Twins pitchers and catchers will report to Fort Myers, Fla., in two weeks for their first spring training workout, but don't be surprised if it takes the club longer to make a significant trade.
With only one free-agent signing — reliever Josh Staumont — to date, the Twins continue to canvass the trade market to add pitching depth. Derek Falvey, the Twins' president of baseball operations, cautioned trades might not be completed until camp commences.
"This is going to be one of those years where you could see more transactions across the industry once people arrive at their facilities," Falvey said at TwinsFest last weekend.
The Twins had several position players draw trade interest throughout the winter, notably right fielder Max Kepler and second baseman Jorge Polanco. The Twins have dropped payroll by around $30 million, and it always seemed they were more likely to make significant additions through trades than free agency.
"I would tell you we're exploring a ton of things," Falvey said. "It takes two sides and overlap for that to work. There are a lot more buyer-to-buyer side conversations. Two teams that you would think are both going for it, so to speak, and then have to talk about ways they could overlap on major league for major league trades."
Adding pitching is the front office's primary focus. The Twins relied on their depth last season, but they're light on proven starters. Behind the Twins' initial five starting pitchers — Pablo López, Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack and Louie Varland — Simeon Woods Richardson or Brent Headrick is probably lined up as their No. 6 starter.
The Twins don't have obvious trade candidates who could fetch a frontline starter in return, so they're more likely to search for starting depth that could compete with Varland at the back of the rotation. They're expecting Paddack, who returned from Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2023 season, to fill a prominent role after Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda departed through free agency.
"I'm never going to feel, at this stage or otherwise, that we have enough pitching depth," Falvey said. "You're always hunting for it. Now you don't always get it and you don't always have the group that would be perfect, but I would say that will continue to be a focus for us, maybe as much as any other focus we have for the remainder of the offseason. Both in the rotation and the bullpen. The more options we have in the bullpen, too, the better."
The Twins haven't finalized a TV deal, which has been a factor in their quiet offseason, but the Twins appear content with their internal options for center field and first base, arguably the top non-pitching question marks on the roster. A reunion with free agent center fielder Michael A. Taylor, who was seeking a two-year deal, is unlikely.
As much as the Twins liked what Taylor contributed last year, they view Byron Buxton as their starting center fielder. They're encouraged by Buxton's progress since he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in October, and they have Willi Castro and prospect Austin Martin as depth options in center.
Alex Kirilloff and Jose Miranda are the leading candidates to start at first base, along with fill-in work from Edouard Julien, which might close the door on a return for free agent Donovan Solano. Kirilloff and Miranda are taking swings after they underwent offseason shoulder procedures.
"When we look at our group, we feel really good about the core," said Falvey, noting there isn't a major positional roster hole. "When we think about what Byron could be in center field, we know there'll be some risk given his history that we need to be protected for, but he's feeling good, he's in a good place and we're excited about where he's at."
If the Twins can't find a match through a trade, Falvey didn't rule out free agent additions, but the Twins appear limited by their reduced payroll.
"We always want more pitching, right?" Falvey said. "You always want more depth if you can add it. But the reality is some of that's been the market, too. We have had some conversations just to get a sense of where some players are. We haven't intersected perfectly."