The Minnesota Twins ended their postseason-less streak at seven seasons as they lost in the American League Wild Card game to the New York Yankees. However, it was a very successful season for the Twins, who improved by 28 games and now have a foundation for the future. They finished the year 85-77 and while that was still 17 games off the pace in the American League Central, it was still the fifth-most wins in the American League.
They will have Paul Molitor back at the helm with a new contract after he won the American League Manager of the Year award. Along with a core of young talent that figures to be better after a year of experiences, the Twins are definitely a team to keep an eye on.
2017 Season Recap
The Twins were 85-77, which put them at second place in the American League Central, 17 games behind Cleveland, but they were five games ahead of Kansas City in the wild-card race. They landed that spot, but the Twins lost 8-4 on the road in the wild-card game against the Yankees. The Twins were 47-32 as a favorite, and they were 38-46 as an underdog, which put them at $+1148 in terms of money. The Twins were 41-40 at home, 44-37 on the road, 41-35 against their Central Division rivals and 13-7 against the National League. Finally, the Twins were 73-79-10 in the over/under standings.
What Went Wrong
The pitching staff could have been much better, ranking 19th in ERA at 4.59, 17th in WHIP at 1.37, tied for 24th with 62 and 26th at .266. Ervin Santana had his best season in three years with Minnesota, going 16-8 with an ERA of 3.38, but he has been wildly inconsistent over his career and he is turning 35 years old in December. Brandon Kintzler had 28 saves, but he was traded to Washington and the Twins never really found a replacement for him. Matt Belisle had nine saves to lead any other Twins that went for the role, but he also blew five saves. Taylor Rogers might be up next season after racing up 30 holds, and he had a record of 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA, but he also blew four save opportunities. The Twins definitely need some work on the mound to catch up to their hitting.
What Went Right
The Twins were seventh in runs scored with 815 and on-base percentage at .334, ninth in batting average of .260 and 12th in slugging percentage at .434. Eddie Rosario hit .290 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs and at 26 years old, he could be in line for a monster season at the plate in 2018. Brian Dozier showed that his 42 home runs in 2016 were no fluke as he hit another 34 last season, adding 93 RBIs with a .271 average. Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler all played extremely well and should improve as they are all 24 or younger this offseason. It also wasn’t all bad on the mound as Jose Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.89 ERA in his first full year as a starter and he doesn’t turn 24 until July. If Santana falls off a cliff this season (although it is a contract year for Sananta), Berrios should be ready to take the baton and become the best starter on the staff. Rogers was great out of the bullpen, but his role for next season has yet to be defined. In the field, only three teams committed fewer errors than the Twins, which is a good sign. Still, it was a fantastic season for the Twins, who were the first team to lose 100 games or more in one season and then make the playoffs in the next season. That should make the team even more hungry for next season as the Twins have a lot of good, young players that have scraped the surface of their potential.
Key Free Agents
Hector Santiago is a free agent after making just 14 starts in 2017 due to a back injury and after making $8 million last season, the Indians probably won’t make any attempt to re-sign him. The Twins won’t look at re-signing Glen Perkins, either as they didn’t pick up his $6.5 million option, but he is 34 and has had problems with his shoulder in the past. Belisle is also a free agent and made just over $2 million last year, but he is also 37 years old and unless the Twins can bring him back for cheap, he’ll likely test the market.
Where They Need To Find Help
Because of the Twins’ success last season, they could end up as a free-agent destination for a few pitchers. One intriguing possibility is Greg Holland, who rejected Colorado’s qualifying offer after saving 41 games last season and if the Twins are willing to pony up for Holland, their closer role could be solved and Rogers would go back to being a set-up man. Bryan Shaw would also be interesting to look at as he played in Cleveland, he knows the division and he could be looking to be a closer after being behind Andrew Miller and Cody Allen in the Indians’ bullpen. A top-of-the-line starter would also be good for the Twins because while Santana and Berrios were very good last season, can you depend on Santana (again, in a contract year)? Also, Berrios is still 23 years old. There are rumors that the Twins were sniffing around Pittsburgh’s Gerritt Cole. They could also be looking to make a bigger splash like former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs, or Yu Darvish of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It all depends on how much the Twins are willing to spend and last season, they were 22nd in the majors in payroll. The Twins haven’t been higher than 19th in payroll over the last five years and if they are going to be serious contenders in the American League, they’re going to have to splash some cash, preferably on the mound. The Twins have good pieces in the lineup, but a front-line starter and closer would accelerate the process even more and the American League Central look much more interesting.
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