Weekly summary of the Twins moves and targets: 11/15/2013

Here is the summary of the moves the Minnesota Twins did and the players they expressed interest in this week (the links will take you to reports).  Because it is this time of the year that produces a lot of activity, I feel that a weekly summary of this activity should be in order.  As far as "targets" go, I am listing players that the Twins reportedly expressed interest in and not players who baseball writers and other thought that they would be a good fit or may fill a need.

Since it is the first summary, I will include all November content to date:


Re-signed C Eric Fryer   to a split (MLB/MiLB) one year $515K (MLB part) contract and kept him on their 40-man roster. (11/14)

Signed SS Jason Bartlett to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/11)

Re-signed OF Wilkin Ramirez to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed C/OF Dan Rohlfing to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed LHP Aaron Thompson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed OF Jermain Mitchell to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed RHP Lester Oliveros to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed SS Doug Bernier to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Re-signed IF James Beresford to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training (11/4)

Added LHP Edgar Ibarra to the 40-man roster (11/4)

Re-signed C Jairo Rodriguez to a minor league contract  (10/2013)

Re-signed 1B Reynaldo Rodriguez to a minor league contract (10/2013)

Re-signed 3B Deibinson Romero to a minor league contract (10/2013)

Re-signed RHP Deolis Guerra  to a minor league contract (10/2013)

The current Twins' 40-man roster is here and contains 19 pitchers and 17 position players for a total of 36 spots.


RHP Bronson Arroyo
LHP Johan Santana
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Ricky Nolasco
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Scott Feldman 
RHP Mike Pelfrey
C AJ Pierzynski
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
RHP Suk-Min Yoon


Twins SP Kevin Correia and target Bronson Arroyo: Eerie statistical similarities, but...

Twins' beat reporter Mike Berardino broke the news late Tuesday night that the Minnesota Twins were looking closely (but not yet negotiating) at the possibility of signing Bronson Arroyo, the 37 year old free agent pitcher lately of the Cincinnati Reds.

The thought that immediately came to my mind was that the last thing the Twins need is another (and older version of) Kevin Correia, given my premise that the Twins need 3 starting pitchers better than Correia to compete.  Arroyo's durability (pitched at least 199 innings every season after 2004, without ever visiting the Disabled List) and mentoring skills have been exalted, but he is thirty seven years old, with a 87 mph fastball and his numbers look so much like Kevin Correia's.   How much?  I went to look and confirm.

Here are Kevin Correia's and Bronson Arroyo's career numbers in several categories, from traditional like ERA to "advanced" like SIERA, FIP and xFIP:

Looking at the first five columns, ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA and K/9, it is immediately noticeable that one could not have picked any more similar pitchers.  Also interesting is the fact that both their ERA are so close to their FIP, xFIP and SIERA.   Other measurements not listed here, but are extremely alike are: career HR/FB (identical at 10.9), K% (15.3 for Arroyo and 15 for Correia), tERA (4.81 for Correia and 4.84 for Arroyo) and Hits per 9 IP (1.07 for Correia and 1.02 for Arroyo).

Alas.  The data seem to indicate that my gut feeling was correct.  They are the same pitcher.  But with one (pretty large) difference in a single measurement:  Their PE (pitching effectiveness) and xPE cannot be more different.  You can read about PE and xPE (and why I like them as simple predictive measurements) starting here and following the relative links for more detail and how those measurements were developed.  The difference (mainly walk rate differential-driven, which also reflects the changes in their WHIPs, since the hit rates are similar.) indicates that Arroyo is a much better pitcher and (unlike Correia whose numbers fall in the number 5 starter range with a PE of 7.92 and an xPE of 8.12) has been a solid number 3 type starter with a PE of 14.03 and an xPE of 13.60.  But these are career numbers. How about his age 36, 2013 season?   His PE of 17.52 and xPE of 16.13 in 2013 were even better than his total career numbers. 

A couple of additional things that have to be mentioned: 

a. Arroyo threw more than 100 pitches in 172 of his 385 games (44.7%) and 120 in 13 (3.4%).  These numbers for other starting pitchers drafted when Arroyo did (1995): Ryan Dempster 52.9% and 7.5%, Jarrod Washburn 57.7% and 3.9%, Matt Morris 48.6% and 4%, Roy Halladay 57.9% and 4.8% and Russ Ortiz 53.8% and 12.8%.  So if you are a pitch count believer, his arm has been abused less than his peers, which might indicate that there might be something in his 37 year old arm.

b.  Arroyo is a different type of a pitcher.  Here is an excellent writeup on Arroyo's stuff from yesterday by ESPN 1500's Twins' reporter Brandon Warne and here is a fangraphs interview where Arroyo describes his pitching style.  A lot of very interesting things in that piece about his approach of the game, but his admission that hard throwing pitchers have an easier time dealing with batters is golden, because I have heard the argument (which I oppose dearly) that increased velocity does not make someone a better pitcher.  Hearing it from an actual MLB veteran pitcher, is refreshing.  Arroyo also admits that he sees himself pitching up to 3 more years.

So, suddenly and after a bit of research, I feel a bit better about this.  My gut reaction was wrong:  Arroyo is better than Correia and is expected to be better than Correia in the near future.  So he can be one of the 3 pitchers better than Correia the Twins need.  If the Twins get Arroyo they need 2 more pitchers better than him, hopefully top of the rotation types.  On the other hand, he is thirty seven and I just hope that the elderly Floridian with the funky leg kick, who once was traded for Willy Mo Pena (by Twins' special assistant to the GM Wayne Krivsky nevertheless), remains healthy.


Breaking: The Minnesota Twins trying to solve Starting Pitching and the 2014 Concert gig the same time

More on the pitching part tomorrow, but here is a musical teaser...

One Starting Pitcher the Twins should target in a trade

A week ago, I looked at the available starting pitchers who are free agents and I distilled the long list to three names who the Twins should target this off-season.  The premise is that other than Alex Meyer and maybe Kyle Gibson, the Twins do not have any "sure bets" for the top of their rotation for next season and the near future that will coincide with the coming of age of uber prospects Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton.  So, in order to compete in 2014 and not to waste that future, the Twins need three starting pitchers better than Kevin Correia and Kyle Gibson (today) who will hold the 2 last spots in the Twins' rotation for 2014.  These pitchers should be young enough to be around at least for 3 years, maybe longer.   The two other criteria I used to trim the free agent list, in addition to age (31 next season or younger) were characteristics sorely missed by the Twins' rotations since Johan Santana's and Fransisco Liriano's departure and injury and eventual departure:  Hard throwing (FB 92 mph or better) and striking people out (K/9 8 or better.)  I also excluded pitchers in rehab or mostly in the minors or in foreign leagues in 2013.  From the list of 54 free agent pitchers, ended up with an "A" list of five names who meet the criteria and a "B" list of four names who meet some of the criteria. 

However it is unlikely that the Twins will get 3 free agent pitchers and there is a good opportunity to acquire a pitcher who would had been in the A list (and fairly on the top of the list), were he a free agent.  There have been thoughts ranging from rumors to dreams about the Twins trading with the Detroit Tigers for Rick Porcello (who potentially is available, and is young enough, but his fastball is too slow and does not strike enough people out to even make the "B" list) or with the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey (who has enough characteristics to make the "A" list, but likely will cost someone like Alex Meyer to acquire, which defeats the purpose) or even with the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price (who would like will cost the farm, and a bit more.)

Who is the mystery pitcher and what would it take for the Twins to acquire him?

The Twins need to start thinking about selling high (without destroying the team) and buying low.  Unfortunately this front office has not been utilizing the practice well recently, from the Willingham non-trade after a career season, to the clearance sale of Frasisco Liriano (who was an ace for the Pirates last season) to the giving up of Delmon Young, Kevin Slowey and Jim Thome (whom the Philies eventually "flipped" to the Orioles for 2 C prospects.)

The proposed trade is Brian Dozier, Casey Fien and Darin Mastroianni to the Chicago Cubs for Jeff Samardzija.

Why would the Twins want this trade?

Samardzija is 29 years old, listed at 6'5" and 225 lbs, is arbitration eligible and under team control for the next 2 years (estimated 2014 award and affordable $5 million), has top of the rotation stuff (94 mph FB average and K/9 around or higher than 9 the past 3 seasons; as far as our criteria go) is durable (175 and 214 IP the last 2 seasons) and (the buy low part) has a negative W-L ratio and ERA in the 4s, which is not top of the rotation results.  Given that his xFIP is about a full point lower than his ERA, his SIERA is 3.60 and his xPE (19.8) in the number 2 starter range, his actual results are lower than his potential and were likely influenced by the Cubs' bad defense and their horrible for pitchers ballpark.

Twenty eight year old Brian Dozier is coming from a career season that has cemented him in the minds of many as the Twins' second baseman of the future who should make the Twins move 22 year old Eddie Rosario back to the outfield, but it is unlikely sustainable, thus the sell high.  Dozier's season with the bat, even though it seems Ruthian among the Twins' hitters, was a league average .726 OPS, resulting from a .244/.312/.414 slash line, that propelled his OPS to average because of SLG%.  His SLG% was influence by a ridiculous HR/FB rate that is not sustainable.  Drop is SLG% a conservative 30 points and a .244/.312/.384 (with a .696 OPS) does not look quite Ruthian.  Prime candidate for regression.  Sell high.  Twenty five year old Eduardo Escobar, who quietly had a stellar 2013 AAA campaign and is repeating it in the Venezuela Winter League, can be an immediate replacement with potential shift to short stop when Eddio Rozario is deemed ready (as soon as September of 2014).

Thirty year old Casey Fien who in the mind of some is a prime candidate for the right hand set up man (and Gardenhire used him in that role partially last season), is the poster boy for selling high; his peak was before the All-Star break (and the Twins lost the opportunity to trade him at the deadline before he regressed) but still has some sell high potential.  I have explained the reasons to sell high on Fien here then, and they stand, albeit the attractiveness slightly reduced. The Twins have plenty of pitchers including Michael Tonkin who will replace Fien with potentially better results.

Why Mastroianni?  Because the 28 year old's future with the Twins as a defensive replacement/pinch runner/fourth outfielder was nulled when the Twins acquired 25 year old Ryan Pressly and might be the sweetener for the deal for the Cubs.

Why would the Cubs want the trade?

Samardzija has shown flashed of brilliance but has not really translated the potential and expectations into actual wins.  There is pressure to win in Chicago and the clock is winding down for the new Front Office leadership to produce a winner in a division where the Reds, the Cardinals and now the Pirates provide tremendous competition.  Thus the Cubs might soon be in "win-now" mode and spending some real money in free agency.  Second base was a black hole in production last season.  Dozier who will likely sustain his high HR/FB rates in Wrigley will help close that and continue with his stellar defense.  The pen was a mess and Casey Fien, with a little bit of continuation of his luck will help them fix.  Their outfield, especially centerfield was very inconsistent.  Mastroianni can hold down centerfield in late innings for them.  Also, last but not least, all 3 players are under club control for 5 years and would cost only about league minimum the first 2, helping the Cubs focus that money towards the acquisition of costly free agents

Is it a fair trade?

On first look, 5 years (2 at minimum wage) of each of Brian Dozier, Darin Mastroianni and Casey Fien for the last 2 arbitration years of Jeff Samardzija seem like a slam dunk for the Cubs.  However, the Twins are buying low and selling high, making this a fair trade for both teams

Just in case this happens, for the Twins' fans:  The D, Z and I in Samardzija's name (whose nickname is "Shark) are silent, and pronounced Sah-MAR-jah


The two Twins' players affected the most by the Joe Mauer move to first base

Unless you did not have access to any media today, by now the permanent move of Joe Mauer to first base is a well known fact described by a ton of virtual ink.   I am not about to talk about the advantages or disadvantages of the move, but of the two players on the Twins' roster who will get affected the most.

Here is what we know:

  • Joe Mauer has moved to first base where presumably he will play in 90-95% of the Twins' games, DHing occasionally.
  • The Twins have 4 catchers on their 40 man roster (Ryan Doumit, Chris Herrmann, Eric Fryer, Josmil Pinto.)  
  • However, since they officially expressed interest on catchers outside the organization like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, it seems that they do not see any of those 4 options as their major starting option.

What does this mean?  For whom does the bell toll?

From those four catchers on the roster, 33 year old Ryan Doumit, has done the least catching and was shut down from catching after his concussion late in the season.   Furthermore, in 2013, he posted the lowest OPS of his career and his defensive skills are suited to a full time DH.  In 2013 DH will be a position that, unless traded, 35 year old Josh Willingham is slated to posses a large amount of time, supplemented potentially by Chris Parmelee who is walking in the season as the primary (albeit defensively deficient Twins' Right Fielder.)  In addition, 25 year old Chris Herrmann has a very similar skillset position wise as Ryan Doumit does, with the exception that he is seven years younger and about to enter his prime, has less home run power but is a much better defender both in the Outfield and as a Catcher.

Thus, Ryan Doumit will see a diminished playing time with the Twins in 2014.

Moving Mauer to first base, likely means the end of 30 year old Chris Colabello's Twins' career.  Chris is a great story coming from the independent leagues in the Twins' organization in 2012 to being the 2013 minor league player of the year hitting .352/.427/.639  with 24 HRs in 89 games with the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins' AAA affiliate.  But the 30 year old who won a cup of coffee in the majors because of his AAA performance, has a lot of holes in his game both on the plate and his limited fielding ability to take a spot on the Twins' bench in 2014, with Mauer manning first base.  I think that the Twins will remove him from the 40-man roster and he will likely get claimed by another team.

Thus, Cris Colabello is the second player affected by the Mauer move.