Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twins Offseason (Part 2): GM for a day

Below is a  simple 7 step program that addresses many of the challenges discussed in yesterday's post.

7 Steps to Offseason Success

  1. Coaching Continuity: Sign Gardy and the rest of the staff to fair extensions and continue the stability in leadership that defines this club.
  2. Lock up Liriano: As previously suggested, Liriano should be viewed as the key to this pitching staff, as he gives a different look from anything else that trots out to the mound.  Not only is he a left handed strikeout machine, but he may be the only pitcher in the entire organization that profiles as the true “ace” that so many people claim we need.  Extending him an offer this winter would provide him the insurance he deserves after battling back from Tommy John surgery, but would also give the Twins some cost control over the next 3-4 seasons.  Barring a trade for an established ace, this is the best option the Twins have available to them this winter. 
  3. Trade a starting pitcher (or two): With Baker and Blackburn locked up in long term deals, and Slowey next on the list, it is important that the Twins explore trade options now for these assets.  All three players have had their ups and downs at the major league level, but all three deserve a chance to start somewhere.  I just don’t see this happening with the Twins.  With the “B” boys both locked up to long term deals, Slowey is certainly the most tradeable asset.  With an estimated 2011 salary of $1.5 million, however, I’d first look to move Baker ($5 million) and/or Blackburn ($3 million).  I expect a much better year from Slowey in 2011, so I’d hold onto him for at least another season.  I feel like we have enough depth in the organization (Bromberg, Gibson, Manship) to replace these two mid-rotation starters.
  4. Trade Michael Cuddyer:  I first want to say that I’m a big fan of “Cuddy” and all that he has meant to the Twins both on and off the field.  He has done an admirable job as a utility player over the last few years, and has provided decent (though sporadic) offensive production.  He is also a high quality guy and a great asset to the community.  Once considered one of the Twins “core” players, it may be time to let him go.  The challenge here is getting someone to take his $10.5 million contract for next year.  The Twins could save some money by agreeing to pay part of the deal in exchange for a decent prospect or two, or they could simply give him away and free up the room to fill other needs.  This will be a difficult (and largely unpopular) decision to make by Bill Smith and the gang.
  5. Sign a true center fielder: This move is dependent on both the Cuddyer trade and the return of a healthy Justin Morneau.  I would be happy to sacrifice some offensive production in exchange for improved defense in center field.  This would allow Span to move over to left field where he belongs, and Young to take his rightful place in right field, where his defensive liabilities can be masked by his strong arm as Cuddyer’s have been for years. 
  6. Re-sign Jim Thome: This one may seem obvious, and certainly will depend on the offers he gets elsewhere, but his value to the team is huge.  With the lack of hitters on the bench already, we can’t afford to let him walk.  It is clear that he was excited to come here, loved being here, and would like to come back for another year.  No one is going to sign him to a multi-year deal at age 41, and with his history of back issues, it seems fair to expect another incentive-laden deal for the future hall of famer. 
  7. Sign a “utility hitter”: In much the same way as I’m OK with a defense first starting center fielder, I’d be fine with a bench hitter that gives us “Delmon-esque” defensive performance. As with the starting staff, the Twins just don’t have enough options on the current roster, as all of our pinch hitters look essentially the same (Punto, Tolbert, Casilla, Repko, Butera). 
In part 3 of this posting, we’ll take a look at the potential impact of acting on these suggestions.

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