This offseason will be very different from the last for the Minnesota Twins. Last year, they were looking to improve at several positions in order that they might not repeat their under-.500 finish. They were also trying to get maximum value for Johan Santana and to convince Torii Hunter to stay*.
I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate Torii Hunter and Johan Santana for playing for winners, just like they said they wanted to. How's that working out for you guys? At least Carlos Silva admitted that it was about the money.
This season, the Twins finished atop a weakened A.L. Central, but more importantly, found long-term solutions for many of their problem areas. The outfield is more than set, so much so that the Twins may be willing to dangle one of their superfluous guys as trade bait.
The infield, however, is much less set. Thankfully, first base is set; MVP candidate Justin Morneau has that tied down for the foreseeable future. However, super sub Nick Punto will be a free agent as soon as the World Series ends and will almost certainly be grossly overpaid by someone like Ned Colletti.
Brendan Harris was underwhleming for much of the year, and while Brian Buscher was a serviceable replacement for Mike Lamb's corpse, he isn't a long-term solution.
Matt Tolbert and Alexi Casilla are the only two players from this year's team who seemed to earn their spot moving forward. Tolbert will become Nick Punto part deux as a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. Casilla will probably stay at second base, though his quickness may allow a shift to shortstop if need be.
The Twins' biggest need seems to be third base. Brendan Harris and Matt Tolbert could almost certainly do a passable job at short and, as long as the third baseman can hit, wouldn’t drag the team down.
Given the state of the payroll, the Twins likely will be in the mix for every potential third-base target. Each legitimate target will be profiled here between now and, well, when the pool of real targets dries up.
First up: Adrian Beltre
Beltre was one of the Twins’ targets at the trading deadline, but they deemed the asking price too high. In retrospect, it was probably a mistake. Brian Buscher and Glen Perkins both suffered from late-season swoons, which makes the need for Beltre greater and the cost lower in hindsight. Now the Twins have a second chance to make a play for Beltre, and they should seriously consider taking it.
Beltre’s best season was the year before his first chance at free agency; 2009 will be the last season before his second crack at it. While it would be absurd to think Beltre will hit .344 with 48 HR and 121 RBI again, it does show that Beltre does not shy away when the pressure of a new contract is on.
His great glove would certainly be a welcome addition to pitchers like Nick Blackburn and Francisco Liriano, especially since Punto’s defense will be lost. And while his injury history is a little worrisome, it may also lower the M’s asking price.
His offseason surgeries have already occurred, successfully, so that issue is no longer in the air, and he should be ready by the time Spring Training opens.
Beltre seems eager to move to greener pastures, which raises the likelihood that Seattle will try to get what they can for him before losing him next season. Arguably the biggest impediment to the Twins' acquiring Beltre will be the competition from teams like Reds and Indians.
The Twins and Indians both have the minor-league talent the rebuilding Mariners want, but a bidding war favors Mark Shapiro, who has a bigger budget and probably a better stomach for intense negotiations.
2009 Contract: $12m
Possible Trade Chips: Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Steven Tolleson