Minnesota Twins: The White Sox are now the Twins’ Only Threat

Minnesota Twins fans with a Bomba Squad sign (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Minnesota Twins fans with a Bomba Squad sign (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

With Cleveland trading away Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco, the Chicago White Sox look to be the Minnesota Twins’ only true competition for the division.

It’s official: The American League Central Division is now a two-team race. The Minnesota Twins’ chances of winning the division for the third straight season increased greatly this week, as Cleveland all but announced its plans to enter rebuilding mode:

This is major news in the Central, as Cleveland trading away two keystone players deeply hurts their chances of contending for a division title. Simply put, the only other team left to contend (on paper) against the reigning division champion Twins is the Chicago White Sox.

Despite his offseason being an extremely slow one for almost all MLB teams when it comes to acquiring new players, the White Sox have been a bit of an exception. Signing Adam Eaton to a one-year deal and trading for Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers, look to help them out but they haven’t really made any extreme splashes.

This isn’t to say that the Minnesota Twins have made many moves either. Their most notable deals so far have included signing relief pitcher Hansel Robles to a one-year deal and bringing in nine players to minor league deals. Both teams can count these as good steps, the White Sox especially, but neither has changed that much.

That’s not the case for Cleveland. This move drastically changes the direction of the franchise, and the team now looks like it has begun a commitment to rebuild mode. The team can say lots of positive things, including how they got solid starters back in the deal, but when you trade away one of your best players to cut costs, you can’t sell it as success. Ask the Red Sox.

What remains to be seen for Cleveland is how much longer will they hold onto their other stars. Players like Jose Ramirez or Shane Bieber are cheap and controllable, but if the team takes another step back like it did in 2020, how long will it be before Cleveland is trading them for top prospects as well

That question will likely have a clearer answer as the calendar moves further into 2021, but for now, the Minnesota Twins can turn their primary divisional focus onto the Chicago White Sox. The team needs to fill some holes to continue to stay a step ahead, including the one at designated hitter. That can be answered with a new deal for Nelson Cruz.

Combing his numbers at Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the White Sox between 2019 and 2020, Cruz had a .380 batting average with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 17 games there As of January 10th, the Twins are still scheduled to play nine games against the White Sox in Chicago. Cruz could rake there.

That’s not the only need the Twins have in free agency. More starting and relief pitching would go a long way. Ideally, in free agency the Minnesota Twins would bring back Jake Odorizzi at his asking price of three to four years on contract stretching from $36-$42 million. That’s not an unreasonable ask.

While many fans would rather see the Twins acquire Trevor Bauer, they are very unlikely to meet the current asking price Bauer and his agent Rachel Luba are asking for. A mid-market team can’t afford to dole out what they would pay Odorizzi over three years for one year of Bauer.

The only thing that the Twins have to worry about with Odorizzi is another team signing him before they do. Several teams, including the Boston Red Sox, have had serious interest in Odorizzi this offseason, so the Twins should act quickly. A reunion with Odorizzi, given he is healthy for 2021, would almost make the Twins’ rotation stronger than the current White Sox rotation.

Finally, with their bullpen, the Twins and White Sox currently look about even in terms of bullpen talent on paper. The only thing that would put one over the other would be to sign a reliever such as Brad Hand or Liam Hendricks to join their ranks.

Both players have had their names attached to rumors of signing with both teams, but a reunion with Hand makes more sense for the Twins. He has openly said he is interested in returning to the Twin Cities, where he grew up, to play for the hometown team.

The only thing keeping any of these players from being brought to Minnesota is the slow movement of this MLB offseason. If the Minnesota Twins can make some of the moves they should make, it will give them the competitive edge against their only Central division competition, the Chicago White Sox, and make them heavy favorites to win the division title this year.

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