By La Velle
Instructional league games have ended but Twins officials remain in Fort Myers, Fla. for a few more days as they try to plot a course for the offseason.
They are going over players on other clubs, identifying who’s available and at what cost. They are identifying free agents to go after. They have money to spend, tradeable commodities and the desire to get the team back in the playoffs. This is the time when all kinds of concepts are tossed out for discussion during meetings.
For instance, everyone knows that the left side of the infield must be addressed, but there may be different opinions on who to address it. Here are two things I’ve heard recently:
1. Since Alexi Casilla has established himself as a second baseman there isn’t a rush to move him to short.
2. Everyone would have to be on board if Michael Cuddyer is to move to third and there’s no chance that everyone is on board with that.
This, to me, is the highest priority for the offseason. The Twins’ OPS vs lefties was .729 versus .757 against righties. They should work to balance that out – and they should not expect that the Usain Bolt approach to scoring runs will work as well as it did this year.
But getting a third baseman won’t be easy. The Twins like Adrian Beltre, but he’s in the final year of a contract and is a Scott Boras client, which guarentees that he’ll walk after one season. That affects what the Twins would be willing to give up.
Garrett Atkins is decent, but his home-road splits aren’t good. There were reports late in the season that he could be on the trade block, but don’t they have a bigger issue in Matt Holliday to deal with?
Kevin Kouzmanoff? Not a
great good defensive player and doesn’t walk much.
Someone with the club pointed out to me that they could go status quo with third base – especially with prospects Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes getting close to the majors – and look for a good-hitting shortstop. That’s interesting. But I’m not fired up about Orlando Cabrera, if that’s who they have in mind. He’ll be 34 next season. He’s going to want, what, $5-6 million a year? More? And he wasn’t the most popular player in his clubhouse late in the seaosn – although credited the Twins for playing the way his team couldn’t.
Right up there with right-handed pop is right-handed bullpen help. Righthander Pat Neshek, who missed most of the season rehabbing a torn ligament in his elbow, has been working out in Fort Myers and telling everyone how great he feels.
He’ll get to prove it next week, when he climbs on a mound for the first time since breaking down in May.
A healthy Neshek would be a boost. The emergence of lefty Jose Mijares is encouraging. But I still think the Twins should look at free agents and trades to bolster the bullpen during the offseason. And what will Boof Bonser’s role be next season?
And I haven’t even gotten to the oufield logjam, if they keep Cuddyer out there. Twins GM Bill Smith on Sunday did a great job of saying a lot without saying a lot, if you know what I mean. But there’s no way they want to enter 2009 with four outfielders and Jason Kubel locked in as the DH. Someone’s gotta go, and that person could help land a third baseman or a reliever. If the Twins don’t want to admit to it in print, so be it.
Finally, I reported last week that the Twins were expected to announce Ron Gardenhire’s contract soon, but it hasn’t happened yet. People I talk to keep saying it won’t be a difficult negotiation. But, for whatever reason. Smith and Gardy had not sat down as of late Monday. If nothing happens on Wednesday, the Twins probably will wait until after the World Series to announce it.