A lot of sentiment has been expressed about the Twins’ lack of eagerness to continue signing free agents this offseason. I definitely understand that everyone wants their favorite team to win and go all the way. It’s great that teams have loyal fan bases such as Twins Territory, hungry for another World Series. I’ve seen the Twins reach the playoffs many times in my life only to watch it end in disappointment. (I was only a year old when the Twins won their last World Series.)
But I think a lot of fans are too hungry for the Twins to go all the way this year. It’s often overlooked that building a team is more important than going all-in. With the farm system they have, I believe that the Twins will be a very competitive team within three to five years. Here are some points to ponder before you really set your expectations for this season. (Remember, pitchers and catchers report in only one week!)
Buxton and Sano
It is going to be very important to see what Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano do this year. Without these two core players (along with Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco, and Jose Berrios), this team cannot make the playoffs. After disappointing 2018 seasons from both players, the two are looking to bounce back in the 2019 campaign. If one of the two bounce back, the Twins are sitting okay. If both do well, then the Twins are full steam ahead. If both flop, the Twins have some soul searching to do and will then have to look at free agency next offseason to meet their needs to make the playoffs in the future.
Not only are Buxton and Sano under the microscope, but the aforementioned Kepler, Polanco, and Berrios (among others) will be closely watched to make sure that they can keep up with the majors and hold their own. If these players have a bust season, they might not be in a Twins uniform in the future.
How will the new guys do?
The Twins didn’t sit on their hands all offseason. Newly-signed players – Jonathan Schoop (Scope?... Shoup?...), Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Blake Parker, and Martin Perez – were signed to one-year deals. If these players perform well enough for the Twins this season, they can definitely look at signing them for future seasons if the front office sees the team as a playoff contender, which depends on how the young core does (see above). If these signings do not go so well this year, the Twins have some decent depth in the farm system to fall back on, albeit a visit to the playoffs would likely be pushed out a couple years.
Minnesota Twins, 2019 American League Central Champions
The American League Central is for the Twins’ taking this year. Chicago, Kansas City, and Detroit are not expected to be contenders this year. Cleveland is once again expected to be the only real contender of the division, but after a run of successful seasons, they look to be a bit less challenging this go-around. With that being said, the Twins could challenge the Indians for the AL Central crown for the first time in… (checks records… oh my…) almost a decade – all dependent on how the young core and new signings can do. If the Twins are contenders by the trading deadline, “Falvine” could make some moves to propel the local nine to the playoffs.
Minnesota Twins, Not the 2019 World Series Champions
But with that being said… the Twins are not World Series contenders this year. The Twins can be good enough to with the AL Central with the team they currently have, but with how the dominoes fall right now, they are not the team to go all the way this year. There is too much riding on how potential superstars Buxton and Sano do this year, along with how solid the Twins pitching corps can be. How the new bats can help the team offensively is a question mark going into this season.
Payroll Beyond 2019
Besides a couple of team options and a bunch of arbitration-eligible players, the Twins have no definite payroll on the books after this upcoming season. This seems to be a “wait-and-see” season, and although the Twins could take the AL Central or a Wild Card spot this season, Twins fans should be excited to see what their favorite team can bring to the table this year, along with the up-and-coming talent waiting in the wings from Rochester (no pun intended). Yes, this may not be ideal for the World Series-starved Twins fans, but I believe the light is shining at the end of the tunnel.
If the Twins’ roster can come together this season and show that they are reliable, the front office will probably look to re-sign most of the free agents they signed this winter, become confident in the younger players they have now, and make the moves necessary next offseason to make this team playoff-worthy for years to come.
Have patience, Twins fans. Our time will come once again.