Monday, December 7, 2009

The Off-Season Dream

I've been saying for a while I expected the Twins payroll to stay around the $80-$85 million mark, but with the Winter Meetings beginning soon I've gotten a little hopeful. I'm now projecting a budget closer to $95 million. Here's what I would like to see the Twins do this off-season:

Avoid Jarrod Washburn. He seems like someone the Twins may actually target, but I'm really hoping they don't. My best guess is Washburn gets something like 2 years, $17 million or 3 years, $25 million in a very weak starters market. That's simply too much money to pay for the guy.

He was great in Seattle, and it's easy to point to his knee injuries being a problem for him in Detroit, but quite frankly the reason he was so successful in Seattle was because of the big power alleys and exceptional outfield defense they had. The Mariners outfield, of Gutierrez, Ichiro and Endy Chavez was among the greatest defensive outfields to EVER play for one team. Seems crazy, but the statistics don't lie.

Washburn is a very fly ball heavy pitcher, and the Twins defensive outfield this year is going to be BAD. Even Span, who has graded out as a very good defensive RF, has been below average to awful in Center Field. Of course, the sample size is small, so the hope is he'll improve his numbers and will be an above average defensive center fielder. Unfortunately, Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer in LF and RF is probably the worst corner outfield combination in the league. They won't be able to cover any ground, and a lot of the fly balls Washburn gives up will fall for doubles or triples rather than outs like they did most of last season. That was a major negative in the Gomez trade... many of the Twins pitchers are fly ball heavy, and giving away an elite defensive center fielder will hurt. Hardy was a very good pickup, and Gardy wasn't going to play Gomez anyways, so I'm fine with the move, just explaining why it's not a slam dunk.

As far as what I expect/hope the Twins do... (Some are hopes, some seem like virtual locks)

- Pavano declines arbitration and signs elsewhere
- Morales wins the backup C job in Spring Training
- Use Jason Pridie as the 4th OF
- Mauer resigned for 6 years, $115 million with a $25 million vesting option based on Games Played for a 7th year, making the potential deal 7 years, $140 million.
- Sign Orlando Hudson for 3 years, $20 million. ($6.25, $6.75, $7 mil)
- Wait out the market, if Troy Glaus remains unsigned much like Crede was last year offer him a 1 year, incentive based contract just like Crede's last year.

That would give the Twins:
C: Mauer ($18), Morales ($0.4)
IF: Morneau ($14), Hudson ($6.25, Hardy ($5.75), Glaus ($4), Harris ($0.6), Punto ($4)
OF: Cuddyer ($8.5), Span ($0.4), Young ($1.5), Kubel ($4.1), Pridie ($0.4)
SP: Baker ($3), Slowey ($0.44), Perkins ($0.43), Duensing ($0.4), Blackburn ($0.44) 72.3
RP: Liriano ($0.7), Neshek ($0.8), Crain ($2.2), Rauch ($2.9), Guerrier ($2.75), Mijares ($0.4)
CL: Nathan ($11.25)

Duensing/Perkins and Liriano could also be switched if Liriano starts to show signs of recovering again. Swarzak would start the year in AAA, and Bonser would be dealt/non-tendered. The payroll with this roster would be about $93.5 million. Certainly a bit high for the Twins, but with a new stadium opening up they have discussed having a payroll over $90 million. They've come close to $90 million before, and with the team close to competing, looking to keep Mauer long term and opening a new stadium, $93.5 million or so seems like a solid payroll.

Span
Hudson
Mauer
Morneau
Kubel
Cuddyer
Glaus
Hardy
Young

That lineup would be among the best in baseball, and with Punto and Harris on the bench even the bench would be decently solid. Punto's best position has always been a super utility player, and with Glaus aging and injury prone, Punto would still get plenty of at bats and starts.

The bullpen would be a big strength, and if one of Duensing/Perkins/Liriano/Swarzak can be a solid contributor, the team would be very good. They'd need two of those four to start, but if they can have one of them be above average and one below average, the other 3 starters in the rotation should have no problems carrying the staff.

It's likely a pipe dream that the Twins do in fact sign Hudson AND Glaus, sending Punto to the bench, but oh well. With just one of those two signed, the Twins payroll likely will fall under $90 million and the lineup would still be very, very good. I'd prefer Hudson to Glaus, simply because he fits in better in the #2 slot.