The thrills of 2009 are done. After clinching the AL Central in a one-game playoff, the Minnesota Twins were swept by the New York Yankees in the ALDS. The Twins, who were the only non-90 game winner in the playoffs, have some significant issues to address this off-season if they wish to return to the postseason in 2010.
WHAT?!? TRADE NATHAN?!?
Is it a necessity? No, but the Twins should look into dealing Joe Nathan.
Over the past 10 years, the Twins have made the closer position look easy. Eddie Guardado recorded 107 saves from 2000-2003, and Nathan picked up right where Eddie left off, recording 246 saves since 2004.
Nathan is coming off a career year, going 2-2 with 47 saves and an ERA of 2.12.
Trade Nathan while he's hot. He will turn 35 in November, and is owed $22.2M over the next two seasons.
The Twins could be the Twins and trade Nathan and get an everyday player or a couple prospects for him.
The Twins could place Jose Mijares into the closer role, Pat Neshek if he bounces back, or maybe find a role for Francisco Liriano coming in to close out games.
One of the main concerns at the beginning of the season was how Ron Gardenhire was going to balance a crowded outfield with Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, and Michael Cuddyer.
For most of the season, Delmon Young (.284, 12, 60) was the odd man out, appearing in most of his 90 games down the stretch after the Twins lost 1B Justin Morneau for the season in early September.
Young, 23, hasn't panned out like the Twins hoped he would, but the former first-overall draft pick showed sparks of potential down the stretch, hitting .462 with three home-runs and 10 RBIs in the Twins final three games.
The other outfield worth looking at trading is Carlos Gomez.
Gomez was the headline player in the Johan Santana trade, but he hasn't panned out yet as well. Gomez (.229, 3, 28) has been used primarily as a pinch runner and defensive substitute in the later innings when DH Jason Kubel plays the field, but when starting is part of the 7-8-9 hitters that hit .223.
These players are only 23, and it is hard to give up on them so early. Delmon would probably generate the better trade package.
Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse has the same opinion on Delmon Young. "Play Delmon Young every day, even day games after night games, and if he doesn't hit 25 home runs and drive in 85, dump him."
Reusse also goes on to say that the Twins should give Gomez a complete listing of housing in Rochester, NY as he spends all next season as the Red Wings' center fielder.
Although the Twins will be getting Kevin Slowey (10-3, 4.86, 47 K) back from wrist surgery, the rotation is still questionable. Although the rotation will consist of Slowey, Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.03, 98), Scott Baker (15-9, 4.36, 162), and Brian Duensing (5-2, 3.64, 53) there is still one open spot left in the rotation.
Before picking up Carl Pavano off waivers August 7th, the Twins were 48-55 and 5.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers. After acquiring Pavano, the Twins finished 39-21, and won 17 of their last 21 games.
A veteran presence is needed in the Twins rotation. It is likely that John Lackey (11-8, 3.83, 139), the biggest name among free agent pitchers, will move very quickly out of the Twins' price range.
The Twins could always bring back Carl Pavano (14-12, 5.10, 147), try and get a Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23, 160), Jarrod Washburn (9-9, 3.78, 100), Jason Marquis (15-13, 4.04, 115), or take a risk in a Ben Sheets (13-9, 3.03, 158 in 2008.)
Infield offense was terrible for the Twins this season. With the exception of 1B Justin Morneau (.274, 30, 100), C Joe Mauer (.365, 28, 96), and SS Orlando Cabrera (.289, 5, 36) the Twins' infield (Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Brian Buscher) hit .233.
The dire need here is a shortstop. Orlando Cabrera has said he would like to return to the Twins, but will likely be the centerpiece of a bidding war between several MLB teams.
If the Twins are unable to re-sign Cabrera, they should look at signing a second baseman like Felipe Lopez (.310, 9, 57) or Marco Scutaro (.282, 12, 60) and moving Nick Punto to shortstop.
It is unlikely the Twins will try and re-sign 3B Joe Crede (.225, 15, 48 in 90 games) and it is unlikely the Twins will pursue a big name to fill third base. The Twins have two minor leagues, Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes, that could fill the third base role for the Twins next year, although speculation leads analysts to believe that the Twins would like to keep them in the minors for one more season
Twins have more dire needs than 3B this off-season. They have always been able to build from the ground up. They should play Valencia and Hughes during spring training, and whoever plays better should be given the job in March.
Valencia, 25, was brought up in trade rumors near the All-Star break, but the Twins refused to trade him, stating he plays a significant role in their future.
Several things need to happen to keep C Joe Mauer in Minnesota.
The Twins need to prove to Mauer that they have a commitment to stay competitive over the next few seasons. The Twins have 1B Justin Morneau (.274, 30, 100) locked up until 2014, and RF Michael Cuddyer (.276, 32, 94) until 2012.
When Mauer became agitated at the All-Star Break for not winning, Twins GM Bill Smith went out and got SS Orlando Cabrera, SP Carl Pavano, RP Jon Rauch, and RP Ron Mahay.
According to several local media outlets, Mauer is going to fly to Baltimore to meet with agent Ron Sharpio (thank goodness its not Scott Boras) in the coming weeks to discuss his future.
Mauer has the opportunity to be mentioned in Minnesota lore amongst the all-time Minnesota greats. He has the opportunity to play in a state-of-the-art stadium for the rest of his career if he wants to.
Although Minnesota has had a reputation for stinginess in the past, I think owner Jim Pohlad would be willing to shell out extra money to keep Mauer.
In order to avoid distractions all seasons, it would be best if the two teams have a deal done before pitchers report to Spring Training in February, but look for it to happen after Mauer sees what happens during the Winter Meetings.