February 10, 2008
Twins Notes: Wedding Bells, 20 Pounds, and Scary Stuff
And just so that those new readers arriving here by way of Google and Yahoo! don't leave tremendously disappointed, here's a picture of Martin sans shades:
This concludes the "Aaron pretends to be C.J." portion of today's entry.
Thanks to interleague play, Santana threw 182.2 innings against National League teams while with the Twins. He went 16-4 with a 2.27 ERA, 191-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .187 opponent's batting average while hitting .258/.281/.355. There's an awful lot of room for Santana to ultimately be viewed as a disappointment in New York given the tremendous hype and massive long-term contract, but he's in position to put together some amazing numbers for the Mets over the next few seasons.
Whatever the case, with Santana gone the Twins are counting on Bonser to provide some stability in the rotation given that his 48 career starts are tied with Scott Baker for the most on the staff. Compared to his rookie season Bonser lost 12 percent of his strikeouts and handed out 50 percent more walks last year, but also did a better job keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. There's no doubt that Bonser struggled, but his 4.60 xFIP suggests that he pitched better than his ugly 5.10 ERA shows.
It took a couple months for the "vastly overpaid compared to similar players" part to become clear, but sure enough Monroe's salary predictably sticks out like a sore thumb now that numerous other veteran, platoon-caliber bats have settled for low-paying jobs or are still attempting to latch on somewhere with minor-league contracts despite just days remaining until spring training. Compare Monroe's salary and production over the past three years to some similar players who were available to the Twins:
OVERALL vs LEFTIES SALARY
Craig Monroe .254/.300/.439 .281/.332/.481 $3.82 million
Emil Brown .279/.340/.428 .289/.353/.488 $1.45 million
Tony Clark .266/.332/.546 .269/.357/.462 $900,000
Bobby Kielty .260/.335/.399 .313/.372/.494 $800,000
Kevin Mench .266/.318/.445 .305/.361/.558 Minor-league deal
Mike Sweeney .279/.339/.467 .283/.358/.478 Minor-league deal
Craig Wilson .248/.338/.420 .266/.368/.445 Minor-league deal
Morgan Ensberg .255/.375/.490 .270/.409/.541 Minor-league deal
Over the past three seasons all seven of the above players have hit better than Monroe both overall and against left-handers, often by wide margins. Despite that, unless the Twins cut Monroe next month and eat $600,000, he'll make more than the guaranteed money in all seven contracts combined. In other words, the Twins could have signed all seven of those guys for less of a commitment than they'll likely end up making to Monroe, who's been the least productive player in the entire group since 2005.
Carew has forgotten more about hitting than I'll ever know and part of LEN3's job is passing along information that sources have told him about players, but repeatedly suggesting that Young can be compared to Robinson is a pretty clear case of team-friendly spin and it's something that some fans have already begun repeating as dogma. Meanwhile, compare the actual numbers from Young and Robinson through the age of 21:
G AVG OBP SLG OPS+ HR K/BB
Robinson 302 .307 .378 .543 139 67 1.73
Young 192 .293 .319 .419 94 16 5.59
As you can see, there's absolutely no comparison. Robinson was already a Hall of Fame-caliber player through the age of 21, batting .307/.378/.543 in an extremely low-scoring era to rank as one of the elite hitters in baseball. He smacked 67 homers, controlled the strike zone well with just 1.73 strikeouts for every walk, ranked among the league leaders in most offensive categories, and made two All-Star teams with a pair of top-10 MVP finishes.
Meanwhile, through the same age Young has hit just 16 homers in 192 games while showing poor plate discipline and striking out 5.5 times for every walk, producing a measly .319 on-base percentage and .419 slugging percentage that makes him a below-average hitter. Many smart people believe that Young has the potential to become a great hitter, but Robinson was already a great hitter at Young's age and any comparison between them is based on something other than actual performance.
Gardenhire has repeatedly talked about his phobia of that scenario over the years and the Twins lost talented young players in order to misguidedly keep Chris Heintz on the roster as a third-string catcher solely to avoid that situation, but being forced to play by NL rules for a few innings is hardly "scary stuff." There are far worse things, like having Heintz on the roster or keeping Mauer on the bench to avoid a situation that rarely occurs and is perfectly manageable when it does.
Those situations where last year, where we had Mauer DHing and Redmond catching, those are scary stuff. So, you know what, you can put a situation where if you catch Redmond, you DH Morneau to give him a break, and play Joe at first base a day or two, that would be wonderful, probably for his legs and probably for Morneau's.