Twins to use Winter Meetings to make upgrades

Twins to use Winter Meetings to make upgrades

Twins to use Winter Meetings to make upgrades
MINNEAPOLIS -- The annual Winter Meetings are right around the corner, and the Twins figure to remain aggressive in trying to fix a club that lost 99 games last season.

The Twins have been active on the free-agent front, signing shortstop Jamey Carroll and catcher Ryan Doumit to fill two of the club's biggest needs.

But Minnesota still has other issues to address -- namely adding pitching and a corner outfielder -- as general manager Terry Ryan knows there is still plenty of work to do to improve the team.

The Twins also have three free agents -- reliever Matt Capps and outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel -- and Ryan has indicated the club is interested in bringing back Capps and either Cuddyer or Kubel.

So next week's Winter Meetings could bring some clarity to the roster for next season, as the club tries to get back to its winning ways after a disappointing season.

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Below is a look at Minnesota's checklist for the Winter Meetings, which will be held Dec. 5-8 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas:

Club needs

Starting pitching: With left-hander Brian Duensing expected to be moved to the bullpen, the Twins have one open spot to fill in their rotation. But they aren't looking to break the bank in signing a starter, as they're reportedly looking more at back-of-the-rotation arms such as Rich Harden or Chris Capuano. They've also been linked with Japanese free-agent right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, as they finished second in the bidding for him last season when he was posted. Minnesota could also swing a trade for a starting pitcher if the price is right.

Relief pitching: Closer Joe Nathan signed with the Rangers, and Ryan said he plans on adding a reliever with closing experience, as Glen Perkins will remain in his role as a setup reliever. Bringing back Capps still remains the most likely scenario, but there are several other closers on the market. But signing a closer isn't the only need for the Twins, as they could look to add a power arm or two to help a bullpen that finished with the worst ERA in the Majors last season.

Corner outfielder: The Twins could very well fill this need with a familiar face, as the club remains interested in bringing back Cuddyer or Kubel. Cuddyer would fill more of a need because of his right-handed bat and versatility, but is also expected to command a hefty multi-year deal, with big-market clubs such as the Red Sox and Phillies reportedly after his services. Kubel could come a bit cheaper than Cuddyer, and would provide some much needed pop in Minnesota's lineup. Free agent Josh Willingham remains an intriguing target if the Twins don't sign Cuddyer or Kubel.

Who they can or need to trade

RHP Kevin Slowey: Slowey struggled with an 0-8 record and a 6.67 ERA in an injury-plagued '11 campaign that saw him start the year in the bullpen before finishing the season as a starter. He's also eligible for arbitration and earned $2.7 million last season, so the Twins could be looking to shed his salary. But he's been a solid starter in the past, as he has a career 4.66 ERA with an impressive 4.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Top prospects

RHPs Liam Hendriks, Adrian Salcedo, Alex Wimmers, Carlos Gutierrez; OFs Aaron Hicks, Joe Benson, Oswaldo Arcia, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler; INFs Chris Parmelee, Miguel Angel Sano, Brian Dozier.

The Twins are generally reluctant to trade away their top prospects, but if they find the right fit they could swing a deal, most likely for a starting pitcher. But the club appears much more likely to hold on to its prospects.

Big contracts they might unload

None.

Arbitration eligible

LHP Francisco Liriano; INF Alexi Casilla; RHP Kevin Slowey; LHP Glen Perkins; LHP Jose Mijares.

Slowey, who is also a trade candidate, could be non-tendered before the Dec. 12 deadline. Mijares, who posted a 4.59 ERA with 30 walks in 49 innings last season, is another non-tender possibility.

Payroll summation

Upon being named general manager on Nov. 7, Ryan said he anticipates payroll to be in the $100 million range, which would be down from the club's $115 payroll in '11. But the $100 million estimate isn't a hard figure, as the club could go over that mark if that's what Twins brass decides is necessary to put a winning team on the field next season. Including the Carroll and Doumit signings and estimated arbitration figures, the Twins have about $85-$88 million in payroll obligations.

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.