April 25, 2011

Nevermind, I’ll find someone like you

Catching up with old friends in new places ...

Matt Guerrier signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Dodgers and got off to a great start in Los Angeles with 11 straight scoreless innings before coughing up five runs Saturday. Guerrier has filled largely the same role with the Dodgers that he did with the Twins, working the seventh and eighth innings setting up closer Jonathan Broxton while recording more than three outs in five of his first 10 appearances.

Brian Fuentes has been filling in for the injured Andrew Bailey as the A's closer, converting six of seven save chances with a 4.09 ERA and 10-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings. He was unable to find a full-time closing opportunity as a free agent and settled for a two-year, $10.5 million deal at age 35. Bailey is due back early next month, at which point Fuentes will slide into a setup role alongside former Twin and original AG.com favorite, Grant Balfour.

Jon Rauch also stumbled into a brief stint filling in as Toronto's closer with Frank Francisco sidelined to begin the season. Just as he did for the Twins last year Rauch did a perfectly solid job in the role, converting all three save chances before Francico returned 18 games in, and he has a 2.25 ERA and 6-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine innings overall. Dating back to last year Rauch has converted 24-of-28 saves with a 2.98 ERA and 52/18 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

• Obviously the three-year, $13 million contract helped, but Jesse Crain also talked about the opportunity to be in the mix for saves as one of the reasons for signing with the White Sox. Chicago's bullpen has been a mess, with closer Matt Thornton blowing four saves already and manager Ozzie Guillen trying all kinds of different combinations late, but Crain has yet to get a crack at closing duties despite a 1.93 ERA and 11-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine innings.

Orlando Hudson got off to strong start in San Diego while oddly batting third in the Padres' lineup, but a recent slump has knocked his overall line down to .229/.349/.271 in 21 games. Of course, even that .620 OPS is still much higher than the Twins have gotten from Alexi Casilla (.485), Matt Tolbert (.469), Luke Hughes (.448), and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.519) in the middle infield and Hudson is playing half his games in the majors' most pitcher-friendly ballpark.

• I didn't like the Twins' decision to trade J.J. Hardy after he was above par offensively among shortstops and outstanding defensively in the 101 games he was healthy enough to be in the lineup, but they have to be smiling after he lasted just six games with the Orioles before being placed on the disabled list. Hardy is out until mid-May with a strained oblique and one of the two minor-league relievers the Twins got for him, Jim Hoey, has been thrust into a setup role.

Brendan Harris was also traded to Baltimore in the Hardy swap or more accurately dumping $1.25 million of his $1.75 million salary on the Orioles was part of the Twins' side of the deal. No one will ever be able to explain why the Twins handed Harris a two-year, $3.2 million deal last January, but after spending most of last season at Triple-A he failed to make the Orioles out of spring training and is once again struggling in the International League.

Wilson Ramos has overtaken Ivan Rodriguez as Washington's starting catcher and all of a sudden articles have popped up explaining how the Twins don't regret trading a 22-year-old top catching prospect for the right to pay $10 million for one-and-a-half years of Matt Capps. I'm sure the timing is purely coincidental. Ramos is hitting .351 with surprisingly decent plate discipline early on, giving him a .302/.347/.414 career line through 34 games.

Dealt for Single-A reliever Paul Bargas in December after the Twins settled on Drew Butera as their preferred backup catcher, Jose Morales is now backing up Chris Iannetta in Colorado and playing sparingly in the early going. He owns a career line of .295/.374/.358 in 81 games, but the Twins never trusted his glove. Bargas unfortunately has been hospitalized due to a neurological condition, with general manager Bill Smith describing him as "very sick."

Nick Punto's one-year, $750,000 contract with St. Louis got off to a rough start when he underwent hernia surgery within days of reporting to spring training, but he's healthy now and already starting regularly in place of injured second baseman Skip Schumaker. I thought the Twins should have re-signed Punto as long as the money was no more than $1 million and the projected role was minor. For all his faults, he'd be their best middle infielder right now.

Pat Neshek not only won a spot in the Padres' bullpen out of spring training after being lost on waivers for nothing by the Twins, he threw eight innings with a 2.25 ERA and .222 batting average against. However, while I'm happy to see Neshek doing well and didn't understand cutting him loose, his 7-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio is anything but impressive, his average fastball has clocked in at just 85.6 miles per hour, and now he's been optioned to Triple-A.

• Traded to the Braves for Rule 5 pick Scott Diamond last month in one of the most confusing Twins moves in a long time, Billy Bullock has struggled at Double-A with a 12.15 ERA through 6.2 innings. He thrived at Double-A in the second half of last season, but his shaky control has been a big problem with six walks. Diamond, meanwhile, has a 3.48 ERA and 13-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three starts at Rochester.

Rob Delaney was lost on waivers to Tampa Bay in late January when they Twins dropped him from the 40-man roster to make room for Dusty Hughes. Delaney failed to make the Rays out of spring training, but has a 2.45 ERA and 14-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 innings at Triple-A and will likely get a chance in Tampa Bay at some point this season. Hughes has been a mess so far, living up to his mediocre track record by allowing seven runs in seven innings.

Ron Mahay left the Twins as a free agent, signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers only to be released in the final week of spring training, and has latched on with the Diamondbacks at Triple-A, continuing a career-long pattern of having to prove himself anew seemingly every season despite consistently solid numbers. He might finally just be out of gas at age 40, but Mahay has a career ERA of 3.83 that includes a 3.49 mark in the previous five seasons.

Dennys Reyes beat out Hideki Okajima for the left-handed specialist role in the Red Sox's bullpen coming out of spring training, turning a minor-league deal into $900,000 in guaranteed money, and then got demoted to Triple-A one week into the season after four shaky outings. Reyes cleared waivers and accepted an assignment to Pawtucket, but the $900,000 salary is locked in whether "Big Sweat" gets called back up to Boston or not.

Yohan Pino, a right-hander the Twins swapped to the Indians for Carl Pavano in mid-2009, was traded to the Blue Jays last week for cash considerations. Pino was a mid-level prospect when the Twins dealt him, posting standout numbers in the minors despite mediocre raw stuff, and now he's organizational filler at age 28. Pavano was an impending free agent back then, but went on to re-sign with the Twins twice and has a 4.09 ERA in 326 innings since the trade.

  • pk

    Wilson Ramps trade is going to sting for awhile. I wonder if B Smith becomes a bit more gun shy on trades following this one. Hey Bill, it might not be too bad of an idea let a call or two go to Voicemail.

  • Doug

    Jason pridie homered for the Dodgers yesterday.

  • http://twinkietown.com SteveHoffmanSlowey

    Yeah I agree completely with the Pat Neshek decision as most of us do… Dusty Hughes is terrible And even before he pitched once with the Twins I knew I’d rather have DELANEY or NESHEK over him…. Perkins and Mijares is enough left-handed help out of the bullpen however, Perkins hitting 95 MPH on his FB was UNEXPECTED and has been better than anyone could have thuoght …so…..

    I Also thought The Twins should at least of Tried to Bring Punto back at around 850,000 K or whatever was SURPRISED they didn’t go that route I LOVE him as you’re 5th/ 6th infielder but hate him as an everyday starter but You’re right Tolbert needs to pick it up otherwise Punto would be our Best Middle INfielder Right Now (weird)

    I thought Tolbert would have been a alitte better up to this point

    I don’t mind the Diamond move at all though

    And so far Diamond has outperformed Bullock at a higher level while being invaluable as a lefty…

    Didn’t LOVE the trade but don’t regret it at all.

  • http://twinkietown.com SteveHoffmanSlowey

    Also I HATED the Punto Haters still do

    he is what he is a good defesnive switch hitter guy who is a great everyother day fill in or starter
    who can play like 4/5 postions

  • http://twinkietown.com SteveHoffmanSlowey

    Nishioka coming back at the end of May or whenever is completely our chance at going to post-season he needs to thrive and i unfortunately don’t see it at least not right away….

    Nishi our chances rest in you’re hands man (no pressure lol)

  • Dome Dog

    Strategic question after getting more baserunners thrown out at home plate. Why is it the 3rd base coaches responsibility to give signs to the batter and not the 1st base coach? Seems to me that the 1st base coach doesn’t have much to do out there while the 3rd base coach has to be thinking about (or should be)am I going to send the runner, knowing how fast he is, knowing the arms of the outfielders, the situation in the game, etc…Regardless, I still don’t get why we’ve seemed to have such an issue the last two years with guys getting thrown out by that much, but I just thought I’d ask some knowledgable baseball fans why some of those coaching responsibilities couldn’t be switched to allow the 3rd base coach more freedom to concentrate on getting baserunners safely around to score…

  • chris

    wow
    so many great guys now play for other teams…i am sick of that!!!

  • Paul

    Man, up until now I’ve been a Bill Smith apologist, but seeing the sheer volume of bad transactions in one place makes it hard to continue down that track. Giving up Delaney and Neshek for free in order to keep Hughes and now have an empty spot on the 40-man (it hasn’t been filled, right?) is mind-bogglingly dumb, trading all our catching depth for pennies on the dollar seems inexcusable, the Delmon trade looks marginally better than it used to, which upgrades it from awful to bad, giving up a legit prospect for a late rule-5 pick, and repeatedly trading away valuable pieces for bullpen help all seem pretty inexcusable to me.

  • mike wants WINS

    Hated the Ramos trade when it happened. Hated it even more when I realized they could just have Fuentes. Hate it, hate it, hate it. That said, I hope Smith doesn’t get gunshy about dealing prospects for proven players. The problem wasn’t making a trade, the problem was trading from a position without much depth, for a closer that wasn’t that much better than an average closer. I’d be thrilled if they dealt Revere for a legit MIF for example (though he’d never brint that much back).

    Hated the Hughes move. He’s not good, and its clear this is a Marcus Thames mistake all over again.

    I too would have signed Punto for around $1MM to be the backup. But, the Nishi move over keeping Hudson was a goo risk to take. It may not work, but it was a good risk to take. The mistake was in truting Casilla to be anything other than one of the 10 worst every day players in the game. I hated the Hardy move.

    The rest of the moves above, sometimes you just have to move on and let guys go on. Would I rather have some of those guys (rauch) than what they have? Sure, but if they had replaced them with younger guys from their system (whom they talk up like crazy but rarely seem to trust compared to awful veterans – hughes, I’m looking at you), I’d have been much happier.

  • http://www.mog.com/funoka funoka

    I can recall a time that a lot of Twins who left the organization also left the major leagues, so having ex-Twins sprinkled around the league is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • UGH

    Neshek to AAA . . .

  • Josh

    Interesting mixed bag of results.

    At $4M a year, I think the Twins were right to let Guerrier go, even if he is still showing success. While he’d be nice to still have, that’s more than a 7th inning guy should get.

    Fuentes has pitched well too, but $10.5M over 2 for a guy who isn’t going to close? Bleh. He’s no better than a guy like Capps, really and his age & injury history make this a bad contract.

    Crain is one I miss. I always liked him and I would have liked his RH power arm in the pen. Having him in the pale hose makes it hurt a bit more.

    I liked the O-Dog & Hardy, but I didn’t mind the Nishioka move at all. The busted leg hurts more than the small-sample early struggles from Nishi, but that fluke injury kinda offsets any glee the front office might have over correctly believing that Hardy (who I wanted to keep) wouldn’t be able to stay on the field. So far, Casilla has been a disaster, and it had made me miss Nick Punto which makes me shudder. I agree that bringing back Punto at under $1M would have been a good idea, especially with the injuries and piss-poor play by Casilla, Tolbert, et al.

    Most of the rest of the moves are pretty marginal. the successes will have minimal impact and so will the failures. Right now there’s no splashy hits, but I’m not sure there are any disastrous fails either. The biggest problem the Twins have is injuries and slow starts to key performers (Cuddyer, Young, Mauer, Morneau, etc.)

  • mike wants WINS

    Josh, Capps also cost you Ramos….the money is bad enough…but trading away a top catching prospect, when Rauch or Fuentes is sitting there (or Crain) for the same or less money….

  • Pedro Munoz

    Great article Aaron. I was just thinking about what some of these guys were doing now, and I got all my info here.

    I honestly can’t say that I am too upset about what the Twins have done. The Ramos trade is probably the biggest question mark, but given the context – needing a closer in a pennant race, fully committed to Mauer for years to come – I can’t get too upset about it. The things that get me the most (and still not that big a deal) are giving Harris 3.2M and giving up anyone to get Dusty Hughes.

    Putting that aside, can the Twins spend their day off having baserunning practice? Or at least a baserunning meeting? I understand if they players don’t trust the third base coach after years of Scott Ullger’s incompetence, but it is a different guy now. Although, after watching Morneau get thrown out at home, I wonder if this is a McHale/Kahn situation – managing to replace an extremedly incompetent guy with someone even more incompetent. Here’s the deal: when the runner approaching third is a former MVP who missed half a season with a concussion, don’t sent him into a potential collision at the plate. Unless the ball is stuck in a drainpipe or the outfielder has clearly broken his throwing arm, keep the runner at third.

  • mike wants WINS

    Pedro, ya, the Harris move was a real head scratcher, I keep forgetting about it, but it was truly bizarre.

  • liner

    @ Pedro. I hope we’re not even worse off at the 3rd base coaching spot. When I watched the reply of the Morneau send, I saw the coach waving him home until he rounded 3rd. Then, it looked like he realized his mistake and half-heartedly put up one hand as a stop sign as Morneau was running past him. Doh…

  • ML

    Casilla not only missed the stop sign at 3rd, he missed the steal or hit and run sign when he was on 2nd.

  • mike wants WINS

    Aaron, your most recent post on hardballtalk makes me cry.

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    It may have not been the best idea to let Fuentes go now that Nathan has had early season struggles. I think Nathan will bounce back very soon though.

  • adjacent

    Talking about guys that left the Twins, is it true what my eyes are seeing? No other than Philip Humber no-hitting the Yankees?!

  • JR Cigar

    Great article Gleeman. No Twins fan should trust any big time trades that Bill Smith is involved in. I don’t mind some of the rental moves (e.g. Fuentes) but just look at the marquis moves: Delmon Young (awful), Johan (awful), Hardy (awful), Ramos for Capps (worst of all).

    Gotta wonder how much influence Terry Ryan has with Smith these days. Ryan would’ve never made the Ramos trade. I hated the Capps-Ramos trade at the time, and hate it even more now. But that won’t compare to how much I will hate it five years from now, when Ramos is a household name in MLB.

  • rubytuesday

    My first post after years of enjoyment:

    Excellent work. This is just to say I appreciate it.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Maybe we got used to Terry Ryan pantsing other GMs (i.e. the Nathan trade) but I don’t think Bill Smith has been any worse than average as a GM.

    Garza threw a no-hitter, but his overall numbers are no better than the rest of the Twins current staff. Bartlett had one great year and has otherwise been mediocre. Those guys were so valuable that the Rays traded both of them. Delmon Young is the only player in that trade still with the team that traded for him.

    The Twins should have gotten more for Santana, but with his huge long-term contract and his injuries, you sure wouldn’t want to be the Mets.

    J.J. Hardy is a player the Brewers wanted to cast-off and traded for a Twins cast-off. Hardy was hurt much of the year and no better than decent when not hurt, and is now on the disabled list with his new team. His 2011 salary is $5.8M. I actually think it was a no-brainer to move Hardy.

    If you want to see the work of bad GMs, stroll a few blocks over to the Target center. The decisions made by McHale and Khan have been truly awful. You can question some of Smith’s decisions (and I do) but he is not in the same category as the clowns running the Wolves.

  • morts

    It’s still popular to rip the Santana trade (as JR does), and Santana is a notable omission from Aaron’s rundown of former Twins (Maybe he figures the Santana thing is old news and has been beaten to death.) Johan’s out until mid-season after shoulder surgery. 2008-2010 he’s gone 40-25 with a 2.85 ERA and 600 IP good for bWAR 10.0. But the Mets paid $56 million for that and they are on the hook for another $72 million over the next three years (plus an option year) for an aging injured pitcher. And though it isn’t Santana’s fault, they haven’t made the post-season since he became a Met.

    Meanwhile the Twins scrounged up 6.5 bWAR from Gomez, Hardy, and Rauch (direct or indirect dividends from the Santana trade) for about $10 million. And there is still time for Hoey and/or Guerra (wishful thinking) to contribute at the major league level.

    Did Bill Smith fleece the Mets? No. But I’d rather have what the Twins got at the price they paid, than what the Mets have gotten out of Santana for the price they paid. And the Mets are really going to suffer with that contract over the next 3 years.

    It’s easier to rip the trade if you think about all the wonderful (if only imaginary) players the Twins woulda/coulda/shoulda got in exchange for Santana. But if you just look at the actual players and salaries involved, I wouldn’t call it an awful deal for the Twins or evidence the Bill Smith is incompetent.

  • morts

    I was looking things up along the lines Pedro mentioned about Garza. Not claiming WAR is the be-all end-all, but it’s a good quick way to compare players over a few years. Since leaving the Twins, Garza is 34-34 3.87 ERA and 7.0 bWAR. Over that same time frame here are some Twins pitchers by bWAR: Baker 9.1, Duensing 5.0, Blackburn 4.4, Slowey 4.0, and Liriano 3.2.

  • mike wants WINS

    So Garza is better than all of them but Baker….

    What did Toronto get for Halladay?
    What did Seattle get for Cliff Lee?
    Hardy was not mediocre last year, a guy that posts WAR, and then just off the cuff says Hardy was mediocre? He was tied for 11th in SS WAR. Where will Casilla be this year in WAR?Right now, he’s minus .2

  • DK

    Since the offseason, it has been a common theme of Delmon apologists to point to the Rays trading away both Garza and Bartlett, as if them being traded and Delmon still being here makes the original trade better, and conveniently acting as if the Rays traded Garza and Bartlett for literally nothing. They did not, however; they got five players in the Garza deal and four in the Bartlett trade.

    It’s interesting to note that, in addition to whatever future value they get from those nine players, the Rays have already gotten 1.1 bWAR out of one of them, Sam Fuld, this season. The Twins have gotten 1.8 bWAR out of Delmon since they acquired him. So the Rays, in addition to the 13.5 bWAR they got out of three years of Garza and Bartlett, have already gotten over half as much value out of one guy they acquired for one of the guys they acquired for Delmon as the Twins have gotten out of three-plus years of Delmon.

    (Is Sam Fuld a 6-win player? No. But whatever they get out of him in the future, they’ve already gotten in less than a month a fair percentage of what Delmon has given the Twins.)

  • morts

    Mike,

    If your referring to me as “a guy that posts WAR” then you’re wrong about me saying Hardy was mediocre. I didn’t say anything about Hardy, except that he Gomez and Rauch amounted to 6.5 WAR for the Twins.

    What seems strange to me is that if Smith got robbed blind in the Santana trade, then you’d think the Mets would be giddy about how things went. In other words, if the Twins “lost” the trade, then you’d expect that the Mets “won”. But I’d argue that the Mets came out worse than the Twins did, and a quick measure of how they came out is WAR and salary. Are you contending that Minaya is a genius and the Mets got a great deal?

    As I said in my post, this is looking at the actual players involved.

    And as DK points out, in terms of WAR the Delmon trade was much worse than the Santana trade.

  • mike wants WINS

    You are right, I mashed two posts together. Sorry about that.

    As for the Santana trade, I think Smith was in a tough spot no doubt about it. But, I’d think you could get one sure fire, legit, great prospect or player in exchange for a guy like that (see Cliff Lee and Halladay trades).

    As for the Mets not being happy, it’s hard to be happy when your best players are all injured. Had Beltran been healthy, the Mets signed better free agents, and had they ridden Santana when he was healthy, they’d be annoyed with the future, but pleased with the past.

    I have no problem with trading Santana, because he really didn’t want to be here anymore, and he wanted too long of a contract. I have a problem with what they got in return. I said it then, and I’ll say it now, you have to get one sure fire prospect or current MLB player in return for a guy like that, and no one thought anyone was (except maybe Guerra) was a sure fire prospect.

  • mike wants WINS

    btw, I’m aware of the quality of the Young trade, but I’m called bad names and a hater if I post my thoughts on that one, so I just let others do it now. And, I keep hoping I’m wrong about it in the future, as he seems like a good guy, and I want WINS…..

  • Jake Depue

    Who knew she felt so strongly about Yohan Pino?

  • Pedro Munoz

    I have bought into the sabermetric numbers (I wouldn’t be reading Gleeman otherwise), but their main benefit is that they are a better measure of a player’s value than traditional stats. They should not be used in lieu of all other non-statistical factors. To evaluate a trade based on adding up the WAR for each player after the trade and then the players subsequently traded for the same players – without any of the context – isn’t a good measure of anything. Lets review the non-statistical factors in these trades:

    1) Capps/Ramos

    - we had an immediate need for a closer. Our potential trading partners did not have the same urgency. That cost us leverage and value in the trade. The fact that Ramos had no where to go with Mauer signed long-term also hurt us. Its like playing poker – everyone knew we weren’t bluffing and were going to trade Ramos. They just had to wait us out. Those factors won’t show up in any statistical analysis, but they absolutely impacted that trade.

    2) Santana/Gomez et al.
    - first, there were only a couple of teams that could even afford Santana, so our options were limited there. Second, Santana was an expensive one-year rental and then an opportunity to sign an even more expensive long-term (and as a result, very risky) contract. If Santana had a couple years left on a pre-free agency contract, his value would have been much more. But he didn’t – his contracts, current and future, dictated how that trade would work out. Again, that won’t show up in the WAR, but its absolutely relevant in evaluating the trade. I also don’t understand why you wouldn’t consider the fact that the trade worked out poorly for the Mets. They have an injured pitcher they owe a lot of money to. I don’t know how the Mets signing better free agents impacts this trade. How can you blame Smith at all for other unrelated decisions made by other GMs? Maybe they could have signed better free agents if they hadn’t spent so much on Santana.

    3) Hardy. Hardy was set to earn 6 million dollars and we needed to cut payroll. He may have had the 11th best WAR (still only 2.4) but he was hurt a lot (and is hurt again). You also have to wonder when a guy gets just dumped for spare parts by two different teams two years in a row.

    4) Young/Garza.

    I do think the fact that both players we traded for Young got traded again is relevant. I know they got players in return, but the mark of a really bad trade is that the player you trade away becomes a star. If Garza and Bartless were true stars and irreplaceable players, they wouldn’t have been replaced.

    As to the numbers. conceding that Garza isn’t as good as Scott Baker kind of backs up my point. Baker is a mid-rotation starter. Garza is also only ahead of Duensing in WAR because Duensing spent part of those seasons in the minors. If you look at FIP, Duensing is better as well. Pavano actually has a better WAR than Garza over the same period. Garza may be better than the rest of them, but he isn’t blowing them out of the water. We didn’t trade Roy Halladay. We traded a guy who isn’t any better or worse than who we have. In other words, we traded a guy we don’t miss. I’m not a Delmon apologist. I just don’t think the other side of the ledger is that great.

    I’m not saying that Smith is a genius. I’m not saying that these trades were great or even good. But you do have to take all of the factors into account, and when you do that the trades are all at least defensible. This isn’t Kevin McHale trading a bunch of picks for Marco Jaric and giving him a huge contract. Get some perspective.