TWINS: After latest playoff failure, is change in the air?

One night's sleep -- and almost certainly a tortured one at that -- after the Twins were swept out of the postseason for the third time in as many appearances, general manager Bill Smith joined his ballclub for one final flight home in 2010.

One night's sleep -- and almost certainly a tortured one at that -- after the Twins were swept out of the postseason for the third time in as many appearances, general manager Bill Smith joined his ballclub for one final flight home in 2010.

Once he gets back to his office, he'll have plenty of work to do.

The 2010 Twins were an expensive bunch, with a payroll that for the first time in franchise history hit the $100 million mark. But their results in October were no different than cheaper versions of yore.

The Twins have about $72 million committed to eight players in 2011, though one of them is Brendan Harris with his $1.75 million paycheck. Smith almost certainly will pick up Jason Kubel's $5.25 million option. That, combined with expected commitments for arbitration-eligible players, puts the Twins right around their expected 2011 payroll budget of about $100 million.

And that's before thinking about replacing free agents Carl Pavano, Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes and Jon Rauch.


Later this month the Twins will gather on-field and front-office staff for their annual organizational meetings. They'll discuss their pending free agents and arbitration-eligible players and then begin making decisions for next season.

"We'll evaluate everything that happened this year and we'll look at all the players we have," Smith said. "We are proud of what we accomplished here. We're certainly not going to hang

our heads about 94 wins, and yet everyone is disappointed in the final result, every player, every coach. We're going to have to step back, we're going to have to see what we do with the free agents we have, we're going to have to see how things look with the arbitration-eligible players. Once we get through these meetings, we'll have a much better plan."

Pavano, after making $7 million as the Twins' best, most consistent starter in 2010, will get a raise and longer contract (he signed a one-year deal with the Twins this winter) on the open market. Hudson, who signed a one-year $5 million contract with Minnesota and batted .333 (4 for 12 with a homer and two RBI) as one of the Twins' few successes in the ALDS, seems bound to continue his trend of going one and done with an organization. Thome, after mashing 25 homers for the bargain price of $1.7 million, will get more phone calls this winter than last, when only the Twins showed real interest.

And the possible departures of Guerrier, Crain, Rauch and Fuentes, each eligible for free agency this winter, could drastically alter what the bullpen looks like in 2011.

And those are just the free agents.

Matt Capps, acquired via trade for Wilson Ramos at the deadline, made $3.5 million this season, saved a career-high 42 games between Washington and Minnesota and could double his salary in his third year of arbitration. That might prove too costly for a team that is paying Joe Nathan $11.25 million in 2011, and Capps understands he could be traded.

"There's going to be some pieces that won't be back," Capps said moments after the Twins were eliminated Saturday night. "I might be one of those pieces."


Among other players up for arbitration are shortstop J.J. Hardy, who made $5.1 million and played in just 101 games this season, batting .268 with six homers and 38 RBI, and starting pitcher Kevin Slowey, who went through bouts of both injury and ineffectiveness in 2009 and ultimately did not make the postseason roster. Both of those players could end up in trade talks this offseason.

Delmon Young became one of only three Twins in history to hit at least 20 homers and 40 doubles, drive in at least 100 runs and hit at least .295 in a single season. He made $2.6 million in 2010 and could make about $7 million in 2011 if Florida Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla's path is any indication.

Uggla had comparable career statistics to Young when he hit arbitration last season. In 2009, the season before Uggla and the Marlins agreed to a one-year, $7.8 million deal, he hit .243 with 31 homers and 90 RBI. This season, Young hit .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI.

Through 2009 Uggla had played in 609 games and batted .257 with 360 RBI and 121 homers in his big-league career. Through the end of 2010, Young had played in 605 games and batted .292 with 344 RBI and 59 homers in the majors.

Liriano is the other Twin due a significant pay raise in arbitration. He's Minnesota's only real strikeout starting pitcher, and the Twins, a team that historically has rewarded young pitchers with long-term contracts, might approach the lefty about a multi-year deal this offseason. If so, they could look to Edwin Jackson as a comparable.

After the 2009 season, Arizona avoided arbitration with Jackson by signing him to a two-year, $13.35 million deal that paid him $5 million in 2010 and will pay him $8.35 million in 2011.

In 2009, Jackson went 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA in 214 innings. In 2010, Liriano went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 191 2/3 innings. In his career through 2009 Jackson had thrown 670 innings and was 38-39 with a 4.66 ERA. In his career through 2010, Liriano has thrown 549 innings and is 38-32 with a 3.97 ERA.

But beyond the lengthy list of player contracts to address, Smith will have another negotiation to work through this winter.


Manager Ron Gardenhire is signed through the 2011 season and almost certainly will get an extension this winter. Gardenhire has been an exceptional regular-season manager but is just 6-21 in the postseason. He has been the man in charge for each of the Twins' 12 straight playoff losses, the second longest postseason losing streak in baseball history. But, asked if Gardenhire's postseason track record has in any way affected his job security, Smith said, "No, not at all."

"He should be the American League Manager of the Year; he did a tremendous job," Smith said shortly after the Twins landed Sunday afternoon in Minnesota. "Everybody on that plane was disappointed with the way it ended. Every one of us thought we were going to be able to put up a better fight against the Yankees, but unfortunately we didn't play well in these three games. So we're going to regroup and try to get ready for next year."

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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