August 29, 2011

Twins Notes: Waivers, trades, types, reinforcements, and Bernardo Brito

• Cleveland claimed Jim Thome off revocable waivers to facilitate last week's trade, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Indians were also the team that claimed Jason Kubel. No deal was struck and the Twins pulled Kubel back off waivers, in part because their asking price for him was much higher than for Thome and in part because the Indians ceased needing a left-handed bat after acquiring Thome.

Ron Gardenhire revealed during his weekly radio show that Thome and his agent asked the Twins to place him on waivers "to see what happened." There's speculation that Thome ideally wanted to land back in Philadelphia, where a playoff appearance is guaranteed, but he would have been merely a pinch-hitter for the Phillies. Cleveland's playoff hopes are slim, but Thome is playing every day for the Indians and homered Saturday on his 41st birthday.

Joe Nathan explained that he "would consider" waiving his no-trade clause for a Thome-like trade to a contender, but his contract complicates things. He's owed around $2 million for the rest of this season and has a $12.5 million option or $2.5 million buyout for 2012. To get even a mid-level prospect in return for Nathan the Twins would presumably have to eat nearly that entire $4.5 million and any move would have to be made by Wednesday.

Michael Cuddyer moving to first base has helped the Twins during Justin Morneau's lengthy absences, but it also appears to have hurt his free agent ranking. MLB and Elias Sports Bureau keep their official rankings secret until the offseason, but MLB Trade Rumors reverse-engineers the data and posts frequent updates. Cuddyer was projected as a Type A free agent until last week, when his listed position changed from outfield to first base and he dropped to Type B.

• Based on MLB Trade Rumors' latest projection Cuddyer and Kubel are both slightly below the Type A cutoff, but a lot can still change. It's an important distinction in terms of compensation the Twins would receive if they sign elsewhere, but also in terms of how many teams figure to pursue them. Carl Pavano was an example of Type A status hurting a free agent's market, as many potentially interested teams didn't want to forfeit a first-round pick to sign him.

• There are seven AL pitchers who qualify for the ERA title with an opponents' batting average above .290 and the Twins have three of them (Pavano, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn). In throwing 181 innings this season Pavano has allowed the most runs (103), hits (214), and baserunners (264) among AL pitchers and also has the league's second-lowest strikeout rate at 3.98 per nine innings. He'll be 36 years old next season and is owed $8.5 million.

Scott Diamond coughed up 10 hits in Friday's spot start versus the Tigers, becoming the fifth Twins pitcher to allow double-digit hits in a game this year. Diamond, Duensing, and Francisco Liriano have done it once apiece, Pavano has done it four times, and Blackburn has done it seven times in 26 total starts. Overall a Twins pitcher has allowed double-digit hits 14 times, which leads MLB. Not coincidentally their rotation has MLB's third-lowest strikeout rate.

• So far the Twins have used 16 players who weren't on the Opening Day roster and the only one of those 16 call-ups with an OPS or ERA better than league average is Anthony Swarzak. Seven are hitters and they've combined for 20 percent of the lineup's playing time while hitting .232/.281/.323 in 1,018 plate appearances. Nine are pitchers and they've logged 18 percent of the staff's batters faced while posting a 4.57 ERA in 187 innings (5.09 ERA without Swarzak).

Trevor Plouffe air-mailed a throw to first base over the weekend, but for the most part he's looked much improved at shortstop while subbing for the injured Tsuyoshi Nishioka. However, the destruction of Triple-A pitching that got him recalled to Minnesota hasn't shown up yet, as Plouffe has batted just .250/.293/.411 with an ugly 30-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 games since rejoining the Twins in mid-July.

Ben Revere swiped his 25th base yesterday, moving into second place on the Twins' all-time list for rookies. That sounds impressive, except the person atop the leaderboard is Luis Rivas, who stole 31 bases as a rookie in 2001. Not only did Rivas bat just .266/.319/.362 in stealing those 31 bases, he went on to steal a grand total of just 48 bases in his next 479 games. Of course, even .266/.319/.362 is quite a bit better than Revere's current .255/.301/.294 mark.

Luke Hughes went deep twice yesterday in his 73rd career game, becoming the first Twins hitter with multiple homers in one of his first 75 games since Morneau and Joe Mauer both did it in 2004. Before then the last Twins to do that were Corey Koskie in 1999 and Ron Coomer in 1996. Oh, and Bernardo Brito in 1993. Brito, who spent seven years at Triple-A for the Twins and totaled 164 homers there, managed just five homers in the majors.

• Mauer came off the disabled list on June 17. Since then he's played 61 games and Cuddyer has played 55 games. Since the All-Star break Mauer leads the Twins in batting average (.320) and on-base percentage (.380) while playing more games than anyone but Revere and Danny Valencia. Not everything must fit the pre-established narrative. Speaking of which, this is one of the rare times when Patrick Reusse and I are in complete agreement.

Dr. David Altcheck, who performed Tommy John elbow surgery on Nathan in March of 2010, provided a second opinion on Kyle Gibson's partially torn elbow ligament and agreed with the Twins' recommendation that he attempt to rest and rehab the injury before going under the knife. Gibson will miss all of 2012 whether he undergoes surgery now or in two months, so the delayed decision won't necessarily impact his return timetable much.

• Gardenhire finished ninth in a Sports Illustrated poll asking players which manager they'd like to play for, with Joe Maddon of the Rays holding the top spot at 14 percent.

• One big Thome is back in Cleveland, but 10,000 little Thomes are still in Minnesota.

Charley Walters wrote the most St. Paul article in the history of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

• Old friend Pat Neshek learned the hard way that there's a considerable difference between "designated for assignment" and "optioned."

Delmon Young has zero walks in 58 plate appearances since being traded to the Tigers.

• Since the All-Star break the Twins are hitting .247 with a .305 on-base percentage and .366 slugging percentage compared to their opponents hitting .297 with a .353 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage.

• Overall this year the Twins have been out-scored by 144 runs for the worst run differential in the league and the second-worst mark in baseball ahead of only the Astros at -157. Last year the Twins out-scored their opponents by 110 runs.

• Dating back to 2010 and including the playoffs, the Twins are 58-88 in their last 146 games.

• Here's how the race for the top draft picks in 2012 looks:

              W      L       GB
Astros       44     90     ----
Orioles      53     78     10.5
Royals       55     79     11.0
TWINS        56     77     12.5
Mariners     56     76     13.0
Cubs         57     77     13.0

They may have to call up Mark Madsen to shoot some three-pointers in late September.

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  • frightwig

    So, baseball players tend to want to play for veteran managers with some history of success, or Donnie Baseball. But not you, Buck Showalter.

    Btw, when did Don Mattingly start to look like a grandmother who retired to Florida?

  • Damian

    I’d definitely want to play for Joe Maddon if I was in the MLB. Delmon Young is also hitting .308 with 2 HRs and a .462 Slug %. Looks like he’s trying more in the field too if anyone caught some of Tigers/Twins games. Mauer has been playing well for the Twins. Just not well enough to net 23 million a year. That contract was just plain stupid from the day they signed it. I’d have no problem with him making 16-17 million a year though. Flat out overpayed.

  • Jeff

    I didn’t realize the Twins were actually within 1 1/2 game of KC. I stopped paying attention to the standings a few weeks ago. Oh my.

    I was at the Mark Madsen three pointer shoot-a-thon game. Sorriest excuse for a pro sporting event that you could ever hope to see. It would have been a sorry excuse for an 8th grade basketball game.

    Thanks for the Brito reference.

  • Scott

    Even still, Plouffe’s batting line (and Hughes for that matter) FAR outplays Nishiokas. Both plouffe and hughes deserve to be playing most everday for the rest of the season. Just sit alexi and nishioka.

  • BR

    Interesting re: Cuddyer. If you’re the Twins, and you WANT to keep Cuddy, you should be playing him in the OF to get him requalified as a Type A. That makes it more difficult for another team to sign him, easier for the Twins. If you don’t really want to keep him, you play him at 1st, where the comps are tougher and he’s more likely to be a type B, thus easier for another team to sign him away. Their usage of him this last month could be a clue about their FA intentions…

    The Madsen reference was great.

  • Kurt E

    Exactly BR. You either play him in OF and be prepared to sign him for what other teams are, basically max offer. Or he needs to be playing first and be a type B so that we get a draft pick, period. Most fans choose the ladder, it’s been a solid run for him, we got his best years at the right price, time to let someone overpay for a player past his prime.

  • Pedro Munoz

    Is there really going to be much of a market for Cuddyer? He’s going to be 33 next year. He plays below average outfield defense, which is only going to get worse with age. His offensive numbers are pretty good this year, but were crappy last year and were terrible three years ago. The average offensive Cuddyer season is nothing special.

    Is Nishioka hurt, or did he get benched?

  • adjacent

    Nishioka is with some sort of oblique problem or back spasms, depending on whom you read. Not that they are pushing too much for having him on the field, though.

  • morts

    The free agent outfield class is pretty weak. Currently the only Type A outfielders are Beltran, Swisher, and Willingham. I hope they play Cuddyer in RF everyday to bump him back into the OF category and Type A status–someone will forfeit the pick to sign him.

  • Brian

    It has been too long since I have seen a Bernardo Brito reference. Well Done Aaron!

  • James M.

    According to coolstandings.com, here is how the race for the top pick will end up:

    Astros 56-102 …
    Orioles 64-98 4
    TWINS 67-95 7
    Royals 69-93 9
    Mariners 69.5-92.5 9.5
    Cubs 70-92 10
    Marlins 71-91 11

    Now, don’t you feel better? We’re movin’ on up (or down, depending on how you look at it). Look out Royals, here we come.

  • DrJubal

    Brito actually had one more he hit over the fence in Salt Lake – bases loaded if I recall – but that may be my bad memory – anyhow-

    The runner leaving first thought the ball might be caught and went half way – and Brito, running with his head down, passed him between first and second and was called out.

    I think it went into the books as a single.

  • mike wants wins

    Why even have anyone run the bases on a HR at all anymore? If the games are too long, wouldn’t that cut time out of the game?

  • ML

    You gotta “touch ‘em all”, Mike.

  • Brian

    Seems like a moot point to me.

    Does anyone really think that Billy “whats positional scarcity?” Smith and Ron “my guys” Gardenhire AREN’T going to make resigning Cuddy to a multi-year deal their #1 offseason priority?

  • frightwig

    I don’t know. The $16m/2yr offer feels like a classic first step in the “well, we tried to keep him, but he was all about chasing top dollar” kabuki.

  • Brian

    Well if that is true then not trading him at the deadline was a monumental mistake (not that it wasn’t anyways because I doubt he’ll provide any value in his next deal, but at least one could make a logical argument.)

    There was a lot of interest, and anyone claiming the season wasn’t lost already at that point was dreaming.