My Questions Heading Into Spring Training

Hey all, I'm just going through all of the twins-related news from this offseason, and it has generated some questions, especially now that we've seen a lot of the free agent movement this offseason. Just some questions I have about the team. These are rhetorical I suppose, but I also would be interested in hearing other people's takes on these as well. Just penning my thoughts heading into the spring training, based on what we know now:

1. The team was desperate for bullpen help last year, so letting free agents Guerrier, Fuentes, and Rauch go, makes perfect sense, right? I know Capps is good, and Nathan and Neshek are going to try to make it back, but is that something we can count on? We are spending $7 mil on Capps, $11 mil on Nathan, but can't fork out $4 mil on Guerrier or $3 mil on Rauch? Why? For a team who's clear weak spot was getting through those middle innings, it really baffles me they didn't at least sign one of those guys. We're willing to pay a marginal starter in Pavano $8 mil a year, but not be willing to get some bullpen help for half that amount.

2. Will this be Cuddyer's last year as a Twin? He's in the last year of his contract, and his best days are likely behind him, as he's going to be 32 next month. He just doesn't put up $10 mil/year kind of numbers and the Twins have no shortage of OF prospects. Cuddy's one of my all-time favorite Twins, and if he was willing to end his career as a Twin with a significant paycut, then I'd be for it. In a perfect world, I'd like to see Young gone, as he is coming off his best year, is still young, and (in my opinion) overrated. But Young will likely be here to stay for a bit, as he has two arbitration eligible years and will be significantly cheaper than other options.

3. Is there anybody else skeptical about Nishioka? It seems like every year or two, there is a guy from Japan that some MLB team hopes can produce like Ichiro. Over the years, we have found there to be only 1 Ichiro. I hope he turns out to be good, but when I look at other international flame-outs, along with the fact this guy is only 26 and has had a career filled with injuries, I get worried. I hope he works out and am looking forward to seeing him play, however.

4. Is trading J.J. Hardy the worst move Bill Smith has made as GM? Not quite, but it's pretty bad The Santana trade was terrible. Anytime you trade the best pitcher in the game at the time, for nobody, its pretty freaking bad. With Hardy, however, it is another case of taking away a piece a team needs to do better than the year before, and practically giving him away. I admit, the guy had injury problems, but even in 101 games, he had a WAR of 2.4 (which is higher than Young, Cuddyer, Kubel, and Casilla (even when accounting for games/played)). This is a guy who could have helped the Twins win now.

5. Will Morneau be the player in 2011 that he once was? Concussions scare the heck out of me, and we saw them end Corey Koskie's career for all intents and purposes.

6. Does anybody think this team will be better in 2011 than 2010? Because I think they are going to regress. I know that is going to be the common talking point, but I really do believe it.

Mauer, Morneau (assuming he gets all the way back), Cuddyer, Span, and Kubel are entering in already in their prime. These next 2-3 years are the opportunity for the Twins to get back into the World Series if it is going to happen with this core group of guys.

What this team needed to improve from 2010, is to solidfy the bullpen, and add a bit more pop. The results in the regular season were fine, but the lack of firepower and bullpen help in the postseason really showed. What management has done to remedy these weaknesses, was to let the veteran relievers walk, put together a half-assed trade to try and address the bullpen, while making the defense stronger at the expense of the offense.

I'm happy with the idea of the Twins spending more, and glad they have locked up key guys instead of letting them go, but they continue to fail to address the pressing issues to take this team to the next step. Revenues will continue to do well at Target Field, so it makes sense the payroll is increasing. At the same time, the new stadium feel will wear off in the next couple of years, and if they do not make a serious run at the World Series anytime soon, the frustration from the fans will come.

Just a few years ago, the Twins were the "little guy" sitting in the bottom quartile of the league in payroll. But that isn't the case anymore. Last year, the Twins were in the top half in spending since 1989 (the top team was the Dodgers with a payroll of $22 million). The Twins are one of the "big guys" now. A few extra million spent today could have helped the team win now without sacrificing the future. The payoff a World Series appearance would reap huge benefits in a town where the T-Wolves, and Vikings are a mess. The Twin Cities deserves the excitement of the World Series; simply qualifying for the postseason just does not cut it anymore.

I'm excited for another baseball season, and I'm sure that somehow the Twins will exceed my own expectations of them, as they do every year. But from this fan who tries to take an approach more with my mind, and less with my heart, what has taken place this offseason has been a headscratcher.

Pre-spring training prediction: 85 wins, 2nd place in AL Central

I hope we can get some good discussion going, and you guys/gals can set me straight!