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Twins Offseason Blueprint by Nick

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: November 2, 2010 - 11:32 PM

As you're probably aware if you read this blog with any regularity, our Offseason GM Handbook is now available.

Yesterday, Seth submitted his blueprint, which appears in the e-book and represents his suggested course of action based on the options and figures provided within its pages. Today, I present mine. What would you do differently?


***

1) Let free agents Orlando Hudson, Nick Punto, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay walk.

2) Non-tender Matt Capps and Glen Perkins.

Capps was a fine addition, but due to a high save total that clearly overstates his value as a reliever, he’d receive way more than he’s worth through arbitration. Paying a premium for two closers is a misuse of limited funds. Perkins hasn’t been healthy or effective enough to merit a contract tender.

3) Reach arbitration agreements with JJ Hardy ($6.5M), Delmon Young ($5.25M), Kevin Slowey ($2.75M), Alexi Casilla ($800K), Pat Neshek ($800K) and Jason Repko ($750K).
All for just over $15 million, you lock up your starting middle infielders, your run-producing right-handed bat, a solid starting pitcher, a reliever and a fourth outfielder.

4) Offer Carl Pavano arbitration.
He’ll decline it, because he should have no trouble finding a multi-year deal on the open market as arguably the top available option past Cliff Lee. Since Pavano is a Type A free agent, you’ll get draft pick compensation when he signs elsewhere.

5) Sign Francisco Liriano to three-year, $21 million extension.
Liriano is entering his second season of arbitration eligibility and our estimates have him getting $4.5M. However, since he’s coming off a season where his numbers didn’t necessarily match his performance, this seems like the right time to lock him down. We’ll say it breaks down as $4 million the first year, $7 million the second year and $10 million the third year.

Liriano is the only player in the organization with real ace potential over the next few years, so keeping him on board is crucial. A three-year deal locks up his final two years of arbitration and his first year of free agency. Given his injury history, Liriano would likely jump at the financial security. (You can find a more detailed explanation for the contract here.)

6) Trade outfielder Michael Cuddyer to Braves for starting pitcher Derek Lowe.
In the comments section of one of my recent blog posts, a Braves fan suggested that his team could be a logical trading partner for the Twins. He’s right. Atlanta has a surplus of starting pitching and the Twins have an outfield logjam, especially if Jim Thome returns.  The Braves need right-handed power in their lineup, and if healthy Cuddyer can provide that.

In essence, this is a swap of bad contracts – Cuddyer is owed $10.5M next season after an underwhelming 2010 campaign while the 37-year-old Lowe has two years remaining on his deal at $15M apiece. You’d be gaining $4.5M in salary in the swap for next year, but in essence you’d also be shaving $7M because the addition of Lowe would enable you to comfortably let Pavano walk. The $15M commitment in 2012 is a bit trickier and you’ll have to maneuver around it then.

The aging Lowe hasn’t performed like a $15M pitcher over the first two years of his current contract, which is why the Braves might be eager to unload him, but he has been solid and he’s a workhorse, with 180+ innings pitched and double-digit wins in nine straight seasons. His ground ball tendencies should play well in Target Field.

7) Re-sign Jesse Crain for two years, $6 million.
Of all the departing free agent relievers, Crain seems like the one most worth bringing back. He was flat-out dominant for most of the 2010 season, to the point where he looked like a closing option, but his bad stretches in each of the past two years should keep his price reasonable. If he can resume his role as bullpen ace, he’ll be well worth a $3 million price tag.

8) Sign free agent reliever Grant Balfour for two years, $7.5 million.
Balfour is a Type A free agent but it seems unlikely that the Rays will offer him arbitration so losing draft picks shouldn’t be a concern here. A former Twin, Balfour has been an outstanding setup man in Tampa and has closer-type stuff. He’d serve as a strong late-inning option and further insurance for Joe Nathan.

9) Re-sign Jim Thome for one year, $4 million.
I’ve gone back and forth on this one. Is Thome worth the bump in salary now that he’s another year older? With the questions surrounding Justin Morneau, I think Thome’s power will provide necessary insurance. Plus, he’s just a joy for the fans.

2011 Opening Day 25-Man Roster:

STARTING LINEUP

C: Joe Mauer ($23M)
1B: Justin Morneau ($14M)
2B: Alexi Casilla ($800K)
3B: Danny Valencia ($450K)
SS: JJ Hardy ($6.5M)
LF: Delmon Young ($5.25M)
CF: Denard Span ($1M)
RF: Jason Kubel ($5.25M)
DH: Jim Thome ($4M)

(Approx $60.25M)

BENCH

C: Drew Butera ($450K)
IF: Matt Tolbert ($450K)
IF: Brendan Harris ($1.75M)
OF: Jason Repko ($750K)

(Approx $2.75M)

ROTATION

SP: Francisco Liriano ($4M)
SP: Derek Lowe ($15M)
SP: Kevin Slowey ($2.75M)
SP: Scott Baker ($5M)
SP: Nick Blackburn ($3M)

(Approx $29.75M)

BULLPEN

CL: Joe Nathan ($12.5M)
RP: Jesse Crain ($3M)
RP: Grant Balfour ($3.75M)
RP: Brian Duensing ($450K)
RP: Jose Mijares ($450K)
RP: Pat Neshek ($800K)
RP: Jeff Manship ($450K)

(Approx $21.5M)

TOTAL 2011 PAYROLL: $115M

SUMMARY:
The lineup is similar to last year’s, with Justin Morneau hopefully returning. Committing a full-time DH spot to a 40-year-old Thome is my greatest concern with this blueprint, so if there’s any extra money available, try and bring in an extra right-handed bat who could split time with him at DH or – better yet – play the outfield and push Kubel to the DH spot from time to time. Since you’re already paying him, give Brendan Harris another shot but there are plenty of cheap-ish infielders on the market (Felipe Lopez and David Eckstein are good examples) that could fill that bench role and compete with Alexi Casilla for the starting second base job.

In the bullpen, Brian Duensing opens the season as the team’s top lefty reliever, filling a role he excelled in over the first half last year, and is available to take a rotation spot should any of the starters falter or get hurt. If Pat Neshek doesn’t show much improvement over his rough 2010 campaign, look to other cheap young internal relievers such as Anthony Slama and Alex Burnett.

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