Last year, when the Twins got into roster-shuffling mode, the pieces they added were good enough to rally from seven games back in the final month and win the AL Central.
This year, the goal is to win it all. That's why the Twins added Hudson, Hardy and Thome to the roster at the cost of Carlos Gomez and a couple of modest contracts.
To accomplish that would require the current roster to fire on all cylinders in October, something that hasn't been happening for Twins teams during their third-millennium playoff runs.
So it's no surprise that talk has turned to more roster turnover.
The current topic is Mike Lowell, the Boston third baseman whose playing time has suffered because of the Red Sox' Victor Martinez upgrade. Lowell and his .215 batting average (and $12.5 million salary) are available. The Twins wouldn't have to give up much and would likely insist that Boston pick up a big chunk of his paycheck. It would be a gamble, but third base has been the position that the Twins have been most willing to gamble on this season, so far with success on defense and failure on offense.
A better option? It pretty much depends on how Oakland regards Kevin Kouzmanoff, who has improved his defense (Think Corey Koskie) nand wields enough of a bat to hold down a spot in the bottom third of the batting order. He would be a J.J. Hardy type of presence at the plate, which is certainly better than a Puntontian or Harrisonian presence. But there will be yelping about his strikeouts and the holes in his swing, especially against right-handers.
Pitching upgrades are tricker right now, because those are based on taking a giant leap as opposed to a modest upgrade. It's worth the time to talk about stud lefty Cliff Lee right now because Seattle didn't trade for him with the idea of having the third worst record in baseball.
Would you go after him with the idea of either signing him to the kind of contract he'll be seeking for 2011 and beyond -- or be willing to rent him in return for a top prospect (Wilson Ramos?) and a starting pitcher (not named Francisco Liriano), then take the two top draft choices that would come when he signs elsewhere? That would make for a postseason rotation of Lee, Liriano and two of the right-handers.
Other name will come up, but which ones would be a clear staff ace based on their current performance?
Worth it? It puts added pressure on the players to get to the postseason and on the front office to draft wisely if Lee leaves. And it further shakes off the "small-market" silliness that people have used to describe the Twins and their ownership.
Taking that risk doesn't guarantee the ultimate reward (See Phillies 2009 among others), but not taking it makes another year of one-and-done that much more likely.
**Monday's post about the Twins' Sunday lineup clearly struck a nerve. There were about 270 comments as of this morning, more than 31,000 page views and many new voices in the discussion. There's good reading on all sides of the question. If you have a few minutes, I recommend checking it out.
**I'd love to invite you to the startribune.com Sportsbunker to watch Thursday afternoon's Liriano v. Jimenez match-up. But the sofa isn't big enough and the entertainment budget is depleted. Instead, I'll be doing a Live Chat for the first few innings of the game. So get your lunch, get on line and we'll see what happens.