ESPN has reported that the Twins are about to sign 32-year-old free agent outfielder Josh Willingham. Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune is reporting the deal is for 3 years and $21 million. Willingham pocketed $6 million this past season in Oakland. The right-handed hitting Willingham has been in the majors for 8 seasons playing for the Marlins from 2004 – 2008, the Nationals in 2009 -2010 and the Oakland A’s this past season. Willingham hit a career high of 29 home runs for the A’s and knocked in 98 but also hit a career low .246 last season with 150 strikeouts but he did post a .361 OBP.
If this report of Willingham agreeing to a deal with the Twins is accurate, it would appear that the Twins are not going to meet Michael Cuddyer’s reported request for $30 million for 3 years as recent reports have the Twins offering Cuddyer $24 or $25 million. There were reports all day today that Willingham wanted to get a deal done in the next 24-48 hours and that kind of put he pressure on the Twins to do something as they did not want to find themselves in a position of getting neither Cuddyer nor Willingham.
Willingham is not great defensively so the logical position for him is left field but Willingham did play 35 games in right for the Nationals back in 2009. If Willingham is indeed in left, it appears to me the Twins will play Span in center and probably Doumit in right with Revere filling in center and left as needed. The Twins could go with Revere in center and Span in right but I just don’t see that happening too often. Plouffe is probably the fifth outfielder playing left and right field as needed.
I am thinking that Cuddyer may have over played his hand if he wanted to come back to Minnesota and was hoping that the Twins would raise their offer. The Twins called his bluff and now Cuddyer may have to settle for what he can get from the Rockies but there are now reports that the Marlins might be interested too. The Twins picked up a little more power with Willingham but they lose a good player with more position flexibility. It all goes back to losing 99 games, changes need to be made. The Twins also save $3-5 million over 3 years by going with Willingham versus Cuddyer. In the mean time, former Twins outfielder and DH Jason Kubel sits out there waiting for his turn to come up.
UPDATE December 14 – The Minnesota Twins have finally made the Josh Willingham deal official — a three-year, $21 million contract is a done deal.