The potential third base market

Third base is one of the most pressing needs for the Twins this offseason and should be their number one priority for an upgrade. I am attempting to look at what the Twins currently have and assess the possibilities at the free agent and trade market. There are a few caveats:

a. the Twins should not look at anyone with less production than the current Buscher/Harris platoon
b. Danny Valencia is thought by many insiders and fans to be the Twins 3rd baseman of the future, so any choice should potentially leave the door open for him
c. Any new third baseman should provide better power (in the numbers below expressed as SLG%), be right handed batter and provide better defense.

The baseline on which the Twins have to compare any new acquisition was the production of Buscher and Harris at the plate and on the field in 2008:

Buscher (L) SLG .390 FP .938 ZR .774
Harris (R) SLG .394 FP .949 ZR .766

A list of the third basement who might be available this off season, with their ages on opening day 2009, slugging percentage, fielding percentage and zone ratings, categorized in groups of players:

Even money:

Hall, 29 (R) SLG .396 FP .939 ZR .817

Stay away, if possible. The internal options will probably result in at least equal production and are less expensive.

Better with the bat, not much upgrade on the field:

Mora 37 (R) SLG .483 FP .960 ZR .777
Blake 36 (R) SLG .463 FP .957 ZR .768
Edwin Encarnacion 26 (R) SLG .466 FP .930 ZR .762
Atkins 29 (R) SLG .452 FP .954 ZR .769
Cantu 26 (R) SLG .481 FP .937 ZR .720
Kouzmanoff 28 (R) SLG .433 FP .974 ZR .768
Garciaparra 36 (R) SLG .466 FP .920 ZR .769
Blalock 28 (L) SLG .508 FP .951 ZR .759

Some players in this group might make sense but only if any of the next group's players are unattainable.

Better with the bat, better on the field. The real targets:

Wiggington 31 (R) SLG .526 FP .969 ZR .791
Beltre 30 (R) SLG .457 FP .964 ZR .844
Glaus 33 (R) SLG .483 FP .982 ZR .793
Rolen 34 (R) SLG .431 FP .964 ZR .807

Any of these 4 players could fill 3 needs for the Twins in 2009:

a. improve the infield defense
b. improve the hitting against LHP
c. improve the teams SLG%, esp. from the right side

Who would be the best acquisition of these 4? Let's look at them a bit closer.

Ty Wiggington is the surprise name in this list. He has been able to very quietly produce a .285/.350/.526 season with 23 HRs and 58 RBI for the Astros, hitting .340/.424/.631 against LHP. He is arbitration eligible for the second year (currently 1 year contract @ $4.3M) and expected to receive about $6M for 2009. He is under club control for 2009 and 2010 and there are no rumors out of Houston for his potential availability. The Astros have two potential replacements: Mark Saccomanno, 28, AAA, who has been tearing the cover out of the ball, but tearing up the field as well (think Randy Ruiz with more power) and Chris Johnson in AA who is not a top flight prospect. Another (and more realistic possibility) is to more Tejada to 3B and slide in Edwin Maysonet, 26, at SS. What would it take for the Twins to make it happen? The Astros see themselves as perennial contenders. The reality is that it is an aging club with a depleted minor league system and bad starting pitching at the majors. My gut feeling is that they are not in any hurry to deal for Wiggington, so the Twins will have to somewhat sweep them off their feet. Offering someone like Perkins, in normal circumstances would be sufficient, but the Twins will probably need to add Brian Buscher as an insurance at 3rd for the Astros, plus a minor leaguer like Jason Miller.

Adrian Beltre has been at the Twins' sight during the trading deadline, but the pyramid of interims at the Mariner's front office would not pull the trigger. Beltre hit .266/.327/.457 during the season, batting .340/.421/.573 against LHP. He is under contract until the end of the 2009 season ($12M) and has a limited no-trade clause blocking trade to 6 teams. It is unknown whether the Twins are included, however the fact that there were talks at the deadline, suggest that they are not. How attainable is he, depends on the new management team of the Mariners. If the new management assess the situation at the AL West realistically and understands that the Mariners will not be contenders in 2009 with the Angels having a great core and the Rangers (with the best minor league system in professional ball), a couple of pitchers away, they will try to rebuild an make him available. Their 2008 payroll was close to $118M and would try to shed some. If they think they will contend, he will probably not be made available. What would it take to get him from the Mariners, if they are in rebuilding mode? MLB-ready Youth at starting pitching, primarily and at the outfield and infield, secondarily. A potential trade, centered around Perkins, Bonser and Tolbert with the addition of a prospect like Trevor Plouffe or Dustin Martin can make this happen.

Troy Glaus in his first season with the Cardinals after acquired from Toronto for the other potential Twins' targer, Scott Rollen, had a .270/.372/.483 season, batting an uncharacteristic .221/.337/.429 against LHP (his career numbers against lefties are: .278/.399/.559.) The Cardinals are in a somewhat interesting situation: they exceeded expectations competing for the NL Central Division and the NL Wild Card for most of the season, when most people had them written off (sounds familiar?); they know that Milwaukee will lose their 2 best pitchers next year, but the Cubs will be pretty much unchanged, and their current payroll is at a team record $99.6M. Glaus' contract, however, is a bit peculiar: He has a player option for 2009 ($11.25M) and if he does not exercise it he will be a free agent. I have been checking the St. Louis media and there is a cemetery-like silence about whether or not Glaus will exercise his option or an extension will be negotiated. This is a wait and see type of situation and I think that Glaus has a week after the world series to exercise his option. If he does (and it is a good bet because there are not many teams in the market for a third baseman who would be willing to shed a multi-year contract for him), it is not out of the realm of reality that the Cardinals would deal him to reduce payroll. Pitching and 2B is a big need for them, so a deal centered around Perkins and Tolbert with the addition of prospects might make it happen.

Scott Rolen was touted as the second coming of Mike Schmidt when he came up with the Philies 12 years ago as a 21 year old and the cross was proven too heavy to bear despite the rookie of the year award and 4 all star game starts. Scott hit .262/.349/.431 last year with Toronto, hitting LHP at a .250/.370/.390 pace, which was like his trade mate Glaus, well off his career mark of .280/.404/.506. Why would Toronto trade him? Because they need to realize that with the upcoming loss of AJ Burnett and the resurgent Rays they will probably be the 4th best team in the league next year and need to rebuild. What would it take for the Twins to get Rolen? Toronto is a very old team on the field and its starting pitching is lacking. A trade centered around Perkins and Tolbert, with a position prospect like Plouffe in the mix and the addition of Buscher for Marco Scutaro, plus a Twins' prospect could make it happen. Rolen is signed up to 2010 at $11M a year.

Which of the four would I pick, if I had to chose? Tough question that needs more analysis and dusting the scouting reports out...

Looking at 2 parameters that the Twins really need help with, here are the 2008 numbers of Chase % with 2 Strikes and Quality At-Bat %:

Quality At-Bat %:

Rolen: 46%
Glaus: 46%
Wigington: 45%
Beltre: 44%

(a virtual tie)

Chase % with 2 Strikes:

Glaus: 30%
Wiggington: 36%
Rolen: 41%
Beltre: 51%

Given the fielding numbers and power numbers mentioned above, my pecking order would be:

1. Glaus
2. Wiggington
3. Rolen
4. Beltre

So, you hear it here first: Troy Glaus should be the Twins' target for the 3B hole...


The season in review: starting pitching food for thought

here are some numbers to ponder (I am including Santana's in 2008 for comparison purposes)

123 inning % of complete innings pitched:

Slowey: 49%
Liriano: 45%
Baker: 44%
Blackburn: 40%
Bonser: 38%
Perkins: 34%

Santana: 38%

Opponents BA against sliders (and % of pitches that was a slider):

Liriano: .125 (26%)
Baker: .190 (21%)
Bonser: .228 (20%)
Slowey: .256 (12%)
Blackburn: .293 (22%)
Perkins: .351 (7%)

Santana: .247 (11%)

Opponents BA against curves:

Bonser: .186 (16%)
Baker: .222 (10%)
Slowey: .261 (12%)
Blackburn: .280 (13%)
Perkins: .286 (7%)
Liriano: N/A

Santana: N/A

Opponents BA against changeups:

Baker: .204 (7%)
Slowey: .261 (7%)
Liriano: .264 (19%)
Perkins: .300 (14%)
Blackburn: .350 (9%)
Bonser: .412 (5%)

Santana: .164 (28%)