Twins turn page to life after Hunter in outfield

Club to decide whether to make move for veteran or stick with young core

Twins turn page to life after Hunter in outfield

MINNEAPOLIS -- With Torii Hunter officially out of the mix after his retirement, the Twins have to decide whether to add a veteran outfielder to replace Hunter this offseason or to stick with their young core of Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton.

General manager Terry Ryan said the Twins would've brought Hunter back in 2016 if he wanted to return, but now Ryan must decide whether he believes the club has enough outfield depth to absorb the loss of Hunter, who hit .240 with 22 homers and 81 RBIs in 139 games.

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"We would've welcomed him back with open arms, but that's just the way it is," Ryan said. "But at least there's some awareness of who will be with us and who will not. I appreciate the timing."

One idea the Twins are floating around is moving Miguel Sano to the outfield in the short term, with Trevor Plouffe remaining as the club's everyday third baseman. Sano will play some outfield in the Dominican Winter League, but Minnesota still isn't sure if the experiment will work. Manager Paul Molitor said he doesn't want Sano, 22, to be the club's everyday designated hitter next year, so he's trying to find ways to keep the young slugger in the lineup.

"If we keep Mr. Plouffe, which I imagine we will, and with Joe Mauer coming back, we don't want Miguel to be a DH next year full time," Molitor said. "I want him to be on the field. It might not work out, but I want him to play there a little bit this winter to expose him to some work down there. But we'll see. It could be far-fetched, but we have an opening in the outfield."

Molitor added that there are some question marks in the outfield because of the youth of Rosario, Hicks and Buxton. The Twins also have Max Kepler, ranked as their No. 6 prospect, on the way and Oswaldo Arcia on the roster, but it's hard to know what to expect out of them next season.

"I'm a little leery of everyone saying we have all this outfield depth," Molitor said. "I'm cautious of people being able to continue to what they showed us or to get better. Sometimes you come up here and put up three or four good months and you come back the next year, and whether it's expectations or other teams adjusting, some guys go backwards. So I'm going to have watch Rosie and Hicks and see if Buxton is ready."

Ryan, though, said it's still a positive that Minnesota will have some options in the outfield, even if those players are inexperienced.

"We've got some things to work with, which is a good thing," Ryan said. "But we have to make sure we don't get too infatuated with what we know what's happened in the recent past. It's tough to start anointing guys and saying, 'The job is yours,' or 'We're set here.' Sometimes it gets you in trouble. But we like those options."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.