This is one of a series of posts in which we grade each team’s wily hot stove maneuvers and tragic offseason blunders.
So yes, the Twins finally succumbed to the inevitable and traded Johan Santana to a contender. But prior to the deal going through, common sense had the Mets giving up a boatload of young talent in return for the veteran hurler and multiple Cy-Young winner. Of all, one prospect came across as the centerpiece of the deal; alas, Fernando Martinez is still a member of the Mets organization and the four prospects that were sent over are not necessarily tickling the collective pickle of Twins fans across the board.
Last year, the Twins were facing arbitration with six core member of their starting nine, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Juan Rincon and Lew Ford; eventually they reached deals with all of them but at a price. Though the resigned Joe Mauer to a 4-year, $33 million deal, 2006-AL-MVP Morneau agreed to a one-year deal only. There was legitimate concern that Morneau would be priced out of reach for the Twins, a small market team, and thus they would have to face a situation similar to the Santana sweepstakes.
Well, in case it got lost in the Santana hoopla, and fortunately for Twins fans, Morneau resigned for a whopping 6-year, $80 million dollars – the biggest contract in Twins history –avoiding the gloomy prospect of losing two of its biggest stars in the same offseason. (Oh yea, Cuddyer also cashed in at a cool $24 million for a 3-year deal).
So on the surface, the Twins spent the offseason trying to take the lesser of two evils: trade one their superstars, and sign one of them longterm, instead of letting both of them go.
But if you look close, new GM Bill Smith made a flurry of moves to revamp his lineup.
After a subpar 2007 by Nick Punto, the Twins signed Mike Lamb for a frugal $6.6 million to handle third and to provide an offensive boost to the lineup. But don’t pencil him in just yet, Punto is better defensively, so he’ll get his share of ABs.
Jason Bartlett, the team’s “shortstop of the future” was traded in November (along with SP Matt Garza) for Delmon Young (who’ll likely start in left field) in a six-player deal that also brought in infielder Brendan Harris. Smith signed veteran Adam Everett to take Bartlett’s place and the team hopes Harris will be able to take over second base.
With left field in the hands of Young, and right field safely in the hands of newly resigned Cuddyer, there’s that center field crater, void, hole, ditch, etc, that was left vacant when Torii Hunter skipped town. Carlos Gomez, who comes over from the Mets as part of the Santana deal is a good candidate, but Smith made sure he had plenty of posibilities for the job, so he signed Craig Monroe.
The bullpen is again anchored by closer Joe Nathan; though that may not be for long as Nathan enters the last year of his contract and may be traded to a contender if the Twins fail to make any noise in the AL Central.
And then, there’s the rotation. The departures of Santana, Garza, and Silva sure seem to leave behind a decapitated corpse. The return of Francisco Liriano might be cathartic for Twins fans, but for a while, all that remained beyond the #1 spot in the rotation were a handful unproven young arms (Carlos Silva left via free agency). So in hopes of avoiding the potential of having all starters under the age of 26, the Twins singed veteran hurler Livan Hernandez to add some experience to what may be a very inconsistent staff.
Many of the Twins woes have come about due to their “small market” status and the lack of big money that comes with it; the construction of their new stadium has hit various obstacles along the process but is set to open in 2010, when bigger (and more consistent) crowds may help secure funds to sign future stars.
From now until then, though, all the Twins can do is battle it out with what they’ve got.
Projected lineup, rotation and Closer
1. LF Delmon Young – .288 .316 .408
2. 3B Mike Lamb – .289 .366 .453
3. C Joe Mauer – .293 .382 .426
4. 1B Justin Morneau – .271 .343 .492
5. RF Michael Cuddyer – .276 .356 .433
6. CF Carlos Gomez – .232 .288 .304
7. 2B Brendan Harris – .286 .343 .434
8. DH Craig Monroe – .219 .268 .370
9. SS Adam Everett – .232 .281 .318
LF Francisco Liriano – DNP in 2007
RH Livan Hernandez – 11-11, 4.93 ERA
RH Boof Bosner – 8-12, 5.10 ERA
RH Scott Baker – 9-9, 4.33 ERA
RH Kevin Slowey – 4-1, 4.33 ERA
Closer: Joe Nathan – 37 sv, 1.88 ERA
Acquisitions: Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, Delmon Young, Craig Monroe, Carlos Gomez, Livan Hernandez
Losses: Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Carlos Silva, Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett (both in the Young deal).
Offseason grade: C
The Santana trade was a nasty affair and the Twins came out looking more like losers than winers; if we were to grade on that, they could not get higher than a D. But the fact that they managed to sign Morneau to a long-term deal was significant enough to upgrade the perennial D to a C.