One year ago, Twins General Manager Thad Levine seemed to disappoint a TwinsFest audience by downplaying the team's willingness to pursue the most talented and expensive free agents, explaining that "the best moves are made not when you're trying to open the window to contend, but when the window is wide open."
That window, Levine said, is now open wide enough for Josh Donaldson to climb in.
"Our intention entering the offseason was to add a player we felt would really elevate the team," Levine said at Tuesday night's Baseball Old Timers Hot Stove League annual banquet. "In Josh Donaldson, we feel we've done that."
Donaldson underwent a series of physical examinations in Minneapolis on Tuesday, and is expected to sign his four-year, $92 million contract on Wednesday. It's the most money the Twins have ever committed to a free agent by more than $37 million, a consideration Levine said the team doesn't take lightly. But 101 victories, an AL Central championship, and a core of young players all still in their 20s convinced them the investment would pay off.
"A team that operates in the payroll range that we do, when you sign guys like this, you've to be very right about the who and the when," Levine said. "We feel very confident in the who, and we feel the when is the right time. Maybe we weren't poised to strike at this level a year or two ago. Now we feel we are."
That doesn't mean the Twins are finished, however. Levine said they haven't given up on supplementing the starting rotation, though he maintains that re-signing Michael Pineda and Jake Odorizzi and adding free agents Rich Hill and Homer Bailey gives the Twins a strong enough nucleus to make the Twins successful this season.
But they're still looking for more.
"For whatever reason, the free agent market has been extremely robust this offseason, but the trade market really has been very lethargic. We haven't seen very much movement at all on that front," Levine said. "But we are trying to stimulate some more conversations in that realm. There is still plenty of time, and we feel like we're operating in a position of strength," thanks to number of traceable prospects nearing the major leagues.
For now, though, the Twins are excited about the addition of a strong fielder who should shore up their subpar infield defense, one of their other main offseason goals. When the Twins chose not to offer a contract to first baseman C.J. Cron in November, Levine said, "we had in mind that it would allow us to make an addition of a defense-first player in the infield."
They got one in Donaldson, Levine believes. "As he walks though the door, he is already one of our foremost defensive infielders, and probably, along with [outfielder Byron] Buxton, one of our most decorated defenses players, period," Levine said. "But he's also a formidable bat, a middle-of-the-order contributor. To get that sort of combination in one player, it's the sort of acquisition you don't get to make very often."
That's the statement Levine hopes Twins fans notice.
"Since I've been here, there is an expectation that we always will fall short in these kind of pursuits. But we have always had the support of the Pohlad family to make these sort of decisions," Levine said, referencing the owners of the Twins. "We wouldn't have invested in him now if we didn't feel like this was the right time, where we're built to win."