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10/18/08

Offseason needs 4 and 5: bullpen and back up catcher

The Twins' quickly took care of need #5, by exercising Mike Redmond's option. I think that it was an ok move, because Redmond is as good as most older back up catchers out there, albeit with reduced production at the twilight of his career. In the next offseason moves installment, I will discuss "tooling" the organization and the major league bench, and a young ready in 2009 AAA catcher will be identified as a higher priority.

As far as the bullpen goes, the numbers indicate that in contrast to the popular opinion, the bullpen was not as big of a problem as most 'experts' think. Saying that the Twins have bullpen issues, is as valid as saying that the Tampa Bay Rays have bullpen issues because Joe Maddon mismanaged his pen in the ALCS game 5 loss to the Red Sox.

Last season the Twins had some awful pitchers in the pen (Rincon, Bass, Guardado and Guerrier in September) who were used by Gardy after repeated failure in high leverage situations. It is not the personnel, it is use of the personnel and that is where Anderson and Gardenhire should focus on 2009: Go with the hot hand and if someone fails in high leverage situations, use them in low leverage situations, until they prove they can make outs.

The Twins will have a 12-man pitching staff in 2009, which means 7 bullpen arms. If I were Bill Smith, having already traded Bonser, Humber and Duensing and letting Reyes leave as a free agent, my 2009 pen would look like this:

Joe Nathan Closer
Pat Neshek RH Set up
Jose Mijares LH Set up
Craig Breslow LH RH middle relief
Jesse Crain RH middle relief
Robert Deleaney RH middle relief
Matt Guerrier long relief/mop up

next installment: further tooling and the 25-man and 40-man rosters

On an unrelated note, Milwaukee fired their hitting coach. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Skaalen obviously paid the price for an offense that disappeared in September, causing the Brewers to almost miss the playoffs and resulting in the firing of Yost.


The operating word is "almost". The Twins' offense also disappeared in September, causing them to miss the playoffs (unlike the Brewers who made it to the postseason the first time since 1982), but the Twins' brass (unlike the Brewers who fired their manager and hitting coach and letting their interim manager go) are not only keeping, but looking to extend Gardy for 2 more years, in addition to his contact year, and retain all of his coaches... I guess accountability is a higher value for the their Twins' eastern neighbors, as apparently is the desire to win.

10/17/08

The Rule V draft liabilities for the Twins

The Rule V Draft is held annually during baseball's Winter Meetings. Teams must file a 40 man roster with the league office by November 20. Any player who fits all of the below criteria is eligible for the Rule V Draft:

  • Player is not on the 40 man roster
  • Player has been in the minor leagues for at least 4 years if he was signed after age 19 (was 3 years before the 2006 CBA).
  • Player has been in the minor leagues for at least 5 years if he was signed before age 19 (was 4 years before the 2006 CBA).


Any player drafted must stay in the major leagues all season. Before he is sent to the minors, he must be offered back to the club who had his rights for a $25,000 waiver fee.

Often, teams will send a player in lieu of the fee.

Minor league teams can also participate in the draft. AAA teams can draft any player
eligible from AA for $12,000, and AA teams can draft any players that are eligible from A for $4,000. Players chosen in the minor league part of the draft do not need to return to the original teams for any reason.

Here is a list of the Twins eligible for the rule V draft. I am including all players not on the 25 man roster by the end of last season, regardless whether they are in the latest 40-man roster.

Batters:

Daniel Berg
Drew Butera
Toby Gardenhire
@Luke Hughes
Garrett Jones
Ryan Jorgensen#
?Erik Lis
Alejandro Machado
?Matthew Macri#
Felix Molina
?Jose Morales#
Matt Moses
Yancarlos Ortiz
Edward Ovalle
Rodolfo Palacios
?Brock Peterson
?Jason Pridie#
?Trevor Plouffe
Brandon Roberts
?Randy Ruiz#
Danny Santiesteban
Sergio Santos#
Eli Tintor
@?Matt Tolbert#
?Steven Tolleson
Tommy Watkins
Johnny Woodard


Pitchers:

Kyle Aselton
Ricky Barrett
Carmen Cali
Julio DePaula#
?Brian Duensing
?Matthew Fox
?Armando Gabino
?Mariano Gomez
Jose Lugo
?Danny Graves
?Philip Humber#
?Ben Julianel
?Bobby Korecky#
Timothy Lahey
Frank Mata
@Jose Mijares#
Jason Miller
?Ryan Mullins
?Yohan Pino
Jay Sawatski
Tom Shearn
David Shinskie
?Oswaldo Sosa#
?Danny Vais

Notes:

@almost certainly will be protected
?A potential target for Major league or minor league draft if not protected or a minor league free agent if not drafted
#currently on the 40 man roster

Currently, with the free agents Guardado, Punto and Everett assumed leaving, and Neshek returing and occupying a spot, there is one open spot on the 25-man roster, presumably taken by Tolbert. Assuming that Mijares and Hughes are locks to make the 40-man roster, this leaves 13 spots to protect the following players who might be major league or minor league rule V targets:


Ryan Mullins (*)
Yohan Pino (?)
Errol Simonitsch
Oswaldo Sosa (?)
Danny Vais (?)
Danny Graves
Philip Humber (*)
Ben Julianel
Bobby Korecky (?)
Brian Duensing (*)
?Trevor Plouffe (*)
Matthew Fox
Armando Gabino (*)
Mariano Gomez (?)
Steven Tolleson (*)
Randy Ruiz (?)
Brock Peterson (?)
Jason Pridie (*)
Jose Morales (*)
Matthew Macri (*)
Erik Lis (*)

I expect the Twins to protect the 10 players marked with an asterisk and select 3 from the 6 players marked with a (?) to use the 13 remaining spots to fill the 40-man roster. Brock Peterson's move to AAA, made it unlikely that he will be taken in the MLB draft (if left in AA, he and Lis were almost certain to be picked in the AAA part of the draft), so I do not think that he will be added to the 40-man roster

That, said, free agent signings and trades might change the look of the 40 man roster by November. At least this is a good overview of the potential Twins' liability, which does not look too bad.

10/16/08

The starting pitching situation - part II: the targets

As I indicated earlier, the Twins need a fifth starter to supplement Slowey, Baker, Liriano and Blackburn in the rotation. There are several internal possibilities (Swarzak, Mulvey); however, I think that the Twins need to reach outside the organization for a proven starter, keeping these 2 in AAA, in case of an emergency.

There are several big name high price free agents (Sabathia, Lowe, Shields) available, but they will be priced much higher than the Twins can (or should) spend. Peavy is also available in a trade; however, he is signed to a 3 year, $52 million contract, that does not reflect his ability.

Looking at the available pitchers, there are 2 intriguing and realistic possibilities, for the Twins to examine:

Pedro Martinez 37, RHP. Pedro had the most trying season of his career in 2009, coming back from shoulder surgery, injuring his hamstring and having his father pass away.
He started 20 games and pitched 109 innings, compiling a record of 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA, 1.569 WHIP and 44 BB vs 87 K. Returning from the shoulder injury, his fastball velocity was higher than recent years but his location suspect, potentially due to mechanical changes made by the Mets' pitching coaches. However, Martinez made adjustments throwing more off-speed pitches (only 59% of his pitches were fastballs) and his curve, thrown 16% of the time, was practically unhittable (.175 BAA compared to .346 BAA for his fastball). His changeup, used 20% of the time resulted to a .262 BAA.

Why do I think that it would be a good signing for the Twins?

Fastball location takes time to return following surgery (see: Liriano, Fransisco). His curve has been extremely effective post surgery and it is an out pitch. With proper rest and rehabilitation and return of the fastball location, he could win 15 games and post a sub 4.00 ERA, surpassing Perkins' performance in 2008. A season close to his last in Boston (when he was a post season hero) delivering a 16-9 record with a 3.90 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP is not out of the question.

In addition to the tangible benefits, there are the intangible: He is a first ballot hall of famer and will provide a positive presence among the Twins' young pitching staff. He can help players like Baker, Blackburn and Slowey develop. He has guts, he pitched hurt, he pitched through pain and never implodes on the mount. Those are good attributes to learn by example. In addition, he is a personable guy and first class person who has been shown to take young players under his wing

Pedro would likely command a one year, $5-8 million, contract ladden with incentives and an optional second year that can be guaranteed if those incentives are met.


Jamie Moyer 47, LHP, is probably the most quiet 246 game winner in baseball. He is participating in his fourth postseason and his first world series. Last year he compiled a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA and 1.329 WHIP playing in an extremely hitter friendly park (park factor 105). He stared 33 games and pitched 196.3 innings. In away games he posted a 2.92 ERA and a 2.40 BAA. Opponents hit .276 off his fastball (thrown 58% of the time), .233 off his curveball (6%), .239% off his slider (.13%) and .241% off his changeup (23%). He was in the second year of a 2-year $11 million contract with the Phillies.

Why would he be a good singing for the Twins?

Even though he will be 47 by next spring training, he is in top shape and very effective. The 196.3 innings he pitched this year was his lowest total since 2000. He is very durable, has a great delivery and is not injury prone. He had publicly said that he wants to pitch until 50 and he is in shape to make it happen. A second lefty would be a good addition to the rotation. In addition to his on the field accomplishments, he is a model citizen (like Martinez).

Jamie would likely command an incentive ladden 2 year contract at $5-7 million per year.

Who would I pick, if I were Bill Smith? Pedro is the more risky bet, but the facts are that: a. well, he is Pedro Martinez and b. in addition to filling up the dome (and potentially Target Field) every time he pitches he has the higher potential upside. It is very hard to pass on a 3-time Cy Young winner, who knows how to pitch in the important games and has a world series ring to show. And he is Pedro Martinez.

Thus, my fourth move this post season, would be to sing Pedro Martinez to an one year $5 million contract that can reach up to $8 million with incentives and a vesting option for the second year based on innings pitched.

Next installment: bullpen

10/15/08

The starting pitching situation - part I: 2008 status

An interesting post by Buster Olney, provides a great segway to the next installment of the Twins needs this season, starting pitching. He posts numbers compiled by the Elias sports bureau that show the percentage of batters faced when a pitcher was behind 2-0 or 3-1, for pitchers on both leagues. Liriano did not make the cut because of the limited time he pitched, but 3 Twins' starters were in the top 20:

Kevin Slowey was second with (.116) narrowly edged by Ervin Santana (.114) and tied with the mighty Greg Maddux; he was ahead of Cliff Lee (.128), Johan Santana (.130), C.C. Sabathia (.135). Scott Baker's numbers were .142 and Nick Blackburn's .146.

Perkins did not make the cut. Given the situational performance of the starters last season, and disregarding stats like W-L record, and ERA, Perkins was clearly the sixth best starter (behind Slowey, Baker, Liriano, Blackburn and Bonser). Perkins is primarily a fastball pitcher who gets in trouble when he cannot locate his fastball or when he throws it down the middle of the plate (and his tendencies are to do exactly the latter when he is pressing...) His off-speed stuff is hittable as much as a Livan Hernandez fastball and his fastball does not fare much better, because of the aforementioned location problems. At least Livan had his curve as an out pitch:

Pitcher Pitch BAA

Perkins Slider .351
Perkins Changeup .300
Perkins Curve .286
Perkins Fastball .299
Livan Fastball .359
Livan Curve .227


Clearly the Twins have 3 starters (Slowey, Baker, Liriano) who can be #2-#3 starters in any team in the league and can develop into aces, as well as a solid bottom of the rotation starter (Blackburn). I think that a 5th starter is necessary for the Twins to take the next step, and this is not Perkins or Bonser. Perkins and Bonser do have trade value and as I proposed earlier, they can bring valuable players for the Twins, if packaged correctly.

also, here is the "luck" metric (Luck, as measured by the number of extra wins, and short losses the pitcher actually got, versus his expected record. LUCK = (W-E(W))+(E(L)-L) ) of the Twins' starters according the Baseball Prospectus:

Slowey -2.09
Bonser -1.00
Blackburn 1.00
Liriano 1.23
Baker 3.27
Hernandez 5.93
Perkins 7.64


Next: potential starting pitchers inside and outside the organization

10/13/08

The middle infield market.

Middle infield, esp. SS, is one of the needs that the Twins need to address this season, since both players who spent the majority of time as starting Shortstops (Nick Punto and Adam Everett) are free agents.

Here is the production on the plate by the middle infield for the Twins in 2008, broken down by month, compared to the twins team (all position players):


April May June July Aug Sept Overall

Team: .666 .740 .770 .802 .771 .739 .748

Punto: .568 .884 .774 .817 .744 .653 .726
Casilla: .937 .742 .718 .622 .574 .707
Harris: .716 .609 .649 .811 .788 .878 .721
Everett: .437 .628 .704 .764 .601 (career: .653)
Tolbert: .700 .560 .897 .711



Here are the fielding numbers from the Twins infielders in 2008:



Defense: 2B FP 2B ZR SS FP SS ZR (min 20 inn)

Punto .985 .787 .973 .865
Casilla .974 .830
Harris .969 .786 .976 .764
Everett .967 .829 (career: .976 FP .876 ZR)
Tolbert .978 .758 .976 .794



The incumbent SS (Punto) had an .726 OPS with .973 FP and .865 ZP. Everett's career numbers are also included, since he spent the majority of the season injured. Some observations:

  • Nick Punto had a good year on the field at SS and an average year on the plate, while Everett was hurt most of the season

  • The monthly breakdown, suggests that Punto and Casilla ran out of steam the last 2 months of the year, while Harris, Everett and Tolbert improved as the season moved on.

  • Casilla's decrease in production was linear and it is troublesome to the point that there might be questions whether he could hold a starting job next year. Most of the fans remember Casilla's game winning hit sweeping the White Sox the last series at the Dome in September, as well as his timely hits and energy infusion to the club when he was called up. However, overall his production was slowed during the season



Here is a look at potential targets for the SS position, along with their 2008 numbers (career numbers added when appropriate), age, RH/LH/S batting, and potential cost for the Twins to obtain or sign. The cost for resigning the Twins' free agents is also included

Free agents (SS):

Raphael Furcal(S, 31): 1.012 OPS .972 FP .856 ZR (35 games started)
(career: .764 OPS .966 FP .834 ZR)
Cost: $12M for 3 years

Orlando Cabrera (R, 35): .721 OPS .978 FP .831 ZR
Cost: $10M/3 years

Cesar Izturis (S, 29): .628 OPS .980 FP .850 ZR
Cost: $1.5M/2 years

Punto, cost $3.5M/3 years
Everett cost $1.5M/1 year

Potential trade targets (SS):

J.J. Hardy (R, 26): .821 OPS .977 FP .813 ZR
Cost: To Brewers, at least one young starting pitcher, potentially and outfielder and another prospect. To Hardy, 2 years of arbitration at $6M-$7M each

Khalil Greene (R, 29): .599 OPS. (career: .731 OPS) .982 FP .852 ZR
Cost: To Padres, an average starting pitcher (Bonser/Humber) and a prospect. To Greene: 1 year $6.5-7.5M (based on incentives). His relations with Padres are strained and the Padres will be more than willing to let go.


There has been discussion to sign and/or trade for a second baseman, switching Casilla to SS. I cannot find the ZR numbers of Casilla at SS, but his career FP at SS is .963.

Looking at potential 2B free agents and trade targets:

Free agents (2B):

Mark Ellis (R, 31): .694 OPS .993 FP .868 ZR
Cost: $4M/ 3 years

Orlando Hudson (S, 31): .817 OPS .982 FP .790 ZR
Cost: $7M/ 3 years

Potential trade target (2B)

Dan Uggla (R, 29): .874 OPS .981 FP .803 ZR
Cost: To the Marlins: A starter, an infielder and a prospect; To Uggla: 3 years of arbitration at $6-8M each

There are several options for the Twins to chose:

  • the worst of it is staying put and using Casilla at 2B, while having Harris, Tolbert and Plouffe battle for a starting SS position.

  • along the same lines, they could resign Punto as the starting SS, have Casilla as the starting 2B and Tolbert and Harris would play utility roles. Even though Punto is adequate as a starting SS, there are the previously indicated questionmarks about Casilla being able to hold his 2B job on a day to day basis. For fairness sake, Casilla played hurt during September, so it is difficult to determine whether his numbers slit because of that and he needs the benefit of the doubt. Furthermore, SS is probably a lesser priority than a power bat at 3B at this point

  • Signing a free agent SS, other than Furcal does not make much sense, since Cabrera (who is not a spring chicken any more) will likely have the production of Punto or Harris and Izturis the production of Everett. If the Twins have an extra $12M a year to spend, signing Furcal would be great, but I suspect that after getting a third baseman, they cannot spend that much money for a SS

  • How about trades? I do not see the J.J. Hardy trade happening, mainly because, what the Brewers need in return, is better spend and it is probably what it will take to get a third baseman. On the other hand, the Greene option needs to be at least entertained. Greene is a premium defender and he has some pop with the bat. He is slugging .802 career away from Petco field. His relations with the Padres are severely strained and the Padres may let him walk for a package centered around someone like Boof Bonser, which would be a win-win situation for both teams

  • I do not like the idea of moving Casilla to SS, especially since he is getting comfortable at 2B; so obtaining a second baseman outside the organization would be difficult. Both free agents are probably going elsewhere: Ellis has indicated that he wants to stay with the As and the As like him, so he probably will not move. Hudson is very high at the Mets' radar and the Twins will get outbid in a bidding war

  • How about Uggla? This is an intriguing possibility, for several reasons: The Marlins are looking to trade power hitting for pitching and defense, have 18 arbitration-eligible players and obtaining Uggla will solve 2 holes in the Twins' lineup: a middle infielder and another (3B is still higher priority) power RH bat. How can they Twins get Uggla if they use Perkins to get a third baseman, without breaking up the rotation? They have to be creative and offer the Marlins a package centered around Casilla, one of Swarzak/Duensing, Humber and possibly a prospect.



What would I do if I were Bill Smith? Having traded already Glenn Perkins, Brian Buscher and a prospect (let say Dustin Martin) to the Cardinals for Troy Glaus, I would trade Boof Bonser and Trevor Plouffe to the Padres for Khalil Greene and Alexi Casilla, Brian Duensing, Phillip Humber and Sergio Santos to the Marlins for Dan Uggla

The results would be Dan Uggla as the every day 2B, Khalil Green as the every day SS and Troy Glaus as the every day 3B, freeing up 8 spots on the 40 man roster and filling up 3 (net: four 40 man roster open spots.) Harris and Tolbert will be the backups at the infield positions. Note: The Twins do not have to trade Casilla for Ugla and it will be an unpopular move with a lot of the fans (see: Garza, Matt); however, I think that the probability for winning will be higher with Uggla at 2B and the Twins will clear up several (3) spots on their 40 man roster with this trade, to protect players like Swarzak, Hughes and Valencia.

Going back to the needs of the Twins this offseason, these 3 trades would take care of the first 3 needs in the list (2 power RH bats, a 3B, a SS). Coming up soon are my suggestions on how to fill the rest of the needs, along with projected lineups, 25-man and 40-man rosters, as well as payroll.


Edit 10/15:

I run the proposed trades through my simulator and it looks like just Perkins might be enough for Glaus, Bonser might be enough for Greene and Casilla and Humber enough for Uggla. I figured that the above proposal would probably be overpaying for the Twins, so I expect them to pick up some additional prospects (hopefully catchers) along in these trades.