Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Silva Stays a Twin

As I expected, the Twins decided to keep Carlos Silva around for another year. I can't say that I'm overjoyed by this decision, because Silva was unbelievably inconsistent last year. Nevertheless, I think it was the right decision based on all of the circumstances facing the Twins right now. I do not think that Silva should just be gifted a spot in the starting rotation, however. He should have to compete for it like the multitude of youngsters who will be invited to spring training. He'll probably get a mite more leeway, since he'll be making somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 times what the others will make, so the Twins will have more invested in him. Bottom line: this move makes sense, even if it does leave you kind of uninspired.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Silva Update

The Strib has an update on the Carlos Silva situation, and Terry Ryan says that the Twins are going to take all the way up until the Wednesday deadline to make a decision on whether to pick up Silva's option. This makes sense - it's not an easy decision. I still believe that the Twins ultimately will choose to pick up the option, if only to keep a pseduo-veteran around.

The interesting question is what will happen if the Twins decide not to exercise the option. Silva does not have enough service time to be eligible for free agency, so the Twins would still control his rights. Silva does have enough service-time to be eligible for arbitration, however. This means the Twins would have to decide whether to keep Silva, and risk having him make more money than they were willing to pay through arbitration, or non-tendering him, making him a free agent.

We'll find out in less than 48 hours what the verdict is. Should be interesting.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Possible Free Agents: OF

We're now into the window of the free agent filing period, so some of these "possible" free agents are already, in fact, free agents (such as Barry Bonds). Nevertheless, I'm going to continue with the format that I utilized for the previous PFA posts.

Moises Alou - San Francisco Giants
Moises is 40, but it's hard to argue that he's undeserving of more playing time. This season, he hit .301 (his career average), hit 22 HR, and picked up 74 RBI's. He did all of this for $6 million, which turned out to be a bargain. Alou will find work somewhere, probably on a 2 year deal for around the same $6 million/year. I don't think it will be with the Giants, who let go his father as manager and now are likely to part ways with him as well.

Barry Bonds - San Francisco Giants
Clearly, this is one of the most intriguing free agent situations in all of baseball. Bonds just made $18 million, and for that money he hit .270 with 26 HR's and 77 RBI's. Those are decent numbers, and normally Bonds would be jumped on by teams who would want him to break Hank Aaron's record in their uniform. But Bonds is nuclear, and it's unclear who will have interest and at what price. I don't think Bonds will return to the Giants (they need to move on and get younger in the outfield), and Bonds is most likely to end up in the American League where he can concentrate on being a DH. My guess is that Bonds ends up in Anaheim, on a 1 year contract for about $8 million. I don't think he'll make more than that, anywhere.

Jeromy Burnitz - Pittsburgh Pirates (Mutual Option)
Burnitz will turn 38 a couple of weeks into the 2007 season. Last season, he hit .230, with 16 HR's and 49 RBI's. The Pirates are unlikely to pick up the option on Burnitz because $6 million is just too much to spend for a team that needs to get younger and not waste space on declining veterans. In the right situation, Burnitz could help a team - he still has some power, and for a team that needed a left-handed bat off the bench, he could be useful. He's probably not worth more than $3 million, but he'll get work somewhere.

Mike Cameron - San Diego Padres (Team Option)
Cameron hit .268, with 22 HR's and 83 RBI's. He'll be 34 at the start of next season. The option for 2007 is for $7 million. Add all of this up, and I think Cameron will be staying in San Diego. That price, in this off-season, is a bargain for the kind of production that Cameron can provide (although he is only a career .252 hitter, so he over-produced by quite a bit this season).

Frank Catalanotto - Toronto Blue Jays
Catalanotto is a pretty good player, hitting .300 with 7 HR's and 56 RBI's for $2.7 million in 2006. He'll be 33 a month into the 2007 season, which is still in the "productive" range of a players career (for the average player). He should get a tidy raise this off-season, because he could be an important player for a contending team. Whether the Blue Jays will pursue him or not, I don't know - but I expect Catalanotto to get a lot of attention and to make at least $4 million per for about 3 years.

Jose Cruz, Jr. - Los Angeles Dodgers (Team Option)
Cruz has been, mostly, a bust. He'll be 33 a month into the 2007 season, which means he's probably not going to get any better than he's been. Last season, Cruz hit .233 with 5 HR's and 17 RBI's. He's just a .249 career hitter. The Dodgers would need to pay him $4 million if they picked up his option, and I don't see that happening. Cruz will probably continue to get chances, because he does, after all, have 198 career homeruns. However, I don't think he'll get much more than his current salary of $2.91 million per, and probably only a 1 year deal.

Dave Dellucci - Philadelphia Phillies
Dellucci put together a pretty nice, high value season this past year. He hit .292 with 13 HR's and 39 RBI's over 264 at-bats. Those aren't huge numbers, but considering that he made just under $1 million this year, he was a great value. Dellucci is about to turn 33, and with the numbers he just put up he should get a nice job - his starting days are probably over, but he can still be a very effective platoon player.

Mark DeRosa - Texas Rangers
DeRosa hit .296 with 13 HR's and 74 RBI's this season, and made just $0.675 million - making him also a pretty solid buy. He's more an infielder than an outfielder (I'm listing him here because this is where he's listed on Cot's Baseball Contracts website), and he'll be just 32 when the season starts. I suspect the Rangers will try to keep him, but he'll find work (for a better salary, likely) whether they do or not.

Jim Edmonds - St. Louis Cardinals (Team Option)
This is a tough call. The Cardinals have a $10 million option on Edmonds, with a very high $3 million buyout. Edmonds just put together a mediocre .257/19/70 season. He'll turn 37 midway through the season, and is no longer the player he once was. Nevertheless, with the market that will be confronting teams this off-season, I suspect that the Cardinals will pick up this option, recognizing that for all intents and purposes they will be paying Edmonds just $7 million (the buyout is a sunk cost). Edmonds is probably the best they'll get for that price in the coming market.

Carl Everett - Free Agent
Everett was cut by the Mariners in the middle of the season, and found no takers in the stretch drive. That's probably related to his woeful .227 batting average, although he did hit 11 HR's before being fired. Everett has probably reached the stage in his career where he'll have to sign a minor league contract, and there's no way he'll make the $3.4 million that he made last year.

Steve Finley - San Francisco Giants (Team Option)
Yep, another San Fran outfielder who is over 40 - Finley will be 42 when the 2007 season starts. The Giants have a $7 million option on Finley, and his .246/6/40 numbers make it hard to justify picking it up (the buyout is $1 million). Of course, this means I've now advocated that the Giants completely turn over their entire starting outfield for 2007, and that may be a difficult task. Nevertheless, I think that's the best route. Finley is close to the age and production level where he should retire.

Cliff Floyd - New York Mets
Floyd seems to be on the downside of his career. He'll soon be 34, and he struggled even when healthy last season, going .244/11/44. He made $6.5 million last year, and he might get a similar contract for next season (thanks to his past performance and the increasing amount of money out there for teams to spend), but it's unlikely that he'll get more than a 1 year deal.

Luis Gonzalez - Arizona Diamondbacks (Team Option)
The Diamondbacks already declined the option they held on Gonzalez, and he has already filed for free agency. Despite being 39, and putting up weak .271/15/73 numbers for the $11.5 million he made last year, Gonzalez is still generating interest. Shockingly, the Giants are reported to have already contacted Gonzalez - meaning they don't seem to be interested on getting younger in the outfield. He'll catch on somewhere next year, but he shouldn't make more than $6-7 million even in the inflated market.

Jose Guillen - Washington Nationals
Guillen had a horrible 2006 season, hitting just .216 with 9 HR and 40 RBI's. He'll be 31 in May, and keeps regressing. He made $4 million last season, and will probably make around the same amount next year somewhere. However, if I were a decent team, I would stay away from Guillen - he doesn't seem worth it at this point in his career.

Todd Hollandsworth - Cincinnati Reds
Not much to say - he's going to be 34 in April and is just a role player now. He made $900,000 last year, and put up .246/7/35 numbers. He'll find a place as a lefty bat off the bench/role player type, probably with a decent team.

Aubrey Huff - Houston Astros
Huff had a disappointing 2006, hitting .267/21/66. That didn't stop the Astros from making a move to get him for the playoff stretch, and it probably won't prevent him from attracting interest on the free agent market because he will be just 30 at the start of the 2007 season, and is a career .285 hitter with power. Honestly, if the Twins decided that they wanted a more traditional 3B (rather than Nick Punto), or wanted to have a DH/3B type, Huff would probably be a pretty good choice. The problem is, he'll be expensive. He made $6.75 million this year, and is likely to make $10 million per despite his off-season in 2006. The Twins probably can't afford him.

Brian Jordan - Atlanta Braves
He'll be 40 when the season starts, he made just $700,000 this year, and he put up .231/3/10 numbers in just 91 at-bats. Jordan is not a sure bet to make a team anywhere, and if he wants to come back it'll probably be under a minor-league contract or as a spring training invite.

Gabe Kapler - Boston Red Sox
Kapler is just 31, and put up .254/2/12 numbers this season. The Red Sox don't seem interested in bringing him back, and Kapler has already filed for free agency. Kapler isn't going to be a significant presence on any team, but he might make a team in a backup capacity.

Ricky Ledee - New York Mets
Ledee didn't do much this year, putting up .188/2/9 numbers. Why he continues to find work at the Major League level (and at $1.5 million last season) is beyond me.

Carlos Lee - Texas Rangers
Talk about someone due for a big raise; Lee hit .300/37/116 this season, and just about every team that's looking for outfield help will be in on the bidding. Lee will probably make $13-15 million per on a 3 or 4 year deal. He'd look good in a Twins uniform, but you can forget about seeing Lee play for the Twins next year - he's just going to cost too much.

Kenny Lofton - Los Angeles Dodgers
Lofton made $3.85 million last season, and did exactly what you would want from a leadoff guy, hitting .301/3/41 with 32 stolen bases. Lofton will make at least as much as he did last year, despite the fact that he'll turn 40 in the middle of the season. I would guess that he'll stay in LA.

John Mabry - Chicago Cubs
Mabry just turned 36, and put up bad numbers last year, hitting .205/5/25 in 210 at-bats. He's still useful as a backup player, and will probably make around the $1,075,000 he made last year.

Eli Marrero - New York Mets
He'll be 33 in November, and hit just .204/6/15 in 93 at-bats. Another expendable player, who will nevertheless find a job as a role-player, and probably for around the $750,000 he made last year.

Gary Matthews, Jr. - Texas Rangers
This is one of the most intriguing free agent stories of the off-season. Matthews was an All-Star in 2006, hitting .313/19/79, and has the good fortune of being a free agent this off-season. If he was a little younger, I think he'd have significant value, and would get a 4 year deal for $8-10 million. But he's not - he's 32. That's not old, exactly, but it's old enough to give teams pause before they commit to a lengthy deal. Don't forget that Matthews also is a career .263 hitter - that's write, he outperformed his historical average by a full .50 points, which is stunning. In other words, he's probably going to regress significantly next year. I predict a 2 year deal for about $7.5 million per. It's probably lower than he deserves, but with the risks it's also probably the best that he'll get.

Trot Nixon - Boston Red Sox
Another free agent Red Sox outfielder. Nixon made $7.5 million last year, and put up .268/8/52 numbers. I don't expect the Red Sox to bring him back, and I also don't expect him to end up with a starting job on a front-line team. Still, I think he can help a team in a platoon situation, and at 32 (33 in April) he is still in his prime.

Jay Payton - Oakland Athletics
Payton made $4 million this season and put up .296/10/59 numbers. He'll be 34 in November, and just isn't productive enough to warrant a big contract. Nevertheless, he should still be useful as a starter for a couple of years, and I think he'll get a 2 year deal for about $5 million per, quite possibly back with Oakland.

Eduardo Perez - Seattle Mariners (Team Option)
The Mariners could exercise a $1.825 million option on Perez for next season, but I'm not sure he's worth it. He put up .253/9/33 numbers in 186 at-bats, so it looks like he still has a little bit of power. I'm leaning against the option being picked up by Seattle, but I think Perez will get a $1.5 million deal next year to be a bench player.

Juan Pierre - Chicago Cubs
How much is Pierre worth? He made $5.75 million last year, and hit .292/3/40 with 58 steals. There is going to be a bidding war for his services. At just 29 years old, he's the perfect age to get a max contract. But what exactly is a max contract for a leadoff hitter who, even one with a .303 career average? I'm guessing he's going to get a 4-5 year deal for somewhere in the neighborhood of $9-10 million, but that's completely a guess. I have no idea what teams will think he's actually worth. All I know is that he's going to get a very, very nice contract.

Dave Roberts - San Diego Padres
Roberts hit .293/2/44 last season and made just $2.25 million. I think the Padres will make a move to keep him, but he'll probably get a decent raise and make somewhere closer to $5 million next year. The difference between him and Juan Pierre comes in just one category - age. Roberts is 34, and will turn 35 during the season. Otherwise, I think there would be a nifty market for him. As it is, he'll get a decent deal despite his age.

Tim Salmon - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Salmon will probably retire, or at least that's what I've heard (sorry, no cite - this is just information that I picked up somewhere along the way during the course of the season). He made just $400,000 last year, and was actually fairly productive, putting up a .265/9/27. Still, he's 38, and can't get around like he used to. If he wants to come back, someone will give him a shot as a bench player, but I think he'll hang it up.

Alfonso Soriano - Washington Nationals
Get ready for a bidding war. Soriano hit .277/46/95 last season, with 41 steals. As a second baseman, those would be ridiculous numbers. As an outfielder, they're very good. Soriano is going to make a whole lot of money this off-season (forget about the Nationals re-signing him - I just don't believe that they have the money). I'm guessing he'll get a 4-5 year deal, and probably for somewhere around $15-17 million per. That's a lot of cash, but he's the single biggest prize on the market, and someone will pay - quite possibly the Angels.

Shannon Stewart - Minnesota Twins
Hard to tell what Stewart will make next year. He made $6.5 million last year, and will be 33 in February. His regular injuries over the last few years make him a gamble. I'm predicting a 1 year deal, probably with a team that has an outside chance of competing (those are the teams most likely to take a chance on Stewart). I can say pretty confidently that he won't be returning to the Twins. Incidentally, Stewart filed for free agency on Saturday.

Daryle Ward - Atlanta Braves
Ward made just $700,000 last year, and hit .308/7/26 in just 130 at-bats. He'll be just 32 next summer, and probably earned himself a reasonable contract offer next year - a 1 year deal as a role-player/platoon type.

Rondell White - Minnesota Twins
There are a lot of rumblings that the Twins will at least seriously considering bringing White back in 2007. He made $2.5 million this year, and actually played fairly well in the second half, with .246/7/38 numbers. He'll be 35 years old in February. If he comes back for the same money, I think it would be a reasonable expense - he played well enough to justify a roster spot late in the season, after he seemingly fixed the problems that plagued him earlier in the season. White still has the ability to contribute, whether with the Twins or elsewhere.

Bernie Williams - New York Yankees
I thought Bernie was going to retire after last season, but he came back for $1.5 million and put together a solid .281/12/61 season. It seems to me like he'll probably return to the Yankees if they're willing to have him, and for that kind of salary, I don't know why they wouldn't. I expect Bernie to come back for one more year.

Craig Wilson - New York Yankees
Wilson made $3.5 million last year, splitting time between the Pirates and Yankees. He's not a huge average hitter (.251 in '06, .265 career), but he's got some pop, hitting 17 homers in 2006. He'll get a good job, hopefully in the American League where he can play outfield, DH, and maybe a little 1B. Salary-wise, he'll probably get around $5 million per.

Preston Wilson - St. Louis Cardinals (Team Option)
Wilson hit .263/17/72 last season, and will be 33 in the middle of next summer. The Cardinals have a huge, 3-year/$24 million option. Is Wilson worth $8 million per? Tough call. He can be a solid player, and comparable options will probably cost a lot of money. Nevertheless, committing to Wilson for 3 years is probably too much. The buyout is just $500,000 - a small price to pay for avoiding the obligations of such a daunting option. Wilson will get a decent job next year, and maybe even for $8 million per. I just don't think it will be with the Cardinals, and it definitely won't be on the terms set by this option. Or at least, so I think.

Friday, October 27, 2006

So Ends 2006

At least, so far as the baseball season is concerned. In this topsy-turvy post-season, it only makes sense that the Cardinals would win the World Series, right? How could this have ended any other way?

The free agency period begins tomorrow, and to my knowledge players have 15 days to file for free agency. It really is a mere formality - every player who is eligible to file, will file (they should really just make this an automatic process, but there's probably a reason they don't).

For the Twins, the eligible free agents are: Phil Nevin, Shannon Stewart, and Rondell White. Brad Radke is also eligible to file, and even though he is widely expected to retire, he too will almost certainly file for free agency, if only to keep his options open should he later change his mind.

The Twins will also need to make a decision in the next few days on whether or not to pick up Carlos Silva's option (I believe his contract calls for a decision to be made on the option within 5 days after the end of the World Series, so we should know by Wednesday of next week). With Liriano looking increasingly doubtful for 2007, I'm more convinced than ever that the Twins will gulp, sigh, and pick up the option.

I'll post on the outfielders and pitchers who are eligible for free agency sometime in the next few days, and then shift gears to talk about arbitration eligibles and players who should/may be added to the 40-man roster.

Changes in the New CBA

There's a very nice summary of the changes in the new CBA on MLB.com. Here are my thoughts on what has changed.

Amateur Draft
Teams will receive compensation if they can't sign their first, second, or third round draft choices. Usually not a problem for the Twins, but I guess it's a nice addition.

Free Agent Compensation
As seemed logical, compensation for Type C free agents has been eliminated. Also, teams that sign Type B free agents no longer lose a pick to the team they signed the player from; instead, the team that loses the player will receive a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Also, Type A free agents will only be the top 20% of the free agents at any position, while Type B free agents will be the players in the 21%-40% range.

Arbitration must be offered/accepted by December 1, rather than December 7 under the old agreement. The deal also eliminates the previously important dates of December 19, January 8, and May 1 (which all tied into roster decisions and/or arbitration acceptance). What is unclear is how this will practically play out; presumably, it means that a team can choose not to offer arbitration and nonetheless sign the player as a free agent, without the May 1 penalty deadline.

Tendering Contracts
Players not under contract for the next season must be offered, or "tendered" a contract by December 12. If no contract is tendered to the player (i.e. the player is "non-tendered"), then the player becomes a free agent.

Cannot happen during the term of this CBA, which runs through the 2011 season.

Rule 5 Draft
Players are now protected for 4 or 5 years, rather than for 3 or 4 years, before they are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The break-point seems to remain 18 years of age; players 18 or younger when signed will not eligible for the R5 Draft for 5 years, starting next June, while players 19 and older will be eligible in 4 years.

So, there it is. There are other changes, notably related to salaries, revenue sharing, and debt service. Nevertheless, these are the ones that are more directly related to managing the roster. While draft pick compensation was sharply reduced, the changes in the Rule 5 Draft more than compensate for that change. It also should be easier to pay attention to what is going on in the off-season, since there are now significantly fewer deadlines to be aware of. Of course, the biggest and best part of all of this is that we don't have to worry about a work stoppage for the next 5 years.

The Perils of Waiting

You know, I was going to make a post discussing how wrong the conventional wisdom was this season in baseball. I was going to discuss how everyone expected a Yankees-Mets World Series. I was going to discuss how the Tigers and Cardinals were both supposed to be toast because they paid so poorly going into the postseason. I was going to discuss all of these things, and more. And then Buster Olney pretty much beat me to it. Great minds thinking alike? Or such an obvious point that both Olney and I should be ashamed for even mentioning it? Gotta be the former, right? Right???

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

AFL Update: Week 2

Kevin Slowey - 4 games (0 starts) / 8 inn / 2.25 ERA / 4-1 K-BB
Errol Simonitsch - 3 games (3 starts) / 7.1 inn / 7.36 ERA / 6-4 K-BB
Jay Sawatski - 5 games (0 starts) / 5.1 inn / 10.13 ERA / 3-2 K-BB
Kevin Cameron - 4 games (0 starts) / 5 inn / 5.40 ERA / 8-3 K-BB

It should come as no surprise that Kevin Slowey continues to dominate - something that he's done at pretty much every level that he's pitched at this season. He's being asked to pitch out of relief, but that's essentially arbitrary since even the starters don't get significant innings in the AFL. With so few innings pitched, the ERA's aren't particularly helpful, but it's encouraging that every one of the Twins pitchers have more K's than BB's, which usually means that they're pitching pretty well.

Position Players
Matt Tolbert (SS) - 10 games / .359 BA / 1 HR / 4 RBI
Matt Moses (SS/3B) - 11 games / .273 BA / 1 HR / 8 RBI
David Winfree (3B) - 7 games / .208 BA / 1 HR / 5 RBI

Matt Tolbert is the biggest surprise (to me) amongst the Twins prospects in the AFL. He continues to rake at the plate, and a strong performance like this could land Tolbert a place on the 40-man roster this off-season. He's eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this December, so if the Twins view his .359 average as indicative of his talent level, rather than as a 2 week hot streak, it makes the decision a bit easier. Matt Moses is playing at about the level you would expect (although it would be nice if he could get the batting average in the .285-.290 range), but David Winfree needs to get that BA up a bit. Still, it's encouraging that all three of these guys have homeruns, and all have driven in a few runs.


This is about the umpteenth story about how A-Rod isn't going anywhere this winter. So, that's the end of the story, right? Cashman says it isn't happening, Boras says it isn't happening, A-Rod himself says he wants to stay in New York - so clearly, we can all move on.

Well, not so much. A-Rod pretty much has to say that he wants to stay, because there's a good chance that he will stay and he wouldn't be helping anybody by making like Manny and expressing his frustrations regularly. Boras, as A-Rod's agent, has to back up his player. And Cashman? Well, if you had a player that you desperately wanted to trade, you wouldn't exactly want to make that obvious. If teams believed that A-Rod was going to be traded one way or the other, the offers that they made would become significantly less valuable to the Yankees. Cashman has to at least make noise suggesting that A-Rod isn't going anywhere to keep his value at its peak.

I'm not saying that A-Rod will be traded; I think that question is going to take most of the off-season to figure out, and is going to depend on what teams are interested (because A-Rod can veto any trade) and what those teams offer (because, make no mistake, the Yankees will demand value in any deal). However, the regular statements emanating out of New York are about as valuable as the ominous "vote of confidence" given to managers who are usually fired within a week after receiving it.

Bad News

It's sad, but not surprising, that Francisco Liriano is continuing to experience pain in his pitching arm. I say not surprising because how often do injuries that are substantial enough to sideline a pitcher in the midst of a post-season race heal themselves? I've thought for quite awhile that Liriano would need surgery to repair the problem, but it has to be frustrating that no one, including the best specialists, seems to be able to identify the problem.

As much as I hope this isn't true, I think the Twins should fully prepare themselves for a Liriano-less 2007. That probably means over-spending for a moderately talented starter - something that I would normally be very opposed to. Hopefully Liriano's arm heals and makes this question moot - I just can't say I'm very optimistic on that front.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Labor Deal Complete

The deal is done, and now now just needs to be ratified - and that's not going to be a problem. I'm extremely pleased by the fact that the two sides recognize what a good thing they have going right now.

While most of the major parts of the CBA will remain intact from the previous agreement, there are two changes of note. For one thing, the minimum salary is going to rise from $327,000 to $380,000, a pretty hefty increase which is good news for the young guys who are the only ones making the minimum. The other change, which I think is much more significant, is that draft pick compensation for "some free agents" will be eliminated. I assume that means the lower-grade free agents, but having not seen anything in writing I don't know that for sure.

Anyway, the biggest news here is that, at least until 2011, we won't be taking about labor issues with Major League Baseball. Thank God.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Those Extra Playoff Days

I mentioned awhile ago that the post-season would be gaining a couple of days, but I didn't know the reason for the gain until tonight. This article on World Series ratings provided me the answer.

For the last who-knows-how-long, the World Series has started on Saturday night, with off days on Monday and Friday (if necessary), and Games 6 and 7 on Saturday and Sunday. Since Saturday is traditionally a day when no one watches television, Fox is understandably interested in moving the games to a more watched night. As a result, starting next year the Series will start on Tuesday night, with off days presumably on Thursday and Monday. Of course, this still means that Game 4 will be played on Saturday, but it prevents 2 games being played on that night.

Since the regular season will still end on a Sunday, with the playoffs beginning on Tuesday, there will be a couple of extra days in the playoff schedule. Sounds like they're going to use those extra days for additional off days in the Divisional Series. Since, ya know, playing 2 games in a row necessitates a rest.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Possible Free Agents: C

In case you've been smoking something and forgot, the Twins have a couple of guys named Mauer and Redmond. In other words, they probably aren't in the market for a catcher. Then again, last year they signed Shawn Wooten to a minor league deal and kept him in Rochester all season as insurance, so it's possible that they could go after one of the lesser names on the list for the same purpose this year - possible, but unlikely.

Sandy Alomar, Jr. - Chicago White Sox
Is he REALLY still in the big leagues? Well, yes, and he's not a bad guy to have around if you need a veteran. He hit .278 this season and made just $650,000, so with all of the experience that he brings to a team, I think he's a solid buy. If he wants to continue playing, someone will probably bring him back at the same price (or thereabouts) to fill the same role next year.

Paul Bako - Kansas City Royals
He's 34, he hit .209 last year, and is a career .236 hitter. This guy must be great at defense. Guys like this always get a job somewhere, and at $700,000 he's affordable.

Rod Barajas - Texas Rangers
Barajas is coming off of a $3.2 million deal. For that price, his .256/11/41 is probably a bit disappointing. He'll probably make a similar salary next year nonetheless, and might get a chance to be a regular catcher somewhere.

Gary Bennett - St. Louis Cardinals
See Bako, Paul above. Same story, different name, for $100,000 more.

Henry Blanco - Chicago Cubs
Blanco is coming off of a $1.5 million contract, and he delivered for the price, with a .266/6/37. He's a good solid backup and will find a good job next year.

Todd Greene - San Francisco Giants
Greene hit .289 last season, which is 37 points above his career average. He's really another Bako/Bennett kind of guy, as his $700,000 contract proves. Last year, he was forced to accept a minor-league deal, but after a solid season, I'm guessing he'll get a major league deal as a backup next year.

Mike Lieberthal - Philadelphia Phillies

Lieberthal still has what it takes to be a stater for somebody. He his .273 with 9 HR and 36 RBI's last year, and I can't imagine him not being a Phillie - I'm guessing he'll return, although probably for less than the $7.5 million he made last year. In fact, he'll probably have to take in the neighborhood of $4 million.

Javy Lopez - Boston Red Sox
Well, OK, he isn't really with the Red Sox anymore - they fired him on September 9. Lopez was dreaful for the Sox down the stretch, and put up a .251/8/35 - not terrible, but keep in mind that he made $8.5 million this season. Yuck. I doubt that Lopez is done, but he'll probably have to settle for being a DH/backup C type for an American League team - and it's not going to be one of the competitive teams.

Damian Miller - Milwaukee Brewers (Mutual Option)
Miller is 37 years old, and put up a .251/6/38. The option is for $3.75 if the team picks it up, and is structured so that if the team declines it, Miller can still accept it for $2.25 million. I'm guessing that the Brewers will turn down the option knowing that Miller probably will have to accept the $2.25 million - it's doubtful he'd get more in free agency.

Doug Mirabelli - Boston Red Sox
$1.4 million for a 36 year old who hit .191? *ahem* - crazy. As for his chances next year? See Bako, Greene, Bennett . . .

Chad Moeller - Milwaukee Brewers
Moeller has chosen to become a free agent, but as a career .227 hitter will almost certainly be relegated to a minor league contract somewhere. He's a placeholder for an organization that doesn't have enough high-level minor league catching talent.

Bengie Molina - Toronto Blue Jays (Team Option)
Molina proved himself worthy of the $5 million contract he signed in the off-season, hitting .284/19/57. The club has a $7.5 million option on Molina, and early rumblings suggested they were going to turn it down. I probably would turn it down if I were J.P. Ricciardi, because while Molina's numbers were probably worth $5 million, I don't think he's worth $7.5 million. Even if the option is turned down, however, Molina should do just fine in free agency.

Mike Piazza - San Diego Padres (Mutual Option)
Piazza made $1.25 million this year, and the mutual option for next year is for a whopping $8 million. His .283/22/68 numbers are slightly better than Molina's, but again I don't think they're good enough to warrant that kind of money. The Padres should turn down the option and gun for Molina or Lieberthal, or Piazza if he'll come back for less money.

Todd Pratt - Atlanta Braves
Soon to be 40, with a .207/4/19? Yep - Bako, Bennett, Greene, Mirabelli . . .

Kelly Stinnett - New York Mets
Soon to be 37, with a .209/1/9? See above.

Javier Valentin - Cincinnati Reds
Valentin isn't a bad backstop, and will be eligible for free agency for the first time this off-season. He's coming off of a .269/8/27, and made $1.15 million. He'll probably get a little bit of a raise, and is a suitable guy for a platoon assignment. I wouldn't be surprised if the Reds kept him around to continue his platoon with Jason LaRue.

Chris Widger - Baltimore Orioles
Wow, did he have a bad year at the plate. In 93 at-bats, Widger hit .172 with 1 HR and 9 RBI's. That would seem to make even the $650,000 he made this year seem too high. Widger's career might be over - but as I said before Catchers seem to always be able to find work if they want it.

Gregg Zaun - Toronto Blue Jays
Zaun might be the winner if the Jays decide to let Bengie Molina go - he'll be much more affordable this off-season, as he's coming off a $1 million contract. His numbers are respectable - .272/12/40 - and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they handed him the starting job next year with a 2 year deal for about $1.5 million per.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Good for Gardy

The Twins have signed Manager Ron Gardenhire to a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Minnesota through the 2009 season. This is a well-deserved extension for a guy who has a chance to become the best Twins manager in history. In five seasons with the Twins, he has a winning percentage of .562 - Tom Kelly's winning percentage, to compare, was .478. The difference is that Kelly guided the team through the horrible stretch that was the 1993-2000 seasons, and of course he also won two World Series rings. The Twins also signed the coaching staff to a deal that will keep them all around through 2008.

If Gardenhire can manage to lead the Twins to a World Series while he's here, then I think there's no question he will have a place as the best manager in team history. If not, he'll probably remain behind TK in my book. Honorable mention has to go to Sam Mele, who guided the team to the 1965 AL Pennant and lost a heartbreaking series to the Dodgers - Mele had a winning percentage of .546 in 5 full seasons and 2 shortened seasons (one when he was hired late in 1961, and one when he was fired in 1967).

One parting note: The Twins have been to the post-season 9 times (not counting the Washington Senators era) - four of those have been under the leadership of Gardenhire. This is admittedly an easier hurdle to jump in the Wild Card era, but the number is pretty amazing nonetheless. Gardenhire doesn't deserve all the credit for that success (Terry Ryan deserves some love, in my opinion, as well), but without a good manager those teams would not have been playoff teams.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Labor Peace?

It sure sounds like MLB and the MLBPA are on their way to *gasp* a labor agreement. Nearly 2 months before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 19. Is this Major League Baseball that we're talking about?

There were significant signs that something like this was coming. For one thing, we haven't heard anything about a labor dispute. The parties have been negotiating all season (and before the season started) rather than not getting together until the end. And, of course, we now have some precedent, with the 2002 agreement that came just before a labor stoppage was scheduled to begin.

I'm incredibly encouraged by this news, and I anticipate that the sides are going to come to a decision very quickly and quietly. This should be the model for future negotiations, and it says a lot for Bud Selig and Don Fehr, who were so villified after 1994. Basically, it means that they can learn from their mistakes.

Look, things are good for MLB. The teams are awash in money, thanks to television and internet marketing deals. A different team has won the World Series every season this decade. The steroid debacle is a problem, but it looks like the public is putting that aside and concentrating on the positives. It would have made no sense whatsoever for another labor disagreement from kissing the good will and positive trends goodbye.

One last thing: for now, it sounds like draft pick compensation will remain in the new deal. I think that's the right move, because teams should get some kind of compensation for the loss of players. Hopefully a deal gets done this weekend and we can find out what, if anything, has been changed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

DePaula Added

Julio DePaula has been added to the 40-man roster. Frankly, I didn't expect this type of decision (adding youngsters to the roster) to start for another couple of weeks. DePaula had a pretty good season in Ft. Myers and New Britain. DePaula has been around for a long time, having signed with the Twins as a nondrafted free agent in 1999. As a result, he's been eligible to be drafted in the Rule 5 Draft for a number of years. The Twins must think that his solid 2006 season was an indication of things to come, and that a bad team in need of pitching could now justify taking DePaula in the R5 Draft.

Hopefully I'll get the time in the next week or so to make some predictions on who else will soon be added to the roster.

Possible Free Agents: SS

This is the 4th in a series of posts covering possible free agents this off-season.

Royce Clayton - Cincinnati Reds
Clayton is yet another aging (soon to be 37) middle infielder whose time has passed him by. Clayton hit .258 with 2 HR and 40 RBI's this past season with Washington and Cincinnati, and made $1 million. He signed with Washington under a minor-league contract last off-season, and that means that teams have already determined Clayton is a marginal player who will be forced to play his way onto a team every spring until he retires. If he comes back next season, this will almost certainly be the way he's forced to go again.

Alex Cora - Boston Red Sox
Cora is in his prime, but sadly that doesn't mean much. He's never been much of a hitter (career .244), so his .238 average in 2006 wasn't much of a surprise. Nevertheless, he's coming off of a year in which he made $1.4 million. He's not worth even a million, but he will find a job as a backup for somebody.

Craig Counsell - Arizona Diamondbacks
I confess - I don't understand the fascination with Counsell. He made $1.75 million last year, and did exactly what you'd expect, hitting .255 BA with 4 HR and 30 RBI's. Nevertheless, he got 372 at-bats. If the Diamondbacks are smart, they will move on and give someone else a chance to play full time. Counsell is still a capable player, and his 15 steals indicate he still has some speed. He'd make a good backup middle infielder for a slow team that could use him as a pinch runner as well.

Chris Gomez - Baltimore Orioles
Gomez only had 132 at-bats this season, but he made the most of them, hitting .341. He made $850,000 this season, and should make a similar amount next year. I'm going to guess that he ends up back in Baltimore.

Alex L. Gonzalez - Boston Red Sox
Gonzalez signed a 1 year, $3 million deal last year, and underperformed with the Red Sox, hitting .255 with 9 HR and 50 RBI's. He'll be 30 when the season starts, and there is still likely a belief that he can handle a starting job. The Red Sox will probably cut ties with Gonzalez, but he should end up somewhere with one last (probably) chance to prove that he's a starting shortstop.

Julio Lugo - Los Angeles Dodgers
Lugo is the prize shortstop on the market this off-season, and the bidding will likely be all out East, with the Blue Jays and Red Sox probably fighting it out for him. He hit .278 with 12 HR and 37 RBI's this past season with Tampa and LA, and he's about to be 31. That to me suggests he's not worth the $4.95 million he made last season. Nevertheless, there will probably be some heavy bidding on Lugo's services, so I'm guessing 3 years at about $6 million per.

Ramon E. Martinez - Los Angeles Dodgers
Ho hum, yet another mediocre veteran. Martinez made just $600,000 this year but played better than Royce Clayton, for one. Martinez hit .278 this season in 176 at-bats, but he's already been relegated to the minor-league contract situation. Same thing will be coming around next year.

Jose Vizcaino - St. Louis Cardinals
He'll be 39 when the season starts. He hit .232 this season in 142 at-bats. For some reason, he was paid $1.23 million for his services. I hate to say it, but Vizcaino should hang it up. Why do I hate to say it? Because I can remember Vizcaino from back in my formative days when baseball first started to be compelling to me - he broke into baseball in 1989. Seventeen season later, it's time to call it a career.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Random Thoughts

1.) It sure sounds like the A's made the right decision in firing Ken Macha, what with all of the player and communication problems he had. My only question is, didn't Billy Beane know this was a problem LAST year, when Macha was gone and back within a week? Why bother to hire the guy for a 3 year contract, watch him get to the ALCS, and THEN fire him with 2 years and $2 million still owed to him? Seems like an odd situation to me.

2.) Lou Piniella is a good fit in Chicago, and the rumors of an A-Rod trade deserve to be true because they make so much sense. Also, I'd much rather see A-Rod on the North Side than on the South Side come the start of 2007.

3.) Upon hearing that Art Howe was hired by the Phillies as a coach, I wondered why no one has hired him as a Manager since he left the Mets in 2004. Then I looked at his managerial record, and realized that in 14 seasons, his teams have a .498 winning percentage. He had a couple of good seasons with the A's, a couple of terrible seasons, and mostly mediocre seasons. This is why he is now a coach and not a manager.

4.) Here's a REALLY random thought that is extremely unlikely to come into play: assuming the Collective Bargaining Agreement remains in effect as is, with draft pick compensation for free agents who leave, is it possible that Shannon Stewart could remain a Twin?. Here's the scenarrio: To get the compensation, a team has to offer arbitration to the player (unless he signs before the deadline to offer arbitration, which is fairly common). If Stewart doesn't sign before the deadline, the Twins would have to decide to either NOT offer arbitration, and thus receive no compensation for losing Stewart, OR offer him arbitration and risk him accepting. If Stewart wasn't getting any really good offers, he could take the Twins to arbitration and probably make better money for one year than he otherwise would have on the market. I think this is unlikely, but it is something to think about as we prepare to head into the Free Agent stretch of the post-season.

Monday, October 16, 2006

AFL Update

Here's a look at how the 7 Twins who are participating in the Arizona Fall League have been doing through the first 5 games of the season:

Matt Tolbert - SS - 5 games / .429 BA / 0 HR / 1 RBI
Matt Moses - 3B - 4 games / .267 BA / 0 HR / 2 RBI
David Winfree - 3B - 3 games / .111 BA / 0 HR / 2 RBI

Kevin Slowey - P - 2 games / 3.2 innings / 2.45 ERA / 1-0 K-BB
Jay Sawatski - P - 3 games / 3.0 innings / 6.00 ERA / 1-1 K-BB
Errol Simonitsch - P - 1 games (start) - 2.2 innings / 0.00 ERA / 2-1 K-BB
Kevin Cameron - P - 2 games / 2.1 innings / 0.00 ERA / 4-1 K-BB

Pitchers in the AFL don't get nearly as many innings - this is an off-season league, after all, and you don't want to blow out the arms. Cameron has put up solid numbers so far (as have Simonitsch and Slowey), but with such a low number of innings that doesn't mean much. Good start, too for Tolbert. Unfortunately, the Mesa Solar Sox are just 1-4 so far this year.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Possible Free Agents: 3B

And so we come to the first position where a number of Twins fans are likely to advocate for going after a free agent. The purpose of this post is not to discuss whether or not Nick Punto should be the Twins 3B next year; it's to look at the individuals who will be available on the market. I'm going to limit my reaction to whether the player would be a good fit in the Twins system, but my pro-Punto bias is likely to come through.

Rich Aurilia - Cincinnati Reds
If you didn't pay attention this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that Rich Aurilia was washed up. He had a terrible year in 2004, and a decent year in 2005, but he's 35 years old and not getting any younger. Nevertheless, he put together a great season for the Reds, hitting .300 with 23 HR and 70 RBI's in 440 at-bats. He got paid $1.3 million for this pretty solid level of production, and there is a mutual option at $2 million for 2007. I strongly suspect that the Reds will pick it up, because Aurilia looks like he's got some life left in him, and $2 million is a bargain if he can put up similar numbers next year.

David Bell - Milwaukee Brewers
Bell is likely to move on from the Brewers this off-season, after he was traded there in July. His production (.270/10 HR/63 RBI) is on the borderline for his salary level ($4.5 million), and at 34 years old his best days are behind him. Considering that 3B isn't the strongest position in the majors, someone will undoubtedly make Bell a multi-year offer in the same price range. I don't think he's a great option anymore, though - a team like the Twins should avoid him.

Geoff Blum - San Diego Padres
Strictly a backup, Blum hit .254 with 4 HR and 34 RBI's in 276 at-bats this season. He made $650,000 this year, which is affordable for a decent bench player like him. I don't think he's a good fit for the Twins, but he'll definitely get a job somewhere, and might even get a slight raise.

Aaron Boone - Cleveland Indians
Boone is on the wrong side of 30, playing for a team that has a young up-and-comer (Andy Marte) ready to take over at the start of next season. While a $3.75 million mutual option exists on Boone for 2007, there is no way that it is going to be picked up. Boone's .251/7/46 numbers from last year suggest that his utility is pretty low at this point, and his .264 career average wouldn't be encouraging anyway. Boone should be avoided unless he takes a one year deal and a major pay cut, and he shouldn't be viewed by any team as a starter.

Vinny Castilla - Colorado Rockies
Castillo is retiring, so there isn't much to say - he ended up with the Rockies after the Padres let him go, and went through ceremonies and everything. He's on this list only because he's eligible for free agency, and he'll probably file for free agency to keep his options open, but he isn't coming back.

Jeff Cirillo - Milwaukee Brewers
The 37 year old Cirillo actually had a pretty good season, hitting .319 with 3 HR and 23 RBI's in 263 at-bats. For $850,000 he provided veteran leadership, and I'd consider him a good buy at that price. As long as he can continue to get 200+ at-bats and hit around .300, he'll get attention. Not a good option for the Twins, because he's not capable of starting, and if Nick Punto remains the starter Cirillo wouldn't get enough at-bats to justify having around.

Pedro Feliz - San Francisco Giants
An intriguing player who has some power and can drive in runs, but has a dangerously low batting average. Feliz hit .244 this year, with 22 dingers and 98 RBI's. He cost just over $3 million this year, but will probably get a raise on the open market. I don't know what the Giants interest level in bringing him back is, but with a pretty weak 3B market, someone will turn to Feliz and give him a good deal, hoping that the average can be brought up.

Phil Nevin - Minnesota Twins
Hard to believe that the soon-to-be 36-year-old Nevin made $10 million this year. He put up a .239/22/68, worse numbers than Feliz, and made 3 times as much. Needless to say, Nevin won't be getting any more deals like that. In fact, Nevin will be lucky to make over $3-4 million next year. That said, someone will pick him up and try to use him as a bopper off the bench or DH type - you know, the role he unfortunately couldn't fill for the Twins.

Joe Randa - Pittsburgh Pirates
At some point, Randa is going to stop getting attention on the free agent market. After a season where he hit .267 with 4 HR and 28 RBI's in just 206 at-bats, that might just be now. Randa was pursued fairly heavily on the market last year, and the Pirates won out by giving him a $4 million deal. With Randa turning 37 this off-season, and with his productive years clearly behind him, he's probably only going to get attention as a back-up type player for seriously reduced money.

Aramis Ramirez - Chicago Cubs
Easily the biggest prize out there at 3B. Ramirez isn't even a free agent yet - his contract is good through 2008, with an option for 2009. It would pay him $11 million/year, certainly not bad. But Ramirez has the opportunity to opt out of the deal this off-season, and there are strong indications that he will do just that. If he hits the market, he will almost certainly get a $13-14 million/year, 3 or 4 year deal. After all, he hit .291 with 38 HR and 119 RBI's - heads and shoulders above the rest of the free agents at his position. That said, there is always some risk associated with voiding a deal, especially one that's worth $22 million guaranteed, and up to $33 million. I don't think there's a lot of risk, but there certainly would be some. While I would love to see Ramirez in a Twins uniform, it isn't going to happen. Some would argue that had the Twins declined Torii Hunter's option they could have gone after Ramirez, but that's not sound for a couple of reasons: 1.) the Twins weren't guaranteed to get anybody of Ramirez's caliber even IF they pursued them, and 2.) the Twins can't afford to get caught up in a multi-year contract with a guy like Ramirez right now, with Morneau/Mauer/Cuddyer heading into their arbitration eligible years. In the end, I think Ramirez will hit the market, and I think he'll end up making a whole heck of a lot of money.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Change the Post-season Format?

Bud Selig talked yesterday about the format of the post-season, kicking around a few possible changes that could be made for next season and beyond. I'd like to comment on a few of the proposals:

1.) Expand the First Round to Best-of-7 Series
I'm strongly in favor of this move. Right now, the Best-of-5 format in the first round makes things essentially a crap-shoot in the first round. I think the better team will win more often than the worse team, but momentum can carry a team through a five game series, while a seven game series makes it more likely that the "actual" better team will win. If the extra time is available (and for whatever reason, the article suggests that it will be), then I think adding 2 games to the First Round is the best way to budget that extra time.

2.) Penalize Wild Cards
The article suggests that Wild Card teams could be given fewer home games in playoff series as a penalty for not winning their division. I presume this would mean that, in a best-of-5 series, the Wild Card would play 4 road games and 1 home game, and in a best-of-7 series the Wild Card would play 5 road games and 2 home games. I can see the reasoning behind this, but it seems weird to me. I think Wild Card teams should be treated like every other team that makes the playoffs. Reducing the number of home games would make the Wild Card too gimmicky for my taste.

3.) Reducing the Length of the Season
Well, this isn't exactly a change in the post-season format, although it would affect when the playoffs started and ended. Selig says he's in favor of returning to the 154 game regular season schedule (which was in force from 1908 until the early 1960's), but acknowledges that there isn't much interest among the owners. Well, gee, really? Right now they have 4 extra home games to sell tickets for. Of course they aren't going to be in favor or reducing the schedule. Frankly, I don't care whether it's 154 or 162; it's a long season either way. That said, 8 more games is 8 more games, and as a fan of baseball I'll take as much as I can get. Heck, why not just go all out and expand to 178 or 180 games? Ok, I'm not seriously in favor of that, but I also don't see the reason for reducing the schedule by 8 games.

So Much For My Theory...

I said a few days ago that I thought Lou Piniella would wind up in San Francisco, with Joe Girardi becoming the next manager of the Cubs. Looks like I'm going to be wrong on both counts. Piniella, citing disagreeable travel requirements, has removed himself from further consideration for the Giants job, and sources are now telling ESPN that the Cubs are looking to hire Piniella as their next manager before the start of the World Series.

There is still possible intrigue; the Cubs were first very high on Girardi, and then turned to Padres' manager Bruce Bochy (who they unsucessfully sought permission to interview 4 years ago before hiring Dusty Baker). If I were the Padres, I wouldn't give the Cubs permission to talk to Bochy, because he's been a good, solid manager in San Diego. I haven't seen word yet on whether permission has been officially sought (or denied) as of yet, though, so the jury is still out on that front.

As for Girardi, if he doesn't end up in Chicago I think he'll still find a job, possibly in Texas. As a young manager who had success with young players, he'd be ideal for a team in a rebuilding mode (such as Kansas City), but there aren't really any jobs like that open. The Washington job may be the closest, but for some reason he doesn't seem to fit there. Maybe he'll take a year off from managing and get offers next year. If he doesn't wind up in a dugout this year, though, it'll be a shame; he's going to win NL Manager of the Year, and deserves a chance to prove that that wasn't a fluke.


Someone must have forgotten to tell Eric Justic, the author of this piece about the AFL on the Twins website, that the Twins traded Adam Harben to the Cubs in September. I'm just wondering; where was the editor and/or fact checker from the Twins?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Possible Free Agents: 2B

This is the second in a series of posts covering the possible free agents at each position, and who the Twins could/should/shouldn't go after. As mentioned in the post title, this post covers second basemen who will or may be eligible for free agency.

Mark Bellhorn - San Diego Padres
The well-traveled Bellhorn was just let go officially by the San Diego Padres, so he'll definitely be on the market. Bellhorn is not what you call a good hitter - .231 for his career, and a woeful .190 in 253 at-bats this season. Needless to say, there is no reason to sign a player like this, and I don't know why he continues to be picked up by teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, and Padres. Surely a young guy in the organization can do better than this? Bellhorn really shouldn't get a contract offer next season, but he probably will - and he'll probably make somewhere in the neighborhood of the $800,000 he made this year.

Ron Belliard - St. Louis Cardinals
Belliard was picked up by the Cardinals from the Indians in July, and all indications are the Indians are going to make a push to bring him back in the off-season. Belliard made $4 million this past season, and put up so-so numbers - .272, 13 HR, 67 RBI's. He'll more than likely get a raise to the $4.5 million range along with a 2 or 3 year deal from a team that's interested in a so-so middle infielder.

Craig Biggio - Houston Astros
The one time fantasy god has come down to earth in recent years, which is to be expected from a 40-year old. But Biggio has done whatever the Astros have asked of him over the course of his career, and all indications are the Astros want to bring him back for another go-round. He made $4 million last year, but hit just .246 (with 21 homers, though); as a result, he'll probably only get a one year deal, and likely for less money ($3 million is my best guess). The Astros will bring him back to watch him chase down 3000 hits (he's just 70 away). There's no way Biggio ends up anywhere else.

Miguel Cairo - New York Yankees
Cairo collected $1 million this season, hitting .239 in 222 at-bats. He's a better career hitter than Bellhorn (.268 lifetime), but has no pop in his bat. Someone will pick him up as an adequate if unspectacular backup middle infielder, and he could even remain with the Yankees. If he goes somewhere else, he'll probably have to take a small paycut to the $800,000 range.

Ray Durham - San Francisco Giants
Durham put up a very solid season, with a .293 average, 26 HR, and 93 RBI's. I would certainly take that from my second baseman. He made $7 million last season, and justified it. Despite being 34 years old (35 when the 2007 season starts), he will probably get a pretty solid contract. He is easily the pick of the litter amongst 2B this year. I'm guessing 3 years, $20 million, but if enough teams get involved in the bidding, it could go closer to $8-9 million/year.

Damion Easley - Arizona Diamondbacks
Easley will soon be 37, and he hit just .233 in 189 games this year (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). Easley made $700,000 this past year, and should get nothing more than a minor league contract from a team that isn't sure what its bench is going to look like next year. No team with any reasonable prospects should hire Easley, unless they need to fill a roster spot with a cheap veteran so as to avoid having service time run out on a valuable youngster.

Tony Graffanino - Milwaukee Brewers
Graffanino is a solid middle infielder who could still be of some value to a team looking for an affordable option up the middle. He made $2.05 million this season, and hit .274 with 7 HR and 59 RBI's. At 34, he's starting to get a little long in the tooth, but he'll work for anyone needing to plug a hole.

Jerry Hairston, Jr. - Texas Rangers
Hairston got $2.3 million this season to hit .206 in 170 at-bats. He's 30, so his prospect days are over, and he doesn't have any power. In other words, Hairston is closer to an Easley or Bellhorn than a Graffanino or Belliard. I don't think the market for him is going to be very strong, and he might have to settle for a minor league contract.

Damian Jackson - Washington Nationals
Gee, another guy who should be avoided at all costs. Jackson hit .198, and is a career .243 hitter. He made $700,000 this year. Why, oh why, oh why?

Adam Kennedy - Los Angeles Angels
Kennedy made $3.35 million last year, and hit .273 with 55 RBI's for the Angels. Like Belliard, he's not a bad choice for a team that needs a serviceable 2B but doesn't want to spend the money to go after a Durham or Soriano (if he turns back into a 2B).

Mark Loretta - Boston Red Sox
Loretta had a solid season, hitting .285 with 5 HR's and 59 RBI's. Loretta just turned 35, which may explain why the Red Sox would like to go in a different direction next year, but at $3 million last year, Loretta was a bargain, and tops my list of the second-tier (Belliard, Kennedy, Loretta, Graffanino) options. If the Sox want to upgrade, they'll probably either make a run at Durham, or try to go a little younger with Belliard.

Junior Spivey - St. Louis Cardinals
Spivey didn't play this season after suffering an injury. He made $1.2 million, and will probably make $1 million from someone if he's able to come back in time for next year. A career .270 hitter, he falls into that "lower middle" tier of players like Graffanino.

Jose Valentin - New York Mets
Valentin is 37 years old, but he had a pretty good season, hitting .271 with 18 HR and 62 RBI's in 384 at-bats. Considering that he made just $912,500 I think he was a bargain. At some point, Valentin is not going to be able to deliver for whoever signs him, but for less than $1 million the risk is certainly justified.

Todd Walker - San Diego Padres
Walker can play some 1B as well as 2B, but he's not a great value. He made $2.5 million this year, and hit .278 with 9 HR and 53 RBI's in 442 at-bats. In other words, Valentin outperformed Walker in 58 fewer at-bats. Walker will end up somewhere, probably at about $2 million per. This would be overpaying - Walker's most productive years are behind him.

Chris Woodward - New York Mets
Woodward got paid $825,000 this year, and hit .216 with 3 HR's and 25 RBI's in 222 at-bats. Yet another middle infielder who isn't worth much, but will find a job as a bench player somewhere.

Eric Young - Texas Rangers
Yep . . . another one. Young is 39, he hit .203 in 138 at-bats, and he made $700,000. Retirement is in Young's future, but he'll probably get a minor-league deal from somebody if he wants to come back.

All in all a pretty uninspiring bunch. There are a number of guys up there who are not Major League caliber players anymore, but I would bet that only 1 or 2 of these guys don't find work next year with a Major League team; that's just the way the business works. The Twins should stay away from everyone on this list, as no one can help them at a position they need, and as they have perfectly acceptable under-performing bench players already on the team . . . why sign Damion Easley or Miguel Cairo when you have your very own Luis Rodriguez?

Thursday, October 12, 2006


UPDATE: So, the Nationals are denying the rumor that Soriano turned down a contract offer. Whether that's true or not, I stand by the reasoning in the post below and am leaving it up intact. Here's the original post (which is about 2 minutes old):

Back on July 31, I commented that the Nationals failure to trade Alfonso Soriano was going to be judged on the basis of what happened this off-season: if Soriano re-signed with the Nationals, then Jim Bowden would have made a smart decision; if not, I pretty much called Bowden an idiot for not making some trade, any trade. Considering what Bowden could have picked up by moving Soriano in a season in which the Nationals were not going to win anything, my inclination was that Soriano should have been traded.

Now, Bowden is looking pretty bad after Soriano turned down a 5-year, $14 million deal. The Nationals might go up a little bit (this was, after all, a first offer). However, I don't think Soriano is going to sign a contract anytime soon. If he hits the open market, he will be the piece targeted by anyone with money. Heck, the Yankees don't really have a place to play him, but I bet they'll make a run for him. In other words, Soriano WILL test the market; it'd be stupid not to. It's not like he has any long-term bond with the city of Washington, after all.

Bowden should have traded Soriano to any of the multiple teams that desperately wanted him. Instead, he's going to get a couple of draft picks - and probably not very good ones, since the bad teams at the top of the draft can't afford Soriano anyway. Also, the CBA is going to re-worked at some point this off-season, and it sounds like compensatory picks for lost free agents might be eliminated; while it's unlikely, it's possible that Bowden could get absolutely nothing for Soriano. This was the equivelant of hitting on 17 - not a very smart move for Bowden.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Well, This is America . . .

This was inevitable, wasn't it?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nightly Notes

There are a lot of things I wanted to discuss tonight, so I'm putting them in a "Nightly Notes" post like I ran fairly regularly during the last month of the regular season.

1.) The Detroit Tigers did what the Twins couldn't do against Barry Zito: be patient and make him throw a lot of pitches. The Fox announcers effusively praised the Tigers approach against Zito, and for good reason. Had the Twins hitters been more patient in Game 1 last week, they very well may have won Game 1, and we might be talking about Game 1 of a Twins/Tigers ALCS tonight.

2.) While Torii Hunter's option had to be exercised by tomorrow, Carlos Silva's option doesn't have to be dealt with until 5 days after the World Series. I suspect the Twins will take some time on this one, as it isn't an easy decision. I mentioned before that I think the Twins will, and should, pick up this option. I wouldn't exactly be heartbroken if they didn't, however.

3.) I'll normally only mention Arizona Fall League stats about once a week (although I haven't set a particular weekday for that as of yet). However, tonight was the opener, so I thought I'd at least mention how things went. Matt Moses started at 3B for the Solar Sox and went 1-for-3. David Winfree replaced him at 3B and struck out in his only at-bat, and Matt Tolbert got one at bat after coming in late at 2B, picking up a double. On the pitching side, Jay Sawatski pitched an inning, giving up a hit and walking a batter. The Solar Sox lost 3-0.

4.) The Yankees are keeping Joe Torre - and that's the smart move. I think that Lou Piniella is going to sit out the ride this time and wait for Torre to retire after next season. I also think that the Cubs will hire Joe Girardi. As for the Giants, Rangers, and Nationals . . . no idea. If Piniella does take one of those jobs, I think it will be in San Francisco.

5.) Johan Santana won The Sporting News' Pitcher of the Year award. I'm guessing this won't be the last piece of hardware he picks up this off-season.

Hunter On Board for '07

The Twins today exercised their $12 million option on Center Fielder Torii Hunter for the 2007 season. I've exhaustively this issue, so I won't go into it in detail again. Suffice it to say that this was the only move that made sense. There is a distinct possibility that the Twins will try to work out a multi-year deal with Hunter sometime during this off-season, and I'm not quite as comfortable with that. I'll have more to say on a potential multi-year deal later on in the off-season. For now, those of us who believe this is a good move can be pleased, and those who feel this is a waste of money can - well - I don't know - yell a lot, I guess.

Opening Day . . .

for the Arizona Fall League!

The Twins have 7 players participating in the AFL this year, including 4 pitchers and 3 infielders. Here they are, along with information on which club they were with in 2006.

Kevin Slowey - RHP - Ft. Myers/New Britain
Errol Simonitsch - LHP - New Britain
Kevin Cameron - RHP - Rochester
Jay Sawatski - LHP - New Britain

Matt Mosses - 3B - New Britain
David Winfree - 3B - Ft. Myers
Matt Tolbert - SS - Ft. Myers/New Britain

All of the Twins prospects play for the Mesa Solar Sox, along with AFL participants from the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Mets.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hunter Update

The Strib is reporting that the Hunter option has to be dealt with by Wednesday, so my guess was way off. Nevertheless, sooner is better than later for this kind of thing, as we fans will know quickly what is going on. The article mentions yet again that the Twins are likely to pick up the option and try negotiating a long term deal later in the off-season, if at all.

Roster Moves

The silly season of roster shuffling has officially begun, and there are some interesting moves to report. All of this comes via ESPN, in an article on Francisco Liriano (you can also get the information from the Strib here).

First, the Twins outrighted Starting Pitchers Dave Gassner and Justin Jones and Infielder Terry Tiffee from the 40-man roster. With 6 years in the minor leagues, Terry Tiffee becomes a minor league free agent and can sign anywhere. Gassner and Jones are still the property of the Twins, but are now subject to the same rules as any other minor league player not on the 40-man roster, including being subject to the Rule 5 Draft.

Tiffee makes the most sense; he was out of options and so would have had to either stay with the Major League team next year or clear waivers to get sent to the minor leagues. It was pretty clear that Tiffee wasn't going to fill a role in the Twins system, so clearing the roster space now instead of waiting until the spring makes a lot of sense.

I'm a little more curious about the decisions on Gassner and, especially, Jones. Gassner was injured most of the year, but he had an option year left and is a left-handed starter; in other words, he's the kind of guy you usually give every opportunity to succeed. He was made expendable by the emergence of guys like Boof Bonser and Matt Garza. Jones is the pitcher the Twins got from the Cubs in the three-way Doug Mientkiewicz deal a few years ago. Sadly, he regressed this year, being demoted from AA New Britain to High A Ft. Myers relatively early, and struggling there with an ERA of 5.20. Jones departure means that the Twins essentially got nothing but roster space in the Mientkiewicz trade.

The Twins also "activated" Shannon Stewart from the 60-Day DL, a move that will be meaningless as soon as the free agency period opens and Stewart files. Nevertheless, the move means that the Twins 40-man roster currently stands at 38 players.

Possible Free Agents: 1B

This is the first in a series of posts that will look at each position and the possible free agents available at that position. For those of you who want to see the list directly, you can check it out at Cot's Baseball Contracts, an invaluable resource for those interested in the financial side of the game.

I'm starting with First Base because that's where Cot's starts. The Twins certainly don't seem to be in the market for a first baseman thanks to the emergence of Justin Morneau, but you never know; one of these guys could conceivably be in the mix as a backup or Designated Hitter type. Here are the names.

Sean Casey - Detroit Tigers
Unless the Tigers decide they want to give Chris Shelton another shot next year, which is unlikely, they will probably make a solid run at resigning Casey. The goodwill from their remarkable season will probably help them in that effort. Casey is making $8.5 million this season, and probably will cost in the $7-8 million range to sign for next year.

Jeff Conine - Philadelphia Phillies (Mutual Option)
Conine is 40 years old and no longer an everyday player in my mind (he nevertheless got 489 at bats this year, so what do I know?). The Twins should steer clear of Conine, who will probably end up back in Baltimore if he decides to come back next season; they seem to have a fascination with him. Conine would be an acceptable "veteran leader" type to have on the bench, but there have to be better places to spend money. Conine will make $2 million next year if the Phillies pick up his option, but there's no reason to expect that they will. He's worth, at most, $1.5 million (and that's only if a team plans on playing him regularly).

Darin Erstad - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Erstad is (or was) one of the most overrated players in baseball. He's the perfect example of a guy who lived off of one incredible season (2000, when he hit .355), and was able to parlay that into a foolish contract. Erstad has made around $8 million/year for the past four years, and for that money the Angels have gotten lots of injuries, and about 65 RBI's with a .280 batting average when he's healthy. They should part ways with Erstad willingly, and whoever signs him should not be willing to pay more than $4-5 million for a one year deal to see if he's healthy. Incidentally, there were rumblings earlier this year that he wasn't healthy, and there's a possibility that he could retire.

Robert Fick - Washington Nationals
Fick is a catcher as well as a first baseman, which could be useful to some teams. In 60 games this year he hit .266 with 2 homers. He works best as the last guy off the bench type, who can catch a little bit if needed. He made $850,000 this year, and that's probably about right for next year.

Nomar Garciaparra - Los Angeles Dodgers
The Twins should have pursued Garciaparra as a third baseman last year, but he's now settled comfortably into the first base role in LA, and I'd be surprised if they let him get away. Garciaparra was forced to settle for a one year deal because no one believed he could stay healthy. He was the NL comeback player of the year for hitting .303 and belting 20 homers. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in the playoffs, which doesn't help his argument that he'll stay healthy. He made $6 million this year (with $4 million in incentives in the deal), and will probably be forced to accept another short, 1 or 2 year contract in the same price range that's also heavily incentivized. The Dodgers will probably go a little higher to prevent him from hitting the market.

Scott Hatteberg - Cincinnati Reds
A bargain at $750,000, Hatteberg hit .289 with 13 homeruns and 51 RBI's. He's not going to set the world on fire, but he's a solid enough option for a team that needs a cheap first baseman. He should get a little bit of a raise, to the $1.25 million range, for next season. That said, he's 36 years old, so there's not really a lot of upside potential.

Wes Helms - Florida Marlins
The 30-year-old Helms hit .320 with 10 jacks in limited action for the Marlins this season. He can play first or third and comes pretty cheap, making $800,000 this year. It wouldn't surprise me at all for Helms to be chased by a number of the mid-level teams looking to add a corner infielder, and honestly he wouldn't be a terrible fit for the Twins, who could use him off the bench and as an occasional DH, 3B, or if Morneau needed a day off, 1B. He should make somewhere around $1 million next year.

Jose Hernandez - Philadelphia Phillies
Hernandez's career is winding down, and he probably won't get a lot of interest in the fall. Then again, Julio Franco still has a job and he's ancient. Hernandez made $850,000 this year, and would probably be in the $750,000 to $800,000 if he was lucky enough to find a job next year. He was signed to a minor league contract last off-season, and that's probably the route he would have to go for this coming year as well.

Shea Hillenbrand - San Francisco Giants
Hillenbrand hit .277 with 21 homeruns with the Giants and Blue Jays this year, but why would you want him on your team? He had the infamous run-in with manager John Gibbons in Toronto that led to his ouster to the Bay, and there have been suggestions that he's done this before. In other words, he doesn't seem to be a good teammate, and he costs $5.8 million. I don't see the interest being very high, but he'll get a job somewhere, probably for closer to $4 million than his current salary.

Ryan Klesko - San Diego Padres (team option)
The Padres can't cut ties with Klesko quickly enough. They paid him $10 million for 6 at bats this season, and $8 million for a .248 batting average and 18 homeruns last year. His option is for $8 million with a $500,000 buyout - and that pretty much makes it a no-brainer. Klesko is already 35 years old, and his career progression has not been good. Some team (such as the Royals or Pirates or some other equally bad team) will probably offer him a contract and pay him $3-4 million for next year, but if they do I'm guessing it will be a bad decision.

Travis Lee - Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Lee made $2.45 million this year and hit .221 in 343 at bats. Why, oh why, oh why do teams keep signing him? Lee's a bust - if he finds a home next year and gets paid more than $1 million, he should consider himself unbelievably lucky.

Doug Mientkiewicz - Kansas City Royals
Douggie, Douggie, Douggie. As much as I loved you as a Twin, I've got to be brutally honest and suggest that the $1.85 million the Royals paid you was too much. He'll probably wander around the lower-tier teams for the rest of his career; maybe a return to Kansas City is in order (although I never figured out why they signed him in the first place).

Kevin Millar - Baltimore Orioles
One of the Red Sox "idiots" in exile, who made $2.1 million this year. He did about what you'd expect for that price, hitting .272 with 15 jacks. So long as he doesn't demand much more than that, he's an affordable option for an American League team that wants a 1B/DH who will play part time.

Scott Spiezio - St. Louis Cardinals
Very similar to Millar, with a .272 average and 13 homers. For some reason, nobody (ok, neither Cot nor ESPN) know how much he made this year. He'll find a job somewhere next year.

Matt Stairs - Detroit Tigers
He has some monster power if you throw him a fastball or a hanging curve, but his batting average (.247) was horrible, and probably won't be going up by too much. Stairs makes sense for a team that wants a left-handed pinch hitter who can DH a little and play some 1B. He made $1.35 million this season, and will probably be in that neighborhood again next year.

Frank Thomas - Oakland Athletics
MVP candidate. Far and away the best "1B" on the market, although at this stage of his career he's clearly a DH. The Athletics aren't going to let him get on the open market anyway; they've offered him a 2 year deal already, and I suspect he'll take the offer and stay in the Bay area.

Dmitri Young - Free Agent
Young was fired by the Tigers towards the end of the season. He's only 32, but seems to have some off the field issues that the Tigers obviously felt weren't taken care of. Young made $8 million this year, but he'll be lucky to find a team that would pay him half of that, and if there are actual unresolved problems, he might be out of baseball for good.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm Not Alone

Pioneer Press reporter Jason Williams backs me up on my assertion yesterday that the Twins should and will pick up the options on both Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva, and for pretty much the same reasons that I suggested.

There's a lot of talk in the article about the Twins impending arbitration problem, which will see Joe Mauer, Michael Cuddyer, and Justin Morneau all start to get some pretty nice raises starting this year. Part of the reason that I'm not comfortable signing Hunter to a long term deal (even for the $8 million per that it sounds like he is now more willing to accept) is that I think that money is going to be needed down the road to keep this core of players together. But the $12 million Hunter would make next year (actually $10 million - remember, the $2 million buyout is a sunk cost that will be spent regardless) isn't needed immediately to pay those guys; money coming off the books from Brad Radke's retirement and Shannon Stewart's moving on will suffice. Picking up the option on Hunter is actually the more economical and rational approach for a team that seems to have a chance to make a run at the World Series next year.

Williams also says that we'll know answers to the option questions by the end of the week. That timing makes sense, and I'll throw this out there too; I think the Twins will pick the option up quickly, and then start negotiating with Hunter on a long term deal. If Terry Ryan feels comfortable with the numbers, Hunter could be locked up through 2010. I don't think it should happen, but I think there's a very good chance it might.

I'll talk more about what the Twins approach with Mauer, Cuddyer, and Morneau this off-season should be when I discuss the arbitration eligible Twins players, which will be sometime this week.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Congratulations to the Tigers

Sometimes, you're just plain wrong. I honestly believed that the Tigers were vastly over-rated, having played way above their heads for the first half of the season and coming back to earth in the second-half. I thought the epic collapse that resulted in their losing the division to the Twins on the last day of the season would carry with it a hangover that would be noticeable in the series against the Yankees. The Tigers obviously didn't get the message that they were supposed to be bad.

I'm still not convinced that the lineup is that impressive; the Yankees have a far better collection of talent in their lineup. But that rotation? I'm downright impressed. The last two starts by Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman were unbelievable. Joel Zumaya is amazing. And Todd Jones . . . well, he sucks, but who cares?

I'm incredibly excited about the series between the Tigers and the A's. Obviously, I'd rather be watching the Twins face the Tigers in the ALCS, but forget about that. This is going to be a great matchup between two teams with very solid starting pitching. At this point, it's pretty hard to go against the Tigers, isn't it? And is it even going to be fair for whichever team emerges from the ALCS to face the National League champion?

Fans are Half Right

Major League Baseball has announced the winners of the Comeback Player of the Year awards. The fans got it right in the National League, picking the Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra. Unfortunately, Jim Thome of the White Sox was picked as the AL winner. I mentioned in my previous post on who should win the post-season awards that Frank Thomas was, without question, the most deserving player in the American League for this award. Thome had a very good bounce-back season, but it didn't compare to the great story of Frank Thomas.

Options, Options Everywhere

Well, OK, not really. The Twins have only two options that need to be dealt with this off-season, and neither decision will be easy. The timeline for these decisions is relatively unknown; the team could make decisions at any time, but will probably wait for at least a week while they evaluate where the team is. For all practical purposes, the team will want to make these decisions before the start of free agency (and while I can't find a "drop-dead" date for exercising the options, a good guess is that it is the day when players are first eligible to file for free agency, which would be 15 days after the completion of the World Series). My guess? I think we'll know by the end of October whether Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva will be a part of the team next year. Here are thoughts on each.

Torii Hunter - $12 million option/$2 million buyout
I've made my position on the Torii Hunter option pretty clear in recent months, but I'm going to take another stab at laying out the case for picking up Torii Hunter's option for the 2007 season.

First, let's look at the costs associated with keeping Torii or getting rid of him. Torii is making $10.75 million this year. That means that the Twins would save $8.75 million in payroll (relative to what they spent THIS year), and $10 million considering the alternative option of picking him up. That's a lot of money; certainly nothing to sneeze at. The guys at Right Handed Heat seem uniformly to agree that it's so much money, the Twins shouldn't even be thinking twice about this deal. I disagree.

For $1.25 million more than they spent this year, the Twins could keep Hunter. Let me remind you that Hunter just put up one of his best offensive seasons, despite missing time due to injury. Hunter is one of three legitimate power threats in the Twins lineup, having hit 31 Homeruns this year. He drove in 98 runs. He had a respectable batting average of .278. In other words, he was a huge part of the Twins offensive machine in the last half of the season, especially over the last two months.

How about his defense? We all know what Hunter has been capable of in the past. He'll probably win another Gold Glove this year on reputation alone. But, he clearly lost a step for a substantial portion of the season, and while he was recovering some of his speed towards the end of the year, he was not able to cover nearly as much ground as he could in his prime. There are two ways to look at this: 1.) Hunter will never again be the player he was, as age and injuries have degraded his defense far enough to ensure that he will never again be a Gold Glove caliber outfielder, or 2.) Hunter was slowed by injuries, but was recovering by the end of the year and should be close to full-speed by the time the 2007 season begins. I happen to believe the second option is closer to the truth; Torii's got some life left in those legs.

So, in my opinion, Hunter is an offensive leader on the team, THE defensive leader on the team who is capable of being a Golf Glove caliber outfielder again next season, and is also the charismatic heart and soul of the team. This is not a player that you part with lightly. Nevertheless, $10 million is a lot of money to give up (I don't care how much money Torii gets paid, I just care how much the Twins would lose the ability to spend). So how to decide what to do?

I think you have to look at the alternatives available to the Twins if they lose Hunter. Here's the breakdown:

Internal Options
The Twins have Jason Tyner, Lew Ford, Josh Rabe, and Jason Kubel on the active roster. Clearly, neither Rabe or Kubel is a Centerfielder. Tyner and Ford are interesting options, I suppose. Consider, however, that Ford hit .226 this season, and Tyner hit .312 but drove in just 18 runs in 62 games. In other words, Ford is absolutely NOT an everyday player, and if Tyner is he certainly is not a run producer. Starting Tyner in center would necessitate finding a player who could produce like Torii for another position.

At the minor league level, the Twins hopes for the future have been pinned on Denard Span, who spent the last season with AA New Britain. He had decent numbers, hitting .285 and stealing 24 bases. But Span is another speed guy who will hit at the top of the order, NOT a run producer; he had 45 RBI's in 134 games. He has never played above AA ball. He's not ready to play at the big league level yet.

And really, that's it. Clearly there is no good internal option to replace Torii. Where else could the Twins go?

Free Agents
There are a fair number of guys who are probably going to be available in the off-season as free agents. Mike Cameron (if his '07 option isn't picked up), Jim Edmonds ('07 option), Carl Everett ('07 option), Steve Finley ('07 option), Kenny Lofton, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Pierre, Bernie Williams.

Now, that's close to an exhaustive list of the guys available on the free agent market who could even THINK about playing Center Field, and I included guys like Edmonds and Everett who clearly aren't legitimate options, and Bernie Williams, who will either retire or return to the Yankees. Lofton and Pierre wouldn't be terrible options, but both are leadoff types, not run producers. And Gary Matthews just had a very nice season, but even if he were available he's going to get a big raise, to the $6-7 million dollar range I'd guess, and is the only name player really available at the position as a free agent. In other words, there are no viable options available to the team via free agency.

The Red Sox let Johnny Damon go last year and made the move to get Coco Crisp from the Indians. Why couldn't the Twins do the same thing?

Well, nothing explicitly says they can't. However, the Indians were willing to part with Crisp because they had Sizemore and had nowhere to use Crisp. Unfortunately, looking through the league, I don't see any viable situations where a team is going to be looking to unload a quality Center Fielder, and certainly not a guy who is capable of putting up the numbers that Torii can put up. Unless the Twins were to find a way to make a blockbuster type deal for an Andruw Jones type player (who would actually cost more money and be a free agent at the end of '07, just like Torii), then a trade is not a method that will enable the Twins to find a replacement for Torii.

People look at this situation and think to themselves that Torii isn't worth $12 million a year. You know what? I agree. There's no way that I would give Torii a 3 or 4 year deal worth $12 million per. However, sometimes you have to overpay in order to avoid regression. The Twins have a good enough team to be able to seriously make a run at the World Series next year, so long as they don't regress. Offense, not pitching, is likely to be the problem. I see no way that the Twins could replace Torii Hunter's offense, defense, or leadership on the team. The Twins need to either sign him to a long-term deal (for significantly LESS than $12 million/year), or pick up this option and re-evaluate next year. I vote for the latter.

The Twins should Pick up the Option.

Carlos Silva - $4 million option/$100,000 buyout

I said that the decisions on neither option were easy, but this one sure seems like an easy decision. Silva was terrible for most of the season. The Twins have a glut of young pitchers ready to go. Why, oh why, would the Twins exercise this option?

The answer has to do with who else is leaving the rotation this off-season, and who might be able to go next year. Brad Radke is almost certainly retiring, and the Twins should make that decision easier for Radke by letting him know through back-channels that they won't be re-signing him anyway (unless he wants to work for about $2 million next year). Ignoring Silva, that means the rotation next season would probably look something like this:

1.) Johan Santana
2.) Boof Bonser
3.) Francisco Liriano
4.) Matt Garza
5.) Glen Perkins/Scott Baker/Matt Guerrier

I'm not opposed to that rotation. It's filled with youth, and with Dave Gassner and Kevin Slowey both making charges, there's more youth behind it to back things up. However, what if Liriano isn't ready at the start of the season? All of a sudden that rotation looks very promising, but also very fragile.

The easy answer is that the Twins should use the money they would save by declining the option on Silva and by not having to pay Radke and Shannon Stewart next year to go out and get another, better starter. Sadly, starting pitching is at such a premium that anybody worth anything is going to make substantially more than $4 million per. That means whoever the Twins could pick up on the market would probably be no more reliable than Silva. It comes down to the idea of "go with the devil you know." I'd like to have at least one more veteran in the lineup, and I'll put my faith in Rick Anderson's ability to get Silva back on track in the off-season and spring training.

This is an agonizingly close call, and unlike the Torii Hunter situation, I have absolutely no idea what the Twins will do. My gut tells me that the right decision is to exercise the option and keep Silva around, however.

The Twins should Pick up the Option.