Please note that I am having technical difficulties at www.SethSpeaks.net and have not been able to post there the last few days. Hopefully the situation can be resolved quickly.
I was driving in my car yesterday when I heard the news that Matt Guerrier was going to the Dodgers, with a 3 year, $12 million contract in his back pocket. Although I thought he was the one 2010 Twins reliever that could come back, I was thrilled for the guy. He has pitched in at least 72 games each of the last four years. Yes, he has had a couple of hiccups, but considering 1.) how often he pitched and 2.) how many big situations he came into, he did a great job for the Twins. Really, he has done well in whatever role the Twins have asked. When they acquired him, and he was out of options, he was in long relief, and a spot starter, and he pitched well in that role. By 2006, he and Pat Neshek were both getting 8th inning duties. There is a reason Gardy went to him so often. He got the job done. And he was remarkably durable. Frankly, relievers don’t pitch well and stay healthy for the length of time that Guerrier has.
So, I am happy for Guerrier, that he got a lot of offers, and in the end, got a very nice contract. He absolutely deserved it. I think that the Twins were smart not to go to those years or those dollars with him. But nevertheless, Guerrier will be missed.
I had just come in from cleaning my garage last night when I read a couple of tweets on my phone about Jesse Crain. I got to my computer and in those two minutes, it became official. Jesse Crain was signing a three year contract to pitch for the hated White Sox. Wow! I was in awe for quite some time. I was frustrated. The Twins lost their best relief pitcher… to the White Sox! How does that happen? I knew he wasn’t coming back to the Twins. But we had heard that the Rockies and Blue Jays were interested in him. We had heard that the Diamondbacks might be interested. But the White Sox?
Ozzie Guillen loves Jesse Crain, even though it was Crain that essentially ended the White Sox dream of coming back and beating the Twins in the AL Central last year. Twins fans won’t soon forget when Crain came in with runners on and a one-run lead. He struck out Paul Konerko and Manny Ramirez, and that was that.
Some Twins fans choose to remember the “Crain-Wreck” monicker, one I never understood. I’ve always been a big Crain backer because of how good he was early in his career, and how decent he was the year after shoulder surgery. But 2009 was really bad. There is no questioning that. He was sent to the minors, but then he came back in September and didn’t allow a run the entire month. In 2010, he had three or four bad games in early May, and Twins fans gave up on him. In fact, in mid-May, in podcasts, I was finally giving in as well and saying it was just time for a change of scenery. However, I also noted that if they release him, the Brewers might pick him up. They needed a closer, and the Twins had to play the Crew six times. There was never any questioning of Crain’s stuff. I liked to reference the 96 mph fastball, with an 89 mph slider and a 76 mph curveball. The stuff was always there.
And then came May 20th. From then on, he was the best relief pitcher in baseball (except maybe the inexplicable Joaquin Benoit). He started pitching backwards. He would lead with the slow curveball, or the slider, and he would keep going to it. That only made the 96 mph fastball look faster. He made hitters look silly the rest of the year. Sure, negative Twins fans will point out the one bad pitch he did make, in a fairly important 10-pitch at bat against Mark Teixeira in Game 1 of the ALDS that Tex drilled into the right field bleachers. That’s fair. He hung one. But the ridiculous comments I hear and read about how he just teases you and then when it matters, he lets you down. Well, again, disappointing as the Teixeira home run was, I would take my chances with Jesse Crain any day of the week, against anyone.
We found out now that he signed a three year deal worth about $13 million with the White Sox. Good money, and yet less than I thought he might get. Of course, in the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I said they should sign him to a three year, $12 million deal.
Now, again, I was not advocating the Twins should overpay for Crain, and I was resigned to the fact that he was not coming back to the Twins. My frustration was that he went to the White Sox. The White Sox now have a bullpen, even after non-tendering Bobby Jenks, that includes Crain, Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and Sergio Santos. That in addition to their normally-strong starting rotation and their newly improved lineup. Kenny Williams and the White Sox have had a tremendous offseason.
Meanwhile the Twins have lost their two best relief pitchers, won’t bring back Brian Fuentes and probably Jon Rauch, traded their starting shortstop and signed a whole bunch of 27-31 year old minor league veterans who will fill the New Britain and Rochester rosters.
Yes, I am feeling that it is likely that the Twins will bring back Carl Pavano and Jim Thome. That’s fine. They’re both solid. I think Pavano has another decent year in him, but if he gets a three year deal, that’s scary. Should Jim Thome get a two year deal? What additional trades will happen if those two come back? Will they deal Kevin Slowey? Would they trade Jason Kubel? I like Pavano and Thome and both were awesome in 2010.
Sign Jose Veras, as Jesse Crain light. Sign Hideki Okajima as a left-handed reliever and assistant for Tsuyoshi Nishioka? Give me something to be excited about. I was talking with a good friend and a big Twins fan last night who said that after the excitement of last offseason (When admittedly a few big moves happened in late January!), the payroll, Target Field, and the excitement for another step forward in 2011, he is apathetic toward the Twins right now. I couldn’t counter. It’s hard to disagree. I would NEVER advocate making a move just to make a move. But there are still players out there who can make this team better.
I know this is coming across as negative. It should. But there are still reasons to be positive. The White Sox are clearly now the favorites in the AL Central. No question about that. But the Twins have seemed to have their number in recent years, at home and at US Cellular. The Twins have Joe Mauer. The Twins are hoping for a full season from Justin Morneau. Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel and Denard Span should all improve upon their 2010 seasons. Can Delmon Young take another step forward? Can Francisco Liriano take another step forward so that no one questions if he is an ace or not. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn have to step up. Can Brian Duensing be this good? And can we really expect Joe Nathan to be back at 100% early in the season?
There is no reason to think that the Twins won’t again be very good in 2011. This is a very good team. I’m always the first to say that there are still two months before pitchers and catchers report. But now I’m just starting to wonder, “What is the plan?” What’s the plan? Because I really can’t see one. I know, it’s not my job to know everything. I don’t need to. Do we just trust the Twins front office, that they have a plan and they are going to make moves to improve a team? I guess we don’t really have a choice, do we?