By now, enough other bloggers have expounded on the fact that the Twins will probably only have around $20 million dollars or so at most to spend this offseason, and that will have to cover any restructuring of Joe Mauer's contract and plug all the leaks that have sprung in the infield and rotation. This could be a tall task for a Twins front office that hasn't displayed much in the way of creativity over its short tenure.
Consequently, one of the off-season options we could potentially expect to see again would be a significant trade. Twins Fix poses Jason Kubel as a potential tradable asset in a very well-thought out article. While I'd have to agree that if Kubel were able to net us a gold-mine, we should be willing to part with him, I'm not sure if he's the most likely candidate.
Kubel's position on our offense has been invaluable. And we have him at a relative bargain for at least the next two years if the Twins pick up their option (and I don't see how they wouldn't). After endless seasons of not having much power in the middle of our lineup, Kubel's presence has solidified a punch that I don't think we would be able to easily replace for a decent value on the free agent market or in our farm system. Without him, our potent lineup takes a big knock.
I'd like to pose that the Twins should deal from an area where they have overabundance. That area, believe it or not, is in our bullpen.
The Twins are going to have a massive group of pitchers lining up for a spot in their bullpen this year, and one area that practically every team in the majors is always looking to address (and always willing to overpay for) is in the bullpen.
Don't scoff. It's true that this past offseason, and up until our acquisition of Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay at the waiver deadline, the bullpen was a major achilles heel for our team as well. But with all the major players from this last year returning, in addition to Boof Bonser, Pat Neshek, and several people knocking on the door in Rochester, we might just have too few spots for all the available arms.
I am not advocating trading Joe Nathan.
Joe Nathan is one of the best closers in baseball, and no untimely misfortune in a high-pressure series against the Yankees will convince me otherwise. Give me one relief pitcher I want to see trot out of a bullpen in a close game and 5 out of 5 times I'll take Nathan.
I think we need to trade Matt Guerrier.
I love Guerrier. I think Guerrier is a quality bullpen arm and has been the second most reliable person out of our pen the past few years. I also think he performed well over his head this past year, and his value will never be higher.
The old adage is that it's better to trade a player too soon than too late. The ideal would to be trading that player right after they've peaked. Matt Guerrier is 31, his prime is just behind him, and he just posted a career year, with a 2.36 ERA and a 0.969 WHIP (well below his 6-year career numbers of a 3.41 ERA and 1.269 WHIP). He also was tied with Jeremy Affeldt for the most "Holds" (a meaningless stat but a stat nonetheless) with 33 on the season, 5 more than the next best of the set-up men.
I think Guerrier still has several solid years as a set-up man, but I would be willing to wager almost anything he doesn't post numbers like these again. (See Erin's article at Plunking Gomez for more on Guerrier's sustainability.)
Consider for a minute that next year we will have 6-7 spots open in the bullpen. You can assume that Joe Nathan, Jose Mijares and Jon Rauch will occupy 3 of those spots. Unless Jesse Crain is non-tendered, he is also a lock, and the way he pitched since coming back from his demotion to Rochester I have to believe that Crain will remain on our team. As frustrating as he's been, he's not been all that bad of a relief pitcher compared to many others.
I believe that that both Neshek and Bonser will be members of the bullpen as well. And between Liriano, Perkins, and Duensing, only one of them will likely make the rotation while the other two will either be traded or moved to the bullpen.
That's at least 7 good-to-serviceable arms in the pen, not counting Guerrier's. Top that with the fact that Gardenhire is strongly pushing to bring Mahay back under contract, and we have those vaunted prospects of Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama waiting for their shot down in Rochester. We have too many options!
Guerrier is entering his third year of arbitration after making nearly $1.5M in '09. In 2011 he'll hit free agency and the Twins will certainly not retain him. By all means the Twins should see how much somebody would be willing to overpay in a trade.
Perhaps the Angels or Dodgers, who both have suffered this past post-season from ineffective bullpens? Or perhaps Guerrier could be packaged with someone like Delmon Young or Glen Perkins to make a sweeter offer for an infielder like JJ Hardy or Yunel Escobar?
Truth be told, I don't know what kind of package we could get in return for one year of Guerrier, but I imagine that there are many teams looking for a solid reliever, and Guerrier is coming off his best year while the Twins suddenly find themselves with a surplus of bullpen arms for 2010. Some things just make sense.
You too can pretend to dream up brilliant moves and imagine you're the Twins GM, and the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook is not only a useful tool for your musings, but it is packed with enough information to get you through the lonely winter months of the offseason. And it's only $9.95! That's a real deal, especially considering all the free blogging that John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Parker Hageman, and Nick Nelson have supplied us with on a daily basis.