December 2, 2008

Off-season looking clearer

Dennys Reyes was the only Twins Free Agent who qualified for arbitration and the team offered it to him in hopes of acquiring an extra draft pick next June.With the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their pending free agents now behind us, the outlook for the Twins off-season is starting to look a lot more clear.

A player that is viewed as a "Type-A" free agent and is offered arbitration by his former team, will cost a team their first round draft pick if it's not within the top 15. If the player is not offered arbitration, no draft pick will be lost at all. As for Type-B free agents, teams aren't penalized a draft pick for signing them, so the only team that stands to lose is the team offering arbitration if the player ends up accepting the offer and re-signs against the teams desire.

With many Type-A & Type-B free agents not being offered arbitration, we can now begin to get a more accurate list of who the team really could go out and sign. Dennys Reyes received arbitration from the Twins, and being a Type-B free agent, he could net the Twins a compensatory pick in next Junes draft. There is a chance that he could accept the offer and remain a Twin, which really wouldn't be the end of the world, however all indications are that he'll decline and look to sign a multi-year deal elsewhere.

A few weeks ago, I wrote that it was unlikely for the Twins to sign any Type-A free agents due to the fact that the Twins value their draft picks too much to forfeit one. Last week, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reiterated that fact by saying:
I’ve been told it’s highly doubtful the Twins will sign a Type A free agent, which would cost them their first-round draft pick next June, though they have checked into some of the Type A relievers and are in a “Never say never” mode.
This ultimately crossed a few highly desired players off of the "wish list" immediately, regardless of the fact that they may help this team. And incidentely, many of the players who weren't offered arbitration were relievers, which is a position the Twins have high on their priority to upgrade this off-season.

Of course guys like Juan Cruz, Brian Fuentes and Darren Oliver were all offered arbitration and although all would help this club out, it was highly unlikely from the get-go that the Twins would be suitors for them anyways.

Those guys are all very attractive when it comes to helping our bullpen out, but a few others were denied arbitration who could also help out.
  • Doug Brocail, Houston Astros
  • Bob Howry, Chicago Cubs
  • Russ Springer, St. Louis Cardinals
  • Kerry Wood, Chicago Cubs
All four of these relievers could certainly help this ball club out and although I find it extremely unlikely that the Twins would add a high-impact arm such as Kerry Wood, but there are certainly others that could help this ball club out.
  • Chad Cordero
  • Kyle Farnsworth
  • Eric Gagne
  • Jason Isringhausen
  • Brandon Lyon
  • David Weathers
One could even argue that Trevor Hoffman could be an option, however he'll probably go somewhere with save opportunities and thanks to Joe Nathan, he likely won't find any in Minnesota. If I were to rearrange the two lists in order of who I'd like to see the Twins sign, then Wood would definitely be at the top followed by Bob Howry, Russ Springer, Brandon Lyon and then Doug Brocail.

Regardless, I think any of these guys would be able to help our ailing bullpen and could be major factors next season. Jose Mijares is pinned right now as the set-up man, however with just 19 innings pitched over the AA level in his career and the fact that less than a year ago he was involved in a major car accident that was thought to be potentially career ending, one must remain skeptical. I have high hopes for him, however I just believe that the Twins need a proven veteran to handle the set-up duties, or at least have that option if Mijares fails.

The Twins are blessed with many talented pitchers throughout the system, and with guys like Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney on the cusp of being regulars in the bullpen, the Twins bullpen certainly looks bright.

But Pat Neshek is not expecting to return until 2010, although Slama & Delaney or others for that matter should be ready to step into the bullpen by that time. So basically, I believe the Twins may be looking for a short-term player which makes guys like Brocail and Springer that much more attractive due to the fact that they'll likely only be looking for one-year deals due to their age.

Another player who was not offered arbitration is Edgar Renteria. Renteria had a mediocre season in Detroit last season after a tremendous 2007 campaign in Atlanta in which he hit .332 with 43 XBH and a 125 OPS+. However last season nothing went right in Detroit and the 5-time All-Star failed to hit anywhere near as good as he did the prior season and did so with mediocre defense, but that isn't anything new in his career.

Renteria is not a great option by any means, and really is in the same field as Orlando Cabrera (who was offered arbitration), however since he won't cost the Twins a first-round draft choice, he really automatically becomes a viable option. Renteria has received a lot of interest from the Giants, who are reportedly looking at offering him a two-year offer. If he wants a big deal, I'd feel just as happy with re-signing Nick Punto. But still, it gives the team another option.

I still hope the Twins could swing a deal for Yunel Escobar or J.J. Hardy, however it will definitely take something valuable to pry both of them away from their respected teams.

For those that may be wondering, Casey Blake was a Type-B free agent and was offered arbitration from the Dodgers. However he won't cost the Twins a draft choice if they end up working out a deal with the 35-year-old veteran.

So far this off-season, I've been back-and-fourth on whether or not the Twins will sign or trade for a reliever, if they decide to upgrade that position at all. But right now, I'm much more inclined to believe that they'll sign a free agent to upgrade that position before trading for a player. All of this could be altered if Reyes decides to accept arbitration, but I really doubt he will.