MINNEAPOLIS -- With the World Series set to end on either Wednesday or Thursday in St. Louis, the official baseball offseason is almost here.
Once the Fall Classic concludes, teams have a five-day window for exclusive negotiations with their own free agents, meaning the Twins have until the middle of next week to work on deals with Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Matt Capps.
It appears highly unlikely the Twins will get anything done during that period, however, as Cuddyer and Kubel have both said they want to test free agency and Capps is unlikely to return.
Clubs also have until three days after the conclusion of the World Series to decide to pick up options, so the Twins will have to make a decision regarding Joe Nathan's $12.5 million option by the end of the week.
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The Twins don't appear inclined to exercise Nathan's option, as the club is much more likely to pay him his $2 million buyout and offer him a new multi-year deal to try to bring him back.
So while there shouldn't be any major surprises in that first week, I'll keep you posted on what the Twins decide to do regarding their free agents and Nathan's option.
And without further ado, here's this week's Inbox:
With the Twins saying they're looking for another starting pitcher and that they want to rebuild the bullpen, where do you see Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Anthony Swarzak next season?
-- Carolyn L., Plymouth, Minn.
It seems more and more likely Duensing will be moved to the bullpen, with Pavano, Baker, Liriano and Blackburn remaining in the rotation. Swarzak is expected to have a similar role to the one he had last season, as he'll be utilized as a long reliever and spot starter.
Slowey, meanwhile, is likely to be non-tendered after an injury-plagued season that saw him go 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in 59 1/3 innings.
As for the open spot in the rotation, the Twins could go after a starter such as Mark Buehrle in free agency or look to make a trade for Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez or Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez.
There's also a wild card the Twins could go after in free agency, which brings me to my next question.
I heard that the Twins are looking over at Japan again. Is there any truth to that?
-- Bryan B., Alta, Iowa
The Twins have been linked to Japanese right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, as he's a free agent this year and Minnesota finished second in the bidding for him last year, when the A's won the bidding but were unable to sign him.
Iwakuma, 30, posted a 2.42 ERA in 2011 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and has totaled a 2.67 ERA over his last five seasons in 780 2/3 innings.
It's always a risk to sign Japanese pitchers, as evidenced by the struggles of players such as Kei Igawa and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but others such as Hiroki Kuroda, Takashi Saito and Koji Uehara have handled the transition just fine.
Will the Twins make any changes with the training staff? It seems like they have to shoulder at least some of the blame for all the injuries in 2011.
-- Wayne T., Rapid City, S.D.
There hasn't been an official announcement regarding the training staff, but Twins general manager Bill Smith said in a radio interview with 1500 ESPN Twin Cities last week that he doesn't expect to make any changes.
Smith has indicated that he believes many of the injuries in 2011 were due to collisions, including Denard Span's concussion, Tsuyoshi Nishioka's fractured left leg, Cuddyer's sore left wrist and Kubel's sprained left foot.
But there were also plenty of injuries that weren't collision based, such as oblique injuries to Delmon Young, Jim Thome, Glen Perkins, Slowey and Duensing; forearm/shoulder injuries to Nathan, Liriano, Blackburn and Baker; and Alexi Casilla's hamstring strain.
So the training staff does need to show improvement next season, and that's why Smith met with team trainers after the season and with team doctors during the club's organizational meetings last week.
Several sports publications are saying the Twins need to go outside of the organization for a new shortstop. Are the Twins thinking the same thing? And if they are, who might be some options outside of the organization?
-- Mark R., Ramsey, Minn.
The Twins are looking to add a veteran middle infielder who can handle shortstop after Trevor Plouffe and Nishioka struggled last season.
Plouffe, who combined to hit 23 homers at Triple-A and with the Twins, has the bat to play at that position, but had troubles defensively, especially with his throwing, with 11 errors. Nishioka, meanwhile, never seemed right after fracturing his left fibula in the sixth game of the season, as he hit just .226 while making 10 errors at shortstop.
The Twins are looking to solidify their defense at that spot and could look at free agents such as Clint Barmes, Ramon Santiago or Alex Gonzalez, or trade for a player such as Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan.
Do you think that the Twins will make a play at David Ortiz to fill the full-time DH role? Or do you think that they will stick with internal options?
-- Dan J., Austin, Minn.
I think there is almost no chance the Twins go after Ortiz, as they've already stated they won't be going after Thome either. It appears the club will go with internal options, especially considering they don't know if Justin Morneau will be relegated to designated hitter duty because of his lingering concussion-like symptoms.
The Twins are much more likely to rotate hitters such as Joe Mauer, Morneau and even Plouffe in that spot next year instead of signing a full-time DH such as Ortiz or Thome.
Will there be a TwinsFest this year? There hasn't been much information available about it.
-- Dave N., Deer Park, Minn.
TwinsFest 2012 is set for Jan. 27-29 at the Metrodome with more than 60 current, former and future Twins players expected to appear throughout the course of the weekend.