November 13, 2008

Neshek done, Bullpen Targets, Twins MiLB free agents, infield

As I am sure you already know, Twins reliever Pat Neshek will be out for all of the 2009 season after suffering a complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. He missed the majority of the 2008 season with the injury, but since it was only a partial tear, the Twins decided that he would be best off just rehabbing the injury instead of immediately undergoing the surgery. Well, after feeling discomfort in his arm during his throwing program last week, an MRI showed that it was fully torn and the surgery would now be necessary.

I share the same disappointment in Twins management as everyone else does at this moment. I was skeptical at the initial reports last May of Neshek being told to rehab instead of undergo surgery, so finding out that we're going to go nearly two years before we see our favorite submarine pitcher take the mound is very unsettling.

Neshek had this to say,
"I'm extremely bummed out right now and am at a loss of words," Neshek wrote in an e-mail to the Star Tribune. "Kind of a numb feeling ... just depressed, I guess."
I think that sums up how everyone in Twins Nation feels right now. Arguably the biggest weakness last season was the bullpen, and to see a guy who could have helped insermountably go down with an injury really bites. The bullpen struggled mightily last year and prior to his injury, Neshek wasn't any different. He had a 4.72 ERA in 13.1 innings to go along with a 1.20 WHIP. Neshek really started to decline in the second half of the 2007 season, and was hit hard in a few appearances this spring. Hopefully this can cure his problem, but with his quirky delivery, it's really hard to see him coming back 100% from this injury.

I believe many (including myself) viewed him having too much of an influence on next years bullpen, which was really unfare being that he'd be coming back from an injury in which he's been out for nearly a year. Before his injury, the Twins probably should have still acquired a strong reliever either via free agency or through trade. Now, it's a must. There are some pretty good relievers available on the open market, as well as on the trade market. I don't see us acquiring a guy like Huston Street, which has been thrown around, but I do think that guys like Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz or Heath Bell are all well within reach.

Other guys that the Twins may target (in no particular order): Kevin Gregg, Russ Springer, David Weathers, Dan Wheeler, Bob Howry, Dog Brocail, Frank Francisco, and Ryan Madson.

I don't see there being an internal fix to our bullpen problems, at least not yet. The Twins have two well-known relievers (at least in Twins Nation) in the minor leagues. They are Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama. Both probably should be at least one level higher than they are now, and both could probably still be ready to help the Twins bullpen come mid-2009. Philip Humber and Kevin Mulvey were both acquired in the Johan Santana trade last winter and both could be used in the bullpen. Humber does not have any more options and likely wouldn't make it to the minors through waivers, so if the Twins wish to retain him they may be forced to either clear room in the rotation or bullpen with the bullpen being the most likely of destinations.

However, the Twins cannot depend on a couple prospects to fix the problem. I am even skeptical of the high hopes that have been put on Jose Mijares, just because he's still young and we haven't seen a whole lot of him. The Twins have a steady foundation in their bullpen with plenty of hope of a rebound, even without Neshek, however they cannot afford to allow their bullpen to determine their fate like they did this last year. So with that said, I expect to see a new reliever at some point before next season, and not just a mediocre one. Past Joe Nathan, there are just too many questions with the remaining members of the bullpen to just sit back and not do something pretty big.

We have no clue how Matt Guerrier will rebound. Jesse Crain had an o.k. return to the bullpen after missing most of the 2007 season, but was far from being a great asset. Craig Breslow looked good, but has bounced from team to team for a reason. Also, Boof Bonser was absolutely dreadful and really can't be counted on at this point. The team is also expected to let Dennys Reyes leave, netting a draft pick in return.

There are plenty of guys out there, I just hope the Twins can net a good one who can come in here and help turn our bullpen around.

The Twins have 14 minor league free agents (to my count):
  • (AAA) Rochester: Howie Clark, INF; Julio DePaula, RHP; Danny Graves, RHP; Tom Shearn, RHP; Ricky Barrett, LHP; Carmen Cali, LHP; Mariano Gomez, LHP; Garrett Jones, 1B; Sergio Santos, SS; Darnell McDonald, OF; and Tommy Watkins, OF.
  • (AA) New Britain: Jason Miller, LHP; Felix Molina, 2B; Joe Gaetti, OF.
I don't expect to see Garrett Jones or Darnell McDonald return, but we'll see. I do expect to see a few guys stay with the club. It would be nice to see the Twins retain Howie Clark who seemed to be a good influence on our AAA team. It'd also be nice to see Mariano Gomez and Ricky Barrett be retained after both having strong 2008 campaigns.

After Matt Holiday was traded by the Rockies to the Athletics for two pitchers and an outfielder, the Rockies next move may be to move third baseman Garrett Atkins. Last week I wrote about the possibility of Atkins becoming a Twin, and my stance is the same, if we can get him without having to overpay, then go for it. But the Twins by no means should overpay for him as many in the Twins Blogosphere have stated, he really is not much better than either Casey Blake (who would be cheaper and wouldn't require a compensation other than money) and isn't worth the price with Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris both on the bench, and both could put up servicable numbers (combined) while playing as bad of defense and only making a fraction of the cost.

However, there is now talk that the Rockies may be looking to swing a deal with the Reds in which Willy Taveras and Atkins go to Cincinnatia. Perhaps that could lead to an Edwin Encarnacion trade, and the Twins could be a potential suitor there as well.

I personally would rather just go after Blake if our choices were between Encarnacion or Atkins in a trade. I still have hope that Adrian Beltre could be traded. If the Twins decide to stay pat at third, I hope that they get one of Yunel Escobar, J.J. Hardy or Rafael Furcal to play shortstop. We'll see I guess. There are still teams that are trying to make big trades, so the Twins may take the wait and see approach to see what's left after the trades. I just hope they don't miss out on improving our team.