Skip to content

2013 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Mar 22, 2013, 3:15 PM EST

Rick Anderson, Ron Gardenhire AP

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Today: the Minnesota Twins.

The Big Question: Did the Twins do enough to improve their AL-worst rotation?

After a decade-long run as a consistent winner in the AL Central the Twins fell apart in 2011, losing 99 games and firing general manager Bill Smith while replacing him with the man he replaced, Terry Ryan. Things were supposed to be better last season and I suppose technically they were, but the Twins lost 96 games despite a far healthier team and some strong individual performances because they simply couldn’t pitch.

Twins starting pitchers had the worst ERA in baseball among teams that don’t call Coors Field home and the pitching staff as a whole recorded the fewest strikeouts in baseball for the second straight season. At the beginning of the offseason Ryan spoke of big plans for addressing the terrible rotation, but when the dust settled the only moves were trading for Vance Worley and signing Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey as free agents.

Worley was a sound pickup who should be a solid mid-rotation starter long term and Pelfrey is a reasonable enough reclamation project with mid-rotation potential as he comes back from Tommy John elbow surgery, but giving a two-year, $10 million deal to Correia made little sense when similar or better pitchers were agreeing to one-year deals all winter.  Of the 91 pitchers to throw at least 400 innings as starters since 2010 he ranked 88th in ERA, 81st in strikeout rate, and 80th in strikeout-to-walk ratio.

And that was it. That was the full extent of the Twins addressing their awful rotation.

Would-be Opening Day starter Scott Diamond will begin the season on the disabled list following a setback with what the team called minor elbow surgery in December and former first-round pick Kyle Gibson isn’t ready for the majors after Tommy John surgery in late 2011, so the Twins will likely turn to Samuel Deduno and/or Cole DeVries to fill out the rotation. It’s not a good sign when the same career minor leaguers who joined the rotation as emergency options during a miserable season are already back in the mix before Opening Day.

What else is going on?

• As dark as things look for the Twins now the future is extremely bright. Thanks to the combination of shrewd international signings, high draft picks, and veteran-for-prospect trades the Twins have built one of the best farm systems in baseball. They placed six prospects on Baseball America‘s top-100 list, including Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton in the top 10, and will add the No. 4 overall pick in the draft to the farm system in June. I’ve been writing about the Twins on my personal blog for 11 years and this is the best, deepest farm system they’ve had in that time.

• Sano and Buxton are still teenagers and years away from the majors, but the Twins look likely to get an immediate impact from the farm system by naming Aaron Hicks their Opening Day center fielder. Hicks has yet to play above Double-A, but the former first-round pick is a standout defender with an elite arm and improved significantly at the plate last season by adding power to his already strong patience. Delaying the start of his service time clock by sending him to Triple-A for a month or so would seemingly make sense, but all signs point to the Twins handing Hicks the job now.

• Ron Gardenhire enters his 13th season as Twins manager without a contract beyond this year and most of his coaching staff was fired or reassigned during the offseason, leading to speculation that another 90-loss season would lead to his exit. He’s the second-longest tenured manager in MLB behind Mike Scioscia.

• If the Twins get off to another bad start it’ll be interesting to see if they begin shopping veterans. In the past they’ve largely shied away from that, choosing to let guys like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel leave via free agency, but Justin Morneau will be a free agent after the season and Josh Willingham isn’t exactly part of the long-term plans at age 34.

Joe Mauer took an incredible amount of heat locally for an injury wrecked 2011 season, which tends to happen when you miss half the year after signing a $184 million contract. He bounced back in a huge way last season, setting career-highs in games and plate appearances while hitting .319 with the highest on-base percentage in the league. Mauer was paid $23 million last season and Fan Graphs calculated his on-field value at … $23 million. Joe Mauer ain’t the problem.

• Target Field is an amazing place to watch a game and easily one of MLB’s best ballparks, but as the Twins enter Year 4 there they’ve already squandered much of the new ballpark excitement by putting out a terrible product. Only the Astros had a bigger attendance drop last year as Minnesota fell into the middle of the pack, and 20 percent of season ticket holders did not renew. And that becomes a chicken-or-egg situation, because the Twins have sliced payroll from $115 million in 2010 to $80 million this year in part due to decreased revenue, but the lack of spending has also helped turn the team into something no one wants to watch.

Prediction: Fifth place, American League Central

Latest Posts
  1. A.J. Pierzynski to earn a $2 million base salary with the Braves

    Dec 26, 2014, 10:25 PM EST

    A.J. Pierzynski A.J. Pierzynski

    The Braves’ one-year deal with catcher A.J. Pierzynski is for $2 million.

  2. Rafael Furcal suffers torn hamstring, will miss Dominican Winter League playoffs

    Dec 26, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    Rafael Furcal Rafael Furcal

    Rafael Furcal has suffered another injury, this time a torn hamstring which will keep him out of the Dominican Winter League playoffs.

  3. Report: Phillies nearing a deal with Wandy Rodriguez

    Dec 26, 2014, 8:03 PM EST

    Wandy Rodriguez Wandy Rodriguez

    If Wandy Rodriguez passes his physical, the Phillies are expected to sign him to a minor league deal.

  4. Jeff Manship signed a minor league deal with the Indians

    Dec 26, 2014, 7:10 PM EST

    Carlos Ruiz, Jeff Manship Carlos Ruiz, Jeff Manship

    Jeff Manship will begin the spring with the Indians after signing a minor league deal.

  5. Giants may target Ben Zobrist

    Dec 26, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

    Ben Zobrist Ben Zobrist

    According to Peter Gammons, some GMs think the Giants will eventually trade for Ben Zobrist.

  6. Report: Hiroki Kuroda is going back to Japan

    Dec 26, 2014, 3:49 PM EST

    Hiroki Kuroda Getty Images

    After seven years in the United States, Hiroki Kuroda is heading home.

  7. Nationals sign Dan Uggla

    Dec 26, 2014, 11:32 AM EST

    dan uggla getty Getty Images

    Uggla hit .179 in 2013 and .149 this year.

  8. Baseball in Uganda? Yes, baseball in Uganda.

    Dec 26, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    Uganda tourism destinations

    And it’s all thanks to a man named George Mukhobe.

  9. Giants re-sign J.C. Gutierrez

    Dec 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    Juan Gutierrez Giants AP

    He threw 64 innings with a 3.96 ERA and 44/16 K/BB ratio for the Giants in 2014.

  10. Padres season ticket sales have spiked in the wake of their offseason spending spree

    Dec 26, 2014, 9:35 AM EST

    padres logo

    Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.

  11. Chihiro Kaneko re-signs with Orix Buffaloes

    Dec 25, 2014, 3:05 PM EST

    kaneko getty Getty Images

    Japanese righty Chihiro Kaneko might have been one of the top starters on the open market this winter had he been posted by the Orix Buffaloes, his Nippon Professional Baseball team.

  12. 2015 Free Agent Tracker

    Dec 25, 2014, 1:23 PM EST

    Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez

    Your one-stop shop for all of the offseason signings.

  13. Merry Christmas from HBT!

    Dec 25, 2014, 8:47 AM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 8.45.33 AM

    And a very special friend of HBT

  14. Tommy Lasorda reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

    Dec 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EST

    mlb video

    A good way to finish off our Christmas Eve coverage on HardballTalk …

  15. Kenta Maeda re-signs with the Hiroshima Carp

    Dec 24, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    kenta maeda getty Getty Images

    The sought-after 26-year-old right-hander has now officially re-signed with the Hiroshima Carp for the 2015 season, according to the Japan Times.

  16. Rockies sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

    Dec 24, 2014, 6:17 PM EST

    roger bernadina getty Getty Images

    Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Rockies have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with outfielder Roger Bernadina.

  17. What baseball team did people from Bedford Falls root for?

    Dec 24, 2014, 4:21 PM EST

    IAWL

    A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town. Well, except for Mr. Potter. That guy is LOADED.

  18. The Braves and A.J. Pierzynski reach a one-year deal; first reported in a ham store

    Dec 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Ham

    No, really. The news broke on line at a Honeybaked Ham store.

  19. THE YEAR IN REVIEW: HBT’s most commented-upon stories of the year

    Dec 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    megaphone

    Based on these results, no, we will not stick to baseball. Because you clearly don’t want us to.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. W. Myers (2131)
  2. J. Kang (2024)
  3. D. Ross (1896)
  4. J. Shields (1814)
  5. M. Scutaro (1812)
  1. D. Haren (1784)
  2. C. Gonzalez (1775)
  3. T. Tulowitzki (1704)
  4. J. Grilli (1673)
  5. C. Hamels (1530)