November 22, 2010
• Friday night was the deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 draft on December 9 and the Twins added four prospects: Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, David Bromberg, and Chris Parmelee. No surprises among the additions, as all four rank among the Twins' top 20 prospects, but the one name that stands out among the various Rule 5-eligible players they chose not to protect is right-hander Kyle Waldrop.
Waldrop was a first-round pick in 2004 who looked less and less impressive as he moved up the minor-league ladder and then missed all of 2008 following shoulder surgery, but he shifted to the bullpen full time after returning in 2009 and has had back-to-back strong seasons as a reliever. This year Waldrop had a 2.59 ERA and 60-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 87.2 innings at Triple-A, allowing just five homers while inducing 64 percent ground balls.
His lack of top-notch velocity and mediocre strikeout rates make it unlikely that Waldrop will be a strong late-inning reliever, but as a 24-year-old who certainly looks capable of being a useful middle reliever he's someone worth protecting given the Twins' current bullpen questions. He struggled down the stretch at Triple-A and got knocked around in the Arizona Fall League, so the Twins have either soured on him or believe that will keep other teams from selecting him.
• In the past the Twins have generally had successful minor-league teams, but this year their four full-season affiliates combined for an abysmal 228-332 record (.407) that includes 49-95 at Triple-A and 44-98 at Double-A. Winning percentages in the minors are far from an accurate gauge of an organization's prospects, but keeping the affiliates in Rochester, New Britain, Fort Myers, and Beloit happy is still important.
In an effort to avoid another horrendous year at Triple-A the Twins have signed some veteran reinforcements to pair with whichever prospects are assigned to Rochester in 2011, inking Jeff Bailey, Phil Dumatrait, Yorman Bazardo, Chase Lambin, Jake Stevens, and Justin Huber to minor-league deals. Eric Hacker, who was confusingly signed to a major-league contract and given a spot on the 40-man roster last week, may also end up at Rochester.
Bailey, Dumatrait, Bazardo, and Huber have all played in the majors and Stevens once ranked among Baseball America's top 100 prospects, but aside from Hacker they were all brought in as Triple-A filler with long odds of playing their way into the Twins' plans. Those types of guys are never in short supply and signing them to ensure a more competitive Rochester team is smart, which is why giving the equally replaceable Hacker a 40-man roster spot seems to strange.
UPDATE: There's no official word yet, but I'm told the Twins have also inked right-hander Andy Baldwin to a minor-league deal. Baldwin is a Minnesota native and former fifth-round pick who spent the past three seasons pitching at Triple-A for the Mariners.
• I wrote last week about why keeping J.J. Hardy around for at least one more season should be a no-brainer move, but clearly the Twins don't feel the same way. Ron Gardenhire and Bill Smith have both spoken publicly about wanting to add more speed to the lineup, specifically at shortstop, and reportedly at least one team has talked to the Twins about possibly trading for Hardy. December 2 is the deadline to tender Hardy a contract for 2011.
• Based on the amount of reported interest in Carl Pavano it sounds like he's a goner unless the Twins want to give him a three-year contract. And they shouldn't. Depending on the price bringing Pavano back for one or maybe even two years could make sense, but a three-season commitment to a 35-year-old pitcher with his extensive injury history is just asking for trouble. Be happy with how well he pitched for 1.5 seasons and take the draft picks when he walks.
• According to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick the Twins are among the teams interested in former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, who hasn't pitched since Opening Day of 2009 thanks to an assortment of shoulder problems. Before the injuries he was an elite starter and ground-ball machine, winning one Cy Young award and finishing runner-up twice, but he hasn't been right since the second half of 2008. Intriguing if the price is right, but it probably won't be.