December 6, 2008

Twins no longer pursuing Casey Blake

Reports are that the Twins have bowed out of talks with free agent Casey Blake.
Usually don't have much to post about over the weekends, however La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported this morning that the Twins are moving on from free agent Casey Blake after negotiations were in a standstill with Blake demanding a guaranteed third year. The Twins see the moves that other teams such as the Giants, Cardinals and White Sox have made to improve their infield and don't want to be left behind by waiting for Blake to agree to a 2-year deal on the table.

“We’ve got to move here,” the source said. “There are too many things going on.”

I am happy from the standpoint that it really looks like the Twins have honest intentions to improve their infield, however if they expect to improve the infield through trade, I don't know what to expect. The Twins don't seem willing to part with Kevin Slowey who is one of the most thought-after pitchers in the American League at the moment, and also seem reluctant to trade any pitcher for that matter.

Both Denard Span and Delmon Young have drawn interest from other clubs, however I don't see the Twins trading Span at the moment and I hope that they don't trade Young. I know that you "have to give up something to get something" which is why I was so drawn to Blake in the first place. I never thought he was the best option out there in terms of production, but I loved the thought of adding a player without having to give up a valuable player to improve an infield position.

La Velle points out that the Twins might have some interest in Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson. I've never been a fan and I would hate to see the Twins get sucked into the Pirates game which they've seem to have been playing over the last few years regarding Wilson. For nearly as long as I can remember, Wilson's name has come up in many different trade rumors. However the Pirates demand for a top quality player in return for a defensive standout has pushed teams away in the past. Especially considering that the Pirates don't seem willing to eat much of his $7.25 million salary he's set to make in 2009. I love his defense, however I'd hate to see the Twins overpay for a guy who probably would hit #8 or 9.

At this point, I don't have a clue what to expect the rest of the off-season. The Twins still seem very interested in Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins, however the Rockies have been said to be asking for a laughable return for him. Reports are that the Twins would have had to give up Span, Slowey and a prospect for Atkins during the regular season. Although both Slowey's and Span's value have both increased immensely since the middle of the season, I still see them asking for one of those guys with a prospect in return. If that's the case, then no thanks. I understand people's disagreeing that we should trade one of our outfielders for infield help, heck I agree, however trading five more years of Span (not sure if that's accurate, but I think it is) for two years of Atkins.

The two years is especially discouraging considering that he's in the middle of his arbitration and his salary has been going up while his production has been going down. I like Atkins, however if the Rockies want to get rid of him they'll have to meet half way. And I don't see them giving him up for less than what they feel he is worth, which is top quality.

Michael Cuddyer for Atkins would make a lot of sense for both sides, however I don't see the Rockies agreeing to that at all. They want to get young and cheap, so if they shed Atkins' salary, I doubt that they want to add anyone else's salary to replace it.

One name that La Velle does mention that I am certainly interested in is Jason Donald. Remember a few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Twins may be interested in Donald to fill one of their infield needs. He had a phenomenal AFL season in which he hit .407/.476/.747 with 6 home runs (19 total XBH) in just 91 AB's. 51% of his hits went for extra bases, which is something the Twins are looking for, someone who can drive the ball.

Although he has no experience over the AA level, many feel that Donald would be ready out of Spring Training this season. Although a lot of scouts feel that he doesn't have enough range to play shortstop at the major league level, he's yet to change positions and just remember that scouts said the same thing about Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie who's range looked to be more than good enough for the Red Sox last season.

I'd expect that the Twins would have to give up one of their top pitching prospects to get Donald such as Kevin Mulvey, Anthony Swarzak or Philadelphia (suburban) native Michael McCardell (who I am sure would be more than open to pitching for the Phillies some day). Although I'd love to keep all of these pitchers, I can see why the Phillies would be attracted to them. They all have bright futures and can help their ball club sometime in the next year or two (McCardell doesn't need to spend much time in any level, although that's not how the Twins have handled him so far).

As much as I love Rafael Furcal and would like to see him in a Twins uniform, I just don't see the Twins being major players for him. Surely he'd be a logical fit, but I don't see the Twins guaranteeing him 4-years at the price he wants.

If the Twins could get Donald for Mulvey to play shortstop, I'd love to see the Twins try and rekindle trade talks with the Mariners for Adrian Beltre who is coming off of his second consecutive gold glove season. The only problem with adding Beltre is that the Mariners (like the Rockies with Atkins) want a lot in return and although he's probably the best third baseman said to be available, I don't know how far I'd be willing to go. I'd easily trade one of Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn for Beltre, although both of those guys would need to be one of the key pieces, meaning they'd certainly want more. How much more would they want? No idea. I would probably go no further than to trade Tyler Robertson as far as "ranked" prospects go. I'm just not sure what the Mariners would want the most. They need everyday players, but they also need pitchers.

I will admit though, if the Twins trade for Beltre (or any of the other guys that have been mentioned to play third base), I fully expect Nick Punto to be back with the club and starting at shortstop next year. Meaning a deal for both a shortstop and a third baseman seems unlikely.

What's my proposed deal?

Well it's hard to predict what the Mariners want, however I think that Perkins, Jason Pridie and Robertson should get it done. I know Pridie might not interest them much, however he's got outstanding defense which is valuable in the giant Safeco Field. The Twins would probably hate to lose both Mulvey & one of their five starters, however they have Boof Bonser, Philip Humber, Brian Duensing, Swarzak, and we all know that the Twins are always looking at adding a veteran free agent.

A lineup of...
  1. Denard Span, LF
  2. Joe Mauer, C
  3. Adrian Beltre, 3B
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B
  5. Michael Cuddyer/Delmon Young, RF
  6. Jason Kubel/Delmon Young, DH
  7. Jason Donald, SS
  8. Alexi Casilla, 2B
  9. Carlos Gomez, CF
A rotation of...
  1. Scott Baker, RHP
  2. Francisco Liriano, LHP
  3. Kevin Slowey, RHP
  4. Nick Blackburn, RHP
  5. Boof Bonser/Philip Humber/Anthony Swarzak, RHP or Brian Duensing, LHP
Would be good with me! Although I'd hate to lose Perkins, I don't see how the Twins can't find a suitable replacement between one of the four guys I listed. Perkins had an O.K. 2008 season, but he's certainly replaceable. And if the Twins were really concerned, Randy Johnson is on the market and although he probably wants somewhere around $7-8 million, I think the Twins would be getting a proven guy to handle the load.

And even if Punto is back, it wouldn't be the end of the world... And no, I don't share the same "guy love" for Punto that Gardy does, but I do think he's a solid player. I just don't know if I want him penciled in to start everyday. To me, he's a very good utility player who should be used off the bench. But that's a different story...

That would just leave the bullpen to be fixed, and really that's the first position I believe will be addressed. Like Aaron Gleeman noted on Thursday, the Twins need to move fast because some very suitable guys are flying off the market at great prices, so the Twins need to get in on the action ASAP.

I know that I "live in a fantasy world," but C'MON! It's the off-season! When is there a better time to hope and dream and speculate about your favorite team?!