Minor League Free Agents
You've probably seen the list already, either at Baseball America or on Joe C's Twins blog or over at Seth Speaks or any of a number of other outlets for it. I'm not going to try to do a lot with the information, but here's the list in case you haven't seen it, and some brief thoughts afterwards.
RHP: Julio DePaula, Danny Graves, Tom Shearn
LHP: Ricky Barrett, Carmen Cali, Mariano Gomez, Jason Miller
1B: Garrett Jones
2B: Felix Molina
SS: Sergio Santos; Howie Clark
OF: Joe Gaetti, Darnell McDonald, Tommy Watkins
Two of these names are immediately recognizable because they were recently removed from the 40-man roster -- Julio DePaula and Sergio Santos. As I said at the time, though, there was no reason to keep either of these players on the 40-man, and losing them as minor league free agents doesn't hurt the team. DePaula's 5.70 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 77.1 innings represented a marked regression from the numbers that he had put up in 2007 and earlier, so there's some chance that he could regain his form. However, it wasn't worth keeping him on the 40-man roster to find that out, and if the Twins want to they can try to re-sign him and not have to worry about having him take up valuable roster space. Santos, meanwhile, was seemingly picked up off waivers as a stopgap for the Rochester infield. Like Chris Basak the year before, the acquisition never really made sense, and I doubt the Twins will make much of an effort to reacquire him.
Danny Graves, Tom Shearn, and Howie Clark were all veteran minor leaguers who were mostly filling spaces on minor league rosters. Clark got 8 AB's as a Twin this year, but that was due to unusual circumstances. None of them will be brought back, although there will be other players like them signed by the Twins this off-season simply as roster filler.
The four lefties are interesting. Carmen Cali is probably the most familiar name because of his stint with the Twins in 2007, but he wasn't needed in 2008 at the big league level, and probably wouldn't have been able to provide much there anyway (he has a career 11.80 big league ERA). The Twins might, however, go after Ricky Barrett if he has any interest in returning to Rochester in 2009. He had a solid season in 2008 (3.21 ERA/1.33 WHIP/81-38 K-BB in 70 innings). While he's not one of the most dynamic prospects in the organization, he consistently posts a K/9 ratio of over 9.00, and usually keeps his ERA and WHIP in check. Considering that he's also a lefty, and at 27 isn't exactly too old to contribute, I would like to see him back in the fold. Mariano Gomez put up a solid year in 2008, his first in the Twins organization, but not enough to deserve a spot on the roster. I could see the Twins trying to bring him back, but at just 25 he'll probably get a few offers from around the league, and he doesn't exactly have a strong connection with the organization. Jason Miller has a nice 2007 and then found himself busted down to AA in 2008 in spite of that. He didn't find easier competition at the lower level -- he had a very poor 5.61 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in 85 innings. He might be brought back for another go-round in AA, but I doubt it will be a top priority for him.
Garrett Jones put together his best minor league season since 2004 in New Britain with his 2008 work in Rochester, hitting .279 with an 821 OPS and 23 HR's while striking out 98 times in 527 AB's. Those are solid numbers, but Jones is seriously blocked in the Twins organization by Justin Morneau and the plethora of good outfield options. He's probably better off leaving the Twins and trying to find a better situation.
Felix Molina was somewhat surprisingly re-signed by the Twins after becoming a minor league free agent last season. I liked the idea at the time, but he had a pretty bad year, hitting .247/636 in 300 AB's. I would guess that he won't be back. The same is probably true for long-time Twins minor league fixture Tommy Watkins, who had a feel-good big league debut in 2007 only to be converted to primary use an outfielder in 2008. His struggles at the plate (.219/596 in 233 AB's) and his increasing age (he's 28) make him a somewhat unlikely target for the Twins to retain.
Depending on where they feel the organization is with outfield depth, the club could potentially go after free agents Darnell McDonald and Joe Gaetti, however. Gaetti was acquired from Oakland in July for "future considerations" (I haven't seen what those considerations are yet). He then had 1 at-bat with New Britain before being shut down for the season. I would have to think the Twins saw something in Gaetti that made them want to pick him up, so I expect them to push to bring him back. McDonald is pushing 30 and hit just .268 this year. He doesn't seem destined to break through as a likely big league regular (or even as a big league backup), so the Twins would probably only try to retain him if they wanted some AAA outfield filler.