Why did the Twins claim Darin Mastroianni?

Today the Twins announced via their official twitter that the have claimed outfielder Darin Mastroianni off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. As a first reaction, this move might not make much sense: Three of the Twins' top 5 prospects, Arcia, Hicks and Benson, are outfielders, and there are seven outfielders counting Trevor Plouffe on the Twins' 40-man roster at the moment. Mastroianni has to be added to the 40-man roster, which is full, so expect a corresponding move (waiving Jeff Gray or Matt Maloney? a trade?) to happen soon. (Update: The Twins cut Esmerling Vasquez to open a spot on the 40-man roster) At first sight it does not make much sense, but lets examine what the Twins gain by this move:

  • Speed on the Bench (if he makes the Twins). Ron Garderhire has suggested that his starting OF will be Revere, Span and Willingham (L to R.) This leaves Plouffe, Luke Hughes (both out of options) and Nishioka on the bench; all of them have some speed, but not to match Mastroianni's. In five seasons in the Minors he stole 282 bases, including 70 in 2009 for Dunedin (A+, Florida State League) and New Hampshire (AA, Eastern League.)

  • A scrappy Gardy-type of bench player. The only Ron Gardenhire Twins' team that did not have a diminutive (Mastoianni is listed at 5'11") outfielder on their bench (Revere does not count because he was a starter) was the 2011 team. And we all know what happen last season. Not to say that it is because the lack of that type of player (preferably named "Jason",) a role that was filled by Repko, Pridie and Tyner in the past, but certainly Gardenhire has an affinity for these players. Mastoianni has a MiLB career slash line of .279/.370/.742, a 62/78 BB/K ratio in 2011 and can lay a bunt, either for a sacrifice or for a hit.

  • No Butera in the majors (if he makes the Twins.) There is only space for 4 bench players. Plouffe and Hughes are locks (no options left.) If Mastroianni makes the teams, this means that one of Nishioka and Butera will be in Rochester. Pick your poison. Could it be the handlebar mustache? Could it be that he looks like Mike Pagliarulo (the lucky charm of 1991?) Who knows?

  • A centerfielder for Rochester(if he does not make the team). The conventional wisdom is that Benson will be the centerfielder in Rochester, but the Twins might think that he is better suited to be a corner outfielder with Aaron Hicks coming up soon and Span and Revere already in the organization. Mastroianni is a bona fide centerfielder. Also Rochester needs a lead off hitter and Mastroianni will fit the role well...

  • Less likely, but I have to mention it: a second baseman of the future. Mastroianni came up as a second baseman, and played the position until 2008. Could the Twins think about converting him back (they do not have much prospect depth in that position)? Who knows?

An interesting factoid: Darin Mastroianni played a single game (started at CF and went hitless) for Toronto last season and the reason he was because the newly acquired by the Jays Kelly Johnson had forgotten his passport and had to return to Arizona to get it. Mastoianni is 26 this season and his minor league career compares well with that of Rajai Davis (other than having more walks and fewer strikeouts than Davis). I would probably say that this is Mastroianni's ceiling with higher OBP. Also of note is that Mastroianni led the Blue Jays system in hits, runs and stolen bases each of the past 2 seasons.


Is Roy Oswalt booking plane tickets to Fort Myers?

It has been a while since I last wrote about Roy Oswalt, mainly because there has not been much new information out there:

As of yesterday, we knew that:

  • Both the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, who were rumored in about a million places to be Oswalt's favorite exclusive destinations to be close to his range in southern MO, need to move starters to clear space for him; and at this point, it is unlikely

  • Oswalt has been waltzing around both with the Cincinnati Reds and the Boston Red Sox and is rumored to have been asking for more money than from the Rangers and Cardinals, not because he does not like the color Red (he wore that in Philly) but because he does not like the location. The Reds would have to clear room in their payroll to sign him, and the Red Sox did so

  • Roy Oswalt has talked to the Twins

  • Edwin Jackson has signed a fairly large contract with the Nationals, so Oswalt is the only "marquee" starter available in the market less that 2 weeks before pitchers and catchers report

That was yesterday. What do we know today? And is Oswalt planning to travel to Florida or Arizona this spring?

Here are a couple of interesting developments:

  • John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer indicates (in so many words) that Roy Oswalt's camp is contacting his plan B teams (Reds, Red Sox, Twins). Fay indicates that there are mixed signals by the Reds. Edit: he later updated the post practically saying that the Reds have not talked to him, which might indicate that his agent is "generating" other interesting parties, in discussions with other teams.

  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review tweeted that the Pittsburgh Pirates seeing an opportunity, made an offer to Oswalt but it was declined

  • This morning Rob Bradford of Boston's WEEI reported that there is no traction between the Red Sox and Oswalt

All signs indicate that the Oswalt camp is getting nervous as spring training nears, and that the offers he has been getting are not to his liking. I think that the first team that will come with an offer close to $8-9 million a year and maybe some incentives will be the team that would land Roy Oswalt. Which team would that be? I cannot guess, but there are a good possibilities that Roy Oswalt will be buying a ticket to Fort Myers soon, since two of the teams in the list train there in Spring.

As always, the complete coverage on Roy Oswalt including earlier developments is here, in reverse chronological order.

Random Tuesday Twins Thoughts and Tidbits

Here is this week's installment:

The parting shot today is in honor of the Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire: if not anointing the opening day pitcher and the starting outfield for the season before a single Spring Training pitch has been thrown, Twins' manager Ron Garderhire revealed his opening day lineup yesterday at Mason City, IA. Here is additional coverage of Gardy's visit to Mason City, IA. Interestingly enough (maybe only to me,) Mason City, was the host of a Baseball team (the Bats) that played in the same league (Great Central League) with the latest incarnation of the Minneapolis Millers. That league lasted only one year, 1994.