Where Are We Now?

21 Jan

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The Twins offseason continues to role on, but let’s be honest, things are starting to get exciting. The Twins Winter Caravan’s first week is nearly complete. Two more groups will head out next week to places far and wide to talk Twins baseball. Next Thursday night will be the annual Diamond Awards, a black tie event honoring the Twins of 2009. Then starting next Friday is Twins Fest. And then, just a couple short weeks later, Pitchers and Catchers will report to Ft. Myers. As you know, I love the offseason as much as anyone, but the idea of the dawn of a new season being that close has to get everyone excited.

On a quick side note before I continue, next Tuesday’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast will be expanded to two full hours. Instead of going from 9:00 to 10:00 central time, I’ll be on from 8:00 to 10:00 central time. I’ve already got three confirmed guests, none of which has been on a previous podcast. I’m hoping to have anywhere from 6-10 guests in total, so it should be a very fun show!

Alright, back to our regular scheduled blogging. We know where we are on the calendar, but what does it mean for the 2010 Twins and their fans. With the eight Twins arbitration-eligible players signing earlier this week, the team now has some payroll certainty. We also have heard that the Twins offered Jarrod Washburn $5 million, which the lefty inexplicably rejected. So, that offer would have had to have been made knowing that the Twins would be at about $90 million after these arbitration signings. That tells me that there could be $4-6 million left to spend.

What moves have happened?

  • The Twins acquired a 27 year old former All-Star shortstop (JJ Hardy) who plays solid defense and could hit 15-18 home runs for their fourth outfielder (who was also very good defensively). Neither player is a certainty at this stage, but the general consensus is that the trade makes the Twins better.
  • The Twins offered arbitration to Carl Pavano, and as you know, he took it. The 31 year old pitcher will make $7 million in 2010, a fair amount for a league average pitcher with his service time. Although I probably would have preferred he reject arbitration and the Twins gain a supplemental first round draft pick, Pavano is certainly a better ‘veteran’ starting option than Jarrod Washburn or other pitchers on the market. Retaining Pavano, in all, leans to the positive for the Twins.
  • Finally, the Twins essentially replaced Bobby Keppel on their roster with Clay Condrey, which is a clear improvement. There are three moves that make the Twins better.

The Twins lost Joe Crede, Orlando CabreraMike Redmond and Ron Mahay (although technically Crede could still come back). All had some value to the Twins, but none will be particularly lost.

What’s Left?

The Twins, like every other team in baseball, still have a few holes. Are they holes, or are they perceived holes? Well, that is up to each individual to decide. Here are the general areas in which the Twins have perceived holes:

1.)    Second Base – As of today, Nick Punto would be the leading candidate to be the team’s second baseman. I know I’m not the biggest Nick Punto fan, but if he’s batting ninth and playing second base, he is the least of the Twins worries. He takes a ton of pitches. He has a very solid on base percentage. Yes, I would prefer if he hit .260, but any way you can get on is a good thing, and Nick Punto somehow coaxes a lot of walks. There are still two good options out there at second base in Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson. If one of them would be willing to take the one year, $5 million deal that the Twins offered to Washburn, I would be thrilled.  

2.)    Third Base – I think if the season started today, Brendan Harris and Matt Tolbert would be your starting third basemen. I’m not Tolbert fan, but I do like Brendan Harris. I especially like it because he can play three positions and has some pop from the right-side of the plate, so that when Danny Valencia is ready (2-3 months?), Harris still can help the team in a utility role. I have pretty much zero interest in bringing in Joe Crede or Melvin Mora. I would be interested in Miguel Tejada for the same one year, $5 million contract, but I would prefer to focus on 2B. If they sign a 2B, Nick Punto can play 3B, and again, bat ninth and play solid defense.

3.)    #2 hitter – Right now, the Twins best #2 hitter option is probably Nick Punto. His ability to take pitches, foul off pitches and get on base make him a viable option. His inability to hit make him a better option in the #9 spot. This is where adding Felipe Lopez or Orlando Hudson both make a lot of sense. Both have the ability to get on base, but both can hit as well. Adam Kennedy is a solid on base guy too (and he could play 2B or 3B), but he’s a left-handed hitter, so if he hit second, the Twins would probably bat five lefties in their first six batters.

4.)    Veteran StarterDoug Davis signed with Milwaukee. Washburn is still out there. My feeling is that the Twins do NOT need to add another starter. The top four are Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and Kevin Slowey. In spring training, the likes of Brian Duensing, Francisco Liriano, Jeff Manship and Anthony Swarzak can battle for the fifth spot. You have enough depth in case of injury. In my mind, it doesn’t make sense to bring in a starter who will make much more money than these guys and probably wouldn’t do any better.

5.)    5th outfielder – With Delmon Young, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer set as the primary outfielders, and DH Jason Kubel able to play both corners adequately, I don’t see the 5th outfielder spot being all that crucial. And honestly, I wouldn’t spend any/much money to acquire it. I would be looking for someone who could play CF since the Twins don’t have an option if Span were to need a day off. He’d obviously have to be able to play both corners too. It’d be nice if he could have a little bit of pop in his bat for those 12 inning marathons, but primarily, he needs to play solid defense and be able to run the bases. Jason Pridie does all of that. I’m not saying I’d be comfortable with him if he had to start more than two or three games in a row, but if that were the case, the Twins could find someone. When I saw Brandon Jones was taken off of Atlanta’s 40 man roster; that intrigued me. He was sent to the Pirates. I would prefer guys like that, 26-30 year old minimum salary guys

What Would I (Try To) Do?

Two things. That’s all.

1.)    I would throw one year, $5.5 million contract offers to Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson. They would be worth $5 million in 2010 with a team option at $6 million in 2011 (with a $0.5 million buyout). Make sure both know that they will sign the first to agree to it. I’d consider going up by even $1 million in 2010 base salary.

2.)    I’ve said all along that I thought the Twins and Joe Mauer would announce the signing of a new long-term extension that will keep in a Twins uniform for years to come. I think that announcement happens in the second half of the week next week.

If those two things happen, coupled with their previous moves, this will have been a remarkable offseason for the Minnesota Twins and their fans. It has already been a very good offseason. If they sign a second baseman, but don’t sign Mauer, it’s still a very strong offseason. If they don’t sign a second baseman, but they do sign Mauer, it will be a tremendous offseason.    

What would you do? Map it out. If you have any questions or comments, click here.

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25 Responses to “Where Are We Now?”

  1. Andy Darsow January 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with this blog Seth. My feelings are the same. We don’t need another starter. Make offers to Lopez and Hudson. If that falls through they can take a look at Tejada. I don’t want Joe Crede back. They also need to figure things out with Perkins. He has no options and I would hate to lose him for nothing. I just don’t see how he fits right now, do you?

  2. Seth January 21, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

    Perkins has an option left. One of those years, he must have been sent down on rehab, not optioned?

  3. j-sin January 21, 2010 at 4:44 pm #

    I agree it would be great to sign a good 2B, but at the expense of not signing Mauer, that is not a “strong” offseason. However, I think signing a good 2B should increase the chances of extending mauer.

  4. Lee Henschel January 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    Good analysis. I’m not sure that either Hudson or Lopez would sign for $5 million.

    I see the Twins signing Mauer. No choice.

    After that, I think they have only one bullet left in their gun, at least until the season starts. Their starting rotation is set. Barring injuries, Duensing should walk away with the #5 spot in the rotation.

    The relief corps is set. Signing Clay Condrey was a good move.

    Getting JJ Hardy was also a good move. He brings some stability to that SS position, which we really haven’t had for two years, and alleviates overcrowding in the OF. They will keep Jason Pridie as the 5th outfielder.

    2B and 3B are still mysteries. I wish we had better options than Harris and Punto. I see Harris taking Punto’s super-utility job away in 2011. That’s why he was signed for two years.

    Punto will take 2B. Harris will take 3B until Valencia is ready. Casilla, Harris, Morneau, Punto and Tolbert will make up the infield.

    Really, Punto, Casilla and Tolbert are the weakest links on the entire team. If any were traded or released, I wouldn’t be too broken up. I see Valencia and even Luke Hughes getting shots at infield spots. Both will be at spring training.

    Overall, I see the Twins having a very good year.

  5. JimCrikket January 21, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

    While I don’t have a real problem with the idea of bringing Crede back, I think what we’re seeing is that there are several stronger options that may be available for about the same kind of money. If Crede was frustrated when found himself trying to make the Giants bid against the Twins last year, just imagine the frustration of any these guys trying to get the Orioles to get in a bidding contest!

    I wouldn’t be bit surprised to see the Twins manage to pick up an infielder AND a pitcher like Washburn for just north of $5 million combined in guarantees (plus some incentives). BTW, Washburn has to be really second guessing himself for not taking that 5 mil when it was offered, doesnt he?

    • sploorp January 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

      Washburn’s agent is Boras and that should say it all.

  6. SteveV January 21, 2010 at 6:15 pm #

    If the Twins would be willing to give up $5-6M for two years of Hudson, why on earth wouldn’t they have stretched a little and added Beltre for $8.5M?

    THAT would have added real juice to the lineup and shored up the left side defensively. THAT is the kind of move the Twins should have made to be legitimate threats.

    But the Twins don’t do that.

    SteveV

  7. thrylos98 January 21, 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    hmmm for some reason I do like the idea of Perkins pitching in Rochester if there are no takers.

    I think that the back up OF battle will be interested during ST. The way the lineup is looking, another LHB on the bench is probably needed, so I would not count Dustin Martin out of the equation yet. That said, a bench of Tolbert, Butera, Pridie/Martin and Casilla, looks like a Pirates’ or Padres’ bench. It needs to be upgraded one way or another. I would love to see them sign someone like Rocco Baldelli for the back up OF job and someone like Adam Kennedy for the back up IF position to replace Tolbert and Pridie. That would be a decent bench.

    • sploorp January 23, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

      I’m not sure why everybody hates Perkins so much. He was healthy and ready to come back, but the Twins decided to keep him at AAA. The decision cost Perkins a lot of money and he had every right to be mad. I know I would be.

  8. Seth January 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm #

    I think the fact that Dustin Martin wasn’t even invited to big league camp is a pretty strong indicator that in the Twins’ mind, he’s out of the running. I mean, he won’t even start minor league camp until three weeks after big league camp starts. His 2009 was pretty awful after we all had so much hope.

    I do like the idea of Baldelli as a backup. Really like that! Kennedy isn’t going to want to be a backup. he could start at 2B.

  9. TT January 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm #

    I don’t think the Twins will or should pick up any more backup infielders. That is one place where they have a surplus.

    I thought John Manuel’s comment on your podcast that defensively Punto was an 8 (on a scale of 8) at second base and a 7 at third was interesting. You have a guy who had a league average OBP and is an outstanding fielder. Why would you replace him?

    Third base, with Harris as the likely starter, is the weak spot in the infield. My guess is they try to sign Crede. But that measn you have Casilla, Tolbert and Harris competing for utility infielder positions. Without Crede, Cassila and Harris are competing for the last spot in the infield, with Punto taking the other position.

    I think Tolbert really does have value as a utility guy in that scenario. Without him, you have to play musical chairs every time you give Hardy a rest, unless you are willing to play Harris at shortstop.

    I am surprised they don’t have some competition in camp for Pridie. But fourth outfielders are also the kind of players who become available as spring training moves along. If they decide Pridie isn’t the guy, they will probably be able to find someone else either on waivers or, more likely, in trade.

  10. ScottyB January 21, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    Great post Seth.

    First, I would love to have Felipe signed for 2 years. He fits in so perfectly hitting in the 2-hole, plus he’s already comfortable with Hardy up the middle – this is a no-brainer.

    Second, since October I’ve been saying that the Twins need to do what the Cardinals ended up doing with Holiday. Build a retirement package into Mauer’s contract. I would go $3MM a year for 10 years starting in 2020. If Joe is willing to take it, it would allow the Twins to have a little more payroll flexibility over the term of his contract, and maybe add an additional piece to the puzzle. The Twins could invest in an annuity and pay out less over the long run, while insuring Joe a nice retirement plan.

    A bench of Tolbert, Pridie, Casilla and Butera absolutely petrifies me. Getting Lopez would move Punto to 3rd until Velencia is ready, and Harris to the bench. That would be step 1. Gardy is looking for a veteran bat on the bench, and I’ve been pushing Baldelli since the end of the season. One other option has just become available, and that’s Eric Byrnes. D’backs have to pay $10.6M of his $11M contract – $400K for the team that picks him up. He’s a good clubhouse guy, a veteran presence, he’ll be cheap, and still has some pop in his bat and could play CF. Remember Span had 2 bouts with dizziness last season, and was out for extended periods – would rather have Jason Tyner or Lew Ford come back from Japan than Pridie on the bench. Just the presence of Harris and Baldelli or Byrnes on the bench eases the pain in my stomach.

    Lastly, the pitching staff. I am also comfortable with no additional pitchers. I’d fly with Duensing or Liriano as my 5th starter depending on Spring Training. Billy Smith needs to swing some trades, even to restock the minors. Depending on how Neshek looks in ST, we have an abundance of pitchers in the bullpen. We have Nathan, Guerrier, Rauch, Crain, Neshek, Majares, Condrey, potentially Liriano (not to mention Perkins). Plus Delaney, Burnett and Slama waiting in the wings. We’re spending an awful lot on the bullpen right now. I’d consider trading one of the more expensive guys (Crain, Guerrier or Rauch) especially if Neshek is ready to go. Package one of them with Casilla, and you could get some nice prospects.

    With any luck, Gibson will be ready for the rotation next year, and we’ll be able to take Pavano’s $7MM and Punto’s $5MM off the books. That’s $12MM off the top to work with in 2011.

  11. Greg January 22, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    Great post Seth,

    I have to agree with Lopez of all of them for 2nd.. from other reading he can play some outfield…Still like Crede he is a pure Minnesota Player, when healthy.

    Punto / Harris super utilities.. I know not for 6.5 mil….

    I don”t gues on pitchers anymore, but willing to Washburn is the one brought in..

    Overall, win Twins!

  12. Han Joelo January 22, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    I pretty much agree with what people are saying, which is kind of boring. I’m not to0 concerned how the bench sorts itself out–if the Twins do get a 2Bman, that is. Plenty of options, with more waiting in the wings at Rochester.

    I do kind of like the idea of Byrnes at minimum wage.

    As for pitching, if Slowey is good to go, and Liriano improves enough to return to the rotation, and Perkins still has an option, then there is just too much surplus to waste money on a veteran.

    As much fun as the offseason speculation can be, if the Twins do too much now they won’t have any bullets (or money) left come the trading deadline. Who knows who might become available at that point–or even after spring training.

  13. mike wants wins January 22, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    I’m thinking remarkable might be a tad high in praise. If they do what you said, they will have added a SS and a 2B and the 4th or 6th reliever to their pen. I’m not sure that is a remarkable offseason. It’s a nice offseason, if Hardy can play and the OF defense doesn’t kill them, but it’s not remarkable.

    Remarkable would be getting a proven player, that can play for more than a 1-2 year deal.

    All that said, nothing matters if they don’t sign Mauer. This state will crucify them if they don’t sign Mauer.

  14. gobbledygookguy January 22, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    i guess i need a glass of kool aid first.
    pridie for gomez is a negative. pridie is not as good a player overall and we no longer have the option to dh delmon or cuddy against lefties. that makes 2 negatives.
    hardy for o-cab. possible positive if hardy can have a come back yr. if he doesn’t it’s a wash at best.
    harris and tolbert at 3b has to be a negative even if crede only played 90 games. if everything went perfect and harris has a good yr 3b could be a wash or slight pos.
    who knows with a full yr of nicky at 2b?
    pavano has had one full season in 4 can he stay healthy again and be a positive a very big???
    butera for redmond is not a positive, backup catching will not be better.
    can span, kubel, mauer and cuddy all having career years come close to a repeat? can delmon have a full season like the last half? it’s likely that all these things will not happen and if one or two of these guys slips back that will be a big negative.
    the pitching will be a wash. a couple of these guys will step up have better years and couple will fall back or get injured, happens every year. will nathen continue to slip a little? it hasn’t been a big slip but he has shown signs that he isn’t what he once was and he isn’t getting any younger.
    this is a team that was .500 for nearly the entire year, played with little heart and only was able to win 86 games in the worst div in baseball.
    will this team continue to do the “little things”? they didn’t do so well most of last year and playing the “twins way” has been in a decline for the last several yrs.
    i hope you guys are correct to think this was a good off season but i just don’t see it.

  15. JimCrikket January 22, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    ggg, I may not think it’s been an outstanding off-season either, but I do think it will turn out to have been at least “good”. If the Twins do nothing else, it will be a bit on the disappointing side for me. But I don’t believe they’re done. There’s a SP and a starting 2B or 3B still going to be added to this roster. I think Smith is just sitting back and letting the prices drop and I really can’t blame him for that.

    As for a backup CF, it may be a little nuts, but with the word that Jim Edmonds is looking to try to make a comeback, that’s a guy that it might at least be fun to see what he has left in the tank. It sounds like he’s not expecting to be anything more than a minimum wage backup outfielder. I do wish he hit RH though.

  16. mike wants wins January 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm #

    Look, you can have separate paragraphs here!

  17. Bill in Sarasota January 22, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    I would like the Twins to sign Ryan Garko to a low price deal. He’s got great numbers vs. LHP. He could give Morneau and Kubel an occasional rest vs LHP and be a threat off the bench as a PH for the bottom of the order.

  18. Pradesh January 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    I’d say the Twins need to do three and only three more things.

    1. Sign Mauer, of course.
    2. Sign one of the following (in priority order): Beltre, Lopez, Hudson or Crede.
    3. Sign Thome.

    That leaves us with a bench of Morales, Pride, Thome & Harris. On a very weird exceptional day, Morales and/or Cuddy could exceptionally fill an infield gap. Bye bye Tolbert and Casilla (and Perkins). Hope you can now at least bring us a couple of descent A or AA pitching prospects!

    And agree, signing any free agent pitching now would be wrong headed.

    I’d also start thinking of inking Slowey, Blackburn and Span longer term.

    • Kunza January 22, 2010 at 9:51 pm #

      I sure hope we sign Adrian Beltre, too!!!!!!!!! He’s only been property of the Boston Red Sox for more than a month now.

      • Pradesh January 22, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

        Whoops! I think I meant Lowell!

    • ScottyB January 23, 2010 at 10:58 am #

      If the Twins don’t go with a 10-man pitching staff, the signing of Thome is nuts. Unless we’re talking the Thome of 1995 who could play 3rd base (and not well, I might add). This would be a total waste. Tolbert has more worth than Thome. If Span goes down for a 10-day stretch, do you really want Pridie to fill in. Twins need a CF option who can hit off the bench or fill in for a week to 10-days if needed (see Baldelli, Byrnes or even Edmonds). Thome is a waste of space and money on a team with a 12-man pitching staff.

      • TT January 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

        I don’t think Byrne, and certainly not Edmonds, would be an improvement over Cuddyer or Young in center field. Given the choice I would rather have Pridie out there. The Twins lineup can afford a weak bat, their pitchers can’t afford any further degradation of the outfield defense.

        I think adding Thome’s bat to the bench has some merit. The only regulars I can see him pinch hitting for are Harris and Punto. But injuries are going to put guys like Butera, Tolbert and Pridie in the lineup and having a veteran bat on the bench is going to be more useful than a second utility infielder.

  19. EZD January 23, 2010 at 10:06 am #

    I’m getting worried about Mauer. He really has no reason to sign with the Twins right now. Similar to the Lebron James situation. Nothing, even a major injury is really goin to diminish value this season. he is only going to get bigger $ offers the longer he waits. I believe he wants to be a Twin, I beleive the Twins want Mauer. However, he should try to extact teh best offer he can and the truth is the best offer won’t come unitl the front office is bidding against other teams.

    Most players have a lot to risk by playing out the last year of a contract. But not the very best. Everybody will be willing to throw massive dollare at Muaer even if he is unporductive or injured this year. Short of an amputation, his value is only going up everyday he gets closer to frea agency.

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