December 10, 2008

Winter Meetings: Day 2 Review

Yesterday there really weren't quite as many big rumors as there were on Monday, but there were a few tidbits that seemed to still get a bit of attention.

It just wouldn't seem right without starting with a Delmon Young rumor. Early yesterday morning, there was a rumor that had the 23-year-old outfielder back to his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays, and although the Rays would likely be trading a pitcher, that player wouldn't be coming to the Twins. Instead Jayson Stark of indicated that a third team, naming the Rockies as an example, that could jump in to grab the pitcher from the Rays while sending the Twins a player... most likely a third baseman (Garrett Atkins).

I'm not as interested in Atkins as some around the world are, so I am a little bias about this trade. I think that if this deal was in place, the Rays would be getting an absolute steal if they only had to surrender Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine. Both pitchers are young with some promise, but both figure to be #4-5 starters at least for the foreseeable future.

Although there are conflicting reports on whether or not the Twins and Rockies have discussed a possible Atkins trade, Kelly Theiser of reports that it is highly unlikely for the Twins to make a trade with the Rays that would send Young back to Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says that the Twins and Rockies have discussed a deal (likely not involving Tampa or any other third team for that matter) about Atkins (and also backed up Theiser's report). The Star-Tribune report is conflicting to that of Troy Renck of the Denver Post, who says that the Rockies have not discussed an Atkins trade with any teams thus far.

At Ron Gardenhire's press conference yesterday, the Twins manager tried to cover up his comments from last weeks North Dakota agricultural trade show in which he made this statement:
"Those three guys (Span, Gomez & Cuddyer) need to play every day. Delmon is in the mix. He’s a helluva player, a helluva talent. But to me, those three guys should be your outfield and then you go from there.
But yesterday, he expressed regret but didn't really take back what he said.
"I'm not going to say it was out of context, because I said what I said, but it was kind of left off there," Gardenhire said. "It wasn't a shot at anybody, I wouldn't do that. I have a lot of respect for Delmon."
He also gave a little reasoning as to one reason the Twins may be looking to trade him.
"Like everything with every player, we want him to flow into our program and understand what we are all about, and he played," Gardenhire said. "He's a little more stubborn than some of the guys."
But then he downplayed it by saying:
"Delmon was not a problem, not an issue, and I would hate to think that somebody would think it was."
So really, it was a bunch of nothing. Gardenhire downplayed the entire incident and Twins GM Bill Smith backed it up by talking up his 23-year-old outfielder.
"The biggest thing I keep saying is that he played all year at 22," Smith said. "We've got kids in A ball that we're raving about that are 22, and he's already got two years in the big leagues. We're excited about his potential and what he's going to grow into."
He also said that he loved Young's reaction to the statements made by his manager last week.

Nothing new regarding the Philadelphia Phillies being interested in Young, which was probably the biggest rumor regarding the Twins on Day 1 at the Winter meetings.


Also at Gardenhire's press conference, Nick Punto's name came up. We all know of Gardenhire's "bromance" for Punto, and he reiterated that yesterday.
"If we sign Nick Punto, he would be my starting shortstop, and I think that's what he's looking for," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I like him and I think he's a gamer. He brings a lot to our baseball team; but whether we can do it or not, we'll have to wait and see."
The Twins are hoping to re-sign Punto to fill the vacancy that he (and to some extent Adam Everett) have left. Punto is strong defensively but can also surprise some offensively. I don't expect him to hit .284 with an OPS+ of 99 like he did last season, but I don't think he'll be anywhere near as bad as he was in 2007 when he hit .210 with an OPS+ of 52. Somewhere between those numbers is probably the minimal of what I'd expect from him.

Certainly out of any remaining free agent shortstop, Punto is probably at the top of my "wish list" if you don't consider Rafael Furcal a realistic option. Hopefully the Twins can hammer out a 2 or 3-year deal before the end of the week.

The Twins may have to compete with teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies for him. Punto did say that he'd like to stay in Minnesota though.
"Minnesota is my first choice. It would be really hard to leave there," said Punto. "It's really great to hear (Gardenhire) say that. It means a lot to hear that from your manager."
If he's that keen on returning to Minnesota, and if the Twins are trying actively to re-sign him, then a deal should be done in the next couple of days. I just hope the Twins don't miss out on him and have to overpay for a different guy who is probably worse defensively and not much better offensively (if any) at all.


La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune said that the Twins have discussed a few different third basemen internally.

Ty Wigginton of the Houston Astros was one of the players mentioned. He is coming off of his best season as a pro hitting .285/.350/.526 with an OPS+ of 128 and 46 XBH's (23 home runs) in just a mere 386 AB's (111 games). Those are outstanding numbers considering the AB's given, however his numbers were obviously inflated while playing in Minute Maid Park. He hit .343 with an OPS of 1.080 and 32 XBH's (15 home runs) at home opposed to hitting .234 with an OPS of .697 and just 14 XBH's (8 home runs) in more AB's on the road. Yuck.

Kevin Kouzmanoff of the San Diego Padres was also mentioned. Kouzmanoff is under team control through 2012 which alone makes him much more appealing (at least to me) than Garrett Atkins. Kouzmanoff doesn't play outstanding defense and to make matters worse he's currently recovering from shoulder surgery. Kouzmanoff hit 23 home runs in just his second full season in the majors and although his overall numbers are down from a year ago, he's quickly emerging as a personal favorite of mine. The reason being is that I'd rather pay a marginal price for a cheaper, younger third baseman than overpay for an older, more expensive third baseman like Atkins.

I don't think I'd do the earlier speculated Delmon Young-Kouzmanoff rumor, but I would probably trade any (one) pitching prospect in the system for him along with Jason Pridie who's defense could play a big factor at Petco Park in San Diego. I don't know if that would get it done, but it seems obvious that the Padres are at the very least open to moving Kouzmanoff to make room at third base for Chase Headley.

Jorge Cantu was the third player mentioned by Neal. He's probably the most inept defensively out of all the players mentioned, but he may cost the least in terms of what the Twins would have to give up. I see no reason as to why the Twins would want Cantu. He's such a liability at third base that he won't last there long and although he is the youngest of the group, he was signed to a minor league contract just a year ago which may suggest that this season could have been a fluke (although he did put up very similar numbers in 2005).

I really am not a big fan of Cantu's, although he is the type of batter the Twins need at third base. But if the Twins were really interested in acquiring Cantu, they'd be just as well off by moving Michael Cuddyer back to third base who is probably a better option defensively.

Those are three names that have been kicked around quite a bit at the Winter Meetings, but it's nice to see the Twins at least think about them. I am warming to the thought of acquiring Kouzmanoff, but I am really not impressed with Cantu and I wouldn't overpay for Wigginton.


In the same report as above, Neal mentions that the Twins have Jack Wilson somewhere on their radar. If you read yesterday's post, you'd know what my thoughts are of acquiring Wilson.

Nick Punto please...


Later last night, a rumor that really intrigued me came afloat. According to T.R. Sullivan of, the Twins are interested in Texas Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit. The article also mentions that the Twins willing to trade Boof Bonser. However, I'm not sure if they are implying a Bonser-Benoit swap, or if it just Sullivan reporting something.

Benoit was injured for most of last year, which is why any potential suitor must remain skeptical. But in 2007, Benoit was one of baseball's better relievers sporting a 2.85 ERA, an 87/28 K/BB ratio and a 1.17 WHIP in 82 innings out of the Rangers bullpen.

This may be a great opportunity to buy low on a potentially great relief option, but I don't know if I'd trade Bonser for him. Bonser has the makeup to be a good setup man, and I for one am looking forward to seeing what he can do starting the season in the bullpen (and not rotation). Benoit has a mid-high 90's fastball with a great slider. Bonser has a mid-high 90's fastball (more so since moving into the bullpen) and a hammer for a curveball. Both could be great assets to the Twins bullpen.

But who would the Twins have to give up?

Stay tuned...