At the risk of plunging the Twins into an all out overhaul mode, Bill Smith is probably presented with his most difficult offseason as a GM. While I don't particularly have the best faith in him, save some nice waiver claims and the move that BROUGHT Hardy to Minnesota, one must hope that Billy is ready for a big offseason.
I've outlined MY suggestions for building next years roster while trying to keep in mind payroll restrictions, state of the market, etc... Obviously the Twins biggest current weakness are: 1) Top of the rotation starter, 2) Bullpen 3) Infield Depth 4) Bench Depth
Starting 9: Bench:
C Mauer C Gerald Laird*
1B Morneau IF Luke Hughes
2B Casilla IF Matt Tolbert
SS Plouffe OF Jason Repko
CF Span Bullpen:
RF Josh Willingham* Nathan (CL)
DH Kubel Perkins
Brandon Morrow** James
Knocking at the door:
Parmelee (1B/OF), Dozier (SS), Tosoni (OF), Benson (OF), Herrmann (C/LF
Bromberg (SP), Gibson (SP), Hendricks (SP), Guerra (RP), Burnett (RP), Gutierrez (RP)
Starting 9: In my mind Cuddyer is going to be the tougher than Kubel to resign at a resonable rate, and while his versatility and clubhouse leadership will certainly be missed, Kubel has more to offer. Kubes is younger, more consistent , is still developing as a hitter (see his progress hitting versus lefties this season) and likely will cost less than Cuddyer. Solution: Kubes stays, hopefully on a 2 year deal with option for a 3rd. There's still plenty of speed with Revere supplementing Casilla and Span, so Gardy should be happy. Plouffe's offensive potential is too much for ME to ignore. Likely he'll fall into the ranks of Hardy and Bartlett before him, where his bat will be underappreciated. Where's Nishioka? A deal was reached to have him return to Japan... I know... dream on... Willingham is a nice signing as a place holder until Benson or Tosoni is ready. Tosoni as we've seen certainly could use some more time in AAA and Benson hasn't seen any yet. As usual, the health of the M&M boys will key the season.
Bench: I don't really see many opportunities to improve the bench unless you want to have some younger guys, who could still be developing as players, not playing everday. Luke Hughes should get signifant playing time and certainly has the ability to push Valencia, Casilla and Plouffe for that matter. I don't see many attractive options on the free agent market that we could afford or that would be willing to assume a bench role, so I'm hoping Brian Dozier will push someone out of a starting role by midseason. Gerald Laird replaces Butters. I'm 95% sure Butters will return next year, but whatever. Laird's been around awhile, can atleast hold his own at the dish, and has a cannon for an arm. Your welcome Pavano.
Rotation: Blackburn's not suited for relief role and he's not going anywhere, so he's the 5th man and we hope for the best. Let Liriano play winter ball, if that means 190 effective innings versus what we got this year, so be it. Make the guy happy and then do the trade midseason or take the picks and walk away. He probably doesn't jive well with the coaching staff... Baker is a huge key again, hopefully he's healthy. His full potential was on display for 2/3rds the season. Pavano hopefully can be a bit more effective with steadier defense behind him. I wouldn't have him be the opening day starter, but I know Gardy well enough... Brandon Morrow would be my big addition, not likely to happen but certainly a good target. A very good buy low (relatively speaking) candidate to acquire in the trade. I'd have Slowey in the rotation without the trade, but I assume he's gone along with 2 top prospects and another mid-tier prospects. Morrow is certainly not lacking in tools, hence why the Blue Jays got him from Seattle, but he lacks the on-field translation as a starter. He compliments a power fastball and power slider with a slower curveball so he definitely has the ability to miss bats. Think Jesse Crain and add a somewhat deceptive delivery. Morrow is now 2 years transitioned from being a fulltime reliever so hopefully he's well primed to take the next step as a starter. He currently sports a 4.79 ERA, but has given up 132 hits and 54 walks in 143 innings with 164 K's. So the peripherals are not bad. Essentially, he's a strikeout pitcher with fly ball tendencies, which would profile well at Target Field with both Span and Revere patrolling. The Rogers Center has not been friendly this year as he has a 6.38 ERA (with 11 of the 15 homeruns he's given up) at home and a 2.38 ERA away. It undoubtebly also help moving away from the Eastern division, where hard throwing right-hander's with less than perfect control can have a hard time (See Burnett and at Beckett). OK I'm done getting excited...
Bullpen: Good right-handed relievers will be harder to come by this offseason than left-handed and with Duensing moving to the pen, lefty relievers will not be such an issue. I have Nathan being bought out and returning on a more favorable 2 year agreement with and option for a 3rd. Hopefully Perkins can continue to hold down the set-up role. Between Hoey and Oliveros, I'm hoping one can become a formidable opiton. Hoey's had most of the season to figure out a reliable off-speed pitch and obviously there's potential there with Oliveros... James would be a waste to let walk, he has value. Swarzak would be the long/swing man for now.
Depth: Middle infield depth, bench and bullpen depth are still likely to be an issues but I'm hoping with several players having good years at AA that there will be options if there are injuries at the major league level. As opposed to having bench players plunged into full time duty (Tol-bear... ugh), the hope is someone like Benson or Dozier could immeaditely step in as the starter and keep bench guys in bench roles.
There you have it...