Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter of My Discontent

If there's one thing I hate doing as a Twins fan, it's admitting when the White Sox have completely, unequivocally crushed my team. That is what's happening this offseason, and it's been painful to watch it unfold. Chicago's brazen aggressiveness only serves to magnify the lack of activity from a Twins' front office that seems content to watch divisional rivals power up while they power down.

The Sox don't like admitting when they've been crushed by the Twins either, obviously. That's surely what sparked this winter of wheeling and dealing. They went 5-13 against the Twins last season, and were effectively eliminated from contention after being swept at home in a humbling mid-September series.

Whatever the White Sox tried last year, the Twins had an answer. By the end of the season, Ozzie Guillen was basically bowing down to Ron Gardenhire and his magical cast of baseball demigods, who were so great they couldn't manage a single victory in the playoffs.

Chicago GM Kenny Williams is not one to take such blows to his pride lightly. So he set out this offseason to construct a team that would fare much better against the customary AL Central champs.

First, there was the blockbuster signing of Adam Dunn, one of the game's premier power hitters. Less than a week later, the Sox re-signed free agent first baseman Paul Konerko, another elite power hitter coming off a 39-homer year. They also re-upped their catcher, A.J. Pierzynski.

In the bullpen, the Sox bid farewell to Bobby Jenks (apparently due to personality conflicts) but in his place they've signed power righty Jesse Crain away from the Twins. This past weekend, they inked left-handed reliever Will Ohman, who last year posted a 3.21 ERA while holding lefty hitters to a .636 OPS with the Marlins.

Ohman joins a White Sox bullpen that already included dominating portsiders Matt Thornton and Chris Sale, both of whom are closer candidates. With three lefty-stifling southpaws potentially populating his bullpen, Guillen will be in position to start playing match-ups against the Twins' overwhelmingly left-handed lineup as early as the sixth inning.

It would be nice if the Twins had acquired some sort of legitimate right-handed bat to offset that advantage, but they've done no such thing. In fact, the team hasn't really made any positive strides this winter. Through signings and trades, they've added a number of minor-league players (including Tsuyoshi Nishioka, essentially the equivalent of a minor-leaguer), which bolsters organizational depth but does little to combat Chicago's bold roster renovations.

The Twins' salary shedding moves have been far more prevalent. They dealt away their starting shortstop for minor-leaguers because they didn't want to pay him. They've watched their starting second baseman and two of their most valuable relievers from last year, Matt Guerrier and Crain, sign elsewhere because they were too expensive. Little interest has been shown in retaining two other free agent relievers, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes.

The only action from the Twins this offseason that has clearly reflected any kind of determination to defend their spot at the top of the division is a move that hasn't even been made yet: the apparently impending Carl Pavano signing.

While one can argue that this move was an absolute necessity, it's a risky investment clearly aimed at trying to maintain the status quo rather than meaningfully advancing the team's chances at a deep postseason run.

Some will argue that the front office's financially conservative approach to this offseason is the unavoidable result of a payroll that has already swelled up due to a big raise for Joe Mauer and several overly bloated salaries for players under contract (Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Matt Capps, etc.). I'd counter by pointing out that, for one thing, the Twins have nobody to blame for bloated salaries but themselves. Furthermore, payroll isn't really that high, when you think about it.

During their free agent shopping spree, the White Sox have watched their payroll climb to around $120 million, Meanwhile, the Twins are still trying to haggle Pavano's price down so they can stay in the $115 million range. This team is playing in a brand new stadium that sells out every night and their ownership holds no less cash than Jerry Reinsdorf -- is there really any reason at this point that they should be so much less willing to spend?

The point has made been, and will be made again, that there are several weeks left in the offseason and the Twins often wait until February to strike free agent deals, when the market tends to settle down. That's all well and good, but I don't find it acceptable that they've watched so many players that could help the team sign elsewhere while waiting to hunt the bargain bin at the end of the offseason, all because they're handcuffed by their own questionable past decisions. Minnesota taxpayers funded their new stadium and filled it up every night last year; they have the right to expect more than business as usual.


Nate said...

Nick - great post per usual. I had a couple thoughts as I read through. You hit on them as I went on, but I think they're worth noting, regardless.

1) The White Sox aren't paying any one player $23 million. Agree that the Twins did that to themselves, but fact is fact. Mauer should be in the $15-18 million range in my opinion (for this next year). Would have left us with enough to keep Hardy (if money truly was the reason for moving him) and either Punto (yup, I said it) or invest into keeping a bullpen pitcher (Crain) or going after another. Which leads to...

2) We heard early off-season how many options there are (depth) in the free agent bullpen market. I'm not in panic mode, but I'm trying to stay positive (like we all are) knowing that historically (the last decade) the front office has made good, not great, but good/smart additions, without splurging early on in the off-season. None of the free agent pick ups ended up hurting the team (ie. Crede, et al). I'd like to see a few outside options brought it to keep the in-house options honest. That's my biggest beef. My other beef?

3) I think the Pavano signing (whenever it happens) has hampered us all winter, in terms of filling out the rest of the roster. I truly think the front office, if you asked them 4 months ago if Pavano would still be unsigned going into January, would have thought you were crazy.

Keep up the good work!

T Rex said...

Nick, whiney post, as usual. All you do is whine. Not a game has been played and you already run up the white flag.

Nate, Joe Mauer is worth every penny. One of the reasons the house is sold out every night is people wanna be able to say they saw him play. He is a future HOFer.

No reason to panic. Twins are pretty set except for the bullpen and losing Crain and Matt is not a game over tragedy. Crain cost the Twins several games last year with gopher balls and when he stunk he really stunk. Matt was used up. The Twins have younger guys that can fill in.

Last year everyone said sign Lee, and the Twins instead promoted from within. Duenslinger. Great move.

They will find a way again.Last year the Sox signed Manny and everybody thought that was a big deal. I just yawned. Morneau will be back full speed this year and the Twins will be solid. They clinched early w/o him. Now go to your room you big baby

Polish Sausage said...

"Last year everyone said sign Lee, and the Twins instead promoted from within. Duenslinger. Great move."

Yeah that 6-1 gem Duensing threw in the ALDS was really something. Cliff Lee has more playoff wins vs. the Yankees than the Twins franchise does in their history. But yeah, great move.

Another Nate said...

Nick, why are you in panic mode? You say you aren't, but clearly you are over concerned about our bullpen. Crain was good for half a season and Guerrier was above average throughout. But that surely doesn't change the fact that we are retaining a vast majority of our starting lineup from the last season. We lost our middle infield, but there is clearly hope in Nysh, either way, we never relied on the SS or 2B in the past couple years, our core is elsewhere.

You can't expect the Twins to flash the cash till they are not making any more money. From a business side, of COURSE we sold out the first year! It's a new stadium. Look around the history of new stadiums. The first year is always the best. It can only get worse, so don't bet the farm on something that may not pan out. Imagine if we pumped the salary to 150 million then all of a sudden we had to cut salary because we lost money?

I'd say an emergency fire sale is much worse than a bit of precautionary tight pockets.

Anonymous said...

He never said that signing Mauer was a bad idea, he merely stated a fact, that the money Mauer is making hinders the Twins from surrounding him with better players. See: Kevin Garnett. Spending that much on one player ONLY WORKS if you are willing to increase spending overall. The Twins have many shortcomings, but still may be good enough to win a weak division. I imagine what troubles Nick, as it troubles me, is that it appears "winning a weak division" seems to be the team's only goal.

Anonymous said...

I thought the consensus across the bloggers was that handing out 3 year deals to middle relievers was overpaying for players that are readily available either within or outside the organization at a fraction of the cost. A 3 year deal to Crain seemed to me to pay him for his excellent 2nd half of the season, but remember that he was sent to AAA prior to the All Star Break. He has been a streaky reliever. The Hardy trade brought in two fireballers, one of which should be ready to step into the set-up role.

Nate, I don't know if the Pavano negotiations have hampered us...I would say the opposite actually. All indications prior to the Winter Meetings were that he was seeking a 3 yr. deal for around 33 million. As the Twins watched other clubs make their moves, it has reduced the market for Pavano and it sounds like he'll be taking a 2 yr. deal with us. Our inaction was to our benefit. The same inaction could potentially drive the cost down on Brian Fuentes, actually.

Anonymous said...

So they can't take on bloated contracts because they made the mistake of signing bloated contracts?

Make up your mind - do you want bloated contracts or do you not want bloated contracts? How about pointing out specifically what upgrades are available that won't result in bloated contracts? Otherwise I might as well go read Fanatic Jack.

Nick N. said...

So they can't take on bloated contracts because they made the mistake of signing bloated contracts?

There's a difference between giving $47M to an aging reliever (as the Twins did with Nathan, for instance) and overpaying a bit on shorter free agent contracts. I'm not asking for blockbuster moves, but the Twins have serious depth issues on the big-league roster and they've done nothing whatsoever to address them so far.

Dwade said...

The Twins added 8 wins after February 1 last year, and while I don't think they'll do the same this year, there's time and talent left.

Nick N. said...

The Twins added 8 wins after February 1 last year, and while I don't think they'll do the same this year, there's time and talent left.

Last year strikes me as lightning in a bottle. How do their February signings usually work out? There's a reason players available at that point haven't been signed.

Josh said...

Look, I would have liked to have kept Crain as well, but not at that price. Twins made the right decision in letting him go. I'm not thrilled about the Hardy decision, but I'm not convinced it was really a salary dump. I've always believed that was a decision driven by the manager exerting a little authority over the roster, which concerns me much more than shedding a contract.

The most salient point Nick makes is the Twins haven't added an impact RH bat (yet). That's the biggest need on this team, IMHO, and right now it doesn't look like it's going to get addressed.

Pavano at a 2-year deal isn't that high-risk. It's a solid move that keeps the rotation stable.

The White Sox have had a nice off-season. But it's not over yet and the Twins are still a good team.

Ed Bast said...

Regardless of what the Sox and Tigers have done, there's little chance the Opening day 2011 roster will be any more capable of winning a playoff series than last year's bunch. And no, I don't count on Morneau to be fully healthy come September, so I don't see that as a huge addition until he can prove that he can stay healthy all year.

That's what disappoints me most: this organization loses 12 straight playoff games and fails year and again to address some of the issues these losses present, such as the desperate need for a RH bat. Not only this, but they trade away one of their few RH bats.

It's time for Twins fans to face the fact that this front office is incompetent, and start calling for a change.

vita10gy said...

As much as I love Jim Jam I think I'd much rather have Vladimir Guerrero, assuming of course it would take anywhere near what Thome wants to get him.

Thome came up huge for the Twins last year, but I think a lot of people forget that when Morneau was playing it was hard to squeeze him in the lineup, and when we did we had 13 left handed hitters in a row.

Thome was a hell of a deal and a nice thing to have on the bench, but he was icing on the cake. A right hander that can do some damage fills an important hole.

Anonymous said...

I could not have written a better article myself. This might be the worst off-season in Twins history.

cy1time said...

Minnesota taxpayers funded their new stadium and filled it up every night last year; they have the right to expect more than business as usual.

I don't know if that's right, Nick. The average guy reading your blog probably agrees, but I don't think that the average fan really cares about a postseason run. The average fan wants to go down to Target Field, sip a couple of cold ones, and enjoy the "event" that is a Twins game at Target Field. You want and expect more, I want and expect more, but I don't think that the average fan expects any more than a good time when they go to the ballpark.

Ed Bast said...

cy1time, I completely disagree. For proof look across the river at the Wild. Xcel is still one of the top arenas in the country, great atmosphere to watch a game. But last year and a lot this year, fans aren't coming in droves any more. No more sellouts. At some point the honeymoon ends - and with the Wild it took seven or eight years of simply contending within the division and failing in the playoffs (if they got there) for fans to realize things needed to change - and now the team is years away from being a legitimate stanley cup contender.

I don't want that same thing to happen for the Twins, because Target Field isn't going to be new forever, and the club needs to capitalize on this payroll freedom while they can. Instead they are already forced to make salary-cutting moves in Year 2 of the new park. This falls directly on the front office.

vita10gy said...

I just have to remind myself that if Morneau and Nathan were free agents they'd have been 2 of the top 5 names available, and we're essentially adding them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with T Rex. Try not to come off as such a baby when you are crying about offseason moves. I think I'll trust the Twins who have had a pretty good track record the past 10 years on personnel moves. There's a reason you are a blog boy and they run a major league baseball team.

Nick N. said...

Wah! Wah!!

Ed Bast said...

Not to jump too quickly to Nick's defense, but the Twins front office as currently structured has produced 0 playoff victories and has engineered some historically bad trades. We must have differing opinons of "good track record", though I suppose you're one of those fans who loves simply competing for division titles.

cy1time said...

I can't say that I'm close to being an "average" hockey fan, Ed, I can maybe name five guys on the Wild. I don't watch on TV or read anything about them in the newspaper, ever. But, I go to a couple of games every year because it is a lot of fun. I don't know where the Wild are in the standings, I don't care who they are playing when I go, or where the opponent is in the standings, or if either team is going to make the playoffs, let alone make a run at Lord Stanley's Cup.

I'm just saying that there are a lot of fans that follow the Twins like I follow the Wild. I think that what the average fan that goes to a couple of games a year cares about is that when they go to Target Field, Joe Mauer plays, gets some hits, someone hits a couple of homers, that Bert circles their sign, and the Twins win. They are not concerned with our middle relief, our lack of an ace, or our downgraded middle infield, let alone if we can make a deep postseason run.

Nick N. said...

I'm just saying that there are a lot of fans that follow the Twins like I follow the Wild.

And the Twins don't make their money off those fans. They're not (or shouldn't be) catering to the folks who go to "a couple games every year." They should be catering to the season ticket holders, the impassioned fans who lobbied like hell to get this stadium built. Those are the people who are filling their pockets and funding their operation. I can guarantee you that the vast majority of those people care quite deeply about the success of the team and the measures being taken to ensure that success.

Anonymous said...

You need to get over Hudson and Hardy...although they were solid last year and an upgrade over Punto, Harris, Tolbert...they were fairly disappointing as well. They both hit .268 and missed significant chunks of time last season. Hardy also clogged the bases with station to station 340 abs Hardy scored only 44 runs while Casilla scored 26 in only 152 abs. Plus Target Field severely minimized Hardy's power, he should hit a few more homers in Baltimore but he, like Hudson, has hit a plateau where you cannot really expect him to get much better and there is a good chance that he will get worse. Hardy and Hudson were good fielders but neither had incredible range.

I, for one, am optimistic about a Casilla and Nishioka middle infield. It is a little misleading to call Nishioka a minor leaguer, true no one has seen him play at the mlb level, but is regarded as an upgrade over both Hudson and/or Hardy depending on the position he plays. He hits for a high avg, is an on base guy and can fly around the bases and could be the kind of catalyst that takes pressure off of both Mauer and Span. He's not going to be Ichiro but he could be very good. As for Casilla, I understand the skepticism but there is also a load of potential. He could be a very productive hitter and his fielding may improve if the Twins move him back to his natural position at SS instead of force feeding him at 2b.

Another thing to consider is that the Twins may not need to go out and get a slew more players...Cuddyer, Span, Mauer, Kubel, Baker and Blackburn all had subpar years in 2010 and there is no reason to believe they can't rebound. And you shouldn't be so quick to bemoan the the end Guerrier, Rauch and Crain put up decent numbers but when the game is on the line I doubt there is a Twins fan that is entirely comfortable when they are on the mound, all have been too shaky/inconsistent to warrant large contracts.

The Whities and Tigers keep giving big contracts to players in their mid-30s...Konerko, Pierzinsky, Dunn, Ordonez, Martinez and the like are going to run out of gas sooner or later and leave those clubs with a big bill to pay. The Twins have been very successful in avoiding such cumbersome contracts. Mauer had a down year as far as MVP numbers are concerned (especially the hr totals) but some of the numbers are reflective of those around him....Span, Cuddyer, Kubel and Hudson all had down years while Morneau went down for half a season.

So finger off the panic button, the Twins should be fine in 2011 and when the dust settles will more than likely be playing in the post-season while the Tigers and Whities figure out who they have to buy to beat the Twins.

Anonymous said...

You make it sound like Hudson and Hardy were all stars. They both were solid and an upgrade but also disappointing. They both hit only .268 and missed significant chunks of time. Plus, going forward neither Hardy or Hudson are going to get much better...although I do see Hardy hitting more homers in Baltimore.

Give Casilla and Nishioka a chance. Hardy scored only 44 runs in 340 abs while Casilla scored 26 runs in only 152 abs. Target Field is more suited for a speedy gap hitter than a plodding hitter with marginal power. Also Casilla's fielding may improve with a move to SS, his natural position. It is a bit misleading to call Nishioka a minor leaguer, true he has never played at the MLB level, but he has a chance to be a true catalyst at the top of the order that can take some of the pressure of Mauer and Span. The Twins scored a lot of runs last year but largely with slow-footed, station-to-station increase in speed (not just stolen bases) but advancing extra bases on hits could lead to even more runs.

Let the Whities and Tigers empty their pockets on players in their mid-30s. Cuddyer, Kubel, Span, Mauer, Baker and Blackburn all had down years last year...which is not likely to happen again in 2011. So the need for the Twins to go out and spend on every free agent is not as great as you would like us to believe.

As for the bullpen....Rauch, Crain and Guerrier all put up solid numbers but those numbers are pretty thin because each has had struggles with inconsistency. And when it boils down to it none of them inspire total confidence with the game on the line...certainly not enough to give any of them a large contract.

And for the Mauer bashers....yes, he had a down year but some of his struggles are reflective of the players around him...Span, Hudson, Cuddyer and Kubel all had down years and Morneau was out half of the season. It's hard to drive in rbi when guys aren't on base as much.

Dave said...

While you can never be too good in the mlb, the Twins still have the best team in the central on paper (assuming Pavano signs). I have little doubt that the Twins will retain the central crown and yet again go to the playoffs.

Saying the Twins have lost so many playoff games in a row doesn't change the fact that their best hitter - by leaps and bounds - was not playing. What we needed last year was not an impact righty, it was our impact lefty who was conspicuosly absent. In fact, all this clamor for a right handed bat fails to mention that Morneau is a better hitter against lefties then the vast majority of the league.

Again, would it be nice to get better? Sure! I would love to simple buy all the players from the all star game and put them out there like Mr. Burns' softball team. And of course, there were realistic ways to get better. But worry? I think I will refrain from that until we fail to make the playoffs.

Ed Bast said...

cy, I hear ya, but the number of season tickets increased in year 2, nearly every season ticket available is sold. And despite all the interest, the Twins still had the audacity to raise season ticket prices. This is all good and fine if the organization demonstrates to the season ticket holders - the die hard fans, the ones who spend so much money on their fandom - that they will be rewarded for their investment. Instead the team goes out and gets demonstrably worse in Year 2.

It's a slap in the face. I can understand the business aspect of baseball. But there's also a baseball/competitiveness aspect. Right now there are 2 things working against us: the team is unwilling to go financially all in while this talented but expensive roster is in tact; and the money we do have to spend is being spent increasingly poorly by the front office.

Ed Bast said...

Dave, Morneau is a career .267 hitter with a .778 OPS versus lefties. For the sake of comparison, JJ Hardy's career OPS vs. lefties is .830.

Morneau's a good player, but unfortunately he's not the reason we have lost all these playoff games. He was healthy as a horse in 06 - a sweep, of course.

We need RH bats, period. Sadly, I think the Twins FO thinks like Dave does - well Morneau is so good, that he's the only thing we need. But when you actually look at the numbers you start to see it's probably not that simple.

Anonymous said...

The Twins have and always will be my team. I don't think anyone who has commented on this blog, nor big Nick himself knows what it takes to run an mlb team. I have full faith in the Twins' front office that they will make the moves they feel necessary for the Twins to win. For all the Twins critics, if you want the Twins to bolster the line up with big names and add millions to the salary... go follow the yankees. Twins build from within and fill in the holes with players they can develop. We're not that far off from a contending team.

cy1time said...

It would be interesting to know what percentage of season ticket holders are die hard fans compared to the percentage that are doing it for a tax write off. A lot of season ticket holders sell a lot of their tickets, that's how I get most of mine.

Nick N. said...

He hits for a high avg, is an on base guy and can fly around the bases and could be the kind of catalyst that takes pressure off of both Mauer and Span.

You're analyzing Nishioka based on his performance in Japan, which is essentially the competitive equivalent of Triple-A. Can't assume those traits will carry over, just as they haven't with other infielders coming over from that league (who have mostly had much better numbers than Nishioka, BTW).

Another thing to consider is that the Twins may not need to go out and get a slew more players...Cuddyer, Span, Mauer, Kubel, Baker and Blackburn all had subpar years in 2010 and there is no reason to believe they can't rebound.

This is a good point, and one of the hopes that I'm clinging to. My issue is that right now, should any of these guys NOT bounce back, or get hurt, there's no legitimate depth behind any of them. If Mauer goes down, we're looking at Butera -- arguably the worst hitter in baseball -- as a full-time player. If Morneau can't go or Kubel/Cuddyer get hurt, there's nobody to step in and play DH right now. Even if Pavano is signed, that leaves the Twins with six proven starters (three of whom are coming off elbow injuries), and oftentimes a team needs more than six to get through a season. Depth is my biggest concern with this team, and they've done nothing to address it.

And you shouldn't be so quick to bemoan the the end Guerrier, Rauch and Crain put up decent numbers but when the game is on the line I doubt there is a Twins fan that is entirely comfortable when they are on the mound, all have been too shaky/inconsistent to warrant large contracts.

You're right, I'd much rather trust Jeff Manship and Glen Perkins in those situations.

The Twins have been very successful in avoiding such cumbersome contracts.

Um, what? It's the huge commitments to guys like Nathan and Cuddyer that are handcuffing them this year.

BCEAGLE06 said...

It seems a bit premature to get mad about the Twins depth on January 10th. Players that could have been useful to the Twins and improved team depth have signed with other teams, but other options are still out there. If the Twins sign Pavano, we have 6 proven starters with Gibson and Wimmers waiting in the wings and former starters/potential spot starter options in Manship and Perkins. The starting pitching has plenty of options. The DH issue will be solved as many players that could step into that role are still out there. Thome, Vladdy, Andruw Jones, Glaus, Thames are all still available and the Twins will get one of them once those dominoes start to fall.

You are right, the middle infield could have been deeper. Nishioka, Hardy and Casilla would have been preferable. Its frustrating that the Twins FINALLY got some depth in the middle infield and traded it away, but your overall lack of depth complaints are a little early. Depth is best addressed at this time of the year.

Ben said...

People seem to forget what Joe Nathan has done for the Twins. Nick pointed him out as having an overly bloated salary, but if you can remember back to 2009, he was arguably the best closer in the game other than maybe Mariano Rivera.
All I'm saying is even if he still is coming off of Tommy Johns surgery, he we still be dominating.

Anonymous said...

nick, this is all quite silly. you can't criticize the twins F.O for giving the best closer in baseball a big contract because he gets hurt. there's no way to predict such injuries. and sure, downplay yoshi's year in japan, call him AAA... there's no way to tell! i think his signing is one of the most exciting moves the twins have made in a long time, and we'll have to wait and see how his production comes along.
by mid july i don't think anyone is going to miss jesse, and guerrier won't be on my mind past april... give neshek and nathan and the new guys a chance.. this is the twins way. i love the comment, 'you want big moves, proven players, go watch the yankee's'
it's exciting to see the twins bring up new players..
if you win the division and it doesn't work out in the playoff's, you can't blame the F.O. the team had a great chance, needed players to step up and it just wasn't in the stars the last two years. anything can happen in the playoffs. the big thing is getting there

Nick N. said...

you can't criticize the twins F.O for giving the best closer in baseball a big contract because he gets hurt. there's no way to predict such injuries.

No, but you can question giving such a player $12M a year to begin with. How much did not having Nathan hurt the Twins last year?

this is the twins way. i love the comment, 'you want big moves, proven players, go watch the yankee's'

You mean the same Yankees that keep kicking the Twins out of the playoffs year after year? OK.

USAFChief said...

I'm with you Nick. Pretty disappointing offseason.

I keep telling myself, "Self, there's some time left till opening day."

Some days I even believe myself.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am analyzing Nishioka on his performances in Japan and clearly its at a lower level than mlb but he also dominated that league. Be careful, what you are calling traits (hitting for avg, good plate discipline, and speed) might be more accurately described as skills. And skills can be directly transferrable....he's not going to lose his speed when he gets to Minnesota or become more of a hacker at the plate. He may struggle to replicate a .340+ avg. in the majors but he still has the potential to be very good.

I agree that depth is an issue but it is an issue everywhere. If Chicago or Detroit lose some key players they will struggle as well. I'd also like to see them add a right handed bat with some pop who can fill in at 1b and DH...someone like Troy Glaus or Jorge Cantu. There could be depth in both the starting pitching and outfield...Gibson and Revere may both be ready to contribute this year.

I seriously doubt they will rely on Manship and Perkins. It is more likely that they rely on Mijares, Scott Diamond, Jim Hoey and possibly Capps if Nathan is back as the closer. Neshek is also a question mark who could add depth if healthy and his velocity is back up. And before you rip Hoey keep this in mind....Andy MacPhail made the Hoey/Hardy trade and given MacPhail's track record outside of Minnesota there should be plenty of reason for Hoey optimism. Plus, the offseason isn't over yet and the Twins made some late moves in the past that have worked out.

Nathan is only handcuffing them because of an happens with all injuries to key players. Cuddyer is overpaid if you just look at his numbers but was invaluable with his versatility and leadership last year...and he could very well have a bounce back year in 2011.

Middle IF depth could very well come from Plouffe...a former 1st round pick with some pop in his bat who the Twins seem high on.

Steve said...

Oh T Rex, you say Nick is whining, which I don't hear (I just hear assessment critique) but you sound like an unequivocal Mauer fanboy.

Is Mauer worth 27 million? 30 million? At what point is Mauer not "worth every penny", to use such a hackneyed phrase? Does that salary point fit into what they are going to spend on their overall team?

Mauer is a great player, but Twins pitching is consistently hammered in the post season. Hammered. As in Born To Lose. The Twins have no playoff validity without solid 1-2 starters.

I would split Mauer's salary between two monetarily equivalent starters in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Japan, which is essentially the competitive equivalent of Triple-A

Serious question, how do you know this?

Anonymous said...

Bast, can you possibly try to make a logical argument? Hardy OPS v. left handed pitchers last 2 years = 539 and 614. Morneau's was 966 and 836. Lefties take a while to learn how to hit lefties, career stats aren't gonna do the job here.

TRex said...

Steve, Mauer is worth every penny because

1) He is arguably the best player in baseball
2) He puts fans in seats.

Go to the park much? How many fans do you see wearing #7 shirts?
You want them wearing Yankee pinstripes with #7 on em?

Paying Mauer $23 mil a year seems like a lot now, but woudl you really rather not have him and have a catcher like Butera?


VodkaDave said...

The Twins already signed the best free agent, his name is Joe Mauer. Additionally they will sign Pavano (A solid #3 no matter what you try to say) a DH (prob Thome) and a RP or two.

Twins are should win another 94+ games next year, they will be fine.

The big mistake was not offering arb to Guerrier.

Anonymous said...

I love this blog, you’re all passionate with solid opinions.

Mauer got a fat contract for more than his bat and glove. Hometown hero, face of the franchise, nice, handsome, young man who hasn’t pulled any stupid stunts (yet). If he continues in that vein he will be worth every penny to the Twins. With that said, would I like to see him be a little more vicious at bat? Cha!

Would love to see Thome get 600 HR as a Twin but a big RH bat is a necessity, so if Thome goes elsewhere so be it.

I’m not too worried about Hardy and Hudson leaving. I liked them both but they never seemed to be at 100% for very long. Casilla is speedy and is maturing as a player. I see only an upward arrow for him. He should play SS and Nishi should be at 2B.

Pavano is a solid presence on the team. As long he is happy and healthy he is an asset. Speaking of pitching, I hope the Twins sent Frankie to a good therapist or that they have parked him in a nice Zen Buddhist temple for the off season. The guy has a fierce arm but he needs the calm/killer instinct to go with it. Last season he fell apart too easily (and they babied the hell out of him, maybe they should stop that!)

I want to see Fuentes back here, he is so fun to watch.

I worry about 2 things: Nathan, will he come back strong after surgery? Morneau, last I read in November he was feeling 90% but admitted that he was not working out at peak capacity. Still a scary question mark there.

Bring on the White Sox.
Hurry up April!

Nick N. said...

Serious question, how do you know this?

Because marginal major-league players routinely go there and dominate. For example, Matt Murton hit .349 in that league last season.

Anonymous said...

The Twins increased payroll $30M last year to coincide with the new stadium. It's not like year 2 is going to bring in much more money. Therefore, why do you expect that they are going to now spend more? They've said all along that they will spend 50% on payroll.

The problems faced are -

- Unrealistic expectations of fans and bloggers who think they should spend more money. Their budget is $110-115M - do all of your analysis with that reality.
- Too much money is tied up in players not worth their contract. Is Joe Mauer a future HOF player? Maybe. Paying him $23M is great for the casual fan but not that great if your goal is to win it all given our budget constraints.

Anonymous said...

Because marginal major-league players routinely go there and dominate. For example, Matt Murton hit .349 in that league last season.

It may be true that it's the equivalent of AAA, but I was wondering if there was more to back that up than "some players have gone over there and dominated".

Maybe it's a different style of play that certain types of players are able to take advantage of. I don't think you can casually pronounce it AAA based on a few examples any more than you can say they're better than American players because of WBC results.

Again, not making any judgment on the level of play there because I have never watched it, but that statement just struck me as a random off-the-cuff remark that someone made once that is now going to be repeated enough by the blogosphere that it will just become fact.

Ed Bast said...


#1. Target Field brought in more revenue than their most optimistic projections had forecasted.
#2. Why do you automatically accept the 50% rule? You've got a lot of talented and expensive guys on the roster. Why not spend 55% the next year or two while you have a legit chance for a series? Dial it down if need be in "rebuilding" type years. Standing firm at 50% basically says, "We operate this team strictly as a business, and do not care about the baseball implications of the 50% rule, even if it means making our team worse from 2010 to 2011."
#3. The payroll problems are nobody's fault but the Twins'. Cuddy, Blackburn, Nathan all have terrible contracts (the Mauer one was a necessary evil, I applaud the FO for getting that done). To say, "Well, we screwed up pretty good the last couple years. So this year we just can't afford to make our team better. Shucks," is again telling fans to screw off because the club is going to first and foremost make sure profit is maximized, and if competitive sacrifices need to be made, so be it.

So no, I don't accept a $110-$115 payroll if it's not enough to address the team's needs, and I'll conduct my analysis on what is needed to make this team better prepared to win in the playoffs than the teams that have repeatedly been embarrassed in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Ed Bast,

The Twins beat the Rangers every time they played at Target field. Does that mean that Rangers team was incapable of winning a game at Target field? That their front office failed to field a team capable of winning at Target field?

Ed Bast said...

Anon, no idea what you are trying to say, but I'm going to guess the Rangers put less priority on winning a meaningless regular season road series and more on winning in the playoffs, which is why they traded for Cliff Lee. Worked out well for them.

The Twins, meanwhile, continue to get pounded in the playoffs because their lineup is susceptible to LH pitching, which they face a lot of in the postseason, and their starting pitchers are soft-tossing finesse guys whose stuff gets pounded by good, patient lineups, which they face a lot of in the postseason. These weaknesses have manifested themselves in five consecutive postseason embarrassments in which the ONLY games we won were started by Johan Santana - the antithesis of the soft-tossing finesse pitchers the Twins love to trot out for loss after loss.

By ignoring these lessons the Twins will continue to compete in the regular season and, if they get there, fail in the playoffs. Disturbingly, that's all right with a lot of fans; I would like to see more.

engraving plates said...

Yes indeed it is painful to watch your team being beaten down numerous team & there is nothing we fans can do about it but take it all up. I wish they'll perform better this season.