Good morning, Twins Fans! I was up early this morning and finished up the first draft of my Twins Prospect article that will be in the Twins 2011 Annual, by the Maple Street Press and TwinsCentric, which will be available in newstands and online in February. Today, I just want to post some Twins notes that I’ve got running through my head. What Twins topics are on your mind. Feel free to discuss our favorite team here.
SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast
On last night’s Twins podcast, I was joined by two Twins minor league pitching prospects. Right-hander Carlos Gutierrez and left-hander Tony Davis joined the podcast, and it was fun to talk to them. Gutierrez talked about his season, starting and pitching out of the bullpen, the Arizona Fall League, his pitches and much more. Davis told us about his high school and college career, getting drafted by the Twins and his development over his two seasons with the Twins. In the final ten or fifteen minutes, we talked with Fanatic Jack about some Twins offseason topics. It was a fun show, so hopefully you will listen and enjoy it. Please also note that I have changed the time of the show to Tuesday nights at 9:00 central time (instead of 10), so hopefully more people will be able to listen live and comment or call in.
GUTIERREZ ON BULLPEN
On the podcast last night, Carlos Gutierrez and I spent quite a bit of time discussing his thoughts on pitching in the bullpen, as opposed to starting. The discussion was really interesting and I would encourage people to listen to it, in full, as there were several other topics discussed as well.
At the Winter Meetings, the Star Tribune’s LaVelle E. Neal asked Twins GM Bill Smith if Gutierrez would stay in the bullpen or still might start, and of course, Smith said nothing, stating that it was up to the coaches to determine. I thought it would be interesting to get the opinions of Gutierrez himself on what he would like to do. Here are some excerpts from the discussion:
Gutierrez: “after the All Star break, I got moved to the bullpen, and that’s where I felt at home.”
Gutierrez: “the stuff I was working on as a starter was good, working on secondary pitches. It’s all going to help me while in the bullpen.”
Gutierrez: “Nobody has actually come out and told me straight to my face that ‘you’re going to the bullpen for good,” but that’s what’s going around.”
Gutierrez: “ever since I’ve been drafted, the final product everybody wanted was in the bullpen.”
Gutierrez: “The bullpen’s worked out pretty good and that’s the way we’re going now.”
Gutierrez: “Definitely. I’d do anything they want me to do, but that’s (bullpen) where I had my success in the past and where I had my success this year. So we’ll see where that takes us.”
Gutierrez: “(as a) reliever, you’ve got to be ready to go out every day. I kind of like that better. You can get roughed up one day and you get put out there the next day and put the past behind you faster, so in that sense, I like relieving better, as opposed to starting.”
Gutierrez: “I do like coming into an inning and getting out of somebody else’s mess.”
Gutierrez: “being a ground ball pitcher, <…>getting a DP (double play) and getting out of an inning is great.”
Sounds like a guy who knows what he would like to do, but is willing to continue starting if that’s what the organization deems appropriate for his development. However, his future definitely appears to be in the bullpen. These quotes were a small piece of the interview. We also talked a lot about what he throws, pitching in the Arizona Fall League, his brother being drafted (twice) and signing with the Twins, and his plan for getting ready for the 2011 season. To listen to the whole show, click here.
TWINS SIGN MORE MINOR LEAGUE VETERANS
On Monday, the Twins and Rochester Red Wings announced six more minor league signings. I actually tweeted this on Monday afternoon. (For those of you who aren’t following me on Twitter, consider it. I post there more often just because it’s easy. News like this is easy to tweet in 15 seconds and then blog when I have time. To follow me on Twitter, click here.) This has definitely been a theme this offseason. The Twins are trying to give the fans in Rochester a winning product, something that they didn’t do last year. They previously had signed the likes of Jeff Bailey, Chase Lambin and Yorman Bazardo. Here are some quick blurbs on the six guys that the Twins signed (or at least announced signing) this week:
- Infielder Ray Chang – 27 year old who spent 2010 primarily playing 3B for the Red Sox AA affliate.
- Infielder Matt Brown – 28 year old who played 15 games for the Angels in 2007 and 2008. He went 1-24 in the big leagues. He hit .249 wit h18 doubles, five triples and ten home runs in 79 games with Oklahoma City, AAA affiliate of the Rangers.
- Catcher Rene Rivera – In 2004, Rivera was 20 years old and called up to the Mariners and held his own. In 2005, he was supposed to be their heir apparent. It didn’t go well. He got another small chance in 2006. In 53 total big league games over those three years, he played 54 big league games. He was a backup catcher for the Yankees AA and AAA affliates in 2010. Now 27, Rivera hopes to compete for playing time in the Twins minor leagues.
- Catcher Steve Holm – The 31 year old has spent the last decade in the Giants system. He played in 53 games for them in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, he hit .246 with their AAA affliates.
- LHP Chuck James – The 29 year old went 24-19 with a 4.48 ERA with the Braves between 2005 and 2008. Injuries cost him some time. In 2010, he split time between the Nationals AA affiliate and made five AAA starts. He combined to go 10-1.
- RHP Andy Baldwin – The 28 year old Minnesota native has pitched for Tacoma, the Mariners’ AAA affiliate, the last three years. He has pitched as a starter and out of the bullpen. Aaron Gleeman tweeted this signing a month ago.
Rochester and New Britain were really bad last year. The Twins clearly have made an attempt to improve those rosters. I also think it is an indictment on some of the Twins prospects at those levels. Maybe they didn’t advance as quickly or as well as the Twins had hoped. Signing veterans is a good way to keep your prospects from being pushed too quickly as well. Guys like Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg and Ben Revere’s careers and path won’t be affected by these signings. Last year, Deolis Guerra was pitching really well for the New Britain Rockcats. Unfortunately, he needed to be promoted to Rochester for a few starts. It went poorly and when he returned to Double-A, he never regained his stuff. Signing veterans keeps that from happening. None of these six players will likely contribute much to the Twins, if anything at all, but they can help the affiliates and help the prospects from moving too quickly.
Now that Cliff Lee is signed, I would imagine that Carl Pavano will want to sign relatively quickly. Obviously a team like the Rangers who went all-in on Lee and lost could now turn to Pavano. My guess is that Pavano will have some official offers within the next two or three days, and hopefully he will make a decision by the end of the week, or at least before Christmas.
Pavano was held up by Cliff Lee’s decision. The Twins have been held up to some degree by Carl Pavano’s decision. I sense, maybe fear, that the Twins will be the team that Pavano signs with in the end. That isn’t to say that I think signing Pavano is a bad thing. I’ve said since the middle of the summer that I would offer him a 2 year, $18 million contract, and include an option if needed. My fear is that what he did in 2010 is his peak. He had a great year. It would be hard to replace his 221 innings last year. I’d love to get draft picks, but if Pavano is brought back at a reasonable contract (length and years), I won’t be upset.
There are some rumors that Thome is looking for a two-year contract, as he should be. And the Twins have given no doubt that they would love to have him back. I know some people want to combine the two topics and say that the Twins and Thome are close to a two-year deal. I have not heard that at all. As for my thoughts on Thome, sure, I’d like to see him come back (for one year). Great guy. Great clubhouse presence. Great power hitter. Approaching 600 home runs. I would be concerned if the dollars are too high though. If Justin Morneau is back and healthy, and Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer play like they can, Thome will be on the bench, in the role he was signed for last year. If that’s the case, I think a right-handed bat might make more sense. Of course, the Twins could trade someone like Kubel if they decide to bring back Thome, I guess. I wouldn’t. The Twins bench right now would be Drew Butera, Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert and one more spot. I like Thome, but the bench has not improved.
And that’s my biggest point on resigning Pavano and/or Thome. We want the team to be better, and signing them does not make them better. It makes them the same, assuming they play like they did last year, which I think is a stretch. To this point, the Twins have added Nishioka and a bunch of minor league veterans while losing JJ Hardy, Orlando Hudson and most of their bullpen.
My biggest point is that there are still two months until pitchers and catchers report, and we don’t know how all of this will play out. Pavano’s decision is really the first step to all of that. What will happen after that decision, none of us know. But as of right now, it’s hard for the most optimistic of Twins bloggers to be to excited about the Twins offseason. If the Twins sign Jose Veras and Hideki Okajima in the next week, maybe they are able to bring back Matt Guerrier, I’ll be happy. I would never advocate making a move just to make a move. That’s worse than not making a move at all. The Twins have a very good team as is, but there are areas that can certainly be improved.
Finally, I really believe it is a matter of when the Twins sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka. They have until December 26 and negotiations hardly seem contentious.
So there you have it, a lot of Twins information and thoughts. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts, opinions or ideas for the Twins. Thanks for reading!