Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Return to the Winter Wonderland

Somehow, miraculously, I had virtually no problems travelling to or from Denver over the past 10 days, despite a massive number of flight cancellations and an even more massive amount of snow. Now that I'm back in Boulder, I plan to resume a fairly regular blogging schedule starting this coming week. One of my first posts back will be a prediction about the percentage of votes that each of the Hall of Fame candidates will receive when the announcement is made. Hopefully, we'll have some good news this week with the election of Bert Blyleven to the Hall - but my one spoiler for the eventual predictions post will be the perhaps none-too-surprising prediction that Bert is likely to fall short yet again.

I also want to offer a hearty "Thanks!" to all of you who have become semi-regular readers of the blog over the past few months. I enjoy blogging about the Twins, and hope that I can continue to produce posts that are at least somewhat thought-provoking.

So, I say to all of you "Happy New Year's!" - and I'll throw in a "Go Twins" for good measure.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Non-Roster Invitees

The Twins have invited 14 Non-Roster players to Spring Training, but the Star Tribune article which mentions this didn't actually name them all - I'm not sure why they wouldn't take the time to print the names, but maybe the Twins didn't make them available. The names that were released are not surprising:

Kevin Slowey - RHSP
Ken Harvey - DH/1B
Jose Rabe - OF
Mike Venafro - LHRP

That leaves ten more guys who have been offered a chance to come to Spring Training - I'll be waiting to see if a comprehensive list is put out. I'm glad to see that Slowey and Rabe have been invited to camp - Slowey should probably start the season in AAA, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were to receive a mid-season call-up.

I will speculate that the following names may be on the list, for a variety of reasons. Some of them may be competing for a Major League job, but most would probably just be getting some seasoning being around Major League players, and would be shipped to the Minor League camp at the first cut date. Here are some possibilities:

Carmen Cali - LHP
Garrett Guzman - OF
Felix Molina - IF
Tommy Watkins - SS
Dave Gassner - LHP
Bobby Korecky - RHP
Matt Moses - 3B
Oswaldo Sosa - RHP
David Winfree - 3B/1B
Erik Lis - 1B

Most of the guys on that list would have no chance of getting to the Majors next year. Once again, when and if I get an official list, I'll post an update. And if you have a comprehensive list, let me know with an e-mail or a comment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Limited Posts For Ten Days

Well, folks . . . it's that time of year, and I'm headed back to the motherland tomorrow (that'd be good ole' Minnesota) - or, at least, I'll try; I live in Boulder, and flying out of Denver is going to be rather interesting. I will have internet access while I'm there, but it's slow and I'm probably not going to feel like fighting with it all that often. As a result, expect very limited posts, and don't be shocked if little things (like the "opening day countdown" on the right side) don't get updated every day. If, somehow, the Twins pull off a big trade or sign somebody, I'll be sure to tough it out and post my thoughts. Otherwise - I'll be back shortly after New Year's.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, if you're so inclined) to all, and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Transactions Update

It's been nearly a month, but Baseball America has finally posted an updated list of minor league transactions. There aren't a lot of new names on here - Jeremy Cummings and Carmen Cali were both mentioned in my last post related to transactions, and we've talked about the Rule 5 Draft results already, so that leaves just two moves to discuss, one addition and one subtraction.

First, the addition: The Twins signed LHP Jesus Carnevales of Puerto Rico to a deal, and he will presumably start his Twins career in extended spring training with a debut coming with one of the short-season teams. However, it's possible that Carnevales is decent enough to get a higher start than that - I haven't been able to dig up much on him (including his age). What I do know: he pitched in one game for the Puerto Rican Olympic Qualifying team (in the same tournament that Kevin Slowey pitched in for Team USA), and he posted pretty solid numbers for Camuy of the Federacion de Beisbol Aficionado de Puerto Rico (which, according to the MLB website, is the official baseball federation of Puerto Rico). I believe Carnevales went 5-1 with a 1.86 ERA - but you'll have to judge for yourself with this spreadsheet. Camuy is the third team listed, and Carnevales is the first Lanzador listed.

Now, the subtraction: The Twins released OF Richard Sojo, who hit just .228 in 34 games with Elizabethton last season. Sojo originally signed with the Twins back in April 2002, and didn't get to the GCL team until 2005, where he actually did pretty well (.318 in 43 games, with 11 steals). Unfortunately, the regression last year must have convinced the Twins that Sojo probably was never going to develop to the level that they wanted him to.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Goodbye Brad (and Welcome Back Rondell)

I'm late to the party with my farewall to Radke post, but that's more because of my hectic finals schedule than any lack of enthusiasm to offer my farewell. Radke has been a Twins institution for the past 12 seasons, and while he struggled on occasion (I remember an inauspicious season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays where the season began with a Radke-thrown longball on the first pitch - that's the only season opener I've ever attended, by the way), but I remember far more of the good moments - the gutsy performances and quiet determination.

Several members of the Twins coaching staff (and undoubtedly teammates and front office personnel as well) tried to convince Radke to return, but it was pretty clear from the emotion with which Radke excited his last game as a Twin that he wasn't coming back. That's really for the best - the man's shoulder is in shreds, and he would have either missed time or been extremely ineffective next season. He was certainly not going to be an answer for the inexperienced starting staff that it looks like we'll be throwing out there next year.

So, farewell Brad. You will be missed.

White Returns

The other news coming in tonight is that the Twins have re-signed Rondell White to a $2.5 million contract for 2007, with a vesting option and a $250,000 buyout for 2008. Looking at the market, there just really were not other good options available. I don't know if Rondell will play well or not next year, but at $2.5 million, this is a good deal for the Twins. It does make me wonder even more why Lew Ford was not non-tendered last week, however, since the Twins now have six outfielders (White, Hunter, Cuddyer, Ford, Tyner, Kubel), and are extremely unlikely to carry all six on the Major League roster.

For Kubel, this move likely means that he'll be competing for the DH role with Ken Harvey, and a platoon situation there is certainly a possibility. It will be interesting to see this play out in Spring Training.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Hall of Fame Ballot

In this post, I'm not just telling you who I would vote for if I got a ballot - I'm also telling you who I would usher off the ballot (those players who I don't think are deserving of reaching the 5% threshhold), and those who I would keep around to consider for future years. I realize that this does not reflect the actual method of voting, in which you either vote for a player as a HOF'er or you don't - but I'm choosing to do it this way because I think it provides a nice breakdown of my choices. Obviously, this is an opinion piece - if you disagree with me and think I'm an idiot, or think that I'm dead on, let me know in the comments . . . just don't get too nasty.

Hall of Famers

Bert Blyleven

Despite some difficulties with Blyleven's candidacy, I think the scales come down on the side of Bert being a Hall of Famer. Whether this determination is colored by my Twins bias and my enjoyment of his color commentary for the Twins - well, that's for others to decide. On the plus side, Blyleven is 5th in career strikeouts (3,701) and no one is going to catch him anytime soon. He also struck out 2.8 batters for every batter he walked - that puts him miles ahead of all-time K leader Nolan Ryan (just over 2.0), in the neighborhood of certain HOF'er Roger Clemens (2.96), and well below Randy Johnson (3.2). Looking at the pitchers below him on the K list, he's equal to or better than the majority of the top 20 - Fergie Jenkins beats him, as does Greg Maddux, and Pedro Martinez utterly blows everybody out of the water with about a 4.2. But Blyleven is clearly amongst the best in terms of K-BB in the history of the game.

Blyelven is also 9th All-Time with 60 shutouts - the man liked to finish what he started. The amazing thing about this stat is that it is incredibly predictive of Hall of Fame pitchers. Other than Blyleven, the top 23 pitchers in this category are in the Hall of Fame. Luis Tiant, at 24, is the first guy besides Bert who isn't in the Hall. Standing alone, that means nothing - but it is another indication that Blyleven's stats are in the same league as Hall of Famers.

As for ERA, Blyelven's career 3.31 ERA isn't great for Hall of Fame standards - but it's better than quite a few players (Early Wynn, Fergie Jenkins, Dennis Eckersley, and Lefty Grove for example). In other words - I'm neutral on ERA.

The most oft-heard argument against Blyleven is that he won just 287 games, and this doesn't meet the magic number of 300. But that number didn't prevent Fergie Jenkins (284), Juan Marichal (243), or Jim Palmer (268), amongst others, from getting into the Hall. Bert pitched a couple more years than Jenkins, so one argument could go that someone with 22 years in the game should have crested 300 - but with his other numbers being so solid, I find it hard to argue that the lack of wins is entirely Blyleven's fault.

Perhaps more compelling is the argument that Blyleven was never a truly dominant pitcher - he finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting twice, and that was as good as it got - and he was an All-Star just twice. He also never led his league in ERA, Wins, or even K/9. Nevertheless, that doesn't take away from the fact that he put up some brilliant numbers in his career, not all of which were dependant simply on longevity (as his 3.31 ERA shows). Bert belongs in the Hall, and hopefully his upward trend in the voting over recent years will get him there someday.

Tony Gwynn

Career .338 batting average, 5 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, 3141 Hits. Stop already - the man's a Hall of Famer.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

His career .276 batting average doesn't blow you away - but his 431 HR's as a Shortstop sure should. The man collected 2 MVP awards to go with 2 Gold Gloves, and won 8 Silver Slugger awards. Oh yeah - there's some Iron Man streak as well. Ripken should get in easily, and he deserves to.

Goose Gossage

I was all prepared to take Gossage off of my ballot - and then I took a stroll through the numbers one more time. Gossage was around forever (22 years), and put up some solid numbers as almost exclusively a reliver. With Bruce Sutter and Dennis Eckersley now in the Hall, so goes the thought, the Goose should get in as well, as one of the originators of the modern closer position. First, you need to take Eckersley out of the equation - the man had 361 starts and racked up 100 career complete games and 20 shutouts, putting up 197 wins in his career to go with 390 saves. Those numbers dwarf Gossage's, who put up 310 saves, 124 wins, and a career ERA of 3.01 - but those numbers can't fairly be compared to Eckersley because of the Eck's incredible dual starter/reliever career.

But Sutter - well, the two were made for comparison. They pitched in an overlapping timeframe (Sutter from '76 to '88; Gossage, as a closer, from '75 to '88), and when you look at their careers in that light, it's hard to argue that Gossage isn't Sutter's equal. He saved 10 more games than Sutter (which translates to slightly less per season as a closer), and his ERA is 18 points worse than Sutter's (3.01 to 2.83) - but he also won 56 more games. For a modern closer, Gossage probably wouldn't be a Hall of Famer - but considering the era he pitched in and the role he performed for his teams, he is. If Sutter is a Hall of Famer, then Gossage should be as well.

Hold-Overs (a.k.a. Give Me More Time)

Harold Baines

His .289 BA and 384 HR are arguably suitable - but he spent most of his career as a DH, played 22 years and only got to 2866 hits, never finished higher than 9th in the MVP voting, and won just 1 Silver Slugger Award. I'm putting him on the Hold-Over list because this is his first year on the ballot, and if I had the power to keep him around for a year to think about, I would want that chance. But his numbers are by no means enough for me to vote for him now, and he's probably closer to my "Off The Ballot" section than my "Hall of Famers" section, in every way other than proximity on this page.

Albert Belle

Belle has a better argument than Baines - he hit .295, with 381 HR in 10 fewer seasons than Baines, he played in the Outfield for most of his career rather than being a DH, he picked up 5 Silver Slugger Awards, and he finished consistently higher in MVP voting than did Baines. However, comparing him to a guy like Kirby Puckett, I just don't think he stacks up (and I think Puckett is on the dubious end as a Hall of Famer) - Puckett had a career batting average of .318 - 23 points higher than Belle's, although he didn't have the power that Belle had. Both played 12 seasons (although Belle really only played 10 - the first two years of his career he played just 62 and 9 games, respectively). But Puckett also won 6 Gold Gloves to go along with his 6 Silver Sluggers. Belle deserves further consideration, because his numbers aren't bad by any means - but to me, failure to measure up to a player like Puckett means that Belle is not really a Hall of Famer.

Andre Dawson

This one is really tough. Dawson was a career .279 hitter with 438 HR's over 21 years. In that time, he picked up 8 Gold Gloves and 4 Silver Sluggers. I am thisclose to feeling that Dawson belongs in the Hall - but his 2,774 hits in 21 years are lower than I would expect from a Hall of Famer. This is extremely close, but at this point I'm not ready to say he belongs in the Hall. Maybe next year.

Tommy John

John is not a bad Hall of Fame candidate. His 288 wins are over 26 Major League seasons (although he didn't win many games over those last few years), and he has a 3.34 career ERA. He also finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting twice. Basically, John is Bert Blyleven without the strikeouts. In the end, that's not enough - Bert's Hall credentials are largely dependent on his strikeout and control numbers, and John can't compare in that regard.

Don Mattingly

This one was also fairly difficult for me. His .307 career batting average fits comfortably in with the current Hall-of-Famers, and he hit 222 HR, so he wasn't a slouch in terms of power. He also won 9 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, and an MVP Award. But I just can't pull the trigger - his BA/Power numbers are more in line with an 1910's era Hall of Fame 1B than with a 1980's era First Baseman. This is closer than I thought it would be - I'd put him in the top 5 of the "best of the rest" on my ballot - but in the end I have to leave him off.

Mark McGwire

As sure a test case as there is for the question of whether power alone is enough to get a guy into the Hall. Forget about the steroids question - as I mentioned in my first Hall of Fame column, and to the derision of some, I take the "Buster Olney approach" to steroids; I can't separate the guilty from the innocent, and therefore I'm not going to consider the question. So, does McGwire deserve it on his raw stats?

Well, you have to look at Harmon Killebrew for the answer to that question. They had remarkably similar careers (sorry, Harmon, to comparing you with a man alleged to have taken steroids). Killebrew finished up with a .256 BA, to McGwire's .263 (incidentally, I have a major problem voting for a guy with a batting average that low). Killebrew finished with 573 HR in 22 seasons, McGwire with 583 HR in 16 seasons.

In the end, I can't get past the low batting average. McGwire, for his raw power, probably deserves to be a Hall of Famer - and that's why I am keeping in this section of the post. I will probably warm to McGwire's candidacy in future years, but for now I can't do it. And yes, I sadly realize that consistency would require me not to vote for Harmon if he were on the ballot, for the same reasons. For the record, just one player has a lower BA than Harmon who is in the Hall (bonus points if you know the answer). And if McGwire were to get in, his BA would be about the 5th lowest. I think that's too far down the line - but like I said, I'll probably change my mind in the next year or two, after I get the counter end of this argument from those who think it scandalous that I would exclude players like Harmon or Reggie Jackson (career .260 hitter). My mind is open and ready to be changed.

Jack Morris

Another close one - but Morris' 3.90 career ERA is a bit too high, and his 1.78 K-BB ratio is a bit too low to earn him consideration for his control. He did win 254 games - which I don't think disqualifies him at all, since he has a .577 winning percentage. His failure to ever win a Cy Young (like Bert, he finished 3rd twice) is another strike against him, because unlike Bert he doesn't have a dominant category to boost his candidacy. Borderline, but not quite a Hall of Famer.

Dale Murphy

His .265 batting average is a concern, but his 398 HR, 5 Gold Gloves, 2 MVPs, and 4 Silver Sluggers make him a serious candidate. Just 2111 hits in 18 seasons though. Moderately close, but not quite.

Dave Parker

No glaring weakness, like Murphy's batting average. Parker hit .290, with 339 HR and 2712 hits in 19 seasons, while picking up an MVP award, 3 Gold Gloves, and 3 Silver Sluggers. But, while those numbers are very nice, what exactly makes him a Hall of Famer? He was a very good, but not great hitter. He had very good, but not great, power. He could field pretty well. In the end, I think he misses the cut - he's a great player, but not a Hall of Famer.

Jim Rice

Rice's numbers (.298/382/2452) are actually fairly close to Hall of Famer Al Kaline's (.297/399/3007) - except for the hits, but Rice played 6 fewer seasons than Kaline. So why do I think Kaline is a Hall of Famer while Rice isn't? Simple - Kaline won 10 Gold Gloves, and Rice won none. Rice did win an MVP award, while Kaline never did. However, like Dave Parker, Jim Rice is a great player who doesn't quite make the cut.

Bret Saberhagen

Saberhagen, you say? Why is he not on my cut list? Well, he's close to the cut list, but I think he deserves some solid consideration. The biggest strike against him is that he won just 167, as a starter nonetheless. But did you realize that he posted a 3.64 K-BB ratio (1715/471)? That he posted a career 3.34 ERA? That he was twice a Cy Young award winner, and picked up a Gold Glove? He also lost just 117 games, for a career .588 winning percentage. I don't know - call me crazy, but Saberhagen deserves some love. Not a Hall of Famer - but a surprisingly strong candidate.

Lee Smith

Here's the rub - his 3.03 ERA is equal to Gossage's, and he has a ton of saves (478). But he lost 21 more games than he won, and he's the first modern closer to earn consideration. I just can't decide if Saves are enough, and for now the .436 winning percentage is too gaudy to get past.

Alan Trammell

Solid career numbers (.285/185/2365) and awards (4 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers). But like Rice and Parker, Trammell is a really good player who I just can't consider a Hall of Famer just yet. It doesn't help that he's being compared to Cal Ripken, Jr. this year.

Off the Ballot

Dante Bichette

His career .299 average is OK, but his 274 HR and 1906 Hits aren't near enough, and his 1 Silver Slugger doesn't change anything.

Bobby Bonilla

His mediocre (for a Hall of Famer) career numbers (.279/287/2010) aren't overcome by his 3 Silver Sluggers. Second place finish in the MVP voting in 1990 looks nice, but doesn't do much for his candidacy.

Scott Brosius

Career numbers (.257/141/1001) are woefully inadequate for a Hall of Famer. If he receives any votes, it's too many - there is absolutely nothing in his record to hang a Hall of Fame vote on.

Jay Buhner

Career numbers (.254/310/1273) don't justify a vote, or a place on the ballot.

Ken Caminiti

His 3 Gold Gloves and 1996 MVP Award are nice, but his .272/239/1710 numbers are not enough.

Jose Canseco

I should probably be more fair to Canseco and put him in the "I'll think about it" category, but this is where I stuck him and this is where I'll keep him. His candidacy is largely based on his 462 career HR, and is helped by 1988 MVP win and his 4 Silver Sluggers. However, he hit just .266 for his career, and finished up with just 1877 hits. The person I'm least comfortable putting in the "Off the Ballot" category, but I'll leave him here. To be consistent, I am not considering his admitted steroid use - but if I were it would justify this decision further because his gaudy stat was undoubtedly aided (at least to a degree) by his cheating. That was not the basis of this decision, however - had 121 fewer career homers than McGwire, who is in my "Maybe" category above - that's a significant difference.

Dave Concepcion

Ignore the low HR total (101) because he was a middle infielder. He didn't hit that well in general (.267 average, 2326 hits in 19 seasons), and his candidacy is largely based on his 5 Gold Gloves. That's not enough, for me, to overcome the poor offensive numbers.

Eric Davis

Mediocre .269/282/1430 career numbers not overcome by his 3 Gold Gloves or 2 Silver Sluggers.

Tony Fernandez

Arguably a better candidate than Concepcion, with .288/94/2276 numbers in 17 seasons to go along with 4 Gold Gloves. Just not good enough to get further consideration.

Steve Garvey

Garvey would be firmly in my "Maybe" category if not for one thing - this is his last year of eligibility, and so it would be completely artificial to say I would hold him over for further consideration - if I had a real ballot, this would be my last chance to vote for him, and I don't think he quite makes it. However, his career numbers (.294/272/2599) are solid, and his 4 Gold Gloves and 1974 MVP award bolster his candidacy. Not quite enough, however, even in his last year of eligibility.

Orel Hershiser

He should probably be in the "Maybe" category above, but it's borderline. His .576 winning percentage (204-150) is solid, and his 3.48 ERA is pretty good as well. His K-BB ratio of exactly 2 is a little low, though, and I don't think his Cy Young and Gold Glove award overcome the fact that his numbers just aren't quite good enough.

Wally Joyner

No career awards, and only ok career numbers (.289/204/2060).

Paul O'Neill

Slightly better than Joyner, but again, no career awards and only adequate career numbers (.288/281/2105).

Devon White

Seven Gold Gloves can't overcome low batting average (.263) and failure to reach even 2000 hits.

Bobby Witt

Nobody with a 4.83 career ERA belongs in the Hall of Fame.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A Few (Final) Non-Tender Thoughts

I said I was going to look at a few of the non-tenders and comment on whether they could be pursued by the Twins. It took me a little longer to get around to this than I had planned, but that's what happens around finals period. Just an upfront comment - there aren't a lot of great options available - 28 players were non-tendered by MLB Teams, and 2 of those were Twins, so were talking about roughly 26 guys - most of whom there would be absolutely no interest in. But, here are some whose addition would be at least interesting . . .

Joel Pineiro - RHP
Formerly of the Mariners, Pineiro got cut because he was making far too much money (in the $6 million range) for what he was worth (ERA's of 5.62 in 2005 and 6.36 in 2006). At one point, this guy was a solid prospect, and very well in 2002 (14-7, 3.24 ERA) and 2003 (16-11, 3.78). Something obviously went wrong for him since that time, but with a guy who had the goods at one point, there's always hope that he could be turned around. Other sources (I think it was the Twins website) mentioned that Pineiro was possible, but unlikely, because he's probably not going to be willing to take a huge paycut, and the Twins probably wouldn't offer him too much cash. Thing is, Pineiro may find his options limited - he's more a curiosity than a hot commodity right now - so you never know.

Alexis Gomez - OF
I mention his name only because he's an OF and the Twins have been looking to sign a LF. But even if a deal with Rondell White wasn't the most likely scenario, the Twins wouldn't likely be interested in Gomez anyway, because he's essentially another Jason Tyner.

Rick Ankiel - OF
Alright, he's likely to end up back in St. Louis under a minor league contract (if he hasn't already re-signed), but he's an intriguing player. Last year, he hit 21 homers in 85 games between A and AA ball - so clearly the guy has some power. The Twins could use a power hitting outfield prospect for the High A - AA level, and Ankiel would be a very interesting fit. Not going to happen, though.

Toby Hall - C
The Twins often bring in veteran catchers to send to AAA, as protection against an injury. I thought - huh, there's a guy who has been decent in the past, but whose production has flagged in recent years (despite his absurd .368 batting average in 21 games after being traded to the Dodgers last year - something completely inconsistent with his career numbers). Seems like a possible fit, right? A guy ready to transition into the "veteran journeyman" stage of his career. Well, Hall doesn't seem ready to go quietly - according to Buster Olney (Insider Subscriction required) of ESPN, Hall said the following to the St. Petersburg Times, after being offered a minor league deal with the Devil Rays, his old team:

"That was funny. I guess it would be a minor-league contract because they're a minor league team."

That my friends is how you make friends and influence people . . .

Victor Zambrano - RHP
We don't want Zambrano, but wow, what a horrible trade the Mets made in picking him up from the D-Rays in exchange for Scott Kazmir - just wanted to rub that one in a bit, because it was a stinker of a deal.

Brandon Claussen - LHP
This was the only lefty cut. He used to be a high profile prospect for the Yankees, and actually wasn't bad as recently as 2005 for the Reds (10-11, 4.21 ERA) - but last year he had a 6.19 ERA in 14 starts for Cincy, and that was the end of that. I actually wouldn't mind seeing him signed to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training, but since he's a lefty he'll probably find lots of offers, so a contract with the Twins is highly unlikely.

And that's really about all there is - not exactly a group that makes one's heart go pitter-patter, but then again, these were guys who were just cut from their respective teams, so that's to be expected.

One last night - I plan on posting my Hall of Fame ballot sometime this weekend, possibly as early as tonight if I get sick of studying and need a break. Until then . . .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Red Sox Beat Boras

I really believed that the Red Sox had played themselves into an impossible situation - that there was no way they would be able to come to an agreement with Daisuke Matsuzaka. In the end, however, it happened - and for a whole lot longer than I would have thought possible.

The reports are that Matsuzaka got a 6 year, $52 million deal from the Red Sox. That's less than $9 million/year - significantly closer to the $8 million the Red Sox were reportedly offering than the $11 million minimum that Boras was reportedly demanding. It's also much, much less than I think Matsuzaka could have received on the open market.

In the end, however, it must have come down to Matsuzaka's desire to pitch in the good ole' US of A. If history has taught us anything, it's that Scott Boras wouldn't have accepted this deal - but Scott Boras doesn't get to say yes or no to the offers, and Matsuzaka thought that nearly $9 million a year was good enough.

He's right of course - that kind of salary is something most of us can only dream of. It's a credit to Matsuzaka that he signed off on the deal. But if I were Boras, I'd feel a bit shamefaced right now, because this deal doesn't look like a victory for him. It is, without question, a victory for the Red Sox (and kudos to the front office guys for actually flying, uninvited, to California in order to get this thing done) and also for baseball fans. By all accounts, Matsuzaka is a great pitcher - and I look forward to watching him play.

In the end, it cost about $103 million, including the posting fee, to get Matsuzaka for 6 years. And in this market, that really doesn't look so bad. Make no mistake - the Red Sox beat Boras.

An Answer to the Non-Tender Question

Bill Smith, Assistant GM with the Twins, answered my question about Luis Rodriguez in an e-mail tonight. Here's what he had to say:

Baseball rules limit the amount that you can cut a player from one year to the next. Because Luis Rodriguez spent the entire season in the Major Leagues, we would have had to pay him $200,000 if he gets sent to the minor leagues in 2007. We spoke with the agent in advance, and negotiated an agreement for less money IF he goes to the minor leagues, but with a fair raise at the major league level. This is very common, and we have done it numerous times in the past.

So, there you have it - there was indeed a benefit to operating this way, in order to circumvent the pay requirements. I appreciate Bill taking the time to answer this question - it certainly was a helpful response!

Non-Tender Surprises

UPDATE II: Well, that didn't take long - Luis Rodriguez is back in the fold, and Alejandro Machado's tenuous hold on a roster spot is once again in serious jeopardy. I'm going to try to find out how non-tendering a player, and then immediately re-signing him, benefits a team - the Twins did the same thing with Rodriguez last year. If anybody knows why this was done, please let me know! I'm completely in the dark.

The Twins website is suggesting that non-tendering Luis Rodriguez may have been nothing more than a "paper move" - one that will be rectified soon by re-signing Rodriguez to a contract. I guess this is what happened last year - Rodriguez was non-tendered and quickly re-signed. I'm not sure what the utility of this would be - if the plan is to bring him back, why not just offer him a contract? Time will tell whether or not this in fact happens - frankly, non-tendering Rodriguez made a good deal of sense to me, so if the Twins bring him back into the fold I'll scratch my head a little bit. Now on to the original post:

The Minnesota Twins offered contracts to all of their arbitration eligible players yesterday, but made the (sort-of) surprising decision not to offer contracts to IF Luis Rodriguez and RHP Willie Eyre, making them free agents.

Let me clarify something before I move on. The non-tender deadline is viewed as a deadline for arbitration eligible players, but of course it applies to everyone on the team who is not under contract. Players who have less than 3 years of service time at the Major League level, and so are not arbitration eligible, must also be offered contracts for the next season by the non-tender deadline. Typically, players are kept around until a team is forced to make a tough decision on them due to arbitration eligibility, because players have very little leverage before that point and the team could essentially offer them a weak contract and keep them around. However, there really is no point to keep players who take up roster spots without providing a significant benefit to the team. Incidentally, I was going to post something on who the Twins would take off the roster if they made any additions, because they were at 40 players on the 40-man roster; these moves have made that unnecessary, as the roster is once again sitting at 38.

So, were there good decisions? We'll start with Rodriguez. In 59 games last season, Rodriguez hit .235 with 2 HR and 6 RBI. He was mostly used as a 3B (29 appearances) and a 2B (14 appearances), and the signing of Jeff Cirillo obviously would have prevented him from getting much (really, any) playing time at 3B. As a result, Rodriguez became pretty superfluous. Alejandro Machado, who is primarily a 2B/SS, is a much better fit for the backup middle infielder position, and assuming he doesn't have a horrible spring training, it should be assumed that he'll make the team.

Then, there's Willie Eyre. He showed a lot of promise at AAA in 2004 and especially in 2005, but the results at the Major League level last season (5.31 ERA in 42 games; 26-22 K-BB) weren't impressive. He was already the 12th man on a staff that will usually sit at 11 men, and would have faced competition for the 12th man spot from Mike Venafro, J.D. Durbin, and others come spring training time. The Twins obviously felt that Eyre wouldn't have won that battle.

I can't say that I'm disappointed in either of these decisions; neither Rodriguez nor Eyre were going to be major contributors for the Twins in 2007, and the Twins need the roster spots more than they need the players. I just wish Lew Ford were joining them (sorry Lew!).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seth's Pairwise Comparisons

Seth Stohs from SethSpeaks.net has asked me to put out this post looking for volunteers interested in filling out a pairwise comparison of pitchers and hitters under 30 that you would want to build a team around. It's an interesting project, and he's looking to compile as many results as possible to try to get an idea of how baseball fans in general feel.

Basically, you rank these guys against each other, one by one, working your way through a grid. Example: Joe Mauer or Brian McCann? Joe Mauer or Albert Pujols? Joe Mauer or Andruw Jones? It takes awhile to do, and there are a fair number of names on each list, but I enjoyed filling it out.

Anyone who is interested in participating can do so by e-mailing Seth for the spreadsheet (sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com), or you can e-mail me at (taylorjs@colorado.edu) and I'll get you a spreadsheet and turn it in for you if you like.

Nightly Notes

It's been awhile since I've posted "Nightly Notes" column, but it seemed appropriate tonight, where there are a number of things to discuss. So, here goes nothing . . .

1.) I don't yet have a complete list of non-tenders - I'm not even sure if the deadline has passed yet. Some deadlines used to be at midnight Eastern, but most of the deadlines have shifted to 2:00 or 4:00 pm ET in the last few years. When I get a complete list, I'll post some thoughts on the names that I think might get a look from the Twins.

2.) If the Twins do decide to go after one of the non-tenders, or any other free agent for that matter, they'll have to do some massaging of their roster. With the addition of Alejandro Machado through the Rule 5 Draft, and the pending signing of Jeff Cirillo, the 40-man roster is once again full up. Incidentally, the webmaster at the Twins website still hasn't gotten around to taking Josh Rabe's name off the roster - he was outrighted after being signed. I'll be posting a longer article on the subject of who will be removed from the roster in the event of a signing later tonight or tomorrow.

3.) The Red Sox have upped their bid to Matsuzaka, but I still think the two sides are going to be too far apart, and don't believe Matsuzaka will be pitching in the MLB this year.

4.) The possible acquisition of Jason Jennings has been pretty much DOA since before the Winter Meetings kicked off, but today the Rockies officially killed any chance of a deal by sending Jennings to the Houston Astros along with Miguel Ascencio in exchange for OF Willy Tavares and Pitchers Taylor Buchholz and Jason Hirsh. I don't know enough about Buchholz and Hirsh to really grade this trade, but I'm guessing the price was significantly higher than the Twins were willing to pay - and if that guess is correct, then I fully support the front office's decision to pull out of pursuit of Jennings.

5.) Remember Tommy Herr? He was on the 1987 Cardinals team that lost to the Twins in the World Series, and then was sent to the Twins in a horrible, horrible trade that sent Tom Brunansky to the Cardinals in 1988. He played just 86 games for the Twins in '88, and then was traded to the Phillies for Shane Rawley, who went 5-12 with a 5.21 ERA for the Twins in '89 before becoming a free agent. So, we got a year of Tommy Herr and a horrible year of Shane Rawley in exchange for Tom Brunansky. Wow. Anyway, Herr has been hired as a manager in the Nationals minor league system - good luck to him!

Monday, December 11, 2006

And I Thought It Was Going to be a Quiet Night

As of about an hour ago, before I made my first post of the night, nothing much had happened in Twins world today. Then, the Strib put up the article posted below mentioning that Lew Ford will be staying, and now the Twins website has posted an article stating the Jeff Cirillo is on the verge of signing a one year deal with the Twins.

Cirillo is going to be taking a physical, and assuming that goes well his one-year deal with the team will be official. As I said before, this is a solid signing for the Twins. I'm glad Cirillo chose to sign with the Twins, rather than one his other suitors. He fills a need position, and hopefully can produce a little bit for the Twins in his role as a backup.

So Much for That Theory

Looks like Lew Ford is staying with the Twins. I can't for the life of me understand why - as I've mentioned before, his production has fallen every year, and there really isn't a logical place for him on the team anymore - UNLESS the Twins are not optimistic about signing Rondell White (or any other left fielder). In that case, since Josh Rabe seems not to be in the Twins plans for next year, Ford is probably the logical choice as a placeholder.

I have to say, though - if Jason Kubel is not a viable option for Left Field because of his knees, and if the Twins don't sign somebody else, who plays Left? Are we going to see some kind of Ford/Tyner platoon (please, oh PLEASE say that is not the plan)?

Anyway, for those who think that I'm a Terry Ryan apologist, I strongly disagree with him on this move (and on the decision to outright Josh Rabe off the roster). Oh yeah - as expected, all of the other arbitration-eligibles are going to be offered a contract tomorrow as well.

Non-Tender Signings?

My creativity is at its lowest ebb tonight - I had a final this afternoon. But, I wanted to very briefly discuss one more aspect of the non-tender deadline, which is tomorrow. While the Twins are likely to non-tender at most one player (Lew Ford), there will undoubtedly be a number of players from other teams released onto the market after being non-tendered.

I'm not sure what to expect for tomorrow. On the one hand, the high price of free agents is likely to make teams think twice before non-tendering a potentially useful player. However, cutting in the other direction is the fact that, as salaries increase, arbitration awards are likely to increase as well - so, it's going to be more expensive to keep marginal players around. Just something to think about.

After the deadline passes, I'll try to post a list of some players who may be attractive to the Twins. I expect it to be a pretty short list - but you never know when the next David Ortiz will be non-tendered (D'oh!).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Non-Tender Deadline

The deadline for offering arbitration eligible players a contract for the 2007 season is on Tuesday. I've mentioned before that I think everybody is safe, with the exception of Lew Ford. I'm not going to reiterate the points that I made in this previous post, so I'll summarzie: Lew Ford has gotten worse every year he's been at the Major League level, and is no longer a player who benefits the Twins.

Look at the outfield situation for the Twins right now:

LF - Jason Kubel
CF - Torii Hunter
RF - Michael Cuddyer
OF - Jason Tyner
OF - Lew Ford

The Twins are trying hard to sign a left-fielder, probably Rondell White, which would push Kubel into the DH role most days. It would also give the Twins 6 outfielders, and they aren't going to carry 6 outfielders. Previously, Ford was essential because he could play CF - but Tyner can do that. In fact, Tyner and Ford are similar players - and we don't need both on the team. Even if the Twins don't sign White, there are better options available - Josh Rabe, for one, who I don't think should have been removed from the 40-man roster - and those options aren't in line for a raise through arbitration.

So, as much as I like Lew Ford the person, Lew Ford the outfielder should be parted with. Look for that to be the only non-tender on Tuesday.

More on Matsuzaka

UPDATE: I incorrectly stated that Matsuzaka would be a free agent after the 2007 season if he returned to Seibu for next season. I was corrected in the comments, but having seen conflicting information I was still hesitant to update the post. Now, Peter Gammons has stated that Matsuzaka wouldn't be a free agent until after 2008 - so I guess I'll take that as gospel. That doesn't change the majority of the analysis below, so I'm not going to adjust the post. Just beware that Matsuzaka would have to go through the posting system again next year if he didn't sign with the Red Sox in the next couple of days. Now, the original post:

Back on November 13, after the Red Sox won the bidding for Daisuke Matsuzaka, I posted my thoughts here. Essentially, I said that the Red Sox had no intention of actually getting Matsuzaka, but were making a ridiculous bid to ensure that the Yankees would not pick him up. Very few members of the media seemed to think along the same lines, although Buster Olney made a few mentions of the bidding that I'll discuss in a little bit. Now, ESPN is reporting that a source close to the negotiations suggests that the two sides are near a total break down in the process - and we're four days away from my being proved right, with Matsuzaka sent back to Japan.

This is a perfect storm type situation. You have the best pitcher in Japan trying to come to MLB. You have the nastiest, most delusional, most bulldog-like agent in the game with Scott Boras. You have a front office in Boston that thinks it's smarter than everybody else, and that provoked complaints from other front offices in how it handled the J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo signings (basically, they're very aggressive about skirting the rules). Add it all together and you get chaos.

So, let me refine my earlier analysis a little bit and suggest why this thing is going to fall through. First, there's the obvious issue of bargaining power. Scott Boras likes to get his clients top dollar, and he is suggesting that Matsuzaka deserves to be paid like a superstar based on his history in Japan. In other words, he's going to want somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million a season for several years to make this deal work.

From the Red Sox perspective, that's outrageous. Imagine a three year contract at $15 million per. That would go on top of the $51.1 million the Sox paid (or would pay, if a deal was reached) to the Seibu Lions. That would make the total value of the deal about $96 million for 3 years, which means they would essentially be paying about $32 million/year for Matsuzaka. That isn't going to happen. To top it off, the Sox know that they have all the leverage. Matsuzaka wants to pitch in the US, and he'll be forced to go back to Japan, making about $3 million, if he doesn't sign a contract. As a result, offering a 2 or 3 year deal for about $8 million per makes more sense - it would still be a $75 million/3 year deal (which is roughly $25 million/per - still absurdly high, but a little more reasonable).

However - my understanding of the posting system is that Matsuzaka would be a free agent for the 2008 season if the Red Sox failed to sign him to a contract in the next four days. So let's look at this from Boras perspective, over the next 5 years or so. Obviously, much of this is speculative. First is the money that Matsuzaka would make each of the next five years if he accepted a Red Sox offer (which we'll assume to be on the high end at $8 million per for 3 years) and then received a solid free agent deal for the next two years from either the Red Sox or someone else, after becoming a free agent. Second, the numbers if Matsuzaka does not accept the Red Sox offer and becomes a free agent in time for 2008.

With Boston
2007 -
$8 million
2008 - $8 million
2009 - $8 million
2010 - $17 million
2011 - $17 million
Total - $58 million

Without Boston

2007 - $3 million
2008 - $17 million
2009 - $17 million
2010 - $17 million
2011 - $17 million
Total - $71 million

This is obviously making some assumptions - for one thing, I'm assuming that the demand for Matsuzaka would be very strong in free agency next year (I think that's a very safe bet), and also that Matsuzaka would be good enough in Boston to warrant a bidding frenzy when his initial contract was finished (a tougher bet - more on that in a bit). But, you can see that the numbers strongly suggest that Matsuzaka should not take a lowball offer from the Red Sox. He can do better financially by making less money this year.

Now, onto that second assumption - that demand for Matsuzaka is going to be high when his initial contract with Boston is up. It certainly might be - Matsuzaka might be everything we've heard he is, a brilliant, Cy Young caliber starter. But the fact is, nobody knows how he'll do in the MLB. By taking a low offer for him, Boras is removing the mystery and showing everybody exactly what his player can do over the next 3 years. He's much, much better off retaining the mystery and taking it to a full market.

So - essentially, this deal doesn't make sense from either side. Boston killed any possibility of a contract, in my mind, by making a bid so high that they need at least 3 years at a low dollar value in order to make a contract work, and from Matsuzaka's point of view accepting such a contract would be just plain foolish. The only way this deal happens is if Matsuzaka's desire to come to America is so strong that he ignores the business ramifications of signing with the Red Sox. But, if that were the case, would he really have signed Scott Boras???

I stand by what I said in November - Matsuzaka will not be pitching for the Red Sox in 2007.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Look at Some New Twins

I've posted already about the additions (and subtractions) from the Rule 5 Draft, but it's time to catch up on the additions to the Twins organization who have come via other routes, notably minor league free agency, the draft, and international signings. Special thanks goes out to The Baseball Cube, Thoughts on Goal, and Baseball America's Minor League Transactions page.

Mike Venafro - LHP
The 33-year-old Venafro has spent parts of 7 seasons at the Major League level, compiling a career ERA of 4.09 with a so-so career 131-94 K-BB ratio. He last pitched "full-time" (or close to it) at the Major League level in 2002 with Oakland. Since then, he's wandered around a bit, making it to the Majors every year except for 2005. Last season, he made 7 appearances for Colorado and pitched well, posting a 2.45 ERA - but that was in just 3.2 innings. The Twins would like to add a left-handed pitcher to the bullpen so that Dennys Reyes wasn't all alone, and Venafro will be given a chance to prove himself in Spring Training. But, remember Gabe White and Darrell May from last spring - just because a veteran lefty is brought in doesn't mean that he'll make the big squad. Even Reyes started 2006 in AAA, and that could very well be Venafro's destination at the start of 2007. Looking at the Twins bullpen, I don't see who Venafro would replace (unless the Twins carried 12 pitchers and Willie Eyre disappeared down the rabbit hole). This will definitely bear watching.

Ken Harvey - 1B/DH
You've already read about Harvey being a "former All-Star," so I'm not going to mention how meaningless that is. Harvey is an odd signing, and I really don't know where he fits in the Twins plans. He'll be just 29 when the season starts, but is there really any chance that he makes the big squad? I suppose if he plays really well he could become the Twins DH (if Jason Kubel is given the nod in LF), or if the Twins sign a LF (Rondell, I'm looking at you) then Harvey could platoon with Kubel in the DH role. If he doesn't make the Twins (and I'm really not expecting much - he didn't play anywhere in 2006 that I can find), then perhaps he'll fill Erubiel Durazo's role with the Red Wings last year as a veteran DH type who is essentially being given a chance to prove he can still play ball.

Carmen Cali - LHP
The 28-year old Cali was signed for the same reason as Venafro - to give the Twins another guy to look at in Spring Training as a possible bullpen lefty. Unlike Venafro, Cali doesn't have much Major League experience, having pitched in just 16 games over the course of 2 seasons with St. Louis. His 9.45 ERA and 13-12 K-BB ratio in 13.1 innings suggest that he's never really been ready for prime time. In 23 games for AA Springfield last year, however, he posted a 3.00 ERA and a 35-15 K-BB ratio - so he's probably ready to go back to AAA, and that's where he's likely to start the season for the Twins.

Matt Allegra - OF
Allegra is a 25-year-old who has spent his entire career to this point in the Oakland system. He spent most of last season in AA, where he hit .265 with 15 homers and 62 RBI. He also can play a little bit of 1B. I suspect that he'll be given a chance to compete for a job in Rochester because of his power, but wouldn't be surprised to see him end up in New Britain to start the season.

Jeremy Cummings - RHP
Cummings is 30, and spent last season in the Phillies organization at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting an 8-6 record with a 3.97 ERA in 25 starts. He also had a solid 102-49 K-BB ratio. There seems little doubt that Cummings is going to become a starter for the Red Wings.

Cole DeVries - RHP
Formerly of the Gophers, DeVries was signed in mid-August. No idea where he'll end up next season - his NCAA experience suggests he could start out in Beloit, or he could be left in Extended Spring Training with the intention of placing him with one of the Rookie teams.

Nick Papasan - SS
Papasan was the 24th round pick for the Twins in last June's draft, and was signed in August. He'll be 19 when the season starts, and is coming out of high school, so I would expect him to end up with a Rookie team next year.

Jonathan Waltenbury - 1B
Another high schooler - Waltenbury will turn 19 on April 1 of next season. He was the 7th round selection in last June's draft, and was also signed in August. Same deal with him - Rookie League likely is in his future.

The following players are generally international type players who are very raw, very young, or in the process of converting positions. As a result, they are likely to be kept in Extended Spring Training until the short-season teams in Elizabethton and the Gulf Coast League start. Thoughts on Goal, linked to above, was instrumental in providing background on many of these players.

Matt Ryan - 1B (converting to LHP)
Ryan is from Australia, and spent the last two seasons as a 1B in the Angels system, at the Rookie League level. He was signed with the intention of converting him to a pitcher.

Nikolay Lobanov - LHP (Russia)
That's right, we've signed a Russian pitcher. He's just 17, and is best known for having participated in the 2001 Little League World Series for the Russian squad (cute anecdote on ToG regarding that). I imagine it's hit or miss as to whether he'll get any time in the GCL this year.

Rodney Gessmann - RHP (Germany)
19 years old, and can also play outfield. Not much more information out there.

Wang-Wei Lin - OF (Taiwan)
18 years old, and considered to be a top hitting prospect out of Taiwan. The Twins first Taiwanese signing.

James Beresford - RHP/IF (Australia)
Signed at the age of 16, Beresford should be making his rookie league debut this year after being allowed to finish secondary school in Australia.

Jarrad Eacott - P (Australia)
I believe he's right-handed, but I'm not sure. Suffered a broken leg in July, but is expected to be ready for rookie league action in 2007. He's 17 right now, but should be 18 when the season rolls around.

Jakub Hajtmar - 2B (Czech Republic)
All I know is that he's 20 and he plays 2B.

Tom Stuifbergen - RHP (Netherlands)
The Dutch righty is 17 (possibly 18 by now), and pitched for the Dutch National Team last summer. Here's an article that mentions him (and provides the extent of my knowledge on him).

Jae-Hyung Jang - C (South Korea)
I know nothing about him other than that he's a catcher - and he's from Korea (how's that for informative?). Here's a link to a site that provided me with his nationality.

Friday, December 08, 2006

An Exceedingly Early Look at the 2007 AAA Roster

UPDATE: I forgot to mention catchers. Chris Heintz will be there, but I'm not sure who will join him - slim pickings for that post. I guess Jose Morales gets my nod by default? Now to the original post:

I've been fiddling around the last few days with my Master Twins Organizational Roster (the capital letters add distinction, don't you think?), trying to figure out who will be assigned where when the new season rolls around. Of course, such an attempt is fraught with peril - for one thing, I have no idea who the Twins will sign between now and April to bulk up the minor leagues, and I'm basing my evaluations of players on raw stats, which lacks the actual, you know, scouting aspect of these decisions. So, take the following roster as merely an excercise in the "maybe" and not as anything intended as an actual prediction. I plan on posting another such roster in mid-March, and that one will be predictive.

Until then, here's how things might shake out for the Red Wings in 2007.

Starting Pitchers
Kevin Slowey - RHP
J.D. Durbin - RHP
Scott Baker - RHP
Dave Gassner - LHP
Jesse Floyd - RHP

Relief Pitchers
Ricky Barrett - LHP
Bobby Korecky - RHP
Jason Miller - LHP
Tristan Crawford - RHP
Julio DePaula - RHP
Jay Sawatski - LHP

Garrett Jones - 1B
Alexi Casilla - 2B
Brian Buscher - 3B
Tommy Watkins - SS
Felix Molina - 2B/SS
Gil Velazquez - 3B/SS
Glenn Williams - 1B/3B

Josh Rabe
Doug Deeds
Garrett Guzman
Alex Romero
Denard Span

Should be an interesting group. There are a few guys not on this list (notably, Trent Oeltjen and Matt Moses) who could very well find themselves at AAA to start the season, but this roster is the list of guys who I would start at AAA if I were Terry Ryan.

Why Cirillo Makes Sense

In case you hadn't heard, the Twins are actively pursuing Jeff Cirillo as a backup corner infielder (by actively, I mean that it sounds as if a contract offer is imminent). Cirillo is not a huge signing, by any means, but it seems to me that there is no question that this would be a very solid signing for the Twins.

To understand why, you have to look at how the Twins roster looks to be shaping up for next season. The Twins will carry either 6 or 7 infielders on the team: 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, backup middle infielder, backup corner infielder, and possibly a utility type guy (the alternative to this is probably carrying a 12th reliever on the team). We know, barring a trade in the weeks to come, who each of the starters are. We also know that the team has Luis Rodriguez and, after yesterday's Rule 5 Draft, Alejandro Machado to fill two roles with the team in the infield. But neither Rodriguez or Machado is really a "backup corner infielder" type guy - Rodriguez can play a little 3B, and Machado, being a veteran, probably could handle himself there in a pinch. But do we want to see either of them backing up at 1B?

Granted, some of this is made less of a concern by the fact that the Twins can use Michael Cuddyer or Nick Punto at 1B in an emergency - but if (heaven forbid) Justin Morneau were to have to miss a few games (or a few weeks) due to injury, those would not be viable options. Instead, it makes a lot more sense to have a corner infielder on the team who could handle the job.

Jeff Cirillo is 37 years old, and hasn't been starter since 2002 with Seattle, but he proved last season with Milwaukee that he is still capable of putting up solid numbers: .319, 3 HR, 23 RBI in 263 at-bats. While it would be nice to find somebody with a little bit more power, I don't think there are really suitable options out there. As a result, Cirillo would add some veteran leadership, with a decent bat, who fills a need position. Additionally, he should come cheap - the Strib is suggesting that the Twins will/have offered a contract worth about $1 million. That's not chump change, but it's not a silly amount to spend on a veteran backup, either.

The other significant reason to make this move is that there really isn't a suitable alternative at the minor league level. The Twins lost Terry Tiffee to minor league free agency (although if he hasn't signed somewhere, it's possible he could be brought back into the fold), and no one else at the AAA level is suitable. Matt Moses is not ready for the Major Leagues - and might not even start the season at AAA, after the acquisition in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 Draft of Brian Buscher. The point is, the Twins don't have an internal option.

So, I fully endorse any Cirillo signing - and hopefully the Twins can beat out the 2 or 3 other teams who have an interest in him. We should know within the next couple of weeks, if not earlier.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rule 5 Draft Results

The Twins lost 4 players and gained 3 players in the Rule 5 Draft today, with 2 players going and 1 coming in the Major League portion of the draft, and 2 players going each way in the AAA portion of the draft.

This doesn't mean that these players are gone for good (or that we'll be keeping the players we drafted)- players drafted in the Major League portion of the draft must stay on the Active Roster (a.k.a. the 25-man roster) for the entire Major League season, or else be sent back to their original team. While I am not certain of the official rules for the AAA Phase of the draft, one must assume that it is essentially the same deal - the player must stay in AAA or above for the entirety of the next season, or else be offered back to the original team.

So, without further ado:

Rule 5 Losses

Kevin Cameron - RHRP - Rochester Red Wings - (to San Diego)
Losing Cameron hurts, because he's a pretty solid pitcher. He had a horrible Arizona Fall League season, but I still thought that the bulk of his Minor League career would make him a valuable pick-up for somebody, and San Diego proved me right. He posted a 2.98 ERA in 40 appearances for Rochester last season, before struggling with a 8.58 ERA in 11 appearances in the AFL.

Chance of staying in SD: 60% (San Diego might be good enough to need the roster spot)

Levale Speigner - RHRP - Rochester Red Wings - (to Washington)

Speigner was a starter for most of 2005 in New Britain, but was converted to relief for the 2006 season. In 40 appearances with New Britain, he posted a 3.26 ERA before being promoted to Rochester, where he made 9 appearances and struggled, posting a 4.97 ERA. I didn't think that his numbers made Speigner an attractive enough candidate for a team to have on the roster for a full season, and apparently neither did the Twins. However, Washington is a good fit, since they have a horrendous team with numerous holes, and can probably afford to keep a guy like Speigner on the roster for a season. Don't expect him to make more than 15-20 appearances in 2007 for Washington, before being shipped off to AAA in 2008 for more seasoning.

Chance of staying in WAS: 80%

Erold Andrus - OF - Ft. Myers Miracle - (to Tampa in the AAA Phase)
This seems a bit of a stretch to me. Andrus has never played above the High-A level, and will now be asked to compete against AAA quality pitchers. He hit just .207 last season for Ft. Myers, taking a major step back (his career batting average is .266). This is not a big loss for the Twins, as Andrus was just a backup at the High-A level and didn't seem to be on the way to a promotion anytime soon.

Chance of staying in Tampa: 90%

Justin Jones - LHSP - Ft. Myers Miracle - (to Washington in the AAA Phase)
This one hurts a little bit, although the Twins probably don't mind too much. Jones was on the 40-man roster until the season ended and the Twins cleaned house a little bit. The fact that they removed him indicated either that (1) they thought he was no longer a player worth protecting, or (2) they thought he was too far away from being useful to protect with a coveted roster spot. Either way, Washington felt that Jones was good enough (or, perhaps, left-handed enough) to select in the AAA Phase. The departure of Jones means that the Doug Mientkiewicz trade was pretty much a bust, as the Twins got nothing out of the deal. Jones had an odd 2006 season, starting off hot in AA (a 3.25 ERA in 6 starts with a 29-15 K-BB ratio), before being demoted for some reason; perhaps he had a bad attitude, or a mechanical flaw, or something. As it is, the demotion hurt him - in 12 games (10 starts), Jones posted a 5.20 ERA before finishing the season on the DL.

Chance of staying in WAS: 90%

Rule 5 Gains

Alejandro Machado - 2B/SS - Washington Nationals
Machado was just signed to a minor league contract by the Nationals, but that didn't prevent him from being drafted by the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft. He spent his 2006 season with AAA Pawtucket (Red Sox organization), and hit .260 with 4 HR and 32 RBI in 116 games. He will be 25 years old in April. Machado will likely be given an opportunity to compete with Luis Rodriguez for the backup middle infielder position on the active roster. If he shows some flash, there is at least a chance that he could make the team. However, Rodriguez seems like the more likely candidate to emerge from that position. It's always possible that the Twins could keep both on the roster, but that seems awfully unlikely.

Chance of staying with the Twins: 15%

Jesse Floyd - RHSP - San Francisco Giants - (AAA Phase)
Floyd had a solid 2006 season, posting a 4.00 ERA in 25 starts for AA Connecticut (San Francisco organization). He posted a fantastic 100-38 K-BB ratio, although with 135 innings pitched that isn't an overwhelming number of strikeuts overall. Floyd will be 26 years old in January, so he's getting to the make-it-or-break-it point in his career. He should be a useful starter for the Twins in AAA.

Chance of staying with the Twins: 90%

Brian Buscher - 3B - San Francisco Giants - (AAA Phase)
Buscher was also with Connecticut in AA last season, hitting .259 in 130 games with 7 HR and 49 RBI. His fielding seems to need a little work, and he's not quite as exciting a pick-up as Floyd, but hopefully the Twins knew what they were doing when they selected Buscher - it would be great if he had a solid minor league season in 2007, and inserted himself into the discussion about who should be the Twins' 3B in 2008. He will be 26 in April, so like Floyd he's probably got to produce relatively soon, or risk seeing his career come to a close.

Chance of staying with the Twins: 75%

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Freddy Garcia for . . . Gavin Floyd?

So, let me get this straight - instead of trading one of the most valuable commodoties around (an established starting pitcher with a career 4.01 ERA) for an upgrade at a need position (Center Field comes to mind) or bundling him with Third-Baseman Joe Crede (who they seem to want to get rid of) and pursuing a major trade, the White Sox chose to pick up a young guy with lots of potential who probably won't be able to help the team for another 2 years, minimum? As a Twins fan, this deal thrills me. If I were a fan of the Pale Hose, however, I'd be mortified.

The Return of Rondell?

The Twins website has an article up tonight suggesting that the Twins have significant interest in bringing Rondell White back into the fold next season, but as the regular LF, not as a Designated Hitter. This is primarily interesting because it's an acknowledgment by the Twins that Jason Kubel is probably more suited to being a DH at this point in his career rather than a LF.

As for Rondell, I think this is a good move. He's going to be affordable, and in the last half of the season he certainly seemed to be playing solid baseball. I'm inclined to believe that the initial decision to go after Rondell was a good one, and that the Twins would be well-served by bringing him back in to see if he can have a full, healthy season.

This is by no means the splashiest move possible, but considering the market and the Twins other options, this really is a solid move. One last thing - remember the suggestions that Barry Bonds was a suitable option for the Twins in LF? Compare White and Bonds - really, think about the team with these two guys on it. Are you really going to tell me that you'd rather have Barry Bonds, the person? White (by all accounts the consummate teammate) and Bonds simply couldn't be more different - and I'm very proud to be a fan of a team that is more interested in players like White.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Bonds to the Twins?

This New York Times article suggests that the most logical option for Barry Bonds in the 2007 season is . . . the Minnesota Twins.

The article demonstrates something of a profound misunderstanding of the Twins - institutionally, financially, and heck, even spiritually. To be fair, the article acknowledges that Bonds isn't the kind of player the Twins normally go for - and signing splashy free agents isn't exactly part of the Twins modus operandi. So, here are my reasons why Barry Bonds is a terrible choice for the Minnesota Twins.

(1) Money
The Times suggests that the Twins are $11 million under payroll, and that if they could just get Carl Pohlad to open up and provide $6 million more, they could give Bonds a $17 million one year contract, and life would be grand. However, this fails to take into account the fact that the Twins will need to give significant raises to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer. When those raises are factored in, there is very little likelihood that any money will be left over for a significant addition like Bonds. It's just not economically feasible.

(2) Team Attitude
The Twins are a "chemistry" team. Barry Bonds is the anti-chemistry player (well, except in one respect . . . ). This is simply not a good fit.

(3) Bonds' Attitude
And I mean this in every conceivable way. First, Bonds wouldn't play in Minnesota. He hated Pittsburgh. He hates anyplace that isn't San Francisco, I assume. He doesn't want to play in Minnesota, and would never sign a contract with the Twins. Then, there's the other side of Bonds' attitude - the giant, egomaniacal side of Bonds' attitude. I'm not sure that his ego would fit in the Metrodome . . .

(4) Fan Attitude
Twins fans, embrace Bonds? C'mon . . . Forget about the NYT suggestion that Bonds would lead to sell-outs - I just don't think it would happen. People would show up to watch the team - not to watch Barry. In fact, there might even be a backlash by fans who aren't interested in watching a player who they perceive to be bulked up on steroids.

There are a lot of other things that I could go into, like the distraction that Bonds brings, and the fact that at some point Bonds will break down, but I think this is a good enough list. The Twins neither will nor should go after Barry Bonds. Let him re-sign with the Giants, if they'll have him.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Minnesota Sports Zone

I've agreed to join the team at Minnesota Sports Zone as a Twins blogger, effective immediately. I intend to continue posting on this site with the same frequency as I have in the past, so readers of this blog should notice no change. At first, it's likely that my posts will pretty much duplicate each other on this blog and at MSZ, but that may change as I become more familiar with MSZ and its readers. Also, since I'll be just one of several bloggers at MSZ discussing the Twins, I won't be posting anything there that duplicates what someone else has already done. You can find my posts by going to the "Twins blogs" section on the MSZ Twins page (upper right hand side).

I'm looking forward to expanding my blogging efforts, and I want to thank Nam Huynh (who actually contacted me) and the other bloggers at MSZ for the opportunity to join their team.

Minor League Free Agents

From Baseball America (and courtesy of Major League Baseball before that), here's a list of Twins minor leaguers who were granted free agency after the season.

C - Shawn Wooten
2B - Luis Maza
3B - Joelvis Gonzalez
3B - Terry Tiffee
SS - Donaldo Mendez
SS - Nathanael Stevens
OF - Quinton McCracken
OF - Andres Torres
OF - Kevin West
RHP - Henry Bonilla
RHP - Beau Kemp
RHP - Pete Munro
LHP - Matt Ford

You know what's interesting? I looked at this list when compiling my previous post on potential Rule 5 Losses, because obviously minor league free agents wouldn't be lost that way (since they were already gone). Somehow, I missed Beau Kemp's name entirely - maybe because they list him as "Sebastian Kemp" and I just glanced at it. Incidentally, I have no idea who Joelvis Gonzalez or Nathanael Stevens are.

Expect the Twins to at least investigate the possibility of bringing back a couple of these guys to fill out the AAA ranks next year. Whether they get the opportunity will, of course, depend on the market that develops for them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Rule 5 Losses?

UPDATE: Jan over at the DFTC Twins Forums has let me know that Beau Kemp has already left the organization, signing with the Blue Jays. I wasn't aware that he was a minor league free agent - and maybe he wasn't - but somehow he got loose and the Twins lost him. It's too bad - he seems to have been a solid pitcher on the verge of getting a shot at the Majors. Now, onto the original post:

With the Rule 5 Draft coming up on Thursday, it seems appropriate to take a look at who the Twins have that might be vulnerable to being drafted. A refresher on the rules: Any player who was signed at the age of 18 or younger is protected from being drafted in the first five Rule 5 drafts following that players signing, while players who were signed at the age of 19 or older are protected from being drafted in the first four Rule 5 drafts following the signing. The only way that I know of to prevent a player from being drafted if they meet this baseline of eligibility is to place them on the 40-Man Roster.

Now, the eligibility rules changed when the latest CBA was agreed to last month. Formerly, protection extended to players for just 4 years (for 18 and younger signees) or 3 years (for 19 and older). The result is that players who would have been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this year are now protected for an additional year. As a result, every player eligible in this years Rule 5 Draft was eligible last year as well (with the exception of those players who were removed from the 40-Man Roster in the last 12 months).

So, who might the Twins lose on Thursday? Here are some of the names I think could be drafted, along with reasons why. The list is by no means exhaustive, but I think that if the Twins lose anyone, it will be someone on this list.

Beau Kemp - RP (R) - Rochester Red Wings
Kemp had a 2.32 ERA last season in 49 games for Rochester. Over 7 minor league seasons, he has a 2.70 ERA. He doesn't strike out a lot of people, but he seems to have established that he's a very solid Minor League player who probably deserves a shot at the next level. The fact that the Twins didn't protect him could reflect that he's not Major League ready - or it could be an indication that the Twins are content with their bullpen and didn't want to spend another roster spot on a reliever. If I were a team like the Royals or Nationals, however, I would draft Kemp and give him a shot to prove himself in spring training.

Kevin Cameron - RP (R) - Rochester Red Wings
Cameron had a terrible time of it in the Arizona Fall League, with an ERA of 8.58 in 11 relief appearances. However, he had a solid regular season, posting a 2.98 ERA and striking out 65 while walking just 25. He's had a solid Minor League career, and like Kemp he may be a guy that a bad team takes a chance on for the spring.

Josh Rabe - OF - Rochester Red Wings
I like Rabe - I think he showed that he could play, hitting .286 and belting 3 homeruns in just 49 at-bats. Now, I'm not sure about his eligibility for this draft - the Twins just signed Rabe to a Major League contract, but they immediately outrighted him off the 40-man Roster. To me, that means he's eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, because he was drafted all the way back in 2000, and isn't on a 40-man Roster. I think Rabe would be an excellent pickup for most teams.

Garrett Guzman - OF - New Britain Rock Cats
Trent Oeltjen - OF - New Britain Rock Cats

Both of these are probably far-fetched. Neither has played above AA, and both are still probably too raw to do anyone any good this year. However, a team could take a chance, stick one of these guys on the bench for a year, and then send them back to AAA for more seasoning. Remember - when the Twins drafted Johan Santana, they essentially had to hide him for a year because he was still much, much too raw. In the same spirit, I think it's at least possible that one of these guys could get selected.

Bottom Line
I would be very surprised if Beau Kemp and Josh Rabe were still the property of the Twins when this thing is over. It really all depends on how many teams are going to take chances on young players, and how many opportunities exist on the market. Not having looked at who is eligible everywhere else throughout the league, I can't say whether there are better players available. If I were a GM, however, I would look long and hard at Kemp and Rabe.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Rabe off the Roster

Josh Rabe has been outrighted off the Twins 40-man roster, after being signed to a contract. Now, there may be a wrinkle here that I'm not understanding, but since Rabe was drafted back in 2000, he should be eligible to be drafted in the Rule 5 Draft. It's possible that because he was signed to a Major League contract that the Twins found away around that problem, but I don't think so. As a result, this seems a curious move to make, because Rabe should be a target. Of course, it's also possible that this is a prelude to some sort of trade that's going to take place before the Rule 5 Draft on December 7. If not, you would think that he is a strong target to be drafted by someone, because he's a good player who has some Major League experience.

The practical result of this move is that the Twins now have just 38 players on their 40-man roster, so there is a little bit of flexibility to add players at the winter meetings, either through free agency (unlikely) or trades (more likely). If I find out more about this move, I'll make sure to post it.

I'm also trying to find out whether the Twins offered arbitration to any of their free agents. It seems highly unlikely that they would do so, but you never know . . .

Podcast Appearance

Jeffrey Straub of the Minnesota Twins Fan Network was good enough to have me on his podcast again today, and he's just posted it here. I show up in the middle section of the podcast. I feel like I was a bit long-winded and circular in the interview (I say, as those who know me gasp in disbelief), but don't listen to the show to hear me - he also has Seth from Seth Speaks, and contributors to TheLastShotPodcast.com and Pulling A Blyleven, all of whom I'm quite sure were more coherent and interesting than was I. The interview tended to focus on changes to the CBA and how they're likely to affect the Twins. Thanks again to Jeff for having me on the show.