Watching the AL Central: Minnesota Twins

The defending AL Central champs, the Minnesota Twins, have always been known for their tight payroll. Luckily for them, they have one of the top farm systems in baseball, helping to allow them consistently replace starters for the big league club.

The Twins had 5 free agents coming into the offseason, and were able to retain 2 of the group – starting pitcher Brad Radke and swingman Terry Mulholland.

The team did have a few losses though – including the right side of their infield (3B Corey Koskie and SS Christian Guzman), as well as backup Catcher Henry Blanco.

Typically one would assume it'd be difficult to replace 2 starters, and a third that started much of the year as a replacement for starter Joe Mauer. But the Twins shouldn't have too much of a problem doing so.

After coming to terms with 2B Luis Rivas on a new 1-year deal, Rivas will man Second Base, while part-timer Michael Cuddyer will take over full time at Third Base for Koskie. The 25-year old Cuddyer had 12 Home Runs and 45 RBI in 339 at bats last season.

As for Shortstop, the team will go into camp with the spot up for grabs. Youngster Jason Bartlett will be given every opportunity to step up and win the job, and the team also signed Juan Castro to compete for the spot. Backups Nick Punto and Augie Ojeda might also figure into the competition.

And at Catcher, Joe Mauer is expected to resume his role as the team's #1 catcher – but that still left the club without a backup. Not to worry though, as the team went out and added veteran Mike Redmond from the Florida Marlins.

The rest of the club still remains solid. In the Outfield, the team returns all 4 of its Outfielders – Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart, Jacque Jones and 2004 rookie of the year candidate Lew Ford.

As for the pitching staff, the team is working on a new multiyear deal for reigning AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse also return to help fill out the rotation.

The Twins also return one of the top bullpens in all of baseball – headed by closer Joe Nathan. J.C. Romero, Juan Rincon and Jesse Crain fill in the middle relief roles, helping secure games in the late innings.

The team has little left to do, except for possibly adding some cheap pitching depth and completing the extension with Santana.

The Twins may not have the money, but it's obvious that with their minor league talent, the rich are certainly getting richer.

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