Inbox: Could Johan revive career in Minnesota?
Twins beat reporter Rhett Bollinger responds to fans' questions
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins' biggest priority this offseason is to add starting pitching, and now they can finally do it with free agency having officially started Monday night.
The Twins are currently focusing on starting pitching in free agency, as they've already begun to check in with free-agent starters. But it remains to be seen how many starting pitchers they'll add and at what price.
It should make for an interesting offseason, as the Twins have plenty of work to do after finishing their third straight season with at least 96 losses. So keep those questions coming this offseason, as the Twins Inbox will be a regular feature.
Realistically, what starting pitchers are an option to see the Twins sign?
-- Adam S., Minneapolis
The Twins have enough payroll flexibility that theoretically no starter in this market should be out of their price range, as there are no bona fide aces on the market like Zack Greinke last year.
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But the Twins have long been reluctant to hand out large contracts via free agency, so it remains highly unlikely they'll make a splash and sign a high-priced pitcher such as Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Japan's Masahiro Tanaka.
They'll check in on Santana and Jimenez, but the fact they were both offered qualifying offers makes it even more unlikely, as the Twins would have to surrender a Draft pick to sign either pitcher.
The Twins are more likely to go after pitchers in the second tier such as Ricky Nolasco, Scott Kazmir, Scott Feldman, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm or Phil Hughes. They also could decide to bring back Mike Pelfrey, who has publicly stated he wants to return to Minnesota next season.
Given the inconsistency of the rotation, the Twins are more likely to go after durable starters, making it unlikely they'll add an injury-prone pitcher such as Josh Johnson.
As far as reclamation projects go, former Twins ace Johan Santana is perhaps the most likely target given his history with the club. He could help serve as a mentor for the club's younger pitchers and has a strong relationship with manager Ron Gardenhire, pitching coach Rick Anderson and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar. It was Cuellar who helped Santana develop his changeup as a Minor Leaguer in the Twins system. It's just speculation at this point but it could make some sense.
Starting pitching is definitely the Twins' biggest need and it will likely be a few years before all the top arms in the farm system will be in the Major Leagues. However, do you see Alex Meyer being called up to the Twins during 2014?
-- Dan C., Minneapolis
Meyer, who was acquired in the Denard Span trade, remains the club's top pitching prospect and is pitching in the Arizona Fall League, where he's posted a 3.63 ERA with 18 strikeouts and five walks in 17 1/3 innings.
The 6-foot-9 right-hander -- the No. 3 Twins prospect according to MLB.com -- has the stuff to be a front-line starter as long as he can continue to refine his mechanics and stay healthy. He had a 3.21 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 70 innings at Double-A New Britain last season, but missed time with a shoulder strain.
He's still likely to start out the year at Triple-A Rochester and there's a good chance he'll make his Twins debut at some point next season if he continues to progress at the Minor League level. Fellow right-hander Trevor May, who is also pitching in the AFL and was acquired in the Ben Revere trade, also has a decent chance to make his big league debut next year.
I've heard time and time again that Pedro Florimon is considered a slick-fielding shortstop, but statistics show 15 other starting shortstops with a better fielding percentage. Since his bat is not expected to be a threat, will the Twins address this position during the offseason?
-- Tommy T., Wahpeton, N.D.
While it's true that Florimon made 18 errors at shortstop, his range more than makes up for it, as he fared well in advanced metrics. He ranked second in the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved among qualified shortstops behind only Braves wunderkind Andrelton Simmons.
But his bat remains a major question mark, as evidenced by his .221/.281/.330 line in 134 games. The switch-hitter was particularly inept from the right side of the plate, hitting just .180 against lefties, which leads one to wonder if he should give up batting right-handed.
It's more likely the Twins give Florimon another chance at shortstop given his defensive prowess and hope that the bat improves. It just doesn't seem likely the Twins will spend any substantial money to sign a shortstop this offseason, as they remain focused on starting pitching and perhaps a first baseman.
Certainly the Twins have a big question mark at first base next year, but they equally have a question mark in center field with Aaron Hicks being sent down and not returning as a September callup. Is Alex Presley now the go-to guy for center field next year?
-- Steve O., Lodi, Calif.
It was unfair to expect much from Hicks last year in his first full season in the Majors considering he was making the jump from Double-A, but the Twins were desperate after trading away Span and Revere and watching his impressive showing in Spring Training.
It backfired for the Twins, as Hicks hit just .192 in 81 games and was sent down to Triple-A Rochester in early August without returning to the Majors. But all is not lost for Hicks, as second baseman Brian Dozier went through a similar experience in 2011 before breaking out offensively last year.
Hicks still remains an intriguing prospect and is likely to begin the year at Rochester with Presley serving as Minnesota's starting center fielder to open the season. Presley figures to be more of a stopgap for Hicks in center, but the club's center fielder of the future remains Byron Buxton, who is the game's top prospect, but isn't likely to reach the Majors until 2015.