I like the Twins move to resign Cuddyer and the trade for Hardy but unless the Twins really open up the pocketbooks this restricts them for any long term signing this off season. The combined 2011 salaries of Nathan (12.5), Morneau (14), Cuddyer (10.5), Kubel (5.25), Mauer (20, likely), Baker (5), Hardy (7?) is a big load to bear (74.25 million). This and the fact that Slowey, Blackburn, Span, Neshek, Bonser, Young, Harris, Casilla, Tolbert and Liriano will all be in their 1st or 2nd years of arbitration at that point means the Twins have a lot of money already committed for 2011. I realize that some of those arbitration eligible players will likely be gone either through being non-tendered or traded but even if you lose half of those the rest could be set for big paydays (Slowey, Span, and Blackburn especially).
It's really going to be tough for the Twins to make any big commitments to other players if they hope to keep their own key players. I can really only see the Twins going after a one year type player this year(Beltre or Crede) to fill one of the holes at either 3B or 2B. One option would be to structure Mauer's contract in a way that 2011 is a cheaper year and make up for it over the rest of the contract. This makes sense because the Twins will likely be done with Cuddyer, Kubel, and possibly even Nathan saving them roughly 25 million in 2012. They will have to be the expendable players and likely someone out of the group of Tosoni, Benson, Revere, Hicks, or Morales will have to be ready to replace Kubel and Cuddyer at this point. Backloading Mauers contract might allow the Twins to go after a guy like Felipe Lopez and pay him 5-6 million over the course of a 3-4 year contract or Pavano to a 2-3 year deal.
Another option to consider would be packaging one of our top young prospects with pitching to get a 2B who might be blocked in another system. I'm not familiar enough with other teams farm systems to suggest any names but this is an idea that I hope the Twins are looking into. It lets the Twins keep payroll down thus being able to resign Mauer without back loading his deal causing problems in the future or giving them a shot at maybe picking up a veteran pitcher this year and/or next.
I hope I'm wrong, but I'm expecting the Twins to sign Mauer to a big extension and then the rest of the off season to be pretty quiet. Hopefully I'm wrong and they make a move to pick up a good OBP guy to hit between Span and Mauer but I just don't see it happening. Maybe someone like Polanco would sign for a 1 year deal, heck if Hudson and O-Cab did last year I guess it could happen this year too. The Twins will likely depend on Punto to cover 2B and Tolbert/Harris to hold down 3B until Valencia is deemed ready to take over. This isn't an awful scenario but it does leave the Twins lineup looking pretty bad should any of their big hitters go down for any amount of time.