Last year I put together an off-season plan for the Twins that, while not perfect, had a couple of choices that would have helped lead to a better season. Of course there were also some failings. But one thing you can say about the plan: it was ambitious. And I'm planning on keeping that same attitude for my blueprint this time around. Let's get right to it.
Free Agent Decisions
Michael Cuddyer - I'm offering him arbitration because I know he'll decline it, and we'll hopefully get a first round pick out of it. Worst case scenario it's an early second rounder, but the point is that I'm not willing to pony up three years and $33 million (or more). I love Cuddyer, and if he'd stay for two years and $20 million I'd bring him back in a heartbeat. But I don't think that's realistic, and I don't begrudge him heading out and fetching the largest contract of his career.
Joe Nathan - The Twins have already bought out his option. I tried to fit him into my budget, but I made a couple of aggressive moves elsewhere and chose to take the closer position in a new direction. Like Cuddyer I love Nathan, but the Twins are at a major crossroads right now. Tough decisions need to be made, and I'm making one here.
Matt Capps - This is not a tough decision. He's not being retained, and he's not being offered arbitration because he'd accept.
Jason Kubel - Kubel is the only free agent I'm retaining. The TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook estimates he'll sign for three years and $20 million, so I'm taking that with a yearly payout of $ 6.67 million.
Check out the rest after the break.
I feel like I'm being fairly ruthless here, too. Slowey and Casilla both figured into my plans originally, but considering that Slowey was on pace to make between $3 and $3.5 million and Casilla was set to make around $2.5 million, I was able to replace their mediocre production with a fraction of the salary. Mijares I kept around because even if he's terrible, eating a $700,000 contact isn't a big deal. But he was so worthless in 2011 that he could be a good bounce back candidate.
1. Trade Carl Pavano to Colorado for low level prospect.
Going back a few months there have been rumors that the Rockies are looking for decent pitching, and one of the arms they've been tied to is Pavano's. Pavano (and his mustache) have become small time folk heroes in Minnesota (well, big time folk heroes for Twinkie Town), and he was as much of a horse as the Twins' rotation had in 2011, but I'm going to need the $8 million for a big rotation investment.
2. Trade for Martin Prado from Atlanta.
Prado was on my list before today, when it came out that the Braves may be open to moving him. Prado is a buy-low candidate, coming off of a very weak season (.260/.302/.385) when the previous three seasons he'd done very well (a combined .309/.358/.461). He's right-handed, will be my starting second baseman, and can backup at third and in the corner outfield spots. He's not an elite defender, but he's not terrible either. He'd be fine. Tim Dierkes estimates he'll make $4.4 million through arbitration.
Free Agent Signings
Clint Barmes, SS (2 years, $8 million)
Barmes will pair with Prado to become my new middle infield. He's a player brought in with the mindset that he's a solid defender who can help solidify what should be an improved defense in 2012. His metrics at short for the Astros last season were good, and he'll make a positive impact on the field. Offensively he won't get on base often, but he could provide some pop at the bottom of the order.
David DeJesus, RF (1 year, $5.5 million)
Like Prado, DeJesus also had a down year in 2011. For a decent price and probably some good incentives, he'll sign with a club on a one-year deal in order to build some value and (probably) sign the last multi-year deal of his career after the 2012 season. Pairing with Denard Span and Ben Revere, DeJesus will give the Twins their best outfield coverage in years and, hopefully, a good OBP just behind the big bats in the order.
Ryan Doumit, C/1B (2 years, $6 million)
Doumit is a risk, but should be protected provided that both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are relatively healthy. He's a switch hitter who can backup both positions, and in limited time could provide decent punch. If he doesn't pan out it's okay, because he's a backup, and if he's forced into starting too often it means the season hasn't gone as we'd like and Chris Parmelee will be experiencing trial by fire anyway.
Jamey Carroll, IF (1 year, $1 million)
He's versatile, gets on base at a very good clip, and if Barmes or Prado don't work out as expected can spot start three or four times a week. He'll be in his age-38 season, as we've discussed, so he'll need to be used appropriately, but understanding what kind of player he is there is definitely value here.
Jonny Gomes, OF (1 year, $1.25 million)
Gomes smashes left-handed pitching, which makes a nice platoon option for Kubel and allows Gardy a good pinch-hitter-for-power option in the late innings. He's not a great defender, but he shouldn't have to play the field more than once or twice a week anyway in an ideal situation.
Roy Oswalt, SP (2 years, $22 million)
The Phillies won't be offering Roy arbitration, which means the Twins won't have to worry about sacrificing a draft pick to sign him up. Oswalt isn't the pitcher he once was, but he still gets a decent number of ground balls, has very good command, and can control a game. He's my big spend.
Jonathan Broxton, CL (1 year, $4 million)
Broxton is coming off of a season that was lost to an elbow injury, so there's risk here with potential for a high reward. If he's healthy he'll be one of the best closers in baseball with elite strikeout rates. In a market full of closers his value may not be as high as he'd like, so there's a real opportunity for the Twins to cash in big provided they're okay with the risk. I know I am.
George Sherrill, LH RP (1 year, $1 million)
Sherrill's a lefty, and will pair with Mijares and Glen Perkins to give Gardy a lot of options as he tries to build a new bridge to a new closer. He pitched well again, this time for the Braves in 2011, striking out more than a batter per inning. Like Broxton, he also finished the year on the disabled list. Also like Broxton, there's an opportunity for great value for the cost.
Michael Wuertz, RH RP (1 year, $1 million)
Made availble not too long ago, Wuertz was a premier reliever for a few years until he hit a wall in Oakland. The last two seasons haven't been the best, in no small part because his already suspect command kind of gave out on him. But he still has the ability to miss bats and strike batters out in spite of having a fastball that burns in the upper 80s. He's also lost something on his slider. Is there potential for him to regain form? With the current state of the Twins' bullpen and with his apparent market value, it's worth the chance.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka is starting the year in Rochester. With place-holding infielders on board, he has the luxury of getting playing time everyday in an environment that isn't as pressure-filled and where the Twins can afford to be a bit more patient.
To make room for nine (yes, nine) free agents, my 40-man roster will now look like this:
Pitchers: Baker, Liriano, Blackburn, Oswalt, Duensing, Broxton, Perkins, Mijares, Sherrill, Wuertz, Oliveros, Swarzak, Guerra, Hendriks, Manship, Vasquez, Waldrop, Gutierrez, Stuifbergen (19)
Catchers: Mauer, Doumit, Butera (3)
Infielders: Morneau, Prado, Barmes, Valencia, Plouffe, Carroll, Nishioka, Hughes, Parmelee (9)
Outfield: Span, Revere, DeJesus, Kubel, Gomes, Benson, Tosoni, Arcia, Morales (9)
Which means the following players will be removed from the 40-man (who weren't non-tendered earlier): Bromberg, Burnett, Diamond, Gray, Hoey, Maloney.
All of which leaves us with this 25-man roster and payroll:
|C||Mauer||$23 M||SP 1||Oswalt||$11 M|
|1B||Morneau||$14 M||SP 2||Baker||$6.5 M|
|2B||Prado||$4.4 M||SP 3||Liriano||$6 M|
|3B||Valencia||$500K||SP 4||Blackburn||$4.75 M|
|SS||Barmes||4 M||SP 5||Duensing||$500 K|
|CF||Span||$3 M||CL||Broxton||$4 M|
|RF||DeJesus||$5.5 M||SU||Perkins||$1.6 M|
|DH||Kubel||$6.67 M||MR||Sherrill||$1 M|
|B-C||Doumit||$3 M||MR||Mijares||$700 K|
|B-IF||Carroll||$1 M||MR||Oliveros||$475 K|
|B-IF||Plouffe||$500 K||LR||Swarzak||$500 K|
|Nishioka||$3 M||Nathan||$2 M|
|Total||$72.32 M||$38.025 M|
That's a grand total of $110.345 million.
I know it's ambitious, and that I have seriously messed with the roster, and that so many moves are very easy to do on paper but would need to be handled very differently in real life...because it's impossible to just assume all of these moves and all of these types of moves will work out.
But this is exactly the kind of off-season I think the Twins need if they plan on being a truly competetive team not just in 2012 but beyond. Six of my nine free agents are off the books in just one season, the rest in two years. Nobody is blocked, and future payroll isn't bogged down.
Opening Day Lineup
Span, CF (L)
Prado, 2B (R)
Mauer, C (L)
Morneau, 1B (L)
Kubel, DH (L)
Valencia, 3B (R)
DeJesus, RF (L)
Barmes, SS (R)
Revere, LF (L)
It's still very lefty-heavy, but on the bench are three right-handed hitters (Plouffe, Gomes, Carroll) and a switch hitter (Doumit).
What do you think? Is this team better with these moves? Could it compete in 2012, and is it set up to compete in the future? Ultimately, is something like this feasible or is it just too ambitious?