January 3, 2011

Twins Notes: Pavano, Fuentes, Thome, Iwakuma, Nishioka, and James

• With the Brewers out of the free agent starting pitching market following their trade for Zack Greinke various reports have Carl Pavano deciding between the Twins and Nationals. If the speculation about it coming down to which team offers him a three-year deal proves true fans should hope the Twins bow out. Signing a 35-year-old pitcher with an extensive injury history to a three-year pact that would surely be worth at least $25 million is just asking for trouble.

• They made no legitimate effort to re-sign Matt Guerrier or Jesse Crain and seemingly have no interest in bringing back Jon Rauch, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins are still talking to Brian Fuentes. Fuentes showed that he still has plenty left in the tank at age 35 and he'd be worth re-signing for, say, $10 million over two years, but it seems likely that he'll be able to get more money or an opportunity to close elsewhere.

• Many people have been assuming that Jim Thome re-signing was only a matter of time, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Thome wants to "make up for what he didn't earn last season." It's tough to blame Thome, because he was certainly worth far more than the $2 million or so the Twins paid him in 2010. On the other hand there aren't many openings for pure designated hitters and he hasn't really been linked to other teams.

Bringing back Thome would be great if the price is reasonable, but it's also worth remembering that he wasn't a regular until Justin Morneau's concussion in early July, starting just 34 of the first 84 games. Thome and a healthy Morneau along with Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young would give the Twins five players for four lineup spots, and it's hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire benching Cuddyer versus righties no matter how much sense it would make.

• General manager Bill Smith revealed during a recent interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN that the Twins finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, which took place about four weeks before they won the bidding for infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. According to Smith the Twins bid $7.7 million for Iwakuma, which was nowhere near the A's winning bid of $19.1 million. And ultimately he didn't sign.

Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price the Twins likely would have balked at his demands too, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it's possible he would've asked for significantly less money or the Twins would've had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable deal. Whether that would've changed their pursuit of Nishioka is unclear, but Iwakuma is considered an elite Japanese pitcher.

Dan Szymborski is gradually publishing his annual ZiPs projections at Baseball Think Factory and the Twins are his latest release. Before checking out the list keep in mind that no fan base has ever looked at projections for their team's upcoming season and concluded they were too optimistic. So, try not to be a homer. ZiPs projects Nishioka to hit .281/.337/.403 based on his track record in Japan, which is pretty close to my quick-and-dirty projection of .275/.335/.375.

• One interesting name among the Twins' latest batch of minor-league signings is left-hander Chuck James, a former top prospect who found success in the Braves' rotation before injuries sidetracked his career. James went 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 119 innings as 24-year-old rookie in 2006 and started 30 games with a 4.24 ERA in 2007, but struggled mightily in 2008 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder.

He missed all of 2009, but came back very strong last season in the Nationals' system by going 10-1 with a 2.32 ERA and 69-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. James was an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a fastball that topped out in the high-80s even before going under the knife, so resurrecting his career is a long shot, but he's still just 29 years old and will be worth keeping an eye on at Rochester.

• After trading Jose Morales to the Rockies for reliever prospect Paul Bargas the Twins signed veteran minor-league catchers Steve Holm and Rene Rivera. They've both had brief stints in the big leagues, but neither can hit and they're definitely Triple-A caliber. Joe Mauer and Drew Butera are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, so presumably Holm and Rivera will vie for the spot behind Butera on the "hopefully he only has to start once a week" depth chart.

20 Comments »

  1. Casilla playing 122 games at SS, getting 400 plate appearances, and hitting .260? Talk about optimistic …

    Comment by marietta mouthpiece — January 3, 2011 @ 7:16 am

  2. Despite his surprisingly good season last year, the over-40 Thome’s in a tough spot. There is a glut of DH options out there: Vlad, Manny, Damon, etc. Those guys, while bad defensively, are younger than Thome and can at least put on a glove in a pinch. Jim might get more than the $1.5M base deal he got last year, but it’s not likely to be more than $3-4M. If the interest is mutual, he’ll be back with the Twins. He’s a great option v RHs as a twice a week/PH guy, good in the clubhouse, and nice insurance, as he proved last season.

    Given the rumors about the $$$ Iwakuma was seeking (a Zito-like contract? yikes), the Twins should be relieved that they didn’t win the posting. Would have been a waste of time. And “elite Japanese pitcher” hasn’t translated into MLB excellence. Dice-K, who was better than Iwakuma, has been merely ok with the Red Sox…

    Comment by BR — January 3, 2011 @ 9:22 am

  3. Happy B-Day AG!

    Comment by Hinkseams — January 3, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  4. Shorter version of the paragraph on Thome – “Thome would be a good signing except that given that Gardy won’t use him correctly, he may not be worth the money he’s asking.”

    Your 2009 Manager of the Year!

    Comment by sandbun — January 3, 2011 @ 10:12 am

  5. Oops, looks like I’m still a year behind. Rough way to start off the new year.

    Comment by sandbun — January 3, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  6. I thought Gardy used Thome very effectively last year. It wasn’t perfect, but he was keeping him fresh and effective by not over using him early in the year. I’m no Gardy apologist, but I thought, generally, he did a nice job with Thome.

    His love of having Cuddeyer out there all the time, that I don’t get.

    Comment by mike wants WINS — January 3, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  7. Yikes, a 3-year deal for Pavano? I’d rather give 5 years to Eric Chavez.

    Okay, maybe not really.

    Comment by Xave — January 3, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  8. Here you go Gleeman. Happy Birthday

    http://omg.yahoo.com/news/mila-kunis-splits-from-macaulay-culkin-after-eight-years/53251?nc

    Comment by Adam — January 3, 2011 @ 12:14 pm

  9. A guaranteed 3rd year for Pavano is most likely a bad idea, but I think I could live with a 2 year deal with a club option for a 3rd. Maybe that’s how it gets done? I’m betting the dollars are a problem too, since I don’t seen the Twins wanting to give him $10M per. $17M with a club option 3rd year for $6-7M would be a good spot for both club & pitcher (since odds are the Twins would pick up that option unless Pavano tanks), but I can understand how The Pavstache might be reluctant to leave the $4-6M he thinks is on the table.

    If Nishioka’s D is above average at 2B (where it sound slike he’s most likely to play) and he clocks in with Szymborski’s projections, I’ll be pretty happy. Would I like a little more OB%? Sure. But those numbers are as much as I can expect. If he clears either the OB% or SLG% by a significant amount, I’m gonna be thrilled and Billy Smith is going to look like a genius if Nishioka is a plus defender.

    The idea that we might have 3rd catcher on this team that will have no ability to contribute to this team. bad enough to have Butera, whose D is almost certainly overrated by the Twins (and couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat) who will almost certainly play every week. Please god, don’t waste the roster spot with a AAA catcher who won’t play and can’t even help with pinch hitting.

    Comment by Josh — January 3, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  10. Josh, your 3rd catcher analysis was spot on. I’m assuming AG meant “will vie for the spot behind Mauer” and not “the spot behind Butera. No way we would carry a 3rd catcher when the 2nd catcher should barely play.

    Comment by grubah — January 3, 2011 @ 3:08 pm

  11. A fun thing to do with those ZIPS projections is to read the player comps from right to left, so you start with the comparable players and try to guess which Twin they approximate. It’s not easy, but even more fun because of the surprises. (Did you know we have a Sammy Sosa on the way?)

    Comment by by jiminy — January 3, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

  12. “A spot behind Butera” means the guy next in line to be called up should one of the two catchers get hurt. It sure seems like the Twins are doing their best to make us pine for the days of Mike Redmond.

    Comment by SoCalTwinsfan — January 4, 2011 @ 12:29 am

  13. I think Gardy underused Thome in the beginning of the year, and only used him the proper amount after Morneau’s injury forced his hand. Maybe Thome wouldn’t have been as effective if he had been used more in the first half – it’s hard to say, but unless Gardy predicted Morneau’s injury would happen there was no reason for Thome not to have seen more action in the first half.

    And yes, there was no reason for Cuddy, as much as I like him, to have played as many games straight as he did.

    Comment by sandbun — January 4, 2011 @ 8:41 am

  14. I wouldn’t be too sure that we won’t end up with a 3rd catcher on the roster. Think about who our manager is; freaked out constantly at the idea of losing the DH if Butera catches while Mauer DHs and Butera has to leave via injury. I could see Gardy campaign for a 3rd catcher on the roster, especially if we go with 11 pitchers.

    Cuddy’s PT bothers me less. Sure he could probably get protected a little, and his number might improve with a little strategic rest, but we didn’t exactly have a surplus of RH bats last season and keeping Cuddy in the lineup helped give the lineup some balance. The double plays were pretty astounding, though…

    Comment by Josh — January 4, 2011 @ 10:19 am

  15. I don’t really see why losing the DH if Mauer has to move from DH to behind the plate should be a concern. Really, where’s the dropoff for the rest of the game in which Butera is removed? You telling me that Butera’s a clearly superior hitter to our best-hitting pitcher on the bench?

    Comment by imissaj — January 4, 2011 @ 10:26 am

  16. I see only having Butera for a backup catcher as a huge problem given Mauer’s injury history. I don’t want to say the sky is falling, but the Twins look like they might be setting themselves up for failure this year.

    Comment by JoeK — January 4, 2011 @ 10:55 am

  17. I agree Cuddy played to much. Part of the problem is the Twins didn’t have an adequate backup for him at 1B after Morneau got injured, Morales had to do the honors for one game! How desperate is that? As much as I like Thome Twins need a RH bat that can play a few positions also.
    Twins also need a backup catcher that can hit his weight in AVG.

    Comment by scot — January 4, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

  18. Twins IF of Casilla, the Japanese guy and Tolbert/Plouffe is very weak offensively. Who plays 3B when Valencia falls back to Earth w/Sophomore Jinx?

    Comment by Dose of Thunder — January 4, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  19. Twins have an adequate 1B at AAA, Brock Peterson.

    Comment by scott — January 5, 2011 @ 8:47 am

  20. Vladimir Guerrero is the best DH option. We NEED our DH to be right handed. It will help everyone in the top half of the lineup.

    Comment by Jeff — January 6, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

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