The Twins have filled their opening at second base, assembled options for first base and feel comfortable with four-fifths of their starting rotation.
That leaves one position, maybe two, left on their shopping list as they head to Las Vegas this week for the annual Major League Baseball winter meetings. They will be on the lookout for relief help, with a market that has several free agents available and a few available by trade. And, if the right opportunity presents itself, they could make another move to boost the offense.
The Twins have indicated that next season will be about allowing their young core to continue to develop. So they won’t be in the Manny Machado and Bryce Harper free-agent sweepstakes, likely will pass on starting rotation upgrades and have been one of a few teams to not be linked to a trade with the Mariners, who are tearing apart their roster.
But there’s still work to be done as the Twins join 29 other clubs at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for the annual weeklong verbal banquet.
“Going into the winter meetings, we have a good idea of what our general approach will be while we are there and who we need to meet with,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said. “But the reality is that as soon as you get there, things start changing and there are different conversations that take place that you weren’t anticipating.”
The Twins were on the hunt for a starting second baseman last week and signed 2017 All-Star Jonathan Schoop, who had an awful 2018, to a one-year, $7.5 million contract Thursday. With the retirement of Joe Mauer, they needed a first baseman. So last month they claimed C.J. Cron off waivers from the Rays. Cron, who hit 30 homers last season, was signed to a $4.8 million deal to avoid arbitration.
Those could end up being their most noteworthy acquisitions. The only chance the Twins could pull off a surprise is if someone such as Nelson Cruz becomes affordable enough to make him the full-time designated hitter in 2019. They prefer to use different players in the role next season, but that is the only position where they could add a player.
The Twins appear to be comfortable with their options for the starting rotation. Jose Berrios went 12-11 with a 3.84 ERA last season and pitched in the All-Star Game. Kyle Gibson went 10-13 with a 3.62 ERA. Jake Odorizzi, acquired after camp opened, stumbled to 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA.
Falvey spoke highly of Michael Pineda, the former Yankees righthander who spent 2018 rehabbing from elbow surgery, as if he is already counted as part of the rotation. Pineda’s elbow is fine, but a sore right knee kept him from pitching for the Twins in September.
“[Pineda] looks great working out in Florida,” Falvey said. “We feel like he’s a guy who, when we signed him, the whole anticipation was for this season and the upside he could provide in the rotation.”
Lefthanders Adalberto Mejia and Stephen Gonsalves and righthanders Kohl Stewart, Zack Littell, Aaron Slegers, Chase DeJong and Fernando Romero are candidates for the last spot in the rotation. The Twins didn’t get involved in talks for free agents Patrick Corbin, Nathan Eovaldi and J.A. Happ. Corbin has signed with the Nationals, Eovaldi re-signed with the Red Sox and the Yankees reportedly want to bring back Happ.
But the Twins could get involved in talks for free-agent relievers Cody Allen or Kelvin Herrera. They could spend hours in their suite talking with agents Sam and Seth Levinson, who represent Allen, Jeurys Familia and Adam Ottavino, all of whom could boost the Twins relief corps.
The Twins also are willing to move the starters who don’t win a spot into the rotation into the bullpen. Falvey mentioned Mejia as a possibility, and rumblings about moving Romero, who can throw 97 miles per hour, to the bullpen have started again.
“In terms of bullpen, that’s the group you always kind of feel like you are monitoring and seeing what’s out there and we can certainly add to that group,” Falvey said.
“We do feel really good about some of our young arms, guys that might even slide from that starter group. Some of those guys could end up in the bullpen.
“But I would anticipate this week that a lot of those conversations will pick up.”