While many of the division races in baseball look quite similar to those in 2018, the AL Central has gone topsy-turvy. The Indians, despite a lackluster offseason, looked to be the clear favorite, with the Twins the only realistic threat to their recent dominance. That has turned out not to be the case, with Cleveland hanging around .500 as we enter the third month of the season and Minnesota holding a 9 1/2 game advantage, the largest divisional lead in baseball. I’d like to say I saw this coming, but I did not, and if I claimed otherwise, readers would no doubt out me as a filthy, filthy liar.
What was my complaint about the Twins? While they were considerably busier in the offseason than their rivals on the Cuyahoga, I was disappointed that they didn’t do more. Nelson Cruz was a solid short-term addition, and players like Marwin Gonzalez, C.J. Cron, and Jonathan Schoop all improved the depth of the team’s talent base, but I thought they should have been even more aggressive in their winter investments. Joe Mauer’s contract came off the books, and in a division with only one real 2019 rival, my belief was that it would be a mistake to start the season with a lower payroll than in 2018. Just one year before, the Twins aggressively pursued Yu Darvish and while that would clearly not have been a boon for the team that season, it represented them really pushing chips with the high-rollers when the opportunity presented itself.
But it has turned out that the need for a Bryce Harper or a Manny Machado or a Patrick Corbin wasn’t so pressing after all. Jake Odorizzi‘s continued development and Martin Perez’s unexpected velocity have a lot to do with it as well, but the Twins wouldn’t be where they are if a change in their offensive philosophy hadn’t paid off in spades. Read the rest of this entry »