Lots and lots of optimism.
In regards to the upcoming season, this is the attitude that anyone in Twins Territory must have as the Free Agency part of the offseason kicks off. General Manger Terry Ryan and CEO Jim Pohlad have preached since the season ended there will be moves made and players signed to bolster the abysmal starting staff they threw out there in 2013. While actions speak louder than words, I have faith Terry Ryan will make some moves, albeit not Earth shattering moves, to improve this team so we do not have to endure another season where our pitching staff is near or at the bottom in all pitching statistical categories. Now, you might be thinking this is either false hope or just another Minnesota fan turning a blind eye to much deeper problems within the Twins Organization. I wholeheartedly disagree. This offseason will be different.
Ervin Santana. Ubaldo Jimenez. Ricky Nolasco. A.J. Burnett. Scott Kazmir. Scott Feldman. Bronson Arroyo. Take your pick. If the Twins sign any of these players this offseason it will be an improvement to our starting staff. I firmly believe, we will sign at least one on this list, maybe even two or three. Reaching for Ervin Santana and spending the money he is worth would be way out of the Twins’ norm for the Free Agent market, but it is not out of the question. Knowing how visibly frustrated Terry Ryan was after this past season, he will be doing way more for the starting staff than he did last season by signing a Tommy John recovering Mike Pelfrey and innings eater Kevin Correia. In order to get back to even mediocre relevance, he must roll the dice and spend money on contracts the Twins have never spent on a single Free Agent player. Starting pitching is ultimately very key to how well a team performs and with the starting rotation we have penciled in right now before any Free Agency signings, we would almost undoubtedly lose 100+ games. For that reason alone, there is optimism the front office will push to make some key moves to guide our team in the right direction.
Now our bullpen, which was vastly overworked last season, was still very successful as a whole in terms of keeping the damage to a minimum when brought in to a difficult, high leverage situation (almost every game this season it seemed). Of course, there were games where no matter who we threw out there, no one was going to get an out and the opponents just kept on scoring and scoring. If you need a refresher, just look at basically any Twins’ box score against the Athletics. Regardless of how poorly we performed against the Athletics, the bullpen kept us in most games and was the lone bright spot from last season. Even if we were down in a majority of games last season, the bullpen was the only part of our team that showed consistent emotion. Whether it was Fien yelling into his glove because of a clutch strikeout or Perkins zipping up his fly while securing a Twins win, there was nothing dull about what the bullpen did; the same cannot be said about other areas of the ball club. The bullpen is one area where the Twins can build off of this offseason in hopes of decreasing their workload and improving their durability come the dog days of summer. If I was Terry Ryan, this would be the area I focus on last as I know I must put almost all of the chips toward signing a few big free agent starting pitchers to give these bullpen pitchers some much needed rest!!!
Lastly, our offense was not anything to jump up and down in joy about last year, but the pipeline coming up from the minors seems to be solidifying more and more with each passing season. Without even including our top two offensive stud prospects, Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano (both recently shutdown), we, as fans, must be optimistic about Aaron Hicks, Josmil Pinto, and Oswaldo Arcia improving from last year after seeing major league pitching for extended periods of time. With experience comes maturity and the drive to improve. Between Hicks, Arcia, and Pinto, none of them are guaranteed a starting role for 2014, leaving the opportunity for them to prove they are worthy of a starting spot come Spring Training. These three players will provide some excitement and youth to a ball club in need of a face lift and some flair. The only area where there is a serious question mark at the moment would be 1st base. Is Chris Parmelee ready for an every day starting job? Defensively, more than likely. Offensively, not so much. Is Chris Colabello the answer there? Is Joe Mauer going to be playing a lot more 1st base after his concussion?
We will have to wait and see, but there is at least hope that the young stars of future seasons may wind up blooming in 2014. And who knows, maybe Terry Ryan will have some of Pohlad’s money left over to spend on a Free Agent First Baseman to fill that gap in our lineup. James Loney or Corey Hart? Or maybe even Kendrys Morales?
Maybe that is stretching it too far, but then again, it’s optimism.