In 2010, the Twins will finally see the opening of their new stadium, Target Field, and they’ve certainly made the moves to create a contending team to play in it.
The Twinkies’ offseason action centered around improving their offense without sacrificing defense. These upgrades were possible thanks to the financial flexibility brought upon by the new stadium. At the same time, the new natural grass surface will present a defensive challenge to a team used to playing on astroturf.
Over the winter the Twins traded the offensively challenged Carlos Gomez to Milwakee for J.J. Hardy, immediately addressing one of their pressing needs, shortstop. The move also allows Denard Span to be an everday player in center field, with Michael Cuddyer in right and Delmon Young splitting left field duties with Jason Kubel. The addition of free agent DH Jim Thome will also give manager Ron Gardenhire the option to sit Young against righties.
Second base was another hole in the Twins lineup and by signing Orlando Hudson, they landed one of the top second basemen in the free agent market, immediately improving their infield. With Hardy at short, Justin Morneau at first, Hudson at second, and Nick Punto shifting to third the Twins have a solid defensive infield (Joe Crede won’t return as his back simply couldn’t hold up). Of course, Joe Mauer returns to catch, fresh off signing a long-term extension.
Pitching for the Twins won’t be as strong as it once was, with Scott Baker, Carl Pavano (‘memba him?), Nick Blackurn and Kevin Slowey holding the one through four slots. The fifth slot is Francisco Liriano’s to lose, but the former ace hasn’t been the same since returning from Tommy John surgery two years ago.
The lone black eye in the Twins’ offseason, although involuntary, comes in the form of season-ending surgery to their star closer. Joe Nathan will be out all of 2010, creating a huge void in the back of the bullpen.
It was only a matter of time before Target Field opened, and for the Twinkies to reap the financial rewards that came with it. This offseason was certainly the begining of a new era in Minnesota and it seems like they spent their money wisely. Nathan’s absence will hurt, but there can’t be any doubt that the Twins are the team to beat in the AL Central.
Offseason Grade: A
Key Additions: J.J. Hardy, Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome
Key losses: Joe Nathan (injury), Carlos Gomez, Joe Crede
Projected lineup, rotation and closer:
C – Joe Mauer
1B – Justin Morneau
2B – Orlando Hudson
SS – J.J. Hardy
3B – Nick Punto
LF – Delmon Young / Jason Kubel
CF – Denard Span
RF – Michael Cuddyer
DH – Jason Kubel / Jim Thome
SP – Scott Baker
SP – Carl Pavano
SP – Nick Blackburn
SP – Kevin Slowey
SP – Francisco Liriano
CL – ??