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The Twins have a lot of decisions to make the 11:00 tonight. They have to determine if they will offer arbitration to the players that have more than three years of service time and less than six years of Major League service time. Although JJ Hardy is the name most mentioned, the Twins have to make decisions on ten other players. So although I think few of the decisions are difficult, here are some thoughts on each.
- JJ Hardy – I think it would be absolutely crazy to non-tender Hardy. Although there has been some movement in the shortstop market, Hardy would still fit the needs of several teams for 2011. He’s young, terrific with the glove and when healthy, adequate with the bat, at least at the bottom of an order. Even if they have no intention to keep him in 2011, they should tender a contract and then trade him. My preferred Opening Day lineup would include Hardy at SS and Nishioka at 2B with Casilla as the primary utility infielder. If Hardy is gone and either Casilla or Nishioka struggles, it’s Trevor Plouffe time. I’m a big Plouffe backer, but I wonder how many Twins fans would be. Decision – Easy. Tender him a contract, and go from there.
- Matt Capps – There should be more discussion about Capps, but there isn’t. Bill Smith has said that the team will bring back the right-hander. He is an interesting case. Although he was non-tendered after the 2009 season and signed with the Nationals for $3.5 million, he has some terrific save numbers the last two years. Saves equal dollars. So, will he jump up to $6 million in 2011, or could he jump up to $8 million? Capps is a very solid reliever. He does provide insurance if Joe Nathan is not ready to go early in the season (and odds are that he won’t be). But compare what Capps is to what Jon Rauch is, and tell me why the Twins should give Capps that kind of money. I understand that the team needs to keep Capps, in part, because they gave up Wilson Ramos to get him. But at what cost? However, with the Twins bullpen potentially decimated with the loss of so many free agents and an acknowledgement that the team will not turn the bullpen over to its talented/inexperienced minor leaguers, bringing back Capps is a no-brainer. I’d just prefer Crain for the money.
- Francisco Liriano – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
- Delmon Young – Speaking of no-brainers, the only question here is whether or not to negotiate a long-term contract.
- Alexi Casilla – Whether or not people have confidence that he can be a quality everyday player at SS or 2B, Casilla showed in 2010 that he can play both positions defensively, he can fill in for an extended time period, and he can put together decent at bats. This is another no-brainer since he could be a starting option and he is certainly a top utility option. He also won’t cost very much.
- Kevin Slowey – There is no question that Slowey has terrific talent. The main problem the last two years has been staying healthy. In 2009, he missed time with a wrist injury that carried into 2010. He also was having problems in the back of his arm. When you look at his numbers, and no, I’m not talking about his terrific W-L record, he has performed as a middle-of-the-rotation type. It’s hard to complain with an ERA in the low-4s from a guy who was the team’s 4th or 5th starter much of the year. The problem last year was his inability to work consistently into the 6th inning, much less the 7th or 8th innings. It’s an easy choice to tender Slowey a contract. It will likely be about $2 to $2.5 million.
- Pat Neshek – This could be an interesting decision. As much as it would be a no-brainer for me to tender Neshek a contract, I don’t know which direction the Twins will lean. I tend to look back at 2006 and 2007 and think about just how dominant he was. Since then, he hurt his elbow in May of 2008, and instead of having Tommy John surgery right away, the Twins decided that rest and rehab might be a proper plan. In November, Neshek had Tommy John surgery. He missed all of 2009, and came back in Spring Training. He pitched well enough that he earned a spot on the Twins Opening Day roster. Neshek hurt his hand early in the season and after a DL stint, he was optioned to Rochester where he stayed until September. Like Liriano, I would expect that Neshek will be significantly improved in 2011, his second full season back from Tommy John surgery. For less than $750K, I’d be willing to take that chance.
- Glen Perkins – This is another interesting decision. Perkins showed signs a couple of years ago, that he could be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter. The left-hander has fought injuries and dog house time the last couple of seasons. Last year was a really tough year for Perkins down in Rochester until about three weeks before the Twins called him up. If tendered, Perkins could compete for a long-relief job. My fear would be that he would also be competing for a left-handed reliever job, and he can’t get left-handed hitters out. Again, we are talking about a 2011 contract that would be around $750,000, and the Twins need arms in the bullpen. The tough part is that he is out of options, so if he doesn’t earn the job out of spring training, he could be lost for nothing or would make the team because he has to. This one is 50/50 for me, but again, I probably would tender a contract and hope.
- Jason Repko – The Twins signed Repko a day or two before the AAA season started and he played terrific for the Red Wings. Offensively, he was their best hitter, and he was terrific with the glove. The Twins called him up to be a fourth outfielder and he played well early, even hit a couple of home runs. Can’t hit much, but his defense in the Twins outfield was tremendous. I think they tender him a contract, and guarantee him about $650,000.
- Clay Condrey – Condrey was kind of the forgotten member of the Twins roster. The team signed him last offseason for just $900,000 after the Phillies decided to non-tender him. He had pitched well out of the Phillies bullpen during their run from 2006-2009, but as a non-strikeout pitcher, they didn’t want to give him the $2+ million he may have received in arbitration last year. He came to Twins spring training and struggled. The groundball pitcher was giving up doubles and home runs. Something wasn’t right, and he was shut down with a shoulder injury that cost him the entire 2010 season. The assumption by many is that he won’t be back. I don’t know that that is true or fair. People can call the signing a bad one because the results were a season missed with injury. However, it doesn’t take away from what Condrey is. He is a veteran with big league bullpen experience, including in the playoffs and World Series. He is a ground ball pitcher. He is the type of pitcher that the Twins should sign. And in 2011, they may be able to get him to agree to a $750,000 contract. If they think they can, they should tender him a contract. If not, they can cut ties.
So there you have it, a couple of thoughts on the players that the Twins have to tender contracts to by 11:00 tonight or lose. I’d be interested in your input, so please feel free to discuss (nicely) in the Comments section. By the way, in the last couple of days, I’ve been talking about the Twins on the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast, on The Dan Hammer Show yesterday on The Fan 740 in Fargo, and last night The Twins Geek and I joined the Fanatic Jack Twins Podcast. Be sure to listen to those if you haven’t already.
PODCAST ANNOUNCEMENT – In my podcast on Tuesday night, I announced that I am going to host special SethSpeaks.net Twins/Winter Meetings podcasts each night from Sunday night through Thursday night. Be sure to check daily for the show’s times (likely 10:00 central time). The shows will be a half-hour in length, and I will be joined by a guest each night to talk about the day’s signings, Twins rumors, AL Central rumors, trades and anything Twins fans want to discuss. We will definitely want your feedback and questions in the chat room for those shows. I am lining up guests, but at this point, Aaron Gleeman and Phil Mackey have confirmed that they will be on one of the nights each. Mackey will be in Orlando, at the Winter Meetings. It should be fun.