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Inbox: Will club add ace to staff this offseason?

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's been a quiet offseason for the Twins, as they've yet to sign any Major League free agents.

The biggest news of the offseason has been right-hander Scott Baker deciding to leave the club by signing a one-year deal with the Cubs last week.

But it's sure to ramp up soon, especially with the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., just two weeks away.

So keep checking out for updates, and keep those Inbox questions coming.

With Baker gone, what are the chances the Twins spend a bit more to get a true ace?
-- Ian W., Waconia, Minn.

Well, considering Baker's contract was worth $5.5 million, it's not like the Twins saved themselves a ton of money by not re-signing him.

The Twins have about $75 million in payroll obligations for next season, and are expected to enter the season with a payroll similar to their $100 million mark from 2012.

And as of now, the Twins only have left-hander Scott Diamond penciled in their rotation for next year, so the club will be looking to likely add at least three starters via free agency or trade.

So if the Twins have $25 million to improve a club that lost 99 games in '11 and 96 games in '12, I'm not so sure that signing an ace like Zack Greinke will really do them that much good.

Greinke is likely to get at least $20 million annually, so it would eat up most of the club's budget and limit its ability to fix a team that has many holes. Obviously, having an ace is something the Twins haven't had since Johan Santana, but unless they're able to trade for an affordable top-of-the-rotation starter, it makes more sense to spend their budget wisely instead of all on one free agent because they're more than one big piece away from contending.

Why would Josh Willingham be considered trade bait? He was signed for three years, had an outstanding first season with the Twins and could get even better. Regardless of whom the team signs as starting pitchers, the Twins will still need to score runs and Willingham seems to be a key component.
-- Mike B., Grand Rapids, Mich.

Willingham's three-year deal worth $21 million proved to be a bargain for the Twins, as the slugger had a career year with a career-high 35 homers and 110 RBIs en route to his first Silver Slugger Award.

But Willingham is also 33 and although he was able to stay mostly healthy in 2012, he's dealt with his fair share of injuries. He also doesn't provide much value in the outfield or on the bases.

So the Twins could decide that his overall value won't be any higher coming off his impressive season, and decide to deal him for pitching help. But it would hurt the club's power numbers and rid it of its most potent bat from the right side, as Minnesota's other top hitters such as Denard Span, Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are left-handed hitters.

It'll be interesting to see what they decide to do, considering they do have some outfield depth with Chris Parmelee ready to step in as a corner outfielder as well as top prospects such as Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks knocking on the door. And obviously, Span also remains a top candidate to be dealt for starting pitching.

When will the Twins take a chance on Hicks and Arcia and give them an opportunity to show what they can do?
-- David J., Prior Lake, Minn.

Much of that will depend on whether the club decides to trade Willingham or Span, as they have plenty of depth on the Major League roster with Ben Revere and Darin Mastroianni around as well. Parmelee and Ryan Doumit also can play corner outfield.

But both Hicks and Arcia had impressive Minor League campaigns in 2012, and were in consideration to be brought up as September callups.

Arcia is already on the 40-man roster, while Hicks is expected to be added on Tuesday, which is the last day for clubs to set their 40-man rosters before the Rule 5 Draft. So they'll both be invited to Major League Spring Training and will have the opportunity to prove themselves even though both are likely to start 2013 at Triple-A Rochester.

With some of the Minor and Major Leaguers participating in the World Baseball Classic, how will the Spring Training schedule be affected?
-- Mary W., Apple Valley, Minn.

Most of this will be answered on Tuesday, as the Twins are expected to release their Spring Training schedule then, according to club president Dave St. Peter.

Players who are participating in the World Baseball Classic will simply be away from the club, while the Twins will have to make do with their available players in regularly scheduled Spring Training games.

Minnesota Twins, Oswaldo Arcia, Scott Diamond, Denard Span, Josh Willingham