Thursday, December 10, 2009

Snowstorm brainstorms

Things I think about while shoveling snow (so that I'm not thinking about shoveling snow):

*Right now, the Twins appear to have a surplus of veteran right-handed short relievers: Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, perhaps Pat Neshek.

But that surplus can easily revert to the shortage that plagued the Twins in the second half of 2008 and for much of 2009. If they do indeed nontender Crain (to avoid paying him approximately $3 million) and the rehabbing Neshek isn't good to go, they're suddenly down to Guerrier and Rauch to set up Nathan — and Bobby Keppel figures to get more game-critical outings than is good for the team.

Two RH set-up men are too few; four is too many.

* The Twins are understandably vague about their payroll budget, but they have often operated as if whatever their upper limit is may not be breached at any point, even during the offseason when they aren't paying players.

If this is the case, and if the upper limit for 2010 is $90 million, it's really difficult for the Twins to add an established infielder without dumping salary before or during the transaction. Which is where the pressure to nontender Crain comes in.

Clearing Crain (and Boof Bonser) from the books takes the Twins down to something in the vicinity of $86 million. Is that low enough to fit a Mark DeRosa into a $90 million budget? My guess is not.

* The deadline to tender contracts is 11 p.m. CST Saturday.

* Trading Bonser is a theoretical possibility but unlikely. A team acquiring him in trade would inherit his arbitration eligibility, and I doubt anybody's eager to take a seven-figure hit on a pitcher with a 5.12 career ERA coming off shoulder surgery.

* The Twins' 40-man roster was full as of Tuesday, so it appears they won't be active in the Rule 5 draft on Wednesday. It would be the first time in years they haven't taken somebody in Rule 5.

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