This past Wednesday, a letter from the Minnesota Twins arrived. It was a heads-up about renewing our 20-game season-ticket package for 2012. As far as I am concerned, as long as Dippin' Dots -- the most underrated dessert on the planet -- continue to be sold at Target Field, they have our money. I am also a sucker for outdoor baseball after growing up going to games in the Metrodome.
But that doesn't mean that the status quo works. When you're the first team in franchise history to not exceed .500 at any point during the season, and have the potential to become only the second team in MLB history to lose 100 games with a $100M payroll, everyone needs to be evaluated, including TC the Bear. OK, not him, but the medical personnel, training staff, front office, coaches, and players all need serious year-end reviews.
- In an offseason where they need to be pro-active, at least call new Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick. If he says no to a special-assistant position, so be it, but they should try.
- Offer Paul Molitor a full-time coaching position. I have no idea if he is interested, but since he's already a minor-league instructor in the organization, it should be an easy one to gauge.
- Instead of adding three extra days of fundamentals work in February, start that process now. The Twins allow far too many ground balls to get through the infield, fail to throw runners out on balls in the infield regularly, strand runners at third base with less than two outs, commit errors, don't go first to third enough, don't get runners from second to third enough, don't steal enough bases, or draw enough walks.
- Hire the Orioles' trainer. It took him minutes to solve J.J. Hardy's aching wrist that the Twins struggled to fix all of last year. Hardy told 1500 ESPN's Phil Mackey: "In spring training I started to feel it and got a little bit nervous, going, 'Oh (expletive), here we go again.' But the trainers worked on it, got rid of it in about a week, and I haven't dealt with it since." Hardy added that the treatment he received from Orioles' trainers was different than what had been tried in Minnesota, but he added, "I don't want to get into that too much and make people look bad, but yeah. It definitely was a little bit different."
- Small-ball is fine, but they still need multiple guys who can occasionally deliver the ultimate equalizer: the home run. It was thrown out by multiple people via Twitter on Sunday that the middle infield next year should be Trevor Plouffe (SS) and Luke Hughes (2B). Plouffe is out of options, so he should be on the opening day roster. But his throwing from that position is too suspect. I'd ask Plouffe to take 500 grounders per day Monday-Friday in Fort Myers from mid-November until spring training and see if he is capable of being the starting second baseman. I get it: finding home run power is no easy task. That's where the front office needs to get creative.
- The ultimate equalizer for a pitcher is the strikeout. With a minimum of two starters needed -- Brian Duensing, who can be trusted in high-leverage situations in small doses, and Nick Blackburn should be moved to the bullpen -- they should look at signing free-agent Edwin Jackson and explore trade scenarios. With Hughes potentially capable of handling third-base duties, use Danny Valencia as a trade chip.
- Find a Kyle Farnsworth (Rays), Al Alburquerque (Tigers), or Octavio Dotel (Blue Jays) on a one-year deal. In fact, sign multiple. Relievers are always available on one-year deals in free agency. It's on the front office to locate the right ones this winter. To a lesser degree, the same can be said about corner outfielders -- Johnny Damon (Rays), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), etc. In other words, if free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are asking for too much money, it's not curl-up-in-the-fetal-position time. Pitching is the bigger priority.
- Ask shortstop Tsuyohshi Nishioka if he really wants to be here, or if he has an interest in returning to Japan, where he remains a hero. If there's a way to get out from the remaining $6M on his contract, they need to do it.
I had three fans ask me at Saturday's game if this is the beginning of a three or four year down-cycle. It doesn't have to be, but shrewdness needs to be demonstrated.
This much is guaranteed: it'll be a fascinating offseason.
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