Patrick Reusse: Trading Nathan, demoting Gomez should be on to-do list

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 13, 2009 - 12:13 PM

Trade the closer, send Gomez to the minors and eight other things the Twins should do in preparation for playing at Target Field.

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Joe Nathan on Friday, when he gave up a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez trying to protect a 3-1 Twins lead in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.

Photo: Jim Mcisaac, Getty Images

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There are facts to remember before comparing the Twins' four consecutive first-round dismissals in the playoffs with the string of early exits by the Kevin Garnett-led Timberwolves and a pair of one-and-dones for Jacques Lemaire's Wild:

A baseball team already has reached the final eight in a 30-team league when it starts the postseason. An NBA or an NHL squad must win a first-round series to gain the final eight of those 30-team leagues.

That's the last qualifier to be offered in dissecting another failure to advance by Ron Gardenhire's Twins. They were 4-2 in postseason play when this all started back in 2002, and since then have gone 0-4 against the Angels, 0-3 against Oakland and 2-9 against the Yankees.

Two-and-16 ... yuk!

The legions of non-ticket buyers with access to computers have a great time placing the blame for any failures on the Pohlad family for being ''too cheap'' to give the Twins the assets to compete.

Actually, this latest series turned irretrievably to the Yankees when Joe Nathan, a closer to whom the Pohlads gave a four-year, $48 million contract, choked in the ninth inning of Game 2 on Friday night.

Nathan didn't fail because he was cheap talent. He failed because he couldn't breathe.

The Twins will have spent $70 million-plus in actual dollars on major league players this season. They gave up three prospects for Orlando Cabrera, Carl Pavano and Jon Rauch to provide crucial assistance in what became a push to a division title.

The Twins spent a record $5.9 million on international free agents this year, including $3.1 million for Dominican shortstop Miguel Sano and $800,000 for Max Kepler, a German athlete who had attracted numerous suitors.

They spent $7.1 million in bonuses for draftees. The first pick was Kyle Gibson, a pitcher who required a bonus well over his "slot'' to be signed.

One day this winter, the Pohlad brothers will give the major proof of their financial commitment to the product by signing catcher Joe Mauer to a contract extension.

This will be a deal for such mega-bucks that Jim Pohlad will have to put it in the hands of his financial wizards -- rather than his baseball people -- but Mauer will have a contract before he reports with the pitchers and catchers in mid-February.

There are plenty of tasks for the baseball people to undertake while Pohlad and his best business brains are signing Mauer and securing the future of the franchise. Here are 10 things for GM Bill Smith and Co. to get done this winter (which has already started, apparently):

1. Make sure Carlos Gomez has a complete list of housing options in Rochester, N.Y., so that he will be comfortable while spending the 2010 season as the Red Wings' starting center fielder.

2. Get out from under the last half of Nathan's large contract (two years, $22.5 million) by trading him. The Cubs might take him.

3. The way the Twins treat a closer, it's the easiest job in baseball. Eddie Guardado did it successfully with a slider that broke two inches. With Nathan gone, tell Jose Mijares to show up in shape and he gets the first shot.

And who knows? You might have funky Pat Neshek back as the righthanded half of a closing duo.

4. Speaking of shape: Tell Francisco Liriano to show up 15 pounds lighter in Florida to demonstrate a renewed commitment to pitching, or suggest that he rent the other half of the duplex occupied by Gomez in Rochester.

5. Don't spend any money at third base. Give every inning and every at-bat in exhibitions to Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes; the guy who does the best at the end of March gets the job.

6. Install Nick Punto as the everyday second baseman. He's good all over the infield but he's a difference-maker defensively at second base.

7. Find a shortstop. Cabrera brought a lot to the team in two months, but his average fielding could turn subpar on the Target Field grass.

8. Jon Rauch has a contract. Matt Guerrier remains valuable. Beyond that, it's time to rebuild the meat of the bullpen with guys with serious out pitches, such as Anthony Slama's slider, Alex Burnett's fastball and Carlos Gutierrez's sinker.

9. Play Delmon Young every day -- even day games after night games -- and if he doesn't hit 25 home runs and drive in 85, dump him.

10. Sign a starting pitcher ... a real one, not a Livan.

Patrick Reusse can be heard 5:30-9 a.m. weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • preusse@startribune.com

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