I might be whistling through the graveyard, but I think 2015 is the Twins' year to become a contender for quite some time.I base some of this hypothesis on the young talent already on the team, the young talent soon to be on the team, and the prospect that a few veterans will have strong comeback seasons.Further, I think there was much improvement in the team's talent from the beginning of the season until their last game in late September.Finally, I think the Twins are overdue for some good luck.
The Twins allowed the most runs in the American League.They need to improve on both facets of run suppression--pitching and defense--and that has to mean new faces in new places.I think the Twins need some turnover in the relief corps and at least one addition to the rotation.My picks for the new rotation part is Justin Masterson. Brett Anderson and Josh Johnson are also interesting "lottery tickets", but Masterson has been better more recently. Masterson should be had for high seven figures ($8-9M), with perhaps a team option at higher dollars.In the bullpen, I think at least two holdovers need to go.Anthony Swarzak is arb eligible, but the Twins have rotation candidates to take his role in long relief.Veterans Duensing and Fien are also arb eligible.While their raw numbers weren't bad, a deeper look predicts dramatic falloff.I trade or non-tender both veterans and add who is next in line in the minors(I believe next in line is Michael Tonkin and Lester Oliveros).With the absences created by the claiming of Samuel Deduno and free agency of Jared Burton, there should be room for a potential starter or two to fill the long relief role.
In order to improve defense, there needs to be stability in center field and better defenders on the corners.My blueprint allows for the acquisition of fielding whiz Peter Bourjos and also use better fielders in left field.Candidates to provide both offense and defense on the corners are Jordan Schafer and perhaps Eddie Rosario.Both also could get a shot to start in center, perhaps in some adapted platoon with Bourjos.Aaron Hicks would also figure for left or center, but I think both he and the team would be better served to start Hicks in AAA.
Much of the rest of the roster would be status quo.Starters in the infield at first, second and third return.Santana auditions at both shortstop and the outfield and is a starter at one spot and Option B if the original plan doesn't work out. Nunez would be the primary utility infielder if Escobar is the SS.His ability to play in the outfield might buy him a roster spot even if Santana is at short,.Escobar is either the primary utility infielder or starting shortstop.At catcher, incumbent Kurt Suzuki will be back with Josmil Pinto as his understudy.
Here's my 25-man roster leaving Fort Myers:
Starting rotation:Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer, Justin MastersonBullpen:Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, Lester Oliveros, Casey Fien, Glen Perkins (12 pitchers)
Catchers:Kurt Suzuki, Josmil Pinto (2 catchers)
Infielders:Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar, Kennys Vargas, Eduardo Nuñez (7 infielders)
Outfielders:Jordan Schafer, Eddie Rosario, Peter Bourjos, Oswaldo Arcia