Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The AL Central is easily the weakest division in baseball, and the Minnesota Twins can look forward to ruling it for the foreseeable future. Not only did they clinch the division last year with, brace yourselves, 87 wins, but the Twins also won their first playoff series in over a decade!

And better yet for the Twins, they’re in the catbird seat. They’re in a position to not only rule the AL Central, but possibly for a long time. Key players are under contract and the farm system is churning away.

This despite losing the ace of their staff to free agency and then trading away a fan favorite. Minnesota won’t win the World Series in 2024, but October is still in the picture, and theirs to lose.

Greatest Addition: Anthony DeSclafani. The Twins need arms and they can certainly do worse than DeSclafani. The veteran righty was acquired from the Mariners in January, with switch-hitting infielder Jorge Polanco going west. DeSclafani spent last year with the Giants and fought through injuries to a 4.88 ERA. San Francisco then sent him to Seattle with Mitch Haniger for former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray.

His sinker/slider mix paired with a sometimes changeup make him a reliable option as the third or fourth starter in Minnesota. Add that he rarely walks anyone, and DeSclafani may even prove a secret weapon for the Twins.

Greatest Loss: Sonny Gray. The Twins were likely never re-signing Gray, though it is frustrating he hit free agency right after finishing second in Cy Young voting. Gray finished the year with a 2.79 ERA and led MLB with a 2.84 FIP. He allowed just eight home runs in 184 innings.

And after finishing second behind the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole in the AL Cy Young race, Sonny Gray’s free agency market came-a-calling. He quickly signed with the Cardinals for $75 million over three years. Even if Gray overachieved last year, it was the best he’s looked since his Oakland days. Replacing that in the rotation, even with blossoming ace Joe Ryan, is nigh-on impossible.

Greatest Strength: A Stacked Lineup. Weak competition in the Central aside, there’s one reason the Twins can look forward to feasting on first place for a few years: Their bats. Minnesota ranked tenth in MLB in runs scored in 2023 and third in home runs. And now, they’ve added veteran switch-hitting slugger Carlos Santana, who still has plenty of pop near age 38.

We should also note that the Twins managed that level of offense without a healthy Carlos Correa. He hit a career-low .230 with only 18 home runs in 135 games after signing a $200 million contract. He’ll strengthen the lineup even more if healthy, as will teammates Byron Buxton, Matt Wallner, and grand slam machine Royce Lewis.

Greatest Weakness: Health. Not to downplay the Twins’ gross lack of pitching depth, but health always seems to be a problem with this team. Correa’s injury history is so great that it cost him $150 million in free agency last winter…twice. Buxton’s injury history reads longer than a receipt from CVS.

Meanwhile, Lewis isn’t even 25 and has already had two ACL surgeries. This scared Twins management enough to move him to third base from the outfield to save his legs.

Of course, this issue extends to the pitching staff. DeSclafani is working his way back from a sore elbow. Chris Paddack is coming back from Tommy John surgery and hasn’t looked himself since his rookie year in San Diego in 2018. Injuries are a near certainty in Minnesota every year, so all anyone can do is hope for as few as possible.

Can the Minnesota Twins get hot enough to finally get back to the World Series? Absolutely! Such is the nature of playoff baseball. How else do you think the Arizona Diamondbacks beat the mighty Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS last year? They were simply the hotter team.

However, the Twins have a lot of work to do before even thinking of that. They’ll need both starting and relief pitching at the deadline, maybe a bat. We’ve discussed team health in great detail. The pieces are there for the Minnesota Twins to win it all, but it’s definitely a uphill battle.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.