October 27, 2008

Twins drop a few

The Twins dropped 4 players from the 40-man roster over the weekend. All four spent all or at least the majority of their time in the minor leagues this season, and all were still retained after clearing waivers.

Oswaldo Sosa was probably the hardest player to outright. The 23-year-old right-hander was an up-and-coming prospect prior to the 2008 season. Sosa originally from Tovar Merida, Venezuela, the same city as former Twins ace Johan Santana. Sosa signed as a 16-year-old un-drafted free agent in 2002. He started in the Twins system in 2004 at 18 years old in the GCL. Over the next 4 seasons he posted a 26-24 record with a 3.02 ERA through 390 innings of work. In 2008, he spent time in both Double-A New Britain as well as Advanced-A Ft. Myers. He went 4-7 in 30 games (19 starts), he also posted a combined 5.65 ERA. This regression allowed the Twins to make a move which looks to have payed off.

The other players were catcher Ryan Jorgenson, pitcher Julio DePaula and infielder Sergio Santos.

Jorgensen, 29, was a September Call-Up to take on the role as third catcher for the Twins which allowed the team to sometime use both Mike Redmond and Joe Mauer in the same game. He only appeared in two games and went hit less in his only at bat with the Twins. With the Rochester Red Wings, he hit .247/.314/.429 with 8 home runs and 25 RBI in 198 AB's. The Twins likely view Jose Morales and Drew Butera more highly than Jorgensen, however Morales was injured and Butera is extremely limited with the bat, allowing Jorgensen to get a look.

DePaula, 26, was a solid relief pitcher prior to the 2008 season but really regressed in '08. I think it's a little surprising that a team didn't take a flier on him. Prior to the 2008 season, DePaula was 36-25 with a 2.85 ERA in 219 games (11 starts). But in '08, like Sosa we saw a regression. DePaula went 3-5 with a 5.70 ERA in 51 games (5 starts) to go along with a bad 1.64 WHIP. DePaula doesn't look to figure into the Twins' bullpen plans, but could eventually latch on with another team.

Finally Santos was claimed off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays in May. A former first-round pick, Santos was nothing special either offensively or defensively last season. Just a year after hitting 20 home runs with an OPS of .802, Santos hit just 5 long balls in '08 and compiled a .653 OPS. Santos played both shortstop and third base this season but doesn't figure to be considered for either position on the major league roster.

The Twins now have 34 spots occupied on the 40-man roster and with the likely departures of Adam Everett, Eddie Guardado and Dennys Reyes and possibly a few others (Randy Ruiz and Matt Macri perhaps), the Twins will likely have at least 9 spots open on the roster to add several key minor league players that will need to be added to remain protected. Also, the team needs to keep a few spots open to add any new incoming players.

October 22, 2008

Young for Cain? Don't bet on it

Chris Haft of MLB.com says that the Twins "covet Cain and would be willing to relinquish Young for him."

Since the beginning of the Twins' off-season, Delmon Young's name has been tossed around the rumor mill quite a bit. Whether it's his lack of production or his lethargic attitude, many feel that with the surplus of outfielders he is the most likely to be out.

It's not necessarily because of him having a down 2008 season though. Young's value is still much better than Denard Span's, Carlos Gomez's and Michael Cuddyer's right now. Meaning that if the Twins wanted to get anything in return, they'd have to give up something and Young could be that guy who nets us a player that we could use at a position of need.

Although Young still has good value, I think the Twins would have to give up something else pretty substantial to land Matt Cain from the Giants. And although it's unlikely for this trade to really happen being that Cain is probably coveted by every team in baseball and would certainly get more in return than whatever the Twins are willing to give up. I also don't think the Twins necessarily need to improve their starting pitching compared to the holes that they have in the lineup, despite having a very good offense last season.

Like Seth Stohs asked, how much more could the Twins conceivably give up? All of the Twins' starting pitchers are coveted by other teams, but they all play such important roles with the Twins that I think it would be unwise for them to trade any of them. Obviously though the Twins would be acquiring a starting pitcher in return, so it'd make at least one of them expendable anyways. Of course every player has a price, and if the Twins decided to add one of the pitchers, I think the Giants would certainly have to give up another player as well. The problem with that is that the Giants top paid players are mainly outfielders, and I don't see why the Twins would trade Young only to add another outfielder to the surplus. Of course the Twins could be looking at acquiring a prospect, but the Giants are trying to get young and I'd believe that they'd look to drop as much salary as possible, so I don't see them being apt to really add a prospect with a lot of value to a deal when they're trying to stay young and cheap.

It's not really a secret that the Twins had three problem areas in 2008: shortstop, third base and bullpen. The Twins really have one other need though, which could be filled with either shortstop or third base, and that is adding a proven run producer from the right side of the plate. In 2008, the Twins top 3 RBI leaders on the Twins were left-handed hitters. Young along with Michael Cuddyer who was injured for most of the season, are two of the players that will be looked upon to drive in runs from the right side. So instead of trading a player with the run production potential that Young has, the Twins should be looking to add a run producer to help them two out.

Young has been perceived to be a giant disappointment and yeah, if you're looking at what the Twins gave up and how they helped their respected team this season to acquire Young, I don't think anyone can disagree. However the Twins received a 22-year-old with raw power and a lot of potential to be a dangerous run producer at some point in his career. He really did not have a terrible season, but the expectations for him were set so high that it really just overlapped his actual production. He got better as the year went on and that included power. I don't see him ever being the 30 home run guy that many want him to be, but I do see him hitting between 20-30 home runs with 90+ RBI's with a good average and good OPS at some point in his career. Maybe it won't be even this year, but I don't believe at all that we've seen the best of Young and I think it could be a monstrous mistake for us to trade him.

The Twins are just one of the many teams that are interested in acquiring Cain, and I could not see the Twins conceivably giving up enough to acquire Cain. The Twins cannot afford to trade much more than Young if they're looking at acquiring a pitcher (unless we're talking Jake Peavy, but lets be real). As good as Cain is, the Twins should not be focusing on acquiring a starting pitcher. Instead they should be focusing on filling up a position that they currently need. The Twins can get by (quite well) with the same rotation as this year, I don't think that the lineup will be anywhere near as good as last year (even with a healthy Cuddyer) if they don't find better fits at shortstop or third base.

As for Cain being a Twin, I don't see it happening.

October 19, 2008

You're kidding me, right?

The Red Sox never cease to amaze me.

After being down 3-1 in the series and down 7-0 in the 7th inning of the game, the Red Sox not only came back to win that game but also the next to force a game 7. Former Twins pitcher Matt Garza will be pitching the game of his life tonight for the Rays against Jon Lester of the Red Sox.

It's hard to want the Red Sox to win being that they've won enough recently, but you cannot knock their effort one bit. Both teams are deserving of going to the World Series, that's for sure.

Game 7 is tonight on TBS. First pitch is scheduled for 7:07 CT. Hopefully there's no technical difficulties tonight last last night.

October 15, 2008

Off-Season Ramblings: Quinlan, Glaus, Reyes, Playoffs, Billingsley

Eli of Eli's MLB Rumors believes that the Twins may try and target Robb Quinlan, a Minnesota native, who just if finished up a two-year contract with the Angels. If this actually happens, I will be very disappointed with the Twins. As much as like seeing the Twins potentially add local talent, I don't see how Quinlan could even remotely improve this ball club. He is terrible at the plate and is nothing special on defense.

If the Twins were in need of a utility player who can play both corner infield positions and also spot start in the outfield, then Quinlan wouldn't be bad under the right circumstances (or on a team with the lowest payroll at the bottom of the standings). However the Twins have too many outfielders right now to even consider bringing in another and although Quinlan is mainly viewed as an infielder, the Twins have enough infielders that are more than capable of handling both starting and backup roles on this team.

I'd rather see the Twins do absolutely nothing with the team and not occupy a roster spot with a player that has no reason being on the team in the first place. In other words, no thanks.

I do like the thought of adding Troy Glaus however, which is speculated at "The tenth inning stretch."

Eddie Bajek's American League Relief Pitchers projected Elias Rankings are out, and according to his rankings the Twins should net a sandwich pick for Dennys Reyes' Type-B status. Although the official Elias Rankings are not actually out at this time, Bajek believes he's found a formula for predicting some players and so we'll see how accurate he is.

Reyes has spent 3 years with the Twins. Originally signed as a minor league free agent with an invitation to spring training, Reyes found himself in a Twins uniform in late April of 2006 and since has gone 10-1 with a 2.13 ERA while being the teams primary left-handed specialist. He has averaged 2.7 batters per appearance and just around 3.6 P/PA, which in other words averages out to around 9.72 pitches per appearance.

Reyes has been a solid left-handed specialist for the Twins, but with the emergence of both Craig Breslow and Jose Mijares, Reyes is no longer needed. The Twins need to offer arbitration in order to receive the sandwich pick, however Reyes knows that a multi-year deal is waiting for him on the open market and would be foolish to take the arbitration. It's been great, but it's time to move on.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies each have moved one step closer to the World Series with a commanding 3-1 lead over both the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rays are the feel-good story of the year and the Phillies haven't won it nearly 30 years. Although there is a lot of talk about this years World Series potentially being the least watched ever (beating out both 2006 and 2007), I couldn't be more thrilled about this potential matchup(aside from the Twins being in it, tear).

But before I go any further, everything I am about to say is me predicting that the Phillies and Rays do win their current series and advance to the World Series. Is it possible both the Red Sox and Dodgers come back? Certainly. But at this stage it does seem unlikely. So...

To the casual fan, I can see why this could be a boring World Series. The Rays don't really have any super stars on the team and the Phillies are a team that many love to hate (for whatever reason, I'm still not sure exactly why). I like both clubs, however I have been a fan of the Rays for a few years which is why I'd personally rather see them win.

Although I enjoy watching the Red Sox, I have certainly enjoyed the thumping they've received at home from the Rays. Tampa Bay has hit 10 home runs in the series, including 7 at Fenway Park. The Rays are out pitching and out hitting the Red Sox, when many thought the Red Sox would win the series. The Rays quickly came from being bottom dwellers, the worst team in the majors a year ago, to now being on the cusp of advancing the the Fall Classic. I think that baseball fans should feel fortunate to watch such an event and should really be more enthusiastic about the Rays going to the World Series than what they are. I understand that the media would love to have a Boston-Los Angeles World Series, but I think that they could just as easily hype the Rays going, but instead they continue to discuss how boring it's going to be. Many fans are only going to believe or see what the media tells them. I believe the media should start to show a little more support and actually try to pull in viewers, instead of push them away by telling them how boring it's going to be.

Something else that irks me is the content in this article, including a statement from Larry Bowa. Bowa the Phillies former manager made this comment:
"should have been taken care of (in Game 2) in Philadelphia."
He's referring to the Dodgers, in particular Chad Billingsley's decision to not retaliate against Brett Myers who threw at both Russell Martin and Manny Ramirez, two of the Dodgers premier players. Billingsley had a "perfect time" to retaliate in the 2nd inning with Greg Dobbs on the mound. Instead, Dobbs singled which lead to a 2-out double by Carlos Ruiz and after the inning, all told Billingsley gave up 4 runs.

I understand that there's a "clubhouse code" in baseball in which promotes pitchers to retaliate when one of their teammates are "sent a message." But is this acceptable? I believe that there's a time and place for everything and like Tim Brown says,
"In October, you win the stinkin’ game first and worry about Manny Ramirez’s standards of sportsmanship next"
And I totally agree. Had Billingsley thrown at a Phillies player, he not only runs the risk of injuring that player, but also intentionally puts a man on base. I'm sure the Dodgers players would have been content with Billingsley at least attempting to throw at a player, not necessarily hitting him, but it still runs the risk of potentially injuring a player. Regardless of what another player does, I will never find it acceptable for anyone to be ridiculed for not potentially injuring someone. I know I might be reading a little too much into this, but it's not the first time players (or coaches) have gotten upset with a teammate for not retaliating nor will it won't be the last time. Are brawls fun to watch? I certainly think so, however a player shouldn't be ridiculed for not intentially do something that could provoke either more retaliation, his own status in the game (he could have been ejected), or potentially injuring a player. In my mind, more should be focused on Billingsley's inability to pitch an effective game and not his inability to purposely throw at another player.

Thoughts? Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments or send me an e-mail.

October 13, 2008

A mind reader or is it just a popular thought?

- I was coming on late last night to publish a post that I wrote yesterday afternoon about Jason Kubel's comparisons to David Ortiz. Telling exactly why the Twins need to hold onto Kubel and lock him up to a long-term deal this winter and that trading him shouldn't even be considered an option. Well Nick Nelson of Nick & Nick's Twins Blog made a great post about the same topic, and so instead of posting basically the same thing and being labled a "copy cat", I'd advice everyone to check out his post.

- John Bonnes of Twins Geek made a good post in regards to acquiring Adrian Beltre. He points out good reasoning as to why the Twins could have a tough time acquiring the right-handed third baseman that we're all loathing after.

- Last week, Joe Christensen asked "Who was the Twins' MVP: Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau?" It's a must read and I agree with many that it could really go both ways. Can we call it a draw?

- Seth Stohs is conducting a "Community Top Prospect List" over at Twinkie Town and we're currently on a run-off for the #5 vote. It's between Jose Mijares and Wilson Ramos. Make sure to vote and remember to keep checking back to see who makes the list behind them. I voted for Ramos.

- Roger gives us an update on how some of the Twins' farm hands are doing down in the Arizona Fall League with his Minor League Report. Seth also gives us an update.

- Although I'm a little late on plugging this, Sense from Center has a great 2008 Season Review post that I recommend reading.

October 10, 2008

Winter Targets: Adrian Beltre

This name probably doesn't jump out as a big surprise. Beltre's name has been linked to the Twins for the last few months, and I've been calling for the Twins to trade him for almost a year now.

Beltre is coming up on the last year of his 5-year $67 million deal that he signed prior to the 2005 season. The last time Beltre played in a contract year, he hit 25 more home runs than his previous season and drove in 41 more runs while increasing his OPS by .303 points, all while finishing second in the MVP voting for that season.

The Seattle Mariners currently are one of the worst teams in the majors, but still sport a payroll well over $100,000,000. The team is getting old, fast and needs to cut both salary and age to try and rebuild. The team has a few players that they are looking to unload in the right deals, and Beltre is one of them. Since he is unlikely to re-sign after the season, the Mariners will look at trading him during the off-season to try and get some sort of compensation that isn't a draft pick (or two).

Beltre fits the Twins need for a third baseman in a few ways. He is a right-hander with good power, he is strong defensively, and he hits left-handed hitters very well. All of those are the things the Twins have on their checklist while looking for a new third baseman, and he fits all of them.

The Twins reportedly tried acquiring Beltre prior to the trade deadline in July, but the Mariners supposedly wanted way too much for the him and wouldn't pay for very much of his remaining salary. At the time, the Mariners were looking for one of the Twins young starting pitchers or Denard Span as starters with other prospects to be included. There's nobody wondering why they didn't make the trade then, especially with the roles that Span and the young starters played in their quest for the Division crown.

Now Beltre is only viewed as a one-year player by some and since it's it's the off-season instead of the deadline, the price to acquire him has certainly gone down. Although with the way the Mariners are currently running their team, it's hard to predict what they're going to do. The club had an opportunity to unload another older, expensive player during August's waiver-wire when the Twins claimed Jarrod Washburn who is being payed nearly $10 million per season to be an ineffective #2 starter on a terrible team. The Twins supposedly offered Boof Bonser in return, but the Mariners declined. So with that said, it's somewhat of a puzzle with trying to predict what the Mariners are going to do. We can all say and think what they should do (fire sale) however the Mariners may try and unload a few guys while retaining others and try to quickly rebuild a team that won 88 games just over a year ago. They still have Ichiro Suzuki, Beltre, Felix Hernandez among a few other solid players that could help them win a championship. However, it's probably easier for them to just cut their losses, and move on completely.

Beltre signed with the Dodgers as a 15-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. He made his major league debute as a 19-year-old and became a starter at the age of 20. He's one of baseball's best defensive third basemen and could win a second consecutive gold glove this season. He hit .338/.419/.570 against left-handers last season. In his career, he has an OPS+ of 107 and an OWP of .513. He is extremely valuable and at $11.5 million, you could probably say he's a bargain as well.

Last off-season, the Twins made a couple trades that now - nearly a year later - don't look too good. The Twins have always prided themselves with being very careful when trading players (more specifically with pitchers) and so far Bill Smith definitely doesn't have a great grade in terms of comparing the trades a year later. Although I think it's also safe to say that no trade can be really graded for at least 2-3 years later and that's especially the case in this situation since the Twins aquired multiple prospects.

However I don't really fault Smith for making either of the moves. Matt Garza for Delmon Young (among others) at the time was a trade that many believed the Twins would get the better end when all is said and done. However with the way Garza and Bartlett have played in the playoffs and knowing that they're both key pieces to Tampa Bay's success, makes many people get extremely frustrated with the trade. However I still think it was a fine trade for the Twins because we traded for a player we needed and although it's not in our favor thus far, Young is a special talent and we just need to be patient with him. I still think that the Twins could still very well get the best end of that deal in a few years. Young gets a lot of grief for not hitting 15-20 home runs or playing gold glove defense, but he did play pretty damn good for a 22-year-old.

I think a fair trade for Beltre could be Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing. Both could be major league ready, although I'm sure the general concensus is that Swarzak needs more than just 7 starts in AAA. But he did go 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA in those 7 starts, so he could very well start the season as a member of the Mariners rotation (or bullpen). Duensing doesn't hold a lot of trade value, however he's a solid left-hander and is major league ready. I think the Mariners are definitely getting better than what they'd probably get in draft pick(s) shall Beltre walk away after next season. The Twins could also throw in a player such as Boof Bonser or Brian Buscher to clear room on the roster. I personally would go with a Nick Blackburn or Glen Perkins deal straight up, but at this moment I don't see the Twins trading any of their current starters. At least not for Beltre.

Swarzak is probably the Twins' top starting pitching prospect in the minors and has the potential to be a very good #2 or #3 pitcher in the majors. Duensing is a bulldog who is viewed as a #4-5 starter or a good reliever, but regardless could help the Mariners instantly.

Beltre would likely bat right behind Justin Morneau, however when the team faces southpaws, we could see him split Joe Mauer and Morneau in the lineup.

The Twins have been looking for a third baseman and Beltre's name has and will come up. I'm sure his name will be very popular this off-season and for good reasons. He's the player I'd most-like to see the Twins (realistically) acquire this off-season. Lets get this thing done, Mr. Smith.

October 9, 2008

Winter Targets: Mike Lowell

In my last post, I discussed two middle infielders who I'd like to see the Twins pursue. The middle infield is one of the 3 key areas (in no particular order) of need that the Twins should address before the 2009 season. The second key area of concern in my opinion is third base. And the third in my mind is the bullpen. But today, we'll focus on third base.

Since Corey Koskie left after the 2004 season, a huge hole at third base has yet to be filled. Koskie was a consistent run producer year in and year out and was great defensively. The Twins have brought in players through free agency such as Tony Batista and Mike Lamb who have failed miserably (neither finishing their contract before being released). The Twins have known that third base has been a position of need for a few years, however they've failed to adequately fill that position.

Free agency definitely has not been kind to the Twins in the last few years, and although I see a few players worth looking at on the market, I see the Twins likely looking at trading for a third baseman before hitting the market. I will look into a couple free agent possibilities later, but for today and tomorrow, I will give two trade options that I think are realistic.

Mike Lowell's time in Boston may be coming to an end. Despite signing a 3-year deal with the club last season, the Red Sox are likely to look at trading Lowell this off-season and replace him with Kevin Youkilis at third base. You may be wondering what I'm talking about, moving Youkilis - one of the best defensive first basemen in all of baseball - to a new position? The way I see it happening is that the Red Sox will likely become one of the top 2-3 clubs bidding for Mark Teixeira this off-season. Teixeira plays first base and I don't see any logical reasoning for trying to move the younger, better Youkilis instead of Lowell. So yes, the way I see the Twins acquiring Lowell is if the Red Sox acquire Teixeira (or another first baseman for that matter).

The Red Sox are pretty sound in every department, which makes a trade with them a little hard to predict. But since every team needs pitching I think it's a fair bet that they could ask for a pitcher in return. I don't think that trading any current pitcher on the roster is a fair deal, unless it's Boof Bonser, so I think it could be done with a solid pitching prospect.

A name that comes up in my mind is Cole Devries. In my honest opinion, Devries is one of the most underrated Twins pitching prospects in the system. I think does possess some upside and could be a good pickup for the Red Sox. Devries has had success in both stops of his professional career after being signed as a non-drafted free agent in August of 2006.

Team/Year          W    L    ERA    G    GS      IP    SO   BB   WHIP
Beloit 2007        9    5   3.41   27    25   148.0   108   36   1.33
Ft. Myers 2008    10    9   2.93   24    23   135.1   105   38   1.30

Being a Minnesota native, the Twins probably would like to keep Devries, however he doesn't currently figure into their long-term plans, mainly because of the pitchers currently ahead of him on the organizational depth chart. The Red Sox are pretty strong in starting pitching throughout their system as well, but adding a successful pitcher who just gets it done like Devries is definitely something that any ballclub needs.

Some may think that Devries won't get us Lowell. It's tough to estimate how other clubs (or even our own club) views a certain prospect, so that may or may not be true. However if the Red Sox do infact sign Mark Teixeira, they'll have a lot of urgency to find Lowell a new team and trying to dump his salary. Since the Twins aren't really sending all that much to the Red Sox, it can be assumed that the Twins would take on all of Lowell's remaining $24 million on his contract, which ends after the 2010 season. Thus Devries could be a good pickup for them as their moving a player they need to move and also dumping his salary.

Lowell has resurrected his career with the Red Sox after having a terrible final season with the Marlins in 2005. He has consistently driven in nearly 100 runs and hit around 20-25 home runs per season, which would be great for the Twins to add a proven run producer in a position that hasn't seen one in a while.

Lowell has good discipline and could give the Twins a viable option to either bat between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau (although that's unlikely) or bat directly behind Morneau. He hits left-handed pitching better than right, which is something that the Twins have been looking at for a few years. He also is a good defensive third baseman, which should help the Twins who finished tied for 7th for most errors in the league last season, with 108. Something this team has prided itself on is it's solid defense, so having a gold glover at third base will help that cause.

Lowell hasn't really been discussed lately as a possible third base candidate for the Twins, probably because it requires the Red Sox to sign probably the top player on the free agent market for it to happen. The Red Sox may be looking to make a splash, and we all know that they have the money to do so. Could it cost more than Devries? Probably. But I think he's a good starting point and I really don't think the Red Sox would require much more than him, but perhaps another mid-level prospect could be added to the deal.

I guess we'll have to see what happens. But Lowell certainly does intrigue me.

October 7, 2008

Winter Targets: Middle Infield

Although it's probably a little early to start speculating, being that the Division Series' have just finished, however I don't see a whole lot changing between now and the time players are eligible to sign.

The Twins spent last year with 5 players receiving multiple starts at shortstop. None of them really played extremely well, which is the reason why it is still a major hole in the Twins lineup. Nick Punto received 61 starts (the most) and was probably the best all-around player we had start at shortstop. Punto is eligible for free agency, however it's known that the Twins would like to retain him in hopes that he can fill in as a utility player. Punto wasn't a terrible starter in 2008, however he's better suited for a backup role.

The Twins really do have a few options that they can explore. They could simply re-sign Nick Punto and just wait until Trevor Plouffe, Steven Tolleson or another player is ready to take over at shortstop hopefully before the end of the season. They could let Punto walk and allow an "in-house" player to fill the role, whether that be a player already on the Major League roster or a player in the minors. They could also sign a free agent or make a trade. Rafael Furcal or Orlando Hudson are two free agents I'd love to see the Twins look into signing.

Furcal likely will demand more than Hudson in terms of annual dollar, however he may not be looking for as many years. Although Furcal is coming off one of his best seasons of his career, he was injured for a large portion of the season (playing in only 36 regular season games) which could effect a team's decision on whether to sign him to a long-term deal. Although I think he's certainly pleading his case right now in the playoffs, he may be wise to sign a one-year deal to show that he is indeed 100% healthy and is worth even more next year. However, he could also see this as a time to lock up a long-term deal to provide security incase another injury happens next year. It's really up in the air right now, however it's well known that he'll likely be demanding at least $15 million annually which makes him somewhat pricy for Twins standards, but we certainly have the funds to cushion such an addition.

Furcal is an o.k. defender with excellent range. We will probably see a little bit of a dip in terms of defense at shortstop, at least in comparison to Punto, but offensively there is no comparison.

YEAR      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+      K/BB    BtRns    BtWns
2007     581     .270     .333     .353       76     68/55    -22.0     -2.1
2008     143     .353     .439     .573      160     17/20     13.3      1.2
Life    4636     .286     .352     .412       96   658/468    -26.6     -2.5

Althought 2008 was a small sample size, you can definitely see from his lifetime stats that his 2007 season is definitely not one of best. In fact according to OWP, 2007 was his worse season since 2001. But he certainly was turning that season around with a great start/finish to the 2008 season and did not show any rust with the bat or with the glove in the Dodgers NLDS sweep against the Cubs in which he went 4-12 and provided a spark at the top of Los Angeles' lineup to help them advance deeper into the playoffs.

The biggest problem surrounding Furcal is his demand. As I mentioned earlier, he will almost certainly demand more money annually than Hudson would, but is he worth it? You be the judge.

Hudson is a perenial gold glove winner, however doesn't play shortstop, he plays second base. The Twins have Alexi Casilla who played pretty well this season at second base, however he did have a dropoff after the all-star break. Prior to the all-star break, Casilla was hitting .315/.357/.440 in 200 at bats. Afterwards he hit .243/.305/.303 which definitely doesn't make him a lock in terms of his future in the middle of the Twins lineup, so the Twins should not head into free agency expecting that Casilla is the definite answer at second base.

Signing Hudson would do one thing however, make the Twins move Casilla to shortstop in which he could possibly battle Punto for a starting gig, if we were to re-sign him. Brendan Harris, Matt Tolbert and Trevor Plouffe could also get looks come Spring Training, but it's likely that Punto or Casilla would be the victors.

Hudson (as well as Furcal) will be 31-years-old come next season, and could be looking to sign his last long-term contract of his career. He is one of the best second basemen in the league and (like Furcal) is a switch hitter with great discipline and good on-base skills making him a very good batter to have at the top of the lineup.

YEAR      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG     OPS+      K/BB    BtRns    BtWns
2007     517     .294     .376     .441      106     87/70      5.8      0.5
2008     407     .305     .367     .450      109     62/40      5.6      0.5
Life    3119     .282     .346     .433       99   504/302     -7.0     -0.7

Hudson's stats have been a bit more consistent (at least compared to Furcal's) throughout his career, and he's definitetly at the top of his game as we speak. However, he too missed a good chunk of the season (about 2 months) but with an injury far less serious than Furcal's.

Overall, I think both of these two players will demand significant money, but like I mentioned the Twins have the funds to absorb any financial hit that they may have this season and next season as well, at least in theory.

Hudson I believe could be had with a 5-year $60 million deal, whereas Furcal I see demanding a deal in which averages out to be $15 million per year. Whether that be a one, two or five year deal, I don't think anyone can be sure right now. I will say though that I'd be surprised if he doesn't get a few attractive offers in the 4-5 year range.

Although the Twins haven't been big winners in free agency for a while, this year could be the year that we start putting our money were our mouth is and start spending to sure-up a few positions. Either middle infield positions are positions of need as far as I'm concerned, and the Twins would be much better off with either of these two guys in their uniform.

October 6, 2008

Winter Targets: Orlando Cabrera

Source: Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis, St. Paul Star-Tribune.

Over the weekend, Joe Christensen mentioned Orlando Cabrera as a potential off-season target that the Twins may try to pursue.

Last winter, the Twins signed Adam Everett in hope to provide leadership, defense and time for the Twins to continue to develop Alexi Casilla and Trevor Plouffe in the minor leagues. Everett's signing quickly turned to be deplorable, and it's not likely for the Twins to re-sign him this off-season. And with Casilla likely being permanently imprinted into second base for the rest of the time he's in a Twins uniform, it looks likely that the Twins will be in pursuit of a shortstop either via trade or free agency this off-season.

Cabrera is currently playing for the Chicago White Sox. In his 12-year career, he has also spent time with the Montreal Expos, the Los Angeles (of Anaheim) Angels as well as helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series in 2004. He has won two gold gloves in his career and is known as one of the better defensive shortstops in the league.

Out of 18 shortstops eligibile, Cabrera finished tied for 15th with an OPS+ of 84 this past season. In comparison, (if eligible) Nick Punto would of had an OPS+ of 96 last year. So offensively, despite having better (lets call them) "glamor stats" (ei. HR & RBI), he really isn't an upgrade on offense over what Punto is, at least last year. Also, Punto's defense is known around the league as being pretty good as well.

It may be like I'm getting to a point, which I am. Christensen mentioned that it may take a 3-year $30 million deal to sign Cabrera (just his guess). But I would like to know is if spending (on average) $7.6 million more per season than what we payed Punto in '08, don't you think we should be getting a significant upgrade at the position? The way I see it, Cabrera is not really any better than Punto, despite what some "Punto-basher's" might think. He just isn't. He's 3 years older than Punto and really does not provide anything (besides power) that Punto cannot do. Also, I can see the Twins re-signing Punto to a 2-year $6 million deal (in part to there being a "discount" involved), which is a much cheaper than what it'd take to sign Cabrera.

I like that the Twins are already linked to a player who is looking to get significant money, I just hope that the Twins don't sign Cabrera. And if they do, I think anything more than $5 million is too much, and even that's pushing it. I'm not endorsing for the Twins to re-sign Punto, however I'd personally rather see him in a Twins uniform in 2009 than Cabrera.

Hopefully this doesn't amount to anything.

October 2, 2008

2008 Game Balls

Justin Morneau19
Joe Mauer18
Nick Blackburn12
Carlos Gomez12
Delmon Young12
Scott Baker11
Denard Span10
Glen Perkins8
Alexi Casilla6
Jason Kubel6
Mike Lamb6
Brian Buscher5
Francisco Liriano5
Kevin Slowey5
Brendan Harris4
Livan Hernandez4
Craig Monroe4
Nick Punto4
Boof Bonser3
Michael Cuddyer3
Jesse Crain1
Philip Humber1
Bobby Korecky1
Matt Macri1
Mike Redmond1
Matt Tolbert1

October 1, 2008

Early Playoff Predictions

Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels (Angels win in 5 games)
Chicago White Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Rays win in 4 games)
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies (Brewers win in 5 games)
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Chicago Cubs (Cubs win in 4 games)
Angels vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Rays win in 7 games)
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs (Cubs win in 6 games)
World Series
Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays (Cubs win in 6 games)
Here are some other predictions:

And there you have it, folks!

"If you look back at it (the season), it was a heck of a performance by a very young baseball team." - Twins Manager Ron GardenhireAs many probably feel, last night's loss is going to be the hardest to swallow. After 162 games, the Twins were forced into a 163rd game to determine the winner of the American League Central. But after such a promising season, the White Sox got the best of them.

Nick Blackburn was outstanding throughout the game. He allowed only 1 run which came from a Jim Thome home run in the 7th inning, which ultimately won the game for the White Sox. Blackburn kept the ball on the ground, inducing 10 ground ball outs opposed to just 6 fly ball outs. It was definitely his best performance of the season (given the circumstances). However, he took the loss hard which is very common in veteran pitchers, however he is just a rookie.
"I think tonight kind of sums up the whole season for me," Blackburn said. "I make one mistake and it ends up out of the park. It's kind of been the way the year has gone for me."
He definitely showed that he has the guts to pitch in a big game, and I think that's only going to make him a better pitcher not only next year, but for the rest of his career.

Despite a gem by Blackburn, White Sox starter John Danks also threw the game of his life. He gave up just 2 hits through 8 innings of scoreless ball to pick up his 12th and most important win of the season. The Twins averaged 4.85 runs on the road this season (4.91 runs prior to the game), but they were shutout 9 times this season (including last night), including 7 times on the road. It's unfortunate that this team has so many problems on the road, compared to home, but it's not uncommon. But it does stink.

I agree with Seth Stohs in that Michael Cuddyer had to go on that infamous play that will undoubtedly be played over and over on ESPN and in the minds of the Twins players throughout the off-season. How about we just call it the "unfortunate incident?" Cuddyer had to tag on that play for if he didn't and that ball got away, he wouldn't have heard the end of it. However A.J. Pierzynski made a great play on the ball and Cuddyer was out despite his effort to knock the ball loose.

It's unfortunate that the season had to end like this, however the Twins need to feel very pleased with how they played throughout the season. The team has been a contender for most of the past decade and despite many (including myself) believing that this year was a "rebuilding year" and that they wouldn't make the playoffs, or even contend, the team yet again proved the doubters wrong and did just that. For that, this season has been a big success regardless of whether or not they made the playoffs.

The White Sox deserve to go. The Twins had plenty of opportunities this season to pick up an extra win and after losing three of their last four games including two against the Royals, they pretty much handed the White Sox the division. Also, the White Sox essentially played three do-or-die games in a row and won all three, which is very impressive.

I don't have much more to say. It was an unfortunate loss, but when you break down the season as a whole, it was definitely one that this team can feel good about.

I will be back tomorrow with my Division Series predictions, along with my early predictions of the Championship Series and World Series predictions as well.

Game Ball
Nick Blackburn - Starting Pitcher
Line: 6 1/3 innings pitched, 4 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 3 k