December 21, 2004

Bringing Everyone Back

The Twins predictably brought all seven of their arbitration-eligible players back for 2005. I had been hoping they would cut bait on Jacque Jones and Luis Rivas, as I discussed yesterday, but I've also been hoping to win the Minnesota state lottery for the past 10 years or so and I've yet to buy a single ticket.

With Jones, Rivas, and Matthew LeCroy returning next season, the lineup should be pretty much set. There were rumors about signing someone like Joe Randa to play third base or Jose Valentin to be a utility guy (before he signed with the Dodgers), but now the payroll appears to be pretty much at its maximum. Here's what the lineup could look like on Opening Day:

DH   Shannon Stewart

LF Lew Ford
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
CF Torii Hunter
RF Jacque Jones
3B Michael Cuddyer
2B Luis Rivas
SS Juan Castro/Jason Bartlett

Judging from the ridiculousness that went on in the second half this season, I'm guessing Shannon Stewart will play left field and Lew Ford will be the designated hitter, despite Ford being a superior defender. And, of course, there's plenty of room for Ron Gardenhire to mess with the lineup by sticking Rivas in the #2 hole or something. In general though, that's not a bad lineup, although it could have been a lot better very easily.

If you stick Corey Koskie at third base, move Michael Cuddyer to second base, put Rivas and Jones out on the street, and move LeCroy into the lineup at DH, there is suddenly just one offensive liability in the whole group (shortstop) and the infield defense would probably be improved to (I'd take Koskie at 3B and Cuddyer at 2B over Cuddyer at 3B and Rivas at 2B). And it all would have cost just about the same as the current setup does. Oh well.

So we're in for yet another year of Rivas doing all the wonderful things he does and another year of watching Jones flail away against lefties. The funny thing is, if Gardenhire would just be willing to platoon Jones, LeCroy would be a perfect lefty-masher. The pitching staff that led the league in ERA is back almost in its entirety (minus guys like Aaron Fultz), and they'll have Jesse Crain (and hopefully Grant Balfour) around for a full year. Another year of pitching and defense in the HomerDome!

This offseason (and the roster it appears the Twins will take into the season) is typical of the overall feeling I've had about the Twins over the past few years. They do some good things and some bad things, and the end result gives you a feeling that they just didn't quite take advantage of everything they could have. This is a team that will once again enter the season as the favorites in the American League Central, but they missed an opportunity to be even better.

Today at The Hardball Times:

- The Royals of Sir Cedric (by Steve Treder)

- More About the Free Agents (by Studes)

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