Eric Atherton: Twins take their usual 'wait and see' approach

For Twins fans, now is the winter of our discontent. Of course, pretty much every Minnesota winter is one of discontent for Twins fans, given the team's apparent lack of interest in free agency.

Twins-Park Baseball_Pher.jpg
The Minnesota Twins have been their usual quiet selves during free agency, except for signing South Korean slugger Byung-ho Park.

For Twins fans, now is the winter of our discontent. Of course, pretty much every Minnesota winter is one of discontent for Twins fans, given the team's apparent lack of interest in free agency.

We've seen Johnny Cueto get $130 million from the Giants. Jason Heyward got $184 million from the Cubs, who also gave John Lackey $32 million for just two years. David Price (famous for his postseason failures) inked a $217 million deal with Boston, and Zack Greinke got $206 million from Arizona.

Arizona? I was barely aware they still had a team there.

Meanwhile, the Twins "big splash" in free agency is a South Korean first baseman/DH, signed for the bargain price of $12 million for four years.

With Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer and Kennys Vargas on the roster, I'm not alone in thinking Minnesota's biggest area of need isn't at first base/DH, but I'm willing to give the club a pass on this one. Byung Ho Park is a low-risk, potentially high reward player, and if he can reach the seats in big-league ballparks, he could be valuable. Truth be told, he could be totally overmatched at the plate and still be more interesting than Mauer was last year.


But what about the other holes on the roster?

No relief for bullpen

GM Terry Ryan has watched 14 free agent relievers find new homes while signing none. Several of those who have inked deals (Joakim Soria and Tony Sipp spring to mind) would have been huge upgrades for Paul Molitor's overworked bullpen.

In retrospect, however, one could argue that the Twins relief corps wasn't totally awful last year. Even with Glen Perkins melting down in the second half, Minnesota's bullpen finished with an ERA of 3.95. Not great, but only slightly worse than the American League average of 3.75. That's surprising, especially when you consider that Twins relievers recorded the fewest strikeouts in baseball.

Looking toward next year, if Perkins can figure out how to stay healthy for an entire season, the combination of him, Kevin Jepsen and Trevor May could be a better-than-average back end. With just one more hard thrower (will Alex Meyer figure things out?) this relief corps might become an asset, rather than a liability.

Of course, the bullpen matters little if the Twins are behind 6-1 after three innings. That was an all-too-common problem last year, and I'm worried that won't change next year.

Still need an ace

Molitor's club still lacks a No. 1 starter. Phil Hughes relies on a fastball that no longer blows batters away. Kyle Gibson throws a sinker, and if batters don't chase it, he's in trouble. Ervin Santana hasn't won 15 games in a season since 2010. In other words, only a dreamer would expect more than 40 wins from this trio. Yet Ryan and the Twins appear ready to "go with what they have" when the club breaks training camp next spring.


Although I'm no apologist for Twins management, I'm OK with this decision for now -- provided they're willing to think big in June and July.

Minnesota isn't poised to win the World Series in 2016, but if youngsters like Sano and Eddie Rosario don't regress, the Twins could be five, perhaps 10 games over .500 as the trade deadline approaches. At that point, Ryan must be ready to strike, to add the big-name "rental" starting pitcher who will get the four or five extra wins that will push the club into the postseason and perhaps even help win a series, which would be a huge step forward.

Even with an ace on their staff, the Twins will need to play their best baseball in September and October, as they'll be playing the reigning World Series champions 13 times in the last six weeks of the season.

I don't think George Brett will let his club rest on its laurels.

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