Tag Archives: Twins

Your guide to the best road trip ever: Twins at White Sox, Cubs and Brewers

Savvy Twins fans already know about the opportunity in front of them. They proved with ample responses to a Twitter inquiry I made about the upcoming nine-game road trip for Minnesota.

But to reiterate, this is what is in front of the Twins starting Tuesday night: three consecutive three-game road series against the White Sox (Tuesday-Thursday), Cubs (Friday-Sunday) and Brewers (Monday-July 4).

If ever there was an opportunity for a magical baseball trip, this is it. Two cities, three teams, nine games, with a weekend and a holiday thrown in.

The word “unique” tends to be both overused and misused, but this span is truly unique. The Twins have only played the Cubs at Wrigley Field four times – the last in 2009, the last before that in 2001. They didn’t play the White Sox or Brewers (more common opponents, particularly the White Sox) adjacent to any of those four series.

So this is a trip that has never happened. Twins fans, as the kids like to say, are extremely here for this and plan to take advantage as best they can. (Photos are from my trip to Miller Park and Wrigley in 2012, but the Twins were only the opponent in Milwaukee).

Aaron Richards from Kasson said he’s heading to Wrigley for the Friday and Saturday games with his wife, who is a huge Cubs fan but has never been to Wrigley.

“I get to see the Twins and drink Old Style. Definition of a win-win,” he said.

Same goes for John and Kathy Anderson of Minnetonka, who are going to Wrigley (his first trip there) on Saturday and then heading to Milwaukee on Monday.

Mark and Julia Moeller of Minnetonka are taking their daughter, Anna, to Chicago for the first time for games against both the White Sox and Cubs.

As another astute reader pointed out, the Sunday game at Wrigley features a unique giveaway: a Willson Contreras laundry hamper. (Hopefully not game-used).

Naturally, it seems as though the Cubs and Brewers series are the ones most fans are zeroing in on. The White Sox games are less rare and are in the middle of this week, after all.

That said, if you have cost in mind the White Sox/Twins games have that going for them. I see tickets on Stubhub for the White Sox series starting at $6 for all three games. It will run you $50+ to get into a Cubs/Twins game. Then again, cost isn’t always the same as value.

As someone who has been on multiple trips to all three ballparks, here are a few suggestions:

*Definitely tailgate outside Miller Park in Milwaukee. It’s legitimately a great tailgating scene. Chad Harris from Coon Rapids, who said he’s going to the Twins/Brewers games next week, agrees. He said: “Those games are always fun. Feels like a rivalry. Tailgating scene at Miller Park is outstanding.”

*Definitely don’t: Lecture the locals about how much better of a ballpark Target Field is vs. Miller Park. Trust me, they already know.

*You might also want to check out Milwaukee’s excellent Summerfest, a long festival with tons of good music that is happening during the Twins series.

*In Chicago, go plenty early to Wrigley and check out the neighborhood bars. It’s better than trying to go after the game when everyone has the same idea. If you’re going to a White Sox game, don’t prejudge the ballpark based on what you’ve heard. It’s actually not bad!

*If you have kids, check out Maggie Daley Park (right next to the excellent Millennium Park near the lakeshore). You will be hard pressed to find a better outdoor playground.

*But do not — repeat, do not — eat approximately 13 pounds of meat for lunch at Fogo de Chao in downtown Chicago before watching a baseball game in the intense heat. I did this in 2012, and I still have regrets. Projected high temperatures are in the low 90s this weekend in Chicago. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

All that said, it’s going to be hard to mess this trip up no matter how the Twins play and no matter how much of it you are planning to attend.

If you do all nine games, by the way, you achieve legend status. Those are just the rules.

Is Brian Dozier going to get paid in free agency, and will it be by the Twins?

If and when the Twins ever resume playing — as soon as tonight! — after this weather-marred but undeniably successful soft launch to the 2018 season, the Brian Dozier countdown clock will also keep ticking.

It’s entirely possible that he has just 151 regular-season games left in his Twins career. But what happens in those 151 games could still play a significant role in his future.

Six weeks ago, the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan wrote about Dozier’s impending free agency after this season and noted that the Twins second baseman was not engaged in contract extension talks with the team.

“I don’t want to touch too much on this, it’s the thing that gets asked all the time, but at the same time, I will be a free agent this fall,” Dozier told Souhan. “That’s the bottom line. You can only say you want to be here so much, and nothing gets done. That’s just the way it is. I understand everything. At the same time, you’re six months away from free agency. That’s intriguing.”

Six weeks later, nothing appears to have changed. I only circle back on this subject now because of a recent ESPN.com Insider piece (subscription required) that attempted to use projected production of top impending free agents to estimate what sorts of deals they might get on the open market next offseason.

If the perception is that Dozier, who turns 31 next month and would turn 32 early in a free agent deal, might be squeezed because of his age and position in a market that turned cold this past offseason, th ESPN piece at least went against that thinking. He was tabbed as worthy of a five-year, $77 million deal — not a break-the-bank contract, but a make-you-blink deal deal, at least, when considering that’s an annual value of $15+ million that will carry Dozier into his age 36 season.

Dozier, of course, has showed no signs of slowing down. Quite the opposite, his trajectory is still on an upward arc after smashing 76 home runs over the past two seasons and four more in the Twins’ 7-4 cold-weather start this year. He’s been a bargain on his current four-year, $20 million deal.

But if the Twins want to keep costs down, they have a bevy of young middle infield prospects, including the knocking-on-the-door Nick Gordon. The Twins also have just four players under contract in 2019 and exactly zero in 2020 — making it seem obvious that they could not only afford Dozier but should want to keep him. In not too long, though, a lot of the young core players that are under team control will start hitting free agency. The payroll and commitments will go up accordingly.

It’s possible the Twins would try to trade Dozier this season to get something in return for him, but that seems unlikely given that they appear poised to be in contention for the playoffs again. Maybe he’ll have a monster first half of the year and an extension will happen.

But the most likely outcome at this point seems to be Dozier hitting free agency — and a situation where might be more valuable to the Twins than anyone else but might also find a salary with another team that the Twins aren’t willing to match.

For Twins, 2018 could be a lot like 2017 — and that’s just fine

Major League Baseball added a second wild card playoff team to each league in 2012, at a time when making the playoffs was not a realistic goal for the Twins. They were coming off a 99-loss disaster, one which proved to be the rule rather than the exception through 2016.

But that second wild card allowed them to have hope in 2015, when they played in to the final weekend of the year with a chance to make the playoffs. And it certainly paid off in 2017, when the surprising Twins stayed pretty even through the first four months and then rode a hot August and September to 85 wins and that second wild card spot.

The 85 wins is the fewest of a second AL Wild Card winner since the format changed, but it’s also a good benchmark. If you can go into a season reasonably expecting to get to that number by the end, you will be playing meaningful games in September and possibly October.

Based on the success of 2017, combined with the expected continued rise of several young hitters and the acquisition of capable veteran pitchers, the Twins perhaps have loftier expectations than merely competing for the final playoff spot in the American League.

But the reality is this: The American League still has four clearly excellent teams, at least on paper. Most preseason prognosticators agree Houston, Cleveland, Boston and the Yankees are at the top of the league going into the year. FiveThirtyEight has those four among the top six teams in the majors, with all projected to win at least 91 games and all but Boston projected to win at least 95.

Cleveland is pegged by FTE to win 99 games, while the Twins are down for 83. That’s a 16-game division game. Last year it was 17. Maybe that’s a little wide, but even if it’s half that it’s sizable.

The better news for the Twins is that those 83 wins put them fifth among AL teams in those projections. There’s a large middle class with the Angels, Mariners and Blue Jays all projected right around .500, but the Twins are at the head of that class. The Twins used that formula to pull away and grab a playoff spot last season.

(By the way, it doesn’t hurt that the Twins get to play 57 games against the Royals, Tigers and White Sox — projected to be among the five worst teams in the majors by FiveThirtyEight).

In other words, on paper at least 2018 could play out very much like 2017 for the Twins — and that would be just fine. They’ll need to make a bigger leap at some point, but re-proving that they are at least good would be a nice step.

It could be the third year out of four that the creation of the second wild card spot made baseball still relevant after Labor Day around here, making the Twins — and their fans — among the greatest beneficiaries of a change from several years ago that had no immediate relevance to Target Field.

‘Circle Me Bert’ is back. Maybe it never really left?

It started organically and modestly, as most traditions do. Back in 2002, Twins color commentator Bert Blyleven started circling Twins fans via Telestrator during a season-opening road series in Kansas City. Soon enough, fans at Twins games were holding up, “Circle Me Bert” signs, hoping to get some air time on Fox Sports North.

There were dozens of signs every game — maybe hundreds. Even David Ortiz, still with the Twins in 2002, wore a “Circle Me Bert” sign around his neck.

“What made it such a good idea is nobody really thought of it,” Blyleven’s longtime broadcast partner, play-by-play voice Dick Bremer said in a 2002 Star Tribune story. “It just kind of spontaneously happened. Nobody at a production meeting said, ‘OK, now we are going to start circling Twins fans at the ballpark.’ It’s just something that happened spontaneously that has caught fire.”

That quote and the very nature of the “Circle Me” phenomenon carried weight and irony Tuesday after Blyleven on Twitter said that “Circle Me Bert” is no longer. Or at least no longer as we know it.

Wait, what? Why? Fox Sports North attempted to retake control of the narrative a few hours later with another tweet, noting that “Bert broke the news” and trying to put a positive spin on the new promotion that would be taking the place of “Circle Me Bert.”

Here is that sentiment, roughly translated (at least for Circle Me Bert enthusiasts and fans of good things staying the same): “We are going to do something new that is kind of like what you are used to, except it’s fundamentally different in the only way you care about, and you won’t like it nearly as much.”

Predictably, FSN’s attempt at damage control Tuesday evening did not go well. Here are a few examples of responses:

Perhaps the outrage worked. Or maybe “Circle Me Bert” was never really ending. By Wednesday morning, FSN had crafted a new tweet indicating Blyleven would still be circling people — just not as part of a promotion. That’s how it started, after all. So, win-win? Maybe?

Part of me wonders if changing the promotion is a response to Blyleven’s shrinking role on Twins broadcasts. Back when he started, Blyleven did almost every game. He had a five-year contract that started earlier this decade that reduced his workload to 100 games a year, and then a new contract for 2017 and 2018 that has him doing just 80 games — fewer than half of the 162 on the Twins’ schedule. Now FSN can do their promotion regardless of who is in the analyst chair.

That was probably part of the logic that went into the decision. This is a corporate partnership with Minnesota Lottery, so money is involved as well. FSN officials probably wished Blyleven never tweeted, though Bert also did some damage control on Wednesday.

Blyleven will be on the air for Thursday’s opener at Baltimore, free to circle Twins fans as he pleases. A deluge of “Circle Me” signs at the home opener is a good bet, too.

Maybe everyone will get what they want in the end, and we will all hereby circle this whole situation as one big misunderstanding?

Betting odds say Twins are favorites to land Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb

It’s hard to know what to make of betting markets — particularly when it comes to “prop bets” that involve outcomes not directly tied to the field of play.

But I did find some odds released by Bovada to be interesting, at least, when it comes to the Twins and their possible continued pursuit of more starting pitching.

The site offers a few prop bets on which teams the top remaining free agent pitchers are most likely to wind up signing with this season.

The Twins are given the best odds of signing both Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

They’re listed as 5-4 favorites to get Cobb, while the next closest teams are all listed at 4 to 1. That’s a pretty significant tilt toward the Twins when it comes to landing Cobb — who like new Twins starter Jake Odorizzi and first baseman/DH Logan Morrison played for Tampa Bay last season. Cobb, who had Tommy John surgery in 2015, went 12-10 with the Rays with a 3.66 ERA last season.

As for Lynn, who missed all of 2016 after having Tommy John surgery, the Twins are listed as 9 to 5 favorites. The Phillies are next at 10 to 3. Lynn’s peripheral numbers were down last season from where they were pre-surgery, but he still posted a 3.43 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals last year and could be even better in year two post-surgery.

Those odds guarantee nothing, of course, but they are at least reflective of how Bovada quantifies the various reports out there. Maybe they even know something the rest of us don’t know?

You can still bet on the Twins to sign Jake Arrieta, by the way, but they’re 8 to 1 long shots behind four other teams.

One thing is for sure: All three of those pitchers are probably itching to lock down deals soon with the regular season just a few weeks away.

Should Ervin Santana’s injury create urgency for Twins to sign a starter?

Panic isn’t quite the right word to describe the reaction of Twins fans Tuesday to the news the Ervin Santana, their best and most dependable starting pitcher in each of the last two seasons, underwent a procedure on his right middle finger that figures to sideline him for roughly the first month of the 2018 season.

Concern, though? Yes, there was concern. This offseason has fueled visions of adding to the rotation, not subtracting. And now here we are, less than a week before pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers for the start of spring training, and the Twins are down their version of an ace without another one on the way.

If we can link these two things together, this question comes into play: Should Santana’s injury create more of a sense of urgency for the Twins to make a move in free agency?

The answer is yes, though maybe not for the reason you think.

Suggesting the free agent pitching market is moving at a glacial pace would be an insult to the relatively swift speed of glaciers. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Twins.

More immediate dives into free agency, before the market has been set, do not tend to end well. This is just one example, but the pitching-desperate Twins gave Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $49 million contract in late November of 2013. That was a different market in a different year, but it shows what can happen when a team reaches too soon for a non-ace.

The Twins can afford to be patient still because none of the dominoes are falling in a very strange offseason. “We think there are a number of guys in that mix who can help us,” Twins boss Derek Falvey said last week when I chatted with him on radio row at the Super Bowl. “Ultimately we’ll see where things shake out.”

The Twins have signed three relief pitches as well as Michael Pineda, a starter recovering from Tommy John surgery who projects in the rotation in 2019 “and maybe the bullpen at the end of this year,” Falvey said.

To that end, Falvey said he feels “really good certainly about what we’ve done in the bullpen.”

The rotation, though, needs work. And here’s where Santana comes into play.

His injury is short-term enough that it shouldn’t impact how the Twins should be approaching things. Even if Santana is able to duplicate his wonderful 2017 season, his absence from a handful of starts is probably going to cost the Twins less than one win in 2018. That’s not a reason to panic.

His absence, though, underscores the fragility of the rotation as it currently stands. Any sort of long-term injury to Santana or Jose Berrios would put the Twins in a real bind if they have any hopes of duplicating and hopefully surpassing last year’s 85 wins and Wild Card berth. The timing of this injury, too, will test the Twins’ depth in ways it might not have later in the year.

Falvey said Trevor May, who had worked primarily in the bullpen in recent years before his own Tommy John surgery last March, is being prepared as a starting pitcher this season but that the hope is “maybe by (the month of) May he’s pitching for us” because he’s still rehabbing to gain strength.

Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero are minor league options, but as Falvey noted, “They’re part of a great group for us to bring in and see where they are (in spring training). … They didn’t get much Tripe-A time. We don’t want to rush those guys. But young guys surprise us all the time. If they’re ready, we will go get them.”

Long story short: The Twins needed to add starting pitchers even before Santana’s short-term injury. Knowing they’ll be without him for the first month or so of the season shouldn’t impact how they proceed in offering big money multi-year contracts to the frontline pitchers still out there like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

But it should reinforce how shaky their pitching depth already was, and how bad things could be if they don’t make at least one move.

“We know we can add in that space, and I feel confident that we have the opportunity to continue to bring in another set of names,” Falvey said of adding starting pitchers, “whether it’s to compete for one of those rotation spots or to solidify one of those spots.”

Right field concourse at Target Field might no longer be a nightmare

Target Field opened in 2010 as the home of the Twins and was almost universally  hailed as one of the best ballparks in Major League Baseball. Minnesotans who had spent 28 years watching indoor baseball at the multi-purpose Metrodome rejoiced at the modern, outdoor space.

Those who visited Target Field enough times, though, grew to have a handful of complaints. They were relatively minor, but the most significant among them went something like this: the concourse in right field gets pretty crowded, with slowdowns and even complete stops in traffic flow pretty common.

Eight years later, the Twins think they have a solution. In conjunction with the Minnesota Ballpark Authority, the Twins on Friday showed off plans to widen the concourse by adding more than 1,300 square feet of open space to the most-affected area inside Gates 29 and 34. (Rendering above via Populous).

Twins President Dave St. Peter said the club found that 60 percent of fans enter through those two gates, creating the congestion that many have noted over the years. To create the extra space, 117 seats were removed from Target Field. Standing room drink rail spots and a new tap wall called DRAFT 34 will be added to the space.

“This corrects that pinch point where that traffic met,” St. Peter said.

The Twins also announced that the Metropolitan Club is being rebranded as Bat & Barrel. The space, which can hold about 300 people, will now be available to any ticket fan instead of just season-ticket holders.

“We really think it’s going to be an incredible gathering space,” said Dan Starkey, the Twins’ senior director for ballpark development.

The improvements are slated to be finished by March 15, about three weeks before the Twins’ April 6 home opener.

Five things to know about potential Twins trade target Chris Archer

As the Twins ponder ways to bolster their starting rotation, one pitcher in particular seems to make the most sense for them to pursue this offseason: Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer.

Indeed, this pursuit appears to be very real. Our own La Velle E. Neal III reported Tuesday morning from Day 2 of MLB’s Winter Meetings that their interest in trading for the 29-year-old righthander is legitimate.

As this situation unfolds, here are five things to know about Archer and how he might fit with the Twins:

*Repertoire: Archer is a classic power pitcher. His fastball sits between 95 and 96 mph and he has a devastating slider that serves as his main strikeout pitch. He also mixes in a changeup, but the fastball-slider combination is how he gets most hitters out. Here’s a longer look at his big-time slider.

*Numbers: So if Archer’s stuff is so nasty, why do his career numbers — at least some of them — look so ordinary? He’s 51-63 with a 3.63 career ERA. His ERA has been a shade above 4 each of the past two seasons. In 2016, he lost 19 games. This is a guy people are calling a staff ace?

Well, while we shouldn’t just dismiss pitcher wins as completely meaningless (they helped Jack Morris get into the Hall of Fame, after all), pitchers are very much at the mercy of their teammates. The Rays have been a sub-.500 team each of the past four seasons. Archer had the 10th-worst run support in the AL last season and the second-worst in 2016.

The most tantalizing thing about Archer is that he’s a strikeout pitcher. He’s had at least 233 Ks each of the last three seasons, which helped him make the All-Star team two of those years. Of concern, though, is that he’s given up 57 home runs over the last two seasons after allowing 31 the previous two years with a similar workload. Still, he’s the kind of pitcher who can shut down a good lineup. He has ace stuff and often produces top-of-the-rotation results. He’s also been very durable, averaging 33 starts and more than 200 innings over the past four seasons.

*Contract: OK, I lied. The most tantalizing thing about Archer might be his contract. He’s under team control for four more seasons at a total value of about $34 million. The first two years are at $14 million total. The last two are team options for $9 million and $11 million, respectively. That’s a tremendous value while also giving the Twins an escape route if for some reason Archer’s career takes a nosedive.

*So why would Rays want to trade him? A hard-thrower in the prime of his career on a reasonable contract doesn’t seem to be the kind of player a team would want to get rid of, but Tampa Bay has a history of making deals to restock its talent pool. As noted, the Rays haven’t had a winning record any of the last four years and are in more of a rebuilding mode.

The Twins are in a strong position to make a deal because of potentially expendable assets at the minor league level. Archer would make sense both short-term and long-term given the length of his reasonable contract and ability to step right into the rotation.

*What would the Twins rotation look like with Archer added? Well, the short answer is “better.” Twins starting pitchers were 19th in MLB last season with a 4.73 ERA — an improvement over being dead last in 2016 at 5.39, but still not great.

Ervin Santana was very good last year (16-8, 3.28 ERA), but he fizzled in his postseason start in Yankee Stadium. Santana also turned 35 today and is entering the final year of his contract. It’s reasonable to expect Santana to still be an effective pitcher in 2018, but a regression from 2017 is likely.

Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.89) should be on the rise, but he’s also building himself up. Kyle Gibson was very good down the stretch but has a history of inconsistency. He’s second-year arbitration eligible and should be a candidate to see if he can duplicate his second-half success (7-3, 3.76 ERA). Adalberto Mejia showed promise last year and is left-handed. Minor league pitchers Fernando Romero and Stephen Gonsalves could arrive by 2018 as well.

Adding someone like Archer, though, makes everyone fit into place a lot better. If Archer delivers as a top pitcher, Berrios and Santana slide into No. 2-3 roles. The bottom of the rotation has more capable arms and more depth in case of injury or ineffectiveness.

And if the Twins fancy themselves not just a team that can make the playoffs but one that can do some damage, Archer is potentially the kind of pitcher who can line up against another team’s top starter and not be overmatched.

In short, dealing for Archer makes all the sense in the world for the Twins, and they appear to have the pieces to get it done. The Rays have no shortage of suitors, but the Twins are definitely a legitimate one.

Which young player(s) should Twins try to sign long-term this offseason?

Star Tribune baseball writer Phil Miller had an interesting story this week in which he broke down the Twins’ future payroll structure while also getting GM Thad Levine on record saying the organization will look to sign some of its young players to long-term contracts this offseason.

There are six such players who stand out. All of them are projected to be arbitration-eligible in either 2019 or 2020 — at which point they would be due raises from their current bargain salaries — and free agents in either 2022 or 2023. The Twins would like to lock some of them in long-term with the idea that it would be win-win — the players get more immediate financial stability while the Twins get cost-certainty and perhaps savings in the later years of deals over what the players could have earned in arbitration or early free agency.

A good question, though, is the pecking order — which players the Twins should really work to lock in long-term and which they should hold off on. Levine notes that “The risk, of injury or a drop in productivity, that’s something you don’t want to take lightly.” With that in mind, let’s prioritize the six players in question (all arbitration and free agency data from Baseball Reference:

High priority

Byron Buxton, 23: Arbitration eligible 2019, free agent 2022

Eddie Rosario, 26: Arbitration eligible 2019, free agent 2022

Miguel Sano, 24: Arbitration eligible 2019, free agent 2022

These three players represent what could be the heart of the Twins’ lineup for the next several years. They’re all slated to be arbitration eligible at the same time in 2019 and would be free agents at the same time as well. Each has tremendous potential — but each also carries some risk.

Buxton has yet to fully turn a corner offensively, even if he showed improvement last season. He’s a generational talent on defense, but he also plays with a breathtaking recklessness that leaves him exposed to injury risk.

Rosario runs hot and cold. Even though there was a good sample size last year showing he seems to have refined his approach, he could regress.

Sano missed most of the final six weeks of the season (and the playoff game against the Yankees) with a leg injury that required offseason surgery. And even though he continued to emerge as a dominant slugger when healthy, he also struck out 173 times in 483 plate appearances last season.

Still, all three of these players have already produced at a high level and have even more upside. They could get very expensive in arbitration, throwing payroll out of whack. Having them at a known cost would help the Twins, while a 2018 bump in pay would be a boon to the players.

Less urgency

Jorge Polanco, 24: Arbitration eligible 2020, free agent 2023

Jose Berrios, 23: Arbitration eligible 2020, free agent 2023

Max Kepler, 24: Arbitration eligible 2019, free agent 2023

Polanco helped carry the Twins down the stretch in 2017, but he was also hitting just .213 on Aug. 2. Berrios had a promising season (14-8, 3.89 ERA, 8.6 strikeouts per 9 innings) but he logged just 145.2 innings last season. Pitchers, too, carry a greater risk of injury. Both players could use another year to prove themselves before the Twins commit long-term, and since neither are arbitration-eligible until 2020 it might make sense to wait.

Kepler’s 2017 progress stalled with a season very similar to 2016. Perhaps most troubling was that the left-handed hitter batted just .152 against lefties, raising questions about his everyday credentials.

All that said, the Twins wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to sign any six of these players long-term if the deal made financial sense.

What strategy will Twins use as free agents start signing Monday?

On the Monday after the conclusion of the 2016 World Series, the Twins formally introduced Derek Falvey (chief baseball officer) and Thad Levine (general manager) as their new baseball brain trust. That was Nov. 7, 2016, meaning we’ll hit the one-year anniversary on Tuesday.

The duo — 33 and 44, respectively, at the time of their introduction — had to hit the ground running with free agency starting almost immediately upon their official arrival. They spent much of the last offseason and even a lot of the 2017 season evaluating the organization both on and off the field.

As far as free agency went, the Twins under their new bosses were fairly muted. They made upgrading at catcher a priority, landing starter Jason Castro for three years, $24.5 million. They added backup catcher Chris Gimenez to further stabilize the position and to add another strong presence to the clubhouse. Veteran Matt Belisle arrived on modest deal but was their most notable pitching addition. Mostly Falvey and Levine stood pat — including a decision not to trade second baseman Brian Dozier.

It’s fair to say the subtle upgrades made by Falvey and Levine paid dividends, as did their wait-and-see approach that allotted plenty of playing time to developing young prospects. The Twins can feel a lot better right now than they did at this time last year about Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios, just to name four young players who were allowed to play through some growing pains.

That it all added up to a 26-win improvement, an 85-77 record and a surprise wild card postseason appearance doesn’t necessarily change the narrative heading into this offseason. But it does leave room to wonder: Players can start signing free agent deals as of 4 p.m. Monday. Will Falvey and Levine be more aggressive this year in their pursuit of difference-makers, particularly to help the pitching staff?

It’s a question with a lot of layers, not unlike a hand of poker. The hard part in making any sort of predictions is that Falvey and Levine have already proved adept at not tipping their hands.

Their decision-making process tends to be rather calculating, using a preponderance of evidence to strip away biases like emotion that can lead to bad moves. Still, 2018 is an interesting year for the Twins. There are already notions out there that Minnesota overachieved last year. Falvey and Levine will almost certainly block out that noise while understanding that the Twins’ true window for meaningful contention probably doesn’t start until 2019 or later.

But there is also something to be said for sustaining momentum. The 2015 Twins were ahead of schedule when they won 83 games and contended for a playoff spot. They left much of that young core intact for 2016 without much by way of reinforcements, and they slid all the way back to 59-103 — a season that paved the way for Terry Ryan’s exit and the new regime’s entrance.

Is making a bold play for a frontline starting pitcher like Yu Darvish — a free agency headliner despite his World Series troubles and someone with whom Levine is familiar from their time together in Texas — something the Twins would consider this year? Would they be better served making a bigger play for a proven bullpen arm like Wade Davis or Greg Holland — two relievers mentioned as possibilities by MLB.com’s Jim Duquette?

Or will they have another quiet offseason as they further evaluate young talent and wait for the likes of Joe Mauer and Ervin Santana, who will enter 2018 in the final years of expensive contracts, to come off the books?

If I had to guess, I’d say this offseason will more closely resemble last year’s approach than anything splashy. I could see the Twins spending a little money on the bullpen and maybe taking a flier on a low-cost starting pitcher with upside while perhaps adding one more veteran as a DH/bench bat.

But Falvey and Levine preached a patient approach when they were hired a year ago. It’s hard to see them rushing into any moves this offseason that might help the Twins win a couple more games in 2018 but could also negatively impact their flexibility in 2019 and beyond.

Starting this afternoon, though, we’ll start to get concrete answers.