The defending Central Division champion Twins are busy making sure key players stay with the club and adding a bit of help. Whether that’s an adequate strategy for a team that won the Central by eight games remains to be seen.
Minnesota took advantage of an improved roster and Cleveland’s slow 2019 start to win the division by eight games. The Twins kept key elements of their championship team intact as Christmas came, and added an effective reliever and veteran backup catcher.
The club wasted little time signing Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Sergio Romo, three hurlers who helped anchor its Division-winning pitching staff. Odorizzi was the prize retention: the former Royal won 15 games for Minnesota in 2019 and, in 30 starts, posted a 3.51 ERA and 131 ERA+, and averaged over 10 strikeouts per nine innings.
Other teams considered Pineda, who went 11-5 with a 3.51 ERA (114 ERA+) in 26 games, but the Twins were eager to keep him, his good control, and his career 9.0 SO9. The club also wanted to keep Romo, a 2019 trade deadline acquisition who helped the Twins hold off Cleveland down the stretch — he had a 10.7 SO9 in 27 games, walked only four and quieted opponents’ bats with a 0.926 WHIP.
The Twins bolstered their bullpen with veteran relief workhorse Tyler Clippard, the only pitcher to appear in at least 50 games for 10 straight seasons. Ironically, Clippard pitched last season for Cleveland, going 1-0 with a 2.90 ERA (163 ERA+) and .0855 WHIP. He brings a 1.107 career WHIP and 131 career ERA+ to Minnesota.
As discussed previously in this space, veteran backup catcher Alex Avila could be a serviceable add for most teams needing a backup catcher; the Twins got him on a one-year deal. Although he’s 37 and showing some signs of decline, Avila is a savvy All-Star who has thrown out 30% of would-be base-stealers in 11 big league seasons.
Do the Twins still have work to do? They could use more pitching and need to replace C.J. Cron, the power-hitting first baseman/DH who recently signed with Detroit.