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Know your enemy: Minnesota Twins

Can the Twins repeat their wild-card season from last year?

Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers, spring home of the Twins
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — The Twins executed a big turnaround in 2017, going from a 99-loss team in 2016 to the wild-card game with 85 wins, a 26-win improvement.

They’re going to have to be better to stay in contention for one of those spots, as several of the other contenders have improved, and the Indians seem to have a lock on first place in this division.

Minnesota, like several other teams, could use Jake Arrieta in their rotation. We’ve been over and over the reasons why Jake remains unsigned; it’s likely not the Twins’ lack of interest in him. They could afford him — the only really expensive player on their club is Joe Mauer, whose eight-year deal expires after this year. Mauer, the Minnesota native, is probably not going anywhere, but he’s likely to re-sign with the Twins at a lower salary beginning in 2019.

If the Twins do sign Jake before Opening Day, that would significantly improve them and possibly even allow them to challenge Cleveland for first place.

The rest of this team returns largely intact from last year, with a number of good young sluggers led by Brian Dozier and Eddie Rosario. What the Twins really want is to have Byron Buxton fulfill his potential. He was a 5.1 bWAR player last year, but most of that value was from his outstanding defense. He hit just .253/.314/.413, with 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases, which is good, but not what you’d really want from the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Ervin Santana, who had an excellent 2017 that included an All-Star nod and seventh place in Cy Young voting, returns to anchor the rotation. Jose Berrios had a fine season at age 23 and the hard-throwing righthander figures to get even better. The Twins acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Rays in one of Tampa Bay’s salary dumps, giving up only a mid-level prospect, so their rotation definitely looks stronger this year.

Brandon Kintzler, who closed for the Twins much of last year, was traded away midseason and former closer Glen Perkins retired, so the Twins had to punt. Right now Fernando Rodney (yes, somehow he’s still around) is listed as the Twins’ closer on their depth chart, but don’t be surprised if Addison Reed winds up closing for them at some point this season.

Third baseman Miguel Sano was accused of sexual assault by a female photographer late last year. Here’s an update on the status of MLB’s investigation, with a note that Sano had recently spoken to MLB investigators:

The investigation is conducted solely by MLB security under the commissioner’s office, and the Twins and Sano have been left largely uninformed about its progress.

But interviewing the accused is typically the final step in an investigation of this sort, and Sano’s meeting Tuesday may indicate that Commissioner Rob Manfred will receive the results of the investigation soon. The decision of whether to discipline Sano rests solely with Manfred. Punishments in previous cases under the new policy have included suspension, fines and sensitivity training, though in most cases a police report was included in the evidence.

The Twins will visit Wrigley Field for a three-game series June 29-30 and July 1.