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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.

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What Will Francisco Do?

26 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Following their third straight loss down in Texas, the Twins optioned Anthony Slama to Rochester to make room for their new acquisition, left-handed reliever Randy Flores. Flores was designated for assignment last week by the Colorado Rockies and the Twins claimed him. The Rockies sent him without requiring compensation from the Twins. Flores just turned 35 years old. He debuted in the big leagues in 2002 with the Texas Rangers but was soon sent to the St. Louis Cardinals where he spent several years, including being part of their 2005 and 2006 postseason runs. Believe me, this is not some great signing by the Twins. Flores is not a difference maker. His season ERAs since 2006 have been 5.62, 4.25, 5.26 and 5.25. Somehow this year, his ERA with Colorado was 2.96 with a 1.28 WHIP. But the Twins and we, as fans, should not care about any of that. All we should care about is what he does over the next six weeks of the regular season. Remember last year when the Twins signed Ron Mahay at this time of the season. No one was terribly excited about him. No one was terribly excited about acquiring Jon Rauch from Arizona that same day. Both of them really helped the Twins down the stretch. In his career, right-handed batters have hit .306 with an .850 OPS. Left-handers have hit .266 with a .765 OPS. Strangely, in 2010, right-handers are hitting .229 with a .702 OPS while lefties are hitting .220 with a .776 OPS. Six weeks is a very small sample, so we can just hope he chooses now to have a very good small sample!

Tonight, Francisco Liriano will return to the mound after being pushed back three days due to a ‘tired arm.’ I’m trying not to worry much about the situation. In most previous years, Roy Halladay would be DLd by the Blue Jays with a tired arm, and he could come back just fine. So, let’s hope that Liriano is just fine. If it’s anything more than a tired arm, I would just assume that the Twins DL him rather than have him start. So, from that perspective, it will be an interesting start for Liriano, the Twins and fans. From another perspective, it will be interesting to see how Liriano pitches in a matchup against one of baseball’s best starting pitchers, Cliff Lee. We’ll be able to tell in the first inning. Will his fastball sail up and away to right-handed pitchers? Will his follow-through be wild and all over the place?

Before he was traded, Lee was having a tremendous season with the Seattle Mariners. He was 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. Since coming he Texas, he has made nine starts and is 2-4 with a 4.18 ERA despite a 1.03 WHIP. His last three starts, he has given up four runs in 6.1 innings against the Yankees, six runs in 7.2 innings against the Rays, and eight runs on ten hits (including four home runs) in 5.2 innings against the Orioles. So, either the Twins are catching him at just the right time, or he is due for a really great start.

One thing we know for sure, he won’t walk many. In 174.2 innings this year, he has 11 walks and two of those are intentional. So, should the Twins batters be aggressive, knowing he’ll be around the plate? Or should they try to be patient and get Lee’s pitch count up? It’s a tough question because the second option would be great, but if he gets ahead of everyone early in the count, his pitch count will not be high. Twins batters need to step out and try to fluster Lee. Remember when Carlos Gomez would bunt on him and Lee would talk at Gomez? In 18 career starts against the Twins, he is 8-3 with a 3.40 ERA.

The Twins have lost these three games in Texas, and they are important games in determining (again, assuming these are the teams to win the AL Central and AL West) who is the #2 seed in the playoffs and gets home field advantage in the first round against the Wild Card team from the East. But don’t forget that the Twins swept the Rangers in Target Field earlier this year and the two teams will play three more times in Target Field over Labor Day weekend.

Any other Twins topics you would like to discuss?

SATURDAY IN ST. CLOUD!!

As previously mentioned, the Twins Geek, Sooze and I will be at Howie’s Sports Bar in St. Cloud for the TwinsCentric Viewing Party. The Twins play the Mariners at 3:00, so we’ll be there by 2:30 and throughout the game. There will be drink and appetizer specials, and prizes to be given away. Hopefully by having an event like this in the outstate will allow more people the opportunity to be there and meet many more Twins fans.

Following the TwinsCentric Viewing Party, I am going to stay in St. Cloud and head over the Joe Faber Field. The St. Cloud River Bats of the Northwoods League (a college wood bat league) are hosting the Minnesota Twins alumni game at 7:05. Several former Twins players, including Corey Koskie, Jim Eisenrich, Juan Berenguer, Al Newman and several others will be playing in a game. There will be a lot going on throughout the night. Following the game, the player’s jerseys will be signed and auctioned off. Proceeds from the evening will be going to the Miracle League of Central Minnesota. Check out the River Bats website for much more information.

Hopefully I can meet several of you at both of these events in St. Cloud on Saturday!

Here is a quick glance at what happened on Tuesday in the Twins minor league system.

Red Wings Report   

Rochester 2 Scranton/Wilkes Barre 3Matt Fox put together his best start in awhile. In 5.2 innings, he gave up one run on five hits. He walked two and struck out nine. Rob Delaney got a strikeout to get out of the sixth inning. After a scoreless seventh inning, Pat Neshek gave up two runs in the 8th. Alex Burnett got the final two outs. Brendan Harris went 1-3 with his 14th double, and he drove in both runs. D’Angelo Jimenez was 1-2 with two walks and his third triple.  

New Britain Notes

New Britain 8, Binghampton 6 – After being swept on Tuesday, the Rockcats got a nice win on Wednesday. Bobby Lanigan started and gave up one run on four hits and two walks in three innings. Mike McCardell came in and gave up two runs on three hits in his three innings. Carlos Gutierrez gave up three runs on five hits and a walk in the next 2.2 innings and Billy Bullock got the game’s final out.

Miracle Matters

Ft. Myers, Palm Beach – Postponed by rain.  

Snappers Snippets

Beloit 3, Kane County 4 – Martire Garcia made another Snapper start and was terrific! The lefty threw six shutout innings. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six. Matt Tone came in and gave up one run on one hit and a walk in 1.2 innings. Eliecer Cardenas went the final 1.1 innings but was charged with three unearned runs to take the loss. The Snappers had just six hits. Danny Rams hit his 15th home run. Michael Gonzales (27) and Lance Ray (10) each added a double.   

E-Twins Talkers

Elizabethton 4, Pulaski 5 – Manuel Solimon gave up four runs (2 earned) on four hits and two walks in five innings. He struck out six. Adrian Salcedo took the loss. He gave up one run on two hits in the final four innings. Jamaal Hawkins was 2-4 with his 10th double. Brandon Henderson was 1-3 with a walk and his sixth double.  

GCL Twins Topics

GCL Twins 3, GCL Orioles 2Nick Alloway was given a start and came through with a very good outing. In five innings, he gave up two runs on four hits. He walked none and struck out four. Bart Carter came in and struck out five in four scoreless innings. Candido Pimental went 2-3 with a walk. JaDamion Williams hit his third double. Miguel Sano hit his 13th double.

Any thoughts on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.