December 1, 2010

Twins Notes: Pavano, Crain, Hudson, Hardy, Nishioka, and Pimentel

• As expected Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain, and Orlando Hudson each declined arbitration offers from the Twins ahead of last night's deadline. Pavano and Crain had no-brainer decisions, as they're both drawing significant interest as free agents and should have no trouble securing multi-year deals, and Hudson was only offered arbitration in the first place because he agreed ahead of time to decline.

Assuming all three sign elsewhere the Twins will get a total of four compensatory draft picks. Pavano is a Type A free agent, so he'd fetch a first rounder and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. Crain and Hudson are both Type B free agents, so they'd fetch one supplemental pick apiece. Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch weren't offered arbitration and Jim Thome didn't qualify as Type A or B, so there's no compensation attached.

• In reporting on Hudson officially declining arbitration yesterday Jon Heyman of SI.com called him a "fine player who could help any clubhouse." Heyman is basically just parroting the same national media perception of Hudson that ESPN, FOX, and TBS announcers repeated whenever they broadcast Twins games, but in reality little or no effort is being made to re-sign Hudson in part because the team specifically didn't like his presence in the clubhouse.

None of which is to suggest that Hudson is a terrible person or anything, but multiple sources affiliated with the Twins told me throughout the season that his outspoken jokester persona grew tiresome even though national media members like Heyman continue to constantly tout it as a positive trait treated as fact. Hudson will soon be playing for his fourth team in four years despite consistently solid performances on the field, so you can probably do the math there.

• The next key deadline for the Twins arrives tomorrow night, when they must decide whether to tender a 2011 contract to J.J. Hardy. Doing so would essentially guarantee him a one-year deal worth at least $6 million via the arbitration process. Because the Twins have seemingly soured on Hardy despite his above-average performance this season and are now negotiating with Tsuyoshi Nishioka to possibly replace him at shortstop non-tendering him is an option.

However, based on various reports there are multiple teams interested in trading for Hardy. That means even if the Twins are no longer interested in keeping him for 2011 they can tender him a contract and later deal him for some value rather than just cutting him loose and making him a free agent with a non-tender. Of course, I'm still holding out a slim hope that they keep Hardy at shortstop, sign Nishioka to play second base, and use Alexi Casilla as a utility man.

• Speaking of Nishioka, here's a lengthy highlight video that his representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Complex put together:

Like many Japanese hitters Nishioka has a pronounced leg kick that precedes his swing, so it'll be interesting to see if the Twins would ask him to ditch it. Also of note after years of watching Nick Punto is that Nishioka appears to always slide first first.

• Last year the Twins spent a ton of cash in the international prospect market, landing Miguel Sano and several other high-upside players, and they've followed that up this year by possibly spending around $15 million on Nishioka. Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that they also recently signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Javier Pimentel for $575,000. Here's part of BA's scouting report on Pimentel:

Pimentel is a skinny shortstop with a projectable body who has shown good hands and arm in the field. He's a solid-average runner. He isn't a huge threat at the plate right now, but he could grow into more power as he fills out his lanky body.

I'm a big fan of investing heavily in international prospects. They're younger and typically less advanced than American high school and college prospects, but that added risk is mitigated by a lower cost to sign them and the value of draft picks. For instance, Pimentel signed for what is basically second-round money and the Twins were able to acquire him without actually using a second-round pick that, by itself, is worth several hundred thousand dollars.

• Not adding Kyle Waldrop to the 40-man roster and exposing him to next week's Rule 5 draft struck me as an error, but I'm pleased that the Twins did also clear a spot by dropping Estarlin De Los Santos. De Los Santos was a questionable 40-man addition last offseason and ranked just 30th on my annual list of the Twins' prospects. Since then he's hit .225/.294/.295 in 123 games between high Single-A and Double-A, so he had no business being protected.

Mike Redmond left the Twins as a free agent last offseason after five years as Joe Mauer's backup, spent a half-season with the Indians while hitting .206/.242/.270, and announced his retirement. Throughout his time in Minnesota he was regularly mentioned as manager material and sure enough Redmond has been hired to manage the Blue Jays' low Single-A affiliate that plays in the Midwest League with the Twins' team in Beloit.

• Thome being drafted as a shortstop is a known, albeit nearly unbelievable fact, but here's an even harder-to-believe fact discovered while poking around Baseball-Reference.com: Through his first 247 games in the minors Thome stole 24 bases at a 71 percent success rate. In his 2,559 games since then between the minors and majors Thome has stolen a total of 20 bases while being thrown out 25 times, including no more than one steal in any season after 1996.

• While the Twins decide what to do with Hardy, this should be good for a chuckle.

  • http://albethke.blogspot.com/ Al

    Aaron, you should probably put 1st or 2nd rounder for Pavano, as many teams would not surrender a 1st.

  • Randy_Moist

    I’m a little annoyed a solid infield is being taken apart because of some vague clubhouse issues and a perceived need for (likely ineffective) base stealers.

  • zooomx

    I like the ideo of Hardy at short with Casilla spelling him occasionally against righties. Nishioka sounds like he will be a similar solid switch hitting second baseman as Hudson was. My worry on the infield is Valencia at third. If he slumps, or gets hurt, I see Gardy using Matty Tolbert extensively… ouch!

  • marietta mouthpiece

    An everyday above-average (if not stellar) shortstop who, for the most part, is a legitimate threat at the plate, for 6 million? Talk about a no-brainer. Just what exactly do the Twins think they are going to get from Nishioka (assuming they can sign him) or Casilla (and/or Punto, for that matter)? To not sign Hardy will be a huge mistake, and I cannot believe the Twins are even considering this (non)move.

  • Mike

    What’s Hudson’s incentive for the agreement to refuse arbitration? Does he get anything out of it? It sounds like it just gives the Twins a little bit more certainty while making it a little harder for Hudson to sign with another team.

  • SteveV

    Mike, the team that signs Hudson does not give up a pick. The Twins get a supplemental pick as compensation. Hope that helps.

    SteveV

  • mike wants WINS

    Gardy has a model in his head of how certain positions should be manned. Hardy clearly does not fit that pre-conceived notion. He’s not (s)crappy as a hitter, for example. He’s not fast (which is useless if you can’t get on base…..). I think this is all about some weird, pre-conceived notion of how a team “should be”, position by position. There really appears to be no rational reason to prefer to get rid of Hardy, and go with Casilla/unknown Japanese player instead.

  • TMW

    I was under the impression from the tweets on Friday that the Twins were in fact going to tender Hardy a contract, but the real question was whether or not they could make an appropriate trade for him.

    Did something change here?

  • Large Canine

    I’m curious to see how this Hardy sign and trade works out if that is what the Twins are planning. Are they hoping for a pitcher? Who? Who is available that is better then what we have? And don’t say Lee. Trade for Greinke? We would have to give KC more then just Hardy. I’m giving the Twins the benefit of the doubt here but I will not be happy with a Nishioka/Casilla middle infield. When it could be a Hardy/Nishioka or Casilla middle infield.

  • Kurt

    Aaron, I would not touch Nishioka’s leg kick issue. That video was fun to watch and the dude appears to have great bat speed. With the Twins inexperience handling the mechanics of an offensive Japanese player, I can’t imagine them jumping at the bit to alter his swing. Let it play out and see what he does first.

  • Jake

    AG – with the high probability that Pavano will go elsewhere is there any indication of what the Twins will be looking at in terms of starting rotation? Do we really have that much to work with? Thoughts?

  • pk

    Aaron,

    How about an AFL update on how the Twins players participating are doing.

    Thanks

  • shaka kahn

    Does it strike anyone else as ironic that the Twins are replacing a guy who speaks too much English with one who hardly does it all?

  • shaka kahn

    Mike,

    Twins supposedly agreed to not offer Hudson arbitration if he was a Type A and he would decline it if he were a Type B, which he is. So Twins basically get a free pick and Hudson is easier to sign.

  • Corey

    Was it just me or was the entire Nishioka highlight video him just waiting on off-speed stuff or preying on mid-80s fastballs right in the zone? The track record on Japanese hitters hasn’t been very impressive and the quality of pitching has to be the major factor.

  • mike wants WINS

    joe C’s article in the Strib today should make everyone nervous. I veiw him as part of the Twins’ unofficial PR team with many of his articles, trying to set fans’ expectations. If he says they can trade Hardy for something like a young middle reliever, we should all be nervous. Who the heck trades a legit every day starter at a difficult to fill position for a middle reliever? Why are they even trying to set expectations that they might trade him?

    Is this one of those deals where they try to make it look like something bad happens, then when they keep him, we all say great things about the FO (when really, mostly, it looks like they have the almost all the same hitters and a lot less pitching)?

  • Mike Green

    Although it will be Hudson’s 4th team in 5 seasons, the clubs he has been with seem to have benefited from his presence:

    Arizona 08 (with Hudson)- 82 wins
    Arizona 09 (without him)- 70 wins

    LA 08 (without Hudson)- 84 wins
    LA 09 (with Hudson) – 95 wins
    LA 10 (without him) – 80 wins

    Min 09 (without O-Dog)- 87 wins
    Min 10 (with him) – 94 wins

    He may not be popular with everyone, but he does seem to help the club win. He’s not like Dick Allen or something.

  • mike wants WINS
  • cargo

    Wait till a move is made to judge it. Personally I expect the Twins to keep Hardy and have the Japanese guy play 2nd, provided they sign him.

  • mike wants WINS

    Sox signing Dunn and Konerko?….hope the Twins find some pitching. Dunn will have no problem reaching the RF porch.

  • Mike Green

    Mike wants wins, in the case of LA, it’s both pre- and post- hoc. The point being not that Hudson’s absence/presence is solely or primarily responsible for the various clubs changes in fortunes, but rather that it is a piece of evidence that the effect of his off-field personality is not a significant negative.

  • bhiggum

    “Also of note after years of watching Nick Punto is that Nishioka appears to always slide first first.”

    So, Nishioka always slides feet first or always slides into first?

  • Willmac

    I’ve learned to never click your links as I have no idea what is about to appear and it’s often a waste of my time.