Twins' Winter Meetings Primer

Happy new month! Every year as December rolls in, for about a week, baseball executives, free agents, player agents, a bunch of vendors of baseball equipment and goodies, people who are looking for a job in a baseball organization, and a whole lot of of folks with press passes begin their flight to a particular warm place, like migratory birds, to discuss particular business matters, sign free agents, trade players and conduct the major league and minor league parts of the Rule 5 draft. In addition to "baseball business", these annual meetings include a huge expo of baseball vendors and a very large job fair (officially called: "The Baseball Trade Show" & the "Professional Baseball Employment Opportunities Job Fair", thus the plural in the "Winter Meetings,) but I will not focus on these two at this point. This year's meeting place is the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, TX, between December 5th and 8th. A few important dates before and during these meetings:

  • Today, December 1st is the last day to place a player on waivers before the Rule 5 Draft

  • December 5th, the first day of the meetings, is the last day to outright a player (who went through the aforementioned waivers) before the Rule 5 draft (thus making him subject to the draft)

  • December 7th is the last day for free agents who were offered arbitration to accept (in the Twins' case this is Cuddyer and Kubel)

  • December 8th, the last day of the meetings, is when the Rule 5 draft takes place. I presented the rules of both major and minor league phases of the draft here and looked at the Twins' liabilities.

  • December 12th, midnight, is the last day to tender a contract. This is really important and will have consequences in the Winter Meetings, because this year it comes after the meetings. This is the day where teams can non-tender someone, so this off-season they can shop someone in the meetings without other teams knowing that he will be non-tendered. A player in this situation with the Twins is Jose Mijares.

Here, I will attempt to guess what the Twins will do (i.e. what could happen)instead of what the prime outcome should be ( i.e. what should happen.)
To try to do this, we need to establish a baseline, so, here is a look at the Twins depth chart before the Winter meetings, accounting for all players in the 40 man roster (38 spots occupied currently):

C Mauer/Doumit/(Butera)
1B Morneau/Doumit/Mauer/Hughes (Parmelee)
2B Casilla*/Carroll/Hughes(Nishioka)
3B Valencia/Carroll/Hughes
SS Carroll/Casilla*/ (Nishioka)
LF Revere/Plouffe/Span/(Benson)/(Tosoni)
CF Span/Revere/(Benson)
RF Plouffe/Doumit/Span/Mauer/(Tosoni)/(Arcia)
DH Doumit/Morneau/Plouffe/Hughes/Mauer/(Tosoni)/(Parmelee)

Bench Hughes
Bench ?
Bench ?
Bench ?

SP Baker
SP Liriano*
SP Pavano
SP Slowey*
SP Blackburn/Swarzak/Duensing/(Hendricks)/(Diamond)

CL ?
LHRP Perkins*
LHRP Duensing
LHRP Mijares*/(Maloney)/(Robertson)
RHRP Oliveros/(Vasquez)/(Gray)/(Hoey)/(Waldrop)/(Burnett)/(Guerra)/(Gutierrez)
RHRP (Burnett)/Oliveros/(Vasquez)/(Gray)/(Hoey)/(Waldrop)/(Guerra)/(Gutierrez)
SWING RP Swarzak/Blackburn/Duensing/(Hendricks)/(Diamond)

Baseball fans, unlike other sports' are not really used to seeing or using depth charts much, but I think that the make sense, because the starting lineups are rarely the same in a season. To translate a depth chart into a starting lineup, just read the first name of each position. Straight forward. The players with in parenthesis either have options left or can be waived. The players with an asterisk are arbitration eligible.

So far this off-season (in addition to the front office changes), the Twins signed free agents Jamie Carroll and Ryan Doumit and announced that Trevor Plouffe will be considered and Outfielder for the organization going on; they also signed several relievers in minor league contracts, and a couple of them were added to the 40-man roster. Let's examine what the next steps are for the Twins and what could happen within next week:

  • First of all they need to decide whether the 40-man roster is set or not before today's deadline. I do not foresee any changes, but potentially, Jeff Gray, Esmerling Vasquez and Matt Maloney, for example could be waived. I do not expect that to happen

  • Second order of business would be to decide whether they will tender contracts to their arbitration-eligible players: Alexi Casilla ($1.25M award estimated), Fransisco Liriano ($5.5M estimated), Jose Mijares ($800K estimated), Glen Perkins ($1.5M estimated) and Kevin Slowey ($3.5M estimated.) It is of note that the Twins either traded or waived the other 4 arbitration-eligible players: Phil Doumatrait (who later re-signed in a minor league contract), Jason Repko, Matt Tolbert and Delmon Young. Glen Perkins is a lock to be offered arbitration. It is very likely that Liriano and Casilla would be offered arbitration and less likely that Slowey and Mijares would be. Expect the Twins to make a decision and listen to offers for any of these 4 players other than Perkins. Depending on whether they get any satisfactory offers, expect some of the 4 to be traded. If not, I fully expect most of them to return, since the salaries of Liriano and Slowey would be below going rate for starting pitching, Casilla would be making just north of a million (or less that half for what they paid Carroll) and he has shown moments of brilliance and Mijares (who is the most likely candidate to be non-tendered) will cost just North of minimum salary

  • Then the Twins will visit with agents that represent their 3 free agents (Cuddyer, Kubel and Capps.) These visits might be just typical at this point, because the free agent market, other than late inning relievers, has not been settled without the singings of Pujols, Fielder, Reyes, Rollings, Ortiz. The Twins might make an offer to Capps, but based a. on the contract that Jonathan Broxton received (1 yr, $4M + incentives) to be a set-up man for the Royals (and I suspect that would be the starting point for the discussions from Capps' side) and b. the fact that the Twins' will get a free sandwich draft piok if Capps signs elsewhere, I do not see a lot happening there. There has been a lot of talk about the Twins fighting hard about both Cuddyer and Capps, and to a lesser degree Kubel, by Twins' officials. I think that they have to do this, because it ensures good relationships with the players' agents (i.e. show that they are still in the run, making the probability of another team to sign them faster greater), it makes their free agents more desirable (thus increases the probability that they would not accept arbitration and the Twins will receive a pick or two.) Thus, I do not foresee much on the 3 free agents or others (other than minor signings) before the big free agents sign.

  • Trying to at least start or assume discussions about trades for a closer and further middle infield help (pieces that Terry Ryan indicated that they will come outside the organization.) A thing of note: the Twins have only 2 open spots on their 40-man roster (and I think that one of them will get filled in the rule 5 draft, more on that later) and thus the players who can trade are probably on that roster (with prospects added to balance the trade either way.) In addition to the 4 arbitration eligible players discussed earlier, the 2 players out of options, Plouffe and Hughes, and any of the starting pitchers under contract not named Baker (that is Pavano and Blackburn,) as well as Danny Valencia and Denard Span, could be on the block, for the right return. If no starting pitchers are moved (look at the bottleneck above in the depth chart, and they really do not have to be moved) I do not expect the Twins to go after another starting pitcher. There have been several reports linking the Twins with free agent outfielders, but again, unless it is a second-tier FA, I think that Winter Meetings is too early for that to happen, unless someone like Pujols or Fielder establishes the market.

  • Last point of order will be the Rule 5 draft. It is very likely that the Twins will select a player. Players under target this year would be either relief pitchers with a decent control who lack a secondary pitch (and hope to gain in ST) or middle infielders with good gloves to fight for a bench spot. I expect at least one pick from these 2 categories in the Rule 5 draft.

So here it is. My crystal ball is turned off, and that is what I expect to happen (or not happen) early next week (and, to re-clarify, not what I want to happen). What do you think?

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