November 30, 2005

More Rumors

This is nothing new, but the Boston Herald is the latest to report that the Twins are in the running for Alfonso Soriano:

Texas placed second baseman Alfonso Soriano on the trade market, and the Red Sox are one of many teams, including the Mets and Twins, who are interested.

I think Soriano is far too expensive, both in terms of salary and players the Twins would likely have to part with in a trade for him. Part of the problem is that, like Hank Blalock, Soriano has been horrendous away from the extremely hitter-friendly ballpark in Texas during his two seasons spent with the Rangers:

       AB      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
641 .234 .281 .409 .690

Those putrid road numbers are nearly identical to the .238/.296/.396 Blalock has hit away from Texas during his career. So, like I did with Blalock last week, I will point out that Soriano hits like Juan Castro (.257/.279/.386 this year) once you take him out of Arlington.

Another part of the problem is that, regardless of where he plays, Soriano has a career on-base percentage of .320 and got on base just 30.9% of the time this season. And that's ignoring the fact that 10% of his career walks have been intentional. If you take those out of equation, here's what Soriano's yearly on-base percentages and strikeout-to-walk ratios look like:

YEAR      PA      OBP     BB     SO
2001 614 .304 29 125
2002 741 .331 22 157
2003 734 .329 31 130
2004 658 .318 29 121
2005 682 .305 30 125

That's really ugly. Few players have had more plate appearances than Soriano over his five-year career, yet he has struggled to draw a measly 30 non-intentional walks per season. For some context, Torii Hunter drew 31 non-intentional free passes this year ... and he was injured for 64 games.

Soriano doesn't control the strike zone, he doesn't get on base, he hasn't hit away from Texas, and he's a mediocre defensive player. He also made $7.5 million in 2005, will likely make more in 2006 and beyond, and may cost the Twins several quality players in a trade. Oh, and he turns 30 in January. I say let the Mets overpay for him.

* * * * *

It took two weeks, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune finally ran another article about the Twins. Here are a few notes of interest, from the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal:
The Twins are convinced that Michael Cuddyer, who committed 15 errors in 95 games at third base last season, needs to move elsewhere, preferably right field. It's why the Twins have expressed interest in free agents Bill Mueller and Nomar Garciaparra and have looked into other such third basemen as Texas' Hank Blalock and Mike Lowell, who was traded from Florida to Boston last week.

Cuddyer appears destined for right field but could also be tried at second. That depends on who the Twins come up with during their winter shopping trip. They are interested in free agent Tony Graffanino for second base. If the Twins fail to land Graffanino but come up with an outfielder (Reggie Sanders?), Cuddyer might need to dust off his second baseman's glove.

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said "the middle infield is my main agenda" heading into the winter meetings. He was then asked why the club's view of Cuddyer has changed.

"It might be a misnomer, it might be a visual look or body language," Ryan said. "It might be the quality of at-bats or the bounce in his step. I'm not so sure I've got a qualitative reason why.

"It's the perception, but I've heard enough people say it, so I started to watch him. And there might be something to it. It might just be a perception ... but he is not going to be back at third."

Michael Cuddyer has been a massive disappointment and I can certainly see why Terry Ryan would have lost faith in him over the years. With that said, when a player has the ability to play third base, second base or a corner outfield spot, moving him to the outfield should be the last resort. Plus, it's not as if Cuddyer's bat has been a huge asset. He hit .263/.330/.422 last season, which is fine for a second baseman, but well below par for a right fielder.

If the Twins don't think Cuddyer can hack it at third base, that's one thing. However, it seems like it is now a toss-up between playing him at second base or in right field, which makes very little sense to me. If you think he can hit well enough to be a quality right fielder and you think he can field well enough to be an option at second base, then he should be playing second base.

Here's a little more from LEN3:

Stories in New York, Boston and elsewhere suggest other teams have interest in Twins outfielder Torii Hunter. While the Twins have kicked around the idea, they prefer to keep Hunter and add players to help them win the AL Central.

"We're not looking to move him," Ryan said. "If somebody calls, I pick up the phone. If somebody calls about him, I'll listen."

It would have been easy for Ryan to deny that the Twins have any interest in trading Hunter, so the fact that he made such a clear non-denial denial says to me that they are actively talking to teams about him. And as I've written here before, that's just fine with me. Between the money it would free up and the players Hunter could command in a deal, the Twins would probably be better off without him.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Counting on Comebacks (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Passing the Hat: Funding the Nationals' Ballpark (by Maury Brown)

Pick of the Day (144-124, +$1,945):
Miami -5.5 (-110) over Atlanta


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