news 4 days ago

Twins thinking aggressively when assessing roster needs, free-agent market

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) — By La Velle E. Neal III Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Oct. 09-- Before the season began, Twins General Manager Thad Levine was asked about when the Twins' window of opportunity would be open. He replied that they were trying to jam their fingers under the window frame and get leverage.

On Wednesday, during an end-of-season session with reporters, Levine provided an update.

"I think we feel a breeze," he said with a grin. "We're feeling a breeze right now. I think we feel like we're getting to a place now where we feel a little bit more emboldened to sit down with [owner] Jim Pohlad and [President] Dave [St. Peter] and talk about being a little bit more aggressive. We feel like we're progressing for sure."

A young core buttressed by a few veterans produced a division title and 101 wins-and the Twins plan to respond by aiming high for upgrades, especially for the starting rotation.

Righthander Jose Berrios is set to return from a rotation in which all five starters reached double digits in wins but, because of illness, suspension, and poor form, fell apart during the second half of the season.

"In free agency, we're going to have a lot of conversations with a lot of players who are freely available to talk to us," Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said. "We're also going to talk to a lot of clubs about players that are on other teams and potential trade targets for us. I can't put a number or where a guy is or what that means, but we're going to target impact pitching. I think that's going to be a big part of our focus, and try to figure out if we can get there."

Deeds, not words, an anxious fanbase will demand. The Twins have not gone deep sea fishing for free agents often. They offered Yu Darvish a five year, $100 million contract before the 2018 season, but he signed with the Cubs. In terms of average salary, the most the Twins have spent on a free agent $14 million, given to Ervin Santana four years and Nelson Cruz this season. Cruz had his 2020 option for $12 million picked up by the club on Wednesday.

And will the Twins consider signing a pitcher-say Madison Bumgarner or Zack Wheeler-that will require them to surrender a draft pick?

Rigthanders Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda all are free agents after the season, and there's a club option worth $7.5 million on lefthander Martin Perez's contract that the club has yet to pick up. Of that group, the Twins would be best served bringing back Odorizzi, who was 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA.

"I really enjoyed my two years here and I think I've been pretty straightforward about that," Odorizzi said on Monday following the Twins Game 3 loss to the Yankees. "I try to be as straightforward as possible with just about everything. That's just the kind of person I am and if I'm back that would be great. I've really taken a liking to here."

Righthander Randy Dobnak and lefthander Devin Smeltzer will be among in-house options. And the Twins could use some of their prospects as part of package to trade for a proven starter.

The Twins will discuss what to do with righthander Brusdar Graterol and his 100-miles per hour fastball. He began the season as a starter before missing time with a shoulder injury. He recovered during the second half, but the Twins groomed him for a postseason bullpen role.

Graterol has never thrown more than 102 innings in a season. Even if he's stretched out to start next season, he will be on an innings limit.

Now feeling a breeze from the window of opportunity, the Twins will have to consider every possibility while replacing up to 80% of their rotation.

"Tomorrow's Plan B becomes the next day's Plan A," Levine said, "so we are going to lay out a lot of different scenarios, a lot of situations where we can try to address some of the deficiencies on our team, but we're never going to stay true and married to just one plan."

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