By Jeff Wald

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Baseball season is here. Not with official games, but Spring Training workouts are starting this week.

Minnesota sports fans are clamoring for another season to get started after the playoff heartbreak we experienced with the Vikings. Yes, the Timberwolves will finally be a playoff team again and the Wild remain in the playoff hunt for now.

But there’s not a better sign of spring on its way than pitchers and catchers reporting for workouts in Florida, Arizona and other warm weather climates. Many Twins players are already in Fort Myers doing their own work, but official workouts start Wednesday.

What we know as of now is this: The Twins are entering the 2018 season, coming off a playoff berth, without a true No. 1 starting pitcher. They offered free agent star Yu Darvish a five-year contract, but he signed a six-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. We know Ervin Santana is out about three months after having middle finger surgery on his throwing hand.

It means he won’t be back until May at the earliest, and he won’t be on the mound for Opening Day. He’ll likely miss all of April.

So then what? The top unsigned free agent starting pitchers include Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb. But if reports are any indication, the Twins are in pursuit of one of Cobb’s teammates with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Twins reportedly have offered a trade to the Rays to acquire Chris Archer.

He’s considered among the top 10-15 starting pitchers in baseball, and is a strikeout pitcher when his stuff is on. He’s a trade candidate now, because the Rays would seek several prospects in return for his team-friendly contract. He’s due a base salary of $6.25 million this year, and $7.5 million next year. That’s a bargain compared to Darvish, who will be making at least $20 million over the next six seasons.

Under his current contract, Archer would become an unrestricted free agent in 2022. There is an option for a $1.75 million buyout after the 2020 season.

Archer finished with a 9-12 record last year on a Rays squad that was below .500 for the season. He finished with a 4.05 earned run average and 210 strikeouts with 59 walks in 201 innings. He’s pitched more than 200 innings in each of the last three seasons, and his lowest number of strikeouts in that span is 233.

He averages more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. He’s the type of dominant starter the Twins need at the front of their rotation, a pitcher that throws a lot of strikes and misses bats.

And with being due a little more than $30 million in base salary over the next four seasons, it makes Archer a wanted player in a trade. The Twins would have to give up a lot to get him, an everyday starting position player and multiple prospects, but it’s worth it if the goal is to take the next step after playing in the Wild Card game this season.

Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have revamped the bullpen, but now it’s time to get a front-line starter.

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