Terry Ryan returned as Twins GM, attempting to keep his team afloat by dabbling in the middle of the free agent pool.
Major League Signings
- Josh Willingham, LF: three years, $21MM.
- Jamey Carroll, SS: two years, $6.75MM. Includes $2MM club/player option for 2014 with a potential $250K buyout.
- Matt Capps, RP: one year, $4.75MM. Includes $6MM club option for 2013 with a $250K buyout.
- Ryan Doumit, DH: one year, $3MM.
- Jason Marquis, SP: one year, $3MM.
- Joel Zumaya, RP: one year, $850K. Released.
- Total spend: $39.35MM.
- P Mauricio Silva ($370K)
Notable Minor League Signings
- J.R. Towles, Brian Dinkelman, Jared Burton, Wilkin Ramirez, Phil Dumatrait, P.J. Walters, Rene Rivera, Sean Burroughs, Daryl Thompson, Casey Fien, Luke French, Esmerling Vasquez
Trades and Claims
- Acquired RP Daniel Turpen from Rockies for SP Kevin Slowey.
- Claimed RP Jeff Gray off waivers from Mariners.
- Claimed SP Matt Maloney off waivers from Reds.
- Claimed SS Pedro Florimon off waivers from Orioles.
- Claimed OF Darin Mastroianni off waivers from Blue Jays.
- Acquired 1B Matt Rizzotti from Phillies for cash considerations.
Bill Smith's Twins teams had success in 2009-10, winning two division titles. However, Smith's 2011 club produced disastrous results, and the Twins decided to reinstate longtime GM Terry Ryan to clean up the mess. Ryan had a decent amount of money to spend on a team with many needs, and his solution was to sign veteran free agents.
Re-signing Cuddyer was the Twins' number one offseason priority, assistant GM Rob Antony told Jesse Lund in February. The Twins appeared to top out around three years and $25MM, but the Rockies went $5MM beyond that. The Twins also failed to find common ground with Kubel, who seemed to prefer a more hitter-friendly ballpark. Ultimately, Ryan was able to sign Willingham for less than he offered Cuddyer. Both 33-year-olds have defensive shortcomings, and Willingham is the better hitter. He's also, however, more prone to injury.
The Twins ranked Delmon Young below Cuddyer and Kubel, so they traded him to the Tigers in August rather than non-tender him. Perhaps the range of right field contributor Ben Revere and center fielder Denard Span will limit the damage caused by Willingham's defense in left.
The signing of Doumit generally compensates for the loss of Kubel, at a lower salary. Like Willingham, Doumit has durability and defense issues. Doumit will spend time at right field, catcher, designated hitter, and first base. He's best-served as a designated hitter, but with Justin Morneau now set to spend more of his time at DH than first, the Twins will deal with more Doumit defense. Another part of the domino effect of Morneau at DH means semi-regular at-bats for former first-rounder Chris Parmelee, which is not justified by his work last year in the 24-year-old's second try at Double-A.
Patching a team through free agency is always difficult, but Ryan was at least able to keep the offense in a similar place for less money by replacing Cuddyer and Kubel with Willingham and Doumit. Carroll could add an OBP boost from shortstop, a position for which Twins hitters posted a .292 OBP in 2011. Tsuyoshi Nishioka's role with the 2012 Twins will be eliminated or greatly reduced, and their middle infield will be better for it. The best hope for the Twins' offense lies in incumbents, as Joe Mauer and Morneau must stay healthy and productive to compensate for below-average hitting at left field and third base.
If you think the three new Twins position players are solid but unspectacular, the pitching additions are something less than that. The Twins had the league's worst bullpen in 2011, and Ryan remedied that by retaining Capps at an above-market price. Joel Zumaya was a decent bullpen flyer, but he went down for Tommy John surgery in March and has been released. Capps has always had a low strikeout rate for a late-inning reliever, and that dipped to just 4.66 per nine in 2011. It was time for a change, especially with Capps wanting $4.75MM. Capps being the team's only real bullpen signing is particularly baffling, especially with Nathan leaving. Ryan did sign Perkins for the long-term, potentially securing three free agent seasons on the hope that last year's breakout was legitimate.
The Twins were unable to put aside their differences with Slowey, trading him to the Rockies prior to the non-tender deadline. Marquis was the team's sole rotation addition. An NL lifer, Marquis is a back-end innings guy in the best case. The team will pray that Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker can stay healthy and pitch at the front end.
Ryan's first offseason back was a safe one, in that the Twins didn't make any aggressive signings or trades. Once again, the team's fortunes will rest on a handful of key players who have had trouble staying on the field in recent years.