Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Links-N-Thinks

After the long holiday weekend, the news has been slow-moving in regards to the Twins. This was not unexpected as the organization usually takes some time off during the holiday season. The baseball world has continued to swirl as the beginning of the new year is fast approaching. By turning of the calendar to the new year, it means that teams will shortly be packing their bags for the warmer weather of Florida and Arizona.

Spring training will prime teams for the 2012 season but for now here are this weeks helping of interesting links to prime you for the weekend.
My Weekly Rundown:
 Video of the Week: The folks over at MLB Hot Stove Report took a long hard look at Morneau's training regiment to come back from post-concussion syndrome. It makes you wonder how he made it on to the field at all last season.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Killebrew's passing, Thome's 600th marked 2011

In a season marked with many negative headlines around the Twins, it is hard to pick out the best moments from the past 12 months. The team struggled through so many up-and-down moments and there were multiple story lines that will be remembered in the annals of Twins lore. The theme for the 2011 version of the Twins was all about injuries and their impact on a 99-loss season.

Even with all of the negativity on the field, there were some signature moments that fans across Twins Territory will carry with them for the foreseeable future. There were on field triumphs and some moments off the field that go beyond the game of baseball.

But together they compose the year that was for the 2011 Minnesota Twins...

5. Liriano tosses no-hitter in Chicago
It was not a perfectly pitched game by any means but Liriano was able to avoid the White Sox getting any hits on the board. At the beginning of May, there was still plenty of hope left in the Twins season. It took 123 pitches and the defense behind Liriano was relied on for multiple plays in the game. The Twins only scored one run of support for Liriano, a fourth inning home run off of the bat of Jason Kubel. This would be enough for Liriano on the night as he pitched the fifth no-hitter since the Twins moved to Minnesota.

4. Nathan sets Twins all-time saves mark
There were many obstacles in the way of Nathan reaching this feat with the Twins. He came to the team with little closing experience and only one save to his name. When he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2010, it looked like his shot at the record could be over. He worked hard to get back on the mound and win the closer role to start 2011. After the first couple weeks of the season, it again looked like Nathan might not ever reach this historic mark. He gave up the closers role after two bad outings in Tampa Bay but this was not the last Twins fans would see of Nathan. In the middle of July, the closer role was given back to Nathan and he made the most of the opportunity. He would pass Rick Aguleria with his 255th save in club history on August 10th and he cemented his place as one of the best pitchers in the history of the franchise.

3. Blyleven enshrined in Cooperstown
The journey for Blyleven to the doorstep of Cooperstown was a long one in the making. It took until his 14th time on the ballot to reach the 75% mark from the writers. He became the first Dutchman to make be elected to the Hall and he is the first pure starting pitcher since Nolan Ryan to be selected by the writers in 1999. Blyleven followed in the footsteps of Killebrew, Carew and Puckett to become the fourth player to be wearing a Twins cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. The Twins organization also held a celebration the weekend before his Hall-of-Fame induction to honor his career and retire his number. It was a long wait for Mr. Blyleven but he can finally sign "HOF 2011" next to his name. 

2. Thome reaches 600 home run plateau
When the Twins announced that Thome would be coming back for the 2011 season, many fans wondered how long it would take for Thome to enter the 600 club. After only one season with the team, he had already hit some memorable home runs. Passing Killebrew on the all-time list and his walk-off shot against the White Sox were two great memories from 2010. By the time the Twins had reached mid-August, there was little else to cheer for besides Thome's chase for 600. He would join seven other greats of the game on August 15 with his 599th and 600th home run in the same game. Shortly after he hit his 600th, the team would send him to Cleveland for a chance at reaching the playoffs. But Thome provided plenty of memories during his short time wearing a TC on his batting helmet. 

1. Killebrew remembered for much more than baseball
There are many moments that can shape a baseball season but somethings are beyond the scope of the baseball world. Harmon Killebrew was that type of person and that type of player. The mark left by Killebrew on the Twins franchise is hard to quantify. He was a gentle giant who become a legend in Twins Territory for his play on the field and became more well-known for his kindness off of it. His memorial service at Target Field will not soon be forgotten by the fans who were able to take part in this celebration of his life. Mudcat Grant's stirring rendition of "What a Wonderful World" echoed through downtown Minneapolis. The moment of the night was when Nita Killebrew stepped up to the microphone and gave a tremendous speech to all fans of the Twins. After the strength she showed and the words she spoke, there was not a dry eye in the house, a fitting tribute to the man they called "Killer."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Larkin comes to the top of 2012 HOF Class

As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, we are asked to take part in a few different voting exercises throughout the year. We pick out the top players in each end of the year award category, we vote for the starters in the All-Star Game, and we submit a ballot for the Hall-of-Fame during each off-season. The end of the calendar year means it is getting closer to the announcement of the Class of 2012 for the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame. There have been plenty of national writers who have written about their ballot in the last week.

With each of the other announcements, the BBA asks each member to post their ballot to their blog. The Hall-of-Fame vote is the only one for which this is not a requirement. I still feel like the Hall-of-Fame balloting should be posted with my reasons for selecting each candidate. I usually break my ballot into a few different categories because I know that not all of the players listed below will be making a speech in Cooperstown this summer.

Class of 2012
Barry Larkin (2011 HOF Vote: 62.1%) - Cincinnati Reds
Accolades: 12-time All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 9 Silver Sluggers, 1995 NL MVP
BA: .295
H: 2340 (131st)
HR: 198
R: 1329 (108th)
RBI: 960
SB: 379 (87th)
OPS: .815
WAR: 68.9 (90th)

This year will mark the third year for Larkin on the ballot and he has been steadily moving closer to the 75% needed to be inducted. In my lifetime, he might be the best shortstop who played in the National League. His combination of hitting, base running ability, and defensive prowess are worthy of induction with the best players of all-time. In a year where many of the other top position players have the PED cloud surrounding them, Larkin should be a lock to be the only player selected by the baseball writers.

Future Inductions
Jeff Bagwell (2011 HOF Vote: 41.7%)- Houston Astros
Accolades: 4-time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1994 NL MVP
BA: .297
H: 2314 (139th)
HR: 449 (35th)
R: 1517 (63rd)
RBI: 1529 (46th)
SB: 202 
OPS: .948 (22nd)
WAR: 79.9 (57th)

Edgar Martinez (2011 HOF Ballot: 32.9%) - Seattle Mariners
Accolades: 7-time All-Star, 5 Silver Sluggers,
BA: .312 (95th)
H: 2247 (160th)
HR: 309 (120th)
R: 1219 (160th)
RBI: 1261 (121st)
SB: 49
OPS: .933 (34th)
WAR: 67.2 (100th)

Martinez will be facing his third year of being on the ballot and Bagwell will be making his second appearance. For Bagwell, there have been slight connections made to him and the other steroid era sluggers. He was a very good hitter in an era where it seemed like everyone was using PEDs so there are going to be writers who leave him off of their ballot for this reason. Martinez is one of the best designated hitters of all-time and he changed the position for current generations. It might be a long process for each of these two to get into the HOF but they should be elected sometime in the next decade.

May Never Get In (But still on my ballot)
Mark McGwire (2011 HOF Vote: 19.8%) - Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals
Accolades: 12-time All-Star, 1 Gold Glove, 3 Silver Sluggers, 1987 AL Rookie of the Year, Passed Roger Maris for most HR in single season
BA: .263
H: 1626
HR: 583 (10th)
R: 1167 (199th)
RBI: 1414 (67th)
SB: 12
OPS: .982 (10th)
WAR: 43.3 (131st)

Jack Morris (2011 HOF Vote: 53.5%) - Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Indians
Accolades: 5-time All-Star, 1991 World Series MVP
Wins: 254 (42nd)
ERA: 3.90
WHIP: 1.296
K: 2478 (32nd)
IP: 3824.0 (50th)
WAR for pitchers: 39.3 (141st)
Shutouts: 28 (134th)

Rafael Palmerio (2011 HOF Vote: 11.0%) - Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Chicago Cubs
Accolades: 4-time All-Star, 3 Gold Gloves, 2 Silver Sluggers
BA: .288
H: 3020 (25th)
HR: 569 (12th)
R: 1663 (31st)
RBI: 1835 (16th)
SB: 97
OPS: .885 (82nd)
WAR: 66.0 (109th)

It seems weird to have Morris in the same category as McGwire and Palmerio but his time on the ballot is running out. As I wrote about in the last couple of weeks, this year marks the last best chance for Morris to make the Hall. He is the best pitcher on the ballot this year and there will be a lot of good first time candidates on the ballot in the next two years. McGwire and Palmeiro put up the power numbers to be enshrined in Cooperstown but the cloud of steroids will follow them on every ballot. It could be tough for either of these men to make the jump needed to reach 75% of the vote.

Honorary Vote:
Brad Radke (2011 HOF Vote: N/A) - Minnesota Twins
Accolades: 1-time All-Star
Wins: 148 (249th)
ERA: 4.22
WHIP: 1.260
K: 1467 (198th)
IP: 2451.0
WAR for pitchers: 41.4 (120th)
Shutouts: 10

Did Radke have the type of career for which he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame? The answer is no. But for fans of the Twins organization, he represents one of the most consistent pitchers to take the mound for the organization. He was a very good pitcher on some Twins teams that were not very good. My favorite Radke fact is from the 1997 season. He would win 20 games that season for the first and only time in his career. The crazy thing is the Twins only won 68 games in 1997 and Radke was the winning pitcher in almost a third of those victories.

As always, leave a comment. Who would be on your ballot? Will the PED sluggers ever be enshrined in Cooperstown? Do you have any fun Radke stories?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Lack of power could play well at Target Field

With the signing of Jason Marquis during last week, the Twins roster for the 2012 season is close to being finalized. There is a small amount of room in the payroll to possibly add a bullpen arm but only time will tell if the Twins move in this direction. The pieces of the line-up are in place for next year and this makes it easier to predict the offensive production this nine-man line-up will be able to produce over the course of the season.

Some writers, like Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN, have predicted that a healthy Twins line-up could vault the Twins to the top of the American League in their ability to produce runs. Obviously, this is only an estimate and the health of many of the key pieces is still in question. Even if the Twins do put more runs on the scoreboard, the pitching staff is going to have to allow a lot fewer runs to bring the team back into contention in the American League Central.

After the second full season at Target Field, the Twins organization knows a lot more about the intricacies of their new ballpark. The team has found some difficulties in the power department in their new home and they even tried to improve the batter's eye in center field. This means it is easier for the Twins to create a line-up on the field that is built for the quirks of Target Field.

Here are the Bill James predictions as posted on FanGraphs.com for each player that figures to be in the Twins starting line-up for 2012:

Denard Span: .288/.361/.379, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 64 R, 16 2B
Jamey Carroll: .274/.353/.332, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 45 R, 12 2B
Joe Mauer: .326/.412/.466, 11 HR, 71 RBI, 77 R, 31 2B
Josh Willingham: .248/.352/.460, 25 HR, 82 RBI, 71 R, 29 2B
Justin Morneau: .288/.369/.494, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 39 R, 18 2B
Ryan Doumit: .275/.335/.443, 13 HR, 55 RBI, 46 R, 26 2B
Danny Valencia: .278/.328/.420, 9 HR, 50 RBI, 46 R, 24 2B
Alexi Casilla: .264/.331/.347, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 52 R, 15 2B
Ben Revere: .280/.325/.326, 0 HR, 30 RBI, 56 R, 13 2B

With each of these players starting half of their games at Target Field, the potential to hit home runs is significantly decreased because of the way that the field plays. The large gaps in the outfield and high fence in right make a few home runs trots turn into stand-up doubles. There are not a lot of home run threats in this starting nine but that could be put together by design.

If the middle of the line-up is composed of a healthy Mauer, Morneau and Willingham, there is plenty of potential to see the ball fly out of the park. The Twins have also surrounded their key middle of the line-up pieces with players who can get on-base at a very consistent clip. After the putrid offensive output in 2011, it would be a welcome sight to see runs on-base at a higher rate.

There are three players the Twins will be relying on next year to be in the starting line-up who have little power potential. Carroll, Casilla, and Revere will be lucky to hit the three projected home runs as Bill James predicted in the above chart. The speed of Casilla, Revere and Span as back-to-back-to-back hitters in the line-up could be fun to watch on the base paths. Ozzie Guillen might be gone from the AL Central but the little piranhas could be all over the field for the Twins.

In the end, the Twins will not be slugging the ball out of many ball parks in American but that looks to be by design. Target Field has played to hitters who aren't trying to smack the ball over the fence with every swing. The organization limited their budget this year so going to get a player big name slugger like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols was out of the question.

The line-up the Twins has for 2012 projects to score more runs than last season...

And that has to be a welcomed thought for all Twins fans. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Edition of Friday Links-N-Thinks

It is the eve of Christmas Eve and there are many people setting out on their travels to visit family and friends. I hope all readers of NoDak Twins enjoy their time with family and friends. It is a wonderful time of the year and it means the start of the baseball season is fast approaching.

There were a handful of stories to follow with the Twins this week. Michael Cuddyer was introduced as a member of the Colorado Rockies and he picked to wear number three in honor of Harmon Killebrew. Jason Kubel signed a multi-year free agent contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Twins signed right-handed pitcher Jason Marquis to be the fifth starter in the rotation and to basically replace Kevin Slowey. The stories just kept coming throughout the week.
My Weekly Rundown:
Video of the Week: Tis the season for a little Christmas cheer and what better than a crazy Christmas dancing video with Joe Mauer as an elf.

    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    A Twins Christmas Carol

    It was Christmas Eve and the sun had set long ago over the offices of Target Field. Terry Ryan sat behind his desk scouring over the latest list of free agents pitchers as he tried to find the final pieces to complete the Twins roster for the coming spring. He was burning the midnight oil and he had long forgotten about the holiday season. A lot of pressure follows the man in charge following one of the worst seasons in franchise history. There was no time to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.

    The hours continued to fly by and Ryan was no closer to solving the Twins problems. When out of no where, the lights began to flicker and a cool breeze swept through the office. After a rush of wind, a large figure stood in front of Mr. Ryan's desk. As the lights still flickered, Ryan finally made sense of the figure that was in his presence. It was the ghost of former GM Bill Smith. Smith had been chase from his job and he had some words of wisdom for Ryan.

    "Beware the angry fan base of the Twins. They will never be satisfied until the team can find postseason success again. The players won't fight through injuries. The starting staff is full of holes and the future does not look in the team's favor. They will chase you out just like they chased me. BEWARE!!!"

    Ryan still seemed to be confused about a message being delivered by the man who use to hold his job. He was not sure if he should even believe the words that were being stated. The ghost of Smith knew these thoughts were crossing the mind of Ryan. Smith's final message as he flew out the window was that Ryan would be joined by three other ghosts on this evening. Each one would have a different lesson to teach him about the Twins franchise.

    Shortly after Smith flew away, a short and stout ghost flew into the offices of Target Field wearing a number thirty-four jersey on his back. It was the ghost of Kirby Puckett to tell the tale of the glory of former years. He was the Ghost of Past Seasons and their first destination was October 1987. Puckett told the story of how the team was able to overcome all obstacles to win the first championship in team history. All of Twins Territory basked in the glow of the magic of putting the Twins on the championship map.

    Their journey did not stop there. They were quickly whisked away to a packed Metrodome for a pre-game speech before Game 6 in 1991. Puckett told the team to get on his back and he would carry them. Those words would come true as Puckett stole the show with an amazing catch and a miraculous walk-off home run. The next stop was Game 7 and the magic of Jack Morris on the mound. By the end of that game, Ryan had seen enough and the Ghost of Past Seasons took him back to his office.
    Ryan was hardly in his office long enough to catch his breath before his journey was scheduled to continue. The next ghost to come through Target Field was the Ghost of Present Seasons and he came in the form of the hometown boy Joe Mauer. The ghost of Mauer had much to tell Ryan about the miserable 2011 campaign. The first stop in this new journey was to the offseason after Ryan stepped away from the GM role. Torii Hunter and Johan Santana's future with the club were taken away as the team was forced to move in a different direction.Then Mauer brought Ryan to the moment when the Twins traded Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett away for Delmon Young.

    Ryan had to look away when Mauer showed him the Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos swap in July of 2010. He brought him back to around the 2010 Winter Meetings when the Twins brought in shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka and traded away the rights to JJ Hardy. Many of the players traded away found success with other teams and the players on the Twins suffered through injuries and a 99-loss season. It was a nightmare for Ryan to watch all of it unfold in front of him and he closed his eyes to avoid watching any more.

    The next ghost was waiting for Ryan in his office shortly after he opened his eyes. He was greeted by Miguel Sano and he represented the Ghost of Future Seasons. This time the journey was a vision of the future of the Twins as it took place in front of their eyes at Target Field. Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, and Joe Benson had all hit their stride at the big league level by putting up monster numbers in the middle of the Twins line-up. Kyle Gibson, Alex Wimmers, and Liam Hendriks had continued to grow stronger in the starting rotation to lead the Twins to the cusp of their third championship. It was Game 7 of the World Series at Target Field and it was a tight contest. Sano stepped to the plate and with one man on base and his team down a run. Could he follow in the footsteps of Puckett and be a World Series hero? Unfortunately for Ryan, he would not see the outcome of this game because this is where his journey would end.
    Ryan awoke in his office as the sun light of Christmas Day hit the horizon. The evening had been an epiphany as he realized the path the Twins were on and it was time for change. Another World Series Championship was needed in the Twin Cities and his decisions would shape the future of the team. There was so much to accomplish and his mind was full of concepts for the creation of the roster for now and into the future. A Christmas Miracle had occurred and Twins fans can thank the ghost of Bill Smith for the lessons he taught to Mr. Ryan.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    Mauer or Morneau: Who has more to prove in 2012?

    At the beginning of last week, the writers at Big League Stew put together a list of the top ten injury comebacks to watch in 2012. There were names like Buster Posey, Ryan Howard and Johan Santana but the obvious duo from the Twins was Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Each of these players will be coming back after different types of injuries forced them to the sidelines for large chunks of 2011. The results on the field for the Twins showed how evident it was that the team was missing both of their former MVPs.

    Mauer's 2011: It was hard to keep track of the plague of injuries that attacked Mauer in 2011. The origins of his problems might be traced back to knee surgery in the offseason leading up to the start last season. This lead into a season in which his list of injuries included a mysterious diagnosis of bilateral leg weakness, soreness in his hips, problems with his elbow, shoulder issues, back pain, and his season ended when he contracted pneumonia.

    He was in the midst of his first year of his monster $184 million contract and there were high expectations as he entered this new domain. The results on the field couldn't have been much worse as he played in the fewest amount of games since his rookie campaign and he only managed 18 extra-base hits for the season. Reports came out earlier in the month that Mauer is primed and ready to go for the 2012 season. He knows that he has a lot to prove to fans across the baseball world.

    Morneau's 2011:  Morneau has made a tradition of missing big chunks of the last three seasons. During that time, there have been 212 games in which Morneau was forced to miss playing time. Recurring issues with concussion symptoms have been a scary factor which has forced Morneau to the sidelines. A slide into second base in Toronto in 2010 ended that season for Morneau and he has yet to be the same player he was before the injury. The symptoms continued for parts of 2011 and Morneau attempted a diving play while playing first base in late August and this triggered another occurrence of his concussion symptoms.

    On top of the concussion issues, the 2011 season also saw him suffer through a pinched nerve in his neck, numbness in his left hand, and left wrist soreness. The end of Morneau's season in September saw the first baseman undergo surgery for his left wrist, bone spurs in his right foot, and a cyst in his left knee. In an interview on Sunday, Twins GM Terry Ryan said Morneau's concussions "have not been an issue right now." That is a good sign for the time being.

    With both of the Twins former MVP's looking to make comebacks in 2012, there are plenty of concerns for fans of the club. Between Mauer and Morneau, who has more to prove in 2012?

    Mauer's 2012: Mauer needs to find some way to stay on the field. In 2011, he showed the ability to play multiple positions on the field and this could be one way to keep Mauer in the line-up on a more regular basis. With no surgeries this offseason, Mauer has time to complete his full offseason regime. During the regular season, he spoke of planned changes to his routine in the offseason and recently he told reporters, "I've got my weight back. I've been working out for a couple weeks... Everything looks good, and I should be ready to go on Day 1 of camp." Mauer needs to prove he is worth the money the organization has invested in him when they paid him to be their catcher for the future. He needs to show the ability to stay healthy and contribute to the team of which he is the superstar. Most of all, he might need to prove he can be a leader on a team that saw the departure of clubhouse voices Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan.

    Morneau's 2012: The Twins and Morneau hope he will be able to continue to play first base for the significant future. But the team has already said a switch to being a full-time designated hitter could be in the not so distant future. Morneau has been fairly quiet this offseason as he has spent time recovering from all of his surgeries at the end of the year. When the Twins get to Ft. Myers for the start of Spring Training, Morneau is going to have to prove a lot to the club. He has to show the team he can handle playing a defensive position without a reoccurrence of his concussion symptoms. In the time Morneau was on the field in 2011, he showed plenty of struggles at the plate as he tried to find his rhythm after missing so much time. Now he has missed even more time and the same struggles could follow him to the batter's box. With so many question marks, there is plenty to prove in 2012.

    In the end, the Twins will need both players healthy and on the field for the team to find success in 2012. For fans of the Twins, there will be much higher expectations for Mauer to produce on the field. It would be nice for Morneau to get back to form but his bat would be an added bonus. All of Twins Territory will focus on Mauer's mega-contract and demand more from a player who has shown the ability to be one of the best in the game. There will be a lot for each player to prove and it will start for each of them in Spring Training.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    Kubel signing shapes Twins 2012 draft picks

    For the second time in less than a week, the Twins saw a long-time player leave the organization as a free agent. Last week, Michael Cuddyer headed to Colorado and signed a 3-year deal worth $30 million with the Rockies. Reports surfaced yesterday morning that Jason Kubel signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the neighborhood of $15 million with a mutual option for a third year. This means that all of the free agents from the Twins that were eligible for draft compensation have found their clubs for next season. It also means that the Twins have a rough estimate of where they will get to pick in the first round, supplemental round, and second round of the 2012 MLB Draft.

    The new collective bargaining agreement that was announced at the end of November changed some of the rules in regards to compensation for free agents. Under the old system, Matt Capps and Cuddyer would have been Type A free agents while Kubel would have been a Type B free agent. There were a lot of changes to the system for the current offseason and the rules will be different for next offseason. MLB.com put together an article that explains a lot of the intricacies of the new plan and how it impacted this year's free agents.

    Here is how it broke down for each of the free agents from the Twins.

    Matt Capps
    Formerly Type A, Modified to Type B- Signed with the Twins 
    With the changes to the CBA, the Twins did not have to offer arbitration to Capps and the team would have still received a draft pick in the supplemental round for him signing with another team. When this news came out, many Twins fans rejoiced because there seemed to be no way the club would offer him arbitration. It was like getting a free draft pick for letting Capps sign with another team. In the end, the Twins really liked what Capps brought to the table and they resigned him to be the team's closer for 2012. 
    Draft pick compensation: The club won't receive draft compensation since he resigned with the team. 

    Michael Cuddyer
    Formerly Type A, Modified to lower Type A- Signed with Rockies
    The Twins offered arbitration to Cuddyer and he graciously declined since he was in the market for a multi-year contract. His new lower Type A status meant that the team signing him would not be forced to give up a draft pick to add him to their roster. Instead, the Twins would receive the pick immediately before the highest one they would have received under the old rules. They also get a pick in the supplemental round as compensation for him leaving. Unfortunately for Twins fans, the Rockies first round pick was in the top 15 picks and so it was protected. This means the Twins will get still get their supplemental round pick for Cuddyer but their other pick won't be until the pick right before the Rockies in round two.
    Draft pick compensation: 1st pick of the supplemental round (32nd pick overall), 12th pick of the second round (73rd pick overall)

    Jason Kubel
    Formerly Type B, Stayed Type B - Signed with Diamondbacks
    Kubel's free agent status did not change under the new rules of the CBA. Earlier in the offseason, the Twins offered arbitration to the outfielder/DH and he turned down the offer. He hoped for a multi-year deal from a team when he hit the open market. Under the new rules and the old rules, the Twins would receive a supplemental round pick for him signing with another club.
    Draft pick compensation: 11th pick of the supplemental round (42nd pick overall)

    There are still some unsigned free agents who could disrupt the picks mentioned above and knock the Twins down a spot. Prince Fielder and Ryan Madson are both Type A free agents who have yet to sign with a club. If either of these players signs with a club having a top-15 pick, the second compensation pick for Cuddyer would move back a spot into the second round. Also, if any of the Type B free agents sign with the Astros, the compensation for Kubel would be pushed back a spot. But for the most part, these are the spots the Twins will be making big selections during next June.

    The folks over at Twinkie Town have the complete draft order with yesterday's signing of Kubel already included but here is the summary for the first round, supplemental round, and second round.

    Minnesota Twins 2012 MLB Draft Order
    First Round: 2nd pick
    Supplemental Round: 1st pick (32nd overall), 11th pick (42nd overall)
    Second Round: 3rd pick (64th overall), 12th pick (73rd overall) 

    Following one of the worst season's in team history, it is nice to see the amount of high draft picks the Twins will have in next year's draft. The farm system for the organization needed to be restocked with some upper level prospects and the draft is the best way to accomplish this feat. It stinks to see players leave after spending their entire careers in the organization but the draft picks help to soothe my pain. 

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Twins turn focus to free agent starters

    The past week saw the Twins make one of their biggest free agent decisions in recent memory. With the signing of free agent outfielder Josh Willingham to a multi-year contract, the Twins made a conscious effort to cut ties with Michael Cuddyer and move the team in a new direction. Cuddyer was offered a larger contract to sign with the Rockies and the frustrations surrounding a 99-loss season might have pushed him out the door.

    With the biggest free agent decisions now behind the Twins, the team's payroll is closing in on the $100 million mark that could be the cap for their spending. Even with the organization being close to the top of their spending limit, the team is still looking to add some parts to their roster before the organization reports to Ft. Myers for Spring Training in a couple of months. In an interview with 1500 ESPN on Sunday morning, Terry Ryan said the team is focused on adding a starting pitcher but if that is not able to happen the team could look at available relief options. Ryan also mentioned the names of Anthony Swarzak, Brian Duensing, Terry Doyle, and Matt Maloney as internal options to fill out the starting rotation.

    Over the weekend, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted that the Twins were considering starting pitchers Joel Pineiro, Jeff Francis and Jon Garland. Each of these pitchers is not a front of the rotation arm but the Twins aren't in position to go after that type of player. There are some obvious question marks surrounding each of these pitchers that each had their own struggles in 2011 so the Twins should be able to get a decent deal for any of these men. Overall, the Twins need a healthy arm who can be reliable throughout the entirety of the 2012 campaign.

    Here is a look at each of these pitchers and what could be expected of them if they were to join the starting staff of the Twins.

    Joel Pineiro - RHP- 2011 team: Angels
    Stat summary: W-L (7-7), 5.13 ERA, 145.2 IP, 1.510 WHIP, 62 K, 38 BB
    The 33-year old righty is coming off a rough season for the Angels in which he posted a high ERA and one of the worst strikeout to walk ratios of his career. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged 177 innings pitched with a 4.06 ERA, a 1.277 WHIP and only 33 walks a season. This seems to fit the mold of many of the other pitchers scheduled to be part of the Twins rotation for 2012. Even coming off of the sub-par season, the good news for Pineiro is the fact that he has shown the ability to bounce back from previous bad seasons. Both of the other seasons he posted a negative WAR, he came back the next year to turn it into a positive WAR. He is only two seasons removed from a season in which he pitched over 200 innings and the 2010 season saw the second highest WAR of his career. The Twins would be crossing their fingers that Pineiro's trend of bounce back seasons would continue.

    Jeff Francis - LHP - 2011 team: Royals
    Stat summary: W-L (6-16), 4.82 ERA, 183.0 IP, 1.437 WHIP, 91 K, 39 BB
    Francis missed all of the 2009 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. The former 9th overall pick in the 2002 draft will turn 31 next month and could be an intriguing option for a team looking for another part for their starting rotation. The former 17-game winner showed his elbow had the ability to pitch a decent amount of innings in 2011 and don't let the win-loss record fool you about Francis. Last season was the third best WAR of his career and that number would have placed him third out of the Twins starters behind Scott Baker and Carl Pavano. The switch from Kauffman Stadium to Target Field could help his numbers and it would be a big upgrade over Coors Field, where he started his career.  In both of 2011 starts at Target Field, he pitched at least seven innings. But he did give up a home run to Drew Butera so that has to be a strike against him. His age is young enough and he is far enough removed from his elbow surgery that he could be due for a big season in 2012.

    Jon Garland - RHP - 2011 team: Dodgers
    Stat summary: W-L (1-5), 4.33 ERA, 54.0 IP, 1.389 WHIP, 28 K, 20 BB
    The Twins had plenty of health issues in 2011 so adding another health concern can't be too high on their list. Fans of the Twins will be familiar with Garland's name from the time he spent coming through the White Sox organization. He had back-to-back 18-win seasons in the mid-2000's and last season was the first year he did not reach double digits in wins since 2001. The problem could be how far he fell in 2011. His 54.0 innings pitched for last year were not good. But in the previous nine campaigns, he reached at least 190 innings pitched in every season. Garland did not pitch in a game after June 1st and that means that out of the three players mentioned here he would be the biggest risk. The benefit of a higher risk player is the chance he will be a cheaper option that could produce positive results on the field. In Garland's case, the risk might be too high and the Twins might be looking in a different direction.

    The front office of the Twins organization has made it very clear that the team is pushing hard to sign a free agent starting pitcher to fit into the rotation for next season. The Twins should look at Francis and Pineiro first and then they can turn their attention to other arms if these players are both looking for bigger contracts. Garland seems to fit the mold of previous Terry Ryan signings like Sidney Ponson. Is there much left for him to offer as a starter? If the price isn't right for one of these discount starters, the team could look to add another piece in the mix for the bullpen. This would leave a handful of less than outstanding options that are currently on the roster to fill-in the final spot in the starting rotation.

    Pitching can be the savior to a season and health is going to play a big part in the Twins turnaround next year. One free agent decision could play a big role in how the Twins start the 2012 season. 

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Friday Links-N-Thinks

    Most of the Twins news of the week was centered around the names of Michael Cuddyer and Josh Willingham. Rumors swirled earlier in the week that the Twins were close to signing Mr. Willingham but the official word from the club did not get released until Thursday. It would seem that the Twins were now out of the running for the Cuddyer but reports have serviced that the club might still be looking to sign him to a multi-year deal. Justin Morneau is still a question mark at first base and Cuddyer would be a nice replacement option if Morneau is unable to play. This could also mean that the club is looking to have Ben Revere start at the Triple-A level in 2012.

    Besides the entire Cuddyer-Willingham saga, there were plenty of other Twins and baseball related stories from the week. Enjoy the following links and take time to relax on your last full weekend before Christmas.
    My Weekly Rundown:
    Video of the Week: The Twins signing of Willingham was on the minds of many Twins fans throughout the last week. I included this video on my post from Wednesday but it shows the potential Willingham has to hit some bombs at Target Field.

    Thursday, December 15, 2011

    Is Morris a HOFer? 2012 is last best chance

    Ballots for the National Baseball Hall of Fame were distributed a couple weeks ago and voters have some tough choices ahead of them for the Class of 2012. Among the first time candidates, there are names like Bernie Williams, Javy Lopez, and former Twins player Brad Radke but none of these players are going to jump out at voters. This would leave Barry Larkin and Jack Morris as the top two candidates left from last year's ballot. Larkin is only in his third year as a candidate while Morris is entering his 12th year of eligibility. In recent weeks, the Golden Era Committee selected Ron Santo as a member of this year's class.

    Could Morris, the St. Paul native, also be picked as one of the all-time greats?

    It might be the last best chance for Morris to make the HOF in 2013 because of the crop of players that will be eligible for election starting in 2013. The list of players who will be eligible for the first time in 2013 include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, and Craig Biggio. The names of Bonds, Clemens, Sosa, and Piazza have all been connected to the steroid era in baseball and that could make voting dicey for the baseball writers. These candidates have a much stronger case than Morris for the Hall and the list of first time candidates in 2014 gets even better as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, and Jeff Kent will all be eligible for the first time.

    Multiple writers have made the case for and against Morris as he has seen his percentages grow in the Hall of Fame balloting. In last year's voting, he finished with 53.5% of the vote in fourth place behind Bert Blyleven, Roberto Alomar, and Larkin. He had the most wins out of any pitcher in the 1980's. His 162 wins place him on the top of the list and the next closest pitcher does not have more than 140 victories to their name. He reached the peak of his playing career in an era that saw great pitchers like Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, and Tom Seaver who were finishing their careers. Another crop of top pitchers that included Tom Glavine, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux were just getting their careers off of the ground.

    It seems nearly impossible for Morris to make the 21.5% jump he would need to make in the voting at this point in his candidacy. The biggest percentage increase he made in his 12 years on the ballot was 8.4% from the 2009 to the 2010 ballot. In last year's vote, he only was able to move up 1.2% and it was only the second time he has gotten over 50% of the vote. This leaves only three more shots for Morris to see a big push made in his favor by the voters and it seems like that push may never come his way.

    As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I am asked every year to cast a ballot for those that I think should be enshrined in Cooperstown. In last year's ballot, I voted for seven players and one of those players happened to be Mr. Morris. You could call it a nostalgic vote for a player that provided one of the best moments in Twins franchise history. His standing as arguably one of the best pitchers of the 1980's helps his candidacy but it might be an era that gets ignored by the voters because of the lack of statistical data to prove Morris belongs in the HOF.

    With only three more chances on being elected, it seems that the current balloting of the BWAA will be the last best shot for Morris to be enshrined in the state of New York. The upcoming classes of first time nominees will include a lot of players whose resumes outshine that of Morris. Besides those odds being stacked against him, it seems the voters' look for somethings extra-special in the starting pitchers who make the cut. Until Blyleven was elected last year, the writers had not elected a starting pitcher since Nolan Ryan got the call in 1999.

    It would be nice for Morris to be honored for his career but it would seem that his numbers won't be able to stand the test of time. But for Twins fans, there will always be the magic he produced on the mound in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    Willingham would add pop, brings line-up into focus

    The Twins were stuck between a rock and a hard place over the course of the last week as the team waited for a decision on the three-year, $24 million contract offer they had proposed to free agent right-fielder Michael Cuddyer. Since being a first round selection of the Twins in 1997, Cuddyer has only known one organization and it is becoming apparent that he will have to become accustom to a new team for next year. The Twins had made bringing Cuddyer back a top priority but the team could not wait forever. On Tuesday night, reports began to fly that the Twins had agreed to terms with free agent Josh Willingham on a multi-year offer but later in the night some of the reigns were drawn in as the reports changed to say the team was nearing a three-year, $21 million agreement. Because the Twins have money tied up in other players, this will essentially end the Cuddyer-era in Minnesota.

    Willingham and Cuddyer will both be 33-years old next year and each of them made their first All-Star Game in 2010. But the upside to Willingham has been his ability to hit for more power and a high slugging percentage over the course of his eight-year career with the Marlins, Nationals, and Athletics. Last season with the Athletics, Willingham hit a career high 29 home runs while spending the most of his time in left field. The right-handed hitter has held his own against right handed pitching by batting .264/.356/.470 in his eight seasons at the big league level. Against southpaws he has stayed close to his career averages by hitting .254/.372/.489 since 2004. Last season, his ability to pull the ball was on display as all of his home runs were between center field and left field.
    ESPN Home Run Tracker
    He even showed the ability to drive the ball literally out of Target Field in 2011 with a 420-foot shot off of Scott Baker on May 10th. Here's the video evidence to back-up the previous statement.


    The signing of Willingham brings into focus much of the Twins starting line-up for next season. His multi-year deal will most certainly push the Twins near their self-imposed payroll limit. This means that all of the Opening Day starting line-up is most likely on the roster after Willingham signs on the dotted line. There are still some injury concerns and positions to sort out once the team meets up in Fort Myers. But for the time being, here are the nine men set to be penciled in against the Orioles on April 6, 2012:
    C: Joe Mauer
    1B: Justin Morneau
    2B: Alexi Casilla
    3B: Danny Valencia
    SS: Jamey Carroll
    OF: Denard Span
    OF: Ben Revere
    OF: Josh Willingham
    DH: Ryan Doumit

    This is quite the contrast to the line-up that took the field in Toronto for Opening Day last season. By the end of the year, Gardenhire never got to use his Opening Day line-up except for the first day of the season.
    C: Joe Mauer
    1B: Justin Morneau
    2B: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
    3B: Danny Valencia
    SS: Alexi Casilla
    OF: Delmon Young
    OF: Denard Span
    OF: Michael Cuddyer
    DH Jason Kubel

    The fan inside of me is sad to see Cuddyer have to exit the organization because of the leadership he provided and all of his work in the Twin Cities community. From the Twins standpoint, they are getting a comparable player to Cuddyer for less money and they will get two compensatory draft picks once he signs with another club. A year removed from a 99-loss season, the two high draft picks are looking very nice and the Twins were still able to sign a very good free agent to replace Mr. Cuddyer.

    In an almost forgotten about part of the story, Jason Kubel is in the same boat as Cuddyer in the fact that he is most likely not going to be back with Twins for next season. The rumored deal for Willingham will push the Twins payroll to $96 million for next season and that number is getting close to the $100 million mark that Terry Ryan discussed at his introductory press conference. The Twins are expected to use the rest of their payroll space to sign arms to add some depth to their pitching staff. The exodus of Kubel will also net the Twins a compensatory draft pick. With this added pick, the Twins will have the second pick in the draft along with three other picks before the start of the second round.

    This is not a bad haul of top-tier draft picks for a team looking to add prospects to their minor league system.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    Twins clean up 40-man roster

    The Twins did a little housecleaning to their 40-man roster on Monday with midnight being the deadline for non-tendering players. The players who were arbitration eligible included Alexi Casilla, Francisco Liriano, Jose Mijares, and Glen Perkins. Kevin Slowey would have also been included in the group if he had not been traded to the Rockies during last week's Winter Meetings. One of the four arbitration eligible players would not survive the day on the roster for the Twins of Minnesota.

    Last night, word came out that the Twins had non-tendered Mijares and he is now on the free agent market with little chance of returning to the Twins. In 2002, the Twins signed Mijares as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela. The 6-foot-0 tall, left-handed hurler made his way onto the major league team by 2008 where he posted a very impressive 0.87 ERA in ten innings pitched during September. The 2009 season would be his best in a Twins uniform where over the course of 61.2 innings he amassed a 2.34 ERA with 55 strikeouts and a 1.184 WHIP. The Twins watched the next two seasons as Mijares showed up to Spring Training overweight and this could be the reason for the variety of injuries that have plagued him during this time. His performance on the field was also impacted as he averaged 41 innings pitched with a 4.08 ERA and a 1.543 WHIP between 2010 and 2011. The organization has brought in a lot of other bullpen options and it seems that their time with Mijares had run its course.

    Earlier in the day, it was announced that Jim Hoey had been claimed off of the waiver wire by the Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins had received Hoey as one part of the JJ Hardy trade from last offseason. In his one season with the Twins, Hoey was only able to pitch 24.1 innings to the tune of a 5.47 ERA and a 1.905 WHIP. His high caliber fastball was fun to watch but control was a problem and he has spent his entire professional career searching for a secondary pitch. He was unlikely to fit into he plans of the team next season but maybe he will be able to find a home in Toronto. On his Twitter account he left this final message to Twins fans, "I enjoyed everything Minnesota had to offer but it's time to be Canadian! At least I don't have to give up those bombs to Bautista." On May 14 of this past season with the game tied at 3 in the top of the eleventh inning, Hoey gave up a home run to Jose Bautista. The Twins would go on to lose the game by a final score of nine to three.

    The other less significant 40-man roster decision on Monday came as the team outrighted newly acquire shortstop Pedro Florimon to Triple-A Rochester. A week ago the Twins had claimed Florimon from the Orioles and placed him on the 40-man roster. The 25-year old shortstop spent most of last season at the Double-A level where he hit .267/.344/.396 as a switch hitter. Terry Ryan seemed intrigued by his athletic ability and he did steal 12 bases last season. In a brief September call-up, he hit .125/.222/.472 with six strikeouts in eight at-bats. The Twins hope his change in scenery can bring out a little more from the player.

    With all of these moves, the Twins 40-man roster has now been cut to 37 players. The team is still looking to add a right fielder for one of those spots and that would bring the roster to 38 members. The other spots could be left open for some flexibility during the season but the Twins would still like to add some pitching depth before Spring Training starts.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    How long will Willingham wait?

    Waiting can be a tough thing to do during the holiday season?
    Waiting to open gifts...
    Waiting to travel...
    Waiting to see family...
    Or in some cases maybe just waiting for it all to be over...

    The Twins are in the midst of their own holiday waiting game with their top free agent, Michael Cuddyer. During last weeks Winter Meetings, the Twins put an offer on the table for three-years and about $24 million for the first time All-Star in 2011. This was a low offer from what Cuddyer was expected to get on the open market this year. That offer was made on Tuesday and the Twins have been left in the dark as what their right-handed power bat plans to do for 2012. With Cuddyer's wife giving birth to twins in the middle of last week, there have been other pressing issues on his mind. Still, the Twins are left waiting for a response on what is supposedly their best offer.

    Another figure who is left in the dark waiting is free agent outfielder Josh Willingham. It seems the Twins have been in talks with the right-handed hitter to sign with the club if Cuddyer were going to leave for another team. Many of the same teams rumored to have an interest in Cuddyer or also interested in Willingham. They are both right-handed hitting, play outfield, 32-years old, and it sounds like each player is looking for at least a three-year deal from they will sign with for next season.

    Willingham is a career .262 hitter who spent all of last season hitting in the catacombs of Oakland. Even with the challenges of hitting in a giant ballpark, he still managed to smash a career high 29 home runs in 2011. By adding the extra power, Willingham posted his worst batting average for his career and he struck out a career high 150 times. On the defensive side of the ball, he has played in left field for most of his career but he does have a handful of inning in right field.

    The Twins have been waiting for Cuddyer to make his decision. But for Twins fans the more important questions could be, how long will Willingham wait?

    It's nice for the Twins to currently have a back-up plan if their deal with Cuddyer falls through the cracks. But what would happen if the Rockies or the Indians made a hard push for Willingham in the next couple of days? He might be waiting for Cuddyer to sign and set the market so he can pick from the remaining teams. This could also leave him as a more sought after asset as a couple of teams could be fighting over his services. The scary situation for the Twins could be that Willingham and Cuddyer both sign elsewhere. This could leave the Twins with their back-up plan to their back-up plan and that man could be Jason Kubel.

    Another situation to consider is the two draft picks the Twins would receive in compensation if Cuddyer were to sign with another team. There are parts of the Twins farm system that could use a couple of nice prospects to help the organization to restock. Willingham could be a comparable alternative to Cuddyer and the team would get the draft picks as a bonus. It also sounds like Willingham would be willing to sign for less money. So in a year where the team is trying to lower their payroll, it might be in the team's best interest to save a few million by signing Willingham.

    So far this offseason, there has only been one slugging right-handed bat that has come off of the market. Albert Pujols signed a huge deal with the Angels at the end of last week. Now some of the other players like Carlos Beltran, Aramis Ramirez, and Cuddyer could be in the next group to sign on the dotted line. Teams that failed to get Pujols were turn their attention to other options and this could open up new markets to players like Cuddyer. This means, the waiting game could play out in his favor especially if the Twins are not able to increase their offer to Cuddyer.

    Twins fans might be sick of waiting this holiday season...

    but they may have to wait a little longer for a resolution to the Cuddyer situation.

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Friday Links-N-Thinks

    This past week might be one of my favorite weeks of the year with the Winter Meetings spitting out a new rumor or story every couple of seconds. Baseball can be forgotten about in the midst of the conclusion of the college football regular season, the start of the college basketball year, and of course the playoff races of the NFL. For a few days in December, baseball can come back to the forefront and be on the lips of fans everywhere.

    The Twins made a few moves this week but there are still other things left to accomplish in the rest of the offseason. Matt Capps is the closer, Kevin Slowey is a member of the Rockies, and the Twins have a three-year offer on the table for Mr. Michael Cuddyer. There were plenty of Twins talking points this week and here are some of my favorite links from across the baseball universe. 
    My posts from this week:

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    Cuddyer resolution, Rule 5 Draft emphasized in Dallas

    It has been a very active couple of days for Major League Baseball at the Winter Meetings in Dallas. To the chagrin of other teams looking to sign free agents, most of the signing action has led players to South Florida and the Miami Marlins. Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle are the three big names signed so far by the Marlins and they might not be finished with their wheeling and dealing as other rumors continue to swirl.

    The Twins came to the Winter Meetings with a couple of items on their wish list. With Joe Nathan leaving as a free agent, the team was looking for a closer for next year. Monday night brought word that the team had resigned former closer Matt Capps to a one-year deal with an option for second year. The other items on the Twins wish list have yet to be resolved as the team looks to sign an outfielder and add depth to their pitching staff. Thursday marks the final day of the meetings and these are just some of the items on the agenda for the Twins as the Winter Meetings wind to a close.

    Traditionally on the last day of the Winter Meeting, the Rule 5 Draft is held for teams to take players from other organizations that another club would be willing to place on their 25-man roster.The drafting order is based on the win-loss record of the teams from the previous season. The selection eligibility of players is based on a few different stipulations. Players are eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft if they are not currently on their major league organization's 40-man roster and:
    -were signed at age 19 or older and have been in the organization for four years; or
    -were signed at age 18 or younger and have been in the organization for five years

    In 2010, the Twins selected Scott Diamond in the Rule 5 Draft but had to work out a trade with the Braves since he wasn't kept on the 25-man roster coming out of Spring Training. The most famous Rule 5 transaction for the Twins was receiving Johan Santana as part of a pre-agreed trade with the Florida Marlins in 1999. Since the Twins will have a high pick in the draft, there is a chance they could get a player who would be able to help out the club next season.

    Nate Gilmore over at Puckett's Pond did a great job of profiling some of the choice the Twins have in the Rule 5 Draft. His first post of the day focused on outfielders, pitchers, and catchers but later in the day he showed some love for the middle infielders. The Twins are also in jeopardy of losing a couple of different players from their own organization who were not protected on the 40-man roster. Tom Stuifbergen, Angel Morales, and Mauel Soliman were some names not selected when it came to 40-man roster decisions. Out of those players it seems that Stuifbergen could be the likeliest to find himself with a new organization by Thursday evening. During Talking Twins on Wednesday night, Phil Mackey mentioned the Twins have received trade offers for their pick in the Rule 5 Draft but the club has a pretty good idea about who they want to select.

    The other major piece of the Twins offseason puzzle should hopefully be decided before the start of the weekend. Terry Ryan has not met with Michael Cuddyer's agent since Tuesday because both sides know where each other stands at this point. The organization has their best offer on the table for free agent Cuddyer and they are waiting for a response from the player and his agent. According to reports the deal is a three-year offer for $25 million that would keep him with the Twins until he was 35-years old. Cuddyer has been busy this week with his wife giving birth to twins on Tuesday so this could be holding back the final details of the deal.

    Many of the other deals the club is looking to make this offseason are hinging on whether or not Cuddyer rejoins the club for next season. Signing Cuddyer would mean the Twins are near the $100 million mark for next season and it seems that number is the magic figure for the 2012 payroll. The team would still be able to make some small moves but it would be cheap offers for players to complete the roster. If Cuddyer chooses to go elsewhere, the Twins could look to free agents Jason Kubel or Josh Willingham or they have been mentioned in talks for a David Murphy trade.

    It has been a fun week of non-stop baseball coverage from Dallas but the Twins still have things to cross off their list in the final hours of the Winter Meetings.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Slowey saga ends in Minnesota

    On Tuesday afternoon, the Twins completed a move that many thought would be accomplished before the trading deadline in July. Kevin Slowey was traded to the Rockies for a player to be named later. The Denver Post threw out the name of Class A right-hander Parker Frazier as a possible candidate for the player to be named later. Even though Slowey started a handful of games for the Twins down the stretch, it seemed to be known that the Twins were trying to dish their pitcher because of a falling out with the organization earlier in the year.

    Slowey was drafted by the Twins in 2005 as a second round pick out of Winthrop University. With his college experience, he moved through the Twins minor league system in short order and made his debut with the club in June 2007. The 2008 season was arguably the best season Slowey had in a Twins uniform. He finished the year with a (12-11) record, a 3.99 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.154 in 160.1 innings pitched. His two shutouts in 2008 were tied for the top spot on the AL Leader-board and his WAR of 2.3 was a career best. He found ways to get double digits in wins over the next two seasons but never again posted an ERA of under four or a WAR of over one.

    As the Twins entered Spring Training in 2011, there was a battle for the final spots in the starting rotation. The team was looking at Slowey along with Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker for the final two spots in the five-man rotation. Blackburn got the fourth spot and Baker was given the fifth spot even though Slowey was arguably having the better spring. Slowey was relegated to the bullpen but even at that time a trade was still a possibility. After pitching 3.2 innings in April, Slowey ended up on the disabled list until May. He would make trips on and off the disabled list over the course of the season. Reports were that he didn't seem to be in any hurry to get back to the Twins and pitch out of the bullpen again. After a pit stop in Rochester, he found his way back into the starting rotation for the last six weeks of the season. In that span of games, he lost all eight starts that he made and he had an ERA of 7.25 in 44.2 innings pitched.

    From the perspective of the Twins, it seemed that many in the organization had become frustrated with the way Slowey handled his demotion to the bullpen. Some of his injuries were blamed on his transition to the bullpen but his slight abdominal strain in May might have been the last straw. Slowey had to go to a specialist to diagnose his strain and the MRI and hernia exam came back negative. In the end, he was diagnosed with the lowest grade abdominal strain a person can have, a mild acute rectus abdominis strain.  He wouldn't appear on the major league roster again until August and his performance on the field was not over the top. In a recent conversation with season ticket holders, Ryan told the fans that he planned to wipe the slate clean with Slowey for the new season. Reports as recent as yesterday had Terry Ryan confirming that Slowey would be a starter if he was still with the Twins. But a GM trying to trade a pitcher is going to try to make his product as good as he can make it.

    On Slowey's side of things, he felt that he should have been a starting pitcher at the start of the season. It seemed that it would only be a matter of time before he would take the place of one of the other starters. It is interesting to ponder what could have been for Mr. Slowey. If he had accepted his role in the bullpen and fought his way through some of the injuries, he might have been in the rotation for five months out of the season. His quirky personality never seemed to gel in the Twins clubhouse or with the media but that is still a tough reason to trade a 27-year old pitcher who has experienced recent success. Instead the team and Slowey went through a mess in the media and he found himself being shipped to Colorado on Monday.

    The front office has been rumored to be in talks with a variety of other pitchers on the free agent market. Otherwise, it would be silly for the organization to lose some of their major league starting depth because of a rift between the coaching staff and the player. With Slowey gone and Brian Duensing expected to be back in the bullpen, the Twins are looking at a projected starting rotation with Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, and Nick Blackburn. The final spot in the rotation could be given to Liam Hendriks but he could most likely benefit from more time in AAA. If the Twins want more seasoning time for Hendriks, the final days of the Winter Meetings could decide who the Twins will bring in to complete the rest of the starting rotation for the 2012 Twins.