MINNEAPOLIS -- The offseason is here for the Twins, and it's sure to be an important one considering the club finished with the worst record in the American League despite entering the year with playoff aspirations.
As a result, Twins general manager Bill Smith has plenty of tough decisions to make this winter to help get Minnesota back to the playoffs after missing the postseason for the first time since 2008.
For starters, Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps are all free agents and Joe Nathan has a club option worth $12.5 million. Smith has also indicated the club will be going after a starting pitcher, a backup catcher and a middle infielder, while looking to fix a bullpen that posted the worst ERA in baseball.
It's going to be an interesting offseason for the Twins to say the least, and I'll be posting the Twins Inbox more regularly this winter to keep up with the action.
Here's the first Inbox of the offseason:
Do you think Justin Morneau will be traded or be forced to retire due to his concussion? The team sure has made a great effort to resolve this injury for Morneau. I'd hate to see him get hurt from trying to come back time after time.
-- Steven S., Minneapolis, Minn.
The Twins still aren't sure if Morneau will be relegated to designated hitter duty moving forward because of concussion-like symptoms stemming all the way back to his initial concussion sustained on July 7, 2010.
But one thing is for certain, he won't be traded anytime soon, as he's owed $14 million each of the next two seasons as part of his six-year, $80-million deal he signed in 2008. It's also unlikely he'll be forced to retire, although Morneau has said he was surprised the concussion-like symptoms returned at the end of the year after diving for a ground ball on Aug. 28.
Morneau remains hopeful that the concussion symptoms will subside with rest this offseason and that he can return to first base next year, but both Smith and manager Ron Gardenhire have said there's a chance Morneau might have to serve as the club's DH moving forward.
Will Michael Cuddyer come back and play with the Twins for the 2012 season, or will he sign with another team?
-- Erin F., Windom, Minn.
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Smith has said all along that the club is going to try to re-sign Cuddyer, but Cuddyer is set to test out the free-agent market for the first time in his career.
Given his production, versatility and reputation as a clubhouse leader, Cuddyer is likely to command at least a three-year deal worth $8-10 million annually. So, it'll be up to the Twins to try to match other offers. Cuddyer has said he remains open to returning to Minnesota.
But given the club's struggles this season, Cuddyer could always opt to sign with a team he believes is closer to winning a title. So at this point, my best guess is that there's a 60 percent chance Cuddyer returns with the Twins.
Any indication the Twins will look seriously at their offseason in regards to their strength and conditioning regimen? They had way too many nagging injuries, which seems to point to very poor conditioning, or the wrong conditioning.
-- John P., Charlotte, N.C.
The Twins clearly had a problem keeping players healthy this season, as they utilized the disabled list 27 times for 16 different players.
And while Smith has regarded many of those injuries as "collision injuries," many continued to linger such as Kubel's sprained foot and Alexi Casilla's strained hamstring.
As reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this week, Smith told season ticket holders in a conference call that he plans on meeting with his training staff in the coming weeks to discuss if there's a better way to keep players healthy moving forward.
What are the chances that the Twins go out and get an ace?
-- Jacob P., Shorewood, N.C.
Considering Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson is the closest thing to an ace on the free-agent market, it's not very likely. Wilson would be a great fit for the Twins in my opinion, but Gardenhire all but ruled it out when asked about the potential of making a splash for an ace.
"I think we're all smart enough to figure out that free agents out there, as far as pitchers go, if they're really good they're probably going to require a little bit more money than we're willing to pay them," Gardenhire said at the end of the season. "All the big shooters. And there's going to be a market for the rest of them."
The Twins, though, are in the market for a starter and could target a veteran in free agency such as White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle. They'd also be smart to seek help via trade, as quality starters such as Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez or Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez could be had for the right price.
Was Ben Revere's highlight catch on Aug. 22 a perfect example of how his speed can make up for his poor arm in the outfield?
-- Eric B., Gibsonia, Pa.
Absolutely, and it was one of many catches that displayed that Revere's range more than makes up for his throwing arm.
Advanced defensive metrics showed that Revere provided plus-defense in center field, as he posted an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 8.5, which was the fourth-best mark in the American League. John Dewan's Plus/Minus system also ranked Revere as the fourth-best center fielder in the AL, saving the Twins eight runs with his glove.
Is there any chance of Francisco Liriano playing in the Dominican Winter League this year.?
-- Marcia L., Dominican Republic
Liriano said at the end of the season that the Twins are allowing him to pitch in winter ball for Leones Del Escogido this offseason after denying his request to pitch in his native Dominican Republic last winter. Gardenhire said the club is fine with Liriano pitching there because he tossed just 134 1/3 innings this season.
Liriano starred with Escogido two years ago, when he helped the team win the title by going 3-1 with a 0.49 ERA in seven playoff starts, while striking out 47 and walking five in 37 innings.