It’s that time of year again. Teams lose guys to free agency, sign guys to fill holes and trade for players. The Minnesota Twins could be doing all of that. The three main players the Twins are losing in free agency are Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Joe Nathan. All together the Twins will have roughly $35 million dollars to spend this off-season. That money needs to be spent on at least one starting pitcher, a catcher, a reliever or two and an outfielder. If there is money left over it could go to a third basemen.
Minnesota’s pitching this past season was abysmal. As a staff they had a 4.30 FIP and a 4.33 xFIP. They only struck out 5.95 K/9 but only walked 3.04, which isn’t awful. Their 1.02 HR/9 was the sixth worst in baseball. Target Field is regarded as a pitcher’s park making 1.02 HR/9 all the more worse. Brian Duensing doesn’t cut it as a starter. He’s much better used when coming out of the bull-pen and when used as a spot starter. After having such a good 2010 season Liriano struggled mightily during the 2011 campaign.
As you can see his BB/9 increased almost three walks which is a big problem. His K/9 went down two which is another problem. In 2010 Liriano was getting a lot of ground balls, this past season that went down 5%. His decrease in ground balls lead to more fly balls, something that contributes to more home runs. Two seasons ago Liriano was doing a terrific job at getting first pitch strikes but really struggled with that this past season. Liriano needs to get back to his ’10 performance if the Twins’ want to have a much better rotation.
The rest of the Twins’ rotation is decent at best. Blackburn is inconsistent, Pavano is a solid number 3 as is Baker. The Twins won’t be signing C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish but three pitchers that they could possibly take a look at are Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland or Edwin Jackson. None of these are number one guys but all are solid. Edwin Jackson may be inconsistent at times but he started doing much better when he got dealt to St. Louis. He ended the season with a 3.73 xFIP. Buehrle is a guy I’d like to see come to Minnesota but I’m not sure if he’ll leave Chicago. Jon Garland is another solid pitcher but he isn’t a number one or two or three. He had his struggles in the National League but was much better when he was with the Chicago White Sox. Ideally it’d be nice if the Twins made a splash by signing C.J. Wilson or making a trade but that most likely won’t happen. On the bright side they have the number two pick in the draft so maybe they can find a nice pitcher.
The bull-pen was awful. Just awful. Guys were either hurt or underperforming. Some guys they could possibly look at are Joel Zumaya, LaTroy Hawkins, Jon Rauch (if he get’s bought out) and Darren Oliver. All of those guys are solid when healthy and shouldn’t cost too much if Minnesota wanted to take a bargain on one or two.
With Mauer not playing catcher as much Minnesota will need to sign one since Butera is awful. Ramon Hernandez wouldn’t be a bad catcher to look at, he can hit for power (.164 ISO) and had a .339 wOBA. His WAR was right at 2.0 making him a league average catcher. For the right price he could be a nice catcher for a season or so.
The Twins also need at least one outfielder. Ben Revere really isn’t that good, Joe Benson should get playing time and Aaron Hicks is a year or so away. I don’t think Cuddyer or Kubel come back simply because they will cost more than they are worth. Cuddyer in particular. He isn’t worth a 3 year $36 million dollar deal that I’ve been hearing he could get. In the meantime here are a few guys they could look at. Josh Willingham, Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick are all solid outfielders who wouldn’t cost too much. Willingham and Ludwick in particular would give Minnesota some added pop to the line-up. If I was Minnesota I would strongly look at Willingham. This past season he had a .232 ISO and .350 wOBA. He’s someone who could slide in the middle of the lineup and have the potential to do some good things.
Finally, if there was any money left I would take a look at Wilson Betemit or Jose Lopez. Betemit also has some pop in his bat but he can play a variety of positions. Lopez also is a decent player and with what the Twins have he could step it at 2B/SS and get some good playing time and show the Twins what he has. Nishioka is an unknown and Casilla isn’t that good, Lopez could step in and start right away and Betemit could come off the bench or play 3B if Valencia continues his struggles.
Finally, Minnesota could look into some trades. Guys like James Shields and Gio Gonzalez should be on the market but won’t be cheap. The Twins might be able to get Stephen Lombardozzi from the Nationals but he would cost Denard Span and that wouldn’t be worth it.
With that my off-season plans for what the Minnesota Twins should do comes to an end. Stay tuned for other teams as the off-season goes on as well as analysis when free agents sign, players get traded and other baseball news.