The 2010 Twins suffered a number of players regressing and on top of that had a number of injuries to deal with. In spite of this, they won 94 games and were the first team to clinch their division. Like others said, a more prudent approach would be to do some minor tweaking, but beyond that, there doesn't seem to be a ton that we need to do to field a more competitive team. What the team could definitely use is a power arm or and a decent RH bat that can mitigate the left handed heaviness of this lineup. For various reasons, the following players could easily have huge improvements over their 2010 campaigns
Starting Pitchers: Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn. All have been consistently better than what they were this year. Slowey was obviously rusty coming back from his injury and had troubles lasting beyond the 5th. This wasn't a problem in the past, so Slowey should bounce back. Baker battled tendonitis in his elbow which (baring a serious injury) should heal up over the offseason. Blackburn was nothing short of awful until his later return.
Relief Pitchers: Neshek. His situation is fairly straight forward. He's still cheap this year too and 1 year removed from TJ surgery, he's not a bad gamble if he returns.
Starters: Young took a major step forward, but given that he's 25, he could very well take another one. Mauer also regressed significantly, and as such could be a reasonable bet to improve on a disappointing season (though he wasn't exactly bad, he just wasn't as Maueresque as we've come to like). Morneau could be an improvement just by playing all season. Hardy also could improve as he was much better once his wrist healed. Kubel also took a step back, but given his production over the last couple of years, it is safe to assume he should bounce back assumign he's reasonably protected against left handers. Likewise Span took a step back and will hopefully improve in 2011. Hopefully this is a temporary setback as well. Unfortunately, he will likely need to swing at the first pitch a bit more in order to get pitchers to avoid getting that first pitch strike. He's also got to do something about his horrible base running.
Without doing much of anything, my guess is that we could easily field a 94 win team again. That said, we do have some problems... first... what to do with Pavano. He was pretty good this last year. This is the one position where I could see the Twins making a reasonable splash. I'd probably offer him arbitration, especially since I suspect he will decline it. If a 2 year deal with a 3rd year option cannot be worked out, then pursuing someone like Greinke or possibly De La Rosa might make sense, but none of these options are cheap. One guy I'd watch carefully is Erik Bedard. He's a monster when healthy... and that is a big if. However, given his injury history, he could slide and be had very cheap. I'd go after Greinke only if I could get rid of one of Baker/Slowey/Blackburn in the process. Second, we need to extend Liriano. This, to me, is a no brainer, and I'd guess it will take 4 years and 40M to get it done. Third, we really need an RH bat that can play decent defense. There are optons here as well. Fourth, we need to figure out what to do with Hardy. Given the lack of options in the high minors, Hardy should be a Twin for 2 or 3 more years. I'd propose signing him to a 2 year deal with a 3rd year option that vests on performance... Fifth, do you keep going to arb with Young, or do you extend him? With both Kubel and Cuddyer's contracts freeing up at the end of 2011, it would be wise to have Young under contract for a bit longer. I'd propose a 3 year deal for 20M. Sixth, extend Crain. He was one of the better power arms down the stretch. I'm guessing 3/9 or 2/6 would get it done. Most of the rest of the pen can go (at least the expensive ones). I'd probably try to trade Capps, but I wouldn't be surprised if they could not find a suitor and simply dropped him.
C - Mauer (23M)
1B - Morneau (14M)
2B - Casilla (800k)
SS - Hardy (6M)
3B - Valencia (450k)
LF - Young (5M)
CF - Span (1M)
RF - Cuddyer (10.5M)
DH - Kubel (5.5M)
Total 15 M
Crain (2.5 M)
Total 19.6 M
Andrew Jones or Marcus Thames (900k)
Team Total: 114 M
I'm going to caveat all of this and say that I do believe that 115 is probably low. I could see payroll hitting 120-125, at which point pursuing a Bedard, Greinke, and/or keeping Capps would make more sense. But this contest is for 115M. For this team, Cuddy would spell Morneau occasionally at first. Kubel would get some OF time. The Thames/Jones option at the bench would be used as an RH substitute against a tough lefty plus a defensive upgrade. Jones might be more ideal because he can play CF and could spell Span on occasion as well. Nathan is obviously one of the big question marks. He will likely struggle a bit, but he's with this team at this point, no question about that. Hopefully he can fare better than Neshek and Liriano did post TJ. He was a hard thrower to begin with, though we may have seen the end of his 95MPH fastball. That said, I suspect he can still rack up some Ks. Neshek should be improved and I suspect could be another power arm, but this pen has 3 guys who for sure can get Ks in our FA signing, Slama, and Crain and two more who could be power arms in Neshek and Nathan. In all, it's a tad bit stronger than last years pen. In all, only two new faces with the possiblity of one more should the payroll be higher. I'm guessing this team could win 95, possibly a couple more.
Guys waiting in the wings that could potentially have a huge impact:
Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, Alex Burnet, Kyle Waldrop, Luke Hughes, Ben Revere, Chris Parmalee, and Joe Benson. There's actually some decent depth in our farm system, though I'd add that Bill Smith should probably try to get a couple of AAAA options in Rochester.