Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marquis for Slowey an Unexciting Swap

The Twins rounded out their rotation today, signing free agent right-hander Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million deal. Since Marquis essentially replaces Kevin Slowey, who was traded to the Rockies a few weeks ago and would have made about the same amount next season through arbitration, it seems appropriate to compare the two based on what they're likely to provide in 2012.

Slowey was disastrous this past season, but Marquis' 2010 campaign was almost equally catastrophic, as he posted a 6.60 ERA and 1.71 WHIP while being limited to 58 2/3 innings by injuries. He rebounded this year, putting up a mediocre 4.43 ERA and 1.49 WHIP while logging 132 innings over 23 starts between Washington and Arizona. That seems like a fair baseline expectation going forward.

Their career numbers aren't terribly different. Marquis' ERA in the majors sits at 4.55, Slowey 4.66. Both have been extremely hittable. Slowey owns the superior WHIP (1.29 to 1.43), thanks largely to a lower walk rate (1.4 BB/9 to 3.5), and he also boasts the higher strikeout rate (6.7 K/9 to 5.2).

Opting for a guy who misses fewer bats is disappointing in light of the strikeout shortage that I've written about a couple times this week. However, Marquis offsets his lack of whiffs with an elite ground ball rate, which stands in stark contrast to Slowey's extreme fly ball tendencies. Only six pitchers in the majors finished with a higher grounder rate than Marquis' 55.1 percent in 2011.

If he continues to put the ball in play and induce tons of grounders, Marquis will only be as good as the infielders behind him, so the gamble that the Twins took on Jamey Carroll holding up as a full-time shortstop at age 38 will be magnified.

If you asked me which guy I'd rather have on a one-year deal for $3 million next year, I'd probably opt for Slowey, if only because he's six years younger and offers greater upside. The difference isn't huge, though, and if Slowey is really the clubhouse headache he's been made out to be, this can be considered a justifiable swap at the bottom of the rotation.

Unfortunately, it does nothing to augment the top of the rotation, which will leave plenty of pressure on Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano to carry the load. Fans who were hoping for a serious upgrade to the starting corps aren't getting one here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Options for the Rotation

On Monday, I wrote about the Twins' search for pitching help, pointing out that an inability to miss bats was a huge weakness for the staff in 2011 -- one which Terry Ryan should seek to remedy.

It's not realistic to expect the Twins to add a dominant strikeout machine to the mix, because there really aren't any available in free agency and acquiring one through trade would prove too costly.

But that doesn't mean they need to settle for someone like Jeff Francis or Jon Garland, who would qualify as the exact opposite of a "strikeout machine." Between Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak and Terry Doyle, the Twins have plenty of rotation candidates who can take the mound, throw the ball over the plate and let opposing hitters put it in play.

If they want to beef up their rotation rather than simply crowding it with more of the same, they'll need to identify at least one arm that breaks the pitch-to-contact mold. Here are a few available options that intrigue me:

Edwin Jackson

Jackson is a power arm in the sense that he throws hard, with a fastball that averages almost 95 mph and a slider in the upper 80s, but his results have never matched his high-velocity stuff. This past season, Jackson notched 148 strikeouts in 199 2/3 innings -- good for a 6.7 K/9 rate that matches his career mark and is roughly average.

With that being said, an average strikeout rate would stand out among Minnesota's crop of starters, and the 28-year-old has averaged 200 innings over the past four seasons. He's the cream of the remaining FA crop, but may elude the Twins' price range unless they're willing to push closer to $110 million.

Rich Harden

I mentioned Harden in Monday's post as a prime example of a high-risk, high-reward arm that could fit into a ~$100 million budget. He's got an electric arm, and this year with the A's was able to tally 91 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings, but injuries have been a constant issue for the right-hander. He signed with Oakland last winter to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million plus incentives; there would be plenty of wisdom in offering a similar contract this year.

Harden is still only 30 years old, and if he can find a way to stay healthy he's got huge upside, especially in Target Field. If he'd be willing, a switch to the bullpen is an option that might aid his durability, and would solve the club's need for a hard-throwing right-hander in the late innings.

Javier Vazquez

While playing for the Marlins this past season, Vazquez made it sound like he was dead-set on retiring at the end of the year. By November, he appeared to have softened his stance, telling Ken Rosenthal that he was "50-50" on playing again in 2012.

Luring the 35-year-old righty back for another year might be a tall task, especially in Minnesota as Rosenthal noted that Vazquez had a strong preference to remain on the East Coast if he hung around. If the Twins could make it happen, though, there's tons of appeal in a guy who has averaged 8 K/9 over the course of this career and turned in a 3.69 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 192 2/3 innings with Florida in 2011.

Hiroki Kuroda

It's not clear whether Kuroda intends to play in the majors next year or return to Japan. There's been little buzz surrounding the free agent right-hander, and the Diamondbacks reportedly had an offer to him on the table for over 10 days before moving on and signing Jason Kubel earlier this week.

Kuroda has been consistently effective over his four-year major league career, accumulating a 3.45 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. In 2011, he set career bests with a 3.07 ERA in 202 innings. He also averaged over seven strikeouts per nine frames for a second straight year. He'll turn 37 in February, but if he's willing to sign a one-year deal, Kuroda would be a good addition at almost any price.

Jon Niese

Unlike the four hurlers mentioned above, Niese is not a free agent. There have been rumblings that the Mets could make him available in a trade, though, and if that's the case, the Twins would be wise to make a push.

Niese is 25, and 2012 will be his first year of arbitration eligibility. Although his 4.39 career ERA appears rather mediocre on the surface, Niese is a left-hander who can command the strike zone, miss bats and induce ground balls. Given that the Twins are in a state of flux with their roster, I'm against the notion of trading valuable assets for short-term help, but Niese could be a long-term building block and would justify the cost as long as it's not exorbitant.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More of the Same

Twins pitchers struck out a total of 940 hitters in 2011. That was the fewest of any team in the majors by a margin of 84 (Cleveland finished with 1,024) -- the biggest gap between any other two teams was 33.

Yes, the Twins were the least prolific strikeout team in baseball this year, and it wasn't remotely close. The whiff total was the franchise's lowest since 1999, which meant a whole lot of balls being put into play by opposing hitters. A contact-heavy staff, in conjunction with truly shoddy defense, led to horrible results as the Twins allowed more runs and hits than all but one team.

The club's fielding is bound to improve in 2012, but a sky-high contact rate will continue to be an issue if not addressed. Unfortunately, if reports are to be believed, the Twins don't seem to recognize it as a problem.

With Jason Kubel likely to land elsewhere this week, Joe Christensen reports that the team is focused on adding pitching. However, as Christensen notes, three names that have been connected to the Twins in rumors are Jeff Francis, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland.

Francis is a control guy coming off a season in which he logged 183 innings, which would have ranked second on the Twins. However, he notched only 91 strikeouts, good for a paltry 4.5 K/9 rate.

Pineiro was very good in 2009 and 2010 before struggling to  a 5.13 ERA in 2011, and at 33 he's a decent bet to rebound. But he's posted a K/9 figure above 5 only once in the past four seasons and this year finished at 3.8. Yuck.

Garland is a veteran with a history as a workhorse (he piled up 190-plus innings every year from 2002 to 2010) but his career K/9 rate is 4.9.

The Twins are working on a limited budget and if they're looking for guys who are good bets to throw a bunch of innings, they're basically limited to these low-upside, fringe-stuff types.

If they're willing to take a risk, though, a guy like Rich Harden could probably be had at a reasonable price, and if he can find a way to stay healthy he would add a very different dynamic to a roster filled with light-throwing hurlers in the pitch-to-contact mold.

It's not that pitchers can't succeed without tons of strikeouts, but a staff devoid of any power arms isn't a good bet to garner effective results, especially against the league's better lineups. Within his limited resources, Terry Ryan should be seeking to fundamentally change a pitching corps that failed miserably this season.

Francis, Pineiro and Garland are just more of the same, and at best lateral steps from the likes of Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cuddyer and Priorities

The Twins made their signing of Josh Willingham official yesterday, finalizing a three-year, $21 million deal with the veteran outfielder.

The move rules out a return to Minnesota for long-time franchise staple Michael Cuddyer, who'd been viewed as an alternative option to fill the same need.

Or does it?

While the Twins' interest in Willingham and Cuddyer had largely been framed as an either/or scenario over the first couple months of the offseason, there's been growing speculation that the club may consider bringing Cuddyer back even with Willingham locked in.

This strikes me as bizarre. It's not hard to see the appeal in a lineup that includes both bats, but the Twins are working with limited resources -- Terry Ryan would have to stretch the budget past ownership's desired target of $100 million to bring Cuddyer back -- and they haven't yet begun to address their flimsy pitching corps.

In fact, all the team has really done so far is subtract from a staff that finished second-to-last in the majors in ERA. It's tough to see how signing Cuddyer would leave much flexibility to add anything beyond the types of marginal minor-league arms they've already brought into the mix.

Not only would signing Cuddyer show a lopsided emphasis on offense versus pitching, it would also signal that the front office is focusing far too much on the present versus the future. It's great that Ryan and Co. are intent on righting the ship in short order, but they need to be rebuilding with an eye toward the organization's long-term health as well. Forfeiting a pair of high draft picks while committing $45 million to a pair of 33-year-old corner outfielders seems extremely short-sighted.

There's an inherent risk in making multi-year commitments to players that are aging into their mid-30s. Fortunately, that risk is mitigated in Willingham's case because $7 million annually is very reasonable for a player of his pedigree, which is why this deal has to be looked at as a slam dunk success for the front office.

By signing Cuddyer in addition to Willingham though, the Twins would be doubling their risk. Having both outfielders aboard would certainly strengthen the lineup in the short term, but the long-term ramifications are troubling and if the front office is willing to cough up an additional $24 million for a Cuddyer contract, it sure seems like that money could be put to better use on pitching.

[UPDATE: Such fears can be put to rest. Cuddyer signed a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Rockies today.]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Three-Bagger: Outfield, Hoey & Mijares

* With their holes at shortstop and catcher addressed early on, the Twins' top remaining priority (outside of the eminent need for more pitching) is signing an outfielder. Presently, they're sort of in limbo with this task and have been for over a week.

It has been widely reported that the Twins have an offer out to Michael Cuddyer -- thought to be around three years and $24 million -- and view Josh Willingham as their top backup option should Cuddyer choose to sign elsewhere. The rumor mill has been fairly quiet with both players, but there are indications from both camps that decisions are coming within the next couple days.

Cuddyer and Willingham have similar profiles and both would fill the club's need for a righty-swinging outfielder with power that can slot between the lefties in the middle of the lineup. Willingham is probably a better hitter, but he's a little less versatile defensively. Assuming they require similar financial commitments, the two are essentially a push, and I think either one is likely to be a solid value at around $8 million per season.

What makes the decision a no-brainer, in my mind, is the fact that the Twins would attain two high draft picks next June by allowing the Type-A Cuddyer to sign elsewhere and bringing Willingham aboard. Those compensatory picks could go a long way toward restocking the farm system, and the Twins would hardly be hurting their competitive chances in the short-term, even though letting Cuddy walk would incense a certain segment of the fan base.

Will Terry Ryan follow his heart or his brain? It appears that we'll find out by the end of the week.

* The Twins waived Jim Hoey, the fire-balling right-hander received in the horribly misguided J.J. Hardy trade a year ago, and on Monday he was claimed by the Blue Jays. Now all the Twins have left to show for Hardy, who emerged as one of the league's better shortstops this season, is Brett Jacobson, a 25-year-old righty reliever that performed poorly in New Britain.

I'm not exactly a big Hoey fan, but I must confess I'm a little surprised and disappointed to see the Twins giving up on him so soon. His performance in the majors this season was clearly hideous, but he was reasonably decent in the minors, where his walk rate dropped for a third straight year, and the organization is short on guys who can hit 96 on the radar gun.

Ultimately, Hoey remains the same player he was when the Twins acquired him: a live arm with serious control issues that he will likely never fully overcome. Still, the front office liked him enough to target him a year ago, and now they're ditching him to open up a spot on the 40-man while preserving no-upside guys like Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray?

I don't get it.

* Another reliever that won't be with the Twins next year is Jose Mijares, whom the club chose to non-tender rather than retaining at a modest fee. At one point, Mijares was a very promising young southpaw, and I figured he'd be brought back considering how little he stands to make in arbitration. However, I certainly can't fault the team for cutting the cord.

Back in 2009, a 24-year-old rookie Mijares was a tremendous asset as a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen, turning in a 2.34 ERA and 55-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 61 2/3 innings while holding lefty hitters to a .480 OPS. His performance has rapidly deteriorated in the two seasons since, though, and the Twins have been vocally frustrated by his work ethic.

This past season, Mijares was flat-out awful. His effectiveness against left-handed hitters was greatly diminished and against righties he was a huge liability with a ghastly 11-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Mijares will find work somewhere and could rebound as he's only 27, but the Twins are already plenty deep on lefty bullpen options between Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Phil Dumatrait.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Twins Take Terry Doyle in Rule 5

By virtue of their horrible record this season, the Twins held the No. 2 pick in yesterday's Rule 5 draft. With a pitching staff that is very much in flux, especially after the departure of Kevin Slowey, this represented an opportunity for the club to add another arm to throw against the wall in 2012 and hope for the best.

The Twins did just that, selecting right-hander Terry Doyle from the White Sox. On the surface, Doyle owns an impressive minor-league resume; over four seasons, he's posted a 2.94 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 381-to-97 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 422 2/3 innings. He also excelled in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League this year, going 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 0.66 WHIP over eight starts.

Those are great numbers, but they lose much of their luster when you consider his age. Doyle pitched well enough in Double-A this season, going 7-5 with a 3.24 ERA after being promoted in May, but it was his first time reaching that level and he was 25. He turned 26 in early November and still hasn't sniffed Triple-A.

Doyle's gaudy 8.1 K/9 rate in the minors is misleading, since it is heavily weighted by his dominant efforts in the lower levels. His strikeout rate has dropped precipitously as he's climbed the minor-league ladder thanks to an arsenal that could hardly be described as dominant.

Kevin Goldstein, a prospect guru for Baseball Prospectus, offered the following assessment to White Sox blogger JJ Stankevitz earlier this offseason:
Big, big dude. Classic frame, but not much stuff. Upper 80s fastball that scrapes 90-92 at times, better pitch is a mid-80s cutter with some bite. Average curveball and change. He succeeds by hitting his spots and working low in the zone, but there are plenty of questions, and understandably so, about his ability to miss the bats of more advanced hitters. Perfect world is probably middle relief.
Remind you of anyone? Because, to me, it sounds an awful lot like Nick Blackburn. The two share plenty of commonalities, ranging from their size (both are 6-foot-4 and around 230 lbs) to their middling stuff to their late arrival in the majors.

The best-case scenario is that Doyle develops into a Blackburn type -- a pitch-to-contact righty who peppers the edges of the strike zone with cutters and keeps the ball on the ground. One thing he's consistently done a great job of is limiting home runs, as he's allowed just 27 in 422 career innings.

Sure, it would have been nice for the Twins to take a flier on someone with higher upside, especially since they may very well have the luxury of allowing that player take his lumps in a lost season (a la Johan Santana in 2000), but there aren't many guys with big arms that are remotely close to the majors sitting outside of 40-man rosters.

Doyle has a chance to be useful next year as a long reliever and swing man, and as things currently stand he'd only be nudging a player like Anthony Swarzak or Scott Diamond off the 25-man roster.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

An Ugly Break-Up

On June 1, 2007, Kevin Slowey made his major-league debut for the Twins, pitching six innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Athletics. It looked to be the start of a long and fruitful career in Minnesota. As a polished, college-drafted pitcher who made up for his lack of pure stuff with precise control and a willingness to attack the strike zone, the right-hander fit right into the Twins' preferred mold.

Slowey shared many traits with Brad Radke, a local legend who had retired the previous offseason. Unfortunately, Slowey would prove to lack two qualities that endeared Radke to fans and coaches in Minnesota: durability and a willingness to put the organization before himself.

Ultimately, these two factors were likely the greatest contributors in the deterioration of a once promising relationship, which came to an end this week when the Twins traded Slowey to Colorado for a player to be named later.

Without question, 2011 was the most tumultuous season of Slowey's career. He quibbled with coaches over an assignment to the bullpen at the beginning of the year, dictated when he was willing to pitch, shuttled back and forth between the minors, spoke to reporters about a desire to be traded and then performed poorly when plugged into the big-league rotation out of absolute necessity.

In the end, Slowey logged only 59 1/3 innings for the Twins, finishing with an 0-8 record and 6.67 ERA. By the end of the season, his stock had bottomed out, making this yet another instance in which the Twins traded a talented player with his value at its absolute nadir.

Regardless of Slowey's attitude issues, that reflects poorly on the Twins. If he turned into a malcontent -- a label that has been attached to him by numerous reporters -- the club played its own part in pushing him to that point.

They left him off the postseason roster in 2010 after a 13-win season. They made a mockery of the "three-man competition" for the final two spots in the rotation this spring, forcing Slowey to prepare for the season as a starter despite the fact that it was clear they had him pegged for a bullpen job all along.

And while Slowey's attitude might have been unbearable, that doesn't really affect fans, who simply want to see a winning product. While removing an alleged clubhouse cancer might make life easier for teammates and reporters, it doesn't make the Twins a better team from a competitive standpoint.

Slowey is still only 27 years old, and for his major-league career he owns a stellar 4.70 K/BB ratio. That's better than the mark Radke retired with, and in fact it would rank among the best in the majors any given year.

Yes, Slowey's been extremely hittable at times, and homer-prone, and he's no one's idea of an ace-caliber pitcher. But the bottom line is that, if healthy, he's got the talent to be a very solid rotation staple in this league. And he'll be cheap next year. And the Twins are very, very short on depth in their starting rotation right now.

Perhaps the situation between the two sides had become untenable and a parting of ways was all but necessary. But it's a damn shame that it had to come to this point, and Slowey is not the only one deserving of blame, regardless of how he's been portrayed by certain irritated media members that have abandoned any semblance of objectivity in smearing his name on the way out (I'm looking at you, Jim Souhan).

I wish Slowey the best going forward. Smug prick or not, he's a gifted pitcher and could easily end up getting the last laugh in this sad, sad saga.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Capps Outrage is Excessive

When it was officially announced on Monday that the Twins had reached agreement with Matt Capps on a one-year, $4.5M deal, the reaction among fans was about as venomous as I've ever seen. My Twitter timeline lit up with angry, expletive-laden tirades. Even some of the most mild-mannered fans were directing profane vitriol toward Terry Ryan. You'd think the Twins hired Jerry Sandusky to be their ninth-inning man.

To be honest, I'm having a hard time understanding why some fans are soaked with such heavy disdain for Capps. He's a generally effective closer who had a bad run of outings during a lost season. The right-hander was certainly tough to watch at times over the summer, but in the grand scheme, he was a minor contributor to the club's woes.

In my mind, Capps has three things working against him with the Target Field Faithful, two of which are completely out of his control:

1) He's not Wilson Ramos.

Capps' career with the Twins began on a sour note, as he was acquired in a lopsided trade that was widely panned at the time and only looks worse in hindsight.  This past season, while Joe Mauer's future at catcher was being cast in doubt, fans were forced to watch Capps blow nine saves while the player he was traded for, Wilson Ramos, enjoyed a successful rookie campaign in Washington.

There's no doubt that the Twins would be in better shape right now had that trade never happened, but it did. At this point it should have no bearing on our assessment of Capps.

2) He's not Joe Nathan.

Ryan did such a phenomenal job in identifying and acquiring Nathan that it seems he actually set the bar way too high for himself. In six seasons with the Twins before suffering a torn elbow ligament, Nathan was never off. Even at his worst, he was still one of the league's most dominant and reliable relief arms. There's a reason why many regarded him as the best closer in the game outside of Mariano Rivera during that span.

Capps is certainly a far cry from that level of excellence, but this doesn't mean he's bad. Like the vast majority of relievers in the major leagues, he's susceptible to down years, and he had one in 2011. More often than not, though, he's been perfectly adequate as a late-inning bullpen weapon. At 28, he's still in the heart of his prime.

One other thing: In spite of all his struggles this year, Capps had the second-best qualified WHIP on the team behind Scott Baker, allowing fewer base runners on average than Glen Perkins.

3) He pitched through an injury this year.

In radio and print interviews, Twins' coaches and front-office personnel have clearly been going out of their way this offseason to convince people that Capps' struggles were largely the result of a right wrist injury he was pitching through.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, a close look at the numbers indicates that these claims are valid. At no point in Capps' career has he had nearly as much trouble striking people out; if he's healthy again in 2012 I suspect we'll see a return to normalcy in K-rate, which would almost surely result in improved numbers across the board.

I don't necessarily think Capps was doing the Twins any favors by pitching through his wrist tendinitis this year, but isn't it exactly the kind of thing most fans wanted to see more of? Sure, Capps was garbage when he took the mound for a period of time, but at least he was out there pitching.

On top of that, he took accountability for his failures, telling reporters "I'd boo me too" when the hometown fans turned against him.

To me, Capps' bum rap seems almost totally unwarranted. I don't love his new contract -- $4.5 million is on the very upper end of what I'd be willing to pay him and the club forfeited an extra draft pick by re-signing him -- but there's really no such thing as a bad one-year deal and locking him in at a reasonable enough rate shores up the back end of the bullpen while enabling Ryan to turn his attention elsewhere.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The One-Year Fallacy

I think we can all agree that 2011 was a disastrous year for the Minnesota Twins. Their win total decreased by a whopping 31 games from the season before, as nearly everything that could go wrong did.

But it was one season, and it's in the past now. It's time to look forward. That goes for the players that suffered through disappointing campaigns as well as the folks who continue to hold it against them.

Lately, I'm seeing too many fans and bloggers basing their entire perceptions of certain players on this one horrible season, and that just seems completely misguided when the game of baseball, by nature, is so volatile on a year-to-year basis.

From one season to the next, we've seen Francisco Liriano turn from erratic mess to elite frontline starter and then back again. We've seen Delmon Young go from imposing middle-of-the-lineup slugger to utter disappointment. We've seen Glen Perkins go from being unable to get hitters out in Triple-A to blossoming as one of the best late-inning relievers in the American League.

Fortunes turn quickly in this game. Careers are marked by peaks and valleys. And there are two players in particular that I see a lot of people giving up on after dramatic drop-offs in 2011: Matt Capps and Kevin Slowey.

Fans have widely lamented the notion that Capps could return in the closer role for the Twins next year. On this week's edition of the excellent Gleeman and the Geek podcast, John Bonnes went so far as to say that he'd hate a Capps signing regardless of the terms.

There are certainly reasons not to want Capps back, not the least of which being that he'd yield a high draft pick by signing elsewhere. But his merits as a late-inning reliever should not be completely condemned based solely on his struggles over the summer, when he was dealing with a forearm strain.

I'm no huge Capps fan and clearly the Twins have overpaid dearly for his services up to this point. But one ugly, injury-plagued campaign in a season that was filled with them should not cause people to ignore his lengthy track record as an effective reliever. For his career, he owns a 3.51 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, and when he was healthy in 2010 he was a perfectly adequate ninth-inning man. There's little reason to believe he can't return to that level of productivity in 2012 if healthy, and at the right price this would make him a fine closing option for a team that doesn't necessarily expect to contend.

As for Slowey, the Twins have given indications that they plan on either non-tendering or trading the embattled righty. For the most part, the fan base seems to be fully on board with this course of action. It's true that he caused plenty of headaches this year and didn't record a single win even in his eight starts.

It's also true that Slowey won 35 games the previous three seasons (more than any Twins pitcher other than Scott Baker) and is a 27-year-old with a career 4.7 K/BB ratio who will cost only $3 million or so in 2012. With their shoddy rotation depth and limited funds, can the Twins afford to give up on such a player after one tumultuous year?

Those who follow the Twins, and especially those who are involved with the organization, have their own personal conceptions about these players - the inevitable result of prolonged up-close exposure. But when trying to make decisions for the betterment of the team, sometimes it's best to remove ourselves and make an objective assessment of how players like Capps and Slowey are likely to perform next year and beyond.

Contrary to popular belief, their future performances are not necessarily dictated by what happened in 2011. If that were universally the case, the Twins would have an impossibly tall task in front of them as they try to return to contention.