January 10, 2018 - Southern League (SL) - Chattanooga Lookouts
MINNEAPOLIS -- After Twins starters combined to post the worst ERA in the Majors in 2016, the rotation was better last year, finishing 19th with a 4.73 ERA, which was enough of an improvement to help the Twins reach the American League Wild Card Game.
But rotation depth remains an issue, and a stellar defense helped fuel that turnaround, as Twins starters recorded the fifth-fewest strikeouts in the Majors. It's a major reason why Minnesota is serious about acquiring a front-line starter this offseason with interest in free agents such as Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb and Jake Arrieta.
The Twins remain highly likely to add another starting pitcher before Spring Training. MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how Minnesota might stack up:
ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY Ervin Santana Jose Berrios Kyle Gibson Adalberto Mejia Phil Hughes
STRENGTH Santana and Berrios are the anchors of the staff, as Santana is coming off an All-Star season that saw him post a 3.28 ERA in 33 starts, while Berrios had a breakout year with a 3.89 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 145 2/3 innings. Gibson was solid in the second half with a 3.76 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings. Mejia showed some promise as a rookie and is one of several young arms for the Twins, such as prospects Stephen Gonsalves or Fernando Romero.
QUESTION MARK Gibson needs to put it together for a full season, and Mejia has to become more consistent and go deeper into games. Hughes is coming off a second surgery to alleviate thoracic outlet syndrome, so it's hard to know what to expect for him, although the Twins say his rehab has been coming along well this offseason. Gonsalves and Romero will both be in the mix in Spring Training, while Trevor May is coming off Tommy John surgery and will be stretched out to start.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE The top priority for the Twins this offseason remains adding a quality starting pitcher, and it would be a surprise if they opened Spring Training with their current rotation.
Darvish is their top target, but the market has been slow-moving this offseason without any of the top starters signing yet. Twins general manager Thad Levine has a strong relationship with Darvish from their time together with the Rangers, which could prove to be a selling point for the Twins. Otherwise, the Twins are interested in Lynn, Cobb and to a lesser degree Arrieta, although all three come with Draft-pick compensation after being extended the qualifying offer.
Of course, the Twins could also go the trade route, but they appear more likely to hang onto their prospects and spend in free agency, as they have the budget with only two players signed beyond 2018.
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