Okay, see, I know you're all angry about that headline right there. But I'm serious about this, Twins fans. Here's how I see the Twins winning the division in 2013.
- Joe Mauer, for the first time in years, has an injury-free and worry-free off-season to work out. This leads to an MVP-caliber season at the plate.
- Some Justin Morneau facts: From 2006-2009, back when he was everyone's favorite, he hit .290 with an .880 OPS. Fast forward past the injuries to the second half of 2012, when he's batting .308 with an .840 OPS. Add on top of this an off-season where he's not thinking about retiring because of brain injuries, and Morneau returns to the top of his offensive game in 2013, as well.
- Josh Willingham goes out and proves 2012 wasn't a fluke by repeating his performance in 2013.
- At third base, Trevor Plouffe recovers from his finger injury and finds his June and July form, not his ice-cold spring form or his post-injury, probably-still-hurting form.
- Ryan Doumit avoids the injury bug for a second consecutive year, and is able to play catcher, first, and DH regularly.
- Ben Revere, who turns 25 in May, continues to develop into a top-of-the-order speedster.
- The Twins either get another typical Denard Span year (if he's not traded), or a breakout season from Chris Parmelee (if Span is traded.)
- Jamey Carroll has a solid year at one of the middle infield spots, and either Pedro Florimon or Brian Dozier proves they can handle an everyday role.
Am I crazy, or is that not the makings of a top-half-of-the-league offense right there?
But here's the thing: I know you're not worried about the offense. You're worried about the pitching staff. But here's how that gets better, starting in the bullpen:
- Glen Perkins, who emerged as a legitimate closer in 2012, continues in that role in 2013.
- Jared Burton, who proved he could be an end-of-game option himself, supports Perkins at the back of the pen.
- Brian Duensing, who lefties can't hit, settles into his natural role as lefty specialist.
- The remainder of a bullpen is assembled from the usual wreckage, and also possibly Alex Burnett.
You're thinking about the starting staff, I know you are. But here's how that goes down:
- Scott Diamond stays where he was in 2012.
- The Twins sign two free-agent pitchers from what's a pretty good crop. They probably won't get Zack Greinke or Jake Peavy or Ryan Dempster, but there are other options. Colby Lewis, coming off an injury in Texas, might be interested in a one-year make-good deal. Joe Blanton is better than his stat line, since pitching in Citizens Bank Park would inflate anybody's ERA. Hisashi Iwakuma's available. Brandon McCarthy, Joe Saunders, Shawn Marcum - there are legitimate free-agent options out there.
- It's not like the Twins are hurting for internal options, either. Kyle Gibson is coming back next year, and he's just one of 4-5 options that can fill rotation spots, so let's say that the Twins get the benefit of competition and find two half-decent arms from that group.
- Scott Baker's still coming back from Tommy John surgery, and his option almost certainly won't be picked up. But he'd be a prime candidate for a make-good kind of deal as well.
That's not a recipe for the best staff in baseball. But it is a recipe for a league-average starting staff, and combined with a good offense, that's enough to potentially win the Central.