Monday, August 17, 2009
The Transition to Spoiler
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As I mentioned in my Weekend Game Reports, many believed that the Twins needed to go at least 5-1 in their home stand against Kansas City and Cleveland. With a 2-4 record this last week, the Twins are now five games under .500 and six games behind the AL Central lead. I think we all knew, on some level, as much as a month ago that the 2009 season was pretty much done. With the results of this home stand, we can be pretty certain that the Twins (and we as fans) should now be transitioning into the role of spoilers. As fans, we can still have that never-ending hope in the back of our minds, but we also need to start thinking about 2010 and beyond. For the Twins, they need to start doing a few things already to look to Opening Day in Target Field. The below are some of my thought on what the Twins need to do over the season’s final six weeks.
The Twins are in an unusual situation. Because of the new stadium in 2010 and the Joe Mauer contract situation, the Twins cannot simply blow up the current roster and rebuild. They need to be able to contend right away in 2010. That is feasible. If they can just cut some of the fat on the current roster and replace them with mid-range free agent or younger players (like Steve Tolleson or Danny Valencia or Rob Delaney or Anthony Slama) and be better quickly. It is almost an “addition by subtraction” situation.
The Twins team can get better quickly. There is a lot of talent that this team can build around. Those players include: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Scott Baker, Joe Nathan. Several other still-young players that need to be given adequate playing time the rest of the season to see what they can do given that opportunity. Players like Alexi Casilla, Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young and Brian Duensing.
The Twins, like all teams, are continually monitoring the waiver wire to find players that they think can make them better. The change now is that the Twins need to start scanning the waiver wires for players who will be able to help them in 2010.
Also, I think that the Twins should strongly consider putting several of their players on waivers. Now, this is all supposed to be confidential so it is possible that these things have already been done. I would put the following players on waivers and see what happens:
· Carl Pavano – Unless the team truly believes that Pavano can be a Type B free agent, they might as well put him on waivers and just see if they can get a Player to be Named Later from someone to even out the Player to be Named Later that the Twins will send to Cleveland. If he won’t be a Type B, then let him go to a contender.
· Orlando Cabrera – He sure had four or five good games when he first came to Minnesota, but since then, he has struggled both at the plate and in the field. None of this should be a surprise as his offense hasn’t been good for a couple of years and the defense took a dramatic turn for the worse this year.
· Nick Punto – They have to try it. Maybe, just maybe, some team really, really wants a good, veteran defensive utility infielder. The hope would be that there would be some team that claims Punto so that the Twins can simply hand him over, just like the Blue Jays did with Alex Rios. We talked throughout the offseason about how Bill Smith needed to take the Punto option away from Gardy, and that remains the truth. To be fair, the contract that the Twins signed with Punto last offseason was certainly fair market value at the time. Punto has been worse than we could have even predicted.
· Brendan Harris – He could be claimed by a team because he actually has talent. He will be arbitration-eligible after this season, so he will make a little bit more money next year, but he is good enough to get more playing time elsewhere. I don’t want to let Harris go, but it’s clear Gardy just does not want to play him, so they might as well figure something out.
· Jesse Crain – it is worth seeing if they could get him through waivers. I don’t know that anyone would want to take on his contract right now. But he still has tremendous ability. He has three pitches and I fully believe that at some point, he will regain the “it” that made him so good from 2004-2007. If nothing can be done there, I would go to him with a contract for 2010 at 80% of his current $1.7 million deal for 2009. The rules dictate that he can only have his salary cut by his current team by 20%. I would offer him a one year deal for that approximately $1.36 million. If he signs it, great. If not, I may not offer him arbitration. If that happens, I don’t think that Crain’s 2010 salary by any other team will come near the $1.36 million range.
· Joe Crede – I think we all know he isn’t coming back this year. It is worth seeing if the Twins could get anything for the oft-injured, but very talented 3B.
WHAT I WOULD DO TODAY
Some of these things have to wait a couple of weeks to happen, such as September call-ups. However, there are a couple of things that I would like to see the Twins do right away:
· Option Anthony Swarzak to Rochester. He needs to go back down for three weeks and see what else he can learn and what other adjustments he can make. Recall Armando Gabino and install him as a long reliever. He has been passed by several times already this season. It is time to give him an opportunity and just see what he is capable of.
· Have a starting rotation that includes: Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing. If Pavano would be claimed on waivers, I would move Jeff Manship into the rotation.
· Obviously any players lost via waiver claim would have to be replaced. I do think that the Twins have to be smart about who they promote in those situations because playing time for necessary players is very important.
· Implement the outfield/DH situation that I mentioned during the offseason heading into this season:
o Delmon Young in LF seven out of 10 games.
o Carlos Gomez in CF seven out of 10 games.
o Michael Cuddyer in RF seven out of 10 games.
o Denard Span in LF three out of 10 games, in CF three out of 10 games, and in RF three out of 10 games.
o Jason Kubel DH seven out of 10 games, with a game or so out in LF and RF.
o Jason Pridie should also get a fair amount of time. By that, I mean, a start or two at each OF position, and a few other games where he comes in in the 6th inning and plays the rest of the game. It is almost his last chance to show if he can be a 4th or 5th outfielder, and if the Twins need to keep him on the 40 man roster.
WHAT I WOULD DO ON SEPTEMBER 1
I didn’t say I would do very much right now, and if the Twins are further out of the race, I would continue to do nothing on September 1st. If the Twins do happen to be in the race to any degree, I would promote Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney on August 31st and DFA Bobby Keppel and demote Armando Gabino.
WHAT I WOULD DO ON SEPTEMBER 8
The Rochester Red Wings’ season ends with an early evening game on Monday, September 7th. At that point, I would make my September call-ups. I wouldn’t earlier than that, again, in an attempt to make sure players who need it, get their opportunities.
· Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama – Both would need to be added to the 40 man roster. I would remove R.A. Dickey and Bobby Keppel from the 40 man roster to do so. It is likely both would pass through waivers, but even if they didn’t, it would not hurt the Red Wings roster during the season, and both would likely be removed following the season anyway.
· Danny Valencia – I would promote the Twins future 3B and get him playing time over the season’s final three weeks. I wouldn’t promote him before then because it would likely take the removal of Matt Macri or Brian Buscher from the 40 man roster to make it happen, and so really Rochester would be losing two players.
· Recall – Armando Gabino, Steve Tolleson, Jose Morales, Anthony Swarzak and Kevin Mulvey.
· Starting rotation from this time forward would be: Scott Baker (every fifth day), and then Francisco Liriano, Anthony Swarzak, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Jeff Manship. Basically, it would be a six man rotation with the idea that Baker would stay on his normal rest. That’s not even a big deal as it may mean one additional start over three weeks. I would also like to see Kevin Mulvey get a start.
· Sappy – I know, I’m sappy for a good story, but I would also have no problem with the Twins promoting Brock Peterson. The idea of a 49th round draft pick getting that proverbial up of coffee is such a great story. He would be removed following the season, but it would be a great story.
The Crib Notes:
· The Twins 2009 playoff hopes are all but officially over. It’s time for all decisions to have 2010 in mind!
· There are several players who should be put on waivers and hopefully let go or traded.
· IF the Twins are at all still in contention on August 31st, I would promote Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney and put them on the playoff roster.
· IF the Twins aren’t in playoff contention, then I would wait until the Rochester Red Wings season is complete, and on September 8th, I would promote several players from Rochester.
I’ve detailed my thoughts on what should happen throughout the rest of the baseball season for the Twins. Of course, once the season ends, there are many more decisions that need to be made as well. We can get into those at another time.