2010 Minnesota Twins: Target Giveth and Target Taketh Away
BaseballEvolution.com 2010 Spring Preview
by Keith Glab, BaseballEvolution.com
February 26, 2010
| Key Transactions |
| Acquired || Pos. |
| Orlando Hudson|| 2B|
| J.J. Hardy|| SS|
| Jim Thome|| DH|
| Clay Condrey|| RP|
| || |
| Departed || Pos. |
| Joe Crede|| 3B |
| Boof Bonser|| SP|
| Brian Buscher|| 3B |
| R.A. Dickey|| RP|
| Carlos Gomez|| CF|
| Bobby Keppell|| RP|
| Mike Redmond|| C|
The Minnesota Twins have never employed an opening day payroll as high as $72
million. Their recent history has been hallmarked by their star players
departing, but the team somehow scrapping together enough bits to compete.
This was most evident in 2008, when the club lost Johan Santana, Torii Hunter,
Jason Bartlett, Carlos Silva, and Matt Garza, yet still improved by nine wins
over the previous season.
This year is different. The revenue expected to be generated by
newly-constructed Target Field has allowed the 2010 opening day payroll to
exceed $100 million. Rather than enduring their perennial deficit of
talent, the Twins have
made three key acquisitions without losing anyone of real importance.
But they did lose some THING of great importance, and that was the HHH
Metrodome. Although it was supposedly an awful place to watch a baseball
game, the Twins made it into the greatest home field advantage east of Denver
over the years.
During manager Ron Gardenhire's tenure, the Twins were 137
games over .500 when playing at the Metrodome and 16 games under when playing
So while the Twins have ostensibly improved their
personnel, they may have needed to do that just to tread water with their home
field advantage gone.
The amount their personnel has improved is not commensurate with their
increase in payroll, though. Orlando Hudson has somehow managed to go from
being one of the most underrated fielders in baseball to one of the most
overrated in the past two years. While J.J. Hardy certainly can't be as
bad as his .659 OPS from last year, he isn't likely to be an offensive upgrade
over Orlando Cabrera. Defensively, that upgrade is significant.
Overall, Hudson and Hardy represent big gains from last year's middle infield
mess, but neither one is likely to have an All-Star season either.
While Jim Thome still swings a potent bat and will likely excel playing only
against right-handed pitching, Jason Kubel's left field defense could spell
trouble, particularly without Carlos Gomez zipping around the outfield anymore.
Denard Span is a very good fielder in his own right and a far better overall
player than Gomez, but the outfield defense takes a big hit with Gomez gone and
Kubel likely to spend more time in the field. Rumors that Michael Cuddyer
is going to serve as Span's backup in centerfield can't be true, can they?
The loss of Joe Crede doesn't help the team defense either, as the oft-injured
Crede managed to save a dozen runs defensively last year even though he only
appeared in 90 games.
The fact that the Twins' overall defense has declined is quite troubling, as
the franchise has branded its pitching staff as one that puts the ball in play
and lets their defense shine. The Twins don't have anything close to a
strikeout pitcher in their starting rotation (unless Francisco Liriano somehow
regains his pre-surgery form, but most depth charts currently show him in the
bullpen) and that could mean an awful lot of hits allowed. It could
become an even larger issue if Target Field plays like a pitcher's park.
The Metrodome depressed home run output by eight percent over the past three
seasons. If the new park allows more homers than average, every Twins
pitcher is in for a rough season.
Had his worst walk rate as a Twin in '09 and imploded in the postseason
Had 75 K and 15 BB while pitching with a bad wrist last year
|Twins Team Capsule|
We Donít Need Joe Nathan. In Detroit, Francisco Liriano continued his impressive comeback against the Tigers, running his scoreless streak to 23 innings while striking out 10 and walking one in eight innings of work. The ninth inning was pitched by Jon Rauch, the Twins replacement for the injured Joe Nathan, and all Rauch did was nail down his seventh save in eight chances, striking out two batters and running his ERA down to 1.80. Rauch has never been as dominating as his six-foot-eleven frame would imply, but the closerís role certain seems to suit him for now.
As much emphasis as the team placed on shoring up its offense, general
manager Bill Smith was convinced that a full season of Carl Pavano, more
experience for his younger pitchers, and a healthier staff overall would be
enough to upgrade the pitching. With last year's defense in last
year's ballpark, that may have been the case. As it stands now, the
rotation lacks anything resembling an ace and remains a huge question mark
The bullpen could be formidable, as there are enough strikeout
pitchers down there to neutralize the changes in ballpark and defense. Pat
Neshek and Liriano could realistically have comeback years in the bullpen and a
full year of Jon Rauch should be a plus. Clay Condrey was probably brought
in more for his World Series experience rather than his pitching ability, but
there is enough depth ahead of him to hide his weaknesses.
But the real story for the Twins this year will be their offense. These
blokes are going to score some serious runs. Last year's squad got nothing
offensively from the centerfield, second base, third base, and shortstop
positions for most of the season. This year, the only obvious hole is
third base, and there is quite a bit of depth on the roster with last year's
regulars Nick Punto and Delmon Young now serving as utility guys.
The possibility of a full season of Joe Mauer is tantalizing, but
realistically, it's hard to expect the reigning MVP to improve on his overall
value from last year. Justin Morneau, however, seems to perform better
during even seasons than odd ones for some odd reason. He, like most of
the offense, is in his late 20s, and could be primed for a big year.
To be fair, most of the pitching staff is in their prime years as well.
It may surprise some people to learn that closer Joe Nathan is 35, though.
This could be the year that he shows everybody just how rare seven straight
seasons as a dominant closer is by faltering. Even still, there may
be enough depth in the bullpen behind him for the Twins to absorb that hit,
although his contract would force the team into making some difficult choices.
It would be silly to bet against the Twins winning the AL Central now that
they are finally spending money like a first-division team. Don't expect
them to run away with it, though. The Tigers and White Sox both appear to
have improved as well, and there's no way that 87 wins clinches this division in
As usual, once these Twins get into the postseason, they will fold.
Most of the thunder in their lineup is left-handed and can be neutralized by the
better southpaws in the league. No longer playing on turf, these Twins
don't look like the kind of team that is going to manufacture runs terribly
well, either. Not that it matters, since a rotation like this won't keep
playoff teams from scoring bunches of runs.
The Twins may win their sixth division title in nine years and still get
upset due to their increased payroll and constant playoff failures.
Hopefully the novelty of the new ballpark will prevent Twins fans of the teens
to become like Braves fans of the 90s or Yankees fans of last decade.
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