Alright, there is just so much going on right now that I'm going to have to push back the Position Analyses for Starting Pitcher and Relief Pitcher until tomorrow and Thursday. I've been very removed from things lately, as I spent last week soaking in the sun down in Orlando (I actually wrote all of last week's Position Analysis pieces the week before; if no one noticed then I guess I did a decent job!), so there are a few things I'd like to delve into.
The biggest news, of course, is the Twins' signing of closer Joe Nathan to a four-year extension that will keep him in Minnesota until at least 2011, with an option for 2012. Between 2008 and 2011, Nathan will make $47 million, or an average of $11.25 million per year. Considering the type of money that Mariano Rivera and Francisco Cordero have gotten lately, Nathan's deal seems like a decent bargain; and most importantly, the contract includes only a limited no-trade clause (Nathan can select three teams to which the club cannot trade him), so if push comes to shove he can remain a valuable trading piece down the line.
Many people are grumbling about this deal, reasoning that Nathan is less valuable than players like Torii Hunter and Johan Santana who were let go during the offseason and that closers in general are overrated and not deserving of this type of money. I tend to find both of these lines of reasoning rather dubious. The Twins could not have reasonably afforded to pay Hunter or Santana the huge money they were seeking so there's no way this can be viewed as an either/or situation; and, while the closer position itself (mostly just the save statistic) might be overrated, dominant relievers who pitch extremely well in high-leverage situations are not. I'm of the belief that the Twins needed to retain Nathan in order to maintain a strong and reasonably deep bullpen, because with Eduardo Morlan out of the picture, this organization does not have much in the pipeline when it comes to power bullpen arms.
Aside from locking up Nathan, the Twins also made an official decision on their center field situation yesterday by cutting Denard Span and Jason Pridie from the big-league camp. Indeed, as I have long anticipated, Carlos Gomez will open the season manning center for the Twins. This is certainly something I'm supportive of, in part because I think Gomez has the tools and attitude to be able to learn and develop in the big leagues, and in part because as a fan I'd simply much prefer watching him than Span.
The Twins also cut Philip Humber and Brian Buscher yesterday, indicating that Matt Tolbert will make the club as a utility infielder (okay...?) and that Nick Blackburn and Brian Bass will hang on, one as a long reliever and one as a starter. The team has suggested that Francisco Liriano will open the season in the minors, despite his strong outing on Sunday afternoon.
So, unless something changes, this is what we can expect the team's 25-man roster to look like on March 31:
I would have liked a better final bench option than Tolbert, but none of those decisions are going to make me rip my hair out. Let's see what these boys can do.