Monday Twins Notes

20 Dec

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Good Monday morning, Twins Fans! Thanks again for stopping by I think I have this site figured out, although I am using a different system that I just don’t know well at all yet, so bear with me. Today, I’ll just cover a few topics to start off the week.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka Signs and Meets Press

On Thursday afternoon, it became known that the Twins and Tsuyoshi Nishioka had reached an agreement on a three-year contract. There was no surprise because he was not going to travel to Minnesota without having general terms figured out. The press conference was shown live on, and it was interesting to watch. After answering a question from LaVelle E. Neal, Nishioka wanted to make a quick statement. Impressively, he spoke in English. He introduced himself and said he was happy to be in the Twins family. The rest of his statements and comments were interpreted by a translator. Asked about his role, he said that he sees his job as trying to touch home plate as much as possible. Asked whether he has a preference to play shortstop or second base, he came back with a great Twins answer, that he is still new to the team and will do whatever the manager wants him to do, but he will prepare for both. In fact, if the manager wants him to be the ball boy, he will do so happily. It was fun to watch. Bill Smith specifically talked about how important it was for the Twins to be recognized in Japan. Ron Gardenhire congratulated the UMD Bulldogs who won the Division II National Championship for the second time in the last three years.

So, now Nishioka is signed, about a week before the deadline. Obviously he will start at either shortstop or second base. It was good to see his wife, Naoka Tokuzawa, who is a model. Nishioka is a celebrity as well, and I am sure you have seen his Adidas commercials over the past year or two from Japan. This is a nice signing. I am thinking a .700 OPS would be about what I would expect. He has a nice, smooth swing. He does have a good glove. He isn’t Ichiro ,but that isn’t to say he can’t be a very solid contributor to a winning team. He also has the speed thing that Gardy and Bill Smith have talked about. Fans and stat-heads can talk about UZR and OPS and such, and I’m right there with them. But think about this… how many times during the course of a season will JJ Hardy be on 1B with two outs and not be able to score on a double? Nishioka will be about to score on that. Is it 10 runs a year? 5? 15? I know that’s not a measurable statistic, but it is a fair point to bring up.

Zach Greinke Traded to Milwaukee

Late on Saturday night, Jim Breen of the blog Bernie’s Crew posted a blog saying that he was hearing a lot of rumors about a trade bringing Greinke to the Brewers. In fact, he was specific enough to say that what he was hearing was that the Brewers would get Greinke and shortstop Yunieski Betancourt from the Royals in exchange for shortstop Alcides Escobar, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and minor league pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi. Many didn’t buy the reports because it came from a blogger, as opposed to someone from the main stream media. After it became official, Breen tweeted that he had received upset phone calls from people with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the paper that hosts Bernie’s Crew, unhappy with the blog posting. In the end, I was happy to see the blog get its due on ESPN’s bottom line and SportsCenter and around the Twitter universe and more places.

So, the Brewers get the 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner with a lot to prove. He was incredible in 2009, and just mediocre in 2010. He can be dominant, but playing with the Royals, it may be difficult to find it every time out. Greinke should do well the next two years, although it certainly isn’t a slam dunk, and who knows how he will respond should the Brewers become a contender. Now, based on their rotation, the Brewers should be in contention in the NL Central. Their starting rotation will be Yovani Gallardo, Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. It should help their against a Cardinals’ rotation that features Adam Wainright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook. I’m not sure that either competes with the Phillies (Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt) or the Giants (Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner), but they are very good. The Brewers certainly are “going for it” this offseason, likely coming to the realization that they will not be able to rid themselves of Prince Fielder for what they would be looking for in return. So, they will try to win by putting together an impressive pitching staff to surround the likes of Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, etc. Note that the Brewers gave up their top hitting prospect, Brett Lawrie, to acquire Shawn Marcum from Toronto. Of course, the Royals also got the Brewers to take back Yunieski Betancourt, who is coming off of his best season since 2007 (a .692 OPS despite 16 homers).

So, what did the Royals get in return? Escobar is a very good glove at shortstop. He is the reason that the Brewers were willing to trade JJ Hardy a year ago. Offensively, he posted a .614 OPS, so he may not contribute much with the bat. Lorenzo Cain is a very good defensive centerfielder. In his 158 plate appearances with the Brewers, he hit .306/.348/.415 with 11 doubles and a homer. He began the season at AA and in 62 games, he hit .324/.409/.434 with 15 extra base hits. He moved up to AAA and in 22 games, he hit .299/.384/.425. He appears to have a little bit of a future, whether it is right away as a 25 year old big leaguer in 2011 or within the next year. Jeremy Jeffress pitched 18 games between Hi-A and AA in 2010, and then made ten relief appearances for the Brewers at the end of the season. The guy has a million dollar arm. He was the team’s 1st round pick in 2006 and legitimately throws 100 mph. But he has a ten cent head. The guy has been suspended twice for a “drug of abuse.” The first failed test is a warning. The second failed test is a 50 game suspension. In 2009, he was suspended for 100 games for his third failed test. One more failed test, and he faces a lifetime ban from baseball. Finally, Jake Odorizzi, the team’s 1st round pick in 2008, was also part of the trade. He was recently named the team’s top prospect and went 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA in the Midwest League. The 20 year old has upside, but he is obviously the furthest from the big leagues. So, the Royals definitely got some talent, and three of the players have big league service time already. The Royals already had baseball’s top minor league system, and this trade only helps that.

So the question I got asked throughout Sunday was could the Twins have sent an equivalent package to the Royals in exchange for Greinke. The first answer to that question is No, the Royals weren’t going to trade Greinke to the Twins unless the package was completely overwhelming. But getting beyond that simple fact… who are some comparables? The Twins don’t have a player in their system comparable to Alcides Escobar. He’s young and plays terrific defense. Not much offense. I’ve said Nishioka might be a nice comparable, although Escobar is about three years younger. Ben Revere could be a comparable to Lorenzo Cain in that he did spend a month with the Twins, but Revere is not as good defensively and does not have any power. Cain has never hit more than 11 homers in any minor league season, but that’s still significantly more power than Revere. Joe Benson might be a comparable in a year if he continues to progress. In fact, Benson has much more upside than Cain does, but he’s just not there yet. Jeffress throws hard, so the only comparable Twins minor leaguer would be Carlos Gutierrez who got into two games for Rochester last year, so he’s about a year behind Jeffress. Gutierrez may not have quite Jeffress’s upside, but he is a lot less risky. Odorizzi is the Brewers top pitching prospect. Kyle Gibson is the top Twins prospect. Gibson is better than any of the prospects that the Royals got, and he was a college draft pick so he should be more advanced. The best comparable to Odorizzi that I can think of would probably be Adrian Salcedo.

So, there really isn’t a good comparable trade, but maybe something like Kyle Gibson, Ben Revere, Carlos Gutierrez and Tsuyoshi Nishioka would be on par with the deal? Even if you replace Gibson with Salcedo, the package would be a lot to give up for a guy who had a great 2009 and a mediocre 2010.

Ricky Nolasco Signs Extension with Marlins

Another pitcher whose name Twins fans have throw out as thinking the Twins should acquire is Ricky Nolasco of the Florida Marlins. Last night, he signed a three year, $26.5 million deal with the Marlins, so most likely he would not be available.

What Happens with Carl Pavano?

So where does all this leave Carl Pavano? Does it make the Twins more likely to be his final destination? With Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies, Nolasco re-upping with the Marlins and Greinke being traded to the Brewers, Pavano remains the most sought-after free agent starting pitcher. The Brewers were one of the teams said to be very much in on discussions to sign him, but with additions of Marcum and Greinke, it’s hard to believe that they would be interested any more. The Tigers have shown interest, but not at more than one year. The Nationals apparently are sticking to a one year offer. The Rangers were said to be considering Pavano as a backup plan to Cliff Lee, but to this point there are no indications that they are showing the interest. Yesterday, a rumor came out that the Pirates might have some interest.

The general overriding theme is that it appears more and more with each transaction that it is becoming more and more likely that Pavano will return to the Twins. IF there are not other teams that are even offering two years, the Twins should feel good about offering two years, and even throwing in an option for 2013. Completely guessing, I would think that Pavano would want a deal done before the holidays which means in the first half of this week. Of course, the ongoing attempts by the Rays to rid themselves of Matt Garza could play into that as well. 

Blog Spotting

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Please feel free to Comment in the Comment section.


7 Responses to “Monday Twins Notes”

  1. mike wants wins December 20, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    Royals’ trade looks a lot like the Santana trade. I don’t get the “trade for a lot of players and hope one of them works out” concept. You’d think you could get one proven, young, MLB player for Greinke. I don’t think this helps the Twins much, as they beat up on Greinke last year anyway, but I do think it is a high risk, medium reward, trade for KC.

    I still don’t get why the Rangers have not signed Pavano….the fact that they have not actually makes me nervous. I do think he’ll be a Twin, 2 year deal, with a 3rd year team options, $3MM buyout….for about $23MM total guaranteed.

    That would make the Twins likely to deal Baker, Blackburn or Slowey. I’d like to see one of them and Kubel and prospect packaged for a legit 2B/SS/RH DH, OF, but I dont’ see it happening.

  2. mike wants wins December 20, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    That said, I think KC got more likely to perform prospects than did MN. These guys appear to have higher upside than anyone the Twins got.

  3. Seth December 20, 2010 at 11:04 am #

    I can’t agree with that. Carlos Gomez had the world of upside. So much that there are still some people who think he might eventually get there. Guerra had a ton of upside when he was an 18 year old in the FSL when the trade happened, and frankly, he still does. Mulvey was a guy who had pitched well in AAA a year after hee was drafted. And Humber was the #4 guy. So, I don’t think it’s fair to say that. I don’t think any of these guys have as much potential as Gomez and Guerra did.

  4. gobbledy December 20, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    “…and not be able to score on a double?” this speed thing is great but with morneau, young, kubel, cuddles, thome and a few others the speed doesn’t do much good if you are on base behind any of these guys. much rather see some speed in the outfield. that’s why i think milledge would be a good pick up, young or cuddy can dh against lefties and he can play a corner. he hits lefties good and would make the outfield d much better when in there. much better hitter than repko, a year younger than span with a better carrer ops+ than span. a little more bench speed pick up guzzie as the extra infielder he can still hit and could be a good fall back guy.

  5. TT December 20, 2010 at 11:38 am #

    “You’d think you could get one proven, young, MLB player for Greinke.”

    You could. But not with a championship quality upside. The Brewers are getting him for two years and paying him $27 million. With that investment in the short term, they aren’t going to trade away players who will provide a lot of help in the next two years.

    “These guys appear to have higher upside than anyone the Twins got.”

    Perhaps. But they probably won’t appear that way in a couple years. The same way Guerra is no longer a fan favorite.

  6. mike wants wins December 20, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    TT, I agree with that, that’s why I’d rather trade for a current MLB player, not a bunch of “maybe” players.

    Seth: I do remember people being high on Guerra, but I don’t recall people being all that high on anyone else in the deal. My recollection on Gomez was that people were disapointed it wasn’t FMart. I could be remembering that wrongly, though. Frankly, I’m underwhelmed with what the Brewers gave up, but BA does have one guy as their #1 prospect, and one as the #3 prospect, so someone feels there is upside there.

  7. writingfordigital December 20, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    The Greinke trade pretty much guarantees that Pavano is coming back. I’ve read a lot of reports from the other GMs interested in Pavano that it was between the Twins and Brewers. I think the Breweres were bluffing to try to drive the price down on Grienke. It appears to work. I had to debunk tons of rumors of packages like Gibson/Hicks/Wimmers/Sano for Greinke on TwinkieTown. I would have hesitated to trade any of those guys for him straight up, considering his cost and the fact that he’s only had one great year.

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