Neal: Five moves the Twins need to make before Opening Day 2023

We are gathered here today to pay our final respects to the 2022 Minnesota Twins, a team not picked to win the AL Central at the outset but yet still managed to aggravate those who followed them.

An early surge allowed the Twins to take control of the division before an outbreak of blown leads and nonstop injuries led to them relinquishing control of the Central in August.

As we sift through the boxscores from the season, there are elements on this team that can make it a contender in 2023. A good roster, when healthy, returns. If the Twins make the following five moves before Opening Day 2023 will not be a re-enactment of this season:

1. Make changes to the medical and performance staff. This department already has been restructured since Derek Falvey and Thad Levine joined the organization, including the hiring of Dr. Chris Camp as director of medical high performance. The Twins entered Tuesday leading the American League with 32 players on the injured list and 2,344 days lost because of injuries. Many needed more time than originally believed to recover.

Bailey Ober suffered a groin strain in late April, returned May 21, suffered a setback and didn't return until mid-September. Sonny Gray suffered two hamstring strains and a pectoral muscle strain during the season. Miguel Sano had knee surgery in May then returned to the injured list on July 30 because of left knee inflammation and was never seen again.

Alex Kirilloff has needed two surgeries on his right wrist, and we aren't sure if the second one will work. Randy Dobnak's right middle finger strain goes back more than a calendar year. This looks like more than just a fluke season for injuries.

2. Restructure the bullpen. Jhoan Duran had a tremendous rookie season and will be a force in the bullpen for years to come. Make him the closer. Jorge Lopez, who was lights out with Baltimore but scuffled after being traded to the Twins, should be closer 1A, available when Duran needs a break. There are pieces in the bullpen that work. Griffin Jax has been effective. Trevor Megill throws hard and shows promise. Caleb Thielbar is a crafty lefty. And Jorge Alcala should return from his elbow problems.

The way bullpens are managed today — manager Rocco Baldelli isn't the only one pulling starters after five innings — teams such as the Twins need a deep relief corps.

Adding another quality bullpen arm through trade or free agency is paramount. Dropping another high-end arm into the mix would give Baldelli more options to cover the final 12 outs of games. Maybe it's time to bring former Chaska High School star Brad Hand into the fold.

Emilio Pagan should be traded. He's a symbol of the lost 2022 season — especially his June, which featured an 11.43 ERA, two blown saves and playing a role in four losses to Cleveland and one to Detroit.

3. Find another Wes Johnson. The Twins went all-in on analytics when they hired Johnson as pitching coach before the start of the 2019 season. He has a master's in kinesiology, knows biomechanics and the Twins pitching staff embraced his teachings. When Johnson left for LSU at the end of June, the staff ERA zoomed to 5.30 in July. The Twins addressed pitching before the deadline to plug the leak, and bullpen coach Pete Maki filled in for Johnson for the rest of the season.

Now the Twins have a chance to hold a thorough search to fill one of the most important roles on a coaching staff. It would not be a surprise if they find their pitching leader in the college ranks once again.

4. Lock up Luis Arraez. Buy out the final two arbitration years and sign Arraez to a long-term deal. He played in his first All-Star Game this season, is in the hunt for his first batting title, is a great fit in the clubhouse and puts in the work to stay in shape.

5. Continue the never-ending quest for an ace. I count 12 pitchers in the organization who could start a game for the Twins next season. But if they can deal for someone better than all of them — I'm doubting they will offer Jacob deGrom $40 million a year — they should put all their trade chips on the table.