Monday, December 31, 2012

Willingham, Mauer lead headlines of 2012

2012 has come and gone and there were plenty of story lines that comprised the year that was for the Minnesota Twins. After a decade of winning baseball, the Twins have suffered through back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2000. Minnesota has been the worst team in the American League for two seasons but there were still some signs of life from the hometown nine.

Willingham's monster year: Last offseason the Twins had a choice to make when it came to free agent outfielders. Michael Cuddyer had been with the team since he was drafted and he had become a fan favorite but it was time to go in another direction. Josh Willingham became the man for the job and to say it was quite the year for the burly outfielder would be an understatement.

The 35-year old had career highs in home runs, slugging percentage, runs, and he crossed the 100 RBI mark for the first time in his career. On a team that didn't manage many victories, Willingham provided multiple walk-off hits. He was awarded a Silver Slugger Award at the end of the season after being one of the best offensive players in the American League.

Mauer back and healthy: 2011 was a nightmare year for the Twins on many different fronts but Joe Mauer being sidelined for most of the season was tough for a lot of fans to take. It didn't help that he was in the first year of the biggest contract in team history. Some changes had to be made to keep Mauer on the field but those changes led to a rebirth for the star catcher.

Mauer appeared in a career high 147 games and he was back to his old offensive ways. He fought for the American League batting title for most of the season and he ended up leading the league in on-base percentage. The Twin Cities native son was elected to his fifth All-Star Game and it looks like he will be back to his old ways for years to come.

Hicks, Arcia emerge at Double-A: The Twins have been waiting for this type of season from Aaron Hicks since they drafted him in the first round. Oswaldo Arcia had been looking for a healthy season after sitting on the sidelines for parts of 2011. Both of these players would emerge with terrific seasons in the minor leagues.

Hicks knocked double digits in home runs for the first time in his career and he also set the New Britain record for triples in a season. He was a threat on the bases by swiping 32 bases in 43 attempts. Arcia spent half the year at High-A but he got better when he was promoted to Double-A. As he had shown in the past, he is able to combine a powerful swing with the ability to hit for a high average. These two top prospects could be appearing at Target Field as early as next season.

Winds of change hit coaching staff: At the end of the season, something needed to be done to shake up a team that had finished as one of the worst teams in baseball for the second year in a row. Jerry White, Rick Stelmaszek, and Steve Liddle were let go by the club. These were the biggest changes in the coaching staff since Ron Gardenhire took over as manager in 2001.

Tom Brunansky, Bobby Cuellar, and Terry Steinbach were named to the coaching staff. Brunansky and and Cuellar served in similar roles at Rochester and Steinbach has been a spring training instructor with the club. These men will be in charge of trying to turn the franchise around in the next couple of seasons. There will be some young players moving to the major leagues as the franchise tries to return to their winning ways.

Span, Revere traded away: There was a simple equation for the Twins when it came to the offseason. The front office needed to add pitching and there was a surplus of outfielders in the organization. This meant that Denard Span and Ben Revere would find themselves on different rosters and the Twins would gain some young pitching to add to a system that desperately needed a shot in the arm.

After a couple years of trade speculation, Span was sent to the Nationals organization for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer. The flame throwing young pitcher has only pitched in the lower levels of the minors but he has huge upside. One week later, the Twins sent Revere to the Phillies for right-handed pitcher Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. These moves are meant to improve the Twins and the future looks brighter for the franchise with these pitching additions.

Happy New Year from NoDak Twins Fan!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Ryan Doumit's strange but true feat

Jayson Stark of ESPN likes to try and find some strange but true things that happened in the baseball season. He picks out his strange but true player of the year, game of the year, injury of the year, etc. There are some entertaining items included in his list and I encourage you to check out his entire post over at the four-letter network's site.

One of his strange but true tidbits from this season revolves around Ryan Doumit and a strange feat he was able to accomplish in 2012. At the beginning of September, the Twins were playing at US Cellular Field against the Chicago White Sox. Minnesota would easily handle Chicago in the game by a final score of 18-9 and the lopsided win helped Doumit to reach his accomplishment.

The Twins found themselves trailing the rival White Sox by a score of 3-0 in the top of the second inning. Minnesota wouldn't be behind for long as they jumped all over starter Jose Quintana. The strange item for Doumit in the inning was the fact that he accounted for the first and the third outs. This wouldn't normally be a strange feat but what happened later in the game would add to this strange but true tale.

Minnesota would put together another huge inning later in the game. This time Doumit would be part of the rally instead of the rally killer. As the second batter of the fifth inning, he smacked a single to right field. He would eventually come around to score the second run of the inning on a Trevor Plouffe triple but he wasn't done.

Doumit would come up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. A short line drive to left field would be enough knock in Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham. Chris Parmelee was the next batter and he would continue the scoring spree by knocking a home run that scored Doumit and Justin Morneau. The Twins would end the frame up 17-4 and Doumit had accomplished something strange but true.

By recording two outs in one inning and then getting two hits in one inning, Doumit became the first man in the expansion era to accomplish this feat. He added a solo home run later in the game to top off the scoring for the Twins. Doumit ended the game going 3-for-6 with a home run, three runs scored, and three RBI.

He was the only member of the Twins to rack up three hits in their blowout win and he accomplished quite the strange but true feat.

What are some of your favorite strange but true stories from America's favorite pastime? Leave a COMMENT and start the conversation.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Column: Why kids should collect cards

My 12-year old cousin recently had the idea to write an article to one of his favorite magazines, Beckett Trading Card Monthly. He and I have spent a lot of time in recent years collecting baseball trading cards and it has become a fun hobby for both of us. The editor liked his article so much that he put it on the front page of over the last couple of days. 

Here is link to the article as it was posted on but below you will find the article in its entirety. 

Why kids should collect baseball cards
By Parker Stenseth
Baseball card collecting is a hobby for all, but in recent years it has gone a little more toward adults than kids.
There are still many reasons kids should collect, though.
There are so many reasons kids should collect baseball cards that I won’t be able to address them all. Of them all, I feel the most important is that it helps you connect with others.
As an example, I got started on collecting after my cousin, who I now consider one of my best friends, took me to a Twins game and bought me a team set of cards. (I later dropped that set in the sink being six, but my cousin was kind enough to buy me another.) That set of cards sparked a fascination in me that is still there today.
Cody and I still go to card shows, still trade and still go to the local store together. I have also heard a story of a dad with a mentally handicapped son and couldn’t relate to him that well but when his son got interested in cards they had something to spend some quality time together with.
Another reason kids should collect baseball cards is just the feeling of pulling a good card is like no other. I remembered when I pulled my first autograph, David Wright. I seriously couldn’t stop smiling the next two hours. Also being at a card show is one of the most fun things I can think of. It’s amazing being surrounded by so many pieces of baseball history and knowing you could buy some of what’s there.
Then there’s also trading cards with a friend. It’s so much fun looking through your friend’s collection and hearing the stories behind each card and then finding a card in their collection that you want and trading for it. Baseball cards give so much happiness and enjoyment that everyone should feel.
Next, I feel cards improve academic skills. I’m currently a seventh-grader that’s doing some mid high school work at school and I give a lot of credit to baseball cards for that. With all the numbers on the backs of the cards for stats and then sorting your cards and finding how much they’re worth, it would be hard not to learn anything about math, logistics or marketing skills.
Finally, I feel it’s a better way to spend your time than video games, Internet or anything like that. Baseball cards can give you a longer-lasting satisfaction and you can enjoy them with others. It’s also not dangerous, and there’s no negative influence on younger kids.
All things considered, baseball cards are a great hobby for kids and anybody else. It’s something you can do with others, it gives a ton of happiness, could teach you a thing or two, and anyone can enjoy it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Twins Christmas Greatest Hits

This will mark the third Christmas since NoDak Twins Fan was started back in 2010. Every year I have put together a post that related a famous Christmas story or tale to the Twins. This year was a little different as I took the famous song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and gave it a very Minnesota Twins feel.

It has been fun to put these posts together over the last couple of years so I thought it would be great to do a "Greatest Hits" post. This is in case you have only recently found my blog or maybe you missed one of the Christmas posts along the way.
Here's a look back through the years of Christmas posts at NoDak Twins Fan:

2010: Twas the Night Before Christmas

In my first year of blogging, I took the classic poem/story "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and I gave it a Minnesota Twins theme. The Nishioka signing had just taken place but fans were waiting for other moves to happen. Also the Metrodome roof had recently fallen in so that added to some of the poem.

Below you will see a taste of the poem and you can click here to read the rest of it.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Target Field
Not a worker was stirring, for every door had been sealed;
The stockings were hung by the dugout with care,
In hopes that a free agent soon would be there;
Every fan was nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of championships danced in their heads;
And Bill Smith in his 'kerchief, and Gardy in a cap,
Seem to be spending the offseason on a long winter's nap;

2011: A Twins Christmas Carol

Last year, I dove headfirst into the classic Dicken's tale "A Christmas Carol" but things had changed a lot since the previous year. Terry Ryan had returned as GM and he was being haunted by the ghost of Bill Smith. Three other ghosts were sent to Ryan's office that night and there was a lesson to be learned from all of this haunting.

Below you will see an excerpt from the story and you can click here to read the rest of it.

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!!!"

2012: The Twins Twelve Days of Christmas

On Friday, I turned to the classic Christmas song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and I tied the verses into the franchise and the team's history. There were some connections made in the song to things that are part of the team. In the future, I might have to create a YouTube video to correspond with this song.

Below you will see one of the verses from the song and you can click here to read the rest of it.

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

Happy Holidays everyone! May it be filled with many blessings!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Twins Twelve Days of Christmas

As they say, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." Christmas comes at the beginning of next week and there are always things to be thankful for even if your favorite team has been terrible for a couple of seasons. It might be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel but it's still not the time of year to be grouchy.

So here's a new version of an old Christmas favorite. The tune is to "The Twelve Days of Christmas." To get the full impact of the song, it should be sung as a cumulative song. This means that each verse is built on top of the previous verses. Here is a video of the original song if you need a refresher.

On the first day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
The Return of the Target Field Trees

On the second day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the third day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the fourth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the fifth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the sixth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the seventh day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the eighth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Eight retired numbers
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the ninth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Nine foul ball catches
Eight retired numbers
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Ten beers-a-pouring
Nine foul ball catches
Eight retired numbers
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me...
Eleven flags-a-flying
Ten beers-a-pouring
Nine foul ball catches
Eight retired numbers
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Twins gave to me... 
Twelve Gold Glove winners
Eleven flags-a-flying
Ten beers-a-pouring
Nine foul ball catches
Eight retired numbers
Seven coaches yelling
Six Prospects rising
Five Schweigert Hot Dogs
Four Perkins strikeouts
Three Mauer doubles
Two Hammer homers
And the return of the Target Field Trees

A couple of thoughts on the numbers used in this post:

  • There have been 12 different Twins players to win Gold Gloves.
  • There are 11 flags that fly over Target Field to represent the Twins trips to the postseason.
  • The franchise has eight retired numbers with the addition of Tom Kelly in 2012.
  • There are seven coaches that compose the big league staff.
  • The top six prospects in the organization are pretty easy to figure out but after that it can get a little dicey.
  • The rest of the numbers should be pretty easy to figure out.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Is Joe Mauer a lock for the HOF?

Bill Baer wrote an interesting article the other day at letting the world know that it was time to appreciate Joe Mauer. This is a skill that many Twins fans are lacking in recent years especially following his injury plagued 2011 season. As far as the rest of the baseball world, there is probably a little less recognition for Mauer's continued consistency since the Twins have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the last two seasons. Mauer is one of the best players in baseball and he might just be the best hitting catcher of all-time.

One interesting portion of the article took a look at Mauer's career WAR when compared to other catchers that are already enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. "Mauer currently ranks ahead of Roy Campanella, Rick Ferrell and Ray Schalk. He isn't far behind Roger Bresnahan or Ernie Lombardi. If Mauer can stay healthy and productive through the end of his current contract (a very big if), he very well could be a lock for enshrinement in Cooperstown."

So this begs the question, is Mauer nearly a lock for the HOF?

If Mauer's career were tragically to end before the start of next season, it doesn't seem likely that he would have the numbers to be elected. He is close to crossing the 1,300 hit mark so he hasn't even made it to the halfway point of the 3,000 hit plateau. His power numbers are never going to get him elected since he has yet to hit 100 home runs in nine years of big league experience. The true test of his greatness might be in his ability to keep his lifetime batting average as high as possible. Mauer is a career .323 batter and he gets on base over 40% of the time.

There are plenty of accolades that have started to mount for Mauer. The three batting titles that he has already won are unprecedented for a catcher. He was close to winning his fourth title last season before falling off at the end of the year. Batting titles are great but they don't necessarily mean that he will get enshrined in Cooperstown. Twins fans are well aware of the case for Tony Oliva to make the HOF and he had three batting titles to his credit before he was forced to retire.

Mauer's MVP season in 2009 was something that statisticians could drool about because of his combination of power, average, and playing a tough defensive position. One great season doesn't mean a player should be a lock for the Hall. There have been plenty of players to win one MVP and never be close to reaching that mark again. Some consider Justin Morneau's MVP selection as one of the worst in the Division Era. Injuries have made it tough for him to get back to that form.

Looking toward the future and projecting the rest of Mauer's career, it is easy to think that he will get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame. His health will continue to be something to watch especially since he is close to 6-foot-6 and he has a lot of weight on those precious knees every time that he squats behind the plate. The Twins will continue to use him at other positions as he ages but his tie to greatness is in his ability to be a catcher.

When some try to name the best catcher in the history of the game, Johnny Bench usually tops most lists. Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, and others are also thought of highly. These men racked up a lot of innings behind the plate and it doesn't look like Mauer will be a full-time catcher for the rest of his career. These men were solid as catchers in a gritty era of baseball.

Bench played 17 seasons and caught close to 14,500 innings, Bera caught over 12,000 innings, and Fisk racked up 18.500 innings. Mauer currently sits at 7,224 innings as a catcher and he has averaged 858.2 innings per season. Last season, he logged a little over 600 frames at catcher, which were the fewest he had in a season that he played over 100 games. If this trend continues, it could take away some of his votes when it comes to election time.

At this point, it doesn't seem like Mauer would be a lock for the Hall of Fame. It will likely take multiple more seasons at his current rate of production for him to be a lock. Twins fans will get to watch Mauer on every step of his journey and hopefully that path will lead him to the gates of Cooperstown.

What does Mauer have left to accomplish to get into the HOF? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Race to Target Field: Byron Buxton vs. Miguel Sano

No, this isn't the cheesy mascot race held around the warning track at Target Field. This is a race between the top two prospects in the Twins system to make their debuts in Minnesota. It could be a hotly contested race and it could come down to a photo finish.

Tuesday marked the 19th birthday of Twins top prospect Byron Buxton. This means that the two players ranked highest on most Twins prospect lists, Buxton and Miguel Sano, are now both 19-years old. Sano is seven months older than Buxton and he has been in the Twins system since he was 16-years old. This small age gap should still put together quite the race between these two players to see who will get the first call-up to the big leagues.

The Twins tend to be patient with their minor league players as they make their way through the farm system. There were some people clamoring for Sano to get bumped up to Fort Myers after his hot start at Beloit last season. He came back down to earth a little bit over the course of the rest of the season and his defense continues to look a little shaky at third base. It was good for him to play the entire year at Beloit and hopefully this makes it easier for him to succeed in 2012.

Joe Mauer was the last Twins prospect to sit near the top of national prospect rankings before making his debut. It took him three years to move through the farm system. This included one year in rookie ball, one year at Low-A, and a season split between High-A and Double-A. He would skip the Triple-A level before making his debut. This could be the similar path for both Sano and Buxton.

Last season, Buxton would split time between both rookie league teams so there is a good chance that he will spend all of next season at Cedar Rapids. If he plays well enough, he could join Sano and some of the other top prospects in Fort Myers after the middle portion of the season. It seems more likely that both Sano and Buxton will spend all of next year at different levels. Sano will be with Fort Myers and Buxton will be not very far behind with Cedar Rapids.

Following the same pattern as Mauer, this could put Sano on track to be a Twins Opening Day starter by 2014. He would need to tear up High-A and Double-A next season before this would ever be an option. If Sano were to take this path, it seems unlikely for Buxton to catch him and pass him. The Twins aren't going to send Buxton through three different levels this season. It only seems possible if the Twins have Buxton skip Low-A and join Sano at Ft. Myers directly out of spring training.

After the seasons put together in 2012 by rising stars like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, it can be easy for fans to want to see what they have in their younger players. Harper was 19 for all of last season and he only recently turned 20. Trout turned 21 in August so last season was considered his age 20 season in the big leagues. These are both tremendous talents and the Twins can only hope that Buxton and Sano turn out as well as last year's rookie duo.

Because of their respective levels in 2012, it seems more likely for Sano's powerful bat to be taking hacks at Target Field before Buxton will be roaming the spacious outfield. If Sano has any set backs during the next couple of seasons, Buxton could be hot on his heels. The Twins were already surprised by the power Buxton showed in his first professional season. He also hit for a better average when he was promoted from the GCL Twins to the Elizabethton Twins. This could be a good sign for his future and it shows that he was developing during his time in the system.

It would be cool if both players spent all of 2013 and 2014 in the minors and then they both made their debuts on the 2015 Opening Day roster. This would mean a tie for the race to Target Field but it could mean that both players would be sitting at the same amount of big league service time. It would also give some of the young pitching time to develop in the minor leagues.

All of this might be getting a little ahead of where the Twins mindset needs to be for 2013. With all of the mediocre pitcher signings in the last couple of weeks, it is hard not to want to look past next season to what the future might hold. Sano and Buxton are two of the best prospects in baseball and fingers are crossed that they will continue to develop along their path to Target Field.

So who do you got, Sano or Buxton? The race is on to Target Field and Skeeta isn't involved in this race.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mike Pelfrey might provide roller coaster ride

At the beginning of the offseason, the Twins had one man, Scott Diamond, penciled in for a starting job next season. Through a variety of acquisitions this offseason, the Twins are close to filling up their rotation for the beginning of next year. Vance Worley was brought in as part of the Ben Revere trade, Kevin Correia signed a free agent deal, and now Mike Pelfrey becomes the latest man to join the club.

Pelfrey has spent his entire career in the New York Mets organization after being the number nine pick in the first round of 2005. In his four full seasons at the big league level, he has averaged 196 innings pitched with a 4.27 ERA and 1.65 SO/BB rate. These aren't great numbers especially since he is coming from the National League. Correia, who the Twins just added last week, had spent his entire career in the NL so this doesn't seem to hinder the club from signing this type of player.

In an interesting twist, Pelfrey is coming off of Tommy John surgery at the beginning of last May. He only made it into three games for the Mets this past season. Instead of giving him a raise through the arbitration process, New York cut ties with their rehabbing right-handed pitcher. The Twins were willing to take on this risk as they signed Pelfrey to a one-year contract worth $4 million and there is a chance for him to earn $1.5 million in incentives.

Earlier in the offseason, it sounded an awful lot like the Twins would be bringing back their own rehabbing Tommy John pitcher. Much like Pelfrey, Scott Baker had surgery on his throwing arm in the middle of April. Since Baker had only known the Twins organization and the club had a good relationship with the pitcher, it was assumed that he would return in 2013. The Twins wanted an option year on his free agent deal and Baker only wanted a one-year contract. In the end, the Chicago Cubs signed Baker for $5.5 million and he will try to rebuild his career in that club's rotation.

The Twins saved a little money by signing Pelfrey after passing on Baker but it is hard to imagine this was the ideal situation. Baker has already proven that he can pitch successfully in the American League when he is healthy. Pelfrey has put together some up-and-down seasons in the National League and that can be a little discouraging for Twins fans. It would have been much nicer to see Baker back with the Twins but they know his health better than anyone. Maybe it was time for them to part ways with the 2003 second round pick.

For fans that were use to Baker giving up home runs in bunches, Pelfrey should fit right into that mold. He has been known as a control pitcher in the past for his low walk totals but this also means that he hasn't struck out a ton of batters in his career. From 2008-11, he struck out more than 100 batters in each season but he never accumulated more than 113 SO. The only Twins' pitcher to strike out more than 100 batters in 2012 was Francisco Liriano and he was traded before July's trade deadline.

During the course of Pelfrey's career, it seems like he can encounter stretches of great success and other stretches of poor performances. Take a look back at Pelfrey's season back in 2010. He started the year on a hot streak by going 4-0 in the first month of the year with a 0.69 ERA. The next couple of months would be solid as he racked up a 6-1 record with an ERA of 3.82 or lower in each month. July would be terrible as his ERA ballooned to over 10 and he barely average four innings per start. The next month would be great again as his ERA dropped to under 2.00 and he had a great 1.096 WHIP.

This roller coaster ride provided by Pelfrey might be tough for Twins' fans to watch. If he is fully healthy and back in action, there will be some good times and some bad times. Hopefully, the transition to the AL won't come with it's own share of bumps and bruises. For better or for worse, Pelfrey is part of the team's plans in 2013 and fans could be in for quite the ride.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Twins turn spotlight on Brandon Webb

It has been three seasons since Brandon Webb has thrown a pitch at the major league level but this isn't going to stop teams from being interested in the former Cy Young winner. Following the holidays, the 33-year old will get on the mound in front of a handful of teams to try and prove that he has something left in the tank. The Twins will be among those in attendance but there will be plenty for Webb to prove after multiple shoulder injuries.

In the middle of September, Webb did a web chat with some fans of the Arizona Diamondbacks. At that point, he hadn't thrown a baseball in awhile but he made sure to let them know that he wasn't officially retired. The man that finished first, second, and second in the NL Cy Young balloting from 2006-08 has been trying to get back to that form. Shoulder injuries can be devastating and it has clearly taken away a big chunk of Webb's career.

Why are the Twins interested in Webb? Most of the word out of the Twin Cities this offseason has been that the Twins are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding starting pitching. This means looking at options with some risk but with the chance of bringing the team some reward. Webb has been a front of the rotation starter in the past and the Twins haven't had anyone fit this mold in multiple seasons.  If Webb can produce at a level anywhere close to before his injuries, there will be plenty of teams interested in his services.

A pitcher with Webb's track record could be a valuable addition to a club if the price was right. Webb would most likely be looking for a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. This type of contract can offer less risk for the club signing him and there could be other incentives in the deal if he made the big league roster. Offering Webb a contract is still a long ways off so the first step will be trying to figure out what version of Webb is on the mound after the holidays.

What kind of Webb will teams be getting? Before his shoulder started acting up, Webb was a workhorse in Arizona's starting rotation. In his last four full seasons, he averaged 232 innings pitched with a 3.23 ERA and 182 strikeouts per season. He led the NL in innings pitched in 2007 and he led the league in wins in 2006 and 2008. After leading the NL with 119 walks in 2004, Webb gained control and he has averaged 62 walks per season since that point. This is the version of Webb that any team would love to sign.

The other version of Webb is one that teams wouldn't want to get near. During his last comeback attempt with the Rangers in 2011, Webb showed diminished velocity while struggling in the minor leagues. Texas sent him to their Double-A affiliate and he started four games with a 9.75 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP. His shoulder issues would flare up again and he went under the knife last August for a rotator cuff issue. If a team signs Webb, he might have to prove himself in the minor leagues before getting another shot at the big league level.

Is Webb just this year's version of Joel Zumaya? Last season, the Twins went after a player similar to Webb in the fact that he had been dealing with his own injury prone past. Joel Zumaya was brought in to try and add a spark to the Twins' bullpen but that spark was more of a flicker. He would injury his elbow in his first throwing session of spring training and he was forced to have his sixth arm surgery. At age 27, Zumaya's once promising career is most likely finished and he left the Twins wondering what could have been in 2012.

Fans of the Twins can probably foresee a similar situation playing out with Webb if he were to sign with the club. There would be talk of Webb helping the team in 2013 before his shoulder would most likely begin to act up again. Webb could end up playing great but it seems much more plausible for it to go the other direction. Gambling on players can pay off but the Twins might not want to take that risk. Minnesota was willing to take a chance in 2012 so maybe they want to stay away from this kind of deal in 2013.

From Webb's point of view, the Twins could offer him one of the best chances of cracking into a starting rotation for next season. Minnesota has Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, and Mike Pelfrey ready to prove themselves in the rotation Recently signed Pelfrey might not be ready for the start of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. If Webb showed enough to the team in spring training, there is a chance that he could break camp with the club.

There is a better chance that he would need to start the season in the minor leagues and work his way back to the major leagues. The Twins might not want an aging pitcher tying up innings in their farm system. Minnesota could always make room for him to fit into one of their minor league starting rotations. If he had to start at the Double-A level like he did in Texas, it seems like those innings might be better suited for a younger arm that has some upside.

Webb could be worth the risk but there is a lot riding on how he looks in his upcoming throwing session.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What could Nick Punto bring to the Twins?

Word came out on Thursday that the Los Angeles Dodgers were looking to deal away Nick Punto. Shortly after this happened, the Twitter universe exploded across Twins Territory with thoughts of the former infielder returning to Minnesota. The Twins might need to add some depth at their middle infield positions and there has been plenty of talk about the club bringing in someone to push Trevor Plouffe for the starting job at third base. Punto could be the man to do both of these jobs.

Since he left the Twins following the 2010 campaign, he has made stops in St. Louis, Boston, and Los Angeles. He won the World Series with the Cardinals back in 2011 and he was part of the blockbuster trade last season between the Red Sox and the Dodgers. It seems that the Dodgers and their bloated payroll are trying to dump the scrappy infielder and the Twins could be a possible trade partner.

What could Punto add to the middle infield? Currently, the Twins have a quartet of players vying for the starting middle infield jobs in 2012. Pedro Florimon, Jamey Carroll, Brian Dozier, and Eduardo Escobar are in the mix at second base and shortstop. None of these names really stands out as a front runner and Punto's history with the club could give him the leg up in the competition.

He has experience at basically every infield position and this could make him a more intriguing utility man than Escobar. The thought of having Punto and Carroll at the top of the Twins line-up might be hard to swallow for some Twins fans but both of these players would be free agents after 2013. Punto is only due $1.5 million next season and the Twins have given him a lot more money than that to be mediocre for the club.

Is Punto the man to push Plouffe at third? Terry Ryan has talked all offseason about bringing in someone to challenge Trevor Plouffe for the starting job at third base. One of the most rumored names on the free agent market had been Jack Hannahan, a native of St. Paul. Unfortunately for the Twins, Hannahan just finalized a two-year deal for $2 million with the Reds. This took one name off of the Twins' list and it could mean that the team has more interest in Punto.

Punto played the most games of his career at third base for the Twins back in 2007. Last year, he made 31 appearances at third for the Red Sox and the Dodgers. His ability to make some spectacular defensive plays was one of his calling cards during his time with Minnesota. At age 35, it's easy to imagine that Punto might have lost a step or two. This could take away from some of his value as a defender.

What if Punto is on the decline? In recent years, Punto has struggled to stay healthy and on the playing field. He has averaged 79 games played since 2010. That followed a stretch of five seasons where he averaged over 124 games played. There can be plenty of bumps and bruises that will stick with a player longer in his 30s than in his 20s. All of those things seem to be adding up for Punto to make him a frequent visitor to the disabled list.

Going into last season, Punto was a career .249/.325/.327 hitter but those numbers took a dive in 2012. He ended the season hitting .219/.321/.281 with only eight extra-base hits to his name. Those were his lowest totals since 2003 when he played in 64 games for the Phillies. Obviously there is some decline with players as they age but it might be too late for Punto to have a resurgent year.

The Twins have plenty of Punto-type players on the roster so it might be a fools errand to bring him back for a return trip with the Twins. That being said, Ron Gardenhire loved him some Nicky Punto when he was here. If Gardenhire is in his last season as Twins manager, maybe the club will wrap him up a Punto present for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Top 12 Twins to wear #12

Today's date is one of those weird dates that only come along once in a lifetime. It is the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of the 2000's or in other terms, the date is 12-12-12. Last year on 11-11-11, I counted down the top 11 players to ever wear the number 11 for the Twins. This was fun because it looked at players from every decade of Twins baseball. It covered guys like Chuck Knoblach, Jacque Jones, and Ben Revere. I even named Tom Nieto as the worst player to wear number 11 for the Twins.

Below you will find the rankings of the top Twins players to wear number 12. These rankings are strictly based on their time with the number 12 on their backs in a Minnesota uniform.

12. Lenny Faedo (wore #12 from 1982-84)
WAR 0, .256/.291/.321, 5 HR , 46 RBI

Faedo was a part time player for the Twins in the early 1980s as he played most of his time at shortstop for the club.  There were some struggles on the defensive side of the ball and he never really hit well enough to stick at an important up the middle infield position. He would play his last game with the Twins in 1984 and he never made it back to the big leagues.

11. Adam Everett (wore #12 in 2008)
WAR 0.1, 213/.278/.323, 2 HR, 20 RBI

The Twins wanted a veteran presence in their middle infield for the start of the 2008 season. Unfortunately, Everett would struggle during his time in Minnesota and injuries figured into some of this equation. He only made appearances in 48 games for the club but he got a nice tour of the minor leagues during all of his rehab time.

10. Chip Hale (wore #12 in 1996)
WAR 0.1, .276/.347/.368, 1 HR, 16 RBI

Fans of the Twins will remember Hale as a scrappy infielder on Minnesota club's of the mid-1990s. Over his six seasons for Minnesota, he only wore the number 12 during 1996. Hale would play in the most games of his career that season, 85, but it would be his last for the Twins. The 31-year old had never put it all together for the club and he would play only one more year at the big league level.

9. Tom Prince (wore #12 from 2001-03)
WAR 1.4, .219/.300/.374, 13 HR, 44 RBI

Prince didn't join the Twins until near the end of his career but he had some of his best seasons while wearing the #12 for Minnesota. He was dangerously close to Drew Butera's range in batting average but he had a little bit more pop in his bat. He could also draw a walk or two and that helped him to get on base. He played most of his last professional season with the Twins before finishing up his career in Kansas City.

8. Jason Tyner (wore #12 from 2006-07)
WAR 1.6, .297/.337/.354, 1 HR, 40 RBI

During his time in Minnesota, Tyner was most known for his inability to hit a home run. He did hit one ball over the fence while wearing #12 and it would be the only home run of his career. At age 30, he played in over 110 games for the first time but he would only play in one more game at the MLB level. The Twins used him at every outfield position and even at DH, which is kind of laughable considering his inability to hit for power.

7. Todd Walker (wore #12 from 1997-00)
WAR 2.0, .290/.349/.425, 21 HR, 124 RBI

The Twins took Walker with the number eight pick in the first round of the 1994 draft but he wasn't ever able to live up to expectations. He hit for average and showed the ability to get on base but his power stroke never developed. He had shown some power in the minor leagues so it was disappointing to never see him shine for Minnesota. The Twins would part with him during the 2000 season for Todd Sears, a man that would play a little over 30 games for the club.

6. Bernie Allen (wore #12 from 1962-63)
WAR 2.0, .257/.323/.383, 8 HR, 21 RBI

Allen's rookie season would come in a #12 jersey and it would be his best season as a professional. He finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year after hitting .269 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI. These were strong numbers for a second baseman but he never was able to reach those numbers again. The Twins gave him multiple opportunities before he left the organization in 1965. He still added some value to the club as it was trying to make its mark in Minnesota.

5. Mark Salas (wore #12 from 1985-87)
WAR 2.4, .279/.320/.440, 20 HR, 83 RBI

Salas might be more remembered for the trade he was part of than his time actually wearing a Twins uniform. In the midst of the team's run for their first championship, the club traded Salas to the Yankees for the services of Joe Niekro. This added a little more pitching depth to the team heading for greatness. Before the trade, Salas had been used behind the plate for multiple seasons. He finished eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 1985 but he would never catch more than 100 games after that season.

4. Alexi Casilla (wore #12 from 2010-12)
WAR 4.2, .256/.309/.355, 4 HR, 71 RBI

One of the more recent names on the list, Casilla just finished wearing #12 for the Twins this past year. Minnesota gave him plenty of opportunities to earn a starting job with the club but he was never able to hold the spot. Inconsistencies at the plate and injuries kept Casilla from reaching his full potential but maybe he was never destined to be more than a back-up middle infielder. His career will continue in Baltimore and the Twins will move in a different direction.

3. Eric Soderholm (wore #12 from 1973-76)
WAR 8.3, .283/.363/.405, 22 HR, 118 RBI

Soderholm was taken by the Twins with the first pick of the first round of the January Secondary Draft in 1968. He wouldn't waste much time in the minor leagues as he made his debut for the club in 1971 at 22-years old. He struggled hitting for average in his first couple tastes of the big leagues but he was able to perform decently when given a regular job in 1974-75.

2. Brian Harper (wore #12 from 1988-93)
WAR 12.2, .306/.342/.431, 48 HR, 346 RBI

After winning the World Series in 1987, the Twins brought in Harper to help solidify their catching position. He would play backstop on the team through 1993 and he helped the club to their second World Series title in 1991. He was one of the best catchers in the American League from 1989-93 and some would say that he ranks at the top of the list. His average was above .300 in every full season for the Twins except 1990. Harper ranks as one of the top three catchers in the history of the club.

1. Cesar Tovar (wore #12 from 1965-72)
WAR 24.0, .281/.337/.377, 38 HR, 319 RBI

The easy winner in this contest of the best players to wear #12 for the Twins is Cesar Tovar. He played for the club in the mid-1960s through the early 1970s. His ability to play all over the field came in handy for these clubs and he was able to put together some great offensive numbers along the way. The speedy player was a fixture at the top of the line-up for a generation of Twins fans. His short stature and enthusiastic attitude made him easy for fans to like. Tovar might be best remembered as being one of a handful of players to play all nine positions in a big league game.

BONUS: The Worst Player to Wear #12
Michael Ryan (wore #12 from 2004-05)
WAR -1.2, .234/.282/.314, 2 HR, 20 RBI

And still Gardy would keep playing him...

Kevin Correia: Pavano 2.0 or Marquis Redux?

The Twins got one step closer to filling out their starting rotation this week with the addition of Kevin Correia. He signed a two-year deal that was worth $10 million. Free agent starting pitchers have been doing pretty well so far this offseason but this deal still seems like a lot for a mediocre pitcher. Minnesota needed bodies to fill out the rest of their rotation and Correia will be given every opportunity to succeed with his new club. It just might not be too pretty for the fans to watch.

Correia has spent his entire career in the National League. He broke into the big leagues back in 2003 with San Francisco and he would pitch for them until 2008. During his time with the Giants, he split time between the bullpen and the rotation with a 4.59 ERA, 1.492 WHIP, and 6.5 SO/9. These are not exactly eye-popping statistics but he would be given other chances in more recent years.

His next couple of stops would be in San Diego and Pittsburgh. He won more games than he lost during the last four years but it came with a high 4.51 ERA. a 1.362 WHIP, and his strikeouts per nine dropped by almost a full strikeout (5.7). Everyone knew the Twins weren't going to be in the market for a top of the line starter but Correia is completely underwhelming.

In recent memory, the Twins have acquired a few different starting pitchers that seem to fit the same type of mold as Correia. If he follows the path of Carl Pavano, the Twins might be happy with the deal that was just signed. On the other hand, the Twins will be in the hurt bag if he turns out to be this year's version of Jason Marquis.

Carl Pavano
3 Seasons Prior to Twins: 14-10, 5.41 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 171.1 IP
Minnesota Year(s): 33-33, 4.31 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 579.2 IP

Minus his injury-plagued season in 2012, Pavano was a nice addition to the Twins staff during his time in Minnesota. He pitched over 220 innings in back-to-back seasons and he had a rebirth in 2010. He was the league leader in complete games that season and he helped the Twins to 94 wins and a trip back to the playoffs. The team wanted to keep him around for multiple seasons and his second best season as a professional came during this time.

When the Twins acquired Pavano, he had shown some semblance of health as a pitcher for the 2009 Cleveland Indians. The Twins needed some depth in their rotation for a run at the top of the AL Central. This had followed some horrendous years for the Yankees where Pavano had undergone multiple injuries and poor performances after signing a big free agent contract.

Before coming to Minnesota, Pavano had a couple of 200 inning seasons to his name but that came during the early part of his career. His resurgence with the club was fun to watch at times. The Twins can only hope to get these kinds of results from Correia.

Jason Marquis
3 Seasons Prior to Twins: 25-28, 4.54 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 406.2 IP
Minnesota Year(s): 2-4, 8.47 ERA, 1.94 WHIP, 34.0 IP

Last season was a disaster for Marquis in a Twins uniform. The team was hoping he would be able to fill a spot in their rotation especially with injuries to Scott Baker and Kyle Gibson. A terrible accident with Marquis' daughter during spring training took him away from the club and maybe he never fully got ready for the start of the year. He looked lost on the mound and other team's pounced on this.

Much like Correia, Marquis spent his entire career in the National League before joining the Twins. He spent most of 2010 and 2011 in the rotation of the Washington Nationals with an ERA close to 5. At the end of 2011, he made a brief pit stop in Arizona with some equally as disastrous results as his time in Minnesota. This still didn't scare the Twins away enough to sign him to a 1-year, $3 million deal.

The similarities between Correia and Marquis might be closer to what the Twins can expect. Both played their entire careers in the NL with about the same results. If that's the case, the Twins have to deal with Correia for multiple seasons instead of being able to dump him like they did to Marquis. This could be scary to watch if he is putting up the same kind of numbers as Marquis.

Kevin Correia
3 Seasons Prior to Twins: 34-32, 4.77 ERA, 1.387 WHIP, 470.0 IP
Minnesota Year(s): ???

It would be great if Correia could become Pavano 2.0 for the Twins and eat up some innings at an efficient rate. There have been brief glimpses of a solid pitcher in the past. There were bad seasons for Pavano before he got to Minnesota and something seemed to click. If this same kind of epiphany could occur for Correia, this deal might not turn out as bad as it seems at the outset.

It wouldn't be so great if Correia became Marquis redux for the Twins by struggling with the transition from the NL to the AL. There are some question marks with the Twins infielders and a ground ball pitcher like Correia could find some hardships if the defense isn't there behind him. Plus the multi-year contract makes it difficult to get rid of him if he plays poorly.

Maybe the friendly confines of Target Field will help to make Correia into the next Pavano. Otherwise Twins fans are stuck with two years of Correia putting up Marquis-type numbers at the back of the rotation. Settling into a spot somewhere between Pavano's good years and Marquis implosion might be the destiny for Mr. Correia.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What the Royals' trade means for the Twins

The buzz around the baseball world is the big trade between the Kansas City Royals and the Tampa Bay Rays. Kansas City sent some of the best young prospects in the game to Tampa Bay for two pitchers, James Shields and Wade Davis. The Rays pick up last year's minor league player of the year Wil Myers, pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi, and two other minor league players.

For the Royals, the future is now as they bet some of their best prospects on contending in 2013. Kansas City hasn't had a winning team since 2003 and they are desperate to get back to the postseason. The addition of Shields and Davis to the pitching staff in KC should help their team to improve but only time will tell if the Royals gave up too much to reach this goal.

After looking at the AL Central last year, it is hard not to think the division could be winnable for any team and that includes the Royals. Since the Tigers made the World Series last season, it is easy to think that they will be the favorite again in 2013. The Royals have been busy this offseason by signing Jeremy Guthrie and acquiring Ervin Santana. This should help in their hunt for October baseball but it still doesn't seem like it will be enough to pass the Tigers.

So what does this newest blockbuster trade mean for the Twins and the rest of the AL Central?

Adding Shields and Davis will help the Royals to improve but this is a team that finished 16 games out of first place. Last season, Shields had a WAR of 2.2 and Davis had a WAR of 1.4; so by doing the math, it doesn't seem like the Royals are going to be able to overcome that much of a deficit. They would need some more help from some of the other pieces on their club.

Eric Hosmer was supposed to have a tremendous year in 2012 but that didn't happen. He could be in line for a bounce back season to help the Royals on the offensive side of the ball. This is still a club that had a run differential of -70 so they are going to need more than just help from Hosmer. Other everyday players are going to need to step up and help the club to win.

From the Twins point of view, it sure seems nice to see some of the best prospects in the minor leagues heading to the AL East. It's hard to know if they will amount to anything at this point. In a couple of seasons, the Royals will be left without Shields and their farm system will look a little emptier. With all of the moves in the last couple of weeks, it's much easier to get excited about the future of the Twins than it is to be excited about the future of the Royals.

Shields hasn't exactly been a Twins killer during his career but this could change now that the club will have to face him on a more consistent basis. He has a 4-2 record against Minnesota but that comes with a 4.08 ERA and a 2.19 SO/BB rate in just over 70 innings pitched. Last year he started two games against the Twins and threw 16.0 innings by allowing four runs and striking out nine.

On the other hand, Davis has yet to lose to the Twins with a 2-0 record but he has a much smaller sample size of 30.1 innings. His ERA of 4.75 is higher than Shields against the Twins and he has a 1.22 SO/BB rate. The Twins offense wasn't exactly out of this world last year but they will have to find some way to compete against the likes of Shields and Davis.

The Twins and the Royals finished at the bottom of the AL Central last season and each team is trying to get back to the top in a different way. The Twins have traded away some of the big league players to add some strength to their farm system. This likely means the club is looking at being more competitive in 2014 versus 2013. Kansas City has traded away many of their top prospects for a chance to make a run in 2013.

Both of this paths might work for the clubs involved but I'd much rather be in the shoes of a Twins fan. If Minnesota had traded away the likes of Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, and other prospects for Shields and Davis, I probably would have been able to live with the deal but I wouldn't have been happy about it. One good starting pitcher and one mediocre starting pitcher aren't worth betting the farm.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Edwin Jackson's "very cool" market offers opportunity

On Saturday evening, word slowly started to trickle out about Zach Greinke, the best starting pitcher on the free agent market, signing a six-year, $147 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The new ownership team in LA is not afraid to spend money as their team payroll is well over $200 million for next season and they might not be done yet. With Greinke now off the market, some of the other big name free agent starters should begin to sign. 

Those teams that missed out on the Greinke sweepstakes will now have to turn their attention to the other available arms. Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, and Anibal Sanchez are the next three best free agent starters and their demand might have gone up slightly in the last 48 hours. There might be a few more needy teams calling these player's agents as Christmas is quickly approaching. 

The Twins weren't going to be in the running for Zach Greinke because the club hasn't exactly been known to hand out $100 million contracts to free agents. Last season's signing of Josh Willingham for 3-years and $21 million was the largest free agent contract in club history. They might have to break this dollar total if the Twins want to sign one of the big free agent starters left on the market.

When the offseason started, the Twins had a little bit of cap room to work with to try and lure free agents to come to Minnesota. The recent trade of Denard Span also freed up a little more money that could be used for starting pitching. He was set to make $4.75 million in 2013 and now it is clear that the Twins will be using a cheaper option in center field.

It doesn't seem likely for the Twins to go to hard after Kyle Lohse because he left the team on such bad terms. He took a baseball bat after Ron Gardenhire's door the last time he was in town and the same manager is still in charge. This isn't saying that the team wouldn't make him an offer but the odds wouldn't exactly be in favor of him returning. 

Anibal Sanchez is another big name starting pitcher and he might have already priced himself out of consideration for the Twins. He is looking for a six-year, $90 million contract and one AL executive thinks he will probably get that much. There is no way the Twins are going to give a starting pitcher that kind of contract and Sanchez will probably be able to pick from a few different clubs that will be interested. 

Since breaking into the big leagues as a 19-year old rookie in 2003, Edwin Jackson has been on quite the baseball tour. He has played for seven different teams in his 10-year career and that includes multiple seasons in the American League and the National League. Over the last three seasons, he has averaged a 3.91 ERA, 195.0 IP, and a 1.330 WHIP. These aren't great numbers but he has been a workhorse by pitching over 180 innings in every season since 2007.

Jackson was a free agent during last offseason and the market dried up for the right-handed hurler. Some of this might have come from the fact that his agent is Scott Boras, one of the toughest agents for teams to work with. In the end, Jackson had to settle for a one-year deal with the Nationals worth $11 million. This is still a decent amount of money but he will most likely be looking for a multi-year contract this offseason. 

Reports from this weekend stated that the market for Jackson is cool again this offseason. This could allow a team like the Twins to slip in and make an offer for the pitcher. This same report says that Jackson could end up having to accept a deal close to three-years and $36 million or even as low as three-years and $27 million. If the Twins ended up somewhere in the middle of those two numbers, they could have Jackson set to be the third member of their starting rotation for 2013.

The Twins could put themselves in a decent position for the future if they were able to pounce on the cold market for Jackson. He might not be a front of the rotation starter but he could help add some stability to the starting staff for the next handful of seasons. With their recent trades, the Twins got some good young arms but those players might not be ready for a couple of years. Jackson could help the Twins for multiple seasons by being a healthy arm that eats innings. 

If other teams don't want the services of Mr. Jackson, the Twins should definitely be making the call to inquire about him coming to Minnesota. He might not be an ace but he can fill a hole and bridge a gap to the future. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ben Revere's Best Moments

Another week and another center fielder has been traded away by the Twins.

Ben Revere was dealt on Thursday afternoon to the Philadelphia Phillies for starting pitcher Vance Worley and pitching prospect Trevor May. Worley has about the same amount of service time as Revere but the Twins are desperate for pitching and he will slide nicely into the rotation for next season. May was considered the best pitching prospect in the Phillies system before the start of last season. He spent all of last year at the Double-A level so he probably won't crack the Twins rotation until 2014.

Twins GM Terry Ryan said the team will have a three way try-out for the Opening Day job in center field. Joe Benson, Aaron Hicks, and Darin Mastroianni will all attempt to win the role. My vote would be for Hicks but I could see one of the other players getting the job until Hicks gets a little experience at the Triple-A level. Hicks has the most up-side and it could be a case where the Twins would want him to learn the ropes in center field from the start of the year.

Without looking too far into the future, let's take a look back at Revere's short career with the Twins. The former first round pick quickly became a fan favorite for his all-or-nothing defensive ability and his speed on the bases. His smile was infectious and he seemed to be a great all around person.

There were plenty of good moments for Revere in a Twins uniform but two specific incidents will stick in the mind's of Twins fans for the foreseeable future.

The Catch
It was named the best defensive play in 2011 because of the athleticism that it took to complete the play. Revere had to track down the ball over his shoulder and make a tough catch against the wall. The play was shown over and over again in highlight reels. It also made a long run in the top spot of SportsCenter's "Top Plays." It left Vladimir Guerrero, the batter, shaking his head.

Reminiscent of Willie Mays and his famous over the shoulder grab, Revere added a little more difficulty to his catch by banging into the outfield fence. He even had to look up at his glove to make sure the ball was still in the webbing. Dick Bremer called it "one of the greatest catches you will see all year long." It might be one of the best catches in the history of the Twins.

CLICK HERE for Video Clip

The Somersault
Even as a fan in the stands on this night, it was hard to believe what just happened. Revere knocks a ball down to the fence down the right field line and then he was off to the races. Jeff Francoeur was the outfielder for the Royals and he tried to get the ball back in as quickly as he could. It looked like it would be an easy triple for the speedy Revere.... but things got interesting after second base.

Revere going head over heels
Revere stumbled on his way to third and he started to fall forward. Instead of falling flat on his face, Revere gracefully (or not so gracefully depending on how you look at it) started a somersault before continuing on his path to third base. By the end of the play, Revere was in a pile at third asking for time to catch his breath.

It's sad to see both Span and Revere sent to other clubs but these were the right moves for the direction of the organization. The Twins were desperate for pitching and they had extra outfielders in the organization. The club got one major league ready arm and two very good prospects for the future. 

The Twins might not contend in 2013 but the future is looking much brighter after these two deals.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where would Twins be with trade of Morneau or Revere?

There have been plenty of rumors surrounding the Twins over the last couple of days at the Winter Meetings. The team still has plenty of holes to fill in their starting rotation and there is talk of adding a third baseman to challenge Trevor Plouffe for the starting role. It would be nice to see the team add some middle infield depth since there are plenty of question marks at those spots. Even with all of this talk, there hasn’t been much action on the home front.

By the time the offseason is over, the Twins will likely sign more than one free agent starting pitcher but there are other ways to go about adding talent. There have been rumors swirling about the Twins shopping a couple of their regular starters from last year, Justin Morneau and Ben Revere. As I wrote about in my post on Tuesday, Revere is set to take over center field and to be the leadoff man. Morneau has dealt with a plethora of injuries during the last few seasons and it’s hard to know what the market would be like for him.
If the Twins trade either one of these players, there are multiple ramifications for next season. Let’s take a look at each option and see what would happen to the roster.
Option 1: Trade Ben Revere
The Twins already sent one center fielder to another team this offseason when they traded Denard Span to the Washington Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer. It seems odd that a team would also trade his replacement within a couple of weeks. Revere is under team control for multiple seasons and he should be making a relatively small amount through the arbitration process. This kind of team control can be valuable to clubs looking for a deal.
With Revere gone, the Twins would have an interesting situation playing out for next year’s roster. Who would step in to play center field? Joe Benson has some brief experience at this spot but he is coming off of a terrible 2012 season that was filled with injuries and poor play. Aaron Hicks would also be an option but he hasn’t seen any major league playing time. Last season was a breakout year for Hicks so the Twins might think that now is the time for him to shine.
Here’s what the starting nine might look like with Revere gone:
This option would put a lot of pressure on a young rookie to take over the starting role in center field. Two other defenders that aren't the fastest on their feet would also surround him. It would be hard to know if the Twins would throw Hicks into the leadoff spot as well or if they would let someone else take that role.
It seems like the Twins would need to get overwhelmed by a trade for Revere before he would be sent packing. The Twins are lined up to rely a lot on him next season.

Option 2: Trade Justin Morneau

Chris Parmelee seemed like he was ready to take over a starting role at the beginning of last season but that didn't go exactly according to plan. He spent time back and forth between the minor leagues and the big league squad without really settling on a position. He has spent more of his minor league career as a first baseman so it might be better for the team if he were to play that position. The only problem is that Justin Morneau is standing in his way.

It's the last year of Morneau's deal and the club has yet to approach him about a contract extension. This could mean that the club is ready to move in a different direction. If Morneau isn't traded before the start of this season, there is a good chance that he could be dealt at some point before the trade deadline. A contending team might be willing to give the Twins a nice package for a left-handed slugger like Morneau especially if he has been productive though the first half of the year.

Here's what the starting nine might look like with Morneau gone:
The Twins could have an open competition among some of the young players in the minor leagues for the final spot in the outfield. This would mean Arcia, Benson, or Hicks would be lined up for a starting job on Opening Day. If the Twins bring in another third base candidate, the team could move Plouffe to a corner outfield role.

Between Revere and Morneau, it seems more likely that Morneau would end up traded before the start of 2013. This doesn't mean that the Twins won't be open to listening to offers from other clubs. Revere is a dynamic player and Morneau has shown leadership skills. The Twins might be getting offers that are hard to refuse and that could lead to a very different line-up by the start of next season.