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Inbox: Which pitchers will Twins go after?

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been quite a while since the last Twins Inbox, but it's back as a regular feature this offseason.

The Twins are coming off their second straight last-place finish in the American League, so there are plenty of questions to be asked.

So keep those questions coming, and here's the first Twins Inbox of the offseason:

Who on the starting-pitching market will the Twins go after? And if they do make a trade, who will be moved and what can they realistically expect in return?
-- Nick C., Minneapolis

Twins general manager Terry Ryan said he'll take a look at every free-agent starting pitcher this offseason, as obtaining rotation help is the club's No. 1 goal. But it doesn't mean that the Twins are willing to break the bank for an ace such as Zack Greinke.

The Twins have too many holes in their rotation -- left-hander Scott Diamond is the only one guaranteed a spot as a starter next year -- so they're more likely to go after middle- or back-end-of-the-rotation options.

Minnesota is more likely to look at free-agent pitchers such as Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Joe Blanton and Jeremy Guthrie. Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson are other intriguing options but could get too expensive for the Twins.

There also was mutual interest in bringing back right-hander Scott Baker on a new contract after the club declined his $9.25 million option after the season. Baker is coming off Tommy John surgery but pitched well in 2011 with a 3.14 ERA before dealing with elbow troubles in the second half of the season. However, the 31-year-old agreed to a one-year contract with the Cubs on Tuesday.

The Twins also have some trade chips such as Denard Span, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham, who could bring pitching in return.

Minnesota would be looking for young, cost-controlled pitching in any trade, and teams such as the Rays and Braves seem to be natural fits.

Obviously, the Twins' main concern this offseason is starting pitching, but what's the likelihood that they deal for or sign a middle infielder? I don't believe Jamey Carroll is a starter and I'm OK with either Brian Dozier or Pedro Florimon getting extended looks as No. 9 hitter, but not both as starters.
-- Matt R., Albert Lea, Minn.

There's definitely a chance the Twins go after some middle infield help, as they have depth there, but it's mostly from inexperienced players. Carroll is the lone veteran, but the Twins seem to like him more in a utility role because of his ability to play third base, shortstop and second base without any problems. But to Carroll's credit, he was also solid offensively in 2012 despite his lack of power, as he posted a .343 on-base percentage.

The Twins do have some young options such as Dozier, Florimon and Eduardo Escobar, but none did enough to officially earn a spot heading into next season. As of now, however, I think Dozier is the favorite at second base with Florimon the favorite at shortstop, but things can change if the Twins decide they want a veteran at either position. But if the Twins do sign a middle infielder, it'll be a lower-priced veteran instead of a pricey free agent, as it's not exactly a major need for the club.

How is Cole De Vries doing since the rib injury? Do you think he'll be ready by Spring Training?
-- Kayla B., Albany, N.Y.

De Vries is doing just fine after his season-ending rib injury, as he was taken off the disabled list on Oct. 24, after cracking his rib on Sept. 8. He told me at the end of the season that it shouldn't affect his offseason training, and that he expects to be fully ready to go come Spring Training.

De Vries was a pleasant surprise for the Twins last season with a 4.11 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts), and he is expected to be given a chance in Spring Training to make the rotation.

When will the Twins give Anthony Slama a fair shot at a bullpen job? He has dominated the Minors for several years now, but has only pitched seven innings in the Majors.
-- Logan P., Vivian, S.D.

Even with Minnesota's pitching struggles the last two seasons, Slama has had a tough time getting a chance with the Twins despite a career 1.99 ERA in the Minors with 446 strikeouts in 325 innings.

He appeared primed for a chance with the Twins last season after a strong start to the year, but he broke a bone in his right leg in mid-June and missed two months.

The Twins wanted to get a better look at him this offseason, so he's currently pitching in the Mexican Winter League. He's faring well there with Venados de Mazatlan, with a 2.84 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

I believe he's done more than enough to warrant a look in the big leagues, but the Twins are worried that his stuff won't translate because he relies on deception and a fastball that averages about 88 mph. So this year will likely be make or break for Slama in the Twins organization.

Minnesota Twins, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon, Cole De Vries