LHP Matt Maloney and RHP Jeff Gray.
In yesterday's post, I wrote about the Joe Nathan considering the Mets as a possible suitor as he enters free agency. Nathan grew up in the New York area and spent his college years near the city. It would only be logical to think that a homecoming could be on the horizon as the Mets look for some late inning relief options. One of the problems for Nathan is his age and he wants to be able to pitch for a contender as his career comes to a close.
The Twins free agent class features players at different point in their career. Nathan is a year removed from major arm surgery that cost him an entire season. He is also in his upper 30's and that means this could be his final contract before he retires. Michael Cuddyer is coming off of his first All-Star season and he was just named the Twins MVP for 2011. He will garner a decent sum of money and there are plenty of suitors lined up to take a shot at him. Jason Kubel is entering some of the prime years of his career but his injury history and lack of defensive prowess are things to take into consideration.
This raises an interesting question, are free agents going to want to come to play for the Twins?
Both Cuddyer and Kubel have spent their entire careers with the Twins and Nathan has spent almost his entire career with a TC on his hat. They are each familiar with the team, the organization, and the Twin Cities area. There won't be any new surprise for them if they were to return to the club next season. Does that mean they will give the Twins a hometown discount? There might be a little bit of a leeway in the direction of the Twins but it can't be a ridiculous offer like the two-year, $16 million deal the Twins attempted to get Cuddyer to sign. There is a realistic hometown discount from some of the players that have been with your club a long time and on the other side, there is a club being rude. In this case the Twins were being rude to Mr. Cuddyer.
From the prospective of a free agent, the Twins are walking a thin line between contender and pretender for the 2012 season. The organization suffered through one of its worst seasons on record in 2011 but this was only one year after having an outstanding 2010. The three core players in the Twins batting order (Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span) had injury concerns last season and their health is in question for 2012. There weren't many bright spots in the pitching front and that means there are plenty of holes to fill.
Is that going to be a desirable atmosphere for a free agent to enter?
The Twins could turn it around for next season and put together another run for a division title. If you were a free agent who came to the Twins and helped them to turn it around, you would be sitting in a good spot for any future contracts. On the other hand... if a free agent came to the Twins and the injuries continued and Target Field started to empty, it might seem like the Twins were not the right choice to make for your playing career.
Are the Twins going to lose 99 games again next season? The odds are against that happening but the Twins are in a tough spot when it comes to free agency. Losing is not enjoyable to the players or to the fans. Even though Cuddyer and Nathan have been strong voices in the Twins clubhouse, it might be a tough sell for them to return to the losing atmosphere that was present in Minnesota. They have each made millions of dollars during their career and it is not about the money.
It is about the chance to win a championship and to be part of something greater than themselves.