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Thursday, August 4, 2011

2012: Who Stays and Who Goes?

The coming offseason is shaping up to be very interesting, at least from the standpoint of Twins fans. Howard Sinker from the Star Tribune posted today on the subject of Michael Cuddyer's future, and other bloggers have begun to turn their attention to 2012. I guess this is what happens when your team has settled comfortably into 4th place and looks like it's not going anywhere. For what it's worth, here's my take on a few moves the Twins should make, and not make, during what will likely be one of the most interesting and active offseasons in recent memory.

Michael Cuddyer: Keep him if you can. Boy, he started off slow. Painfully slow. But he really has turned it on, and, as in past seasons, has filled in admirably at other positions. The Twins decided not to trade Cuddyer at the deadline, despite interest from teams such as the Phillies and Giants, and thereafter indicated that they would like to re-sign the "Magic Man." What will it take? I wouldn't pay more that $8-9 million a year for 2-3 years. Despite the fact that Cuddyer is leading the Twins in many offensive categories, his career has peaked. We have been fortunate that he has not been injured this year, but that will not necessarily be the case as he continues to age. If Cuddyer gets an offer of $10-15 million on the open market, and if he elects not to give the Twins a "discount," then he should take the larger payday and I wish him well. If he will forgo some money in order to finish his career in Minnesota, then I would like to keep him around. On the subject of Cuddyer, I'll close with this, which is something I have mentioned before: If Cuddyer stays with the Twins, and if they are fortunate enough to win a World Series during this time, I would not be at all surprised to see the #5 retired. The Twins reward loyalty, and Cuddyer's career (with a World Series ring) would be, in many respects, similar to that of Kent Hrbek's.

Delmon Young: A corollary to Cuddyer staying in Minnesota is that there would exist a surplus of outfielders. Delmon should go. Yes, this has the potential of being another David Ortiz situation, but I wouldn't bet on it. Young has shown nothing this season to suggest that 2010 was anything but a fluke and career year. And aside from 2010, the Twins have little to show from Young's four seasons here. Letting Young walk will give the Twins an opening in left field, which could be filled by Ben Revere, if the Twins do indeed believe he is a part of their future plans. It will also free up significant payroll room.

Matt Capps: Have a clubhouse assistant help pack his bags, hail him a taxi, and call it a day.

Jim Thome: Barring further injury, he will hit his 600th home run in a Twins uniform this season. Hopefully that will propel him to retire. Last year, Thome was a great deal financially for the Twins, and stayed remarkably healthy. This year, not so much. Not that he has been bad, but he simply hasn't stayed healthy enough to be able to make as significant of contributions as he did in 2010. Let me state, though, that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him in a Twins uniform, and I think that the decision to re-sign him in 2011 was correct, especially considering the glut of injuries the Twins faced this year. I hope Thome retires after this season, but if he elects to play another year, I would expect him to sign elsewhere.

Joe Nathan: This is a tough one. He has looked very good the past several weeks, and is on the cusp of breaking the record for saves by a Minnesota Twin, a record he absolutely deserves and has earned through years of consistent great performance. The first question is should the Twins exercise his 2012 option for $12.5 million? I think the answer there is a clear "no." If the Twins agree, and buy out his option for $2 million, where do the parties go from there? Should they try to negotiate with Nathan to have him come back at a reduced rate? Should they just let him walk and thank him for his fantastic career? The fact that the Twins were trying to deal for Nationals' closer Drew Storen suggests that the front office may believe that Nathan's days in Minnesota, at least as a closer, are coming to an end. In my heart, I'd like to see Nathan and the Twins reach a compromise that would allow him to stay in MN, for something around $5-6 million (plus the $2 million the Twins would pay to buy out his option). My brain suggests that, if Nathan continues to pitch well the rest of the season, some team, somewhere, will take a chance on him as their closer. As we have seen this year, though, a quality bullpen is not a given, and the front office has some work ahead of them to re-construct the Twins' bullpen.

There are many more decisions that must be made, and I'm sure I'll get to those in due course. As you can see, the 2011 offseason will present a headache for the front office. I wish I had more confidence in Bill Smith to make "correct," or at least intelligent decisions, but what can you do as a fan sometimes besides hope that Smith reads Twins blogs?

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