Sure, signing Torii Hunter was a good move from a popularity standpoint, and sure player/original team reunions are always nice, but if the Minnesota Twins really want to contend in the quickly-escalating AL Central, they’re going to have to get serious about their offseason plans. Signing Hunter makes the Twins a fractionally better team than they were last year, this signing is not an impact move Hunter had merely a 0.4 WAR in 2014 and only 1.7 the year before. Sure Hunter will be a better than serviceable corner outfielder, but at 39 years old, the Twins will have to shake up the league and their team more than simply adding a veteran player.
This isn’t to say signing Hunter is a bad move, because it is a solid addition and brings a veteran presence to a young team. Certainly Hunter will be able to help some younger guys on that roster grow, BUT if that’s the extent of the Twins offseason plans, they clearly aren’t expecting to contend in an AL central that features the reigning division-champions Kansas City Royals, the always potent Detroit Tigers, the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t made any splashes but are clearly a team on the rise, and the Chicago White Sox, who have already made a couple of signings that will help them contend while GM Rick Hahn isn’t done yet either. The Twins still lack a front-of-the-rotation pitcher, Phil Hughes was better than expected but he is far from a No. 1 type. Also, an arm or two to round out the back of the rotation is needed as Kevin Correia and Ricky Nolasco were disasters. Kyle Gibson has potential, but showed problems with consistency last year. In his last four starts alone Gibson posted the following numbers.
August 3: 6.0 IP /3 R /3 ER /6 K /0 BB / W
August 8: 5.0 IP / 6 R / 5 ER / 3 K / 5 BB / L
August 13: 7.2 IP / 1 R / 1 ER / 4 K / 2 BB / W
August 19: 5.1 IP / 5 R / 5 ER / 4 K / 1 BB / ND
As you can see, and as previously stated, Gibson has potential, and could be a solid No. 2 option as soon as 2015.
I would assume that given his contract the Twins won’t give up on Nolasco just yet and he will probably be given another chance as the No. 3 starter. Nolasco will have to really bounce back though after going 6-12 and posting a 5.38 ERA last year.
The last two spots could go any which way, as Trevor May (9 IP last year) Tommy Milone (received from A’s in Sam Fuld trade) Mike Pelfrey (0-3, 7.99 ERA last year, signed through 2015) could be candidates for the 4-5 spots. Another intriguing option for the Twins could be Jose Berrios, a prospect who finished the year at Triple-A. True he only pitched 3 innings at Triple-A but he did post a 3.54 ERA in 40 innings, averaging just over 6 Ks per 9 innings.
If the Twins’ rotation can get their act together in 2015 they could field a competitive team but they need to add more pieces to their lineup in order to contend in what promises to be an ultra-competitive AL central.
Hunter is a solid add, but Joe Mauer is not getting any younger, the rest of the outfield isn’t exactly breathtaking. The pieces are there though, Brian Dozier is a solid player, as is Trevor Plouffe, and Danny Santana was a nice find although he only has 1 year to his name.
Again, if the rotation can perform up to par, if the lineup plays as good as it looks on paper, and if a few pieces are added to the outfield, and bullpen, the Twins might just keep up in that deep Central, and Hunter mentoring some of the younger guys could make 2016 (maybe even 2015) and beyond even better for the Twins. Ultimately a good move by the Twins.