SAN DIEGO – There were many conversations with agents and a few talks with other teams.
But the Twins left the winter meetings Thursday with the same holes in their roster that they had when they arrived. They remain in need of a starting pitcher — an impact arm, if possible — a capable reliever and a corner infielder.
Derek Falvey, the Twins President of Baseball Operations, doesn’t feel as if he’s working under a tight deadline. He signed Marwin Gonzalez after camp opened last season, so he knows how long things can play out. While the market this offseason appears to be moving more quickly than last offseason, he knows he still has to fill those holes.
“We have a lot of our winter to work through some other pieces,” he said. “I feel really good about a lot of the guys that are on our team. We brought back a lot of what we already had, but I think there’s still some work to be done.”
His biggest moves to this point were to make Jake Odorizzi a $17.8 million qualifying offer, which was accepted, and to bring back Michael Pineda for two years and $20 million. He also signed backup catcher Alex Avila.
The Twins, seeking to repeat at American League Central champs, have checked a couple of items off their list.
“What we’ve seen the last couple of years is that this process has skewed later and later each year,” General Manager Thad Levine said. “Maybe we’re seeing it rebound a little bit this offseason, and we’re going to be attentive to that. But we’re having a lot of meetings now to put ourselves in the best position to proceed.
“But I do think we’ve stabilized the team and that was essential. Now we still have the ability to impact it significantly. But first steps first was to stabilize.”
The rotation, as it stands, is three-fifths complete, with Jose Berrios joining Odorizzi and Pineda. Rookies Lewis Thorpe, Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak are expected to contribute, especially as Pineda serves the final 39 games of his 60-game suspension for using a banned substance.
As mentioned all week, free-agent lefthanders Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Dallas Keuchel are still available.
Bumgarner’s road ERA was 5.29 last season and 4.97 in 2018, so teams have to determine how effective he will be once out of pitcher-friendly Oracle Park. Ryu, who has only pitched for the Dodgers, might be more comfortable remaining on the West Coast. Keuchel is capable, but not the pitcher he was in 2017.
If the Twins decide to pass on these pitchers, they might transition to seeking a trade.
“The pace of every offseason is unique and different,” Falvey said. “I would anticipate that happening probably now that we get back home to our home cities, everyone kind of resets themselves a little bit and then you’re still having conversations with agents obviously, but maybe you’re getting a little more focused on some of the team discussions.”
The Twins non-tendered C.J. Cron and are looking to fill a hole at first base or third, with Miguel Sano sliding over to first if the Twins sign a third baseman. Josh Donaldson could be such a signing, but it might take a three- or four-year deal.
As for relievers, the Twins have the framework of a strong bullpen, with closer Taylor Rogers supported by Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Zack Littell. Cody Stashak was effective after making his major league debut during the season. Brusdar Graterol likely will be used in the bullpen more than the rotation, but he’s a potential game changer in either role.
They would like to add one more reliever. Sergio Romo, who arrived at the trade deadline and was effective, could be brought back. The Twins recently have had discussions with agents for Dellin Betances, who looks to bounce back from an injury-riddled season with the Yankees.
Pitchers and catchers report in two months. There’s time for the Twins to top off the roster. At the same time, they just completed another winter meetings during which little happened.
“It’s the winter meetings and I get it,” Falvey said. “There’s a lot of focus. Next week we’ll turn our attention to doing more work again. That’s the way you have to look at it.”