Minnesota Twins Winter Meetings Primer, 2012

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Monday morning kicks off one of the biggest weeks of the off-season as teams from around baseball congregate in order to create dozens of rumors and, hopefully, some exciting news. Here's what you need to know about the Minnesota Twins this week: the organization needs more starting pitchers than a Gatorade-soaked Scott Diamond.

On Thursday the Twins created headlines and split the fanbase when they traded Denard Span. What they did achieve was the addition of a potential front-of-the-line starting pitcher with ace-type stuff. What they didn't achieve was turning the franchise around in one move. Which brings us to tomorrow.

The Twins are anticipating being quite busy this week, speaking with players and agents. It's likely that those players will fall into two ranges: the younger players, probably minor league free agents, and veterans that will help the team bridge the gap to 2014 and beyond. Players who fall into those ages in between, who are in their physical prime, will draw Minnesota's interest provided they aren't top-tier guys like Zack Greinke.

We also know that the front office anticipates spending most of the $20 to $30 million that's available to them on pitching. The Twins have been in touch with virtually every free agent on the market, but in terms of pitchers we've seen them connected to Francisco Liriano, Brett Myers, and even Ryan Dempster.

As far as hitters are concerned, there hasn't been any chatter about Justin Morneau so it's difficult to judge what his market value might be. Josh Willingham, because of his age an injury history, may provide the Twins with the most value for their dollar by staying put, and as usual it sounds like they aren't interested in moving him anyway.

The ultimate goal is to find pitching. This is an operation that will require more than one year to accomplish, but some time ago I wrote here that the front office, this winter, needed to find one minor league starter who projects to be a top line hurler in a couple of years and one Major League pitcher who can anchor the rotation now and still be here when the team is ready to contend again. Alex Meyer's arrival meets the first piece of criteria.

Looking at the latter half of that criteria, the Twins may find their answer through free agency this week. A player like Shaun Marcum seems a more likely candidate than Edwin Jackson or Anibal Sanchez to me, but nobody should complain about the talent of any of those three pitchers should they wind up in Minnesota.

To bring your Twinkie Town Winter Meetings Primer to a close for this year, here is the Twins' situation up and down the roster.

  • Roster: the Twins currently have 36 players on their 40-man roster, leaving them four spots with which to work this week between free agent signings, trades, and the Rule 5 draft.
  • Recent additions to the 40-man roster, keeping them safe from the Rule 5 draft: Infielder Daniel Santana, catchers Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto, and pitchers Kyle Gibson, B.J. Hermsen, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, and Tim Wood.
  • Catcher: the Twins are set here, with Joe Mauer entrenched and not going anywhere. Drew Butera's status will be in question, but Ryan Doumit is on the 40-man as are the aforementioned Herrmann and Pinto. That gives the Twins five catchers, and Jeff Clement was just signed to a minor league deal last week. Is it just me, or is the end near for Butera? No team needs so many catchers to be available.
  • Infield: if the Twins do end up dealing Morneau, Chris Parmelee is the obvious choice to step into the role, but right now he's in the running for the starting job in right field. Trevor Plouffe could use a platoon partner at third base, but all things considered that has to be near the bottom of the "to-do" list. The middle infield needs an answer or two, as the 39-year old Jamey Carroll is the only player there with any experience.
  • Outfield: can Parmelee play right field everyday? With the pitching staff an unknown, should the Twins be looking for a better defender to pair with Revere? There's a good chance that Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks could be given a look or two come spring. If the Twins don't do anything here this winter, much less this week, it means they're content enough with their in-house options, including Darin Mastroianni.
  • Starting Pitcher: I would expect the Twins to come out of this week with at least one starting pitcher added to their roster. If they could land two, even better, but the mantra is simply more is better.
  • Relief Pitcher: Glen Perkins, Jared Burton and Casey Fien have their spots locked up for next year, and I imagine Tyler Robertson and Brian Duensing will each have a job, too. But the team definitely needs an arm or two to throw into the mix here as well, lest Alex Burnett pitch another 70 innings next summer.
Let the games begin!
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