The Twins are at a crossroads for the 2008 offseason with Johan Santana entering the final year of his contract, Torii Hunter becoming a free agent and plenty of young talent due raises. Here's my blueprint for how to attack the offseason.
Sure, it's short on details. I didn't research all the trade possibilities and salaries, but this is the bigger picture outline. It's kind of a rebuttal to the 2008 offseason wish list on Nick & Nick's Twins Blog. Love their story, but disagree with the plan. Here's mine:
1. Keep Johan Santana
Try all offseason to sign him to a long-term deal. The Twins can afford it. Payroll may climb to $100 million by 2010 with the new stadium. They can back-load the deal.
Sure he may take up 20 percent of the payroll, but he's worth it. Santana has been the most durable pitcher in the majors the last four seasons. Having an ace like him makes it possible to win it all. Get hitters, keep Santana. If you get 1/2 the potential trade value in July if he's not going to re-sign, worth the shot. This team can seriously contend if the right hitters are brought in. And they have the pitching prospects to make that happen.
2. Let Torii Hunter go
This one will hurt since the minor league system is devoid of hitting help. But he's 33 and a 5-year deal will be an albatross in year five and beyond.
Maybe revenues keep growing that the money won't look so bad in a few years (kind of like how Johnny Damon's 4-year, $52 million Yankees deal doesn't look bad now), but Hunter just isn't that great a hitter to think he'll be worth the money in his decline phase.
Offer him a four-year deal at $60 million max. Maybe a two year $36 million deal. Go to like $18 mil a year for a one-to-three year deal if he really wants to come back. But if the Rangers or whoever are going to give him five years at $15 million-plus a year ... let him walk.
3. Trade pitching prospects for two impact hitters.
The Twins have nine pitching prospects almost any other organization would trade for:
I know you can never have enough pitching, but let's say 4 of these are traded for two impact hitters.
Throw them in a hat. I don't care who returns, the Twins will have a good staff whichever of these guys you subtract.
Here are some good trade targets:
Let's just say for the sake of argument these two deals happen:
Kevin Slowey and Jeff Manship for Jason Bay
Oswaldo Sosa and Anthony Swarzak for Garrett Atkins (copying Nick & Nick's trade for sake of argument)
I know this isn't very thought out, but you get the idea. Maybe it takes three pitching prospects or other throw ins. But these are the deals that need to happen.
The Twins just can't go into 2008 with such an imbalance of talent at the majors and high minors.
4. Do not under any circumstance sign Carlos Silva
The Twins have pitching prospects coming out of the woodwork. There's no reason to spend $20+ million on a replacement-level pitcher. Remember what he did in 2006 (5.94 ERA and 38 homers allowed)?
For a likely $7 million or more salary, you can get close to his production from a $350K Scott Baker or Boof Bonser.
5. Sign a replacement level center fielder, DH or third baseman (whichever the trades above don't bring in).
Sure, losing Hunter's defense will hurt.
But now there are just two holes in the lineup to fix. I believe Jason Kubel's hot September and minor league success are worth taking another shot on him.
So just one minor signing or trade here is needed.
The bar shouldn't be that high. Don't think a Tony Batista or Ramon Ortiz on the cheap can get it done.
After all that is finished, here's the lineup:
SS - Jason Bartlett
DH - Jason Kubel
C - Joe Mauer
LF - Jason Bay
1B - Justin Morneau
3B - Garrett Atkins
RF - Michael Cuddyer
CF - free agent
2B - Punto/Casilla
SP1 - Johan Santana
SP2 - Matt Garza
SP3 - Francisco Liriano
SP4 - Scott Baker
SP5 - Boof Bonser
That's a team that can seriously contend for the world series in 2008. And there are still several pitching prospects vying for spots on the roster to bolster the bullpen (which is still good as everyone is back). The future hasn't been mortgaged. The payroll works.
Try to sign Morneau and Cuddyer to extensions. Take Nathan's $6 million 2008 option (duh). It would pain me to see Nick Punto in an everyday lineup again, but if all these moves are made, his bat will be an afterthought.
The trades are the hard part of the equation, but the Twins have the ammo. It's a very thin free agent market this offseason. It's a seller's market. The Twins could make a plan like this happen.