I have enjoyed reading all of your Twins offseason blueprints, and today, it's my turn to post mine - which I'm calling DisasterPen '11. The title comes from my post last week about Jim Thome and Jason Kubel, which speculated that the Twins would have to either choose between the two big lefties, or prepare for holes elsewhere.
Not two days later, Twins general manager Bill Smith said the team would go after Thome, while implying they'd also keep their current four outfielders, which shot holes right in the middle of my either/or theory. So forget what I said; we're going all bats, all the time! After the jump, my full blueprint.
Let's start by laying out the constraints under which the Twins are operating.
PROJECTED 2011 Payroll: $100-110 million
Joe Mauer: $23 million, not going anywhere for any reason including nuclear war.
Justin Morneau: $14 million, not going anywhere unless Tim Horton's offers him $17 million worth of donuts to quit baseball.
Joe Nathan: $12.5 million, not going anywhere, and we're all crossing our fingers here that he's not washed up.
Michael Cuddyer: $10.5 million, not going anywhere unless the Twins can drug another GM and get him to make a trade while in a stupor.
REMAINING: $40-50 million
Delmon Young: Arb-eligible, will probably make $5.5 million or so. Let's hope he hits, and let's make him wear a batting helmet to left field, before he's concussed by a routine fly ball.
Denard Span: Under contract for $1 million, and you're not going to find anybody better at that price.
Jason Kubel: Option picked up for $5.25 million. Heck, he hits home runs. Do we really want to go back to hitting 78 home runs as a team for the entire year?
Danny Valencia: Pretty good last year, AND you get to pay him $500K and he has to LIKE IT. (Second-year guys help out a lot in these calculations.)
Brendan Harris: You don't even have to put him on the team. In fact you may not want to put him on the team, but unless you can make him cry with well-placed insults and make him quit baseball, he's getting paid $1.75 million. (GAAAAAH!)
Francisco Liriano: Arbitration-eligible, will probably make about $5 million. If he pitches like an ace, that's a steal.
Scott Baker: He's under contract for $5 million.
Nick Blackburn: He's under contract for $3 million.
Brian Duensing: HA HA you're stuck at $500K!
Kevin Slowey: Arbitration-eligible, estimated at $2.5 million.
Jose Mijares: Club control, and has to prove he can stay svelte for an entire year before getting a bigger contract. $800K.
REMAINING: $9 - 19 million
Backup Catcher: It'll be either Drew Butera (who can't hit but can catch) and Jose Morales (who MIGHT be able to hit and MIGHT be able to catch but both are still up the air.) Either way, this costs you $500K.
Fifth Outfielder: Jason Repko demonstrated mild competence. You could probably find somebody else with similar skills for a similar price: about $750K, via arbitration in Repko's case, or via free agency or wherever you might look. Ben Revere needs to keep playing baseball, not pinch run every other day and play the outfield once a month, so Repko or quasi-Repko fits fine here.
Backup Infield: There is probably one $500K contract available here. Put it in a cage, let Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert enter at each end, and whichever is still scrappy at the end of ten days, gets the contract. (NOTE: This decision is moot if some other team is stupid enough to spend more money on Punto, who is a free agent.) (NOTE #2: If you love Trevor Plouffe, you could always give him this job.) (NOTE #3: Just why do you love Trevor Plouffe so much, anyway?)
REMAINING: $7-17 million or so
And now come the decisions! If you've been following along, you'll realize that you still don't have a starting shortstop or second baseman. You still have five spots open in the bullpen. And you've yet to make a run at any free agents, including ol' Jimmers himself.
This isn't looking too good.
Save some money right off the bat by plugging in Alexi Casilla at second base. He'll only make about $800K, and he'll give Ron Gardenhire something to be mad about all year. Plus, he'll somehow find a way to get four game-winning hits against the White Sox.
At shortstop, you can offer J.J. Hardy arbitration, and he'll make about $6.5 million. This seems steep. Then again, your other options are Trevor Plouffe or a collection of overpaid free-agent stiffs who are, on average, 67 years old. Hardy's contract seems less steep now, doesn't it? I'd keep him.
REMAINING: You're now over $100 million. Anything you spend from here on out depends on the good graces of the Pohlad family.
My one big free-agent splash is Jim Thome. Given the financial constraints, it doesn't necessarily make sense to spend $5 or $6 million on a bench bat. But considering what Bill Smith said, I think the Twins and I are on the same page when I say this: he's just FUN to have on the team.
REMAINING: We're done! Everything is sett... oh, wait. The bullpen.
That's right! Currently in the bullpen, we've got Nathan, Mijares, and, um, nobody. But I want to keep Hardy, and I want to keep Thome, and unless the Twins are legitimately thinking about spending $115 million, we're plugging holes out in the pen.
So Pat Neshek gets $800K, and we hope that he's as good as he once was. Glen Perkins is lefthanded, so he gets $800K. Alex Burnett, Anthony Slama - eh, why not. Half a million each! Kyle Waldrop! Rob Delaney! It's a veritable hurricane of unproven relief arms!
Seriously, though, I think this is the way to go. Jon Rauch, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes - all very good, but all quite costly, as well. I think the bullpen is the place where you take your chances with low-cost players.
Now, let's say that doesn't work, and DisasterPen '11 becomes a true disaster. There will be other players to pick up. Over the past two years, the Twins acquired Rauch, Capps, and Fuentes all in mid-season. They can do it again.
If the Twins decide they need to keep one, I'm betting it'll be Capps, who provides some insurance for Nathan at closer, AND provides the political benefit of not trading Wilson Ramos for half of a season of a second-rate closer. He's the most expensive - $7 million or so in arbitration - but I'm just guessing at who they'll actually keep.
So there's my blueprint. Keep yours coming, too. Remember, I'm pulling for you; we're all in this together.