Twins’ selling point to free agents? A winning team, good clubhouse culture

Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler (26), outfielder Eddie Rosario (20) and first baseman Marwin Gonzalez (9) celebrate after the Aug. 20, 2019, game against Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Rich Hill was drawn to a chance to win a ring. Sergio Romo had fond memories of a neighbor who knocked on his door to deliver chili. Alex Avila didn’t need much in the way of a sales pitch.

“The team won the division last year, so it was pretty easy,” Avila said. “They didn’t really have to sell me on it.”

The Twins might not have hit on all their free-agent targets this offseason — Zack Wheeler, for one — but with the ones they did, the chance to join a contending team with a good clubhouse culture stood out.

In a busy offseason, the Twins brought back starters Jake Odorizzi, who agreed to the $17.8 million qualifying offer, and Michael Pineda.

Homer Bailey will join the rotation, as will Rich Hill, who is coming off surgery and likely to make his Twins debut in June.


Sergio Romo is returning, and fellow reliever Tyler Clippard is on board, too. Avila signed to pair with fellow catcher Mitch Garver and finally, the Twins made the big splash, landing Josh Donaldson this month.

“People love Rocco (Baldelli) and the staff and the group. We heard a lot through this offseason, watching the team play last year how much fun the guys were having, how loose it was, the environment. Players like that. We knew that we were an attractive destination,” president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

When the Twins began this offseason, they were looking at a rotation with just one starter under contract — all-star Jose Berrios. Three were free agents and one, Martin Perez, they declined the club option on. Patching up the rotation was the first and foremost concern.

They did so first by retaining the services of both Odorizzi and Pineda before signing Bailey and Hill.

Bailey finished last season with a 4.57 ERA between two teams and will slot into the rotation immediately. Hill posted a 2.45 ERA in 13 starts for the Dodgers last season and, when healthy, could provide a big boost to the rotation.

“Looking at this lineup, looking at just the whole staff, the crew, everybody from management all the way down, I heard nothing but great things about the locker room,” Hill said.

Romo, who was so excited about the Twins’ signing of Hill that he reached out to general manager Thad Levine with some “choice words,” signed a one-year deal with an option in December. Romo joined the Twins in July shortly before the trade deadline.

He said the Twins were both the first and last team to call, and after all the conversations between his agent and Falvey and Levine, a call from Baldelli was what sealed the deal.


“The final thing was just a phone call from Rocco,” Romo said. “ ‘Hey, Serge, what’s up?’ ‘Hey, Roc, what’s up?’ ‘Ey, you want to do this?’ ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’ ”

A friendly neighbor bringing over some food didn’t hurt, either.

“People here in Minnesota, I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a neighbor knock on my door to bring me some chili,” Romo said. “ ‘Here! We made some chili! Thought of you!’ You know what I’m saying? I can’t really think of a place where that’s happened.”

Clippard, who joins the Twins from the American League Central rival Indians, spent plenty of time watching the Twins last year. They were hard to pitch against, he said, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to do it anymore. The whole signing process took just a couple days, Clippard said.

One of the guys he’ll be throwing to this season, Avila, wasn’t much of a hard sell, either. Though Avila didn’t initially know the Twins would looking for a catcher, a text from Justin Morneau helped pique his interest.

The catcher is highly familiar with the division, playing most of his career with the Tigers and then the White Sox for a season before eventually shifting over to the National League.

“I knew it was a good team watching from the other league, and seeing what they were able to do over the course of the year,” Avila said. “ … I thought that’d be great to get back into the AL Central. I’m glad it worked out.”

And then, there’s the big splash.


Though the Twins were targeting impact pitching, the most impactful addition they wound up with was Donaldson, the $92 million man and a former AL MVP. Donaldson officially signed a four-year deal earlier this week.

Donaldson rattled off a list of reasons why Minnesota was an attractive option for him at his introductory press conference Wednesday, among them the chance to get back into the American League and his personal success at Target Field.

“Looking from afar at the team that I saw as a visiting player, the amount of ability that was here, the love and exuberance for the game and an overall talented team that was tough to play against, that obviously drew me to want to be a Minnesota Twin,” Donaldson said.

Whatever their reasons, whatever brought them to Minnesota, the Twins are happy with their offseason acquisitions.

“Certainly, there are things that players factor in in their decision — geography, finances, whatever,” Falvey said. “You know those are going to play a role at the end of the day, but I felt like we were going to be an attractive destination for people.”

Related Topics: BASEBALL
What to read next
Willmar falls 12-9, but Drey Dirksen tallies his 100th career hit.
Amateur baseball report for Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in west central Minnesota. Willmar needs 13 innings to beat Paynesville Pirates and stave off elimination in 4C
Home runs by Gregory, Koosman keep Rails' season alive in Region 4C playoffs
The Saints edge Richmond 4-3 to complete a good weekend in the playoffs at Meire Grove.