Archive | JJ Hardy RSS feed for this section

2011 Twins Predictions

1 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Thursday was officially Opening Day, and I have to admit, it was a strange day for me. First, it was on a Thursday for the first time. I had enough troubles with ESPN getting a Sunday night season opener, after Opening Day had always just been a Monday thing. MLB decided to start the season three or four days earlier in an attempt to keep the World Series out of November. Second, the Twins didn’t play on Opening Day. Only 12 teams did. So, I guess all I can say is:

Happy Minnesota Twins Opening Day to you!

Predictions are always fun because at the end of the year, I can pick and choose which ones I will remind you that I made. Or, if they’re that far off, I can forget to remind you about my picks and hopefully you won’t remind me too often. Below are some predictions, some more bold than others, for the 2011 Minnesota Twins season with some other predictions randomly thrown in.

2011 MINNESOTA TWINS PROJECTIONS

  • Matt Capps will record twice as many saves as Joe Nathan.
  • Joe Mauer will hit less than .320, but he will hit more than 40 doubles and more than 16 home runs. He will win his fourth straight, and fifth total, Silver Slugger Award.
  • Justin Morneau will post an OPS of just over .880.
  • Delmon Young will:
    • Hit over .300.
    • Hit more than 28 home runs
    • Drive in more than 120 runs
    • Post an OPS of less than .900.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka will post an OPS of over .720 and steal more than 25 bases. He will also deserve to win the AL Gold Glove, but he won’t because Robinson Cano is a really good hitter.
  • Alexi Casilla’s OPS will be within .030 of JJ Hardy’s. He will also be within 2.0 UZR of the former Twins shortstop.
  • The date that I will stop watching the Twins on FSN with the volume on will be April 6th.
  • Denard Span will post an OBP over .370. He will steal more than 30 bases.
  • Michael Cuddyer will lead the Twins with more than 40 doubles. He will also top 20 home runs.
  • Danny Valencia will post an OPS greater than .820 with more than 32 doubles and more than 15 home runs.
  • Jim Thome will NOT post an OPS of over 1.000 again in 2011. In fact, he won’t post a .900 OPS. He will hit less than 15 home runs but more than the 11 home runs he needs to reach career home runs number 600.
    • Let’s go on a limb and say that he will his Home Run #600 on August 24th at Target Field in the 2nd inning off of Jake Arrieta.
  • Carl Pavano will throw 200 innings, but his ERA will be over 4.40.
  • Francisco Liriano will throw less than 190 innings with an ERA over 3.50 and a K-rate less than 8.5 per nine innings.
  • Brian Duensing will throw 175+ innings with an ERA of under 4.25.
  • Nick Blackburn will throw more than 210 innings with an ERA just under 4.00.
  • Scott Baker will throw 190+ innings with an ERA under 4.20.
  • Kevin Slowey will not make a start for the Twins in 2011, and he will average more than a strikeout per inning
  • I will be wrong about one of the five starters pitching well, Kyle Gibson will make his Twins debut on June 18 at Target Field against the Padres.
  • Joe Mauer and Delmon Young will represent the Twins at the All-Star game.
  • The Twins will open their 2011 home schedule with a 3-4 record, including a split against the Yankees at Yankees Stadium.
  • Ron Gardenhire will be ejected eight times in 2011.
  • No Twins hitter will top 30 home runs, however, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young will come close, while Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel will hit over 22 each.

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (Projected)

Minnesota Twins        93-69

Chicago White Sox      91-71

Detroit Tigers              80-82

Cleveland Indians        72-90

Kansas City Royals     63-99

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

AL Central – Minnesota Twins (2)

AL East – Boston Red Sox (1)

AL West – Oakland A’s (3)

Wild Card – Chicago White Sox (4)

ALDS: Boston over Chicago in 4 games, Oakland over Minnesota (in 5 games, the A’s rotation contains lefties Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, and the bullpen has Brian Fuentes, Craig Breslow and Bobby Cramer. The Twins have not addressed their need for a right-handed bat. Unless they do, it could be another one and done.)

ALCS – Boston over Oakland in 5 games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (3)

NL East – Atlanta Braves (2)

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers (1)

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NLDS: Braves over Brewers in 4 games. Phillies over Dodgers in 4 games.

NLCS: Braves over Phillies in 7 games.

WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

                Braves over Red Sox in 6 games.

 What are your predictions for the 2011 season, for the Twins or the league. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

——————————————————–

  • TWINS MINOR LEAGUE WEEKLY PODCAST LAST NIGHTNIGHT – If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, check out Twins Minor League Weekly podcast from last night. Travis Aune and I will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. Last night, we discussed the projected rosters and picks to click for the Rochester Red Wings and New Britain Rockcats. We started talking about the Ft. Myers Miracle when the 45 minute podcast abruptly came to an end. Next Thursday, we’ll discuss minor league opening night and continue to look at the Miracle and Snappers rosters.
Advertisements

Blogger Duel: The JJ Hardy Trade

9 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

This JJ Hardy trade that sent the oft-injured, but better-than-big-league-average shortstop to the Baltimore Orioles (with Brendan Harris and a half-million dollars) in exchange for relievers James Hoey and Brett Jacobson certainly has people talking. As you would expect, I’m kind of lukewarm on the trade, but I want to link two different yet both very interesting angles on the trade.

Check out both John Bonnes’s blog from today and Nick Nelson’s blog from today. I think both will make you think, and then you can decide for yourself. Before Commenting, be sure to read both of the above articles.

Twins to Trade Hardy to Orioles

9 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Just after midnight central time, it came out that the Twins are very close to trading JJ Hardy to the Orioles. Rumors arose on Wednesday afternoon that the Twins may be dealing Hardy to Baltimore for two minor league relievers, but soon after, word came that the teams had much more to discuss. When the more formal announcement was made late last night, Hardy was traded with Brendan Harris in exchange for relief pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson. As this transaction becomes more formal, and if there are any updates or edits, I will make them.

For the last month, the Twins have continued to speak on and on about this need for speed. They then added Tsuyoshi Nishioka  to the mix when they bid over $5 million just to negotiate with him. They have also committed to giving Alexi Casilla an opportunity to be an everyday player. It is assumed Casilla would play SS and Nishioka would play second base, although that will be determined this spring.

Although Twins fans, myself included, would love to get more for one of the top shortstops in the league, it is pretty clear that this is all the Twins could get and they decided to settle for it. I think that the Twins made the decision that they wanted to go a different direction than Hardy after he missed 60 games in 2010. They truly want to add speed. I actually don’t think that trading Hardy is a salary dump alone. Getting Brendan Harris added to the deal, assuming that the O’s are picking up Hardy and Harris’s contracts, is just a great job by Bill Smith. That’s an extra $1.75 million that the Twins would have had to play regardless. As I said all along, I think the idea situation was to have JJ Hardy at shortstop with Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second base and Alexi Casilla as the utilty player. I also am a realist and knew that was pretty unlikely.

What do we know about the two relievers coming to the Twins?

Brett Jacobson – A 6-6, 205 pound right-hander, Jacobson throws hard. He hits between 95 and 98 with his fastball. He was the team’s fourth-round pick in 2008 out of the University of Vanderbilt. He was traded in 2009 from the Tigers to the Orioles in the Aubrey Huff deal. He went back to Hi-A in 2010 to work on his secondary pitches, and he was very good. He is the type of power arm that the Twins should be looking for. He just turned 24 years old in November and should advance quickly in 2011.

Jim Hoey – He was a member of the Orioles’ bullpen in 2006 and 2007. He had Tommy John surgery in 2008 and missed the entire year. He slowly returned in 2009. In 2009, he threw 52.2 innings between AA and AAA and struck out 70 in 52.2 innings of work. He also walked 34 which isn’t ideal, but he will certainly play a part in the Twins bullpen in 2011. The 6-6 righty will turn 28 years old later this month.

Please note that if more information and specifics of this trade come out, I will update this page. I am also hoping to get some more detailed scouting reports on these pitchers and will post them when I receive them. The deal is expected to be formalized following Thursday’s Rule 5 draft as Harris is eligible for the draft. Hoey is on the 40 man roster and Jacobson does not yet need to be protected for another year.

Alright, here you go. What do you think? Please feel free to leave your comments here.

More Arbitration Decisions

2 Dec

also available at http://www.SethSpeaks.net

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.

Twins Win Right to Negotiate with Tsuyoshi Nishioka

26 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On Thanksgiving Day, we found out that the Chiba Lotte team would hold a press conference to announce whether they would accept the high bid from MLB for the services of middle infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Later last evening, we heard that they were accepting the bid, but that Major League Baseball would be announcing the ‘winner’ today. Well, just minutes ago, we learned that the Minnesota Twins won the right to negotiate with the speedy Japanese infielder thanks to a bid estimated to be $5.3 million. The Twins now have 30 days to negotiate a contract with the player and his representatives. If they reach an agreement, Chiba Lotte will receive $5.3 million from the Twins. If not, the Twins will get the money back.

But since it is much more fun to think positively, let’s for a minute assume that the Twins and Nishioka are able to come to terms. What does it mean? Based on the estimated posting fee, and previous rumors, it is believed that the contract of the 26 year old will be in the neighborhood of $2-3 million for a few years. There was an assumption that if the Twins were awarded Nishioka that JJ Hardy would be gone, but if the actual value of his contract will be just a few million, and Hardy could agree to a deal worth something around $6 million, it is possible that the Twins can keep the still-young, excellent defensive shortstop and keep Alexi Casilla in a utility role. That is important if reports from some indicate the Nishioka is more questionable as a shortstop than as a second baseman. That said, the Twins would be wise to see what the market is for Hardy. It would make no sense to non-tender him since he would instantly become the top shortstop on the market. They should be able to accumulate a few quality prospects for Hardy.

How does an infield of Valencia, Hardy, Nishioka and Morneau sound? I like it!

What do we know about Nishioka? He led the Japanese League in batting average by hitting .346. He was on base over 42% of the time. He has a little bit of power, but the switch-hitter profiles perfectly as a #2 hitter. Twins fans need to caution themselves, however. Nishioka is not Ichiro. He’s not Hideki Matsui in terms of power. But he can do all the things you want a player to do? I think so. I mean, he has shown an ability to hit for average, get on base, have good pop in his bat for a middle infielder, play good defense, has speed. The question now is how does that translate to the Major Leagues. And frankly, no one knows. No one can answer that with 100% certainty. He is just 26. Most players that come over from Japan are nearly 30, so he should be given a little time.

As I mentioned when we heard that the Twins placed a bid on Iwakuma earlier this month, having a presence in Japan is a big deal. If the Twins can negotiate with Nishioka and bring him in, it makes the Twins a name in Japan, and among young players in Japan and all around Asia. Think about how many Twins jerseys with Nishioka or Mauer on the back will be found in Japan? Think about the scouts who have been toiling in Asia, trying to find the diamonds in the rough, who can now go to top level Asian talent and say, “Hi, I represent the Minnesota Twins. Do you have a minute?”

What does it mean for other Twins players? Again, it certainly makes any decisions on JJ Hardy difficult, although there is still no way that non-tendering him makes any sense. Alexi Casilla is still waiting in the wings, wondering if he will be a starting shortstop or a utility infielder again. What about Trevor Plouffe and Luke Hughes? Both were thought to be potentially competing with Casilla for a job, now both likely are competing for a backup infield spot and right-handed bat off the bench. What about someone like Steve Singleton, who has the pop to play but has been left off the 40 man roster each of the last two years? I can only hope, for him, that he is taken by a team in the Rule 5 draft and given a real opportunity for a big league job.

The Twins had just 38 players on their 40 man roster after their decisions last week. If they can get Nishioka signed before the Winter Meetings (starting Dec. 3), they will be at 39 and still have room to work.

I do have to say this for the Twins front office. They have been true to their word. When the team played in Metrodome and had basically no revenues, they made a promise to fans that if there was a new stadium, the payroll would increase with the revenues. Since the announcement of the new stadium, the Twins have gone above and beyond what was previously deemed possible. They locked up Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan to long-term deals. They kept Joe Mauer by extending his contract by eight years and $184 million. They went well over slot to sign Kyle Gibson. They gave $3.15 million to Miguel Sano. And now, they have bid an estimated $5.3 million just to negotiate with a very talented middle infielder from Japan. These are no longer your, ummm… older brother’s Twins!! And how much fun is this?!

But today was only the start. As I said earlier, the Twins and Nishioka’s representatives now have 30 days to work out an agreement. If they are unable to, then this excitement was all of nothing.

So what do you think? Many Twins fans who don’t pay as much attention will wonder about this player they have never heard of. Many of you will be incredibly excited. Where do you stand on this? What are the next steps for the Twins?  Please feel free to e-mail me or leave your comments here.

Hard(y) Decisions

20 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As has been mentioned frequently already, and will continue to be mentioned, the Twins 2010/2011 offseason will be a very interesting one for many reasons. Eleven Free Agents. Nine Arbitration-eligibles. Questions about how to beat the Yankees. It will be very interesting.

What will the payroll be? Last year, it jumped from $67 million to about $100 million. In 2011, will it stay the same? Will it jump up to $110 million? That difference, $10 million, is the amount that Joe Mauer’s contract increases from 2010 to 2011. Could it jump up to $120 or even $125 million? We don’t know. But the reality is that the Twins still have to make a lot of decisions on payroll based on revenues and even with the new stadium, the resources are not unlimited. So several really tough decisions do have to be made.

We may not know officially, but we can pretty much assume that Orlando Hudson will be gone, replaced by Alexi Casilla, or someone who will make less than $1 million in 2011. But what about the shortstop position?

When the Twins acquired JJ Hardy from the Milwaukee Brewers shortly after the 2009 World Series in exchange for Carlos Gomez, the assumption was that he would be a huge improvement over Twins shortstops of the last decade, and maybe since Greg Gagne patrolled the position in the second half of the ‘80s and first years of the ‘90s. We also assumed that the decision to offer him a fourth year of arbitration would be a no-brainer.

However, Hardy made that a more difficult decision than I think any of us would have wanted. Defensively, Hardy was inconsistent. There was an extended stretch where he was unable to consistently throw the ball all the way to 1B in the air. But for the most part, he is a very solid shortstop with slightly above average range. Among shortstops with more than 800 innings played in 2010, he was the fifth best with a UZR of 8.1. He was the best in baseball with a 12.8 UZR/150. To put that into perspective, Brendan Ryan of the Cardinals was second best in that category at 12.1. On the other end of the spectrum the Rays Jason Bartlett was the worst at -13.5. Offensively, Hardy was also very inconsistent. At times, he did show some pop. At other times, he was tough to watch. At season’s end, he hit .268/.302/.357 with an OPS+ of 93. He primarily hit ninth in the Twins lineup, so you don’t expect world beater. His batting average and on-base percentage were similar to his career numbers while his slugging percentage was well below his career numbers. How much of that can be blamed on Target Field?

How much of that can be blamed on the bum wrist that hurt him most of the season? As noted, Hardy played in just 101 games in 2010. A year earlier, in Milwaukee, he played 115 games.

Now, no one in their right mind would claim that the Twins missed Carlos Gomez and would un-do the trade, but I think many of us (fair or not) hoped that Hardy would take a step forward in 2010.

So, what does this mean for 2011? Just shy of six years of MLB service time, Hardy is eligible for a fourth arbitration year. He made $5.1 million in 2010. He would be in line for a raise. But how much? Would he be happy to sign for $6 million, or will he expect more like $7 million or more? The answer to those questions could determine whether the Twins tender him an offer, or let him become a free agent. If he becomes a free agent, he would be one of the top free agent shortstops on the market and at just 28 years old, he could get a three year, $21 million contract, maybe more depending upon the team. The Twins could offer him arbitration, and then look to trade him.

Trevor Plouffe debuted in 2010 with the Twins. He showed signs in 2010, at the end of 23, that he was making strides in AAA Rochester. In 102 games, he hit .244/.300/.430 with 22 doubles, four triples and 15 home runs. The batting average really dropped later in the season once he moved back and forth between the Red Wings and the Twins several times. In 22 games with the Twins (several were just pinch running for Jim Thome late in games), he got 41 at bats. He hit just .146/.143/.317. Of his six hits, one was a double and two were home runs. One was an opposite field blast that showed his power. I can’t make much of his Major League numbers. First, they are the first of his career. Second, his playing time in the big leagues was so sporadic. He had some real struggles, and a long hitless streak, but he was getting two at bats a week at times. I believe that, given every day playing time (and getting the manager to believe in him, he could hit .250/.300/.400 in the big leagues in 2011. If you go to minorleaguesplits.com and enter his 2010 Rochester numbers into their Major League Equivalency database, it says that Plouffe’s numbers would translate to .211/.259/.360 with 19 doubles and 12 home runs in the big leagues. I believe that playing for a pennant-contending team and hitting at the bottom of the Twins order, he could hit better than that. Defensively, Plouffe is a solid shortstop. Certainly he is not elite, and some are frustrated with his inability to consistently make the routine plays. That certainly would be a concern. Again, I think the focus that Plouffe would display would help him over the course of a season.

The numbers I am outlining for Plouffe are nothing more than guesses, but semi-educated guesses. The projections put him with an OPS between .620 and .700. In 2010, JJ Hardy’s OPS was .714. How much better do you expect offensively from Hardy? What is Plouffe’s upside? Where do you think those numbers would end up, compared to each other in 2010?

And, how much is that difference worth in terms of dollars? I mean, if you can get a .720 OPS from Hardy for $6 million or a .700 OPS from Plouffe for $420,000, which would you do? What if Hardy would make $7.5 million instead of $6 million? And, if you don’t believe in Trevor Plouffe, what if the Twins acquired someone like Ivan DeJesus, Jr. from the Dodgers in the offseason? Or what if they brought back Nick Punto at $1.25 million for 2011 and got a .680 OPS and very strong defense?

How much is JJ Hardy worth? This isn’t about being cheap and going with the cheaper player. This is about getting the most of the money. And if they’re able to pay a SS $420,000 instead of $7 million, that’s $6.5 million that can be used elsewhere. Maybe on someone like Zack Greinke.

What do you think? It is a Hard(y) decision. I would guess that Hardy will be back as the Twins shortstop in 2011, but I would also guess that a discussion built around this topic will be had by the Twins brass when they have their post-season meetings in Ft. Myers.  What would you do? First, feel free to Discuss and Comment here. Then be sure to go to TwinsCentric.com and purchase your copy of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook.

Twins Bullpen Blitz

14 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.StarTribune.com –

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 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sethspeaks/2010/10/13/sethspeaksnet-weekly-minnesota-twins-podcastlisten to that here.

BLOGS

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.