December 3, 2010

Twins tender contracts to all nine arbitration-eligible players

Prior to yesterday's deadline the Twins tendered 2011 contracts to all nine of their arbitration-eligible players: Francisco Liriano, Delmon Young, Matt Capps, J.J. Hardy, Alexi Casilla, Pat Neshek, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Jason Repko. Arbitration has already been avoided by Neshek and Repko, who ensured they wouldn't be non-tendered by signing one-year deals for $625,000 and $600,000 respectively.

The other seven players tendered contracts are now under the Twins' control for 2011 and will either have their salaries determined through an arbitration hearing or agree to deals at some point beforehand. They're eligible to be traded in the meantime and there's lots of speculation that the Twins tendered Hardy a contract despite his no longer being in their plans since doing so retains his rights and they can trade him rather than simply cutting him loose for nothing.

I'm still holding out some increasingly slim hopes that the Twins will keep Hardy as the starting shortstop and pair him with Tsuyoshi Nishioka at second base while using Casilla as the utility infielder, but at the very least there's apparently a strong enough trade market for Hardy that they'll get something in return for letting him go. Arbitration salary figures are exchanged next month and the hearings aren't until February, so Hardy's status may be in limbo for a while.

Repko signing a pre-deadline deal for $600,000 means he'll return as a backup outfielder after filling that role following his June call-up from Triple-A. Ideally even a reserve outfielder would have a little more offensive upside than a 30-year-old with a .227/.304/.365 career line in the majors and modest totals at Triple-A, but Repko is a great defender and hitting right-handed makes him a decent fit as a complement to lefty batters Denard Span and Jason Kubel.

A rough return from Tommy John surgery and public spat with the team over the handling of an in-season hand injury seemingly made Neshek a non-tender option, but instead he re-signed for his 2010 salary. Neshek's velocity and command were off from his pre-surgery norms in 11 games for the Twins and just 25 strikeouts compared to 40 hits in 37 innings at Triple-A wasn't encouraging, but the bullpen has plenty of holes and hopefully his arm strength will return.

  • doug

    Reading about Casilla reminds me it’s been some time since the Twins traded for a minor leaguer who eventually contributed.

    There was a long string of those, most notably Pierzynski for Nathan, Liriano and Bonser; but also Knoblauch for Milton and Guzman; Brian Buchananon for Jason Bartlett; Dave Hollins for David Ortiz; even Milton for unproven Major Leaguers Carlos Silva and Nick Punto.

    But it seems as though JC Romero for Alexi Casilla, for now, was the last of those.

    Granted, the Twins more recently have traded for Major Leaguers like Delmon Young and JJ Hardy, and those weren’t necessarily bad trades. And expanded pay rolls, even before the new stadium, meant the Twins kept more players rather than trading them for minor leaguers.

    But the Twins haven’t recently shown that good, old Terry Ryan knack for picking the right minor leaguers from other teams. Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez and so far Deolis Guerra clearly weren’t the right picks in the Johan Santana trade.

    That’s kind of what goes through my mind when I read about Casilla — not that he’s great, but he’s the last minor leaguer who was received in a trade and contributed, and that trade happened quite a while ago.

  • Steve Johnson

    Doug, that’s probably more indicative of Minnesota being a winning ball-club than anything else. The Twins simply haven’t found the need to engage in many veteran-for-prospect swaps during the last several years because they are competing for the playoffs, not rebuilding.

  • mike wants WINS

    Steve, trading Santana doesn’t count? They got nothing for him. Still makes me mad.

    I’ll be quite disappointed if this offseason is all about letting Pavano go, and trading a legit starting SS for middle relief. I really, really, really hope I’m wrong about this offseason.

  • CoachFSCB

    The most recent time I remember a Twins regular being traded for a minor leaguer who contributed was at the trade deadline in 2007 when Luis Castillo was traded for Drew Butera (and Dustin Martin). Over the past few years, instead of building for the future, the Twins have swapped prospects to get veteran players to fill holes for a playoff run, as they did with Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch, and Orlando Cabrera, etc. Toward the end of his tenure with the Twins, Terry Ryan did have a knack for trading for good prospects, but he also had his share of stinkers early on — remember starting pitcher Scott Erickson for Scott Klingenbeck and Kimera Bartee in 1995? Yikes. He also traded starting pitcher Kevin Tapani and lefty reliever Mark Guthrie to the Dodgers at the trade deadline that year for prospects Greg Hansell, Jose Parra, Chris Latham, and Ron Coomer — a lot to give up for only one guy who ever panned out. When trading established players for prospects you win some and you lose some — just ask Terry Ryan. He’s had his share of both.

  • Chris Kruschke

    Not sure if you care, but your list of players tendered and the pictures at top stop being the same after JJ Hardy.

  • PaulG

    MWW – they end up with Hardy (from the Gomez trade) out of the Santana deal – not sure what return that shows but when healthy he has contributed…but yes, the luck of ending up with a minor league prospect that helps the major league club at some point is a sore spot. A big part of the reason clubs no longer throw prospects away for an established star player is that they all see the wisdom in building from their farms…

  • Large Canine

    Mike wants wins, I totally agree on JJ. If we trade him for relief pitching I will be disapointed. Pavano on the other hand. He will give us what, 2-3 maybe 4 wins more then his replacement from our current stable of starting pitchers. That is not worth the 10 plus mil per we would have to pay him for the next three years. I bet he gets 3 for 35 mil from someone.

  • mike wants WINS

    Large Canine, at some point, you have to pay for those 3-4 more wins.

    While I agree that is a risk, that was the same argument made for not signing Casey Blake, and they went 2.5 years w/o a 3B. So, you may be right in Pavano’s case, but if they make that decision at every position (hardy=casilla + 5+ wins), then they are going to be an 80 win team, not 90 win team.*

    *expected, luck, of course, add/subtracts a lot of wins

  • Bill

    Also have to consider Rauch as part of the “Santana” trade. We traded Mulvey straight up for him, he was HUGE for us in Aug/Sept of 2009 and was still pretty solid for us this year including 21/25 in save opps. and several other good outings down the stretch. I wouldn’t mind if they resigned him if he has a hard time finding a job. But trading for Capps probably pissed him off a bit and some team like the Pirates or something might sign him for 3-4 mill to be a closer, even though he’s got about 45 career saves.

  • doug

    Steve, I agree the lack of picking the right minor leaguers is in large part not trading for them so much anymore. I tried to acknowledge that by pointing out larger payrolls and that we’ve more recently traded for veterans, but it probably is a bigger part of the picture than I was giving credit for.

    And Coach, you’re right, too. Ryan had some clunkers. The trades you pointed out once again made me shake my head — what a blast from the past I’d love to forget. But it’s worth noting both of those were in Ryan’s first year as GM and I don’t think he screwed one up that bad since. And, yes, I did omit Drew Butera. I can never remember if it’s him or Dustin Martin we got for Castillo.

    Still, picking the right minor leaguers was a very valuable skill, Casilla makes me remember that, be it for changes in payroll or philosophy or just bad choices, the Twins haven’t really done that recently.

  • NTR

    Santana WAR 2008-2010 14.4
    Gomez, Hardy, Rauch WAR 2008-2010 6.6

    Sure we didn’t get great return for Johan, but its sure more than “no return” and those 3 guys made about $10 million combined the last 3 years compared to Johan at $56 million.

  • mike wants WINS

    You had to add the WAR from three players to come up with less than half the WAR of the other. That’s a HUGE difference.

    I guess “nothing” was an exaggeration…..but it’s so hard to hear those over the intertubes. I will endeavor to be more precise in the future.

  • http://weareoffthemark.wordpress.com Bryz

    Roughly 45% of the WAR at 18% of the price? Sure, it’s a “huge difference,” but don’t forget that the $46 million the Twins saved was spent on other players that most likely equaled or surpassed* the WAR that Santana has generated with the Mets.

    * You could cherry-pick the free agents/trades the Twins signed/made to make this happen.