August 23, 2011

Twins Notes: Thome, Oliveros, Blackburn, Swarzak, Neshek, and Hardy

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins placed Jason Kubel and Jim Thome on revocable waivers yesterday, which is no surprise and doesn't necessarily mean anything. Both impending free agents will likely be claimed, at which point the Twins can either work out a trade with the claiming team or pull them back for the rest of 2011. They won't have options or leverage, but trading Thome and to a lesser extent Kubel could still be worthwhile.

• It took the Twins about 72 hours to choose Lester Oliveros as the player to be named later in the Delmon Young trade and then less than a week to call him up, adding the 23-year-old to the bullpen while placing Nick Blackburn on the disabled list with a forearm strain. Oliveros' fastball velocity and minor-league strikeout rates make him intriguing, but his awful control is a big hurdle to get over if he's going to become a useful late-inning option.

• For the second straight season Blackburn has pitched horribly before revealing an arm injury. Last year he earned a late-July demotion to Triple-A by throwing 104 innings with a 6.66 ERA, returned a month later to pitch well down the stretch, and then had elbow surgery. This year he was very good through mid-June, posted a 7.01 ERA and .366 opponents' batting average in his next 11 starts, and exited Sunday's game with "sharp pain" in his forearm.

Anthony Swarzak will step into the rotation for Blackburn, which is a perfect opportunity for Swarzak to convince the Twins that he's more than just a long reliever. His miniscule strikeout rate and mediocre minor-league track record suggest he's been pitching over his head and will be overmatched as a full-time starter, but Swarzak has certainly earned the chance to prove the numbers are wrong with a rubber-armed 3.12 ERA in 66 innings.

J.J. Hardy going deep last night might have been the most inevitable homer of all time or at least the most inevitable homer since Young's first post-trade swing last week. Hardy now has 24 homers for the Orioles, which is the most by an AL East shortstop since Miguel Tejada back in 2006. Hardy has 24 homers in 383 at-bats while the Twins' entire infield, including everyone to play first base, second base, shortstop, or third base, has 37 homers in 2,328 at-bats.

• Gardenhire claimed yesterday that Hardy "was probably going to be non-tendered" by the Twins if they hadn't traded him to Baltimore, except they actually tendered Hardy a contract on December 2 and didn't trade him until December 9. Perhaps they already had the framework of a deal in place, in which case Gardenhire is telling the truth about their misguided plan to cut Hardy for nothing. Ultimately the only difference is the degree of the Twins' ineptitude.

• On other hand, Gardenhire saying that the Twins planned to non-tender Young this winter if they hadn't traded him to the Tigers is totally believable and equally justified. Much like with Hardy they got whatever modest return they could for Young rather than simply cut him loose for nothing, but the fact that they apparently viewed Hardy then and Young now in the same light is pretty discouraging from a player evaluation standpoint.

• Also discouraging was Hardy strongly hinting that the Orioles' training staff has done a much better job than the Twins' training staff, which unfortunately isn't difficult to believe given the Twins' incredible number of injuries and failures to meet recovery timetables this year.

• Old friend Pat Neshek has been designated for assignment by the Padres after throwing 25 innings with a 4.02 ERA and more walks (22) than strikeouts (20). Neshek has been hard to hit with a .216 opponents' batting average, but between the hideous strikeout-to-walk ratio and an average fastball velocity of 86.4 miles per hour he hasn't made the Twins regret letting him go for nothing during spring training.

Jim Callis of Baseball America crunched the numbers for the past five drafts and reports that the Pirates and Nationals led all MLB teams in spending at $52 million and $51 million while the White Sox were last in spending at $18 million. During the five-year span the Twins were 25th in spending at $24 million, which is largely due to having just one top-20 pick and zero top-10 picks from 2007 to 2011.

• Speaking of the draft, after last night's loss the Twins are in line for the No. 5 pick next year. Last time they picked higher than 14th was in 2001, when they took Joe Mauer first overall.

Jeff Sullivan of SB Nation reviewed Mauer's first career appearance in the outfield and found that playing right field seems pretty damn easy most of the time.

Ron Gardenhire's history with umpire Hunter Wendelstedt trumped his history with Danny Valencia last night, so hopefully the manager and his third baseman at least cracked a couple beers together in the clubhouse after their dual ejections.

Ben Revere's iffy routes, weak arm, and six errors in just 60 games in center field have been frustrating, but last night he made one of the best, most spectacular catches I've ever seen.

John Bonnes and I are slated to record the second episode of our "Gleeman and The Geek" podcast tonight, so hopefully you'll be able to download it here or on iTunes in the morning. If you'd like to ask us questions to be answered on the show or want podcast-related updates, follow @GleemanAndGeek on Twitter.

This week's content is sponsored by PosterBurner.com, where you can turn your photographs into high-quality custom posters.

  • frightwig

    If any reporter has the nerve to ask Gardy, “So, how is that need for speed at shortstop working out?” I’ll send him a box of cookies.

  • jokin

    MLB trade rumors speculates that Thome is very, very close to becoming a Type B Free Agent and presumably Kubel would be at least Type B. Given the level of incompetence demonstrated by the FO, I suppose it’s too much to ask that they handle this situation very cautiously or they’re likely to end up with 4 more relief pitchers with inflated WHIPS and ERAs instead of multiple top-flight draft picks.

  • http://jasonwinter.blogspot.com Jason w

    Is Oliveros just a younger Anthony Slama?

    Minor-league BB/K per 9:
    Slama: 3.8/12.2
    Oliveros: 3.9/11.2

    Granted, Slama’s done it with a 2.08 ERA while Oliveros’ is 3.21, and Slama’s been much better at AAA (2.59 to 5.73), but they seem pretty similar on the surface.

  • TMW

    The front office is definitely the dead money at the poker table lately in terms of talent evaluation, but the track record indicates that they get the picture on the value of draft picks and free agency.

    As said before, Kubel’s projecting as a Type B. They’re not just going to let that pick go for nothing. But I suppose I’ve been wrong before.

  • Dave T

    I agree, Revere’s catch last night was amazing. He turned and ran straight back towards the center field wall, leaped when he got to the wall, stuck out his glove as high as he could, and the ball landed in his glove. I can’t remember him looking back for the ball after he started running. Truly a remarkable catch.

  • Gendo

    On one hand that was a heck of a catch.

    On the other that catch alone will probably keep him in the majors far longer than he should be.

  • Pedro Munoz

    I realize that Pat Neshek just isn’t very good. But is he really worse than Alex Burnett?

  • Josh

    Gardy seems to be looking to distance himself from the Hardy decision, which is a smart political move, but does any fan really buy it? Getting rid of JJ Hardy was a move dictated by the manager and I think everyone who follows the Twins knows it.

    I expect Danny Valencia to get shoved out the door by our manager very soon, which would be a shame. Despite the defensive lapses this year, Valencia still shows real ability at 3B and shouldn’t get run out of town because he’s not one of our (overrated) manager’s “guys”.

    I’m very down on Ron Gardenhire right now. Can’t fill out a lineup to benefit his team (no balance in L-R hitters, put Revere in LF instead of CF, etc.), gets into stupid and pointless arguments with umpires, poor bullpen management…it’s been a BAD year for the manager too.

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

    Hardy has been very good this season and it looks like he finally found his niche in Baltimore.

  • Al S

    Hardy finally found his niche?He already proved his niche in Milwaukee as a powerhitting shortstop years ago!A bad season on the Brewers and an injury shortened season in Minnesota slowed him down a little.The Twins screwed up not securing him for this season.Either because Gardy’s an idiot or the team is going on the “cheap” again just like back in the Griffith days.Anyway you slice it…horrible move and we got no offense at all from our middle infield this year.I told my buddy the day they got rid of Hardy,what a dumb move it was and that he deserved a whole year to show what he had to offer.Look at him now,25 hrs this year!That would be leading the Twins easily.These stupid moves are becoming the norm for the Twins now,so we better get used to it.

  • Gendo

    Someone just mentioned that Felix Pie was released and pointed out that he and Alex Rios have pretty horrific OPS+ ratings this year:

    Felix Pie 52
    Alex Rios 56

    Drew Butera? 25.

    Felix Pie is lapping Butera.

  • Gendo

    Allow me to make my point graphically:

    http://i.imgur.com/vPwdz.png

  • http://jszym2write@yahoo.com joe szymonik

    What a depressing season. The avalanche of injuries must certainly be related to what appears to be a mediocre-at-best training staff.

    If there is a silver lining in these injuries, it is that the ineptness of the front office has been revealed. The injury avalanche augmented what was already a senseless talent drain due to stupid trades over the last few years.

    Throw in a few ill-advised signings and you have this year’s recipe for disaster.

    I wish Bill Smith and his team, including Ron Gardenhire, would “get it” and realize that they are very privileged caretakers of a very proud franchise. It’s time to perhaps find a new management team which is creative, can think outside the box, pays some attention to relevant stats, and understands the simple concept of buying low and selling high when trading.

    I am also tired of hearing that Gardenhire can’t get along with this player or that player. Geez, guys, grow up.

    Finally, from a purely entertainment business standpoint, this team has been boring and a pain to watch. If the Twins’ front office doesn’t change its approach, the team will lose market share to tractor pulls in Rice Lake.

  • Gendo

    I hear you Joe, but unfortunately I suspect the Pohlads will continue to be loyal to a fault. I mean, Terry Ryan made it clear towards the end that the game was passing him by but he wasn’t forced out, he left on his own terms and he hand picked his own successor.

    They really need a major shift in organizational philosophy as you say and a renewed focus on things like on base skills and statistical analysis.

    Sadly I just don’t think that’s coming. It’s a luddite organization in a lot of ways and they’re more likely to chalk this season up to bad luck than make any real changes.

    In a perfect world they’d bring in someone like Kim Ng, let her clear out the FO and pick her own manager. Realistically though we’ll be seeing a lot more of the same. :\

    So we’re back to hoping a blind squirrel finds a few nuts.

  • Scott

    The pohlads only care about meeting their bottom line. They dont care about winning. Alot of these moves can also be traced directly to slashing payroll. Keep in mind, this is the richest owner baseball.

    I just wish that the star players like mauer and morneau would blast the ownership in the media.

  • Josh

    Look, I like to slap around management as much as the next guy, but while the Pohlads might be collectively among the richest owners in baseball, the team is no longer owner by Carl, who was the richest owner in baseball. The money has been split up among the kids and while they are all fabulously wealthy by any standard I’ll wager they ain’t the richest even collectively any longer.

    And why would Mauer & Morneau blast ownership? Both got huge deals and right now, Mauer isn’t performing up to his. Morneau has been injured for most of 2 seasons. Blasting ownership would make them look like fools.

    I would rather see the media take a more critical look at the manager, who gets a free pass. Bill Smith has (justifiably) come under fire this season. But Gardy still gets a free pass even though he was strongly influential behind some of the Twins personnel moves and his on-field performance hasn’t been up to snuff. But he’s a good quote so writers would rather fawn all over him than take a chance ripping him and getting cut out of the loop.

  • Gendo

    I’d like to blast ownership for giving Morneau that contract. :x