Twins have Meetings needs, options
Check out a breakdown of needs, arbitration-eligibles and prospects
Club needs:POWER-HITTING THIRD BASEMAN -- The Twins have been searching for an everyday third baseman since Corey Koskie departed after the 2004 season. And with the team in need of another right-handed bat that has pop, third base seems to be the most logical spot to add it. So far Minnesota has been in hot pursuit of free agent Casey Blake for the position, but the team has also shown interest in exploring the trade market -- inquiring about the Rockies' Garret Atkins as well. SHORTSTOP -- Two of the players who split the majority of the playing time at shortstop in '08 -- Nick Punto and Adam Everett -- are both free agents. The Twins have expressed interest in bringing Punto back, but they also would like to upgrade offensively if possible. RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVER -- The bullpen was a trouble spot for Minnesota in the final months of the '08 season, and the club felt it needed to add at least one late-inning option to the group this winter. That need became more urgent in November with the news that Pat Neshek will miss all of next season following Tommy John ligament transplant surgery. Left-hander Jose Mijares, who was a pleasant surprise in his September callup, gives the Twins one solid option for the setup role, but they'd like to give themselves at least one more before heading to Fort Myers, Fla., in February. Who they can or need to trade: OF Delmon Young or Michael Cuddyer -- The Twins have a surplus of outfielders, and teams around the league have recognized that, inquiring as to which one might be available. The message that fellow general managers have received is that Young could be acquired -- for the right price. Young has a lot of upside, but didn't quite live up to expectations in his first season with the club. He could be moved for a power-hitter who plays on the left side of the infield. Of Cuddyer and Young, Cuddyer has the bigger contract and was the one hampered by injuries last season, yet he's considered to be one of the team's clubhouse leaders. P Boof Bonser or Philip Humber -- Demoted from the starting rotation last season, Bonser appears to have some upside yet as a pitcher and could help a club that is short on starting options. Bonser was shopped prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline last season, although the Twins weren't able to get what they wanted. With more pitching options emerging in the Minors, Minnesota doesn't necessarily need Bonser, who is out of Minor League options. Humber, acquired in the Johan Santana trade, is another pitcher who could be shopped since he is also out of options. A starting pitcher -- The Twins proved in 2008 that they could have success with five young starters as Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano, Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey all stepped up in the rotation. But for as talented as those five pitchers are, Minnesota has other impressive young arms coming up in the system. If the Twins could get a notable infielder in return, they might be willing to part with one of their five young starters. By dealing away right-hander Matt Garza last offseason, GM Bill Smith showed he wasn't afraid to take risks, so he could make a similar move again.
Top prospects:OF Aaron Hicks -- The Twins' top Draft pick last June, Hicks has already emerged as a player to watch. With a strong arm, an ability to play defense and command of the strike zone, Hicks was ranked as the club's top overall prospect by Baseball America. OF Ben Revere -- The 20-year-old caught everyone's attention when he batted .379 in 83 games at Class A Beloit in his first professional season. Drafted by the Twins in the first round in 2007 and considered to be the fastest baserunner in the club's system, Revere has multiple tools, which has other organizations already inquiring about his availability. 3B Danny Valencia -- A strong offensive player, Valencia has been working to improve his defense. The feeling is that the 23-year-old is not too far from making an impact at the Major League level, although his offense suffered at this year's Arizona Fall League, where he hit just .209 with five RBIs in 115 at-bats. LHP Jose Mijares -- Of all the Twins prospects, Mijares is the least likely to be moved since he's the club's current primary option for the primary setup role next season. Mijares, 24, impressed the Twins with his lack of fear and ability to attack the strike zone during his September audition. RHP Shooter Hunt -- A sandwich pick in the 2008 Draft, Hunt is known for his tremendous curveball, and the feeling by scouts is that the All-American from Tulane could be a fast riser through the system. RHP Kevin Mulvey -- Also acquired from the Mets in the Santana trade, Mulvey didn't put up stellar numbers in 2008, but the Twins still like his makeup and stuff. If he's not needed to help in the club's bullpen in '09, he could remain a starting option down the road. RHP Anthony Swarzak -- Recently added to the 40-man roster, Swarzak could play a factor in the Majors next season. The right-hander has been a starter throughout his career, but the Twins see him as a potential relief option in '09 if they have to look to their system for help. Right now, based on his age, performance and stuff, Swarzak is considered by some scouts to be the best starting option in the Minnesota farm system. Big contracts they might unload:
RHP Matt Guerrier, DH Jason Kubel
The Twins had a payroll of just over $57 million last season, a sharp decrease from 2007 goodbye to Torii Hunter and Santana. The projected payroll for the Twins in 2009 right now is around $60 million but that could rise to above $70 million if needed. With the team's new ballpark set to open in 2010, the Twins should also have room to increase their payroll over the next few seasons.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.