HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

November 5, 2007

Twins might look to the future

By Jesse Menden

The latest model of the Twins’ new ballpark was released last week, and I already can’t wait to watch a game in it.

From the improved sightlines, to the smaller sections, to the open concourses, to the large scoreboard in left field – it should be like nothing else.

My only worry is that I won’t be able to eat Dome Dogs anymore. Perhaps they will rebrand it to the Open Air Stadium with Fresh Air and Real Grass Dog. Well, maybe not.

Among the unique features of the stadium are lights being built into the canopy of the ballpark, and knotholes where people without a ticket can get a glimpse of the game.

Among the not-so-unique features is the center field that displays native trees that might include pines and firs. Of the thousands of suggestions you asked for and received for, fans, you settled on placing trees in center field? That’s exciting. A little more originality there would not have hurt.

Overall, the stadium will be nothing short of spectacular, but I’m afraid that when it opens up in 2010, it will be the overwhelming reason why people are going to the game, rather than to see the team, as they might be nearing the end of a short rebuilding period that is starting in the upcoming season.

Now that the World Series is over, the Twins are now turning to the present team, and it is obvious they have some work to do.

It is becoming more apparent by the day that the Twins will probably not be able to strike a deal with center fielder Torii Hunter. He has recently been quoted saying money is only a percentage in deciding where he lands.

As the courtship with Hunter has begun from many other teams already, that could be a backhanded shot at the Twins for not appearing to do everything they can to win.

Assuming Hunter is gone, that leaves another significant hole for the Twins to fill for 2008. They also have to fill left field, third base, and designated hitter.

It is also safe to assume the Twins will probably not sign any significant free agents to fill those holes as they have an eye on the future.

Heading into the 2009 season, the Twins might not have the likes of Joe Nathan or Johan Santana, either. So 2010 might be more about the stadium than the baseball.

This could be the first year of that rebuilding period as the team looks forward to moving into that new stadium with young talent they can afford.

As they begin that process this season, I do believe the Twins will make a free agent acquisition to help out the 2007 roster. However, it won’t be large enough to grace a headline on the front page of ESPN.com, but won’t be a Jeff Cirillo-type move either.

With regards to the opening at third base, my opinion is they will use an in-house player for that position and use any money for another hole.

Brian Buscher came up from Rochester and made almost 30 appearances at third base, and did an adequate job. He batted only .244, but did not look overmatched at the plate. He was no Nick Punto defensively, but did get better as his experience progressed.

The Twins could also take a look at Tommy Watkins, who made about nine starts at third, and batted .357 in 28 at bats. He might not be ready just yet, but has that ever scared the Twins away?

They won’t be brave enough to practice that at the center field position, though.

Denard Span is not ready, and the squad will have to go outside of the organization.

There are several players available at that position, and even some that the Twins could afford. Corey Patterson, who played his 2007 season with the Baltimore Orioles, might be a nice fit. He is a speedy center fielder that was fourth in the league in stolen bases. He does have some potential for being a good hitter.

Aaron Rowand would also be a good fit with the Twins. He plays good defense, but also can hit. He hit 27 home runs for the Phillies last season. Both Patterson and Rowand made under $5 million in 2007.

As far as the designated hitter goes, I don’t envision a whole lot of news there. The Twins could use Jason Kubel there as he splits time with Jason Tyner at that position.

Stay tuned – the Twins have decisions to make. But whoever they do decide on at these positions probably won’t make them a contender.