December 2007


I’m not sure if they can even be called rumors anymore. Multiple sources, since early December, have reported talks between the Twins and the Yankees, and the Red Sox, and the Mets, and the Dodgers, and even a little with the Angels and Mariners. It seems now, as we’re less than 6 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting, that talks have narrowed to the teams that can legitimately afford Johan Santana, and those would be New York (Yankees) and Boston. Basically, I’ll run through an outline of which names are being thrown around in the various scenarios. At the end, I’ll briefly explain which trade I think would be the best trade possible.

To help me with different notations, I’ll use these symbols: a * by a player’s name means they could be involved but might not be involved. A # sign means the player was asked about by the Twins but have been deemed untradeable (is that even a word?) by their current clubs. If a trade involves a player with a # symbol, the player listed AFTER the player with the # symbol is the person substituted by their club for the player we want. For instance, with the Yankees, we want Ian Kennedy but they will give us Alan Horne instead, as you’ll see coming up.

Alright, let’s get started. First scenario:

1. Santana to the Yankees for Phil Hughes (SP-ML), Melky Cabrera (CF-ML), #Ian Kennedy (SP-ML), Alan Horne (SP-AA). This was one of the original propositions, but it’s since changed. On December 26th there was a report saying the Twins have backed off their demand of Kennedy, who moved from High A to the Majors last year (similar to what Matt Garza did for the Twins) and will instead take pitcher Jeff Marquez, a solid prospect. The new deal would not include Horne, but the Yankees are still slow to accept because of Hughes being sent away and the ridiculous contract Santana is sure to get. The Yankees seem like the best candidate, just because of their willingness to shell out huge contracts to players entering or at the end of their prime.

2a. Santana to the Red Sox for Jon Lester (SP-ML), Jed Lowrie (SS-AAA), Justin Masterson (SP-AA), and Coco Crisp (CF-ML). Notice this is number 2a. You’ll see 2b. following this. I don’t like this deal at all, simply because of his numbers thus far. Last year in AAA he made 14 starts and posted a 3.89 ERA; certainly a decent one in days of sluggers and steroids, but the main piece for the best pitcher in baseball? No thanks. The upside with Lester is that he’s beaten cancer (toughness) and has made 26 starts at the ML level at age 23. Lowrie is a slick-fielding, ML-ready shortstop with great minor league numbers. Last year in just 40 games (160 ABs) in AAA he had 5 HR, 21 RBI and 21 runs scored, a hitting line of .300/.356/.506/.862 to go along with his .297/.410/.501/.911 line in 93 games last year in AA. With the team signing Adam Everett, though, it seems they’d look to trade Everett or keep him for a year while Lowrie plays it out in AAA. Masterson really isn’t anything special. Although he had outstanding numbers as a reliever in 2006, he’s started 27 games and an ERA hovering around 4.34. The last peice is CF Coco Crisp, whom the Twins are not all that interested in. I showed his stats in an earlier post, and they really aren’t all that fantastic. Which brings me to 2b.

2b. The same package as above, except without Lester and Crisp we’d have Jacoby Ellsbury (CF-ML). Ellsbury is basically a sparkplug at the top of any lineup, someone who will get on base, steal bases, and score a boatload of runs. The Twins are very high on him, moreso I think than Lester, and that’s why nothing’s been done; the Twins want a package including both of them, the Sox are willing to trade just one of them.

2c. This really isn’t big, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway. The Twins at one point asked for Ellsbury AND Clay Buchholz, who, as a rookie last year, threw a no hitter for the Sox. Boston basically scoffed at that trade.

3. Santana to the Mets for (the Twins asked for both OFers, however the Mets are only offering one of them) Carlos Gomez (AAA-OF) and Fernando Martinez (AA-CF), and numerous pitching prospects as well. It’s logical for the Twins to want these guys, as both can play center. Gomez is a Speedy Gonzalez on the basepaths while Martinez is only 18 years old and is already at AA. Gomez could use work on drawing more walks, but so could Delmon Young so not everyone is perfect. I don’t see this deal going down because of the Mets’ unwillingness to part with both OF prospects.

4. Nothing has really gained steam on the Mariners front, but they seem to be a valid trade partner. Not only do I think Santana would waive his no-trade clause to go there because they just signed Carlos Silva, I think we’d get the best package in return. Adam Jones (CF-AAA), Jeff Clement (C-AAA), #Brandon Morrow (P-ML), Yung Chen (2B-AAA). As a 21-year old in AAA last year, Adam Jones hit 25 homers. He might need a half season there again before he’s ready for the Majors, but as a Twin he would compete for the starting job during Spring Training. Clement, a C/DH type, is blocked by Kenji Johjima on the Seattle squad. Not that he wouldn’t be blocked by Joe Mauer here on the Twins, but a catcher who hit 20 HR in AAA is too hard of a prospect to pass up. Morrow did a decent job in relief last year at the ML level and is expected to move into the rotation this year. The Mariners think highly of him and really want to keep him, so he might be the thing holding a deal up. Chen, who missed most of last season with a labrum injury, has hit well at every level and would be a solid prospect to add. I like this deal just because of Jones’ minor league history, and young age, and Clement’s ability as an above average prospect to trade. A downfall is Jones’ limited time at the ML level, while Ellsbury has pretty¬†much proven he can play with the big boys.

There you have it, quite possibly the longest post I’ve ever made, all revolving around my favorite pitcher. The chances of Johan being resigned are slim to none. We offered him $20 million a year but it was only for 4 years, and he’s looking for 6 or 7. GM Bill Smith can’t give in. It’s plain foolish to lock up a pitcher for that kind of money over that period of time. If Johan gets hurt in the second year of that deal and never pitches again, he’s still owed that money. How would the team look then? It seems to me the most likely scenario is that Johan pitches for us in the first half next season and we trade him to somebody really looking for a boost to get into the playoffs. I’d rather see us trade him at the deadline and get valuable prospects/proven players we can use versus watching him walk into free agency at the end of the year and we get 1 draft pick for him.

Well, in my eyes, there are four guys that already have a Twins uniform that could start in center field for the team this year. A combination of Lew Ford and Jason Tyner would be the most likely scenario, but neither player was kept around. And the nominees are:

 

Jason Pridie

Probably the best choice right now. After having a terrible 2005 season, and hitting just .230 in 460 at-bats in 2006, Pridie really turned it on last season, playing 71 games for AA Montgomery and AAA Durham. In total he had 14 HR, 66 RBI, 89 runs scored, 26 stolen bases and 10 caught stealing in a combined 134 games. In his first action at AAA, as a 23-year old, he hit .318 with a .375 OBP and .539 slugging percentage, giving him an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .914.

 

Denard Span

He simply has not met expectations thus far. A 1st-round pick in 2002, Span has struggled at nearly every level he’s played at. His best season came in 2005, when in 49 games he hit .339 and had an OPS of .813; the only time he’s had an OPS above .700 in his minor league career. Denard won’t hit for power, with just 7 homers in 1,939 career at-bats, and he’s got just 56 doubles in that same time frame. He’s capable of stealing 20 bases but will also get caught at least half that many. Basically his numbers have shown he was not worthy of being picked in the first round, and he didn’t prove worthy last year at AAA, so my opinion is to keep him there for this year.

 

Brandon Roberts

Definitely the least-talked about option, Roberts is just 22 years old and hasn’t played an inning at AAA. But he had a respectable .355 OBP last year in 369 at-bats at AA New Britain. Unless he has a Spring Training that blows everyone away, chances are Roberts will see maybe 5-10 games at AA and then could possibly be bumped up to AAA and play a corner outfield spot.

 

Craig Monroe

Currently penciled in as the Opening Day starter, Monroe put up good power numbers in his four full years with Detroit, but 2007 saw him split time between the Tigers and the Cubs. He had limited at-bats with Chicago, tallying just 49 in a total of 23 games. His offensive numbers for 2007 are definitely ones he’d like to forget, but I think the Twins front office feels more comfortable with Craig as a LF/DH type. He played CF just last year, going 38 innings without making an error. In fact, he’s started 65 games out there (played in a total of 77) totaling 520 innings; he’s committed just 2 errors.

I know it’s a day late, but Merry Christmas to everyone. Hopefully you all had a great day. No big news came up in the past couple days, but on Friday look for a possible replacements for CF coming from the organization post and then Monday I plan on having a Johan Santan post, outlining current trade options and everything you need to know to make an educated decision on what should happen with the star pitcher.

Mike Cameron:

Cameron would not be a very good acquisition for the team. He’s 34, had his (statistically) second-worst season ever last year for the Padres, and would definitely not be a long-term option. He’d probably want somewhere between $5-6 million per year, something this team isn’t really capable of shelling out.

 

 

Kenny Lofton:

Before you think I’m crazy, let me say that he’d be adequate defensively, he can still steal 20+ bases while maintaining an OBP (on-base percentage) of .360+ (which would’ve put him second on the team last year, trailing only Joe Mauer), and could be signed for less than $3 million. Like Cameron, Lofton would certainly be a one-year stopgap. He’s already 40 years old and has played for 8 different teams at the ML level. Unfortunately, according to rotoworld.com, the Brewers seem to be the team in front to sign him and nothing has been reported about any interest coming from the Twins.

 

 

Corey Patterson:

Patterson really isn’t a good option for the team right now. He’s never hit .300, never had an OBP above .330, and averages 3 times more strikeouts than walks in his career. He’s the youngest free-agent CF and could steal 30+ bases, but his offensive numbers are not something that would help the team.

 

 

Jason Lane:

Lane also is a really bad option. He’s 31 years old, but on the plus side made just a shade over $1 million last season so he would definitely be low-cost. His best year was in 2005 when he hit 26 HR with 34 doubles in 145 games for the Astros. He also drove in 78 that year, but only scored 65 runs and had a batting average, OBP, and OPS below league average.

 

 

(through trade) Melky Cabrera:

Cabrera is an option if Johan Santana is traded to the Yankees. Cabrera is just 23 but has 2 full seasons at the ML level under his belt. Melky drove in 73 runs last year, but that was in a very stacked Yankees lineup. He can steal bases and will have an almost equal walk/strikeout rate. Plus he’s a switch-hitter and will make minimal money the next couple years.

 

 

(through trade) Coco Crisp:

If we trade Santana to Boston, one name being thrown around in a package centered around pitcher Jon Lester is CF Coco Crisp. I just don’t like Crisp at all. He’s 28, will make a shade more than $5 million each of the next two seasons, and has a habit of making routine defensive plays look spectacular (meaning he didn’t get a good jump on the ball or isn’t fast enough to get under it in time, either way it’s not right). Coco can also steal bases, but missed playing time in 2006 due to injury. In 2004-2005 he had a combined 31 homers, but in 2006-2007 hit only 14 total longballs. His switch-hitting ability is attractive, but the fact that his name is actually Coco Crisp him a bad option.

 

 

(through trade) Jacoby Ellsbury:

Ellsbury is definitely the best option, but it would take getting rid of the best pitcher in baseball to get him here. With great minor league numbers (.389 OBP with 105 steals and a 1.14 K/BB ratio in 250 games) and a very good postseason in the Majors last year (.438 average with 4 runs scored and 3 RBI in the 4-game World Series sweep), he has become quite the fan favorite over in Beantown. Add in his young age (24), salary (minimum wage until 2011, at which point he’s arbitration eligible), and offensive spark at the top of any lineup and you can see why the Twins would want him as a replacement for Torii Hunter. The way trade talks with Boston are going, though, it appears that we would be able to get a package revolving around pitcher Jon Lester or a package with the anchor of Ellsbury; not both.

 

1. CF – ??? (Melky Cabrera or Jacoby Ellsbury, in a Johan Santana trade)

2. C – Joe Mauer

3. LF – Delmon Young

4. 1B – Justin Morneau

5. RF – Michael Cuddyer

6. DH – Jason Kubel/Craig Monroe

7. 3B – Mike Lamb

8. 2B – Brendan Harris

9. SS – Adam Everett

 

 

The official Twins Depth Chart lists Monroe in CF with Kubel being the main DH, but it’s highly unlikely Monroe will play center next year.

Although, I guess I shouldn’t say that because if Jason Pridie and Denard Span aren’t ready, the organization feels more comfortable with Monroe in center than Delmon, so it’s at least plausible that Monroe will see playing time in center.

 

It’s also unlikely for Mauer to bat in the 2 hole, but Harris isn’t a top-of-the-order guy so I don’t really see anyone else suited for that spot.

 

The 3 and 4 spots could be debated heavily. It really is a toss up: Young could bat 4th and Morneau could bat 3rd, or vice versa like I have listed. Morneau has a higher average and on base percentage, so if Ron Gardenhire wants to flow with traditional baseball logic he’d bat Morneau 3rd, but I don’t know how often Gardy does that.

 

Cuddy had a “sophomore slump” year last year (even though he’s played in over 100 games a season, at the ML level, 4 times in his career, it was his second season of being a full-time starter) but didn’t do incredibly bad. If Kubel starts off hot like he ended last year it might not take long before they get switched.

 

Unfortunately for me, a huge Kubel supporter, it’s entirely within Gardenhire’s realm of tricks to give Monroe more at bats than Kubel at the DH position. I could argue for hours (not literally, but you get my point) as to why I think Kubel should start every game in LF or at DH, but history under our current manager shows that he favors playing veterans that are on the downhill slide over youngsters with potential.

 

 

Yesterday it was announced officially that Carlos Silva has signed with the Seattle Mariners. However, it wasn’t for the reported $44 million, but rather $48 million, averaging out to $12 mil/year. Again, that begs the question: if Silva is getting $12 mil on the open market, Johan Santana at around $20-22 mil a year is theft.

Honestly. In all the typing for Monday’s post, my mind actually blanked and I neglected to include the departure of long-time CF Torii Hunter to the list of moves. He left right before Thanksgiving, although he said he wanted to just spend the holiday with his family in peace and quiet. According to his agent, the Angels swept in unsuspectingly with a 5-year, $90 million deal. In essence, the Angels paid for Torii’s career year last year. He’s already shown signs of aging, and little nagging injuries that he’s previously been able to play through will catch up to him before you know it. The Angels already had a very capable Reggie Willits to play center. Willits had a .391 OBP last season while stealing 27 bases in 136 games. Many thought there might be a trade in the works for the Angels to acquire Johan Santana as well, but rumors have involved, for the most part, the Red Sox and Yankees. I was at Torii’s last home game as a Twin and everyone cheered for him, including me. It’s unfortunate that, as of right now, there’s no clear replacement for him in center. In that sense, I’ll miss him because there’s now a huge hole for Bill Smith to fill. In the sense that he’s being paid $18/year, I will definitely not miss him.

 

Oh yeah, the Angels play at the Dome to start the season. That will be interesting.

 

According to rotoworld.com, the Seattle Mariners are in “serious negotiations” with pitcher Carlos Silva. The contract would be worth a reported $44 million over 4 years. That’s right, there’s a good chance Mr. 55 wins, 46 losses, and 4.31 ERA for his career numbers will make roughly $11 million per year. He won’t stick around this ballclub with that kind of a contract, unless he could somehow consistently produce numbers like he had in 2005: 9 walks and a 3.44 ERA in 188 1/3 innings pitched.

 

That brings up a question for Bill Smith, though. If teams are paying Carlos Silva, of all people, $11 million a year, what does that say about paying Johan Santana between $20-22 million a year? You can’t tell me that Santana is only slightly more than twice the pitcher Silva is.

As you can see, my last post was September 28th. Just a touch more than 2.5 months of no posting makes me sad, but I can’t speak for any of my readers on that. I would like to say that getting into the swing of school was the cause of the delay, but even if it was, I shouldn’t have to make excuses. There should be no lack of writing here at T,NT. With that said, I’d like to resume posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the offseason. Now, let’s get down to business –

1. Matt Garza (P), Jason Bartlett (SS), and prospect Eduardo Morlan (P) are no longer Twins. They were packaged together and traded for former Tampa Bay Rays (no longer with “Devil” in their name) Delmon Young (LF/RF), Brendan Harris (SS/2B), and Jason Pridie (CF). This was GM Bill Smith’s first move in the offseason, and it accomplished what Terry Ryan seemed scared of: trading young pitching for young hitting. It’s well-known that the Twins have an abundance of pitching and a very lackluster offense at all minor-league levels. It’s presumed that Young will start in LF with Jason Kubel as a DH, or vice versa. Harris can play all infield positions, but if Alexi Casilla starts off 2008 in the Twins’ infield, Harris will play opposite him in the middle of the diamond. Pridie will certainly go to Spring Training, and as of this point has a shot to start in CF this year. He’s very young but is coming off his best season which was spent at AAA.

2. Craig Monroe, former Detroit Tiger, was signed to a one-year contract by the team, worth $3.82 million (and that’s with a 20% paycut from what he was asking). He can make “up to $155,000 in plate appearance incentives and $25,000 if he is named comeback player of the year.”1 However, if the team cuts him before Opening Day, he’ll only make $636, 667. I guess it’s possible that they just want to see him perform in Spring Training and that Bill Smith and co. would cut him in a heartbeat. But I just don’t see the organization changing ways that quickly, particularly with Gardenhire still managing. He loves to play aging vets over young guys with a future (in this case it’d be Monroe stealing Jason Kubel‘s playing time) so I’d bet that Ron had a small say in this signing.

3. Slick-fielding shortstop Adam Everett was signed by the team for a $2.8 million/1 year deal, after he was not signed by the Astros. In 2007 he missed 3 months with a broken leg, but in ’06 he played in 149 games and had just 7 errors for a fielding percentage of .990. However, his hitting is comparable to Nick Punto‘s, and that’s while he was in the widely-regarded “hitter friendly” National League. Expect a batting average below .250 and an On-Base Percentage below .300, but expect him to take away 1-2 hits a week. He’ll also probably hit between 6-8 home runs.

4. With the additions of Everett and Harris, it seems likely that Punto would slide into the full-out utility role on the team. A lineup with two players regarded more for their defense than offense, and when their offense is consistently horrible, can only hurt this team that much more. A trade to send pitching for a legitimate third baseman seems imminent.

5. I have a feeling that the Pohlad family has more force behind free agent signings than our GMs. For instance, if you add up the salaries of Monroe, Everett, and Punto, you get $9,200,000. That’s enough to pay for an almost star at either the 3B, CF, or DH positions (however it seems Kubel has been set as a DH which is a great option in my opinion). Instead, we have a corner outfielder who’s declining in production and will probably split time, a probably utility infielder, and a starting SS that has terrible offense but great defense, both of which should equal him out to an average SS. Bill Smith is given X amount of dollars to sign a player for Y position and can’t go over that, is my theory.

6. The long-awaited for Mitchell Report came out last Thursday…for those of you that don’t know, politician George Mitchell created a report that supposedly names a bunch of former and current MLB players that used performance-enhancing drugs. I shouldn’t say supposedly, because the list of names has in fact been released, but some of the names are on the list because of pure speculation. The fact that Rondell White wrote 7 checks ranging from $600-$3500 to the same supplier is humorous. Other past Twins named on the list were Chad Allen, Denny Neagle, Dan Naulty, and Chuck Knoblauch. None of the players are thought to have used while with the team, though. Major names in the report include Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, Troy Glaus, Paul Lo Duca, Jason Giambi, and a breakout star from last season, Jack Cust. Mitchell himself said no punishments should result from the report, but commissioner Bud Selig has said that he will read through the report in its entirety and decide what, if any, action should be taken.

7. Over the weekend another former Astro was added to the team; 3B Mike Lamb, originally drafted by the Twins in 1994 but went unsigned. He hit 11 HR last year in just 311 at-bats, and had a .289 batting average and a .366 on-base percentage. Lamb has only had more than 400 at-bats in a season once in his career, but it hasn’t been because of injuries, he’s just never had a chance to be a regular starter. It’s quite possible for Lamb to hit 20 HR with 80-90 RBI as a regular third baseman for us this season. Plus, he can play 1B, LF, RF, and in extreme situations, could be adequate at second as he’s been there for roughly 50 innings in his career. The contract is for a total of $6.6 million over two years with an option for 2010. I would imagine the hope within the organization is that David Winfree, Matt Macri, or Matt Moses is fully developed and ready to take over by that time, with Macri probably being the front-runner in that group.

8. A couple fan favorites have been released by the Twins. OFs Jason Tyner and Lew Ford, along with C Matt LeCroy no longer with the team. Ford signed to play with a Japanese team but Tyner and LeCroy are still out there, floating along freely. Although they’d probably be happier if they weren’t “free” and were actually being paid to play baseball.

1http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/12389276.html

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