.