Offseason Outlook: Minnesota Twins

Next up in our Offseason Outlook series, the Twins.  Their likely commitments for 2010:

C – Joe Mauer – $12.5MM
C – Jose Morales – $400K
1B – Justin Morneau – $14MM
2B – Alexi Casilla – $428K
SS – Nick Punto – $4MM
3B – Brendan Harris – $466K+
IF – Matt Tolbert – $405K
IF – Brian Buscher – $413K
LF – Delmon Young – $1.152MM+
CF – Denard Span – $435K
RF – Michael Cuddyer – $8.5MM
OF – Carlos Gomez – $438K+
DH – Jason Kubel – $4.1MM

SP – Scott Baker – $3MM
SP – Nick Blackburn – $440K
SP – Kevin Slowey – $440K
SP – Glen Perkins – $430K
SP – Francisco Liriano – $430K+

Other candidates: Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak

RP – Joe Nathan – $11.25MM
RP – Jon Rauch – $2.9MM
RP – Jesse Crain – $1.7MM+
RP – Matt Guerrier – $1.475MM+
RP – Pat Neshek – $440K+
RP – Brian Duensing – $400K
RP – Jose Mijares – $400K

Other candidates: Bobby Keppel, Jeff Manship

Non-tender candidates: Boof Bonser, Delmon Young

The Twins have about $70.5MM committed before arbitration raises to Harris, Young, Gomez, Liriano, Crain, Guerrier, and Neshek.  (Perkins is considering a grievance over missing Super Two status).  They'll be in the high $70MMs range if all those players are tendered contracts.  The Twins entered the '09 season at $65.3MM, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.  Fortunately, there's a rumor payroll could jump to the $90-100MM range with the new stadium opening in 2010.

Smith's areas of focus should be second base, shortstop, and third base.  Second base options are plentiful on the free agent market.  Among shortstops Smith would be well-served to target Milwaukee's J.J. Hardy, but Hardy should have multiple suitors.  Adrian Beltre and Troy Glaus could be interesting third base considerations.

The Twins are set in the outfield, though there's a case to be made for non-tendering Young and using that money for a left field/DH type.

The rotation has question marks behind Baker and Blackburn.  Slowey is coming back from wrist surgery, Perkins from a shoulder injury, and Liriano from post-Tommy John elbow issues.  Duensing had a 2.73 ERA in nine starts, though his peripheral stats were less inspiring.  The Twins will have to find the Carl Pavano of 2010, an innings eater who can be had for a few million bucks.

Trading Nathan should be considered; he's owed $24.5MM over the next two seasons.  He might bring a few decent pieces in return, and the savings could be used to add a veteran starter and/or late-inning reliever.  On the other hand, the market will be flooded with closers this winter and the Twins could be starved for suitors.

Additionally, the Twins will attempt to sign Mauer long-term.  Even with a hometown discount this might require a $100MM commitment.

Last winter, Smith used his budget to re-sign Punto and add Joe Crede and Luis Ayala.  He supplemented those moves with the midseason additions of Orlando Cabrera, Ron Mahay, Pavano, and Rauch.  The shuffling should continue this winter, as the Twins continue to seek infield solutions.  With the pitching depth taking a hit, Smith will need every penny of that increased payroll.

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