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Still Building from Within

21 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.startribune.com/blogs/twinscentric.

Look back a decade: Torii Hunter spent a couple of seasons making people wonder about his skills before becoming a star. Look back a generation: Frank Viola spent two seasons with a five-plus ERA before blossoming. Tell me why Casilla is utterly hopeless?

Howard Sinker in his A Fan’s View blog yesterday made a tremendous point. It is important to remain patient. Of course, in Viola’s third year, he posted a 3.21 ERA over 257.2 innings. I think Alexi Casilla will be fine. I think that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be just fine. Will either post a .730 OPS? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t fill their roles adequately. I just don’t think that offense will be the biggest issue for the Twins in 2011. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, is where there are question marks, but the cupboard is not empty.

What I would like to see is if 29-year-old Scott Baker, in his seventh season with the Twins, can hit 200 innings (or post a sub-4.20 ERA) for just the second time, and earn his $5 million salary. I’d like to see Kevin Slowey, in his fifth big league season, be 100% healthy, and see what he can do. He threw 199 innings in 2007 between Rochester and Minnesota. I’d like to see Nick Blackburn get back to going 11-11 with an ERA between 4.03 and 4.05 like he did in 2008 and 2009. As bad as portions of their 2010 seasons were, none of this is unrealistic. They have done it before. Along with that, maybe Brian Duensing can prove a lot of us wrong and put together another strong season in 2011, hopefully the full season as a starter. And, Francisco Liriano put himself back in discussion for best pitchers in the league (which is also helped by Cliff Lee moving to the NL). If healthy, he can still continue to improve.

So, if Carl Pavano leaves for greener pastures in places like Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh, it really is not the end of the world. What are the odds that he could post a 3.75 ERA again or throw another 221 innings in a season? Not terribly good.

The Twins have a history of building from within, or giving opportunities to players who have come up through their system, and to stand behind them through struggles. We have seen it time and again. And for the most part over the last decade, it has paid off. The Twins have used free agents to complement their core of home-grown players. Last year, there wasn’t a solid internal option at second base, so they signed Orlando Hudson.

Last week, the Twins lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier to free agency. It is likely that they will not bring back Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch or Ron Mahay either. Fans, understandably, are up in arms about the lack of certainty in the Twins bullpen. There is no certainty that Joe Nathan will return to form in 2011. Jose Mijares is immensely talented, but he was up and down in 2010. Matt Capps is the given in the Twins bullpen, and he is what he is (a solid reliever). Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks.

Twins fans don’t want to hear about someone like Glen Perkins being a bullpen option in 2011. There are also a lot of guys with little or no big league experience being mentioned as options. I understand that is scary. We want certainty in the bullpen, right? Certainty, in this case, would have been retaining Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier because they are veterans, right? But if I read the comments here at the StarTribune.com blogs or many Twins blogs, most blog commenters were not big fans of Jesse Crain. Most blog commenters were not exactly confident when Matt Guerrier would come into games. But aside from Rafael Soriano, Brian Fuentes and Type A free agent and former Twins pitcher Grant Balfour, few relievers have been more reliable than Crain and Guerrier. And you didn’t want them back. So, who would be out there at this stage that could be counted on more? I am a proponent of signing RHP Jose Veras and LHP Hideki Okajima, but in each case, there are reasons that their 2010 team non-tendered them. Certainly not guarantees.

Simply stated, there are very few reliable relief pitchers from year to year. Most (or at least many) relief pitchers are failed starters. There are a lot of injuries. It is in the bullpen where you can find diamonds in the rough. It’s where guys (like Guerrier) who are out of options to get an opportunity, and a few take advantage of it. Look at the Yankees’ David Robertson. In 2009, he was a question mark. In 2010, he was getting put into some pretty big situations for the pinstripes.

With that said, there are a lot of options for breakout types in the Twins bullpen. Remember that they only need three or four of these guys to produce for the Twins in 2011:

  • Anthony Slama – It amazes me that many Twins fans seem to think he can’t contribute to the team. Are people really willing to say that a poor 4.2 inning debut in the big leagues tells us that he can’t pitch up there? Really? His 1.95 ERA over four minor league seasons mean nothing? His 12.5 K/9 means nothing? His 1.06 WHIP? His 2.44 ERA in one-plus seasons at AAA mean nothing? Bloggers and blog commenters have been clamoring for Slama for a few years, and now they’ll give up on him? Because of 4.2 bad innings? I think Slama can be a solid 7th inning guy.
  • Alex Burnett – he has a chance to be really good. He came up as a starter, a successful starter, but in 2009, he moved to the bullpen. Despite not pitching in AAA, and only a short time in AA, he was on teh Twins Opening Day roster and spent most of the first half with the Twins. He struggled as the season went along, but he has great stuff and will definitely be back with the Twins, eventually pitching late innings.
  • Pat Neshek – It amazes me how quickly some Twins fans turned on the sind-winding reliever. Yes, his velocity was down. I get that. But this year, he will get an actual offseason of working out and preparing, not an offseason of rehabilitation. Will he come back and be as incredible as he was in 2006 and 2007? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m willing to give him that opportunity.
  • James Hoey – Similarly, there was a lot of excitement about Hoey with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007. The righty throws hard and was generally thought to be the closer of the future with Baltimore. And then he had shoulder surgery, and he worked his way back up the ladder. His velocity is back. The strikeouts are back. He will need to cut down walks, but he is a power arm that the Twins bullpen needs.
  • Rob Delaney – Delaney was undrafted in 2006 and dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, including AA. AAA has been more of a struggle, but consider that in 80 AAA innings, he walked just 23 and struck out 92. Sure, his one inning in the big leagues last September wasn’t pretty. He looked nervous and gave up a homer, a single and a walk before getting the three outs. But again, I’ve heard some say that he can’t handle the big leagues because of that one outing.
  • Kyle Waldrop – It surprised a lot of people that the Twins didn’t protece Waldrop after a terrific 2010 season with the Rochester Red Wings. Since returning from his shoulder surgery, he has been incredible out of the bullpen. After 20 games in Ft. Myers, he posted a 1.46 ERA in 31 New Britain games. He posted a 2.57 ERA in 2010 in Rochester, but his ERA was at ONE halfway through the 2010 season. Yes, he was not good in the Arizona Fall League, but he still has a chance to be a very good, groundball reliever.
  • Glen Perkins – A left-hander who did succeed a few years ago as a starter, he looks to be a lefty reliever in 2010. Of course, he doesn’t get left-handed batters out, so I just don’t know how he can contribute, but stranger things have happened when players get opportunities.
  • Eric Hacker, Yorman Bazardo, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzak, Chuck James – These guys could all get an opportunity for a long relief role. Manship filled the role toward the end of 2010 and could do so again, but the others are options.
  • Carlos Gutierrez – In a podcast just last week, Gutierrez informed me that he wants to pitch out of the bullpen, that it is where he is ‘at home.’ However, he acknowledged that spending the last couple of years as a starter has been valuable in helping him develop secondary pitches. I’m frequently asked who could be the 2011 version of Danny Valencia. Kyle Gibson certainly could come up in June and contributed as a starter. Carlos Gutierrez could come up in June and really help out the Twins bullpen.

Are any of those big name acquisitions? No. They are internal options. Can any of them contribute to the Twins in 2011? Absolutely. Can three of four of them join Nathan, Capps and Mijares to form a solid bullpen? Defintely. Am I just trying to be positive here? Probably. But can the internal choices be equal or better than the external, high-cost free agents? Absolutely.

The Twins historically have relied upon their own players, on building from within. It’s been a philosophy that has worked well for them. Even if their payroll has gone from $65 million to $100 million to $115 million, there is no reason to start spending foolishly on free agents or giving up the farm for players who might help. Can the Twins win the division with their current roster? I think so. It’d be tough, but I would not put it against them.

To be fair (and honest), I have been immensely frustrated with the Twins offseason. I expected them to wisely stay away from high-dollar free agents. I thought we might hear more about trades than we have. The Twins might soon spend a lot of money for two or three years on a guy who is already 35 years old. They could also give two years to a 40 year old one-dimensional player. I’m sure those moves will make a lot of fans happy. Maybe I’m strange. I figure there are six or seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so I still hold out that the team will add an impact player, the type of player who can make a difference without breaking the bank. But I don’t know that the team is better. I also don’t know what the Twins plans are, or their contingency plans are (if Pavano and/or Thome were to sign elsewhere). No one does because the Twins front office is great at not letting information leak We can’t all be Jim Breen!

Finally, Twins fans need to remember one important thing… at least the Twins and their stability is a lot better than following the Vikings and their chaos this year!

MORE TO READ TODAY:

Here are a few more articles for you to peruse throughout the day:

·         JJ Stankevitz has been a frequent guest of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. He does a great job as the blogger for the White Sox site on Examiner.com. He is also a student at the University of Missouri where he writes for KBIA Sports Extra as well. He recently had the opportunity to meet fellow Missouri student/alumni and current Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. The results were a terrific article on Gibson.

·         Parker from Over the Baggy posted an article on the blueprint for a bullpen.

·         Needless to say, Fanatic Jack is Dazed and Confused about what is going on with the Twins offseason. It is really hard to disagree with him.

·         Twinkie Town has now completed its Top Ten Twins Prospects and you can now vote for Twins Prospect #11. Roger Dehring is going a great job of running the polls, and the discussion is terrific for anyone interested in Twins prospects.

Be sure to tune in to tonight’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, live at 9:00.

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Crain, Guerrier Leave for Greener Pastures

16 Dec

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?

Over/Under: The Bullpen

28 Oct

Also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you pick up a copy of the TwinsCentric 2010-11 Offseason GM Handbook, you’ll note that one area with a lot of quality free agent options is in the bullpen. When the World Series comes to an end, several members of the Twins bullpen will file for free agency. They are Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Brian Fuentes, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay and Clay Condrey. How many of them will be back? How many would you want back?  I am confident that Pat Neshek will come back with a vengeance in 2010. But what will Joe Nathan be capable of? How much will Matt Capps cost? Despite several ups and downs, I am a big believer in Jose Mijares. I believe in Alex Burnett and Anthony Slama, Kyle Waldrop and Rob Delaney. Where do Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and other your arms fit into the equation? I’ve already spent a lot of words this offseason discussing the bullpen. It is going to be a lot of fun to watch it evolve over the offseason.

Today, I want to look at the Twins free agent bullpen arms and play a game of Over/Under. Hopefully many of your will head to the comments and put your guesses out there. I’ll put the name of the pitcher, a couple of thoughts, and then the contract I expect them to get this offseason, from someone… And what I’d like you to do is tell me if you think that the contract is too high or too low. That could be too many years, or too many dollars per year. Here we go:

Jesse Crain – 3 years, $11 million. He’s still young. He throws hard. That slider and curveball combination took off after a slow start. He could be a dominant set up guy and some team could see him as a closer.

Matt Guerrier – 1 year, $2.5 million – I think the fact that he’s a Type A Free Agent actually hurts him. I can’t imagine a team willing to give up a pick in the bottom half of the first round for a non-strikeout reliever. Maybe a team that is going to pick up a couple more Type A free agents could, and it would cost them a 2nd or 3rd round pick? So I think that the Twins have some room to work here.

Jon Rauch – 1 year, $3 million – He has more closing experience. Outside of the time from the All Star break until after the trade deadline, Rauch was pretty solid. But it’s hard for me to imagine any team’s GM thinking that Rauch should get a closer’s contract.

Brian Fuentes – 1 year, $6 million – Fuentes has a lot of closer experience and he absolutely dominates left-handers. He has a ton of value to a team either as a closer or as a set up man. He seems to be in some strange middle ground place now. At his age, he may not be paid quite like a closer, and yet, his closer experience could get him paid more than even the top free agent closers. He’s also already in his upper 30s.

Ron Mahay – Minor League Deal – $850,000 if in big leagues – This is basically what he got this year from the Twins when he signed in spring training. He is a veteran. He is left-handed. His numbers were significantly better than the level of confidence most Twins had in him.

Randy Flores – Minor League Deal – $800,000 if in big leagues – Yeah, he was pretty bad for the Twins, but his numbers in Colorado were solid when they put him on waivers. He’ll get a shot somewhere.

Clay Condrey – Minor League Deal – $800,000 if in big leagues – Condrey’s 2010 season was lost due to injury and set back and more injury. But I think that it could make sense to bring in a veteran ground ball machine on a minor league deal. There is almost no risk in such a deal, and they could keep him in the minor leagues early in the season if appropriate. I would have no problem if the Twins brought him into spring training.

So there you go. Obviously the primary discussion players would be Crain, Guerrier, Rauch and Fuentes. Would you go with the Over or the Under compared with my projections? What would you do with those players? Feel free to Discuss and Comment here.

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.

Late Night Heroes in Cleveland

12 Sep

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

The game was delayed for nearly two hours at the start due to rain. And then it took 12 innings to decide a winner. Fortunately, the Twins have Jim Thome on their side. The burly 40 year old made another magnificent memory in his career, as he launched a solo home run deep into the Cleveland night. The blast gave the Twins a 1-0 win. It was the team’s first run scored in 21 innings. It was his 587th career home run which is now one more than the great Frank Robinson, and Thome is alone in 8th place on the all-time home run list. Making the night even better for the Twins and their fans was that the Kansas City Royals beat the Chicago White Sox 8-2 on the South Side which means that the Twins again have a six-game lead in the AL Central. The Twins are now 84-58, 26 games over .500, and their Magic Number to clinch the AL Central division title was reduced to just 15.

Jim Thome provided the late-inning heroics, but Nick Blackburn put in a yeoman-like effort. The righty worked the first eight innings of the game and did not allow a run. He had to work out of a couple very tough situations, but he found a way to do so. Since his return to the Twins, he has made four starts. He has gone 33.2 innings in those starts. He has given up five runs on 21 hits and seven walks. He has 18 strikeouts in that time. Whatever it was, something mechanical or becoming a father for the first time, Blackburn is pitching great.

Jesse Crain worked two scoreless innings. Randy Flores came in to start the 11th inning. The lefty was asked to get lefties Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner out, and he got neither. Ron Gardenhire went to Matt Guerrier, and the veteran pitched incredibly. The first batter he faced pounded a bunt right at him. Danny Valencia did a nice job reading the ball, retreating to 3B and catching a Guerrier 90 mph fastball from short range in time for the inning’s first out. Valencia then caught a foul ball pop up for the second out. And Guerrier got a ground out to 2B for the third out. When looking for heroes in last night’s game, the incredible work by Matt Guerrier should not be lost.

Then came the Thome blast, giving the team a 1-0 lead. Matt Capps came in and threw a perfect bottom of the 12th inning for the Save and all is well with the world.

Hopefully on Sunday, the Twins bats will find a way to put some early runs on the board versus Mitch Talbot. The 21 inning scoreless streak was not good, and yet if you watched the past two games, it is understandable. The Twins had some decent at bats, but both Fausto Carmona (Friday) and Carlos Carrasco (Saturday) pitched great. They threw strikes and had tremendous movement on their pitches. Sometimes bats go cold. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the pitcher who made them that way.

With the excitement of the day, the Twins win and the White Sox loss, there was a definite need to talk about our favorite team (The Twins, in case you didn’t grasp that from the previous paragraphs). So, there was a Special SethSpeaks.net Minnesota Twins podcast following the game. Travis Aune was my co-host and we talked about all kinds of Twins topics. We discussed the bats, Jim Thome, Nick Blackburn, and Matt Capps. We asked who the Twins #4 starter would be in the playoffs. We discussed what to do in the offseason with JJ Hardy. There was terrific discussion in the chat room. It was a really fun show, even if it was late at night. So, if you have a chance on this first Sunday of the football season, please listen to it here.

Again, it is Kevin Slowey against Mitch Talbot at noon today. I expect Joe Mauer to be completely out of the lineup today, and I think that is a wise decision if Ron Gardenhire makes it. The lead is back up to six. The magic number is down to 15. There is an off day on Monday and the big series in Chicago starting on Tuesday night. Mauer will catch all three of those games. He is vital to the Twins postseason run and giving him a day off now is a luxury that the team does have. Any other thoughts on the Twins, Saturday’s day in the AL Central or what you expect today and going forward? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

2010 Roster Projections: Minnesota Twins

21 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Alright, Opening Day is just two weeks away. The minor league seasons will begin in about 2 ½ weeks. It’s late time for me to post my roster projections. I know a lot of people in the cities of the Twins affiliates appreciate this, having an idea of who they may be able to see in their home stadium this year. Today I will be posting my projected Twins roster. Tomorrow I’ll post my projection on the Rochester Roster and so on through the week until I post my projected Beloit roster on Friday.

So here we go, starting with, the Minnesota Twins:

The Hitters

  Minnesota
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Brendan Harris
SS JJ Hardy
LF Delmon Young
CF Denard Span
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
Bu C Drew Butera
Bu IF Nick Punto
Bu IF,OF Alexi Casilla
Bench Jim Thome
DL (Jose Morales)

 Analysis: I guess there really aren’t any surprises here. Yes, Nick Punto will likely start at 3B just as much as Brendan Harris. I think as long as he isn’t traded, Alexi Casilla will make the roster because he is out of options and they don’t want to lose him for nothing. And, I think I’ve been fairly clear on my thoughts that Wilson Ramos needs at bats and time behind the plate, so being a backup, even for a short time, makes no sense. Mauer, Morneau, Hudson, Hardy, Young, Span, Cuddyer, Kubel, Thome. This is a pretty exciting lineup that is going to score a lot of runs.

The Pitchers 

  Minnesota
SP Scott Baker
SP Nick Blackburn
SP Kevin Slowey
SP Carl Pavano
SP Francisco Liriano
   
CL Matt Guerrier
8L Jose Mijares
8R Jon Rauch
BP Jesse Crain
BP Pat Neshek
BP Anthony Slama
BP Clay Condrey
DL (Joe Nathan)

Analysis: Starting Five looks set and looks really good. We’ve spent the last couple of months trying to convince ourselves that Francisco Liriano could turn things around, and so far, so good. The other four are just very solid, if not underrated. I put Matt Guerrier in the closer’s role, just because he did such a good job in the 8th inning (often against the other team’s best hitters), that there is no reason to think he can’t do it in the 9th inning. If not, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain or even Pat Neshek can get the job done. My thoughts on Neshek’s return have changed somewhat. He appears to be back and continues to get better and stronger. I now believe that he will make this roster, and who knows, by midseason, he could be closing too. Clay Condrey hasn’t been very good in spring, but he was solid for the Phillies the last three years, so I trust that over six or seven innings in March. Finally, the final bullpen spot may be determined by how much Gardy wants a second left-hander. If he is insistent upon it, then Brian Duensing is the guy. If he’s looking for the best relief pitcher, then Anthony Slama is the guy. Slama hasn’t pitched much this spring, but when he has, he has done well. It will be good to see him facing some big league hitters the next couple of weeks.

If you would like, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.

Joe Nathan out for the year!

9 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

I said I wasn’t going to worry about Joe Nathan until someone told me that I should worry about Joe Nathan. Well, this morning, we were told that he has a torn UCL, is out for the year and will decide soon if he will have Tommy John surgery. OK, now, I am worried. The Twins have plenty of closing options, but any time you lose a guy who has been arguably the top closer in baseball over the last five or six years, it’s not a good thing. First and foremost, we wish him well. But it certainly creates questions!

What are your thoughts? Who is next in line to close? (My guess would be Matt Guerrier. He’s been around and he’s been able to get the job done. Not a classic closer, but a very good pitcher.) Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, maybe even Pat Neshek are options as well. Remember when we said the bullpen depth this year was great? Well, now that becomes hugely important!

UPDATE/CORRECTION

  • First, I should point out that it has not yet been determined that Nathan will miss the entire year. He will rest it for a couple of weeks and then throw again. However, this is a similar injury to what Pat Neshek had. It is also the same injury that Loek Van Mil had, and he is still not 100%
  • I’m hearing Francisco Liriano’s name bantered about as a possible closer option. For me, that just doesn’t work. I am fully of the belief that any very good pitcher can be a closer IF (and that is intentionally a Big IF) he has the mental strength to handle it. No one questions Liriano’s stuff, but I don’t think anyone would consider him real strong emotionally.
  • The Twins like to give guys opportunities that deserve it. That is why I think that Matt Guerrier would be Option #1. He’s earned it. Would he keep it? We shall see. He doesn’t profile as a typical closer like guys like Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares might, but he could be solid. I’m not as high on Jon Rauch as many, but he’s certainly another option.  
  • Bullpen by committee has never really worked, but until someone steps forward, that may be the best way to start.
  • Pat Neshek is the best option in terms of stuff and mental strength for the job, but rushing him back into that type of role might not be best. But he certainly could be that option later in the season.
  • Minor league guys could get a more extended look. Guys like Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney and to a lesser extent Alex Burnett could stick around big league camp longer and factor into the bullpen. None of them should be immediately slotted into the closer’s role, but they could be seen sooner now. Carlos Gutierrez is another option, but the Twins do want to see what he can be as a start. He has, in my mind, the best ‘closer’ stuff in the minor leagues.
  • Names like Heath Bell and George Sherrill are already being mentioned. Bell makes some sense, for sure, but the Padress always seem to ask for the world for their players. Would Perkins and Casilla get the deal done?
  • I will be on The Fan (am710) at 11:00 this morning to talk about Joe Nathan and the Twins. It is a Bismarck, ND, station, so tune in if you’re there, or Listen Live if you’re anywhere else.  

What are your thoughts? What will happen? If you would like, you can e-mail me, or feel free to leave your comments here.