There's still more baseball to be played this year, just not by our Twins. I plan on enjoying it, and cheering for whoever advances to the ALCS to face the Yankees. In the meantime, Twins fans can start looking forward to 2011.
- Jim Thome is leaning towards returning next season. Hopefully it's with the Twins. We know he enjoyed his time here, and provided we could find another bat to platoon against left-handed pitchers it would be a good fit. I anticipate the Twins facilitating a Thome return, provided the salary expectations aren't too high.
- Speaking of salary, we still don't know how much money the Twins will be putting towards payroll next year. But here's what we do know: there are seven players under contract worth a total of $67.75 million (Joe Nathan, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn). Jason Kubel and Nick Punto have options worth $10.25 million, with a $350K buyout for Kubel and a $500K buyout for Punto. There are ten players who are eligible for arbitration (Clay Condrey, Alexi Casilla, Matt Tolbert, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Pat Neshek, Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy, Matt Capps and Francisco Liriano). Including that the remainder of any roster is filled out by league-minimum players, the Twins are looking at a payroll of approximately $100 million (give or take a couple million) for Opening Day. No doubt there will be some room on top of that, but nobody can guarantee how much. I'd venture between $10 and $15 million, but don't hold me to it.
- The Twins have a number of free agents coming off the books that aren't included in that $100+ million: Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier. In addition to Thome I'd like to see Pavano and Crain return, but we'll see what happens.
- There is a lot of time for added perspective at this juncture, but from where we sit right now these are the biggest needs I see for the Twins: the addition of a strikeout pitcher in both the rotation and the bullpen, a quality right-handed bat for the middle of the lineup (may have to be a platoon option with Thome, one who can hit left-handed pitching), and options off the bench that can hit.
- The front office is going to have some difficult decisions to make. If they want to address the needs that I've suggested, those needs are going to cost money. They're expensive. Even if the Twins don't bring back any free agents, $10 or $15 million won't be enough to answer all those suggested additions. Minnesota may choose to trade a player under contract, or non-tender one of their more expensive arbitration-eligible players.
- No matter what direction the organization chooses to go, there will be changes made. It will be interesting to see where they come.
- Finally: Ron Gardenhire isn't going anywhere. It sounds like he'll be receiving an extension very soon.