10 Minnesota Twins to Watch That May Be Gone by 2012
The Minnesota Twins are done. Don't expect any miraculous comebacks in 2011. Currently around 11 games behind the division-leading Detroit Tigers, the Twins just don't appear to have what it takes to make up that many games with only 40 games left to play.
There are plenty of reasons for the Twins collapse. Almost every starter in the field, with the exception of third baseman Danny Valencia, has spent some time on the disabled list.
The pitching has been inconsistent from the front of the rotation to the end of the bullpen.
Perhaps, it's a curse of Ron Gardenhire finally earning Manager of the Year in 2011 or a sophomore slump for Target Field.
The Minnesota Twins find themselves at a crossroad.
Is this merely a patch of bad luck with so many injuries derailing the season, or is this the beginning of a rebuilding project?
Either way there is a very good chance that the Minnesota lineup that Gardenhire has been putting on the field will be very different come next season.
Here are 10 Twins that have a very good chance of playing their last 40 games, if they last that long, in Minnesota.
Super Utility Player Michael Cuddyer
In 11 seasons playing for the Minnesota Twins, Michael Cuddyer has played every position except shortstop and catcher.
He has been invaluable to the Twins over the past two seasons, filling in at first base with Justin Morneau missing half of the last two seasons from a concussion in 2010, and a ruptured disk in his neck requiring surgery this season.
Cuddyer, who is making $10.5 million this season will be a free agent in 2012.
According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Cuddyer plans to test the free-agent market.
Like Torii Hunter, another popular Twin who played his first 11 seasons in Minnesota and left the Twins as a free agent, there is no reason to think the Twins will step up and offer Cuddyer enough money to stay in Minnesota.
Outfielder Jason Kubel
Like Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel is set to become a free agent in 2012.
With a $5.25 million salary, half that of Cuddyer, fans might think there is a better chance to re-sign Kubel.
A .274 career hitter, in his previous four seasons Kubel has averaged 20.5 home runs and 85 RBI—numbers a lot of teams would be willing to pay handsomely for.
Leading the Twins with a .310 average before suffering a foot injury on May 30th, Kubel the most likely candidate to represent the Twins in the All-Star game.
There's no reason for South Dakota native to give the Twins a home town discount.
Joe Nathan has regained his form after missing the entire 2010 season after having Tommy John surgery.
Nathan, who will turn 37 this November, is set to make $12.5 in 2012.
The Twins have an option to buyout his contract for $2 million.
If the Twins believe they are in rebuilding mode, there will be no reason to pay that much for a closer.
In Nathan's first season with the Twins he was paid $440,000 and had 44 saves—the Twins might look to make another similar deal for a potential future closer.
Relief Pitcher Matt Capps
Matt Capps is set to be a free agent in 2012. After losing the closer role with seven blown saves early in the season, there is no reason to believe the Twins will be eager to pay anywhere even close to the $7.2 million he's making this season.
They certainly won't pay that much for a seventh or eighth-inning pitcher.
Utility Infielder Matt Tolbert
There's no reason to keep Matt Tolbert on the roster.
Like Nick Punto before him, Tolbert is another weak-hitting switch-hitter, because his supposed speed manager Ron Gardenhire likes to use Tolbert as a late inning pitch runner.
In 68 games so far this season—the second most in his four-year career, Tolbert is batting only .220.
If Tolbert is on this team because of his speed, he should have more than two steals in four attempts.
Designated Hitter Jim Thome
Thome, who is a free agent after the season, is being paid $3 million this season.
Like many of the Twins players this season, Thome has not been able to remain healthy and will wind up playing in the fewest game since 2005 in Philadelphia.
Just as the White Sox traded Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August of 2009, I'm sure there are a couple of teams in the playoff hunt that wouldn't mind having Thome on the bench as a pitch hitter.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins were to trade him before the end of the season.
Shortstop/Second Baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka
This has not the been the debut the Twins were hoping for when they signed Tsuyoshi Nishioka in December.
A batting champion and stolen base leader in Japan, Nishioka is hitting .218 with only two stolen bases.
A three-time Gold Glove winner while with the Chiba Lotte Marines, he has committed 10 errors in 57 games this season for the Twins.
Perhaps, Nishioka should spend a season at Triple-A to acclimate himself to North American baseball.
Catcher Drew Butera
With Joe Mauer spending a good part of the early season on the disabled list with bilateral leg weakness, Drew Butera had a great opportunity to demonstrate that he belonged on a major league roster.
In 63 games this season, he is only hitting .167.
An argument could be made to keep him on the roster if he was a good defensive catcher, but with .986 fielding percentage in his two major league seasons, it's not enough to justify keeping him on the roster.
The problem may be, after trading Wilson Ramos to Washington last season, the Twins really don't have any depth at this position in the organization.
Starting Pitcher Francisco Liriano
In six seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Francisco Liriano has exactly one complete game—not exactly the makings of a staff ace.
Since returning to the starting lineup in 2008 after missing the entire 2007 season because of Tommy John surgery, Liriano alternates having a good year with a terrible one.
In even-numbered years, he has an ERA of 3.70 and a combined 20-14 record.
In odd-numbered years, his performance suffers with a 5.48 ERA and a losing record of 13-22.
Pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire are still hoping for the 12-3 record with a 2.16 ERA that Liriano had before suffering the injury to his elbow in the 2006 season.
If the trend continues, Liriano should have a decent season in 2012 but have the Twins finally ran out of patience with him.
Liriano will be a free agent in 2012, and there will be plenty of suitors for the left-handed pitcher.
Starting Pitcher Kevin Slowey
The only reason Kevin Slowey is on the Twins major league roster is because they had to place Scott Baker on the 15-day disabled list with a strain to the flexor muscle in his right elbow.
After losing the battle with Baker for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, Slowey struggled with his role in the bullpen. He found it difficult to quickly warmup and get ready to enter a game.
The Twins gave up on him as a reliever and optioned him to Triple-A Rochester in June.
While the Twins are in desperate need of starting pitching, Slowey will more than likely be traded before the 2012 season.
So What Does the 2012 Lineup Look Like?
A lot of things are going to happen between now and next spring.
If the Twins feel they are in the rebuilding mode they might be looking to dump salary to gain prospects—as they did in the trade with Detroit, getting a Single-A pitcher for outfielder Delmon Young, here is a potential lineup for next season:
C: Joe Mauer
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Trevor Plouffe
SS: Alexi Casilla
3B: Danny Valencia
LF: Ben Revere
CF: Denard Span
RF: Rene Tosoni
SP: Carl Pavano
SP: Scott Baker
SP: Brian Duensing
Closer: Glen Perkins