Inbox: How much will be spent in 2010?

Inbox: How much will be spent in 2010?

First off, a big thanks to everyone for submitting their questions. My e-mail inbox was quickly flooded last week with your numerous inquiries. Of course, I wasn't able to get to all of the questions this week, but I've saved many of them for future use.

With the World Series on the verge of being over and thus the start of free agency right around the corner, let's dig into this Inbox and see what's on your minds this week ...

What is the Twins' current payroll before free agency starts and what is the projected payroll for next season?
-- Dale W., Sauk Rapids, Minn.

The Twins don't disclose their payroll for the upcoming season but the guess is that it will rise to somewhere around $85-90 million for the first season in their new ballpark, Target Field. But while there is expected to be a jump in payroll, it doesn't necessarily mean that the club will go out on the open market and spend lots of money. That's because much of the increase in payroll is expected to come from within its current roster.

The club already has a little over $62 million committed for the 2010 season as eight players are currently under contract for next year. It's a good chunk of money due to the pay increases that many of those players will see, including Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Scott Baker. That number doesn't include the Twins' eight players who are arbitration-eligible and should be in for pay increases if they are tendered contracts. The Twins are also expected to work on a contract extension for Mauer, which could also play a role in how much the club is willing to spend on other players this winter. But while it's not likely to be a very busy winter for the club in terms of acquisitions, it still will have some room to add some talent -- perhaps an infielder and a starting pitcher.

Do you think Brian Duensing has a chance to make the starting rotation next year? Did he do enough to beat out some of the injured pitchers?
-- Bryan B., International Falls, Minn.

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Duensing certainly played a key role in the Twins' stretch run to yet another division title. With all of the injuries and some ineffectiveness by the starting rotation, the club had to fill three holes over the final two months of the season. The acquisition of veteran Carl Pavano was big for the club but without Duensing to fill one of the two other holes in the starting staff, the Twins would have been in real trouble. His performance after joining the rotation in mid-August put him in the running for one of the five starting spots in the rotation for 2010. If the Twins somehow acquire two starting pitchers this winter, then it is possible Duensing could factor into the bullpen as Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey appear to be locks in the rotation. But I think it's more likely that Duensing will be one of the club's five starters when Opening Day rolls around.

With the infield being the primary area of need, is it a foregone conclusion that the Twins will be going hard after free agent Chone Figgins this winter?
-- Kevin H., Westminster, Md.

It's definitely not a foregone conclusion. In fact, it's very unlikely that the Twins will factor into the race for Figgins at all. Figgins, 31, is expected to be one of the more sought after position players on the free agent market. Many clubs have struggled to find a solid leadoff hitter like Figgins and his skills as a super-utility guy only help increase his value. There have been some estimations that Figgins could possibly receive a five-year, $50 million deal on the market. That's not the type of money the Twins will be looking to spend on an infielder this offseason.

I was just wondering if you could give me an update on how first-round Draft pick Kyle Gibson is doing? Where do you see him starting next year?
-- Garret B., Vermillion, SD

Gibson, who spent the summer letting a stress fracture in his forearm heal, got back on the mound in a game for the first time during the Twins' Instructional League last month. The right-hander tossed a total of four innings and threw all three of his pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup -- during his time on the mound. A very talented pitcher who was expected to be a top 10 pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Gibson fell to the Twins at the No. 22 spot due to his arm injury. Now that the stress fracture is healed, the Twins are excited to see how Gibson can perform. The expectation right now is that Gibson will start the 2010 season at Class A Fort Myers. Based on his experience and the success he had while pitching for the University of Missouri, Gibson could be a prospect that rises quickly through the Twins' system.

I think Twins third base coach Scott Ullger should have been closer to third base than home when Nick Punto was running around third in Game 3 of the ALDS. What are your thoughts?
-- Russell J., Rochester, Minn.

I've gotten a lot of e-mails asking me about that play so I thought I'd address it now. Many of the people e-mailing me thought that Ullger was not in the right position when Punto made his baserunning blunder in Game 3 at the Metrodome. Watching the video you can clearly see that Ullger had his hands up, giving the stop sign to Punto but Nick was running with his head down. That's why he didn't see the stop sign -- not due to the spot where Ullger was standing. Punto put the blame on himself after the contest as well. Here is Punto's quote: "I picked [Ullger] up late, he was right on it and had me on the bag. But I had my head down, so that was all on me."

Catcher Jose Morales is a converted infielder and an excellent hitter. Is there a possibility he could be considered for third base in 2010?
-- Ross C., Vermillion, SD

If Morales breaks camp with the Twins in 2010, it will be as the club's backup catcher. With Mike Redmond entering free agency this winter and Morales showing that he can indeed play at this level, the expectation is that the Twins will look to Morales to be the backup to All-Star catcher Joe Mauer. But as for Morales getting a chance at an infield spot, that will not happen. Manager Ron Gardenhire didn't really feel comfortable using Morales in the infield, even in an emergency, last season and the club has plenty of other options -- Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert -- for third base if Danny Valencia isn't ready and the club doesn't add another third baseman to the mix.

How is Joe Crede doing after his back surgery? Will the Twins re-sign him?
-- Kaitlin Boettcher, LeCenter, Minn.

I got a chance to talk to Crede after the Twins lost Game 3 of the ALDS. He was about two weeks removed from the back surgery at that time and he was smiling while saying that everything was feeling great. While it was Crede's third back surgery in three years, he said this time the recovery was a lot faster than the previous surgeries. Crede's hope is still to play next year and while he's not sure where that will be, he did say that he felt like the Twins were a perfect fit for him. With Valencia seemingly close to being ready for the Majors, it seems unlikely that Crede will be back in Minnesota. But perhaps there is a small chance if Crede comes at a bargain price.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.