Friday, November 11, 2011

Twins Sign Jamey Carroll to Man Short

The Twins took their first step toward addressing a decimated infield today, signing free agent Jamey Carroll. According to Ken Rosenthal's sources, the plan is for Carroll to become the team's everyday shortstop.

My stance has been that the Twins' approach this offseason ought to involve finding competent stopgaps that could potentially aid a return to contention in 2012 if things break right, but won't break the bank or require significant long-term commitments. Carroll fits that bill about as well as Ramon Santiago or Nick Punto, who were the players I suggested in my blueprint last month.

Although he'll turn 38 in February, the righty-swinging Carroll has been a consistent producer, finishing with an on-base percentage of .355 or higher in each of the past four seasons, with steady if unspectacular defense in the middle infield. Twins shortstops turned in a .292 OBP while frequently batting in the two-hole this year, so the upgrade potential here is massive. Though he has no power to speak of (he hasn't hit a home run since August of 2009), Carroll is a disciplined hitter, a good base runner and last year he turned in the second-lowest swinging strike percentage in the majors. He's the quintessential piranha.

It's unclear how the veteran's range will play at shortstop as he inches toward his fourth decade of life, but he's committed only nine errors in 1,000 innings at the position for the Dodgers over the past two years, making it easy to recognize his appeal to Terry Ryan and the Twins after a gaffe-filled 2011.

I will say that I've got some quibbles with the contract. The Twins reportedly are guaranteeing Carroll between $6-7 million on a two-year deal; that seems quite excessive for a middling 37-year-old who has earned less than $12 million in his big-league career up to this point. He's bound to start declining sometime, perhaps as soon as 2012, and if that's the case his contract will prove considerably more burdensome than a cheap one-year pact with a similar option (such as Punto).

Here's another thing that should be noted about Carroll: While his .368 on-base percentage over the past two years is impressive, nearly half of his at-bats came in front of the pitcher. If you want an idea of how hitting eighth in an NL lineup can inflate an OBP, consider that Punto posted a career-high .388 mark this year while getting a big chunk of his at-bats there for the Cardinals.

Still, at the end of the day, $3.5 million is a reasonable price for a starting shortstop, and if the Twins felt compelled to spend a little extra in order to ensure they got their guy so they can move on to addressing other needs -- such as pitcher and catcher -- I can live with that.

I do hope that the club isn't done adding veteran depth to the infield. I also hope that the money saved by acquiring a low-cost starter at shortstop is put to good use elsewhere.


Matt said...

Anything in the field is better than what we had last year. If his OBP is around .310-.320 in the 2-hole and he makes 2/3rds the errors of the bumblers out there last year, I'll freakin take it!

Bobo Jones said...


Bobo Jones said...

It also helps your OBP to bat in front or the pitcher.

mgraves said...

Batting in front of Drew Butera has to be the functional equivalent of batting in front of a pitcher.

Ed Bast said...

So, I don't get it, is the plan this year to cut payroll, almost as if we're rebuilding, but then sign old stopgaps to try and pretend to try to "compete" within the division, while not rebuilding at all, thus guaranteeing another 3,4,10 years of mediocrity?

Obviously this is just one move. But you look at the offseason so far - first the Pohlads defend Bill Smith, then abruptly fire him over "philosophical difference" they absolutely refuse to explain; rehiring a GM who quit on the organization 5 years ago when things got tricky while simultaneously mentioning in passing "oh by the way, screw you fans, we're cutting payroll for the hell of it, dare you to do anything about it!", and then kicking things off on the free agent front with a small-market-era Mike Lamb-esque signing of a 38-year old no-name journeyman to play your premier defensive position.

It's 2007 all over again. Is it too much to ask that this organization move forward, not backwards?

Laches said...

I'm with Nick that the stopgap approach makes sense.

It's not like he's blocking MLB-ready talent from Rochester. We saw firsthand that those guys aren't ready for prime time yet.

The Twins have FA money to spend, but too many holes to fill for it to make sense to throw it all at someone like Reyes.

Guys like Carroll are low risk high reward. Best case scenario, Span, Mauer, Morneau, et al are able to stay healthy and return to form, and aided by capable veterans, are able to compete in a very winnable division.

Worst case scenario, the team stinks again, and you become sellers at the deadline. Reasonably priced veterans are often in demand by contending teams at the deadline, so you can pick up a few picks or prospects to help re-stock the cupboard that was left bare by Mr. Ryan's predecessor.

It's frustrating that the Twins are at the point where this is the kind of move that makes sense, but I don't see what else they can do.

You can't stick with what you've got. You don't have the assets to improve via trade. There's no cavalry coming from Rochester. A big splash in the FA market fills only one of many needs. So the FA bargain-bin approach is the only one that makes sense. And I don't see it as inconsistent with rebuilding.

Jim H said...

This is a move we were expecting, sign an older utility infielder who can start for awhile. While it shows no particular confidence that the Twins feel Nishioka or Plouffe can play shortstop, one or the other will likely get some sort of opportunity to compete or replace Carroll at some point next year.

More interestingly, it seems to indicate that the Twins expect someone (Dozier, probably) to be ready to play shortstop within the next 2 years.

I am not particularly excited about Carroll, and it seems like a lot a money for a backup which he will likely be before the contract is up. Still, he is the kind of player who can help you, especially if he is not overexposed, and he has been durable.

I also can't imagine why the Twins would go get another backup infielder like Nick recommends. One last point, the Twins now seem to have about 6 middle infielders, whose best position in 2nd base.

Nick N. said...

So, I don't get it, is the plan this year to cut payroll, almost as if we're rebuilding, but then sign old stopgaps to try and pretend to try to "compete" within the division, while not rebuilding at all, thus guaranteeing another 3,4,10 years of mediocrity?

I'm honestly curious to know, what do you want them to do in order to satisfy your desire for a complete rebuild? They don't have any players they can trade for great prospects. They don't have any big contracts they can easily get rid of.

The "rebuild" is already in motion. Quality prospects in the low minors are working their way up. Cuddyer is likely gone, which will yield two high draft picks next June. If Kubel goes, there's another pick. The Twins are making moves geared toward the future, but there's no reason to completely boot the present when you've got (finite) money to spend and (hopefully temporary) holes to fill.

Putting competent veterans on the field rather than forcing fans to watch another year of unqualified rookies bumbling around is the right thing to do. There's a medium between signing Jose Reyes and not signing anyone, and unfortunately, given the payroll situation -- which is what it is regardless of how you feel about it -- that's where the Twins are sitting.

One last point, the Twins now seem to have about 6 middle infielders, whose best position in 2nd base.

How many of them belong in the majors?

Bobo Jones said...

.193 RISP suggests that pitchers didn't have much trouble getting him out when they really wanted to.

Anonymous said...

The great business strategy professor Michael Porter has a term for the direction the Twins are now headed. It's called "stuck in the middle". They're not going all in to sign a star like Reyes or Rollins and since they're going to have a 28 year old journeyman SS they're not going to be developing a young guy like Plouffe either. I guess if you're ultimate goal is to win 80 games a year it's not a bad move. I'm now even more frustrated though because if you combine Carroll's new salary with Nishioka's you could've kept Hardy. I guess I'll wait and see what other moves Ruan makes before passing judgement but this isn't very exciting.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - make that a "38" year old SS and "Ryan". Stupid phone.

Ed Bast said...

"Putting competent veterans on the field rather than forcing fans to watch another year of unqualified rookies bumbling around is the right thing to do."

I don't know, given that the Twins are going to struggle to be mediocre next year, I'd much rather watch guys who might be future stars/leaders on legitimately good teams down the road than a past-his-prime antique who's there to fill a spot on the roster. E.g. I'd much rather watch Danny V. at third than Mike Lamb or Tony Batista. You seem to be in favor of a bunch of Tony Batistas. Which is fine, I guess...I just think doing the stopgap thing year after year tends to discourage development of younger players, which is why the Twins struggled for years to find an answer at 3b, and continue to struggle at ss, 2b, etc.

You're right, though, the real rebuilding is going to come through the draft. If indeed they let go of Cuddy, Kubel, etc., which I'm not yet convinced they're going to do.

To answer your question, I guess I'm looking for more youth. Jamey Carroll represents the exact opposite of that.

Ed Bast said...

Oh and Nick, I'm fine if the club sincerely thinks they can contend next year and this move is the first step in that (to me this is some more of the Twins Arrogance cropping up, but so be it). But if that's the case, why are they cutting payroll? They're sending mixed messages.

The contempt the Pohlads have for the people who line their pockets is getting increasingly blatant. Can you imagine this happening in Boston or New York? Fans there would be in an uproar if the powers that be told them they plan on contending next year while cutting payroll (for no reason other than to make more profit) at the same time. Here? Fans just shrug and let it happen. The Pohlads are smart enough to realize this and now they're not even bothering to conceal their brazen, greed-stricken contempt.

Laches said...

"I'd much rather watch Danny V. at third than Mike Lamb or Tony Batista."

---OK, but what Danny V's do you see that are ready to be full-time major leaguers that Carroll is blocking? A bunch of guys were brought up from Rochester last year, and most of them clearly weren't ready. We're all anxious to see youngsters in Twins uniforms at Target Field, but they need to earn their way there. Prematurely gift-wrapping a major league job for them does more harm than good.

It's not an ideal situation, but that's where we are, and contrary what TT says, it's a pretty strong indictment of Smith. A lot more talent went out the door in his reign than came in. That's why were stuck with using stopgaps until the talent level can be restored.

kdo said...

Signing Carroll was a good move offensively. I am particularly excited that the Twins went after a guy who drives the ball well. Bloggers have talked about the need for the Twins to admit that Target Field is not a place where many home runs will happen. This signing plays to our strengths -- small ball hit to the gaps.

DrJubal said...

"It's unclear how the veteran's range will play at shortstop as he inches toward his fourth decade of life"

Fifth actually.

Not sure I like signing old guy...

Mike said...

I think this signing is a little frustrating. But given that the team is looking to cut payroll in the neighborhood of $12-14 million, I think they're a bit limited in who they can sign. I would have liked to have seen them make a play for someone like Kelly Johnson. He would demand a higher salary, but a down 2011 could bring that down somewhat.

Hitting in front of the pitcher certainly makes it easier to have a higher OBP. However, Carroll spent two seasons in Cleveland. He had an average of .277 and .276; OBP of .355 both years. I'm not concerned about his offense not being a substantial improvement over that seen on the Twins this past year; it's his defense. Over the weekend I saw an article about how his defensive range is quite limited. It's great to not commit errors, but you still need good range to be an effective middle infielder.

@Ed- I really don't think that payroll is being cut to increase the Pohlad's profit. Target Field has been up and running for two years; the honeymoon period is over. And the Twins were awful this past year- people don't want to spend as much/go as frequently to watch a bad team. Even this last year, the last series only averaged 35,187 fans per game. 36,574 the series before that; the third to last series, likely the last time Thome plays in the TC, still was more than 1,000 short of a sellout.

Ed Bast said...

"Target Field has been up and running for two years; the honeymoon period is over. And the Twins were awful this past year- people don't want to spend as much/go as frequently to watch a bad team."

1. In the decade-long push for a taxpayer-funded stadium, the Twins insisted they needed TF to be able to truly compete. We now know this was a blatant lie.
2. New stadium benefits last far longer than 2 years. See Baltimore, Cleveland, etc. for examples. You proved this yourself by stating the attendence figures for the final meaningless series between 2 terrible teams in which the Twins', what, 8 best players did not play.
2. Payroll is proportional to revenue for the Twins. There is zero evidence 2011 revenues were significantly down from 2010. In fact, after ONE SEASON the Pohlads had the gall to raise ticket prices at TF - it's likely their revenue actually increased. Since they are cutting payroll, will they correspondingly reduce ticket prices? No. That, more than anything, demonstrates their pure greed and disregard for fans.
3. Is it the fans' fault the Twins were awful? That's a pretty convoluted message to send: we screwed up, we were bad, so we're going to spend less next year as a reward to fans that stuck with us.
4. Bill Pohlad himself said in the Strib interview a month ago that ownership spending levels demonstrate the organization's committment to winning. Then they announce they're cutting payroll $15 mil without giving a reason. Really, do you need any more evidence than that? He's rubbing it in fans' faces.

Kelly said...

Terry, since you been gone a while, let me give ya a hint on what would help us....

Carroll is a spot saver until Miquel Sano is ready. Lexie = 2b.
Hughes and Plouffe are near misses. One will be utility guy for his bat. I think Plouffe can go either OF/IF back up.

Nishi, see ya.

If Cuddy leaves we will have to find someone else to swing at low and outside pitches for strike 3. Jason, come back at a discount. You been injured a lot babe.

Justin, kick back a mil or two and Joe, same deal. Help us out here guys. You da bank.

Capps, bye bye. Mijares, here is a free subscription to weight watchers. Burnett, what was your name again? Outright these bums.

Nathan, come on back. You owe us. Perk closer if Nathan does not come back (which he oughta do given Twins got nothing from him in 2010 and part time in 2011). But paid him HANDSOMELY ANYWAY (You listening Joe and Justin?)

Rotation: Need a Number 1 to go with Frankie, Carl, Scott, Duns, and dump Blackie and Slowey.... two fer one trade anyone?

Get Jason Kendall as BU catcher. Or someone who can hit .250

Tell Gardy that he needs to rethink his approach to EVERYTHING

Tell Anderson that a strike out is ok to plan for.

Mike said...

@Ed- I'll just go down the numeric list you present.

(1) No, that doesn't mean that it's a blatant lie. Attendance is still up around 10,000 people from their last year in the metronome, which provided a lot of nostalgia and excitement throughout the season and a game 163, driving attendance for many games way up. Having TF certainly does make the Twins more competitive because it will continue to bring in more money than the metronome, even if things do slip. It would be nonsensical to argue that Target Field doesn't allow for the Twins to spend more/increase their chances to remain competitive than the metrodome.

(2) No one is saying that new stadium benefits disappear completely after two years. But attendance isn't going to stay as high after two years from the initial push it received when TF opened in 2010. I don't doubt that TF is going to draw in several thousand more fans per game than the metrodome did in its last season. But it's not likely going to be the 10,000 more per game that it did in 2010.

And the two teams you cited as having a longer honeymoon effect (Cleveland and Baltimore) were both helped by fielding competitive teams. After Cleveland built a new stadium, they won the division 6 of the next 7 years, and the year they didn't, they won 90 games. Baltimore wasn't as successful, but they played above .500 for the first 6 years, which is essentially like going to the world series for that franchise.

And the attendance figures I cited for the last three series did not prove your point in the slightest. I could have gone back a few series farther, but didn't because people don't want to read that much. The point is that the attendance dropped when the Twins weren't winning, even with the new stadium. They were still regularly getting over 40,000 fans per game last season for meaningless games at the end of the year. Quite simply- it's natural for attendance to be lower the year after a down year. As business people, the Pohlad's have to prepare for that possibility.

(2.2)- The logic is flawed. Supply/demand says that the Pohlads don't have to lower ticket prices because they'll still make more money at the current prices. As I stated above, the Twins obviously had a down 2011- as it naturally happens in sports, expect revenues to be down in 2012. I don't have the revenue numbers in front of me and I doubt that you do, either. But it doesn't matter if the numbers were equivalent in 2010 and 2011- 2012 is the relevant year, which business logic suggests will be less profitable due to the team's lack of 2011 success and expected corresponding drop in fan support. I realize you just hate the Pohlads so much, and you probably have a point about them from time to time... but the way you try to twist everything about what they do to be pure contempt for the fans makes me not take you seriously when you rip on them. Owners are in it to make money; if they say something else, they're lying. Not having the cheapest tickets in baseball isn't contempt for the fan; it's business.

Mike said...

(3) It's the nature of the beast. It doesn't matter if it was the FO's fault, ownership's fault, the fans' fault, players' fault, etc. It's just what it is. The team was very bad last year, TF isn't going to guarantee a sellout every game next year like it did 2010 and the first 2/3 of 2011. Revenue goes down, sot he Twins' ability to spend goes down. Point fingers all you want, but it doesn't change the reality of the teams' financial situation.

(4) You've cited that article multiple times on here and it was only interesting/persuasive to me until I read the actual interview. That, again, is you twisting anything relating to the Pohlad's into meaning that they just don't care about the fans.

What he said was: "We want to win. We care about winning and we're going to try to win. In a lot of cases payroll dollars tend to reflect that." And yes, he later states that payroll is going to come down "because it exceeded where we wanted it. But it was an unusual year contract-wise. But it's not going to be slashed. It's going to be right up there."

So they overspent a bit in a year when revenues were expected to be higher than they're expected to be in 2012. He isn't saying that the Twins' ownership cares about winning less in 2012 than they cared about it in 2011. I don't hate the Pohlad's with the fervor that you seem to; when I read those statements in conjunction, he's saying that ownership that cares about winning will spend the money that's available to put together a winning team and that the Twins overspent in 2011 and will naturally see the payroll come down to reflect that. Considering they went from $97 million in 2010 up to about $112 in 2011, that indicates to me that they overspent in 2011. I don't know why people should be surprised that they're targeting a return back to "only" $3-6 million over 2010 levels.

Mike said...

"Payroll is proportional to revenue for the Twins. There is zero evidence 2011 revenues were significantly down from 2010."

Is there evidence that revenue for the Twins went up in 2011? Because payroll surely did, which got Pohlad in that interview continuously referenced by you to say that they overspent and would naturally have to bring payroll back down.

Attendence was down a little bit, ticket prices were up a little bit. All the numbers available to me are incomplete, but given the number of tickets reported to be sold and the price of non-premium seats, it appears that despite the drop in attendance, the Twins still made about $3.5 million more in 2011 than in 2010 based on ticket sales. But payroll went up $15 million. I just don't see any inconsistency with saying that they overspent in 2011.

Ed Bast said...

Mike, I think you need an education in revenue. A portion of the team's revenue is shared, so with inflation and national popularity of the game, that's not going down. Local revenue is partially fixed - TV, radio, etc - and partially based on merchandising (again, inflation) and ticket sales, which are primarily accounted for prior to the season (season ticket sales). Due to them jacking up ticket prices, they made more money despite lesser attendence. Every other revenue source is fixed or naturally increasing due to inflation.

After last season the season ticket waiting list was at 2000 I believe. Season ticket sales account for their most profitable seats - suites, club level, champions club, etc. The fact of the matter is, the only revenue variable is the small proportion of lower-end seats they sell on a game-by-game basis, and even given the 2011 season, they'll sell plenty of these, because Target Field is new and beautiful, etc.

Fun fact: from 2000-2009, i.e. the "cash-strapped Metrodome days", the Twins' payroll increased every year but 2: once it was trimmed by $1.5 mil, and once when Santana's $13 mil contract was traded in the offseason. Why? Revenue sharing and inflation. Yet you find it appropriate to cut payroll in Year 3 of the cash cow that is Target Field. With this move, the Twins will have cut approximately as many payroll dollars in one Target Field offseason than we did in the entire 2000s at the Dome.

There is absolutely zero justification for the Twins cutting payroll this year. Yet we have Pohlad apologists like you who blindly defend them without ever researching the issue. It's fascinating, really. It's Minnesota Nice, I suppose; as I've said, fans in NY, Boston, etc. would never allow it.

And for the record, I don't "hate" the Pohlads, they are excellent at making money. As a baseball fan, however, I wish they would impart the same zeal, committment, and talent for profit-making toward fielding a legitimate, playoff-ready baseball team.

Matt said...

If you're a fan, you want an owner who is a fan also. A person or group who wants to win more than make money. They'll settle for a smallish profit to satisfy the fans.
The Packers profited just $9.8 million in 2010, the SB winning season. The same year, the 4-12 Bungles of Cincy profited over $40 million.

Get over it, people, we don't have an ownership group with the Twins who place winning and fan appreciation at top priorities. This is nothing new. If you don't like it, don't buy tickets, don't watch it, don't listen to it on the radio.

Mitch said...

If you're going to sign old, shitty veterans, you might as well sign the oldest and shittiest veterans available. I demand the Twins bring back Tony Batista for a second go around!