When the World Series came to an end on Friday night, the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook officially became available. If you haven't already ordered a copy, you can purchase and download one immediately from the TwinsCentric website.
One section of the bulky 136-page e-book is called "Offseason Blueprints," wherein all four TwinsCentric writers utilize the information in the Handbook to map out our own suggestions for the Twins' front office.
We're interested in seeing your ideas, too, so we're holding a contest. Using your Handbook, or whatever tools you like, we want you to craft a blueprint of your own -- one that fills the team's needs as you see them and stays within a reasonable budget. Submit it to us at email@example.com, and in a few weeks we'll toss the names of all participants into a hat and draw a random winner. If you're selected, we'll set you up with a free copy of our Twins Annual in the spring, and we'll also dissect your blueprint on the TwinsCentric blog.
To get you started and generate some discussion, here's my offseason blueprint from the Handbook:
The Twins face an extremely challenging paradox this offseason. On the one hand, they are coming off a 99-loss season and their roster is filled with holes, with the majority of their best prospects still several years off. On the other hand, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are in their physical prime and are owed a combined $37 million next year. If both those players return to form, you won’t want to waste the opportunity by fielding a poor roster that can’t support them. At the same time, you don’t want to put all your eggs in the 2012 basket because, realistically, it’s just not that likely that this injury-hampered group can make a 30-game swing in the standings. The best bet is to add cheap, low-risk short-term help while maintaining flexibility down the line. Here’s my attempt:
1) Let Michael Cuddyer walk.
Losing Cuddyer will be tough. Not only is his powerful right-handed bat sorely needed in the Twins’ lineup, he’s also a major asset in the clubhouse and community. Unfortunately, while he’d help a lot in 2012, his contract would likely become a burden in the later years as he ages into his mid-30s. It may be unpopular, but unless he’s willing to take a discount, letting Cuddyer walk and taking the draft picks is the smart call.
2) Re-sign free agent reliever Joe Nathan for two years, $14 million.
Nathan struggled out of the gates and finished with an unimpressive 4.84 ERA in 2011, but by the end of the year he looked very much like the dominant reliever we remember prior to Tommy John surgery. After coming off the disabled list in June, Nathan posted a 3.38 ERA and 28-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 29 1/3 innings. He’s a reliable and familiar closer.
3) Re-sign free agent outfielder Jason Kubel for three years, $21 million.
Kubel’s value is down after an injury-plagued campaign. Once a premier designated hitter, he’s been underwhelming in each of the past two years, so the opportunity is ripe to lock him up with an affordable multi-year deal if you believe the 2010/11 numbers don’t reflect his true offensive ability.
4) Offer arbitration to Alexi Casilla ($2.5M), Jose Mijares ($700K), Kevin Slowey ($3.3M), Glen Perkins ($1.8M) and Francisco Liriano ($6M).
Perkins and Casilla are essentially no-brainers, as they offer relatively inexpensive depth at positions of need. Bringing back Liriano and Slowey might be a somewhat difficult call following frustrating 2011 campaigns, but the Twins need all the rotation help they can get and both are candidates for bounce-back years.
5) Sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit for two years, $9 million.
With Mauer’s status hanging in the balance, the Twins need to add depth at catcher, preferably in the form of a player who could play somewhat regularly and add offensive punch to the lineup. Doumit has spent his career as a part-time guy with the Pirates, never playing in more than 124 games, but his .271/.334/.442 career hitting line is very solid for a catcher and he’s only 30. He’s not considered a strong defensive backstop, but Drew Butera can be kept around to fill that role and Doumit can also fill in at first base and in right field.
6) Sign free agent starting pitcher Rich Harden for one year, $3 million plus incentives.
Bringing aboard one of the game’s most notoriously injury-prone starters may not sound appealing to Twins fans who watched almost the entire team spend chunks of 2011 on the disabled list, but this club needs high-upside arms and only the risky types like Harden will be affordable. The 29-year-old righty was limited to 82 2/3 innings and posted an ugly 5.12 ERA, but did manage to notch 91 strikeouts. He’s struggled mightily with the long ball over the past two seasons, but Target Field should help alleviate that. To help with his durability and maximize his stuff, it might be worth trying Harden in the bullpen if he’s willing.
7) Sign free agent infielders Nick Punto (one year, $750K) and Ramon Santiago (one year $1.5M).
Neither of these players is generally viewed as a starter, but both are sure-handed, versatile veterans that can at least hold their own at the plate. Let them compete for the starting shortstop job in spring training, with the loser holding down a utility job while Tsuyoshi Nishioka opens the season in the minors.
Ideally, you’d like to see Mauer and Morneau return to their previous roles and thrive. Given the circumstances, though, you can’t really plan around that best-case scenario. The above structure gives you some flexibility with those two. I went heavy on free agency additions because I felt the Twins had a lot of needs but don’t have much in the way of tradable assets on the big-league roster; dealing away prospects at this point is the wrong idea. The infield signings don’t add much offense but fans and coaches will welcome some steady veteran reinforcements after watching rookies kick grounders all over the place last year.
In the end, this might not be a terribly exciting blueprint but 2012 is shaping up as a transitional year, where the Twins can try out some different things on the big-league roster while letting their talented young prospects develop. It’s also not inconceivable that this group could compete in the AL Central if the rotation rebounds and the switch to less physically demanding roles rejuvenates the bats of Mauer and Morneau.