Twins on the lookout for starting pitching

Twins on the lookout for starting pitching

MINNEAPOLIS -- After finishing with the worst record in the American League for a second straight year, general manager Terry Ryan knows he has plenty of work to do to try to turn around the Twins in 2013.

The Twins lack starting pitching -- left-hander Scott Diamond is the lone pitcher guaranteed a spot in the rotation -- and Ryan said acquiring pitching help will be his No. 1 priority even if he has to trade to get it.

"There are not too many untouchables on this ballclub, if any," said Ryan, who shed the interim label off his role as GM after the season.

"We've got to do some things to get some pitching in this organization. That is our main objective going into the winter months, fall months."

Top trade candidates -- if Ryan is willing to go that route -- are center fielder Denard Span, first baseman Justin Morneau and left fielder Josh Willingham.

Players can start signing with other clubs after 11 p.m. CT on Friday.

The Twins will also look at free agency, but it doesn't appear likely they're willing to spend top dollar to sign an ace such as Zack Greinke. Potential free agents this offseason include Greinke, Dan Haren, Anibal Sanchez, Ryan Dempster, Jake Peavy, Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, Joe Saunders, Joe Blanton and Paul Maholm.

"Anybody that's available, we'll at least look at," Ryan said.

Right-hander Carl Pavano is the club's lone impending free agent, although Ryan announced the club will not pick up reliever Matt Capps' $6 million option for next season and will instead pay his $250,000 buyout.

The Twins also hold a $9.25 million option on right-hander Scott Baker that is likely to be declined, but both sides have expressed interest in a new deal, as Baker is coming off Tommy John surgery.

Ryan has indicated that payroll will not be a barrier to the club's success, as he pointed out that Minnesota had a higher Opening Day payroll than postseason teams such as the A's, Orioles, Nationals, Reds and Braves.

The Twins haven't set a firm number for the payroll, but it's expected to be around $100 million, which was where they were in '12.

"I think we can quit fooling ourselves that money is the answer," Ryan said. "We're going to have to make good decisions to create a pitching staff that's going to give us a chance."

Contract issues

Free agents: Pavano, RHP

Eligible for arbitration: Brian Duensing, LHP; Jared Burton, RHP; Alexi Casilla, INF; Drew Butera, C

Player options: None

Club options: Baker, RHP, $9.25 million; Capps, RHP, $6 million ($250,000 buyout)

Non-tender possibilities: Casilla, Butera

Areas of need

Starting rotation: The Twins ideally would like to acquire three starting pitchers to plug into next year's rotation. Diamond is the only pitcher guaranteed a spot in the rotation, but the club does have prospects such as Kyle Gibson and Liam Hendricks in the mix for a spot, and it looks like there's a chance they also bring back Baker. Gibson and Baker are both coming off Tommy John surgery, so Minnesota would like to add a few durable starting pitchers. The Twins could also look to trade for a front-line starter, as they don't appear inclined to sign a high-priced starter such as Greinke.

Bullpen: The bullpen wasn't much of an issue for Minnesota, as it was the starting pitching that plagued the Twins in 2012. But the Twins are always on the lookout to add quality bullpen arms to go along with relievers Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Duensing, Casey Fien and Alex Burnett. But the club will not be in the market for a closer, as Perkins took over that role in the second half of the season with Capps out due to a rotator cuff injury.

Infield: The Twins have plenty of options in their infield with versatile players such as Jamey Carroll, Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier and Eduardo Escobar on their roster. But Carroll is the only experienced infielder in that group and is expected to serve in a utility role. Trevor Plouffe should be the favorite for the third-base job after hitting 24 homers in 2012, but he needs to work on his defense if he wants to stick there. The Twins could look to add another veteran to bolster their infield depth, as outfield depth is not an organizational concern.

2013 payroll

Ryan likes to say the payroll situation is fluid and doesn't give a firm number on where it'll be in 2013. But it's expected to be right around the $100-million area, which Ryan said is more than enough to field a competitive team. Owner Jim Pohlad said it'll be Ryan's decision on what exactly the payroll figure will be.

"We've never told anybody they have to spend 'X' dollars or that they can't spend whatever they are recommending," Pohlad said. "So it could go up, it could go down. It's whatever Terry tells us."

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.