My Interview With Seth Stohs

December 1, 2007

Here is my interview, as it appears at http://www.sethspeaks.net:

Six Questions with Brandon Warne

 

We are back with another Twins bloggers who has taken time to answer some questions for us. Brandon Warne writes about the Twins for the Hardball Review. In the past, I have received several e-mails from Brandon and he has occasionally participated in the Comments section. Again, I originally sent these questions before the Twins/Rays trade, so I added a question at the end regarding that trade. Of course, I sent that too early as the trade wasn’t finalized yet, so his response still counts Juan Rincon into the deal. But still, Brandon did a nice job with these questions and you should check out his site.

 

SethSpeaks: You’re the GM, what do you do about Johan Santana? To trade, or not to trade? If your answer is “To Trade”, what would it require in return to make it happen?

Brandon Warne:  Honestly, I extend him.  7 years, 126 million dollars.  This team is a reasonably productive (to throw out a number, roughly .750 OPS in each spot would do) 3B, DH, and CF away from being very, very relevant in the AL Central.  Even filling those holes with modest additions like Mike Lamb at 3B, Rocco Baldelli at DH or CF, and maybe someone like Cliff Floyd, Luis Gonzalez, or perhaps my favorite choice of all, Milton Bradley (who was an absolute stud offensively last year) for the CF/DH spot that Baldelli wouldn’t fill would make us relevant.  These are all guys that can produce .750 or better OPS numbers, a far cry (as far as DH and 3B go) from the .562 put up by Punto (off the top of my head so don’t quote me) and whatever we got out of Tyner, Redmond, Cirillo and co. at DH last year.  You simply can’t go shopping to directly replace Torii Hunter.  You can’t afford to, and you don’t need to (although if you look at Bradley’s stats, it’s a reasonable scenario that he could easily replicate at least Torii’s career OPS of .793).  Not only that, but the mentality that you should shop for HR and RBI is silly.  HR and RBI don’t translate from park to park, from league to league, and besides that, they’re overpriced on the market.  There are plenty of bargains to be had on the market each year, we just need to find ourselves a Dmitri Young, Matt Stairs, etc. type of player.

If, however, I do trade Santana, the package that entices me most is to the Dodgers for Kemp, Kershaw, and LaRoche. Kemp and LaRoche can step in immediately and provide productive service at their respective spots (CF and 3B respectively) cheaply, and Kershaw is probably the best pitching prospect of those that haven’t seen ML time.  That’s a fantastic trade for us, and might still allow us to contend because we’d simply need a bat for the DH slot (for which I’d still LOVE to see Milton Bradley play as he recuperates from his ACL injury).

SethSpeaks: The Twins have been hesitant in the past to trade young pitchers. It sounds like that theory may be somewhat altered this offseason. Are there any of the Twins young pitchers that you would call untouchable?

 

Brandon Warne: Liriano is the lone one that I wouldn’t trade for anyone, and I probably would object very strongly to dealing anyone named Garza, Slowey, Perkins, Baker, Manship, or Swarzak.  So I would troll the market with Bonser, Blackburn, and Duensing, most likely.  If any of them could fetch Baldelli or better, and I think Bonser should be able to since he’s probably worth more than that to us, then I do it.  Blackburn looks nice, as does Duensing, but in all reality they’re probably 8-10th on our totem pole as far as starting pitchers to go to.  If Garza can net B.J. Upton or someone like that, I’d have a hard time saying no.  Anything of value for Garrett Atkins is a big NO for me.

 

SethSpeaks: As of today, where would you rank the Twins in the AL Central?

 

Brandon Warne: 3rd.  Better than the White Sox, behind the Indians and Tigers. The Royals are making strides, too.

 

SethSpeaks: What would you consider the top three things that the Twins need to do this offseason?

Brandon Warne: Settle the Santana situation.  Find starting CF/DH/3B.  Long term extensions for Kubel/Cuddyer/Morneau.

SethSpeaks: On a scale of 1 to 10, how confident are you that Bill Smith will be able to do the things that the Twins need to compete?

 

Brandon Warne: So far he’s talked a pretty big game, but until we see some results I’m going to go with a cautiously optimistic 7.

 

SethSpeaks: Tell us a little about what you do on your blog, where we can find it and what you write about during the offseason?

Brandon Warne:   I write at www.hardballreview.wordpress.com.  We are a Twins/Mariners blog, and I’m the lone Twins staff writer.  The main guy is a dude that went to the same schools (AFLBS in Plymouth, Northwestern College in Roseville) I did, but a little earlier.  One day he was trolling around campus and happened into my room, saw the Baseball Prospectus’ on the shelves, and I don’t think we’ve stopped talking baseball since.  He called me “the best Minnesota Twins baseball mind he’d ever met”.  Yes, of course, he never met Gleeman or Stohs, but it’s still a nice consolation prize.  I write about potential moves, and their ramifications.  Also, lately I’ve done an offseason preview, an update (Monroe trade/interest in Tony Clark update), and I’m working on a “Johan Santana/2B options” post that should be up in the next couple days.

If you’d like to contact me, hit me up at brandonwarne52@hotmail.com or brandonwarne52 on AIM if you’d like.  I’m always up for a Twins game (if you buy me a beer I’ll pay for parking) or to chat baseball, or whatever you got.

Take care and God Bless

SethSpeaks: What are your thoughts on the Twins and Rays trade (Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett and Juan Rincon for Delmon Young, Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie)?

 

Brandon Warne: Well, the deal isn’t final yet, but I absolutely love it.  This is a write off of Rincon’s salary, and Harris is a superior offensive player to Bartlett, so it comes down to Pridie and Young for Garza, and I’ll make that deal any day of the week.  I would be absolutely thrilled if this spurs a Santana extension, but I’m still not opposed to loading up on prospects for Nathan and Santana and letting the kids play.

Either way, it’s a step in the right direction.

 

Thank you to Brandon Warne and to all the readers for stopping by this site. If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me


Meet Delmon Young, Franchise Cornerstone

November 29, 2007

Wednesday the Twins pulled off a blockbuster trade with Tampa Bay, acquiring OF’s Delmon Young, Jason Pridie, and IF Brendan Harris (all ML level) for SP Matt Garza, SS Jason Bartlett, and minor league P Eduardo Morlan. Earlier rumors suggested that MR Juan Rincon would be included rather than Morlan, but that fell through when the Rays expressed concerns regarding the condition of Rincon’s elbow. Operating under the idea that you know all you need to know about Garza, Bartlett, and company, here’s what you should know about your new Twins:

What should be taken from the deal? Well, for the Twins, they gain an incredibly talented 22 year old OF who may or may not be capable of playing CF in Young. Whether or not Young can play CF doesn’t really change the value of the trade, primarily due to the fact that LF/DH was another spot the Twins needed to fill with a quality regular, something that Young would appear to do. There is a chance, however, that the Twins fell in love with a name. Young is a former first overall pick, back in the 2003 amateur draft. That alone can gain a player some instant notoriety, and a veritable plethora of undeserved chances to prove yourself. Think Dewon Brazelton. As for Delmon, Young’s Triple Crown stats of .288 13 HR and 93 RBI will make the less informed baseball fan feel warm inside, but there’s little in the way of positives to glean from an overall mark of .288/.316/.408. Add to the fact that he’s got a history of less than stellar isolated discipline (.047 in 1413 minor league AB would be a pretty good indicator here), and he’s probably going to have to post a .320 average year in and year out (nearly impossible to do) to have an OBP worth telling mom about. Is he still a potential, perhaps even probably franchise cornerstone, especially given that next season will be his age 22 season? Heck yes, but perhaps we should temper the enthusiasm for next year, anyway.

Brendan Harris poses an offensive upgrade and a defensive downgrade to Bartlett. This is, of course, if the Twins view him as a SS going forward. Harris graded out nearly 30 runs below replacement level last year, but apparently projects well at either 2B or 3B. While producing a .286/.343/.434 line, Harris smacked 50 extra base hits and drove in just a shade over 60 runs. He would probably look pretty good in the 2 hole, and would be a smart solution for the 2B or 3B problem if the Twins felt Casilla could handle the load at SS at least for now. It’s a real shame Plouffe isn’t a bit closer, otherwise he’d provide some stiff competition for Casilla in camp.

Jason Pridie was property of the Twins for a short time prior to the 2006 season, having been selected by the club during the 2005 Winter Meetings. Pridie was strangely stronger in AAA last year in AA, especially since his AA numbers (.290/.331/.441) are pretty much exactly in line with his minor league numbers to date (.279/.327/.432), especially more so than his AAA numbers (.318/.375/.539). This was the first time since Pridie was an 18 year old in Rookie Ball back in 2002 that he posted an OPS higher than 900 in any significant amount of time. Sounds an awful lot like Brian Buscher. Pridie could make a good, cheap option to start in CF (certainly light years better than Tyner and Span) as long as the Twins don’t stop here with the additions, and make an upgrade at the 3B/2B spot, whichever isn’t filled by Brendan Harris.

From this writer’s standpoint, the deal is pretty good for both clubs. The Rays have a horde of young, useful OF, so it makes sense to thin the herd by dealing for a weak spot. Strangely, though, they dealt their seemingly most valuable asset, a very, very cheap and talented OF who could be the next Twins OF darling, on the coattails of Torii Hunter and the late Turkey Bucket, *ahem* Kirby Puckett. Garza looks to be a solid 2 or at worst a 3 in this league with a ceiling rivaling perhaps Ian Kennedy, and perhaps a bit higher than fellow prospect pitchers Jon Lester, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey. It remains to be seen if Garza will live up to the hype, but he’s joining a stable of SP anchored by Scott Kazmir that is young and improving. Don’t sleep on the Rays this year.

For all your sports discussion needs, hit up http://www.prosportsdaily.com/forums and join me (brandonwarne52) on the Twins, Vikings, Wild, and Timberwolves boards and support your local clubs. GO TWINS!


Twins Acquire Craig Monroe; Kick Tires on Tony Clark

November 23, 2007

Twins acquired outfielder Craig Monroe from the Cubs for a player to be named.

Leave it to the Twins to find a guy with a worse OBP than anyone else on the market. We hope this is being done with the idea of non-tendering Monroe if he’s not willing to accept less than the $4.8 million he made last season. The Cubs were going to non-tender him before the Twins decided it was worth giving up a low-level prospect to acquire his rights. Monroe, who turns 31 in February, hit .219/.268/.370 in 392 at-bats for the Tigers and Cubs last season. He’s a career .256/.303/.446 hitter. He’d be a nice guy to have around as a left fielder against lefties and a backup against right-handers, but the Twins can’t afford to pay a guy $5 million to play less than regularly and there were better options for that kind of money. We wonder just how much this has to do with his career .322/.356/.544 line versus Minnesota. The Royals are the only team he’s been better against.

 

-and-

 

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Twins will owe the Cubs a player to be named later from Tuesday’s trade only if they sign Craig Monroe for less than he made in 2008.

The Twins can negotiate with Monroe until December 1, which is the deadline for non-tendering players. Monroe is stretched as an everyday player and would be overpriced at his 2007 salary of $4.8 million, but could be an asset off the bench at less than that.

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune via Rotoworld.com

 

There are varying schools of thought on this deal for the Twins. Pessimistic fans see this as the big move of the offseason, and that the Twins will to little to nothing else on the market, via trade or free agency. So what positives, in addition to the negatives, are there to draw from this move?

 

Positives: Monroe has a career OPS v. LHP of .814, and a huge split disparity from 2007 (.555/.805 OPS v. RH/LH), and the guy he’d likely platoon with, Jason Kubel, struggles with lefties, posting a career .675 mark. If Monroe is only called on as a LF or DH against lefties, and the occasional start here or there, this probably isn’t so bad. Also, he has a career OPS of .871 in 125 AB at the Metrodome. It is important to note, however, that those numbers were posted against Twins pitching. Another positive is if the Twins do not sign Monroe for less than the $4.8 million he made last year, the Twins are not obligated to give the Cubs the PTBNL. In addition, he’d be a semblance of a power bat to a bench that had no discernible power to speak of last season. Yes, even slugging .400 would make him an improvement to our current bench.

 

Negatives: Well we don’t have to search far for negatives on this guy. How about a .638 OPS? How about that righties absolutely beat him into submission, limiting him to a .555 OPS? How about that his OPS+ numbers have declined consistently the last 4 seasons, from 116, to 104, to 99, to a paltry 65 last year? He’s not a defensive wiz, and isn’t a sure bet to even return to .700 OPS status. That said, if the Twins can negotiate a much smaller deal, perhaps non-tendering him and signing him to a 1 year incentive laden deal worth a base salary of around 2-3 million, then it won’t be such a huge loss.

 

Now, on the Tony Clark front:

 

The Twins are showing interest in free agent first baseman Tony Clark.

Low OBP? Check. Over 30? Check. Likely to sign for no more than 0.1 percent of Carl Pohlad’s net worth? Check. Looks like the perfect Twin to us. If inked, he could DH against some righties, with Craig Monroe hopefully taking a seat.

 

Minneapolis Star Tribune via Rotoworld.com

 

Well isn’t Rotoworld pretty sassy lately? They also used the Twins in a jab about John Ford-Griffin lately, leading me to believe that Jim Souhan has taken on a gig part time at Rotoworld.com in case the Strib starts cutting jobs again.

 

But I digress; Clark probably could be a decent gamble for the Twins. Even despite his .310 OBP, he managed a rather nice .821 OPS, thanks to an above average .511 SLG. He has a career OPS v. LHP of .841, so he could spell Justin Morneau from time to time at 1B against tough lefties, or he could be used as part of a platoon at DH. That said, maybe Gardenhire will learn what platoon means in the near future, because otherwise none of these moves will matter.

 

As long as Clark and Monroe are more the ‘after party’ rather than the ‘headliners’ (obscure Outkast reference), this still can shape up to be a solid offseason. As the Twins have shown in recent years, it’s not a bad idea to have solid bench options, either. Here’s to hoping they follow through.

 

Next Time: The previously promised Johan Santana and 2B article.

For the latest on all pro sports, check out http://www.prosportsdaily.com/forums!

 

 


What the Twins could do/should do/probably will do for the upcoming 2008 season.

November 11, 2007

There are few ‘sure things’ in life. This also applies to baseball, and as we’ll see today, the Minnesota Twins prospective 2008 roster.  The ‘sure things’ at this point are catcher Joe Mauer, first baseman Justin Morneau, shortstop Jason Bartlett, left fielder Jason Kubel, and right fielder Michael Cuddyer.

 

As I see it, here’s how the Twins roster shapes up for 2008:

 

Batters-

 

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Justin Morneau

2B: Open competition between Alexi Casilla, Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and possibly FA/Trade

SS: Jason Bartlett

3B: TBD

LF: Jason Kubel

CF: TBD

RF: Mike Cuddyer

DH: TBD, with potential of moving Kubel here if a better LF defensive option arrives.

 

Bench Options-

 

C: Mike Redmond, Jose Morales, Chris Heintz*

IF: Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Matt Tolbert, Alexi Casilla, Matt Macri, Chris Basak

OF: Jason Tyner, Darnell McDonald*, Denard Span

Both IF/OF: Garrett Jones

 

Rotation-

 

Johan Santana-Matt Garza-Boof Bonser-Kevin Slowey-Scott Baker

 

Other options-

 

Francisco Liriano- Nick Blackburn-Glen Perkins-Matt Guerrier

 

Bullpen-

 

Dennys Reyes-Matt Guerrier-Glen Perkins-Jesse Crain-Pat Neshek-Juan Rincon-Joe Nathan

 

Other Options-

 

Boof Bonser-Carmen Cali-Ricky Barrett-Jose Mijares-Julio DePaula

 

* Denotes uncertainty on minor league free agent status

 

As you can see, some pitchers are options for both the rotation and the bullpen, such as Glen Perkins, Matt Guerrier, Boof Bonser, and perhaps Francisco Liriano as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. Only one hitter, Garrett Jones, is really an option in both the OF and IF, and realistically I don’t like him as an option for either.

 

So where does that leave holes for this team? Primarily, the biggest holes are 3B-DH-CF, but we also can not ignore the possibility of adding a useful 2B, at least for next year if we decide Alexi Casilla needs a little more time at Rochester. So let’s take a little time to dissect each position and what we could do (who the options are), what we should do (the best option given all factors considered), and what we probably will do (a prediction of the final result).

 

3B- 3B has been a trouble spot for the Twins ever since Corey Koskie fled the country to play for his homestead Blue Jays. Mike Cuddyer played their briefly with mixed results, and the Twins have since gone with Nick Punto, with mixed but mostly negative results. So where should we look to find the next Twins 3B? Well, the free agent market at 3B isn’t very strong. Mike Lowell could be a good addition, but there’s prevalent wisdom that his career was resurrected by the Green Monster, and that he’d become a flyball machine elsewhere. Also, he’s been offered a relatively lucrative deal (rumored at 3/36) to stay in Boston. So, scratching off Lowell from our short list, what else do we find on the market for 3B via trades and free agency.

 

Miguel Cabrera (Marlins): Keep dreaming. Upcoming contract demands and the overall cost to acquire him don’t make him a good fit for the Twins. Buyer beware, he’s looked awfully puffy lately….

 

Scott Rolen (Cardinals): A brief rumor surfaced sometime last week suggesting the Twins had voiced interest in the 32 year old injury prone defensive wiz, but that was quickly squashed when the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggested that Minnesota GM Bill Smith and his colleagues never even inquired about Rolen. At 3 years and 11+ million per remaining on his contract, and coming off a .729 OPS (89 OPS+) season, no thanks!

 

Garrett Atkins (Rockies): Atkins name has been a real buzzword for Twins fans lately, with almost all message board trade scenarios leading to the starting 3B for the defending NL Champion Rockies. While solid offensively, Atkins is not what you would call stellar defensively (Fielding Bible lists him as the 2nd worst defensive 3B in the ML last year), and he’s not much of a hitter outside of the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Park (.936/.773 Home-Road OPS splits). He’s also rumored to be looking for an extension in the near future, perhaps as high as 5/75, so the Twins might be better off abstaining here. There’s also a chance the Rockies hold onto him and move super prospect Ian Stewart to 2B, especially if they’re unable to retain FA Kaz Matsui.

 

Other options include Rangers 3B Hank Blalock, Mets 3B David Wright (in a Santana trade of course), Blue Jays 3B Troy Glaus, White Sox 3B Joe Crede, Indians 3B Casey Blake, Devil Rays IF’s Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton, FA Corey Koskie, FA Morgan Ensberg, and FA Russell Branyan.

 

Best Case Scenario: The Twins manage to swing a deal for uber-prospect Evan Longoria. Longoria has some real big time pop, hitting 44 minor league home runs and slugging a solid .546 in 733 career minor league at bats. His most recent stop at Durham resulted in a .269/.398/.490 line, suggesting he’s not too far from making a serious impact at this level. Another awesome idea would be to acquire B.J. Upton, but it’s really hard to say if he’d be available at all (same goes for Longoria, really) or if he could handle 3B. (Likelihood of this scenario: Probably about 5%)

 

Reasonable Scenario: Twins sign 3B Casey Blake or Corey Koskie. Blake has been solid if unspectacular for the Indians, with OPS digits ranging typically in the high .700s to low-mid .800s. If we could pull him in on a 2 or 3 year deal averaging 6 million dollars a year, I’d be 100 percent down for it. That’s really hard to say, given the market this year. As for Koskie, I’d love nothing more than to see him get a shot in spring training to show he’s healthy, and return to the club as full-time 3B. He’s usually good for an .800 OPS and very, very good defense. Even if he’s lost a bit, and drops to .750 for his OPS, he still provides a HUGE upgrade. I imagine we can snag him on a 2-4 million dollar non-guaranteed contract with an invite to ST.

 

Prediction: Twins sign Corey Koskie to 1 year, 3 million dollar non-guaranteed contract. This is a very good deal for us, especially if he proves healthy. Teams like the Twins need to find guys to succeed on below market value contracts, and he seems to be a good bet. Koskie then posts .250/.340/.440 season, and is well worth 3 million dollars.

 

DH/LF: The DH spot was real sore for the Twins last year, seeing names like Jason Tyner, Mike Redmond, Jeff Cirillo, and such pass through it on a regular basis. This is another spot where just a simple decent upgrade will make a huge difference. The reason I have DH/LF here is that if we acquire a solid LF type player defensively, I have no qualms about moving Kubel to DH. I’d rather see Kubel play LF everyday, but as long as he gets his AB, I’m happy. Personally, I’d LOVE to see Barry Bonds brought in to the Twin Cities. As a DH, he could play almost every day. If he comes close to replicating his 170 OPS+ last year, he might post the best season for a Twins hitter EVER. That said, there seems to be some prevalent detraction to the deal by most Twins fans, suggesting he’s not a “Twins type of player.” Who knew that the Twins weren’t about winning? Not me. In addition to Bonds, here are some other intriguing LF/DH options:

 

Luis Gonzalez (FA): Since Joe Torre signed on as the new skipper at Chavez Ravine, Gonzalez has changed his tone and is interested in another go round in LA. However, it’s unknown if the interest is mutual. Gonzalez is aging like a fine wine; he still managed a solid .278/.359/.433 (101 OPS+) last season. That would be perfect in the Twins DH slot, but his left handedness might not be as great. He’s not likely to command a huge deal, nor a multi-year deal, which is why I feel he’s a good fit.

 

Mike Piazza (FA): Piazza slipped into slight mediocrity last year, compiling 309 AB of .275/.313/.414 (96 OPS+) baseball. He didn’t catch a single inning last year, and can no longer be viably relied on to even be a backup, and maybe not even an emergency option. There is a chance that he could rebound a bit if given enough playing time, as he rebounded in 2006 from a couple below par seasons in 2005 and 2004, but it’s relatively unlikely. He’s near his end.

 

Sammy Sosa (FA): While many people point to his 92 RBI to talk of a great rebound season for Slammin’ Sammy, his .252/.311/.468 (102 OPS+) line as a whole is not so impressive, especially considering he’s asking for 7 million dollars to play next year. This is not a good move for the Twins, and it’s not a good move for anyone. Even if he withdraws that demand, he’s still not a good option for the Twins, unless it’s on a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Very, very unlikely scenario there.

 

Cliff Floyd (FA): The Cubs declined their 7.5 million dollar option on Floyd, making him a free agent after he posted a .284/.373/.422 line in 282 at bats on the North Side this year. Floyd was sort of a man without a spot last year, considering the Cubs had Matt Murton, Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Felix Pie, and Angel Pagan to find playing time for as well as Floyd. Cliff appears to be a good bet to go to the AL and prolong his career as a DH, but it’s uncertain if that’s what he’s most interested in doing. He’d be a good fit for the Twins at DH, but like Gonzalez, he also is a left handed hitter and the Twins are very, very left handed. I personally like Floyd better than Gonzalez due to age, and slightly better OBP, but I think they’re both good options.

 

Other options include Cubs OF Jacque Jones, Phillies OF Pat Burrell, FA OF Shannon Stewart, FA OF Kenny Lofton, FA OF Jose Guillen, and FA OF Milton Bradley.

 

Best Case Scenario: Twins sign Barry Bonds to a 1 year deal, somewhere in the 12-15 million dollar range if needed, less if possible. Bonds still has some left in the tank, and coming to the AL would allow him to DH and probably get 500 AB rather than the 300 or so he was getting in the NL. He would add instant legitimacy to the Twins 2008 playoff run, and despite the fact that he’s a left handed hitter, he’s still murdered lefties in his career at a .984 OPS clip. He would look VERY nice in between Mauer and Morneau in the cleanup spot.

 

Reasonable Scenario: Twins sign Milton Bradley to 2 year, 18-20 million dollar deal. Bradley will need some time to recover from his torn ACL, but he may be able to return more quickly to the DH role while easing him back to health, and then perhaps once healthy he could take over full time in CF. He’s got a career OPS of .797, and Torii Hunter’s career mark is .793. Certainly it makes more sense to pay Milton 9 or 10 per year than it does to pay Torii 18 million per year, does it not? We could/should probably add Jacque Jones to play CF in the meantime in this scenario.

 

Prediction: Twins choose between Luis Gonzalez and Cliff Floyd, signing one of them to a 1 year, 5 million dollar deal. This turns out to be a good flyer, as I can see either player going .270/.340/.440 and stabilizing a very, very unstable DH spot for the Twins.

 

CF: Let’s face it, Torii Hunter is gone. That’s not going to hurt very much if the Twins can simply fill their other holes (and CF too) with simply useful (.750-.800 OPS types) players. See, when you have absolute black holes in some spots (it’s never good to have a .562 OPS at any place), it can really overshadow having solid players at C, 1B, SS, LF, and RF. So, while everyone is crying over the loss of Torii Hunter, GM Bill Smith and his comrades have the task of filling the CF hole with something productive. I think we can all agree that Denard Span and Jason Tyner are NOT that option. Both of them profile as 4th outfielders who catch the ball, run well, and in Tyner’s case, make good contact. You can count the Twins out on the Kosuke Fukodome sweepstakes, and the Aaron Rowand race as well. So, who can we expect to roam CF for us as the Dome next year?

 

Jacque Jones (Cubs): Jones is due 5 million dollars in 2008. This is a total bargain when you consider that Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones are more or less clones. The two players may have a 9 million dollar difference in what they get paid next year (or more), but I don’t believe that you should paid 1 million dollars per OPS point. Translated: Torii Hunter’s career OPS is .793, Jacque’s career OPS is .784. They both catch the ball, and Torii has a markedly better arm. I think this is a good potential move for the Twins, allowing the club to see if anyone in the farm system emerges as an option, or buying another year to see what’s on the free agent market next year.

 

Milton Bradley (FA): See above.

 

B.J. Upton (Rays): B.J. had a fantastic season last year, posting a .300/.386/.508 (136 OPS+) line while spending time at both 2B and CF. He appears to be a better option in CF, and it looks like that’s where he fits long term on the Rays. Now, if we come calling with Matt Garza, I think they’ll listen. They have Baldelli, Dukes, Young, Gomes, and Crawford in their OF stable as is, so I think we could manage to get one of them.

 

Rocco Baldelli (Rays): Baldelli hasn’t played a full season since 2004, but at age 26 he’s still a good gamble for the Twins, especially if he doesn’t cost Anthony Swarzak, Matt Garza, or Kevin Slowey. While Baldelli’s career mark of .282/.332/.443 (102 OPS+) probably sells his talent level short, it’s really tough to know what type of player is beneath all that undoubted rust. I still feel it’s a good gamble, though.

 

Other options include Astros OF Luke Scott, FA OF Kenny Lofton, FA CF Mike Cameron, Red Sox CF Coco Crisp, and Yankees CF Melky Cabrera (likely in a Santana trade).

 

Best Case Scenario: Twins bring in an OF from Tampa Bay, namely B.J. Upton. Upton is an offensive stud whose rights are controlled for the next 4-5 seasons, and would provide a great right-handed middle of the order bat for this club for years to come. He’s also got good speed, so he should be sufficient to roam the Dome in CF.

 

Reasonable Scenario: I would say the two most reasonable scenarios are the Milton Bradley scenario posed in the DH slot, or adding Rocco Baldelli into the mix by dealing Brian Duensing or Nick Blackburn, or perhaps both.

 

Prediction: Twins trade for Coco Crisp. Twins wind up dealing minor league pitching, and Crisp comes in and hits either leadoff or second with Bartlett filling the other spot. Crisp hits .280/.350/.425 and stabilizes the top of the order, making this a good move for the Twins.

 

To sum everything up, I feel the Twins will continue to talk a big game, but probably will wind up making some moderately conservative moves. This would be fine with me, as long as we have no black holes on the club.

 

Next time: Trading Johan Santana and the 2B spot.


Positivity From the 2007 Season

November 6, 2007

The more articles/posts/threads I read about the Twins ’08 season, the more I feel that I feel there is a general ‘doom and gloom’ feel to this club. I just don’t understand that. All this team needs is to fill some troublesome spots with simply decent players. These spots include 3B (replacing Punto’s dreadful 562 OPS with just a decent 750 would be HUGE), 2B (which might be a simple as having Casilla play there next year), DH (solidify the revolving door with someone like Cliff Floyd, Geoff Jenkins, or someone who can reasonably be expected to post a .750-.800 OPS), and finding a viable Torii Hunter replacement in CF (Milton Bradley or Jacque Jones, as far as what I’d like to see).

 

The Twins have a concentration of quality talent as good as anyone else. You’d be hard pressed to find a team with a better concentration of talent than Mauer, Morneau, Bartlett, Kubel, Cuddyer, Santana, Liriano, Garza, Slowey, Baker, Perkins, Guerrier, Crain, Neshek, and Nathan, but by the same token, very few teams relied on such poor secondary talent, such as Punto, LeCroy, Tyner, Ford, Rabe, Watkins, White, Heintz, McDonald, and Garrett Jones. So, with all that said, I think adding some solid secondary talent could be the key to making this team back into a contender, rather than falling further into the depths of mediocrity which seems to doom if you ask pundits.

 

What are some perhaps unseen positives to glean from the 2007 season? Here are a few:

 

Jason Kubel-

I can’t for the life of me understand why this man is so universally hated by the so called people of “Twins Territory”. The guy starts out absolutely awful (.706 first half OPS), then hits like mad in the second half (.891 OPS in the second half, .947 in August and .989 in Sept/Oct) to make his season look reasonably productive with a .273/.335/.450 (105 OPS+) line. He plays relatively good defense (.847 Zone Rating is nothing to scoff at), even if he doesn’t always make it look that pretty. But no, all I hear from various fans is chants for Jason Tyner, even when his OPS when almost 100 points worse than Kubel. I guess there are just some things I’ll never understand.

 

Scott Baker-

Another player Twins fans had seemingly left for dead, Baker came back and pitched as though you might expect from a third starter in the big leagues. Sporting a solid 4.26 ERA (102 ERA+) and a very nice 102/39 K to BB ratio in the 143.7 innings he tossed, Baker looks to have an inside track on the second spot in the Twins rotation, granting the idea that Liriano will be unlikely to join the rotation immediately. Baker had 4 IBB, which essentially means he had a 4:1 K to BB ratio, something the Twins as an organization preach first and foremost. If he can keep that up, you can expect to see him in Twinstripes for a long, long time.

 

Michael Cuddyer-

Cuddyer again quietly posted another stellar season. His .276/.356/.433 (111 OPS+) was a touch down from his 124 mark the year before, but that appears to be the result of just a handful fewer extra base hits than in 2006. Michael managed to cut his strikeouts while maintaining his walk rate, something that bodes well for his future. Michael also emerged as one of the most feared arms in the American League, leading all outfielders with 19 assists. You can believe that number will go down, but only as a result of fewer opponents trying to take that extra base. This is a guy we need to lock up, and we need to do it soon!

 

Kevin Slowey-

A quick glance at Kevin Slowey’s numbers might take you back a little bit. A 4.73 is nothing to get riled up about, and he did give up 16 homers in only 66+ innings. However, he did some very nice things for the club, too. A 47/11 K to BB ratio is always a good start, and in the Sept/Oct he posted a 3.34 ERA, a 28/2 K to BB ratio, and lowered his HR rate to about one every 10 innings. You can bet the Twins have big hopes and dreams for this guy.

 

Matt Garza-

This wasn’t what we all expected of Garza. Garza grunted, moaned, and toughed his way through 83 relatively pedestrian innings. He threw a lot of pitches, worked out of a lot of jams, and in some cases, had to leave early due to high pitch count. All that said, I truly believe it will make him a much better and smarter pitcher, because these are the proverbial “battles” that toughen players so that when they are veterans they know what to do in certain situations. After saying all of that, Garza still posted a 3.69 ERA (118 ERA+), and a good but not great 2.10 K to BB ratio. I think he’s going to be something really special in this league, and if we can manage to keep our guys around, we’ll be in contention in a stacked AL Central for a long, long time.

 

Next Time: Ideas to improve the Twins prospective 2008 roster.


Minnesota Twins ’07: Inside the Numbers (Part 1)

October 21, 2007

Minnesota Twins: Inside the Numbers

The Minnesota Twins 79-83 finish, a 17 game difference from 2006, has left many a Twins fan wondering just what went wrong. From the outside, the club seemed to have made few changes from the squad that came storming back to take the AL Central on the final day of the season in ’06, with the main difference being an injured Francisco Liriano. That couldn’t possibly contribute a difference of 17 games, could it? The answer is no, but here are some numbers that certainly didn’t help.

.210/.291/.271

You guessed it, that’s Little Nicky Punto’s batting line from this season. These numbers simply look dreadful until you look even further into them.

Consider:

Punto trailed only Michael Cuddyer, Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Jason Bartlett (all rather useful hitters, mind you) on the Twins for number of plate appearances. Yes, you guess it, Ron Gardentool (remember than nickname, we’ll refer to it again later, and frequently) allowed LNP (Little Nicky Punto) to come to the plate an incredible 536 times. It is reprehensible to allow someone who compiles a 52 OPS+ to go to the plate that many times. Even if he played Brooks Robinson caliber defense, he’d still be well below 0 on the VORP scale. As is, Twins fans had to settle for a meager -27.1 VORP (-26.9 other sources list) and a paltry 44 runs created. In fact, simply replacing Punto with a replacement level player (0 on the VORP level of usefulness) would have gained the Twins 3 wins! You can’t make that stuff up, folks!

.264/.330/.391

Now this one might be a touch tougher to figure out. This, Hardball Review faithful, represents the Twins overall line as hitters. From the outset, a casual fan (a.k.a. one that is obsessed with batting average) might see the .264 mark (good for 9th in the league) and think “gee, the Twins weren’t that bad offensively.” WRONG. To give you an idea how bad a .391 SLG is, or perhaps more importantly a team OPS of .721 is, this is the equivalent of having former Twin Luis Castillo bat for you ever single at bat for an entire year. YIKES! What’s even scarier is that there were 2 teams in the AL (in our own division, in the White Sox and Royals) that posted even more dreadful OPS+ numbers than our meager 93. This is an area we’ll need to improve if we’re going to make a run next season.

34

Nope, I’m not referring in anyway to Kirby Puckett here. In fact, I’m referring to the most games any single player logged at the DH slot for the Twins this past season. That player was the upstart Jason Kubel, who figures to man LF for the Twins next year (and hopefully for many years to come). Among the mediocrities that held the ‘prestigious’ role of DH for the Twins last year include Jeff Cirillo, Mike Redmond (love the guy, but please, please let’s see less of him Gardenweasel), Jason Tyner (the new cult hero in Minneapolis now that Lew Ford’s been shown the door…we can only hope Tyner is soon to follow), Rondell White, Garrett Jones, and a dash of Josh Rabe, Matthew LeCroy, and the recently waived Luis Rodriguez. Yes, that’s right, a list of DH’s that wouldn’t cut it in Rochester, and maybe not even in New Britain. Those players combined for a WHOPPING 84 games in the DH slot. It’s almost inconceivable how bad that is. If we can simply replace those players with a modest league average or near it OPS, that could prove rewarding on Punto-esque levels. Ahh yes, dare to dream!

2

Simple number here to wrap up the ‘negative’ portion of this entry, but it bears mentioning. This was the first year since 2003 that the Twins were the stingiest in the AL in walks allowed. They finished second to division counterpart Cleveland. On the surface this may seem a bit simple. In fact, the Twins only walked 10 more batters than the Indians (who led the ML, as well), but it marked a season where the Twins bullpen didn’t hold up as well as it had in years past (8th in bullpen ERA coming off previous years of 1st and 3rd), and where the starters their highest BAA since 2003. It wasn’t a huge decline by any means, but it provided just enough of a change, when coupled with the Twins offensive woes, to prove devastating over the long season. I don’t want to come off as a ‘doom and gloom’ type blogger. Next time, I will do the same type of entry with signs of success brewing for the Twins future. Until next time, GO TWINS!