Offseason Week 1: Twins plot their strategy

Posted on October 15th, 2009 – 12:20 PM
By Joe Christensen

The Twins are holding their annual organizational meetings this weekend in Fort Myers, Fla. General Manager Bill Smith and his top advisers will review everything with Manager Ron Gardenhire, along with managers, coaches, instructors and scouts from throughout the system. They’ll discuss the organization’s strengths and weaknesses, and hone their offseason strategy.

To think along with the Twins’ brain trust, check out the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook 2009-10. The think tank of Seth Stohs, John Bonnes, Nick Nelson and Parker Hageman have outdone themselves. For $9.95, you get 137 easy-to-read pages that will help sharpen your own opinions moving forward.

There’s a look at key offseason dates, report cards on the 2009 Twins, a payroll analysis (2010 and beyond), an organizational depth chart, along with chapters on “The Joe Mauer Dilemma,” 40-man roster decisions, trade targets and the free agent market. Finally, there are suggested blueprints for Smith. Stohs, for example, makes a strong case for the Twins to trade for Marlins ace Josh Johnson.

(*) In our offseason preview package, I wrote a piece headlined, “Don’t count on any big changes for the Twins.” If you haven’t yet, I’d suggest reading the chart that accompanied that piece, “Heavily Invested,” as a reminder of the commitments the Twins have for 2010. Even if this team doesn’t lift a finger, the 2010 payroll would swell to about $78 million.

Reusse advocates trading Joe Nathan and making sure “Carlos Gomez has a complete list of housing options in Rochester, N.Y., so that he will be comfortable while spending the 2010 season as the Red Wings’ starting center fielder.” Souhan and Reusse debate the Nathan trade idea here.

(*) Some readers hammer us for not being more critical of the Twins’ approach, but I think it’s because the Star Tribune’s baseball coverage brings with it decades of experience and a perspective that spans MLB. We’re not sugarcoating what it means to go 2-16 in their past 18 postseason games, but we’re also not going to suggest a radical makeover. Here’s an interesting perspective on the Twins’ latest three-and-out postseason from former Dodgers GM Fred Claire.

The bottom line is that if you were to take a poll of those involved in Major League Baseball, my guess is that the Twins would come out as the most respected organization in the game. You hear this from the scouts and player development people throughout the game, and you hear it from the general managers of other teams.

(*) More food for thought: The Twins had MLB’s fifth best local TV ratings this season (6.25), for games on Fox Sports North, according to the Sports Business Journal. The Twins’ ratings actually declined by 16.4 percent from 2008, but their games were still viewed by an average of 108,000 households.

For comparison, the Cleveland Indians’ ratings plunged 27.4 percent, to 2.84, and the Indians were viewed by an average of 43,000 households. Cleveland entered the season with high hopes — not to mention an Opening Day payroll of $81.6 million, compared to the Twins’ $65.3 million — but after sputtering early, the Indians conducted a mid-season fire sale, and as expected, viewers were not impressed.

For me, this was another reminder of the strengths the Twins have moving forward. Their brand is strong. They are now unhinged from the revenue limitations of the Metrodome, and there will be no excuse for not being aggressive with their payroll at Target Field. That doesn’t mean they have to win a bidding war for free agent John Lackey, but they better keep Mauer and the rest of their core intact, while finding the right complementary pieces to get this team over the hump.

Note: The Twins named Ben Revere their 2009 Minor League Player of the Year, and David Bromberg took home their Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors. Revere, 21, won the same award last year, becoming the first Twins prospect to do that since LaTroy Hawkins in 1993 and 1994. The outfielder batted .311 with a .372 OBP, a .369 SLG and 45 stolen bases in 121 games for Class A Fort Myers. Bromberg, 22, went 13-4 with a 2.70 ERA, with 148 strikeouts and 63 walks in 153.1 innings pitched for Fort Myers.

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