Well, figured I'd throw out my offseason blueprint to the mix as well. Let's begin with a couple of assumptions:
1) That payroll will be around the $115M or so it was last year. Dave St. Peter's comments and Terry Ryan's own comments lead me to believe this.
2) That Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Justin Morneau, Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker will be healthier this year. You could easily argue that those are the Twins' 6 best players on their roster (and I would argue that) and while I don't put all of the 2011 woes on injuries, any rational person has to put a huge share of the blame there.
With these three assumptions in mind, we go forward.Move 1: Trade Carl Pavano for Huston Street and a prospect; I respect Pavano and what he has done for the Twins the last couple of years, but 1) I'm not sure he can continue, and 2) we can save his money on other areas of need and also solve a relief hole in the process. I would not deal a 200 inning pitcher for a reliever straight up, but if the Rockies toss in a prospect (and I'd guess they would agreeable to that) I'd do it. Street is due to make $7.5M this year and $9M in 2013, so it's a little steep, but he can bridge the gap to---hopefully---Carlos Gutierrez for the Twins. Also, this is a "realistic" option because it's been heavily rumored already.
Move 2: Trade Nick Blackburn and his contract for a "decent" NL reliever. I just don't have confidence in Nick Blackburn as an American League starter at this point, and this is a money-saving move too, but I still think he could help an NL club. Though we'll say we eat around $2M each year in 2012 and 2013 on this one. On the flip side, while Blackburn is not suited to relief, this also fills another Twins hole in the bullpen.
Move 3: Where do we solve the rotation? 2 moves. Edwin Jackson on a 3 year/$30M deal. Jackson is not without flaws, but he's another high strikeout guy with upside and you can argue that he's as good as CJ Wilson, which Dave Cameron eloquently did recently. And Rich Harden, as has been promoted on this board previously, on a 1-year/$3M deal. I'm not counting on big innings from Harden, but he can help for depth.
Move 4: Continuing with the pitching staff, I'm signing Michael Wuertz to a 1 year/$1M deal and hoping he bounces back to his former level. Low risk/high reward move.
Move 5: Sign Josh Willingham to a 1 year/$7M deal to play LF, RF, and 1b and bridge the gap in the OF. He made $6M in 2011 and this seems reasonable.
Move 6: Retain Jason Kubel on a 3 year, $21M deal. Why am I signing Kubel? These are prime years and he's a professional hitter this team still needs. We're likely getting the best years of his entire career with this deal, whereas guys like Beltran, Cuddyer, and Willingham are on the downswing. Also, Kubel will likely finish as a Type A at the end of this contract (even with the new CBA rules). I'd look to get him some time at 1b as well, as the Twins looked at doing in 2011.
Move 7: Sign a bench bat such as Andruw Jones for around 1 year/$2.5M. Just another RH bat to add to the mix.
Move 8: Extend Francisco Liriano to a 4 year/$40M contract. I believe his troubles have stemmed from overuse by the Twins (as expanded on in another post) and believe we're gambling low here. I believe this deal gives some risk/reward. If Liriano has a year like 2010 in 2012, he's likely to get a deal in the neighborhood of 4 years/$64M in my opinion. Whereas if he has a repeat of 2011, he's likely to still get a deal of around $3 years/$20M. This deal falls in the middle. And the Twins have a lack of starters after 2012, so I'm gambling here. So this is what we're left with:
CF-Denard Span-$3M; should be an upgrade over last year; return to some form of health
SS-Jamey Carroll-$2.75M; should be an upgrade over last year; can't be worse
C-Joe Mauer-$23M; see Span comment
1b/DH-Justin Morneau-$15M; more leery here, but again, can't be worse. And we have options for DH/1b.
LF/RF/DH/1b-Jason Kubel-$7M (extension estimate); see Mauer/Span comments.
LF/RF/DH/1b-Josh Willingham-$7M; should be comparable to Michael Cuddyer's production last year.
RF/DH/1b/backup C-Ryan Doumit-$3M; should be at least comparable to Jim Thome's production in 2011.
3b-Danny Valencia-$500K; see comments on Carroll/Morneau. Should be due for at least a modest rebound.
2b-Alexi Casilla-$1.5M (arb estimate); Casilla was plenty solid last year, but needs to stay more healthy.
Total starting lineup allocation: $62.75M
Backup bench bat: Andruw Jones-$2.5M; upgrade
Backup MI: Tsuyoshi Nishioka-$3M; comparable
Backup OF; Ben Revere-$500K; comparable
Backup INF/OF; Trevor Plouffe-$500K; upgrade over last year's overall production
Backup INF; Luke Hughes-$500K; comparable
Total bench allocation: $7M
Total offense: $69.75M
Francisco Liriano-$8M (extension estimate/1st year); should be a major upgrade over last year
Scott Baker-$6.5M; should be better than last year's overall production
Edwin Jackson-$10M (3 year deal estimate); upgrade over Carl Pavano
Rich Harden-$3M; upgrade over Brian Duensing, even if half of his innings end up going to Hendriks or Swarzak
Kevin Slowey-$3M (arbitration estimate); due for a bounceback, but can't be worse than Blackburn last year
Total rotation allocation: $30.5M
Huston Street-$7.5M; upgrade over last year's closer spot.
Glen Perkins-$1.5M (arbitration estimate); comparable production to last year
Michael Wuertz-$1M; upside; shouldn't be worse
NL reliever from Nick Blackburn trade-$1M; upgrade
Jose Mijares-$750K (arbitration estimate); return to health should help
Brian Duensing-$500K; major upgrade
Total bullpen allocation: $12.75M
Total staff allocation: $43.25M
Total team payroll: $113M
Couple of quick thoughts: I think this team is markedly better than the 2011 team, with a likely uptick in or comparable production from almost every single position on the field. It also allows depth, with Joe Benson, Chris Parmelee, and Liam Hendriks all getting to start the year at AAA. I also tried not to tie this team down in longterm contracts; MI solutions are on the horizon in the form of Levi Michael and Brian Dozier, and potentially, Devin Marrero. OF solutions are on the horizon in the form of Benson/Hicks/Morales/Arcia, all of which I see as being ready by 2014 at the latest. The Jackson signing and Liriano extension help the 2013 rotation by putting 2 more quality pitchers under contract to go with Baker, Hendriks, Slowey, and Swarzak as possible solutions. Not to mention Alex Wimmers and Kyle Gibson, both of whom could contribute in 2013. And lastly, I've tried to retain prospects, with an eye towards continuing to monitor the trade market should an ace-level upside pitcher such as Felix Hernandez, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke, or Matt Cain become available. What say you?