MINNEAPOLIS -- With the holiday season and 2011 behind them, the Twins are hoping 2012 brings better fortune.
The Twins were plenty busy in December -- re-signing closer Matt Capps, while adding outfielder Josh Willingham and right-handed starting pitcher Jason Marquis via free agency.
But they also saw longtime Twins Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel depart for the Rockies and D-backs, respectively, as free agents. Both were classy players with plenty of talent, and will be missed by the organization.
The Twins, however, decided to go in a different direction by going with Willingham instead, and picked up three Draft picks with Cuddyer and Kubel leaving Minnesota.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan said the club is expected to have an Opening Day payroll around $100 million, and the club is nearing that mark after signing Marquis shortly before Christmas. So the Twins aren't expected make any major splashes via free agency, as they're more likely to add bullpen arms this month before heading to Fort Myers, Fla., for Spring Training in February.
But you never know if Ryan has a trade up his sleeve, so stay tuned for more Twins coverage as we get closer and closer to pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 18. And without further delay, here's the first Inbox of 2012:
I don't understand what Twins management is thinking. Cuddyer and Kubel were the only two constants of the 2011 season. The Twins could not depend on Justin Morneau or Joe Mauer, so why did they let Cuddyer and Kubel go?
-- Robbie C., Rapid City, S.D.
I'm sure there are plenty of Twins fans who are frustrated that Cuddyer signed with the Rockies and Kubel signed with the D-backs, but the Twins did well to sign Willingham.
The Twins will certainly miss Cuddyer's versatility and clubhouse leadership, but he profiles as a similar offensive player as Willingham. But the Twins were able to save $10.5 million by signing Willingham to a three-year, $21 million pact instead, and also receive two compensatory Draft picks with Cuddyer leaving for Colorado.
As for Kubel, he had a solid start to the 2011 season before suffering a sprained left foot in late May and only playing in 99 games as a result. The Twins felt they had enough left-handed bats in their lineup, and Kubel opted to sign a two-year deal worth $15 million with Arizona to play outfield and avoid designated-hitter duty. The Twins also receive a Draft pick for Kubel departing to the D-backs, so they'll have five picks in the top 74 of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.
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With Cuddyer and Kubel now gone, what are the chances the Twins go after Edwin Jackson?
-- Steven K., Wilmont, Minn.
Jackson is currently the top free-agent starter on the market, and would give the Twins a boost to their rotation. But he's going to command too much money for the Twins to be serious bidders.
Jackson, a Scott Boras client, is reportedly looking for a four-year deal, and the Twins simply don't have enough room in their payroll to make a competitive offer to the right-hander.
The Twins decided to go with a cheaper alternative in right-hander Jason Marquis, who is expected to be the club's fifth starter after signing a one-year deal worth $3 million on Dec. 22.
Marquis doesn't have Jackson's high-octane stuff, but has proved to be a dependable back-of-the-rotation starter throughout his career because of his ability to induce ground balls. He just needs to prove he can stay healthy, after making just 36 combined starts over the last two years.
If the Twins were to start the 2012 season tomorrow, who would likely be their everyday designated hitter? Are Trevor Plouffe and Ryan Doumit possibilities or would they start out as bench players?
-- Tim Z., Waconia, Minn.
Well, it depends on the health of Morneau -- and I'm not sure if Morneau would be ready to play first base if the season were to start tomorrow. But the Twins maintain Morneau will be ready to go in Spring Training, and is expected to remain at first base while seeing time at designated hitter.
So if Morneau is fully healthy on Opening Day and at first base, Doumit remains the most likely candidate to start at designated hitter. But Ryan has stated that the club will go with a floating DH -- with players such as Morneau, Mauer, Doumit, Willingham and Plouffe all seeing action there throughout the season.
I saw Doumit could play some right field. Could he be a possible candidate for the position?
-- Brock P., Randall, Minn.
Willingham will be the club's starting right fielder, with Denard Span in center and Ben Revere in left. But Doumit will see action in right field when Willingham needs a break.
Doumit is expected to be see time at multiple positions, as he's serving as a backup catcher for Mauer, a backup first baseman for Morneau, a backup right fielder for Willingham and as an occasional DH.
I don't see Jason Repko on the Twins' roster or on Triple-A Rochester's roster. Is he a free agent?
-- Barbara L., Anaheim, Calif.
The Twins outrighted Repko after the season to clear room on their 40-man roster, and he's currently a free agent. The Twins liked his defense in the outfield, but he struggled to stay healthy in 2011 -- and hit just .226 in 67 games.