What to Do? What to Do?

27 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Good morning everyone! I will likely be fairly quick today, but had to share a few thoughts on a very interesting blog posting by Strib writer Joe Christensen. I will discuss that and then share a couple of other links for you to enjoy.

 

Joe Christensen posted a blog called Twins Players Don’t Seem Upset by Team’s Inactivity. “Torii Hunter used to have the occasional grumble about the front office’s inaction. Johan Santana, too. But this is not their team anymore.

 

Thank goodness. I know when the season ended, I made a comment that standing pat would be about the same as going backwards, but that isn’t necessarily true. But any and all moves that could be made affect others. And each move individually has to make sense. In the end, the team that the Twins ended the 2008 season with was a pretty strong team. There are five solid young starting pitchers. Baseball’s best closer. Two MVP candidates in the middle of the lineup. Several young players who played well in 2008, but many of whom still have room for improvement. I am not naïve to the fact that there is a likelihood that not all for those players will take a step forward. But let’s not forget that the Twins have built a system whereby if someone gets hurt or struggles, they always seem to have someone step in and replace him and do well.

 

There is a perceived need for an 8th inning guy. Although I would have been OK with the Twins signing of Russ Springer and would be OK with the Twins signing Eric Gagne, I don’t think that they should go beyond what they are comfortable with because I do believe in the options. I am a big backer of Jesse Crain. I was pre-surgeries, and I was excited by what I saw from him in 2008 considering he hadn’t pitched in about a year when he came back. I think that he can be an 8th inning guy. Matt Guerrier was horrible the last two months of the season. However, I choose to look at how good he was the three previous seasons. Many say that he wasn’t really an 8th inning guy. He wasn’t the first two years in the bullpen. But in 2007, he and Pat Neshek split time in the 8th innings, and he was as good as any other 8th inning guy in baseball during the first three or four months of 2008. If he doesn’t have to pitch every day for two weeks, he will be just fine as well. Jose Mijares is the one I worry about the most, and yet we did see what he is capable of doing during the last two weeks of the season. Add in the fact that Boof Bonser has very good stuff and with more bullpen experience, I think he will be good. Craig Breslow showed that he can get lefties out, in the 6th, 7th or 8th innings. And Phil Humber is, at worst, better than Brian Bass, and at best, he could be a very good bullpen arm.

 

So when Joe Nathan or any of the pitchers, or any of the teammates is asked the question about whether the Twins need an 8th inning guy, they should say no. First, because it is true. They don’t need an 8th inning guy. They have plenty of options for the role, and I haven’t even mentioned the likes of Rob Delaney or Anthony Slama. But secondly, they should say that they don’t have a need because saying so would be essentially saying that one of their current teammates just isn’t good enough. Whether that is true or not is debatable But good teammates don’t do that. (Insert Torii Hunter comment here!)

 

Moving over to 3B, if a Twins player were to adamantly say that they needed to bring in a 3B, it would be like saying they don’t have any confidence in Brendan Harris and/or Brian Buscher. Again, you can debate whether the merits and shortcomings of both players. Personally, I have a lot of confidence in Brendan Harris and think that Buscher would be a solid backup 3B and pinch hitter. I also believe that Danny Valencia is not only the 3B of the future, but that he may be more ready than we think. I mean, he is already 24 years old and with a quick start to his minor league season, who knows, maybe he becomes an option. So, as with the reliever situation, I just don’t think that ‘need’ is the appropriate word.

 

Again, I think too much can be made of team chemistry. If players get the job done, team chemistry is better. But with spring training just three weeks away, the likelihood of major or multiple changes is not high. No need to upset the ranks at this point. And finally, the players and their input has little to do with personnel decisions made in the front office, so commenting too much makes little sense.

 

So, what is still out there? There are plenty of rumors. In fact, MLBTradeRumor.com’s Tim Dierkes believes that Joe Crede is most likely to end up with the Twins. I still think there is a chance that Eric Gagne could be brought in. Maybe there is a surprise name that we have yet to even think about. But again, the price and the number of years has to make sense.

 

And what if they go into the season with the current roster? Well, in my opinion they still have a very strong team with a lot of very good players with more upside, players who will help them contend for another AL Central title in 2009.

 

Of course, there is still one other option that I haven’t heard mentioned but I think bears mentioning. The Twins can go into the season possibly wondering which players might suffer a slump. Maybe it will be someone at a position other than 3B or the bullpen. In May and June, there may be several teams who are already out of contention and due to the economy will already be playing in empty stadiums. They might be looking to unload some salary. How many teams in the big leagues will go into the 2009 season with some payroll flexibility? Will there be players significantly better than the likes of Joe Crede or Eric Gagne available for a more fair price in early June? When the Mariners are out of contention by Memorial Day, maybe their asking price on Adrian Beltre will come down enough for the Twins to consider? When the Astros are 15 games back by the 4th of July, maybe the Twins will be able to get LaTroy Hawkins this year!

 

Think about that scenario. The Twins could be a player in the season’s 2nd and 3rd months for players that could have a significant impact on the team, and on the division race. That sounds much more alluring to me than going after a couple of huge injury risks.  

 

I read so often that the Twins need this or need that, and I just don’t see it right now. Could they get better at a couple of positions, sure? But to say that they have a significant need and MUST do something is more than a little ridiculous.

 

Any thoughts?  Leave your comments here.

 

OTHER NOTES

·         Another thank you to LaVelle for verifying my story from the Hot Stove Banquet. He’s got several thoughts from the Twins Fest weekend.

·         It seems like he just started it, but Josh’s Thoughts is already up to his #22 prospect in his Top 50 prospect series.

·         Be sure to order your copy of The Hardball Times Season Preview 2009 today. Here is a great rundown from editor David Gassko about what you will find. Over the Baggy’s author was asked to write the Twins section,and my assumption is that means that it will be very good.

 

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33 Responses to “What to Do? What to Do?”

  1. thrylos98 January 27, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    I think that they will be ok this season if they go as are, but Cleveland did get better. The pen will be fine if Guerrier rebounds and if Gardy quits bringing in players for one batter (which taxes the pen unnecessarily)

    The rotation scares me. Unfortunately, I do not share your sentiment that there are five solid young starting pitchers. There is one pitcher with star quality that is about to have a breakthrough season (Slowey), there is a very solid pitcher (Baker), there is a guy who when good he might be the best pitcher in the majors, but still a question mark (Liriano), there is a guy who is a fine number 5 starter (Blackburn – I know JC had that post about him the other day, but WHIP, K/BB and K/9 are not dependent of offensive scoring and unearned runs) and there is a pitcher with one and a half decent pitch who really does not belong in a rotation (Perkins).

    The other thing that cost the Twins last season hitting against LHP. That’s why a power hitting RH 3B with decent fielding who keeps Buscher in the minors can go a long ways for this team. I have no problems with Harris as the starter for a while and Tolbert/Tolleson on the bench backing him up. But Buscher does not belong on a major league field and if he is there Gardy will use him.

  2. mike wants wins January 27, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    I think it is interesting that you originally said they needed to do something, but now that they haven’t you think that is the right plan.

    You really believe they’ll add salary in the middle of the season? This team, with this GM? I just don’t see it happening.

  3. j-sin January 27, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    I agree with MikeWW. I love the idea of seeing which holes we have midseason and filling them then. And I know the Twins have rarely had this much salary to work with, but I just don’t see the Twins pulling the trigger with someone like LaTroy. We had that extra payroll in 2008 and didn’t get him. I’m not buying it.

    I know Buscher is going to prove his doubters wrong, Harris too. But I think adding a either a 3B or reliever to that clubhouse could light a little fire in the clubhouse, for the better.

  4. j-sin January 27, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Sorry, meant to say that Harris/Buscher are HOPING to prove their doubters wrong. I’m not guaranteeing anything…

  5. Dome Dog January 27, 2009 at 11:32 am #

    Thrylos,

    Do you REALLY believe Buscher does not belong on a major league field? Based on what? Just because you don’t like him and you think we could do better?

    I agree that 3B could/should be upgraded, but to say Buscher doesn’t belong on a major league field after the season he just had is a ridiculous comment.

    Seth,

    I wish I had faith in Jesse Crain the same way you do. His “stuff” seems plenty good, but he just doesn’t seem to have the control to be one of those dominant relief pitchers. His fastball is straight as can be, so that doesn’t leave him much room for error when trying to hit his spots. And he just doesn’t seem to throw enough strikes to be dominant (maybe there are some stats out there that say otherwise). I think he will have a decent season, but for us to be a legit contender this year I think we need another dominant guy out of the pen besides Nathan. Maybe someone steps up from the crew that we have, I just don’t have the faith that it is Crain. I hope he proves me wrong!!

  6. j-sin January 27, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    There are numerous cases to back up our pessimism.

    DeRosa got traded for CHEAP to Cleveland. We could have easily afforded that, but didn’t.

    Hawkins in July 2008, mentioned above.

    Springer or Lyon were affordable for us last week, but they’re signing with other teams now.

    This is our team, folks. I’m disappointed, but of course have hope that these guys will exceed expectations. I love rooting for the little guys, the unknown guys who come from our system, but it sure is frustrating to know there were players out there who could have made us get to the next level easier.

  7. Rosterman January 27, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    I, too, see five strong starters. Actually, seven strong starters with another in the wings. Baker, Liriano, Blackburn and Slowey should all replicate last year’s work, if not improve. People question Perkins, but if push comes to shove, he can always work long in the bullpen, which is a plus. You can’t totally count out Boof or Humber as starters. Both have the capabilities to fill the #5 role adequately. And Brian Duensing is in the wings. Sure, no one is a sure 20-game winner (Liriano), but all can keep the Twins in the game if the offense scores the 800 runs they did last year.

    My concerns are more an issue of backups. We know Redmond can play if Mauer needs to rest. If soemthing happens to Morneau — Cuddyer? Then we are glad we have the extra outfielder. Speaking of the Big Four (Five)…so Kubel plays 100 games. All the others play 120 or so games. Anything wrong with that? Always have a strong bat coming off the bench. Yes, would like to see Gomez start at AAA (salary AND experience). If he tanks in spring training, maybe, but not likely.

    My other concern is backup for Nathan. If Joe went down, who becomes the closer? Someone mentioned Korecky (ha!). Crain? Guerrier? I guess everyone would be in the mix. But is the “8th innining” is unsettled, it would make the ninth v-e-r-y interesting.

    Oh, Seth! Did tell BJ that I enjoyed him taking time to talk with you and enjoy the interview! Boy, talk about young looking prospects!

  8. thrylos98 January 27, 2009 at 11:52 am #

    to say Buscher doesn’t belong on a major league field after the season he just had is a ridiculous comment.

    Buscher was below replacement level (i.e below a warm body from AAA) in fielding last season. As far as his bat went, he showed very little power (.094 isoP for the season) and had only one month with OPS more than .800. He finished the season with a .222 BA and .244 SLG.

    Those numbers, along with his horrid fielding, do not belong to a major league starter, and he is not powerful enough to spend a PH spot for him on the best.

  9. rdunlap January 27, 2009 at 11:56 am #

    I totally agree with you Seth! Eric and Joe would be good additions @ the right price!! Could be some very good players availabe at the trading deadline + we have some young player who could really improve from last year!!

  10. Dome Dog January 27, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

    Where are you getting those numbers for Buscher? Do you mean for the last month of the season? Two Months?

    His season stats show that he had a line of .294/.340/.390 for the season. Again, not spectacular numbers, his defense isn’t good, but he at least “belongs” in the majors.

    I don’t want him as a starter on this team, but I wouldn’t mind it at all if he was a left-handed bat off the bench and occasional sub during the week.

  11. Seth January 27, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    I think that occasional change is good. I also like continuity and it has success in many arenas as well.

    My point is that all deals (Trades/FA Signings/Etc) have to make sense… Otherwise, it’s just change for change.

    Eric Gagne might help… but is he a certainty? If we knew he would pitch like he did in the early part of the decade, great. If not, it’s a big question mark, and really, he isn’t a sure 8th inning guy either.

    Joe Crede could help, IF we knew he would play 130 or so games, but the fact that he just recently started working out tells me that he is a huge risk, and on the turf, if he plays in just 25 games, then what?

    Moves to improve a team can be good… but if these two get signed and don’t work out, many will compare them to other risky, veteran moves made in previous years. In reality, maybe a May/June trade for a more sure thing makes much more sense. Or, maybe they wait it out a few more weeks and the dollars involved in the risk make more sense…

    Buscher is solid, but I would prefer Harris get the every day job and use Buscher as a bat off the bench and depth.

    This can be a very good team, even if it doesn’t make moves, and two months into the season, we will know the real needs more.

  12. Bernt January 27, 2009 at 1:26 pm #

    Seth,

    I completely agree with you on this post. A lot of commenters on here are doing the normal Twins Fan right of fixating on HR production (see: Buscher/Harris discussion). The Twins don’t play homerball, and they excel anyways. We (worst HR hitting AL team) scored more runs than the ChiSox (best HR hitting AL team) last year. Where’s the correlation between power and offense? Between power and making it to the playoffs? (I think you could make a pretty good argument that the coin flip had more of an impact on our making the playoffs last year than our 3B numbers).

    The Twins excel because they play team ball. They figure out the best group of players whose sum is greater than the individual parts (or ratings). Gleeman is always harping on numbers, and to an extent numbers matter. But knowing how to play team ball and do what needs to be done also matters (see Detroit or the Yankees for examples of players with great numbers but are detrimental to the team play around them).

    Lastly, as for our SPs, no, we don’t have an ace anymore. But we do have three legitimate #2’s (Baker, Liriano, Slowey), a very solid #4 who could easily become a solid #3 this year (Blackburn), and a bunch of options at #5. We may not have a 20 game winner, but we could also have four 15+ game winners this year. I think 75% of MLB would love to have all that–especially with all of them being 26 or 27 and younger.

    Our bullpen? Well, that is a question mark. But Crain was really good once, wasn’t he? Why not again? Is Gagne a better bet than Boof? Most of the FAs out there (and trade targets) strike me as all lateral moves talent wise, with the biggest gain coming in name recognition. I for one am happy we don’t have a GM who will let the rest of MLB pilfer our farm system for rent-a-players and big-name has beens. Last year everyone thought Detroit was so smart for trading away the farm, and now those same young players (if they hadn’t been traded) would make Detroit’s upcoming season look a whole lot better.

    Bill Smith may wait too long to pull the trigger sometimes. If we’ve learned one thing over the last three seasons, it’s that our homegrown talent is equal to any lateral trades for available big names in our price range. I’d rather spend money to keep Mauer than try to get almost any of the FAs that were available this winter. The Twins will be fine with the roster they have.

  13. j-sin January 27, 2009 at 1:55 pm #

    Bernt,

    “Twins will be fine with the roster they have”.

    I agree, but will they be great?

    Seth, I agree with you about the risks of the Crede and Gagne options, they are not certainties. However, hardly anyone is calling out the Twins FO for not getting DeRosa when they said the asking price was too high, not getting Springer (who you seemed to be in favor of), the list goes on. Now you’re trying to convince people that not signing anyone is okay, and that the FO will make a big move midseason. The last valuable midseason gamble was Shannon Stewart.

  14. gobbledygookguy January 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    they lost the division by 1 game last year, the idea to wait until june or july and see what happens before adding help doesn’t make any sense. how many games were lost or not won last year before they dumped all the failed experiments? Gardy has been real slow to react and change, i.e. gomez switching with span, and failing to act when needed may in fact have cost us that one game.
    one game out last year when the division was down and 89 wins were enough, a normal year 94-95 wins is required. can the same team improve that much to win in a normal year while hoping that the other teams don’t improve? imo that’s wishful thinking!

  15. Seth January 27, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    I didn’t say that they “would” make a big midseason move. I said that they could, and likely could have room payroll wise to do so. Right now, there isn’t much out there in terms of free agents, and teams probably aren’t too anxious to make trades 2-3 weeks before spring training.

    I did write about Derosa, and my honest opinion was that he isn’t much better than Harris, much less a platoon. For Cleveland, he made some sense because he could play 2B and move a ocuple of guys around. In reality, I think what we have learned is that the Twins don’t see the value in Derosa (not the asking price), and I don’t disagree with them. Same with Wigginton probably.

    I would have been in favor of signing Springer to a fair deal, but again, he is 40, so he’s not a given either.

    I don’t think saying make a move in May or June is giving away anything. I don’t think the expectations on the players change in the least. THey will be expected to compete and play well, or there will be changes. We/They may just have a better feel for 1.) what those changes need to be, and 2.) which better options than what is available now, are available..

  16. armadillo44 January 27, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    I think all along the Twins have wanted Beltre but obviously Seatle has been way to stubborn on the asking price. I think they learned their lesson with Lamb (who I thought was a good signing at the time) and aren’t looking to sign someone similar. It’s either get the big bat that would really improve the offense or stick with the good young players they have. So who know, maybe if we are patient with Buschar/Harris to start with, we’ll be able to get that big bat come mid season. When we really will need it is the playoff push and hopefully into the post season anyway.

  17. Mike C January 27, 2009 at 2:42 pm #

    I wrote about the very same subject on my blod today.

    I think both Gagne and Springer would cost too much to be useful. Crain’s season last year was better than Gagne’s, Springer is 40 and would cost us a draft pick on top of it.

  18. Joel January 27, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    I am also in agreement with Seth about the team. Everyone would like to see there teams make moves to better there team. So here’s a question or two, what move or moves would have liked to see or want to see? Then, what would you be willing to give up to get them? (Seth maybe a question to ask for your next chat)

  19. Bernt January 27, 2009 at 3:27 pm #

    Armadillo44, I think you’re right on about Beltre. He’s about the only guy out there that would really make a sizable improvement on the team as a whole. I wouldn’t be opposed to trading for him this year still with the intent on signing him with some of the new Target Field money.

    I also agree with gobbledygookguy that Gardy’s reluctance to play young guys or the front office’s reluctance to give up on failing veterans quickly enough is the valid counterpoint to the “we’re OK as we are” stand. Hopefully they’ll learn from those experiences this year, especially Bill Smith (as Gardy never seems to learn when to drop a favored player in the order–or play him *Kubel* *ahem*).

    And perhaps that’s what we’re seeing from Bill Smith this winter–why pay money to veterans who, optimistically, are going to provide marginal but not significant improvement to what we already have. Unless it’s a Beltre caliber player, I think you can go either way on whether signing or not signing the Gagne’s of the world will produce any better results than letting a young player try to get better.

  20. mike wants wins January 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    I agree with Bernt’s last paragraph. The only issue is that they won’t go after the guys that could be real difference makers (proven, not potential), as they are already in their prime earning years.

  21. JA January 27, 2009 at 6:56 pm #

    Seth, Thanks, its what I have been saying for months. Most middle relivers are failed starters (BOOF). Buying someone like Wigginton only pushes Harris to the side. Wigginton is what Brendan Harris will become, look at the age/stats compairisions.
    The unequivocal front runner for the AL central: Twins. Why? Pitching, pitching, pitching, and depth of pitching.

  22. Austin January 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I just began reading you’re blog and I enjoy hearing from other knowledgeable Twins fans. I have a lot of thoughts about the upcoming season, mostly because this team is going to be a fun one to watch.

    Starting Pitching – This is the strength of the team and the real reason we have a chance to win 90+ games this season. Since they began contending again, I don’t believe the Twins have had a better all around starting staff. No Livan, Ponson, Ortiz, Silva, Reed, … this year. Like most, I really like Slowey, Baker, and Liriano. I also think we are in for a real surprise this year with Blackburn. I am projecting 15 wins and around a 3.60 era. The last game of the season I saw what he is capable of. Remember, he was a rookie last year who lead the team in IP and had a better than average ERA in the AL. Perkins is a question mark for me. His stuff does not look great at all, but somehow last year he was effective against major league batters. If I remember correctly, he led the Red Wings on a playoff run a few years ago, which gives me hope for him to be a 5th starter.

    Bullpen – They should just go with what they currently have. I am not excited about any of the FAs on the market (thank God they did not go after Brandon Lyon and his 4.7 era). I wouldn’t mind seeing Reyes back, but it’s probably not necessary (and unlikely).

    Lineup – Should be sufficient. Some fans need to realize this is the Twins and we can’t have all-stars at every position (e.g. 3B). I think Harris is the best option, but I get the feeling Gardy doesn’t like him for some reason (does anyone have any more insight on this?). Players I think will have better than expected seasons: Harris, Mauer, and Young. (MVP for Mauer anyone?) Players I think will have about what’s expected: Morneau, Punto, Kubel, and Gomez. Players who I think will have subpar seasons: Span, Casilla, and Cuddyer. I am expecting a significant falloff from Span and Casilla, although both of these players are pretty good defensively and have speed which helps. I wouldn’t have minded dealing Span this offseason while he’s a relatively hot commodity, but I get the feeling the Twins want his low salary around for a few more years while they have to begin to pay some of their pitchers. As for Cuddyer, I’ve been a critic of him since he came up to the majors. I began to turn the corner in the 2006 season when he had a good year, but I’m beginning to believe he’s just another average MLB player. He should be moved back to 3B and should have to battle it out with Harris for the starting position.

    Sorry for the long post, but as you can tell, I am excited for the upcoming season.

  23. Bill in Sarasota January 27, 2009 at 11:23 pm #

    There are no positions that have to be filled. Maybe an upgrade would help at 3B and set-up but neither is in dire straits.

    Don’t be surprised if there are Type A free agents available in June until their compensation is dropped including Juan Cruz and Orlando Hudson.

    In addition, teams may be more induced to cut payroll in this economy after a few months.

    If the Twins have patience they may be able to buy at basement bargain prices.

  24. Josh Johnson January 28, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    Great post, Seth. It definitely seems plausible. The economy is effecting MLB and we could see something different this coming season.

    If the Mariners don’t have a good season, they could have really overplayed their hands with Adrian Beltre and have to accept much less than they probably could have even a month or two ago.

    And thanks for the plug 🙂

  25. DADDYCAT January 28, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    One thing the Twins have done before is to quietly hand over a position during the spring to a young relatively unknown player and let him go for it. Knoblauch is an example. Now I suppose Gardy would be more wary of doing this than Kelly was, since he seems to hate rookies so much, but I was thinking that Trevor Plouffe might just have a chance to be this kind of player. Nobody’s talking him up right now, he’s only 22 but with a lot of minor league experience for his age. Anyone think there’s any chance the Twins might give him a shot this year???

  26. Stu in SDGO January 28, 2009 at 11:29 am #

    I agree with “standing pat” for the time being. Most Twinks fans on the various blog sites keep hand-wringing about Bill Smith et al “doing nothing” this off season. The only action I have a problem with is the Punto signing because I think they over-paid for basically a utility infielder. I just don’t see Punto holding down SS for the whole year; he’s not that durable. Here’re my comments on the various position players and pitchers:

    1B: Morneau will deliver a career-average year once again. If he gets the occasional day off beginning in June and July, I think he’s capable of delivering better numbers in September. One would think that it should be obvious by now that he wears down in September! Give Buscher a few starts and keep both fresh!

    2b: Casilla’s numbers will be down 5-10% in a typical sophomore slump. However, he’ll be solid a second, defensively, and be spelled occasionally by Tolbert.

    SS: By mid-season, Punto will be platooning with Tolbert/Tollefson. I predict a nagging muscle injury in May/June. Is he capable of hitting .280 over the season as a full-time SS? I just don’t think so. He’s a utility infielder and late-inning defensive replacement – a job at which he is decent.

    3B: I actually like the Harris/Buscher platoon. Harris will be a solid if unspectacular defender and put up better, and Buscher will deliver some pop off the bench, as well as when he starts in place of Harris. Crede would be a better glove for sure (assuming his back held up), but his offensive numbers might not be as good as the platoon would deliver.

    C: Mauer will be Mauer again; I don’t expect to see any power numbers and believe he’s a classic number 2 hole guy. I’d like to see Redmond catch a few more games to spell Mauer, but I’d also like to see Mauer DH on at least half of the days he doesn’t catch. It’s ridiculous to have his bat out of the lineup.

    LF: Delmon is a bit of a toss-up. I like the guy and believe that, at 23, he’s got a HUGE upside, particularly in power potential. He had a decent year considering he had to adjust to a new organization, new teammates/clubhouse chemistry, a new team philosophy, the Vavra approach to hitting, playing a new position in the field, and to playing home games in the ‘Dome. What troubles me are his routes to fly balls and seeming lack of concentration in the field. This guy wants to succeed and get the big paycheck just like every other young ballplayer. The only way to succeed is to deliver the numbers, and he’s got the motivation to prove the naysayers wrong!

    CF: Go-Go is electric when he’s on and horrible when he’s unfocused. Was he rushed to show some ROI on the Santana trade? Probably, although at times he looked like he belonged last year. The big issue is plate discipline: can he hit offspeed breaking balls, as well as lay off low-and-away sliders? I doubt his psyche could handle a demotion, so I expect (hope?) him to put up slightly better numbers than last year. If he struggles at all, we’ll see Span out there.

    RF: Cuddyer will get the nod out of spring training, primarily for right-hand bat and power purposes. Plus his contract virtually dictates that he gets a lot of at-bats (can’t afford to carry a large contract that doesn’t deliver).

    DH: Kubel/Mauer against righties, and a platoon of Redmond/Delmon/Tollefson/Cuddyer against lefties.

    4th OF: I could argue that Span gets the nod in CF but don’t think that’ll happen. Span can play all 3 OF positions and will get plenty of at-bats as he spells each of the other three over the year. I also like Span coming off the bench or being a defensive replacement for Delmon in the late innings. If Cuddyer falters or gets injured, Span could easily bump him, too.

    Starters: the Fab Five will remain intact. I expect all to improve from last year, particularly Slowey, who could have a breakout year. Blackburn keeps getting underestimated; the guy threw the most innings of any rookie last year and will only get better. Liriano should be better down the stretch, too, since he’s another year removed from surgery. The only question mark for me is Perkins; will he hold up all year? I think there are plenty of options at AAA if any of the Fab Five go down with injury (Duensing, Mulvey, Swarzak), as well as on the roster (Bonser, Humber).

    Middle Relief: These guys will all be on the roster: Guerrier, Humber, Bonser, Mijares, Crain, and Breslow. Handled correctly, they should be able to get the job done. By that I mean, avoiding abuse/over-use and keeping them all fresh. If any falter, there are AAA/AA options in Slama, Delaney, Korecky, and even Duensing or Mulvey/Swarzak (or Jones if Twinks hold onto him). The Twinks should rotate young guys through until they find a couple who can “stick.” They’ve got the arms.

    In short, the Twinks have a good roster with a lot of upside. I mean, everyone picked them for 4th last year, and they over-achieved but still have a lot of up-side. Let’s give them another year for growth and chemistry to work and see what happens. We can always do a mid-year upgrade or two because the economy will force some teams to dump players/salaries by June.

  27. Stu in SDGO January 28, 2009 at 11:35 am #

    P.S. And of course, Nathan will close things out. I wouldn’t mind seeing him get the last out in the 8th inning once in a while, too.

  28. Lax Fan January 28, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    A few thoughts on the Twins as I do agree with most of what I’m reading above. Why not take a fly on Crede for one year just to solidify the position and see where our youngster is for 2010. As for Gagne stay away from him I watched way to many Brewers games in 08 and he looks washed up. We have a stronger pen without adding him. LaTroy dissapointed me and my 7 year old at a Winter tour the last year he was with the Twins by saying he doesn’t do autographs when Hrbek and Al Newman both signed (class guys). We should have made the rumored trade for Hardy by giving up a starter. We are loaded at SP. Any thoughts….

  29. Austin January 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm #

    One more comment I left out that really bothers me about Gardy is his use of Joe Nathan, his best pitcher in the pen (obviously). I can’t stand it when there is a big situation in the 8th and Gardy refuses to bring him in. Saves are one of the most overrated statistics in baseball, and to me, the best pitcher in the bullpen should be used in the biggest game situation. They pay Nathan the big bucks for a reason – to help win games, not to pad save statistics!

    Case in point. Remember last year in Boston when Gardy let Guerrier pitch to Manny in th 8th inning with 2 on and Manny unloaded a HR to CF? The Twins ultimately lost this game because of his refusal to bring in his best pitcher in the most important situation. I would much rather have Nathan come in and get us out of the inning (the turning point of the game), and allow a lesser pitcher to close out the game against the bottom third of the lineup in the 9th. There are times, however, when this should not be done such as if Nathan has been recently overworked, bad matchup, or has been recently pitching poorly.

    In the glory years of the Yankees, this was one of the reasons it was so tough to beat them (especially in the post season). Torre knew how to use Rivera to his advantage, so if they had the lead late in the game, Rivera would basically allow the Yanks 2 or 3 shots to win before a lesser pitcher came in. Francona does a good job managing Papelbon this way too.

  30. mike wants wind January 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    Austin is correct, but it will take a brave man and a genius to realize that high leverage is more important than if it is the 8th or 9th.

    I think they should pull out of negotiations with the only FA they might sign, right as he’s about to agree to terms. Oh wait, they just did that…..

  31. dj January 29, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    Well lo and behold, Boof tossed the ball around on a practice field today, while Joe once again hit the training room. I’ve never seen Boof down here this early. He then hit the workout facility, as I’m sure Joe did also. I believe Harris is here also.

  32. j-sin January 29, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    Seth, You seem to have an ear to the Twins rumor mill. Do you have any hints or theories about the possible trade that supposedly halted the Gagne negotiations? Star Tribune writers aren’t giving us much to chew on either.

    Thanks!

  33. scot January 29, 2009 at 7:48 pm #

    Beltre has the Twins on his no trade list so he is not an option.

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