Additions: Joe Crede, Luis Ayala, Nick Punto (re-signed)
Subtractions: Dennys Reyes, Adam Everett. Midseason: Mike Lamb, Livan Hernandez, Brian Bass, Juan Rincon, Craig Monroe
The Twins entered the offseason with the left side of their infield open and a desire for relief help. They paid the market rate to retain Punto in December, and then waited out Scott Boras and signed Crede for $2.5MM in late February. Ayala was the bullpen choice at $1.3MM. Additionally, GM Bill Smith locked up young starter Scott Baker at a reasonable $15.25MM with an option on his first free agent year.
The Twins ranked a surprising 3rd in the AL last year with 5.09 runs per game. Credit goes to the .340 team OBP, which included a .279 team average. The Twins were second in the league with an .826 OPS with runners in scoring position and didn't have much power.
The '09 Twins project to score 4.79 runs per game, using CHONE projections and Baseball Musings' lineup analysis tool. That would've been 9th in the AL last year. The projection adds Crede but doesn't account for Delmon Young and Brendan Harris, who received significant playing time in '08. Joe Mauer's injury will be a big factor, since he's a .410 OBP in the middle of their lineup.
The Twins' rotation posted a 4.32 ERA in 959 innings last year, including 206 innings of 5.64 ball from Livan Hernandez and Boof Bonser. Note that the Twins' front four – Baker, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins – totaled only 559.6 innings last year (an average of 140 each). This rotation should be the class of the AL Central if healthy.
The bullpen lost Dennys Reyes, but also subtracts poor performances from Bass, Bonser, and Rincon. I still think they could've done better than Ayala. A big year from Jose Mijares would go a long way.
Defensively, the Twins ranked 7th in the AL according to the Fielding Bible II. Crede has the potential to make a big difference at third base; that's his main source of value. Young played an ugly left field last year, but he still has breakout potential on both sides of the ball. The Twins' best defensive outfield will involve Gomez in center and Denard Span in left.
The Twins allowed 745 runs last year, and as you can see there's some potential for improvement in both pitching and defense. With the same run prevention they look like an 84 win team. But with a healthy rotation and seasons from Crede and Mauer, 88 wins seems possible.
Bottom line: Bill Smith could've done more with the bullpen, but the Crede addition and the Twins' young pitching should keep them in contention in the AL Central.