I've been advocating pretty heavily over the last few weeks that Orlando Hudson is the best target for the Twins this off-season. He's a very good hitter, plays a position of need for the Twins, fits into their lineup well, and best of all he won't cost a draft pick to sign because the Dodgers didn't offer him arbitration. The Twins haven't been connected with Hudson much at all, and he seems like a long shot to be a Twin on opening day, but with Bill Smith always tight-lipped about the organization's plans, anything is possible.
In my off-season wish list, I assumed Carl Pavano was going to leave for free agency, and the Twins could use his $6-$7MM salary for the first season of Orlando Hudson's contract. Pavano accepted though, so the team is a bit more strapped with the budget. However, some creativity would allow the team to still fit Hudson into their payroll while paying Pavano on a 1-year deal.
I fully expect the Twins to re-sign Joe Mauer this off-season, and every prediction I made gave him a raise on this coming season's salary which is currently set for $12.5MM. If the Twins simply make the offer to Mauer a true extension, say 6 years and $125MM, that's ultimately a 7 year, $137.5MM contract when factoring in this coming season. Over those 7 years, Mauer would receive $12.5MM, $18MM, $20MM, $21MM, $21MM, $22MM, $23MM or something along those lines. I had predicted Mauer make $18MM this coming season, but by keeping his current salary at $12.5MM the Twins would have an extra $5.5MM to spend elsewhere.
That money should go directly to Orlando Hudson. Guessing his market value is difficult, but with Placido Polanco getting $6MM a year and Chone Figgins getting $9MM a year, I think an average around $6.5MM would be plenty to get Hudson. With the Twins non-tendering Boof Bonser, who I had projected to make close to $1MM this coming season, they would have close to $6.5MM available.
Hudson is a major upgrade for several reasons. First, and foremost, the Twins won't need to rely on an aging, injury prone third baseman on an incentive-based contract. I wouldn't complain if the team added Troy Glaus, or even Crede again, but only if Hudson and other options end up well out of the Twins price range.
Hudson has posted an OBP (On-base percentage) over .350 in each of the last 4 seasons, going as high as .376 in 2007 with Arizona. His batting average has been solid, although I don't put much weight into batting averages, and his power has been above-average for a second baseman. His defensive reputation is much better than he actually is, as he's won 4 gold gloves in the last 5 years despite being a below average second baseman according to UZR. However, his defense isn't bad enough where it's a liability like it is with Dan Uggla, and his offense more than makes up for it.
FanGraphs has O-Hud's value last year at $13MM, and projects he'll be worth $11.5MM this year. The way their value is determined is a bit complicated, but for comparison's sake Michael Cuddyer was given a value of $8.8MM last year with his exceptional season. Hudson undoubtedly is given more value because he plays second base, and if the Twins are able to get him for 10% more than Placido Polanco signed for that's a major upgrade for the Twins organization.
With Hudson's fantastic ability to get on base, the lineup would be deep and talented for the first time in nearly two decades:
I would prefer an incentive-laden deal for a 3B to get Punto to the bench, but if the team signs Hudson I certainly won't complain about one more year of Nick Punto in the starting lineup. I also would like to see the Twins target Johnny Gomes, who was non-tendered by the Reds, as he's a more productive version of Delmon Young, but I don't expect that to happen.
Bill Smith, just please bring in Orlando Hudson and give this team some buzz going into Spring Training. Re-signing Mauer will undoubtedly get positive publicity and if Smith gets it done he deserves a lot of credit, but upgrading a major position of weakness would be a huge step in the right direction for a team looking to win the division in 162 games this year.