Somehow, in the span of one season, a 96 win team fell apart and became a 63 win ball club. Especially a team that had not won so few games since the previous decade began. So, as the World Series heads into his final games, we begin to speculate about what the 2012 Minnesota Twins should/will look like. But, as I mentioned in my previous post, it may be until 2013 before we get a glimpse of that 96 win team again.
First of all, the Twins have to get their middle infield straightened out. I believe the last time the starting two middle infielders were in consecutive opening day lineups were Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. And since then, it has been a revolving door at both positions. Perhaps none better than the 2010 tandem of Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy. Last year, we saw Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka get the nod up the middle. Both spent time battling inconsistent play and trips to the disabled list. And heading into 2012, it would appear that the Twins will once again have a different pair up the middle. But, will they have a player, or two, that can be mainstays at those positions beyond next season?
But, the main problem with the team is pitching. And this will be perhaps the area that has minimal change going into 2012. The team has four starters (Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, and Nick Blackburn) under contract for 2012. They also have noted starters Brian Duensing and Kevin Slowey, but their future roles with the team are up in the air right now. But after 2012, Pavano ($8.5M contract in '12) and Liriano ('12 is final year of arbitration, '11 salary was $4.3M) are set to become free agents, while Baker has a $9.25M team option for '13 as well. So then the Twins could be willing to make a big free agent splash on a pitcher (Notable FA P's include Matt Cain, Zack Greinke, and Cole Hamels), while allowing young guns such as Liam Hendriks, Anthony Swarzak, and Kyle Gibson (if his recovery from TJ surgery goes well) to fill some rotation spots.
Also, the bullpen remains in big disarray, but this is an easier fix than the rotation. Heading into 2012, the Twins have Glen Perkins as the only solid returning member. Players such as Joe Nathan and Matt Capps are free agents this year. The bullpen will also feature players such as Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, and Lester Oliveros who will still be under contract, but their status beyond 2012 should be based on their performance, given how 2011 went for them. There is no shortage of relievers out there either on the free agent market or available for trade, so this is why the bullpen should be a smaller priority right now.
It was not easy watching the Twins in 2011. And going into 2012, it may not be easy watching them again unless the front office goes crazy and somehow fills the team needs this winter. So I wouldn't expect much from the Twins in 2012. Expect good things from them in 2013...