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Lack of TV deal keeping Twins out of free agency for now, Falvey says

There are a high number of free agents available with spring training beginning in three weeks — including 15 players ranked among FanGraphs' top 50 — but don't expect the Twins to abruptly change course.

The team likely won't have information on a TV deal until February, and President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey says that's one reason it hasn't been more active in free agency this winter.

"There is a lack of clarity, lack of certainty," Falvey told a crowd at Tuesday's Baseball Old Timers Hot Stove League annual banquet. "I'm very confident everyone will watch Twins baseball this year somewhere in some way, shape or form, but the reality is if [executive chair] Joe Pohlad were standing here, or [team president] Dave St. Peter would say the same thing, we still are in an uncertain reality and we're entering February. That's unique, different and challenging."

The Twins have made only three external additions to their 40-man roster since their season ended, signing reliever Josh Staumont to a one-year, $950,000 contract, and claiming two players off waivers. The Miami Marlins are the only team that has spent less money than the Twins on free agents.

More likely to make a notable move through trade because of a reduction in payroll, a slow-paced free agent market has cooled momentum in the Twins' trade talks.

"Our focus is to continue to find ways to make this team better," Falvey said. "We have never wanted to peel back, pull off this team. There are a lot of rumors about trade conversations about players on this roster. I promise you we have no interest in trading players off that can help us win in 2024. Obviously, there are different decisions that have to be made about now and in the future, but we feel really good about the group we already have coming back."

As the Twins weigh options on the trade market, it appears they are prioritizing adding a starting pitcher. The Twins already lost Sonny Gray (St. Louis), Kenta Maeda (Detroit) and Tyler Mahle (Texas) through free agency, and they had interest in bringing back Maeda for a one-year deal.

Center fielder Michael A. Taylor remains available as a free agent, but Falvey hinted at pitching depth being the bigger need. Plus, Falvey said the front office views their center field situation differently than a year ago because there is optimism Byron Buxton will be ready to play center. Buxton hasn't played defense in an MLB game since August 2022.

"As we think about some of the limitations we have around where we're going to put some of the remaining dollars around payroll or otherwise, one of the challenges we're looking at — someone asked earlier about more starting pitching — we're focused on how we think we can do that in different spots," said Falvey, noting Willi Castro can serve as depth in center field.

When Falvey was asked why the Twins didn't re-sign Gray, who finished runner-up in the American League Cy Young Award voting, he highlighted their reduction in payroll. Gray signed a three-year, $75 million deal with the Cardinals.

"He was offered something that I don't think he felt he could turn down," Falvey said. "It was a really good fit for him otherwise. Not something that was going to be in the cards for us at that time, ultimately, in terms of where we could go."

Falvey emphasized the roster isn't set when spring training begins. Donovan Solano notably signed after camp started last year.

"Take a step back and look at the players we have right now all around the field, and you know what, we actually do have star-quality major league talent," said manager Rocco Baldelli, highlighting Royce Lewis, Carlos Correa, Edouard Julien, Jorge Polanco, Pablo López and Buxton. "No matter which teams we're talking about here, it doesn't get that much better than the players we get to watch on a regular basis."