Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Prioritizing Offseason Needs

Yesterday I wrote that the depleted Twins could stand to upgrade their roster across the board during the offseason. It's probably not realistic to expect impact players to be added at every position, though, so today we'll prioritize the team's needs. Where are external additions mandatory, as opposed to optional luxuries? Let's assess the roster from top to bottom, starting with the most urgent area of need, and you can draw the line:

1. Shortstop

It could be argued that the shortstop is the most important player on the diamond. He is the captain of your infield, and the recipient of a very high volume of fielding chances -- often carrying a considerable degree of difficulty. The Twins were extremely weak at shortstop this season, with a .238/.292/.320 hitting line that came attached to very poor defense. It is simply unacceptable to enter the 2012 campaign with Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Trevor Plouffe as the sole options there.

2. Catcher

When healthy, Joe Mauer is obviously one of the league's elite catchers, but he wasn't healthy this year and as result the Twins got a .185 batting average from the position. Mauer's health is in flux and it's not at all clear he'll be able to crouch behind the plate for the majority of the team's games next season. To plan for that outcome, they absolutely must carry better backups than Drew Butera and Rene Rivera, who don't belong in the major leagues.

3. Relief Pitcher

The bullpen wasn't a crippling flaw in the team's 2011 roster composition only because the Twins so rarely had leads to protect. Make no mistake, this group was painfully bad. Minnesota relievers ranked dead last in the majors in ERA, opponents' batting average and K/BB ratio. Worse yet, Joe Nathan and Matt Capps are eligible for free agency, leaving Glen Perkins as the sole trustworthy holdover. The Twins might be able to cull a couple decent performers out of their collection of marginal relief arms, but they'll need to hit the trade market or free agency and add some reliable back-end relievers if they have eyes on contending in 2012.

4. Starting Pitcher

The Twins really need to supplement their rotation during the offseason, but the fact that this position ranks fourth tells you just how dire their needs are at the first three spots. The Twins do have some options on the existing roster, as they still control all the guys that they brought into this 2011 season when the rotation was largely considered a strength. The problem is that nearly every player at the position is afflicted by injury concerns, and the staff's pitch-to-contact tendencies don't play nearly as well with a sub par defense.

5. Outfield

Rather than breaking down the outfield position-by-position, we'll just say that the Twins could use some help out there in general, since it's not clear at this point how things are going to shake out. Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are both eligible for free agency, and if neither returns we would be looking at a Ben Revere/Denard Span/Joe Benson (or possibly Trevor Plouffe?) starting alignment. While that would be a stout defensive group, they'd be dreadfully low on power and very questionable offensively overall. Only if the Twins are in full rebuilding mode could they responsibly move forward with such a plan.

6. First Base

Coaches have already openly talked about moving Justin Morneau to DH in order to preserve his health, a move that would leave some big shoes to fill at first. Chris Parmelee made a strong impression in September, but his pedestrian minor-league track record suggests that he would struggle if pressed into full-time duty. Outside of him, there just isn't anyone in the organization with enough bat to step in as the regular first baseman next year. Unless it's Mauer.

7. Second Base

Alexi Casilla figures to return next year and while his .252/.310/.337 career hitting line isn't particularly exciting, he did enough this year to justify another shot. He has always proven susceptible to prolonged slumps and has never reached the 100-game mark in a season, so adding some depth ought to be a focus unless the Twins feel comfortable with Luke Hughes or Brian Dinkelman as their principle insurance plans.

8. Designated Hitter

It's not clear whether Kubel will be back next year, but with the uncertainty surrounding Morneau and Mauer, it seems likely that at least one of them will put in significant time as the team's DH next year. If they're both able to stick in the field (a good problem to have), the Twins will be tasked with finding a no-glove guy who can hit a little bit, which seems like a relatively minor obstacle given the rest of their headaches.

9. Third Base

Ron Gardenhire might consider this a higher priority, since he wasn't too shy about voicing his frustration with Danny Valencia over the course of the summer. Still, the sophomore led the team in games played and his offensive drop-off was completely attributable to a BABIP plummet, as his peripherals remained largely intact. He's nothing special -- particularly when you account for his iffy glove -- but considering his price tag and health, Valencia should be safe.


Anonymous said...

So, in short, EVERYTHING.

With the limited options and dollar cost in free agency and the prospect costs in trades, I don't see how this team is going to piece together a competitive team.

This will definitely be a defining offseason for Mr Smith.

Moe said...

Well, it's not like we had a great SS, backup C, or bullpen last year.

Oh wait.


Ed Bast said...

Before we look at specific positions I think we need to decide what the expectation is for 2012 and what the 5-year plan is for this franchise. I don't think treading water with rehashed veterans and stopgaps is a) going to make us contenders in 2012, and b) good for the long-term health of the organization. The front office needs to set aside some of their trademark arrogance and really consider whether, given the payroll situation, free agent market, etc., this team can seriously contend in 2012 no matter what they do in the offseason. I'm not sure they can; if that's the case, perhaps it's time to rebuild.

Anonymous said...

I think your priorities are skewed. It should be : 1.)SS 2.) Starting pitcher 3.) Everything else doesn't matter... The foundation of this franchise since TK took over has been pitching and defense. They go hand in hand. You can't be good at one area without the other. Their defense was terrible this year, any stat you want to look at. It starts with the SS. Once the infield is improved, you have to look at the outfield, which they improved by getting rid of Delmon. Add a quality starter or two and they are on their way back to good defense and pitching.

Anonymous said...

I agree with SS being priority #1 - and 2B also needs to be filled. I think we should trade for J.J. Hardy, and Orlando Hudson for depth at 2B and if we can't get Hardy then let's get Jason Bartlett. For BP depth I would try to get Jessie Crain. Oh wait a minute - you're saying we had all of those guys?? Never mind then.
Sorry - I know I need to let go. Not ready yet though.

Nick N. said...

1.)SS 2.) Starting pitcher 3.) Everything else doesn't matter...

Look, I understand everyone's frustration with the starting pitching. But is it really unthinkable that a starting 5 of Baker, Liriano, Pavano, Slowey and Blackburn could do the job next year? Obviously it's tough to expect them to stay healthy and none of them had particularly good seasons (except for Baker) but I'm more comfortable with what they've got there than at SS, C and RP, where the cupboard is bare.

I don't think treading water with rehashed veterans and stopgaps is a) going to make us contenders in 2012, and b) good for the long-term health of the organization.

I don't necessarily disagree, but in the third year of a new stadium and with huge money tied up into Mauer and Morneau, the Twins simply aren't going to go into a full rebuilding mode. They are going to at least maintain the pretense that they plan on returning to contention next year. I don't really mind that; I just hope they don't make misguided short-term moves that will hurt them down the line.

(Sadly, I'm beginning to think that re-signing Cuddyer might be such a move. His best years would likely come at the front of his contract, and when the team is back in the mix in a few years you'd be paying him big money as he ages into his mid-30s.)

Ed Bast said...

"I don't necessarily disagree, but in the third year of a new stadium and with huge money tied up into Mauer and Morneau, the Twins simply aren't going to go into a full rebuilding mode."

I know, and herein lies the dilemma. I've said all along that the club needs to capitalize on Target Field because as Seattle, Baltimore, Cleveland, et. al have demonstrated, the advantage gained by a new stadium is shorter-lived than what you might expect. But, man, look at your list! Look at what Bill "We're Going To Really Shake Things Up By Firing The AAA Hitting Coach" Smith has done to this organization in the course of 1 season!

I'm torn on what we should be doing. Welcome to Twins purgatory, I guess. Is it possible to half-rebuild? Infuse some young talent into the organization while adding some halfway-decent not-ancient stopgaps?

Anonymous said...

You can probably get Ramon Hernandez solid backup catcher for 5-6 million. So what? He addes 1-2 wins to the team instead of 1-2 losses as Butera did. That's not a priority because backup catcher doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things just like relief. You answer your own point with Relief pitching it didn't matter this year cause we sucked so why is it a priority for next year? You have to upgrade other spots that actually get wins then find relief pitching which accounts for maybe 30% of your pitching. Finding good relief is a crap shoot anyway and if you are in contention can trade for it at the deadline.

Anonymous said...

If the Twins pick up 1 IF from the list below and 1 SP from the list below they have already improved themselves by a huge margin and would be contenders in the weak Central if Mauer and Morneau are healthy. All consistently put up yearly WAR values close to this last season. This would all be short-term however. Multi-Year deals could leave this liabilities down the road.
CJ Wilson 6-7 WAR
Edwin Jackson 4-5 WAR
Javier Vazquex 4-5
Omar Infante - 2-3 WAR
Jose Reyes - 6-7 WAR
Jimmy Rollins 3-4 WAR
Marco Scutaro 3-4 WAR
If you compare this to say Slowey .4 WAR, Blackburn .7 WAR and Liriano 1 WAR you can see the upgrade. Baker and Pavano were each 3.0 WAR so you can really see the upgrade.
Finally you can see a huge upgrade in the IF with Nishioka actually being -1.4 WAR and Plouffe being -.4WAR which shows how much these guys cost the SS and 2B position.
Now if you look at relief - Perkins despite being a great RP this year was worth 1.7 wins. WOW! Better spend some money on RP as they bring so much value. It's pretty obvious IF and SP are big holes. Another good argument would be a big time hitter. Albert, Prince & Ortiz all fit that mold but goodluck on that.

Nick N. said...

Sean: I don't really like using WAR so literally, because the metric just doesn't translate to on-field victories as cleanly as you're implying, but if that's the route you want to go...

Liriano in his best season (2010): 6.0 WAR.

C.J. Wilson in his best season (2011): 5.9 WAR.

Assuming everyone is going to produce the same way they did this year is a mistake, and was a significant problem with the Twins' plan last offseason. I know everyone's down on the roster right now because basically all the players struggled, but there's talent on this team.

That's not a priority because backup catcher doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things just like relief.

Except that the "backup catcher" could easily be the starting catcher for most, if not all, of the season. The Twins are openly talking about the possibility of moving Mauer to first base next year; they wouldn't be doing that if it wasn't a very realistic scenario.

I'm torn on what we should be doing. Welcome to Twins purgatory, I guess. Is it possible to half-rebuild? Infuse some young talent into the organization while adding some halfway-decent not-ancient stopgaps?

This is the exact dilemma that they face this offseason. I think you've got the right idea. Like I said, spend your money and bring in players to fill areas of need, but don't make moves that will hinder you three or four years down the line.

Anonymous said...

Nick; Yes it is unthinkable that Blackburn will suddenly improve or that Slowey will start pitching past the 5th inning with success. Trade Slowey, move Blackburn to BP. Keep Baker and Pavano, but Baker is not a top of the rotation type guy. He is injury prone and does not have the mentality to be a big time SP, imo. Keep Liriano bc he doesn't cost too much next season and if you get anything from him, that's a bonus. I like Swarzak as a SP. That leaves two spots for low-risk, high reward SP like Edwin Jackson or Sanchez from SF. Or make a trade for a bona fide ace, knowing that it will cost you. Indians got Jiminez for cheap, Brewers got Grienke for cheap. I don't trust BS to make that kind of move w/o giving away the store, that's why i like a lower risk type FA siging with an incentive laden, short term contract that will hold the Twins until minor league develop.

TT said...

I think the top priorities for the Twins are signing or replacing Cuddyer and Nathan. They don't really have other good alternative internal candidates for either role.

I think one question at shortstop is whether the Twins are ready to completely give up on Plouffe and Nishioka. The second question is whether they have completely excluded Casilla as an option at shortstop. I suspect the answer to both of those is no, but they have serious reservations about all of them. I would expect them to add a guy to that mix that they know will give them outstanding defense. If they go after a well-rounded veteran, they are basically giving up on Plouffe and Nishioka.

It would appear that the Twins have serious questions about Morneau and Mauer's ability to stay healthy next year and in the future. Both of them will likely DH some and the more Morneau DH's, the more first base Mauer will play. If they can find a DH who can catch that would fill out that trio nicely. Butera may still have a job as a third catcher in that scenario.

If they move Blackburn and Duensing to the bullpen, they will need to go after another starter. Pavano, Liriano, Baker and Slowey would fill out the rotation with Diamond and Swarzak as alternatives. I'm not sure I like that, but it sure leaves the bullpen in better shape.

Nick N. said...

TT, I agree with most of what you said but, although I'm far from a Blackburn fan, I think they need to give him a shot in the rotation (if he's healthy). He stands almost no chance of being worth the $4.75M he'll make as a long man in the bullpen. He might be worth it if he can throw 200 innings over 33 starts with an average ERA. Relegating him to a low-leverage relief job -- which, really, is the only role a hittable guy like him could be trusted in -- should be a last resort.

Duensing, on the other hand, is made for the bullpen.

Anonymous said...

Terry Francona just hit the managerial market. Would be a great change of pace for the Twins.

TT said...

Nick -

I don't think you can make decisions based on what someone is paid. His pay is what it is, you want to get the most you can for the money.

Things can change when pitchers get moved to the bullpen. They pitch more often, use fewer different pitches and tend to add velocity.
Of course the flip side is that some guys can't handle the transition. But, unlike Slowey, Blackburn has worked out of the bullpen in the past.

Blackburn sinker is actually a pretty good pitch that would be very valuable with guys on base. Gardy can pick his spots based on how the sinker is working that day. He doesn't have to leave him out there to find it when its not working.

Matt said...

I'm not big on sinker-ballers out of the bullpen. Too risky in terms of giving up HRs and having balls creep through the infield with guys on base. If Blackie can't start effectively, say 20 "quality" (however you want to define that) starts, he's worthless to the team. Later inning relievers need to be able to get strikeouts with guys on base, not put the ball in play.

Backup catchers are important on any big league club. They're going to play 30-40 games on most teams, at least. You want decent offensive production and the ability to play competant defense. WAR can't accurately measure the value of this position to your club, particularly if you have a brittle catcher who doesn't work out/rehab in the offseason like he SHOULD be.

Rolling with the same roster plus some stop gap journeman, only to avoid "we're rebuilding" seems foolish to me. If the season is taking a dive by June, rid yourself of Liriano and Pavano to contenders and see if you can get some AAA talent in the system. They should have done that this year (along with Cuddy and Kubes) but no, they're not rebuilding, they're waiting to get healthy. What a crock.

Josh said...

I'm having trouble disagreeing with Nick here.

SS needs to get fixed. Unfortunately, I don't see any sure-fire solutions out there (other than Reyes, and a) he ain't comin' here, and 2) we would be insane to lock up another $20M/yr for the next 7 on 1 player. The Sox/Yanks we ain't). Plouffe's D is too shaky for him to be a real solution (Gardy would never run him out there every day) and Nishi probably needs some time in the minors to see if he can adjust to playing MLB-style baseball (let alone hit one).

Catcher I agree with 100%. I don't care how many times people drool over Butera's defense, his utter inability to hit MLB pitching makes him a liability. Even if Mauer is healthy enough to catch 120 games next season (not a great bet, but not out of the question either) he's still catching too many games.

Relief help needs to happen, but we don't need to be dumping big cash on a "closer". As the Capps experiment has proven, the title just gets you paid more than you deserve. There will be relatively inexpensive veteran arms we can add to the bullpen with the money we're saving on Capps. I would consider bringing back Nathan for say, 2 yrs/$10M or so and that might be viable.

Staring pitching is actually fairly far down on my list, mostly because the available options are either out of reach or unrealistic. I'm not really that down on Blackburn: he is what he is, a back of the rotation starter. If you count on him as your #2, you're in trouble, but if he's your #4 that's usually just fine. Baker, Liriano, and Pavano at the top of the rotation is actually better than people think, the problem is health. Pavano is the only guy we can really count on for 200 innings. Slowey needs to be traded or non-tendered: he can't pitch past the 5th inning, and he makes too much money for a pain in the ass.

Outfield is a bit worrisome because of the manager, who will probably put Span in CF and Revere in LF to keep Span happy with him, even though Span is a better LF than revere and you get more value out of Revere in CF while minimizing his weaknesses. With Span in LF, Revere in CF, you can have a slow guy like Cuddyer or Kubel in RF and live with it.

Either Cuddy or Kubel will be back, I think. I actually like Kubel better at this point, but we need the RH bat, so Cuddyer stays. Hopefully we don't overpay him by too much. But I'm scared some other team will offer him 4/40M and the Twins will panic and match. 3/24M is the highest we should go and he'll probably only be badly overpaid in yr3.

Matt said...

[quote]Nishi probably needs some time in the minors[/quote]
It's a bummer...
You pay a $5 million posting fee, plus hand him a $15 million contract, and what do you get? A player unable to adjust to MLB play and needs time in Rochester.
If you didn't have the posting fee, Nishi might not even be invited to spring training.
If you can upgrade your 1 and a half catcher (plan on him catching 60-80 games) offensively, I think you can get by with a SS who plays good defense. Preferably someone rangy to make up for Danny V's lack of range at 3B. Shouldn't be super expensive and maybe you can play Plouffe at 2B and get some offense out of the position?

Anonymous said...

Nick -
Francisco Liriano's WAR -
2008 - 1.5
2009 - 1.1
2011 - 1.0
So, in his last 4 years he has had one very good season and three horrible ones.
Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey have never had a WAR above 3.0 at anytime in the history of man and usually much worse that that.
So, if you get a top starter you are adding MAJOR value to your team. I'm not even talking aces. CJ Wilson, Vasquez, Jackson are all #2 types but still bring huge upgrade and return.
To further bring this point home the pitchers I've mentioned like CJ Wilson have been putting up consecutive seasons of high performance which Liriano nor any other Twins pitcher has currently done. Baker & Pavano are good guys to have behind that type of guy. They are consistently medicore 3-4 WAR. After those two the Twins should dump all other starters as they present no value per what they make.
As to the other point if Joe Mauer can't catch next year at least 90-100 games then the Twins aren't making the playoffs. There is no catcher on the market that can replace his value there or even close to it. If he plays 1B the majority of the time (Plan B scnenario) again the Twins are done. So, signing a catcher isn't a priority because the Twins need to play Mauer at Catcher. If the Twins sign a guy like Ramon Hernandez it's a huge improvement over Butera but if it's to replace Mauer then the value is a huge decline. So without Mauer, Butera is fine starting for 500k as opposed to someone making millions because the Twins won't compete and Butera playing over Hernandez isn't worth any huge jump in overal wins. Hernandez for a FULL season starting brings in 2 extra wins at best and Butera -1. Mauer is a huge 5-8 WAR at catcher a year from 2006-2010. That's HUGE! Most teams have horrific hitting catchers. Not Butera bad but bad enough to make no difference in outcome.

TT said...

"Later inning relievers need to be able to get strikeouts with guys on base, not put the ball in play."

The best strikeout pitchers get one in three outs via strikeout. Do you think what happens the other two thirds of the time is irrelevant?

TT said...

"You want decent offensive production and the ability to play competant defense."

The problem is that many, if not most, teams lack even one catcher with both. Guys with that combination have a starting job.

Ed Bast said...

"So, signing a catcher isn't a priority because the Twins need to play Mauer at Catcher."

This is as woefully misguided as saying "Acquiring an ace isn't a priorirty because the Twins need Liriano to pitch like he did in '06."

The Twins went into 2011 with your mindset. How did that work out? Are you seriously not only suggesting but encouraging the Twins to make the same mistake twice?

Anonymous said...

"Butera is fine"

No true twins fan would ever say this. Sean please stop being a fan.

Josh said...

I'm also seriously concerned that 3B is suddenly going to become a priority and that the Twins are not going to look at Valencia's season as a sophomore slump will a likelihood to rebound but instead follow the Gardenhire preference train and run him out of town. Valencia's D was pretty sound during his rookie campaign (average to above average in pretty much every category you looked at), so while this year he was clearly below average there's no reason he can't get back to being an asset instead of a liability. he's got the skills. I would also expect his hitting to bounce back next season as he gets a little more luck behind him, so a line of .270/.320/.410 is a VERY reasonable expectation (and right in line with his current career averages), which would make him about league-average offensively (overall) and if he's D can round back into shape he should be a 2 WAR kind of player.

But I took notice how often Gardy singled him out for criticism in the press, which tells me the Twins might take a solid starting 3B who's under control at a reasonable price and run him out of town. On a team with significant holes and not a lot of easy ways to fill them, we shouldn't be creating another, but I have serious concerns the manager may be running the roster instead of the GM and we may have already seen the last of Danny V.

Anonymous said...

The first thing the Twins/BS need to decide is if they are going to rebuild or compete. Since they have Mauer and he is in his prime, you need to try to put together enough players around him in 2012 to compete. Why wait until he is past his prime in 2-3 years? With that in mind, SS and SP are the most important needs imo. Barmes, Izturis, are big improvments over Plouffe or Nishi. Next, why settle for Blackburn in the rotation? Go get someone that can consistantly give you a quality start and has a chance to get mlb hitters out! Swarzak has a good chance to develop into a good SP. Add one or two more FA SP and you would have a staff that can be competitive. And don't just try to be competitive in the Central, let's start thinking about going further in the playoffs. The starters they have now have proven that they can't get it done in the playoffs.

Matt said...

[i]The best strikeout pitchers get one in three outs via strikeout. Do you think what happens the other two thirds of the time is irrelevant?[/i]

The BEST "double play pitchers" induce them at a much lower clip than 1 in 3. If you have a man on 2nd, he advances on some ground balls; much lower chance of that with a strikeout. With 2 outs? I'd rather have a good shot at a K than having one squib through for the winning run. Bullpen favors strikeout pitchers over ground ballers. With guys on, I'll take a strikeout guy over Blackburn any time.

[i]The problem is that many, if not most, teams lack even one catcher with both. Guys with that combination have a starting job.[/i]

Ok, I should have been specific...
I'll take a .230 hitter over Butera. That's decent enough for me...

TT said...

"With 2 outs? I'd rather have a good shot at a K than having one squib through for the winning run."

The chances the best strikeout pitchers will get a strike out is one in three. The chances of any ball in play going for a hit is less than that.

The fact is that striking people out isn't required to be successful as a setup guy. And being able to strike batters out isn't a guarantee of success. When Blackburn's sinker is working, he is going to get guys out.

Lance Johnson said...

Mauer and Morneau have really put the Twins in a HUGE bind. I wonder how fast the Twins would divorce themselves from these two players if they could get rid of their salaries? What a disaster it could(looks like)be. If the Twins struggle again next year and are only drawing 20k per game by jule the Mauer deal is going to ruin them. I love it!

TT said...

There were 8 major league catchers who qualified for the batting title and hit over .230 last year and Detroit had two of them, Martinez and Avila.

There were 34 catchers with 100 at bats who hit over .230 and 19 more with less than 100 for a total of 53.

It looks like "decent enough" is a starting catcher.

Nick N. said...

When Blackburn's sinker is working, he is going to get guys out.

And give up lots of hits. His value is pitching a lot of mediocre innings. Unless he becomes a far more effective pitcher in short stints (as in, not one of the most hittable pitchers in the league, as he has been every year) he provides little value to the bullpen. I just can't see his stuff playing up that much.

You're right -- you want to get the most out of what you have.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

since the era of the 162-game schedule, the requisite number of PAs has been 502.

Does our backup catcher need 502 PA's? No.

Blackburn's career WHIP: .144
Career BAA: .297

I'll assume you didn't look this up. Numbers like that just don't play well in the pen. He's a back of the rotation guy who can eat innings for you and give you a chance to win every other start. That's it.

It's fine if you want to look up advanced stats to try and prove he's good and that's fine; I didn't bother since these are career numbers and he's pitched 720 big league innings.

TT said...

Matt -

You seemed to have missed this. There is barely one catcher per major league team with over 100 at bats who hit better than .230. If we are talking about fewer than 100 at bats, the backup catcher's offense is all but irrelevant.

Nick -

Actually when Blackburn's sinker is working, he isn't all that hittable. But I suppose that is a tautology. Blackburn hasn't worked enough in the bullpen for his numbers to mean anything. Perkins was pretty hittable as a starter.

Anonymous said...

How the hell is it as misguided as saying the Twins need Liriano to pitch like 2006? How the hell? Mauer has played at a HUGE above average level of performance for 5 straight years before the 2011 season. Liriano had a good 120 innings in 2006 and a good 2010 season. ONE... ONE year of Mauer being hurt while still having a 2+ WAR value does not mean the Twins should put him in RF or trade him. It's moronic. You go into 2012 depending on Mauer to catch 60% of your games and to play in another 15%. YOU have to because he is the francise and he has given you a huge advantage at catcher for a LONG period of time. My God... I'm fine with getting a backup catcher for Mauer but you need to get other items before even thinking about it or else the team even with Mauer won't complete. You need starting pitching and a good upgrade at SS or 2B.

Anonymous said...

And yes I'm fine with Butera playing FULL-TIME. IF, the Twins aren't in contention which they won't be without Mauer and probably won't be without Morneau. At least with Morneau he is replaceable while Mauer is NOT. So yeah, play rookies, play a horrible offensive catcher who isn't really going to have that big an impact on a team that isn't making the playoffs anyway. Read a sentence jackanape.

Anonymous said...

I'll take Pavano, Liriano and Baker in the rotation for sure but ineffectiveness and injury have made Blackburn and Slowey unreliable. Duensing needs to be in the bullpen. Swarzak should be the long reliever in the pen if he makes the club at all. Diamond should be at AAA. There is a huge need for at least one more solid, reliable starter. They may end up trying to bring back Cuddyer and Nathan but neither will be worth the money required to resign them...or they could go in new direction and push hard to get Buehrle who could probably pitch very effectively in Target Field for another 5 years.

I agree SS is a top priority. Guys like Rollins and Reyes are unrealistic but a guy like Barmes from Houston might be a pretty good option at either 2b or SS...good glove with a little pop in his bat. If they could find a way to keep Casilla healthy he could contribute too...either as a starter or in a supersub role.

a backup catcher who can hit over .200 and another live arm in the bullpen would help.

Ed Bast said...

"You go into 2012 depending on Mauer to catch 60% of your games and to play in another 15%."

Even if he does catch in 60 % of the games (a big if), that still leaves 40% of our schedule (65 games) where we need a catacher. That's a large number - say, 250 ABs. The backup catcher is going to have a significant impact on this team, and we simply cannot trust one of the worst hitters in MLB history to this responsibility.

We all know Joe's value is maximized at catcher. But refusing to play him anywhere else while his body wears down is just wishful thinking. He has NO value on the bench. It sucks - just like it sucks that Liriano will never be '06 Liriano again, but it's our reality. We need to have a plan in place where Joey can be in the lineup almost every day.

Mike said...

I largely agree with Nick's assessment here. Casilla struggled at first and seemed to come around a lot more towards the middle of the year before getting hurt. But all things considered, middle infield killed the Twins this year with both offense and defense.

The Twins need a viable backup catcher. Of course, we knew this coming into 2011, too. Butera isn't cut out for the job due to his lack of ability with the bat. Even IF Mauer can catch 120 games next year (which I think virtually everybody doubts), that's a lot of ABs to have for a guy that's an automatic out.

The bullpen is obviously important. The FO seemed to forget that last offseason. I doubt they forget again this year. Although, if they keep Nathan (who seemed to come around the second half of the season, which is expected to take that long after coming back from TJ surgery), they'll be in better shape. Perkins showed what he can do in the pen, throw in Nathan and put Duensing back in there, and they would have three viable options. It's not quite enough, but perhaps Swarzak could do the job. Otherwise, they need to sign a decent (not even great- just decent) reliever.

These three areas are definitely the top areas of concern, IMO. There are obviously other holes to fill, but I think those three have to be addressed in a serious way in the offseason for the Twins to have a chance to compete. As far as first base, I expect that Mauer will start over half the games next season at first. He'll stay in the lineup most days by also catching about as frequently as a backup catcher and DH'ing from time to time. The writing seems to be on the walls for Morneau to DH next year, provided he can play.

If it doesn't play out like that, first base is probably an area of concern as well. Parmelee had a good debut in September, but I expect pitchers to figure him out and his numbers to drop in a hurry if he's thrown into full-time duty.

The outfield could be a problem if Cuddyer doesn't return. I have mixed feelings. I really like Cuddyer, but if he stays in Minnesota, he's going to be getting paid far too much. WIthout him, though, the Twins need to go and find another outfielder. Benson doesn't look ready. Yeah, we'd have a speedy outfield, but there will be virtually no pop and I would be surprised if they even hit for average. Some people keep saying that Span is better in left and Revere is better in center because that somehow minimizes their weaknesses. I strongly disagree. Revere doesn't have the arm strength to play center. He covers a little more ground than Span, but I think that Span makes up for that with a better arm. But I digress.

I'd love to see another starting pitcher come into the organization, but I doubt it happens. Pavano, Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey- I'd be surprised if it was anything different.

dipfrem said...

Frem says, Why don't we just go into rebuilding mode? Fire the WHOLE front office, yes including Gardy. they just don't know how to use their players effectively. Also who is the team doctor anyway. These kids don't play if their damn finger is sprained, come on people the whole front office needs to go!! TERRY FRANCONA would put a different mindset into our players. If Gardy hasn't won a ring yet, chances are he won't.

Ric said...

1. Is Morneau an every day at 1B? If not then....

2. Is Mauer an every day at C? If not, then does he play 1B? Could he play 3B? Or outfield?

3. Need a SS.

4. Need better quality starting pitchers. Although it isn't impossible that the starters we have could do the job. Greg Maddux didn't throw very hard either but had great location, movement and smarts. None of our guys have that consistently right now.

5. Need better relievers and more RBI guys.

But it starts with the decisions about what you can expect from Morneau and Mauer.

Laches said...

The bullpen is the #1 priority. The Twins lost 25 games this year when they were leading or tied in the 7th inning or later. That is simply disastrous. Granted it doesn't all fall on the bullpen, the defense didn't exactly help, but it largely does. With starting pitchers on strict pitch counts, so many games are won and lost by bullpens these days. An upgraded bullpen could result in 15-20 wins in the standings. An upgrade at SS, while necessary, isn't going to get you that.

martyb said...

To me the bull pen and starting pitching should be the priority. They had quite a few blown leads this year, unlike earlier years, they lost alot due to free agency. I think they need to get a realiable starter that the other teams look at and say, this is gonna be a tough one to win, and they dont have that right now. You fix the pitching the rest will fall into place if they can stay healthy.

J. Marks said...

Sadly, the entire team sucked in 2011. Big time. I feel pitching needs to be priority one and not four. All our starters except one ended-up on the DL. That's simply pathetic. Get some healthy arms. Eith an established pitcher or two, the Twins could go far. If many of your other points are fixed.

Shane Wahl said...

The Twins are strange in that they really are NOT that far from a true division-winning caliber team if they just get everyone healthy. So filling in at a few positions for one year might actually work. And I am generally all for "youth movements" but I still think the best route is to let the youth develop for one more year.

Here are some cheap, veteran (really!), replacements for the likes of Butera, Tolbert, Nishioka, Repko, and Dinkelman:

Edgar Renteria, Omar Infante
Derrek Lee, Ty Wigginton
Brad Hawpe, Bobby Abreu
Jim Thome, Jason Giambi
Ivan Rodriguez, Geovany Soto

As far as pitching goes, I don't care about what Blackburn is making, I would prefer to find a good starter to push Blackburn into the 'pen. Ryan Dempster might want out of the debacle that is the Cubs. He is a strikeout pitcher and could be the anchor for the rotation for the next couple of years. A cheap guy like Clayton Richard might be another viable option to make sure Duensing (and even Diamond) can stay in the where he/they are most effective.


C: Mauer, Rodriguez/Soto
1B: Morneau, Lee/Wigginton, Hughes, Mauer, Hawpe
2B: Casilla, Infante/Wigginton, Hughes
3B: Valencia, Wigginton, Hughes
SS: Renteria/Infante, Casilla
LF: Revere, Wigginton/Hawpe/Abreu
CF: Span, Revere
RF: Abreu/Hawpe, Wigginton
DH: Thome/Giambi, Wigginton, Abreu, PLOUFFE
SP: Dempster, Liriano, Baker, Pavano, Richard
RP: Diamond, Blackburn, Waldrop/Slama, Duensing, RH strikeout setup man, Perkins, Nathan (much cheaper version)

Is possible for roughly the same payroll as this year's team.