The Minnesota Twins are banking on their new stadium being the elixir that makes them magical. Since new ballparks usually sell lots of tickets, the Twins are hoping to capitalize on this and use the additional cash to field a better team.
They were an effective “small market” team, competing with a mid-sized payroll, but now the Twins will increase their payroll by almost $30 million dollars from last season’s $65 million dollar total. This 40%+ increase has allowed the Twins to clarify their starting team and upgrade at several positions.
The most important thing to come out of this new-found revenue stream is the ability to lock up hometown hero Joe Mauer to a long term contract. Mauer is the heart and soul of the Twinkies and his bat and leadership are necessary for the defending A.L. Central champs to take it to the next level.
Justin Morneau should be fine to start the season. The back injury that ended his 2009 season shouldn’t cause any lingering problems but the wrist injury may sap his power as they are usually slow to heal. If the wrist isn’t healthy, he could be in for a long season.
No longer are Nick Punto, Brendan Harris and Matt Tolbert allowed to bungle duties at second base and shortstop. The three are now relegated to backup duties with one of them getting the starts at third base (likely Harris). Instead, the Twins traded for J.J. Hardy, who is ready to prove the Brewers wrong for dumping him and is primed for a bounce back season, and Orlando Hudson, known for his speed and slick fielding.
The trade that brought in Hardy also sent Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee. Gomez is fast and a good centerfielder, but can’t figure out how to get on base. This move allowed Denard Span to take over in centerfield, a huge improvement on the offensive side.
The pitching staff should be back to full health with starter Kevin Slowey back from a wrist injury and setup man Pat Neshek coming back from elbow surgery. This staff is young and talented and will give the offense a chance to win most every night.
Though the Twins won the A.L. Central last year, they were considered the best team in the worst division and not a playoff team to be taken seriously. With these upgrades, the Minnesota Twins are staking their claim to be competitive with the big boys.
In Minnesota they built a new park.
For Mauer, the hometown spark.
The new stadium’s the thing
That will help them get another Ring
So onto spring training they embark.