Its Now “Next Season”

Hello all, my name is Jimmy Moberg and I will be giving you readers a monthly update from a fans perspective this season on the Minnesota Twins. I will air my frustrations and joy at the decisions of the Twins and the way that they are playing. There will also be some insights I am sure on the happenings of the rest of the league mixed in. Now on the the off-season recap and look at Spring Training, hope you enjoy.

This has been one of the more daunting off-seasons that I remember as a Twins fan. Some big names that were due new contracts or else they were going to leave. Injury concerns to other stars. Development tracking on prospects and front office moves that always happen. All of that was expected. Now what all actually did happen:

– Terry Ryan in and Bill Smith out as GM
– Cuddyer, Kubel, Nathan, and Mijares gone to Free Agency
– Slowey traded for a prospect/internal cap space
– Arrival of Zumaya, Willingham, Carroll, and Marquis among others
– Mauer announcing full health and Morneau starting “baseball activites”
– Sano and Hicks make preseason top prospect lists

With a 63-99 final record last season, most Twins fans where left wondering what happened to their team. One large part of the answer was injuries. Mauer played the fewest games since 2004, his first year in the MLB, with just 82 and that was after what most fans called a disappointing 2010 season. Morneau missed over half of his second consecutive season with concussion symptoms. Denard Span missed over half of the season also with a myriad of injuries that included a concussion that ended 2011 early for him. The brand new big money import 2B/SS Nishioka missed a large chunk of games early because of a broken leg. Our starting rotation seemed to have a separate rotation of their own in response to further injuries and there was no consensus on the closer role because of Joe Nathan’s recovery from Tommy John’s Surgery. With all of that listed in front of me, Im kind of surprised that the Twins stayed relevant to the All-Star break before finishing with almost 100 losses.

To say that all of the woes of last season were resulting from injuries is just wrong. Most fans have noticed a marked change in the Twins’ front office strategy for player personnel since moving into Target Field. Now don’t get me wrong, I have been screaming for years to have the organization start spending money on players, but the way that it happened is firmly what I believe lead to bringing Terry Ryan back as the General Manager. Nothing against Bill Smith but $14.3M for an unproven foreign player and then make him switch positions. Who really thought that was a good idea? I like Nishi but at 2B where he is used to playing and seeing the field. I did like the move of locking Mauer up to a long-term contract but you have to still allow some space for spending on other areas of the team like pitching. What used to be a strength for the Twins was a huge liability all last season with our pitching and defense severely lacking.

Enough about last year that caused the fans to start looking towards “Next Season” for the first time since 07. Time to prepare for this season and look towards the future. The Twins have made some moves to replace the loss of some long time fan favorites, some I like and others are head scratchers. The Jamey Carroll pick up should help Gardenhire to move Nishi back to his preferred 2B position and give us a go to everyday double play combo. Jason Marquis should help a rotation that right now looks like Pavano and Liriano, but after that you have Diamond (who has to stay with the Twins cause he was a Rule 5 pick), Baker, Blackburn, and Duensing. Zumaya should be great in the setup role if he can return from his broken elbow. Doumit should help Mauer stay healthy and provide a capable replacement in case of injury. Lastly Willingham should prove to be able to replace Cuddy in right but not his versatility.

Here is what positional lineup of how I see the Twins starting this year if all are healthy:
C – Joe Mauer
1B- Justin Morneau
2B- Tsuyoshi Nishioka
SS- Jamey Carroll
3B- Danny Valencia
LF- Denard Span
CF- Ben Revere
RF- Josh Willingham
DH- Chris Parmalee

SP- Carl Pavano
Francisco Liriano
Scott Baker
Scott Diamond
Nick Blackburn
SU- Joel Zumaya
CL- Matt Capps

Some of the guys on the bench will be Rene Tosoni, Ryan Doumit, Sean Burroughs and 2 out of Casilla/Tolbert/Plouffe/Hughes. Duensing and Marquis will be the first looks if any starters get hurt or just can’t get the job done. Parmalee could start at 1B if Morneau isn’t ready in time or needs a day off and be one of the big pinch hitters with Burroughs.

This season I am optimistic because frankly the Twins cannot get much worse than they were last year. With the M&M boys getting healthy again and with Terry Ryan back as GM to renew the focus on developing talent, I see improvement. I just don’t see us getting back to the playoffs unless Detroit is nailed with injuries like us last year (already lost Victor Martinez for the year). I do see the Twins competing for the #2 spot in the Central again. The dynamic could change in the division any year though because the Royals keep improving, the Indians seem to making strides and Chicago has to get used to a new manager after the departure of Ozzie to Miami.

Don’t agree, fully agree or just some things to point out to me, just let me know. I welcome all comments.

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