My approach is to make the team more athletic, while still maintaining the power threat that the lineup has added in 2009 and 2010. Many models for the Twins’ offseason include spending gobs of money on the bullpen, but I would rather acknowledge that the front office has been able to find bullpen help each of the past two years, and if the cheaper bullpen that I propose falters, Bill Smith can work his magic again. There are always plenty of arms available in July and August, and I would rather focus on the rotation, the lineup, and the defense.
As a quick aside, I just want to point out how awful the $12.5 million due to Joe Nathan and the $10.5 million for Michael Cuddyer hurt more than words can describe at this point. If I could, I’d shed Cuddyer’s salary, but nobody is dumb enough to take on that monstrosity (Kansas City? What? Oh sorry Dayton Moore, I thought I heard you volunteering). Would you rather spend that money ($23 million!!!!) on Nathan/Cuddyer, or Young/Hardy/Thome/Crain and still have about $4 million left over? Ouch. Anyways, here is my blueprint:
1) Let Hudson, Punto, Fuentes, Guerrier, Mahay, Flores, Repko, and Thome walk as free agents. Offer Repko a minor league deal if he is still on the market in spring.
3) Tender a contract to Pat Neshek OR Glen Perkins for $800k and let the other one walk. I keep going back and forth, although I realize this is one of the first decisions that has to be made. I am not Bill Smith, however, so I can waffle.
5) Sign Jesse Crain to a two-year, $7 million contract and Matt Tolbert to a one-year, $500k contract.
6) Sign Derrek Lee to a one-year, $7 million contract.
7) This is where it gets tricky, but regardless of which option manifests itself, the Twins will end up with Coco Crisp. Crisp has a $5.5 million team option with Oakland. EDIT: Crisp's option was picked up (Thanks to Fenam for the link). This changes the scenario's quite a bit, but
More after the jump...
a. Scenario #1
Sign Crisp as a free agent (1 year/$5m). EDIT: Trade Revere/C-level prospect for Crisp
b. Scenario #2
i. Trade Jason Kubel/Kevin Slowey to the Oakland Athletics for Coco Crisp.
ii. Sign Jorge De la Rosa to a 3 year, $35m contract.
CF Span ($1m)
2B Casilla ($800k)
C Mauer ($23m)
1B Morneau ($14m)
DH Lee ($7m)
LF Young ($5m)
RF Cuddyer ($10.5m)
3B Valencia ($450k)
SS Hardy ($6.5m)
OF Crisp ($5m or $5.5m)
INF Tolbert ($500k)
UT Hughes ($420k)
C Butera/Morales ($450k)
De la Rosa ($11.5m) OR Sanchez ($5m)
Neshek OR Perkins ($800k)
Slama OR Burnett ($450k)
Manship OR F.A. LOOGY ($450k)
Payroll under Scenario #1 (Sanchez/Crisp) is $123.75 million, and for Scenario #2 (De la Rosa/Crisp) it stands at $135.25 million. Many sources, such as the Twins Centric crew, project the payroll at $110 million, so Scenario #2 is very much a stretch, although adjustments could be made (i.e. dumping another outfielder so Crisp is a full-time starter, or keeping Revere in the majors for the full season).
Assuming Scenario #1 (Sanchez/Crisp) is more palatable, then I would look for Gardy to use a rotation of Span, Crisp, Young, and Lee through the CF, LF, and DH slots in the batting order. Against most lefties, Span and Young would start in the outfield and Lee would be the DH. Against tough righties, Crisp could play in the outfield and Young or Lee could be the DH. Obviously, Lee would be insurance for Justin Morneau (as recently as 2009, Lee put up a line of .306/.393/.579) and could spell him a couple of times each month. He would have to be okay with a slightly reduced role, although he has very good pinch-hitting numbers for his career. Having a right-handed bat off the bench would be great, although without Kubel in the lineup there is less of a need for it, ironically.
Crisp would be the odd man out a lot of the time, but would be a great defensive replacement that would not cripple the offense late in the game. He would also serve to push Denard Span, even though Span would still be your everyday CF. Lee would be a fantastic bench threat, DH, and insurance policy at 1B. Hughes and Tolbert are cheap, capable utility options, and with both Hughes and Crisp/Lee off the bench, there is less of a need for Morales’ offense. Butera would likely look okay on the roster if this scenario played out.
Again, the bullpen is not the priority. We have plenty of young arms in the minors, and relievers are the easiest thing to find late in the summer. This plan is a little pricey, but if I had to cut something out, I would let Capps walk. Realistically, the odds of that are slight at best, so I included him in the blueprint.