Monday, February 7, 2011

Summing up the Twins Offseason

Earlier today, Jerry Crasnick from ESPN, graded the AL Central teams on their respective offseasons. This is how we summed up the Twins offseason:

"If you proceed under the assumption that the Twins have the most talent in the division and had the least work to do this winter, they fared OK. They brought back Carl Pavano for a guaranteed two years and $16.5 million -- a reasonable investment for a guy who pitched 217 innings. They also fended off a challenge from the Texas Rangers to re-sign Jim Thome. He's beloved in the clubhouse, and will help sell a few tickets and generate some feel-good vibes on his journey from 589 to 600 home runs.

There's some upheaval up the middle, where the double-play combination of Orlando Hudson and J.J. Hardy gives way to Alexi Casilla at shortstop and Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second base. Or will Nishioka play short with Casilla at second? That question will play out in spring training in Florida.

Joe Nathan's return as closer will help enormously, and Matt Capps is a capable setup man. But Minnesota's relief contingent ranked fourth in the league with a 3.49 ERA, and the bullpen took a hit with the departure of Guerrier, Crain, Rauch and Fuentes.

Finally, the Twins go to spring training with first baseman Justin Morneau's concussion issues lingering over the team. Michael Cuddyer is available to shift to first and Jason Kubel can slot into right field. But how much does manager Ron Gardenhire want to be leaning a lot on a 40-year-old Thome at DH?"

Crasnick went on to give the Twins offseason grade a C. But I think that is too generous of a grade for Bill Smith. You may recall that at the end of last season I blogged about some team needs for 2011. I said that the Twins need to bring in a power arm (starter or reliever) and a right handed power bat because they fall victim to the Yankees left handed starters come October. Two things they did not do a good job of acquiring.

Yes, Jim Hoey (acquired in the J.J. Hardy trade) is projected to be a power arm. But I was hoping for a more proven power arm out of the bullpen. And the Twins will rely on Michael Cuddyer and Delmon Young as their right handed power bats. I can see the case for Delmon Young who is coming off a great 2010. But Cuddyer's power numbers dropped off significantly from 2009 to 2010. And his $10.5 million salary for 2011 probably prevented the Twins from adding another significant right handed bat. So I can't consider him to be a decent right handed bat for 2011.

And as for that bullpen, the Twins now have more needs than they left us in 2010. Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes all left via free agency. And replacing them will be Hoey, Scott Diamond (Rule 5 draft pick), Eric Hacker (Free agent signee), and Anthony Slama. All bring serious question marks into 2011. And don't forget Joe Nathan returns from Tommy John surgery and his effectiveness is questionable.

So if I had to grade the Twins offseason, they would get a 'D'. They did not add a decent arm to the bullpen, they let them all leave. And they did not add that right handed power bat I felt they needed. Their "big move" was signing Japanese star Tsuyoshi Nishioka to play up the middle. He has serious question marks too. And if you look at what the Tigers and White Sox did, the Twins have serious work cut out for them. The White Sox moves now puts them in a big position to not only be Central favorites, but AL favorites. But the past two years, Bill Smith has made some effective moves mid season to help the club down the stretch. Lets hope he can do that again. And hope for a minor miracle from the bullpen...or else its going to be a long year.

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