The Spartans are no longer undefeated thanks to the trouncing they took from Iowa last weekend. But for all of those people that have e-mailed me this week, don't worry, my Michigan State pride is still going strong. I'm even headed to East Lansing this weekend to watch the Spartans take on the Gophers.Of course, I can spend a little more time watching college football since the baseball season has officially come to an end. Congratulations to the Giants on their World Series title, and now that the parade and celebration is over, the focus of the baseball world can shift completely to the 2011 season. This winter, the Hot Stove might get going more quickly due to some changes in the offseason schedule. So stay tuned, and for now, here is this week's edition of the Twins Inbox.
Where is Justin Morneau in his recovery from his concussion? -- Mark M., West Salem, Wis.
I spoke with Twins general manager Bill Smith this week and he's been in contact with Morneau since the season ended. The message that he sent to fans is that Morneau is doing well. When the decision was made to shut him down for the season, the club backed off everything a little bit in terms of his workload. Smith said that while Morneau hasn't done any physical work yet, he is feeling better. The Twins' plan has been to let Morneau rest and get back to feeling well before they have him ramp up activities again.
Smith said the hope is for Morneau to resume his workouts sometime later this month or in December so he can start to ramp things up and look forward to the start of Spring Training. Smith also reiterated that the club will use all the patience that it has to in order to make sure that Morneau is healthy. So it is good news that Morneau is feeling better and that this time off (without any pressure for timetables or trying to get back and play) seems to be helping. What everyone within the organization wants is for Morneau to be fully healthy again and everything appears to be on the right track.
With Orlando Hudson unlikely to come back with the Twins in 2011, who will fill the role at second base? Will they look outside the organization or will they give Alexi Casilla another shot at starting full-time? -- Dan C., Minneapolis
The best guess right now is that Casilla will get another shot at a full-time job, although it's unlikely that he will just be handed the second-base spot outright. Minnesota has other options within its system including infielder Trevor Plouffe, who had talked about playing winter ball in order to get some work at second base. The Twins liked what they saw from Casilla this season, in particular the hard work he put in to get back on the field quickly after elbow surgery and his ability to deliver clutch hits. And there are quite a few people within the organization that believe this is the time for Casilla to prove once again he can be an everyday player.
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Casilla could also be an option at shortstop if the Twins don't tender a contract to J.J. Hardy. It certainly looks like no matter what, Casilla will get an opportunity to earn a starting spot this spring. Casilla looks to be a good option for the No. 2 hitter in the lineup, and if he can prove to be consistent, the Twins could have a solid everyday player in Casilla.
I know the Twins are considered a small-market club, but is there any way they would have even a chance at signing Cliff Lee? In my opinion, he is the best pitcher in baseball in a long time. He has also proven he can pitch in the playoffs, which is what the Twins need. With the new stadium you would think that we would now be able to afford that, especially considering that there is no salary cap in baseball. Is there any chance we could land him at all? -- John E., St. Paul, Minn.
There is no question that Lee is the biggest prize on the free-agent market this winter, but with that distinction comes what will likely be a high price tag to sign the left-handed ace. The Yankees have already been talked about as the front-runner for Lee's services and it sounds like the Rangers will make a strong push to keep Lee in Texas as well. But the Twins don't appear like they'll be in the mix for Lee.
Yes, it's a possibility that the Twins could try to bolster their starting staff this winter, but Lee doesn't look like a realistic possibility. Lee is expected to receive somewhere around $20 million per year and with Joe Mauer starting his contract that will pay him $23 million per year in 2011, it's just not an option for Minnesota to add another contract like that. Even though the Twins have increased revenue from Target Field, it doesn't mean that the club is going to start spending like the Yankees. So that means looking for starting pitching elsewhere.
Is there any possibility of the Twins resigning Brian Fuentes? I liked him better than Joe Mijares, and really do hope he can return for us next year. -- Cal T., Northfield, Minn.
It seems unlikely that Fuentes will be back next season. Fuentes, who is a free agent, made $9 million last season and he has expressed that he'd like to go back into a closer role if possible. Considering the success that Fuentes, a four-time All-Star, has had closing games in his career, it's likely that another team will offer him that opportunity this winter.
The Twins could have two closing options in Joe Nathan and Matt Capps in the bullpen next season, and with the potential of having $20 million locked up in those two pitchers, it seems unlikely that they'd add another expensive potential closer to the mix. Instead, it appears Minnesota will have to look elsewhere if it wants another left-handed option to join Mijares in the bullpen.
What would be the Twins' biggest need this offseason? -- Josh K., Selby, S.D.
If it came down to one area the Twins will have to address this winter, it's the bullpen. That's because of how many relievers the club could lose through free agency. The Twins have six relievers who are free agents, including four core arms -- Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Fuentes. So the look of the 'pen will likely change drastically from what it was at the end of last year. Of course, the Twins are hoping to get Nathan back after the All-Star closer missed the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery. That would be a big boost for the group if Nathan can be close to the form he was before surgery, but there are still plenty of holes for the Twins to fill in.
I've heard that if Carl Pavano and Guerrier leave to sign with other clubs that the Twins would be awarded compensation. What exactly would the Twins receive? -- Roger H., International Falls, Minn.
Pavano and Guerrier are both Type A free agents. That means if the Twins offer arbitration to both players and they sign elsewhere, the club would receive two Draft picks for each player as compensation. It usually includes a first-round pick and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, although it's a little more complicated than that since some teams' first-round picks are protected so they would give up a second-round pick instead.
The Twins also have four Type B free agents -- Crain, Fuentes, Hudson and Rauch. For those players, the Twins could receive one Draft pick as compensation. Of course, all of this comes only if the team decides to offer arbitration to its free agents. There is quite a bit of thinking that has to go into those decisions, because if a player chooses to accept arbitration, then the club will have to pay them whatever salary is determined through the arbitration process. So the Twins will have to decide which free agents they want to offer arbitration to, and only for those players could the team possibly receive compensation.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.