Hump Day “Hmmmmm”s

Today was hump day and here’s a rundown of a few things that made me go “hmmmmm” today.

Matt Capps

Matt Capps

There’s been a lot written in Twins blogdom about the pros and cons of re-signing Matt Capps. There’s certainly room for fair debate since Capps’ history with the Twins has been inconsistent.

But here’s what makes me go “hmmmmm”… Since the announcement that the Twins would get a supplemental round draft pick in 2012 if Capps signs elsewhere, without having to offer him arbitration, there’s been almost unanimous opinion expressed that this settles the question on the side of, “don’t bring him back.” Yet, it’s not as if giving Terry Ryan extra high draft picks to work with guarantees he’ll turn them in to productive Major Leaguers.

As Nick Nelson reminds us, in 2004 Ryan had a boatload of high picks which he turned in to shortstop Trevor Plouffe and pitchers Glen Perkins, Kyle Waldrop, Matt Fox and Jay Rainville. I’m not intending to pick on any of those players or on Ryan, but merely to remind everyone that even high draft picks face long odds against becoming productive Major Leaguers.

The bottom line is that I agree that the draft pick compensation the Twins can get for Capps does make it less likely that they re-sign him, but I’m not so certain that it should.

Twins Winter Meeting Trade Market

I opined in an earlier post that the period between now and the end of the Winter Meetings may determine the Twins’ 2012 fate. Even earlier than that, I published a couple of posts containing “blueprints” for how I would go about assembling a roster for 2012 if I were GM. In fact, November has been pretty much non-stop chatter about what Terry Ryan (and before him, Bill Smith) should do. But the more I hmmmmmm, the more I’m convinced that I know what Ryan and the Twins will do over the next two weeks.

Absolutely nothing.

He doesn’t have the money to sign a Mark Buehrle or Edwin Jackson or Josh Willingham (or even a Michael Cuddyer, though he won’t come right out and say it). Most of the second and third tier of free agents aren’t going to sign anywhere until some of the top tier start signing and establishing the market rates.

Ordinarily, Ryan could make a trade or two to free up some payroll space, but he really can’t even do that for a while. There are two times you want to make meaningful trades… one is when the player(s) you are offering are at peak value and the other is when the player(s) you are offering play positions that are in high demand compared to number of options on the market. Quick, off the top of your head, how many players does Ryan have that fit either of those criteria?

If you make a list of the players Ryan could look to trade to shed salary, almost all of them are coming off “down” years. He’d be selling low on Mauer (who has a no-trade clause anyway), Morneau, Baker, Liriano, Span, Nishioka, Blackburn, Slowey… almost every player earning more than $1 million a year. Except Carl Pavano.

Pavano might bring fair value, but it’s not going to happen within two weeks. There’s no shortage of teams who want the kind of rotation help Pavano would bring, but almost all of them still think they’re in the mix for Wilson, Buehrle, Jackson and others. Only when those players land elsewhere will teams be likely to consider trading away meaningful talent for Pavano. Ryan needs to wait until the demand for Pavano rises before even considering a trade.

“Experienced Closer”

The last thing a team with serious doubts concerning their expected competitiveness needs to do is spend more than $4-5 million for a “closer”.  If it’s a questionable use of resources to overspend for guys who have racked up “saves” when you’re a contender, then it’s insanity to do so when you probably aren’t. Hold auditions in Spring Training and if they carry over in to April, that’s fine, too.

As for the rest of the bullpen, I’m perfectly fine with not spending $2-3 million per arm to fill out the pen. I was similarly fine with that approach last off-season. It wasn’t the plan that was faulty last year, it was the execution of that plan. The problem was that the players the front office brought in were not good pitchers.

And by the way, the people who made the decisions about which pitchers to sign and invite to Spring Training were the same people in charge now. Bill Smith didn’t make those evaluations, Terry Ryan and the scouting staff did. Then Gardy and Andy decided which pitchers to take north to start the season. All of those people are still making those decisions. Just sayin’.

Anyway, I just don’t see Terry Ryan as likely to do anything any time soon. He’s just got pretty limited options right now.

Twins Hall of Fame

The Twins are lettng the fans have a say in who the next inductee(s) might be to the organization’s own Hall of Fame. It’s not clear to me how much weight the fans’ votes carry, but it doesn’t really matter because it is clear that to vote you have to broadcast your votes via Twitter or Facebook. I don’t care enough to do that.

For what it’s worth, though, I’d strongly support Camillo Pascual and Cesar Tovar for induction. Frankly, it’s rediculous that they aren’t already in. You could also make the same statement about Chuck Knoblauch if all you base the determination on is his performance on the field while he was a Twin. That said, given all that happened with Knoblauch toward the end of his time with the team and on through the disclosure of his use of steroids, I’d also be perfectly fine with not inducting him right now. Let’s face it, he wouldn’t show up for the induction anyway, so why bother? Give the honor to someone who truly would appreciate it.

Programming note:

Jack Steal (Fanatic Jack Talks Twins) has returned to Blogspot Radio and he’s asked me to be a guest on the podcast tonight (Nov 30). The podcast starts at 9:00 pm and I’m tentatively scheduled to join about 20 minutes after the hour.

Figuring out why anyone would care to listen to me is truly something to hmmmmmm about.

- JC

Two Weeks May Determine Twins’ 2012 Fate

Now that the Twins front office has had a chance to let their Thanksgiving feasts settle, it’s time to go to work. The next two weeks should pretty much let everyone know whether the Twins will put a competitive team on the field in 2012 or whether Terry Ryan has opted to go in to full “rebuild” mode with his sights set on 2013 and beyond.

The atrium of Dallas' Hilton Anatole will be buzzing next week

MLB’s Winter Meetings kick off next Monday, but as FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi indicates in his November 28 column, the week before the Winter Meetings are often just as critical as the few days the meetings are held.

Of course, this period is not traditionally a busy period for the Twins’ front office. Their reputation is one for sitting out the swap meet that the Winter Meetings can become for many teams, in favor of picking over the Free Agent leftovers after the first of the year.

Then again, it hasn’t been often that the Twins have had so many needs to fill.

Projecting a 25-man roster from the players currently holding spots on the Twins’ 40-man roster is all but impossible. It would appear, however, that Ryan currently has at least nine spots that are completely up in the air. Based on existing contractual obligations, projected salaries for arbitration-eligible players, and ownership’s contention that payroll should be slashed more than 10% to somewhere south of $100 million, the GM would appear to be heading in to this critical two-week period wearing some pretty tight financial handcuffs.

If we assume the Twins will carry 13 position players and 12 pitchers on their Opening Day roster, I count four open pitching spots and five open position spots to fill… with about $13 million with which to do so.

Mauer, Morneau, Casilla, Valencia, Carroll, Span, Nishioka and Doumit will collectively pull in just over $53 million, while leaving two starting OF spots and three bench spots yet to be filled.

The pitching corps looks like Pavano, Baker, Liriano, Blackburn, Slowey, Perkins, Duensing and Mijares. Those eight arms account for just over $32 million. Tack on the $2 million the Twins paid to buy out Joe Nathan’s 2012 option and you’ve got $34 million committed to pitching with four more spots to fill.

To my mind, this leave Terry Ryan with two current options:

  • He can spend the next two weeks making deals to shed enough of his existing contractual commitments to be able to afford to add, either through trade or free agency, an outfielder or two that can hit and a couple of pitchers who can miss bats; or
  • He can sit back and wait while those teams who expect to contend in 2012 fill out their rosters with the best players available, then sign a couple of leftovers to compete with the large group of “may or may not be ready for the Big Leagues” prospects that we all watched try to fill Twins uniforms toward the end of the 2011 season.

It’s a tough choice for the GM to make. It’s made even more dicey by the reality that the chances of the Twins being competitive, regardless of which path Ryan chooses, are going to be determined more by the health and productivity of half a dozen or so core players already wearing Twins uniforms than by the players who fill those final nine spots on the active roster.

The question we’d all like an answer to, I think, is, “what do the Twins really believe they’ll get out of Mauer, Morneau, Baker, Span, Liriano, etc.?”

So far, we’ve heard the Twins brass say they haven’t given up on fielding a competitive team in 2012. Of course, they’re still trying to sell season tickets, so they wouldn’t say anything else.

As is almost always the case, actions will speak much louder than words… and actions (or lack thereof) over the next two weeks may speak loudest of all.

- JC

Can Twins Learn From Gophers’ Challenges?

I read with some interest this Star Tribune article concerning the University of Minnesota’s plight with regard to their athletic department funding and couldn’t help but wonder if it holds some lessons that the Twins might want to heed.

As I’m sure all of you who actually live in Minnesota are well aware, the Gophers opened their brand new TCF football stadium about a year before the Twins cut the ribbon on Target Field. You’re probably also well aware that big-time college athletic programs essentially live and die based on the revenues generated by their football programs. You can talk all you want about how great your basketball, hockey (either ice or field varieties), and wrestling programs are, but at most universities you’re lucky if any of those sports manages to just generate enough revenue to pay their own share of the bills. It’s football that pays the freight.

And as great as it is to get TV revenue and other income generated more because you happen to be affiliated with football factories like Michigan, Ohio State and, now, Nebraska, if you’re going to field competitive teams consistently, you need to have reliably high attendance at football games. That’s where the Gophers are staring at some pretty bleak realities for next season, when they’ll have exactly zero regional rivalry games on their home schedule.

The University is discovering that there’s a limited honeymoon period that comes with a new stadium. I made my first trip up to a game at TCF this fall when my Hawkeyes played there. It’s a beautiful facility. But if the Gophers don’t start doing some winning on a regular basis, and soon, it’s going to be a beautiful half-empty stadium on game days and that’s going to eventually have a negative effect on the rest of the Gopher athletic programs.

But the Twins are a different story, right? After all, the Gophers haven’t had a consistently competitive football team since Murray Warmath paced the sidelines while the Twins have been regular participants in MLB’s playoffs (the first round, anyway) for the better part of the past decade.

Many of you young whippersnappers aren’t old enough to remember the dark days of Twins baseball. Actually, there were several stretches of dark days. The last few years at Metropolitan Stadium were awfully bleak, as were most of the 1990s in the Dome. As hard as it is for us to imagine, given the crowds we’ve become accustomed to joining at Target Field the past two years, the fact is that Minnesota fans will not show up to watch bad sports teams. That doesn’t make them terribly unique, of course. Not many communities routinely sell out venues even when the local team stinks.

(I’m proud to say that Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium is one exception. We’ll just about fill that place every game day, even when the Hawkeyes are painfully difficult to watch. Then again, there really isn’t much else to do in these parts on the weekend and we’re all more than happy to have an excuse to party for a few hours with 70,000 of our closest friends.)

What’s my point? That’s a fair question.

An empty Target Field (photo: Minnesota Twins)

I guess my point is simply that the Twins shouldn’t assume that their beautiful ballpark guarantees butts filling the seats. They sold out nearly every game during a very bad 99-loss season largely because nobody expected a 99-loss season. Most of those tickets were sold when fans still believed they’d be watching a winner. Not many fans still believe that’s going to be the case in 2012.

The Twins seem to grasp this. They’re smart people and they know a bad team brings less attendance and less revenue. It’s their reaction, thus far, to this realization that troubles me.

They seem to be simply acknowledging the likelihood that fewer fans will be showing up and plan to downsize their payroll accordingly. They’ve given Terry Ryan the job of rebuilding the team and most fans, myself included, applaud that move. But if the plan is to start over… to rebuild through the draft and through acquiring other minor league talent through trades, while letting your best free agents walk away… then my applause is muted.

The Gophers have no choice but to sell “hope” as they rebuild their program from scratch. They can’t take steps to immediately field a competitive team by spending more money to get better football players. (Well, they COULD… but the NCAA tends to frown on that approach.)

But the Twins are not bound by NCAA rules, so here’s an idea… instead of running up the white flag and admitting defeat while you cut payroll, why not spend the money to become competitive again in 2012 and, in the process, keep fans filling those Target Field seats?

I know Jason Kubel isn’t the perfect fit for Target Field (though that’s the fault of design flaws, not Kubel, and those design flaws could be fixed easily if the Twins would just do it). I know Michael Cuddyer can’t hit righthanded pitching well. I know neither of them are gold glove outfielders. I know Jim Thome’s obvious limitations made it difficult to carry him on the roster. But those three players have accounted for a LOT of the Twins offense lately and the Twins seem more than happy to let them all go without showing any indication, so far, that they’ll replace them with anyone similar.

Then again, when you overpay for an aging middle infielder and a back-up catcher who has trouble catching, it doesn’t leave a lot of room to pay for guys who can actually contribute offense daily.

During the first few years after Baltimore’s Camden Yards ballpark was built, tickets were a tough thing to come by. I had friends there who were season ticket holders and I remember using that connection to get some pretty nice seats for my family on one trip there and again for the benefit of some friends who made the trip to Baltimore the following year. The stadium was sold out almost every game.

For the past several years, I’ve been able to walk up to the ticket window 10 minutes before game time and get very good seats whenever I’m in Baltimore during an Orioles home stand.

It can happen in Minnesota, too. In fact, it will happen in Minnesota… if ownership doesn’t make good on their promise of using the increased revenues to assure a competitive team occupies the new stadium and that, at the very least, they make good on their commitment to keep the best of their own free agents.

The offseason isn’t nearly over yet, so there’s still time for Terry Ryan to work his magic. But I encourage Twins fans not to let Ryan and his bosses off the hook. Don’t let them convince us to lower our expectations to fit their payroll. Don’t let them keep slashing until medocrity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

- JC

Thanksgiving 2011

 

Wishing all our readers a wonderful day – we are so thankful that you choose to make us part of your day and share your comments and experiences with us. I can’t tell you how many blessings I can count this year however few of them are baseball related… I hope you all are able to find the blessings in your lives and enjoy your day today!

SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE!

The Twins finally released their official Spring Training schedule today! Now those of us who are interested can start making our plans… of course, mostly this just tells me what is going to be available during the week I’m planning to be in town – I think we’re looking at the 3rd full week of March to be in town.  I’m pretty sure that is basically how it works for anyone else going down there too!  If you’re one of those who is going to be down there, send me a message and perhaps we’ll be able to meet up at a game or something…  Of course, I will be on my honeymoon but I’m still gonna see some BASEBALL!!

 

 

By the way, if you’re one of the few who is NOT on Facebook, the following information won’t be of much use, BUT for the rest of us…  Our friends over at InterpretationByDesign created a page counting down the off-season days until Spring Training officially arrives – it’s good stuff! Countdown to Spring Training

MLB’s new “layout”

Ok, so BIG news coming out of the owners’ meetings I guess.  I’m pretty sure it’s all part of Bud Selig’s favorite wet dream too… I can say that on the internet right? it’s a private blog? anyway…

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The sale of the Houston Astros has finally been approved – on one condition: they have to move… figuratively speaking at any rate. They move from the National League to the American League West which now evens up the AL/NL league balance at 15 a piece.

Normally, my love of symetry and equality would love this! And actually, I don’t think I have a problem with the 15/15 thing and I’m one of those supposedly cursed baseball fans who LIKES interleague play anyway… it’s what goes along with this change that is kind of rubbing me the wrong way.

They are adding yet more playoff games.. at the moment it’s just a one-game Wild Card playoff (no more game 163 magic moments) but, unless I’m reading this wrong, it’s all part of adding more Wild Card teams and another round of playoffs (IMO) as part of the ever increasing “revenue opportunities” the owners are always looking for.

Shall we talk about screwing with tradition? I’m sorry but I don’t believe any part of the October Classic should be played in November. I’m already done with the playoffs WELL before they are finished because they keep extending days off in between in order to get those great playoff games on the RIGHT nights on TV.. *rolls eyes* I’m just not liking the direction that is going at all and it’s not like we haven’t seen it coming. I’m just aggravated by the ongoing assault on our time with the ever-increasing length of the baseball season.

You know I hate the off-season right? I do! But honestly, just like the Stanley Cup shouldn’t be played in June and the Superbowl shouldn’t be in February, they really need to knock this shit off.

But Congrats to the Astros on their new owner, Jim Crane, and welcome to the AL!

Will New Major League CBA Screw the Twins?

If you’re one of those people salivating over the extra high draft picks that the Twins were going to get in return for losing free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, that salivation might be a bit premature.

The good news is that reports coming out of Milwaukee, where MLB General Managers are meeting this week, indicate that the league and the players’ union are very close to agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). That means baseball fans won’t be going through the nonsense that we saw last summer with the NFL and are continuing to see with the NBA.

The bad news is that the new agreement could cost the Twins at least one of those compensatory draft picks in next year’s amateur draft… and possibly all of them.

As has been well documented by now, the Twins have three members of 2011’s roster that are classified as either Type A or Type B free agents. Under the current CBA, that means that they would receive one or two compensatory draft picks if those players sign with another team, provided the Twins offer them arbitration.

Michael Cuddyer

Cuddyer and Matt Capps both fall in to the Type A category, which would bring the Twins both a supplemental round “sandwich” pick (so named because the supplemental round is conducted between the first and second rounds of the draft) as well as either the first or second round pick of the team that player ultimately signs with (depending on that team’s record in 2011).

Kubel is a Type B free agent, which means the Twins would get one of those supplemental “sandwich” picks, but the signing team would not forfeit any of their picks to the Twins.

The conventional wisdom is that the Twins will not offer arbitration to Matt Capps because he would certainly accept it and would end up being awarded a 2012 salary that’s probably at least double what he’s likely to get on the open market. That means the Twins will get no compensatory pick for Capps.

But the Twins certainly would be planning to offer arbitration to both Cuddyer and Kubel.

Media reports, including one from NY Post columnist Joel Sherman, indicate that the owners may have traded away much, if not all, of the free agent compensation system during CBA negotiations in order to rein in the escalating salaries of draft picks AND that the changes to the system may take effect this offseason.

Would owners really change the rules in the middle of the offseason? To get what they want in terms of restricting salaries for unproven draft picks… absolutely. A formal announcement of the terms of the agreement could come yet this week.

Sherman’s sources tell him that the compensation program for the top Type A free agents (such as the Mets’ Jose Reyes) would not be changed, but that Type B compensation would end effective with the current offseason. Other media reports indicate that the new agreement will reduce the percentage (currently 20%) of players at each position that constitute the Type A category, as well.

Jason Kubel

If these reports turn out to be accurate, it means the Twins: (a) would get no compensation for losing Jason Kubel; and (b) COULD end up getting no compensation for Michael Cuddyer, either, if his ranking by Elias falls below whatever the newly negotiated cut-off line is for Type A players in the American League 1B-DH-OF category.

If you were hoping the three supplemental picks were going to go a long way toward helping Terry Ryan boost the organization’s minor league talent level sooner, rather than later, this turn of events is not good news.

If you’re the Twins GM, would the lack of compensation for losing Kubel and Cuddyer make you more likely to consider re-signing either or both?

- JC

JC’s 2012 Offseason Twins Blueprint… Redux

Let’s try this again, shall we?

First, let me say for the umpteenth time that I think the Twins still have done nothing to make their case to the public in support of their contention that the payroll must be slashed. Last week, Twins president Dave St. Peter Tweeted that they are projecting lower revenues in 2012. If he’s talking about lower attendance, then the only reason for anticipating such would be if they’re anticipating once again putting a non-competitive product on the field.

But since those of us who have already published “blueprints” did so in anticipation of payrolls at least remaining relatively level, it’s worth the exercise to see exactly what kind of roster can actually be assembled for $100 million.

For reference, you might want to glance back a week or two ago at my earlier effort, which anticipated roughly a $119 million payroll.

The gaps that need to be filled remain. Rotation help. Shortstop. Designated hitter. Bullpen. Back up catcher.

Ryan wasted no time before starting to put his stamp on the 2012 roster, signing Dodgers middle infielder Jamey Carroll for what’s reported to be $7 million over two years, plus an option year. Not many people are questioning whether Carroll is an upgrade over the shortstops the Twins trotted out there in 2011, but his age (38 before Opening Day) does leave some people wondering whether Ryan might be overpaying for Carroll. Only time will tell.

Now, as Ryan and his fellow GMs begin their annual meetings in Milwaukee, let’s get out our copies of the TwinsCentric 2012 Offseason GM Handbook again and take another whack at that roster.

We’ll start with the same 11 players from those currently on the Twins roster that I felt relatively certain would be on the Opening Day active roster. Here they are, along with their projected 2012 salaries (where estimates are needed, I am using the estimates the TwinsCentric guys used in their Handbook):

Joe Mauer (23 mil), Justin Morneau (14 mil), Carl Pavano (8.5 mil), Scott Baker (6.5 mil), Francisco Liriano (6 mil), Nick Blackburn (4.75 mil), Denard Span (3 mil), Alexi Casilla (2.5 mil), Glen Perkins (1.8 mil), Danny Valencia (500K), and Brian Duensing (500K). Now, add Carroll’s $3.5 million (though we don’t know for sure yet whether that’s an accurate number for 2012).

Also, the Twins will be on the hook to Tsuyoshi Nishioka for $3 million.

That adds up to $77.55 million, but instead of having almost $42.5 million to spend assuming a reasonable $120 million cap, we would have just short of $22.5 million of room under the new $100 million austerity program.

$22.5 million won’t do the job, folks, so we’re going to trade away some of the guys on the list above before Opening Day.

The rotation still needs a major overhaul, but we can forget about Mark Buehrle or even Edwin Jackson. In fact, here’s where I see Terry Ryan can practice a little “addition by subtraction”. Carl Pavano has one year left on his contract and it’s tough to see the Twins including him in their 2013 plans. The market for starting pitchers right now has more buyers than sellers and that means there very well may be teams willing to take on Pavano’s $8.5 million contract in return for something of value.

I’d still like to see Brian Duensing in a lefty set-up role in the bullpen and Nick Blackburn should not be in the rotation, either. But without Pavano, we now have three rotation spots to fill.

I still like the idea of taking a flyer on Rich Harden, despite his injury record. Let’s add Paul Maholm, as well, as our second left handed starter. Maholm is just 30 years old and, while his numbers weren’t great and he finished the season with shoulder issues, he’s the kind of “pitch to contact” thrower that the Twins are attracted to and in Target Field, he could thrive. Admittedly, we’re going to be hoping these guys can stay healthy, but they should both be available for reasonable 1-year deals, especially if they have to wait around for a while the market for starting pitching sorts itself out.

But what about the fifth starter?

We need to go cheap and there are two ways to do that, trade for someone cheap or promote from within. My Plan A would be to see what Atlanta would need for lefty Mike Minor. Knowing how Terry Ryan feels about trading away the kind of prospects the Braves would likely demand in return, we’ll need a Plan B. That would be Liam Hendriks. He’ll likely get his brains beat in a little bit, but what the hell… better it happens in 2012 than the following year when we’re going to want to be in position to be serious players in the AL Central.

The Twins will not be going in to Spring Training with a firmly established rotation, in any event. That being the case, they’d be just the sort of team that guys like Scott Kazmir and Brandon Webb might be looking to sign with in efforts to restart their careers. If you can get one of these guys on a minor league contract, why not give them an opportunity?

The bullpen: The Twins have no reason to pay anyone big money to be their closer. While I originally said I would take Joe Nathan back if he would agree to a 2 year deal for $7 million per year, I still suspect he’ll do better elsewhere and, frankly, I think Terry Ryan is less likely to pay him that kind of money.

By and large, I’ll stick with most of the bullpen options I suggested last time. Jonathan Broxton is still worth a shot, but you’re probably only going to be able to afford one of Todd Coffey or Matt Capps. I’d prefer Coffey, but wouldn’t mind keeping Capps at a reduced rate.

In July, Bill Smith was negotiating with the Nationals for young reliever Drew Storen. Denard Span was reportedly close to joining Washington’s outfield. Reportedly, the Nats still are in the market for a good defensive centerfielder, but Span’s concussion means his trade value is down. What about Ben Revere? Revere’s time with the Twins is probably going to be short-lived, with guys like Benson, Hicks, and others getting closer to The Show. It may take a bit more than Revere to get Storen, but how much more?

That makes my bullpen consist of Perkins, Broxton, Coffey (or Capps), Storen, Duensing, Blackburn and Burnett or perhaps Swarzak. Heck, you could even let Jose Mijares compete for that last spot if you really aren’t convinced he’s a lost cause.

I still think the Twins will probably trade Kevin Slowey, rather than pay him the $3.3 million he’s likely to get through arbitration. If they do, at least I have more confidence in Ryan to get some prospects with potential value than I had in Smith. If they don’t trade Slowey, I’m perfectly fine with letting him compete for a rotation spot in Spring Training.

Most of the position players I originally targeted are still quite affordable, but we’ll need to make a few tweaks.

DH: Derek Lee is still my guy. If reports are true about Morneau wanting to primarily DH, it’s even more important to get a guy like Lee on board. Without Cuddyer, his righthanded bat is even more important, too.

Middle Infield: In signing Carroll, Ryan spent more than twice what my original blueprint projected be spent on Ramon Santiago, but Ryan is telling the media that he may not be done looking at middle infielders. I wonder if we can fit the trio of Carroll, Santiago and Casilla in to the budget. Probably not. There should still be room for Nick Punto if he can be had for the $750K that TwinsCentric projected he’d get. If that’s not possible, maybe the Twins give Brian Dozier a chance to prove his Arizona Fall League performance wasn’t a fluke.

Up until the Carroll signing, I was kind of hoping Ryan might talk to the Braves about what it would take to get Martin Prado. From what I can tell, Prado is essentially a younger, cheaper, Michael Cuddyer. He’s a RH hitter who has played enough 1B, 2B, 3B and LF to be considered a legitimate option at each of those positions. He’s likely to get something north of $4 million through arbitration after a bit of a down offensive season (his .260/.302/.385 slash line is a solid 40 points lower than he’s historically put up in each statistical category). He’ll also hit a dozen or so home runs each year.

The Braves are reportedly shopping Prado and some of their pitching in an effort to shore up their outfield and if there’s one position that Ryan could deal from a bit of depth, it’s outfielders. I was steadfastly opposed to Bill Smith’s plan to trade Denard Span for relief pitching last summer, but for a more versatile player of a similar age and making similar money… that would at least be something to think about.

Back-up catcher: If Ryan can get Jose Molina for the $1.1 million that TwinsCentric projects, I still sign him and move on to other issues. There’s been some talk of a Slowey for Chris Iannetta trade and I’d be OK with that, but it would mean spending a couple million dollars more than what Molina projects to command.

The outfield: Trading Revere means we need to make at least one adjustment here and, while Terry Ryan and Jim Pohlad insist that a reduced payroll does not rule out affording to bring Michael Cuddyer back, it would be a challenge. Denard Span is still my centerfielder, but between Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni, one of them is going to have to prove he can play a Major League left field, while the other fills the 4th OF spot.

The Twins may not be able to afford Cuddyer, but they very well may be able to pay Jason Kubel enough to return, if he wants to. I don’t think Kubel is going to be nearly as in demand as Cuddyer, so it’s possible that the 3 year/$20 million contract that TwinsCentric projects will be enough to keep Kubel in Minnesota.

Here’s my revised final “blueprint”. Even if you count Joe Nathan’s $2 million “buy-out” against the 2012 payroll, I’m now spending just $101 million. (Some of the back up plans would result in costing a few bucks more, but not all that many more.)

That’s not likely going to be enough to field a contending ballclub, but if Mauer, Morneau, Span and others manage to stay healthy, they could surprise some folks through the first half of the season. If so, Ryan should be able to make a solid case to the Pohlads for spending a few extra bucks at mid-season. If the Twins have fallen back by that time, you should be able to get something in trade for some of the veterans, while you promote Parmelee and Dozier.- JC

PLAYER Salary ($ mil)
C Mauer 23
1B Morneau 14
2B Casilla 2.5*
3B Valencia 0.5
SS Carroll 3.5*
OF Span 3
OF Benson 0.5
OF Kubel 7*
DH Lee 5*
C J Molina 1.1*
4thOF Tosoni 0.5
UtIF Punto 0.75
Bench Plouffe/Hughes 0.5
SP-L Maholm 4*
SP-R Baker 6.5
SP-R Harden 3*
SP-L Minor/Hendriks .5
SP-L Liriano 6*
RP-R Broxton 4*
RP-R Coffey 2.1*
RP-L Perkins 1.8*
RP-R Storen .5
RP-R Blackburn 4.75
RP-L Duensing 0.5
RP-R Burnett/Swarzak 0.5
Nathan (option buy-out) 2
Nishioka (Rochester) 3
 *estimated salaries Total: $101,000,000