Mark Buehrle and 8 Potential Free Agent Targets for the Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins made their first big move of the MLB offseason on Nov. 3. It was revealed that the first major move by the Twins was ... to throw Brewers announcer Cory Provus in their radio booth.
Oh, those aren't moves you get excited for over the offseason?
Well, free agency also began on Nov. 3, which means that Twins fans have already made their Christmas list out for who they want to add to the team.
The Twins will be looking to add several pieces to a team that lost 99 games a season ago. If they don't come out of the free agent period with something, the friendly confines of Target Field may become a little less cozy for Twins general manager Bill Smith.
Starting with guys the Twins could re-sign, Michael Cuddyer will be priority No. 1 for the Twins this offseason.
Cuddyer is coming off his first all-star appearance in 2011, as he hit .284 with 20 home runs and 70 runs batted in.
What Cuddyer brings is leadership to the Twins clubhouse. He is the longest-tenured Twin, and with 11 years of experience, the younger players look at him as an example of the "Twins Way."
The question here is if Cuddyer wants to stay a Minnesota Twin. If Cuddyer looks at the direction the team is headed and decides that winning (or money) is more important, look for him to head out East.
Joe Nathan, one of the most dominant closers in Twins history, will also hit the market.
Like Cuddyer, it will be a willingness to stay with the Twins that determines Nathan's future.
Nathan will turn 37 next month, and the Twins have to be wondering how much gas is left in Nathan's tank. This will also be Nathan's second year removed from Tommy John surgery, where many pitchers see their stuff start to return.
Nathan had a slow start to the season, but bounced back to put up respectable numbers and regain his closer role. If the Twins think that Nathan will continue to improve, he could be the team's closer in 2012. However, Nathan could also decide that there is a better opportunity to close elsewhere.
This is the part where I'm jumping on Santa's lap.
The Minnesota Twins have failed time and time again to put an adequate shortstop out on the field. Could the Twins be tired of fooling around and go all in?
The Twins don't have a prospect in their minor league system ready to take the starting job, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been a bitter disappointment. Signing Reyes would put an end to that problem.
While the Twins are supposedly planning on lowering payroll in 2012, perhaps Reyes' value took a hit when he went on the disabled list with a hamstring problem in the middle of the season. Of course, it could have went right back up once Reyes sat on his National League batting championship.
The match between Reyes and the Twins doesn't seem likely, but it's something the front office should consider.
While the price tag for the top starter on the market, C.J. Wilson, is probably going to be in the $100 million range, the Twins may go for an under-the-radar guy like Edwin Jackson.
Jackson has been an interesting case during his career. He's already played for six teams, and he's only 27 years old. His numbers have been decent as well, as he owns a career record of 60-60 and a 4.76 ERA.
Jackson also has one thing that the current pitching staff doesn't have: the ability to make hitters miss.
If the Twins go this route, they better make sure not to overpay Jackson, as his value will be inflated due to the lack of top-tier starting pitching on the market. However, if the Twins can get Jackson for a decent price, they might have a steal on their hands.
If the Twins' starting pitching lacks something else, it's consistency. The Twins thought they had it when they signed Carl Pavano to a three-year deal last offseason, but he turned out to be a disappointment.
Buehrle is Twins manager Ron Gardenhire's dream. He's an effective pitcher who pitches to contact. He'll also be able to give the Twins 200 innings if he can stay healthy.
The crafty lefty may be more of a risk in terms of his age as he will turn 33 next March. His days of being an ace may be gone, but the Twins need a middle-of-the-rotation starter who can give them solid outings.
Buehrle may be a perfect fit.
Last year the Twins added their first Japanese born player in franchise history with the signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The experiment failed miserably.
What you may not know is that Nishioka wasn't the only Japanese player the Twins were targeting. The Twins put in a bid for Hisashi Iwakuma last offseason, only to be outbid by the Oakland Athletics. The A's and Iwakuma were unable to get a deal done, and Iwakuma returned to the Raukten Golden Eagles.
This year, Iwakuma will be a free agent, and the Twins won't have to compete in a posting system to try and sign him. He posted a 10-9 record with a 2.82 ERA in 2010 for Raukten, and has put up solid stats throughout his career in Japan (49-24, 2.72 ERA).
The question will be if the Twins want to try and experiment with another Japanese player in 2012. The Nishioka signing made the front office look foolish, and it could be possible that they may not want to get burned twice.
As mentioned before, the Twins are looking for a solution to their decade-long shortstop problem. They're also looking to shore up their defense. Clint Barmes could provide a stop-gap for both.
Barmes isn't the sexiest name on this list, but he can help an infield that couldn't seem to throw the ball from short to first without bouncing it in the dirt. For a team that prides itself on pitching to contact, the Twins have to make sure that their infield defense improves.
Barmes could help solve that problem, and although he isn't the greatest hitting shortstop on the market, he could be a valuable commodity for the Twins.
Don't laugh. It could happen.
While a return of Nick Punto would make most Twins fans groan, it might not necessarily be a bad thing if the Bill Smith brought him back.
For years, fans wondered if Punto had pictures of Ron Gardenhire in comprising positions, forcing him to keep Punto's name in the lineup.
What we know about Punto is this: He is not an everyday player. However, when he is used at a utility guy, he is at his best. The Twins could actually use Punto at second and short to give players a rest, or simply be a late-inning defensive replacement.
Let's also not forget he's a world champion. Think about how much fun Twins fans can have when Punto is walking around the clubhouse shoving his World Series championship ring in Joe Mauer's face? It might be worth the contract to have that happen.
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