spoiler alert: The Black Freighter predicted that the Twins would trade for J.J. Hardy during the course of the regular season last year. He was sure it had to happen, because of the inherent logic of the deal. Later on in his 2009 Off-Season Manifesto, he predicts the starting line-up for the Minnesota Twins when they take Target Field for the first time, and he's got J.J. Hardy in there at shortstop. He wrote it in a full 24 hours before the Twins pulled the trade. So there you go. The Black Freighter Knows Things. Enough! The Black Freighter Speaks:
This is probably the most obvious move the Twins have this offseason. A lot of people think Mauer will be making at least $20 million annually, but I just don’t see it because of his injury history and the fact he may have to change positions in the future. Currently Jorge Posada is the highest paid catcher at $13.1 million and I see the Twins topping that by $5 million annually. A 6-year contract worth $108.6 million should make our hometown hero plenty happy… he becomes the highest paid catcher by a large margin and is the 9th highest paid player in baseball. If they do not sign Mauer to an extension by the end of spring training, you can kiss him goodbye.
2. Sign Placido Polanco to a 2-year, $9 million contract.
The 33-year-old 2nd baseman hit .285 this year with 10 homeruns and 72 RBI for the Detroit Tigers. His fielding is above average and he gets on base at a 35% clip. Polanco is an ideal fit for the Twins and would slot perfectly between Denard Span and Joe Mauer.
3. Resign Joe Crede to a 1 year, $2 million contract plus incentives.
Why would the Twins resign a guy that was only able to play 90 games? Defense. Joe Crede’s glove was as good as advertised leading all 3rd baseman, who logged over 700 innings, in UZR. With 3rd baseman of the future Danny Valencia still needing some seasoning, the Twins can gamble that Crede logs a fair amount of innings on the new grass field and adds double-digit homeruns.
4. Resign Ron Mahay to a 1 year, $1 million contract.
Mahay came over to the Twins on August 28th for a player to be named later. Mahay only logged 9 innings, but struck out 8 and allowed only 2 earned runs. Gardenhire used Mahay almost strictly as a LOOGY (Lefty One Out Guy) and it worked quite well. Jose Mijares is the only other lefty in the bullpen and he is primarily used as a set-up guy for Joe Nathan, so the Twins could certainly use a guy with Mahay’s talents.
5. Let Orlando Cabrera, Carl Pavano and Mike Redmond find greener pastures.
Cabrera was certainly an igniter for the Twins during their torrid finish, but he lacks the on base percentage in the 2-hole that Gardy reserves for him. Tack on the fact that he is stretched defensively (11 errors in 57 games with the Twins) and you have a sub-average player demanding more money than he is worth. Carl Pavano pitched admirably down the stretch, but he is not the ace this team desperately needs. On a championship-caliber team, Carl Pavano is your 4th best pitcher. The Twins are better off spending the money on a #1 or #2 guy. Mike Redmond has had a great run in Minnesota, but his skills are in decline and the Twins have a capable and younger #2 catcher in Jose Morales. Redmond was a wonderful leader in the clubhouse, but his naked batting practice will not be missed!
6. Be active in the trade market.
As I mentioned above, the Twins have some major holes to fill, but own some attractive depth players available for other teams. In part 3, I'll discuss some of the possible trades and free agents that the Twins could pursue.