Inbox: Who will be Twins' Opening Day SS?

Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers fans' questions

Inbox: Who will be Twins' Opening Day SS?

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Winter Meetings are in the rearview mirror for the Twins, who are still looking to improve their pitching staff this offseason.

Most of the recent buzz has been about whether the new front office will trade second baseman Brian Dozier after his 42-homer season. It leads right into the first question of this week's Twins Inbox:

While the question isn't directly about Dozier, it is related to whether or not the Twins decide to trade him, because the starting shortstop could change based on that decision. If Minnesota does trade Dozier, Jorge Polanco would likely move to his more natural second base, while Eduardo Escobar would likely take over at short.

Molitor on Dozier

But if the Twins feel like they're not getting strong enough offers for Dozier, Polanco has the leg up at shortstop, and manager Paul Molitor said as much at the Winter Meetings last week. They love Polanco's bat and are willing to let him grow defensively at short.

Submit a question to the Twins Inbox

It depends on how you define "good to great," but at this point, it would be surprising if the Twins traded for an ace given the costs associated with that. But with a weak free-agent class, Minnesota could look to acquire a veteran starter via trade, and obviously it is looking for young, cost-controlled pitching for Dozier. There's a chance the Twins could acquire a future ace in a Dozier trade, but not a present one.

Hot Stove Tracker

The new front office has been hesitant to say how many games they believe this team is capable of winning, but the consensus is that the Twins weren't as bad as their record indicated in 2016 (59-103) and weren't as good as their record indicated in '15 (83-79). Even in a 162-game season, there is such thing as good and bad luck -- there are even stats to quantify that, such as cluster luck, which looks at the sequencing of hits.

It's surprising, but the first version of ZiPS, which is one of the more widely respected baseball projection systems, has the Twins winning 81 games next year. And that was before they signed free-agent catcher Jason Castro. It's important not to read too deep into projections, but it shows that even the computer systems don't believe this is a 100-loss team or anything close to it on paper. Climbing back near .500 would be a good step for the Twins with all their young talent.

Robbie Grossman established himself as a strong fourth outfielder with his on-base skills last season, and he'll remain in that role next year. He clearly needs to work on his defense, particularly route running, but his .386 on-base percentage in 99 games is good enough to keep him around.

It would make a lot of sense to let Byron Buxton lead off in Spring Training, especially with his strong September. Even if Dozier returns, Buxton is a more prototypical leadoff hitter because of his speed and Dozier's power. If Buxton can handle leading off, it would go a long way toward strengthening the lineup.

The Twins would love for three-time All-Star Glen Perkins to be healthy enough to close, but even he knows it's a tough road back from left labrum surgery. His rehab has been going well, and chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Perkins will be ready for spring. But he's more likely to be eased back, which means Brandon Kintzler is likely to remain closer in the short term -- unless he's traded, of course.

Trevor May will come to camp competing for a job as a starter after struggling to stay healthy as a reliever despite impressive strikeout numbers. It makes sense, as May has the pitches to be a starter and didn't start having back issues until being moved into relief.

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.