Coming off a truly horrendous season of baseball, Minnesota's front office faces an unbelievably daunting task: retool a devastated roster on the fly and return a 99-loss club to contention.
It will be a steep uphill climb. As Phil Mackey noted earlier this week, no team has ever won their division a year after losing 98-plus games. One could certainly make a valid case that a short-term rebuilding period, with an eye toward competing in 2013 or 2014, would be appropriate. Given the circumstances, though, it's safe to say that's simply not going to happen.
Obviously we don't know what specific moves the Twins will make in the upcoming offseason, but it should be pretty easy to guess their general approach. The consistent message will be that they already have the pieces in place, and that getting players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span healthy will be the biggest key to a rebound. That's a fair slant.
But the problems with this roster run deeper than non-production at the top level. In some areas they absolutely need to get better and in others they would like to get better; there's not one position on this team with enough health, strength and depth to instill much confidence.
The Twins finished the 2011 season ranked 28th in the majors in OPS, 25th in starting pitchers' ERA and dead last in bullpen ERA. They also need to get significantly better defensively, especially in the infield. In other words, there are a whole lot of cracks in the foundation, and with payroll likely to creep back down toward $100 million, the front office won't have a ton of cash available for renovations despite some salaries coming off the books.
I expect considerable roster turnover this winter but I wouldn't anticipate much in the way of blockbuster moves. It's more likely that the front office will look to fill holes and build depth through numerous relatively minor signings and trades while holding steady to the idea that their returning core players are going to dictate the club's fate in 2012.
All in all, not a bad strategy. But the quality of these moves will determine whether the front office can regain the trust of an embittered fan base in the wake of a poor offseason and an even worse campaign.
I'll be following the action here all winter, and I hope you'll all keep stopping by to provide your thoughts on things as they develop. We'll get started tomorrow by prioritizing the areas of need.