The Twins wrap up the season Sunday at home against the White Sox and it could very well be the last game for first baseman Joe Mauer and manager Paul Molitor.
Whether the Minnesota natives are back with the club next season are just two of many huge questions the Twins need to answer during a very important offseason.
1. Will Joe Mauer retire?
Mauer is on record saying he won't rush a decision, but there are indications that this could be it for the 15-year pro. Patrick Reusse noted on Twitter earlier this week that Mauer's mother traveled with him on the Twins' final road trip last week and he'll have a big contingency at Sunday's season finale, too.
If this is the end for Mauer, he's going out in style. He's had multi-hit games in five of his last seven starts and has hit .292 since the All-Star break after posting a .273 batting average in the first half of the season.
2. Will Paul Molitor be fired?
Molitor's future is in doubt after Twins owner Jim Pohlad failed to give Molitor an endorsement when given the chance by the Star Tribune a few days ago. In four seasons under Molitor the Twins have a combined record of 304-343 and just one playoff appearance. But he was third in manager of the year voting in 2015 and he won the award in 2017.
And it's hard to place blame on Molitor after this season was marred from the start by injuries to Ervin Santana, Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton, in addition to the 80-game suspension to Jorge Polanco and key free agents Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn and Addison Reed largely underperforming.
A win Sunday would give the Twins a 34-34 record since the All-Star break – a surprising record considering the roster Molitor has had to work with.
“I’m optimistic about us being able to stay together," Molitor said of his coaching staff, via the Star Tribune.
3. How focused is Miguel Sano?
Sano claims he'll work his butt off this offseason in his home country of the Dominican Republic. He was reportedly as heavy as 290 pounds earlier this season before losing 20 pounds during a demotion to Class A Fort Myers.
Sano couldn't work out most of last winter because he was recovering from leg surgery, so hitting spring training at full speed in 2019 would be huge for the 2017 All-Star.
- 2017 Sano: .264/.352/.507, 28 HR, 77 RBI, 173 SO in 114 games.
- 2018 Sano: .199/.281/.398, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 115 SO in 71 games.
4. Can Byron Buxton fix his swing?
Buxton is about to turn 25 years old and he's yet to play a fully healthy season in the big leagues, never on the field for more than 92 games in his four seasons. The Gold Glove center fielder played in just 28 games this season and hit .156 with an alarming strikeout rate.
Buxton was sent to Triple-A Rochester in June to fix his broken swing and he was hitting .341 the last 10 games of August when the Twins decided to shut him down for the season, a move that was criticized as having more to do with keeping him under team control for an extra year than it did with a wrist injury.
The Twins gave up on former first-round pick Aaron Hicks in 2015 when he was 25 years old and he's turned into a key contributor for the Yankees, hitting .249 with 27 homers, 79 RBI, 90 runs and 90 walks this season.
5. Will the Twins get an ace in free agency?
Everyone knows the Twins need to upgrade the starting rotation, and spending big on a staff ace would be a move well-received by fans. Sadly, the 2019 free agent class isn't exactly loaded with those kinds of arms.
In fact, there might be only two of them: Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel and Diamondbacks righty Patrick Corbin.
Keuchel has a better track record, winning the NL Cy Young award in 2015 and finishing last season with a 2.90 ERA for the world champion Astros. This season he's posted a 3.74 ERA and allowed an NL-high 211 hits in 204 innings.
Is he worth $100 million over five years as a soon-to-be 31 year old?
Corbin turns 30 next July and is fresh off a season where he struck out 246 batters in exactly 200 innings while posting a 3.15 ERA. But this is the only season of his career where he's struck out so many batters. He'll come at a hefty price and any team that signs him risks overpaying a one-hit wonder.