Last October in this space, I predicted five outcomes that would unfold for the Minnesota Twins in the ensuing offseason. As it turned out, three proved accurate and the other two proved laughably, laughably wrong.
As we look ahead to another offseason, which some are painting as one of the most important in franchise history, here's another set of predictions -- some bold, some not -- for what I expect to see in the coming months:
1) The Twins will make a bid for Masahiro Tanaka but will come up short of the winning post.
As a 24-year-old with the ability to become a long-term asset at the top of a rotation, Tanaka seems like a logical fit for the Twins. Given their budget surplus, they are poised to place an aggressive bid on the Japanese star, who appears to be the best pitcher available on the open market this year. However, with new revenues flowing in for all 30 MLB teams, and with a number of large-market big spenders showing interest in Tanaka, I suspect that the posting fee may set a new record (beating Yu Darvish's $51 million) and there's no way I can see Terry Ryan wading into those waters.
2) A veteran catcher will be signed.
Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit both suffered concussions during the 2013 season and were held away from catching duties in the final months. It's unclear how either of those two will be handled going forward, and Josmil Pinto looks like a nice young option to step in, but with all the uncertainty going on, the Twins may see a need to add a seasoned defensive specialist to the mix. A veteran with a reputation for working well with pitchers would make a great of sense.
3) Terry Ryan will hand out the largest free agent contract in franchise history.
The bar isn't set very high. Josh Willingham's three-year, $21 million deal signed in 2011 currently holds the title, and with costs expected to rise (perhaps dramatically) across the league, that amount probably won't go very far this winter. I'm not saying they're going to be inking any nine-digit commitments, but if the Twins want to add any kind of impact talent they will need to spend at a level that is unprecedented by their own standards. They'll have more than enough money available to do so.
4) Miguel Sano will emerge as the favorite to start 2014 at third base.
Presently Sano looks like a long shot to claim a spot on the MLB roster out of spring training next year. He has spent only half a season in Double-A, and the Twins are surely gun shy about aggressive promotions for top prospects after the Aaron Hicks experiment blew up in their faces. Of course, Sano is in another category of talent entirely. He slugged .610 with 35 homers between Single-A and Double-A this season, and people within the organization have raved about his defensive progression as he nearly cut his error total in half from the previous year (42 in 2012, 23 in 2013). Over the course of the offseason, I believe we'll hear more and more buzz surrounding Sano's potential to win a spot in March; at that point, it will be up to the 20-year-old to capitalize.
5) Brian Duensing will be non-tendered.
This is a bit of a stretch because Duensing has been an effective pitcher and is well liked by the organization. But he's eligible to go to arbitration for a second time and his salary could rise above $2 million. That's a fair amount to spend on a lefty specialist out of the bullpen and, while the Twins are hardly hurting for cash, they might prefer to save a little by going with cheaper in-house options such as Caleb Thielbar and Pedro Hernandez.