We've spent the last few days ramping up to the 2011 Winter Meetings - unequivocally the most exciting week of the winter for baseball fans who don't mind a little speculation. I know I love it. It's the possibility of everything. Right now, as we wait for it all to blow up tomorrow, anything could happen. Sure, the Twins won't be in on Albert Pujols or C.J. Wilson or Jose Reyes (since he just signed with the Marlins), but for all we know we might be on the cusp of the next J.J. Hardy trade (which actually didn't happen during the Winter Meetings at all) or Luis Castillo trade (which was).
- Starting Pitcher: Right now, Minnesota has a lot of options sans the promise of quality or effectiveness. Without roster changes Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano are guaranteed rotation spots. You can probably pencil Nick Blackburn in for a fourth spot, barring the unrealistic scenario where two quality starters are brought in.Right now, the goal is to add one good starter.
- Corner outfielder: If both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel don't return, the Twins have a very shallow talent pool to choose from in Ben Revere, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni and Trevor Plouffe (who would be changing his primary defensive position and is unlikely to be a realistic option). Either right or left field could potentially be filled by somebody on that list, but asking those guys to provide positive value at two positions is a mistake. Especially if the front office plans on having this team win in 2012.
- Designated Hitter: Terry Ryan has said that the gap at DH is, at the present time, "a little bit by design". This is partly because Kubel's status is up in the air, but if leaving the DH slot open is by design they're mostly doing it because they aren't sure whether Justin Morneau will be able to play the field. If he isn't, well, then this team has a whole new set of issues.
- Relief Pitcher(s): We've heard that the organization plans to go external and are looking for a reliever with closing experience. That's a tricky one. We've also heard that there's no aversion to a return for Matt Capps. If we're being honest, and want the 2012 bullpen to not be a total liability, then whatever happens the front office needs to find a trio of quality relievers to line up with Glen Perkins; one of which has to be "The Closer". There's probably going to have to be some outside-the-box thinking to get this done.
- Middle Infielder: In spite of the addition of Jamey Carroll, it's still impossible to look at the group of players available and call them producers. Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes and Carroll is not an ideal foursome, so if the Twins can manage a way to add a guy like Martin Prado then it can only be seen as a positive.
- Right-handed power hitter: The nice thing about this need is that the Twins won't need to force him into a position, because there are so many places this guy could fit. Outfield, designated hitter and first base (if Justin is the DH) are the best places, but anywhere will do.
As of this evening, this is a list of players who have been tied to the Twins in recent days:
That list is comprised entirely of pitchers, mostly starting pitchers, and that should make something crystal clear to everyone. Not many rumors have escaped the vests of the Minnesota front office - even the Carroll and Ryan Doumit signings were quiet until just before they happened - so it's pretty clear what this organization views as its number one priority for this week.
We'll see you in the morning.