November 19, 2009

Twins Links

Here's a great article about Brendan Harris visiting a middle school. It's hard not to respect a guy like Harris after reading that. He definitely went up a few notches in my book.

A couple guys that are reportedly being linked to the Twins are Mark DeRosa and Jarrod Washburn.

The Twins unveiled their uniforms, patches, hats and logos on Monday. I personally like the changes and can't wait to buy a new away jersey. Here are some more thoughts:
Ron Gardenhire came in second to Angels manager Mike Scioscia in voting for A.L. Manager of the Year. Brian Pietrzak believes Gardenhirew was snubbed. I personally thought Rangers manager Ron Washington was snubbed or at the very least deserved more votes than he got. But I'm not surprised being that the Rangers failed to make the playoffs.

For some great pictures of Target Field, check out both the walking tour from NPR and Phil Mackey's pictures.

The Twins have until Friday to put players on their 40-man rosters which would protect them from potentially being taken in next months the Rule V Draft. The Twins have eight minor league free agents. Here's a look at who the Twins may or may not protect. Also, here's Seth Stohs thoughts on the manner.

On Stohs' latest podcast, Danny Valencia and Steve Singleton were guests and it was a great listen. Both are inteligent players with plenty of potential. It's definitely worth a listen if you're interested in Twins prospects.

Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times and author of Evaulation Baseball's Managers: A History and Analysis of Performance in the Major Leagues, 1876-2008 posted an excerpt of his book regarding former Twins manager, Billy Martin. It's a great read and that every Twins fan should check out.

As mentioned this past weekend, Justin Huber has indeed signed a contract to play in Japan next season. But Twins fans found out later that he won't be the only Rochester Red Wing heading accross the Pacific. Juan Morillo has also signed a contract with a Japanese team and will be pitching overseas next season. Tough break for the Twins and Rochester Red Wings.

And finally, here's what's going on around the Twins Blogosphere...

November 14, 2009

Bye Bye Huber?

NPB Tracker just posted a report from the The Chugoku Shimbun that Justin Huber is close to signing a contract with the Hiroshima Carp. This week, Huber was taken off of the 40-man roster and was sent outright to Triple-A. The Carp then put in a request for Huber which, according to the report, was accepted immediately.

The Twins letting Huber go doesn't make a lot of sense to me. For starters, the Rochester Red Wings were a pretty bad team last season and Huber was a fan-favorite who lead the club in home runs, RBI and batting average. And on top of winning the Red Wings' Triple Crown, Huber was named an I.L. All-Star and competed in the home run derby in which he provided the night's longest home run (438 feet). That doesn't mean he should be untouchable, but ripping a player like Huber away from the Red Wings will definitely hurt the team.

He also provides depth at both the corner outfield and first base, two positions the Twins need depth. At first thought, you'd probably disagree. But there's going to be some concern over Justin Morneau's injury and whether or not Delmon Young finally turns a leaf in left field, Huber would have been an adequate replacement. Unfortunately, the Twins didn't feel Huber was valuable enough to keep around and will probably come to an agreement of a modest dollar amount.

Hopefully the Twins find a replacement that can fill Huber's shoes down in Rochester. I know they are going to be full in the outfield and could rely heavily on David Winfree at first base (if he's re-signed), but I still think that keeping a guy like that around when there's uncertainty regarding the depth is a positive.

I've always nagged on the Twins for blocking prospects with older non-prospect players in the minor leagues, but I always took this situation as an exception. The Red Wings will likely be very young and inexperienced again next season, which could keep Rochester out of contention in the I.L. North for the second consecutive season.

November 11, 2009

Who's at second?

Since Todd Walker and Chuck Knoblauch played at the Metrodome, the Twins haven't had steady play from any of their second basemen. In fact, the team has put in little effort (at least, compared to other positions) to upgrade it at all. Surely you can mention Brett Boone or Luis Castillo, but both were well past their prime before putting on a Twins uniform. And when options like Alexi Casilla and Luis Rivas have failed, the Twins haven't been able to find a suitable replacement. And now after a decade of futility at (admittedly) a position that isn't viewed as a highly productive position, the Twins could be in a great position to finally find a productive player to put at second base.

Last week, I mentioned who I would most like to see at second base. Today, I'll give other options that could entise the Twins. And thankfully, there are quite a few.

Orlando Cabrera - The Twins traded for JJ Hardy last week which made everyone assume that the Twins would move on from Cabrera. But since the trade, there have been some rumblings over Ron Gardenhire's comments of how he'd would like to keep Cabrera with the team. As a second baseman.

I understand why Gardenhire would like to keep a person like Cabrera around, but from a player standpoint, I see little reasoning to it. Cabrera hasn't played more than a game at second base sine 1998 and he's a liability at the top of the lineup. If the Twins had an ideal number-two hitter to implant between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, I may be a little more open to it. But I would like to see someone that is better at getting on-base in that spot. Cabrera played well for the Twins down the stretch, but I'm sure that he's looking for a multi-year deal and that's not something I'd like to see the Twins offer a 35-year-old with a severely declined skill set.

Orlando Hudson - When taking in both offensive and defensive production, Hudson's been one of the most underrated second basemen in all of baseball this decade. Despite being on the wrong-side of 30, he still has proven to have a productive bat from both sides of the plate. Last season, Hudson hit .283/.357/.417 which was pretty similar to the triple-slash line that he put up as a 26-years-old in Toronto and nearly identical to his career hitting line.

The problem with Hudson these days isn't his bat, it's his defense. Yesterday, reports came out that Hudson won his fourth Gold Glove Award of his career. Although we won't know until later today if that's true, we've come to know that the award is based a lot of reputation than actual defensive standards. According to his UZR, Hudson has been considered below average defensively in both the last two seasons. But his defense was better in 2009 than it was in 2008 which could make some believe that he's on the rebound.

Hudson's injury risks and declining defense may make some want to keep away from signing him. Much like last off-season, Hudson heads into free agency with the lackluster 'Type-A' status hanging over his head, which immediately made me say, "no way, Jose!" But as John Bonnes points out, some teams may be against offering some of their players arbitration over fear of them accepting it. While I don't think the Dodgers would be distraught over Hudson accepting their arbitration proposal, they may be better advised to let him walk instead of offering him a large one-year offer. As Bonnes mentioned, Hudson was benched toward the end of last season after falling apart in September.

If the Dodgers don't offer arbitration to Hudson, I expect the Twins to make a big play for him. He's an ideal two-hole hitter and wouldn't cost a first round pick. Even with his declining defense, the Twins would be making a mistake if they didn't look into him.

Placido Polanco
- Much like the same case between the Dodgers and Hudson, the Tigers have a tough decision to make whether or not to offer Polanco arbitration. Polanco also qualified as a Type-A free agent and the 34-year-old will look at the trouble that fellow 30+ year-old infielders have had trying to ink a contract and could choose to stay in MoTown. And the Tigers aren't as prepared as the Dodgers in the event that Polanco does accept arbitration. The reason is that Scott Sizemore is slatted to start at second for the Tigers in 2010 and it probably isn't worth the risk to offer Polanco arbitration.

Despite his age, Polanco is still very valuable defensively and was awarded the second Gold Glove of his career yesterday. According to UZR, Polanco saved 11.4 runs with his glove this season, the highest in baseball. Polanco also is a pest at the plate and could be an interesting bat to have between Span and Mauer. Although he doesn't walk a ton, he's hard to strike out and makes a lot of contact. Polanco, like Hudson, should also be on the Twins' radar if he's not offered arbitration.

Brandon Phillips
- Unlike the other options, Philips would need to be acquired through a trade instead of free agency. The Reds are believed to be cutting costs this off-season which makes players such as Phillips vulnerable to be traded. He's set to make $29.75 million over the next three years but doesn't turn 30 until the middle of the 2011 season. Phillips isn't an ideal two-hole hitter, but he's a good right-handed bat with pop. He also plays very strong defense and was recognized with a Gold Glove in 2008.

Unfortunately, the Twins already have several eight-figure players on the team already and should they add Phillips, they'd be adding two more for 2011 with Michael Cuddyer's option being picked up. If the Twins planned on shedding some salary between now and then, it might make some sense, but I don't see the Twins adding a player like Phillips right now.

So there are several other players that have been discussed throughout the Twins Blogosphere. I still think that Felipe Lopez would be a good fit, but there are certainly other intriguing options that could make sense for the Twins.

November 10, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Joe Crede Edition)

Not even a year ago, the Twins signed Joe Crede to be a one-year stopgap at third base while the organization waits for Danny Valencia to make his way up. The deal was a great opportunity for Crede to prove to other ball clubs that he was fully healed from back surgery and and worthy of a long-term contract.

Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out the way either side wanted. Valencia isn't quite ready and Crede hurt himself, eliminating any chances he had of joining another team with a multi-year deal. And although one would expect that the Twins and Crede would part ways, the contrary seems to be likely. The Twins and Crede could both use one another for yet another season.

Many believe that Valencia could probably handle the starting job right out of Spring Training, but the Twins' ultra-conservative approach with position prospects makes that a pipe dream at this point-in-time. That leaves an possibility for the Twins and Crede could be able to find a way to keep the 31-year-old in Minnesota for another year.

Any contract would likely be a one-year deal with similar incentives from his last contract. His last deal had incentives that could bring his $2.5 million salary close to $7 million based on performance and playing time.

Crede seemingly enjoyed his time with the Twins and he was a good clubhouse fit. With a team that is likely to lose veterans such as Mike Redmond and Orlando Cabrera (among others), the Twins need to keep some of the clubhouse charisma that it has. When Crede was able to play, he proved to be a very valuable defender while putting up a putrid .225/.289/.414 hitting line. But on a brighter note, he did have 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 333 at-bats.

Crede underwent back surgery at the end of September and has supposedly felt very good at this point in the recovery. But when he's had three procedures on his back since 2007, it's a huge risk in any way, shape or form when dealing with a guy like him. Thankfully, he has expressed interest of staying in Minnesota and would probably accept a similar deal that brought him here in the first place.

Personally, I've always liked Crede and enjoyed him with the Twins (when he could play), but I think that the Twins would be better off going after a high on-base guy at either second base or third base and letting Nick Punto play the last infield position. With JJ Hardy at shortstop, the Twins would have a very good defensive infield if they do decide to re-sign Crede. And really, I wouldn't be outraged if they did decide to bring him back.

But it does scare me to think of another year of wasting the second spot in the lineup ahead of guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

November 6, 2009

Trade Evaluation: Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy

Now that everyone is starting to calm down over the initial reports of dealing fan-favorite Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy, it's time to evaluate the trade from several angles.


This trade from a Twins perspective is good. While Gomez is one of the best defensive outfielders in the league, he yielded playing time in center field to Denard Span and when Delmon Young started hitting late in the season, Gomez saw seldom playing time. The Twins clearly didn't value Gomez's defense enough to make up for his putrid offense. Which obviously made him expendable.

The Twins being able to pry Hardy from the Brewers without having to give up more than Gomez looks to be an initial 'win' for Minnesota. Hardy was once viewed as 'untouchable' with the likes of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, but poor play and the emergence of Alcides Escobar ultimately forced the Brewers hand. The Twins having gaping holes everywhere except for first base in the infield. Hardy fufills a hole at shortstop while Nick Punto likely fills another hole at either second or third base.

To add: Peter brought up a good point in the comment sections. Baseball has a lot to do with marketing and while Gomez was a fan-favorite in the Twin Cities, Hardy has been known to be a fan-favorite in Wisconsin and I'm sure (from a marketing perspective) the Twins aren't losing a ton while potentially gaining a lot of marketability in Hardy.


The Brewers, as mentioned, felt the need to trade Hardy now while he still has some value left. But had they traded him prior to the July trade deadline, the Brewers probably would have gotten quite a bit more in return. With Mat Gamel making his way to the Majors and Casey McGehee emerging as an option the Brewers thoughts of moving Hardy to third base didn't seem like a viable option anymore. With no room left for Hardy in the infield, the Brewers knew heading into the off-season that they'd have to move one of them to fill in another position of need.

Pitching seemed to be the likely position they'd target in a trade. Mike Cameron is a free agent and seemed likely to test the free agent waters, so the Brewers decided to not waste any time in findinig his replacement. They go from an older good defensive outfielder to a younger, better defensive outfielder. Unfortunately they'll miss Cameron's bat, but if Gomez can reach his potential, they'll be plenty pleased with what Gomez can bring to the table. A fine move on the Brewers behalf.

Now what?

Despite what I mentioned earlier, Bill Smith mentioned that this will mean the end of Orlando Cabrera's time in Minnesota. Smith also mentioned that Nick Punto will likely play either second base or third base which means the club could look to add one of the two. Punto can play either position adequately so the Twins have plenty of options. Right now, the lineup would likely be:

That lineup (to many) would be great, but it unfortunately makes me cringe. Why? Because the thought of Hardy batting second makes me want to puke. He has a career .323 on-base percentage and last season, he got on base 30.2% of the time, which is not good enough for the two-hole. The Twins are notorious for wasting the number two spot in the lineup and when you have guys at number one and three in the lineup that get on-base at a high clip, the two-hole shouldn't be any different.

In order to optimize the lineup we have, I think it's pretty clear that the Twins need to add a player that is a better fit in the two-hole than what Hardy is. In turn, the Twins will be able to stretch their lineup out, allowing Hardy to slide down to number seven in the lineup.

Even after this latest trade, the Twins still have several trading chips that could interest other teams. They also have a few options they can pursue via free agency. One player that would fit the role perfectly would be Chone Figgins, but acquiring him is probably not realistic. To me, the best fit would be Felipe Lopez.

After struggling to crack the lineup as a regular in Toronto, the Blue Jays traded Lopez to Cincinnati prior to the 2003 season. The Reds got similar production from Lopez in both 2003 and 2004 as he backed-up Barry Larkin. Larkin retired prior to the 2005 season and the Reds gave Lopez an opportunity to start. He finished the season hitting .291/.352/.486 with 62 extra-base hits including 23 home runs.

But Lopez was traded to the Washington Nationals in the middle of the 2006 season and he fell off the face of the earth during his two years spent in the nation's capital and the Nationals decided to trade him during the 2008 season to the St. Louis Cardinals. Something started clicking for Lopez in St. Louis and he carried it with him as a free agent in 2009 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks were out of contention at the trade deadline and dealt him to the Milwaukee Brewers where he continued to rip the cover off of the ball.

Lopez isn't an All-Star by any means, but he's a solid defensive second baseman and can fill in at third base if needed. He also has a .392 OBP since the middle of the 2008 season which can't be ignored. Lopez signed a one-year $3.5 million deal with the Diamondbacks last off-season and is likely to receive a substantial pay raise this time around.

Lopez is still on the good side of 30, which means he'll likely be getting a multi-year contract. The Twins don't look to have anyone close to the Majors who would be threatening to take over second base anytime soon so if they wanted to explore a two or three-year deal with Lopez, it'd be a good decision. Signing Lopez to a two-years and $12 million with a third year option of $8 million would be a great move for the Twins.

It'd also give us a lineup like this:

And the best part? The Twins can do this without having to break the bank for someone like Figgins. In fact, according to the TwinsCentric GM Handbook, this would give the Twins a payroll around $87 million. Even if the Twins added $7-8 million onto Mauer's contract extension (if they do sign him to an extension), the Twins would still be within what their self-imposed salary cap would be, which is believed to be between $90-100.

And the Twins could still have a few million to work with in signing a starting pitcher. A good risk for the Twins would be to look into Ben Sheets as a free agent. He likely could be signed for under $2 million (without incentives) and could be a huge boost to this rotation.

The point I'm trying to get across is that the Twins still have a lot of options on how they want to finish off this roster and while re-signing Mauer remains the top priority, it's great to see the Twins not waste any time acquiring new players.

Breaking News: Twins trade Carlos Gomez for JJ Hardy

The Twins and Brewers have reportedly agreed to a trade that would send Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee in exchange for JJ Hardy.

This move isnt' a surprise as both players have been mentioned in rumors over the course of this last season. The surprise is that the Twins pulled the trigger on it so quickly. Although I still think that this doesn't necessarily means the end for Orlando Cabrera in Minnesota (as Hardy can play third base), this could make the next few weeks interesting as we head into free agency.

I personally would have loved to keep Gomez on the team as I still think that at this time, he's a much more valuable commodity than Delmon Young, but I understand the Twins' reasoning for getting rid of him. Unfortunately, the Twins over-value Denard Span's offense in center field and unless Young gains some speed over the off-season, I don't know how I feel about the Twins' outfield (defensively) heading into next season.

Regardless, this move is good for both teams and seeing the Twins strike early is a great thing to see. And I'm sure the ladies will love having both Hardy and Joe Mauer on the same team... oh brother.

Stay tuned...

November 5, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Mike Redmond Edition)

After spending seven years with the Florida Marlins as a backup catcher, Mike Redmond came north to Minnesota to serve as Joe Mauer's primary backup. Redmond was already considered one of the best backups in all of baseball prior to coming to Minnesota, but he solidified that title with the Twins.

Redmond signed a two-year, $1.8 million deal with the Twins after the 2004 season. He later signed a three-year contract extension during the middle of the 2006 season. Over the last five years with Minnesota, Redmond has hit .297/.339/.359 while giving the team solid defense. But as Redmond got older, both his offense and defense declined drastically and he finished the last year of his contract hitting .237/.299/.289 while throwing out only 13% of runners, which were all career lows.

One would expect that all of these factors would be a clear-enough reason for Redmond to hang up the cleats, but think again. Redmond indicated near the end of the season that he's not yet ready to retire and plans on playing next season whether it be in Minnesota or not.

Down the stretch, Redmond yielded playing time to Jose Morales, who put up substantially better numbers. The 26-year-old Morales hit .311/.381/.361 with a 103 OPS+ in 54 games with the Twins this season. Not only is Morales better offensively, but he's becoming a better defender, which has held him back in years past.

As much of a fan-favorite Redmond has become, it'd make no sense to bring him back next season. While the Twins obviously place a lot of emphasis in veteran leadership, the Twins know that Redmond is a liability and cannot be counted on everyday. Not only that, but he stands to make twice as much as Morales while giving a fraction of the production.

As great as it'll someday be to see Redmond waving runners around third base at Target Field, the Twins need to let him finish off his career somewhere else and move on with Morales.

November 3, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Letting Go (The Carl Pavano Edition)

To carry-on with the discussions on who the Twins should bring back, Carl Pavano is the next to be discussed. After failing to acquire a starting pitcher at the July trade deadline, most fans grew huffy and puffy at Bill Smith who despite trading for Orlando Cabrera hadn't really done a whole lot to improve the team.

But as Twins fans found out this season, August may be more active than July. The Twins hit the waiver wire hard in August and acquired three pitchers, including Pavano. After establishing himself as a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter with the Florida Marlins, the New York Yankees handed Pavano nearly $40 million over four years. But the injury bug hit Pavano and the right-hander threw only 145 2/3 innings for the Yankees over four years.

The Yankees declined an $13 million option on Pavano heading into the 2009 season and he later latched on with the Cleveland Indians who gave him a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. He was later placed on waivers in August where the Twins claimed him. To complete the trade, the Twins had to surrender Yohan Pino, which seemed a little steep, but eventually Twins fans supported the deal and most became big Pavano supporters.

Not only did Pavano pitch well against the Detroit Tigers, he also made a great start in the playoffs against the Yankees. Pavano finally started to prove to people that he can stay healthy for an entire season and is an option to sign for more than one year. The Twins loved the influence he had on the young pitching staff and also loved the results they got from Pavano.

With Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn the only pitchers that have really established themselves as mainstays in the rotation, the Twins do have some flexibility with the rest of their rotation. The majority believe that the Twins will have a rotation compiled of both Baker and Blackburn with Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing filling out the rest of the staff. That leaves several internal options that could take that last spot including Glen Perkins, Jeff Manship and Francisco Liriano. But the general consensus is that the Twins will look outside the rotation to fill that final spot.

That's obviously where Pavano comes into play. Should the Twins re-sign him and go forward with the same rotation that essentially got them into the playoffs?

Personally, much like in the case with Cabrera, I personally would rather see the Twins attempt to improve the rotation before settling for Pavano. While Pavano is a nice back-end starter, I fear that the Twins will move forward without seriously improving the position that held them back for much of last season.

According to estimates from our friends at, Pavano may very well get at least $6 million a season, which to me isn't the problem. The problem comes when I think of the Twins being in the same position that they were in much of last season; great offense with poor starting pitching. And when I think of that, I see Pavano being at the forefront of the problem.

Despite putting up decent numbers this season, I am not in any way very optimistic about him being the kind of pitcher the Twins need, which is a front-end (#2-type of) starter. While I'm sure Pavano has finally turned a leaf and is truly ready to be a stable starter in a rotation, I think he's still a #4 starter at this point and I think the Twins would be better suited going after a player with more upside.

I sadly don't see John Lackey as a realistic option for the Twins, but guys like Erik Bedard, Rich Harden or Ben Sheets could fit the bill. All of those guys mentioned carry a big warning sign around their neck, but all fit the bill. All three would likely accept one or two year deals as well, which is probably what the Twins are ideally looking for.

And if the Twins are serious about improving the team, maybe a guy like Lackey would be on their radar. The TwinsCentric crew estimates a four-year $56 million being what it takes to nab Lackey. But given the weakness of this year's free agent class, I'm sure several teams will be biding for Lackey's services and we could very well see him get a six year, $80 million deal from someone. But of course, it's anyone's guess at this point.

If the free agent market fails, the Twins could also target a player through a trade. Javier Vazquez's name could come up this off-season while the Braves try to add Major League hitters. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the Twins have the pieces it'd take to acquire Vazquez, at least not without going overboard. Guys like Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo may be more realistic. But I'm not really that giddy about either of those guys either.

But to me, the best way the Twins could improve their rotation will be through free agency. Although I'd like to see the Twins move away from Pavano, I think the Twins will make a serious effort to re-sign him and with that said, I'll be surprised to see him with a different club next season.