Teaser: Can you imagine the Twins having a payroll of $95 million? How about $125 million?

Believe it or not it is possible.

This is just a teaser for a 3 series posts that I will start next week about why this could be within the Twins' reach and within their means and how they can make it happen.

Stay tuned

The case for the Twins adding a couple of free agents

Spring training is almost here, and the Twins' additions have been Luis Ayala, R.A. Dickey, Jason Jones and some minor league free agents. Even though Ayala's contract has not become official yet, he is the one of this off-season's additions most likely to stick with the major league club.

An interesting fact is that there are still the following free agents available (from here) :

Gary Bennett (37)
Johnny Estrada (33)
Paul Lo Duca (37) - Type B, not offered arb
Ivan Rodriguez (37) - Type B, not offered arb

First basemen
Miguel Cairo (35)
Nomar Garciaparra (35)
Doug Mientkiewicz (35)
Richie Sexson (34)
Mark Sweeney (39)

Second basemen
Ray Durham (37)
Damion Easley (39)
Mark Grudzielanek (39) - Type B, offered arb
Orlando Hudson (31) - Type A, offered arb
Adam Kennedy (33)

Orlando Cabrera (34) - Type A, offered arb
Nomar Garciaparra (35)

Third basemen
Joe Crede (31)
Nomar Garciaparra (35)

Left fielders
Moises Alou (42) - Type B, not offered arb
Garret Anderson (37) - Type B, not offered arb
Emil Brown (34)
Luis Gonzalez (41) - Type B, not offered arb
Jay Payton (36)
Manny Ramirez (37) - Type A, offered arb

Center fielders
Jim Edmonds (39)

Right fielders
Emil Brown (34)
Ken Griffey Jr. (39) - Type B, not offered arb

Frank Thomas (41) - Type B, not offered arb
Jose Vidro (34)

Starting pitchers
Kris Benson (33)
Paul Byrd (38) - Type B, offered arb
Tom Glavine (43)
Livan Hernandez (34)
Orlando Hernandez (43)
Chuck James (27)
Jon Lieber (39)
Rodrigo Lopez (33)
Pedro Martinez (37)
Mark Mulder (31)
Sidney Ponson (32)
Kenny Rogers (44)
Curt Schilling (42)
Ben Sheets (30) - Type A, offered arb
Kip Wells (32)

Joe Beimel (32) - Type B, not offered arb
Joe Borowski (38)
Shawn Chacon (31)
Chad Cordero (27)
Juan Cruz (30) - Type A, offered arb
Scott Elarton (33)
Keith Foulke (35)
Eric Gagne (33) - Type B, not offered arb
Jason Isringhausen (36) - Type B, not offered arb
Jon Lieber (39)
Aquilino Lopez (34)
Will Ohman (31)
Al Reyes (38)
Dennys Reyes (32) - Type B, offered arb
Ricardo Rincon (39)
Rudy Seanez (40) - Type B, not offered arb
Julian Tavarez (36)
Mike Timlin (43)
Ron Villone (39)
Kip Wells (32)
Matt Wise (33)

I have been making the case that the Twins still have holes at third base (where they are much bellow league average) and at the starting rotation. One of my proposed targets for the starting rotation, Pedro Martinez is still out there and the Twins should try to sign him. I have very little confidence in Perkins as I indicated in my analysis, based on his performance last season and on his stuff. Another consideration is that Tolbert and Buscher are at or below replacement level and being in their primes are not expected to get any better. One of the interesting names, who the Twins should offer a contract as a bench player, PH, part time DH, part time 1B, part time 3B, part time SS is Nomar Garciaparra. I would feel better seeing Nomar instead of Tolbert as a pinch hitter in the 8th inning for Punto when necessary. Nomar last year he hit .264/.326/.466, 105 OPS+ in limited action. Those numbers are better than Crede's last year across the board and Nomar will not cost much. Given that the Twins will not sign Hudson and Cabrera due to their type A status, and Crede does not really add that much (other than getting Buscher to Rochester), bring thing in the former Red Sox, will be a very wise and cost-effective route for the Twins to improve the team as spring training approaches

Twins' prospects from Scout.com

I just received the scout.com annual preview publication that includes a list of the Twins' top prospects according to them (the rankings are -or will soon be- at their web site for non-subscribers, so I thought there was no problem to share.) In the website they are eventually counting down the top 50, but the magazine has the top 20. That list was made by Brad Weiss. Their is also a list of the top 300 prospects in the minors made by Melissa Lockhard. What follows is Weiss' list with Lockhard's placement in the top 300 in parenthesis where is applicable:

  1. Ben Revere (49)

  2. Aaron Hicks (61)

  3. Danny Valencia (208)

  4. Anthony Swarzak (206)

  5. Jose Mijares (109)

  6. Tyler Robertson (127)

  7. Trevor Plouffe

  8. Angel Morales (274)

  9. Wilson Ramos (118)

  10. Kevin Mulvey

  11. Shooter Hunt (271)

  12. Deolis Guerra

  13. Jeff Manship (286)

  14. Robert Delaney

  15. Steven Tolleson

  16. Carlos Gutierrez

  17. Luke Hughes

  18. Dustin Martin

  19. Michael McCardell

  20. Joe Benson

Interesting to see the variation of evaluations between the local and the national viewpoints.

The Baseball Prospectus will release their list of the Twins' top prospects within days and I will re-post it when I have it.

Spring Training starts in 3 days.


Steroids, ARod, asterisks, crucifictions and the integrity of the game

These days it seems that baseball fans and more so sports media and popular media are circling like hawks for the discovery of the newest star associated with steroid use and beating war drums in the upcoming trials of Barry Bonds and Miguel Tejada and the future trial of Roger Clemens in a manner similar to that of paparazzi around LA's hotspots trying to capture the next embarrassing picture of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. Why? There are cries or cheating, of committing the felony of perjury and of giving back the records to people who should have them.

Let's examine some of those arguments:

Perception: Steroids have become available to athletes first time in the early 90s and the steroid era in baseball started about that time.

Truth: Anabolic Steroids came to the market in 1958 after Dianabol, manufactured by CIBA got approval by the FDA for use with elderly and burn victims. Its use was wide spread among bodybuilders and track athletes. The international olympic committee banned its use in 1976. So, potentially, baseball players in the 60s could have used steroids. Hank Aaron was in his 5th of the 23 major league seasons in 1958.

Perception: Steroids and other PEDs are available by seedy people who frequent gyms and street corners.

Truth: No. One can get them all over the internet (that was a working link for a site that calls itself an "online pharmacy" and actually sells PEDs out of the European Union; then I thought twice about putting that live link up).

Popular Opinion: Baseball Players are role models and the government should go out with all their resources to catch players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada and others who committed perjury.

My Opinion: The country is in a recession and going after baseball players is probably in the bottom list of the priorities here. People are losing jobs and homes left and right and that money is better spent for other reasons. As far as the role model bit, a president (who arguably should be held to higher standards that ballplayers as a role model), not only was never tried for perjury, but still holds his law practicing license (which is a no no for attorneys who committed perjury).

The bottom line:

Yes, steroids are bad and baseball players should not be using them. I wholeheartedly hope that the sport develops a new steroid policy that makes baseball a drug-free workplace (like most workplaces) and adopts the one strike, you are out policy of most workplaces and adopts a IOC-like testing methodology (including blood tests performed in unannounced variable intervals during the season and the off-season). If this is not done soon, it better be done by the CBA renewal after the 2011 season. This will cost money. That will be money better spent that prosecuting some of the steroid users, like they are attempting to do today. The government should try to close the loopholes of imported PEDs obtained over the internet (there are some heavy penalties associated with drug trafficking through the mail system and that is another more worthwile target than Bonds or Clemens or Tejara or Rodriguez). Live and let live. Whatever happened happened, these players did not did anything more wrong than Bill Clinton and now there is a chance for baseball and the federal government to stop looking backwards but start looking forward and learn the past lessons and try to stop future use.

What about records and asterisks? Who cares? Nobody can guarantee that ball players in the 50s did not take PDEs. Catchers and pitchers are reporting in 4 days...