The Minnesota Twins are coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history. They had problems everywhere, whether it be the horrid pitching staff or the atrocious batting. Mauer and Morneau struggled with injuries for most of, if not all of the season. They had some of their minor league talent give a glimpse of the future towards the end of the season, though.
The Twins lost two of their more consistent offensive bats during the off-season. Cuddyer signed a 3 year deal with the Rockies and Kubel signed a 2 year deal with the Diamondbacks. Cuddyer’s loss will be felt more so than Kubel’s because Cuddyer has been more consistent on offense and defense. With those two gone, the Twins front office went out and signed former Oakland A, Josh Willingham to a 3 year contract worth $21 million dollars. Offensively, Willingham has been much more productive since 2009. Read this article I wrote earlier this off-season for more information: Willingham vs Cuddyer. Former infielder Trevor Plouffe will also be shifted to the outfield. Plouffe has shown that he can hit for power, so if he’s given some good playing time he could hit 10-15 home runs. Before Span suffered his concussion last season he was on pace to have one of his best seasons of his career. If he can comeback healthy he would provide above average defense, and the ability to get on base.
They also signed Ryan Doumit to a one year deal. Doumit will play C/DH/1B, but I assume he will gain most of his time at the designated hitter spot. Doumit has had problems staying healthy, but if he doesn’t get hit with injuries, he could offer some power.
The middle infield was also a big concern for the club last year. During the off-season they won the bidding on Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They had hopes that he would be the shortstop/second baseman for at least the foreseeable future. Needless to say that didn’t work out. After only a few games, Nishioka broke his leg and was sent to the disabled list for the majority of the first half. Needless to say, the middle infield stunk. Combined five guys only managed to total -.8 WAR. The front office wasn’t taking that so they went out and got 38 year old free agent Jamey Carroll. Carroll has actually been quite good throughout his career, he can’t be as bad as last year.
The corner infield spots aren’t looking that great. Valencia’s rookie season was solid, but last year he hit the typical “sophomore slump”, and he hit it hard. He doesn’t need to be a great third baseman, but if he can at least be league average he would provide the club with good value.
The bullpen was a major concern last year as well. Pretty much everyone was awful except Minnesota native Glen Perkins. They lost team all-time leader in saves Joe Nathan to the Texas Rangers, and nobody else is worth mentioning. They did go out on the free agent market and picked up former Tiger, Joel Zumaya. Zumaya hasn’t pitched effectively since 2006, but they didn’t give him a lot of money. They do have some guys on the farm who are interesting though. Former first round supplemental pick Carlos Gutierrez and Kyle Waldrop have potential to be solid arms. 2010 rounder Alex Wimmers is looked at as a starter in the long run, but could make some relief appearances in the pen later in the year.
The rotation wasn’t that great either. The Twins tend to want their pitchers to limit the amount of walks that they give up. In 2010, they had the lowest BB%. Last season they still were in the top ten for lowest BB%, but they walked roughly 1% more. Scott Baker was doing fairly well until he got hurt and the rest struggled mightily. In particular Francisco Liriano who was coming off one of his best seasons since pre-tommy john. For more on that check out this by our very own LeeTro: Liriano’s Struggle. Terry Ryan went out and signed Jason Marquis. To me that didn’t make much sense as he is essentially the same type of pitcher as Nick Blackburn. Liam Hendriks showed that he has some potential after tearing up the minors and having a decent first few appearances in the majors.
The key for this team is the health of Mauer and Morneau though. Mauer is coming off an injury plagued season and Morneau was still dealing with concussion like symptomes from 2010. If the Twins want to compete next year then they need these two to be healthy. If not, this team isn’t going anywhere.
The Twins attempted to fix off-season losses by signing cheap, yet effective players. That’s not something new but if the Twins want to play baseball deep into October than they need guys to be healthy. The pitching has to step it up and if they don’t, it will be a long season.