I will proceed in two parts. The first one is a realistic prediction for how the Twins might navigate in this offseason. The second is what I think I might do if I were actually the GM.
Trade Ryan Doumit to the Texas Rangers for RH SP Nick Martinez. Justification: unless the Rangers strike gold and land McCann, resign AJ, Soto, Murphy, and Cruz, and refrain from trading anyone else, it looks like a cheap DH/C/RF option with a potentially good enough bat might be something the Rangers need.
Nick Martinez ranks around 15-20 in the Rangers system and has a career 3.30 ERA in 327.1 minor league innings, compiling an 8.1/2.7 K/BB rate, reaching AA in 2013 (which is where he would start in 2014). The Twins are in need of some SP support between Gibson, Meyer, and May on one end, and Berrios, Sulbaran, Stewart, Thorpe, etc. on the other end. Martinez would join Baxendale and Duffey in that spot, and is probably better than both.
Sign RH SP Phil Hughes to a 3 year, $39 million deal. (13 a year)
Sign LH SP Chris Capuano to a 2 year, $15 million deal. (7.5 a year)
Scott Diamond/Vance Worley
Send Ryan Pressly to Rochester to get back to starting.
Florimon, SS (some Escobar action here against righties)
Escobar, Util infield
Chris Colabello 1B/RF
(Deibinson Romero next option in AAA for bench role)
Sano should be up fairly quickly. May, Meyer, Rosario, and perhaps Buxton to follow by the All-Star break at the latest for the first two, and September for the second two).
Sano joins the team and Trevor Plouffe moves to platoon with Presley, and someone (Colabello, probably) gets optioned.
I am then looking to *unload* that bullpen as long as the replacements are doing well in AAA. I am thinking Burton, Fien, Swarzak, and Duensing flipped at the deadline or before. Achter, Watts, Oliveros, and Ibarra could be suitable replacements on the roster, with Tonkin (likely) moving to the setup role for Perkins.
Trading Doumit and adding those two free agents would make for a rather modest $76.5 million payroll.
* * *
The second scenario involves being more proactive, unloading some more payroll before adding much more back.
1. Josh Willingham and Casey Fien to Baltimore for RHP Parker Bridwell and LHP Lex Rutledge. Justification: The Orioles are going to want one bat and to bolster their bullpen. They do it here for very cheap, especially since I would pay part of Willingham's salary if necessary.
Bridwell is young with great stuff. His numbers are very Trevor Mayesque at this point, but he is still figuring it out. He would start in A+ in 2014. Rutledge would start in A+ as well, and might be worth taking a look as a starter again. He was bad early in his career there, and was very good as a reliever in 2013, but he does have a good curveball to go with a decent fastball and that could mean for more experimentation this year, perhaps splitting time and get over 100 innings this year.
2. Kevin Correia and Jared Burton to San Francisco for LHP Ty Blach and RHP Keury Mella. Justification: The Giants want A: a solid starting pitcher, and B: a solid MR/SU man. For $8.75 million, they get both of those things here (or less, I would pay some salary to make this happen).
Blach is a LH starter who ranks around 10 or so on Giants' prospect lists. He would start at AA in 2014. Mella is very young and missed a lot of bats in rookie ball. He is a RH starter and would start in A- in 2014.
3. Sam Deduno and Anthony Swarzak to Philadelphia for LF/RF/1B Cameron Perkins and RHP Jeb Stefan. Justification: the Phillies pitching situation is a mess and here is a way for them to improve it for $1.5 or so million. Lannan and Kendrick are not very good, Cloyd needs more time in the minors, and they could try Swarzak out as a starter. Deduno and Swarzak would be 4-5 after Lee, Hamels, and Pettibone.
Perkins posted a .790 OPS in A+ in 2013. He's a RH bat with doubles power and plays corner OF and 1B. He would fill an organizational void in the OF in the middle of the system and would immediately be a better option than Danny Ortiz, Angel Morales, etc. moving forward. Stefan pitched fairly well in A-ball in 2013 and would start the system in A+ starting for the Miracle or developing into a setup man.
4. Ryan Doumit to the Texas Rangers for RHP Nick Martinez. Justification: see first scenario.
In all of these cases, the Twins should think about paying part of the 2014 salary to lure these teams to make these deals. Let's just say that salary contribution totals $8 million. The guys dealt with substantial contacts totals about $20, so this amounts to a saving of $12 million, dropping payroll to $47.5 million or so.
Try to sign: Masahiro Tanaka for a $55 million post and a 6 year, $60 million deal. FAIL (Yankees will win):
Sign Ervin Santana for a 5 year, $85 million deal.
Sign Phil Hughes to a 3 year, $39 million deal.
Sign Chris Capuano to a one year, $8 million deal (and hope for deadline trade this way)
With Santana, Hughes, and Capuano, this adds $38 million, meaning an $85.5 million payroll.
Send Ryan Pressly to AAA to become a starter again.
LR: Diamond/Worley, or Hendriks, or Albers
Arcia, DH (but with OF time)
Escobar, Util INF
I understand how this lineup looks, and I understand the animosity towards Parmelee and Plouffe, and the craziness that appears to be involving Colabello, Romero, Pinto, and Herrmann in such a meaningful way. Moving Plouffe to RF, however, makes room for Sano to play 3B when he arrives and to have both Sano and Plouffe in the lineup against lefties. Sano would replace either Colabello or Romero on the roster.
Rosario and Buxton would follow eventually. I would definitely give time for some Dozier at SS experimentation, but if Rosario is up by mid-season, some combo of 2B-LF, RF, and DH for the remainder of 2014 isn't going to hurt. And by the end of the season this might mean a Rosario-Buxton-Hicks OF.
Willingham and Doumit have zero future for the Twins, so I see no reason bothering with them at all this year. Maybe the Plouffes and Parmelees don't have a future either, but this is a maybe . . . and in a rebuild, I will take maybes over definite no-future types. The Mauer-Buxton-Sano core needs its players around it.
By season's end, I would expect a rotation of Santana, Hughes, Gibson, Meyer, and May. The Twins would end 2014 with five starting pitchers who have been top 100 prospects.