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The Twins May Need A New Middle Infield

Now that the season's over, the winter roster speculation has begun - and it's started in the middle infield. First, reports emerged that the Twins have no plan to re-sign second baseman Orlando Hudson. The Twins are also expected to decline Nick Punto's ridiculous $5 million option for next season. And with J.J. Hardy due for arbitration - where he might be awarded upwards of $6 million - the team may choose to let their starting shortstop walk, as well.

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This would leave the team with the uneven Alexi Casilla as their starting second baseman, and with Trevor Plouffe as their best available option at shortstop. Plouffe batted .146 in 44 plate appearances in the majors in 2010, and hit just .244 at Triple-A Rochester in 102 games there. Casilla missed time due to injury in 2010, but ended up hitting a respectable .276 in 69 games.

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The problem for the Twins is that they have more than $90 million committed for next season - and that's without Hardy, Hudson, Jim Thome, Carl Pavano, or pretty much the entire bullpen (Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier - that's five of the six main options in the 'pen - are all free agents.) Minnesota enjoyed the illusion of extra money this year, but with the foursome of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, and Michael Cuddyer due $60 million combined by themselves, payroll flexibility is gone.

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Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.