Plenty of things contributed to the Twins' 10-17 record through 27 games, including slow starts and subsequent injuries to Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton as well as the 80-game suspension for shortstop Jorge Polanco.
No. 1 on the list of why the Twins struggled early, though, was this: Cumulatively, the significant players they added in the offseason were bad. And even the ones who had performed decently had failed at the worst times.
As such, the three victories Friday-Sunday in Chicago must have been more what Twins bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had in mind when they signed pitchers Lance Lynn, Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, traded for pitcher Jake Odorizzi and signed first baseman/designated hitter Logan Morrison.
Entering the weekend, those five players added up to minus-0.1 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference. That is to say the five biggest offseason acquisitions for the Twins had contributed less to winning this season than replacement level players (essentially defined as a minor league call-up) would be expected to produce.
All five of those players make the top 10 list of team payroll. Lynn signed late (for $12 million) and struggled mightily with his command — giving up 27 hits and 23 walks in 23⅔ innings spanning five starts. Not surprisingly, he entered the weekend 0-3 and the Twins had lost all five of his starts.
Finally on Saturday he showed evidence of his value and track record, pitching six solid innings with seven strikeouts and zero walks in a victory.
Rodney already had three blown saves as the closer this season, and another game he lost after entering tied. This weekend he had two clean saves, reminding us there is an upside to the Fernando Rodney Experience.
Reed has been about as advertised, but when he's been bad it's been particularly damaging. But he, too, rebounded from allowing recent walk-off home runs with strong relief work Sunday.
Morrison has shown signs of life recently, while Odorizzi has been decent all year.
The "good" news amid the early struggle for the Twins was that all five were acquired for a reason and, particularly Lynn and Morrison, figured to turn things around. Evidence of that is now here, and even though 13-17 is not a preferred record it's better than it was only a few days ago.
The Twins also have still played only five games against Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City — all against the White Sox, against whom the Twins are 4-1. That means they have 52 left (close to 40 percent of their remaining schedule) against three teams projected to be among the very worst in the majors this season.
Feasting on weak teams in the American League Central was a hallmark of the division-winning teams of the Twins in the 2000s, and it could be the recipe again this year.
A favorable schedule means nothing, though, without better play. Increased production from key additions plus the eventual return of Buxton, Sano and Ervin Santana could help the Twins continue to reverse course in a hurry.