December 6, 2012

Twins select Ryan Pressly from Red Sox in Rule 5 draft

Picking fourth in the annual Rule 5 draft the Twins selected Double-A reliever Ryan Pressly from the Red Sox and lost none of their own players to other teams. Last year the Twins picked second in the Rule 5 draft and took Double-A starter Terry Doyle from the White Sox, only to drop him early in spring training, so the odds are certainly stacked against Pressly cracking the Opening Day roster.

Rule 5 picks must stick in the majors all season or be offered back to their original team for half of the $50,000 selection fee, although teams can work out a side deal to get around that like the Twins and Braves did with Scott Diamond in 2011. Boston took Pressly in the 11th round of the 2008 draft out of a Texas high school and he mostly struggled as a starter before shifting to the bullpen following a promotion to Double-A in the second half of this year.

Pressly's numbers as a starter aren't pretty, but he threw 28 innings as a reliever at Double-A with a 2.93 ERA and 21-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and then pitched well in the Arizona Fall League with an 18-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 innings. It's worth noting that in drafting Doyle last year the Twins talked up his Arizona Fall League performance too, but Doyle was a 26-year-old control pitcher whereas Pressly is a 23-year-old with much better raw stuff.

Prior to the Rule 5 draft Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com highlighted Pressly as one of 20 players who might get selected, writing that he "has a big arm that can fire fastballs in the mid-90s and he has an outstanding power curve to go with it." At this point Pressly's resume includes 400 innings of mediocre pitching as a starter and 40 innings of good pitching as a reliever, but the Rule 5 draft is about trying to make something out of nothing and he's intriguing at least.

June 21, 2012

Twins Notes: Liriano, Benson, Rosario, Slama, Bard, Doyle, and Marquis

Francisco Liriano had a 9.45 ERA, .346 opponents' average, and 21-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 27 innings over six starts when the Twins demoted him to the bullpen in May. Since rejoining the rotation he has a 2.67 ERA, .155 opponents' average, and 35-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 30 innings over five starts. It's hard to imagine the Twins re-signing the impending free agent, in which case he has another half-dozen starts to build trade value.

• As if the Twins' farm system wasn't weak enough already now four of their top 10 prospects in my preseason rankings are on the minor-league disabled list. No. 7 prospect Kyle Gibson is still making his way back from last year's Tommy John surgery, No. 9 prospect Alex Wimmers is trying to rehab an elbow injury of his own to avoid the same fate, and now No. 2 prospect Joe Benson and No. 4 prospect Eddie Rosario are both sidelined for extended periods.

Benson fractured his left wrist and surgery will keep him out until mid-July. Rosario was struck in the face by a teammate's line drive and is expected to miss six weeks after surgery to insert a metal plate above his lip. Benson had already been demoted from Triple-A to Double-A and wrist problems often linger, so his injury is the bigger long-term concern. Rosario's injury is also a shame, because it sounds gruesome and he was hitting .293/.363/.473 at low Single-A.

• Sadly the "Free Anthony Slama" movement has been put on ice, and not because the Twins finally called him up after years of dominating in the minors. Slama is slated to miss six weeks after a line drive broke his leg, potentially ending his season with a 0.40 ERA, .175 opponents' average, and 37-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 23 innings at Triple-A. He'll be 29 years old before next season and has a 2.24 ERA with 172 strikeouts in 141 career Triple-A innings.

• No. 42 pick Luke Bard was the last remaining holdout among the Twins' top 11 draft picks and the Georgia Tech right-hander agreed to a deal yesterday, meaning just two weeks after the draft they've signed every player selected within the first 250 overall picks. No. 2 pick Byron Buxton is expected to make his rookie-ball debut within a week, so the earlier signing deadline as part of the new collective bargaining agreement has worked well for the Twins.

Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that in preparing scenarios for the No. 2 pick the Twins narrowed their list to Buxton, Carlos Correa, Mark Appel, and Kyle Zimmer. Most pre-draft speculation had them choosing whichever one of Buxton or Appel didn't go No. 1, but in reading between the lines it seems like they were set to take Correa if the Astros had taken Buxton. And there was lots of organizational disagreement about the best player.

• In examining the Twins' draft it was obvious that they went out of their way to get power arms, even if they came in the less-than-ideal form of college relievers. Sure enough vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff admitted that was the plan going in, saying: "Pitchability and playability, maybe we overemphasized that. Maybe we emphasized that for too long. It added up. This year, we went for the more presentable qualities."

• Going into the draft Mitch Brown seemed destined for the Twins, as they had six picks in the top 100 and the local right-hander from Rochester Century high school was regarded as a consensus top-100 player. General manager Terry Ryan even scouted him in person multiple times, but then the Twins passed on him at 32, 42, 63, and 72. Brown wound up with the Indians at 79 and signed for an above-slot bonus of $800,000.

• They also repeatedly passed on Gophers right-hander T.J. Oakes, who was selected by the Rockies in the 11th round and signed for $100,000. Oakes is considered a marginal prospect, placing 292nd in Baseball America's pre-draft rankings, but the Twins liked the 6-foot-5 starter enough to draft him in the 41st round last year as a sophomore and have a history of picking Gophers. Oakes had a 2.31 ERA and 78-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 97 innings as a junior.

Released by the Twins with an 8.47 ERA and more walks (14) than strikeouts (12) in seven starts, Jason Marquis signed a minor-league deal with the Padres and made one Double-A start before returning to the majors. Marquis and his agent were smart to choose an NL team with MLB's most-pitcher friendly park, but this is crazy: Through three starts he has a 1.86 ERA and 20/8 K/BB ratio in 19 innings, including his first double-digit strikeout game since 2001.

• Waiver claim Erik Komatsu became expendable once the Twins decided to recall Ben Revere from Triple-A a month ago, so the Rule 5 pick was designated for assignment and predictably the Nationals accepted his return. Komatsu had more upside than the guy he replaced as fourth outfielder, Clete Thomas, but there wasn't much fit for him on a roster that includes both Revere and Denard Span. He's back at Triple-A for the Nationals.

• Speaking of the Rule 5 draft, Terry Doyle is headed to Japan after the Twins selected him with the No. 2 pick only to send him back to the White Sox in spring training. Doyle rejoined the White Sox at Triple-A with a 2.83 ERA and 71-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76 innings, including a near no-hitter against Rochester, but they agreed to release the 26-year-old right-hander so he could sign with a Japanese team. A fitting end to an all-around weird story.

Phil Dumatrait, who was pitching in Rochester's bullpen after spending much of last season with the Twins, announced his retirement at age 30. He spent parts of 10 years in the minors and finishes with a 6.20 ERA in 151 career innings as a big leaguer, but the 2000 first-round pick had enough smoke and mirrors to post a 3.92 ERA in 45 appearances for the Twins last season despite an ugly 29-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 41 innings.

Kevin Mulvey also called it quits, becoming the first player from the Johan Santana trade to retire. At the time of the Santana deal Mulvey was 23 years old and the former second-round pick looked like a potential mid-rotation starter who was billed as close to MLB-ready, but he posted a 7.90 ERA in 27 innings as a big leaguer. He was a bust, but the Twins managed to get some value out of Mulvey by trading him to the Diamondbacks for Jon Rauch in mid-2009.

Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors crunched the numbers on every team's payroll commitments for next season and the Twins have the 13th-most money already spent at $65 million. This year's payroll is around $94 million, which represents a 17 percent drop from last year's $113 million.

Trevor Plouffe isn't the only Twins hitter putting up big numbers since May 15. Through that date the Twins' lineup scored an average of just 3.3 runs in 36 games, but in 31 games since then they've averaged 5.2 runs.

Alex Burnett has a great-looking 2.16 ERA, but he's gotten it done with a ton of smoke and mirrors while posting a horrid 13-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 33 innings. Burnett's strikeouts per nine innings have plummeted from 7.0 in 2010 to 5.9 in 2011 to 3.5 this season, which is the lowest mark by any reliever in baseball.

Jim Thome has hit .315 with 61 homers and a .640 slugging percentage in 194 career games against the Twins. He hit .266 with 37 homers and a .562 slugging percentage in 179 games for the Twins, producing the highest Isolated Power in team history.

Paul Konerko (.431) and Joe Mauer (.415) are the only hitters in the American League with an on-base percentage above .400.

Justin Morneau is hitting .310 with a .595 slugging percentage against right-handers and .091 with a .197 slugging percentage against left-handers.

Lew Ford, who last played in the majors for the Twins in 2007 and is now 35 years old, has hit .383/.450/.626 with five homers and four steals in 28 games at Triple-A for the Orioles.

John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com took a trip to Beloit to see the Twins' low Single-A team and had some interesting thoughts on a variety of prospects, including a pre-injury Rosario.

• ESPN.com ranked the 25 best single-game performances in postseason history and two of the top three spots belong to Twins.

• I was a guest on the Bucs Dugout podcast, talking about the Twins and my decade blogging about them with host Charlie Wilmoth.

• And if you haven't listened to this week's Gleeman and The Geek episode yet, the show was a good one as my guest co-hosts Parker Hageman and Joe Nelson subbed for Wally Pipp.

This week's blog content is sponsored by DiamondCentric and their new "Plouffe There It Is!" shirt, which is available in men's and women's sizes. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 26, 2012

Twins Notes: Outfield realignments, Rule 5 returns, and drugs of abuse

• In signing Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract in mid-December the Twins indicated that he'd be their everyday right fielder despite playing just 264 career innings there compared to 5,524 innings in left field. Getting a first-hand look at Willingham and the various other outfield options in camp apparently changed those plans, as Ron Gardenhire announced yesterday that Willingham will be the starting left fielder.

Gardenhire also made official what was expected by naming Denard Span the starting center fielder, which leaves right field for ... well, everyone. Depending on how often and at which positions Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are in the lineup right field could potentially be manned by Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, or Ryan Doumit, none of whom have ever played the position on more than a semi-regular basis in the majors or minors.

For years the Twins stressed how valuable Michael Cuddyer's arm was in right field, so their willingness to use Revere there when he might have the majors' worst arm and his range is of better use in the more spacious left field is surprising to say the least. If nothing else it signals that Revere is headed for a part-time role, which along with Gardenhire's stubbornness could lead to his biggest strength being diminished and his biggest weakness being magnified.

If the manager were more willing to make daily shifts he could platoon Revere and Plouffe by using Revere in left field with Willingham in right field against right-handed pitching and Plouffe in right field with Willingham in left field against left-handed pitching. That's something plenty of managers do regularly, but it's something Gardenhire has always avoided with occasionally laughable results. Runners going first-to-third at will with Revere in right field would fit that bill.

Whatever the case, based on Terry Ryan's offseason comments and Gardenhire's outfield announcement yesterday it seems clear that the Twins are less sold on Revere than commonly believed. They're certainly right to be skeptical, as I've been making that case since Revere was in the low minors, but the less he plays the less chance their defense has of being above average and I'm similarly skeptical about Parmelee being ready to thrive offensively.

Terry Doyle seemed like an odd choice for the Twins with the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft. Despite being 26 years old he had just 15 starts above Single-A, including zero at Triple-A, and nothing about his raw stuff or track record suggested more than back-of-the-rotation starter potential. At no point has the Rule 5 draft been a sure-fire way to add useful big leaguers, but when picking so high it seemingly made sense to at least target someone with more upside.

In explaining their reasoning for the pick the Twins talked about how impressed they were by Doyle's performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 1.98 ERA. However, that consisted of just eight starts and was fueled by an incredibly low batting average on balls in play that screamed fluke. My assumption was that they wouldn't have chosen Doyle if they weren't at least convinced he could stick in the majors as a mop-up man, but apparently not.

Doyle coughed up 10 runs in 5.1 innings this spring and the Twins didn't even keep him around until the end of camp, sending him back to the White Sox. Ultimately it's not a huge deal, as they're out $25,000 and the opportunity to add a higher-upside arm, but it's discouraging for a supposedly scouting-heavy team to take someone atop the Rule 5 draft while citing his fluky, small sample size performance in the AFL as a big factor and then cut him five innings later.

Aaron Thompson, a 25-year-old left-hander the Twins signed to a minor-league contract in December, has been suspended 50 games after violating MLB's drug policy for a "drug of abuse." His track record in the minors is mediocre at best, but Thompson is a former first-round pick and apparently the Twins will keep him in the organization despite the suspension. Once activated he'll likely be a fifth starter or long reliever at Triple-A.

• I'll have a lot more on this subject once my annual series ranking the Twins' top 40 prospects concludes later this week, but Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus recently released their annual organizational talent rankings and the Twins placed 20th and 22nd.

• On a related note, Baseball America crunched the numbers to find that the Twins ranked 15th in international spending last season after ranking 12th in 2010. Miguel Sano alone got a record $3.15 million signing bonus from the Twins in 2009, but in the two years since then they've spent a total of $4.85 million internationally.

• This offseason the Twins sliced $15 million from their payroll, but according to Forbes magazine in 2011 they had baseball's 13th-highest revenue at $213 million and an operating income of $16.6 million, causing the franchise's value to rise four percent to $510 million.

Nick Punto is getting the same treatment from the media in Boston that he got from the media in Minnesota. For instance:

In a game where talent can be measured by precise statistical metrics, Punto is a player whose value is harder to calculate but can’t be denied.

Punto played for $750,000 last year and will make $1.5 million both this season and next season, so teams seem to be in agreement that his value is fairly limited. Then again, I've not experienced his charm in person.

Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reports that the Twins released six minor leaguers: Michael Tarsi, Dan Osterbrock, Kane Holbrooks, Blayne Weller, Matt Schuld, and Derek Christensen. Osterbrock, Tarsi, and Holbrooks each cracked my annual top-40 prospects list at one point, but none were ever considered more than marginal prospects. Christensen was a 2010 draft pick and dominated the low minors, so cutting the 22-year-old right-hander loose seems odd.

• In late 2010 the Twins acquired reliever Brian Fuentes from the Angels for Loek Van Mil, a marginal pitching prospect whose claim to fame was being baseball's tallest player at 7-foot-1. He spent last year at Double-A, throwing 66 innings with a 2.04 ERA and 46-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the righty from the Netherlands failed to make the Angels this spring and manager Mike Scioscia explained that "he's certainly searching for an out pitch" at age 27.

• Last season the local mainstream media often mocked Kevin Slowey for his intelligence, using it as a way to portray him in a negative light, but a fresh start in Cleveland means the narrative has changed. Jordan Bastian, who covers the Indians for MLB.com, wrote last week:

Always nice as a writer when you find ballplayers who are avid readers on the side ... two in Cleveland's clubhouse include Lonnie Chisenhall and Kevin Slowey.

Funny how that works.

• Last and least, with Opening Day right around the corner I'm restarting the AG.com "sponsor of the week" program. For details about advertising and to reserve your week, click here.

February 20, 2012

Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2012: 35, 34, 33, 32, 31

Also in this series: 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21-25, 26-30, 36-40.

35. Scott Diamond | Starter | DOB: 7/86 | Throws: Left | Trade: Braves

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     AA     23     23     3.50     131.0     152      5     111     53
2010     AA     17     17     3.52     102.1     113      4      90     39
         AAA    10     10     3.36      56.1      53      2      33     15
2011     AAA    23     23     5.56     123.0     158     11      90     36
         MLB     7      7     5.08      39.0      51      3      19     17

Scott Diamond was a worthwhile pickup when the Twins plucked him from the Braves' system in last winter's Rule 5 draft, but rather than simply keep him in the majors as a long reliever they traded former second-round pick Billy Bullock to Atlanta for the right to stash him in the minors. Not only was Bullock the better, higher-upside prospect, making the swap lopsided in talent alone, the Twins ended up promoting Diamond to the majors in July anyway.

Once there he struggled in seven starts with a 5.08 ERA, 19-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .317 opponents' batting average in 39 innings, showing the mediocre raw stuff that limits his long-term potential. His average fastball clocked in at just 88.9 miles per hour and batters also did damage against his 83-mph changeup. Seven bad starts aren't necessarily meaningful and Diamond did a good job inducing ground balls, but the marginal stuff matched his track record.

He's allowed just 13 home runs in 33 career starts at Triple-A, but that comes with a 4.87 ERA and 123-to-51 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 179 innings from a left-hander who'll turn 26 years old this summer. For the first time in a long time the Twins' system is short on starting pitching and Diamond is nice to have around as depth, but he seems unlikely to be more than a fifth starter and giving up Bullock to keep him when the Twins basically already had him was a mistake.

34. Jairo Perez | Third Base | DOB: 6/88 | Bats: Right | Sign: Venezuela

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     RK-    142     .217     .324     .317      1      9     17     12
2011     A-     316     .337     .413     .580     15     36     32     48

Jairo Perez signed with the Twins out of Venezuela as an 18-year-old in 2006 and hit .338 over 48 games in the Dominican summer league in 2008. That earned him a 2009 promotion to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, but he hit just .217 in 37 games and then missed all of 2010 following Tommy John elbow surgery. Perez was totally off the prospect radar, but the Twins moved him up to low Single-A last year and he responded with a monster half-season.

He hit .337/.413/.580 with 15 homers and 20 doubles in 74 games, showing decent strike-zone control with 32 walks versus 48 strikeouts in 316 plate appearances. Perez also committed 17 errors in just 49 games at third base and likely lacks the range to play second base despite seeing some time there for Beloit, but the Twins can obviously find a home for him further down the defensive spectrum if he keeps hitting.

Everything about Perez was surprising last season, but his power was particularly noteworthy from a guy listed at 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds. Because of the season lost to elbow surgery Perez is already 24 years old and he may prove to be a one-year wonder, but posting the second-best OPS in the entire Midwest League is worth noticing in a farm system severely lacking in impressive production above rookie-ball last season.

33. James Beresford | Shortstop | DOB: 1/89 | Bats: Left | Sign: Australia

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2009     A-     505     .289     .342     .313      0     11     34     70
2010     A-     540     .297     .349     .363      1     25     34     56
2011     A+     545     .270     .328     .299      0     13     43     63

James Beresford showed some power development while repeating low Single-A in 2010, doubling his extra-base hit total and adding 50 points to his slugging percentage, but the skinny shortstop from Australia moved up to high Single-A last season and took several steps backward. He failed to homer in 545 plate appearances and managed just 12 doubles, producing a measly .299 slugging percentage despite a solid .270 batting average.

To put that lack of power in some context, consider that no hitter in Twins history with 500 plate appearances in a season has ever posted an Isolated Power below .040. He had a .029 Isolated Power for Fort Myers and a .037 Isolated Power for his career. Beresford has a good enough glove that he certainly doesn't need to be a slugger, but at some point he'll have to show some ability to drive the ball or it's tough to see him developing beyond a utility man.

Beresford is 6-foot-2 and an above-average athlete, but for whatever reason he's been unable to put on muscle since the Twins signed him as a 16-year-old. He's still just 23 years old, so that could change, and he's done a nice job controlling the strike while drawing a fair number of walks for someone to whom pitchers will gladly throw strikes. With even a little pop he'd be very intriguing and as always the Twins could use some long-term middle infield help.

32. Terry Doyle | Starter | DOB: 11/85 | Throws: Right | Rule 5: White Sox

YEAR     LV      G     GS      ERA        IP       H     HR      SO     BB
2009     RK+    12     10     2.98      57.1      51      1      75     15
2010     A-      7      7     0.96      47.0      31      2      58     12
         A+     20     20     3.71     121.1     115     13      99     34
2011     A+     11     11     2.84      73.0      71      3      49     11
         AA     15     15     3.24     100.0      91      8      73     22

With the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft the Twins selected right-hander Terry Doyle from the White Sox. Doyle's strong performance in the Arizona Fall League got the Twins' attention, but that involved just eight starts and he split the regular season between Single-A and Double-A despite being a 25-year-old drafted out of college in 2007. He fits the Twins' mold with good control and a low-90s fastball, throwing 173 innings with a 3.07 ERA and 122/33 K/BB ratio.

Rule 5 picks must remain in the majors all season or be offered back to their original team, but last year the Twins got around that by overpaying the Braves to retain Diamond as a minor leaguer. That move never made sense to me and made even less sense when Diamond was in Minnesota around midseason anyway, so presumably by passing on higher-upside arms to take Doyle with the No. 2 pick they're willing to simply keep him in the majors as a long man.

Vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff told John Manuel of Baseball America that the Twins think Doyle "has got the ability to be a fourth or fifth starter" with velocity that ranges from "marginal" to "average." Not exactly the upside you'd ideally like to target atop the Rule 5 draft and his declining strikeout rate isn't encouraging from a 26-year-old with 15 career starts above Single-A and none at Triple-A, but Doyle isn't without potential.

31. Tyler Grimes | Shortstop | DOB: 7/90 | Bats: Right | Draft: 2011-5

YEAR     LV      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR    XBH     BB     SO
2011     A-     159     .225     .316     .406      4     13     13     53

As part of their uncharacteristically loading up on college middle infielders last year the Twins drafted Wichita State shortstop Tyler Grimes in the fifth round and signed him for a $132,500 bonus. He showed minimal power as a junior, but hit .300 with 57 walks in 65 games for an excellent .467 on-base percentage. He also struck out 61 times in 65 games and Baseball America's pre-draft scouting report noted both his lack of consistency and all-or-nothing swing.

Those concerns proved accurate in his professional debut, as Grimes skipped rookie-ball and hit just .225 with 53 strikeouts in 42 games at low Single-A. He also failed to maintain the standout plate discipline that he showed in college, drawing just 13 walks in 159 plate appearances, but did flash more pop than expected with four homers and 13 total extra-base hits for a solid .181 Isolated Power.

Grimes' future at shortstop is in question because he made a ton of errors in college, continued to do so during his pro debut, and the Twins used him at second base about one-fourth of the time in Beloit. His arm strength isn't in question, but Baseball America noted that "he plays out of control at times." In theory at least Grimes' speed and on-base skills make him a welcome addition to a Twins system that's perpetually lacking middle infield depth.

December 19, 2011

Reassessing the Twins’ roster and payroll

Where do we go from here? Where do we go?
And is it real or just something we think we know?
Where are we going now? Where do we go?
Cause if it's the same as yesterday you know I'm out, just so you know

- Fink, "Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us"

I examined the Twins' roster in early October to see which holes needed filling and how much money was available to fill them, but in the two-and-a-half months since then they've filled out the lineup with Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll, dumped Kevin Slowey and Jose Mijares, and indicated that the payroll will drop from $115 million to $100 million or so. With all that in mind, here's an updated look at where the Twins' roster and payroll stand:

    LINEUP                                      BENCH
 C: Joe Mauer - $23.00 million               C: Drew Butera - $0.48 million
1B: Justin Morneau - $15.00 million         IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka - $3.00 million
2B: Alexi Casilla - $1.50 million           IF: Luke Hughes - $0.48 million
SS: Jamey Carroll - $2.75 million           OF: Trevor Plouffe - $0.48 million
3B: Danny Valencia - $0.48 million
LF: Ben Revere - $0.48 million
CF: Denard Span - $3.00 million
RF: Josh Willingham - $7.00 million
DH: Ryan Doumit - $3.00 million

There's still some talk of the Twins re-signing Jason Kubel and I'm sure they haven't ruled out acquiring various other position players via free agency or trade, but it shouldn't shock anyone if the Opening Day roster includes the above nine starters and four bench players. Their three lineup holes back in October were shortstop, right field, and designated hitter, and those were filled by Carroll, Willingham, and Doumit for $12.75 million. Here's my projected batting order:

1. Denard Span, L
2. Jamey Carroll, R
3. Joe Mauer, L
4. Josh Willingham, R
5. Justin Morneau, L
6. Ryan Doumit, S
7. Danny Valencia, R
8. Alexi Casilla, S
9. Ben Revere, L

Terry Ryan also revealed that the Twins no longer plan to use Trevor Plouffe as an infielder and his switch to the outfield clears up the bench picture somewhat. Ben Revere can serve as the backup center fielder while starting in left field and Doumit is capable of playing an outfield corner, leaving Plouffe as the bench's lone outfielder. Tsuyoshi Nishioka sounds likely to get a second chance as utility man, Luke Hughes is out of options, and they still love Drew Butera.

If those are the 13 position players on the Opening Day roster they'll combine to earn around $60.5 million, depending on Alexi Casilla's raise in arbitration. That would leave approximately $40 million to spend on what is all but guaranteed to be a 12-man pitching staff, which at the moment still has at least a couple holes to fill (and makes it tough to envision Kubel returning unless his price really drops). Here's how the rotation and bullpen look right now:

    ROTATION                                    BULLPEN
SP: Carl Pavano - $8.50 million             RH: Matt Capps - $4.75 million
SP: Scott Baker - $6.00 million             LH: Glen Perkins - $2.00 million
SP: Francisco Liriano - $5.50 million       LH: Brian Duensing - $0.48 million
SP: Nick Blackburn - $4.75 million          RH: Alex Burnett - $0.48 million
SP: [UNKNOWN]                               RH: Anthony Swarzak - $0.48 million
                                            RH: Terry Doyle - $0.48 million
                                            RP: [UNKNOWN]

As the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft I'm assuming that Terry Doyle will make the Opening Day roster, in which case they'd have 10 of the 12 spots filled for around $33.5 million. They also bought out Joe Nathan for $2 million, which leaves just $4.5 million or so for a fifth starter and a seventh reliever. Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak are options to start, but Duensing is needed in the bullpen and the Twins have been linked to moderately priced free agents.

Presumably signing a starter like Jeff Francis or Paul Maholm to an inexpensive one-year deal would leave enough payroll space to add some right-handed bullpen help. Duensing and Glen Perkins are a solid duo from the left side, but relying on Swarzak and Alex Burnett to get key outs from the right side seems crazy. And the Twins had MLB's worst bullpen ERA in 2011, so merely losing Nathan and re-signing Matt Capps doesn't exactly address that huge weakness.

UPDATE: Kubel got a two-year, $15 million deal from the Diamondbacks, which is an odd fit.

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