At one point, the Twins were said to be holding out for Hughes and Ian Kennedy, another of the Yankees’ attractive triumvirate of major league-ready young pitchers (the untouchable Joba Chamberlain being the third), but the Yankees wouldn’t give up both, so the Twins asked instead for [Jeff] Marquez, a 23-year-old right-hander.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Considering the alternatives, my guess is that Lamb will be the Twins' starting third baseman next season, and that's not really a bad thing. He often struggled to get regular playing time during his eight seasons with the Rangers and Astros, and has never accumulated more than 381 at-bats in a season (EDIT: since his rookie season -- thanks Ryan!). Still, he's posted a solid .281/.339/.427 line over the course of his career, and last season with the Astros he batted .289/.366/.453 with 11 home runs and 40 RBI in 311 at-bats.
There's reason to question why an apparently rebuilding team would make a two-year commitment to a 32-year-old defensive liability, but Lamb is likely to provide at least league-average offensive production from third base next year, which will be a major upgrade from the atrocious .236/.308/.323 line the Twins got from third base last year. Plus, the presence of defensive wizard Adam Everett at shortstop should help offset Lamb's fielding deficiencies on the left side of the infield.
As the Twins struggled to field an offense that could even be considered respectable for much of the 2007 season, I often mused that if they could just upgrade from "awful" to "average" at a few positions, they'd have a shot at competing. Bill Smith has accomplished that, in earnest, by adding Lamb at third base.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Step one to upgrading an anemic offense: sign a player with a .248/.299/.357 career hitting line to become your starting shortstop. Check.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
However, while I'm not overly enthused about the signing, I'm not too upset about it. In essence, what Bill Smith has done with the Twins' outfield so far this offseason is replace Rondell White with Delmon Young and Lew Ford with Craig Monroe, without much fluctuation in cost overall. Those are pretty significant upgrades. Despite his poor numbers last season, Monroe is a solid fourth outfielder who can come off the bench and provide some pop. He also hits well against lefties (.814 career OPS), which should be useful given that the Twins' 2008 lineup will likely contain at least four left-handed bats in Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel and the center fielder (who I'm currently presuming will be either Jason Pridie or Jacoby Ellsbury).
It seems likely that Monroe will be overpaid in 2008, but that's really a luxury that Twins can afford, with have a massive chunk of payroll coming off the books even if Johan Santana isn't dealt. The Twins have continually claimed that they intend to increase payroll in 2008 -- it seems like they'll have a hard time doing so without handing out a few pricey short-term deals.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I don't have much to write about today. The Santana trade talks have seemingly quieted down for the time being, and it's tough to analyze any of the Twins' other pressing issues until that situation gets sorted out. I've heard Brandon Inge's name mentioned as a possible third base solution for the Twins... going to have to give that one a big fat no. He's basically Nick Punto with more power -- not worth the money he'll make or the prospect the Twins would have to give up to get him.
Several Mets fans showed up in the comments section on Friday's post and gave some first-hand viewpoints on the prospects being mentioned in Johan Santana trade rumors. If you haven't read through them, it's definitely worth checking out.
Have a good Tuesday. I know I will... officially less than one week left of school this semester!
Friday, December 07, 2007
Anyway, here are some notes to wrap up this hectic week:
* Our pal Aaron Gleeman, who kept a running string of Santana updates on his blog on Wednesday and Thursday, noted on Wednesday evening that La Velle E. Neal III had said "it appears unlikely a deal will be reached this week." This prompted Gleeman to state that "the past 72 hours appear to have been a whole lot of nothing. Well covered, widely read nothing, but still nothing."
Not sure I'd agree with that last part. The Santana Saga has been widely read, to be sure, but "well covered"? I'm not real satisfied by the way this whole situation has been covered by the national media. Does reporting every small, unsubstantiated rumor and watching it get picked up by several outlets and subsequently blown out of proportion really constitute good coverage? I wouldn't say so.
I am actually quite satisfied with the way Neal covered the Winter Meetings. As a Twins' beat writer, you might expect him to be the most active reporter in pumping out Santana rumors, but he kept fairly quiet and reserved. I saw many people accuse him of being overly slow or sparse in his coverage, but I'm glad he chose not to contribute to the hysteria by running every unsubstantiated rumor on his blog.
From this point forward, I've chosen to take basically everything I hear regarding Santana with a grain of salt, unless I'm hearing it from a source I truly trust (like Neal). That way, I don't have to get worked up about fabricated rumors of a horrendous three-way deal that would result in the Twins getting Dan Haren and essentially nothing else for Santana. Yuck.
* In yesterday's column I previewed the Rule 5 draft, writing blurbs about the two players I was most worried about seeing the Twins lose: Yohan Pino and Garrett Guzman. Thankfully, Pino is safe, but unfortunately Guzman was grabbed up by the Washington Nationals. If he sticks with the Nats, it's not a crippling loss, because Guzman really doesn't project as anything more than a fourth outfielder at best, but the Twins are not an organization that can afford to be letting quality hitting prospects go for free. Aside from Guzman, the Twins also lost outfielder Rashad Eldridge, and pitchers R.A. Dickey (whom they had just recently signed), Tim Lahey, J.P. Martinez, and Joshua Hill. Guzman, Lahey and Dickey were selected in the major-league portion of the draft, meaning they will need to spend the entire season on the drafting team's 25-man roster or be sent back to the Twins.
* The Dodgers agreed to terms with center fielder Andruw Jones yesterday on a contract worth about $36 million over two years. With the addition of Jones, the Dodgers seemingly have an overloaded outfield, which would perhaps make it more palatable for GM Ned Colletti to part with Matt Kemp, who has always been my favorite player associated with the Santana rumors. Of course, the Dodgers have reportedly been very quiet in the Santana sweepstakes, and there are major questions about whether they would be willing to pony up the cash to sign the star left-hander long-term. Still, my dreams of a Santana-for-Kemp and Clayton Kershaw swap will continue to dance faintly.
* New York Mets GM Omar Minaya told the Associated Press that he thinks he has the players to bring in Santana, even without trading star shortstop Jose Reyes. Most people are skeptical about the Mets' ability to put together a worthy package without Reyes, but I'm pretty high on outfield prospects Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez (especially Gomez). The big downside with the Mets is that they lack high-end pitching prospects that might help offset the loss of the Twins' ace.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Another player that the Twins could lose is Garrett Guzman, who is one of the few quality hitting prospects in the organization. A 24-year-old corner outfielder, Guzman hit .312/.359/.453 in Double-A last year, and for his minor-league career he is a .290/.341/.439 hitter. Lacking legitimate power and speed, Guzman is far from a phenomenal prospect, but being that their system is so thin on decent hitting prospects, he's a guy the Twins would hate to lose.
Other Twins prospects who could potentially be swooped in the Rule 5 include SP Kyle Aselton, RP Ricky Barrett and 1B David Winfree.
Of course, analyzing only the players the Twins stand to lose during today's draft is a rather negative focus. The Twins will have their chance to nab another team's forgotten prospect as well, and I suspect they'll select somebody. The Twins haven't made a big splash with their Rule 5 acquisitions in recent years -- last year they selected Alejandro Machado, who spent the season on the disabled list; the year before they selected Jason Pridie, who they sent back to Tampa Bay before the season started. Still, there are some intriguing players out there that might be available when the Twins choose. Baseball America has a good list of Rule 5 candidates here that is worth looking over. Among the names to keep an eye on: outfielder Brian Barton, third baseman Jamie D'Antona, and defensive-minded second baseman Luis Valbuena.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
All of this might not even matter anyway. It seems like the Tigers basically have the division locked up for the next several years after pulling off this doozy.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The annual Winter Meetings are in full swing, and Santana is the hot topic. Numerous details about the Twins' talks with the Yankees and Red Sox have been popping up courtesy of various news outlets: Santana will not accept a trade during the 2008 season, Santana will not accept a trade to any team other than New York or Boston, the Yankees have imposed a 24-hour deadline at which point they will withdraw their offer (that deadline passed last night), so on and so forth. All these publicized details from what are supposed to be private trade discussions make me feel like getting back into my The Departed state of mind from last Friday and paraphrasing Sergeant Dignam: these negotiations have more leaks than the Iraqi navy.
Most of the details that have been leaked have been pretty weakly attributed ("a Twins official"; "a person familiar with the player's thinking"; etc.), so I'm not inclined to take a whole lot of these rumors too seriously. Yet, Yankees head honcho Hank Steinbrenner didn't feel the need to mask his identity when he came out and made the following comments to the New York Times:
Joe Christensen labeled Steinbrenner's comments "blatant tampering," which was also my first thought when I read them, at least given my understanding of how the league's tampering policies work. I'll be disappointed if Steinbrenner is not disciplined for his comments.
“I don’t want to continue this dog-and-pony show, playing us against the Red Sox,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m not going to participate in that. This is our best offer. Minnesota knows it’s our best offer. Everybody knows it is.
“We need to get this done. If we don’t, I certainly won’t be upset about keeping Hughes and Cabrera. I definitely won’t. I don’t think Minnesota wants to be stuck negotiating with just one team.”
. . .“How can I go any higher?” Steinbrenner said. “What do they want — Hughes, Kennedy and Cabrera? I can’t do that kind of thing. It’s crazy. It’s suicidal. In the past 20 or 30 years, teams have always asked more from the Yankees than they have of anybody else, and that’s going to stop. I’ve made the best offer Minnesota is going to get, and the fact is, it’s an offer we can go away happy and they can go away happy.”
There's a reason people dislike the Yankees, and this is a big part of it. They try to impose their will and intimidate all the smaller market clubs. What exactly gives Steinbrenner and the Yankees the leverage to impose a deadline (on Dec. 3, no less)? They are the buyers in this situation, not the sellers. The Twins have no obligation to trade Santana, as much as Steinbrenner seems to be acting like they do. If he wants to withdraw his deal -- which is far from overwhelming -- then so be it. After the way the Alex Rodriguez situation played out just over a month ago, I don't think anyone is buying into this deadline business anyway.
This period of uncertainty is excruciating for Twins fans, and doubtlessly even more so for the beat writers who have to try to keep tabs on all the rumors flying around. That said, it seems that for the time being it is in Bill Smith's best interest to remain firm and be patient. The decisions he makes here will be crucially important to the future of the franchise. He can't afford to let himself get played by the Big Bad Empire.
Monday, December 03, 2007
R.J. Anderson, senior columnist for the blog DRays Bay, was kind enough to get back to me with the following first-hand report on the newest Minnesota Twins:
It’s surreal to see the words “Delmon Young traded,” and not have it written as a rumor; it wasn’t long ago Delmon made his debut, hitting a home run against the White Sox after being pegged in his first at-bat. It felt like a turning point in the franchise’s otherwise pitiful history; this was our golden child – the real one, not Rocco Baldelli or Josh Hamilton or Toe Nash – no this was the real deal. In the past year plus he’d flash his arm – perhaps the best in the league – and his doubles stroke, but also his lack of plate discipline. I know some Twins fans have asked if he can play center, the answer is no! His arm is rendered nearly useless and he doesn’t have the range for it; far too many balls were misplayed by Young in center. He’s got a bit of an attitude issue as well, Joe Maddon benched him for not running out a groundball late in the year, and I believe some reports had him sticking his head into the Twins’ daycare of all places and saying “We just kicked your daddies’ asses!” early on in the season. In the past he infamously threw a bat and stated that he wanted to put in his “six and bolt,” but after that hasn’t had any discipline taken on him. On the field if he just learns to take a better approach at the plate he can become very special, but until he does that Twin fans might get a bit irritated with Delmon coming up against a pitcher who’s walked two straight with the bases loaded and seeing him ground into a double play on the first pitch – something he did quite a bit last year. If he works out the Rays will look like fools.
Harris was a very nice surprise; acquired from the Reds last January for cash he was a dark horse to make the roster but did just that when Jorge Cantu – coincidently with the Reds now – was sent to Durham. He showed some pop in limited action before taking over for the putrid Ben Zobrist at shortstop. Harris is what Joe Magrane referred to as a “trooper”; he doesn’t do anything overly well, but does a lot of stuff decently. I think he was a bit overexposed last year – hence his second half collapse – but otherwise shouldn’t bust next year. Defensively he really shouldn’t be at shortstop, and he’s only slightly better at second; he tries, which is good, but sometimes busting ass doesn’t equate to being good – overall I liked him better than Wigginton and I’d say he’s pretty much a wash with Bartlett with Minny getting the better hitter.
Pridie is a former second round pick with loads of tools, his BABIP for this year seems to indicate he’s not .900 OPS good, but he’s certainly better than Jason Tyner – and I love Jason Tyner – I’ve never seen him field, but all indications are he’s a major league center fielder. I’d like to think he’ll be at least league average and more valuable than putting say Steve Finley in center.