Only two American League teams (Oakland and Seattle) have hit fewer home runs than Minnesota this year. After hitting just one homer at Target Field over the weekend while the visiting White Sox clubbed seven, the Twins are on pace to barely edge the 100-homer mark as a team. If they fail to reach triple digits, it would be the first time since 1980 that it's happened for this franchise.
Yes, the Twins are amidst a rather distressing power drought. And unfortunately, the outlook going forward is none too bright.
Jim Thome is not likely to return next year. There's a good chance Delmon Young will be non-tendered or traded. And no player in the Twins' farm system can safely be projected as more than a 15-HR guy in the majors.
These factors add urgency to the decisions involving Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel in the upcoming offseason. Both slugging outfielders are eligible to become free agents, and losing the two of them could prove devastating for an organization that is already desperately short on pop.
Unsurprisingly, the Twins have made it clear that they intend to pursue Cuddyer, with reports suggesting that they've already uncharacteristically tried to open negotiations midseason by offering a two-year, $16 million extension.
Cuddyer and his agent smartly turned down that offer, knowing his outstanding season amidst the Twins' meltdown in 2011 has raised his price tag. Assuming he finishes strong, I'd be surprised if Cuddyer were asking for any less than three years and $30 million once he hits the open market. He can probably get it somewhere. Hopefully not here.
I appreciate all the things Cuddyer brings as a member of this team, but the Twins are already in bad shape with some bulky contracts and handing an expensive three-year deal to a 33-year-old who's never put together consecutive good seasons is bad business.
If it comes down to a choice between the two, the Twins would probably be better off re-upping Kubel. While he, like Cuddyer, has looked great at the plate this season, Kubel has missed significant time due to injury so his stock won't be quite as high.
Prior to this year, Kubel had played at least 140 games in three straight seasons, averaging 23 home runs and 91 RBI. While his platoon splits have been a chronic issue (one that's showing signs of improvement), Kubel's bat has been at least as good as Cuddyer's and he's also three years younger.
If the Twins want to loosen the purse strings and re-sign both outfielders, so be it. But keeping Cuddyer with a hefty contract at the expense of Kubel would be a mistake. In fact, outbidding any other motivated GM for Cuddyer's services will likely backfire in the long run, worsening an already murky financial situation.
Unless Cuddy is willing to accept a hometown discount, the Twins ought to offer arbitration, let the Type A free agent walk and use the draft picks next year to replenish a depleted minor-league system.