Here is a quick look at the Twins’ impending free agents, and whether or not any of them are worth keeping around:
- Carl Pavano, Type A: Pavano had a very good season with the Twins, posting a 3.75 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 4.01 xFIP, and 3.16 K/BB ratio. He’ll be looking for a deal in the neighborhood of $3 years, $30 million, and since he’s the second-best starter available on the market behind Cliff Lee, he’ll probably get it somewhere. It probably won’t be in Minnesota though, with the payroll already pushing $100 million without tendering any contracts to arbitration-eligibles. The Twins should offer Pavano arbitration (and they probably will); if he accepts, they’ll be paying around $10 million for a workhorse worth 3.7 and 3.2 fWAR the past couple of seasons. If he declines, they will get a draft pick. This is probably one of the easiest decisions Bill Smith has to make.
- Matt Guerrier, Type A: It might be tempting to offer Guerrier arbitration and take the draft picks, but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The Mayor posted a solid 3.17 ERA with some less-impressive peripherals: 4.23 FIP, 4.53 xFIP, and 1.91 K/BB ratio. Most seasons, his ERA could get him a nice multiyear deal somewhere; unfortunately, there is a surplus of good bullpen arms on the free agent market this year. Matt Guerrier isn’t the best middle reliever on the market, and there is little reason for any front office to give up a draft pick for a mediocre middle reliever when there are cheaper, better options available. If the Twins offer arbitration to Guerrier, they will most likely get stuck paying him at least $3 million next year. That is not an efficient use of resources for a team with limited financial flexibility and huge holes looming in the starting rotation and the infield.
- Brian Fuentes, Type B: It’s tempting to keep Fuentes around as a closer in case Joe Nathan struggles to return from Tommy John surgery, but he will probably be too expensive. I doubt Fuentes would accept arbitration if offered, so offering it seems like a pretty safe bet for the Twins. Fuentes, with his 2.81 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and solid 2.35 K/BB ratio, should have little trouble finding a job elsewhere.
- Jesse Crain, Type B: Jesse Crain might be worth trying to re-sign, since he would be relatively cheap and the bullpen could use more power arms. He had a very good 2010 season, with a 3.04 ERA, 3.45 FIP, and 2.30 K/BB ratio, but his poor performance in the past will probably keep his price tag in a more reasonable range than either Fuentes or Guerrier. The Twins should offer Crain arbitration; if he declines, they might get a sandwich pick if he signs elsewhere. If he accepts, he’ll probably cost something like $2 million in arbitration.
- Jon Rauch, Type B: It’s unlikely the Twins will sign Rauch or offer him arbitration. Rauch, like Guerrier, is a prime candidate to accept arbitration if offered. He had a pretty good season, posting an ERA of 3.12, 2.94 FIP and 3.29 K/BB ratio, but with so many better options on the market, the tall one might struggle to find work. Rauch’s price tag in arbitration will likely exceed his actual value to the team as a reliever, so the Twins would be wise to just let him walk.
- Orlando Hudson, Type B: I would love to see Hudson back in a Twins uniform, but that seems unlikely. Hudson batted .268/.338/.372 and provided excellent defense, with a league-leading 9.8 UZR at second base, and saving 17 runs for the Twins this season (he also finished second in voting for the Fielding Bible Awards). O-Dog will probably seek a multi-year deal, something the Twins should be hesitant to hand out given his age and declining on-base percentage.
- Jim Thome: I would also like to see Jim Thome back in a Twins uniform, but I don’t think it’s likely even though the front office has expressed a desire to bring him back. The problem is that, even if he re-signs for something similar to the $1.5 million he got last year, Thome might not be a very good fit. If he could play in the field at all, there would be no question whether the front office should try to bring him back, but at this point in his career Big Jim is the very definition of a one-dimensional slugger. With so many questions surrounding the health of Justin Morneau, the Twins would be better off targeting a free agent first baseman like Derrek Lee, or maybe even moving Cuddyer to first base and targeting another right-handed outfielder, like Marcus Thames.
- Nick Punto: The Twins recently declined to pick up Punto’s $5 million option, which seemed like a no-brainer given their limited payroll flexibility and his paltry production this year. Alexi Casilla isn’t nearly as good on defense as Punto, and he’s only marginally better as a hitter, but the difference in their salaries (league-minimum versus $5 million) makes any benefit of keeping Punto around negligible.
- Randy Flores: zzzzzzzz