It will be another offseason full of difficult decisions for the Minnesota Twins front office. There are double-figure free agents. They have two contracts with 2011 options that they need to determine if they should be picked up. There could be as many as nine arbitration situations. Although the Twins have a fairly solid core of players under contract for 2011, it will be interesting to see how those players are complemented.
One area that could experience the most turnover is in the bullpen. Over the last decade, Twins fans have seen how important a strong bullpen can be as well as how much it can hurt if the bullpen struggles. Even with Joe Nathan out for the entire 2010 season, the Twins went into the playoffs with what was believed to be solid, deep bullpen.
However, that group in the bullpen was comprised of several players who may not be in a Twins uniform in 2011 for various reasons. Here is what we know today:
Joe Nathan - We know that the Twins will be paying the veteran closer $11.25 million for the 2011 season even if we can't confidently predict how good and how healthy he will be.
Matt Capps - He has a year of arbitration left. Looking historically at closers in their final arbitration year, it is likely that Capps could demand somewhere between $7 and $9 million in 2011. He was solid in 2010, and he would provide insurance should Nathan not be ready. He is prone to allowing plenty of base runners.
Jesse Crain - Despite the hanging slider to Mark Teixeira in Game 1, Crain proved himself to be one of baseball's better relievers through most of the 2010 season. He is a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could make $3 to $3.5 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines it, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. After his season, it is likely that Crain could command a three or four year contract at an average of $3.5 to 4 million a season.
Jon Rauch - He was solid as the Twins closer through most of the season's first half. Very hittable, but he racked up good save totals. He was also so bad late in the first half and early in the second half that the Twins had to trade their most big-league ready prospect for Capps. He also would be a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could earn as much as $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. He could likely get a two year contract in the neighborhood of $5 million.
Matt Guerrier - Guerrier has racked up the relief appearances over the last four years. He has remained remarkably durable. He has also pitched at a very good level, well enough that he would be a Type A free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration, and he accepted, he could earn $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get the signing team's first round pick next summer (unless the signing team owns one of the first 15 picks in draft, in which case, the Twins would receive their 2nd round pick) and a supplemental first round pick. Because he isn't a strikeout pitcher, Guerrier could struggle to find a team willing to give up and early draft pick to sign him. If the Twins do not offer him arbitration, Guerrier could probably sign a two year deal worth between $6 and 7 million total.
Brian Fuentes - The Twins got a good one when they acquired Fuentes from the Angels. The 35 year old southpaw was amazing against left-handed bats. He led the league in Saves in 2009 and recorded 25 saves with the Angels in 2010 before the trade. He made $9 million in 2010. He becomes a Type B free agent because his 2011 option would only vest with 55 games finished (he finished 35 total in 2010). If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepts, the Twins would likely pay him between $9 and 10 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would gain a supplemental 1st round pick next summer. If the Twins do not offer arbitration, he could sign with a team needing a closer and get two years and $14-15 million. Or, if all teams see him as an 8th inning lefty type, he could still get two years and $8-9 million.
Clay Condrey, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay - We have to assume that these free agents will not be back with the Twins in 2011, and if so, it would be like Mahay's minor league deal signed late in spring training.
Pat Neshek - He made $650,000 in 2010, his first arbitration year. If he is offered arbitration, he likely would be in the $650,000 to $750,000 range. If not, he would become a free agent.
Glen Perkins - Perkins got enough time in 2010 with the Twins to make himself arbitration-eliglble this offseason, a year later than he wanted. He would probably make $750,000 in arbitration, if offered.
Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Lugo - These pitchers all have less major league service time than required to be arbitration eligible, so they would make about the league minimum, around $420,000. Mijares would likely be closer to $450,000-500,000.
More to Consider:
- The Twins bullpen generally consists of six and sometimes seven relievers, including the closer.
- Joe Nathan is pretty much untradable right now. Until he proves he is healthy, the assumption must be that he will be paid by the Twins.
- There are free agent bullpen options left and right, many of whom will be available and looking for a job as spring training approaches. So your bullpen does not completely need to be filled by the above players.
- It cost top prospect Wilson Ramos to acquire Matt Capps from the Nationals. There is no way that the Twins would non-tender Capps. But think about this; would you rather have Matt Capps at $8 million, or bring back Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at a combined $7 million? Would you rather pay Capps $8 million. Could the Twins trade Capps before arbitration to bring back more young talent?
- How much money should the Twins tie up in the bullpen? Potentially $20 million is locked up between Nathan and Capps. If we assume a $110 or even $120 million payroll, how many dollars should the bullpen cost?
- With that in mind, would you rather have Capps at $8 million or JJ Hardy $6 million and a veteran, right-handed bench bat who could spell Justin Morneau at 1B for $2 million?
- If the Twins bring back Carl Pavano and pay him $9 million in 2010, there could be a starter or two who would pitch out of the bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will be in the rotation. Scott Baker will get a big pay raise in 2011, so he should start. Nick Blackburn's salary jumps up to $3 million in 2011. Kevin Slowey could get $2 million or so in his first year of arbitration. Without a trade, there are six starters right there, and one would likely get pushed to the bullpen.
- And that doesn't even take into account a couple of pretty strong starting pitching prospects in Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg, both of which could be ready by June for the big leagues. It also doesn't factor in a couple of very hard-throwing bullpen arms who could be ready soon like Carlos Gutierrez or Billy Bullock.
So, if you're the GM, and you have to worry about a payroll, and you alone have the final call on the Twins roster, what does it look like? Which free agents do you offer arbitration? Which do you want back? Which young pitchers do you want to be on the big league roster? How do you make it all work?
The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is now available for pre-order at just $4.95 for the first 500 copies sold THIS WEEK. To learn more about the entire Twins roster, all the questions they have to ask, and the options that they may have, this is a must-have electronic book. We will look at the 40 man roster decisions, outline the entire Organizational Depth chart, review the cases for and against the many Twins players eligible for arbitration, look at the Twins players who can become free agents, look at other players around the league who will be available via free agency as well as potential trade targets. This book is as comprehensive as it gets. If you're not convinced, you can get last year's version for FREE as a sample of what you will be getting.
PODCASTS – Last night, John and Seth were both on Fanatic Jack’s podcast and we talked about all of the Twins free agents and arbitration-eligibles and some possible trade candidates. It was a lot of fun and if you have a chance, please listen to it here. Of course, if you missed Seth's podcast on Tuesday night, you can listen to that here.
- Parker asked, Did Cuddyer's Knee Diminish his Power?
- Nick ponders whether the Twins missed out by not acquiring Cliff Lee.
- John discusses The Pavano Dilemma.
- Seth cast his vote for the AL Manager of the Year.
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