Sunday, February 21, 2010

Twins Off-Season

The Twins 2 most productive off-seasons were before the 1987 and 1991 seasons. After a dismal finish in 1986, the Twins needed a quality lead-off hitter and a reliable closer in order to become a contender. Those needs were met by trading for outfielder Dan Gladden and All-Star closer Jeff Reardon. Months later Jeff Reardon was on the mound to record the final out of the Twins first World Championship.

After finishing last in their division in 1990, the Twins needed an elite pitcher to anchor their young pitching staff and run producing DH. After trying and failing to sign Kirk Gibson the Twins signed veteran hitter Chili Davis to be their new DH and thensigned veteran pitcher and Minnesota native Jack Morris to anchor their pitching staff. A few months later Jack Morris pitched a 10 inning shutout in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series to give the Twins their 2nd World Championship.

I believe this off-season has been similarly productive. Will it result in a World Championship? Who knows, but what I do know is this off-season the Twins addressed many of their needs.

I cannot believe the Twins had to only give Carlos Gomez in order to get shortstop J.J. Hardy from Milwaukee. Gomez is a great defensive outfielder who cannot hit. As long as he remained in Minnesota Gomez would have felt the pressure of being the key to the Johan Santana trade and tried to hard to a superstar. Hardy is a strong fielding, power hitting shortstop. The Twins have not had a good shortstop since Greg Gagne left after the1992 season. They likely have one now in Hardy.

The Twins wanted a veteran pitcher who could lead by example and eat up some innings. Re-signing Carl Pavano works because Pavano understands how the Twins work and what they want of him. He is not a #1 starter, but he will provide stability and veteran presence on this mostly young pitching staff.

The Twins have not had a real pinch hitting threat off the bench in 20 years. They have one now in Jim Thome. Thome may not be the player he was even 5 years ago, but he can still draw walks and hit for power. Thome’s veteran presence and quality character will likely rub off on the young players. The fact Thome signed for only 1.5 million plus incentives makes this deal all the better.

The Twins last good 2nd baseman was Chuck Knoblauch who departed a decade ago. Since then things have been mostly bad at this position. With the signing of All-Star and Gold Glove 2nd baseman Orlando Hudson that changes. Defensively Hudson is good and now helps give the Twins a strong defensive infield. As a hitter Hudson has the batting average and on-base % to hold down the critical #2 spot in the batting order behind high on base guy Denard Span and ahead of the league’s best hitter in Joe Mauer. Better yet Hudson presence frees up Nick Punto to go back to his utility infielder role which he has excelled in.

Now all the Twins have left to do this off-season is sign Joe Mauer to a long-term contract extension.

Buzz about the Twins might be at an all-time high. They have new stadium everyone wants to see in Target Field, they have the game’s best player in Joe Mauer, and with a great off-season featuring several key additions the Twins might have their best team “on paper” since 1991.