While the White Sox and Tigers continue to improve their ball clubs, the Twins seem to be losing talent and not gaining any. The Twins finished six games in front of the White Sox in 2010 and thirteen games ahead of the Tigers. But (at least on paper) the White Sox have made up those six wins with off season moves while the Tigers have gained ground as well. The Twins strategy so far this off season has been somewhat baffling.
To recap, the Twins have lost Hardy, Crain...Jesse Crain, maybe Pavano and maybe Thome. All they have picked up is perhaps an untested Japanese batting champion. Meanwhile, the White Sox have picked up Adam Dunn, resigned Paul Konerko and the aforementioned Crain. Their only significant loss has been Jenks.
The Tigers meanwhile, have picked up Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and are rumored to have a desire to resign Ordonez. Their only significant loss might be Johnny Damon. The Tigers and White Sox seem committed to spend money to get better and both team's payrolls might hit team records this season.
At the same time, the Twins seem stuck in neutral. They have a burgeoning fan base and attendance, but perhaps because of the money tied up in Joe Mauer, seem less committed to spending any money. They stole Thome last year and will not get the same discount this year, especially after the season he had last year. Carl Pavano is looking for one last paycheck and won't come cheaply. If the Twins were committed to spending what they needed, you would think that Pavano would be signed by now. Their inactivity seems to indicate a lack of desire to meet whatever demands Pavano is making. Plus, there has been no news on Thome.
In fact there has been no Twins' news on anything other than the negotiations with the Japanese infielder they covet. All their eggs are in that basket now that Hardy was dispatched. They have little choice but to sign the guy. And again, they are taking a huge risk with that being their only big off season play. Many scouts aren't very high on this kid from Japan. But the Twins have always been smart on personnel issues and have remained competitive without ever making many off season moves.
History begs us to trust the Twins with what they are doing. Their track record is just too strong. But as an outside observer, it may appear as if the Twins are this year's Angels and could be passed by more aggressive pursuers.