Untouchables on the MLB roster:
Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Francisco Liriano, Delmon Young
Elite Prospects (for these I will only be listing those not on the major league roster):
You could say Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere, although I don't see them as stars on the major league level. Deolis Guerra had a rough year, but probably has the highest ceiling in the organization.
Holes to fill:
3B, SS, RP
Potential major losses:
Major Free Agents after 2009:
Large arbitration increases:
Jason Kubel will get a decent raise, but nothing off the charts
Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are set. Alexi Casilla is decent at 2B. But there are giant holes on the left side of the infield. One of which should be a middle of the lineup bat to protect Justin Morneau.
Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez are two young talents with tremendous upside. I don't see how you can trade Young when you won't be getting full value after last season. Michael Cuddyer is reasonably priced for a veteran with 2 years $16 million left on his contract. Payroll is also increasing by $7.5 million in raises to Mauer and Morneau alone, which in itself cancels out any free cash available from expiring contracts. When you look at the numbers Cuddyer is the obvious guy to go, not Young. Denard Span will fill in just fine.
The rotation is set with 5 pre-arbitration players in Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Glenn Perkins. They also have Boof Bonser and Phil Humber waiting in the wings. I don't see either as more than a bottom of the rotation fill in, but Blackburn and Perkins both performed over their heads last season in my opinion anyway. I don't think trading either when their value is highest would be a bad move.
Joe Nathan is one of the most underrated closers in the league, but the bullpen took a major hit as Pat Neshek is expected to miss the entire 2009 season. They need another arm or two to team with Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. Guerrier broke down in August last year after 3.5 very good seasons. I think limiting his innings early in the year could help a lot down the stretch.
and the moves to make.....
1. Trade Michael Cuddyer to the Rays for Reid Brignac. With Bartlett and Beckham he probably won't get a legitimate shot at SS in Tampa. He is the top major league ready SS prospect right now and he may be available. Cuddyer would solve the hole the Rays have in RF. Would also clear the payroll needed to improve 3B and the bullpen.
2. Trade Nick Blackburn to the Padres for Kevin Kouzmanoff. Talks have been rumoured and it makes sense. He hit .292/.329/.473 on the road last season, so there is reason to believe the numbers can improve when he gets out of a park where flyballs go to die. Also that .802 road OPS is higher than both Casey Blake and Adrian Beltre's career numbers.
3. Spend the cash saved from moving Cuddyer on the bullpen. I'll pick Juan Cruz and Doug Brocail, but their is a lot of names to fit here.
I just don't get where all of these Delmon Young rumors are coming from. There really isn't any legitimate bats to protect Justin Morneau on the market at 3B or SS (that's right Adrian Beltre), and I really don't know what else they could trade him for. No he hasn't showed the power yet but at 23 he is a .292 career hitter in 1300+ AB and got better after the break. He still has superstar talent, which is something you won't get back in a trade for him. Also, Young doesn't need to have a superstar breakout to give the team what it needs, just a little more power. Assume that Young and Kouzmanoff both end up with about 20 HR and 85 RBI, and Liriano is healthy all season and the Twins are easily much better than the team that lost the division in a one game playoff last year.
c. Joe Mauer
1b. Justin Morneau
2b. Alexi Casilla
3b. Kevin Kouzmanoff
ss. Reid Brignac
lf. Delmon Young
cf. Carlos Gomez
rf. Denard Span
dh. Jason Kubel
1. Francisco Liriano
2. Scott Baker
3. Kevin Slowey
4. Glenn Perkins
5. Boof Bonser/Phil Humber