Minnesota Twins 2011 blueprint

Published 9:00 am Thursday, November 25, 2010

Column: Jon Laging, Talking Sports

The Minnesota Twins are in the off season and they got there way too soon. However, they did have a good year and in my opinion were the best team in the American League. Gardenhire with his two-year extension has three years to convince the Twins that they can beat the Yankees.

Jon Laging

Will they be a championship type team next year? I think they can. Dave St. Peter, President of the Twins announced that they would be able to match this year’s payroll and more.

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Our Twins’ payroll is getting up there with the big boys. Only six teams will pay their players as much or more. The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and the New York Mets. This is a little hard to get used to. Our mind-set has always been used to the low payroll scrappy Twins. Of course, if we pay more, we expect more. Let’s take a cold hard money look at next year’s Twins

The payroll with a 10 percent increase would be $110 million. Let’s lead off with Joe Mauer at $23 million. Then Justin Morneau at $13 million. If I were the general manager, I’d consider keeping Orlando Hudson at second base. He seemed to be one of the few players on the Twins that was not intimidated by the Yankees. However the word is that Gardy doesn’t like him, if that is true, forget Hudson. In that case our second baseman is Alexi Casilla, much cheaper at $800,000. If the Twins use Casilla at second they will probably keep J.J. Hardy at shortstop. Both Gardenhire and St. Peter are talking about more speed on the team and are pinpointing shortstop. So it appears Hardy is not a done deal at short, however I hope they keep him. Hardy did not hit as well as his all-star years, but better than most major league shortstops and according to the statisticians of the game, covered the most ground of American league shortstops. Let’s say he stays. That’s $6.5 million. Third baseman Danny Valencia is a no-brainer at $450,000. Rightfielder Michael Cuddyer is due $10.5 million this year. I think Cuddyer is a very average fielder and hitter. The Twins to my mind have a below average outfield. One way to change this is to put Ben Revere in Center, Delmon Young with his good arm in Right and Denard Span in Left. This will immediately upgrade the Twins to an average to above average outfield with the only weak link in right field. Without Cuddyer that outfield will cost $6.65 milion. Jason Kubel is our DH at $5.25 million. Bench sitters Jason Repco outfielder at $750,000 with Drew Butera catcher and Matt Tolbert utility man totaling $900,000 together.

The pitching staff is as follows: Francisco Liriano $4.5 million, Scott Baker $5 million, Kevin Slowly $2.5 million, Brian Duensing $450,000, Joe Nathan $12.5 million, Jesse Cain $3 million, Jose Mijares $450,000.

The total payroll with the above 20 players is $85.5 million leaving $25 million to fill two position players and three pitchers. In order to get to $85.5 million I had to trade Cuddyer and his $10.5 million. The Twins should not expect to receive much for Cuddyer. It would be primarily a salary dump. I didn’t re-sign Thome and the Twins should, provided they can get him for about $3 million. Blackburn would not have much trade value either and if they can get more for Kevin Slowey — do it. They have similar contracts. Relief pitchers are prevalent this year, but I have no objection to either Rauch, Capps, Guerrier, particularly Capps if Nathan doesn’t work out, coming back at a reasonable amount. However the Twins’ primary need is a dominating right-handed pitcher and a strong right-handed bat. With the above scenario and the $25 million it provides, there is enough money to accomplish this. A little scary, but possible.