Wednesday, July 25, 2007
It seems like once a year I will write an article with the "It's Over" title. I know I have at least twice, and in both cases, the Twins came back to surprise me and many others by making the playoffs. So, maybe I am superstitiously writing this posting in hopes that it will help the Twins turn things around in a hurry and somehow make the playoffs. However, at the time I wrote it each year, I sit hear typing thinking that the Twins playoff chances are over. After watching the Twins in the last week and a half, it is hard to imagine that the Twins have what it takes to make a serious run at the AL Wild Card race, much less the AL Central. If you come to this site consistently, I am generally a very positive person and try to find the bright side in even the worst games. I understand that playing baseball is very difficult and I give the players the benefit of the doubt in most situations. I try not to over-question Ron Gardenhire. Yes, he plays Nick Punto too much, but what are his options. Sure, maybe Joe Mauer should bat 2nd, but seriously, just how big should one spot in the lineup be?
Terry Ryan has to do certain things because of some owner-imposed salary restrictions. He may sometimes be too patient. A lot of people right now are upset that Terry Ryan did not, or at least has not, gone out and acquired a big bat to help this team's poor offense. But I think Terry Ryan is again being smarter than a lot of people are giving him credit for. I think at the All-Star break that he knew that this team was not a playoff team. He knew that adding one or even two bats was not going to be enough to catch Cleveland or Detroit this year. Now, you can certainly say that Terry Ryan is in charge of roster construction, and he is the guy responsible for having four weak spots in the lineup and nothing on the bench. That is definitely a fair assessment. And since I think that is fair, you have to remain lenient on Ron Gardenhire because he can only play players that are on his roster.
I've been trying not to admit it to myself that this team can not make the playoffs. I think we have known for a month or more, but we just want to keep thinking that the team will go on a streak where they win 15 out of 17 or something like they did a year ago against National League teams in inter-league play. That does not appear to be happening this year. There just is not enough offense to sustain that kind of streak.
The pitching has been just fine. Despite the long-balls in Monday night's game, Johan Santana has been at the top of his game. Matt Garza has come up and been everything we could hope he would be. Carlos Silva has been about league average, which is more than any of us thought would happen when the season started. Scott Baker seems to have overcome his struggles and has been quite good the last month. Joe Nathan hasn't been himself so far this year, but is still one of the better closers in baseball. Pat Neshek has become as good as any set up man in baseball. Matt Guerrier has flawlessly moved into a more crucial role. And really, since coming back from injury, Dennys Reyes has been quite good.
Injuries can certainly be used as an excuse. As much as we mock him for constantly being injured, a healthy Rondell White would have been helpful. But Joe Mauer missed over a month with his quadriceps injury. Luis Castillo missed more than two weeks with the same injury. Justin Morneau missed almost a week with his bruised lung. Michael Cuddyer missed about a week of games with his back injury and now is on the DL with the jammed thumb. Lew Ford missed more than a month after his knee surgeries. Jeff Cirillo had to have knee surgery too. Jason Bartlett has had the bad neck. Jesse Crain had Tommy John surgery early in the year and will be out all year. Francisco Liriano had the same surgery after last season and we knew he wouldn't play this year. Juan Rincon has missed some time. Dennys Reyes and Glen Perkins both were injured within the same week as Crain. Perkins is still not back. That is a lot of games missed for this team and much of it from very important members of the team.
Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer have all performed well this year. Justin Morneau has backed up his MVP season with an even stronger year this year. But name anyone else on the offense that has performed up to their expectations. Well, positive expectations that is. Nick Punto has performed much like I (and most) thought he would. Jason Bartlett has been solid at times, but certainly not quite as good as we hoped. Jason Kubel has certainly shown flashes but has been very inconsistent. Luis Castillo has been decent, but certainly not good. The bench has been weak at best. Jason Tyner has had to be the DH way too often. Worse yet, AAA Rochester does not have more than one bat that would be able to either help the Twins now, or at least give them a glimpse at positive things to come in the future. Outside of Alexi Casilla, there likely isn't a hitter in Rochester with a solid big league future with the Twins.
Terry Ryan made a comment a month or more ago that it is really difficult to make a trade in June because there are too many teams that still believe that they are in contention and teams ask for way too much for their players. Both points are probably quite true. However, the month or six weeks in between when the Twins really needed to make a deal and now has been enough time for the Twins weaknesses to put them too far behind.
And what does that mean? With a week before the July Trade Deadline, the Twins should not be making deals to give up any of the future for the present. I realize that they have a lot of pitching prospects, but at this point, is it worth giving up any of them for a guy who will maybe help them for the next two months. My personal opinion is that Terry Ryan needs to be thinking about 2008 and 2009 at this point. I think that Terry Ryan needs to spend the next two or three days trying to determine a few things:
What to do with Torii Hunter? He needs to determine the number of years and number of dollars that he is willing to offer him for 2007. He needs to verify how keeping Hunter affects his future payroll numbers and how Carl Pohlad will deal with that. Pohlad being willing to adjust the future payroll will be necessary. And then he needs to go to Hunter's agent and make an offer and give them a timeline to decide. Put the ball in Torii's court and let him decide. If he accepts, the Twins can be happy to have him remain. There isn't a decent CF option in the Twins system that is anywhere near ready, and that is why I am fine with keeping Hunter if... The Price is Right. If Hunter says No to the contract offer, then Terry Ryan has to investigate trade opportunities. I believe that receiving a big league ready CF in return for Torii is necessary. If the Red Sox want him, Jacoby Ellsbury has to be part of the deal. If the Yankees want him, then Melky Cabrera has to be part of the deal. If the Mariners want him, Adam Jones had better be part of the deal. Of course, the Twins would have to get a second player, a minor leaguer with upside along with the CF.
Draft Picks - I'm going to give this its own bullet point. I think that the Twins should be comfortable with what they would get in return for any of these players. If they aren't, then if they can get draft picks, just keep them.
Luis Castillo - Unlike the CF situation, the Twins have a couple of possible replacements nearly ready for second base. Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert have both put themselves in a position to compete for the position. I absolutely think that Terry Ryan should be on the phone with Omar Minaya of the Mets. With Jose Valentin out for awhile with a broken leg, Ruben Gotay is currently the Mets regular 2B. Castillo would fit in nicely in that lineup, after Jose Reyes and before the mashers in that lineup. No, I really don't think that the Twins could command Lastings Milledge for Castillo. If they were willing to do that, then any hesitation on Terry Ryan's part would be cause for alarm. Maybe the Mets have soured enough on the likes of Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber for them to be available. This is a deal that I think the Twins should make right away.
Carlos Silva - Silva has been better than any of us thought and has earned the money he got in his option year. He becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and even with average numbers may have priced himself out of the Twins price range. In reality, he is what he is. In reality, the Twins have already won The Eric Milton Trade (Silva, Punto, Korecky and $9 million saved from the Phillies). They should look to deal him to a potential playoff team in need of a fourth or fifth starter. With all of the Twins pitching prospects, they need to try to acquire hitting prospects for Silva.
Johan Santana - No, I'm not saying trade him, but right after the trade deadline, the Twins really, really need to get with his agent and try to determine just how much it will require to sign Santana. I say offer him an appropriate contract after the season. If he is not wiling to take it, it would not be unwise to at least delve into just how much the Twins could acquire for the two (and maybe three by then) Cy Young Award winner.
Nick Punto - Terry Ryan deserves some criticism for the signing of Ramon Ortiz and more for the signing of Sidney Ponson. However, the worst transaction of the offseason was signing Punto to a two year, $4.2 million deal. Seriously, if I'm smart enough (and most of you are smart enough) to realize just how bad Punto is and what an aberration 2006 was for him, isn't Terry Ryan? My thought here is that if someone really wants Torii Hunter, they MUST take on Nick Punto as well. Or, how about disappointing utility guy for disappointing utility guy? Nick Punto (and a minor pitching prospect) to the Dodgers for Wilson Betemit. Betemit at least has a little power, and maybe he would be able to hit some home runs in the Dome. (this may be the absolute definition of a minor trade).
Justin Morneau - Terry Ryan also deserves some criticism for not taking care of a Justin Morneau five year contract in the offseason. It will likely cost the team about $10-15 million extra to keep him for the same number of years. Start now on a long-term deal. None of this wait 'til the offseason crap! Get it done!
Juan Rincon - Does anyone want him? I can't imagine that the Twins do, so can Terry Ryan pull off another 'JC Romero for Alexi Casilla' type of deal with Rincon?
Joe Nathan - The Twins have an option year on Joe Nathan for 2008 at about $6 million. What a deal for such a great closer! That is a great deal for the Twins as well. However, a contract for a dominant closer for those dollars makes Joe Nathan incredibly valuable. Don't you think that the Braves, Tigers or Indians would love to replace their current closers with a guy like Nathan? They could ask for, and potentially get, the world for Joe Nathan. Personally, I think that any trades now should be done with the intent of competing again in 2008, and I would keep Joe Nathan around. I fully believe that Pat Neshek would be just fine as the closer and Matt Guerrier would be fine as the 8th inning guy, but the bullpen has been so vital to the Twins success the last few years. For $6 million, I would keep him. Now, with all that said, if Terry Ryan is blown away by an offer for Nathan (who will likely throw about 70-75 innings a year), he would be wrong not to at least consider it. What if the Angels offered Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick, Reggie Willits and Joe Saunders for Nathan (and make him the 8th inning guy... after Scot Shields and before Francisco Rodriguez)? The Dodgers are looking at Octavio Dotel to help Takashi Saito in the bullpen. Would Andy LaRoche be available for Nathan? Would a Scott Elbert, Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley be available too?
So many seem to think that trading veterans is a sign of giving up. I don't believe that. I say that trading veterans is first and foremost a way of clearing up salary for future years while acquiring future talent for guys that won't be around next year. Secondly, it means opportunities for new players. Who is to say that Alexi Casilla wouldn't produce just as much as Luis Castillo over the past two months. Who is to say that someone like Nick Blackburn or Ricky Barrett or even Julio DePaula couldn't come in and do the job (at least as well as) down the stretch. Who is to say that if Carlos Silva is dealt Kevin Slowey couldn't come up and be league average down the stretch, just like Silva would be? What if the Luis Castillo deal goes down for Pelfrey and the Twins get Wood and Kendrick for Nathan? It is likely that Pelfrey would be fine in a long-relief role and Wood and Kendrick would far out-produce the combination of Nick Punto and Luis Castillo?
I realize my examples are more than a little extreme. My main point is that making trades does not mean that the team should not and can not continue to compete. I am of the opinion that the Twins can not make the playoffs in 2007 and should be thinking to 2008 and beyond, but maybe a deal or two of veterans for some youth will be a spark that the team needs, even in 2007.
And I'm the positive blogger. Uggh! This was a bit of a rant. When I started typing, I really didn't know what to expect. I didn't have any plan for what would happen. About 2,500 words later, we certainly have a rant! I'd like to hear your thoughts? Am I overdramatic? Are the Twins done in 2007? Should they be buyers or sellers? What would you do? Please feel free to e-mail me, or certainly leave some Comments below.
Do you have any other thoughts on the Twins, the Blue Jays or what the Twins should do, please e-mail me or leave Comments below.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE NOTES
SethSpeaks Player of the Day - Joe Benson, Beloit Snappers
SethSpeaks Pitcher of the Day - Kyle Waldrop, Ft. Myers Miracle
If you have any thoughts on the Twins system, please e-mail me.
Tuesday - Red Wings 9, Syracuse 6 – Denard Span hit a second inning grand slam, and Brian Buscher hit a third inning three run homer, and the Red Wings held on for the win. Doug Deeds remained hot going 2-4. Ryan Mullins made another AAA start and although it was better than the first, it was still not good. He gave up six runs (5 earned) on seven hits and three walks in four innings. Carmen Cali improved to 4-0 with two shutout innings. Julio DePaula then struck out three in two shutout innings for his 27th save.
NEW BRITAIN NEWS
Tuesday - Rockcats 2, Connecticut 6 – In this game, the Rockcats managed just four hits. Brandon Roberts hit his 10th double. Matt Moses hasn't been around very long, but he hit his 11th double already. Josh Hill made the start and went five innings. He gave up a run on two hits and three walks. He also struck out seven. Yohan Pino worked out of the bullpen in this game and he gave up five runs (4 earned) on four hits. And he managed to record just one out. Tristan Crawford struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings. Danny Powers pitched a shutout inning.
FT MYERS MEMOS
Tuesday - Miracle 2, Lakeland 3 - Kyle Waldrop made his first start back with the Miracle. He took the loss despite allowing just two runs on five hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out one. It is notable that of the nineteen outs he got without a strikeout, 17 of them came via the ground ball. David Shinskie gave up an unearned run in his inning. Steven Tolleson went 2-5. Alexander Soto came up from the GCL Twins team to catch. He went 2-4 with a double. Johnny Woodard knocked his fourth homer.
Tuesday - Snappers 12, Great Lakes 11 (12) – This was a crazy game. Going into the 12th inning, the score was tied at six. Great Lakes scored five runs in the top of the inning to take the lead. But then the Snappers made an improbable comeback. Two walks were followed by a Chris Cates double. There were two more walks, followed by a Wilson Ramos single. After another walk, Eli Tintor singled in two runs to win the game. Joe Benson was the hitting star of the game though. The OF went 4-5 with two walks and his fifth triple. Wilson Ramos went 3-7 with his 12th double. Chris Cates was 2-2 with four walks and the double. Chris Parmelee went 2-7 with two runs batted in. Cole DeVries started the game and gave up five runs on 11 hits in five innings. Danny Vais gave up an unearned run and struck out three in two innings. Matt Williams struck out three in 2.2 shutout frames. Dan Leatherman then gave up four runs on four hits (two homers) in two innings. Jesus Carnevales came in and gave up the third home run on the top of the 12th to the first batter he faced. He did get the final out of that inning, so when the Snappers came back, he got the win to improve to 5-4.
Tuesday - E-Twins, Johnson City – This game was suspended due to rain
Do you have any further thoughts on any Twins prospects, minor leaguers, or these summaries? I would love any input, or ideas to make it better. Thanks! E-mail me, or also feel free to leave comments below.|
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