MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Twins are hosting TwinsFest this weekend at Target Field, fresh off winning their third division title in five seasons under Rocco Baldelli.
The Twins finally not only broke the playoff losing streak, they also ended their playoff series losing streak. That said, their 2023 season still ended short of expectations. There’s a buzz around Target Field as the team gets ready to report to Spring Training in less than a month, and Joe Mauer is the newest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
The expectations for 2024 start with defending the American League Central Division, but what questions do the Twins face heading to Fort Myers? Here’s a quick look.
WHO REPLACES SONNY GRAY, KENTA MAEDA?
The Twins lost Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda from the starting rotation to free agency. Pablo Lopez returns as the ace, and will be the Opening Day starter. But what about after that? Joe Ryan made 29 starts last season, Bailey Ober got 26. Louie Varland got 10, and Chris Paddack returned from elbow surgery late last season. It’s very possible the Twins could add a pitcher, or two, either via free agency or trade before the team heads to Florida for Spring Training.
IS BYRON BUXTON HEALTHY?
Rocco Baldelli says the short answer is yes. He had yet another offseason knee procedure after hitting just .207 in 85 games, and never stepped foot in center field. The plan is for him to be in the outfield on Opening Day. Twins fans and those who follow the team will believe it when they see it.
CAN ROYCE LEWIS TAKE THE NEXT STEP?
Royce Lewis more than embraced the spotlight in the playoffs, with four of his five hits going for home runs. Working his way back from injury, Lewis hit .309 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI in 58 regular season games. The next step is to be the regular at third base, with Carlos Correa at shortstop.
ARE MAX KEPLER, JORGE POLANCO TRADE CHIPS?
If the Twins want to add pitching via trade, it might come at the expense of Max Kepler and/or Jorge Polanco. They did it last season, sending Luis Arraez to Miami for Lopez. Kepler hit .260 with 24 homers in 130 games last season, Polanco hit .255 with 14 homers in 80 games. The Twins have depth at both spots if they want add more arms on the mound.
WILL THE TWINS DO ANYTHING IN FREE AGENCY?
Technically, the Twins have added three players from outside the organization already. Two were claimed off waivers, and they signed reliever Josh Staumont in free agency. The problem for the Twins, and other MLB teams, is they don’t know their exact payroll for the 2024 season without revenue from a TV partner. Until they finalize that, they don’t know how much they can spend.
Baldelli has said this week the Twins will be active, so stay tuned.