Minnesota Twins: Michael Cuddyer and 4 Others That Might Not Return in 2012

Joe PetruloCorrespondent IIIJuly 12, 2011

Minnesota Twins: Michael Cuddyer and 4 Others That Might Not Return in 2012

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    The Minnesota Twins have a number of big-name players, including Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps, that may not return to the team next season.

    This team is on the brink of beginning minor rebuilding mode, although they are slowly inching back into the playoff hunt.

    Nonetheless, there are a number of contractual issues and differing opinions that could lead to the departures of a number of big-name Twins.

    Let's take a look at five of these big-name players that might not be in a Twins uniform next season.

5. Jason Kubel

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    Jason Kubel was playing some of the best baseball of his career until the injury bug struck him.

    He has been part of the Minnesota Twins organization since 2004 and his career appeared to be taking off after the last three years. 

    Between 2008 and 2010 he hit 69 home runs and accumulated 273 RBI. 

    This year, he was a little bit behind his usual home-run pace, but his batting average was at a career-high .310.

    Now, he is set to become eligible for free agency this offseason.

    There will likely be a number of teams interested in the left-handed bat that can play both left and right field.

    He is a very consistent player that will see his value boom if he returns to the Twins this season and helps push them into the playoffs.

    The Twins will likely do everything they can to retain Kubel this offseason. That doesn't mean there isn't a decent chance he will find a more attractive offer.

4. Joe Nathan

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    Joe Nathan used to be loved by Minnesota Twins fans, but he quickly fell out of favor early this season.

    Now, he is slowly gaining their affection back as he inches toward his old form as the set-up man.

    Nathan has an enormous contract that is set to expire at the end of this season. The Twins have a $12.5 million club option which they will almost certainly decline.

    This does not mean he will have to find a new home.

    If he is willing to negotiate and bring down his salary significantly, he may remain a part of the Minnesota Twins organization for a few more years.

    He seems to think he is still in his prime, and that really is not the case.

    This may lead him to be offended by Minnesota's low-ball offer and if another team bites, Nathan will likely head for new waters. 

3. Jim Thome

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    The Minnesota Twins seemed to prolong the process of signing Jim Thome like the Minnesota Timberwolves prolonged the firing of Kurt Rambis.

    In both cases, it felt like it was going to happen and should happen, but the official news took far too long to be revealed.

    It is clear that Thome is nearing the end of his career.

    If he were to try to play again next season, he would likely inquire with the Twins about another one-year deal.

    Minnesota could go two different ways if this happens. 

    They might be coming off a surprising playoff run looking to keep the core intact for at least one more run in 2012.

    They also might be coming off a disappointing finish to the 2011 campaign, giving them reason to say goodbye to Thome and find young players to build around for the future.

    The latter is more likely, and Thome will probably look to retire after hitting the 600 home-run milestone later this year.

2. Matt Capps

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    Matt Capps has struggled to turn into the closer that manager Ron Gardenhire and the Minnesota Twins expected him to be.

    Minnesota gave up an elite prospect in catcher Wilson Ramos to acquire Capps, which gives fans reason to be frustrated when Capps struggles.

    According to mlbtraderumors.com, his $7 million salary will likely be expected from his camp in a multi-year offer as he enters free agency.

    Fans would berate the Twins organization if a deal like this were made, unless Capps steps up in the second half of the season.

    It might be the best public relations and even baseball move to let Capps go next season.

1. Michael Cuddyer

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    Michael Cuddyer is finally getting the credit he deserves, receiving an All-Star berth and recognition from around the league as his trade value increases.

    Cuddyer has been a bit inconsistent statistically in his time with the Minnesota Twins. Still, he has been a very consistent locker-room guy that always produces at key points in the season.

    This offseason, Cuddyer's $10.5 million deal expires. He will likely be open to negotiating with the Twins, and they will do everything they can to get him back.

    It does not help the team's bargaining stance that he is having a phenomenal year. Still, the Twins should try to bring down Cuddyer's salary a bit with a two or three-year deal. Maybe a two-year, $17 million deal would make him think.

    Cuddyer has been a part of the Minnesota Twins organization for a decade. It would be extremely sad to see him depart for a bigger deal.

    The Twins overpaid a bit to retain him once already, and it is unlikely they will do so again.

    This will likely lead to Cuddyer finding a bigger deal or a team that has a better chance at a World Series run this offseason.