- Winter Preview----Minnesota Twins:
What should concern the rest of the American League Central is how young the Twins are on the whole.
What they need: A second baseman; a third baseman; bullpen help; a veteran starting pitcher.
Free agents: SS Orlando Cabrera; 3B Joe Crede; LHP Ron Mahay; RHP Carl Pavano; C Mike Redmond
Cabrera is going to be in a better position than he was last year following his stellar play for the Twins after being acquired from the Athletics. It would behoove him to hold his fire before joining a club (within reason; if someone offers him a solid contract----2 years----he should take it) and wait out what happens with the shortstop hungry teams like the Red Sox and Blue Jays. The Twins were said to be hoping for Cabrera to consider a move to second base as they've acquired J.J. Hardy from the Brewers to play shortstop. He's likely to have options at shortstop elsewhere, so I see him shifting as unlikely.
Crede's back problems will make it hard for him to even find a job on a big league contract.
Mahay will be in demand as lefty out of the bullpen; he's becoming more of a lefty specialist now at 38, but he can hang on for years doing that if he wants. He might be back with the Twins.
Pavano should get a decent deal somewhere even if it's only a 1-year contract; he probably won't be back.
Redmond has a great job backing up one of the best players in baseball, Joe Mauer; he's popular in the clubhouse, is a good backup even at age 38; he will be back.
Players available via trade: 2B Alexei Casilla; LHP Francisco Liriano; OF Delmon Young; RHP Joe Nathan; RHP Jon Rauch
Casilla's stock has fallen drastically after his excellent 2008 season; he was so bad in 2009 that he wound up back in the minors after barely breaking a .200 batting average; that the Twins are trying to convince Cabrera to accept a shift to second base is a bad sign for Casilla's future in Minnesota.
Liriano was atrocious last year and has shown little sign of regaining the dominating form he showed in 2006. He missed all of 2007 after Tommy John surgery. Maybe they should try him as a closer if they trade Joe Nathan.
Young was on the outs with the Twins before Justin Morneau's injury forced Michael Cuddyer to first base and Young back into the regular lineup. He played well, especially during the Twins' hot streak that catapulted them to the playoffs. Young still has great potential and is only 24. His temper and inconsistency has him available.*
*Sounds like me.
Plus Young's arbitration-eligible.
Joe Nathan melted down in the playoffs, but he might've been a topic for discussion in trade talks anyway. I doubt he'll be moved, but there's a chance of it happening with a team like the Braves who have a surplus of starting pitching and could use a closer. Derek Lowe for Nathan wouldn't be a ridiculous idea.
Rauch is making nearly $3 million next year. His contract puts him in play.
Non-tender candidates: RHP Boof Bonser; INF Brendan Harris; LHP Francisco Liriano; RHP Pat Neshek
Bonser's coming off season-ending surgery for a torn labrum and will be non-tendered. Harris and Liriano are highly unlikely to be dumped, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Neshek had Tommy John surgery, missed most of 2008 and all of 2009; he could be non-tendered and brought back by the Twins at a lower salary.
Players to pursue:
Via free agency: RHP Rafael Soriano (Braves); LHP Doug Davis (Diamondbacks); LHP Billy Wagner (Red Sox); RHP Jason Marquis (Rockies); 2B Placido Polanco (Tigers); RHP Kevin Gregg (Cubs); LHP Jarrod Washburn (Tigers); SS Miguel Tejada (Astros); 2B Ronnie Belliard (Dodgers); 2B Orlando Hudson (Dodgers); LHP Randy Wolf (Dodgers); RHP J.J. Putz (Mets); RHP Pedro Martinez (Phillies); RHP Chan Ho Park (Phillies); LHP Erik Bedard (Mariners); 3B Troy Glaus (Cardinals); LaTroy Hawkins (Astros)
The closers mentioned are contingent on what the Twins do with Nathan. If they trade him, they're not going to trust Rauch as their closer when there are so many reasonably priced stopgaps/reclamation projects that could be had on a mutually beneficial short-term basis.
For a new second baseman, Polanco can hit and play the position well defensively. Belliard and Hudson are both free agents and would fill the position on a short-term contract capably while the Twins decide what they're going to do with Casilla.
Marquis and Davis are veterans for the back of the starting rotation; Bedard is a shot-in-the-dark; Washburn is a from Minnesota and has long been linked with the Twins.
Park wants to go back to being a starter, but it's impossible to imagine a team that's going to want him as anything other than a reliever.
Glaus is returning from injury and, like Crede last year, would be available for low cost/high reward. Tejada would have to move to third base if he joined the Twins, but he could fall to them as the winter moves along.
Via trade: RHP Edwin Jackson (Tigers); 3B Jhonny Peralta (Indians); 2B Josh Barfield (Indians); RHP Michael Wuertz (Athletics); 2B Dan Uggla (Marlins); INF Jorge Cantu (Marlins); RHP Matt Lindstrom (Marlins); RHP Derek Lowe (Braves); RHP Javier Vazquez (Braves); RHP Francisco Cordero (Reds); RHP Roy Oswalt (Astros); 2B Akinori Iwamura (Pirates); 3B Garrett Atkins (Rockies); 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (Padres); RHP Chris Young (Padres)
Jackson's on the block and while the Tigers won't want to trade him within the division, if they're doing a moderate rebuild, then what's the difference?
The Braves are shopping some of their starting pitching surplus and would much prefer to trade Lowe than Vazquez, but if the Twins do decide to trade Nathan, the Braves need a closer; and Lowe pitched horribly over the second half of the season, but the contracts aren't so out of line to make it absurd. Nathan has $24.5 million coming to him through 2011; Lowe $45 million through 2012. It's not crazy.
Young could be a star if he stays healthy and increases his durability.
If the Astros are slashing salary, why not ask about Oswalt?
The Reds are shopping Cordero and he could replace Nathan. He's making a lot of money----$25 million guaranteed through 2011.
Uggla's generating a lot of interest and the Marlins are going to trade him; he'd put up his power numbers for the Twins. Cantu can play third and is very available. I'd ask about Lindstrom as well. If the Indians continue dumping salary, Peralta's shift to third base last season makes him attractive. Barfield's stock has fallen, but he was a solid rookie and is worth a shot at second base as a low-cost alternative.
Atkins is openly being shopped by the Rockies; Kouzmanoff is arbitration-eligible and I'm sure the Padres would move him and shift Chase Headly back to third base if they get the chance.
- Strange bedfellows:
Keith Law is under attack for his evident "audacity" in not selecting Chris Carpenter on his NL Cy Young Award ballot.
As most people who read me regularly surely know, I'm no fan of Law's; I think he's a regurgitates scouting terminology and combines it with stat zombieness----the epitome of the armchair expert; but he does make sense once in awhile----more so than many of the true zealot brand of stat zombie. And the truth about his selection of Javier Vazquez ahead of Carpenter in the voting is missing the fact that Vazquez had an excellent year deserving of recognition.
Carpenter's omission didn't cost him the award; the right guy----Tim Lincecum----won; so what's the problem?
Was this in any way worse than the voting incident I mentioned yesterday with George King leaving Pedro Martinez off of his MVP ballot entirely in 2000 based on nothing but partisan politics and embarrassing stupidity? No chance. At least Law had viable reasons for making his decision.
Then the vultures come out.
Buck Martinez said of Law yesterday: "I worked with Keith Law in Toronto and he doesn't have a grip on anything."
Fair enough. But what about Martinez and his bonafides?
I've long respected Martinez if, for nothing else, than that he's one tough bastard. Any catcher who records a double play on two home plate collisions----the second out being recorded on a broken leg and dislocated ankle----deserves more than props; he deserves a "we're not worthy" reaction of supplication for being hard as nails.
That said. Martinez was another broadcaster who decided he'd managed from the booth long enough and went down on the field to take over as Toronto Blue Jays manager in 2001 and 2002, logged a 100-115 record and was fired. Having never managed at any level and taking over a club after being a broadcaster shows a remarkable amount of arrogance and it rarely works. The snap decisions, critiques and second-guesses aren't so cut and dried when it's a rapid-fire series of moves that need to be made and one has to think ten steps ahead.The most egregious part of the vitriol directed at Law is that the man happened to have a reason for doing what he did----a legit reason. And ripping him now is just opportunistic piling on with an agenda and minds just as obtuse as the hardcore stat zombies. The extremities of the either side is just as bad as the other.