Five offseason questions
1. Will Torii Hunter return?
Hunter hit 22 homers and drove in 81 runs. He also batted .240 and runs like a 40-year-old. Nevertheless, players want him back because of the intangibles he brings, and his production wasn’t that shabby. The Twins might want him in a reduced role, so Hunter has to determine if he can play another season and, then, if he would be happy as a part-time player. Teammates will watch this one closely.
2. Who’s at third?
The Miguel Sano era began with him as a designated hitter. He quickly showed more offensive splash than most of his teammates, and his big power gave the lineup an identity. But the Twins don’t want a 23-year-old DH and might look to put him at third base, where he has the arm and range but needs polish. That could lead to a trade of current third baseman Trevor Plouffe. Or Sano could play first base and Joe Mauer could DH. If the DH spot is filled, where would Hunter fit in, if he re-signs?
3. Who fills the rotation?
Twins manager Paul Molitor had trouble finding five healthy starters as the postseason race heated up, but the Twins aren’t likely to have that problem when they head to spring training. In fact, for the first time in years, the team might have a surplus of starters. Ervin Santana, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and Tyler Duffey finished the season in the rotation. Opening Day starter Phil Hughes would have, too, had he not gotten pneumonia. Ricky Nolasco might have to beat someone out to start next season. Trevor May might be converted back to a starter after bailing out the bullpen. And prospect Jose Berrios should be ready to contribute. Who ends up at Class AAA Rochester to start the season?
4. Bullpen makeover?
The Twins needed May to strengthen the bullpen. Trades for Kevin Jepsen and Neal Cotts brought stability to a relief unit that sorely needed it. Everyone had to step up when Glen Perkins had neck and back problems — on top of being ineffective at times during the second half. Jepsen took over as closer and excelled, but the Twins could be looking to add at least one and perhaps two quality relievers in 2016. And they could use relievers who can strike dangerous hitters out. Will they be comfortable paying $4 million to $5 million a year for a reliever, which is the going rate for good ones? And will Perkins close next season, or will they decide to roll with Jepsen instead of their three-time All-Star?
5. Do they need help at catcher?
Pitchers love throwing to Kurt Suzuki, but he struggled to block some balls this season and threw out only 15 percent of base-stealers. He also ranks low in ability to frame pitches to get more strikes called. On top of it all, he batted only .240 with half as many doubles as last season. Will the Twins look for an upgrade? Will they try to add a catcher good enough to share the workload with Suzuki? Will Josmil Pinto, who was hindered by concussions in the minors during the season, get a chance to back up Suzuki? Pinto still has power in his bat.