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MLB Free Agency 2012: What's Next for Minnesota Twins?

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MLB Free Agency 2012: What's Next for Minnesota Twins?
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Free agent SP Paul Maholm has reportedly been in contract talks with the Minnesota Twins

In a season in which the Minnesota Twins lost 99 games, fans thought they would have at least three months before seeing the team go 0-3.

But after seeing closer Joe Nathan sign with the Texas Rangers in November, and outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel both signing with NL West teams within days of each other, Twins fans are left scratching their heads as Twins management appear to be wanting to recycle the "Twins: Get To Known 'Em" slogan from the 2001 season.

Sure, the Twins brought in Josh Willingham to help stabilize the outfield. But was it the Willingham signing that scared Kubel and Cuddyer away?

Or was it the Twins seeming lack of awareness that the MLB free agency period had started?

Other than signing Willingham (.246, 29 HR, 98 RBI), the Twins signed catcher Ryan Doumit (.303, 8 HR, 30 RBI in 77 games) to compete with Drew Butera (.167, 2 HR, 23 RBI) , Jamey Carrol (.290, .359 OBP, in 146 games) to help stabilize the middle infield, and brought back Matt Capps (4-7, 4.25 ERA, 15/24 SVO) to close out games.

Otherwise, the Twins have been very quiet this offseason.

After coming off their worst season since 1982, the Twins have a plethora of holes to fill this offseason, starting with pitching.

Twins pitchers ranked 29th in ERA (4.58), second in hits allowed (1,564), 30th in opponent batting average (.281) and 30th in strikeouts (940).

The offensive production wasn't much better. The Twins ranked 25th in runs scored (619), 27th in OBP (.306) and 28th in home runs (103), with 44 of those coming from Kubel, Cuddyer and new Philly Jim Thome. 

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Josh Willingham will help with the offensive production, but the Twins should have tried harder to resign either Kubel or Cuddyer.

If the Twins had resigned Jason Kubel:

The outfield would have likely consisted of Josh Willingham in left, Denard Span in center and Jason Kubel in right.

Depending on the health of Justin Morneau, Kubel would have been rotated between right field and DH. According to BaseballReference.com, Kubel production is about equal when he plays the field (.271, 58 HR, 231 RBI in 1370 AB in the field vs. .272, 42 HR, 189 RBI in 1140 AB as a DH).

If the Twins had resigned Michael Cuddyer:

The Twins would have had a lot more flexibility regarding Justin Morneau's health situation. Mathematically, Michael Cuddyer's offensive production is highest when he is playing first base (.298, 32 HR, 124 RBI in 799 PA at 1B vs .270, 78 HR, 352 RBI at RF). Cuddyer would have been the regular right fielder, filling in at first base with Luke Hughes, Joe Mauer, or Chris Parmalee. 

If the Twins had resigned Jason Kubel AND Michael Cuddyer:

An interesting, yet unlikely, situation. With Joe Mauer's huge contract on the books, there is no way that the Twins would have ponied up for both Cuddy and Kube. However, if they had, they would have had enough outfield depth to trade for pitching.

The Washington Nationals are reportedly very interested in Denard Span. With Span's concussion problems possibly carrying over from 2011, it may be a good time to dump him, especially with young players like Ben Revere and Joe Benson ready to fill the outfield holes. 

But those scenarios are over and done with. Cuddyer signed a three-year deal with the Colorado Rockies, and Jason Kubel signed a two-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With those two salaries off the books, you'd think that the Twins would make a run at a starting pitcher.

With top-tier pitchers like CJ Wilson and Mark Buerhle off the market, it will be interested to see what direction the Twins take, whether it is pursuing another veteran like Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson or building from the ground up and seeing what current starters Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn and Francisco Liriano can bring to the table.

The Twins, who are notoriously low spenders when it comes to free agency, likely won't pony up for the $10 million per season that a Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson would command.

Look for the Twins to negotiate with players like Jeff Francis, Joel Pineiro, Jon Garland, or Paul Maholm.

With the departure of Cuddyer and Kubel, no quick fixes for the pitching staff, and questions at virtually every starting position, look for another long season for the Minnesota Twins in 2012.

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