Thursday, January 05, 2006

Is this bad news?

Now, I know that bloggers around here have given Kelly Thesier, the new Twins beat reporter for MLB.com, a tough time. And that's fair, considering she's very young and inexperienced. So its tough to know if she can be trusted the same way Mark Sheldon was. I say this, because in a recent article about the Twins' offseason, she put out this disturbing possible lineup:

LFShannon Stewart
2BLuis Castillo
CJoe Mauer
3BTony Batista
DHRondell White
CFTorii Hunter
1BJustin Morneau
RFMichael Cuddyer
SSJason Bartlett


Now, I'm all in favor of moving Hunter down in the lineup, if only because he is much better suited for the sixth spot. However, for one, its important to split up the bats of our righties and lefties, something we couldn't do last year. And of course, what is Batista doing in the clean-up spot? Tell me that's a mistake....

Of the hitters on that list, White is the only candidate that makes sense. If only to keep things consistent, and get pitches for both Mauer and Morneau (and if we must have Batista in the lineup), it makes much more sense to have this lineup:

Stewart
Castillo
Mauer
White
Morneau
Hunter
Kubel (if he plays, another left-handed bat)/Cuddyer
Batista
Bartlett

That seems to be the most optimal lineup, though you could move Morneau since we can't really predict what will happen next year, though he should improve with Castillo, Mauer, and White ahead of him and hopefully a better Stewart in the one spot. Otherwise, expect Gardy to drop Stewart to the third spot, and put Castillo and Mauer on top. Either way, he should improve.

I say this now, because it appears that Gleeman was correct in his post on the Koskie trade. ESPN.com reports it dead as well, saying that Toronto did offer Koskie back for cheap but that the Twins did not want to move him for fear of having to trade Kyle Lohse and start the season with two rookies in the rotation. This feels problematic to me as well.

The issue is that going with two rookies, most like Scott Baker and Fransisco Liriano, should not be viewed as a poor baseball decision, especially for a small-market team. I don't want feign love for Billy Beane here, but look at what Oakland did last year to compete on a small budget. They traded away Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder and started the year with rookies Dan Haren and Joe Blanton in the rotation. Haren won 14 games and struck out 163, while Blanton won 12 with a 3.53 and competed for rookie of the year.

Now, I'm not suggesting Baker or Liriano will do this. But consider a standard season from Lohse (about 190 innings, a losing record, a 4.72 ERA, opponent batting averages of .305 and .299 the last two years) and the potential from these two starters. Baker has already shown himself to be a strong pitcher in the big leagues and Liriano is the top-rated pitching prospect in the game right now. Neither Blanton nor Haren could claim any of that before last year. Even if Lohse has an ERA close to last year's at 4.18, he'll be getting $4.5 to do it with a lot of complaining. And that's not something a small-market club should be doing or putting up with.

Baker and Liriano in the rotation is a better option, much the same way Koskie is over Batista or White is over Batista in the clean-up spot. (Though, that seems kind of obvious to me, unless you vastly overrate his RBI/HR stats) Even if one of them doesn't pan out (both of them burning out seems highly unlikely), its not like the Twins don't have options. They are knee deep in pitching. They have Boof Bonser, Willie Eyre, and J.D. Durbin waiting at Triple-A and many others working through the system.

Why Ryan refused this trade is confusing to me, because its a good move for a small-market club. A team like the Twins needs to sell tickets and get support. A guy like Koskie can do that, and not just because he's a big promoter of the Twin Cities, but because this team will be better with him. If we are serious about saving money, losing Lohse shouldn't be that bad. And I seriously hope that Batista isn't sitting in the 4th spot next year or I may have to skip town.

7 comments:

cmathewson said...

I said this in other places, but it's not that good a deal for the Twins as reported by the Toronto papers: The Blue Jays offered to take on $3 million of his salary... That leaves $8 million over two years plus at least a buyout of the option, which is $4 million more than Ryan can afford.

I'm not ready to pronounce it dead. Ricciardi is known to say one thing in the papers and do another. And he didn't say it was dead, he said he didn't see it happening.

I think he's stuck here because of the no-trade clause. The Twins might counter with the Jays picking up at least $7 million of Koskie's remaining contract. Ricciardi might not like that, but it might be his best offer among the teams to whom Koskie's contract would approve a trade. He's calling Ryan's bluff in hopes another approved team takes the offer he gave the Twins. That might be a tough proposition at this stage int he offseason, when most teams in the Midwest have spent their wads.

Nick N. said...

It seems like Ryan's hesitance to trade Lohse has less to do with a fear of starting two rookies and more to do with a fear of a lack of depth. I don't necessarily understand this. Matt Guerrier was excellent for most of the year in long relief, and he could easily step in for some time in a starting role if someone should get hurt.

Nick M. said...

Good point with Guerrier. I mentioned our plurality of minor-league prospects, but he can be just as good as Lohse if need be as well. We have plenty of depth. Losing Lohse will not hurt us that bad.

cmathewson said...

Well, Ryan said he didn't want two rookies in the rotation in Christensen's article. Even if you say Guerrier is ahead of Liriano (which he's not) It is risky having two guys who have never started a full year in the majors, which would be the case with Lohse gone, even with Guerrier and Baker (who is not technically a rookie either). Guerrier is good, but he still has zero major league wins.

Ryan is particular about veteran starters, which is why he signed Kenny Rogers even though he had Johan Santana ready to step in for Milton. I take him on his word here. But it's not out of the question to trade Lohse at the deadline. And JP might still cave on Koskie and fit the deal within Ryan's parameters before the deadline. I don't think it hurts to be patient here. There's still more than two months 'till the season starts.

Nick N. said...

I realize what Ryan said in the STrib article, but I'm sure you know as well as I do cmath that you can't take everything our savvy GM says at face value. People have made the speculation that he and Ricciardi are using the press to negotiate this deal, and I think there might be some truth to that. In essentially every deal he makes, Ryan likes to be the one dealing from the position of strength. If he makes Ricciardi think we need Lohse more than we really do, it might affect the type of offers JP is willing to make.

As for the notion of two youngsters starting the year in the rotation being a weakness, I realize that Ryan's history indicates that these are his true feelings, but I hope they aren't. I think the comparison Nick M. made in the post to Oakland's situation coming into last season with Harden and Blanton is a very good one. And it's not like Ryan is completely opposed to giving full-time jobs to guys with little or no experience. Let's not forget that last year Jason Bartlett entered the season as the starting shortstop, and two years ago Carlos Silva and Joe Nathan were both handed full-time gigs in positions they had never really filled at the Major League level.

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