Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Five Best Decisions of 2008

With the end of 2008 rapidly approaching, we are provided with a good opportunity to reflect on the year that was.

Amongst many fans, looking back at the '08 season brings up a wide-ranging discussion of all the things that went wrong. In a season where the Twins came just a game short of making the playoffs, there is a strong temptation to pinpoint precise mistakes that caused the team to fall just short. People will list the signings of Adam Everett, Mike Lamb, Craig Monroe and Livan Hernandez. They'll list the Johan Santana trade, and the Matt Garza trade. They'll list the team's failure to upgrade the fledgling bullpen during the season by acquiring Chad Bradford or LaTroy Hawkins. They'll list the organization's decision to leave Anthony Slama in Ft. Myers for the entire season (which was, in my mind, the single most inexplicable and inexcusable mistake committed by this club all year).

All of those criticisms are valid. But, in the spirit of the season, I'll opt instead to focus on the things that the Twins' front office did in right during Bill Smith's first year at the helm. The fact of the matter is that when a team consisting almost entirely of young, inexperienced players that was expected by almost all outside observers to be in a rebuilding phase is able to come within a game of making the playoffs, a lot of right decisions have to be made. And in the frenzy to assign blame for this team's failure to reach the postseason, I think people are too quick to overlook some of the savvy moves that even made the postseason a possibility.

Today, I'll go over what I felt were the five best decisions made by the Twins' front office during the 2008 year:

5) Cutting Mike Lamb.
Obviously, signing Lamb in the first place was a move that didn't work out. I'm not going to call it a mistake, because at the time I thought the reasoning behind the signing was sound and I still think it was. He fell apart in a manner that few could have anticipated. It's unfortunate, but it happens -- this wasn't a signing that was essentially doomed from the start like, say, Hernandez. In any case, it became abundantly clear midway through the season the Lamb simply wasn't going to get the job done as third baseman for this team. And, although the Twins still owed him $3 million for the 2009 season, they ate the cost and parted ways to make room for superior options. Say what you will, but that's an uncharacteristic move for this organization. And it was the right move. In 2007, the Twins made the mistake of bringing back Rondell White after a disastrous first year with the misguided hope that he'd rebound and fulfill the promise they had initially seen when they signed him. This time, they're not going to make that same mistake.

4) Drafting Aaron Hicks.
I think that the 2008 draft was, in general, a very good one for the Twins. They took some risks, grabbed a few players over-slot, and showed uncharacteristic aggressiveness in going after the players they wanted. But Hicks, their first overall pick, stands out to me as the best of the bunch. This was an encouraging selection, especially in light of some of the duds this organization has brought in with mid-to-high first-round picks over the past 15 years or so. The Twins nabbed Hicks, a tremendously gifted athlete and highly regarded high school prospect, with the No. 14 pick and quickly signed him. They were rewarded with a .318/.409/.491 hitting line from the 18-year-old over 45 games in the Gulf Coast League that helped silence criticism over how his bat would play in the pros. Hicks was somewhat spendy and he doesn't fill an organizational area of need (far from it), but he was the best player on the board and the Twins made the right choice. Hicks ranked as the organization's No. 1 prospect on Baseball America's postseason Top 10 list released in November.

3) Acquiring Craig Breslow.
This move doesn't get talked about much, but it has certainly turned out well. Breslow was nabbed off waivers from the Indians in late May, and went on to post a 1.63 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 38 2/3 innings for the Twins, emerging as one of the steadiest options out of a shaky bullpen. Breslow gave up only 24 hits, showing decent control along with an ability to miss bats. He shut down lefties and held his own against righties. It cost essentially nothing to bring him in, and now Breslow enters the 2009 season as perhaps the second-most reliable arm in the Twins bullpen.

2) The handling of Francisco Liriano.
Despite looking pretty good toward the end of spring training, Liriano did not make the Twins' Opening Day roster. Reportedly, the young pitcher wasn't terribly happy about this, so when an opening in the rotation arose in late April, the Twins called him up and gave him a shot. Liriano lasted four starts and was absolutely shelled. The Twins sent him back down to Triple-A, where he worked hard to refine his craft and showed remarkable improvement over the course of his next 15 or so starts. Eventually, he was dominating minor-league competition on a consistent basis, and -- while they may have waited a bit too long -- the Twins brought him back up to replace Hernandez in the rotation. The strong, confident Liriano was a force for the Twins over the final two months of the season, going 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 60-to-19 K/BB ratio over 11 starts and helping propel his team to a 163rd game. It seemed like an impossible notion when Liriano was being battered around in April, but he'll enter the 2009 season as a potential ace for this staff.

1) Signing Joe Nathan to a four-year contract extension.
Looking back, this seems like a no-brainer, but this was hardly the case at the time the Twins elected to hand Nathan a $47 million extension back in March. Many believed that it was a foregone conclusion Nathan would be dealt after the Twins moved Santana, and I heard plenty of arguments that the closer's value as a trade piece was much greater than his value to the Twins, especially considering that he'd be making over $10 million per year in a new contract. Personally, I was always a steadfast believer that Nathan should be retained, specifically because this bullpen contained far too many questions for his loss to be palatable. Now that Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier have all become huge question marks going forward and Nathan is the one steady right-handed rock in the Twins 'pen, the signing looks incredibly savvy. That's especially true when you consider that Nathan, one of the very best relievers in all of baseball with basically no injury history as a Twin, will be earning less annually than the inferior Francisco Rodriguez and only marginally more than the huge injury risk Kerry Wood.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Grinch Out East

One of the most amusing quotes I came across when recently reading Hammerin' Hank, George Almighty and the Say Hey Kid, John Rosengren's engrossing portrayal of the 1973 baseball season, was this one from then-newcomer George Steinbrenner: "I am dead set against free agency. It can ruin baseball."

I'm tickled by the irony of that statement, particularly in light of yesterday's announcement that the Yankees have inked Mark Teixeira to a staggering eight-year, $180 million contract. Between Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, the Yanks have now committed 20 years and $423.5 million to three premium free agents, handing out massive contracts that few other teams could even consider offering. Ol' George is no longer in charge, but the free-spending philosophies that watermarked his tenure clearly persist. Through a sheer ability to outspend everybody else, the Yankees have made themselves favorites for the AL pennant, nearly ensuring that they'll return to the playoffs in 2009 after seeing their 13-year streak come to an end in '08. Is it any wonder so many people dislike the Yankees?

Perhaps I'm being melodramatic. Anything can happen, of course, but it's awfully hard to see a lineup anchored by Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez miss the playoffs when hitting for a rotation highlighted by Sabathia, Burnett and Joba Chamberlain. The Rays have a good young team that seems poised to return as a strong force next year, but the Yankees' purchase of all these top free agents certainly stacks the odds against any small-market team forced to rely on internal development to succeed.

Of course, it's been a much quieter offseason for the Twins, who've made no moves outside of re-signing Nick Punto. Fortunately, the Twins aren't burdened with the great misfortune of playing in the same division as the Yankees, so an offseason of little movement doesn't spell doom for our hometown club.

This will probably be my only post this week. I'd like to wish everybody a wonderful holiday, and I'm sure I'll have something for next week as we review the 2008 year that was and look ahead to another great year in 2009.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting Back on the Wagon

In looking back at what I've written so far over the course of this (dreadfully boring) offseason, it's struck that I've been kind of a sour-puss. While others have been railing off the virtues of various possible trades and free agent acquisitions, I've been pointing out flaws and downsides to just about every substantive rumor. I have, at various times during the past few months, expressed opposition to signing Orlando Cabrera, signing a free agent reliever, trading for Garrett Atkins, signing Ty Wigginton, or giving up a starting pitcher for basically anything less than a king's ransom. I was somewhat supportive of signing Casey Blake, but hardly blinked when the Twins came up short in their offer and watched him go to the Dodgers. Someone on a message board recently called me "Ole Buzzy McBuzzkill." I think they may have had a point.

My central thought process behind all this "status quo support," if you will, is that the Twins came within a game of making the playoffs last year, and -- at least right now -- I don't see the rest of the AL Central division improving all that much in 2009. With a young and talented roster with several guys who can reasonably be expected to improve next year, the Twins seem about as well-positioned as anyone to make a postseason run in the upcoming season.

Still, I kind of feel like a sell-out. Most years, I'm right there along with the chorus of complainers when the Twins once again fail to partake in the Hot Stove festivities, opting to pour their limited resources into inexpensive low-upside veterans rather than taking an exciting, organization-shaking gamble. (Last winter, of course, presented a notable exception to this philosophy.) Now here I am saying I'd be fine if the Twins do nothing other than re-signing Nick Punto and maybe inviting a few guys to camp in the spring on minor-league deals.

Well, today, I'm going to get back on the wagon and get behind a potential acquisition that I think makes a lot of sense for this team: Mark DeRosa. Why isn't this guy getting talked about more? We can be relatively certain he's available, since his name was often connected to the Jake Peavy rumors, and he strikes me as a far better fit for this team than a Wigginton.

DeRosa, like Wigginton and Blake, has experience at multiple infield and outfield positions. He's logged most of his career innings at second base, but has also played 1,534 innings at third, making him a potential third-base option. I haven't seem him play much, but the defensive metrics peg him as a slightly below-average defender basically wherever he plays -- maybe about Blake's level, and certainly better than Wigginton. DeRosa is also a right-handed hitter with strong numbers against lefties, and has been a productive hitter for three consecutive years as a regular. In 2008, he had the best season of his career, posting a .376 on-base percentage with Kubel-esque power. That would be lovely production from an infield spot.

DeRosa will turn 34 in February, but that still makes him younger than Blake, and since he only became a regular player during the past three years one could easily speculate that he's got plenty left in the tank. Next season will be the last of his current three-year contract, and he'll be making only $5.5 million, making him an excellent bargain and a short-term commitment.

The problem here is that DeRosa strikes me as the type of player the Twins would undervalue. He's not a great fielder, and he's not terribly fast or athletic. So, there's reason to believe that the Twins won't be willing to offer enough for the Cubs to consider moving him. Personally, I'm not sure I'd be willing to part with one of The Fab 5 for him, but basically every other pitcher in the organization is fair game, be it a minor-leaguer or one of the Boof Bonser/Philip Humber duo.

I've stringently held to my belief that making a move for the sake of making a move doesn't make sense for this club in its current position. But moving on DeRosa, if the Cubs' asking price is reasonable, makes all the sense in the world. That's a rumor even this old Scrooge can get behind.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This Little Wiggy Stayed Home

It’s only December 17, but already it seems as though this offseason has passed the Twins by. Several potential infield targets that had reportedly drawn the club’s interest have now evaporated from sight. Casey Blake signed with the Dodgers, Rafael Furcal signed with the Braves, Adrian Beltre has invoked a no-trade clause significantly lessening the likelihood that he’ll be dealt here, and reports indicate that the Rockies’ asking price for Garrett Atkins is off the charts. Meanwhile, many desirable free agent relievers have already signed elsewhere. The Twins entered this offseason with the specific goal of upgrading the left side of their infield and bullpen, and with the Nick Punto re-signing starting look like the only significant move Bill Smith will make, it seems that the team is content to simply hold steady.

There is one name that continues to be connected with the Twins on the rumor circuit. That would be Ty Wigginton, who recently became a free agent when the Astros declined to offer him arbitration. Wigginton is a right-handed power bat who would ostensibly fill the team’s hole at third base.

In theory, Wigginton presents an opportunity for the Twins to pick up what they missed when the Dodgers outbid them on Blake. Wigginton (who is five years young than Blake) is capable of manning several different positions, and he has a history of mashing left-handed pitching. He has averaged 23 homers and 68 RBI over the past three seasons, and actually tends to hit for pretty decent batting averages though he lacks patience at the dish.

The distinction between Blake and Wigginton is that while the former is a substandard defender, the latter is an absolute disaster in the field. Wigginton is among the worst defensive third baseman in all of baseball, which helps explain why he’s been shuttled between four different organizations in the past five years despite solid offensive production, and why he’s found himself playing in the outfield frequently. Using Ultimate Zone Rating, an advanced fielding metric which Fangraphs.com recently began carrying, we find that Wigginton has accumulated a UZR of -51.9 over the course of 4,239 big-league innings at third base, which is far worse than the -14.0 mark Blake has posted in 5,072 career innings at the position. Wigginton is so lacking as a third baseman that I’m rather skeptical the Twins would be willing to play him there on anything close to a full-time basis.

So now we’re left to decide whether it’s worth spending $6-$7 million dollars over a few years on a part-time righty slugger and bench bat. Seems to me that the Twins already have a player who fits that bill to some degree in Brendan Harris. While he’s pretty clearly an inferior offensive player, Harris is far more valuable in the field -- he plays a decent third base and is passable at the middle infield spots, which really cannot be said about Wigginton.

I don’t think Wigginton would be a terrible acquisition at the right price, but he doesn’t get me particularly excited. The Twins entered this offseason with a sizable surplus in their budget and it will be unfortunate if they end up sitting on their excess rather than using it to add players who can help them win, but having the money to sign Wigginton is not reason enough to sign him. When all aspects of his game are taken into account, I don’t think he adds much to this club. Even if it’s not particularly exciting, sometimes holding steady makes sense.


If you're not sick of me yet, you can check out the latest addition of the Twins Offseason Round Table series at Twins Territory, where as usual I answer questions alongside Alex Halsted, Jesse Lund and Seth Stohs. Or you can check out Seth's podcast from last night, where I was a guest along with Phil Miller of the Pioneer Press.

Friday, December 12, 2008

And Your 2009 Starting Shortstop Is...

Nick Punto.

The Twins inked Punto to a two-year deal yesterday, just after Ron Gardenhire had told reporters, “If we sign Nick Punto, he would be my starting shortstop.” Guess that takes care of that.

Punto’s contract will pay him $4 million over each of the next two seasons, with a $5 million team option for 2011 that can be negated with a $500K buyout. The deal seems reasonable and shouldn’t hurt the Twins much financially.

There is a large segment of fans out there who remain disenchanted with Punto after his dismal 2007 campaign and are no doubt disgusted to hear that he’ll be around for at least two more years with the promise of a spot in next season’s Opening Day lineup. Realistically, though, Punto is a pretty reasonable option. The free agent crop for shortstops is quite weak, and the J.J. Hardy/Yunel Escobar trade rumors were never very realistic. When it gets to the point that Jack Wilson is being looked at as a viable target, you know the market is bare.

I expressed my concerns about the defensive makeup of the left side of the Twins’ infield on Wednesday, and now the team can take comfort in the fact that they’ll at least have a steady defender at shortstop. It’s difficult to predict what kind of offensive performance Punto will put forth, but I find it likely that he'll hit enough to avoid being a total liability at a middle-infield position.

This signing ostensibly allows the Twins to turn their attention to third base, although there really isn’t a whole lot out there at this point. Adrian Beltre reportedly now has the Twins on his no-trade list, providing another obstacle in what already was a pretty unlikely trade scenario. The rest of the names being bandied about -- such as Garrett Atkins and Kevin Kouzmanoff -- are not particularly inspiring. Mark DeRosa is intriguing, but I question whether the Cubs are really shopping him and, if they are, whether the Twins have the right pieces to bring him in. I would not be at all surprised to see the Twins stick with a Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon in 2009.

Rolling into 2009 with the same group of infielders as the they sported last year is a pretty questionable plan for the Twins given how flawed those players are, but I’m starting to think that -- for better or for worse -- management wants to go forward with the guys who brought the team within a game of the playoffs last year.


I’ll touch on yesterday’s Rule 5 draft very briefly. I don’t want to talk about it much because, frankly, I find the Rule 5 draft to be mind-boggling. Most of the decisions make no sense to me. The Twins had a chance to recoup a valuable asset when Eduardo Morlan remained available at their 14th pick, but they passed on him and instead selected the Yankees' Jason Jones, a 26-year-old with only 11 innings of experience above Double-A and a very mediocre minor-league track record. If the Twins didn’t want to take a risk on Morlan, that’s fine, but I don’t see any wisdom in bringing in a low-upside guy like Jones when the big-league bullpen is already inhabited by Philip Humber and Boof Bonser, both of whom figure to be much better relievers than Jones this year. The Twins must either plan on swinging a deal to bring Jones into the organization as a minor-leaguer, or else they don’t expect either Humber or Bonser to be around much longer. Or they saw a soft-tossing right-hander who throws strikes, got needlessly excited and threw logic out the window.

Compounding my confusion over the Rule 5 draft is the that opposing clubs passed over numerous viable prospects left off the Twins’ 40-man roster, and the only guy to get selected was Jose Lugo, a 24-year-old lefty reliever who posted a 4.04 ERA in Ft. Myers last year and who I’ve never heard of before.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More Speculation and Banter

One name that I didn’t mention yesterday when running through the Twins’ search for a third baseman during the ongoing Winter Meetings in Las Vegas is Garrett Atkins, but apparently the Twins continue to have talks with the Rockies regarding the right-handed third baseman.

Atkins, who turns 29 on Friday, is poor defensively and figures to post above average – but not great – offensive numbers outside of Coors. Certainly he’d provide an upgrade over a Brendan Harris/Brian Buscher platoon, but perhaps not to the extent that he’d be worth giving up a starting pitcher for, which seems to be what the Rockies are demanding.

In the same article I linked above, La Velle E. Neal III notes that it is “coming to light … that the Twins really want to hold on to their core of young starters,” which I was pleased to read. Some have accused me overvaluing the Twins’ young rotation, which I’ve termed The Fab 5, but I think that having five starting pitchers who figure to give you league-average production or better at less than a million dollars is a wonderful thing to have in a market where the Carlos Silvas and Kyle Lohses of the world are signing long-term deals for exorbitant amounts of money. I also think many people are far too hasty in assuming that one of the Twins’ marginal starters in Triple-A will be able to step in and replace a guy like Glen Perkins or Nick Blackburn.

So if Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is in fact asking for any member of that group in return for Atkins, Bill Smith should politely tell him to take a hike. If the Mariners are seeking a guy like Perkins in return for Adrian Beltre, it merits more consideration. (Though it’s worth noting that all the “young starter for Beltre” speculation might be off-base, because the more I look at their roster, the more I realize that the Mariners really don’t need any more starting pitching.)

If the Twins are indeed still trying to acquire a third baseman, Beltre seems like the only reasonable option anymore at this point. Why do I say that? Because Phil Miller reports that the team only intends to upgrade one of the two left infield positions, with the indication being that acquiring a third baseman would lead to a Harris/Matt Tolbert platoon at short. That the Twins only plan on upgrading one of the two positions doesn’t come as a real surprise, but now that I’ve read it and mulled it over I’m thinking more and more that the club should be pursuing a shortstop. A Harris/Buscher platoon at third is far more appealing than a Harris/Tolbert platoon at short, particularly if that shortstop duo were to be accompanied on the left side by one of the defensively challenged third basemen that the Twins have reportedly been chasing this offseason (Casey Blake, Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff, etc.). I could maybe live with the sub par defense provided at shortstop by a Harris/Tolbert platoon if a strong defender like Beltre was manning the hot corner, but combining the two with another defensive liability at third would signal a total abandonment of infield defense.

All of which is why I think the Twins probably should re-sign Nick Punto. He plays sound defense at shortstop and probably will hit enough not to be a total liability there, and tabbing him to a reasonable two-year deal gives the team some flexibility to go after a third baseman. I’d also be open to bringing in a more potent shortstop and sticking with a Harris/Buscher platoon at third, but J.J. Hardy doesn’t seem realistic and I don’t know what else is out there.

If this post seemed like a rambling, circular cluster of thoughts, I apologize. It’s just a very tricky situation.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tracking the Third Base Saga

The Winter Meetings are now officially underway, so we should start seeing a whole bunch of rumors spring up over the course of the week. (You can follow all the developments at Rotoworld, where Aaron Gleeman is blogging the action.)

The Twins continue to seek a third base solution. They reportedly broke off talks with Casey Blake late last week when the two sides couldn't come to agreement on a third year (the Twins wanted an option, Blake wanted a guarantee). Ultimately, this turned out to be a deal-breaker, and it looks like Blake will end up re-signing with the Dodgers, who are willing to add a third year to their offer.

While I thought Blake was a logical target for the Twins, I'm glad to see them taking a hard stance here. He'd have been a solid short-term option and the Twins have money to burn over the next couple seasons, but it's not clear that they'll have the payroll flexibility in 2011 to have $6+ million committed to a 38-year-old.

And so, the Twins move on to looking at other options. For the time being, that apparently means reopening talks with the Mariners regarding Adrian Beltre. Seattle Times beat writer Geoff Baker suggests the M's may be interested in moving Beltre in return for a package built around Michael Cuddyer. While that'd be fine and dandy from the Twins' perspective, it doesn't really make sense for the Mariners. If they're trying to shed payroll (the only reason they'd deal Beltre), why would they be interested in bringing in a injury-prone veteran with a spotty track record and a somewhat bulky contract? If the Mariners actually do covet the right fielder for some reason, I'd think a package of Cuddyer plus Jeff Manship would be a good starting point. But, again, I sincerely doubt that is the case and I find it much more likely that the Mariners will demand a member of The Fab Five.

Elsewhere, Paul Hagen from the Philadelphia Daily News speculates that the Phillies may be interested in acquiring Delmon Young to replace Pat Burrell in their outfield. In return, Hagen notes that the Twins "almost certainly would ask for top prospect Jason Donald and are also seeking bullpen help." I've been pretty hawkish in my opposition to trading Young while his value is down, but I'd back off from that position if the Twins could reel in a player like Donald, a shortstop who has raked his way through the minors and finished last season at Double-A. Of course, such a deal would have to produce mixed feelings amongst Twins fans. On the one hand, the organization is bringing in a top prospect who represents a potential long-term solution at a middle infield spot. On the other hand, they're shipping off a big-league player who can help now in return for a guy who in all likelihood won't be ready to contribute significantly until 2010.

That's all I've got for today. Make sure to check back throughout the week; I'll continue to keep tabs on all the Twins-related rumors that pop up during this week of Hot Stove action.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Is Delmon Finished? Not So Fast...

Much fuss has been raised over Ron Gardenhire’s recent admission that he’d prefer to open the 2009 season with Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer as his starting outfield alignment, leaving Delmon Young out in the dark. Many view this as the manager overplaying his hand, potentially upsetting a historically volatile player, and lowering Bill Smith’s leverage when it comes to trading the 23-year-old outfielder (which, to some, seems like a foregone conclusion at this point).

Overreact much?

First of all, Opening Day is still four months away. A lot can change over that time, and the notion that Gardenhire’s stated preference during an informal Q & A session in Fargo sets in stone Young’s role on the bench seems awfully misguided.

It could be that Gardenhire truly has lost taste for Young and has no problem letting this negative sentiment be known to the public. But there are a couple other possibilities that are being overlooked here.

One is that this was a calculated move to play up the value of Michael Cuddyer, who has battled injuries over the past two years and whose contract is much more of a liability than Young's. If other teams get the sense that Cuddyer is of more value to the Twins and that the manager has lost faith in Young, doesn’t Cuddy immediately become the more valuable trade piece?

Another possibility is that we are simply seeing an example of a manager trying to light a fire under an under-performing player. Early last season, Gardenhire wrote Young’s name into the lineup on a daily basis and the coaching staff continually sang the outfielder’s praises to the press. In Young’s 2007 season in Tampa Bay, he literally played every game. In neither of those seasons did Young have any prolonged periods of excellent play, or any tangible signs of significant improvement. There is little evidence that working to increase Young’s confidence leads to improved production, perhaps because confidence was never an issue for him in the first place.

So, if the coaching staff believes that Young’s problems are at least partially mental or due to a lack of motivation, perhaps a change in approach is necessary. Perhaps the very public reports of Young being on the trading block and now the manager’s public assertion that Young is not viewed as one of the team’s top three outfield options are deliberate moves intended to challenge Young to live up to his potential. According to La Velle E. Neal III, Young already “has hit the gym big-time this offseason and has lost weight.” It is entirely possible that this is a response to the way the Twins have presented him during this offseason so far.

If you follow Young’s career from high school to minor leagues to major leagues to present, you see a pretty clear and steady trend. He is on a path, and if he stays the course, he is on his way to a very unremarkable career as a mediocre corner outfielder with attitude problems. Something needs to change, and perhaps all these trade rumors and this public “diss” from his manager are calculated maneuvers aimed at that exact goal.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Year of Hope

It's that time of year for a new player or group of player's to be elected to baseball's prestigious Hall of Fame. As such, the raging debate surrounding Bert Blyleven's candidate will undoubtedly be renewed in many different places.

This year seems like a prime opportunity for Blyleven to gain entry to the Hall and, as a staunch believer that he belongs, I'm very hopeful that he's able to get in.

If you'd like to read (or take part in) some entertaining debate on the subject, head over to Granny Baseball, where our old pal TT seeks to dispel five "myths" about Blyleven's candidacy.

A few other notes as we chug toward the end of the week...

* Happy birthday shout outs to our good friend Karlee, author of the OMG Twins blog, and to Mr. Carlos Gomez, who turns 23 exciting years old today.

* Make sure to stop by and check out the re-designed Twins Most Valuable Blogger site!

* Yesterday, the Twins reportedly made a two-year offer to Casey Blake at about $6M/yr with an option for 2011, though Blake's agents wants a guaranteed third year to seal the deal. The Twins and Dodgers are both reportedly in hot pursuit of the 35-year-old third baseman, but it seems like there's a fairly good chance the Twins will land him (much to the chagrin of a certain semi-retired SBG citizen).

Here's my question. If the Twins sign Blake, does that basically guarantee that Nick Punto will be re-signed to play short? I cannot imagine that a defensive-minded club such as that would possibly go forward with Blake and Brendan Harris as the left side of their infield, and Punto is a stout defender whom they are comfortable with at shortstop.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quick Arb Update

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Still not much to write about as far as the Twins are concerned, so today I’ll just touch on a few arbitration-related notes.

* The White Sox offered arbitration to Orlando Cabrera, which is good news to those of us who feared the thought of the Twins offering him a long-term deal. Cabrera qualifies as a Type A free agent, meaning the Twins would have to surrender a first-round pick in order to sign him, and as Joe Christensen has noted, the team has no interest in giving up draft picks in order to bring in free agents.

You can read my thoughts on Cabrera here.

* On Monday, the Twins offered Dennys Reyes arbitration, which the lefty reliever will almost surely decline as he seeks a multi-year deal from some other club. Since Reyes qualifies as a Type B free agent, the Twins will receive a supplemental second-round pick when he signs elsewhere. I was very impressed with the way the Twins drafted this past June. They didn’t shy away from good talent due to the price tags, and even went over-slot on a few players. If they carry that same aggressive plan forward into next year’s draft, that extra pick could prove valuable.

* Strangest thing that I've read all week and perhaps that I'll read all offseason, from the blog of former Tigers beat writer Danny Knobler (emphasis mine):

Shortstop Jason Bartlett was voted the Rays' most valuable player, and he was a big part in Tampa Bay's improbable run to the World Series.

Now the Rays are willing to trade him, according to a baseball official who has spoken to the Rays. Not only that, but the Rays have also discussed trying to reacquire Delmon Young, the outfielder who they traded to the Twins last winter to get Bartlett and Matt Garza.

By all accounts the Rays were pretty ecstatic to get rid of Young and his attitude. Now they want him back after he put up a crappy season in Minnesota and they improved their record by 30 wins without him? Whatever