Cupcakes and Free Agents

While 1-11-11 may not technically qualify as an official “Cupcake Day“, we’re declaring it to be an Honorary Cupcake Day. Why? Because we don’t think anyone should have to wait another ten months for cupcakes!

Speaking of cupcakes… and having to wait… has anyone else noticed that the list of serviceable free agents who wouldn’t be considered “cupcakes” themselves has been reduced to a very short list?

At the beginning of the free agency period, MLBTradeRumors.com published their list of “Top 50 Free Agents” on the market. Thirty-nine of that Top 50 have found new teams… none of them with the Twins. Yesterday, MLBTR listed their “Top 10 Remaining Free Agents” (and noted Johnny Damon is the eleventh and final player on the list).

Today, I thought it might be interesting (even if rather pointless), to take a glance at the list to see how many might potentially still fit in the Twins’ plans for 2011.

  1. Rafael Soriano: Yeah right… dream on. The Twins won’t (and shouldn’t) spend big money to fill their remaining relief pitcher roles. Nathan and Capps already will account for about $20 million in salary (that’s almost half what the Padres plan to spend on their entire payroll this season!).
  2. Carl Pavano: We keep hearing the Twins and ‘Stache are “close” to a deal. I’m still not convinced it’s ideal to bring him back, but as I’ve said before, at this point, the only thing worse than re-signing Pavano might be NOT re-signing Pavano. Get it done, Mr. Smith.
  3. Jim Thome: Bill Smith says the Twins are still hoping to re-sign Thome, but the Rangers are also interested, now. Personally, it seems like both the Twins and Rangers should probably be looking for right-handed bats that could play some defense in a pinch, but my heart would still like to see Thome in a Twins uniform one more year. He’s not an ideal fit for the Twins, but he wasn’t last year either when he was signed. And the Twins DO need a bench bat… desperately.
  4. Vladimir Guerrero: Being righthanded makes Vlad a slightly better fit for the Twins than Thome, perhaps. But anyone who watched him try to play the outfield in the World Series last year knows that he wouldn’t really bring much, if anything, more to the defensive side of the equation than Thome would.
  5. Manny Ramirez: Fortunately, Manny is probably still looking for a full-time DH job and wouldn’t want to come to a situation where he’d be platooning with Jason Kubel. As much as it might be entertaining to see him with the Twins at times and he can still occasionally hit a ball very hard, let’s just say “no”, OK?
  6. Andy Pettite: The “Brett Favre” of Major League Baseball. Nobody knows if he’ll play in 2011 yet, but we know it won’t be with the Twins if he does.
  7. Brian Fuentes: He still gets linked to various teams every few days but is it possible his options are dwindling far enough that he’d re-sign with the Twins for an affordable amount? Probably not… but I can’t help but like the idea of having his left arm available late in games in addition to (or instead of?) Jose Mijares’. Fuentes wants an opportunity to close, but there really aren’t many teams left who are in a position to hand him that job. The best he may get is an opportunity to compete for a late-inning role in Spring Training… and the Twins can offer him that.
  8. Kevin Millwood: He’s thrown over 190 innings each of the past couple of years, so he could be considered Pavano-lite, but you really have to ask yourself if he’d be a real upgrade over any of the Twins’ existing starting pitchers. I personally don’t think so.
  9. Grant Balfour: Could Balfour return to the Twins? No, probably not. It’s not that he’d be a bad option to fill one of those open spots in the bullpen, but his Type A status means that, in addition to a pretty significant salary, he would cost the Twins their first round draft choice. No way the Twins would give that up for Balfour… nor should they.
  10. Scott Podsednik: Early in the post-season, I suggested the Twins find a way to upgrade their outfield defense. Podsednik might have been one option for doing so, though he wouldn’t have been at the top of my list of possibilities. For one thing, he’s lefthanded and the Twins already list a bit to the portside. That said, in a perfect world, I’d certainly take Pods over Jason Repko on my roster. Not gonna happen, though.
  11. Johnny Damon: This isn’t gonna happen either. Not only is Damon also a lefty, like Podsednik, but he wouldn’t even be an upgrade defensively in the outfield for the Twins… and that says a lot.

So, in the end, it comes down to this… with about $100 million already committed to the 2011 payroll, the Twins could have room to sign a couple of the remaining “Top 50″ free agents, even if it’s just players from last year’s roster that would be returning. Of course, we don’t know for sure what the payroll target is and we don’t know whether the Twins are negotiating extensions with arbitration-eligible players (like Francisco Liriano or Delmon Young perhaps?) that would add to their 2011 total.

Absent the possible signing of any of these players, the Twins will need to fill out the rest of their roster by promoting from within (Seth Stohs suggests Luke Hughes, perhaps?) or looking to the bargain bin for… well… cupcakes. Maybe they could wring a productive year out of a Troy Glaus or Marcus Thames on the cheap.

Let’s hope Bill Smith isn’t really on vacation… in fact, maybe he’s already got Pavano, Thome and Fuentes signed and he’s just waiting to make a big splashy announcement right before TwinsFest! OK… I know… probably not. Ah well.

- JC