The Twins must hire three coaches this offseason to add to manager Rocco Baldelli’s staff. They also need to fill at least three openings in their starting pitching rotation. The bullpen needs to be shored up, and the Twins will be looking for a starting shortstop, too.
All that to say, there’s plenty of work for president of baseball operations Derek Falvey, general manager Thad Levine and the rest of the Twins’ front office that must be done this offseason if the Twins are to improve on a 2021 team that finished 73-89 and in last place in the American League Central.
The Twins’ season concluded on Oct. 3 in Kansas City, but the offseason really kicks off following the conclusion of the World Series, which begins Tuesday night in Houston. Here are five questions for the Twins that must be answered over the course of the next few months.
How will the CBA negotiations affect the Twins?
All that work the Twins have to do this offseason? It’s anyone’s guess when those moves will actually be made. The Collective Bargaining Agreement ends on Dec. 1, casting an air of uncertainty on the entire offseason.
What that means for the Twins at this point is, quite frankly, impossible to know. But it seems quite possible that it could be a slow, quiet offseason until a deal between MLB and the MLB Players Association is agreed upon.
While teams could theoretically conduct business as usual in November, it it more likely that they wait to see the parameters of the new CBA before making their offseason moves, which could potentially mean a flurry of moves right before spring training begins.
What will their pitching rotation look like on March 31?
The Twins are scheduled to kick off the 2022 season on March 31 in Chicago, and as it sits now, who they’ll have starting that game is a complete mystery.
How different things were a year ago.
The Twins were expecting to have José Berríos and Kenta Maeda atop their rotation in 2022 this time last year. But Berríos, in the midst of one of his best seasons personally, was traded at the deadline during a disappointing 2021 season for the team, and Maeda underwent Tommy John surgery in September, which will keep him out for most — if not all — of next season.
While the Twins could turn to Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan, both of whom debuted in 2021 (and have a combined 25 games of major league experience), the top of their rotation has to be the focal point of their offseason.
How well they can remake their rotation — whether in free agency, by making trades or by turning to internal options — will largely dictate their on-field success next season.
What will the Twins do with Byron Buxton?
The fate of the Twins’ best player is another one of the most important questions for this offseason, and it could wind up explaining a lot about the team’s thought process and future plans.
The Twins tried to extend center fielder Byron Buxton ahead of the 2021 trade deadline, but ultimately were unable to come to an agreement. Buxton, at season’s end, said he was keeping the door open to the possibility.
If the Twins make another run at extending Buxton’s contract and if it’s unsuccessful — or if they don’t entirely — is it possible that they could trade him? Buxton has one year of team control remaining, and if the Twins were to opt to trade him, they would maximize the return for him by doing it this offseason rather than later down the road at the trade deadline.
Will the Twins trade from their position player core?
Buxton isn’t the only position player the Twins could consider trading, and it’s certainly possible that the Twins explore the trade route in their quest for pitching this offseason.
In September, catcher Mitch Garver acknowledged the possibility of being traded was something he thought about often. If the Twins were to trade their highest-paid player, Josh Donaldson, they’d almost assuredly have to eat some of the contract, but it doesn’t seem far fetched to think that they’d consider it.
Or, with Alex Kirilloff and Trevor Larnach as options to snag corner outfield spots, could Max Kepler, who the Twins have under contract for two more seasons and hold a team option on in 2024, be a trade piece?
What about shortstop?
The Twins brought in Andrelton Simmons last year as a one-year stop gap. Top prospect Royce Lewis was slated to start the season at Double-A and spend the season in the upper minors, potentially even debuting in the big leagues later in 2021.
That, of course, did not happen. Lewis tore his ACL before the season started, requiring surgery that wiped out his entire year and set back his timeline. In the meantime, the Twins also traded for another top prospect, Austin Martin, a shortstop and center fielder, whose positional fit in the majors is still yet to be determined.
Neither are major-league ready.
This year’s free agent class is rich with talent at shortstop — Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager and Javier Báez are among the more high-profile names on the market — but if the Twins are banking on putting Lewis or even Martin there shortly, they could opt to go once again with a stop-gap player for 2022.
The Twins shifted Jorge Polanco off the position ahead of the 2021 season to second base, and while they could hypothetically shift him back there and allocate money for a shortstop to filling other needs, that move would provide a setback defensively.