The Minnesota Twins missed the opportunity to compete in 2018. Here are 5 questions the team needs to answer as they look forward to 2019.
The Minnesota Twins came into 2018 with high aspirations. The roster looked poised to capitalize on a surprisingly strong 2017. That provided the front office plenty of reason to go out and bolster the roster through some free agent additions as well as a notable trade.
The Twins added Zach Duke, Lance Lynn, Fernando Rodney, Addison Reed, and Logan Morrison by signing them to free agent deals. They also swung a trade for starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. Everything looked like it was heading in the right direction as those players were set to join a continually improving Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, and Jorge Polanco.
That was until Buxton struggled and was hurt, Sano struggled to hit and struggled with his fitness, and then Polanco was suspended for 80 games due to PED use. Instead of riding off into the playoff sunset the Twins sit 10.0 games back of the Cleveland Indians for the division lead and are already looking ahead to next season.
After such a failure of a season, there are plenty of questions that much be answered before the Twins enter the offseason with another opportunity to improve their roster.
Who is the 2019 First Baseman?
Isn’t this the question at the front of most of our minds when it comes to 2019? It really is probably stated more accurately as will Joe Mauer be back in a Twins uniform? Mauer is in the last year of that massive 8-year and $23 million per year contract that he signed. The Twins front office will need to decide if they should continue employing Mauer as the first baseman or move onto the next wave of Twins players.
Mauer has been putting together another pretty strong season that would likely look much better statistically if it wouldn’t have been interrupted by injury. He is slashing .276/.356/.370 and has 17 doubles. In the month of June when Mauer was struggling the most through his injury he slashed .224/.264/.367. After he seemed to be fully healthy again he hit .292/.333/.377 through the month of July.
Based on his 2017 and 2018 performances, Mauer may be deserving of another short-term contract from the Twins. If this does prove to be the last season for Mauer in a Twins uniform the Twins aren’t short of options to fill in at first base. One of the players that needs to get a good look down the stretch is recently acquired Tyler Austin.
Austin represents the potential for a right-handed power bat in the Twins lineup. He hasn’t performed at a level to stick in the majors yet but has also only logged 132 plate appearances and hit .230/.287/.459 and 15 home runs. If he can get closer to his minor league numbers in the majors he could be a valuable bat in the Twins lineup.
Brent Rooker is another right-handed bat that could be ready to take over first base come 2019. Rooker did stumble a bit to begin the season but has been hitting very well lately at Double-A Chattanooga. After hitting .317/.400/.625 and a 1.025 OPS with 13 home runs and 19 doubles since June, Rooker looks ready for a promotion to Triple-A and eventually a September call-up. He may need a little more time at the start of 2019 in the minors, but he doesn’t look far off from being a major league contributor.