The Twins have a fair amount of money to spend this offseason – perhaps $30-35M - which is good, because they have plenty of holes to fill. Fortunately, for many of those needs, the free agent market is cooperating.
Shortstop – Would you be satisfied with nothing more than mediocrity, or even good-glove, no-hit types? (After this year, we probably are.) Then look at this class: Rafael Furcal, Clint Barmes, Alex Gonzalez, Nick Punto, Ramon Santiago, Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis, John McDonald and Jack Wilson. Best of all, most could be had for a few million dollars.
Backup Catcher – Again, the Twins are blessed that expectations are low. If you want a fulltime catcher, you’ll need to make a trade, because the top guy is a 36-year-old platoon type. But if you just want a veteran backup that won’t kill you, the market is flush with them this year. One other name that will be mentioned a lot is Ryan Doumit, a catcher from the Pirates who is a good hitter, shaky fielder, but injury prone. If you like mixing and matching Mauer at first base, Doumit might make some sense.
Closer – In last week’s Gleeman and the Geek podcast, I wondered aloud if Twins might actually renew Nathan’s $12.5 million option since it’s really only a $10.5 million option to them (since they must buy out $2 million if they turn it down.) They won’t, because the market for closers is thick. They’ll cost you, but there are names like Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Nathan, Frank Francisco, Brad Lidge and Jonathan Broxton. Oh, and Matt Capps. Don’t forget “closer” Matt Capps.
On second thought, do.
Starting Pitcher – The Twins could already control their rotation if they offer Kevin Slowey arbitration. If not, there are some veteran pitchers that won’t break the bank. These guys are not aces, but they’re serviceable: Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Aaron Harang, Bruce Chen, Paul Maholm, Javier Vazquez, Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis, Freddy Garcia and Brad Penny.
First base, Right Field, Designated Hitter – And now the bad news. Depending on whether the Twins lose Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, they could need to fill one or two of these three positions. Odds are, at least one. And the markets on them are not good.
In the outfield, there are some sneaky names, but not a lot of reliable performers, or at least not a lot of reliable good performers. At designated hitter, there are always good cheap options, but my gut feel is that the Twins will keep that spot open for Justin Morneau, and he’s getting scared enough of this head thing to not fight them. At first base, one could try Chris Parmelee, but don’t forget he came straight up from AA last year. If you’re more comfortable with a veteran on the roster, cheaper options include Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, Xavier Nady, and Russel Branyan. Ugh.
If the Twins manage to hand onto Cuddyer or Kubel, or if Chris Parmelee is truly ready or if Justin Morneua can play first base, things don’t line up too poorly. If not, there will likely be gaps. But the market is helping the Twins with a lot of their more pressing needs.
You can learn a lot more about these guys, including their likely salaries, by checking out this year’s Offseason GM Handbook. We’ll have more announcements about that soon.