Thursday, February 01, 2007

Around the Horn

With nothing in particular to write about today, I'll just dump a few Twins-related links on you.

* An environmental impact study reports that there will be a lot of downtown traffic congestion after games once the new ballpark opens in three years. Shocking, isn't it? The report also states that, contrary to popular complaint, game-goers at the new stadium will not be affected by the odor of the nearby garbage incinerator.

* Johan Santana says he won't let ongoing contract negotations with the team distract him from doing his job. I recently expressed my doubts about the Twins' ability to keep Santana beyond the 2008 season, noting it would probably be in the team's best interest to deal him next year and get something in return rather than lose him to free agency. Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, makes it sound like Santana won't be around past the end of his contract unless Terry Ryan and the Twins can work out an extension this year:
"If the team really wants to retain him they're probably going to have to do something soon," said Greenberg, who added that it would be unlikely for his client to seek an extension in the final year of his deal with free agency approaching.
* Ruben Sierra lives! The 41-year-old outfielder, who hit .179/.273/.219 in 28 at-bats for the Twins last year, signed a minor-league contract with the Mets yesterday.

* If you didn't get a chance to read it yesterday, make sure to go check out Seth Stohs' Q&A piece with Mike Radcliff, the Twins' scouting director. Radcliff is very frank in some of his prospect assessments, which was refreshing since I'm so used to the Twins organization's general "mum's the word" attitude on just about everything.

* One of my favorite Twins bloggers is Mr. Baseball No. 1, who runs the Twins Without Spin blog. After taking a few months off, Mr. B has his site back up and running, and it even has a slick new look. Make sure to add it to your daily reading list.

5 comments:

Lee Henschel said...

Signings pinings...

Joe Mauer... Justin Morneau... Michael Cuddyer... Johan Santana... Joe Nathan... and even Torii Hunter. They all have several things in common – they're great players. They will be potentially EXPEN$IVE to sign to long-term contracts... They all (supposedly) want to stay in Minnesota... They have all played with a lot of heart here.

The big question is, can Minnesota afford to keep them all? Probably not. But who can we afford to lose? An MVP? A batting champ? A Cy Young winner? One of the best center fielders (and former Gold Glove winner) in the game? One of the best closers in the game? Or how about one of the most productive No. 4 hitters in a Twins uniforms since the likes of Herby, Kirby and Gaetti?

I look for the Twins to sign Mauer and Cuddyer to long-term deals this spring, and (I hope) the other four this summer or fall. Who will get left out? Maybe Hunter. If he's smart he would go to the Twins and ask for a low-ball extension (like 6M a year for four years), with lots of incentives, and hope the team will bite. He's a great player, but too often injured, and it's hard to justify spending millions more on a part-time player.

I think Cuddyer could also be signed to a relatively low-priced deal, in the neighborhood of $5-7 million per year.

Mauer was mentioned first, in part because the Twins HAVE to sign him. He's the hometown boy made good; and he's the face of the organization to come.

Morneau, Santana, and Nathan also deserve their chances to have lt contracts. It just remains to be seen who the Twins can afford.

Nick N. said...

It would be pretty much impossible for the Twins to sign all the players you mention. I see at least Hunter and Nathan being left out, and I don't like their chances of re-signing Santana. I have to take issue with this statement you made:

Who will get left out? Maybe Hunter. If he's smart he would go to the Twins and ask for a low-ball extension (like 6M a year for four years), with lots of incentives, and hope the team will bite. He's a great player, but too often injured, and it's hard to justify spending millions more on a part-time player.

How would that be smart for him? If Vernon Wells can sign a contract worth $18 million a year, Hunter can surely make more than $6M/year on the free agent market next year. If you check, you'll find that Hunter and Wells' stats have been somewhat comparable over the course of their careers, and Hunter will be just a few years older than Wells.

I also have to disagree with your assertation that Hunter is "too often injured." He has really only had one major injury over the past six years, and that was the broken ankle in '05. Last year he played in 147 games and had 557 at-bats. In fact, he has 500+ at-bats in all but one of the past six years. I'd hardly call him a part-time player, and he doesn't really seem to be on the verge of becoming one.

Lee Henschel said...

Dear Nick:

With regard to Hunter being too often injured, you are correct. Perhaps I was thinking back to 2005. Obviously Hunter helped the Twins tremendously in 2006.

As for your comparison of Hunter to Wells, it's probably valid. Hunter's numbers at the plate are a little lower. Last year, Wells hit .303, had 54 walks, 106 RBIs and 91 runs. Hunter batted .278, with 98 RBIs and 98 runs. Wells had one more homer, nine more walks. However, Hunter appears to have a slight edge in defense, having a higher range factor. The difference between their errors and assists was insignificant (both had 4 errors; Wells had one fewer assist.

Neither is a powerhouse; Wells hit 32 homers, one more than Hunter in 2006.

Career-wise, Wells just turned 28 in December; he is is in the prime of his career. He has hit .288 for his career.

Hunter will turn 32 this July, making him roughly
3 1/2 years older than Wells. He has hit .269 for his career.

If Hunter truly wants to stay in Minnesota, I still contend Hunter should make a relatively low-ball, incentive-laden offer. (Although $6 mill is probably way to low, I'll grant you that).

It's true that Hunter might go via free agency, and might get a pretty good offer. But would it be with a contending team? Would he get the playing time he's gotten in Minnesota?

It's up to Hunter and the Twins. They still wanted him in 2006, even with other options available.

As for your contention regarding Nathan and possibly Santana not getting signed. You may well be right. My whole point with the letter is that the Twins will need to prioritize their players.

As I said in my second graf, who can we afford to lose?

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