With the Twins season over, that means their off-season is officially underway. They have a few weeks before they need to make decisions on player options, offer arbitration to free agents and arbitration eligible players, and to decide to tender contracts to certain young players. Luckily, today, Bill Smith can sit back, and hopefully find several easy decisions that can be made rather soon. In my opinion, here are the no-brainer, easy decisions for Smith going into this off-season:
- Let Mike Redmond leave via free agency
- Pick up Jon Rauch's $2.9 million club option
- Non-tender Bobby Keppel
Those seemed to me to be the only obvious easy decisions for Bill Smith. Of course, I doubt they non-tender Keppel and let him become a free agent. Keppel had a poor season, and finding a long relief guy is not difficult. There will be several relievers passing through waivers, plenty of capable relievers available in the Rule V Draft, and the team has plenty of young starters that could use the experience pitching in mop up situations. The team could even decide to use Liriano in that role until he's capable of pitching in more important situations. All of these reasons should be crystal clear to Bill Smith, and even if Gardy wants to keep Keppel, Smith needs to explain to him how easy it would be to find similar production, and even more likely that the team can find an upgrade for the same price.
Mike Redmond had a great run here as a backup catcher behind Mauer, but it's pretty clear his career is coming to an end. If he wants to continue playing, the Twins can't offer him a contract. Morales is the better catcher at this point in their careers, and Redmond is likely going to get twice the money Morales will. I think the Twins should offer Redmond a coaching position, or a clubhouse job, if he wants to retire to keep him around the team. I think he is a great clubhouse guy, but keeping him around as a player makes little sense when he's clearly not one of the team's best 25 players.
Rauch's option should be exercised any day now. The Twins gave up Kevin Mulvey, a decent prospect and someone who may have had a chance to compete for a back of the rotation spot this coming spring had the Twins not traded him. I can't see anyway that the Twins don't pick up the option, especially since Rauch pitched very well for the Twins since they acquired him. With Rauch returning and the expected recoveries of both Boof Bonser and Pat Neshek, it's very possible the team's biggest weakness going into this past season could be a position of strength for the 2010 season.
With only a few easy decisions, it is clear that this off-season is going to be another difficult one for Bill Smith. The team should have a bit of money to spend, assuming the payroll moves up to around $80 million with Target Field opening, but with raises due to several players the money will still be tight unless the Twins can get creative. Are there any other easy decisions? Feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments section, and check back tomorrow.