Herald Journal Columns
Dec. 12, 2005, Herald Journal

Come on Twins, do something

By Aaron Schultz

The Major League Baseball winter meetings wrapped up this past Thursday, and a lot went on.

Teams made trades, signed free agents, and did anything they could to make themselves better.

Meanwhile, my favorite team, the Minnesota Twins, didn’t sign one free agent, and did not make a trade to improve themselves.

Yes, it is still early in the off-season, and much could yet happen, but it sure would have been nice to make a splash during these meetings.

I figure the key to the Twins’ 2006 season will be what kind of moves they can make this off-season to improve one of the worst offenses in baseball.

Last year, the Twins were terrible offensively, wasting outstanding pitching performances night after night.

So, this off-season, the Twins, along with everyone else, were and still are, about what Minnesota would do to improve its offense.

Well, the answer, so far, is very little.

Now, maybe I am jumping the gun a little bit, but it sure looks like just another typical off-season for the Twins.

One where they make a couple of small moves, and tell us how they are going to win with pitching and defense.

I hate to tell you, but the Twins had pitching and defense last season, and couldn’t get it done.

Okay, so the defense wasn’t as good as in past years, but the mater of the fact is that if you can’t score, you can’t win.

And the Twins were unable to score at all in 2005, and without some major upgrades this off-season, won’t be able to score in 2006 either.

The shame of it all is that the Twins have arguably one of the best, if not the best, pitching staffs in baseball, and will again in 2006.

The reality is that this kind of pitching staff won’t be around forever, and the Twins are in danger of missing their window for a World Series championship if they don’t add to their offense.

I will give Terry Ryan credit for the one move they have made so far, trading for second baseman Luis Castillo.

He is an All-Star caliber second baseman, who should have three or four good years left.

This was a nice move by Ryan, but by no means solves the Twins’ biggest problem, run production.

Castillo will fit in nicely in the two-hole, right behind Shannon Stewart, giving the Twins two of the best place setters in the league.

But, who in the world is going to drive Castiallo and Stewart home when they get on base?

Yes, Joe Mauer is going to be a perennial All-Star in this league, and should have much better RBI numbers in 2006, but that is not enough.

Even last year, clubs pitched around Mauer to get to the rest of the Twins’ feeble line-up, and that was with Mauer struggling to drive in runs himself.

If the Twins can’t find at least one big bat, or two somewhat big bats, to sit behind Mauer in the middle of the order, Minnesota will have another long year trying to score runs.

If the season started today, Justin Morneau and Torii Hunter would be the leading candidates to bat behind Mauer in the Twins’ line-up.

Sorry to say, but that is not going to get it done.

Now, I am a believer in Morneau, and think he will hit 40 home runs one day in the majors, but it won’t happen next year, not in this lineup.

As for Hunter, he is the face of the organization, and the best center fielder in the league defensively, but he should bat no higher than sixth or seventh on a contending club.

With that said, here is what I think the Twins should do, need to do, and, at the very least, must do to get over the hump in 2006, make it back to the playoffs, and make a run at the World Series.

I’ll start first with my ideal situation, kind of my dream, if you must.

The Twins pull off a trade for Texas Rangers third baseman Hank Blalock, giving up J.C. Romero, Kyle Lohse, and a low-level minor league pitcher.

Blalock is a Gold Glove caliber third baseman, which is important to the Twins.

He can hit 30 to 40 home runs in a season, comes relatively cheap, and is a proven run producer.

The next move I would have the Twins do is to sign Mike Piazza to be the club’s full-time designated hitter.

Sure, Piazza is way past his prime, and is a liability in the field as a catcher, but his presence in the middle of the Twins’ line-up would be huge.

While he might not hit 40 home runs, he would sure come close to 30, if healthy, and would no doubt drive in over 100 runs.

And that is it. If the Twins get off their butts, and are able to pull off those two moves, I would be more than happy; I would be estatic, and would be reserving my World Series tickets the next day.

The Twins line-up would then look like this:

1. Shannon Stewart, LF
2. Louis Castillo, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Mike Piazza, DH
5. Hank Blalock, 3B
6. Torii Hunter, CF
7. Justin Morneau, 1B
8. Jason Kubel, RF
9. Jason Bartlett, SS

Not too bad, and it would probably put some fear into opposing pitchers.

Yeah, I know it is not the 1927 Yankees or anything, but it would be the best Twins lineup since 1991.

However, if Kubel, who is coming off major knee surgery isn’t quite ready, you always have Michael Cuddyer to fill in, a nice option off the bench.

Now, the bare minimum the Twins must do is to either trade for Blalock or sign Piazza.

Then, go out and get a couple of middle-of-the-road players like Rondell White, and maybe trade for Javey Lopez, who wants to DH more.

Either way, the Twins need to make a move, and it better happen soon.

So, to Ryan and Carl Pohlad, I am begging you guys to make a couple moves to improve this offense, and give us fans a reason to be optimistic in 2006.