Coming into the 2011 season, the Twins have a lot of questions marks:
Relief Pitching has been the main concern. After losing Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain out of free agency, only a few bullpen locks remain. Matt Capps was the steady closer for 2010, and Jose Mijares will most likely return with a bigger roll in 2011. Returning All-Star closer Joe Nathan should be ready for spring training, but it doesn't make sense to expect too much from him after so recently undergoing elbow surgery.
Another area that could use help is starting pitching. It looks like Carl Pavano may return to the Twins with something like a 2 year/$20 million deal. But if they can't retain him, The rotation would seem to look as follows: Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. The Twins have recently announced that Slowey may be traded, so the retention of Pavano will be key this offseason.
As far as the lineup pans out, the Twins are looking good. Since negotiations are complete with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the starting 9 may look something like this:
1. Denard Span (CF)
2. Tsuyoshi Nishioka (2B or SS)
3. Joe Mauer (C)
4. Justin Morneau (1B)
5. Delmon Young (LF)
6. Jason Kubel (DH)
7. Michael Cuddyer (RF)
8. Danny Valencia (3B)
9. Alexi Casilla (2B or SS)
Depending on Nishioka's effectiveness, the Twins could even move Span down in the order, and bat Nishioka and Casilla in the number 1 and 2 spots. Either way, having Span or Casilla at the bottom of the order bodes well speed-wise when they bat back into the top of the order.
If veteran Jim Thome returns to Minnesota, he would give the Twins a great DH option and pinch hitter. But regardless if he comes back, the Twins may look for another bat or two to grace the bench.
Trades and free agents could be the answer for the Twins, beyond their minor league depth. Let's look at a few remaining free agents that could help the Twins in 2011.