The Minnesota Twins have had a very busy offseason. But when you look at the moves made, all signs point to 2010 being a big season for the team.
Think about it. Orlando Hudson is signed to a one-year deal. Jim Thome is signed for one year. Same with Carl Pavano. Even guys like J.J. Hardy, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer only have two years left on their contracts.
Plus, this is the last season that Joe Mauer won’t be getting compensated as one of the highest-paid players in baseball. He’ll be making a "modest" $12 million.
I don’t want this to come off as gloom and doom after 2011. The Twins have some good guys deep in the minor leagues, and there’s a good chance with the Target Field revenue coming that they’ll keep a few of the above guys.
But the time to win is now. The team has said as much.
Having said all of that, the thought of Francisco Liriano being handed a closer’s job – left open now that Joe Nathan has decided to have season-ending surgery – seems laughable to me.
But it’s true. Even manager Ron Gardenhire has said he thinks Liriano is the one guy with the stuff to do the job.
But what makes a good closer? I’d say it takes more than just having a power arm. There has to be the confidence in that ability. There needs to be the ability to go out and pitch back-to-back days, even if that first outing wasn’t a pleasant one. Is there any reason to believe Liriano could do this?
I have long said I think Liriano can still do the job, and maybe one day that job will be closing games. But it shouldn’t be handed to him. The second a franchise hands jobs to players without them earning it is when things go wrong.
That’s why I say – with Mauer locked up long-term – it’s time to make a deal. San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell is one of the game’s best, and considering the low expectations for that team – he should be there for the taking.
What would it take? I don’t know. I’d start by offering up someone like power-hitting catching prospect Wilson Ramos, who seems expendable now that Mauer is in for the long haul.
Is there a chance Ramos develops? Of course. But you KNOW what you’re getting from Bell, and he would give production at a position of need.
Bell is under team control through 2011. And at this point in his career, he’d be a shoe-in for Type A free-agent status should he walk away as a free agent after that season. So the Twins could still stand to get two first-round picks for him.
If the Twins really want to win now, they’ll go with a closer they know can do the job.