So I started writing this last week after the first game of the Tigers series. At that point it was focused on discussing at what point do the Twins start looking towards 2012. I know four games shouldn't mean much but I'm very close to saying the time is now. I still have some hope for a turn around but it's fading fast. We're beyond a slow start at this point with almost 1/4 of the season gone. Things are bad and there are no signs of a big turnaround coming anytime soon.
While watching the Twins I have come the earth shattering conclusion that there's just too many problems to fix. There aren't exactly a ton of great free agents available to help and there aren't many teams ready to trade away useful players at this point in the season. The only way this ship gets righted is from in house. Players need to stop slumping, get healthy, and just play better baseball. Easier said than done.
When this season began I felt it was already a retooling year of sorts with the bullpen and the middle infield being giant question marks. I liked the opportunity it gave to some guys and hoped that some would step up. Well no one really has at this point. The only player to unexpectedly have a positive impact is Glen Perkins. Between Nishioka's injury and Casilla being awful the Twins have gotten no answers in the MI thus far. Plouffe's looked good at the plate in an extremely small sample but I'm not getting too excited just yet. So basically nothings really close to being retooled at this point.
As for the rest of the team they're pretty much in one of 2 categories injured or under performing. On offense Kubel is the only one exceeding expectations but even his numbers aren't exactly mind blowing. Span is probably performing about where we thought he would, better than last year but not as good as his 08-09. As far as pitching goes the staring pitching outside of Pavano and Liriano has been pretty good. The bullpen has only 2 guys with ERA's under four in Perkins and Capps. Nothing too inspiring in that last paragraph, huh?
Looking on to 2012 the Twins have 65.75 million committed to next season. This is assuming they let all free agents walk and buy out Joe Nathan for 2 million. Then there are multiple arbitration cases to consider.
Year 1 Arbitration
Year 2 Arbritration
Slowey, Casilla, Tolbert
Year 3 Arbitration
Liriano, Young, Perkins and Repko
All of the above information comes form Cot's Contracts. I'll throw out a rough estimate that this group takes about 20 million in payroll. There are so many variables with all of these guys that I'm not even going to address individual salaries at this point. Just my back of the napkin guesstimate. (Just a note, guesstimate does not come up as a misspelled word)
Combine that with a handful of minimum salaries from guys like Valencia, Revere, Tosoni, and possibly some relievers the Twins are looking at having 89-90 million already spent.
This is the roster we would be looking at for that price.
and a plethora of rookies
I realize this post may be a bit premature but I think the Twins have to be seriously thinking about what they're going to do if things don't change soon. Here's what I'd like to see them do from here on out.
Keep playing Plouffe. I would have said this if he was batting .150 or .500 at this point. I just think he has the most potential to pull off a Span type resurgence after an uninspiring minor league career. Keep him at either SS or 2B and let Nishioka play the other MI position when he comes back.
Continue the revolving door in the bullpen. In most cases a revolving door would be a bad thing but in this case I'm glad the Twins are giving different guys a chance. I just really don't want the Twins to be in the same position in 2012 as they are right now with a lot of potential bullpen talent but no one who's proven it. I'm hoping by seasons end a few guys will prove themselves worthy of being penned into the 2012 bullpen.
I do not want to see Revere/Tosoni up unless they are going to be playing consistently. My hope is that one of them can replace Cuddyer/Kubel in the outfield while the other becomes a cheap 4th outfielder next year. They need to play and shouldn't be up in the Majors unless they're getting some at bats. While I don't expect them to be world beaters at the plate either should be a big defensive upgrade over our current RF platoon.
If things don't turn around soon than the Twins need to evaluate quickly who's a part of the future. Obvious trade candidates include Free Agents to be Kubel, Cuddyer, Nathan, Capps, and Thome. Some players the Twins may have to seriously consider is Liriano, Pavano, and Young. The next month could determine their futures as a Twin and drastically impact the return the Twins could get in a trade.
2012 and Beyond
The Twins had a lot of question marks coming into the season and pretty much anything that could go wrong did and in most cases worse than anyone could have imagined. There's so much that could be looked at for next year. With 20 million to work with I would hope the Twins address the backup catching position. Do something to address losing the bats of Kubel/Cuddyer/Thome and bring in a veteran or two to supplement the young bullpen. If the Twins end up moving a player like Pavano/Liriano/or Young they may have money to be bigger players in the free agent market. Who they'd go after I have no idea.
No matter how bad this year goes the Twins aren't in a full on rebuild. With guys like Morneau (yes I do believe he turns it around) and Mauer as the core of the team you just can't blow it all up at least not long term. A lot can and likely will change on the 2012 Twins compared to this years team. Hopefully the biggest difference is that people stay healthy and then maybe Jose Reyes would be cool too.