Imagine this...the Twins were to be contracted two years ago. Wow. This team will have to make some big changes next year, and the lineup should be very different.
While Doug Mientkiewicz has had a huge season, the team can't afford to bring him back next season. Justin Morneau is more than ready, and should be a big part of the offense next season. Luis Rivas' successes in the two-hole will likely make the Twins bring him back next season, and he could turn into a 30SB threat. Christian Guzman will be retained, simply because the team has no other options. Prospect Jason Bartlett is coming on fast, but won't be there until 2005. Corey Koskie has a $4.5M option for next season, and the team has no reason to buy out that contract. Expect him back, and healthy, next year.
Another player that will surely be back is Shannon Stewart. While Shannon is a free agent, the team must sign him, as he proved to be such a big acquisition. He will sit atop the lineup, and split time in left, right, and the DH spot. Splitting time with him will be Jacque Jones, who quietly had a nice season. While the power wasn't in the 2002 form, he did hit .303. Torii Hunter had a disappointing season, and seems to be a "close-eyed swinging-hard" type player. The last spot (RF/DH), must be decided between Mike Cuddyer, Mike LeCroy, Mike Restovich, Lew Ford, and Mike Ryan. A.J. Pierzynski has one more year as a Twin, before the team ships him off somewhere to make room for Mauer.
The rotation will have a younger look next year, and a full season with their new ace. Johan Santana is 11-2, 2.99ERA as a starter, and is one of my favorites for the 2004 Cy Young. He is an amazing pitcher, and probably the best Rule V pick EVER. Brad Radke will look to build on his 9-1 second half with a big 2004. He probably will remain uneffective, but will eat his innings. Kyle Lohse has had a little disappointing of a season, and will be in the 2004 version. Eric Milton should also return full-time, giving the team at least two lefties. Grant Balfour could claim the last spot, although I feel he is better suited for middle relief. But if he holds it until J.D. Durbin claims it, no big deal. But I would advise the team to go after someone as a filler, a Cory Lidle or Ismael Valdes type.
The bullpen will be much different next year, as Eddie Guardado and LaTroy Hawkins are angry at Twin management. They both wanted re-extensions, and have threatened to leave. Guardado may be re-signed, but Hawkins is already gone. The team is comfortable with Juan Rincon, J.C. Romero, and prospect Jesse Crain all closing. The rest of the bullpen will include Michael Nakamura, Carlos Pulido, and possibly Brad Thomas. Balfour should be in there, and would help out a lot. This bullpen won't have big names, but should be very effective. My advice to Terry Ryan: sign Shannon Stewart!!!