Casey as a Bat… for the Twins?

17 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

 

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Twins Make Offer to Casey Blake

On Friday, LaVelle E Neal broke the news that the Twins have prepared paperwork and sent a contract offer to the representatives of free agent 3B Casey Blake. My initial thought was, “Here we go again!” Another veteran, likely past his prime. But I didn’t think that was really fair. What do we know about Blake, and can he make the Twins better? Would signing him make sense on some level? Here were some of my thoughts.

 

·         He is from Iowa and grew up a Twins fan. Does this mean anything? Not really, unless along with that comes a willingness to sign a “hometown” discount a la Paul Molitor, Terry Steinback and Dave Winfield.

·         He is a great guy, a great teammate. Again, this is something that the Twins like, and for good reason.

·         He was with the Twins organization for several years. Is this good or bad? Well again, there could be some familiarity with how things are done. The basic Twins system has not changed much since 1986 when Tom Kelly took over the reigns. However, 2002 was the last year that Blake spent with the Twins before heading elsewhere. Michael Cuddyer is the only Twins player around who played with the Twins at that time. Of course, Cuddyer’s name is all over rumors now as well. Oh, and I guess Eddie Guardado would have been a Blake teammate, but it is quite unlikely that the Twins would bring him back.

·         Blake is 35 years old. This isn’t a horrible thing. The concern comes in the contract. Would he be willing to sign a two year contract when rumors indicate he could get three, if not four?

·         According to Jeff Passan’s free agent tracker, Casey Blake is the #22 free agent on the market. He is the top 3B on the list. Of course, that is what it is. Remember that Mike Lamb was the #2 3B on the free agent market a year ago, behind only Alex Rodriguez.

·         He made $6.1 million in 2008. He should expect a raise. My guess is that the first Twins offer will be more in the range of two years and $14 million with a 2011 option and a $1 million buyout. That won’t do it.

·         I have heard people say that Blake provides a lot of versatility. He can play 3B, but also 1B and RF (as well as DH, obviously). A review of Baseball-Reference.com reminded me that he had spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons as Cleveland’s primary RF. In 2008, he played 133 games at 3B and 29 games at 1B. In 2007, he played 145 games at 3B and combined for 19 more games between 1B and RF. Going back further, he played 292 games at 3B between 2003 and 2004, with 39 at 1B. Versatility is good if crazy events happen in the game. However, what does it mean for the Twins? He can play 1B… Great! The Twins have a pretty strong 1B who should be able to man that position at least 155 times during the season. RF? Well, Michael Cuddyer is still around, and if he is dealt, a move of Delmon Young back to RF makes some sense, unless they keep Denard Span over there. In other words, it is more than unlikely that Blake would see any time in the outfield. DH? I think Jason Kubel showed enough in 2008 that he is the team’s DH Blake could DH from time to time against tough lefties. In other words, versatility is a wonderful thing, but in my mind, it is not a deal breaker.

·         I am not going to throw a bunch of numbers at you about defense. One, I question most defensive statistics. I have looked at them, and basically what they say is that he is about an average defender. Compared to Brian Buscher, he is a bit of an improvement. Brendan Harris made some great plays at 3B, but his range is pretty non-existent. So defensively, Blake would be an improvement over a combination of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher, but just not that great.

·         So, the question remains, how much difference would there be between the Buscher/Harris platoon and Casey Blake? Let’s try to see if we can figure it out:

o   Casey Blake in 2008 – He went 147-536 (.274/345/.463) with 36 doubles, a triple, 21 homers and 81 RBI. He walked 49 times and struck out 120 times.

o   Brian Buscher in 2008 (against righties) – He went 55-174 with nine doubles, no triples, four homers and 40 RBI. He walked 16 times and struck out 30 times.

o   Brendan Harris in 2008 (against lefties) – He went 40-151 with 14 doubles, a triple, a homer and 14 RBI. He walked 13 times and struck out 33 times.

o   Note – In the platoon, Buscher and Harris would theoretically only bat against either a lefty or righty. Of course, there would be overlap, but we are thinking in theory, so bear with me.

o   Combined in 2008 (Buscher/Harris) – 95-325 with 23 doubles, a triple, five homers and 54 RBI. They walked 29 times and struck out 63 times.

o   Now, we need to ‘normalize’ the numbers to assume every day play, which is what Blake would get. In other words. We need to assume that the Buscher/Harris platoon would get the same number of at bats as Casey Blake would get. It would be better to ‘normalize’ to the number of plate appearances, but using the same number of at bats (536) meant just one difference in walks, so it is very close.

o   The Platoon in 2008-Normalized – 157-536 (.293/.351/.416) with 38 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 89 RBI. They would walk 48 times and strike out 104 times. (Please note that these are not official numbers in any way. It doesn’t include things like HBP or SF, etc, so it is just a number to give an idea. In fact, it is likely that the OBP would be slightly higher.)

o   Looks pretty similar to me. Blake’s OPS was .808. The Platoon would be .767. That is a 5% difference, with Blake being better. Of course, the platoon would hit for a higher average with Blake hitting more home runs, hence the higher slugging percentage. The 21 homers to just eight homers is noticeable. Blake also strikes out a lot. Also, do we think that Blake would hit 21 homers for the Twins? As Joe Christensen noted on his blog, the Metrodome was the most pitcher-friendly AL stadium in 2008.

·         The platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher will make about $850,000 in 2009. Casey Blake will likely make at least $7 million in 2009.

·         Would signing Casey Blake make the Twins better at 3B? I think so. But will it have a significant difference on the 2009 Twins? I really don’t think so.  

·         Would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from acquiring a SS that can actually significantly improve their SS production in 2009? That is the big question. What would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from doing at other positions?   

 

Arizona Fall League Weekend Update

·         The Phoenix Desert Dogs played Friday and Saturday against Mesa. They lost 15-7 on Friday and 8-1 on Saturday.

·         On Friday, Dustin Martin went 1-3 with a walk, his fifth double and his fifth stolen base. Anthony Slama pitched a perfect inning. In fact, he needed just three pitches to get all three outs.

·         On Saturday, Martin went 1-4. Danny Valencia went 0-3.

Venezuelan Winter League Update

·         After a horrific start, Luke Hughes has been hitting much better of late. He is now hitting .304/.345/.468 (24-79) with three doubles, two triples and two homers. He has walked three times and struck out 17 times.

·         Wilson Ramos has cooled off. He is now hitting .271/.271/.313 (13-48) with two doubles. He has not walked and struck out eight times.

·         Jose Mijares has been quite good. He is 1-1 with five saves and a 0.79 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. In 12 games, he has pitched 11.1 innings. He has walked four and struck out 12.

·         Bobby Korecky hasn’t. He is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP. In 11 games, he has thrown 15 innings. He has walked six and struck out 11.

·         One to watch would be Danny Rondon. He is 1-1 with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. He has thrown 16.1 innings in 12 games. He has six walks and nine strikeouts. Not great numbers but not that he pitched for Elizabethton in 2008 whereas Korecky split time between Rochester and the Twins.

 

Any thoughts, please e-mail me, or leave Comments here.

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20 Responses to “Casey as a Bat… for the Twins?”

  1. Zack November 17, 2008 at 2:20 am #

    I’m not wild about the idea of signing Blake, as I’m pretty comfortable with the Harris/Buscher platoon. But I was thinking as I drove home tonight, maybe they’d need to trade one of Harris/Buscher in a deal to bring in a decent shortstop, in which case I’d be pretty ecstatic with this deal. The one who’s left could start some days and let Blake start at 1B to give Morneau a day off.

    I’m hoping that’s what’ll happen. But we’ll see I guess.

  2. Travis Aune November 17, 2008 at 8:06 am #

    thats what i dont understand buscher and harris did not get it done last year. The bottom line is we did not make the playoffs you can spin the numbers all you want. We did not make the playoffs so changes need to be made. You cant just look at the numbers you also need to look at the leadership qualities he would bring to a young team. I know you like young players but sometimes you need to add a veteran to help the young guys out. I would offer 3 years 27 million and pencil him in

  3. Dome Dog November 17, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    I’m not sure that it is fair to judge one offseason move all on its own. Signing Casey Blake (whatever the contract) may look like a good or bad move to start the offseason if it stands alone. But I only think it is fair to make sure we reserve our final judgement until the offseason is complete and we see the total picture of what Bill Smith & Co. did. Obviously, if they only sign Blake and do nothing else, the offseason is a failure. But if they sign Blake to free up some resources for a trade for a starting shortstop, then that changes things. Let’s see what happens…

  4. Seth November 17, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    Just a couple of notes…

    I completely agree that you can’t judge an offseason by a singular move. I agree… But shouldn’t a team go into every deal to “win” that deal? Would Casey Blake be an improvement over Harris/Buscher in 2009? I believe I said that it would, offensively and defensively. My point would be to make sure that the years and dollars make sense because I happen to think that there are bigger needs elsewhere, namely SS.

    Zack – I’m not sure what the value of Buscher and/or Harris is. I can’t think it would be terribly high. Enough to bring in a good SS? Maybe as part #3 of such a deal. But if the Twins signed Blake, there would be no need for Matt Macri on the 40 man roster. Harris would have to win a utility role. Buscher’s value would be as a pinch hitter. Not a tremendous amount of value there.

    3 years and $27 million, Travis? Just get it done? Spend excessive amounts of money, just to say they did? Buscher and Harris didn’t get it done last year because the Twins didn’t make it to the playoffs? They were one win from the playoffs. Geez, you could then argue that Mauer didn’t get it done because the team didn’t make it to the playoffs. Morneau slumped at the end, so they didn’t make it to the playoffs. Dump both of them too. I get what you’re trying to say, and obviously I’m going a bit over the top.

    In summary, if the Twins sign Casey Blake, I think he can help the team. He would improve 3B probably. My main point is not that he wouldn’t help, but how significant of an on-field increase in performance is there between Blake and the Platoon compared to the dollars they are giving him. Because the reality is, there will be a fairly rigid cap somewhere and how much they give Blake affects who else they are able to acquire.

  5. mike wants wins November 17, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    They would be marginally better, probably a game or two, but not significantly better (if that is the only move they make and Young hits the same).

    Either Young needs to hit with that kind of OPS, or the Twins need to find another OF that can. They are weak at the corner OF/3B/SS (and Casilla and Span haven’t really proved anything yet). Frankly, on O, they are also weak in CF. It is a testament to their pitching that they got as far as they did.

  6. Dome Dog November 17, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    Even if Blake makes them marginally better by a game or two, I think it is worth it. Would have been nice to have been a game or two better this last year!!

  7. SoCalTwinsfan November 17, 2008 at 11:53 am #

    Mike, the Twins finished third in the AL in runs scored. It could have been a fluke, and hopefully the Twins are smart enough to consider this, but the reality is, the success for 2008 was much more due to the offense than the pitching and defense.

    The thing to remember about Blake is that he is not replacing Buscher/Harris on the roster, just in the lineup. If the Twins don’t sign Blake, then what happens if Buscher were to get injured? Then the Twins are stuck with Harris and/or an unknown like Hughes or Macri. Also, what if the Twins trade away an OF for a SS for pitching help and Kubel got hurt? If the Twins have Blake playing third, then Buscher could be an adequate DH against righties. So, not only would signing Blake help the everyday lineup somewhat, it would also help the depth of the bench, etc.

  8. Seth November 17, 2008 at 11:59 am #

    Great response So Cal, and haven’t depth is never a bad idea. It would be interesting to me if both Buscher and Harris would be around if the Twins signed Blake (and if there weren’t follow-up moves).

  9. TT November 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    Platoon comparisons that extrapolate part time players to full time are almost always problematic. Managing to get a “pure” platoon equivalent of a full time player is impossible. But managing part time players to give them at bats where they are most likely to succeed is standard operating procedure.

    Blake has enough pop to hit in the 5th, 6th or 7th spots in the order. Opposing managers are not going to be very comfortable with their LOOGY out there against Blake in a critical situation. That means Kubel is likely to see more right handed pitchers in those situations if he is hitting behind Blake.

    A Buscher/Harris platoon only fits in the 7th spot. And it isn’t going to force any adjustments in the other dugout.

    The real questions with Blake are age and defense. He may be an adequate defender now, but will he still be in a couple years? Even if not, he could still be useful as a veteran right handed bat off the bench and backup to Morneau if he doesn’t fall off the age cliff.

    I keep looking at Morneau and wonder what happens to the Twins if he gets hurt. They really don’t have anyone who can realistically step in at first base for a month or two. Blake would give them that.

    As for shortstop, I think the priority should be to sign Punto. If they can’t do that, then they need to find someone who is better defensively than Harris. But a more productive number 8 hitter is not a priority.

  10. thrylos98 November 17, 2008 at 2:08 pm #

    Kyle Aserton and Felix Molina are not doing to shabby either in early action at the Peuerto Rican Winter League.

    Interesting to see what the infield would be in Rochester next year with Plouffe, Molina, Hughes, Tolleson, Tolbert, Machado, Macri making cases for positions. From a first glance even with the recent departures it just looks way over-crowded, esp. if a new Twins’ 3B pushes Buscher back to the minors. Even in Macri moves to first and Peterson to the outfield, I still don’t see then numbers working out. Someone would probably have to go… They can’t carry 8-9 infielders.

  11. TT November 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm #

    I believe Molina is a six-year free agent. So he may not be back. Tolleson is likely to start the season at AA. So you really only have Macri, Plouffe, Hughes and Machado set at AAA. And possibly Tolbert and/or Buscher if they don’t make the 25 player roster. Hughes and Tolleson can play the outfield. I think Tolbert and Macri can as well. The AAA outfield is probably not going to be loaded with prospects.

  12. mike wants wins November 17, 2008 at 2:46 pm #

    Depth of mediocre players gets you zero championships. You need a handful of great players, surrounded by some good, some average and a few bad players. Having 4 ok hitting OFers and 2 OK 3B gets you nothing in terms of championships. You can’t live in fear of injuries. Yup, sometimes they happen, and sometimes you can’t make up for the loss. But, they are much more likely to win with David Wright and no backups, than they are with a bunch of mediocre players, for example. I’d much rather they have one great hitting OFer and two mediocre to bad ones, than five medicore to bad ones, frankly.

    Agreed, they were third in runs scored. It is unlikely they can repeat that, unless they can do something (twice) that few if any teams have done in the history of MLB.

  13. cmathewson November 17, 2008 at 3:03 pm #

    Would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from acquiring a SS that can actually significantly improve their SS production in 2009? That is the big question. What would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from doing at other positions?

    I look at it the other way. Signing Blake means not having to trade for a 3B, leaving more flexibility in trading for a SS. So I think this helps them acquire the shortstop they need.

    One other thing on Blake. I believe he led baseball for the fourth year in a row in pitches seen. He’s a very patient hitter, which has consequences for the rest of the line-up. When he has Young and Gomez on either side of him in the line-up, he’d at least extend some innings and help the team get into the bullpen quicker than Harris or Buscher, who have a tendency to swing early in the count.

  14. thrylos98 November 17, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    You are correct about Molina being a free agent. I assume that with McDonald and Watkins leaving, a couple of players from New Britain (Lis? Martin?) would probably have to be called up. As far as Tolleson goes, he has nothing to prove at AA any more; I think that it would be a pity if he is stuck down there (and this also would get Dinkelman and esp. Singleton stuck to lower levels than they belong)

  15. TT November 17, 2008 at 3:56 pm #

    Tolleson had less than 400 at bats and played only 32 games at SS at New Britain while making a ton of errors. He has a lot still to learn.

  16. gobbledygookguy November 17, 2008 at 4:10 pm #

    mike you may be right but the mets have delgado, wright, reyes, betran, santana, pero and over the last 3 yrs have 1 div champ just like the twins. it’s still a “team” game and while superstars are nice they don’t come with a guarantee of anything. when was the last time all the yankee superstars won a ws?
    but i’d take burell or dunn and the 30+ hr’s and willingly move a few of our light hitting of’r in a trade for a good ss! we just can’t end up with punto again at ss!

  17. mike wants wins November 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm #

    Agreed, having great players does not guarantee anything. However, not having great players pretty much guarantees you won’t be in contention.

    That duality of guarantees is something most people just don’t think about (like those that argue that having lots of money doesn’t guarantee you’ll win….).

  18. TT November 17, 2008 at 7:36 pm #

    Agreed, they were third in runs scored. It is unlikely they can repeat that, unless they can do something (twice) that few if any teams have done in the history of MLB.

    What is that? Are we back to the nonsense about their batting average with runners in scoring position. There aren’t that many teams in the history of MLB with a batting champion hitting third and an MVP hitting fourth and three speedsters batting in front of them. Much less the oldest of those five players being 27.

    The Twins had the youngest lineup in baseball last year. You would expect those players to mostly improve next year, not regress. That is the opposite of teams like the Yankees that sign aging stars past their prime. They need to add new players every year just to stay in place.

    The choice between stars and depth is a false one. Most good teams have both. But there is no doubt teams understand there is a premium on top players. That’s why you aren’t usually going to be able to trade a handful of mediocre players for one star. When that happens there are usually money, contract and other issues that come into play.

  19. Greg November 18, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    Does it make any sense to go after Orlando Hudson and cement him into 2B? I’m not convinced that Casilla is the answer there, look at his work post-injury. Let Casilla and Tolbert battle it out for SS, the other becomes our utility guy.

    Just thinking out loud…

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