Friday, October 3, 2008

First Look at the Twins offseason

Perhaps the biggest lesson the Twins learned from 2008: they can contend, even though they lost Santana and Hunter, and they can contend now. Just two more runs and they would have made the playoffs. Clearly the team isn't needing a big overhaul like last offseason. I'm sure they will make some moves this offseason as usual. We will explore what possible moves they might make, and we will discuss the moves when they make them.

First lets explore where the Twins currently stand:

Catcher - Joe Mauer is the best catcher in the game. He just won his 2nd batting title in 3 years and might win his first gold glove this offseason. The only think he could possibly improve on is HR power. Mike Redmond is a great backup. The Twins will pick up Mike Redmond's option for 2009. They are set at catcher.

First Base - Justin Morneau is solid all around like Joe Mauer. He played all 162 games this season and will likely finish 2nd in the MVP voting. He is locked up on a bargain contract through 2013. He doesn't really need a backup, although I've heard rumors that Jason Kubel is learning 1B so Morneau can DH when he needs a break.

Second Base - Alexi Casilla was a very pleasant surprise for the Twins in 2008. He'll be the #2 hitter in the lineup for a long time.

Shortstop - Now the Twins start to see some problems. Nick Punto is a free agent. I am hoping they don't resign him. Ron Gardenhire love Nick Punto like his own son. Ok he was alright in 2008 but he had one of the worst seasons ever in 2007. The Twins need a new SS. Casilla can play SS or 2B so look for them to fill one of those holes.

Third Base - Brian Buscher was solid in 2008, he hit around .300 and had he played the whole season he would have been on pace for 100 RBI. For some reason the Twins aren't sold on him. They do have 2 or 3 decent options in the minors that we will explore another day, but I wouldn't be surprised if they traded for someone like Adrian Beltre. Another big question mark.

Left Field - Delmon Young disappointed some with his .290, 10 HR campaign in 2008. I have one word for all those who think he should be traded: 22. Yes he is just 22 and very young. This guy was the top prospect in all of baseball 2 years ago when he was called up by the Rays! He was the #1 overall pick like Joe Mauer was! You don't give up on a guy like that. I remember Mauer and Morneau were a little underwhelming their first year in the majors as well. This guy is going to be a beast in the lineup. You don't give up on him early like the Twins did with David Ortiz.

Center Field - Carlos Gomez. See above. Disappointing year, but he is just 22 and has all the talent in the world. Fastest player in baseball, best defensive CF in baseball, you stick with him. He will get better exponentially.

Right Field - Denard Span. Span was the biggest, and most pleasant surprise of 2008. He took over the leadoff spot and was 2nd on the Twins in on-base percentage. He is a centerfielder so he covers right field as well as anybody. You also have Michael Cuddyer who was injured in 2008 but was signed to a big 3 year deal.

Designated Hitter - Jason Kubel. Was second on the team in HR with 20. Has a good bat.

Starting pitchers - Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey are going to form the top of the rotation for a long time. Expect the Twins to lock them up to long term deals. Blackburn and Perkins are solid as well but they can be replaced by the Twins pitching depth.

Relief Pitchers - Getting Pat Neshek back will be huge in 2009. Losing Neshek cost the Twins the playoffs in 2008. Jose Mijares was called up in September and was lights out. Look for Mijares in the 7th, Neshek in the 8th, and Nathan in the 9th. Guerrier and Crain just need some rest. Craig Breslow was a good addition as well. Dennys Reyes will be a free agent, and probably let go with the emergence of Breslow and Mijares. Phil Humber and Boof Bonser also figure into the pitching plan somewhere.

Positions Set: C, 1B, one of 2B/SS, LF, CF, RF, DH, SP, RP.
Holes to fill: one of 2B/SS, 3B, maybe another reliever.
Surpluss players: One of Span/Young/Gomez/Cuddyer/Kubel. Blackburn, Perkins, Bonser, Humber.
Players likely gone: Nick Punto, Dennys Reyes
Estimated payroll: $49 million
Payroll room: up to $35 million (yes the Twins could actually go sign a big free agent or two, or make a big trade)

The biggest question is what to do with Span/Young/Gomez/Cuddyer/Kubel. 5 excellent players, with only 4 positions (LF/CF/RF/DH) to fill. Who do you make as trade bait? Cuddyer is my choice, but he is likely the least attractive.

In future posts we will discuss what to do with the surpluss of pitching and outfielders, what prospects could help in 2009 like Span, Casilla, Buscher, Blackburn, Slowey, Perkins, and Mijares did in 2008, a new top 20 Twins prospect list, potential trade targets, and potential free agents to be signed.

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