The Minnesota Twins' magical run is over.
After falling to the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series, the players can now head home for the winter, and the front office—led by General Manager Bill Smith—can begin the work of ensuring the Twins are a contender again in 2010.
The pieces are already in place for a very good ballclub next season.
Perennial All-Stars Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan should all be healthy and ready to contribute.
The patchwork rotation the club marched onto the field in the second half should also be re-loaded, barring no setbacks for injured starters Kevin Slowey and Glen Perkins.
Denard Span, Jose Morales, Matt Guerrier, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer all took major steps forward this season, and figure to get even better in 2010.
Undoubtedly, the biggest area of need this offseason is the same as it has been for much of the decade—the infield.
Orlando Cabrera and Joe Crede are both free agents, and neither of them should be brought back for anything more than a one-year, incentive-laden deal.
Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla haven’t done anything to prove they belong in the everyday lineup.
Super prospect Danny Valencia hit .285/.337/.466 with stops in AA and AAA last season, but may not be quite ready to handle the everyday third base job out of Spring Training.
Smith will no doubt make inquiries about potential trade targets, such as Milwaukee’s JJ Hardy, Florida’s Dan Uggla and San Diego’s Kevin Kouzmanoff, but should also be scouring the free-agent market for some potential buy-low bargains.
While other teams are clamoring to sign pricier infield options like Mark DeRosa, Orlando Hudson and Chone Figgins, the Twins would be wise to take a chance on one or more of these five players who figure to be well within the Twins’ financial means.