January 18, 2011

Twins Notes: Fuentes, Rauch, Morneau, Casilla, Pavano, and Thome

• The offseason bullpen exodus is now complete, as Jon Rauch signed with the Blue Jays and Brian Fuentes signed with the A's to join Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain in leaving the Twins after that quartet combined to throw 45 percent of the team's relief innings last season while posting a 2.98 ERA. The rest of the Twins' bullpen had a 3.90 ERA. Here are the contracts each reliever got on the open market:

- Crain: $13 million for three years from the White Sox

- Guerrier: $12 million for three years from the Dodgers

- Fuentes: $10 million for two years from the A's

- Rauch: $3.75 million for one year from the Blue Jays (with a $3.75 team option for 2012)

Tough to blame the Twins for failing to bring Crain, Guerrier, Fuentes, and Rauch back at those prices, but it would've been nice to get more than one draft pick as compensation for letting all four guys leave as free agents. It's also worth noting that Matt Capps will probably make more than any of those four departing relievers this season and the Twins traded one of their top prospects in Wilson Ramos for the right to pay (or overpay) him $6 million or so in 2011.

UPDATE: Make that $7.15 million for Capps. Yeesh.

• As noted last week plenty of veteran middle relievers have signed for reasonable money this offseason, but the Twins have yet to add any potential 2011 bullpen help beyond Jim Hoey, a hard-throwing but erratic right-hander acquired from the Orioles in the J.J. Hardy trade. They reportedly were among the half-dozen teams to offer right-hander Jose Veras a minor-league contract, but he opted to sign with the Pirates instead.

Justin Morneau told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he's yet to "do any hitting or baseball activities" this offseason and doesn't plan to do so until next month, which seemingly means Morneau and the Twins still have no idea whether he'll be ready to play this season. General manager Bill Smith also hinted that Morneau continues to experience at least some symptoms more than six months after his concussion, saying:

In July, August, and September the protocol was if he had any concussion symptoms, he needed to back off. Now I think the doctors have given him a little more of the go-ahead. If you have mild symptoms, you need to work through it, play through it.

Smith also stressed to Christensen that the Twins "are very hopeful and very optimistic he'll be ready to go for spring training," but it's tough to trust that anyone really knows anything when Morneau still hasn't engaged in baseball activities without symptoms. Until he takes that step there's only so much anyone can know, good or bad.

Alexi Casilla and the Twins avoided arbitration with a one-year, $865,000 contract, leaving Capps, Francisco Liriano, Delmon Young, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins on the arbitration docket. Today is the deadline for teams and players to exchange salary figures for hearings next month, but expect the Twins to work out deals with everyone before then. They haven't actually gone through with an arbitration hearing since losing to Kyle Lohse in 2005 and 2006.

• Various sources still expect Carl Pavano to re-sign eventually, but Christensen reports that the two sides "appear to be in a temporary holding pattern" while the Twins focus on dealing with the aforementioned arbitration eligible guys. I've heard some speculation that the market for Pavano was overstated because few teams were willing to actually forfeit a first-round pick to sign the Type A free agent, especially once the Brewers got Zack Greinke and bowed out.

Mark Simon of ESPN.com crunched the numbers on Jim Thome's domination of right-handed pitching and found that Thome has the third-highest OPS in baseball versus righties during the past five seasons, behind only Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard. And he was as great as ever against right-handers last year, clobbering them to the tune of .302/.455/.698 to rank second in the league behind MVP winner Josh Hamilton. Not a bad guy to keep for $3 million.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka was signed by the Twins to replace Hardy or Orlando Hudson, but how will the Chiba Lotte Marines replace Nishioka in Japan?  Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker looks at the other side of the Japan-to-MLB move.

  • David

    Aaron (or anybody),

    After the Twins sign Pavano, any chance they move a starter–say, Slowey–for a proven, reliable right-handed setup man and perhaps a right-handed-hitting infield utility guy? What would you think of Slowey for Joba Chamberlain plus a prospect?

  • David

    Should have explained that I based the above on the assumption that Slowey is not a long-term answer and is eminently replaceable with Kyle Gibson in 2012.

  • marietta mouthpiece

    I wonder if I play in the equivalent of the ichi-gun or the ni-gun level of bar league softball …

  • JB (the original)

    I wonder if the Twins made any sort of offer to Fuentes at all during the off-season, or just assumed he’d be too much $$$. His price sure came down, and he’s going into Oakland with the same situation as he would have here, setting up/temporarily closing while the closers (Ol Hoss, and Bailey)recover from injuries. (all of this moot with the Capps situation).

  • Kurt

    Wowww J-dawg still experiencing symptoms!? As an avid Fantasy player, I can say with 100% certainty that I will avoid his services come draft day. I’ll think about it if he’s there in the 10th round, though…

  • mike wants WINS

    I’d 100% rather have two of those guys, than have Capps…..I don’t understand this decision making at all. Of course, I didn’t like the trade when it was made either, and still don’t.

    David, did you suggest trading a legit MLB starter for a middle reliever and a backup/utility guy? That sounds like something the Twins might do (see Hardy trade), but something I’d be opposed to.

  • BR

    Slowey for Joba and a prospie? Only if that 2d guy is named Montero (which NY wouldn’t do). Otherwise, just say no to helping NY out with their starting pitching problems!

  • Tom

    The story about Chiba’s search for a replacement got me to thinking–would kosher laws prevent a guy like Sean Green from playing for the Nippon Ham Fighters? Or just from eating the team owners’ products?

  • scot

    Twins probably won’t move a starter even if Pavano comes back until everybody proves they are healthy. Twins will over pay for Capps in 2011 but good thing is he will be gone in 2012.

  • WalterSolbcheck

    I think I can safely assume the Yankees would never consider taking Slowey for Joba. I don’t think they’d want to put Slowey on the bump in that whiffle-ball park at all, let alone for one of their prized pupils, even if some of the luster has worn off Chamberlain.

    I also agree that I’d rather have any two of those relievers over Capps. I’d be surprised if he’s contributing to the team in August.

  • Gendo

    That Capps deal is hilarious. Good God.

  • marietta mouthpiece

    Wow – refuse to pay (albeit slightly overpay) the long-time bullpen contributors, yet grossly overpay a largely unproven reliever – my my my …

  • doug

    The story below made me feel much better about the bullpen situation. There are actually a lot of in house candidates to fill it out.

    http://www.startribune.com/sports/twins/113997639.html?elr=KArksi8cyaiUqCP:iUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUqCP:i_MDCi_LDEh7P:D_8O77U

  • pk

    To make matters worse as AG pointed out at the time of the trade Capps was a FA with nobody but the Nationals interested in his services after the Pirates released him.
    I’m not only afraid of who’s going to pitch the bullpen innings this season I’m afraid of the likely ineffectiveness of the guys expected to carry the majority of those innings.

    Capps deal was bad but not resigning the FA relievers probably wasn’t too bad of an idea. It was time for Crain to move on. I doubt Guerrier has much left in the tank and the same can be said about Rausch and Fuentes. The reality is it was time for the bullpen to turnover like so many other teams go through.