Thursday, March 30, 2006

Tough Competition Ahead

I want to make a few notes in this post, as a few things have happened around the Twins recently. However, first things first. Joe Christenson's article in yesterday's Star Tribune points out that the Twins' early schedule is very rough. Their first six opponents? The Blue Jays, the Indians, the Athletics, the Yankees, the Angels, and the White Sox. Those are basically all contending teams, with either great pitching staffs (Angels, White Sox, A's) or offenses (Indians, Yankees, Blue Jays) that will pose major challenges for the Twins.

What's the point? If Twins lose a lot of these games, they'll dig themselves in an early hole that they may not have any chance of getting out of. That means the best players need to be on the team and on the field. Granted, recent news makes it look like they might be getting serious. However, it still looks like they want to get rid of Jason Bartlett.

Aaron Gleeman is astutely points out one thing: We are not going to win those key games with a shortstop with a career .271 OBP and an out-of-shape third baseman with a .298 OBP. Sure, Castro is a fine defensive player and Batista may give us a few home runs in April, but that is not going to win those games. Batista could be a butcher with the glove. Castro simply is a no-hit guy and his competition with Bartlett hurt, Nick Punto, is another story all together. Neither should ever be a starter on a major league team. Castro is overpaid the way it is and Punto is best sitting on the bench as a reserve infielder.

The biggest news relating to this is that Terry Ryan has mentioned the possibility of a trade coming up. Now, we obviously don't know whose names are in the works, but Scott Baker and Bartlett seem the biggest possibilities to get traded. The team's inexplicable dislike for Bartlett is as confusing as anything they've done recently, since he seems like their best option. It would be fine if they traded for a guy like Julio Lugo, who plays good defense, hits for average, and steals bases, but that is essentially Bartlett's ceiling anyways. If they are going to make a trade, it seems like it should be for a third baseman while leaving Bartlett where he deserves to be.

Most of this is confusing, because the other two recent developments are quite positive. For one, it appears that Jason Kubel will be the starting right fielder with Michael Cuddyer likely opening the season on the DL. That's good news simply because Kubel is by far the best option. Ford is a great outfielder, and Cuddyer is probably more suited for a backup utility role. Secondly, the Twins cut Dennys Reyes and sent him to minor-league camp, essentially setting their pitching staff for the beginning of the season. That leaves the Twins with Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Carlos Silva, Kyle Lohse, Baker, Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Willie Eyre, and Francisco Liriano going north.

Glad to see Liriano is at least staying on the big league club, although lets hope Gardy uses him as a long reliever instead of a LOOGY. But the best news is that May or Reyes weren't keep on, which most of us feared, and Eyre, who has great minor league numbers as a reliever, is a much better choice, even if he doesn't have a fantastic year. Needless to say, that news provides lots of reason to be excited for next week, even with the confusing situation regarding shortstop and Bartlett.

6 comments:

Kris Richardson said...

One positive is that Oakland and Cleveland are notorious for getting off to bad starts, so maybe we'll catch them while they're weak.

Nick M. said...

Well, Oakland I'd say yes normally, but maybe not Cleveland. I don't know if we can really expect to catch their offense struggling with their strong core. Their pitching will be their weakness, especially their bullpen. As for Oakland, they may start slow again, but they are a stronger team this year then they have been in the past.

p2 said...

Also, I believe the Yankees have not jumped out of the gate right off the bat and the Twins will miss Toronto's Burnett to start things. A .500 April is going to be fine. I really don't see Chicago coming out the gate like last year.

Nick M. said...

Yea, its true Chicago probably won't get off to such a hot start, but the point is we'll have good competition to start the season so when need to take things seriously and put our best players on the field to compete.

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