OK, all the evidence is in. You've seen them through six months, you've seen them through the playoffs (such as is was). So, what are you gonna do?
Is it crass to start talking about next year this early? Well, yeah, I think so. But in case you haven't noticed, here's the recipe for the end of season articles in the dailies:
Day after clinching loss - recap of clinching loss
Two Days after clinching game - recap of year and what to expect in the offseason
That's about it. A hell of a lot of perceptions are set by that article two days after the season ends, like two years ago when every sportswriter decided that Cristian Guzman would be returning to the Twins. Not that I've been much better. I didn't think there was any way the Twins didn't get a deal done with Corey Koskie, let alone hang onto Jacque Jones.
(There's a lesson there, by the way. Timing in the offseason is important. The Twins didn't necessarily want to keep Jones over Koskie - they lost out on Koskie and decided to put that extra money towards Jones. It's damn important to understand that some of these decisions need to be made very early, even before the free agent starts, let alone heats up.)
Here's the mission as first published a couple of weeks ago: create a competitive team for 2007 while keeping the total payroll under $67 million (a pretty realistic guess as to next year’s total). I'd encourage you to try it yourself from the link above before continuing.
But I'm gonna get started below. I'll start with players who will likely be back, including listing their approximate salaries, along with some reasoning, in case you want to go in a different direction.
Below that, we’ll list the positions where there will be more debate, and list some of the players (and how much they cost) for each of them. You can build your team, and compare it to how Ryan does this offseason – just make sure it comes in under $67 million. (Or figure out how you’re going to get Carl to part with more.) Today I'll list my choices. Tomorrow will be my best guess on what Terry Ryan will do.
|Joe Mauer||$ 3.50|
|Justin Morneau||$ 2.50|
|Jason Bartlett||$ 0.40|
|Michael Cuddyer||$ 4.00|
|Torii Hunter's Buyout||$ 2.50|
If you've already done the earlier version, you'll notice I pulled Castillo and Punto from this list. I want more offense and less piranhas. I think they'll be back below, but I'm keeping the option open for now. On the core lineup, we’ve spent $12.9 million.
|Johan Santana||$ 12.00|
|Francisco Liriano||$ 0.40|
|Boof Bonser||$ 0.40|
We’ll assume Brad Radke retires (or at least doesn't pitch next year) and that Liriano starts the year with the Twins. They'll cover for the injury risk by keeping one of our other youngsters around (Garza, Baker, Durbin, Slowey) in Rochester as a 6th starter. That leaves two spots open, and our total now is at $25.7 million.
|Luis Rodriguez||$ 0.40|
|Mike Redmond||$ 1.25|
Redmond’s under contract (though terms haven’t been released) and we’ll assume Rodriguez comes back as a middle infielder. That leaves at least two spots open that can be filled with veterans or farm players, and just a small bump to $27.35 million.
|Joe Nathan||$ 5.25|
|Juan Rincon||$ 1.50|
|Dennys Reyes||$ 1.00|
|Jesse Crain||$ 0.40|
|Pat Neshek||$ 0.40|
|Willie Eyre or Matt Guerrier||$ 0.40|
Now that Reyes is in the fold, the only assumption we have to make is that the Twins will offer Rincon arbitration. We’ll also assume six bullpen spots for now, but if you’re attached to Eyre and Guerrier, you can bring one back as the 25th man. Our final tally is $36.3 million….
We’re 60% of the way there! Fifteen of the 25 roster spots are spoken for, and $36.3 million is spent. That leaves $30.7 million to fill eight spots. Let’s see how you want to spend it…..
|CF||Hunter||9.5||The big question is answered. One more year to prove his foot can stay healthy on this surface, without all the "I want to paly 162 games" nonsense. A month ago, I might have chosen a platoon of Tyner and Ford, but the risk on not being able to sign a free agent with that money is big, and the Hunter decision must be made first. Plus, I want fewer piranhas, not more.|
I know many want a bigger bat at third base, but there aren't any on the free agent market. Seriously, here's the list. The only impact bats at that position are Aramis Ramirez, who reportedly has a deal in place with the Cubs, and Aubrey Huff, who is left-handed.
I'd support the Twins attempting a trade, but that hasn't worked out too well recently, especially for a big right-handed bat. I also believe that Punto's defense is better at third than second - he seems to be more a reaction guy than a range guy - so I'm hesitant to move him.
Here's the toughest decision on this list. Alfonso Soriano lacks the plate discipline you woule like to see from a middle of the order hitter, but he's right-handed, has power and speed, and would be a great fit between Mauer and Morneau. He's going to cost $13 million (at least), but that's affordable if Castillo is signed, and he'll be a nice replacement to Torii next year. Finally, there's no risk here, because Ryan can either keep Castillo or trade him based on whether he "wins" Soriano.
But I just can't find that extra $7 million, and believe me, I've tried. If I have $7.25M left over when I'm done with the rest of this list, I'll consider it.
|LF||Kubel||.4||Getting Kubel's bat into this lineup is a priority for me, I'll admit. If his knees can't handle left field in the dome, we'll swap him back and forth with...|
|DH||Rondell White||3||Once he regained his health, he was great, and well worth the money. Timing also is a factor. The Twins will need to decide on this option before they know if the can get someone like Frank Thomas.|
|4th starter||Woody Williams||4||I'll admit it, I'd like a veteran to provide playoff experience, eat innings, and mentor the younger guys. But I also don't want to block the talent coming through the pipeline, and I don't see that player on the free agent list. Williams is close. I'd gamble on Eaton. I won't on Carlos Silva, or at least not at that money.|
|5th starter||Garza||.4||There's too much talent in the minors to not leave a spot for it to prove itself. I'll got with Garza for now, but Baker, Slowey, Perkins, Durbin and others could also be projected here.|
|backup IF||???||.5||I don't know who it will be, but it'll be someone cheap.|
|4th OF||Tyner||1||There needs to be a decent backup for Hunter, and a platoon of Tyner and Ford might be the answer. Tyner is locked up first, because the Twins will need to make a decision on him first.|
|see directly above|
Sigh. There's $3M to spare there, which is just painful, because if you can find another $4M, a premier right-handed hitter could find his way here. There are plenty of options (and I'm sure you'll list the best of them in the comments) but I can tell you my favorite - Carl opening his wallet.
We'll be back tomorrow with our best guess on how Terry Ryan is going to fill out this sheet. We'll see you then.