Monday, October 31, 2011

My Offseason Blueprint

When the World Series came to an end on Friday night, the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook officially became available. If you haven't already ordered a copy, you can purchase and download one immediately from the TwinsCentric website.

One section of the bulky 136-page e-book is called "Offseason Blueprints," wherein all four TwinsCentric writers utilize the information in the Handbook to map out our own suggestions for the Twins' front office.

We're interested in seeing your ideas, too, so we're holding a contest. Using your Handbook, or whatever tools you like, we want you to craft a blueprint of your own -- one that fills the team's needs as you see them and stays within a reasonable budget. Submit it to us at twinscentric@gmail.com, and in a few weeks we'll toss the names of all participants into a hat and draw a random winner. If you're selected, we'll set you up with a free copy of our Twins Annual in the spring, and we'll also dissect your blueprint on the TwinsCentric blog.

To get you started and generate some discussion, here's my offseason blueprint from the Handbook:

Hedging Your Bets

The Twins face an extremely challenging paradox this offseason. On the one hand, they are coming off a 99-loss season and their roster is filled with holes, with the majority of their best prospects still several years off. On the other hand, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are in their physical prime and are owed a combined $37 million next year. If both those players return to form, you won’t want to waste the opportunity by fielding a poor roster that can’t support them. At the same time, you don’t want to put all your eggs in the 2012 basket because, realistically, it’s just not that likely that this injury-hampered group can make a 30-game swing in the standings. The best bet is to add cheap, low-risk short-term help while maintaining flexibility down the line. Here’s my attempt:

1) Let Michael Cuddyer walk.
Losing Cuddyer will be tough. Not only is his powerful right-handed bat sorely needed in the Twins’ lineup, he’s also a major asset in the clubhouse and community. Unfortunately, while he’d help a lot in 2012, his contract would likely become a burden in the later years as he ages into his mid-30s. It may be unpopular, but unless he’s willing to take a discount, letting Cuddyer walk and taking the draft picks is the smart call.

2) Re-sign free agent reliever Joe Nathan for two years, $14 million.
Nathan struggled out of the gates and finished with an unimpressive 4.84 ERA in 2011, but by the end of the year he looked very much like the dominant reliever we remember prior to Tommy John surgery. After coming off the disabled list in June, Nathan posted a 3.38 ERA and 28-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 29 1/3 innings. He’s a reliable and familiar closer.

3) Re-sign free agent outfielder Jason Kubel for three years, $21 million.
Kubel’s value is down after an injury-plagued campaign. Once a premier designated hitter, he’s been underwhelming in each of the past two years, so the opportunity is ripe to lock him up with an affordable multi-year deal if you believe the 2010/11 numbers don’t reflect his true offensive ability.

4) Offer arbitration to Alexi Casilla ($2.5M), Jose Mijares ($700K), Kevin Slowey ($3.3M), Glen Perkins ($1.8M) and Francisco Liriano ($6M).
Perkins and Casilla are essentially no-brainers, as they offer relatively inexpensive depth at positions of need. Bringing back Liriano and Slowey might be a somewhat difficult call following frustrating 2011 campaigns, but the Twins need all the rotation help they can get and both are candidates for bounce-back years.

5) Sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit for two years, $9 million.
With Mauer’s status hanging in the balance, the Twins need to add depth at catcher, preferably in the form of a player who could play somewhat regularly and add offensive punch to the lineup. Doumit has spent his career as a part-time guy with the Pirates, never playing in more than 124 games, but his .271/.334/.442 career hitting line is very solid for a catcher and he’s only 30. He’s not considered a strong defensive backstop, but Drew Butera can be kept around to fill that role and Doumit can also fill in at first base and in right field.

6) Sign free agent starting pitcher Rich Harden for one year, $3 million plus incentives.
Bringing aboard one of the game’s most notoriously injury-prone starters may not sound appealing to Twins fans who watched almost the entire team spend chunks of 2011 on the disabled list, but this club needs high-upside arms and only the risky types like Harden will be affordable. The 29-year-old righty was limited to 82 2/3 innings and posted an ugly 5.12 ERA, but did manage to notch 91 strikeouts. He’s struggled mightily with the long ball over the past two seasons, but Target Field should help alleviate that. To help with his durability and maximize his stuff, it might be worth trying Harden in the bullpen if he’s willing.

7) Sign free agent infielders Nick Punto (one year, $750K) and Ramon Santiago (one year $1.5M).
Neither of these players is generally viewed as a starter, but both are sure-handed, versatile veterans that can at least hold their own at the plate. Let them compete for the starting shortstop job in spring training, with the loser holding down a utility job while Tsuyoshi Nishioka opens the season in the minors.

Summary: Ideally, you’d like to see Mauer and Morneau return to their previous roles and thrive. Given the circumstances, though, you can’t really plan around that best-case scenario. The above structure gives you some flexibility with those two. I went heavy on free agency additions because I felt the Twins had a lot of needs but don’t have much in the way of tradable assets on the big-league roster; dealing away prospects at this point is the wrong idea. The infield signings don’t add much offense but fans and coaches will welcome some steady veteran reinforcements after watching rookies kick grounders all over the place last year.

In the end, this might not be a terribly exciting blueprint but 2012 is shaping up as a transitional year, where the Twins can try out some different things on the big-league roster while letting their talented young prospects develop. It’s also not inconceivable that this group could compete in the AL Central if the rotation rebounds and the switch to less physically demanding roles rejuvenates the bats of Mauer and Morneau.

70 comments:

Ryan said...

You're right about Cuddy

Anonymous said...

And wrong on Kubel. Morneau is going to be the DH next year b/c of his injury history. Kubel running around RF for three years on his foot?

Josh said...

Overall, I think this is a good plan. I especially like the idea of Doumit, who looks like a catching option who can hit a little and more importantly is a switch-hitter, giving the team a little roster flexibility.

I think $7M per may be a little high for Nathan, and I'm hoping the market for closers won't go that high for a guy coming off a major injury. $5-$6M per is about as high as I want to go, and I think 2 years is just fine.

The one thing that's missing here is a RH bat, though. With Cuddyer being gone, the lineup is REALLY LH-heavy (Span, Kubel, Mauer, Morneau...yikes!) leaving only Valencia as a serious RH hitter, and he's been inconsistent. A team with a lot of LH pitching (especially relief) could really mow down sections of our lineup that we count on and there's limited protection to be found. Unless we're expecting Joe Benson to be ready next season? Tosoni is probably ahead of him in the depth charts and most likely to get a shot at an OF job if Cuddyer is gone...and he's a LH hitter too!

We could easily have a regular lineup under this plan that would start 6 LHs, 2 switch, and 1 RH. And without a lot of hitting options on the bench to back into when we face stronger LH pitchers. (and none of the switch hitters have shown much ability at the plate; they're all slap-hitting singles hitters who in their best years show good patience to make them near average hitters. that scares no one)

Sonil said...

I like the plan a lot, especially the decision to keep Kubel instead of Cuddyer. Even though it leaves the lineup very LH heavy, by the time we are contending again, Kubel will probably be much move valuable.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of the M&M drainers perhaps sucker some time into a trade nah ATwins would never do this... will let "Jo Jo no power the hot house flower" suck and pout.

Bring back Punto keep Kupbel and Cuddy..

Pawn off Tosoni.. or just cut the lose and ditch him , more useless than Jo Jo


and while they 're at it get a real baseball GM !!!

Nick N. said...

We could easily have a regular lineup under this plan that would start 6 LHs, 2 switch, and 1 RH.

This is covered in more depth in the version within the Handbook, but here's how I see the regular lineup shaking out:

Span (CF)
Casilla (2B)
Mauer (1B)
Morneau (DH)
Doumit (C)
Kubel (RF)
Plouffe (LF)
Valencia (3B)
Santiago (SS)

That's 4 LH, 3 RH and 2 SH. Maybe a little lefty-heavy but not horrible. You've got Hughes as a RH bench bat, also.

Nick N. said...

Sorry, 2 RH and 3 SH.

Ed Bast said...

I appreaciate the realistic approach to the offseason, but man, Nick, check out that lineup. I don't see 90 HR in there. They're going to struggle to score runs - combine that with a pitching staff that's going to give up plenty of runs... to me this team's closer to the bottom of the division than the top.

Jim H said...

I guess if it were me, I would concentrate on finding the best starting pitcher I could find. I think that while the Twins will likely end up with 4 decent pitchers out of their holdovers, adding 1 very good starter would do the most good.

After that, they need a RH bat for right field. If not Cuddyer than some sort of stop gap until Benson or someone, is ready.

Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the best starting infielders that the Twins can afford are already on the roster. Still, I can see the Twins adding a sure handed SS.

I don't know what the Twins should do with their bullpen. Signing Nathan or another quality free agent as closer, probably makes the most sense. Then evaluate what you got this spring. What starters or young arms might be quality bullpen guys and make trades as needed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the GM challenge Nick - and starting it off with your rough draft. I'm guessing you're holding back on your real plan because keeping Slowey & Mijares makes zero sense and Kubel plays the same position as 2 other much better LH hitters. As for adding Santiago and Punto - you've now replaced Tolbert and Nishioka with 2 guys 30+ guys who are marginally better - at best but offer no upside at all. And if Rich Harden is the only pitcher you're going to add - don't bother. This is a recipe for a return to complete mediocrity. This is not nearly good enough.

Mike said...

@last anonymous- I don't think that Santiago and Punto would be a marginal upgrade over Nishioka and Tolbert. Even if we only consider offense, I would call it better than a marginal upgrade; factor in defense, and it's quite a bit better. Obviously not enough to make the Twins contenders, but a good step in the right direction while still being affordable.

Although, I do agree that I don't see the point in bringing back Mijares. I realize he'd be cheap, but I just don't trust the guy any time he pitches. Slowey is a serviceable starter as he's shown through most of his career, even if he isn't great. I agree that it would be great to have a better pitcher there, but it becomes a question of financial ability and figuring out who could do the job better for the same price or less. I think Slowey will be a starter for the Twins next year out of necessity.

Anonymous said...

"Slowey is serviceable"
0-8 with an ERA of 6.67 is not serviceable!!! He isn't good and we don't need him back. Doumit is also a terrible idea. Have we sunk so low that we're now OK with the Pirates castoffs? He's not good enough defensively to catch for them and is a jerk in the clubhouse but has a little pop. Great - so he's Matty Lecroy. Come on - this team is top 10 in revenue - easily. We need to hold the FO's feet to the fire and demand better!!! Every time someone says we need to be realistic about finances it gives Billy Smith another out. I'm not saying we can sign 3-4 top FA's and then everything's fine, but let's try to aim a little higher!!

Jim H said...

I can't see why you would want both Santiago and Punto. They are the same guy. Neither is likely to hold up as starter. If you got 100 games out of either you would be damn lucky. Switching them off and on at shortstop doesn't make much sense either.

Bring someone in as a backup if you must. Let Nishioka and Plouffe fight it out in spring training. Bring Dozier up in June if they both struggle or Dozier looks better than whoever starts the year at short.

Starting the year with either Punto or Santiago or one their clones just postpones your problem. They wouldn't hold the job all year, and you would have to find a replacement anyway. Plouffe, Nishioka or Dozier "might" be more than a half year solution and you might as well find out as soon as you can.

If you are sure none of them can be full time shortstop for the next few years, then you better go out and find one. Let's just not go through a bunch of washed up old guys or career backups, ok?

Nick N. said...

This is not nearly good enough.

For what? To improve the team by 30 wins next year? I'm sorry to say that's not really a plausible goal given the availability of funds. If the Twins are going to contend next year, it will need to come out of major improvements from players already on the club. All I've sought to do is incrementally improve the rest of the roster through relatively minor moves that don't tie the team up in long-term commitments. I'm certainly open to hearing your alternative ideas.

I can't see why you would want both Santiago and Punto. They are the same guy.

As an alternative, you suggest letting Plouffe and Nishioka battle for a starting job in spring training. So, you basically answered your own question. Neither of those two should be viewed as a realistic starting shortstop candidate next year, and perhaps not even as potential utility infielders. The Twins need some veterans with good reliable gloves because right now their infield depth is horrendous.

If you are sure none of them can be full time shortstop for the next few years, then you better go out and find one.

Such as? I gotta say, I'm seeing a lot of critiques of the ideas that I've presented and not a lot of alternative ideas.

Mike said...

@anonymous again- Looking solely at Slowey's 2011 stats is extremely short-sighted. The guy was put in the bullpen, where he really doesn't belong, pitched poorly and got injured, as a lot of starters do when a team tries to see how they'll fare as a reliever. Most of his losses came when the team was going fully with a AAA lineup behind him as well- and that was AAA offensively and defensively.

Even with last year, he still has a career record of 39-29 with an ERA of 4.66. And he was the Twins' best starter in spring training.

So looking at Slowey's body of work that he's compiled while not having a role change forced on him, yes, he's serviceable. Not great, but fine.

"Every time someone says we need to be realistic about finances it gives Billy Smith another out." The Twins had an opening day payroll that was 9th highest in MLB last year. It isn't like they're skimping on spending. But they still have payroll restrictions, which creates the need to be realistic.

cy1time said...

"I'm seeing a lot of critiques of the ideas that I've presented and not a lot of alternative ideas."

I think that most fans want a big splash, Nick. Your plan is definitely on the conservative side, but given that the Twins are unlikely to sign any Type A free agents that would cost them a draft pick, probably in line with what will really happen. My thoughts on your plan:

1. Cuddy - agree, but somewhere, we have to find a righty with a little pop. You could roll the dice and give Plouffe or Benson a shot at some signficant ABs, but that's definitely betting on the come.
2. Nathan - I'd be OK with 2/$14M, but not much more than that.
3. Kubel - I'd rather two years, OF is one position with some organizational depth, supposedly, so maybe this is where we roll the dice and go with Plouffe or Benson.
4. Slowey is a tough one, I agree that he has value, even if 2011 was horrible. Definitely a bounceback candidate, his bruised ego should have had time to heal.
5. Doumit - 2/$9M seems reasonable. I'd rather have a stronger glove, but nobody jumps out as more reasonable/affordable option.
6. Harden - I'd rather take the $3.3M for Slowey and $3M here to find one better starter, or two solid relievers, nobody in mind.
7. Punto/Santiago - I'd rather just one of the two, or some other similar player. Maybe spend a little more on Barmes, or someone like that. Any chance the Dozier is going to see MN next summer?

It seems like if Cuddy and Capps are gone and Nathan's taking a cut, there should be some room in the budget to pay a couple decent relievers and some RH power. I think that we'll see at least one pretty big trade this offseason. Span, Liriano, or Slowey would seem to be likely candidates.

Ed Bast said...

Nick, it probably seems like we're being overly critical without offering better options. That's true. I tried to put together a blueprint and it's tough. You really see how many glaring holes this organization has and how limited the options for repair really are. It's actually slightly depressing. So I give you credit for your blueprint which is realistic and accomplishes your goal of incremental improvements.

Where I think some of the anxiety comes from is your post last week that the Twins can contend. People want to believe that, but then they see a roster with a failed Pirate hitting #5 and think, this cannot be.

Thankfully we've got our best man on it, the Gunslingin' Accountant himself.

Josh said...

Span (CF)
Casilla (2B)
Mauer (1B)
Morneau (DH)
Doumit (C)
Kubel (RF)
Plouffe (LF)
Valencia (3B)
Santiago (SS)

That's 4 LH, 2 RH and 3 SH. Maybe a little lefty-heavy but not horrible. You've got Hughes as a RH bench bat, also.


True, but it's also not a particularly strong hitting lineup. I just dunno if Plouffe can hit MLB pitching consistently. Even with the 26 XBH, he still couldn't crack a .400 SLG%, and OB% was pretty awful. I'm also not sure Doumit can be the everyday catcher on this team. As a backup+ I love him (let Mauer play a little more 1B/OF/DH/rest and give Doumit 300 ABs), but as the everyday guy with Butera backing him up?

In part I have a problem with this scenario because I see our manager defaulting to Butera because of his defense too often. Suddenly, Doumit is still only getting 300-400 ABs, but instead of the balance being filled out with Mauer & a little Butera, it's going the other way. And Drew Butera just can't hit enough to play major-league baseball, not even if he's Johnny Bench + Pudge Rodriguez back there (which he isn't).

Matt said...

All I needed to see from the blueprint for me to agree from a high level was:
- Not parting with prospects from the low minors where the good ones reside.
- Not signing big long term deals to veterans or "top FA" type players.
- Letting Cuddy walk to get draft picks instead.

The strategy to try and support a couple of great players with journeymen is about all they can really do; too many holes to fill this year.

I'm not expecting them to seriously contend unless a lot of things go right. But to expect Jose Reyes and CJ Wilson to be wearing TC hats next year is unrealistic. Too hampered by big contracts currently on the roster for that stuff...

Anonymous said...

I look at all of these line-ups and wonder what bus you guys have fallen off of. Where is Ben Revere? He was the bright spot in a terrible Twins season. He is the best lead off man on this team and the best defensive outfielder.

Matt Groff said...

I love the signing of doumit to platoon with Mauer, while Mauer plays 1B and C. Morneau can play 1B and DH and hughes can DH the other times. I think you have to Sign Cuddyer and let Kubel walk.

Sure Cuddyer is going to cost a bit more, but he is very valuable, Kubel's bat is just another Lefthanded bat and we have plenty of thouse. Nishi needs to start at AAA and work his way up. Casilla is a depth/speed guy at most.

Harden signing would be great, but they need more. I like Nathan, but I think there are better options out there. I also think they need to go after an impact top of the order bat. Reyes would be great, but he's too much maybe?

OF Should be Span, Revere, Cuddyer. Valencia should have a rebound year with talent around him.

Also need an impact starter, sure everyone should have a better year, but they need to get a front of the line starter because none of the current guys can handle the role.

Matt said...

Where is Ben Revere?
As much as I like him, he's not ready to bat lead off every day if you've got someone with an OBP over .300. Pretty low bar to set, but he's not patient enough yet to be taken seriously as an every day lead off man. Maybe by mid season he'll be ready, though.

Jim H said...

I don't want Santiago or Punto because they are backups with no real upside. The reason I suggest Plouffe and Nishioka is because I have some faith in the talent evaluators in the Twins front office. If Ryan and Kelly and others didn't believe that Plouffe couldn't play shortstop at the major league level, he would of been moved to another position, years ago. The flip side, of course, is if he had developed to the point that he could play major league shortstop, the Twins wouldn't have signed Nishioka.

Still the point is the Twins have 3 guys; Nishioka, Plouffe and Dozier, who might be major league shortstops. That is not true of Punto or Santiago. Now, it might be true that none of 3 will work out, but deciding that based on last year is probably a mistake.

Most prospects come to the majors with a lot to learn. Most that are fully developed are like Lew Ford, older guys who just are what they are, and won't improve. Look at how much Morneau improved defensively since he came to the majors. That is rather common with truly talented young prospects. Whether it will be true of Plouffe remains to be seen.

wwcd said...

Nick,

You are long on keepers and new signings, but short on who's leaving. 11-1 by my count. So who goes?

Nick N. said...

You are long on keepers and new signings, but short on who's leaving. 11-1 by my count. So who goes?

Here's the Opening Day 25-man roster as I envision it:

C-Doumit
1B-Mauer
2B-Casilla
3B-Valencia
SS-Santiago
LF-Plouffe
CF-Span
RF-Kubel
DH-Morneau

C-Butera
IF-Punto
IF-Hughes
OF-Revere

SP-Pavano
SP-Liriano
SP-Baker
SP-Slowey
SP-Blackburn

RP-Nathan
RP-Perkins
RP-Harden
RP-Duensing
RP-Burnett
RP-Mijares
RP-Swarzak

Cost is around $105M, including the $3M for Nishioka.

USAFChief said...

"Cost is around $105M, including the $3M for Nishioka."

Then leave off Punto and Santiago, and go sign Jose Reyes to play SS instead, with Nishioka as the futility infielder, and you're under $120M, which is about where the Twins should be spending.

That way you're at least making a definate improvement at a position of need, insteading of treading water with a couple scrapheap non-prospects who won't help the Twins win anything, and will need to be replaced again in 2013.

Ed Bast said...

Chief, sorry buddy, but Jose Reyes isn't coming here. It would be great, sure. But it just isn't happening. This is a team whose biggest free-agent splashes the last 3 or 4 years have been Carl Pavano and Nick Punto, and whose current $20 mil player with an injury history spent as much time in 2011 on a beach in Florida rehabbing a sore leg as he did behind the plate.

Sorry folks. Jose Reyes ain't coming here. Neither is CJ Wilson. Or Pujols or Fielder. Let's move on.

Josh said...

Chief, you say the Twins should be spending $120M a year. What's the rationale for that number? It's sounds like $115M is around the break-even point based on last season, so unless you have additional revenue coming in for the club, they'd have to take a $5M loss to possibly sign Reyes. Do you really think it's reasonable to demand that a team lose money when they already have one of the top payrolls in baseball? Or is this just an arbitrary number that allows the team to possibly sign the player you want, and hang everything else?

(Note: I still don't think Reyes would come here, unless we outbid everyone by 20%...which would mean Reyes would be overpaid by about 30%. Considering how Mauer has gotten crushed by the locals media and some fans this season, I do not see that as a good combination)

Nick's proposed roster is interesting, but the lack of an impact bat off the bench (Hughes is the best hitter in that bunch by far, which is not a good sign) is problematic. I think the final payroll budget will be around $110M, and I'd hope the Twins would move Slowey, put Harden into the back end of the rotation, and spend the additional $6-8M they'd have in budget space to sign a RH bat with some power to give the lineup a little better balance.

Anonymous said...

I'm a season ticket holder giving them up because we have no stars, no power in the lineup, no #1 starting pitcher and therefore really no reason to go to the ballpark. Tired of Billy Smith's foolish gambles... time to replace him.

If we don't have a budget, let's assess why. Maybe we shouldn't have overpaid some of these bums.
If we start the lineup on this thread, I will probably not watch 3 games next season.

Unless Morneau comes back healthy this is hopeless.

Mike said...

I think that making a roster blueprint is incredibly difficult, particularly if you're going to be realistic about who would actually come to Minnesota for an affordable price. I wish I had more free time to look through potential free agents to have more informed feedback, but I don't... at least not until the weekend.

I largely appreciate the roster Nick has laid out, although I have a few issues. I have a hard time getting fully behind having Doumit as the primary catcher, although I really don't know who would be available and better. The Twins can't have Butera catch nearly as much as he did this past year and still think they'll compete.

That's very secondary, though. My biggest issue is that the bullpen is barely getting reworked and we saw how awful they were this past year. At least on the 25 man roster proposed, they are avoiding a few bad options. But it still consists of Perkins (good), Nathan (who should continue to return to form), Burnett and Mijares (both of whom I don't trust in the slightest). Swarzak was pretty good last year for how he was used.

I get how the bullpen would be better based on the hope that Nathan gets better and that Duensing makes the pen better. And then there's hope that the wildcard Harden pans out. Are there really no better yet still affordable options than Mijares or Burnett?

And I'm not too sure about Kubel as the every day right fielder. He's not the most mobile guy out there and has had his injury concerns. I'm not as crazy about Revere as most people seem to be, but with such an extreme pitch to contact pitching staff, at least he covers a lot of ground.

Mike said...

@Josh- "It's sounds like $115M is around the break-even point based on last season"

I'm not saying that's incorrect at all, but where did you hear that?

Nick N. said...

My biggest issue is that the bullpen is barely getting reworked and we saw how awful they were this past year.

That's fair. I didn't make a ton of a additions, and Harden is obviously a gamble (one that could be replaced with a more traditional setup man at a similar price, if you wish). But I would feel a lot better about this bullpen corps than I did about the group they entered the 2011 season with, for a few reasons.

It was tough to feel confident in Perkins or Nathan entering the '11 season. After the way they pitched this year, they look like a legitimate 1-2 punch at the back end. As bad as Duensing was in the rotation this year, he continued to stifle lefties (.522 OPS, 38/6 K/BB) so I feel he'll be a major asset as a LH specialist. If Harden pans, or you find another reliable RH, that's a pretty good core for the late innings -- much better than what they entered this year with.

And I'm not too sure about Kubel as the every day right fielder. He's not the most mobile guy out there and has had his injury concerns. I'm not as crazy about Revere as most people seem to be, but with such an extreme pitch to contact pitching staff, at least he covers a lot of ground.

It's important to note that I'm basically planning for a scenario where Morneau can't play first base and Mauer can't catch. Assuming that neither player's situation is that extreme, Kubel should get plenty of time at DH and Doumit will only catch in a fraction of the games he plays.

Mike said...

Those points are fair and I certainly think the bullpen you're proposing would be better than the one we saw for most of 2011. I'm just skeptical that it'll be good enough for a team hoping to be in contention.

I understand you're presenting sort of a worst-case scenario as far as Mauer and Morneau- and really, after what we saw this year, I don't think someone could rationally put them down for serious time at catcher and 1B, respectively. All the same, I just don't know how long the Twins could go with Kubel in right in that scenario. But I suppose that's where having Revere ready to go would help.

All in all, I'm very interested to see the moves that are made over the next couple of months.

Josh said...

@Mike: pretty sure I got that figure from either Phil Mackey or LaVelle E. Neal, but can't remember if it was from radio or a blog post.

Bullpen changes are harder to look at, I think, because it's really hard for us to know who's available and who's not.

Shane Wahl said...

Clint Barmes, Derrek Lee, David DeJesus, and either Chris Ianetta (trade) or Rod Barajas seem to be better additions than Punto, Santiago, and Doumit, and the keeping of Kubel.

Plouffe playing anywhere in the field is a challenge. He has been *terrible* everywhere. Superutility and DH for him. Adding Derrek Lee would provide the RH bat and a 1B backup that is better than Luke Hughes. Morneau will be DHing anyway a lot.

DeJesus is very good defensively and can hut RH well. Laynce Nix would be a cheaper option there.

Some of these comments in response to Nick's post are just atrocious.

Shane Wahl said...

Also, god oh god can we have 14 position players and 11 pitchers from May on this year!? Jesus.

Anyway, I really like the possibility of Harden in the bullpen. How have teams not tried this with all of his 5 inning starts and physical breakdowns???

Octavio Dotel would be a smart signing. Or Michael Wuertz.

Mijares and Burnett have to be sent packing. Slama and Waldrop deserve a chance.

Anonymous said...

I agree with USAF Chief and making a run at Reyes as the SS. Who says $115M is breakeven? Do you think Pohlad runs this team on a BE basis? The Twins were 9th in payroll and 4th in attendance in MLB this year. Do we want this team to sink back into mediocrity and let Pohlad think Twins fans are content to have a nice day at the park and enjoy a little beer and sunshine?? I want to see another Twins WS before I die - I don't know about some of the others who've posted here.

Kelly said...

Sign Mike Redmond as BU Catcher. For a year and 50 games he plays better than Butera.

Dump Mijares at all costs. Fat guy who sucks.

paul said...

how about a stronger focus on pitching. harden would be a great pick up and while we are at it make a push for garland. galarraga is out there as well so there could be another option as well. so if we could focus on two or three good pitchers we will set ourselves up for a better chance.

USAFChief said...

Chief, you say the Twins should be spending $120M a year. What's the rationale for that number? It's sounds like $115M is around the break-even point based on last season, so unless you have additional revenue coming in for the club, they'd have to take a $5M loss to possibly sign Reyes.

I don't believe for a minute that the Twins "broke even" in 2011. The best available financial estimates (Forbes is probably the best, IMO) show them turning a profit pretty much every year for the past decade, and I have no doubt they did so in 2011.

I don't expect the Pohlads to lose money on the Twins, but I do expect them to push payroll to the point where they are earning little or no cash profit on a yearly basis. Carl Pohlad bought the team for $30M-ish. It's now worth in the neighborhood of 10 times that amount. That's where the value of that shiny new stadium really helps Twins ownership, and that's where I expect them to restrict their profits to.

I have little doubt there's enough revenue to support a payroll in the $120M range without actually losing much, if any, actual cash in 2012. In fact, I'd wager there's still a net profit left over with payroll in that range.

Anonymous said...

The Twins now rank 12th in franchise value at $490M and 9th in total revenue at $213M. This means they rank #1 in the AL Central - slightly ahead of the White Sox. The Sox payroll for last year was $127M. This is from Forbes and the numbers are for the 2011 season. 2012 is the fork in the road - do we go back to small ball thinking with a reduction in payroll - and reduction in attendance and revenue, or do we try to keep the momentum moving forward and play with the big boys?

Ed Bast said...

"I don't expect the Pohlads to lose money on the Twins, but I do expect them to push payroll to the point where they are earning little or no cash profit on a yearly basis."

Chief, I think you need to do a little research on the Pohlads. Everything they do relates first and foremost to the bottom line. The Twins are nothing more than a profit vehicle for them. That's the cold hard truth. It aint right, but that's how it is.

Personally I've come to grips with this to an extent. It isn't going to change, so no use wasting breath. But you know what? The Twins should be able to compete for a World Series at $115 mil. Hell, they can compete at $100 mil. Recent history proves this. The key to rebuilding this franchise isn't in incremental payroll increases. It's having the right philosophy and having the right people in place to execute that philosophy. Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case.

Anonymous said...

What about Parmelee? I know he's young and relatively untested, but he still showed some potential last season. Do you see him contributing in 2012?

Josh said...

Biggest disadvantage Parmelee has right now is hitting LH. While I liked the potential he showed in his brief call-up, he's far from a sure thing when the Twins are playing in meaningful games. But I think the real issue is he's another LH bat with limited defensive positions and skills.

However, I see Parmelee as a possible 1B candidate should Morneau prove incapable of playing in the field consistently and Mauer being able to stay reasonably healthy at C. Some of this will also depend on what happens with Kubel/Cuddyer in free agency.

Barmes is an interesting SS possibility. He probably isn't fast enough for Gardy, though. Good defensive player, but his offensive skill set isn't a Twins-style kind of player (low BA players aren't Gardy's style either). He's fluctuated between starter/reserve quality of play the last 4 seasons, and while I don't think he's likely to do much better on offense, his defense should stay solid and he could repeat a 2011 season. The concern with him is he'll probably be looking for a 3-4 year deal, which isn't acceptable to give to a guy who is a borderline starter.

Nick N. said...

What about Parmelee? I know he's young and relatively untested, but he still showed some potential last season. Do you see him contributing in 2012?

Possibly, but we should be careful not to weigh his one-month MLB debut over a lengthy minor-league track record of mediocrity. If he can prove that his power-hitting strides in September were legit, he could be a viable option at some point, but not out of the gates.

As for Barmes, I'm lukewarm on him. Don't see his bat playing well in Target Field, and while his defense has been solid, he's about to turn 33.

TT said...

Doumit's career splits make him a much better left handed hitter than right handed. He did all right in limited at bats last year, but he really wasn't good at all before that.


If you look at that lineup you basically have Doumit taking Cuddyer's spot in the lineup and Plouffe taking Young's. That is a significant downgrade in two spots. And both of them are defensive liabilities.

I am not a great fan of Cuddyer's, but they need to add a reliable right handed bat. I would not "let him walk", but I wouldn't hand him a big three year contract either. But I would do two years or a modest three year deal.

The real focus has to be the pitching staff. If they can get Harden cheap, great. But what they really need is a third relatively reliable starter to go with Baker and Pavano. They have lots of options for filling the last two spots.

I agree on Nathan. If they can get him for two years at a reasonable price they should do that. If not, they need to look outside the organization.


That all assumes they are going to try to compete next year. But if you really think Morneau and Mauer are going to have to move to DH/1B, then the Twins should be in rebuilding mode in 2011.

In that case, spending millions on a two or three year deals for aging players makes no sense. The 2011 season needs to be used to find guys who can help win a future championship. In that case, you hand a guy like Parmelee the DH/RF/1B spot. You play Plouffe somewhere you think he can stick. And you audition young pitchers for the rotation and the bullpen.

The worst thing the Twins can do is straddle the fence. This blueprint seems to do that a little.

Nick N. said...

If you look at that lineup you basically have Doumit taking Cuddyer's spot in the lineup and Plouffe taking Young's. That is a significant downgrade in two spots. And both of them are defensive liabilities.

I wouldn't assume that. It's not hard for me to fathom Plouffe putting up a .750 OPS next year, and with superior defense. Doumit will be a downgrade from Cuddyer, yes, but who knows how Cuddy will perform next year anyway. He's never put together back-to-back outstanding seasons in his career.

I would not "let him walk", but I wouldn't hand him a big three year contract either. But I would do two years or a modest three year deal.

So in other words, you would let him walk. Cuddyer is going to get a lucrative three-year deal at the least, and I'd bet he gets four years.

We'd all like to keep Cuddyer, but he's a hot commodity and is going to get overpaid. It's been indicated that he's ready to sign with the highest bidder.

The worst thing the Twins can do is straddle the fence. This blueprint seems to do that a little.

I disagree. Straddling the fence is exactly what they should do. A lineup powered by Morneau, Mauer, Kubel and Span -- when they're going good -- can do some damage. You don't want to inhibit that core by surrounding it with garbage.

Everyone complains about the pitching staff, but all those starters who helped propel the Twins to 94 wins in 2010 are still here. Most of them had bad years; it doesn't necessarily mean they're bad pitchers. They're all still young and in some cases immature. But all of this grumbling is going to seem silly if Liriano and Slowey apply themselves in the offseason, and come back pitching like they did the prior year.

Yeah, it'll take a lot of good breaks for the Twins to contend next year. But why not give it a shot, when the alternative is throwing kids like Parmelee and Benson into the fire when it's not even clear that it would benefit them? Neither has played a game in Triple-A.

One thing is for sure: you'll keep the fans a lot more satisfied by spending money and at least making an earnest effort at putting a winning team on the field. An all-out rebuild is pretty tough to justify, unless you truly believe they've got no shot.

Andrew Madison said...

I hope Punto doesn't want to come back to the Twins. Why would he want to leave St. Louis at this time to come to a team that lost 99games in 2011? It would serve all of us fans (including me) right who only missed him when he was gone not to come back.

Seems to me that the Twins would have to significantly overpay Punto to even get him to consider coming back, like a 2-year contract for 1.5 mil a year. We shouldn't assume that the Twins can just go and get Punto to come back. He will have a few other options this winter.

Andrew Madison said...

I have serious questions about adding Rich Harden. 3 mil for a year would be good, but his durability is getting worse the last 3 years, not better. He wasn't really effective in Oakland last year, even though he struck out 10 per 9, and his walk rate improved significantly.

He allowed the most hits per 9 in his entire career last year, and he's turning 30. Not a recipe for improvement. At best, Harden is rotation depth who might have some upside left until he gets hurt. (And you know he will)

Ed Bast said...

"Everyone complains about the pitching staff, but all those starters who helped propel the Twins to 94 wins in 2010 are still here."

Where to start?

1. The 2010 team had solid infield defense.
2. The 2010 team had a bullpen.
3. Nick Blackburn was terrible in 10, terrible again in 11. If given the chance he'll be terrible again in 12.
4. Carl Pavano is 2 years older and is going to give up a ton of hits.
5. The 10 team had an offense that could score runs and win 6-5 games.
6. Due to the organization's flawed pitching philosophy which they refuse to adjust, Baker, Slowey, Blacky, and Frankie have been programmed to shut down in-game at 100 pitches and in-season at about 140 innings. They're going to get hurt and they're going to max out the bullpen. (Note that Carl Pavano, the only guy not raised in the Twins system, has reached 200+ innings two years in a row).

Just because X years ago the Twins did Y does not mean the Twins should refuse to change anything coming off a 99-loss season. To say that the Twins won the division in 2010 so they don't need to improve the rotation in 2012 is absolutely baffling.

Anonymous said...

Rich Harden? I'm a Twins fan who lives in Chi town, and watched him for the Cubs. We have a staff full of "Hardens". No way. Period. We need reliability, durability, and an Ace. Period.

Ed Bast said...

Also, Nick: Baker, Liriano, Pavano are all likely free agents after this year. It's remarkably short-sighted to ignore starting pitching this offseason, or we could be looking at a 2013 starting rotation of Blackburn, Duensing, Swarzak, Matt Maloney, and Scott Diamond. This team needs to have one eye on building for the future.

Matt said...

Funny how people take issue with the Pohlad's treating the Twins as "nothing more than a profit vehicle." Well, no kidding. Baseball is a business.
That being said, I agree that bloated payrolls don't bring in championships. Good scouting, player development, and savvy front office moves get the job done. There are too many successful teams in the past decade of Yankee/Red Sox payroll dominance to name them off here...

Every club needs an eye to the future, the decision on how you treat the M&M boys now and in the years to come is huge. Surround them with some veteran competance or play with a bunch of kids? I have to agree with Nick that if you want to at least have a shot at competing, you have to go and get some reliable players so you at least know what you're getting instead of rolling the dice on kids.

Kelly said...

Rafael Furcal.Jason Kendall. Mark Buehrle. Resign Cuddy to two years at 7.5 each. Resign Nathan at 7 each.

Ed Bast said...

"Well, no kidding. Baseball is a business."

To be fair, the reviled Yankees and Red Sox, who we all hold up as prime examples of this, also mix in a steady committment to winning. They often exceed budget, they hold people accountable for their mistakes, and they aren't afraid to shake things up if things are headed in the wrong direction.

Baseball's a business, sure. The good franchises are able to balance the business side of things with at least a moderate desire to win. The Pohlads have never demonstrated the latter. Jim admitted as much in that Strib interview after the season, saying "payroll spending tends to reflect" an org's committment to winning, and then later in the interview saying 2012 payroll will "naturally come down" from 2011 levels.

But again, there's no use fighting it anymore. Bad owners who treat their fans with contempt can be overcome; unfortunately, bad front offices typically cannot.

Matt said...

Yup, winning comes from the front office and the culture the owner sets. Winning and profitability can go together if you have a discerning fan base, which we do not. Most people are happy just being at Target Field right now, but that won't last forever.
If you have a rich, quiet owner who hires a GM and judges them solely on W's and L's, in line with what they're promising (like, the GM shows the owner a 5-year plan and is judged against that), and it meets your business goals at the same time, great. It's like any other work place.
I agree though that the Pohlad's show all this "loyalty" to the front office and coaches, but not the fans. We don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but it sure seems like the metrics to which GMs and coaches have been measured against are lacsidasical at best.

To think, the Twins were so admired 8 years ago. Look at the Rays now; much better results in a teeny tiny market, slaying juggernauts just to get into the playoffs.

So, what to do? It really depends on the M&M boys condition and if they have a few good years left or not. I still like Nick's strategy for the time being, it is time to address the rotation in some way. FA market, try and draft a stud who's only a year or two away, trade, etc...

Anonymous said...

"To think, the Twins were so admired 8 years ago. Look at the Rays now; much better results in a teeny tiny market, slaying juggernauts just to get into the playoffs."

Tampa/St.Petersburg/Sarasota is NOT a teeny tiny market. It has a pop. of 4M so it's bigger than the Twin Cities area. The ballpark sucks and so does the attendance, but it's not because it's a small market.

tell the truth guy said...

^Anon, not sure what your point is but you cant just make things up to prove it. MSP metro is 3.3 mil, TB/St. pete's metro is 2.7 mil. Do 2 seconds of research instead of make stuff up. TB

Matt said...

The Twins market includes most of the Dakotas, parts of IA, WI, and all of the MN, TC area and outstate. They've been here for over half a century.

The Rays have Tampa/St. Pete, and a small share of that area, at best.

MN has a bunch of life long residents who take pride in anything local.

TB/SP is full of snowbirds and retirees who are loyal to other teams (next time the Twins play in St. Pete, look and see how many Twins jerseys are in the crowd). Most of the locals are college football crazy and could care less about baseball.

The Twins organization takes in much more revenue because of these factors, not just the comparitive populations of the metro areas where the ball parks now stand.

In short, the Twins have a MUCH bigger market then the Rays, yet with the little payroll they have, they've put together an organization that is far superior today and set up better for the immediate future.

Go figure...

So, again, my point is that inflating payroll by signing expensive guys with injury issues (Reyes), overhyped starters who played on good defensive clubs (CJ Wilson) won't make you a champion, necessarily. Scouting, drafting, and player development, as well as accountability within management, wins the big ones.

Mike said...

Some people's ideas are interesting. I especially like the idea to sign Cuddyer at $7.5 million a year for two years, or other statements about signing him to a low amount. It's not going to be possible. The guy is going to get offers for 3-4 years at more than his salary for this past year.

TB was also helped in the short term by having the top or near the top pick in the MLB draft consistently for several years. Those top players pan out much more frequently than lower draft picks and can be traded for good value most of the time. That, combined with good scouting and smart FO moves, is what's put TB at the top of the league.

Twins have had the opposite for quite a while- bad scouting, bad FO the past few seasons, and they haven't had a top draft pick in a very long time. Of course, with a better FO, they would be in a much better position anyway.

ruff ryder said...

saw that san fran might be shopping lincecum for some offense, bam here's our shot for the ace. offer up span + hicks + hendricks or somnething like that. cj wilson would be nice, i dont think he's going to get much after his playoff bust, 15 mil per and we can afford it. let the kiddies like revere and parmmasee play for cheap, why not, pitching the name of the game. just think, timmy cj pav baker frankie, that's world series right there. + u trade slowy and blacky and those bums for reliefers, thats your bullpen. and then udont care as much about ss/2b "d", sign nicky "p" on the cheap. and get a backed-up catcher for a couple mil. bam, u got a payroll at like 110 mil, AND not onyl are u lookin fine in the central but the worl series too. peace i'm out, this blue-print thing is a piece of cake, all u come up with is ryna duimit? ha!

Mike said...

Ruff rider chimed in at the perfect time. Like I said, some people's ideas are very interesting.

In the NL, SF had the lowest BAA, 2nd lowest ERA, 2nd most quality starts, 2nd most SOs, and they still finished 8 games out in a mediocre division. Yes, pitching is obviously very important, but you can't ignore hitting if you expect to compete. Unless we're just assuming Morneau and Mauer return to form.

And I'm not sure where the money would come from to sign Wilson and/or Lincecum. Wilson's stock isn't dropping and he's already indicated he doesn't want to leave Texas anyway. Which just means throw more money at him to lure him away. And Lincecum is a two time NL Cy Young winner, 27 y/o, and was a top NL pitcher again last year, making $14,000,000. And RR thinks the Twins can afford that and can afford to lose two of their top prospects and the only viable leadoff man on the roster? Ok.

ruff ryder said...

yo mike, the if the m&m boys dont skittle up, it dont matter who else we got, the seasons' down the poop shoot anyhow. even nicky n said that. there aint any good hitters out there we can afford anyohw., you say san fran hitting was xtra-hefty-bag trash, well last time i checked they dont have 3 mvps in there line-up! thats what you chumps dont get, we already gots the good hitters. you really think porneau's gonna get hurt 4th year in a row? what are the chances. and my man joe boy (Not the sandwhich( is down right pissed, he'll whack 30 ding dongs and laugh in u haters face. so if we gotta count on them boys anyhow, lez count on em and pony up on aces. peace!

Mike said...

Thanks for the comedic relief, RR.

Mauer has never been a power hitter. He hit what? 28 HRs in his MVP season? And the majority of those barely made it out in the HR friendly metrodome. Unless he unexpectedly develops HR power, he isn't getting close to 30.

I'm not a Mauer hater at all- all the vitriol directed towards him all season has been absurd, IMO. I think Mauer can come back. Morneau, I'm not so sure.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that both Mauer and Morneau come back strong, which I think everyone agrees needs to happen if the Twins are going to have a shot at competing next year. They will be extremely short on offense if they trade away Span and sign two ace level pitchers. They won't be able to afford to re-sign Cuddyer or Kubel, or go after any other FA. After they fill out the roster with some players, they'll have a max of about $30 MM to spend on FA's, all of which would go to the FA pitchers you name.

So in addition to Mauer and Morneau, you have Revere, who isn't ready to be a productive hitter at the MLB level yet, at least not even an average hitter. Casilla, Nishioka, Valencia (who has great potential still), Butera, and an unknown outfield. Plouffe? Hughes? Tosoni? I doubt that lineup could hit 100 home runs over the year, it's weak all-around offensively and it isn't a very good defensive crew.

I shouldn't have even taken the bait and responded... maybe if this were XBox we could get those two.

cy1time said...

I'm beginning to think that coming up with a blueprint is futile until you decide two things. Is Mauer going to catch everyday? Is Morneau going to play first everyday? If I can say no and no to those two questions, then this gets easier.

I just read the Oakland would trade anyone but Jemile Weeks (Rosenthal on FOX Sports). How about Kurt Suzuki? Might be a perfect fit. I wonder what it would take to get him? If they are targeting a new stadium in 3 years, maybe guys like Revere or Benson could be in a package that would interest them.

Suzuki is young, reasonably cost controlled for a few years, and durable. If the Twins could get a guy like Suzuki to catch, they could just get it over with and move Mauer to first, Morneau to DH, then go from there. At least that would give us some clarity on what else we need to work on.

It's difficult to know where to allocate money when you have two gusy that you can't count on to be in your lineup. Maybe I'm copping out, but this seems reaonable to me. I like this better than most of the Free Agent catching options.

Anonymous said...

One important note to all of the offseason thoughts is that Morneau is not going to play 1st base anymore. He will be lucky to DH for a full season. If he had concussion problems in Auggust of this year after diving for a ground ball, he is done playing in the field and should probably retire. If the Twins are foolish enough to hope that he will play 1st base again, then they really are in big trouble. Think about it; 15 months after suffering a concussion he is having symptoms again after diving for a ground ball! If you can't see that his career is basically over, you are not facing reality! It is time to move on from Morneau and hope that Mauer can bounce back this year.
Old Twinkies Fan

Mike said...

Big pitching pickups already this offseason for both Cleveland and KC. Twins need to make a better move than picking up two mediocre (at best) relievers if they want to contend next year. Lincecum and Wilson are impossible and highly unlikely (respectively), but hopefully they can find some improvement somewhere.

Otherwise, I see the Twins' rotation as being far back of all four teams in the central, barring Pavano and Liriano pitching like they did in 2010, Baker staying healthy and pitching like he did in 2011, and Slowey and Blackburn staying healthy and capable of locking down the back of the rotation.

logan said...

trade for Wieters. give them $ and our [former] catcher....

Mike said...

Where's Ed? Bill Smith gets fired- he should be here immediately.

I kid, I kid. But wow. I'm impressed by this move. I still don't think an entire cleaning of the Twins' FO and management is necessary, but this is a move that's definitely positive for the club. I don't think every Bill Smith move was bad, but he had enough terrible moves and not enough redeeming ones so that it was time for the team to move on.

Matt said...

I have to wonder, though, how much influence Terry Ryan had on some of those Bill Smith moves. If he had lots of influence, obviously, this isn't really "moving on," is it?
If not, and if TR is the main guy looking for the next guy to call the shots and make the moves, let's hope he gets himself a guy with a more solid scouting background.
Overall, though, this was good for the club.