The Twins off season started with the trade of two of their starting OFs, Denard Span to the Nationals and Ben Revere to the Twins. Starting SS Alexei Casilla is now with the Baltimore Orioles organization, but other than those moves, the offense should be similar to what it was in 2012, not that bad. The same cannot be said about their pitching staff, which was among the worst in the American League last season. GM Terry Ryan made it a priority to upgrade their starting rotation the best way possible, but there are still a lot of questions.
While the focus of this team will be on the future, there is still some life in the offense. Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit give the team a presence in the middle of the order. Mauer (.319, 10, 85 in 147 games) is the franchise player and is expected to be on the Twins for a long time. The same cannot be said about Morneau (.267, 19, 77 in 134 games) as he is due to be a free agent after this season. The Twins will probably look to move Morneau with the hopes of replenishing their farm system. Willingham (.260, 35, 110) is their biggest power hitter, and I can see the Twins only moving him for a substantial upgrade to the farm system. Doumit (.275, 18, 75) was as good as I expected him to be when the Twins picked him up as a free agent from Pittsburgh. Darin Mastroianni gets the chance to play CF everyday, with Chris Parmalee in RF, Pedro Florimon at SS and veteran Jamey Carroll at 2B. I would set the lineup like this Mastroianni CF, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Willingham LF, Doumit DH, Trevor Plouffe 3B (.235, 24, 55 in 119 games), Parmalee RF, Florimon SS, Carroll 2B. Brian Dozier will backup both middle infield positions with a chance to be a starter. The lack of depth on the bench is a concern, especially with the uncertainty surrounding Mastroianni, Parmalee and even Plouffe. Injury is always a concern when it comes to Mauer and Morneau. I would expect the Twins to be pursuing some depth in the outfield and on the bench.
The problem this team had last season was its pitching, particularly the starters. Scott Diamond (12-9, 3.54) was their best starter but made just 27 starts. After Diamond's 173 IP, Brian Duensing was next on the team in IP with 109. Duensing pitched in 55 games, 11 as a starter. Only Francisco Liriano (3-10, 5.31 before he was traded to Chicago) joined Diamond and Duensing in pitching 100 or more innings (and he had 100 even). They did a good job bringing in pitchers who should provide innings for them. Vance Worley (6-9, 4.20 in 23 starts) came over in the Revere trade and free agents Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.21, 32 games, 28 starts) and Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74 in 34, 33 during the 2011 season) are expected to provide said innings. Pelfrey is returning from Tommy John surgery and word is, he has been throwing the ball well. Cole De Vries (5-5, 4.11 in 16 starts) was throwing the ball well for the Twins before his season ended prematurely. Liam Hendricks is also battling for a spot in their rotation.
The bullpen is led by LHP Glen Perkins, who had 16 saves for the team last season after replacing the injured Matt Capps. Jared Burton, Alex Burnett and Duensing are the best options to set up. The Twins are hoping to get some help from veterans Rich Harden, NIck Blackburn and Rafael Perez, all in camp on minor league contracts.
As far as the farm system is concerned, expect to see RHP Kyle Gibson contributing at some point this season. Had it not been for an injury, he would already be up here. The Twins like him, Alex Meyer (obtained in the Span trade) and Trevor May (in the Revere trade). They would be happy if those three were staples in the rotation for years to come. OF Byron Buxton, their number 1 draft pick of a year ago, could be on the fast track, but it is unlikely we will see him in the big leagues this season.
It is hard to see the Twins winning a lot of games this season, especially with the talent in the AL Central. Vegas puts their over/ under at 64 1/2, which I think is very fair. I think they will finish below that though, at 62-100, last place in the AL Central. The three acquisitions for the rotation are key; if they can all pitch at their best, the team could be much better. Not playoff better, but maybe they can win 72-77 games. If so, Gardenhire should get a contract extension.