* With their holes at shortstop and catcher addressed early on, the Twins' top remaining priority (outside of the eminent need for more pitching) is signing an outfielder. Presently, they're sort of in limbo with this task and have been for over a week.
It has been widely reported that the Twins have an offer out to Michael Cuddyer -- thought to be around three years and $24 million -- and view Josh Willingham as their top backup option should Cuddyer choose to sign elsewhere. The rumor mill has been fairly quiet with both players, but there are indications from both camps that decisions are coming within the next couple days.
Cuddyer and Willingham have similar profiles and both would fill the club's need for a righty-swinging outfielder with power that can slot between the lefties in the middle of the lineup. Willingham is probably a better hitter, but he's a little less versatile defensively. Assuming they require similar financial commitments, the two are essentially a push, and I think either one is likely to be a solid value at around $8 million per season.
What makes the decision a no-brainer, in my mind, is the fact that the Twins would attain two high draft picks next June by allowing the Type-A Cuddyer to sign elsewhere and bringing Willingham aboard. Those compensatory picks could go a long way toward restocking the farm system, and the Twins would hardly be hurting their competitive chances in the short-term, even though letting Cuddy walk would incense a certain segment of the fan base.
Will Terry Ryan follow his heart or his brain? It appears that we'll find out by the end of the week.
* The Twins waived Jim Hoey, the fire-balling right-hander received in the horribly misguided J.J. Hardy trade a year ago, and on Monday he was claimed by the Blue Jays. Now all the Twins have left to show for Hardy, who emerged as one of the league's better shortstops this season, is Brett Jacobson, a 25-year-old righty reliever that performed poorly in New Britain.
I'm not exactly a big Hoey fan, but I must confess I'm a little surprised and disappointed to see the Twins giving up on him so soon. His performance in the majors this season was clearly hideous, but he was reasonably decent in the minors, where his walk rate dropped for a third straight year, and the organization is short on guys who can hit 96 on the radar gun.
Ultimately, Hoey remains the same player he was when the Twins acquired him: a live arm with serious control issues that he will likely never fully overcome. Still, the front office liked him enough to target him a year ago, and now they're ditching him to open up a spot on the 40-man while preserving no-upside guys like Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray?
I don't get it.
* Another reliever that won't be with the Twins next year is Jose Mijares, whom the club chose to non-tender rather than retaining at a modest fee. At one point, Mijares was a very promising young southpaw, and I figured he'd be brought back considering how little he stands to make in arbitration. However, I certainly can't fault the team for cutting the cord.
Back in 2009, a 24-year-old rookie Mijares was a tremendous asset as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, turning in a 2.34 ERA and 55-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 61 2/3 innings while holding lefty hitters to a .480 OPS. His performance has rapidly deteriorated in the two seasons since, though, and the Twins have been vocally frustrated by his work ethic.
This past season, Mijares was flat-out awful. His effectiveness against left-handed hitters was greatly diminished and against righties he was a huge liability with a ghastly 11-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Mijares will find work somewhere and could rebound as he's only 27, but the Twins are already plenty deep on lefty bullpen options between Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Phil Dumatrait.