December 10, 2010
Where are we now?
Note - This is
also posted at the StarTribune.com TwinsCentric blog today, so you should check out
the comments there too. Also, I was on The Dan Hammer Show
on Thursday at noon on 740TheFan in Fargo. Listen
here to the podcast.
The Twins went into the offseason with double-digit free agents and
double-digit arbitration-eligible players. They updated their 40 man roster.
They have added a lot of minor league veterans to bolster the Twins Triple-A affiliate in Rochester and their entire system. They had
six players that were either Type A or Type B free agents and they offered
arbitration to three of them (Carl Pavano, Jesse
Crain and Orlando Hudson), and they all declined. They reached agreements with
Pat Neshek and Jason Repko
and tendered contracts to each of the other players on their roster including
all of the arbitration-eligible players. They bid on Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, but they did not
win that bid. On Thanksgiving, we learned that the Twins were successful in
their bid (of $5+ million) to negotiate with Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
On Sunday, the Twins front office arrived in Lake Buena
Vista, Florida, and had a ton of meetings and were very active. There
were several meetings with Tom O'Connell, the agent of Carl Pavano.
There were several meetings with the agent of Nishioka.
Bill Smith spent time talking to the local media and the contingent of media
from Japan. The Twins were rumored to be interested in many free agents such as
Rich Harden, Brandon Webb, Octavio Dotel and many others. They were also believed to still be
actively pursuing Zach Greinke. They added
left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond from the Atlanta Braves in the Rule 5 draft,
and he is certainly intriguing. They did not lose any players in the Major
League portion of the Rule 5 draft, but they lost three pitchers (Michael
Allen, Jean Mijares and Eliecer
Cardenas) in the AAA portion of the Rule 5 draft. And following the Rule 5
draft, the Twins and Orioles finalized their trade. The Twins sent
JJ Hardy, Brendan Harris and $500,000 to Baltimore in exchange for two
relievers, James Hoey (who could contribute in 2011
and beyond) and Brett Jacobson who could help the Twins as early as 2012.
So there you have to, a quick two-paragraph summary of some of what the
Twins have done this offseason. These are things that have been reported
somewhere. It is likely only a fraction of the work that the Twins front office
has done since so many meetings with teams, agents, GMs and others are
discussions that may lead to an actual transaction, but generally only attempt
to lead toward a transaction and usually don't.
The Winter Meetings are over, but there is still work to be done. Major
League Baseball moved many of its important offseason dates forward a week to
try to help teams and players get signed sooner. In my opinion, it has been
successful as I believe that more players signed during the meetings this
year than I can remember in previous years. Usually the Winter Meetings
are a bunch of rumors and meetings to set up moves that happen later. It is
important to rememeber that spring training does not
start for over two more months and a lot can and will still happen. So, where
are the Twins at the completion of the Winter Meetings? What is left to be
done? Let's look around the diamond and see where we are (in admittedly
rambling, stream-of-conscious tone):
- I'd say that the Twins are set with their starting catcher (That Mauer guy is pretty good!), and if Carl Pavano comes back, Drew Butera
will certainly be the backup again, right? What happens to Jose
Base - Although we can't be certain, we assume that Justin Morneau is the guy. Should the Twins add a
right-handed batter that could play some 1B if Morneau
is hurt, or is Michael Cuddyer adequate for the
Base/Shortstop - With JJ Hardy gone, the Twins are relying on Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka.
Both have question marks. Both have upsides. Like it or not, we will find
out what each has. Matt Tolbert would appear to be the backup utility
infielder, which is not a positive in my mind, but he is adequate with
limited playing time. If there was an injury Trevor Plouffe
can contribute adequately, and Steve Singleton and Luke Hughes could contribute if needed.The
question has to be asked, though, could the question marks in the middle
infield lead to a... re-signing of Nick Punto?
Hey, as a utility infielder, he is worth $1-1.5 million for the year. I
think we all would like to move on, but frankly, he's a much better option
than Matt Tolbert
Base - Danny Valencia took over in July of 2010 and ran with it, finishing
third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Will he hit .330
again? Probably not, but he has done enough to make third base a position
that the Twins can call set.
- The front office has acknowledged its confidence in an outfield of Delmon Young (LF), Denard
Span (CF), and Michael Cuddyer (RF) with
Jason Kubel at DH and Jason Repko as the one of the five that can actually play
very good defense. Ben Revere hasn't spent a day in AAA, so he is not
ready. In fact, there would be no harm in letting him spend another
half-season in AA in 2011. Young will need to show that his 2010 offensive
production was not a fluke. Denard Span will
need to get his on-base back to the .390 range it was his first two years
after it was down to about .330 in 2010. Michael Cuddyer's
batting average and on-base percentage were fairly similar between 2009
and 2010, but the move to Target Field cut his home run total in half, and
dropped his SLG% by .100 points. Is it a perfect outfield? No,
but it definitely is one that you can win with. Jason Kubel
will also be best served as the team's primary DH. Jim Thome
could come back which would be fun since he's such a good guy, still a
solid player, and could hit his 600th home run in a Twins uniform. But
frankly, the team could use a right-handed bat to give Kubel
a day off against left-handed pitching!
Pitching - As of today, the rotation would be Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Brian Duensing,
Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn. The Twins are
said to still be in on Carl Pavano, and if he is
brought back, he fits into the middle of the rotation. That is a huge
decision, but Pavano would be wise to wait for
Cliff Lee to sign before he signs. Once Lee signs, the losing teams in
that race will likely be in contact with Pavano's
agent. Zach Greinke would certainly be a good #2
starter ,but the Royals are asking way too much
and the Twins should not give up the farm for him. In fact, last night it
came out that the Twins are out of the Greinke
sweepstakes. But who else might be out there for the Twins to consider.
Brandon Webb and Jarrod Washburn's names show up from time to time. The
important thing to remember is that when Carl Pavano
signed with Cleveland two years ago, no one could have anticipated 420+
innings over the next two years. If the Twins sign a veteran, maybe he is
the next Pavano. But again, that's why the Twins
have to be very careful about negotiating with Pavano.
In all likelihood, Pavano will not duplicate his
2010 season. He will most likely post an ERA closer to 5.00 than to the
3.60 he posted in 2010. And, if Slowey is
brought back, could the Twins trade one of their other starters? Kevin
Slowey's name has come up. Teams might have
interest in his upside, but after two injury-filled seasons, his value may
not be real high. Finally, how far away are David Bromberg and Kyle
Gibson? Gibson could be ready by July to fill a middle-of-the-rotation
spot. And can Jeff Manship or Anthony Swarzak, or even Erik Hacker, make a run at a starting
Bullpen - Alright, here is where there are many question marks. It starts
with Joe Nathan. Will he be 100% by Opening Day? What will his role be?
Matt Capps is a solid pitcher and good insurance if Nathan isn't ready.
Jose Mijares can be an enigma, but a left-handed
enigma with really good stuff. After that, who knows? Pat Neshek. Glen Perkins. Jeff Manship.
Anthony Slama. Kyle Waldrop. Alex Burnett. Rob
Delaney. James Hoey. I can't imagine Ron Gardenhire being comfortable with counting on more
than two, possibly three, of these guys in his bullpen. So, would the
Twins have interest in bullpen arms like Hideki Okajima,
Jose Veras, Octavio Dotel, Rich Harden, or one fo the many free agent bullpen arms. Could
another trade bring in more bullpen help? Is it possible that Matt Guerrier or Jon Rauch or Ron Mahay
could resign with the Twins? We have to assume that Jesse Crain and
Brian Fuentes will not be back. There will be good bullpen arms available
in January, guys whose expectations have come down and into the
appropriate price range. We have seen just how important having a strong
bullpen can be to a team. We have also seen that few relievers can be
counted on year in and year out. Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier
are two guys that have been fairly consistent the last five years. Jesse
Crain has the best upside, but we have seen the good, the bad, the really,
really bad, the injured and every aspect. That's likely the more normal
tendency for a reliever. So, this appears to be a fairly inexact science.
Bench - Just to note, the current Twins bench would be Drew Butera, Matt Tolbert, Jason Repko
and one more spot. Would that spot go to Jim Thome
again? Maybe Jose Morales or Luke Hughes? Could the Twins bring in another
bat. With the question marks in the bullpen, I
have to assume the Twins will use 12 pitchers most of the year again, so
there will only be four bench spots.
So there you have it. You hopefully better understand where the Twins are
now, and should see that they are not in a bad position, by any
means. This is a solid team. But it is a solid team with several things to
take care of yet. Here is a look at the things that the Twins still need to
answer during the offseason.
- What is
going to happen with Carl Pavano? (and
then what subsequent moves, if any, need to be made)
will Tsuyoshi Nishioka officially sign? (this
really seems as though it's just a formality)
- Who is
going to fill out the Twins bullpen? (there are
several open spots right now, and there are many more questions with all
of the candidates.
the team bring back Jim Thome? (There are a lot
of really good reasons to bring him back, but...)
this team need a right-handed bat on the bench who can give a day off to
left-handed hitters against left-handed pitchers? (this
seems pretty important to me. If healthy, maybe Luke Hughes can be that
There are my top 5. What would your top 5 be, and in what priority? The
Twins have been incredibly busy throughout the Winter Meetings with a lot of
things going on all at once. The whole offseason will be busy and full of
difficult decisions. Whether the Twins have a budget of $70 million for payroll
or $120 million for payroll, there will always be some tough choices. So, if
you were Bill Smith, what
would be your plan for the Twins for the rest of the offseason?
Thank you to the StarTribune.com for linking to the Winter Meetings
Podcasts and Live Chats throughout the week. Seth has been hosting the show each night from
Sunday through Thursday with the following guests:
Other articles to read:
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