November 30, 2008

Twins Notes: Young, Morlan, Reyes, and Iron Man

  • When local sports gossip columnists Sid Hartman and Charley Walters had similar notes recently about Delmon Young being on the trading block my take was that someone from the Twins was clearly making that information public intentionally, so it makes sense that the Young-related speculation has now advanced to a national level. Here's a recent note from Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com:
    Twins left fielder Delmon Young is "very, very much out there," according to one rival GM. Young, a right-handed hitter, would make particular sense for the Phillies, but the Twins will need to be careful in any trade discussions. Getting poor value for Young would only compound their mistake in acquiring him as part of a six-player trade in which they sent shortstop Jason Bartlett and right-hander Matt Garza to the Rays.

    There are some prominent national baseball columnists who strike me as having spotty track records when it comes to passing along rumors, but Rosenthal is atop my list of trusted writers. Not only does he break more big stories than anyone, I've seen him in action at the winter meetings two years ago and was blown away by how hard he works. In other words, a single paragraph from Rosenthal does more to convince me that Young is being shopped than 50 notes from Hartman and Walters would.

  • Speaking the Young trade, along with Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett the Twins also sent Eduardo Morlan to Tampa Bay when the Rays reportedly soured on Juan Rincon due to his medical records. At the time Morlan ranked as the Twins' eighth-best prospect in my most recent annual rankings and my write-up of the trade included the following:
    While it'll no doubt be a glossed-over aspect of a blockbuster trade, the difference between Rincon and Morlan is substantial and increases the already strong chance that the deal will be unkind to the Twins over the long haul. ... The 21-year-old former third-round pick has dominated in the minors and projects as a late-inning reliever who could be ready to make a significant big-league impact as soon as 2008.

    Morlan struggled through a shoulder injury early on this season, but finished very strong to end the year with a 3.64 ERA, 45-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .240 opponent's batting average in 47.2 innings at Double-A as a 22-year-old. Shoulder problems aside his performance this season did nothing to alter my opinion that he's a very good relief prospect, which is why it was so surprising to see that the Rays opted not to add him to their 40-man roster.

    Morlan is now eligible to be selected in next week's Rule 5 draft and it would be nice to see the Twins recoup some of the value from the Young trade by taking him, but my guess is that Morlan won't make it to them. Even speculating that a specific player will be selected at all in the Rule 5 draft is somewhat pointless because the whole thing is very unpredictable, but Morlan is exactly the type of prospect many teams target and he's featured in all sorts of articles highlighting potential Rule 5 steals.

  • Today is the deadline for teams to offer eligible players arbitration, which means that the Twins must make a decision regarding Dennys Reyes. If the Twins offer Reyes arbitration and he accepts, they're on the hook for a one-year contract at a price yet to be determined. If they offer him arbitration and he declines in order to sign elsewhere, they'll receive a second-round draft pick. And if they don't offer him arbitration, he's a goner and they'll get nothing as compensation when he officially departs.

    In addition to the looming decision on Reyes, today's deadline also means that some pretty intriguing free-agent relievers could become options for the Twins if their respective teams decline to offer them arbitration. For now guys like Juan Cruz, Russ Springer, and Bob Howry probably aren't on the Twins' radar because signing them would involve losing a first-round pick, but if no arbitration is offered they'll be free to sign without any compensation and would be very worthwhile targets.

    UPDATE: The Twins offered arbitration to Reyes and the Diamondbacks did the same with Cruz, but Howry and Springer are now eligible to be signed without draft-pick compensation.

  • Not only has Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star long been my favorite newspaper columnist, he was one of just two Baseball Writers Association of America members with an actual MVP ballot this season to cast a first-place vote for Joe Mauer:
    I felt very strongly that he should have been the American League MVP in 2006 over his teammate Justin Morneau. This year, I felt like Mauer was both the best player in the American League and--just as a slightly different way of looking at it--the most irreplaceable player. ... I realize that this is not the only way to look at this thing--probably not even the best way to look at it--but I have to say I have no idea why people who watch this team more closely than I do insist that Morneau is the more valuable player.

    Posnanski is definitely right in saying that most Twins fans think Justin Morneau is more valuable than Mauer, but that sentiment has certainly never been expressed in this space. Of course, Posnanski has suggested multiple times that Ron Gardenhire is the best manager in baseball and that's also not a sentiment you're likely to see here, so we don't agree on everything.

  • University of Minnesota alum Todd Zolecki of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Phillies "are looking for a utility infielder and have had discussions with Nick Punto." Philadelphia originally drafted Punto in the 21st round way back in 1998 before sending him to Minnesota along with Carlos Silva and Bobby Korecky in the 2003 trade for Eric Milton. My guess is that Punto would be willing to re-sign with the Twins if they offer him a legit chance to start, but may go elsewhere if only a backup job is offered.
  • Not only did Carlos Silva go 4-16 with a ghastly 6.46 ERA for the Mariners during the first season of his four-year, $48 million contract, he reportedly did so while adding about 30 pounds to his 250-pound frame. As someone who lost 90 pounds and then gained most of it right back he has my sympathies, although the combination of $48 million, a training staff, and doing something athletic for a living may have motivated me a bit more than, say, having a job that involves no co-workers and writing from bed.
  • If you've ever wanted to see what Robert Downey Jr. would look like wearing a vintage 1987 Twins World Series t-shirt while sitting next to Gwyneth Paltrow on the set of Iron Man, here's your chance:

    Even better, the photo was taken by The Dude himself, Jeff Bridges. As for why Downey would wear an old Twins t-shirt from 1987, none of the people who sent me the link had a plausible explanation and it definitely doesn't make as much sense as Bert Blyleven wearing this t-shirt.


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    November 25, 2008

    AG.com Live Chat Today at Noon

    Doors open for submitting questions 15-20 minutes before noon and I'll keep going until the questions stop rolling in, so get an early start on Thanksgiving by ignoring work in favor of some live chatting.


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    November 24, 2008

    Me on Seth Stohs' Podcast Tonight

    I'm slated to be a guest on Seth Stohs' weekly podcast tonight, which begins at 8:00 central time. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors and John Bonnes of Twins Geek are also scheduled guests, so even if you're sick of me the show will definitely be worth checking out. You can listen live by clicking here.

    Also, a reminder that the weekly AG.com live chat will be tomorrow at noon.


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    Twins Notes: LeCroy and the 40-Man

  • With his playing days over following a stint in the independent Atlantic League, Matthew LeCroy will begin his coaching career next season as manager of the Nationals' low Single-A affiliate. Throughout LeCroy's time with the Twins he was talked about as future manager material, so it's no surprise that he quickly landed a prominent coaching gig. It's somewhat surprising that his first coaching job isn't in the Twins organization, but instead he'll skipper the Hagerstown Suns of the South Atlantic League.

    One of my all-time favorite players because of his laid-back demeanor and unathletic body type, LeCroy finishes his big-league career as a .260/.326/.440 hitter in 1,539 plate appearances spread over eight seasons. Struggles against right-handed pitching kept his major-league production from matching his minor-league promise, but LeCroy always mashed left-handers and has the sixth-best OPS+ in Twins history among players who logged at least 100 games at catcher.

    If only his arm behind the plate matched his bat at the plate LeCroy could have had a 15-year career in the majors. Instead he'll have to settle for the ninth-most plate appearances in baseball history among players with zero career stolen bases, the knowledge that he once made his 70-year-old, inner-circle Hall of Fame manager cry in public, and the memories of posing for this photo with Twins blogger Will Young (read the fine print on the white shirt). Good guy, good player, and probably good manager.

  • From a catcher who can hit but not throw to a catcher who can throw but not hit, last week the Twins added Drew Butera to their 40-man roster to protect from being selected in next month's Rule 5 draft. Brian Duensing, Anthony Swarzak, Wilson Ramos, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe, Deibinson Romero, and Steve Tolleson were added to the 40-man roster at the same time, but Butera sticks out because unlike everyone else he won't be on my upcoming annual list of the Twins' top 40 prospects.

    In fact, he won't even be close. Acquired along with Dustin Martin when the Twins traded Luis Castillo to the Mets last season, Butera is a .215/.303/.324 hitter in 1,297 plate appearances in the minors and hit .219/.308/.354 in 96 games at Double-A as a 24-year-old this season. He's considered an excellent defender behind the plate and has a good pedigree as the son of former MLB backstop Sal Butera, but if everything breaks right for Butera he has a chance to be a no-hit, good-glove backup catcher.

    When you can't crack a .650 OPS in the minors and your upside is getting 100 plate appearances per year as Joe Mauer's caddy, you're not worth a spot on the 40-man roster. That was true of Corky Miller in 2005 and Chris Heintz in 2007, and it's true of Butera now. Good-glove, no-hit catchers simply aren't that tough to find, so even if some other team felt like taking him in the Rule 5 draft and keeping him on the major-league roster all season it wouldn't impact the Twins' long-term planning one bit.

    Mauer is 26 years old and arguably the best all-around catcher in baseball and Mike Redmond is one of the game's top backups, yet the Twins now have three other catchers on the 40-man roster. It makes sense to protect Jose Morales, because he's spent the past two years hitting .310/.357/.405 at Triple-A and would be called up if something happened to Mauer or Redmond. And it makes sense to protect Ramos, because he's one of the organization's premier prospects.

    What doesn't make sense is protecting Butera, particularly when the 40-man roster already includes Mauer, Redmond, Morales, and Ramos. By keeping other teams from snatching the 24-year-old career .215/.303/.324 hitter who's yet to advance past Double-A the Twins have exposed far more legitimate prospects to the Rule 5 draft, such as David Winfree, Zach Ward, Erik Lis, Ryan Mullins, Jay Rainville, Kyle Waldrop, and Yohan Pino. Certainly not a crippling mistake, but a mistake nonetheless.

  • Along with handing 40-man roster spots to the aforementioned eight prospects last week, the Twins previously added Armando Gabino to the 40-man roster last month. He has a significantly better track record than Butera, but choosing to protect Gabino is similarly confusing given that he's yet to advance past Double-A despite being 25 years old. Posting a 2.59 ERA in 97.1 innings at New Britain no doubt caught the Twins' eye, but his low ERA overstates Gabino's potential.

    In terms of projecting someone's ability to get major-league hitters out ERA is pretty far down on the list of numbers to examine and Gabino is a fly-ball pitcher with a mediocre 75-to-39 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .262 opponent's batting average in those 97.1 innings. Gabino doesn't induce tons of ground balls or miss tons of bats and his control is spotty, which makes him look like a potential middle reliever at best and someone the Twins shouldn't be afraid to lose considering their various exposed players.

  • With all the 40-man roster juggling going on it's noteworthy that Randy Ruiz retained his spot, which suggests that the Twins may view him as a potential platoon partner for Jason Kubel or bench bat next season. Ruiz joined the Twins on a minor-league contract last offseason and since then my take has been that he's a potentially useful role player who deserves a chance in the big leagues after a decade of knocking around minor-league pitching.

    Ruiz finally got that chance in August once the Twins dumped Craig Monroe, but his first taste of the majors ultimately involved only 68 plate appearances spread over eight weeks. Ruiz held his own by hitting .274/.338/.355 and is capable of more, so it's nice to see that the Twins aren't moving on yet. Ruiz's only shot at the Opening Day roster involves the Twins trading an outfielder, but if that happens he could sub for Kubel at designated hitter against certain southpaws and do some pinch-hitting.

  • Asked recently if rumors about Delmon Young being on the trading block are true, general manager Bill Smith said: "He's a 22-year-old outfielder with a bright future and if we were going to trade him we'd have to get equal value." As they taught me in journalism school, that seems like a non-denial denial.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    November 20, 2008

    Link-O-Rama

  • The boys over at Stick and Ball Guy have been running various Twins blogs through Typealyzer.com and GenderAnalyzer.com, with amusing results. For instance, the gender analysis is 89 percent sure that AG.com is "written by a man," so apparently more weight is placed on the constant links to pictures of Keeley Hazell than the blogger doing the linking having the musical taste of a 13-year-old girl. Phew. Meanwhile, "the analysis indicates that the author of AaronGleeman.com is of the type":
    The Doers

    The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking, and engaging in physical, outdoor activities.

    The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

    A lack of recent progress on the "Top 40 Minnesota Twins" series is evidence of me being "more keen on starting something new than following it through," but otherwise that description couldn't be further from the truth. There's a decent chance that no one has ever described me as "active and playful" and "engaging in physical, outdoor activities" likely would lead to a bit more success with the Fat-O-Meter. Plus, no human has less of "a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

  • Tubby Smith is off to a great start turning the University of Minnesota basketball program around, but sadly there's one thing that he couldn't bring with him from Kentucky.
  • Finally some good news for everyone who missed out on careers in marine biology, hand modeling, latex sales, importing, exporting, hen supervision, and architecture: The Red Sox are looking to hire an "assistant to the traveling secretary" and George Costanza may not want to work for the Yankees' rival:


    Derek Jeter hasn't shown that much range in years.
  • If you miss out on that job, the new Mariners' regime is creating a "statistical research and analysis department" to be run by fellow Society for American Baseball Research member and former Rotowire writer Tony Blengino. Surely the Twins will soon be searching for their own SABR member and fantasy writer to run a similar front-office department, and once hell thaws out they know where to find me.
  • Pat Neshek has long been the Official Relief Pitcher of AG.com, but during his lengthy recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery Craig Breslow may prove to be a capable fill in. Not only did Breslow post a 1.63 ERA in 38.2 innings with the Twins after being claimed off waivers in May, he's a member of the tribe and Yale graduate with a degree in molecular biophysics who founded a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research. I'd pay to hear what his conversations with Carlos Gomez sound like.
  • Shockingly, Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com runner-up Marisa Miller cleans up pretty nice.
  • One of the misconceptions that many people have regarding the rapidly changing media landscape is that good reporting will vanish along with ink-on-a-page newspapers. In reality newspapers are just a platform for that type of writing and as online media continues to evolve plenty of sites will emerge as similar platforms. Or at least that's the point I've been trying to make in this space over the past couple years, which is why it was nice to see a New York Times article on "web-based news operations":
    As America's newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover. ... Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.

    The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.

    These things obviously don't happen overnight, but the ball is definitely beginning to roll. Locally there's MinnPost, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and was featured in the Times article:

    Most of this new breed of news sites have a whiff of scruffy insurgency, but MinnPost, based in Minneapolis, resembles the middle-age establishment. Its founder and chief executive, Joel Kramer, has been the editor and publisher of The Star Tribune, of Minneapolis, and its top editors are refugees from that paper or its rival, The Pioneer Press in St. Paul.

    MinnPost is rich compared with its peers--with a $1.5 million bankroll from Mr. Kramer and several others when it started last year, and a $1.3 million annual budget--and it has been more aggressive about selling ads and getting readers to donate.

    The full-time editors and reporters earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year, Mr. Kramer said--a living wage, but less than they would make at the competing papers. MinnPost has just five full-time employees, but it uses more than 40 paid freelance contributors, allowing it to do frequent reporting on areas like the arts and sports.

    As one of those freelance contributors I'm obviously biased, but clearly sites like MinnPost will continue to pop up all over the country as newspapers continue to shut down. Good writing and reporting is not limited to ink on a page and given some time to develop the online world will become a fine home.

  • Sadly my last contribution to The Hardball Times came in mid-2006, but my little baby is all grown up and thriving without me thanks to the hard work of Dave Studenmund.


    If you haven't already, make sure to order a copy of The Hardball Times Baseball Annual, which begins shipping next week and includes articles from Rob Neyer, Joe Posnanski, Will Leitch, John Dewan, Tim Marchman, Tom Tango, Craig Wright, and Don Malcolm, plus THT's awesome staff of regulars.
  • How popular was Fire Joe Morgan before they retired from blogging last week? Michael Schur, Alan Yang, and Dave King did an exit interview with Leitch over at Deadspin and the blog itself essentially got an obituary in the New York Times. Along those lines, when AG.com eventually comes to an end my goal is for the news to warrant a one-sentence note near the bottom of Seth Stohs' latest 3,000-word entry and a quasi-obituary in the Hopkins Sun Sailor.
  • Schur is retiring from baseball blogging in part because he's in charge of the upcoming NBC sitcom starring Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live. As if one of the driving forces behind The Office creating a new show starring Poehler wasn't enough to make me watch, Rashida Jones is reportedly also joining the cast. Fire Joe Morgan going dark is bad news, but at least the world gets another funny television show and the return of Karen Filippelli out of the deal.
  • Brad Childress has had a busy week. First he criticized the local media for criticizing him, ending his press conference with a quote about how "editorialists and columnists are like men that come down from the mountains after the battle and shoot the wounded." Obviously between Sid Hartman and the rest of the notoriously blood-thirsty Minnesota media looking to tear Childress and the Vikings down he has it tough. Or something. My apologies to anyone who drowned in that sarcasm. Wait, it gets better.

    Childress apparently made an enemy of Troy Williamson, the former No. 7 overall pick who was a bust in three seasons with the Vikings. Williamson is now on the Jaguars, who host the Vikings this week, and said Thursday that he'd like to "go at it" and "duke it out" with Childress at the 50-yard line prior to Sunday's game. "I'd even tie my hands around my back," Williamson said. Of course, as Childress and Vikings fans know all too well, Williamson's hands were never good for much anyway. Rimshot!

    After initially trying to avoid addressing Williamson's comments, Childress eventually loosened up and displayed some rare humor to all those men who come down from the mountains after the battle and shoot the wounded. "I'm not like a woman, I'll give you my weight," Childress offered. "It's 190 pounds of twisted steel and rompin', stompin' dynamite." Then, to make sure that his status as a world-class blowhard with a grating personality wasn't in danger, Childress asked: "Is that enough humor for you?"

  • My appearance on KFAN radio Tuesday night went very well, and you can listen to the hour-long clip of me talking Twins with Doogie Wolfson and Phil Mackey by clicking here. You may want to skip past the first 20 minutes, because it's all Vikings talk and my appearance doesn't begin until after the first break. Amusingly, the very first thing that Wolfson did after introducing me was ask why the Fat-O-Meter reads "still fat." You know, because talking on the radio about how fat you've become is always fun.
  • Donovan McNabb doesn't know much about kissing his sister.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Margot & the Nuclear So and So's performing an absurdly busy, live version of "As Tall As Cliffs" on Late Night With Conan O'Brien earlier this week:


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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