Inbox: What will the payroll be in 2012?
Beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers Twins questions from fans
The Twins are headed toward their worst season in recent years, as the club is in danger of just its second 100-loss season since moving to Minnesota in 1961.
The Twins, who at 59-89 are 30 games under .500 for the first time since 1999, must win four of their final 14 games to avoid 100 losses.
So, it's been a difficult season for the club, especially considering they were expected to contend in the American League Central after winning the previous two division crowns.
There are plenty of questions surrounding this team, and it's clear in the latest Twins Inbox that fans are searching for answers.
What is the Twins' projected payroll for 2012? Will they spend more money to field a winning team?
-- Adam S., St. Cloud, Minn.
The Twins entered this season with a record payroll of $113 million, and general manager Bill Smith has never said the club will look to cut payroll next season.
The Twins have around $66 million in payroll obligations for next year, largely based on the combined $46.5 million owed to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Carl Pavano. And that $66 million figure doesn't include the money owed in arbitration to players such as Francisco Liriano, Alexi Casilla or Glen Perkins.
Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are both free agents, but Smith has indicated the club is going to try to sign at least one of those players. However, that could get pricey, and there's no guarantee either will be back.
The Twins also would be wise to sign a starting pitcher, as their rotation depth has taken a hit with the loss of top prospect Kyle Gibson to Tommy John surgery.
With the Twins' recent struggles, and inability to go deep into the playoffs in recent years, why don't they try and get a big offensive player, or a proven ace besides trying to gamble on young unproven players every year?
-- Steven K., St. Wilmont, Minn.
The Twins have long been hesitant to make a big splash in free agency, as they prefer to re-sign homegrown players to large contracts, much as they did with Mauer and Morneau.
Re-signing Pavano to a two-year, $16.5 million deal last offseason was about the biggest move they've made in free agency in quite some time.
The Twins have given no indication they're going to make a big signing this offseason, unless it means bringing back Cuddyer or Kubel. And it could be the right decision if they decide to instead use that money to fix the bullpen and add infield depth.
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Will Joe Nathan be the closer for two or three more years?
-- Steve M., Salt Lake City, Utah
Nathan, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has reestablished himself as a top reliever since coming off the disabled list on June 25. Since then, the right-hander has a 2.96 ERA and 10 saves, with 24 strikeouts and just four walks over 24 1/3 innings.
He also has a $12 million option for next season, and the Twins appear likely to buy out that final year for $2 million.
Nathan, though, has expressed a willingness to remain with the organization, and the Twins could re-sign him to a new deal to keep him as their closer for the next few years.
What can be done about Tsuyoshi Nishioka? Can the Twins release him and send him back to Japan?
-- Mary F., Berkeley, Calif.
It's obvious that Nishioka has struggled in his first big league season, as he's hitting just .226 with a .527 OPS while also making 12 errors in 68 games.
The Twins, who signed Nishioka to a three-year deal worth $9.25 million after winning the negotiating rights with the Chiba Lotte Marines with a $5.3 million bid, could opt to release him, but it appears unlikely.
The club seems willing to bring Nishioka back next year, but there are no guarantees he'll start, as Casilla is entrenched at second base and Trevor Plouffe is making a case to stick at shortstop.
Nishioka could serve as a utility infielder, given his experience at second and short, but it'll be determined by how he plays in Spring Training, when the starting shortstop job will be wide open.
What exactly is Kyle Gibson doing in Fort Myers, Fla., right now, and when can we expect to see him pitch in a Minor League game again?
-- Eric B., Gibsonia, Pa.
Gibson, the Twins' top pitching prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery on Sept. 7, and he is scheduled to stay in Fort Myers for the next year to rehab his right elbow with Minor League rehab coordinator Lanning Tucker.
Gibson's arm will be in a brace for about six weeks, and then he'll spend the following 10 weeks after that rehabbing his elbow and building strength in his arm before finally throwing again.
The total rehab process usually takes about 12 months, so Gibson is likely to miss all of next season before making his return in 2013.