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Guess Who’s Back? Twins Notes

19 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It started out with all good intentions. I had been extremely busy with work for a couple of weeks. We had been putting together nightly Twins podcasts during the Winter Meetings. I took a day off of work and had a fun weekend in the Cities with my daughter and my sister. On Friday night, I enjoyed being a guest on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast. That was a ton of fun! Then on Saturday we went to the Como Zoo which was a blast as always. After some time at the mall, it was a lot of fun to hang out with Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman, Cody Christie, Howard Sinker, Darren “Doogie” Wolfson, Rhett Bollinger, Judd Zulgad, and Phil Mackey on Saturday night. I got to enjoy the role of DD yet again! It was a great weekend. The only concern was how tired I would be making the drive back up to Warroad, a good seven hour drive.

However, that’s where all the positivity ended for the past week. Around 3:30 Sunday morning, I woke up not quite feeling right. But about 6:30, I had figured out what my problem was. It was a problem I had twice previously, five and six years ago. I had a kidney stone. You don’t want all the details. This is probably more than enough, but a trip to the doctor on Monday was followed by a ‘passed stone’ on Wednesday morning. I thought that was it. Nope! Increased pain Wednesday night meant a trip to the hospital which turned into a trip to Fargo and a Saturday surgery that frankly didn’t rid the remaining stone. However, enough was done to alleviate the pain until I can have another surgery next week sometime to finish.

I apologize for being away from my computer completely for over a week. I read some of the comments on my phone that talked about how I ‘used to’ blog all the time about the Twins. OK, not going to apologize. I literally could not look at my computer screen for more than a minute at a time without getting nauseous.

But, I do need to thank my parents who were great, helpful all week and were there the whole time. My siblings were constantly asking questions. And there are a ton of you who sent messages and notes and well wishes. I just needed to say thank you to everyone and there’s no easy way to do that. So, here I’ll just blog it. Thank you!

Unfortunately, in the one week where I literally had to stay away from the computer, the Twins were quite busy. So, without going into too much detail, I thought I’d post my thoughts on several of the topics in an attempt to catch up.

CUDDYER FOR WILLINGHAM

OK, it wasn’t a trade, of course, but in essence, the Twins ‘traded’ Michael Cuddyer for Josh Willingham. As you know by now, Cuddyer inked a three year, $31.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. I hate to see Cuddyer leave. He had been with the Twins and in the organization since he was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft. Although he certainly had his ups and downs, he was a very popular, major contributor to the Twins success for nearly a decade. And yes, part of that is his good-guy attitude, his willingness to talk to the media all the time, his work in the community, and to some demographics, there were the dimples.

Willingham is the same age as Cuddyer and has been equal, if not a little better, offensive player. The Twins got a very similar player for the same three year tenure but for $10.5 million less. The Twins also will get two draft picks for losing Cuddyer. I’ve liked Willingham for a long time. I named him as a Top 20 Rookie Hitters for 2006 because of his power and Isolated Discipline. That is what makes him. He won’t hit for a high average, and like Cuddyer, he won’t play great defense, but he can be a force in the Twins lineup.  

So, although I will miss Cuddyer and his presence on the roster and in the city, at the end of the day, the Twins got the same player for less money and added two draft picks.  As I’ve written previously, Michael Cuddyer will always be a Minnesota Twin. I am curious where he would rank among the all-time best Twins players. Off the top of my head, he has to easily be in the Top 20.    

INTERESTED IN KUBEL?

I keep hearing and reading that the Twins are now targeting Jason Kubel, even after bringing in Willingham. Like Cuddyer, Kubel has been in the Twins organization since being drafted in the previous millennium. I think Kubel is an impact free agent who will really help whatever team that he signs with. Its’ pretty clear that he doesn’t want to return to Target Field. And with Ben Revere, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit on the roster and the likes of Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson on the horizon, I just don’t think that the Twins really need to spend $5-7 million for a year or two on Kubel. That is especially the case if the Twins have a lower payroll. They need to add another pitcher. I would love to see Edwin Jackson in a Twins uniform, but if I had to put money on which free agent pitcher the Twins will sign, I’d have to say Paul Maholm. I know that the Twins have been linked more to Jeff Francis and Joel Pineiro, but I can’t get past Maholm as the right option.

HOEY AND FLORIMON DESIGNATED

The Twins designated two players off of their 40 man roster. RHP Jim Hoey was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays. The hard-thrower just could not get his straight fastball by big league (or often AAA) hitters because he never did find a secondary pitch. The Twins have added several players who throw hard and struggle with their control.

SS Pedro Floriman, who the Twins claimed a week earlier, as also DFAd, but he was able to clear waivers and will remain in the Twins organization. He still has an option remaining, so this is great news for the Twins.

TWINS NON-TENDER MIJARES

In a somewhat surprising move, the Twins did not tender a contract for 2012 to LHP Jose Mijares. It isn’t that he has pitched well the last couple of years (He Hasn’t), but he is still young and does have really good stuff when he’s on. Because of how he has pitched the last couple of years, he would likely have made around $750,000, just over $250,000 over the league minimum. That said, it also is a clear indication that the Twins will be moving Brian Duensing to the bullpen where he’ll join Glen Perkins. Not a huge loss, although I will not be at all surprised when Mijares resurfaces elsewhere and becomes a dominant reliever again.

INTERNATIONAL DRAFT

Imagine if there was an international draft in place today? The Twins would have the second overall pick. Even though that probably means that Yu Darvish would not have made himself available, the Twins could have been left with either Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler, both incredibly talented outfielders from Cuba.

TWINS SIGN MORE MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS

I thought the Twins had already signed a bunch of minor league free agents, but they signed a few more pretty impressive names.

  • Sean Burroughs – the former Little League World Series hero hasn’t done much in the big leagues, but is a very solid AAA player who did some pinch hitting in 2011 with the Diamondbacks. With a big league invitation, is it at all possible the team could be signing him as competition for Danny Valencia?
  • Rene Rivera – We saw what the catcher could do in 2011. Decent behind the plate. Horrifying offensively.
  • PJ Walters – The RHP is 26 years old and pitched in five big league games in 2011 between the Cardinals and the Blue Jays. In 24 AAA starts, he went 8-7 with a 5.17 ERA between Memphis and Las Vegas (AAA). He went 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA in 17 starts in the International League before heading to the PCL where he posted a 8+ ERA. Looks like a solid AAA starter.
  • JR Towles – The former Astros backstop used to be a pretty good prospect, the guy in line to take over for Brad Ausmus years ago. In parts of four years in the big leagues, he has hit .187.
  • Steve Pearce – In 2007, Pearce hit a combined .333/.394/.622 with 40 doubles and 31 home runs between High-A, AA and AAA. He became a Top 100 prospect, and although he has continued to hit well in the minor leagues since, it hasn’t transferred to the big leagues. In parts of five big league seasons, he has hit .232/.302/.366 with 29 doubles and nine homers in 521 plate appearances. No surprise that the Twins drafted Pearce out of high school in the 45th round.
  • Daryl Thompson – He made one appearance with the Reds in 2011 and in three innings, he gave up five runs on six hits and five walks. Not so good. Last year, between AA and AAA, the 25-year-old went 4-8 with a 4.26 ERA. In 137.1 innings, he walked 40 and struck out 123.

 BILL SMITH RETURNS TO TWINS FRONT OFFICE

It is no surprise to hear that Bill Smith will be back with the Twins as a special assistant to the president and GM. Hey, the guy did a ton of great things for the organization for the 25 years prior to him becoming the Twins GM, back when no one knew his name. So, I think it’s great news that Smith will return to the organization in his new role.

So, did I miss anything? Am I all caught up? Feel free to comment.

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Cuddyer Gone

16 Dec

Well, it’s all but official now.  Michael Cuddyer is heading to the Colorado Rockies for 3 years and $31.5 million.  I’m not going to get too in depth about it just in case Seth wants to write a Gleeman-length Seth-length posting about it in the near future.

We all knew this was coming once the Twins inked Josh Willingham.  Can anyone fault the Twins front office for thinking with their wallets instead of their hearts?

I could do a comparison between Cuddyer and Willingham to show how similar the end result should be offensively, but I’m pretty sure you’ve already read a well written blog entry about that.

Yes, Cuddyer seems like a heck of a good guy, and he’s more of a known commodity to us based on our familiarity with him over Willingham.  But at the end of the day, being a good guy and having spent his entire professional career with the Minnesota Twins organization doesn’t make Cuddyer worth $3.5 million more per season than Willingham.

And of course the Twins net 2 extra top 100 draft picks for losing Cuddyer.  They are certainly far from a sure thing, but I’ll take the chance to add some extra talent to the minor league system.

Anyhoo, I guess the main thing is to say thanks for the memories and good luck in Colorado, Cuddy!

Feel free to comment.

Where are we (Twins) now?

9 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

On last night’s Twins Winter Meetings Podcast, Fanatic Jack and NoDakTwinsFan got things started as I was a bit late. I went to see The Smurfs with the young’n at her school, and wound up late, so thanks to them for taking over. They led with Michael Cuddyer talked. When I joined, I talked about a few topics before we were joined by Twins top pitching prospect Liam Hendriks for awhile. The question I wanted to leave out there at the end of the podcast was “Where are we now? And what more still needs to be done?”

Where are we today?

Let’s start with the first question. I’m going to make one assumption. Either the Twins are going to sign Michael Cuddyer for three years and $27 million or they will sign Josh Willingham for 3 years and $22 million (and get two draft picks as well).  

  • Catcher – Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit, Drew Butera (Danny Lehmann, Chris Herrmann)
  • First Base – Justin Morneau, Ryan Doumit, (Chris Parmelee)
  • Second Base – Alexi Casilla, Luke Hughes (Brian Dinkelman)
  • Third Base – Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes (Ray Chang)
  • Shortstop – Jamey Carroll, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, (Pedro Florimon, Brian Dozier)
  • Left Field – Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, (Joe Benson)
  • Center Field – Denard Span, Ben Revere
  • Right Field – Michael Cuddyer, Ryan Doumit (Rene Tosoni)
  • DH – Ryan Doumit, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes

So, there are 13 players, and at least two players at every position. I also put close or pretty close to the big leagues guys in parentheses. I did that in part to show that the upper levels of the Twins minor leagues are not completely empty, the way some people would tell you. I would also presume that if the Twins lose out on Michael Cuddyer and sign Josh Willingham, he would play LF with Revere in CF and Span in RF, maybe.

Of course, the Twins need some pitching, but let’s take a look:

  • SP – Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Matt Maloney (Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Terry Doyle)
  • CL – Matt Capps
  • LH RP – Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Jose Mijares (Phil Dumatrait, Tyler Robertson)
  • RH RP – Anthony Swarzak, Esmerling Vasquez, Jeff Gray, (Kyle Waldrop, Lester Oliveros, Esmerling Vasquez, Jason Bulger, Jim Hoey, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Carlos Gutierrez, Jared Burton, Brendan Wise, Samuel Deduno, Luis Perdomo, Cole DeVries, Deolis Guerra.)

Maloney and Gray are out of options, which is why I have them in the lead right now. Terry Doyle came from the White Sox in the Rule 5 draft, so he will also have a chance to make the opening day roster.

So, as of right now, the Twins have enough of a roster and depth to put together a roster for the 2012 season. Can they compete? As we’ve said all along, that depends on how many games played they get from Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span. It also will depend on the Twins finding at least two more pitchers to join Carl Pavano as a guy who can throw over 190 innings in a season. Bake and Liriano have to be healthy and pitch well. Matt Capps has to pitch like he did for a month in 2010 as opposed to how he did in 2009 or 2011. The bullpen would need to have two or three guys step up and pitch like Perkins did a year ago.

So, what’s left?

#1. The Twins have got to get resolution on the Michael Cuddyer situation. It seems pretty obvious to me that the Twins and Cuddyer will come to an agreement of some sort. If not, Josh Willingham is there. That said, Willingham remains available and I think he’s ready to sign with the Twins as soon as Cuddyer says no, if he does.

#2. Once the Twins sign the aforementioned outfielder, it is time to address the pitching. Depending upon how strict the $100 million budget is will determine how active they can be looking for pitching. I’d like to see them add a starter for a couple of reasons. The Twins top three starters could all become free agents at the end of the 2012 season. Secondly, the last two spots are huge question marks. As much as the bullpen is full of question marks, there are some options with some upside. And, what will help the bullpen more than anything? Getting starters to give some innings. That’s why Jeff Francis and his 183 innings a year ago (his first full year back from Tommy John) is at least a little intriguing. Paul Maholm seems like a choice the Twins might be interested in if he can be healthy this year. The Twins drafted him a few years ago out of his school, and the Twins have a history of bringing in guys like that (Lamb, Punto, others). Obviously my dream signing would be Edwin Jackson. Throws really hard and throws a lot of innings. That would mean increasing the payroll closer to $110 million.

#3. The Bullpen needs help. Now that Octavio Dotel and LaTroy Hawkins have signed elsewhere, I don’t think there is a great, exciting bullpen guy out there. I’d subscribe to the Twins typical plan of waiting until late January or even early February and see who is there. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Austin, MN, native Michael Wuertz could be available to the Twins on a minor league deal at that time. He has some upside if healthy. He just hasn’t been for two years.

THE RULE 5

I always spend a bunch of time thinking about the Rule 5 draft. I try to figure out who the Twins will protect on their 40 man roster. Then after that decision, I try to figure out who the team is at risk to lose. Then it gets to the Rule 5 draft day (yesterday), and as usual, nothing happened. Only 12 draft picks were made in the Major League portion of the draft. The Twins used their second overall pick on Terry Doyle. Then in the minor league draft, they took Marty Popham but lost Shooter Hunt, the only player the organization lost.

Terry Doyle – He will likely receive a legitimate opportunity to be the Twins 5th starter out of spring training. He was with the White Sox organization last year and put up a 3.07 ERA and 12 strikeouts and 33 walks in 173 innings. He has good control and a fastball in the low-90s. Sounds like a typical Twins pitcher, huh? The Twins liked his durability. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League where, in a hitter’s league, he went 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA. I guess in my mind, there’s no reason to be disappointed in this pick. I always dream of the Twins taking guys who throw in the upper 90s and have huge upside. The 25-year-old Doyle is not that. But if he was that, he would have been protected by the White Sox. Doyle won’t turn into Johan Santana, but he certainly looks more exciting than Jason Jones was. We’ll see what happens in the spring. It would be interesting to see if the Twins and White Sox would be able to work out a deal should the Twins want to send him to AAA.

Marty Popham – In the AAA portion, the Twins selected this right-hander from the Cleveland organization. He throws a lot of strikes as well. In 112 innings, he struck out 106 and walked just 25 and reached AA. His other numbers are pretty pedestrian, although considering that this guy wasn’t protected on Cleveland’s AAA reserve list is a little surprising to say the least. The Twins will be able to keep him regardless.

Shooter Hunt – The Twins lost Shooter Hunt to the Cardinals organization in the AAA portion of the draft. The Twins weren’t surprised to see Hunt taken. They knew it could happen. Having interacted some with Hunt in recent years, I really hope the change of scenery helps the former supplemental  first round pick. Hunt has electric stuff; a very good fastball and a tremendous curveball. He struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings. Unfortunately, it’s been well documented that he also has walked 11 batters per nine innings. I certainly hope the change of scenery helps him because he’s got such great upside still.  

Daniel Turpen – Following the Rule 5 draft, the Twins and Rockies completed the Kevin Slowey trade. Turpen, who was picked in last year’s Rule 5 by the Yankees, was not selected this year, so he was the Player to be Named Later. He has a big fastball that allegedly has touched 98 mph and sits between 93 and 95 with good sink. In 60 AA innings, he walked 35 and struck out 33. So, although he has the big fastball, it hasn’t shown in his numbers to this point and since he’s already 25, the odds of that happening aren’t great.

Finally, here are all the shows from this week’s podcast. It was a ton of fun and we had some great guests. Please listen by clicking on the links and feel free to e-mail me any feedback you may have.  

Feel free to comment.

Monday Morning Links

21 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Good morning and welcome to a new week. Fortunately, from a work perspective, it will be a shortened week, so that’s always a good thing.

I spent too much time this weekend working on my Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. I really want to get it out earlier this year. I definitely want to see copies of it at Twins Fest! The meat and potatoes of the book, as always, will be the Prospect Profiles. There will again be over 150 profiles of Twins minor leaguers, and over the weekend, I wrote profiles for all Twins prospect between Logan Darnell and Matt Hauser, alphabetically. If you’re counting, that’s 28 profiles, a busy weekend.

Friday was the big day for Twins news, and of course, you were able to see my thoughts here that day. First, we heard that the Twins were the team that signed Ryan Doumit. Of course, that is not yet true, unless you add the words “pending a physical” to the description. I would assume he will be in Minneapolis in the next couple of days for the physical and to actually sign a contract. As I said on Friday, I love the signing of Doumit. Although he’s not a great catcher, he can catch a little, but he is a right-handed bat who fairly consistently posts an OPS around .800. He can play some 1B, some OF and DH and pinch hit. There is a lot of value in that.

Also on Friday, the Twins and the other big league teams had to add players to their 40 man rosters. The Twins added Oswaldo Arcia, Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson. They also removed David Bromberg from the 40 man roster in a move that disappointed me. However, the fact that Bromberg cleared waivers says that the Twins most likely made the right decision especially since he has not been around long enough to become a free agent. Most likely, he will return to pitch in the upper levels of the Twins minor league system in 2012.

Over the weekend, more and more details of the about-to-be-signed Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players’ union and the owners. The most important thing is that baseball will not have any work stoppage. If only the NBA would learn from that. But anyway, it appears that there will not be Type B draft pick compensation starting this year. Personally, I think that they should wait until next offseason for those changes to go into effect. For instance, Jason Kubel is a Type B free agent. Under the current system, the Twins would receive a supplemental 1st round pick for Kubel if they offered him arbitration and he declined it. I can completely understand why the Twins chose not to trade players off at the July trade deadline, but by the time the August deadline came, the Twins were definitely a Seller. They traded Jim Thome for $20K. Jason Kubel was also claimed, reported by Cleveland, but the two teams were unable to work out a trade. Why? Well, in part likely because the Twins had to decide whether their compensation for Kubel would be close to what they could draft with the supplemental pick they would get for him. With the changes, the Twins will now get nothing if they lose Kubel. Had they known they would get no compensation for Kubel, they may have traded him in an attempt to get something for him rather than nothing.

On Sunday, the Rockies traded Ty Wigginton to the Phillies. Wigginton can play 1B until Ryan Howard comes back. He can also play some 3B, maybe a little bit at 2B, and play some in the corner outfield spots. He also could be a pinch hitter and a bench option. Seemingly, the trade would take the Phillies out of the running for Michael Cuddyer, at least to some degree. Does it possibly open up some salary room for the Rockies to go after Cuddyer more strongly? They have been reportedly interested in Cuddyer all along. If I’m just guessing, the longer that it takes for Cuddyer to sign with a team, the more likely he returns to the Twins. It means that he isn’t getting the overwhelming offers that he may have hoped for, and if money is less of a factor, then the Twins can swoop in. I would think that the Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit signings would indicate to Cuddyer that they still hope to win in 2012.

 

Monday morning came with the horrible news that Mariners 24-year-old outfielder Greg Halman was stabbed to death in the Netherlands yesterday. His brother has been arrested. Halman played for the Dutch national team in the WBC in 2009 along with Twins prospect Tom Stuifbergen. Stuifbergen tweeted, “Gregory Halman… Our dream to face each other in the MLB… Gone… with such a sad day! #nlhonkbal @MLB” Thoughts go out to those who knew him!

 

 

Around the Twins Blogosphere:

Lots on Ryan Doumit. What will Terry Ryan’s next move be? Feel free to comment.

Could Cuddyer Leave?

7 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you would have asked me at the end of the Twins trying 2011 season if Michael Cuddyer would be back with the Twins in 2012 and beyond, my response simply would have been, “Of course.” The Twins have a way of retaining the players that they want to. They obviously kept Joe Mauer. They kept Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and even Michael Cuddyer beyond their free agent years. With some, it was due to locking them up before they were free agents, but for whatever reason, the Twins keep the guys they want to keep. Michael Cuddyer is a guy that we have to assume the Twins really, really want to keep.

Over the weekend, MLB Trade Rumors reported that the Philadelphia Phillies are going to aggressively pursue free agent Michael Cuddyer. Jim Thome signed with the Phillies (no surprise there, huh?!) on Friday. Many wondered if Thome would help try to recruit Cuddyer to the Phillies. The two are very close. Although it has been nothing but speculation to this point, Twitter and discussions were all over the place. It was very interesting to hear and read so many different comments and opinions. If Cuddyer did sign with the Phillies (or anywhere but the Twins), who would be at fault? The Twins front office, meaning Bill Smith, who has become the blame target for everything in 2011? Would Cuddyer be at fault for being greedy or somehow disloyal? I wondered via Twitter if Joe Mauer might somehow get some of the blame, and to no surprise, several people agreed with that notion.

To be completely fair, Michael Cuddyer has earned the right to be a free agent, and he has earned the right to see what other options are available to him. He has the right to stay with the Twins, and he has the right to maximize what will most likely be his last big contract. Likewise, the Twins have the right to sign him to a contract that makes sense to them, but they also have the right to say that there is a limit that they are not willing to go beyond, be it number of years or number of dollars.  

CUDDY’S CAREER

Cuddyer has been in the organization since the Twins made him the 9th overall pick in the 1997 draft out of high school. He began his pro career with Ft. Wayne in the Midwest League in 1998 where he posted an impressive .814 OPS. Sure, he committed 61 errors as a shortstop, but it was still an impressive pro debut. He moved up to Ft. Myers in 1999 and posted an .873 OPS. Before the 2000 season, Baseball America ranked him the 18th best prospect in all of baseball. He advanced to New Britain and posted a .745 OPS as a 21 year old. He returned to New Britain in 2001 and had an incredible season. He hit .301/.395/.560 with 36 doubles, three triples, 30 home runs and 87 RBI. Without looking too deeply, here are some of the best prospect performances by Twins prospects at New Britain (you will note why I will always call Jason Kubel the best Twins prospect I’ve seen in the last decade. His 2004 season was amazing!):

  • Justin Morneau – 2002 (21) – 126 games – .298/.356/.474 with 31 doubles, four triples, 16 HR.
  • Joe Mauer – 2003 (20) – 73 games – .341/.400/.453 with 17 doubles, one triple, 4 HR.
  • Jason Kubel – 2004 (22) – 37 games – .377/.453/.667 with 14 doubles, four triples, six HR.
  • Joe Benson – 2010 (22) – 102 games – .251/.336/.527 with 20 doubles, seven triples, 23 HR.
  • Joe Benson – 2011 (23) – 111 games – .285/.388/.495 with 28 doubles, four triples, 16 HR.  

Cuddyer’s 2001 season ended with the Minnesota Twins where he played eight games in September.

In 2002, he advanced to Triple-A Edmonton where in 86 games, he hit .309/.379/.594 with 16 doubles, nine triples and 20 home runs. He played in parts of 41 games with the Twins that year too. He has been a member of the Twins for the most part since then. He has been a very versatile player for the Twins, always willing to play wherever asked by manager Ron Gardenhire. Here is a look at the positions he played each year:

  • 2001 (1B – 5, 3B – 2, DH – 1)
  • 2002 (RF – 25, 3B – 10, 1B – 6)
  • 2003 (RF – 17, 3B – 7, 1B – 5, 2B – 1, LF – 1)
  • 2004 (2B – 48, 3B – 43, 1B – 10, RF – 8, LF – 7, DH – 4)
  • 2005 (3B – 95, RF – 20, 2B – 11, 1B – 8)
  • 2006 (RF – 142, 1B – 8)
  • 2007 (RF – 140, 1B – 4)
  • 2008 (RF – 48, 1B – 2, CF – 1)
  • 2009 (RF – 117, 1B – 34, CF – 3, 2B – 1)
  • 2010 (1B – 84, RF – 66, 3B – 14, CF – 2, 2B – 1)
  • 2011 (RF – 77, 1B – 46, 2B – 17, DH – 8, P – 1)
  • MLB Total (RF – 670, 1B – 210, 3B – 171, 2B – 79, LF – 9, CF – 6, P – 1)

Let’s look back. He came up as a right fielder and split some time with “Dusty Kielmohr.” As you can see, he moved all over the field. In 2004, he was a Super Utility player. I recall being excited that he could take over for Luis Rivas and end that era. That didn’t happen. In 2005, he began the season as the team’s every day 3B, but he struggled there. In 2006, he was finally just given the everyday 3B job and he thrived. We heard a lot about him being able to just relax and play. He was frequently among league leaders in outfield assists. 2008 was a tough year. He played just 71 games and had several fluke injuries. For some reason, some fans used that season to call him “always hurt.” In reality, 2008 is the only season in which he has had less than 580 plate appearances since 2006. His greatest moment as a Twins player came in 2009 when Justin Morneau could not play in September and Cuddyer moved to 1B. He played well defensively, and he almost single-handedly carried the Twins to the playoffs. It was the only time in his career that he has received MVP votes. He posted a career-high 32 home runs. Unfortunately, he played a lot of 1B in 2010 and 2011 due to Morneau injury. In 2010, he played a lot of 3B in interleague play. In 2011, he played a lot of 2B in an attempt to add some offense to a struggling team.

In the post-season, he hit .338/.372/.473 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs. He has provided the Twins with right-handed power and offense in the middle of the order. He has crushed left-handed pitching throughout his career. Against left-handed pitching, he has hit .290/.378/.491 (.869) in his career.

What to Do?

So, clearly Cuddyer has been important to the Twins on the field for the last decade, and he has provided a lot of value. From the perspective of the Twins front office, it is important to understand, respect and compensate that. However, more important, Cuddyer’s next contract will be for 2012 through 2014 or 2015. Cuddyer will turn 33 years old just before the start of the 2012 season. In my opinion, a 3 year, $30-33 million deal is very appropriate for Cuddyer. It has been reported that the Twins are willing to go up to four years and $40 million. If Cuddyer agreed to that, I would say it is a little high, but certainly reasonable and not worth getting excited or upset about.

There are other reports that Cuddyer and his agent, Casey Close (Derek Jeter’s agent), are looking for four years and $52 million. Again, if the Twins signed him for that, I wouldn’t be upset, but I would definitely say that it is too much. Cuddyer is a very good player, but he is certainly not elite. He was a first-time All Star in 2011. He has a career OPS of .794, and an OPS+ of 111. He is well beyond an average big league player. However, he’s not one of the top big leaguers. In fact, among big league outfielders, his 2011 OPS did not rank among the Top 20.

Versatility and Much More

Cuddyer’s versatility has been very important to the Twins over the years. In fact, his versatility is proving to be quite valuable to Cuddyer as he is a free agent. Over the weekend, it became clear that the Phillies are going to go very hard after Cuddyer, and their reasoning is that he can play all over the field. We heard last summer that the Giants wanted to acquire him as a 2B option. The Red Sox want him to replace JD Drew in right field in Boston. No, he is not a great defender at any position, but his ability to be adequate at several positions is going to make him money.

To discuss the value of Michael Cuddyer without mentioning intangibles can’t happen. No, stats can’t measure they’re value, but they are valuable traits for a team and for an organization. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, it’s hard to measure the value of leadership. It’s impossible to measure the value that a player of Cuddyer’s experience can have in talking with younger players as they are coming up to the big leagues. What is the value of someone who is willing to talk to the media on the good days and especially on the bad days?

Beyond that, what is the value to a team and to a community of having a citizen like Michael Cuddyer in its midst? Cuddyer and his wife Claudia have been very active in the community and with the Twins Community Fund. But Cuddyer goes above and beyond for the community, beyond any likely requirements.

Arguably one of the biggest question marks for the Twins front office as it relates to bringing back Michael Cuddyer for a lot of money has to do with the fan base. Some Twins fans will say things like, “I thought the purpose of Target Field was to be able to keep guys like Cuddyer.” There will be several bloggers who will say that Cuddyer isn’t worth bringing back at all, or at least not for more than X dollars or Y years. But the “average Twins fan” will be upset that Cuddyer is gone. In many ways, he is the face, and he certainly is the voice, of the Minnesota Twins. Should the Twins front office make moves just to appease a fan base? Of course not, that would be irresponsible. However, it should be ready to discuss it. (This is where the Twins PR department will earn some money! I don’t envy that job!)

Aside – Some will blame Bill Smith and the Front Office for not signing Cuddyer to an extension after the 2010 season. However, in 2010, Cuddyer’s OPS dropped from .862 to .753. Of course in retrospect it may look like adding a couple of years at $11-12 million may have made sense, but I don’t think many Twins fans would have thought that a year ago at this time. Others will say that the Twins should have traded Cuddyer at the July trade deadline. The Twins were just five games back and Joe Mauer, Denard Span and Jason Kubel were all expected back soon. To have traded Cuddyer at that time may have been the right decision, but just five games back, I don’t know how they could have done it. Again, in retrospect, these two things could have happened and maybe the Twins would be better off. Retrospect is a beautiful thing!

As a Type A free agent, if the Phillies or Red Sox were to sign Cuddyer, the Twins would get their first-round pick and a supplemental first round pick. Obviously we don’t know how those players will turn out for three to five years, but for a team that needs to add talent to its minor league system, having the #2 overall pick, a late first round pick and an early supplemental first round pick, followed by the #2 pick of the second round would hopefully help out!

Summary

Michael Cuddyer has spent 15 seasons in the Twins organization. He has been a very good, versatile player. He has become a fan and media favorite. He has been a community and charitable leader. Cuddyer has earned the right to be a free agent, and he has the right to take advantage of that right in a way that he feels is best for him, his career and his family… whatever that means. The Twins front office has the responsibility to doing what is best for the team, both short-term and long-term. Sometimes that means doing unpopular things. It is likely that the Cuddyer camp has certain numbers for years and dollars that it would be willing to go down to while listening to teams like the Phillies and Red Sox give them numbers that will be pretty big. At the end of the day, Cuddyer will have several offers to consider and will get to pick what is best for him.

From a personal standpoint, I would like the Twins to find a way to keep Michael Cuddyer. No question about that. At the end of the day, I’ll understand if he decides to move on with another organization, and I’ll understand if the Twins believe that there is a contract that they just don’t want to meet. I have asked myself, if the Twins lose Cuddyer, does that set the tone for an offseason that looks to competing again in 2013 or 2014? Does it mean that the Twins should then push to keep Jason Kubel? If Cuddyer isn’t back, does it make it more difficult to bring Joe Nathan back?

Joe Mauer is the face of the Twins franchise, for whatever that is worth. Joe Mauer is from Minnesota. Michael Cuddyer represents the Minnesota Twins. Regardless of what happens, Michael Cuddyer is, and will always be, a Minnesota Twin.

What are your thoughts on the Cuddyer situation? What if he leaves? What if he stays? Please feel free to leave comments here.

If Cuddyer leaves, what do the Twins do? Obviously, the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook would be a pretty good resource for what other players may be available as replacements! If you don’t have a copy, be sure to order one today! We hope that many of you will develop your own blueprint of and e-mail it to twinscentric@gmail.com to be entered into a random drawing where one winner will receive a copy of the TwinsCentric 2012 Twins Annual next spring.

TwinsCentric: Versatility Needed

2 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

As the four TwinsCentric guys sat down to work through our Blueprints for the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, I’m sure we jotted down some “musts.” We “must” add at least one upper level starting pitcher. We “must” balance the batting lineup. Hopefully many of you will work through a blueprint of your own and e-mail it to twinscentric@gmail.com to be entered into a random drawing for one winner of the TwinsCentric 2012 Twins Annual next spring.  

One of my “musts” was that the roster should be full of players that have the flexibility to play multiple positions and complement each other well. I figured that with physical question marks in Justin Morneau and Denard Span and with all of the injuries that the team experienced in 2011, it would be important to have players who can play a couple of roles. Here is how some of that could play out:

  • Michael Cuddyer – He can play RF, 1B, 2B, 3B and D. That isn’t saying that he plays any of them particularly well, but to know that he could fill in at any of those positions definitely helps. Cuddyer is a free agent, but versatility is one of his many traits that make him a top free agent this offseason.
  • Joe Mauer – Obviously he needs to continue catching, but it is great that he has now accumulated some innings at 1B as well, and played RF fairly well in the game he played there. This could become more important.
  • Backup Catcher – There are several options out there who hit right-handed, can catch 80+ game and spend time at 1B or at another position.
  • Luke Hughes/Trevor Plouffe – Both are out of options. Both could be used as trade chips. Both are right-handed with the ability to hit the ball out of the ball park. Hughes can play 1B, 2B and 3B. Plouffe can play all four infield positions and the two corner outfield positions. (No, not particularly well, but in a pinch it helps.)
  • Alexi Casilla – The Twins seem poised to make him a starter at 2B or shortstop, but does he have more value to a team if he is a utility player, playing three infield positions?
  • Outfielders – Ben Revere and Denard Span can play LF and CF, and RF if needed. Rene Tosoni never played LF until he was up with the Twins last year. He had primarily played RF with some time in CF. Jason Repko was taken off the 40 man roster, but he could play several positions.

If you have enough flexibility in your roster, you could afford to keep Drew Butera on the roster so that the backup catcher and Mauer can play most days in the same lineup. Or, you could have a big bopper to pinch hit, someone like Jim Thome or Vlad Guerrero, if that’s the direction that you choose.

Versatility and roster flexibility is always important but with so many question marks heading into the offseason, I think it’s particularly important for the Twins this year.

Any thoughts or comments?

QUICK HITS

  • Parker posted some Quick Hits at Over the Baggy, discussing Joe Nathan, Ryan Madson and more.
  • Seth hosted last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. He was joined by Cody Christie (North Dakota Twins Fan) and they discussed their offseason blueprints and several other Twins topics.
  • Seth posted some thoughts on the Twins claims on LHP Matt Maloney and RHP Jeff Gray on Monday.
  • Brian Dozier was named yesterday to represent the Twins in the Arizona Fall League’s annual Rising Stars game which will be played on Saturday evening. On Monday, Dozier knocked in the go-ahead run for Mesa. Brett Jacobson got the win in the game, and Dakota Watts threw two scoreless innings for the save. On Tuesday, catcher Chris Herrmann went 1-3 with a walk.
  • The Winter Leagues in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela continue to run. The Puerto Rico League will get started on Friday. On Thursday, the Australian Baseball League will start their schedule. Here is a quick look at the Twins organization players in the ABL:
    • Sydney Blue Sox – Jacob Younis and Todd Van Steensel.
    • Melbourne Aces – Josh Hendricks
    • Brisbane Bandits – Rory Rhodes
    • Perth Heat – Luke Hughes, Liam Hendriks, Allan de San Miguel
    • Canberra Cavalry – Mark Trau and Tim Atherton.
  • If you are looking for a review of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, we’ve got a couple for you. Check out the reviews by Puckett’s Pond and Twinkie Town.
  • It was disappointing to read yesterday that Ryan Lefebvre is no longer a candidate for the Twins radio job. Also, as someone who listened to a lot of Rochester Red Wings games the last couple of years, it was disappointing to hear that their play-by-play man, Josh Whetzel, was also told that he is not in the running.   

Any thoughts?

Value of Leadership

27 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

You’ve read about the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, and as the World Series now has a team that is one win from a title, the Handbook will be available very soon. It is currently available for pre-orders for just $5.99. When the World Series ends, it will become available at $9.99.

Leadership is defined as, “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.”

Michael Cuddyer is on the cover of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. Of all of the decisions that the Twins front office needs to make this offseason, the biggest arguably is what to do about Michael Cuddyer. There is no question that it will be the most talked about topic regardless of what happens. The general consensus from bloggers, writers and many fans is that Cuddyer is a very solid right-handed hitter who plays several positions, none particularly well. He is one of the top free agent outfielders and could make a lot of money. Many believe that he will be paid more than his baseball skills alone would dictate. In other words, he’s a solid baseball player who will get paid extra because of his intangibles. He is well spoken and terrifically accommodating with the media. He is generous with his time for fans and in the community. He is a veteran. He is now an All-Star. He has played in the playoffs before. And, he is the team’s clubhouse leader.

So again, what is a leader? And what are the leadership qualities found in a baseball player? Is leadership always about winning? No. It is always about people. It’s about knowing your players or your teammates. It’s about about knowing what they do well and what they don’t do well. How does a teammate handle constructive criticism or praise? A leader has to know that all people are different and be able to quickly pick up on those things. That’s true for a player or a manager. A manager tries to build morale, and that means that sometimes a good leader puts a player into a tough position or a bad matchup to see how they handle it. Leadership means that the bench players get enough game experience to be ready when needed.

When Mark Dolenc from the New Britain Rock Cats called in to my podcast last month, he said that when Brian Dozier was promoted to the Rock Cats, he quickly became a team leader on the field. On a later podcast, Dozier said that he prefers to quietly lead by example. Other leaders like Torii Hunter chose to be loud, or even to punch teammates.

Most of these intangibles are always a little fuzzy for me because they are in no way statistical. There is no way to quantify leadership. And that’s perfectly fine. But how is leadership measured? Cuddyer has been the team’s leader since Torii Hunter left after the 2007 season. So, in the first three years since then, he led the Twins to 88, 87 and 94 wins. Then in 2011, he led the Twins to 99 losses? Or, maybe he just wasn’t as good of a leader in 2011 as he was in 2008 through 2010? So, how is leadership measure? How can you really put a dollar value to leadership? Consider:

  • I would never consider a player that the media calls a ‘leader’ a leader, unless it is verified by teammates and coaches. As we’ve seen with Cuddyer and Hunter, they have been touted as great leaders, in part, because they are great interviews and very personable and accommodating.
  • Can we agree that in any team sport that involves more than, say, five players on a field or court at one time, leadership is very overrated?
  • Do we know, with certainty, that Tom Brady is a better leader than maybe one of the Patriots linemen, or defensive standouts?
  • Do we know that Tom Brady is a better leader than Tim Tebow because of the titles and wins in the NFL?
  • Do we know that Derek Jeter’s leadership is more important to the Yankees than the leadership of Mariano Rivera, or Mark Teixeira, or who knows, maybe Robinson Cano, or Greg Golson are tremendous leaders?
  • Do we know that Josh Hamilton is a better team leader than Michael Cuddyer?
  • Do we know that Michael Cuddyer is a better team leader than Nick Punto? Than Drew Butera?

Some of the above may seem a bit out there, but if I ask you, “How do you know?” how do you answer with certainty. Good leaders are certainly not always a team’s best player. That’s illustrated by the fact that most really good big league managers were utility types as players. Tom Kelly is touted by Twins fans as a great leader due to two World Series championships. He wasn’t a great (or very good) big league player. Ron Washington and Ron Gardenhire were utility infield types. Joe Mauer is bashed because he isn’t a great leader. Guess what? He doesn’t have to be regardless of his talent or his contract. Not everyone is a leader and that’s not necessarily good or bad. Ron Washington will likely win a World Series title. Does that make him a great leader, or is his team just the most talented? Joe Torre was a ‘bad manager’ when he managed some bad Mets and Braves teams, but he sure became a great manager when he took over those Yankees lineups. Was Joe Girardi a better manager during his World Series championship season with the Yankees or when he made the Florida Marlins relevant?

There are times when pennant-winning teams lose to teams just because of bad luck, injury, bad calls or just because the opponents play really well on a given day.

How do teams evaluate leadership? It’s impossible to truly quantify. So how can we as fans, who are not part of the team, quantify leadership?

As it relates to Michael Cuddyer, all indications are that he is a terrific leader. How terrific? Who knows?! Probably not as terrific as some assumed from 2008 through 2010 and probably more terrific than 2011’s 99 loss season would indicate. And, frankly, because there are at least 24 others on the roster and at least eight others in the lineup and at least eight others on the field at the same time as him, it likely has far less to do with success or failure than anyone wants to admit.

So bringing it all back to the Twins Offseason, let’s just say that you believe Cuddyer’s baseball skills have earned him a 3 year contract for $27 million. How much more should the team pay for his leadership? How much is his work in the community worth to the Twins (to be honest, this is worth more than leadership claims to the Twins organization)? Add those things up. Add more things, if you like.

For me, I’d be happy to get Cuddyer locked up for three years and $30 million. I’d add an option year in there too. I’d probably go up to 3 years and $33 million. It is possible that he could get as much as four years and $45 million. Can you justify that?

Leadership is a great thing, but I think a little proper perspective has to be given to its true value to the team. And again, only his teammates and coaches really know what happens in the clubhouse, on the team plane, in the dugout, in the hotel, etc.

Leadership matters. But how do you quantify it? How do you pay someone for it? If you have any questions or comments or other links, please feel free to leave them here.