October 23, 2007
So... NOW WHAT?
Alright, normally I do my annual “So… Now What?” article a lot sooner after their season ends, but as you know, I have been relatively busy with a move and internet issues, so I just haven’t been able to get around to it. I’m sure you have read plenty of opinions on what the Twins should do in 2008. The World Series is just starting, so nothing really happens yet anyway, so I’m not behind yet. When the World Series is complete is when things start happening. Players who can opt for free agency. Players and teams decide whether to pick up options. 40 man roster decisions have to be made. Trade talk actually stops (as opposed to all the rumors that circulate at this time of the year). The Winter Meetings will be in Nashville in December, and that is when the Rule V drafts take place.
But it is fun to play GM, and there may not be a team that will have as many decisions to make in the offseason than the Twins should that be the direction that they go. That is really the question. Do the Twins blow things up and essentially start over? Or, do they make a few big decisions and maintain the essentials of the current team? Or, more likely, it is a little bit of each? Let’s get to my potential 2008 Twins Opening Day roster and you’ll be able to get a feel for what I think.
What if Carl or Jim Pohlad would have called you the morning that Terry Ryan announced his resignation as GM of the Twins, and offered you the job? If you are like me, you would have said Yes in a matter of seconds. But once you started the job, there are so many things to think of. But what would you do? What would your roster look like? That’s what today is all about, and I would love your feedback.
I do need to point out that I have no way of knowing who the Twins would receive if certain players would be traded, so my roster will be comprised of players currently in the Twins organization with a couple of guesses as to other players they could (or should) acquire. But remember who the Twins were able to receive as part of trades in the last couple of years. So, I will present who I believe the Twins should have on their roster, then I will take a look at those that I really don’t think should be back.
So, here you go, position-by-position (14 position players, 11 pitchers), Seth’s Minnesota Twins 2008 Opening Day roster: (Note – some of the 2008 contract values are known, but many of the value projections are estimated.)
Position Players (14)
Joe Mauer - ($6.25 million) – Mauer’s 2006 season was incredible. He definitely came back down to earth in 2007. I really believe that the injuries played the biggest role in that happening. There are a couple of Mauer-issues that continually are brought up. His roster spot is certain, so I will address those issues here. First, the idea of him moving to a different position. I don’t like it. He is as good defensively as any catcher in baseball. Offensively, his numbers are far more valuable as a catcher than they would be as a corner infielder or outfielder. Also, I just don’t think it is as easy to just switch positions as it appears so many people want to think. I think that he should be the catcher in about 120 games a year. If they want to keep his bat in the lineup in more games than that, then the idea of a position change can be discussed, but the DH spot is there too. The second topic that comes up frequently is the idea of moving him from third in the lineup to second. I looked back at my “So What’s Next?” entry from last year and noticed that I actually put him second in my projected lineup. Unless or until Mauer adds some home runs to his game, I believe that he is an ideal #2 hitter. Personally, I don’t really care if he adds power or not, although it obviously would be nice. The third spot is meant for the team’s best hitter. With the lineup the last couple of years, he has been the team’s best hitter, so #3 is not a bad thing, but in the lineup I’m proposing for 2008, there is another hitter that I think would be worthy of the #3 spot.
Mike Redmond - (1 million) – Redmond has been, in his entire time with the Twins, the definition of what a perfect backup catcher should be. Unfortunately, the Twins have been forced to use him in another role as well. He has been excellent behind the plate. He has been a clubhouse and bench leader. He throws out base runners. And, he has hit most of the time. He was the team’s DH many times in 2007, but that isn’t his fault. It was the result of the lack of a better option. Hopefully in 2008, Redmond will play less and perform even more.
Jose Morales – Although not an Opening Day roster inclusion, I am including Morales here to show that I believe that he should be the team’s #3 catcher, used in injury situations. He will likely spend the majority of the season in Rochester. He certainly showed in 2007 that he is a capable hitter, and reports say that his defense improved. Hopefully he will be able to return from his injury and continue the progress he showed this year. Ideally when Redmond’s contract runs out after the season, Morales will be able to step in as the team’s backup catcher.
Justin Morneau - ($7.5 million) – The 2006 AL MVP had a really disappointing second half of the season and it may be a blessing in disguise for the Twins. Had he continued on his first-half pace, he would have been VERY expensive. Now, he will just be REALLY expensive. As it was last year, one of the biggest goals for the offseason this year should be to lock up Morneau through the 2011 season (one year past his free agency). I believe such a deal would likely mean a deal of around four year, $45 million range.
Alexi Casilla - ($400,000) – By my moves, the Twins will have taken care of concerns in CF, DH and at 3B which leaves 2B as the lone question mark. Well, in my mind, 2B is the one position where they have someone worth at least giving a shot. As you know, I prefer going with the upside at the start of the season so that they can go through growing pains early without as much stress as if they were brought up in July or August. Casilla had a very disappointing 2007 season at Rochester and then with the Twins. Then again, like other rookies under Gardy, he was constantly bashed about everything. I would like to see him given a real shot. His speed, both offensively and defensively, make him exciting to watch and dangerous to the opposition.
Nick Punto - ($2.4 million) – If Bill Smith finds a way to get Nick Punto out of the organization, he will be my hero. His 2006 was the aberration while his 2007 failures were probably a little lower than where Punto probably would be. In reality, he is a decent utility infielder. He can play solid defense at three positions. He just can not hit. However, at $2.4 million, the Twins aren’t in a position to release him, and other teams are smart enough not to take him off our hands.
Mike Lowell - ($9 million) – This is where you will see some variance starting compared to sticking with the status quo. This is where Bill Smith will need to earn his stripes and show his ability to 1.) negotiate, and 2.) sell himself, his plan and his team. Lowell is a free agent at season’s end and is coming off of a monster season with the Red Sox so this will be tough. He is 33 years old and made $9 million in 2007. My guess is the Lowell would like a three or four year deal probably averaging $10 million a year. Smith should try to get a four year offer for just under $40 million to Lowell. If he can do this, the Twins will get a guy who will hit .280 with between 35 and 40 doubles and 20-25 home runs. He also is arguably the best defensive 3B in the league.
Brian Buscher - ($400,000) – Buscher showed a couple of things in his brief time with the Twins. He is not a very good defensive 3B, but he can hit. He has a little pop and takes real quality at bats. He is patient at the plate. He is also old enough a prospect to likely be comfortable with bench duty. I think he has a good approach to be a solid hitter off the bench, and should anything happen to Lowell, he would be an adequate replacement.
Jason Bartlett - ($500,000) – Here is another no-brainer. Bartlett started the year slowly both offensively and defensively, but got better throughout the year in both aspects of the game. You have to love his range and his arm . He did a nice job in the leadoff role. This is Jason Bartlett’s job. But what happens if Trevor Plouffe has another solid year in 2008?
Jason Bay - ($4.75 million) – I have been in complete agreement with Terry Ryan and his philosophy on pitching and having as much pitching depth as you can get. If you have a pitcher with the potential to be an ‘ace’, you don’t trade him. There have to be exceptions to every rule though. In order for me to be willing to deal someone on the caliber of Matt Garza, certain things would be necessary. I would want to fill a need at a position of weakness. Although Jason Kubel is fine in LF, the DH spot is open and in getting Bay, Kubel can still DH. I like the right-handed bat because it really evens out the entire lineup. I want a proven veteran who can hit and hit for power. Bay definitely does that. He has been a true All Star (as opposed to being a guy who just fills a team quota). And finally, the price tag for Bay is right. He will make $4.75 million in 2008, $5.75 million in 2009, and there is a club option for $8 million in 2010. In other words, not only is he a great player, but he would be around for awhile at a very fair price. Would I prefer not to part with Garza? Of course, but I don’t think a guy like Bay would be available for anything less. Adding another All Star Canadian may also help the negotiations with Justin Morneau!
Jason Kubel - ($1.25 million) – In this scenario, Kubel would become the primary DH which seems to be what the team would prefer to do anyway. Kubel struggled in terms of numbers in the first half despite hitting the ball hard. Things finally evened out in the second half as he was arguably the team’s best hitter. If have said several times in the past that Kubel’s bat would someday lead him to be a future .300+ hitter with 25-30 homer run power. He stayed healthy the entire 2007 season, and that will again be the key in 2008! But if healthy, he can provide offense from the bottom third of the lineup.
Coco Crisp - ($4.75 million) – I know, I know. I was clamoring for the Twins to trade Torii Hunter to the Red Sox a year ago, and throughout much of 2007 in exchange for Clay Bucholz and Jacoby Ellsbury. Well, the Twins (and everyone else in the league) won’t be touching either of them. Crisp has now lost his starting CF job to Ellsbury, and with Manny around for another year, and JD Drew signed for four more years, the OF in Boston is full, so Crisp will likely be available, and for cheap. I can’t help but wonder if the Twins could get Crisp and about $5-6 million for one pitching prospect. Jay Rainville would make a lot of sense going to the Red Sox, a short drive from his Rhode Island home. Crisp is not an All-Star, and I’m not pretending he is. He is just 27 years old and has five years of big league experience. His OPS is likely to be between .700 and .750, but he is a switch hitter, can steal bases, could hit at the top of the order. He is owed $4.75 million in 2008 and $5.75 million in 2009 (which is why I would ask for the money along with the player, so that the Twins would pay about half of his contract. Most important, Coco Crisp is a great defensive CF and Twins fans have become accustomed to a CF that can cover a lot of ground and make a lot of plays.
Michael Cuddyer - ($5.0 million) – In what was a somewhat disappointing season, Cuddyer still was not bad. He didn’t get to 100 Runs and RBI as he had the previous season, but he still had more than 80 of each. There were times during the season where his guess-hitting really made him look bad, and he really didn’t have the strong, long stretch of success at any time. That said, his .790 OPS appears to be the basement of his talent, and I would expect a very good 2008 for Cuddyer. Like others, I would like to have seen another 10-12 home runs than Cuddyer’s 16, but I think that will happen as well. He continued to do a nice job of getting on base while cutting down on his strikeouts. He has the potential to get that OPS into the 900s. Add to that the 19 outfield assists he registered in 2007, and you’ve got a pretty well-rounded player. Couple that with the quality person that he is, and the fact that he is, unlike Mr. Hunter, a spokesman for the team that fans can be proud of. My opinion is that he needs a three or four year contract. Because he is coming off a ‘down’ season, this is the right time to do it. Three years at about $20 million maybe?
4th OF/Backup CF
Jason Tyner - ($1.0 million) – Let’s see… Tyner is about a .300 hitter. However, he has zero power (although he sure did drive the ball a couple of times this year) and he seemingly refuses to take a walk. That isn’t exactly a good combination and means that he is about the definition of an “empty” .300 hitter. However, if the Twins have the starting outfield that I have want above, I have no problem with Tyner as the #4 (and really #5 because of the DH situation) outfielder and backup CF option. I think that the Twins would get about the same offensive production, and far better defense, by filling this spot with Denard Span. However, Span is too young to be playing only part time, so he should remain in Rochester for at least another half season.
Garrett Jones /Corey Koskie - ($400,000) – I know that Jones is not a great hitter. He’s a big power hitting type who has not shown much power. He also strikes out too much. But sometimes it is about perception, and if you have a pinch hitter that is a power threat, that is a good thing. He could play some in the OF in a pinch, and can allow Justin Morneau to take a few days off. I mention Corey Koskie here as well. I am as big a fan of Koskie as anyone and wish him nothing but the best. I would sign him to a minor league deal with a spring invite with the note that if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he would not go to the minor leagues. Essentially the final bench spot would be between these two, and the loser of that competition would be lost to the organization.
Jason Kubel – I mention Jason Kubel as the team’s primary DH, but I think that he can play LF or RF from time to time. Bay can also DH once a week or so. Cuddyer can DH from time to time. Justin Morneau can DH every couple of weeks. Lowell could. I think it is important that Kubel play five or six times a week, but he is athletic and talented enough to allow for some flexibility with the DH position.
Starting Pitchers (5)
Johan Santana - ($13.25 million) – It was a down year for Johan Santana and still he was easily a top five pitcher in the American League. Sure, the 15-13 record isn’t what you want. But his important numbers were not much worse than last year. I mean, a 3.33 ERA is excellent. His 1.07 WHIP was terrific. But now that is last year and the Santana Question is the biggest question of the offseason. Keep him or Trade him. Or, sign him to a long-term contract? I believe that the Twins should make him an offer that they are comfortable with. In my mind, I would offer him a 5 year extension at $101 million. If he wants to stay, he’ll be OK with $101 million. If he wants to test free agency, the Twins would be absolutely stupid to not explore the market for Santana and see just how much they can get for baseball’s best pitcher. Such a trade would start with one sub-28 year old starter, one sub-25 year old starter, one top level prospect and one or two other prospects. There are teams lined up, I’m sure, asking about Santana’s availability, so let the bidding begin! However, this is another case of the Twins doing their part and spending money to keep one of the best in the organization. Keeping Santana around tells potential free agents that the Twins are serious.
Scott Baker - ($450,000) – Many Twins fans gave up on Baker long ago. The Twins were about ready to give up on him in July, and then something turned and he seemed to figure it out. He started to relax on the mound, and you could actually see it in his delivery. It was looser and he started actually throwing harder and with better control (something that really was never a problem). Baker deserves his shot and he deserves the season.
Francisco Liriano - ($450,000) - The biggest question mark heading into the 2008 is what will Francisco Liriano be able to do in 2008. I certainly can’t answer that, and I don’t know if anyone really can. Will his delivery be as violent as it was in 2006? Will he throw as hard? Will he throw as many sliders? How is the changeup coming along? It would be unfair to expect too much from ‘Cisco next year, but I do have a feeling that he will be very good. . I do know that I would keep him in the starting rotation to keep him in consistent usage and be better able to control his pitches, innings and obviously his pitching frequency.
Kevin Slowey - ($400,000) – Yes, I admit, I’m a bit biased toward Kevin Slowey. Since the Twins used their second round pick in 2005 to draft him out of Winthrop, he has been very good to this site, doing Q&As, participating in the football picks and more. However, he has also been more than very good at pitching. His walk to strikeout numbers have been amazing. He doesn’t give up many hits. He wins. This year at Rochester, he put up amazing numbers. On June 1, he made his big league debut in Oakland. He was sent down to AAA about five weeks later and when he came back in late August, he was a much better pitcher. He has nothing more to prove at Rochester and deserves the opening day roster spot.
Boof Bonser - ($450,000) – Bonser turned a couple of really good weeks at the end of 2006 into a starting rotation spot to start 2006. He pitched OK for a few weeks and really struggled much of the rest of the season before losing his rotation spot in late August. He has done a good job in terms of strikeouts, and I do believe that he deserves another spot in the rotation to start 2008. That said, his leash will be much shorter this time as Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak would be more than happy to take it away from him.
Left-Handed Relief Pitchers (1)
Glen Perkins - ($400,000) – One left handed reliever, and it isn’t Dennys Reyes despite the fact that the team owes him $1 million. He was that bad in 2007. I would be fine with them just eating the contract and letting him go. Glen Perkins is better, and as long as he throws more strikes, he can be a dominant for a couple of innings or a couple of batters. He throws hard. He has multiple pitches that are above average. The team already has two lefties in the rotation and Brian Duensing is real close (and just as good), so Perkins makes most sense in the bullpen.
Relief Pitchers (4)
Jesse Crain - ($1,050,000) – Crain really struggled to start the season, and it ended up that it was because he had a really bad shoulder that required surgery. Will he even be ready by opening day, and what will he be when he comes back? It is important to find out because for a couple of years he was a very important cog in this very strong bullpen. Having him back at 100% would be very important to the Twins. If he isn’t able, and it appears that he will be out just a couple of months, look for Julio DePaula, or maybe even Bobby Korecky, to be given a shot. If there is a chance that Crain could be out an extended period of time, they should look to bring in a veteran bullpen arm for a million or so.
Pat Neshek - ($450,000) - Neshek as as good as anybody in the first half of the season. He was almost an All-Star. A great fastball and slider and an improving changeup really helped him continue his success. A tired arm caused some struggles the second half of the season, but it was his first full big league season, so I am certain he will work that out in the offseason and through next season and he’ll be strong all year. He’s as good as any 8th inning guy in the game.
Matt Guerrier - ($1.250,000) – Guerrier was given increased responsibility in 2007 with the injury of Jesse Crain and the struggles of Juan Rincon, and he made the transition flawlessly. He proved to be a consistent 7th or 8th inning guy using a good fastball, great control and a great curveball. He is now arbitration-eligible and deserves to make some money. I’d probably stick to a one year deal with him, but I wouldn’t frown upon a three year deal like the one given to Crain.
Blackburn - ($400,000) – I have said numerous times that
Blackburn could do a nice job in the long reliever role held down by Guerrier in 2005 and 2006. He throws hard (92-95) and has
an excellent cutter. He could be used in low levereage
situations for a year. And should Bonser struggle, he
could be used as a spot starter as well. This role could also be filled by
Julio DePaula who had an excellent 2007 season in
Joe Nathan - ($7.0 million) – There is also a lot of talk about whether the Twins should consider dealing Joe Nathan. It is a fair question as he just has one more year on his contract (assuming the Twins pick it up, which they would be crazy not to). He has a cheap contract, probably about half of his market value. He is as good as any reliever in baseball. He could bring the Twins a lot of return. But because his contract is for so little, the Twins would have to be more than overwhelmed to deal Nathan now. Much of the Twins success the last couple of seasons has been because of the bullpen strength. I am certain Neshek could close, and Guerrier can take the 8th inning, but the depth should Nathan be traded would be hurt.
So, there you have it, my look at a potential 2008 roster. If you add up those contracts, it comes to under $64.905 million. Here is a breakdown of the salaries:
Hitters (14) - $44.7 million
Starters (5) - $15.0 million
Relievers (5) - $3.15 million
Closer (1) - $7.0 million
said, we’ve got a payroll of $69.85 million,
just a bit less than last season's. What have we done? Well, we let Torii
Hunter and Carlos Silva depart for greener pastures. We made two trades to take
care of needs at 3B and CF. Second base is still a question mark, but between
Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto,
the defense is fine and the offense is bearable in the nine-hole.
may be asking yourself, what would the possible lineups look like? Well here
are a couple of attempts, one against righties and one against lefties:
Every Day Lineup
Jason Bartlett – SS
Joe Mauer – C
Jason Bay – LF/DH
Justin Morneau – 1B
Michael Cuddyer – RF
Mike Lowell – 3B
Jason Kubel – DH
Coco Crisp – CF
Casilla/Nick Punto – 2B
Rondell White – An easy choice, White’s time with the Twins should be done. He has indicated that he will retire. I have to admit that I thought bringing White back last offseason was a good decision. How he performed down the stretch in 2006 made me think he was worth a shot. Unfortunately the injuries caught up to him again.
Carlos Silva – Carlos Silva, not Sidney Ponson or Ramon Ortiz, was the guy that I struggled with making the roster out of spring training. Here, I am admitting, that I was wrong. Silva had a very good, slightly better than league average season with 200 innings. He solidified the #2 spot in the rotation. Now, he’s not really a #2 pitcher, but he performed well. That said, the starting pitching market is weak, and Silva is as good as any of them. Judging from contracts doled out in recent years, I think he’s earned himself a four year deal worth between $35 and $40 million. And the Twins need hitting, so that is why I would let him go.
Torii Hunter- He doesn’t
want to come back, so let him go. No, there isn’t an internal player able to
replace his production right now, but a trade is a possibility. And again, if
he doesn’t want to be here, I’d rather go with Coco Crisp or even Denard Span than give him the five year, $80 million deal
that he is likely to get. Thank you for your time, and
good luck in the future!
Juan Rincon – Arguably baseball’s
best set up man for 2-3 years, Rincon has been worse and worse each year since.
2007 was a horrible season for Rincon. Now, he is still young and fully capable
of coming back. But he has another year of arbitration left and could make
between $2.5 and $3 million. I just don’t think that is worth bringing back.
Brian Duensing – The Twins 3rd round pick in 2005 out of Nebraska, Duensing has risen quickly through the system and it may not take long for him to get to Minnesota. He began the season with New Britain where he went 4-1 in nine starts. He moved up to Rochester and went 11-5 in 19 starts. I’ve been told that his stuff is just as good if not better than Glen Perkins. I am excited to see him.
Garrett Guzman – The 24 year old led the organization in batting average, but he also hit for a lot of extra base power. After missing a full season because of injury, Guzman has come back even better. He should start the season with Rochester, but his bat is pretty much ready. Just needs an opening.
Matt Tolbert – Many Twins
fans wanted to see Tolbert called up to the Twins when he was hitting over .380
at Rochester early in the season. His numbers came down to earth, but I think
he will get an opportunity with the Twins at some point in 2008. Who knows?
Maybe he’ll get a shot at the 2B job in spring training.
Denard Span – If Span
can continue to improve upon his very solid second half performance and have a
strong first half of the season for the Red Wings, I wouldn’t be surprised if
he made his debut sooner than you’d think.
Eddie Morlan – The Twins 3rd round pick in 2004 out of high school, Morlan dominated most of the season at Ft. Myers before a late-season promotion to New Britain. I am sure that is where he’ll start 2008, but if a bullpen role opens up, he might be next to get a shot.
Anthony Swarzak – His early season suspension cost him valuable developmental time. He came back and was very impressive for Ft. Myers and then for New Britain. Hopefully he can stay out of trouble because his future is very bright and we may see him in 2008 with the Twins.
So there you have it, my choices to be on the 2008 Minnesota
Twins rosters, who won’t be back, and what other minor leaguers may get an
opportunity to contribute. As I’ve mentioned previously, I really don’t envy
the job that Bill Smith has in front of him again this winter. Again, I'd love
to hear your thoughts, so please
send me an e-mail (I will try to figure out a new way to get Comments to
post, so check back to see if I have figured that out.
That's it for today! I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any questions or comments on anything, please e-mail me!