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.

Justin MorneauLast 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.

Craig MonroeWith 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.

Hot Offseason Action Index

10 Responses to “Hot Offseason Action: Minnesota Twins”

  1. Sarah Green says:

    An interesting outcome of the Santana trade on the possibilities of a Sabathia deal, from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

    “One of the reasons the Indians probably won’t trade Sabathia right now is the deal Johan Santana received from the Mets. Not only did Santana’s deal set a precedent for Sabathia’s future contract, but for his trade value as well. Four prospects, none of them major-league ready, wouldn’t help the Indians defend their AL Central title. “


    Got a weaker package for Santana than they should have and does anyone really think the money spend on Morneau and Cuddyer wouldnt have been better spend on a Santana extension? Failing that….take a run with Santana and Liriano and trade Santana an Nathan in June-July if its not working. If Pohlad has any brains, Bill Smith won’t be there for too long.

  3. Coley Ward says:

    Mike, I don’t think the money spent on Morneau and Cuddyer would have been better spent on a Santana extension. I don’t think a team like the twins can afford a $160 million pitcher (or however much Santana ended up getting paid).

    Also, the danger of “taking a run” with Santana and Liriano is that, if the Twins are still competative in June/July, they can’t trade Santana (the PR backlash would be too great). And then they end up getting nothing more than a pair of draft picks when he signs with another team as a free agent.

  4. Sarah Green says:

    Coley, I agree with you. The total dollars promised to Cuddyer and Morneau fall millions short of what the Mets spent on Santana (6 years at $137.5 million). Had Santana been a free agent on the open market, he could have commanded even more, certainly into the $160 million range.

  5. Coley Ward says:

    Yes. Of course, it’s possible Santana would have given the Twins a hometown discount. But probably nothing less than $120 million over six years. And that’s just too much for the Twins to spend on one player, especially a pitcher.

  6. Sarah Green says:

    I was wondering about the possibility of a hometown discount. I didn’t see it happening, especially since the Twins probably couldn’t have kept Morneau if they’d kept Santana. It seems like not only did he want a ton of money, he also wanted to play for a team that could contend. If he’d stayed with the Twins, those two things probably would have been mutually exclusive.

  7. Nick Kapur says:

    What baffled me most about the Santana trade is not that they made the trade, but that they traded him for mostly pitching. By all accounts the Twins have are more loaded with solid pitching prospects than any team besides the Tampa Bay Rays.

    Of course, there is the maxim that you can never have too much pitching, which I generally agree with, but what the Twins really need more than anything right now is some position players, especially at the crucial “up the middle” positions of shortstop, second base, and center field, which are currently projected to be manned by Adam Everett, Brendan Harris, and a question mark.

    While it’s true that Carlos Gomez is a centerfield prospect, he has yet to show any ability to get on base at a high rate and at best should spend a few more years in the minors. If the Twins rush him to the majors this year, I think that will only cramp his development and hurt his value, and even if they are more patient, I’m not sure Gomez is going to be all that awesome. Meanwhile, the Twins added a bunch of pitching prospects which all project out to be 4th-starter types.

    If the Twins were going to trade Santana, they should have traded him for some blue-chip position players, even if it was only one or two of them, for example Santana for Ellsbury straight up, or something, which I bet the Sox would have taken. I think the feeling that Bill Smith had to get quantity as well as quality ultimately hurt the quality he got.

    And if the Twins couldn’t have found a deal for good position players, I actually think they should have just played out the season with Santana, or even signed him to an extension for whatever the cost would be. Because I’m not so sure that the value the Twins could have gotten out of another year of Santana plus two high draft picks wouldn’t be better than what they got out of the Mets, and I’m also not sure that the Twins truly can’t afford Santana, although obviously that was something they never even considered.

    Because this is a team that is about to get a new stadium, and baseball is also flush with cash right now. What does it mean to say that the Twins “can’t afford” Santana? It really just means that Carl Pohlad, one of the richest men in America, doesn’t want to afford Santana. If the Twins had just said “let’s do this thing” and signed Santana, Cuddyer, and Morneau, would it have been the end of the world for them? No, it would not have, because of the new stadium, the Advanced Media kickback, revenue sharing, and the fact that the rest of their team is all young and super cheap. And they would have had three great young players locked up as the core of a contender for several years.

  8. Nick, I agree with your whole concept of “can’t afford” Santana. I think you are correct about the Twins not wanting to afford him more so than not being able to afford him. I also remember the Twins offering him a deal and the years were more of an issue than the dollars. They were willing to give him $20 million per year but only for 4 years. I also agree that they may have been better off letting the year unfold and taking the draft picks if they couldn’t come to an agreement with him. He may have been willing to resign after he saw that the Twins were going to spend the money to resign other young stars. They are also probably going to have to move Mauer to first or DH him before long. That does tend to make me question why they would throw all of that money at Morneau and basically give Santana away.

  9. Sarah Green says:

    Nick and Melissa, you raise interesting points about the draft picks. Certainly, if they had any faith in their scouting system, they could have come out remarkably well with the picks they would have received for losing Santana—no worse than they did in the trade, at least.

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