Twins still on the hunt for pitching

MINNEAPOLIS — In less than a month, Twins pitchers and catchers will show up in Fort Myers, Florida, ready to usher in a new season.

When they do, the team’s roster likely won’t look the same as it does today.

The Twins, who have some payroll flexibility and still need pitching help, remain active in their search.

“We’ve seen a couple more (relievers) come off of late in (Adam) Ottavino and (Zach) Britton,” chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. “I think there are still some guys on the board that are interesting, certainly that could fit, so we remain engaged with those.”

The Twins filled their positional holes earlier, grabbing C.J. Cron to play first base, Jonathan Schoop for second and signing designated hitter Nelson Cruz.

But even with the signing of Blake Parker, which was made official last week and could be worth up to $3.2 million for the season, and the signing of Martin Perez on Saturday, which is pending a physical, the Twins’ bullpen still needs to be supplemented, whether that comes from a surplus of in-house starter options who could shift to relief or from the outside.

“I would anticipate we’ll have more pitcher additions between now and camp, in some way shape or form, whether that’s in the form of non-roster or even on the roster,” Falvey said.

The Twins will go into spring training with Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda penciled into the rotation and a host of young guys along with Perez vying for the fifth rotation spot.

Some of those guys, if they don’t win a rotation spot, could be shifted to the bullpen.

The Twins have had internal conversations about whether Fernando Romero, for example, could be effective out of the bullpen.

“My view is bullpens are grown, not necessarily always bought, and I think that when you look at what pitchers we have in our organization, if we’re plus on the starter side, in some cases, some of those guys may end up in the bullpen,” Falvey said.

Around baseball, some of the top relievers are starting to sign new contracts, with Ottavino reportedly agreeing to a deal with the Yankees on Thursday.

The top reliever in the class, Craig Kimbrel, remains unsigned, but names like Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria, David Robertson, Andrew Miller and most recently Cody Allen have flown off the board.

The Twins’ payroll was projected at around $94 million, according to Baseball Reference, before the Perez signing, which is reportedly for $3.5 million, which would indicate some flexibility to spend on pitching.

“I recognize where we were last year and where we were in 2017 and 2016, looking historically. The thing about ownership for us is they have never really set for us one specific number, a target number,” Falvey said. “They’ve been very open minded. If we bring a good baseball decision to them that we think is the right investment, they’ll support it, so we still have flexibility if we need it. If we find the right fits, we’ll explore those.”

Last year, Baseball Prospectus had the Twins’ payroll at more than $128 million. In 2017, they were just above $108 million and around $105 million in 2016.

The Twins’ top five earners last season — Joe Mauer, Ervin Santana, Phil Hughes, Lance Lynn and Brian Dozier — are gone, their salaries mostly cleared. Minnesota has plugged in Cruz for $14 million, Schoop for $7.5 million and Cron for $4.8 million.

“I feel pretty good about what we’ve been able to do this offseason in terms of finding good players that we like and getting them at good values,” Falvey said. “ … We felt like those were good values, so we’re not looking at a specific payroll number. We’re looking at if there are other opportunities to add to the team this offseason.”