I think the primary reason no trade or signing "fits" or "matches" up for the Twins is in large part due to how the payroll will look in 2010. Bill Smith has to consider how any free agent signing of more than one year will fit into the budget in 2010 and beyond..with salaries in 2010 that will be as follows:
Mauer (without signing an extension) $12.5 million,
Morneau $14 million,
Nathan $11.25 million,
Cuddyer $8.5 million,
Punto $4 million.
That is $50 million plus for the highest paid guys under contract.
Liriano and Baker will each be arbitration eligible...using Wang's arbitration decision from 2008 as a benchmark for a 1st year eligible pitcher of their calibre...they will each likely get at least $4 million....if they perform as we hope this year, that could be on the low side..so let's assume $5 million apiece, just for the sake of argument. Kubel will likely get a significant raise if he performs well...so let's bump him to $5 million too. That adds $15 million to the $50 million for the above players...now we are at $65 million for 8 players.
Also..several other players will become arbitration eligible in 2010 (assuming they perform the way we hope and we choose to keep them)...guys like Harris, Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez (if he is Super 2), Breslow, Bonser, Guerrier (can't see the Twins keeping both Bonser and Guerrier)....Neshek, Perkins (I think). So that will mean several raises ...probably $1.5 million average salary for 7 guys (as I say, they won't keep all these relievers)...so that adds $10 million to the numbers above...and puts us at $75 million for 15 players
Then, we have 10 more spots at or around league minimum...say $420,000 average salaries...adding another $4.2 million and we are at $79.2 million (approximately)...could be higher or slightly lower depending on arbitration results.
But it will be right around the $80 million mark WITHOUT a major signing or trade...so unless we can unload a contract in any trade...it is difficult to see how the Twins can upgrade without a willingness to be over $85 million in 2010. If the Twins had signed Blake, maybe they would have NOT signed Punto...hard to say,but as it is, adding Blake to what we have with Punto, would have almost ensured we would have been over $85 million next season.
If we sign Wigginton, for example, for two years or more, we will be over $85 million next year. So that is why he is probably not on the radar, as much as any defensive issues he may have. This is why I keep thinking that a Beltre trade is about the only trade of significance that Smith MIGHT be willing to make..because while it adds dollars this year, it does not inflate the payroll in 2010 and beyond.
The only other trades that will work for the Twins will have to involve getting rid of a high cost contract...so unless they would be willing to trade Nathan (which I doubt, and would not recommend) then Cuddyer is the only big contract they would be willing to trade...and he has little value (other than maybe a salary dump in order to upgrade another area)...short of a trade involving Cuddyer, the Twins will need to look for a trade for a one year rental...like Adrian Beltre or Brian Roberts, with Beltre being a much better fit, at least for 2009.
We can wish for a trade for Hardy...(someone on a different blog argued we should involve Ben Revere in such a trade) but, even if we could find a match that trade likely would increase the team salary to over $85 million for 2010 (unless we were willing to trade Baker or Liriano, which of course we would not).....it seems very doubtful the Twins will want to go over $80 million in 2010...but who knows....
Yunel Escobar could fit (financially) in a trade scenario....or maybe Kouzmanoff...but that's about it....at least with respect to the names we have been hearing about all Winter. A trade for Escobar or Kouzmanoff would likely keep the team salary at about $80 million.
So...it's either a one year rental type trade involving Beltre....or a salary dump of Cuddyer, followed by a trade to upgrade...or a trade for Escobar or Kouzmanoff (where we trade guys who are also becoming arb. eligible..like Delmon Young)
Trades for Michael Young or other similar players will likely never work financially, even with a Cuddyer salary dump, unless the Twins are willing to exceed $85 million next year, which I highly doubt....So, I think it may be best to make a strong run at Beltre...and if that does not work, then it may be best to simply go with what we have.