But now that the Twins' improbable run in 2009 has come to an end following a 4-1 loss to the Yankees in Game 3 of the American League Division Series on Sunday, thoughts have turned to next season. And it's unclear just how many of those newcomers who contributed down the stretch will be back.
Of the four players brought to Minnesota through summer deals, only Rauch is signed through 2010.
Pavano, Cabrera and Mahay are all set to be free agents, as well as two players who were with the Twins all season -- third baseman Joe Crede and catcher Mike Redmond. Nearly all of the impending free agents for the Twins have expressed a desire to return, although it's still unclear which ones might fit into the club's plans.
"It takes two to tango, but I enjoyed my time here. I'm not going to deny it," Pavano said after his Game 3 start. "I enjoyed my teammates. Will this team be a force next year? Without a doubt."
"I've said it time and time again, he's been the unsung hero of this team."
-- Michael Cuddyer,|
on Mike Redmond
Pavano experienced a career resurgence in 2009, delivering a strong year following four injury-plagued seasons in New York. And when he came to Minnesota in early August, Pavano provided a veteran presence to a young pitching staff that had been lacking one. There is no doubt that the players feel that would be a huge help again in 2010.
"I gave Carl a ride to the hotel last night after [Sunday's] game, and I told him how much he meant to this team," said catcher Joe Mauer. "We have a young staff, and he's a guy that's been around. Our young guys were able to see how he prepares for a game, and during the game they could see his plan for attacking hitters. I think he was huge for our young guys."
Like Pavano, Cabrera provided a veteran presence, leading by example in the infield. He bonded with the young Latin players, including outfielder Carlos Gomez and infielder Alexi Casilla, providing them with a mentor. Cabrera was also credited for bringing a winning attitude to the Twins, having now been to the postseason in five of the past six seasons, with four different clubs.
"Just having him in the dugout was huge," Denard Span said. "He played a big part. When we were down in some of those games, his energy in the dugout picking everybody up was real big. That's something that you can't teach -- it just comes through experience. He's been through a lot."
In terms of leaders, Redmond was perhaps the strongest over his five years with the club. The 38-year-old saw his playing time diminished this season, as Jose Morales appeared to slip into the backup-catcher role by the end of the season.
Redmond said he's not ready to retire, although he knows it might require him to play somewhere other than Minnesota. If that's the case, his teammates acknowledge Redmond's vocal leadership and sometimes-unusual motivational tactics -- such as the naked walk -- will be missed.
"I've said it time and time again, he's been the unsung hero of this team," Cuddyer said. "He's been the unquestionable leader on this team. Any time [Mauer] needed help with the staff, he went to Red. Any time guys needed help in how to play the game, they went to Red."
Crede is another player who has said he'd like to get another shot in Minnesota. The third baseman recently underwent his third back surgery in three years, so his health leaves questions as to whether he could return. And manager Ron Gardenhire said last month that he would be in favor of the club bringing back Mahay as another left-hander in the bullpen.
But for now, the Twins will just have to wait and see which free agents might be back.
"You just never know how an offseason is going to transpire -- how a market is going to be -- and you never know what other teams are looking at other players," Cuddyer said. "You never know what will happen until it comes. We would love to have those guys back obviously. They were huge pieces in what went on here."