Trade Deadline Prep: Part 2
Rincon is an interesting case. He makes such little money now ($700,000) and provides such tremendous utility for the Twins that there is no question in my mind the Twins should keep him. Nevertheless, he will be due a fairly significant raise after this season, and the Twins should probably consider trying to sign him to a multi-year deal. Rincon will probably sign a one- or two-year deal with the Twins for about $1.5 million after the season is over. I certainly don't expect him to disappear come the trade deadline.
Ah, Kyle Lohse. What hasn't been said about you? For the last year and a half, I have argued for Lohse to disappear. He was and is a mediocre pitcher who had tremendous potential but never lived up to it, and yet his salary kept blossoming through arbitration. Lohse is making $3.95 million this year, and for what exactly? Not a lot needs to be rehashed about him here. The Twins will do their darndest to trade Lohse before the deadline, and will probably be able to work out a trade where they get a very, very low prospect back in return. If there are no takers, however, Lohse will probably be non-tendered in December, bringing the long statewide nightmare to an end.
There is absolutely no question that the Twins will keep Mauer around, but they would be smart to get him under contract and short-circuit arbitration. I actually agree with Sid Hartman on this, and that makes me a little queasy, but it's the right thing to do. mauer is too valuable and too good to leave to arbitration. Signing him to a 4 or 5 year escalating contract makes sense, and the Twins should do it as soon as the season is over.
A closer, tougher call needs to be made on Morneau. Not on whether to keep him around; he's developing at a significant pace right now and the Twins need his power in the lineup. The question is whether to try to sign him to a multi-year deal or leave him to arbitration. He's having a good year, but there's not as much danger in having him reach arbitration as there would be with Mauer. I would recommend that the Twins try to get him signed to a one-year deal when the season is over, and take him to arbitration if they must. If he finishes out this year playing well, and continues to play well next year, then I would change my approach and try to sign him to a multi-year deal.
If Cuddyer hadn't developed into a legitimate starting player this year, he would have been gone at the deadline. Instead, the Twins need to keep him around and should essentially adopt the same approach with him as I advocate for Morneau, using one-year deals until they are sure of what he's going to give them.
The story isn't as happy for Ford. While he's a fun player and a fan favorite, the Twins don't want to be on the hook to pay Ford inflated prices like they have had to do with Lohse. I said a few days ago that the Twins should bring up Jason Tyner to take over the Lew Ford role on the team, and I still advocate for that. Ford might be worth something on the market, and I think the Twins should trade him away before the deadline in order to avoid a tough decision at the end of the season. Worst case scenario would be having to cut him, and get nothing for him, as happened with David Ortiz.
Punto is a valuable player to have around, and shouldn't be too much trouble come arbitration time. There's no reason for the Twins to try to move him, and he becomes more valuable to the team if he sticks at 3B. While that would give him a boost in pay, I'd rather pay a starter a slightly inflated salary than a backup like Ford.
Look for the Twins to try to trade away Lohse for sure. My opinion is that they should also make a move to try to trade Ford. The other five arbitration eligibles should be kept right where they are as the Twins attempt to re-establish a winning team. All five of them will be necessary to that effort, at least in the short term.
Look for another Deadline/Contract themed post soon discussing the many players who will be free agents (or who have options for 2007) at the end of the year.