If a larger-market playoff team had an offseason as succe sful as the Minnesota Twins just had, people would be talking about it way more.After finishing fourth in the American League in runs scored and OPS and third in on-base percentage, Minnesota not only retained its young starting lineup that just reached the postseason as the second wild card, but vastly improved its pitching staff with shrewd signings and trades for established veterans to complement the core. With Detroit and Kansas City entering rebuilding phases and Chicago’s well underway, Minnesota isin position to benefit from a power vacuum in the ALCentral and improve on its https://www.dodgersedge.com/los-angeles-dodgers/andre-ethier-jersey 85-77 record from 2017.RIVERA: Wait a second. Did the Mets win the offseason?The Twins’ bullpen posted a 4.40 ERA last season, the fourth highest in the AL, while striking out just 7.66 batters per nine innings, the secondlowest rate in the majors, ahead of only Baltimore. The six teams with the highest strikeout rates among relievers last season, per Fangraphsthe Yankees, Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Cubs and Red Sox all made the playoffs. So Minnesota overhauled its bullpen by signing Fernando Rodney (10.57 K/9 last season) from Arizona, Addison Reed (9.00 K/9 with a 2.84 ERA) from Boston and Zach Duke, who struck out 10.03 batters per nine innings in 2016 before an injury-riddled 2017 with St. Louis.Minnesota’s rotation had its i sues last season as well, throwing 869 2/3 innings, the fourth fewest in the ALTwins starters struck out just 7.08 batters per nine innings, the fourthfewest in the league and fifth fewest in baseball, though attacking the strike zone and pitching to contact has long been their strategy. Regardle s, the Twins finished 10th in the ALin rotation ERA, a number that must get better if they want to build on their 2017 succe s. Over the weekend, the Twins acquired a similar pitch-to-contact strike zone attacker from Tampa Bay in Jake Odorizzi, who posted a career worst 4.14 ERA last season and won 10 games, a win total which should increase with better run support. The Rays scored just 4.21 runs per Odorizzi start last season, the eighth lowest mark among ALstarters with the least 140 innings pitched, per ESPN.Odorizzi will ultimately slot into the https://www.dodgersedge.com/los-angeles-dodgers/mike-piazza-jersey third spot in Minnesota’s rotation behind Jose Berrios, who won 14 games with a 3.89 ERA in his Age23 season, and Ervin Santana, who had a spectacular 2017 with 16 wins and a 3.22 ERA but is expected to be out until at least May after finger surgery. In addition to Kyle Gibson, 24-year-old lefty Adalberto Mejiaand Phil Hughes who’s still recovering from thoracic outlet surgery that he underwent in August Minnesota signed veterans Anibal Sanchez and Michael Pineda (expected to mi s the season after Tommy John surgery in July) to round out its starting pitching depth.Once Santana and Hughes return, a Berrios-Santana-Odorizzi-Hughes-Gibson rotation in midseason should be enough to contend for the playoffs, aided by a bullpen greatly strengthened by general manager Thad Levine’s offseason moves. MORE: Three things on the Twins’ to-do listMinnesota’s offense will try to build upon breakout seasons from several of its young players. In addition to second baseman Brian Dozier’s 34-homer season, third baseman Miguel Sano still just 24 years old hit a career-high 28 home runs with77 RBIs in just 484 plate appearances, but the beginning of his season is in doubt with an MLB a sault investigation looming.Left fielder Eddie Rosario, 26, hit .290 with a career-high 27 homers while slugging .507. Shortstop Jorge Polanco, just 24, came out of nowhere to drive in 74 runs, and 29-year-old Eduardo Escobar cracked 21 homers while filling in along the infield.If Joe Mauer continues to hit over .300 with a .385 on base percentage and Minnesota sees progre s from outfielders Byron Buxton, 24, and Max Kepler, 25, the Twins could even exceed their offensive succe s from last season.Small-market teams have been making the playoffs more often lately, especially with the added wild-card spot in each league.But getting in year after year has proven more difficult. Minnesota has the 20th highest payroll in baseball, according to Sportrac, but with many offseason moves still yet to be made, the Twins will probably end up in the bottom 10.Since the wild-card games were instituted in 2012, just two teams, the 2014-2015 Pirates and the 2012-2014 A’s, made the playoffs in consecutive years with a bottom-10 opening day payroll. One caveat, of course, is thatsome teams in that bottom tier raise payroll into the top 20 in July or August once contention is viewed as a po sibility. YearTeamPayroll rank2017Minnesota222017Arizona262016Cleveland242015N.Y. Mets212015Pittsburgh252015Houston292014Oakland252014Pittsburgh272013Cleveland212013Oakland272013Tampa Bay282012Oakland29Minnesota is poised to be the third team to make the playoffs in consecutive years with a lower-third opening payroll in the 10-team playoff era after making impre sive signings for its bullpen and bolstering its rotation depth to go with an improving farm system. Their offseason won’t garner the hype of the https://www.dodgersedge.com/los-angeles-dodgers/cody-bellinger-jersey bigger-market clubs, but the Twins improvedtheir roster in just the right places as they look to made strides in a weakened ALCentral.

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