The crown for the American League Central has seemingly been up for grabs each year since the four-straight years of reign that the Detroit Tigers had from 2011 to 2014. Now heading into the 2024 season, the Minnesota Twins are looking to become the first repeat winners since they did it in 2019 and 2020.
Coming out of the 2023 offseason, the Twins were going to be a team to watch after the flurry of big-time moves that they made to load up for a deep postseason run.
While the most-notable move was being the third team to sign Carlos Correa last offseason, and being able to bring him back after he opted out of his previous contract, the biggest acquisition was when they swung a trade with the Miami Marlins that flipped Luis Arraez to South Florida for right-handed starter Pablo Lopez.
While having to cut ties with the former American League Batting Champion, the addition of Lopez to that starting rotation injected a much-needed jolt.
Other moves that fared well for them were the acquisition of Michael A. Taylor, who was the smart insurance plan they were able to solidify for Byron Buxton and the extensive injury history he has. The additions of Joey Gallo to a one-year deal, and the three-year contract given to Christian Vasquez, also aided their run to be the AL Central champions in 2023.
Now as we fast-forward a year to this offseason, the other teams in the division have been very active and the Twins have been sitting back without much action. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals have made a plethora of moves to load themselves up to battle the Twins for the division title.
The Guardians, even under new manager Stephen Vogt, are always going to play up their potential and be a thorn in the sides of their division-mates. While the White Sox are not void of talent, their current direction looks to be to build for the future.
The Twins are still in a good position to hold onto their AL Central crown, but the loss of last year’s ace Sonny Gray is a very significant one they must now overcome if they want to end the 2024 season atop the division at seasons end.
Now, how will they be able to do that?
The Twins starting lineup, while not being as experienced as others, may be one of the best amongst the rest of the league. Outside of the known commodities of Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Jorge Polanco, Royce Lewis looks to have found himself after the strong postseason performance last year. After struggling in his initial debut, Edouard Julien finished strong and showed fans why the Twins Front Office was comfortable moving Luis Arraez in the offseason.
Alex Kirilloff is going to be the most intriguing of the bunch. Like Buxton, Kirilloff has had an issue staying on the field as he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury the past couple of seasons. While the talent has flashed whenever he has been on the field, the dependability is a factor for the Twins.
In terms of the starting rotation, they are going to have to find a way to replace Sonny Gray’s great season after he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason. Headlined by Pablo Lopez, the likes of Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, who recently returned from elbow surgery, and Louis Varland round out the Twins rotation.
While this rotation is serviceable, there have been rumors of them exploring the starting pitching market to possibly add to what they already have. They have been linked as a potential destination for Marlins left-hander Jesus Luzardo in recent talks around the young starter. Even if they choose to explore the free agent market, there are still proven arms like Marcus Stroman that would fit perfectly in this rotation.
The reason that solidifying the rotation has not been heavily prioritized is because of how great the Twins bullpen looks to be positioned heading into this season. Headlined by their lights-out closer Jhoan Duran, the stability that comes with the likes of Brock Stewart, Jorge Alcala, Caleb Theilbar, and Griffin Jax makes them one of the better bullpens amongst the rest of the league.
The Twins Front Office has done a great job building a strong foundation over the past couple of years. Combined with a great development system, and proper coaching throughout every level, Minnesota looks to be in prime position to continue their reign over the American League Central, and perhaps compete for the American League title at season’s end.
Still, when you consider the additions that other teams in this division have made, the Twins need to remain active to address the holes on their roster, particularly in the starting rotation, or they will run the risk of seeing a decline that could see them on the outside looking in come October.