I don’t know about you guys, but I rolled into work ten minutes late and am nursing a headache. Last night sucked to watch, but at the same time, it felt preordained. As the rest of baseball turns its attentions to the ALDS, Twins fans can start thinking about off season.
Here are a few big story lines to watch this winter.
Which, if any, coaches are retained?
Public opinion seems to put Paul Molitor on the hot-seat. Despite the epic turn-around, and manager-of-the-year talk, Molitor has still never been “the front office’s guy.” Will Derek Falvey and Thad Levine decide to stick with the man who got some results, or will they trust someone else to oversee the final stages of the Twin’s rebuild?
As for the rest of the coaching staff, the front office could replace a few of them whether or not they keep Molitor. If Molitor stays, either pitching coach Neil Allen or Bullpen Coach Eddie Guardado could become sacrificial lambs, in the search for improved pitching performance. If Molitor is fired, though, I expect most of his staff to go with him.
The one man I truly hope is held over would be hitting coach James Rowson. The man has produced clear results with Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and other young Twins hitters.
Who will be the Twins’ Ace?
Last night made it clear: Ervin Santana is not the ace for a team on a deep playoff run. The veteran has been very good, but is not enough to sustain a true playoff run. Jose Berrios could be the ace of this staff in a couple years, but is still very young, very untested, and prone to wildness. Kyle Gibson has proved in the second half he deserves another year with the Twins, but he will never be more than a 4th or 5th pitcher on a good team.
The Twins have several good young arms on the farm, and Trevor May will be making a comeback, but there is room to acquire a true front line starter. If they go the free agent route, look for a record amount of Pohlad money to be handed out. If the Twins prefer to go the trade route, one or more of their rising stars will likely be trading teams. Either way, it will make the Hot Stove interesting for Twin fans.
Health, injuries, and conditioning questions?
The biggest name these questions swirl around is Miguel Sano. Can he maintain the playing weight the Twins want, and if not, how will it impact his career? Can he stay healthy for a full season? Byron Buxton is also a concern, not because of his conditioning, but because of the way he plays. Can the Twins trust his body to stand up to constant collisions with the center field wall? What kind of plan B should they have in place for the outfield if he is injured?
The Twins also have a lot of pitchers rehabbing right now. Can Trevor May and Ryan O’Rourke get back on the mound for spring training? If they can, how effective will they be? If they can’t who do the Twins replace them with? What will be the status of the fire-balling relievers on the farm who were shelved this season? Nick Burdi, Jake Reed, and J.T. Chargois ended the season on the DL, in addition to many others.
Are Glen Perkins and Bartolo Colon retiring?
This one really doesn’t have much impact on the future of the Twins, but its still a big story. Perkins has hinted it might happen, but hasn’t publicly committed. He’s a fan-favorite, so if he does, it will be a sad day for the fans. The cold truth though is that his immediate future is a soft-tossing, low-leverage guy, and therefore not worth the big contract option he carries. Perhaps the Twins can bring him back on a MiLB deal.
Big Sexy, while not a Twin for long, is a favorite of most baseball fans and was a big hit among his Twins teammates. He wants to pitch a few more years, from most reports, but is a free agent. The Twins could bring him back, or allow him to walk, without much impacting their starting pitching depth. The ancient pitcher is always a fun story though!
While our season may be over, there is plenty of fun to be had between now and February as a Twins fan! We can now officially start dreaming about the 2018 World Series.