July 31, 2008

Deal Or No Deal...

With the trade deadline coming up today at 3:00, the Twins have a few decisions to make. But the one move that needs to be made, is getting Francisco Liriano into the starting rotation. I believe that move could have as much of an impact as any other deal could. However, it's unfortunate that the team still feels so good about Livan Hernandez being in the starting rotation because none of the other starters deserve to be put in the bullpen, yet he's likely to stay around since there's been little to no trade buzz around him.

Hernandez demonstrated last night again, why he doesn't deserve to be in the rotation anymore. The Twins brought him in to eat up innings and to 'mentor' our young starting pitchers, however it seems as if the only way he will end up "eating up innings" will be to just keep him in despite giving up 6 runs to just protect our bullpen from needing to work 5 or so innings every 5 days. He just doesn't have it. He left the ball over the plate all night last night, and he continues to be the most hittable pitcher in all of baseball. He's making other teams look like a bunch of Joe Mauer's, giving up a league leading .340 batting average. He makes the defense work too much and with a below-average defensive team, the Twins cannot afford to have such a hittable pitcher. Even Nick Blackburn, who's been one of our best pitchers this season, has been talked about being moved to the bullpen because he gives up too many hits.

I don't see the Twins making any substantial moves, really I think the most that will happen will be Boof Bonser being traded to the Rangers or another team looking for pitching help and that are looking to take on a 26-year-old project. I can see us acquiring a bat like Rich Aurilia, but I doubt that we acquire anything better. But besides that, I think that any (logical) move that brings Francisco Liriano to the rotation, will be a good move. I don't think we need to acquire a bat necessarily, however getting a guy like Adrian Beltre or Mark Grudzielanek sure would be good.

One bit of information I thought was interesting to see was this:
The door may not be closed on Seattle third baseman Adrian Beltre. I heard that the Twins have had many, many, many conversations with Seattle. But the Mariners have asked for Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins or Denard Span as part of a package, and the Twins won’t go there. It’s a matter of Mariners coming down in their demands but, as I wrote recently , it could be tough for these teams to find common ground.
Just look at everything Denard Span has been through in the last year. He doesn't get called up for September call-ups despite having a great couple months in AAA, while he's supposed to be the "heir apparent" to Torii Hunter. He then is basically written off by the team as they acquire 2 center fielders (in seperate deals) and 3 outfielders (all together) during the off-season. After that he is told that he has a chance to win the starting center field job in Spring Training, and despite having a very good spring he is still sent to Triple-A Rochester as the job was Carlos Gomez's all along. After that, he has a tremendous first half in Rochester (with a brief stay in Minnesota) and now seems valuable enough to keep around, and can actually give the Twins reason as to why they should keep him in the starting lineup even after Michael Cuddyer returns from injury.

The Twins reluctance to trade Span is not surprising given the injuries that have happened in the outfield thus far. However it's great to see them want to hang onto him when in just a year ago, he didn't figure into the teams' plans. I'm not blaming the team for wanting to write him off, but it's just great to see such a young player plays at 100% on every play, with great results. I mean, what more can you ask for?

Game Ball vs. White Sox (Wednesday)
Justin Morneau - First Base
1-3, run, double, RBI, walk
Twins lose, 8-3.

July 30, 2008

Not so fast, Adam Everett!

On Tuesday afternoon, the Twins gave Adam Everett 72 hours to decide whether to be designated for assignment or accept a longer stay at Triple-A Rochester, but now instead the Twins have called Everett back to the majors after the devastating news that Alexi Casilla may be done for the season with a torn thumb ligament.

Everett just finished up a 20 day rehab assignment on Monday and it appeared that this move was going to happen with the way the Twins' young middle infield had performed up to this point, especially Casilla. But now, with Casilla down and Punto still banged up, the Twins look to be in need of middle infield help and Everett will (hopefully) provide that. Everett was hitting .189/.235/.324 in 74 AB's and has been on the DL twice this season due to a lingering shoulder problem. He supposedly isn't 100%, which is why the Twins didn't see it as a possibility to drop anyone from the roster for him at this time. On his rehab stint, he played in 11 games and had 39 AB's for the GCL Twins, Ft. Myers Miracle, and Rochester Red Wings and hit .308 with a double. He has a good glove, but due to his shoulder his fielding has been sub par this season.

It's a crushing blow to the Twins as Casilla has been a catalyst both offensively and defensively and was a great player to have in the #2 spot of the lineup. He was hitting .313/.351/.424 with 39 RBI. He was having a down season in Triple-A, hitting .219 with a .600 OPS but after he arrived to Minnesota he was given the keys to 2nd base and drove away with them, never looking back. Casilla had great plate discipline and worked well into the count which made everyone excited to see Denard Span, Casilla, and Joe Mauer 1-2-3 as they all make the pitcher earn a strikeout.

He will be missed greatly, and all we can do is hope that the doctors don't think it's that severe and that he will be gone for just a couple weeks. But from the first reports, it doesn't sound good right now. This probably will mean that Brendan Harris will be starting most games at either shortstop or third base with Nick Punto starting most of the games at second base and Everett playing shortstop late in games as a defensive replacement.

Could Brian Roberts be a possibility? Probably not, but the Twins may quickly scan the middle infield market with the deadline on Thursday. But I still doubt the Twins make a move...

Last weekend, the Yankees released former Twins starter/reliever LaTroy Hawkins and on Monday, Joe Christensen reported that the Twins are interested in bringing him back to Minnesota.

Hawkins was having a terrible season for the Yankees, and really hasn't been the same since he left the Twins prior to the 2004 season. In his 9-year Twins tenor, he was first used as a starter and eased into being a reliever before becoming a dominating setup man his final two seasons. He was 15-3 and had a 1.99 ERA with a 138/30 K/BB ratio his last two seasons with the Twins before joining the Cubs in 2004. He since hasn't found that same kind of success but did play a big role in the Rockies play down the stretch last season and helped them in the playoffs as well. The Tigers supposedly are also interested in him, so we'll see if the Twins actually make a play for him. It would be interesting to see what he can do back with the Twins, but if we won't make room for Francisco Liriano who thinks that we'll make room for Hawkins?

The Twins will also need to make a move when Michael Cuddyer comes back to the Twins lineup, and on Monday he got one step closer to returning as the right-fielder was able to put on a glove, play catch, and take a few soft swings for the first time since he injured his hand last month. He still needs a few more pain-free days before the Twins get a better grasp to when he'll be back, but one thing is for sure when he returns he'll be 100 percent:
"This is something Cuddyer and I talked about," Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We don't want him to come back at 65 percent. He'd like to be healthy the next time he comes back."
One thing is very sure, Denard Span has played too good both offensively and defensively to be removed from the starting lineup which makes Cuddyer a possible Platoon mate with Jason Kubel at DH. Or the Twins could just insert Cuddyer back into right field, and rotate Span throughout the outfield making each player the DH the day Span is spelling them.

We'll see what happens, it could certainly give the Twins a reason to trade Jason Kubel (or Cuddyer) during the off-season for some infield help. But that's not something worth speculating right now...

Former Twins outfielder/designated hitter, Jason Tyner was cut from the Indians AAA-Affiliate on Tuesday, and now has signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox. After he wasd designated for assignment, he declined to go to the Twins' AAA team and then later said:
"If I was going to sign a minor-league contract, I wanted to sign it with a team that has a chance to win a World Series."
That along with:
"I’d like to get a shot at them (the Twins). I know that.”
So I wonder if this is all in his plan of getting a shot at the Twins. Go from one team that seemingly has zero shot of contention and then go to our biggest rival to get his shot, at the Twins.

Former Twins farmhand, Alex Romero made an amazing catch for the Arizona Diamondbacks last night against the San Diego Padres which was a potential game saver. Check it out. Just think, he's no longer with the Twins because the team decided to keep a third-string catcher on the roster instead (Chris Heintz).

And on to possibily the biggest news of the night...

The Twins may be able to move into first place tonight if they're able to beat Gavin Floyd and the White Sox. Last night, the Twins came from a 4-0 deficit to beat the White Sox 6-5 and move within a half game of the division leaders. Who would have thought 5 months ago that the White Sox and Twins would be fighting for the division lead come late July, while the Indians are out of it and the Tigers are clawing their way up the ladder?

Glen Perkins had an iffy start which raises speculation that the Twins may choose to demote him to the bullpen after Thursday's trade deadline, making room for Francisco Liriano in the rotation. I previously made a bold prediction that Kevin Slowey would be the one ousted from the rotation, but after his complete game shutout on Monday, that appears very unlikely. Perkins and Nick Blackburn seem to be better suited (than the others) in the bullpen, so it's likely that one of them will be removed from the rotation sometime over the next week or so.

Carlos Gomez went 3-3 with a walk. It was just his second time in his last 18 games in which he's reached base safely at least twice. Justin Morneau gave the Twins a 3-run double in the 5th inning to put the Twins up 5-4. Joe Mauer later added a much-needed insurance run to put the Twins even further ahead.

But then Nick Swisher made it interesting in the 9th inning as he connected on a Joe Nathan fastball which landed over the baggy in right field to put the White Sox within 1. But Nathan settled down and induced a grounder from Carlos Quentin to get his 29th save of the season.

Tonight, Livan Hernandez will face Floyd, which already makes Twins fans sweat as it's basically one of their best against our worst. Should be an interesting matchup as the "crafty veteran" (or so he's been called) is in a big matchup and his experience (some in big games) is one of the reasons he's been kept in the rotation/on the team.

Game Ball vs. White Sox
Carlos Gomez - Center Field

3-3, 2 runs, RBI
Twins win, 6-5.

Quote of the day
"That's a typical Minnesota Twins baseball game -- 25 bloopers and a big blast," Guillen said. "That's the way they play. They have that nickname for a reason." - Ozzie Guillen after Tuesday's loss to the Twins.

July 29, 2008

Decisions, decisions Pt. 3: Third Baseman

Last week I posted Part 2 of "Decisions, decisions" which highlighted a few relief pitchers that the Twins may target as we approach the deadline. As we stand right now, it seems that 2 of those players are now off the market with Damarso Marte being traded to the Yankees and the Rockies wanting to make a strong push in the 2nd half makes it unlikely for them to trade Brian Fuentes, their best reliever.

The Twins have been dying for a right-handed bat, particularly one that plays 3rd base as they've been unsuccessful at filling that hole since Corey Koskie left as a free agent after the 2004 season. Casey Blake seemed to be a likely candidate, but he was traded for a couple good prospects from the Dodgers which partially set the bar for the remaining 3rd basemen in terms of return value. Since Blake was traded for a few good prospects, it makes it even harder to imagine the Twins trading for a third baseman at this time. And with Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris having a serviceable platoon how it is, the Twins desire for a third baseman has declined over the last month or so. Here are some options that may intrigue the Twins:

Adrian Beltre, 29, Mariners
Beltre's name has come up the most in Twins rumors, and for obvious reasons. The two things they want in a third baseman is a strong defender and a guy who hits well off of left-handers. And Beltre provides both of those qualities for the Twins. He mashes lefties, hitting .362 with an OPS of 1.013 in 94 AB's. Although the Twins have been very happy with Buscher's play thus far, Beltre would not be used as a platoon player in part to his salary, but mainly because of his outstanding defense at third base which made him the 2007 Gold Glove winner. Speculation is that the Mariners want 1 of the Twins' young pitchers (Slowey, Blackburn, Baker or Perkins) as well as at least one good prospect in return for Beltre. I doubt the Twins even think about trading any of their young starters, and I think the most they would do is two mid-level prospects as we'd be taking on the remainder of his contract, and I don't see the Mariners doing that right now. The talks reportedly are "far from dead", but I doubt the Twins wind up with Beltre.

Garrett Atkins, 28, Rockies
Atkins likely isn't going anywhere as it looks as if the Rockies are going to try making a 2nd half push at the playoffs and will need Atkins. Atkins doesn't defend that well, but he does mash southpaws. Another frightening thought about acquiring Atkins is that his home/away splits are fairly significant, although his power is about the same. The only reason why that scares me is that out of the list of candidates, he'd require the most in a trade, so the Twins need to feel 100% positive with a package for Atkins that he'll be able to produce as well as he does in Colorado. Still, I think Atkins would be a good addition to the Twins lineup and could be the right-handed bat we've been longing for.

Blake DeWitt, 22/Andy LaRoche, 24, Dodgers
With the Dodgers' acquisition of Casey Blake both LaRoche and DeWitt have been sent down to Triple-A as the Dodgers don't have a need/room for either of them at this time. With that said, both are now expendable and could probably be moved for help elsewhere. The Dodgers still want to acquire a shortstop as Nomar Garciaparra cannot be counted on to stay healthy down the stretch. Perhaps an Andy LaRoche for Trevor Plouffe trade would appeal to the Dodgers, however I'm not sure if the Twins would want to trade Plouffe for an unestablished third baseman. DeWitt probably wouldn't cost as much, but his potential is not as high as LaRoche's either.

Hank Blalock, 27, Rangers
Blalock's name has come up quite a bit recently and it doesn't quite make sense. He is not great against left-handers and he may be a product of the short dimensions of the Park at Arlington since his road/home splits are drastically different. At home, he has nearly a .900 OPS with 73 HR's compared to his under .700 OPS and 46 HR's on the road, in more at bats. Now, it's not uncommon for a difference in home/road splits, but I think that this is drastic enough to be concerned about acquiring him. He is dreadful against left-handers which doesn't really help the Twins' cause of finding a lefty masher. The only reason why they'd want to acquire Blalock is because he is a solid everyday player (when 100%) and a good run producer. He could sure up 3rd base until Danny Valencia (or someone else) is ready to handle the position from within the organization, but unless he comes at a big discount, I don't want to see the Twins look into acquiring him.

Melvin Mora, 36, Orioles
Mora is an above average defender with very good numbers against left-handers, but it seems unreasonable for a team to trade for him because of his love for the Orioles organization. It's confusing why he'd want to stay on a team that is guaranteed to miss the playoffs, but that's his own agenda. Still, he is someone the Twins could look for and if it weren't for him being nicked and bruised he'd probably be putting up better numbers this season. One wouldn't think that it'd take a lot to get him, but the Orioles are known for demanding top quality in any of their players.

Bill Hall, 28, Brewers
Hall is the left-handed masher the Twins could certainly use, but being that the Brewers are making a strong push this second half, I don't know if they'll get rid of Hall who's come up big for them on several occasions in the last couple weeks. Hall has an OPS of .558 against right-handers and an OPS of 1.046 against left-handers. He's signed through (at least) 2010 being owed $15.2 million over the next two years, so unless the Brewers eat a lot of salary (meaning that they'd demand more for him), I don't see him being a great match for the Twins since he's obviously not an everyday player at this time.

Edwin Encarnacion, 25, Reds
Although he's been said to be "untouchable", I'm sure if the Twins were willing to part with a starting pitcher I'm sure that Encarnacion would quickly become available. I've been a big fan of his in the past, but watching him be benched numerous times due to his laziness and for making nonstop rookie mistakes since 2005 has made me a little down on the 25-year-old. Still, he has a lot of potential and I think that one of these years he's going to erupt into being one of the best offensive third basemen in the league.

Dallas McPherson, 28, Marlins
McPherson is not a great defensive player, but he may have the most offensive potential than anyone else on this list. He missed all of the 2007 season and signed a minor league contract with the Marlins over the winter and is back to doing what he does best, torment AAA pitching. He leads the minor leagues with 38 home runs and has a hitting line of .298/.406/.690 which looks damn near Barry Bonds-like. Although he's best suited for a DH position, which is why the Marlins haven't recalled him yet this season. The Twins may look at him in the off-season if he becomes available.

Ty Wiggington, 30, Astros
Wigginton has also been mentioned multiple times over the last couple of years and is again a possibility. The Astros seem to be reluctant to part with any players this deadline, but Wiggington has been a platoon mate with Geoff Blum all season which makes him seem a little more expendable. He hits very well against left-handers and can play 3 different infield positions. The Twins probably could get him for a pitching prospect, but the Astros have made some strange trades in the last year or so which makes it questionable what they may seek.

Ian Stewart, 23, Rockies
Stewart is under team control through 2013 and although they don't currently have a spot for him, they aren't going to get rid of him for nothing. He has a world of potential and hits both left-handers and right-handers very well. He's played very well in a small sample this summer and although most of his playing time has come at 2nd base, he is still the 3rd basemen of the future. Atkins' defense is not good enough to hold Stewart back for long, and the most logical move would be to move the beloved Todd Helton for some pitching help and move Atkins to first leaving 3rd base for Stewart. Still, if the Rockies want to trade him, I'd love to see the Twins look at acquiring him.

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 27, Padres
Kouzmanoff's name has been rumored to being dealt ever since Chase Headley has emerged as a top prospect in the Padres system. Headley is currently playing in left field while Kouzmanoff mans the hot corner. The Padres would certainly demand at least one of our four starters as well as Denard Span or Michael Cuddyer and I just don't see the Twins parting with any of those players right now. Kouzmanoff is under team control through 2012 which doesn't make the Padres in any rush to move him.

Other players the Twins might take a look at: Matt Brown ( 25, Angels), Brandon Wood ( 23, Angels), Jose Castillo ( 27, Giants).

Game Balls

Friday's Game Ball vs. Indians
Denard Span - right field/center field
Line: 3-4, run RBI
Twins lose, 5-4.

Saturday's Game Ball vs. Indians
Brian Buscher - 3rd Base
Line: 3-5, run, home run, 5 RBI
Twins win, 11-4.

Sunday's Game Ball vs. Indians
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 4 hits, run, walk, 3 K
Twins win, 4-2.

Monday's Game Ball vs. White Sox
Kevin Slowey - Starting Pitcher
Line: 9 innings pitched, 6 hits, walk, 5 K, win
Twins win, 7-0.

July 25, 2008


Sorry, don't have it in me to make a longer post this morning. I might have something up over the weekend, however. So instead here are a few things that interest me and may interest you as well:

Jeff Pearlman of ESPN.com wrote an article on Mike Lamb and how hard having a "dream job" has been on him and his family. What I got from the article is that he may be leaning toward retirement at this point in his career. Which, in part could make the Twins' decision of 'what to do when Michael Cuddyer comes back?' a little easier. They may choose to designate him for assignment and at that point he may be able to take the rest of the season off and choose his next course of action. I know I might be reading a little too much into this, but it's just something that stuck out in that article. It's a little depressing reading that article, but I still have to remember that the man is being payed millions of dollars and although he cannot see his family, there are people working 3 jobs, making just enough to get by and still can't see their family.

Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune looked into a few issues with the Twins. First, he believes that Liriano's re-arrival in Minnesota is coming soon and it could mean that either Nick Blackburn or Glen Perkins is moved to the bullpen. If I had my choice of those two, I'd pick Perkins as we already know he's succeeded in that role.

Next, he said that the Twins feel that the asking prices for guys like Adrian Beltre, Garrett Atkins, Bill Hall and Casey Blake are "too much" and he believes a deal won't get done. Now before reading this, I was going to come on here and make a post wondering if the Twins and Indians could strike a deal this weekend as they play one another, just like the Brewers & Giants made last week when Ray Durham switched dugouts mid-series and like the Twins trading Doug Mientkiewicz to the Red Sox mid-series back in '04. But this looks like typical Twins. There's really not much to say. They can't expect to give up just one or two C prospects for a few guys that 4-5 teams are after. I hope Bill Smith doesn't follow that closely Terry Ryan's footsteps and will remain aggressive. But if a deal isn't there, what can ya do? I don't see Smith being as stingy with dealing prospects, at least not as much as Ryan was, so we will see.

The Twins have also been rumored as a possible Hank Blalock suitor, which wouldn't surprise me although he doesn't fit the bill of a "right-handed southpaw masher" that the Twins are looking for. Still, Blalock's name has come up a few times in the last few years and could be a good fit for the Twins until Danny Valencia is ready which looks could be mid-2009 (Blalock has a 2009 club option worth $6.2 million that the Twins could pick up and then trade him next summer). Bill Hall's name has come up a few times, but I didn't realize he is that he hits lefties that well. This season, he is hitting .359/.423/.652 with 6 HR's in 92 AB's against southpaws. Although the chances of the Brewers trading him right now appears slim since they're trying to load up on ML talent for a 2nd half surge, he would be a good fit to platoon at 3rd with Brian Buscher who hits righties almost as well as Hall hits lefties. That could be a great platoon, although he's still due $15.2 million over the next two seasons which is a little steep, especially for a platoon player. Still if the price is right, I'd love to see Hall with the Twins.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com believes the talks between the Twins and Mariners for Adrian Beltre are "far from dead." But I think it's just Stark trying to keep people interested as we have not heard anything at all over the last week or so. Still, it's possible... I just know I won't get my hopes up of anything happening.

Regardless of if the Twins are looking or not, it's still a decision they have to make and the 3rd base market will be covered in Pt. 3 of "Decisions, decisions" next week.
  • Andrew Kneeland of TwinsFix Twins' 2007 defense in comparison to this years.
  • Nick Nelson of Nick & Nick's Twins Blog gives us a few tidbits.
  • On Monday, John Bonnes of Twins Geek gives us a Shopping List.
  • The Bullpen Catcher believes the Twins could be shopping both Francisco Liriano and Denard Span.
  • Jim Mandelaro from the Democrat and Chronicle believes Brian Buscher may be on his way back to Rochester when Adam Everett is ready to return after Monday. OVER MY DEAD BODY!
  • Josh Taylor grades the Twins minor league catchers from the first half.
  • Mike Decaire from The Curse of Big Papi asks if a you would trade Joe Mauer for a guarantee championship with Mark Prior. Intersting...
Have a great day!

July 24, 2008

Decisions, decision Pt. 2: Set-Up Man

Over the weekend, I discussed a few trade scenario's in which I'd like to see the Twins make. Many of them are what you would call a "pipe dream" and likely will never happen. But really I guess my point is just to get the juices flowing as the trade deadline is just over a week and a half away. Ron Gardenhire has made it known that he wants two different additions; one being a setup man and the other being a right-handed bat who can hit against left-handed pitching.

Even though his numbers look bad, Pat Neshek was the only setup man that the Twins have had this season. After going down with a season-ending shoulder injury in the beginning of May, the Twins still have yet to find a replacement. So it's only right that Gardenhire would ask for a setup man for his all-world closer, Joe Nathan.

The only problem with trading for a reliever is that their trade value is inflated due to the high demand, low quantity (or quality) at the deadline. All teams in the hunt for October are looking to sure up their bullpen and every year relievers are traded for much more than they probably should be, however when push comes to shove, a team has to do what a team has to do.

The Diamondbacks recently traded for Jon Rausch who was closing games for the Washington Nationals, and they got by giving up just the light-hitting Emilio Bonifacio who by no means is a scrub, but is also not a can't-miss prospect. So in my opinion, that could set the bar in terms of other relievers being traded which in relation to the Twins is a good thing since they didn't have to "give up the farm" for a good, cheap reliever. The reliever market is not swarming with great pitchers, but there are a few who should be able to fit the job description.

Ron Mahay, 37, Royals
Mahay is signed for $4 million in 2009 which if he returns could give the Twins two very capable setup men next season with Neshek set to return, but we all know that it will likely take Neshek a while to get back into the swing of things. The Royals would probably like to keep him in case they make current closer Joakim Soria into a starter next season, but if they can grab a mid-level prospect while shedding a little salary I'm sure they might be enticed.

Chad Bradford, 33, Orioles
Bradford has been mentioned on here before, and really it's just because he is likely available and would seem to be a good fit. He's a submarine-type pitcher with solid control and keeps the ball in the park which is something our relievers have not done all season. He is set to make just $3.5 million next season which (like Mahay) is within the Twins budget. The Orioles may sell big at the deadline with guys like Melvin Mora, Aubrey Huff, George Sherrill and others departing, so Bradford is more than likely available if we are willing to give up a mid-level prospect.

Damaso Marte, 33, Pirates
Marte is more than likely out of the Twins price range for obvious reasons . He has a club option of $6 million next season and would likely cost at least two top prospects as it looks like he may very well be a Type-A free agent when he hits the market. Since it likely would cost so much, I don't see the Twins even taking a look at Marte.

Brian Fuentes, 33, Rockies
Fuentes is a lot like Marte, his value is inflated greatly due to the fact of the timing of the trade. The Rockies seem to want a kings' ransom in return for Fuentes and I am sure someone will likely bite, I just hope it's not the Twins (and I doubt it will).

George Sherrill, 31, Orioles
Sherrill won't go anywhere unless the Orioles are blown away with a trade, and I don't see the Twins overpaying (at least not that much) for a reliever when in essence they really only need them for the remainder of the season. Sherrill is under team control through 2011. The Orioles would likely want 2-3 good prospects in return. I bet a deal of Trevor Plouffe, Kevin Mulvey and Rob Delaney would do it, but I think that's too much for the Twins liking.

Eddie Guardado, 37, Rangers
Could it be? "Everyday Eddie" back in M-Town? It could be a possibility. The Rangers want to start looking at next year and since Guardado doesn't appear to be in their plans, they will look to move him. Supposedly the Rangers are very interested in Tyler Robertson who's currently on the shelf with a sore arm, but we all know that would be way too much for the oft-injured reliever. Perhaps a deal involving Hank Blalock could net the Rangers Robertson, who's the son of Jay Robertson, the Special Assistant to the GM of the Rangers. The Twins have been high on Blalock for a while, but he has been injured and doesn't necessarily fit the description the Twins are looking for at third base (which is to hit lefties).

Heath Bell, 30, Padres
Since Bell is the likely replacement for Trevor Hoffman as soon as next year, the likelihood of his departure is slim to none. He was one of the best setup men in 2007 and although he is having a poor '08 campaign, the same can be said about the entire team. Although the Padres are probably still in position to contend next season, they may look to trade him for a young starting pitcher and a young outfielder. The Twins have both and although I seriously doubt they'd trade Denard Span right now, he could be a player the Padres may have interest in. I just don't see the Twins parting with Span and one of Kevin Mulvey, Jeff Manship or even Anthony Swarzak which is what else I think it'd take to get Bell in Minnesota.

Cla Meredith, 25, Padres
Meredith (like Bell) is having a down year and could net the Padres a decent prospect or two in return if they decide to sell low on him. I just think that they know his value could increase greatly and since he's under team control through 2012, they are certainly in no need to trade him right now. They just need to determine if he'll be able to bounce back eventually after getting progressively worse over the last 3 years because if he doesn't, they could miss out on a few good prospects in return.

Mike Adams, 29, Padres
Adams seems like a good fit for the Twins. He likely won't require a lot in return and has had a great season thus far in the majors. Adams missed all of 2007 with a knee injury and has had 3 microfracture surgeries in the last 2 years on his left knee. Still after a poor start in AAA, the Padres called him up and has since been a great addition to their bullpen. He currently has thrown just over 33 innings which we all know is a very small sample size, but it could be a glimpse of hope as to what is to come for the former closer. If the Twins want a low-risk, high-reward possibility, Adams could be the guy.

Huston Street, 25, Athletics
Although it is probably a "pipe dream" to think that Street could ever be a Twin, you can't put it past the A's to trade him, the only problem is that Billy Bean is going to demand multiple top 5-10 prospects in return, and rightfully so. Street's value is down greatly right now, but his name is all over the rumor mill. I think that any deal with Street would have to include one of Ben Revere, Carlos Gomez or possibly even Francisco Liriano and since the Twins don't even have a need at closer. And would the Twins even consider trading Gomez or Liriano? I seriously doubt it. And as stupid as it is to consider an A-Ball player as virtually untouchable, I think Revere is as close as it could possibly get. Although if a team waives a perennial All-Star in our face, I guess they might consider it. One thing is for sure, the A's are locked and loaded to take off in a couple years and what's sick is they continue to produce players who warrant "the farm" in return and Street is one of them (Justin Duchscherer is the other).

Scott Downs, 32, Blue Jays
Although his names hasn't come up in many rumors, I'm sure Downs is available for the right price. The only problem is that since he is having a stellar year, his value has greatly shot up and would likely cost the Twins an "arm and a leg" to get him. Still, if the Twins were that desperate (which for the sake of argument, I don't think they are) they could send the Blue Jays a few good prospects to get him in front of Nathan.

Mike Lincoln/David Weathers, 33/38, Reds
Both Lincoln and Weathers are reportedly available and since the Reds are going to be in complete rebuilding mode this off-season with the likely departures of Adam Dunn and probably also Ken Griffey Jr., so I'm sure that nearly anyone on their team older than Brandon Phillips is probably available. Neither should require all that much in terms of prospects and although neither are great, they are probably doable. Lincoln has a ridiculously low WHIP and already has Minnesota connections as he was drafted by the Twins in the 13th round of the 1996 draft. Weathers is not much better than Lincoln and also probably isn't the type of impact-pitcher the Twins are looking for as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier are probably just as good as Lincoln and Weathers.

Other players the Twins might take a look at: Frank Francisco (28, Rangers), Alan Embree (38, Athletics), Mike Adams (29, Padres), Geoff Geary (31, Astros), Will Ohman (30, Braves) and Mike Gonzalez (30, Braves).

The only question with acquiring some of them is, are they better than what we have? For the most part, I would say yes, but since a lot of these guys are not current setup men it's hard to judge.

Game Ball

Game Ball
Mike Lamb - First Base
Line: 3-4, double, RBI
Twins lose, 5-1.

July 23, 2008

Lightning now at the bottom of the bottle

Last night, Ron Gardenhire made the much-anticipated switch of Denard Span and Carlos Gomez in the batting lineup. And in just one night, we can already see the difference. Although the result of the game didn't change, Span reached base safely 3 times in the game.

Span was the only Twins batter to collect two hits off of Darrell Rasner and a strong Yankees bullpen. He showcased his great speed with an infield base hit and looked to be very comfortable at the top of the lineup. He took pitches and was very selective which is something that Gomez has not been all season. It surely was a great change-of-pace to see a bona fide leadoff hitter at the top of the Twins lineup again.

As for Gomez, he accepted the switch well by going 1-3 with a double and a run scored. Manager Ron Gardenhire spoke with Gomez prior to announcing the switch to keep the electrifying 22-year-old's spirits high as he's in the midst of a terrible slump. Gomez had a great response for the swap:
"If it's better for the team, it's better for me."
For being such a young player, he clearly understands that this is a team sport and it's great to see him be so open to the switch.

Span has a quality at bat about 50% of the time he is at the plate, which is 14% higher than Gomez. But in regards to being a leadoff hitter, the stat that seperates the two the most is the .155 point difference in on-base percentage. Span gets on base which is the most important thing for a leadoff hitter, and is something that Gomez has not done since reaching the majors (and wasn't great at in the minors).

With there theoretically being less pressure at the bottom of the lineup, hopefully Gomez can relax and get back to what seperates him from nearly every other player in baseball and that is his speed. One of the things that was talked about when acquiring Gomez was that there's more less of a chance of him being in a long funk due to the fact that he can bunt for hits. But it seems that Gomez hasn't been doing that and we all have seen the tremendous dropoff in his stealing which is correlated with the fact that he's not getting on base nearly as much as he did at the beginning of the season. But hopefully this move will allow Gomez to ge back to doing what he does best which is use his speed.

I also would like to see him take the "Delmon Young Approach" at the plate in which he doesn't try to pull everything and just go with where the ball is pitched. Gomez hits almost 45% of his balls to the left-side of the field while most pitches tend to throw to Gomez away from him as they know he's going to try pulling it. He needs to try leveling out his swing and hopefully take the ball to the opposite field more like Delmon Young who hits the ball 21% of the time to the outfield in right.

Although Young has been criticized for not pulling the ball more, I understand his reasoning for taking the ball the other way:
"They come in, I pull," he said. "They go away, I go away. No reason to pull balls that are away. You just take what they give you. ... If you go with the pitch, your success rate's going to be higher."
It's great to see a young player like Young want to take the ball the other way. The only thing that would be nice is to see him drive the ball a little more instead of hitting dribblers. But anyways, I'd like to see Gomez try this philosphy out since his clearly does not appear to be working.

I feel a lot more comfortable with Span at the top and with Gomez at the bottom, and I think both of the players feel more comfortable in their new places as well. We'll just see if Gomez can try to learn from his mistakes and try to make changes.

One thing is for sure, even if it's only temporary, it's great to see Span bring the art of leading off back to the Minnesota.

Game Ball
Denard Span - Right Field

2-3, run, walk
Twins lose, 8-2.

July 22, 2008

Long overdue move, prediction

The Twins got absolutely shelled last night as the New York Yankees, who from the beginning just played all around better baseball than the Twins. They fielded well, they pitched well, and they were great at the plate all night. The Twins just played very sloppy baseball. I could get into the pitching performance, Casilla's inexperience and his costly play, or even the offenses inability to drive in more runs despite leaving 17 men on base, but I don't have the desire to write about such poor play. So instead, I will go on a rant about a move that should have been made a while ago.

Ron Gardenhire again penciled in Carlos Gomez at the top of the lineup, despite the 22-year-old outfielder just over .200 with an OPS around .500 since the beginning of June. All while Denard Span has hit .370 since his last promotion. Span also has an OBP hovering close to .500 and has drawn just 4 less walks than Gomez has had all season, the only difference is that Gomez has 397 AB's while Span has 85.

Gardenhire's excuse for leaving Gomez at the top of the lineup is valid, however like Jim Souhan I feel that Gomez probably would perform better in the #9 spot of the lineup as it'd take quite a bit of pressure off of him due to the fact that he can watch the pitcher for 8 batters before stepping into the batters box looking completely unprepared.

I also agree with Gardenhire that leading off gets way too much emphasis, however Gomez will probably get at least 5 extra at bats per week while leading off compared to hitting #9 and it's hard to see him having so much trouble at the plate and know that it's a guaranteed out nearly every time he's up to bat. Gardenhire needs to make this move, and he needs to make it now. Span is the prototypical leadoff hitter, he draws walks, takes long at bats, and gets on base at a high average. Gardenhire knows that Gomez's future is not at lead-off, and just playing him there because he doesn't want to hurt his feelings is inexcusable for a manager.

Gomez brings great excitement and a lot of passion to the game, which along with his blazing speed are his best qualities as a player (at this time). And those qualities will not be effected by moving him to #9 in the order. Gomez is an extremely confident player and he will not let the loss of a handful at bats effect his demeanor. With the majority of young players, you need to be concerned about that, but Gomez's confidence can be seen/heard from outside the ballpark.

I love how Gardenhire has handled this team this season. Sure he's made mistakes, but that's baseball. I honestly don't know of another manager who would do as good of a job with what Gardenhire has been given, especially this season. This team was not supposed to contend, at no point was this team supposed to be 11 games over .500. But Gardenhire has managed this team to contention and although you can point the finger at the Twins' success at both the Indians and Tigers disappointing seasons, nonetheless this team has succeeded everyones expectations. But Gardenhire needs to stop being so concerned about one player's feelings and realize that he is managing an entire team and he needs to do whatever is best for the team. And he knows that flipping Span and Gomez is what's best for the team, even if he won't admit it.

Game Ball
Denard Span - Right Field

Line: 3-4, double, triple, run
Twins lose, 12-4.

Although not related to the topic at hand, I do have a prediction. I predict that Francisco Liriano will replace Kevin Slowey in the Twins rotation within the next 10 days. Slowey then will either be demoted to the bullpen (with Bass being waived) or demoted to Rochester. Although I hate seeing starters in the bullpen, I think that sending him back to Rochester would be pointless as he's already made AAA hitters look like A-Ballers in the past. I just think that with Livan Hernandez gaining the support of both the management and front office and with it looking like they will likely not trade him, I just don't see any other pitcher deserving of any kind of demotion. And lets face it, the thought of Francisco Liriano throwing in the mid-upper 90's makes you grin. I think the Twins feel the same way and will find a way to get him up here within the next 10 days, they might just wait though to show that they won't be fazed by the threat of his agent filing a grievance against the team.

July 21, 2008

Twins take 2 of 3, move in within a half game

Before the All-Star Break, the Twins were winning with great starting pitching and that same trend continues for the Twins as their starters propelled them to a 2-1 series victory.

On Friday, Glen Perkins 6 shutout innings and improved to 7-2 on the season. He gave up 3 hits and 3 walks but kept the game in control and lowered his ERA to 3.84 on the season. Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, and Boof Bonser all combined for 3 perfect innings in relief to hold the victory.

On Saturday, Livan Hernandez fell behind 2-1 after a 2-run home run to Chris Davis in the 2nd inning, but after that it was vintage Livan. He shut down the next 12 batters he faced by working the corners and using his vast difference in speed. With this outing, Hernandez stands at 10-6 with a 5.29 ERA on the season and continues to get support from the organization before the trade deadline. If they decide to trade him, he certainly could improve his value with another good performance.

And finally on Sunday, although Scott Baker pitched a great game the offense seemed to use up all of its gas on Satuday. After scoring 14 runs on 16 hits the night before, the Twins offense could only muster 3 hits on Sunday which left Scott Baker in a tough situation. His perfect game was broken up in the 6th inning after Taylor Teagarden launched his first hit of his career into the seats in center field. And despite giving up just 1 run on 2 hits over 8 innings, Baker still fell victim to the loss after the Twins were shutout by Vincente Padilla, "Everyday" Eddie Guardado and C.J. Wilson. With the loss, Baker fell to 6-3 on the season but still lowered his ERA to 3.26. Baker also struck out 8 batters which gives him a 12 K lead over Nick Blackburn for the team leader. Baker has also had 4 less starts than Blackburn, which makes it all the more impressive.

Delmon Young had a great series. The 22-year-old left fielder went 8-12 with a home run, 3 RBI's, and his first 4-game series of his career. A couple weeks ago, I mentioned how Young was finally starting to get into his stride and he doesn't look to be stopping. Since I posted that, he's hit .385 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI. If he continues this, he will add great depth to our lineup and although he likely will never hit between Joe Mauer & Justin Morneau (at least not anytime soon), he certainly may give Gardenhire a reason to move him to #5 behind Morneau and ahead of Jason Kubel.

Despite participating in both the home run derby and the 15-inning All-Star Game in which he scored the winning run, Justin Morneau doesn't seem to have missed a step at all. The Canadian Slugger went 3-11 but drove in 5 runs, two of which came off of his 15th home run of the season. His counterpart in the Home Run Derby, Josh Hamilton went 2-8 in the series without a home run. Morneau was hit on the hand by a pitch that he swung threw in the 9th inning of Sunday's game, but he finished the at bat and seems to be alright for the series.

Joe Mauer went 4-11 with 4 runs scored, 3 RBI and he hit his 6th home run of the season and all have come since June 2nd. Since June 2nd, Mauer has hit .333 (44-132) with 13 doubles, 6 home runs, 23 RBI and 27 walks. He is in contention yet again for another batting title and with Ian Kinsler going 0-11 in the series, Mauer moved within .04 points of the AL batting lead. Morneau is a close 3rd hitting .322 on the season.

Brian Buscher continues to show why he deserves to be the everyday 3rd baseman for the Twins, going 5-10 with a home run and 4 RBI. Alexi Casilla went 4-10 in the first two games, but 0-4 on Sunday, the day of his 24th Birthday. Carlos Gomez went 2-13 with 2 doubles, but his spot on top of the lineup appears to be in jeopardy although his likely replacement at the top Denard Span went 2-12 in the series. Still, Span is getting on at a much higher percentage and it appears that if Gomez doesn't turn it around early in this series he might be hitting 9th in the Cleveland Series.

The Twins are set to face the Yankees in a 3-game series which begins tonight at Yankee Stadium. It's the last time the Twins will play there (unless if both teams meet in the playoffs) and it fortunately for the Twins they don't have to face Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte, both who are having great seasons. Instead, the Twins will face Sidney Ponson (5-1, 3.96) tonight, Darrell Rasner (5-7, 4.97) tomorrow, and Mike Mussina (12-6, 3.49) on Wednesday. For the Twins, Nick Blackburn (7-5, 3.65) will face Ponson, Kevin Slowey (6-6, 4.26) will take on Rasner while Glen Perkins (7-2, 3.84) gets to face Mussina.

Should be a great series!

Friday's Game Ball
Delmon Young - Left Field

4-4, RBI, SB
Twins win, 6-0.

Saturday's Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base

2-5, double, home run, 5 RBI, walk
Twins win, 14-2.

Sunday's Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

Line: 8 innings pitched, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 8 K
Twins lose, 1-0.

July 19, 2008

Decisions, decisions

As I'm sure you know, the Twins are currently being investigated by the Players Union after Francisco Liriano and his agent decided to file a grievance against the organization to see if they are violating his rights in the collective bargaining agreement by keeping him in the minors to delay his arbitration eligibility.

Liriano's agent claims that there is "reasonable cause" to investigate and claims that since both he, his client, and the team is now "dominating" that he should be in the major leagues. While I don't disagree that he should, I believe that he has zero say on when this team should promote him and I actually believe that his agent could be delaying his re-arrival in the majors by making this into such a big issue.

Both Bill Smith and Ron Gardenhire have made public statements, both claiming that it's not the agents place to tell the team what to do and that it's obviously not a financial motivation as he was already in the major leagues earlier in the season. I agree with both Smith and Gardenhire on this issue, and I don't agree with either a player or an agent trying to force the team's hand on promoting/trading/releasing a player, if the team is winning. I'd be fine with Liriano's agent calling out the organization if this team was in 4th place and out of contention. But the fact of the matter is is that this team is on a 23-7 streak and has had great starting pitching over the last month or so. To get Liriano in Minnesota, I believe a trade will be made, but it's just a matter of...when?

With the trade deadline approaching quickly, the Twins likely will make at least one or two moves and moving a pitcher (or two) is likely. Livan Hernandez's name seems to have been on the trading block since the signed him in the off-season. Heading into the season, everyone new he'd be a candidate to be traded before the July 31st trade deadline as he signed just a one-year contract and veteran starters are always of need come the second half. And as of right now, although there hasn't been a ton of rumblings about his departure, it seems likely that Liriano will be taking his place in the rotation before August 1st roles around. The Twins likely won't get a lot in return, but thats' never stopped them from moving a veteran before at the deadline (ala Luis Castillo).

The Philadelphia Phillies just acquired Joe Blanton, who although has a much brighter future than Hernandez, isn't having a much better season than the 33-year-old Cuban. But still, that didn't stop the Phillies from giving up a few good prospects for the 5-12 Blanton who's sporting a very poor 4.96 ERA, despite pitching for one of the best teams (when it comes to defense and pitching) in the American League in the Oakland Athletics.

I don't see the Twins getting nearly as much in return, but I think it could be enough for the Twins to make a move. Here are my proposed trades for the upcoming deadline (which will likely change numerous times over the next 12 days):

Twins trade Boof Bonser to the Texas Rangers for Engel Beltre & Steven Murphy

Reason: Bonser looks to have no future with the team and the Rangers are always struggling to add pitching. Bonser (at least to me) seems to have the "benefit from a change of scenery" label which could make him an attractive trade chip at a team that looks to make a second half push. The Twins have quite a few injuries at outfield in the lower minors and so both Beltre & Murphy could definitely fill holes well. Beltre has a lot of potential, and it'd be nice to see him in the organization. Another player that the Rangers may try to trade could be Nelson Cruz who is absolutely crushing the ball in AAA. I don't see the Twins trading for another outfielder, but that may (or may not) change if Michael Cuddyer is out for much longer. Although Denard Span has filled in very well, Nelson Cruz's bat would fit in nicely for the Twins as he has a very good line against left-handers. With the loss of Bonser, I propose that the Twins call up Matt Macri and hopefully at that time Matt Tolbert is almost ready to play and can finish off the season in Rochester before coming back to the Twins. If not calling up Macri, make room for this next guy:

Twins trade Anthony Swarzak and Anthony Slama to the Mariners for Adrian Beltre

Reason: The Twins know that adding Beltre would make them better both offensively and defensively, so I see no reason why they shouldn't be able to pull off this move. He mashes left-handers, something this team has struggled doing thus far this season, he makes amazing plays at third base, and is still in our price range for the next year and a half. With Danny Valencia improving and becoming the likely "3rd Baseman of the future", adding a for-sure producer like Beltre until Valencia is ready would be great. The only thing that may hold this trade back is the Mariner's unwillingness to trade him. Although they'd love to shed his salary in hopes of signing Yu Darvish this off-season, the organization feels that they owe something to their fans and losing Beltre would seemingly crush them. I disagree, and I believe that if they can do this and then trade Raul Ibanez this team is just making themselves better for the future and I'm sure most of their fans would agree. I don't see the Twins having to give up too much in return for Beltre, as they'd basically be taking on his full salary which is about $19 million from now through 2009. Baseball Prospectus agrees.

Twins trade Livan Hernandez to Marlins for Scott Cousins and Sean West

Reason: I know I may be having "pipe dreams" with my compensation for both Hernandez and Bonser, but I truly believe that a team looking to make a push in the 2nd half will go a little above and beyond to get a valuable starter. The Twins in return get a solid outfield prospect along with a good pitching prospect. I think this is a reasonable deal for both teams and it'd open up a spot in the rotation for Francisco Liriano.

Twins trade Tim Lahey for Chad Bradford

Reason: Ok, maybe I'm really stretching it here. Lahey was the first pick in the Rule V Draft but was reclaimed off of waivers by the Twins. Still, he holds a little value after a solid 2007 campaign. I see this more as the Orioles wanting to dump salary and the Twins just picking up a solid reliever who should be able to be a quality setup man for them. And his deliver should remind the Twins of another setup man who's currently on the shelf. And with this move, hopefully the Twins can find another place for Brian Bass, and I'm hoping that place is in Rochester, New York.

DFA both Mike Lamb & Adam Everett

Reason: Both of these guys have done absolutely nothing this season. Everett is injured, but when he gets back I expect him to see very little playing time and as of right now, Mike Lamb cannot crack the starting lineup. I see there being little to no chance that Lamb is on the roster, and I think Everett is gone as well. It's unfortunate because Twins fans expected a lot from both of these guys, but the two former Astros just couldn't get anything going.

So that leaves us with this lineup/bench heading into the "Dog Days" of summer.

CF - Carlos Gomez
2B - Alexi Casilla
C - Joe Mauer
1B - Justin Morneau
3B - Adrian Beltre
DH - Jason Kubel
LF - Delmon Young
RF - Michael Cuddyer
SS - Nick Punto

C - Mike Redmond
INF - Brendan Harris
1B/3B - Brian Buscher
OF - Craig Monroe
OF - Denard Span

And this rotation/bullpen:

1 - Scott Baker
2 - Nick Blackburn
3 - Kevin Slowey
4 - Glen Perkins
5 - Francisco Liriano

CL - Joe Nathan
SU - Chad Bradford
MR - Matt Guerrier
MR - Jesse Crain
MR - Craig Breslow
LG - Dennys Reyes

I can also see there being a change in the lineup, such as Gomez going to #9 and everyone else moving up, but at this time it seems like Ron Gardenhire is set on Go-Go being numero uno in his lineup.

Although if the Twins want to contend, I doubt they trade away pitching for prospects (besides Hernandez) and I also believe that it's more likely to see the Twins stay quite at the deadline, although I do think at least one or two moves will happen. Only I see one of them being a release of some sort and the other being to make room (somehow, someway) for Francisco Liriano. In other words, at this time I doubt we acquire Adrian Beltre. But things can certainly change. And although he does seem like he would, I think the injury to Michael Cuddyer will play a part in the teams decision to add a bat.

July 15, 2008

Morneau wins derby, but Hamilton deserves the buzz

As you probably already know, Justin Morneau won the Home Run Derby last night and did it in a booing Yankee Stadium which had fans screaming for Josh Hamilton to win it, after he belted a record-breaking 28 home runs in the first round.

That's not the only reason, fans at Yankee Stadium wanted Hamilton to win. Back in 2006, Justin Morneau "stole" the MVP award from Derek Jeter. Morneau beat Jeter by 14 points (320-306) for the honor, and despite both having very good numbers the award was given to Morneau probably in part to him leading his team from out of nowhere in the tough A.L. Central to win the division on the last day.

It was actually a shock to everyone throughout the league as a player from Minnesota beat out one of the best Yankees of all time for an award, especially this prestigious, despite having similar numbers. It was truly remarkable.

But I'm not blaming that for any reason as to why the fans chanted for Hamilton. Because Hamilton's heart-warming story is truly the reasoning behind not only the Yankee fans, but also all of baseball loving this guy. And although his 28 home runs played a big part of his love at Yankee Stadium, there's another reason why fans immediately were hoping he would've won regardless of who it was against.

In nearly two-and-a-half years, Hamilton has seen his life go from the lowest of lows, to now the highest of highs. The former 1st overall pick in the 1999 draft by the Rays was at one point out of professional baseball for nearly 4 seasons due to a drug addiction which almost got the best of him.

Finally in Fall of 2005, a confrontation with his grandmother made him quit both drugs and alcohol all together and he hasn't used since. He committed himself to getting clean and going back to what he loves doing most, playing baseball.

After being reinstated by MLB to play, Hamilton played in 15 games in 2006 before being chosen with the first overall pick of the 2006/2007 Rule V Draft. Taken originally by the Chicago Cubs, his rights were traded for $100,000 to the division rival Cincinnati Reds where he had to break camp with the team despite having only had a little over 20 AB's in anything over High-A ball which was all the way back in 2001.

He hit .350 with 4 home runs and 8 RBI in 40 at bats for the Reds in Spring Training and was kept on the 25-man roster as a 4th outfielder. But thanks to an injury to Ryan Freel, Hamilton got nearly 300 at bats and hit .292 with 19 home runs and had an OPS of .922, Hamilton established himself as a breakout player and his story started gaining more and more publicity as time has progressed.

In the off-season, he was traded by the Cincinnati Reds due to the fact that they had top prospect Jay Bruce on the cusp of the big leagues and they found a trading partner who could give them an up and coming pitcher to help their disastrous rotation. That player was pitcher Edison Volquez who despite having good numbers in the minors, was still trying to solidify himself as a major league starter. So it was really a win-win for both teams, the Rangers got an up-and-coming slugger after trading Mark Teixeira the previous season and the Reds got a good, yet inexperienced pitcher in return.

I don't expect either team knew what was going to happen after that trade happened. Volquez has established himself as one of the best pitchers in the National League and is currently in the thick of the NL Cy Young competition while Hamiltion has established himself as one of the best sluggers in the AL and is also in the thick of an award, the MVP award.

So in just about two years, Hamilton has gone from being kicked out of baseball due to his drug and alcohol addiction to being one of the best players in all of baseball. Words cannot describe how unbelievable of a story that is.

It is truly remarkable and his story has also garnered rumors of a potential movie being made, which looks to be likely at some point in the future. So if anyone is questioning the love Hamilton is receiving for coming in second place, remember his story.

Still, congrats to Justin Morneau. But I believe the true winner in all of this is Josh Hamilton.

July 14, 2008

Twins looking for help

As I posted last week, the Twins clearly have two holes right now; a third baseman and good set-up man. And according to La Velle E. Neal III, the Twins feel the same way.

The Twins recently made contact with the Seattle Mariners about acquiring Adrian Beltre, who not only would fill 3rd base adequately with his stellar defense, but he also mashes against left-handed pitching which is a big concern:
“The one thing we had a hard time with in the first half was left-handed pitching,’’ he said. “When (Michael) Cuddyer comes back, that’s always gong to help, but if you have to make adjustments we need to hit lefties better than we did this half.
And then Neal gives us the splits:
vs. Left-Handed Pitchers: .265/.315/.380 with 17 home runs in 958 AB's.
vs. Right-Handed Pitchers: .283/.344/.419 with 48 home runs in 2,324 AB's.
That's a pretty considerable difference, and Beltre would definitely help in that area. He's currently hitting .347 with an OPS of 1.008 with 4 home runs in 75 AB's against southpaws. Those stats are much better than his numbers against right-handers.

It's unknown what the price tag on Beltre would be, but since he's on board for $12 million both this season and next season, I'm guessing it wouldn't take too much to acquire the 29-year-old from the Mariners. Despite making multiple moves in the off-season to improve the team from their great '07 season, the Mariners find themselves 20 games behind the division leading Angels and are definitely going to "sell" at the deadline. And although it may seem like the Mariners could ask for a lot for him, I believe that since it gives them such salary relief that the price tag will not be that much.

Heck, perhaps the Twins could make a blockbuster move and acquire both Beltre and Erik Bedard. It'd cost considerably more, but I think the Twins would be able to handle it (but unfortunately I don't see it happening).

The only problem with that, is that Bedard is not currently signed long-term which means the Twins would likely not keep him for past next season, which makes a trade with the Twins unlikely. But crazier things have happened.

The Move

Adrian Beltre, 29, 3rd Base


Brian Duensing, 24, Starting Pitcher
Boof Bonser, 26, Starting/Relief Pitcher

Impact: This gives the Twins a strong right-hander who is great against southpaws and it sures up 3rd base for at least the next year-and-a-half. This would give the Mariners two ML ready arms. But the only way I see the Twins giving up this little is if the Mariners are going out of their way to dump his salary (which looks unlikely). So I believe they'd have to offer another "decent" prospect (like Oswaldo Sosa, Anthony Swarzak, etc.).

It's unknown who the Twins are looking at for relief help, but there are capable arms available and the Twins just need to find the right deal.

Game Balls for Tigers Series

Thursday's Game Ball
Justin Morneau - First Base
Line: 5-5, 2 doubles, home run, RBI, walk
Twins win, 7-6 in 11 innings.

Friday's Game Ball
Nick Punto - Shortstop
Line: 1-2, double, 2 RBI's, walk
Twins win, 3-2.

Saturday's Game Ball
Brendan Harris - Shortstop
Line: 3-3, home run, 4 RBI
Twins win, 6-5.

Sunday's Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 2 BB, 4 K
Twins lose, 4-2.

July 11, 2008


Sorry about no post today, as some of you know there were some wicked storms that passed through the Twin Cities yesterday and sure enough we lost power for quite a while (about 6 hours). So I couldn't get a post up for today, but I hope sometime over the weekend I can get something up.

Go Twins!

July 10, 2008

No post tonight, sorry!

Sorry, I'm a little busy so posting will be short. The Twins were absolutely annihilated yesterday against the Red Sox. After jumping off to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Twins lost 18-5. And after the 6th inning, the game was still close before a 7-run 7th inning broke the game wide open.

All of our pitchers were terrible.

Livan Hernandez: 4 1/3 innings, 11 hits, 6 runs
Boof Bonser: 1 2/3 innings, 4 hits, 4 runs
Craig Breslow: 1/3 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs
Brian Bass: 1 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs
Dennys Reyes: 1/3 innings, 1 hit, 1 run

The team had no chance.

Denard Span started in center field and leadoff in place of Carlos Gomez. He went 1-3 with 2 walks. He got thrown out by Josh Beckett in the first inning while trying to steal 2nd (before he even began to move his arm back) and was charged with a throwing error, but I think it was more so Livan Hernandez's fault for not backing up Joe Mauer at home plate. I was impressed with Span's arm strength on the throw. It looked near above average, and after hearing he had a "noodle arm" I'm very impressed.

Joe Mauer & Justin Morneau continued to play well. Jason Kubel & Morneau's homer contest continues to stay close with both at 13 apiece. Delmon Young is now hitting .293 after another 3-hit game. And Nick Punto is continuing to play well both offensively and defensively.

Sorry about the short post. I hopefully will have more time tomorrow.

Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher
Line: 2-3, run, double, RBI, 2 walks
Twins lose, 18-5.

Also make sure to check out the links on my side. And for a good read, head over to the "Bleacher Report" as myself, Andrew Kneeland and Nick Nelson (among others) answer a few "Twins Whatnot" questions.

Have a good day!

July 9, 2008

Clubs making moves, what should the Twins do?

Update (11:55 AM): According to Joe Christensen of the StarTrib, the Twins have had "internal discussions" about adding Adrian Beltre, but that they haven't discussed anything with the Mariners. I believe that it's more just to show that they're discussing a few different options, but I doubt anything comes of this. Still Beltre was one of the guys I was going to list, but being that he has a fairly big salary for next year it may be unrealistic. Then again, the Twins have the funds to add his contract and it'd probably mean that the team doesn't have to give up "an arm and a leg" to acquire the 29-year-old third baseman.


Hey everyone. I don't have the desire to talk about yet another gut wrenching loss for the Twins against the Red Sox, so you'll have to settle for something else... SPECULATION!

Longtime readers of the site (if there are any...joking...hopefully) probably know that I'm a huge fan of speculating on things such as potential for minor leaguers as well as possible trades/free agent signings. So with the trade deadline approaching quickly, I think it's appropriate to address what I believe the Twins need and what I think they should do.

Two contending teams in the NL Central have already made huge splashes in acquiring a top-of-the-line starter in both cases. The Brewers acquired Twins nemesis C.C. Sabathia for top prospect Matt LaPorta while the Cubs acquired Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin for a slew of young ML-ready players.

Both teams expect there to be a fight to the finish and the race could come down to the very end. In regards to the AL Central, the Indians and Royals are clearly out of it which leaves the Tigers, White Sox and Twins. The White Sox have had a great first half and figure to continue their success in the second half. There's a reasonable chance that both teams could acquire a difference maker prior to the deadline, as both teams have a history of trading while having the "win now" mentality. If the Twins want to stay with it, I believe that they'll have to do something, although knowing the Twins' history of deadline moves, that seems very unlikely to happen.

Problem: The Bullpen

Since the loss of Pat Neshek, the Twins have had to rely on Matt Guerrier for all of their setup duties (don't laugh at "duties") and I believe this team could really use another setup-type reliever which could allow the Twins to either jettison Boof Bonser or Brian Bass.

Options: (in no particular order)

Doug Brocail, Astros: Although he's 41-years-old, he still has proven to be very effective and would really help bolster our bullpen. It's likely his last season, and with the Astros unlikely to compete for a playoff spot, he could be on the move.

Chad Bradford, Orioles: Bradford would be the perfect addition to our bullpen. With one submarine pitcher on the shelf, we could bring in another in Bradford. The Orioles don't have a chance at contending and Bradford is due $3.5 million next year. He also could be on the move.

Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks probably won't want to get rid of Qualls, but he'd be a good fit for this team. He's about to turn 30-years-old and is still very cheap. He was the centerpiece of the Jose Valverde trade, so it may take a little more to get him.

Problem: Third Base

The Twins signed Mike Lamb in hopes that he'll be at least serviceable until they can find a replacement from their minor leagues (Danny Valencia or Deibinson Romero), but after a terrible first half he has now found himself on the bench and has only played a handful of games in the last month and really has no business on this team anymore. With Brian Buscher playing well and now it looks like he'll be platooning with Brendan Harris while Nick Punto continues to play very well at shortstop, Lamb continues to fall further and further on the depth chart. As much as I've enjoyed watching Brian Buscher he is definitely unlikely to continue playing at a high pace and has already started on somewhat of a downward slide, hitting .192 over his last 7 games.

Options: (in no particular order)

Nomar Garciaparra, Dodgers: Although the Dodgers may now be inclined to keep Garciaparra around due to the lack of health in their middle infielders, he certainly makes sense as a trade candidate. He's always been a favorite player of mine and if he can stay healthy (which I admit is a big "if") then I think he'd provide a great veteran bat in this lineup.

Casey Blake, Indians: The Indians are most definitely going to "sell" which is evident with the trade of C.C. Sabathia. Casey Blake doesn't seem to be in their long term plans, and just seems like a "Twins-guy." I think he'd fit in very nicely and this team needs guys that can hit against left-handers as the team is currently hitting .261 with a terrible .683 OPS vs. southpaws.

Dallas McPherson, Marlins: He's back on his "power surge" this season as he leads all of the minor leagues with 31 home runs and although the homer happy Marlins probably could use his bat, they have not promoted him due to his terrible defense. He'll likely only be a DH in the majors, but I think he's worth a shot regardless of his defense if his bat is as good as advertised. But buyer beware, he's shown great numbers throughout the minors but hasn't shown up in the majors. Then again, he's had chronic back problems which definitely played a role in his lack of production in the majors.

The team certainly does not have a glaring need at any position, but they certainly could benefit greatly with a couple upgrades. And really, I could get into upgrading nearly every position, but these two are the ones that really worry me.

I doubt the Twins make a big move prior to the deadline. The only moves I could see happening is them making room on their roster by parting with one of the following players:

Mike Lamb, 3B
Craig Monroe, OF/DH
Brian Bass, RHP
Boof Bonser, RHP
Craig Breslow, LHP

None of them would surprise me, although I'd prefer to hold onto both Breslow and Bonser. The only reason why I'm mentioning Breslow anyways is because of his lack of playing time and although he's preformed very well, he just isn't being used.

I also think that the club needs to make a few internal changes. Things like changing up the batting order and possibly changing positions.

Carlos Gomez is proving each and every at bat that he does not deserve to bat leadoff, and although the Twins want to give him as many at bats as possible, at this point they need to do what is best for the team and not just Carlos Gomez. Denard Span on the other hand showed that he could bat leadoff while at Rochester this season and is continuing to prove it since his latest promotion. I propose the Twins switching Span and Gomez as I think it'd benefit the entire team.

Also, with Denard Span playing so well both at the plate and in the field, it's going to cause a "problem" when Michael Cuddyer is finally healthy. Now, I know what I'm about to say is not going to sit well with quite a few readers, but I'm just listing it as an option. I propose the Twins to move Cuddyer back to third base and let Span continue to start in right field. Cuddyer was dreadful at third base his first time around, but that was also when he was still unsure of his roster spot (even though he started most of the games). Now his roster spot is 100% secure, which we may or may not agree with, and I think his experience as an everyday player over the last few years would allow him to be at the very least serviceable at the hot corner. Heck, if the Twins were fine with the way Mike Lamb played there, I think Cuddyer would be just fine.

Those are really the two moves I'd like to see the Twins make prior to the deadline, and if they don't seem to be working out, then perhaps make a move which can keep us in contention. However, I expect another very slow trading day for the Twins.

Game Ball

Don't feel like blogging about the game. For a good recap, head over to Twins Fix.

Game Ball
Brendan Harris - Third Base
Line: 2-4, 2 runs, double, triple, 2 RBI
Twins lose, 6-5.

July 8, 2008

Did Gardy "Screw the Pooch?"

With respect to a few, the Twins' bats just merely did not show up last night. Daisuke Matsuzaka was working them up, down and all-around the strike zone but yet the Twins again were unable to figure out the 27-year-old Japanese pitcher.

Twice they had the bases loaded, once in the 1st and again in the 8th (he allowed 2 of the base runners before being relieved by Hideki Okajima) and both times they left all the runners on the bases. Matsuzaka's windup disrupts a lot of (inexperienced) batters' timing, and with the Twins having a lot of inexperienced players, there's no wonder why he's been able to just 18 hits (just one home run) in over 22 innings he's pitched against the Twins.

But regardless of how good Matsuzaka is, the Twins missed a few golden opportunities to drive in a few runs and they missed miserably, something this team is not used to when it comes to having runners on base. Delmon Young alone left 7 men on base.

The Twins' Scott Baker had the better game of the two hurlers. The 26-year-old right-hander went 7 shutout innings of 5 hit ball and gave up just 2 walks while striking out 7. Baker was pulled after throwing just 94 pitches, something that Manager Ron Gardenhire probably regrets. After retiring 3 of the 4 batters he faced in the 7th inning, Baker was pulled from the game prior to the 8th inning in place of Brian Bass. Bass ranks last in current pitcher's FIP at 5.20. And as you can guess it, Bass comes in and gives up a double, RBI single, and a walk while just recording one out to give the Red Sox the lead, and ultimately the win. He could have walked Ramirez, who I know (I know) is struggling, but it would have potentially set up the double-play ball for Mike Lowell.

I don't understand Ron Gardenhire's thought process when it comes to putting in some pitchers in pressure-filled situations. Bass is obviously the Twins' worst relief pitcher currently on the roster and really has no business coming into a game against one of the best lineups in all of baseball with the game tied up in the 8th inning, especially when the team hasn't really had to tap into their bullpen for more than 3 innings since they needed to against the Brewers 10 games ago. So Gardenhire can't use the "my bullpen is beat up" excuse for this one, as he could've really gone with just about any of his other relievers besides maybe Matt Guerrier.

And speaking of which, why has he not used Craig Breslow? Unless I'm unaware of a reasoning as to why he isn't being used, Breslow has not pitched in 6 games. In regards to his FIP, he leads the team and although he's only pitched in 10 2/3 innings for the Twins, he has still not allowed a run to cross the plate, meaning that his LOB% is 100%.

Breslow has never faced the Red Sox, but he did throw 1 1/3 perfect innings of relief against the Cleveland Indians, his former team. I'm not going to get into a comparison between the Indians and Red Sox, as obviously the Red Sox and Indians can't really be said in the same sentence this season in regards to offense (unless you say, "the Indian's lineup suck compared to the Red Sox"), but he probably would love a chance to face another of his former teams. Bass has faced the Red Sox, and he gave up 3 walks and two runs (including a home run) in just 1 1/3 innings earlier this season. And in both that and this appearance, he was facing the heart of their batting order. And in both, he was lit up.

Gardenhire's reasoning for Bass to be in there over a guy like Breslow was because he was set to face two right-handers and just one left-hander. However, I also would not buy that excuse as prior to the game Bass had a .303 BAA right-handers and Breslow had just a .171 BAA right-handers.

Even if it wasn't Bass, there were other options that Gardenhire could have used. Nick Nelson gives a few.

Joe Christensen offers a few reasonings for the thoughts behind the decisions made in the game:

1) Scott Baker threw 94 pitches and was spent after seven innings. The game-time temp was 82 degrees, and it was plenty humid.

“You get a little gassed,” he said. “There’s no breaks [in Boston’s lineup]. It’s almost like a playoff atmosphere in this stadium. You’re letting it fly pretty much the whole game.”

2) Brian Bass had a 1.23 ERA over the previous two weeks.

3) Manny Ramirez batted .161 on Boston’s just completed 3-7 road trip.

4) Righthanded hitters were batting .291 against Hideki Okajima, compared to .220 for lefties.

5) Delmon Young has put the first pitch in play in 57 of his 339 plate appearances this season. He is batting .304 when that happens.

And even before seeing this, I couldn't place all the blame on Ron Gardenhire and Brian Bass anyways. Had the offense score just one run, there's a reasonable chance that Brian Bass would have never even began to stretch in the bullpen, let alone come into the game. So had the offense score one run, the loss could have (potentially) been prevented.

Oh well, as the ol' saying goes, "there's always tomorrow" (or I guess in the Twins' case, tonight). However, the Red Sox will send out Jon Lester who is coming off of a complete-game shutout and has been outstanding at home. While the Twins send out Nick Blackburn who although is also coming off of a good performance, has been terrible on the road this year and has gotten hit hard (nearly a .400 average) by the Red Sox in each of his two appearances against the defending World Champions (1 start, 1 relief appearance).

What is your take?

Game Ball
Scott Baker - Starting Pitcher

7 innings pitched, 5 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, no decision
Twins lose, 1-0.