Jesse's Armchair GM a la Twins Thursday, Part 2

Role players like Jorge Cantu can help deepen the bench.

This morning I outlined my goals for the kind of players I'd be looking for this winter, if I were the Twins GM. Some of you agreed, some didn't, and that's perfect. Here's where I get into specifics.

Impending Free Agents

Carl Pavano: As a Type-A free agent, Pavano would net the Twins a first round draft pick if they offered him arbitration and he declined. The downside is that if they offer him arbitration and he accepts, they'll have to pay him something in the range of $10 million for the year. I'm playing a big risk here, because his acceptance of arbitration screws up most of how I plan to use the money I have this winter, but as one of the best two or three starters on the free agent market he should have multiple teams interested in offering him a multi-year contract. I'm offering him arbitration, because I'm confident he'll decline it and not have a problem signing elsewhere.

Orlando Hudson: I'd offer him arbitration. He's a Type-B free agent, which means that there won't be the stigma that comes against signing Type-A's due to the signing team losing a draft pick. More than likely he'll decline, as the middle infield free agent market isn't exactly flush with options and he'd be one of the most desireable options. Instead, if the unexpected happens and, like Pavano, he is unexpectedly unable to find a long-term contract, absorbing him for one more season at $6 million isn't the end of the world. Especially for a number two hitter with good defense.

Jim Thome: He's a sentimental choice to bring back, but I'm giving him a pass. First, Thome will be another year older, and Beau has outlined more than once how amazing his year has been historically and also how players tend to do at this point in their careers. Add to that his ongoing back issues and his inability to play a position, and I would prefer to spend money on players who can be productive at the plate while also playing defense and not having those red flags for injury.

Randy Flores, Ron Mahay, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch: Fuentes (who didn't finish enough games for his option to kick in) and Rauch are each Type-B free agents, but these four are all being allowed to walk. See ya.

Matt Guerrier: Another Type-A free agent, if he's offered and he accepts, he's likely to make $2.5-$3 million. In a market flush with bullpen options, will another team pony up the cash and draft pick in order to sign him to a multi-year contract? I'm not so sure. Sorry Matty, no arbitration offer for you.

Jesse Crain: As our best reliever in 2010 (once he started using his slider more often), I'm re-signing Crain for two years, $6 million.

Player Options

Jason Kubel: There's a $5.25 million club option, or a $350,000 buyout. Even after his disappointing season and terrible October, I'm picking up this option without hesitation. I'm picking it up with the intention of trading him, but I'll get to that later.

Nick Punto: Punto has a $5 million club option with a $500,000 buyout. I'm buying him out.

Arbitration decisions and roster reconstruction after the jump!

The Twins have a lot of arbitration-eligible players this year. I'm tendering offers to J.J. Hardy, Delmon Young, Pat Neshek, Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla and Glen Perkins. As for the rest...

Francisco Liriano: He's likely to garner $4 - $5 million in his first year of arbitration. Instead, I'm signing him to a four-year, $32 million dollar contract (2011: $4 MM; 2012: $8 million; 2013: $10 million; 2014: $10 million).

Matt Capps: I'm non-tendering Capps. I know, I know, he's supposed to be Joe Nathan's insurance policy and we traded Wilson Ramos for him, but A) we can do better with the $7 million he'd be likely to earn through arbitration and B) we shouldn't stick with him just because we traded too much for him. If we can do better with the money that would be allocated for him, then we should cut bait. I want my team to be as good as it can be, and I'm not concerned with making it appear slightly more palatable that we traded one of our biggest chips. We know that saves are over-rated, both in terms of the dollars awarded closers and in terms of the closer position, and for my money I can buy a better pitcher.

Clay Condrey: This is a no-brainer. He didn't pitch.

Jason Repko: We have good defensive outfielders coming through the minor leagues who can provide the kind of offense Repko provided.

All this leaves us with a skeleton roster of...

Pos Player 2011 Salary
C Joe Mauer 23.0
1B Justin Morneau 14.0
2B Alexi Casilla 0.8
3B Danny Valencia 0.5
SS J.J. Hardy 6.5
LF Delmon Young 5.0
CF Denard Span 1.0
RF Michael Cuddyer 10.5
DH 0.5
Bench C Jose Morales/Drew Butera 0.5
Bench IF 0.5
Bench IF 0.5
Bench OF 0.5
IF Brendan Harris 1.75
SP Francisco Liriano 4.0
SP Scott Baker 5.0
SP Nick Blackburn 3.0
SP Kevin Slowey 2.5
SP Brian Duensing 0.5
SP Glen Perkins 0.8
CL Joe Nathan 11.25
MR Jesse Crain 3.0
MR Jose Mijares 0.5
MR Pat Neshek 0.8
MR 0.5
MR 0.5
MR 0.5
Buyout Nick Punto 0.5
Total 2011 Payroll 98.9

That's, actually, not so bad. Perkins may or may not be on the Major League roster, Punto's buyout is included, as is the second year of Harris' deal. You'll notice there's no Kubel since, as I mentioned above, I'm trading him. For a semi-decent prospect. This leaves us about $15 million to spend in filling the remaining holes that we don't want filled by in-house, minor league options.

Free Agent Signings

Sign Derek Lee (2 years, $14 million): This is the big splash, and it does three things. It provides the Twins another big right-handed stick, it fills the designated hitter position, and it provides a backup plan in case Morneau isn't ready to go for whatever reason. There's obviously some risk involved here--the dollars, Lee's age and his performance in 2010 mean this isn't a match made in heaven. But it's a good match, and it's a calculated risk.

Sign Joaquin Benoit (2 years, $8 million): Benoit was a strikeout machine on a minor league deal for the Rays this season, and he'll be one of many good relievers on the market. I'm adding to that by letting Fuentes, Guerrier and Rauch all walk. In the event Benoit gets snapped up for closer's cash there are other options there, but he's my top target.

Sign Jorge Cantu (1 year, $3 million): Cantu has had an up and down career, and is coming off another down year. He'll be 29 in 2011 and isn't much of an on-base man, but he can play first, second and third, and he can hit for power. He hit 40 or more doubles in '05, '08 and '09, and hit nearly 30 homers in '05 and '08.

Sign Felipe Lopez (1 year, $1.5 million): After hitting .298/.366/.407 between '08 and '09, Lopez fell of a cliff this season. But he'll be just 31 in 2011, can play second, third and short, and at this price isn't a bad backup option.

Sign Kiko Calero (1 year, minor league contract): Calero is another strikeout machine, but control issues have kept him from having a bigger career. He spent all of 2010 in AAA between the Dodgers and Mets, and he'll be 36 next season, but he retired 69 men on strikes in 60 innings in '09. He's a low-risk, high-reward kind of player, and if anyone can iron out a few control issues it's Rick Anderson.

Where does this leave us?

Pos Player 2011 Salary
C Joe Mauer 23.0
1B Justin Morneau 14.0
2B Alexi Casilla 0.8
3B Danny Valencia 0.5
SS J.J. Hardy 6.5
LF Delmon Young 5.0
CF Denard Span 1.0
RF Michael Cuddyer 10.5
DH Derek Lee 7.0
Bench C Jose Morales/Drew Butera 0.5
Bench IF Jorge Cantu 3.0
Bench IF Felipe Lopez 1.5
Bench OF Ben Revere 0.5
IF Brendan Harris 1.75
SP Francisco Liriano 4.0
SP Scott Baker 5.0
SP Nick Blackburn 3.0
SP Kevin Slowey 2.5
SP Brian Duensing 0.5
LR Glen Perkins 0.8
CL Joe Nathan 11.25
MR Jesse Crain 3.0
MR Joaquin Benoit 4.0
MR Jose Mijares 0.5
MR Kiko Calero 0.5
MR Pat Neshek 0.8
Buyout Nick Punto 0.5
Total 2011 Payroll 112.4

That's $74.3 million on position players ($76.55 million including Harris and Punto), and $38.85 million on the pitching staff, for a total payroll of $112.4 million. Hell, if Hudson accepts arbitration then forget about Lopez, slide Casilla to the bench and make the overall payroll around $116.9 million. Personally I think the payroll will be closer to $112 than $116, but by that point we're just splitting hairs.

Conclusion

I'm putting a lot of faith in the starting rotation. If he's healthy, I believe Liriano is a legitimate staff ace. Behind him, both Baker and Slowey are capable of putting together seasons that look a lot better than the seasons they gave us in 2010. Should anyone stumble, I have faith that someone like David Bromberg, Kyle GIbson or Alex Wimmers would be able to step in, in addition to familiar names like Perkins, Anthony Swarzak and Jeff Manship.

The bench is versatile but has potential to hit, and this lineup...

Span
Casilla
Mauer
Lee
Morneau
Young
Cuddyer
Valencia
Hardy

...isn't too bad.

The bullpen has question marks still, from Nathan to Neshek to Calero, but with names like Billy Bullock, Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop and Rob Delaney waiting around, it's still a pretty deep talent pool.

How does that team look to you? Would players like Jorge and Lopez, who have had opportunities to play quite a bit in their careers, accept backup roles (even though, no doubt, Gardy would find them at-bats)? Is the lineup good enough, in spite of being right-heavy in the bottom half? Is the rotation good enough to compete?

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