An already busy offseason for Twins manager Rocco Baldelli has just gotten busier.
In addition to doing his part to help attract starting pitching, Baldelli has to continue to restructure his coaching staff since assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner is now the pitching coach with the Mets and bench coach Derek Shelton is going to manage the Pirates.
We’ll focus on his role in the pitching search first, since that probably has grabbed your attention.
The Twins are unlikely to go after über-aces Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg in free agency, but they have interest in the next tier of arms. That group includes righthander Zack Wheeler and lefthanders Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. While it’s still early in the process — there are no indications that contract offers have been made to any of them — recruiting has been going strong. And Baldelli, along with Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, has been in contact with several free-agent starters, talking up the Twins’ culture and how they make pitchers better.
“I would say when guys are signing to spend significant years of their life in a certain place with a certain team, it has to do with a lot of different things,” Baldelli said, “not just how many years and how many dollars they are going to get. Those are important factors, we know that. Making sure that people are comfortable and are going to a place with the right people they want to be with and they want to work with. I think that is just as important.”
Baldelli did the same last year with mixed results. He spoke with free agent Charlie Morton, but the pitcher picked the Rays. Nelson Cruz, however, chose the Twins over Tampa Bay and became Papa Bomba of the BombaSquad.
“This is something we did last year as well, and I think it makes a lot of sense to do so.” Baldelli said. “I enjoy talking with guys. Some of them end up Twins and some of them don’t. All of those conversations are worthwhile in every way.”
Wheeler, Bumgarner or Ryu would represent a solid upgrade to the front three of the Twins rotation, joining righthanders Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi on a staff backed by an offense coming off an MLB-record 307 home runs last season.
When Baldelli isn’t selling the Twins to potential free agents, the 2019 AL Manager of the Year is now looking at potential members of his coaching staff. When James Rowson left to become the bench coach and offensive coordinator for the Marlins, the Twins promoted minor league field coordinator Edgar Varela to become the hitting coach. The organization now is looking inside and outside the organization for a new assistant pitching coach and bench coach.
“It definitely becomes a challenge to look around and find new people who are going to be exceptional,” Baldelli said. “We have started to do that already with Edgar Varela and now are going to explore some different thoughts and ideas to fill the rest of the staff out.”
Baldelli, who is spending the offseason near his hometown of Woonsocket, R.I., has already struck one major deal this offseason. He got engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Allie Genoa, during a stroll through Yosemite National Park.
“I proposed to her,” Baldelli said, “in the middle of nowhere.”