The Minnesota Twins came into this season with the expectation of winning a third-straight division title. With a bullpen that was deeper than any in recent memory and a lineup that still had many key players from the Bomba Squad, the Twins should have had the pieces to make another postseason run.
But Minnesota leaves their weekend series with the Detroit Tigers with a record of 12-20. With their bullpen in shambles and their lineup producing well below the levels of their breakout season two years ago, it’s possible that this team just isn’t very good. That should make management think about the future.
It’s very dangerous to call off a season after just 32 games, but it’s highly unlikely this team will find a way to rebound like the 2006 Twins or the 2019 Washington Nationals did.
For starters, Minnesota’s bullpen has been singular in its ineptitude. While Alex Colomé has been a big disappointment, several arms the Twins have relied upon in the past have fallen short of expectations. They could go out and add a reliever via the trade market or free agency, but it still won’t solve Tyler Duffey’s control issues.
There’s also the matter of the lineup, which has been held back by several injuries. Byron Buxton is the only player from the Bomba Squad who was exceeding what he did in 2019, and now he’s hurt. Mitch Garver, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco established a high bar during 2019, but all three currently have OPS under .800.
With the Twins finishing in the bottom half of the league in runs scored last season, this slow start could be a more accurate description of who they are. If that’s the case, they need to turn the page.
The first step is trading many of the players who helped pry this window open. Nelson Cruz is set to turn 41 in July and isn’t part of Minnesota’s future, but he could be valuable to a contending team. The Twins could also deal Andrelton Simmons, Kenta Maeda, and other players who would be covered by contenders and replaced by prospects.
The Twins could also turn the page on several other areas of the roster and clear the way for an offseason overhaul. Instead of trotting out Jake Cave and Kyle Garlick in left, a healthy Alex Kirilloff could play there every day. If Buxton’s hip injury lingers, the Twins could also shift Kepler into center field to clear the way for Trevor Larnach.
Both of these players would benefit from extra playing time and could establish a foundation for Minnesota’s outfield of the future.
The same philosophy could apply to the Twins on the mound. With Matt Shoemaker struggling, the Twins should turn to Randy Dobnak. While it’s hard to say whether Dobnak will stick as a major league starter, Minnesota won’t find out if he’s throwing innings at CHS Field.
The Twins could also open another spot if they choose to deal Maeda, who is currently in his age-33 season. Prospects such as Jhoan Duran and Jordan Balazovic could make their major league debuts this summer and get the jitters out of the way to become key pieces in future rotations.
The short-term situation of the team would be dire but could lead to the same scenario that played out 16 years ago. After winning three-straight division titles, the 2005 team had World Series aspirations but finished 83-79. While the end result was disappointing, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, and Francisco Liriano gained valuable experience.
The result was a team that struggled early in the season but finished 74-40 to win the AL Central on the final day of the season. While their playoff appearance was limited to three games, the 2006 team set the tone for the latter half of the 2000s. They could forge ahead and hope the light flips on for a team that won 103 games two seasons ago. But with bad luck and injuries piling up, this team just might not be good in 2021, which means they need to keep an eye on the future.