Here is my off-season plan.
What am I trying to accomplish?
-Being realistic with payroll, both on dollars and years
-Improve the team this year and in the near future
-Keep key positions open for guys like Sano and Buxton, and allow young pitchers to emerge.
-Address our real needs of OF defense and starting pitching
The Twins ranked second to last in starting ERA last year, behind only the Rockies who play a mile in the air. That is not good. While it is tempting for the Twins to pencil in Hughes, Nolasco, Gibson, Meyer, and May for next season and stand pat, I think that would be a huge mistake. This group needs to add more talent. On top of that, someone will get hurt or be ineffective next year. You just can’t pencil in five guys and hope nothing bad happens. If the worst thing that can happen is you create a healthy competition for the 5th spot or push a guy like May to the pen for awhile, that is OK with me.
Let’s face it, the Twins are NOT signing Scherzer, Lester, or Shields. There are some tempting trade opportunities out there like Cole Hamels. But I think it would be a mistake for the Twins to move prospects for a guy making $20M+ a year. Right now we have payroll flexibility and young prospects, we don’t need to blow both on one roster spot. I think any other name out there does not make a ton of sense for the Twins. We don’t need more Correia’s, Worley’s, or Pelfrey’s. If we are going to give up starts next year, give them up to a guy that is a clear upgrade and more than a one year proposition.
Verdict: Sign Ervin Santana to a 3 year, $45M deal with a team option for a 4th year and a buyout. I would probably be okay with the 4th year that vests based on 180+ plus innings a year for the three years. Ervin has been a workhorse, averaging 207 innings a year over the last five years. Outside of the poor 2012 in which he had an ERA of 5.16, his ERA has been consistently good 3.92, 3.38, 3.24, and 3.95. In my view he would be our second best pitcher behind Phil Hughes.
Our OF defense last year was a complete disaster and we had a debacle in CF all year. Josh Willingham is gone and my guess is Oswaldo Arcia is handed a corner spot and he probably should. He ended last year with an OPS of .750, 20 HR’s in 100 games, (4th in OPS on the team) while proving to be a liability defensively (annualized -2.4 dWAR). Other guys in the mix are Hicks, and potentially later in the year Buxton and Rosario. I view Jordan Schafer as a 4th OF. What the Twins should NOT do is sign a guy that may hit a bit and play poor defense, I am thinking Torii Hunter, Melky Cabrera, Nick Markakis. Let’s let another team make that mistake and fix our actual need.
Verdict: Sign Colby Rasmus to a 3 year deal for $36M (yahoo projected salary). This signing does a few things. Colby has played almost all of his career games in center and has a positive dWAR of 2.4 over his career. He could start in CF and move to a corner when Buxton arrives. I would expect he would provide plus defense in a corner, which would be a huge upgrade from last year. If we have a bunch of OF prospects turn out in two years, Rasmus has a career OPS of .788 against righties, which would make him a very ideal platoon guy (albeit an expenseive one that one year). I believe this move would stabilize both the offense and defense. He does have an appealing bat as well. He has a career .751 OPS and has averaged 21 HR and 22.5 2B a year over the last three years (while missing about 90 games over that stretch). He had a very good year in 2013, with 22 HR and an OPS of .840. His OBP and K numbers are not good, but he is still 28 and I think the what he provides defensively is going to make this a good signing.
Infield, Pen, and DH
I think the move is to stand pat. Paul Molitor has said he is going to play Danny Santana at short stop. He should be given every chance there. You have Suzuki, Dozier, Mauer, and Plouffe rounding out the infield and Escobar as the utility guy. Pinto should be given a shot to prove himself as a backup catcher getting 60 games. If Molitor concludes that Pinto is not a catcher, he should be traded for a team that has not concluded that and we should sign a backup catcher. Vargas should be handed DH and told to smack the ball around.
Our pen is loaded with young guys that should be given a shot, like Burdi, Reed, and Tonkin. No need to spend there or block these guys.
I am guessing these two signings bring payroll to about $85M and improve the team. What do you think?