5 questions facing Twins as they head into the offseason
Correa, pitching and outfield help are a few of the key issues to be ironed out
The Twins headed into the 2022 season with a rebuilt roster and their eyes set on a return to the postseason after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the American League Central division the year prior.
That, of course, didn’t happen.
A September collapse left a team that was in first place for most of the season on the outside looking in as the playoffs kicked off on Friday. The Twins concluded their season Wednesday with a 78-84 record, a full 14 games back from division-winning Cleveland, a team which they were tied with atop the division as late as Sept. 4.
Here are five questions facing the Twins as the offseason begins:
What will happen with Carlos Correa?
The decision is Carlos Correa’s: The star shortstop can opt into the second season of his contract, or he can decide to test free agency for the second straight season. The decision on his opt out must be made no later than five days after the conclusion of the World Series.
But really, Correa has shifted the decision to the Twins: They can offer him a long-term deal, one that would far exceed anything they’ve ever doled out, or they can watch him depart for elsewhere.
Correa has talked about how much he loved it in Minnesota and his interest in staying. But he’s also made it clear that he’s looking for a long-term home, and the most likely scenario is that he finds that with a different organization.
The 28-year-old finished his season hitting .291 with a .834 OPS and 140 OPS+ (100 is league average). His 5.4 bWAR (Wins Above Replacement per Baseball Reference) led the Twins, and he quickly became a clubhouse leader with his new team.
“Hopefully the Twins can see the player that I am, the person that I am, the passion that I have for this game and the love that I have for this game, and we can get into some serious conversations,” Correa said Wednesday.
If Correa doesn't come back, what will the Twins do at shortstop?
When the Twins first signed Correa, the expectation was that they could pivot to Royce Lewis, who, like Correa, a No. 1 overall draft pick. But Lewis’s first season in the majors ended shortly after it started with a second anterior cruciate ligament surgery in his right knee; he also had surgery on his ACL in spring 2021, missing all of last season.
His timeline would not have him ready to return by Opening Day next season, which means if Correa departs, the Twins will need a different plan. Brooks Lee, the No. 8 pick in the draft, made it all the way to Double-A before the end of the season, but it doesn’t seem as if he would be ready by Opening Day either.
While there are a number of players who theoretically could play shortstop for a period of time to start the season, including Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon and Jermaine Palacios, none are true answers or good options there, which could leave the Twins looking externally for a shortstop for a third straight season.
What staff changes will the Twins make?
President of baseball operations Derek Falvey already has said that manager Rocco Baldelli will be back in the dugout for his fifth season in Minneapolis next year. But will there be other changes to the coaching staff? And to the medical staff?
The Twins changed pitching coaches abruptly at the end of June when Wes Johnson departed to take the same job at Louisiana State University. In his place, they promoted bullpen coach Pete Maki to his role and run prevention coordinator Colby Suggs into Maki’s former role.
As they enter the offseason, the Twins could opt to embark on a more thorough pitching coach search.
There’s also questions on the medical side, and the Twins could choose to make changes after they placed 32 different players on the injured list during the course of the season, many for extended periods of time, or repeat visit for the same injury.
Falvey will meet with the media on Monday at Target Field and any potential changes will likely be announced then.
Will the Twins upgrade their pitching rotation?
On paper, the Twins have a glut of starting pitchers coming back next season. Sonny Gray (whom they hold a team option on that they are expected to exercise), Tyler Mahle and Joe Ryan could front the rotation.
After missing all of this season following Tommy John surgery in September 2021, Kenta Maeda is heading into the offseason healthy. Bailey Ober is too after missing most of this year with a groin injury. His performance after his September return featured a lot for the Twins to like.
Josh Winder, Simeon Woods Richardson and Louie Varland should provide good depth options for the Twins, and Chris Paddack (Tommy John surgery) is expected back near the end of the year.
But there’s also questions about the health of this group — Mahle had shoulder issues that forced him out down the stretch, Gray landed on the IL three separate times over the course of the season, Ober has had injury issues throughout his professional career and Maeda is coming off of a major surgery.
Further, this group lacks an ace, and if Correa bolts in free agency, the Twins would have plenty of money to devote to a top-tier starter.
Who can the Twins rely upon in the outfield?
The Twins’ outfield group was among the most injured: Byron Buxton, Max Kepler, Alex Kirilloff, Trevor Larnach and Kyle Garlick all ended the season on the IL. Three of them who are expected to be relied upon next season — Buxton, Kirilloff and Larnach — will all be coming off surgery.
Buxton had an arthroscopic procedure to address a knee issue that plagued him throughout the season. Will that completely address the issue?
Kirilloff, who also plays first base, played in just 45 games before requiring a second season-ending wrist surgery. Can the Twins reasonably know what to expect from the once-top prospect next year?
Larnach played in 51 games, requiring a core muscle surgery that kept him out for three months. As he was about to return, a wrist issue flared up.
And Kepler underperformed this season, hitting .227 with nine home runs and a 93 OPS+ (100 is league average) in 115 games. His .348 slugging percentage and .666 OPS were career lows. Could he possibly be a candidate to be traded?
Nick Gordon, a converted infielder, and Gilberto Celestino, who had his fair share of mental lapses, particularly on the bases, saw plenty of time in the outfield. As the season wore on and the injuries piled up, Jake Cave and Mark Contreras and Matt Wallner started seeing playing time in the outfield. Wallner, a Minnesota native who is one of the organization’s top prospects, should factor in the team’s plans going forward.
But with so many question marks surrounding the health of this group, will the Twins go out and supplement the outfield in any way this offseason?
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