With the Twins season coming to an end, the everyday posting on this blog will probably seize fairly soon, since during the offseason there's generally just not all that much to talk about and, hey, we have lives! With that said, this site will continue to be updated frequently throughout the winter months, analyzing roster moves and other baseball-related tomfoolery. We hope you'll check in regularly over the next four months even though the Twins will be resting up and preparing for the 2007 campaign.
With that little programming note out of the way, on to some news and notes.
* The hottest news item right now is obviously the Twins' decision to pick up Torii Hunter's $12 million option for 2007.
This move is by no means a surprise. It's certainly something that I've been advocating. Hunter had a productive season and towards the end of the year (despite his blunder in Game 2) he started to show increased mobility in center field. A Star Tribune article on the matter noted that the Twins still might try and negotiate a multi-year contract for Hunter beyond next season, but I truly hope that is not the case. Hunter is a player who has always depended greatly on his speed and athleticism, and considering that he'll be turning 32 next season and has a foot injury that looks like it will be a recurring issue, I think keeping him past the 2007 season would be a grave mistake. While $12 million is a lot of money (too much for a #6 hitter) and will be damaging towards what the Twins are able to accomplish this offseason, they will be totally off the hook after next season.
As it stands, locking Hunter up for next year gives the Twins the opportunity to trade him around mid-season (which Terry Ryan almost certainly won't do unless they are out of contention), and also prevents them from having to worry about their center field issue for the time being. Keeping Hunter will give the Twins another year to try and figure out what they have in Denard Span, a 22-year-old light-hitting speedster who is considered by some (though not me) to be the center fielder of the future.
* Apparently Terry Ryan did an interview on KFAN radio yesterday morning. I didn't have a chance to hear it, so I'm just going off hearsay, but my buddy listened and these are the impressions that he passed on to me:
1) Ryan feels that pitching is the top priority in the offseason because he doesn't know what will happen with Francisco Liriano and he doesn't know what to expect from the young guys (Garza, Bonser, Perkins) next season.
2) Ryan was satisfied with the offense this season because they scored over 800 runs, which was the benchmark the organization had set as a target for success.
3) Ryan is leaning towards picking up Carlos Silva's 2007 option.
I was not pleased to hear these things. Making the pitching staff a high priority makes some sense--if indeed Liriano is not ready to go for next year, they will be a hole or two to fill behind Santana, Bonser, Garza, and possibly Perkins. Spending a few million on a Jeff Suppan/Cory Lidle type for the middle of the rotation would not be a bad idea.
However, his assertion that the offense does not need work because they scored 800 runs is irritating. Granted, the Twins did fall right in the middle of the pack in terms of runs scored (they ranked 13th out of 30 MLB teams), and they have good enough pitching that's really all they need to succeed. However, the number of runs scored does not tell the whole story with this team. As it is currently constructed, the Twins lineup is extremely inconsistent and slump-prone, as illustrated by the fact that they were shutout 15 times this season, as well as by their abysmal performance in the playoffs.
Also, while it's reasonable to expect similar or perhaps even slightly improved production from young breakout players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Bartlett and Michael Cuddyer, there are numerous question marks at key positions. One can't simply expect Nick Punto and Jason Tyner to both hit around .300 again. Jason Kubel is a huge question mark after an awful 2006 campaign marred by knee issues. It's unclear whether or not Rondell White will be back next season, but if he is, there's no way of knowing what to expect from him. Luis Castillo is now 31 and if his knees get even worse next season, he'll lose a lot of his value. Simply put, the offense should be a more immediate priority than Ryan seemingly made it sound.
Finally, regarding the statement that Ryan is considering picking up Silva's '07 option, which would cost the Twins $4.325 million. This strikes me as a tremendously bad idea. If Silva wasn't the worst starting pitcher in all of baseball this season, he was at least among the bottom three. To pay him that kind of money would be nothing short of a rip-off, and while the Twins continue to claim that they can work on Silva's mechanics and get him back into 2005-form, I am not inclined to believe it anymore.
* As a final note, I wanted to comment on something I read in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. Tom Verducci is the top baseball writer for SI, and I respect him quite a bit and think he's a tremendously talented writer. With that said, I tend to think he latches onto the public opinion too frequently and as a result his articles occasionally seem kind of mindless and amateur.
A few weeks ago, he wrote a cover article that was very critical of Alex Rodriguez, essentially labeling his 2006 season in New York a failure and claiming he has to prove himself in pinstripes. This article only added to a media ravaging of Rodriguez, who took a ton of flack in New York this year for a few offensive slumps and some defensive struggles. Rodriguez has nothing to prove. He is playing a position that is not his natural position, one which he did not ask to play. And while it might have been a down year offensively by his standards, .290/.392/.523 with 35 home runs and 121 RBI is absolutely excellent production. Verducci's article attacking Rodriguez was a hack-job in my mind.
Anyway, that's not the main point of this rant. In the most recent issue of Sports Illustrated, Verducci names his All-Time All Star Team. The roster features the names you'd expect: Warren Spahn, Lou Gehrig, Lefty Grove, Dennis Eckersley, Yogi Berra, Jackie Robinson, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Joe DiMaggio, Mariano Rivera, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, Rogers Hornsby, Johnny Bench, A-Rod and Mike Schmidt.
One name is glaringly absent, of course, and that's Barry Bonds. Verducci addresses the issue in his article by stating that, "because of how his late-career production has been linked to the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs, he has numbers that are not to be believed."
Now, I'm no Bonds enthusiast, and in my heart I do believe that he's used PEDs. However, this has never been proven. Bonds tested positive for steroids the same number of times as Rodriguez or Rivera, or anyone else on the list for that matter, so the fact that Verducci uses it as a mark against him is absurd. I've heard rumors about old-time baseball players using horse steroids to bulk up, but of course since there was obviously no type of testing back then we'll never have any way of knowing. The point is that until Bonds is actually proven of cheating, he is no more guilty than anyone else on the list and as such he certainly belongs.