December 7, 2010

Winter meetings rumblings: Nishioka, Hardy, Uehara, Thome, and Pavano

I'm not at the winter meetings this year, but my blog-mate Craig Calcaterra is on the scene in Orlando writing lots of good stuff on Hardball Talk and after Day 1 there are even some Twins-related rumblings worth noting ...

Bill Smith met yesterday afternoon with Tsuyoshi Nishioka's agent for the first time and Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse reports that the Twins have offered the Japanese infielder a three-year deal worth $9-$10 million. Last week I crunched some numbers on previous Japanese players signing with MLB teams and concluded: "Based on those precedents ... a three-year deal for around $9 million seems likely." Not bad. Now he just needs to accept the offer.

J.J. Hardy's status remains up in the air, but I expect his situation to come into focus quickly once Nishioka signs. My hope is still that the Twins keep both players and use Alexi Casilla in a utility role, but as many as six teams have reportedly expressed interest in trading for Hardy and if the Twins are going to move him they'll want to do so before the shortstop market gets settled. Right now I'd probably bet on Hardy being traded for bullpen help.

• Speaking of which, according to Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun the Twins are among six teams to express interest in free agent reliever Koji Uehara. A month ago I examined low-cost bullpen options and put Uehara atop the list of my recommended targets, suggesting that he'd "make an ideal setup man" if "available for a reasonable one-year contract." With at least five other teams bidding that may prove difficult, but it's nice to hear the Twins like him too.

• Last week Jim Thome's agent reiterated that he planned to play in 2011 at age 40 and now the future Hall of Famer told Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com that he wants to play two more seasons. Thome called the Twins "an awesome organization" and "a wonderful place to play," but stopped short of saying he planned to re-sign. According to Rosenthal, agent Pat Rooney "has received calls from multiple teams expressing interest."

• Smith told ESPN1500.com's Phil Mackey that he hasn't ruled out re-signing Carl Pavano, but given various reports of heavy interest from several teams and speculation about three-year offers his returning to Minnesota seems highly unlikely. Making a three-season commitment to Pavano would be a mistake, so hopefully the Twins will be content to let the 34-year-old right-hander walk and take the compensatory draft picks.

Brian Fuentes is drawing interest from multiple teams, including the Red Sox, and is said to be seeking $6-$8 million per season in a multi-year deal. There's no indication that the Twins are in the mix to re-sign him and by not offering Fuentes arbitration they forfeit compensation for the Type B free agent signing elsewhere.

• After sitting out this season following his third back surgery in three years Joe Crede is now attempting a comeback.

Ron Mahay is reportedly drawing interest from the Red Sox and Mets.

• I'm slated to be the guest on Seth Stohs' podcast tonight, starting at 10:00 p.m.

14 Comments »

  1. I think most Twins fans are going to end up being shocked how much this team will have changed from last season..many changes are coming our way..

    Comment by Pat — December 7, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  2. Right now I’d probably bet on Hardy being traded for bullpen help.

    I know it’s an area of need. I know you’ve got to give something to get something, but Hardy is worth more than bullpen help (which I infer is not an elite setup man, but some form of righty/lefty specialist) No thanks. Hardy bounces back this year. Plus, Casilla fails and Nishioka struggles as a rookie we’ve got a blackhole with nothing in the wings

    Comment by hoff — December 7, 2010 @ 7:57 am

  3. Ha Ha wings. Get it? Sorry.

    Comment by hoff — December 7, 2010 @ 7:58 am

  4. I may cry if they trade a legit starting SS for bullpen help. There is a ton of bullpen help on the market, just sign some. If you feel the need to trade Hardy, get something for him.

    As for Pavano, I’m sure it is a mistake to give him three years, just ast it would have been for Casey Blake. But if you never “overpay” for FA help, you will never sign a legit, big time FA. If you keep trading your assets for relief pitchers, and you won’t “overpay” for FAs, good luck filling the roster holes any team will inevetably have.

    This team looks worse and worse compared to last year.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 7, 2010 @ 8:13 am

  5. I can’t remember who tweeted it, but I have to agree that I think the Twins are moving fast on Nishioka so they can get moving on signing him a Japanese buddy to stave off the homesickness factor.

    Comment by TMW — December 7, 2010 @ 9:18 am

  6. $7.MM for a utility guy? How will the Twins sign anyone if other teams keep throwing ridiculous money around? Does the sporting world not realize there is a recession? If they can’t control salaries this year, they never will. Wow.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 7, 2010 @ 10:12 am

  7. I think Hardy is being overrated a bit by the Twins faithful this offseason. I remember a guy who missed a lot of time with a broken wrist. He only played 100 games, 6 HR’s, 38 rbi. Yes, those are his 2010 numbers, and he didnt hit the year before either.

    Don’t get me wrong – given the roster today, my perfect scenario for this year includes him, Casilla and Nishoka. But to treat Hardy as an untouchable “cog”? No, he should stay only because we have no one who can do what he does, and the FA market looks pretty thin/overpriced at the position.

    Comment by Jake — December 7, 2010 @ 3:32 pm

  8. His wrist wasn’t broken, it was a very deep bone bruise. Those types of bruises take a long time to heal and the only way to do it is with rest. He probably should have sat longer, but instead decided to hit less or not at all during batting practice.

    He hit .226/.268/.340 in his first 45 games. That was with a badly bruised wrist and with his swing still screwed up from last year. In 2009, he tried a ton of different ways to swing at the ball, leaving his swing completely messed up. Vavra was helping with this, then he got hurt…then the results came while still fighting a bruised wrist.

    He played hurt for two weeks and hit .139/.184/.167 in those two weeks, which made his numbers worse. He went back on the DL after that.

    In his return, he went on to hit .304/.363/.442 in the 56 games after those first 45. As you can see, MASSIVE improvement.

    Last year the average SS hit .266/.322/.391. Hardy’s overall numbers were .268/.320/.394. While dealing with an injury for almost the entire year, he still hit as well as the average SS. Take out the two bad weeks where he should have been on the DL and he would have hit .283/.335/.421 for the season….above average. Add on to that, his above average fielding.

    There are six teams after him because he’s a top five SS. He’s a top defender, not many better than him. His offensive upside is great too. He’s shown that he is the offensive exception at the position because he’s put up numbers that are better than the avg SS in the past (2007 & 2008).

    On top of that, Casilla hasn’t ever shown that he’s an everyday player. He’s either good or beyond awful. The awful Casilla shows up a lot more, unless he’s in a part time utility role. Nishioka is a complete unknown. And Valencia is no guarantee either. Sure, they’d save money, but they’d get worse defensively. If Hardy is healthy, Casilla isn’t going to hit anywhere near as good as he is either.

    As I’ve said before, I really believe that the 2007 Hardy is making a comeback. His second half of the season was great, a little lucky, but still great. I don’t think he’ll get his power numbers up where they used to be because of the ballpark, but he does everything else very well. Guys like Hardy do not grow on trees, which is why it amazes me that a real SS has finally fallen into their laps and now they want to get rid of him. He’s easily the best SS the Twins have had since Gagne. At 6 million or so, that is not overpaid for everything he provides. I would consider it a bargain.

    What they should do is sign him to a three year deal, but instead they’re stupidly considering letting him go. And if they trade him for BP help, then they really blew it.

    Comment by AJ — December 7, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  9. I agree the Twins should hang onto Hardy, I think he will have a decent year and Casilla is better used as bench player. Just please do not bring Punto back.

    Comment by scot — December 7, 2010 @ 9:19 pm

  10. Hardy is a wonderful addition to the Twins as long as he is healthy. He plays top tier defense at the most important defense position on the field and is almost an average hitter. Isn’t that all you ask your SS to be, is average at the plate and excellent at short? Keep him around!

    Comment by Adam S. — December 8, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  11. In order to put the right spin on this issue, Aaron, you should be blogging about how many MVP votes Hardy will get in the next three years. The post should be “Can JJ Hardy win an MVP award in the next three years?”

    Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Sure. Let’s say he hits .310/.380./.520 and puts up + 15 UZR. With a high BABIP, that is possible.

    The Twins would be afraid of giving that away.

    Is

    Comment by AM — December 8, 2010 @ 8:02 am

  12. Latest rumor is Hardy for minor leaguers? Really? I may need a new team.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 8, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  13. Hardy for minor leaguers…that would be nuts. Yes, lets make the team worse. At least get a SP who can help the team now. This is beyond ridiculous.

    Comment by AJ — December 8, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  14. If he deals Hardy for minor leaguers, does that make him the Joel Maturi of GMs?

    Comment by mike wants WINS — December 8, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

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