Friday, August 19, 2011

Off-season of changes awaits Twins

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The quickly approaching off-season will be full of tough decisions for the Minnesota Twins. Following a season that fell short of expectations, the team will need to decide which players will be part of the organization’s long-term plans. Those decisions could play a huge impact on the 2012 version of the Twins.

Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, and Matt Capps are all pending free agents. With those players combined salaries of around $26 million, there is a lot of money coming off of the books for next year. The team will have to contemplate about what is the best way to spend the team’s newly available funds. They will also have to decide if they want any of the above listed players to be back in a Twins uniform.

There are also some other tough decisions to make with players that are arbitration eligible for the 2012 season. Should the Twins try and keep a player like Francisco Liriano around and hope for better production on the field? Will this talented player have more to offer the Twins? Or is finding a trade partner for him a better option? The Twins have already parted with Delmon Young in order to avoid an arbitration situation with him in the offseason. But there are plenty of other tough questions that the front office will have to answer in the coming months.

There is also the possibility that the Twins will try and trade other players during the off-season. Denard 
Span was rumored to be involved in multiple trades around the July 31st trade deadline. The organization could revisit some of those trade offers during the winter to find a suitable deal for the team’s starting centerfielder. The concussion issues that have followed Span in the second half of this season have most certainly brought down his trade value. 

Joe Nathan provides another tough decision for the Twins. The team has $12.5 million option on Nathan’s contract for next season or the team can buyout the last year of his deal for $2 million. There is a good chance the team will take the buyout but could the Twins offer Nathan a contract for less money so he can finish his career with the Twins? The team will need a closer next season and Nathan could provide a security blanket for the late-innings of games. 

The Twins could reevaluate Tsuyoshi Nishioka at the end of the season. He has looked very overmatched at the big league level in multiple facets of the game. There have been numerous defensive blunders and half-hearted swings from both sides of the plate. With the money the team gave Nishioka, there is a good chance he will be used in some capacity next season. Fans might want Nishioka's role to be a much smaller capacity unless there are significant changes to his game in the coming weeks. 

The Opening Day line-up for the 2012 Twins could feature changes at multiple positions on the field. Tough decisions are on the horizon for the front office but that is why they are paid the big bucks.

Now it is time for them to earn that money…

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