The Minnesota Twins got off to a strong start in a rather pedestrian AL Central last season, but a September swoon down the stretch saw the team end up with a 78-84 record. It was quite a fall from sitting in first place at the trade deadline, only to finish 14 games behind the Cleveland Guardians.
After lengthy discussions, and multiple agreements that ultimately fell through with other clubs (Giants and Mets), the Twins were able to retain Carlos Correa as a cornerstone for this roster on a six-year contract worth $200 million. The former Astro will look to lead Minnesota back into the postseason.
2022 record: 78-84 (3rd, AL Central)
2023 FanGraphs projection 83-79 (2nd, AL Central)
Many Yankees fans think about the Twins in recent memory in the light of unloading that Josh Donaldson contact on them, just at the right time. But even though moving off the third baseman proved to be the right move for Minnesota, half of their return was far from appealing on that deal.
Gary Sánchez was a below-league-average hitter with a .659 OPS, and the team decided to move away from him, Former Red Sox backstop Christian Vázquez is now set to provide a serious defensive improvement at the position in 2023. Gio Urshela experienced a bounce-back season at the plate, posting a 121 OPS+ in over 500 plate appearances, but the Twins elected to move on from him by dealing him to the Angels for a low-minors pitcher.
Budding names like José Miranda and hopefully a healthy Alex Kiriloff helped the Twins feel comfortable moving AL batting champion Luis Arraez for pitching help. Although a clearly talented hitter, Arraez didn’t have much of a position, and they were able to move him for pitching help — a definite team need. Pablo López was once rumored as a Yankees trade target, but the former Marlins right-hander will now be plying his trade in the Twin Cities. He could very well become the ace of this staff.
For all the health concerns around Correa, he is coming off a 136-game campaign, and if the always-tantalizing Byron Buxton can stay on the field for even 100 games or so, this lineup could be a dangerous group. Old friend Joey Gallo was also brought in on a one-year deal to see if he can bounce back away from the spotlight, and at the very least provide very good defense in the outfield.
Despite López’s presence, the Twins lack a true No. 1 starter, but if this rotation lands a few breaks, it has the potential to be one of the better ones in the American League.
Down in Miami, López wasn’t quite able to replicate his 3.07 ERA of 2021, seeing his number creep closer to four at 3.75 over a full season in 2022. Still, he is another strikeout-per-inning, reliable arm with some potential if he can ever figure out a breaker to go with that changeup.
2022 Opening Day starter Joe Ryan missed some time last season due to COVID, but when he was out there, the rookie really came into his own, pitching to a 3.55 ERA in nearly 150 innings. Erstwhile Dodgers righty Kenta Maeda is coming off Tommy John surgery and is a sleeper pick to possibly make an All-Star Game if he can get back to the form he first showed in Minnesota with a masterful shortened 2020 campaign. Fellow starters Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle are also better than your average back end of a staff.
Jhoan Duran headlines that bullpen with his 100-mph splitters, and if deadline addition Jorge López can find that form he showed in the first half of last season with the Orioles, they should form a formidable one-two punch. Still, questions persist about the rest of a bullpen that struggled at several points in 2022.
Right now, the AL Central might be the most open division race in the sport, with the White Sox, Twins, and Guardians all boasting legitimate shots to win it.
The White Sox may have the most exciting batch of young hitters if guys like Luis Robert Jr. and Eloy Jiménez can stay healthy, while Cleveland may have the most dominant pitching staff. But in the end, Minnesota may just very well be the most complete team of the bunch. It should be a fun race.
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