At 3 PM today, the trade deadline passed, much to the chagrin of Bill Smith and the Twins front office, who were in the midst of serious discussions with the Padres Heath Bell, Arizona's Jon Rauch, and Oakland Athletic's Mike Wuertz. The Twins did manage to land a middle infielder though in Orlando Cabrera. However, no starting or bullpen pitching was acquired prior to the non waiver trade deadline.
What should be the Twins focus going into the offseason?
The Twins will most probably go after some more middle infield help, but is that going to be their main problem come 2010? With AL Central teams around the league loading up with starting pitching (Cleveland - Masterson, Detroit - Washburn, Chicago - Peavy), the Twins should certainly look in that direction.
Detroit: Verlander, Jackson, Washburn - that makes a pretty nice 1-2-3 combo, and while Washburn is a free agent at the end of the season, we have to guess that Detroit will make an offer.
Chicago: Peavy, Buerle, Danks - here is yet another nice 1-2-3 combo for Chicago, who has Peavy under control till 2012, with a vesting option for 2013. Peavy has always been an ace, and that threesome can cause heartaches for the MN Twins.
Twins: Baker, Slowey, Blackburn - not nearly as impressive as Detroit or Chicago, who have one to two potential aces in their staffs. While all of our starting pitchers are young, none of them are proven aces.
Should starting pitching be the focus for the Twins in the offseason?
I say, yes. In the offseason of 2009-2010, there will be two specific free agent aces: Erik Bedard and Ben Sheets. Both of these pitchers have battled injuries in their past, but both are proven aces and when their game is on, it is on! Other starting pitchers that will be available as free agents will be: Chris Capuano, Rich Harden, Brad Penny, Josh Beckett ($12 million option), and Cliff Lee ($8 million option).
I think the Twins should make a play for one of Bedard/Sheets and probably propose a deal to Capuano/Harden. One of Bedard/Sheets would take care of the Twins ace problem, a problem they have had since Santana asked for a trade and Radke retired. This would give the Twins the following rotation:
Of course, there are holes in the infield the Twins must solve, namely at 2B and SS. The hope around Twins Territory, is that the Twins will make a major play for a SS this offseason. Steve Tolleson, originally a 2B, could always play 2B if the Twins do not make a move in that direction. Lets take a look at some of the free agent 2B/SS:
There seem to be better free agent 2B than SS and more of them. It is highly unlikely that Tampa Bay picks up Iwamura option, given the fact that Zobrist and Brignac are waiting. So Iwamura is an option; however, I would prefer the Twins to push for Orlando Hudson. Hudson has always been one of my favorite second baseman and he features a high avg/obp with a solid glove (a combo that Twins fans are unused too).
The SS market is a little bit more scarce, but with several SS names being banded around in June/July, there appears to be hope of a deal being worked out in the offseason. The Braves may listen to offers on Yunel Escobar, one of the best fielding SS in the buisness who also carries a high OBP. Also, the Brewers may be interested in moving J.J. Hardy as their SS prospect, Alcides Escobar, draws near to breaking into the majors. Either one of these SS would be a huge pickup for the Twins. The Braves are looking for some outfield depth while the Brewers look to improve their rotation and pen. The Twins can offer both: Dustin Martin, Jason Pridie, Delmon Young, Steve Tolleson, Angel Morales, Ben Revere...Glen Perkins, Kevin Mulvey, Kyle Waldrop, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Jeff Manship.
As Morneau said (roughly), "We are always saying that we are building for the future, but when is the future?" If the Twins want to go into the new stadium and hoping for lots of revenue, then they had better shift some trades in the offseason, not only for the fans, but also for the players: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Kevin Slowey, and Jason Kubel, who are all wasting their careers playing for a team that hardly can get to the playoffs.
It is time for the Twins to make a real splash in the offseason, just prior to entering their new stadium. I, for one, would be overjoyed if the Twins should be able to address all of their needs heading into 2010 and also cut some of the fat that sits on their bench.
Who do I hope the Twins trade/sign? J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson, and Erik Bedard/Ben Sheets. How likely is this going to happen? Not very likely.
Rotation: Ben Sheets/Erik Bedard, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Anthony Swarzak/Francisco Liriano/Glen Perkins