Skip to content

2013 Preview: Minnesota Twins

Mar 22, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT

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. Dodgers agree to minor league deal with Freddy Garcia

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:34 PM EDT

    Freddy Garcia AP AP

    Garcia, 38, last pitched in the majors in 2013 as a member of the Orioles and Braves.

  2. Red Sox won’t rush prospect Blake Swihart to the majors despite Christian Vazquez injury

    Mar 30, 2015, 11:25 PM EDT

    Blake Swihart AP AP

    Ryan Hanigan and Sandy Leon figure to handle catching duties for the Red Sox in the early part of the season.

  3. Phil Coke wins spot on Cubs’ Opening Day roster

    Mar 30, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT

    phil coke getty Getty Images

    This day has mostly been about who will not be on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, but it was announced this evening that reliever Phil Coke has earned a spot on the team.

  4. Cardinals officially name Carlos Martinez as fifth starter

    Mar 30, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Carlos Martinez AP AP

    In a decision that was all but inevitable after news of Jaime Garcia’s renewed shoulder issues, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny confirmed today that right-hander Carlos Martinez has won the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

  5. Trevor Cahill, Chase Anderson win rotation spots with D-Backs; Daniel Hudson to bullpen

    Mar 30, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    diamondbacks logo alternate

    The Diamondbacks will go into the season with a starting rotation of Josh Collmenter, Jeremy Hellickson, Rubby De La Rosa, Trevor Cahill, and Chase Anderson.

  6. Report: The Pirates and Gregory Polanco have reopened extension talks

    Mar 30, 2015, 7:09 PM EDT

    Gregory Polanco AP

    The two sides first discussed the possibility prior to Polanco’s promotion to the majors last year.

  7. Anthony Rendon sees Dr. James Andrews for second opinion on ailing knee

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:19 PM EDT

    at Space Coast Stadium on March 9, 2015 in Viera, Florida. Getty Images

    Rendon suffered what was termed as a minor MCL sprain in his left knee on March 9 and continues to feel discomfort.

  8. UPDATE: Drew Storen leaves game with blister on foot

    Mar 30, 2015, 6:02 PM EDT

    Drew Storen Getty Images

    That Nationals don’t need another injury. But they may have one.

  9. The MLBPA releases a statement on Kris Bryant, mentions possible litigation

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Tony Clark AP

    I’d still be surprised if they went down that road — and I think it’s a bad road to go down — but Tony Clark is leaving the option on the table.

  10. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy will begin the season on the disabled list

    Mar 30, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT

    St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

    Everth Cabrera, who was the Padres’ starting shortstop for most of the past three seasons, looks likely to fill in for Hardy.

  11. Indians release left-hander Scott Downs

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:47 PM EDT

    Scott Downs Getty Getty Images

    Downs signed a minor-league deal in mid-December.

  12. In the wake of the Kris Bryant demotion, Scott Boras’ vocabulary has gone to 11

    Mar 30, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT

    Spinal Tap But it goes to eleven

    The Cubs are playing ersatz baseball, you see. And this is the, um, apogee of something.

  13. White Sox send top prospect Carlos Rodon to Triple-A

    Mar 30, 2015, 3:36 PM EDT

    carlos rodon ap AP

    Rodon ranked as a consensus top-20 prospect and has top-of-the-rotation upside, so expect to see him in Chicago by the All-Star break.

  14. Kevin Correia released by the Mariners

    Mar 30, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    Kevin Correia AP

    He just signed on March 9, but after three awful appearances, the M’s have cut bait.

  15. Cardinals shut down Jaime Garcia with more shoulder problems

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:49 PM EDT

    jaime garcia getty Getty Images

    Carlos Martinez time in the Cardinals’ rotation?

  16. Mets find a lefty, acquire reliever Alex Torres from Padres

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:20 PM EDT

    San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Getty Images

    He posted a 3.33 ERA in 70 appearances for the Padres in a limited role, logging a total of just 54 innings with a 51/33 K/BB ratio.

  17. The Cubs assign Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to the minors, option Javier Baez as well

    Mar 30, 2015, 1:07 PM EDT

    Kris Bryant Getty Images

    Service time manipulation, the depth chart and hacktastic tendencies mean that the future is not quite here for three of the Cubs’ top prospects.

  18. Reds release left-hander Paul Maholm

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    paul maholm getty Getty Images

    Maholm has indicated that he wants to continue starting, which likely sealed his fate in Cincinnati and limits his options going forward.

  19. It’s OK for ballplayers to be friendly with one another. Really.

    Mar 30, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.11.07 PM AP

    Baseball technically has a rule against “fraternization.” It’s a dumb rule.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Fernandez (4530)
  2. C. Rodon (3942)
  3. Y. Tomas (3829)
  4. S. Doolittle (3813)
  5. K. Bryant (3796)
  1. A. Cobb (3579)
  2. T. Walker (3535)
  3. K. Jansen (3534)
  4. G. Richards (3453)
  5. C. Davis (3442)