MINNEAPOLIS -- With the division-rival Royals winning the World Series over the Mets in five games on Sunday, it's officially Hot Stove season for the Twins.
The Twins were surprise contenders in 2015, as they weren't eliminated from postseason contention until the penultimate day of the season and are looking to build on a year that saw them post their first winning record since 2011.
Upgrading their pitching, especially the bullpen, remains a priority, while the Twins could also look to add another catcher to split duties with Kurt Suzuki. The Twins will look to free agency to address their needs, but aren't likely to make a big splash. They have several intriguing trade chips and could look to utilize those instead of signing players to large contracts this offseason.
Free agents/options:Torii Hunter decided to retire, leaving the Twins with pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Neal Cotts, Blaine Boyer and Brian Duensing as their four free agents. Pelfrey is likely to sign elsewhere, while the Twins could look to bring back Cotts, Boyer or Duensing to the bullpen. All three indicated a willingness to return after the season. Minnesota, though, needs power arms and strikeouts in the bullpen, and Cotts, Boyer and Duensing don't fit that bill.
Needs: Twins relievers combined to finish with the 21st-best ERA in the Majors while ranking last in strikeouts, so adding power arms to the bullpen is a major need. The Twins have several options in the rotation, but could still look to add another starter. Adding another catcher to join Suzuki would also help, as he struggled offensively last year and Minnesota's backups didn't contribute much offensively either.
Potential targets: The Twins are highly unlikely to go after high-priced aces such as David Price or Zack Greinke, as they're more inclined to go after bullpen options in free agency. Adding a power-arm lefty such as Tony Sipp or Antonio Bastardo would make sense, as they don't have many lefty options after closer Glen Perkins. Free-agent catcher Matt Wieters might be out of their price range at catcher, as a reunion with A.J. Pierzynski is much more likely. Or they could go the trade route with Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, one of a few potential targets.
Trade assets: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe is perhaps Minnesota's biggest trade chip, as the Twins could go to Miguel Sano as their everyday third baseman, which would make Plouffe expendable. But the Twins won't trade him unless they get good value in return, as he's still one of their better players and a clubhouse leader. If the Twins find a taker for right-hander Ricky Nolasco, they could look to move him, but would have to eat some of Nolasco's contract to make a deal happen. Middle-infield prospect Jorge Polanco is another potential trade chip, as well as outfielder Oswaldo Arcia.
Financial situation: The Twins have roughly $100 million in payroll commitments heading into next season, but general manager Terry Ryan has indicated he has flexibility this offseason.
Bottom line: The Twins are expected to add pitching help, especially in the bullpen, and another catcher, but given their depth and top-rated farm system, they could surprise with a big trade or two this offseason as they try to build on their surprising success in 2015.