SAN DIEGO - While their search for a starting pitcher and bullpen depth continues, the Twins headed into the final day of the annual winter meetings with a former Most Valuable Player still on their radar.
They continue to pursue third baseman Josh Donaldson, according to a source with knowledge of talks between the teams. The Twins were one of the best offensive teams in baseball last season, slugging a major league-record 307 home runs. Adding Donaldson, the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player, would help them ensure that their bats would remain lethal in 2020 while adding a capable defender at third.
Miguel Sano, who spent most of last season at third base, would move to first base. C.J. Cron played first base for the Twins last season but was not tendered a contract for 2020 and is a free agent.
The Twins have been in contact with Donaldson’s representatives for most of the offseason, and the club looked at various ways to improve.
Finding starting pitching continues to be a priority. Even after Jake Odorizzi accepted a $17.8 million qualifying offer and Michael Pineda re-signed for two years and $20 million, the Twins still could use another starter. Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dallas Keuchel and Rick Porcello remain on the market, and the Twins have different levels of interest in all of them.
General Manager Thad Levine said Wednesday that the club is more focused on finding pitching help but also mentioned the possibility of adding another bat.
“We’re just nimble,” Levine said. “We realize there’s an opportunity that may materialize throughout the course of this offseason where we could add an offensive piece to the team. We’re somewhat position-agnostic at this point. It appears to be something that will be happening down the path.”
The “Bomba Squad” plus Donaldson would make things easier on whoever is pitching for the Twins that day. After struggling with injuries the previous two seasons, Donaldson signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves and batted .259 with 37 home runs and 94 RBI and winning the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Donaldson, Jorge Polanco (.295 average last season with 22 home runs and 79 RBI), Luis Arraez (.334, 4, 28) and Sano (.247, 34, 79) would comprise one of the better infields in the league.
While meeting with reporters Wednesday, Derek Falvey, the Twins’ president of baseball operations, spoke of how important it is to keep the offense intact when asked if he would deal a position player to add pitching help.
“I would say we are not trying to take away from our offense in any way,” he said. “Hopefully that group remains as strong as last year. That was historic. There are natural regressions sometimes for individual players, but that means sometimes there are other players who are going to step up and be a part of the team for the full year.”
That came at the end of a day in which Eddie Rosario’s name appeared in some reports as a potential trade chip. If that does happen, adding Donaldson would be even more timely.
A signing won’t happen without a battle. Texas might be more interested in Donaldson now after ending its unsuccessful pursuit of free agent Anthony Rendon. Washington, where Rendon was a key cog in a World Series championship several weeks ago, could be in the market for a third baseman as well.
The Twins also remain interested in bringing in another reliever. Former Yankees righthander Dellin Betances is one reliever who’s on their radar. Betances pitched only two-thirds of an inning in 2019 because of shoulder problems early and a partly torn Achilles’ tendon late. He has a 2.36 ERA in eight seasons.