By Matt Tschida
Part 1: C/1B
Part 2: 2B/SS/3B
Starter: Jason Kubel
Backup: Joe Mauer, Justin Moreneau
Starter: Justin Morneau/Joe Mauer/Free Agent/Trevor Plouffe
Backup: Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes
I don’t really see the Twins going out and signing someone to come in and be their everyday designated hitter. There are a handful of decent free agent DH options—Johnny Damon, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome—but I think they’ll have a rotation of players filling in this role. There is a chance Jim Thome comes back for a third season, but I think if he opts to continue playing, he’ll find a team that he views as more ready to contend for a championship. I believe the Twins should and will offer Jason Kubel arbitration, but I think he’ll decline and look for a multi-year deal, and the Twins will likely let him walk. If Kubel ends up leaving, I think that as long as the Twins can find a catcher capable of holding his own at the plate—ideally Ramon Hernandez or Ryan Doumit—then said catcher would likely split time with Mauer and Morneau at DH. If Kubel ends up returning to the Twins, he'll probably get the majority of the ABs at DH, but he could also end up playing more right field if Cuddyer doesn’t come back. I do think Trevor Plouffe can contribute 15-20 games at DH throughout the season, unless he finds an everyday position in the field.
Another option for the Twins could be Derek Lee. Lee doesn’t have a whole lot left, but if he is interested in coming to the Twins similar to the way Thome did 2 years ago (a 1-year deal for $1-$2 million as a bench player capable of working his way into the regular lineup). Lee has hit at least 19 HRs in each of the last 5 seasons, so there is some pop left in his bat.
Starter: LF: Ben Revere, CF: Denard Span, RF: Michael Cuddyer
Backup: Jason Kubel, Jason Repko, Rene Tosoni, Trevor Plouffe, Joe Benson
Starter: Rene Tosoni/Trevor Plouffe, CF: Ben Revere, RF: Michael Cuddyer
Backup: Dustin Martin, Joe Benson
As you can see, I predict the 2012 outfield will have a whole new look next year. One trade I would like to see re-visited is Denard Span for Drew Storen. This deal seemed to be close the last week of July, leading up to the trade deadline, but neither side could agree on the secondary players who would be involved. As you’ll read in the Part 4 of the Twins' offseason breakdown, Drew Storen is not the same pitcher as Matt Capps. Many fans were upset the Twins were considering this trade because of how poorly Smith's trade for Capps (another former Nationals closer) had worked out. Stay tuned for Part 4, in which I'll dig further into Storen's value to the Twins.
With Denard Span out of the mix, Ben Revere will be the everyday centerfielder, and more than makes up for his extremely poor arm strength with his range and willingness to crash into walls (something Span has tended to shy away from after his concussion issues). Offensively, Revere's minor league numbers suggest that he should be able to put up similar average and on-base numbers as Span. He won’t have as many doubles and triples as Span until he gets stronger, but he'll steal twice as many bases. Many were against against the Span/Storen deal because Span is signed to a very affordable multi-year deal. He is signed for cheap, and while he is one of my favorite Twins because of his approach at the plate, he is still in the middle of the pack as far as centerfielders go. I did a quick look at the overall skill set of all 30 center fielders, and I would rank Span somewhere around 13-14 (players I have clearly ahead of him: Ellsbury, Granderson, Adam Jones, B.J. Upton, Josh Hamilton, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen, Michael Bourn, Shane Victorino, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Young, and there’s about 8 others who are pretty even with Span).
As you can see I have both Rene Tosoni and Trevor Plouffe starting in LF. I think that even though Tosoni fared better against left handed pitching in his stints with the Twins, he should be a solid hitter against right handers. Plouffe hit .308 against LHP in 84 plate appearances so he should be in the lineup against every LHP considering how the Twins have traditionally struggled against LHP. This would be the first true platoon the Twins have had since Bobby Kielty and Dustin Mohr back in 2003. I think Plouffe will move around the infield as well, but I feel like he will start mostly in the outfield.
I think the Twins will have to pay Michael Cuddyer quite a bit to stay, considering the lack of other right handed bats available on the free agent market. I believe he’ll get somewhere in the 3 years/$30 million range, which would actually be bargain for the Twins considering how much Jayson Werth signed for last season. The Twins cannot afford to lose Cuddyer because he’s the only reliable right handed bat they have. If the Twins are able to trade Span for Storen, it will not only free up the $3 million Span is due in 2012, but it will also free up at least $7 million that the Twins would need to sign a closer.
Up next: Part 4 - SP/RP