Twins Free Agent Pickup Options

We all by now know the positions the Twins really, really need to address. In fact, it’s basically everywhere across the diamond in some way, shape, or form.

Today’s post will hopefully shine some light on who I’d like to target on the free agent market as the Twins look to get back to their 90-win selves next season. Next post will focus on a few trade targets the Twins should peek at.

Below you’ll find a number of lists. First will be the position of need, and beneath that will be a list in order of the guys I think the Twins should target, ranging from slam-dunk pickup to ‘meh, take a flyer on the guy’.

*Writer’s note: I used a FanGraphs database for free agents to-be that will be released soon. I compiled the data, and can say for sure that it’s a very cool feature that’ll be up on our website very soon!

Catcher:
1. Ryan Doumit
2. Kelly Shoppach
3. Ramon Hernandez
4. Jose Molina
5. Chris Snyder

Doumit only really makes sense if the Twins are serious about changing Joe Mauer’s position. He’s probably the only every day caliber catcher that’s likely to be available via free agency. I like Shoppach because he could add a little pop off the bench, and is considered to be defensively sound. Hernandez, Molina, and Snyder are all intriguing because they had relatively good years with the stick, and aren’t likely to command too much money. This will be a recurring theme as the Twins likely will have a tight-ish budget this offseason.

Middle Infield:
1. Aaron Hill
2. Kelly Johnson
3. Nick Punto
4. Jamey Carroll
5. Ramon Santiago

Hill could be a good buy-low candidate, though as a right-handed bat whose value is largely attributed to power, he may struggle to regain his form at Target Field. Still, he and Johnson should receive lower than market value contracts coming off subpar seasons, so they may be worth a look. Punto and Carroll both offer good discipline at the plate, with Nick carrying the superior leather. Santiago rounds out the list as a sigh-inducing option, but one the Twins have allegedly been considering internally already.

Corner Type (1B/3B):
1. Derrek Lee
2. Casey Blake
3. Wilson Betemit
4. Jerry Hairston Jr.
5. Felipe Lopez

The Twins don’t really need a corner option, so this list of names is contingent on a few things. One is if the club deals Danny Valencia, though it’s likely they’d promote from within – perhaps Trevor Plouffe – if this were the case. Similarly, if the club doesn’t trust Morneau to be ready at any point in 2012, it may just put Mauer at first base to cut its losses. However, Lee and Blake are intriguing for a few reasons. Lee really found himself again in Pittsburgh, and is a solid right-handed bat on a team desperate for another one (or three). Blake is a decent buy-low type, as he can fill in at third or first and shouldn’t require too big or long of a financial commitment. Hairston Jr. and Lopez are strictly utility types.

Outfielder:
1. Coco Crisp
2. Josh Willingham
3. Michael Cuddyer
4. Jason Kubel
5. Andruw Jones
6. Grady Sizemore
7. Kosuke Fukudome
8. Laynce Nix
9. Scott Hairston
10. J.D. Drew

It’s truly hard to gauge which way the club will go with the outfield. The Twins could go the ultra cheap route, and employ an outfield of Revere-Span-Plouffe and use its munitions to address a pitching staff and bullpen that needs a bit of revamping, but there also should be some bargains to be had on a relatively deep list of outfield talents.

I, for one, love Crisp’s skill set, and think he’d be a nice player to pair with Span in the outfield and atop the batting order. He can really go get it in the outfield, which is something that would be necessary if the team loads up on fly ball pitchers as I’ll suggest later. Willingham is just overall solid, with a right-handed bat and pretty good discipline to boot. If the price is right, he could easily fill Cuddyer’s spot in the lineup. We all know all this is to be known about Cuddyer and Kubel; the price will likely be prohibitive on Cuddyer, and it’s far from a sure-thing that Kubel wants to return. I don’t think either comes back.

Past the former Twins is where the intrigue really sets in. Jones pounds lefties and had a pretty good overall slash-line this season. He could man a corner cheaply, or at the very least be a lefty pounder on a team starving for just that. Sizemore’s the kind of pickup I illustrated in a previous article this week when I talked about teams advancing deep in the playoffs. Those teams need a player to sort of come out of nowhere and exceed expectations, and I think Sizemore could be that guy. Still, interest will likely be high on him, and will drive his price up a la Russell Martin last offseason, so it’s unlikely the Twins will be in on him. As for the rest, I love Fukudome’s plate discipline, Nix and Hairston’s power, and the notion of buying low on Drew.

Starting Pitcher:
1. Roy Oswalt
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Jeff Francis
4. Javier Vazquez
5. Rich Harden

In my view, Oswalt is the best and most viable option for the Twins to pursue if the club wants a top-of-the-rotation starter at a reasonable price and duration. I contemplated including Buehrle, but I think he’ll have a steep market of suitors. I find Dempster intriguing due to his age and strikeouts; he’ll be 35 early in ’12 and thus unlikely to command a long deal, and he’s fanned 8.5 and 8.7 per nine the last two years. Francis had a much better xFIP and FIP than his ERA, and while I don’t love his rates, I think a lefty groundballer with a pretty good defense – something I’d certainly expect the Twins to improve upon this offseason – has potential to be a good back-end type. Vazquez is the current active strikeout leader in the major leagues, so you can easily figure why I like him. With Harden, I’ve always fancied his skill-set, and think at worst he could be converted into a power reliever. He’ll maybe end up back in Oakland, anyway.

Relief Pitcher:
1. Joe Nathan
2. Michael Wuertz
3. Jason Frasor
4. Rafael Betancourt
5. Frank Francisco
6. Joel Peralta
7. Jonathan Broxton
8. Juan Cruz
9. Matt Belisle
10. George Sherrill/Mitch Stetter

My reliever list is comprised of bringing back Nathan if the price is right, Wuertz as a reclamation project, a handful of useful strikeout types that shouldn’t command insane deals, and the last two are a pair of LOOGYs, which might make sense if the club can build itself into a contender, which I unpopularly think it can do.

When it comes to minor league free agency and the Rule-5 draft, I really want to see the Twins target strikeout guys that could carve out a niche in the bullpen cheaply, and maybe a middle infielder that is worth a look. If the Twins want to have a good offseason on a reasonable dime, there are certainly minor league free agents out there worth pursuing, rather than the Eric Hacker’s of the world.

What are your thoughts, faithful readers?

About Brandon Warne

Sportswriter trying to make it.
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One Response to Twins Free Agent Pickup Options

  1. Al Damlo says:

    A birdie told me that the Twins are to be at $92-$96M for a payroll this year. Boss’ orders. This number is very disconcerning to me. With the Twins drawing 3,168,116 fans last year there seems to be no reason to me to cut this payroll from last years $112,318,000.00 payroll number. This $16-20M cut could add a couple if not a few or more solid players to this team.

    Here is what the Twins have committed for next year.

    Current 25 Man Roster, and payroll amount, with no free agent signings:
    C: Mauer, $23M
    C: Butera, $865K* Team Control Financial Est.
    1B: Morneau, $14M
    2B: Nishioka, $3M
    3B: Valencia, $865K* Team Control Financial Est.
    SS: Casilla, $1.1M* Arbitration Est.
    LF: Revere, $429K* Team Control Financial Est.
    CF: Span, $3M
    RF: Benson, $429K* Team Control Financial Est.
    INF: Hughes, $429K* Team Control Financial Est.
    INF: Tolbert, $849K*Arbitration Est.
    INF/OF: Plouffe, $429K* Team Control Financial Est.
    OF: Tosoni, $429K

    SP: Pavano, $8.5M
    SP: Liriano, $5.8*Arbitration Est.
    SP: Baker, $6.5M
    SP: Blackburn, $4.75M
    SP: Slowey, $3.4M*Arbitration Est.
    RP: Perkins, $1.35M*Arbitration Est.
    RP: Burnett, $429K
    RP: Mijares, $895K*Arbitration Est.
    RP: Duensing, $517K* Team Control Financial Est.
    RP: Swarzak, $429K
    RP: Hoey, $429K
    RP: Slama, $429K

    This puts the Twins at $82M which leaves $10-$14M in play money. That doesn’t lend much help and counts on the development of several players… and let’s not forget the health of our 2 best players.

    From an outfield standpoint I don’t see the Twins not making a serious offer for Cuddyer. Assuming health, 3 of the first4 hitters are left handed. Cuddyer offers a stabilizing element to the line-up… so would Willingham but without the position flexibility and clubhouse leadership. ~$6.5M Allocated

    Middle infield is a big need but with a couple of young guys pushing for the SS spot I wouldn’t doubt if the Twins stand pat here, especially with the cost of this position and the general lack of production that comes from it (IE, JJ Hardy… never mind). $0M Allocated

    The corner infielders are really not a terrible need as long as Morneau is healthy. That is a big if, but one that the Twins are counting on and will probably put as a reason for not addressing these spots. $0M Allocated

    The catcher spot is one that we just won’t spend money on unless it is a guy like Doumit who can play 1B & RF, albeit at a very bottom of the rung level. Hence the nickname “No Mitt” Doumit. With $23M+ committed to the catcher position I doubt anymore will be allocated to it. ~$0M Allocated

    There may be a chance for the Twins to spend some money on a solid utility guy that can play defense at a few positions, especially SS, and have a better bat than Tolbert. The carrot would be a chance to challenge for an everyday SS position. If this guy is around for $1M or less than great, allocate $1M for that guy.

    Starting pitching… oh, where do we start. The interesting thing will be Kevin Slowey. Do the Twins give him a shot at the #5 spot one more time? With Swarzak becoming one of “Gardy’s Guy’s” he will also get a shot at it. There may be a veteran that Billy will bring in to give innings to this shaky rotation but at the same point this is the same rotation that helped win 94 games in 2010. That fact can’t be ignored and unless we can get a Dempster-type in the $4-5M range the Twins will pass on anything noteworthy here.

    The bullpen will be addressed but probably not by anyone on your list unless we catch Nathan and his agent at a moment of weakness. Nathan stuff looked really good at the end of 2011 and he will still command $7M+. A 2 year/ $15M or 3 year/$21M sounds about right. He will get closer-type money. That being said, I just don’t know if he is in our range. He may be though. With the replacement level relievers coming through our system we may want to spend some money here. $6.5M Allocated

    If the payroll numbers are accurate and the maximum payroll rumor is true then the Twins are in a really tough spot. Here’s hoping for better things in 2012.

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