What Still Needs to be Done?

By their normal standards the Twins have had a very busy November so far. They’ve added free agents Ryan Doumit and Jamey Carroll, brought in a couple of bargain-basement bullpen possibilities (Jason Bulger and Jared Burton), and restored Terry Ryan and Wayne Krivsky to the front office positions in which they excelled a few years ago. All of these are probably steps in the right direction.

There is, of course, more work to do. If you’re keeping track, Doumit and Carroll fulfill two of the top five urgent needs I identified back in September (backup catcher was #4 on the list, and middle infield was #2). The extra bullpen bodies may do a little to help out with need #3, but they don’t completely solve the problem. And Needs #5 – outfield – and #1 – starting pitching – have not yet been addressed.

Carroll signed for just under $3 million per year, and Doumit also signed for $3 million. If you buy Terry Ryan’s comment about the $100 million payroll, the Twins have about $12 million more to spend on salary this year. If you think that $105 to $110 million is more reasonable, they have about $17 to $22 million left. Obviously, there’s a huge difference between these numbers. With a $12 million to spend, the team would either have to sign cheap players for all of the remaining areas of need, trade prospects to obtain low salary veterans, or ignore some of the holes completely. But if they have $22 million, they could afford to sign some very decent free agents to fill most of the needs. For the purposes of my speculation, I’ll assume the payroll will be around $100 million. If they turn out to be willing to spend more, I’ll consider that a pleasant surprise.

Let’s look at the remaining holes and see what options remain:


Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel have not yet signed anywhere. We heard a rumor early in free agency linking Cuddyer to the Phillies, but talk has cooled off on that front. Still, the fact that other teams are pursuing him will drive up his price. It could cost the Twins $12 to $13 million per year for multiple years to keep him. If the payroll is only $100 million, Cuddyer would essentially suck up all the remaining money. So I think you can rule out the team re-signing the fan favorite at that level. Kubel would be a few million bucks per year less than Cuddyer, but still pretty expensive. Rumor had it that the Twins were interested in Josh Willingham, but given his 29 homer season last year, it’s hard to believe he’d be any cheaper than Kubel. If the Twins want to sign a starting-caliber outfielder and still have some money left over, they might look at David DeJesus, Coco Crisp, or Cody Ross. Neither one would be a flashy signing, but all three are competent with the bat and with the glove.


Terry Ryan said last week that he doesn’t foresee any major changes to the Twins rotation. Of course, this was about two days after we heard that the Twins were making an attempt to lure Mark Buehrle, and several weeks after we first heard that the team was a possible destination for Hisashi Iwakuma, so you have to take that with a grain of salt. I am and always have been an unabashed proponent of signing Edwin Jackson. I think he has good enough “stuff” to be an ace pitcher if he could get it together. He is durable and can get strikeouts, which is exactly what this injury-riddled, shaky-fielding team needs on the mound. He is also the youngest high-impact starter on the market. But money is a problem here, too. It’s hard to say exactly what kind of money Jackson would make, but it’s probably at least $10 million per year. As with Cuddyer, signing Jackson would leave little money to do anything else. But if there’s one player on the market who the Twins should spend all their money on, I think it’s Jackson (I know that someone will probably call me an idiot in the Comments section for saying that, but I’ll stand by it).

Buehrle might even cost a little more than Jackson, given his longer track record of success. He’s my second choice behind Jackson, but I’m a little concerned about his age. He’ll be 33 by Opening Day, which would make a long-term contract ill-advised. Iwakuma would be a complete gamble. He’ll be a few million bucks less expensive than Buehrle or Jackson, but nobody can say with any certainty how he would adapt to the American game.


Between Bulger, Burton, Samuel Deduno, Matt Maloney, Jeff Gray, Lester Oliveros, and Esmerling Vazquez, there might be two or three competent relievers in the making. But those guys don’t solve the bullpen problem by themselves. One reliable shutdown reliever would be a nice addition. Joe Nathan is not that guy. He has had a nice run with the team, but the Rangers offered him $14.5 million for two years, and that is too much money to spend on a guy who’ll pitch 70 innings at most. Sad as it is to see him go, the Twins are better off without him at that salary. In fact, I would rule out all pitchers who have been closers, because their saves totals artificially inflate their asking prices (just look at the truckload of money that Philadelphia wasted on Jonathan Papelbon).

I still want the Twins to make an offer to Rich Harden, because I think he’d make a talented and affordable setup man. Aside from Harden, there are so many relief pitchers floating around MLB that it’s hard to account for them all. No matter what the Twins do, there will be some major battles in Spring Training for bullpen slots.

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Tags: Edwin Jackson Esmerling Vasquez Jamey Carroll Jason Bulger Jason Kubel Jeff Gray Lester Oliveros Matt Maloney Michael Cuddyer Ryan Doumit Samuel Deduno

  • twinsfaninsaudi

    Well I’ll just step up to the plate here and take on this important task of bashing Edwin Jackson in the comments section. Actually, the first thing I will point out is that I would normally agree that 33 is too old of a starting pitcher to invest significant years and dollars in, but I view Buerhle differently because the game he pitches is not one dependent on velocity, I think he could be the same pitcher at 38 that he will be at 33. That being said he should reasonably demand at least a 4 year contract, and probably a 5 year contract and the Twins really just don’t like to give a free agent pitcher more than 3 years, or really any free agent for that matter. So I don’t think Buerhle is realistic although it is constantly said that he wants to stay in the midwest, but the Sox can’t afford him and the Cardinals don’t need him, so maybe he would go to the Twins. I wonder if watching him pitch could make Liriano better. It seems to me that you used to be able to rely on Rick Andersen to take a talented pitcher and get the best out of him, such as Santana and LaTroy Hawkins, Nathan, and even a guy like Carlos Silva he got more mileage out of than you would have thought possible. But somehow it seems he doesn’t do that so much anymore, I think him and Gardy are older than they once were, perhaps less in touch with their players also. The point I’m getting at is that I think Jackson is probably too big a risk for the money he would demand in case he does not work out, and the reality is that the Twins already have so much money invested in risks that they really cannot risk spending a lot this offseason and especially not on a risky player. Jackson can pitch, it is not like you would get nothing for him if you gave him $10 million, but of course there is a reason so many teams let him go and I think he just doesn’t throw enough strikes for the Twins to really dig him.

  • twinsfaninsaudi

    Where we might speculate that Anthony Swarzack is going to end up fitting with this team is something might be overdue to discuss at this point in the off-season. If the Twins have one need in the bullpen and another in the rotation I would bet that one them will end up going to Swarzack, I bet he could flourish as a closer. But maybe the Twins want him in the rotation, Duensing is definitely going back to the bullpen, and he will be a help there getting out lefties and that would enable more liberal use of Perkins who showed last year he can also get out righties. Like you said there is a list of players of whom there is probably two or three real relievers in, but Waldrop, Deolis Guerra, and Guttierez need to be added to that list also. It is fashionable right now to dump on the Twins farmhands for good reason, but they do actually have some guys who are going to be big-league relievers, at least one. Personally I think Bulger has been added to add a veteran presence and it most likely won’t go much further beyond that, I think either he or Swarzack will be the closer. If someone is going to be added to the rotation I think it is going to be Brad Peacock in exchange for Dernard Span after the Nationals sign Buerhle.

  • Nate: Legend of the Arctic

    Twinsfaninsaudi: interesting point about Swarzak. He’ll have some sort of role on the team, I’m sure. That’s a good topic for another post.

    I agree with you about Guerra and Gutierrez. They are promising young relievers. With Joe Nathan gone, we might legitimately see Gutierrez battle for the closer spot some time in the next year or two. They definitely will have a chance to make the team in Spring Training.

    By the way, I assume by your screen name that you’re in Saudi Arabia? And judging by your perfect use of English, you’re probably an American. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, and if you are away from your family and friends, I hope you will be able to safely return home to them soon.