Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sierra Signed, Other Invitees Named

ESPN.com and the Twins are reporting that they have signed DH Ruben Sierra to a minor league deal. The deal is confusing for many reasons. This seems to fall under the philosophy of the Darrell May deal, which is, "Well, the guy hit us pretty hard in the past, he must be good." That, or they love the playoff experienced, gritty old veteran, a la Jose Offerman. If you recall, Sierra knocked the Twins out of the 2004 playoffs when he hit a three-run homer off of Juan Rincon.

Of course, the homer was more of a testament to Rincon utilizing his slider way too much and his fastball not enough than to say anything about Sierra's talent. Sierra also is a DH who really can't play the field. As I recall, he was an outfielder at some point, but nothing noteworthy. Since White is already the DH as long as he remains uninjured, (which means as long as he isn't playing in the field), there really isn't room for Sierra as a starter.

The probable result is that he'll make the team as a lefty off the bench. He's potentially an improvement offensively over fellow switch-hitters Nick Punto or Glenn Williams; however, he isn't exactly a great right-handed bat who can kill lefties off the bench. From 2003-05, with the Yankees, he was significantly better as a left-handed hitter. He had more homers (20 to 10), a higher average (.261 to .235), and a higher OPS (.748 to .688). Basically, Sierra would not really solve our problem in needing a lefty-masher off the bench, but he would give us a much more powerful left-handed bat to choose from.

As my fellow blogger suggests, we could drop Juan Castro to get Sierra on the roster, but that's unlikely to happen. I would support that move, because I'm not that big of a Castro fan anyways. In all honestly, Punto and Williams can serve as adequate backups while offering more "offense." So, it appears unlikely that we will actually see Sierra on our team this year, which is unfortunate if they guy taking his roster space is Darrell May (like Corky over Restovich last year).

Finally, the report also shows that Pete Munro is back with a minor league deal, along with right-hander Ryan Glynn and outfielder Tim Raines Jr.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Glance at the '06 Schedule

This year's first game is shaping up to be a doozy. At this point, it appears that the Twins' April 4 season opener will pit ace Johan Santana against Toronto's Roy Halladay. This will be a phenomenal pitching matchup, as in my mind these two will be the top contenders for the American League Cy Young award this season.

Last year, I complained about the lack of variety early in the Twins' schedule. After opening the season in Seattle, they played 19 straight games against division opponents. This year, you will hear no such complaints, as half of the Twins' 24 April games will come against teams outside of the AL Central. After their home-opening series against the Athletics on April 11-13, the Twins will have their first home weekend series against the Yankees. They also have three games apiece against the Blue Jays and Angels in the season's opening month.

The Twins open interleague play in Milwaukee with a three-game series against the Brewers starting May 19. This might be cause for a road trip to see the boys play in Miller Park (I've done this before, it's a lot of fun). The Brewers come here at the end of June. Other interleague opponents this year include the Pirates and Astros on the road and the Dodgers here. Also, in June, Jacque Jones will return to the Dome as the Cubs visit for a three-game series.

In mid-September, the Twins travel to Cleveland for a 4-game series, and they finish off the season with a three-game home series against the White Sox. Depending on how the season shakes out, these may or may not be crucially important.

The Twins are instituting a new program this year called "Premium Games." Tickets for the series against the Yankees (April 14-16), Red Sox (June 13-15), and Cubs (June 23-25) will cost an extra three dollars apiece. Clearly, this is simply a case in which the team is trying to make a little extra cash on the games which will likely be their most well-attended of the year. I suppose I can hardly blame them for that, as they have consistently offered some of the cheapest tickets in baseball even while fielding a competitive team each of the past five years.

For a full look at the Twins' 2006 schedule, check out the one on the club's official site.

Sunday, January 29, 2006


My associate and I made the trip out of the Dome yesterday for TwinsFest, an annual celebration that where players, coaches, and fans congregate to chat baseball and start getting ready for the upcoming season. It was a fun time. We walked around, saw some cool memorabilia, and listened in on some WCCO interviews. We also took a clubhouse tour, which was interesting, as I had never taken it before.

We chatted for a while with La Velle E. Neal III, Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune. He is an interesting guy. He talked a little bit about his career path to the Star Trib, and then talked a little bit about growing up as a White Sox fan and how he felt about their title run last year and recent off-season moves. Clearly, his loyalties have changed, but I think the kid inside him was a little excited to see the Sox make their run last year.

We also met Terry Ryan and talked with him briefly. Not surprisingly, he has a very firm handshake, and he seemed like a good guy. He asked which player's name and number I had on the back of my jersey, at which point I informed him it was blank. He seemed let down by this, but then I told him that I had previously owned a Guzman jersey and that didn't work out too well for me, so I think he kind of understood.

All in all, it was a fun time. It was nice to get out to the Dome and start to get in the mood for some baseball.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Cuddy on the Bench

Changes are taking place this season. Tony Batista has been signed to play third base, Luis Castillo will man second base, and a reportedly fully-recovered Jason Kubel will take over right field duties (or, if he is not ready by the season-opener, probably Lew Ford). This indicates that Michael Cuddyer, who was the team's regular starter at third base last year, will be reduced to a bench role in 2006. After a pretty poor '05 campaign in which he embodied the team's offensive pitfalls (lack of power, poor hitting with runners aboard, grounding into double-plays), this demotion has to be seen as deserved.

The Twins were very high on Cuddyer a couple years ago. After posting a stunning .309/.379/.594 line in 83 games at Triple-A Edmonton in 2002, it was clear that Cuddy was tearing up the minor leagues and it looked like he was ready to be an impact hitter at the Major League level. At the outset of the 2003 season, the Twins had a vacancy in right field. The candidates to fill this job were Cuddyer, Dustan Mohr, and Bobby Kielty. Cuddy was handed the starting job, but couldn't hang on to it, and the Twins made a move to acquire Shannon Stewart mid-way through the season to fill the clear hole in the outfield beside Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones.

In 2005, Cuddyer was again handed a starting job; the third-base spot vacated by a departed Corey Koskie. Cuddyer had a great deal of experience at third-base from his minor league career, and in spring training he was the team's best hitter. There was reason to believe he would fill in admirably for the well-liked Koskie. Unfortunately, he did not play well enough to hold on to this job either, and Terry Ryan made it one of his top off-season priorities to upgrade at third base.

Recently, the Twins signed Cuddyer to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, and it appears his role this year will be fourth/fifth outfielder and backup first/third-baseman. There are a lot of reasons to think he will not be successful in this role:

1) Cuddyer has shown throughout his career that he is not particularly good defensively at any of the positions he can play. He is a complete hack-job at third base, an average outfielder at best, and inexperienced at first. He is a clear downgrade from any of the guys who will be starting over him at each position he plays.

2) Cuddyer might be one of the worst players I have ever seen under pressure. He can hit just fine when it doesn't really matter; his best month last year by far came in September when the Twins were effectively out of the division race and he was frequently facing minor-league call-ups. He hit a respectable .276/.341/.472 with 10 home runs last year with nobody on base, but with runners in scoring position he crumbled, hitting .204/.306/.269 with no home runs. Since, being a bench player, Cuddyer would often be used as a pinch-hitter, this does not bode well for him, as pinch-hitters are frequently used in late-game, high-pressure situations.

3) Cuddyer takes a while to get going. Last year, he hit an incredibly bad .205/.275/.288 in April before pulling himself together and putting up decent numbers for the rest of the year. The same trend can be seen throughout his career. In 2004, he had a .238/.273/.357 line in April, and in '03 it was .190/.266/.362. When you're only getting sporadic at-bats as a bench player, needing a month's worth of regular at-bats to get going doesn't really work too well.

Some will no doubt consider this unfair, but I have pretty much given up hope that Cuddyer can develop into a serviceable Major League regular. He strikes me as a guy who can feast on bad pitching (minor leagues, spring training, September call-ups), but when he has to face solid Major League hurlers, he is completely clueless at the plate. Very frequently, he has absolutely terrible at-bats, falling behind 0-2 or hacking a grounder on one of the first couple pitches. He grounds into double-plays at a higher frequency than any other guy on the team. He has never brandished the power that made him such an enticing prospect as a minor leaguer.

If Cuddyer can overcome these gaping problems in his game, he could be a relatively valuable bench-player. Without him, the bench would be comprised of Nick Punto, Juan Castro, Lew Ford, and Mike Redmond, leaving no power off the pine and also no one to backup third or first. One option would be to carry Glenn Williams, who looked great in his 14 game Major League debut last year before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He too has questions however, as he is already 30 years old and had been a mediocre minor league player up until 2004.

I hope Cuddyer can prove me wrong and produce as a backup for the Twins this year, but I don't think it's very likely. There are a lot of trends in Cuddyer's career that point to a probable lack of success in the role he will be in. If that is the case, it could mean big problems for the Twins' bench this year.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Weekend Notes

The dearth of Twins-related news lately has prevented this blog from being very active, but that will hopefully change in the next couple of months. In February and March, we will begin to break down the Twins as well as their competition and look at the transpirings of spring training. For now, a few notes:

*The Twins avoided arbitration with Michael Cuddyer by signing him to a one-year deal worth $1.3 million dollars. Those who frequent this blog are probably well-aware that I am not a big fan of Cuddyer, and I hope the Twins use him strictly as a backup this year. In that role, he has some value; he can fill in at third base, first base, and both of the corner outfield positions.

*While they were able to get a deal done with Cuddyer, it appears the Twins will be heading to the arbitrator for a second consecutive year with Kyle Lohse. Lohse filed at $3.95 million and the Twins have offered $3.5 million.

*The Tampa Bay Devil Rays signed former Twin Luis Rivas to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. To an un-knowing team, Rivas might seem like an attractive option: a speedy middle infielder with a lot of Major League experience who is only 26 years-old. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the Rays' new manager Joe Maddon is very high on the signing. In the article, Maddon envisions Rivas a "super-utility guy" and compares him to the Angels' Chone Figgins. Those poor Tampa Bay fans, as if they don't have enough to be disappointed about already...

*On a note not relating to the Twins, the Orioles swapped reliever Jorge Julio and a prospect with the Mets for Kris Benson. This seems like kind of an odd move for the Orioles. While they need starting pitching, dealing Julio leaves them with no heir apparent to the closer role vacated by BJ Ryan. They have a few other guys who could conceivably step in and collect saves, but it looks like it is going to be an experiment. Things are not shaping up well for the Orioles this off-season; it's hard to imagine them finishing any better than fourth place in the AL East.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Central Predictions

A few random predictions as to how things will go down in the AL Central this season. Some of these are based on statistical analysis and off-season moves, others are based simply on gut feelings. In my opinion, this division is going to be a lot better this year, which is potentially bad news for the Twins. Feel free to comment with disagreements or additions to the list.

The White Sox will finish in third place.
... But will still have a pretty good record. I just think the Indians and Twins are going to be much improved, because both under-performed so much last year. The Indians might have lost some pitching, but their offense should be monstrous presuming Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner don't slump horribly over the first half of the season again. The Twins offensive additions along with the best pitching staff in the league should be enough to lock down at least second place. I can't imagine the White Sox' players will all repeat their performances of last season, and Jim Thome is a big question mark.

The Tigers will be respectable.
They might even contend. If Carlos Guillen and Mags OrdoƱez stay healthy, they have a pretty good offense. Jeremy Bonderman provides them with a legitimate ace, and the addition of Kenny Rogers provides a solid veteran presence on a very young staff.

Javier Vazquez will struggle in Chicago.
The White Sox will live to regret the trade that brought Vazquez to the Windy City. Vazquez has had one stint in the AL, a season he spent with the Yankees, and it wasn't pretty. He is a fly-ball pitcher who allows a lot of home runs and he'll be pitching in a hitter's park in a division that features some pretty good power hitters. Could spell trouble.

Danny Graves will not last two months in the Indians' bullpen.
Graves had become unspeakably bad by the end of his stay in Cincinatti, posting a 7.36 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 8:12 as the team's closer before being cut last year. He claims that Cleveland will be a fresh start for him, but at 32 and after piecing together mostly bad career numbers (he's had one season that I would consider good, and that was 2000; in 2004 he had 41 saves but still posted a 3.95 ERA, very high for a closer), it's hard to see much changing. I think the Indians, who have a very good bullpen, will quickly tire of him.

The Royals' pitching staff will have the worst ERA in the American League.
Their "ace" is a 22 year-old whose ERA last year was nearly 6. Their off-season additions include Scott Elarton, Elmer Dessens, and Joe Mays. Things just seem hopeless for the poor Royals.

Paul Byrd will lead the Indians in wins.
He's not that great of a pitcher, but he always seems to do well when he has a good offense behind him. I think he'll surprise some people this year, although his ERA will still be in the high 3's.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Another Year of Waiting

As expected, Bert Blyleven once again missed the Hall of Fame in this year's balloting, with the lone new entry being former relief pitcher Bruce Sutter. While Bert was a lot closer to the necessary 75% vote that is needed to gain entry than he has been in the past, he is still pretty far off at 53.3%. This is disheartening, because despite Blyleven's great accomplishments it seems he will always be viewed as a borderline player whose stats were good but just not quite good enough. This seems fairly absurd to me because he is fifth all-time in strikeouts, has 287 career wins, and has more shutouts than Clemens and Pedro (HoF locks) combined. It really frustrates me that he didn't get in this year, especially with Jayson Stark, Jim Caple, and Bob Klapisch, among others, all writing well-publicized articles stating why they have changed their mind on Blyleven and voted for him after not voting for him in the past. I also heard Peter Gammons making the same claim on ESPN Radio this morning. With this many highly respectable baseball minds giving him endorsement, it is rather amazing to me that Bert was not able to gain entry and that some people are still so blind to his phenomenal career. No, Bert was not always the most consistent winner in his career, but that is only one aspect of his game. Was Ozzie Smith ever one of the league's best hitters? Was Cal Ripken ever one of the league's best sluggers? Blyleven was one of the most dominant pitchers in league history, he helped two teams capture World Series championships, and he is generally just a very nice and likable guy (which I think should be worth somthing).

There probably won't be much hope for Bert next year, as Ripken, Tony Gwynn and Mark McGwire will likely be making the biggest splash as first-timers. Fortunately, as Ken Rosenthal notes, the window for Bert will open again in 2008 and '09 as the first-time classes in both of those years will be fairly weak.

Meanwhile, Rob Neyer makes a pretty compelling argument as to why relievers should rightfully have a tougher time gaining entry to the Hall than starters or everyday players.


Couple other things to note:

*The Twins signed left-hander Darrell May, who pitched for the Royals for three seasons and spent most of last year with the Padres, to a minor league deal. May, 33, has not had a very prolific career, and he doesn't have the dominant stuff that would indicate that he is a very good candidate for the left-handed relief spot. He has also never been a full-time reliever in his career. May's best season was in 2003, when he posted a 3.77 ERA for the Royals, but outside of that he has never had an ERA under 5 in a season. Still, Terry Ryan apparently thinks May will end up in the Twins bullpen.

"Ultimately, we're going to put him in the bullpen," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "I know he had a tough year last year, but he's always had some success against us."

Yeah, so has Steve Sparks but I don't think we need to go out and sign him to our 'pen.

*Having acquired Corey Koskie from the Blue Jays, the Brewers designated third baseman Russell Branyan for assignment. Branyan is nothing too special, but might be worth a look for the Twins as a contingency plan should Tony Batista fail to produce. He has only a .232 career average, but he's got decent power and also has experience at first base and in the outfield.

*The Twins are now trying to void their lease on the Metrodome. I agree with Stick and Ball Guy's take on this one. I'd love to see the Twins get a new stadium, but they need to stop whining and continue to develop new ideas for how to get it done.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Monday Notes

*A few days ago in the Star Tribune, Joe Christensen discussed the battle for the Twins' left-handed relief spot that will take place during spring training. The Twins seem to want an experienced vet filling this role, so you can probably do away with the possibility that Francisco Liriano or any other farmhand will get a stab at the job. The two main contenders appear to be Gabe White and Dennys Reyes, both mediocre vets recently signed to minor league contracts. I'd put my money on White to win the job. Whoever it is, they will not be successful if Ron Gardenhire tries to use them in the same way as he did JC Romero. Romero could not really be considered a lefty specialist because Gardy would often leave him in to face several batters, including right-handers, rather than just having him get the tough southpaw out and then handing the ball to one of the stronger right-handed relievers. If Reyes or White are used strictly as a LOOGY (Left-handed One Out GuY) who will be used in late game situations to take care of guys like Travis Hafner and Jim Thome, they could be very helpful.

*The Twins will be bringing 15 non-roster invitees to spring training. The two that interest me are Glen Perkins and Denard Span. Both of these guys will likely start the year in Double-A, but both are on the fast track and I don't think it will be too long before we see either of them playing in the Metrodome.

*Is anyone even remotely surprised that neither Manny Ramirez nor Miguel Tejada are going anywhere? I personally never thought either of these guys were going to be dealt one bit, but I was pretty surprised at how many totally implausible trade scenarios the media was able to concoct.

*Among the big leaguers participating in the upcoming World Baseball Classic with Twins ties: C Joe Mauer, RP Eddie Guardado, RP Todd Jones, for the USA team; RP Jesse Crain, 1B Justin Morneau, 3B Glenn Williams, and 3B Corey Koskie for the Canada team; 1B David Ortiz for the Dominican Republic; RP Tony Fiore for Italy; SS Juan Castro and RP Dennys Reyes for Mexico; and SP Johan Santana, SP Carlos Silva, and C Henry Blanco for Venezuela.

The favorite in this tournament has got to be the Dominican Republic, who will send hurlers Pedro Martinez and Bartolo Colon and have a formidable lineup featuring names like Ramirez, Ortiz, Tejada, Pujols, and Guerrero. Yikes.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Koskie to Brewers

Well, this is extremely disappointing. Corey Koskie was sent to the Brewers for next to nothing, in the form of minor league reliever Brian Wolfe. Not to mention picking up $7 million of Koskie's remaining contract and the discovery that his 2008 option only comes with 1200 PA in 2006 and 2007 combined (highly unlikely). This is a deal that Terry Ryan should have jumped at. Thats essentially covering all but $2 million a year.

If that meant dropping Tony Batista's $1.25 million in salary, big deal. What are we left with? A hole at third base again to start the season. We needed Koskie in order to complete a favorable off-season, but now, I rate the offseason as being unsuccessful in many ways.

Many will say that Pohlad's raising of the budget by over $10 million is a huge success. Indeed it is, as are the acquisitions of Rondell White and Luis Castillo. However, the Twins set out this offseason to improve three positions: 2B, 3B, and DH. They did very well on two of those, but Batista doesn't cut it. He's fine as a role player off the bench maybe, but he isn't much of an improvement over Michael Cuddyer at third base and he isn't going to get much better at age 33.

In Koskie, the Twins would have gotten a good team leader and a guy who would at least have an OPS over .800, which can't be said for Batista or Cuddyer. Not to mention the solid defense. If we had to turn around and trade Lohse for some good, young talent, so what? What is the loss in that? We need more infield and outfield depth anyways, as the Twins do not have a plurality of great minor league hitters waiting to hit the bigs right now.

All in all, its very disappointing to see the failure. It's an indiciation that indeed, we may have to put up with Batista at third base after all. That's really too bad. With all the moves of the White Sox and the Indians' young core, it was already going to be tough for the Twins to win the Central. Now, it will be harder because of what Koskie could have meant for a measly second-rate minor leaguer and $2 million a year or so, which is far less then we offered a year ago. Very disappointing.

Friday, January 06, 2006

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Last March, a couple weeks before the opening of the 2005 season, my associate and I made our preseason predictions for the upcoming season. We selected our anticipated winners for each division as well as the major award winners for the AL and NL. Now, a look back to see how right or wrong (usually wrong) we were...

NL Cy Young
Nick M. picked:
Roy Oswalt
Nick N. picked: Ben Sheets
Actual winner: Chris Carpenter

Oswalt was terrific but not even the best starter on his staff. Sheets pitched pretty well but couldn't stay healthy all year. No points for either of us here.

AL Cy Young
Nick M. picked:
Johan Santana
Nick N. picked: Randy Johnson
Actual winner: Bartolo Colon (shudder)

Well, Mosvick should have been right here, but, alas, the Baseball Writers of America showed their true idiocy in handing this one to Colon. Johnson was plain and simply a disappointment. Again, no points for either of us.

Nick M. picked:
Albert Pujols
Nick N. picked: Albert Pujols
Actual winner: Albert Pujols

Despite a ridiculous early-season run by Chicago's Derrek Lee, Pujols held it together all year long, posting a .330/.430/.609 line with 41 home runs and 117 RBI to finally capture his first much-deserved MVP award. 1 point each.

Nick M. picked:
Vladimir Guerrero
Nick N. picked: Vladimir Guerrero
Actual winner: Alex Rodriguez

Vladie could have done it if he'd stayed healthy all season. He hit .317 with 32 dingers and 108 RBI. One thing that really impresses me about Guerrero is that, despite his free swinging tendencies, he has become a guy who will walk more than he strikes out. A-Rod's numbers were spectacular, and he was very deserving. Nelson 1, Mosvick 1.

NL Central
Nick M. picked:
St. Louis
Nick N. picked: St. Louis
Actual winner: St. Louis

This one was never really in doubt. 2-2.

NL West
Nick M. picked:
San Francisco
Nick N. picked: Los Angeles Dodgers
Actual winner: San Diego Padres

Well, one team had to win. It was basically just a mediocrity crap-shoot.

NL East
Nick M. picked:
Nick N. picked: Florida
Actual winner: Atlanta

After some tremendous off-season pickups, Florida looked poised to take the National League by storm and easily capture an East Division title over several flawed clubs. This turned out to be the strongest division in baseball. Kudos to the Braves for somehow continuing their run of dominance. I can tell you one thing with a fair amount of confidence... neither of us will be picking Florida this year.

NL Wild Card
Nick M. picked:
Chicago Cubs
Nick N. picked: Atlanta
Actual winner: Houston

Well, at least I knew that Braves would be in the playoffs. I just didn't expect them to win the division. The Cubbies, on the other hand, were a mess.

AL West
Nick M. picked:
Los Angeles Angels
Nick N. picked: Los Angeles Angels
Actual winner: Los Angeles Angels

Another point each. This was a pretty easy pick. 3-3.

AL Central
Nick M. picked:
Nick N. picked: Minnesota
Actual winner: Chicago White Sox

... Now let us never speak of this again.

AL East
Nick M. picked:
Nick N. picked: Boston
Actual winner: New York

They had identical records, but the Yankees technically took the division. No fair.

AL Wild Card
Nick M. picked:
New York
Nick N. picked: New York
Actual winner: Boston

We should get some points for having them both in, just in the wrong spots, shouldn't we? No? Okay.

Well, there you have it, a measly three points each. Hopefully we will have more success this year when we make our March preseason predictions

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:

Kubel (if he plays, another left-handed bat)/Cuddyer

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.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Trade for Koskie Heating Up

The Star Tribune ran a report today by Joe Christensen that suggests a trade for Koskie is more likely then we may have thought. Apparently, the Blue Jays are offering Koskie back to the Twins for essentially a bag of baseballs. Well, not exactly. The Jays have floated the idea of taking on $3 million of Koskie's remaining two-year, $11.5 million contract (essentially, what we offered Koskie in 2004, two years and $8.5 million) or even more. In return, they want a mid-level prospect, no one like Scott Baker, but a reasonable prospect with some potential. (Like Alexi Casilla, whom we got in the J.C. Romero trade)

Garrett Jones, Kevin West, J.D. Durbin, or Errol Simontisch all seem like reasonable prospects to give up for Koskie. Many have already suggested that Koskie and Batista can make a decent platoon. The issue there is, of course, that Gardy isn't very talented at using platoons and Batista doesn't exactly hit lefties much better than righties. But he'll give a guarantee if Koskie gets hurt and provide a decent back-up and bench player.

Trading for Koskie would, in a way, help to make sense of the Batista signing. $1.25 million is a lot for a bench player and it was too much to keep LeCroy around, when he hits lefties so solidly. But if Koskie's healthy, he has a strong bat and glove to alleviate the issues we have at the hot corner. That would make for a more solid line-up, even with one more lefty:


That looks a lot stronger to me, as we may be able to string together some more run production. As Gleeman put it on his board recently, its not that the Twins need a great lineup, they just need some improvements to support the tremendous pitching staff they have.

A trade for Koskie might not work out, but it's reasonable enough with what seems to be in the workings. Yes, they may need to drop Batista's salary to clear up room, but no one is going to cry about that. And if they drag out the negotiations a little longer, they may get lucky and the Jays may pick up more of his salary. It would be a good fit for the Twins, as Koskie's clubhouse presence was important to the team before, it would be good again. And Morneau even admitted last year that he missed the big Canadian. Who knows? His presence might even turn Justin around.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Return of Koskie?

With the Blue Jays' glut of corner infielders, there has been much speculation about the possibility of a trade that would bring former Twins' third-baseman Corey Koskie back to Minnesota. After trading for first-baseman Lyle Overbay and third-baseman Troy Glaus this off-season, the Jays now have a collection of first and third-baseman that includes those two as well as Koskie, Shea Hillenbrand, and Eric Hinske. Toronto GM JP Ricciardi has stated that Overbay and Glaus will start at first and third, while Hinske will be moved to the outfield and Hillenbrand will probably DH. This leaves Koskie, who missed 85 games last year for the Jays due to injury, as the odd man out. The Twins have signed Tony Batista to play third, but his contract is non-guaranteed and he could be released at minimal cost if the Twins were able to acquire Koskie, who would be a clear upgrade.

I like the notion of a return to Minnesota for Koskie. He is a good guy, and a pretty good player. I don't really buy into the argument that he is a risky investment because he is "injury-prone"... he broke his hand sliding into second-base last year, that is a freak incident. To my knowledge he does not have any serious lingering injuries. He also has a .369 career OBP, which dwarfs Batista's .298, and he provides better defense as well as some solid pop with the bat.

Unfortunately, there are several obstacles standing in the way of a Koskie return to the state in which he spent his first seven big-league seasons.

The money is the biggest problem. The Twins cannot afford to pay his salary, especially if they can't dump Lohse in the deal. Yes, it would be lovely if Toronto would be willing to pick up most of Corey's salary, but I have a feeling there are other teams out there in need of help at third base that would be willing to pick up most of it (Cleveland, for instance?).

It'd be great if we could send Lohse to the Jays for Koskie, but I don't see why Toronto would want him. He's not better than any of the five guys currently slated to be in their rotation, and Ricciardi probably recognizes that he is going to be overpayed next year at $4.5 million (although with the contracts that he gave AJ Burnett and BJ Ryan, he would likely see Lohse's contract as a bargain). Short of that, who would we send to the Jays? I'm open to suggestions.

If Ryan can find a way around these issues - and I would be very pleasantly impressed if he can - I would welcome Koskie back. By no means is he a superstar, but there is no arguing the fact that he is a dramatic upgrade over any of the third base options we currently hold.