November 1, 2011

Twins Notes: Maloney, Gray, roster spots, and free agent rankings

• Last week I commended the Twins for trimming a half-dozen replacement-level players from the 40-man roster, but yesterday they filled two of the newly created spots with others teams' replacement-level players. By virtue of a 63-99 record the Twins have the No. 2 waiver position and it makes sense for them to take advantage of that as teams remove players from 40-man rosters and pass them through waivers in bunches to prepare for the offseason.

Unfortunately neither Matt Maloney nor Jeff Gray possesses any kind of significant upside or has a particularly intriguing track record, and for the Twins to give 40-man roster spots to the caliber of talent they could simply sign to minor-league contracts is strange. Last offseason they made similar moves to add Eric Hacker and Dusty Hughes to the 40-man roster and the results were predictably poor based on their underwhelming resumes.

Maloney, who was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati, is a former third-round pick whom the Reds acquired from the Phillies for Kyle Lohse in mid-2007. He's a 27-year-old left-hander with a 5.40 ERA in 80 career innings as a major leaguer and averaged just 87.1 miles per hour with his fastball. Maloney has very good control and some nice-looking ERAs in the minors, but he's an extreme fly-ball pitcher and doesn't miss many bats.

Maloney served up 18 homers through his first 80 innings in the big leagues, which works out to 2.0 homers per nine innings and would be the highest homer rate in Twins history. He also gave up 19 homers per 200 innings at Triple-A, which is a lot for an experienced pitcher in the power-deflating International League. Along with all those homers Maloney also managed just 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the majors and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A.

Gray is a 29-year-old reliever joining his fifth team in two years. He was originally picked by the A's in the 32nd round of the 2004 draft and they traded him to the Cubs in a 2009 deal for Aaron Miles and Jake Fox. He left the Cubs as a minor-league free agent and signed with the White Sox last offseason, only to be claimed off waivers by the Mariners in May of this season. Bouncing around doesn't preclude Gray from having upside, but his track record isn't pretty.

Gray has spent at least some time in the majors during each of the past four seasons, logging 89 total innings with a 4.57 ERA, 50-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .286 opponents' batting average. In theory averaging 93.5 miles per hour with his fastball and 86.7 miles per hour with his slider should allow Gray to miss more bats than Maloney, yet that hasn't been the case in the majors so far and he had just 142 strikeouts in 199 innings at Triple-A (with a 3.94 ERA).

Maloney and Gray aren't totally without value and certainly every team needs pitching depth, but for the Twins to choose them as waiver targets and give them each 40-man roster spots is hard to understand. Maloney is a 27-year-old fly-ball starter with a high-80s fastball and Gray is a 29-year-old journeyman reliever with iffy control and few strikeouts. Every winter dozens of pitchers just like them are available for minor-league deals that don't require 40-man spots.

• MLB Trade Rumors got its hands on the free agent compensation ratings ahead of the official release and the Twins' free agents are ranked as expected. Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps qualified as Type A and Jason Kubel qualified as Type B. Capps' rating is irrelevant, because in order for the Twins to receive compensation for him leaving they'd have to offer him arbitration first. And if they did that he'd simply accept and force them into a one-year, $8 million deal.

Obviously the Twins would welcome both Cuddyer and Kubel back on one-year deals, so they'll be offered arbitration and will each decline. Any team signing Cuddyer would have to give their first-round pick (or second-round pick, if their first rounder is in the top 15) to the Twins, who'd also receive a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. Teams are able to sign Kubel without losing a draft pick, but the Twins would receive a supplemental pick if he leaves.

MLB's compensation system has always vastly overrated relievers, which is why Capps is rated Type A while superior players like Kubel, Mark Buehrle, Aramis Ramirez, and Hiroki Kuroda are Type B. Because of the disconnect between ratings and actual value some Type A players have their free agent options limited when teams don't want to forfeit a pick to sign them, but in Cuddyer's case contenders are likely willing to surrender a pick as part of a multi-year deal.

• We're recording this week's episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" a day later than usual, so if you have any questions, comments, or topic ideas for us to cover on the show feel free to post them in the comments section or send them to me via Twitter.

24 Comments »

  1. At the risk of being reactionary, the beginning of this offseason is really f****ng annoying.

    Comment by Brandon Warne — October 31, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

  2. I think Matt Maloney when healthy can be an affective big league pitcher.

    Question for “Gleeman & the Geek” podcast would be this:

    Do you see a realistic possibly of Mike Radcliff being offered a GM job with a different organization this off-season? And if so how much would his loss hurt the Twins?
    Rob Antony, Deron Johnson, Terry Ryan are still around but…. i have a feeling this would really hamper the Twins.

    Comment by steve hoffman — November 1, 2011 @ 1:08 am

  3. So far in this young offseason, these moves show that we can perhaps expect the ‘Geek’s worst nightmare:

    The Twins have learned nothing.

    Comment by Steve J — November 1, 2011 @ 5:22 am

  4. …of course, unlike Major League contracts these moves are essentially “undoable”, but it kinda of just sets the tone for an offseason of longshots and reclaimation projects alla-Hooey, Pondson, and Batista….

    While it seemed that there would be some hope in that the Twins took warm-bodies like Rivera and Tolbert off the 40-man, these moves give pause to the idea that they will just try out another group of Tolberts and Riveras as a part of the solution.

    At least if the twins were going to make moves like this, it ought to be in the infield where good glove guys who cannot hit are easy to find. The current cadre of prospective Twins infielders simply can’t do much of either right now.

    Comment by Steve J — November 1, 2011 @ 5:50 am

  5. I’m perpetually perplexed by the lack of progressive thinking inside of the Twins front office. It saddens me that while many other teams have “outside the box” thinkers in authoritative front office positions (including Baltimore’s alleged hiring of Tony LaCava), the Twins continue with the status quo. Most all of their moves appear to show the over-reliance on pitcher “fluff” stats like Wins, ERA, and Saves vs. the high velocity/higher risk-reward arms. The fact that they drafted Billy Bullock & then traded him less than 2 years later scares me. Taking “strike throwing, low velocity, predictably average” pitchers in the draft, free agency, and trades does not demonstrate any progress to me. Couple that with their “questionable” view on valuing infield defense and it’s hard for any knowledgeable fan to have much hope in the near-term.

    The Mauer contract made it more difficult for the front office to allocate their resources ($), but that does not excuse the staff for the myriad of poor trades/transactions that they have made.

    ~Twins Territory needs a new Chief

    Comment by Paulie — November 1, 2011 @ 8:35 am

  6. If I hear “we can’t add that guy because our 40 man roster has no room” and these guys are on the roster, we have a problem. I’m just going to assume the best, though, and assume that won’t be the case. I have no idea why I’m making that assumption, because that is the way they’ve acted in the past…..but I guess I’m just in a good mood today.

    Now that they are in the system, can they take them off the 40 man, and expose them to waiver claims? I mean, what other team is going to claim them? And if you could do that, why don’t more teams make claims? There must be some rule here I don’t get.

    Comment by mike wants wins — November 1, 2011 @ 8:52 am

  7. I’m not a stats expert but a “.286 opponents’ batting average” doesn’t seem like it is a very good sign. I’d much rather they bring in some guys like Broxton (.221) or Wuertz (.229) that have shown something (missing bats) but have been injured on buy low contracts.

    Comment by Mike — November 1, 2011 @ 9:06 am

  8. I’m curious to know the answer to Mike Wants Wins comment. Can we place these guys on waivers later this Winter, or are we required to hold on to them for a certain period of time?

    I agree with Aaron in his saying that they aren’t totally without value. I wonder if this will lead to us placing Burnett on waivers?

    Comment by James — November 1, 2011 @ 9:09 am

  9. On Seth’s site, he states that they would need to be waived, and so could be claimed. Not sure if there is any kind of time limit. Again, they are pretty much replacement level (or worse), so if they are claimed, oh well.

    Comment by mike wants wins — November 1, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  10. Are we sure Cuddyer won’t take arbitration? If some team has to give up a first rounder, are they really going to give him 3 years/$30M? And is that better than the 1 year/$13M he might be able to get in arbitration?

    Or are my numbers way off?

    Comment by hansob — November 1, 2011 @ 10:57 am

  11. Yes, they could be waived again. The Twins were able to pick them up on condition that they put them on the fourty precisely because their former teams waived them.

    Comment by Steve J — November 1, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  12. I guess I just don’t get it. Those guys would have cleared waivers anyway….no?

    And if not, I don’t see why they were so desirable. They are utterly the exact type of arms available in minor league free agency.

    Why not take a fricking chance on a high-upside arm in the Rule-5 draft or something?

    Again, I realize this is reactionary, but everyone has their tipping point. A 99 loss season might just be mine. This NEEDS to be an offseason of wholesale change.

    Comment by Brandon Warne — November 1, 2011 @ 11:27 am

  13. Podcast question- What do the Twins do with Nick Blackburn going forward? He has 2 guaranteed years left on his contract worth $10.25 million with a thrid year team option for $8 million. I don’t see him having much value at all in the bullpen with his K rate. Would anyone be willing to trade for him just to get his money off the books?

    Comment by jama — November 1, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  14. Are we sure Cuddyer won’t take arbitration?

    It would be a bad financial move for Cuddyer to accept arbitration. Arbitration would give him in the range of $12-$13 million and he would have a good chance of being inflicted with Type A status next season and a year further into decline. On the Free agent market, he’s looking at three or four years at around 11-13 million, per.

    The worst thing that can happen to a free agent is to hit the market too far in their decline while at the same time having their name show in the Elias Rankings with a big, scarlet ‘A’ right by it.

    An example of this would be Orlando Cabrera a few years back.

    Comment by Steve J — November 1, 2011 @ 11:29 am

  15. Question for John Bonnes. Do you REALLY believe Cuddyer is going to give over 10 million dollars worth of value 2 and 3 years down the road? Seriously man. Seriously…..time to move on if you ask me.

    Comment by ewen21 — November 1, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  16. I know I will be laughed out of town for this comment, but here it is: Offer Capps arbitration. Sure, if he accepts, the Twins are on the hook for possibly $8 million for 2012. If he performs well for a few months, he could be traded for a couple of prospects.

    On the other hand, if Capps declines arbitration and signs with another team, the Twins would get that team’s first draft pick.

    It doesn’t sound that bad. Have I covered all possible scenarios?

    Comment by jfs — November 2, 2011 @ 6:41 am

  17. jfs, you forgot the very real possibility that he will completely suck balls and no one will want him (including the Twins). There is absolutely no way that another team is willing to sign Capps after the Twins offer arbitration, and Capps and his agent know it. If the Twins offer arbitration, he takes it. That’s a no-brainer.

    Comment by D-Luxxx — November 2, 2011 @ 7:08 am

  18. It doesn’t sound that bad. Have I covered all possible scenarios?

    No, but you included a scenario that just won’t happen: that Capps would actually turn down the arbitration offer.

    Arbitration means a certain raise from last year, and that award would be in the range of 8 million -millions more than what he would get in an entire two-year deal on the free agent market. It would be a no-brainer for him to accept. and even if he didn’t, he’s not so valuable a player that anyone would try to sign him before May 1st, when arbitration costs expire.

    Committing to a mediocre closer with a plummeting strikeout rate in hopes of trading him after a few lucky months is frought with pitfalls:

    *The fact that the Twins would spend 3-4 million over three months while he was on the roster awaiting trade (you could have bought two decent middle relievers for that for a full season)

    *The possibility that his peripherals decline further, or becomes injured, or his lucky BABIP just tanks.

    *The fact that while the Twins do need relievers (and capps would be fine on a one-year deal for maybe $2m), they can’t afford an overpriced “closer” with all the holes they have.

    Comment by Steve J — November 2, 2011 @ 7:16 am

  19. Of course, with all of that said. The Twins may be in the market for a “proven closer” so Capps may be the man… Puke.

    Comment by D-Luxxx — November 2, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  20. Call me crazy, but I think the Twins should only offer contracts and/or arbitration to players that they want on the team.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — November 2, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  21. Come on Pedro, that would make too much sense.

    Comment by D-Luxxx — November 2, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  22. “It would be a bad financial move for Cuddyer to accept arbitration. Arbitration would give him in the range of $12-$13 million and he would have a good chance of being inflicted with Type A status next season and a year further into decline. On the Free agent market, he’s looking at three or four years at around 11-13 million, per.”

    If he can get that, he should take it, but I’m thinking his best offer (especially with the first round pick attached to him) might be 3 years/$30M. If I’m a GM, I have a hard time giving up a first round pick for the right to sign a historically average, aging RF/1B for $10M a year. Maybe if a team also signs another, better type-A guy and only has to give up a 2nd rounder to get Cuddy, it might make more sense.

    If he takes arbitration, he gets $13M this year. And the only way he gets offered again after the 2012 season is if he’s REALLY good in 2012, since at that point, the Twins would have to risk him accepting for $15M+. Then he’d have the choice of a $15M+ 2013 salary, or going into free agency with two good years in a row.

    And if he’s just good or ok in 2012, he’d get $13M for 2012, plus he’d go into free agency after next year without the first round tag. Not that he’d get $30M over 3 years after just an ok 2012, but 2 years/$17M would definitely be in play. And then you’re looking at a total of 3 years/$30M, which is basically what I think he’d get right now.

    Now if he sucked or got hurt in 2012, that’s a different story.

    Comment by hansob — November 2, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  23. Cuddy will be a Philly guy….3-4 years at $12MM per year…I think.

    Comment by mike wants wins — November 2, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  24. Even if Cuddy takes arbitration

    GREAT thats awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by steve hoffman — November 2, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

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