November 24, 2008

Off-Season: ZZZZZzzzzzZZZZZzzzzz

If you don't get it from the title, this off-season has been a complete "Snooze Fest." Surely this isn't any different than previous off-seasons, however since many of us loved the Twins talk and trade speculation that was last off-season, this has just been harder to adjust to.

Many of the players wait until the first week or two in December to make a final decision on their next destination, which is why there has been little activity thus far. Here is the "Off-Season Calendar" from ESPN:
  • December 1: Last day for teams to offer salary arbitration to their former players who became free agents.
  • December 7: Last day for free agents offered salary arbitration to accept the offers.
  • December 8: Hall of Fame veterans committee voting announced
  • December 8-11: Winter meetings, Las Vegas.
  • December 12: Last day for teams to offer 2009 contracts to unsigned players.
As you can see, there is some activity that can and will happen prior to the first week or two of December, however the majority of the off-season action will occur in just a couple of weeks.

As for the Twins, they are still being considered the "front runners" to sign Casey Blake, who's agent, Jim McDowell had this to say about his client potentially signing with the Twins:
"One of the things that is so attractive about Minnesota is he knows the area, he knows the stadium, he knows the people," McDowell said. "All the feedback that I get from him about the Twins is positive."
is is a very positive thing to hear. Blake is supposedly looking for a 3-year deal however I unfortunately have the feeling that the Twins may go beyond that to land him. The deal I see the Twins proposing is a 3-year $21 million deal with an option for a 4th year making the deal potentially be worth $28 million over 4 years.

When hearing that the Twins may be interested in Blake, I was all for it. However even thinking about offering 4 potential seasons for him is a bit alarming. All I can say is that if the Twins did do that, that it's a team option so they aren't unwillingly stuck with him at the age of 39.

The Twins are said to be one of 8 teams interested in adding Blake to their lineup, but like I mentioned the Twins appear to be the front runners as I type this.

Many are not enthused about acquiring Blake and would rather see us trade for a player such as Garrett Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff or Adrian Beltre. Surely those are all good options, however I still to this minute believe that Blake is the best option for one main reason: He won't cost the Twins anything. Obviously he will cost something, however it will not come at the price of a player which in turn will allow the Twins to use the same player(s) that they'd use to acquire one of the other third basemen, and use it to trade for a shortstop and/or a relief pitcher.

Blake is thought of as the best third baseman on the free agency market. The best shortstop is without a doubt Rafael Furcal. The 'word on the street' is that Furcal is looking for at least a 4-year deal and will likely command at least $12-15 million annually. Surely he could be a much bigger asset than Blake, however for possibly twice the amount would you do it? Especially considering that he missed almost all of last season with a serious lower-back injury. Obviously there comes a risk with signing him, just like there is a risk with signing Blake. The only difference is that Blake's risk involves his age, while Furcal's risk involves his health.

The point I guess I am getting to is this, since the Twins are linked to the top free agent third baseman, and not the top free agent shortstop, I feel that they should now look to trade for a shortstop if they are in fact able to sign Blake. Obviously my theory could be flawed, in that the second best shortstop could be also be better than the top third baseman, however after Furcal the next best thing at shortstop is Orlando Cabrera, who like Blake is aging fast and would also be a huge risk to sign. I will admit that the comparison between Cabrera and Blake is much more parallel than the comparison between Blake and Furcal.

Again, I still believe that signing Blake is a much better option than signing Cabrera and attempting to trade for a third baseman. The market this off-season for third basemen is extremely thin, which is why many teams with third basemen are likely to ask for slightly more than what the player is worth, just because the demand for third basemen appears to be pretty high. I don't want the Twins to fall into some sort of puppet-act by an opposing GM and allow them to just pull all of our strings until we oblige and part with a few players that we'd like to keep, just because there isn't a suitable option (after Blake) on the open market.

Sure many probably disagree with the way I hope for Twins to pursue their new coming players, and really nobodies way is the "right way." I think there are plenty of options that the Twins could do, this is just one that I think is most likely. I am also sure many believe that they could sign more than just one player. Although that is very true, after the Twins added players to the 40-man roster, they left one spot open which is believed to be for an incoming free agent. Obviously there are ways to clear more room on the 40-man roster, however the Twins seem pretty set with their current group of players they have on the 40-man and I think that any room cleared on the roster will have to come via trade.

I've said it before (at least the gist of it), but this is my 'dream off-season' heading into 2009:
  • Sign Casey Blake
  • Trade Glen Perkins, Michael Cuddyer and Boof Bonser to the Braves for Yunel Escobar and Jeff Bennett
This gives the Twins an open spot on the 40-man roster which allows them to add a player that they could draft in the Rule V Draft.

Yunel Escobar is my top shortstop choice based heavily on the fact that J.J. Hardy would cost probably twice as much to get in terms of players and is a better defender. Since there are really no shortstops on the horizon of becoming assets for the Twins, I think they should go after a young, talented one to fill the gap between second base and third base for the foreseeable future.

Escobar would provide great defense and a stable bat to our team and could really be on the cusp of stardom. I think the Braves would consider that trade for the purpose that they would be acquiring Glen Perkins who is a suitable starting pitcher when they are incredibly bare in that department. They're also supposedly interested in acquiring a right-handed outfielder who could be added to the middle of the lineup, which just rings 'Michael Cuddyer.' They also would be getting another pitcher who could be a possible starter for them in Boof Bonser. I don't know if they would be willing to give up Jeff Bennett, at least in this deal, however they do have a few relief options that could help the Twins out. Bennett is merely just one of the options.

With that said, the Twins lineup would look like:
  1. Denard Span - LF
  2. Yunel Escobar - SS
  3. Joe Mauer - C
  4. Justin Morneau - 1B
  5. Casey Blake - 3B
  6. Jason Kubel - DH
  7. Delmon Young - RF
  8. Alexi Casilla - 2B
  9. Carlos Gomez - CF
Noticeably I am sure you may see that I have Denard Span in left field with Delmon Young in right. I just feel it may be a better switch for Young if he moved back to right field where I believe he may be more comfortable and I am also tired of seeing him try to chase balls in left field which has quite a bit more space. Left field may be best for the speedy Span.

I know Blake in the 5-hole probably makes some sick to their stomachs, I just don't realistically see Young (at least off-the-bat) hitting behind Justin Morneau. That of course may be a different story if Young has a good Spring Training and if Blake doesn't.

That's all I can really speculate for one night. Obviously my views are different than many others, but really I guess it's just safe to say that regardless of what the Twins do, it seems likely that they will upgrade one of their positions through trade. I personally just hope that it's a shortstop we are trading for, and not a third baseman. Hopefully something happens in the near future so that I can awake from this "Snooze Fest" of an off-season.