La Velle E. Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune examined the Twins' biggest needs (starting pitching, third base, bullpen) and threw out a few names that the current AL Central leaders are known to be looking at, or could potentially look at as the calendar turns to July. Let's examine the likelihood of some of Neal's possibilities…
- Roy Oswalt. Thanks to Target Field, the Twins have raised their payroll to account for such big moves as Joe Mauer's extension. Absorbing the rest of Oswalt's contract, however, could be a bit much for the club. He is owed a little more than $9MM over the rest of this season, $16MM in 2011, and $16MM in 2012 with a club option for a $2MM buyout. As noted over the weekend, Oswalt could demand that that option year be automatically picked up in any trade, making it an even bigger financial pill for the Twins to swallow.
- Cliff Lee. Neal notes that acquiring Lee will come at a hefty cost, given the two compensatory draft picks that the soon-to-be free agent could bring back in the winter. Neal raises the possibility that Lee might be enough to entice Minnesota into swapping touted (and Mauer-blocked) prospect Wilson Ramos.
- Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Ben Sheets. Neal doesn't delve into detail about these three, probably because Harden and Sheets don't fit the profile of the "big workload" ace that Neal thinks the Twins need to complement Francisco Liriano. Haren has a cleaner injury history than the other two, but he's struggled this year and is due to earn $25.5MM in 2011-12 (plus a $3.5MM buyout of his $15.5MM club option for 2013).
- Mike Lowell. We heard about Minnesota's interest in Lowell over the weekend, and how Twins management had obvious concerns about Lowell's health and his big salary. Boston's catch-22 with Lowell seems to be that teams will want to know he's healthy before dealing for him, but the Red Sox can't find a way to showcase him without taking a hot player like Adrian Beltre, David Ortiz or Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup.
- Michael Wuertz. The Austin, Minnesota native was pursued by the Twins last summer, and we heard last week that the Twins were looking for bullpen help. Neal points out that the Twins' bullpen is pitching well already and they have some good relievers in the minors, so Wuertz would strictly be a depth pick-up. Also, if Oakland remains in the AL West hunt, the A's may not be willing to swap the right-hander.