Jeff Francis. Joel Pineiro. Jon Garland. Paul Maholm.

Those are the types of unspectacular pitchers the Twins have been in touch with during the offseason as free agency makes its way through the holidays.

Twins fans might cringe at that list as potential lumps of coal in their Christmas stockings.

"We knew what the free-agent market was going to be like," General Manager Terry Ryan said Monday.

Unless prices for pitching come down -- the Twins don't appear interested in paying someone such as Edwin Jackson $9 million to $10 million a year -- it's going to be difficult for them to upgrade their pitching staff, a stated goal of theirs this offseason after the group slipped to 13th in the American League in ERA and 14th in batting average against.

And, besides adding Josh Willingham -- who might hit for a little more power than the departed Michael Cuddyer or Jason Kubel, who agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Diamondbacks on Monday -- the Twins wouldn't mind another hitter for an offense that was 25th in runs scored in 2011. Ryan Doumit likely would be their Opening Day designated hitter if the season started today and everyone was healthy. Or Trevor Plouffe, if he's not playing in the outfield, where he barely has played in his career.

Coming off 99 losses, the Twins were expected to make plenty of changes by the time spring training opened Feb. 18. Yet here they are in December, days removed from watching mainstays Cuddyer and Kubel depart, hoping to get lucky as they pick through second- and third-tier free agents.

For instance, the Twins were on hand last week in Houston as former Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya -- who hasn't pitched in the majors since suffering a gruesome elbow injury at Target Field in June 2010 -- worked out for scouts. He reportedly hit 93 to 96 miles per hour on the gun. If Zumaya is willing to sign as nonroster invitee, the Twins would be interested in him. Keep in mind that 50 scouts watched the workout, and it takes just one team to dangle a major league deal in front of him.

Unless Ryan has something up his sleeve in terms of a trade, a splashy Twins roster addition doesn't seem likely this offseason. They will rely on Willingham to duplicate the 29 homers he hit last season for the Athletics and for Ben Revere and Denard Span to man the other two outfield spots. There's a chance that Plouffe, who is being moved to outfield from shortstop, could end up platooning with Revere.

Jamey Carroll will get a chance to prove he can play every day at shortstop at age 38. After Matt Capps and Glen Perkins, the bullpen situation is up in the air. The Twins want righthander Liam Hendriks to get more experience in the minors, but they might have no choice but to give him a chance to make the rotation.

"Hopefully, the people we are waiting for on the injury front come back and be back on their career path," Ryan said.

He couldn't land the big fish, so Ryan's approach has been to try to solidify the team around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who hope to come back healthy next year. The Twins won't know for sure of that until camp opens.

"We have Willingham, who can hit for some power," Ryan said. "We were looking to upgrade behind Joe Mauer and the DH area. Doumit can do some of that. We needed someone to pick the ball up on a consistent basis. We feel we found that with Jamey Carroll. We still need to work on pitching.''

Former Twins players have raised the stakes in the two West divisions, with Joe Nathan (Texas), Cuddyer (Colorado) and Kubel (Arizona) taking the free-agent express outta here. Meanwhile, the Twins are trying to remain a factor in an improving AL Central. The White Sox have announced they are building. Detroit will be formidable. Cleveland took a step forward and Kansas City looks ready to get off the mat next season.

While Ryan pointed out that his club needs to work on pitching, he added: "We had trouble scoring runs last year."

Good luck, Terry. There are only 60 shopping days left until pitchers and catchers report.

La Velle E. Neal III •