Some Twins playoff thoughts and Wild updates!

Marc Elliott

PIEDMONT -  The Minnesota Twins are about to begin a three-game weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. They have 40 games left in this 2023 MLB season. They are a bit miraculously still in first place in the AL Central. They have a 4.5-game lead over the CLE Guardians and are at 8 games over the DET Tigers who are coincidentally playing at CLE this very weekend in a four-game set. At this very moment the Tigers have a 3-1 lead in the 3rd inning of a doubleheader. If, and it is a big if, let's say the Tigers have a successful series in CLE over the weekend and tighten the race up in the Central, how do the remaining 40 games play out for the Twins?    

It would be interesting to say the least, and as of right now there are no guarantees as to who will win the division and get a spot in the playoffs. Of course, I'm hoping it's the Twins, but nothing has any certainty attached to it right now. The baseball month of August is winding down and thus far the Twins have gone 9-6 and stand at 63-59. This includes a 4-2 record against the Tigers.

For the season the team went 5-8 against DET, and after seasons of struggle it appears that the Tigers might be on the way back up.     The other challenger to the Twin's postseason aspirations, the Guards, have hovered around .500 ball for the season. They are currently 58-63 and if there is one thing that gives the Twins some hope it's that the Guards have to get back to .500 before they can even consider separating the Twins from first place in the Central and they aren't there. Neither are the Tigers and sweeping the Guards this weekend could make for an interesting September.    

To do some speculating here as to how the rest of the season could go, if you just played the games remaining versus the win percentage game, the Twins will hold on and prevail. But at this point in the season it never goes that way. While the team is finished playing DET for the season, they still have six tilts remaining with CLE. (3 & 3 home and road) The season series stands at 3-5.    

In looking at the remaining schedules for the three clubs, I believe that CLE has the toughest schedule left, and I feel that it's a toss-up between DET and the Twins for who's next. I'm going to say that the Twins are probably in better shape in that regard. As for how they look currently, I'd say that just in August the Twins pitching had a handful of "hiccup" games where they didn't perform well. The fielding has stayed consistent, and the hitting had a few stellar games but also had some no-show games.        

For the rest of the campaign I'd recommend that the Twins put the hammer down on the clubs they will play that you can argue they are better than. And then they are going to have to go tooth and nail with the teams that are at their level or above.    

The data shows the Twins in 16th in the overall MLB standings. That is the same position they find themselves in when considering a consensus of the various MLB Power Ranks. To verify that the AL Central is likely the weakest in all of baseball is that the rest of the division's MLB standings are CLE/20th, DET/24th, CHI/27th, and KC/29th. The Twins would be in the 4th spot in the AL East or West, and they or any other Central team fall short in the Wild Card race. No division title, and no playoff. It's that simple.    

In my view there are four elite MLB teams that have a legit chance at a World Series Crown. They are ATL, LAD, BAL, and TB. Just on the outside of them are HOU and TEX. The Twins are 3-12 for the year versus the elites. They are 4-2 versus the Texas clubs with games remaining. I feel they have the pitching staff that could sneak up on a team in a playoff series. I also feel that their major challenge this year has been in consistently getting all three phases of their game at a peak level at the same time. Can they do that or not? That is the question.    

FOR THE MOST PART, the NHL is at that point of the offseason where there isn't a lot going on. The dog days of hockey summer are here. Even the daily transaction wire has been mostly silent. As you likely know, the Minnesota WILD offseason has been a quiet one based on the lack of available cap space. Since re-signing netminder Filip Gustavsson there has been no other roster activity. As of today the club has 20 of a potential 23 NHL contracts signed while having  $1,643,079 of cap space left to work with.    

If I am looking ahead here, what do I see? It isn't a stretch to think that there could be some scenarios where if there are injuries to deal with on the WILD or Iowa roster, you could see a game here or there where the team is not suiting up 20 players. You'll see a club with zero flexibility when it comes to in-season roster maneuvers.    

The team could remedy that by moving out a veteran player with a larger cap hit. But I'm not certain I see GM Bill Guerin doing so at this time. I'll say one thing about GMBG and that is if you are one of his "guys" he will give you some extreme loyalty. I'll also say that he has been mostly correct in who he has given that to. It has to be earned.    

I have battled myself in assessing the anticipated roster for the upcoming season and my underlying feeling is that this club takes a step back this year. I'll outline my reasons for that right before training camps begin. (teams can report on Sept. 20th)      

There are others that share my thoughts on the club's potential performance this year, and that's bolstered by the number of articles I have seen recently that are blowing right past the upcoming season and instead, are engaging in speculation about the 2025-26 roster and what the team could look like and how they perform in the post cap restriction aftermath.    

With the team's prospect pool including some serious talent, it could be cause for some positivity as to the potential the team could have once it has the buyout penalties satisfied. It is thought that the cap itself could be up in the $86 to $88mil range by then. That could afford Guerin the opportunity to go out and do some real shopping in the free agent market as well as hold on to some valued players who have performed for the club.    

Either way, it would be quite a move upward for a team that has pretty much sat on its hands this offseason because it has few other options but to do so. So, how will this season really go? I'll tell you soon! PEACE