Twins Bullpen Blitz

14 Oct

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It will be another offseason full of difficult decisions for the Minnesota Twins front office. There are double-figure free agents. They have two contracts with 2011 options that they need to determine if they should be picked up. There could be as many as nine arbitration situations. Although the Twins have a fairly solid core of players under contract for 2011, it will be interesting to see how those players are complemented.

One area that could experience the most turnover is in the bullpen. Over the last decade, Twins fans have seen how important a strong bullpen can be as well as how much it can hurt if the bullpen struggles. Even with Joe Nathan out for the entire 2010 season, the Twins went into the playoffs with what was believed to be solid, deep bullpen.

However, that group in the bullpen was comprised of several players who may not be in a Twins uniform in 2011 for various reasons. Here is what we know today:

Joe Nathan – We know that the Twins will be paying the veteran closer $11.25 million for the 2011 season even if we can’t confidently predict how good and how healthy he will be.

Matt Capps – He has a year of arbitration left. Looking historically at closers in their final arbitration year, it is likely that Capps could demand somewhere between $7 and $9 million in 2011. He was solid in 2010, and he would provide insurance should Nathan not be ready. He is prone to allowing plenty of base runners.

Jesse Crain – Despite the hanging slider to Mark Teixeira in Game 1, Crain proved himself to be one of baseball’s better relievers through most of the 2010 season. He is a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could make $3 to $3.5 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines it, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. After his season, it is likely that Crain could command a three or four year contract at an average of $3.5 to 4 million a season.

Jon Rauch – He was solid as the Twins closer through most of the season’s first half. Very hittable, but he racked up good save totals. He was also so bad late in the first half and early in the second half that the Twins had to trade their most big-league ready prospect for Capps. He also would be a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could earn as much as $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. He could likely get a two year contract in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Matt Guerrier – Guerrier has racked up the relief appearances over the last four years. He has remained remarkably durable. He has also pitched at a very good level, well enough that he would be a Type A free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration, and he accepted, he could earn $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get the signing team’s first round pick next summer (unless the signing team owns one of the first 15 picks in draft, in which case, the Twins would receive their 2nd round pick) and a supplemental first round pick. Because he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, Guerrier could struggle to find a team willing to give up and early draft pick to sign him. If the Twins do not offer him arbitration, Guerrier could probably sign a two year deal worth between $6 and 7 million total.

Brian Fuentes – The Twins got a good one when they acquired Fuentes from the Angels. The 35 year old southpaw was amazing against left-handed bats. He led the league in Saves in 2009 and recorded 25 saves with the Angels in 2010 before the trade. He made $9 million in 2010. He becomes a Type B free agent because his 2011 option would only vest with 55 games finished (he finished 35 total in 2010). If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepts, the Twins would likely pay him between $9 and 10 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would gain a supplemental 1st round pick next summer. If the Twins do not offer arbitration, he could sign with a team needing a closer and get two years and $14-15 million. Or, if all teams see him as an 8th inning lefty type, he could still get two years and $8-9 million.

Clay Condrey, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay – We have to assume that these free agents will not be back with the Twins in 2011, and if so, it would be like Mahay’s minor league deal signed late in spring training.

Pat Neshek – He made $650,000 in 2010, his first arbitration year. If he is offered arbitration, he likely would be in the $650,000 to $750,000 range. If not, he would become a free agent.

Glen Perkins – Perkins got enough time in 2010 with the Twins to make himself arbitration-eliglble this offseason, a year later than he wanted. He would probably make $750,000 in arbitration, if offered.

Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Lugo – These pitchers all have less major league service time than required to be arbitration eligible, so they would make about the league minimum, around $420,000. Mijares would likely be closer to $450,000-500,000.

More to Consider:

  • The Twins bullpen generally consists of six and sometimes seven relievers, including the closer.
  • Joe Nathan is pretty much untradable right now. Until he proves he is healthy, the assumption must be that he will be paid by the Twins.
  • There are free agent bullpen options left and right, many of whom will be available and looking for a job as spring training approaches. So your bullpen does not completely need to be filled by the above players.
  • It cost top prospect Wilson Ramos to acquire Matt Capps from the Nationals. There is no way that the Twins would non-tender Capps. But think about this; would you rather have Matt Capps at $8 million, or bring back Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at a combined $7 million? Would you rather pay Capps $8 million. Could the Twins trade Capps before arbitration to bring back more young talent?
  • How much money should the Twins tie up in the bullpen? Potentially $20 million is locked up between Nathan and Capps. If we assume a $110 or even $120 million payroll, how many dollars should the bullpen cost?
  • With that in mind, would you rather have Capps at $8 million or JJ Hardy $6 million and a veteran, right-handed bench bat who could spell Justin Morneau at 1B for $2 million?
  • If the Twins bring back Carl Pavano and pay him $9 million in 2010, there could be a starter or two who would pitch out of the bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will be in the rotation. Scott Baker will get a big pay raise in 2011, so he should start. Nick Blackburn’s salary jumps up to $3 million in 2011. Kevin Slowey could get $2 million or so in his first year of arbitration. Without a trade, there are six starters right there, and one would likely get pushed to the bullpen.
  • And that doesn’t even take into account a couple of pretty strong starting pitching prospects in Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg, both of which could be ready by June for the big leagues. It also doesn’t factor in a couple of very hard-throwing bullpen arms who could be ready soon like Carlos Gutierrez or Billy Bullock.

So, if you’re the GM, and you have to worry about a payroll, and you alone have the final call on the Twins roster, what does it look like? Which free agents do you offer arbitration? Which do you want back? Which young pitchers do you want to be on the big league roster? How do you make it all work?

The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is now available for pre-order at just $4.95 for the first 500 copies sold THIS WEEK. To learn more about the entire Twins roster, all the questions they have to ask, and the options that they may have, this is a must-have electronic book. We will look at the 40 man roster decisions, outline the entire Organizational Depth chart, review the cases for and against the many Twins players eligible for arbitration, look at the Twins players who can become free agents, look at other players around the league who will be available via free agency as well as potential trade targets. This book is as comprehensive as it gets. If you’re not convinced, you can get last year’s version for FREE as a sample of what you will be getting.

PODCASTS – Last night, the Twins Geek and I were both on Fanatic Jack’s podcast and we talked about all of the Twins free agents and arbitration-eligibles and some possible trade candidates. It was a lot of fun and if you have a chance, please listen to it here. Of course, if you missed my podcast on Tuesday night, you can to that here.


Arizona Fall League

The AFL is back in swing now and the Twins prospects are playing for the Peoria Saguaros. In their first game, on Tuesday night, Chris Parmelee went 1-4 with a double. Joe Benson was 0-2. Ben Revere was 0-1. Tyler Robertson gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his first inning. Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs in his two innings. Last night, Ben Revere went 1-4 with an RBI. Chris Parmelee was 2-4. Joe Benson went 1-3 with a run scored. Carlos Gutierrez struck out two in a scoreless inning. The one Twins prospect that has not played in their first two games is David Bromberg. The righty will start for the team on Friday.

Lots of things covered above, please Leave your comments here.


11 Responses to “Twins Bullpen Blitz”

  1. TT October 14, 2010 at 8:46 am #

    Seth –

    If your salary numbers are correct for Rauch, Fuentes and Crain,then the Twins can safely offer all of them arbitration. If the market will give them multi-year contracts at an annual rate that is higher than they can get for one year in arbitration, they obviously aren’t going to accept arbitration. I think offering arbitration to Guerrier is a no-brainer given that his signing elsewhere would land a couple draft choices. But he would have to go to a team that is on a free agent signing binge where they were only losing a third or fourth round choice. Its more likely he would accept arbitration, but his salary in that process would not likely to be out of scale to his potential value.

    You left Mijares out of your list, but the Twins have only three spots set in the bullpen for next year. Nathan, Capps and Mijares. If Guerrier comes back, that would leaves three spots to fill. With Nathan questionable, they need someone else who can pitch in the setup role. So I think they will be looking to bring back some of the players who are free agents. Crain, as someone who started in the organization, is the most likely target, Fuentes is the most desirable but they may have to settle for Rauch if those other two get big contracts elsewhere.

    As you point out, they have a lot of arms that might fill out the rest of the bullpen that they will need to sort through. Those decisions will be based on winter ball and spring training performances. They might add Flores or Condrey to that mix, but probably on minor league deals.

  2. Chuck October 14, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    I would take the following bullpen into action in 2011:

    Nathan (11.25)
    Crain (3.5)
    Rauch (4)
    Mijares (0.75?) – Missing from your analysis
    Burnett (0.42)

    And 2 of these 4:
    Slama (0.42)
    Manship (0.42)
    Perkins (0.75)
    Nesheck (0.75)

    Total bullpen cost of around $21 mil

  3. Seth October 14, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    Yeah, I’m not certain why I missed Mijares, so I added him to the above. He would likely be between $450,000 and $500,000 in 2011.

    Also, all my projected values are purely estimates. I try to make them educated estimates, but we won’t know for sure until a day they sign somewhere.

  4. gobbledy October 14, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    some of their comments would make you think crain and fuentes would like the chance to close. rausch is likely still a little to’d because he was replaced by capps. i think you offer them and they’ll all decline. matt will likely accept because the type a label is death for a middle/set up guy.

  5. Bill in Sarasota October 14, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    When is the tender date to Capps and arb date for free agents?

    When does free agency start?

    1. Offer arb to Crain, Rauch, and Fuentes.
    2. Try to sign Fuentes. If successful offer Capps 4-5mil or non-tender.
    3. Do not offer arb to Guerrier, but offer 3.5 mil.

    The hope is to get picks for Crain and Rauch.

  6. mike wants wins October 14, 2010 at 10:56 am #

    No way they should spend that much money on the bullpen to keep Capps, Nathan, Fuentes, Rauch, Guerrier, Crain.

    Look, your top 2-3 can make millions, but everyone else needs to be in the hundreds of thousands. There is no excuse for the last two bullpen guys to make millions of dollars.

    Mauer will consume $23MM next year. You cannot afford $20MM on the bullpen.

    If you offer arbitration, and they accept, you are SoL.

    • gobbledy October 14, 2010 at 11:26 am #

      if want a bunch of guys making minimum you’ll probably not have a very good bullpen. we’ve seen most of the minor league guys and only one of them, duensing, has held up. over time they end up being junk. they’re making a lot of money spend it. do we want to win mike or save money?

      • mike wants wins October 15, 2010 at 9:08 am #

        Win, but if you are allocating your resources, the back of your bullpen is not a good place to allocate them.

  7. joelthing October 14, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Okay, Pavano will seek a multi-year deal. Will he get 3 years? Will he get 2 years? Would eitehr contract be double or triple the $10 he would get from the Twins?

    Look for Fuentes and Rauch to seek closer jobs. Someone will gamble on Rauch. Someone will gamble on Fuentes. Both 2-year deals minimum. But can the Twins risk a crapshoot and still offer arbitration?

    You offer Crain, and especially Guerrier, arbitration. Both will test the free-agent market and both might get past-Latroy multi-year deals to be a closer for some team. That is their dream. The Twins could blindside everyone and offer Crain decent money to be backup if Nathan isn’t ready and be the Twins closer in 2010-2013, if they think that would happen.

    Neshek and Perkins will arbitrate. You can still find a palce for them, and I suspect Neshek could shine in 2011.

    The Twins have Waldrop and Slama and Burnett and Delaney in the wings. They also have Manship. Another castoff might matrialize. The Twins may even get Condrey back for a try again in 2011.

    The question remains, how much. And what kind of gamble do you take on the expensive guys.

    You go ahead and sign Capps. Let him be your reserve. Someone usually gets a lame closer by spring training end, so the Twins could be in a position to deal, depending on Nathan’s health. If they have Guerrier, Capps and Crain, youc an easily package one.

    Pavano is an interesting case. Offer him arbitration. He deserves a crack — unless it looks like he could get $12 million. Possible?

    The Twins should also consider trading two of the three — Baker, Blackburn and Slowey. Can they be replaced by other candidates from the B-free agent marker at lesser rates? I would actively shop Blackburn before he gets too expensive. Sadly, Baker and Slowey are considered “injured wait and see.”

    The biggest question is J.J. Hardy? Cheaper is you sign him 2-years? Would Plouffe really be ready by then? Casilla/Plouffe/Valencia is probably as good as we had this season, but something doesn’t excite me there.

    The other question is Kubel’s worth/ He he worth the msot now on the trading market? Bring back Thome? Add someone else who can play first if you have to DH Morneau more in 2011 (Morneau is the big question). Are we ready to make Cuddyer super-sub and put someone else in left, moving Young to right — not until 2012, I think. Cuddy, Span & Young in the OF, Thome DHing with Morneau and Mauer. Get another bench guy who can play 1st/3rd/DH (sounds like Cuddyer…so maybe get another outfielder). I would trade off Kubel.

    Twins have a ton of backups infielders. Plouffe, Tolbert, DInkleman, Singleton, Hughes just for starters. Toby Gardenhire gets his shot. Morales maybe? Will the Twins carry 3 catchers? Can Morales play 1st? If the Twins carry three catchers, more power to have Thome DH, spelled by Mauer and Morneau.

  8. Mark October 14, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    It is pretty obvious what the Twins will do.

    1. With a significant investment, at least from the Twins perspective, they will offer arbitration to Matt Capps. Capps will most likely be the Twins closer in 2011.

    2. Likewise, the Twins will offer arbitration to Jesse Crain and Matt Gueirrier. These two relivers appear in a lot of games so the $3-4 million they will cost is cheap. Over the long run of a season, usually one or the other of this pair has command of their pitches and are effective late inning relievers. The trick is not to overuse them and to have them be effective at the same time.

    3. Rauch and Fuentes are too expensive to offer arbitration and the team will decline. It would be nice to be able to have Fuentes in the bullpen, but at $8+ million/year there is no way it is going to happen unless they Capps declines arbitration. Even in that evenutality I doubt that the team sees Fuentes as a closer.

    4. The team will need to count on Jose Mijares to become an effective late inning set up pitcher. He has shown potential.

    5. Joe Nathan is still in the mix but likely will not be as effective as he has been in the past. Since he has a guaranteed contract, it is at least reasonable to hope that he will comeback as a very good set up man. Using him as a setup situations means that the team can manage his appearances and allow him to build up and maintain his arm strength. The Twins have always demonstrated good management of relief appearances and even “warm ups”. A right handed set up rotation of Nathan, Crain, and Gueirier could actually be very effective, particularly if Mijares also pitches well.

  9. Kunza October 15, 2010 at 6:43 am #

    I might think about going to Nathan and Capps and try to negotiation a longer contract. Why not go to Nathan and offer his 3 more years at $6-$8 million per year. Do the same with Capps – offer him 3 years at $6 to $8 million per year. Then, worst case scenario – you can move Capps during the season.

    Not quite sure if the numbers would make sense per year, but just an option?

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