November 28, 2011

Twins Notes: Capps, Perkins, Cuddyer, Kubel, Glynn, Valencia, and Chen

• Changes in the new collective bargaining agreement inked last week benefit the Twins in the short term, as offering Matt Capps arbitration is no longer required to receive a compensatory draft pick for the free agent. Under the old system they wouldn't have risked offering Capps arbitration because he could have simply accepted and locked the Twins into a one-year deal for around $8 million, but the changes basically equal a free, no-risk draft pick for the reliever.

Assuming, of course, that the Twins don't re-sign Capps themselves. Not only has Terry Ryan already ruled out Glen Perkins replacing Joe Nathan as closer, he's repeatedly talked about wanting the role filled by someone with previous closing experience and the Twins have made no secret about attempts to re-sign Capps. For the right price and the right role Capps would be fine, but re-signing him makes much less sense now that his leaving would net a draft pick.

Perkins can potentially be more valuable as an all-purpose setup man, so not handing him the closer job is fine, but Ryan's quotes about searching for an experienced closer bring back bad memories of the Twins talking up Capps as a "proven closer." I noted last week that the three best closers in team history each had zero experience before taking over as Twins closer, so you'd hope that and Capps' failure would have taught them to value ability over experience.

Nathan, who has the most saves in Twins history, was 29 years old and had one career save when they made him a closer. Rick Aguilera, who has the second-most saves in Twins history, was 27 years old and had seven career saves when they made him a closer. Eddie Guardado, who has the third-most saves in Twins history, was 30 years old and had never saved even 10 games in a season when they made him a closer. Closers are created, not born.

Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel also saw their free agent statuses change slightly as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, but unlike with Capps the end result is basically the same. If they sign elsewhere the Twins get two draft picks for Cuddyer and one draft pick for Kubel, and in both cases arbitration still had to be offered to be eligible for compensation. They'd gladly welcome Cuddyer or Kubel back on one-year deals, so the Twins happily offered.

Cuddyer's leverage is even stronger under the new system, because teams no longer have to forfeit their first-round pick to sign the Type A free agent. Instead the Twins would receive the same first-round pick and supplemental first-round pick for his leaving, but the first-rounder is now created from scratch rather than taken from a signing team. That should lead to an even stronger market for Cuddyer, but his odds of re-signing already seemed pretty slim.

Gene Glynn, a 55-year-old Minnesota native who spent the past five years as a scout for the Rays, is the Twins' new Triple-A manager. He hasn't managed anywhere since 1992 and never managed above rookie-ball, but Glynn spent 13 years on major-league coaching staffs under managers Don Baylor and Felipe Alou. Glynn also grew up a Twins fan, was Minnesota's first "Mr. Basketball" in 1975, went to Mankato State, and played seven seasons in the minors.

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that Glynn scouting Twins players for the Rays played a big part in the trade that sent Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa Bay for Delmon Young, and minor league director Jim Rantz revealed that the Twins tried to hire him multiple times in the past. Toss in all the glowing reviews from various big names he's worked with over the years and on paper at least Glynn is an ideal fit.

Rochester fired manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford after going 102-186 over the past two seasons, losing 90-plus games in back-to-back years for the first time since 1904. Pitching coach Bobby Cuellar held onto his job and will join new hitting coach Tom Brunansky on Glynn's staff. They won't have many top prospects to work with next season, but the Twins have signed a slew of minor-league veterans in an effort to make Rochester competitive again.

Daryl Thompson is the latest of those Triple-A pickups, agreeing to a minor-league deal with the Twins after spending the past six seasons in the Reds' system. Thompson was originally the then-Expos' eighth-round pick in 2003 and was sent to the Reds as part of an eight-player swap in 2006. Cincinnati's general manager at the time was Wayne Krivsky, who rejoined the Twins' front office as a special assistant and has brought in several of his former players.

Thompson is a 26-year-old right-hander with 17 innings in the big leagues and 711 innings in the minors, primarily as a starter. He was never considered a particularly good prospect and fits the Twins' mold as an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a low-90s fastball and good control. This year between Double-A and Triple-A he had a 123-to-40 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 4.26 ERA in 137 innings, allowing 18 homers and a .280 batting average.

• Deadspin posted a lengthy and not-safe-for-work article on Dan Lozano that included many unsavory allegations about the agent whose client list includes Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and other big names. Buried near the bottom of the piece was this Twins-related tidbit, which seems downright quaint compared to the various other details:

When Rodriguez signed with Lozano in May, it raised questions: Rodriguez's contract runs through 2017, and his endorsement deals are handled by another agency, so there's little a new agent could do for him. But Rodriguez is reportedly doing plenty for Lozano. According to agents familiar with the South Florida baseball scene, Lozano has repeatedly used Rodriguez as a recruiter for young talent.

Over the winter, even before Rodriguez made it official with Lozano, he was seen hanging out with a trio of highly ranked Miami-based prospects: the Orioles' Manny Machado, the Reds' Yonder Alonso, and the Twins' Danny Valencia. A South Florida-based agent says Rodriguez was the elder statesmen showing the kids a good time: parties, events, and just chilling at his condo. In February, all three left their current agencies and signed with Dan Lozano.

Deadspin alleges that Rodriguez got a piece of Lozano's agency in exchange for helping recruit Danny Valencia and others. None of which suggests Valencia did anything wrong, of course. Well, other than choosing an agent who's now being called "the king of sleaze mountain."

• Kansas City re-signed Bruce Chen to a two-year, $9 million deal, which seemed funny until Jon Heyman of SI.com reported that the Twins and Cubs "were the main other teams showing interest" in the 34-year-old southpaw. If true the Twins dodged a bullet and the fact that they even targeted Chen is disappointing. He posted some decent-looking ERAs, but throws in the mid-80s with poor secondary numbers, including xFIPs of 5.22, 4.79, and 4.68 from 2009-2011.

Javier Maymi of ESPN.com notes that Ivan Rodriguez and Dereck Rodriguez "became the first father-son tandem in history to play for the same team in the Puerto Rico winter league." Dereck was the Twins' sixth-round pick this year and Maymi reports that they're thinking about switching the 18-year-old from outfielder to pitcher. He debuted in rookie-ball and hit just .156 with zero homers and a 35-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29 games.

  • Bob

    That Valencia story doesn’t surprise me one bit. The way he carries himself on the field in such an arrogant manner probably explains why he would be in awe of A-Rod & sign immediately with a super sketchy agent.

  • mike wants wins

    I see nothing wrong with Valencia’s attitude. He’s a professional athlete, those guys are confident by nature. I’ve never understood issues with Garza, Bartlett, Slowey, Valencia (odd, they all went to college and are educated….).

  • Matt

    Bruce Chen? Evidently Terry Ryan hasn’t learned anything from the Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, and Livan Hernandez experiments. Why sign an aging pitcher who’s no better than even the mediocre pitchers you already have? I think it’s a good bet that Anthony Swarzak will have a better year than Bruce Chen.

  • birdofprey

    Funny,Mike, but apparently plenty of Valencia’s team mates have found something wrong with his attitude, at least according to reports. The notion that all these players have gained reps as attitiude problems has absolutely nothing to do with their level of education. Some pricks are “educated”, and some aren’t. So, Mike, if you’re looking for a pattern, try asking yourself if any of the guys you mentioned have consistently matched their production to their potential and to their paychecks. Now throw in the Asshole Factor, and there you have it. Your crap about Gardy having a problem with educated players is a tired and unfounded argument.

  • mike wants wins

    Garza has easily been one of the 15-20 best starting pitchers during his time, so yes….as for my “crap”, I’m not the first to bring it up. Seth has brought it up on his site, as something he’s heard in the organization….

  • B-Rabs

    Garza: Very successful, cheap while with the Twins. Success.
    Bartlett: Gardy loved Juan Castro, Nick Punto, (insert other old utility player here)too much to truly give him a chance. I don’t believe he was too expensive and was better than any SS since Guzman and better than any SS we’ve had since.
    Valencia: Been in the majors for 1.5 seasons…the first of which was wildly successful and I would argue exceeded expectations. Also, miniscule salary.
    Slowey: Got screwed over by a poor signing of Blackburn and thus didn’t have a rotation spot last year. Granted, his performance left MUCH to be desired last season, but for his career, I would say how he has performed is about where most people would’ve had his potential at.

    In conclusion…all four of those played up to expectations, and for the money they made, were incredibly solid players for the Twins. But, since they’re not playing it the “Twins Way” they’re gone (or close to being gone with Slowey and hopefully not with Valencia). And we’re stuck with Nishioka, Blackburn, and the memories of Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Jason Pridie in their place. Fail.

  • Dave T

    Mike, are you really defending “I only want to throw fast balls” Garza? He is just as much a head case as “Oh no I’m in a jam” Liriano. Twins got rid of Garza because he just. wouldn’t. listen. So did the Rays.

  • spoof bonser

    Good article on Lorenzo. Valencia is ok, but overrated.

  • mike wants wins

    Check out Garza’s page on Fangraphs….he’s a very good pitcher, one of the top 20-30 starting pitchers in MLB.

    The Rays “got rid of” Garza because they had 6-7 very good starters besides him, and got 5 players in return for a fungible asset. I would never suggest that just because someone was traded that they were given up on, or that the trading away team thought only badly of him.

  • TMW

    Also, Garza’s perception as being a guy who only threw fastballs was incorrect. He only threw fastballs 63% of the time. I think the Rays wanted him throwing even more heaters, upping it to 71%.

  • http://weareoffthemark.wordpress.com Bryz

    Considering Garza was throwing about 63% fastballs with the Twins, I don’t think the issue was that he was throwing too many of them overall. I think it was that he was relying on it too much to put away hitters, i.e. trying to overpower a hitter on an 0-2 count with a heater instead of mixing in some breaking balls or change-ups. I think I recall hearing/reading that the Twins had wanted him to throw more change-ups, but he disagreed.

  • Son of Shane Mack

    Bruce Chen? Evidently Terry Ryan hasn’t learned anything from the Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, and Livan Hernandez experiments. Why sign an aging pitcher who’s no better than even the mediocre pitchers you already have? I think it’s a good bet that Anthony Swarzak will have a better year than Bruce Chen.
    No doubt. There’s a few weakness with TR, and one is his love of veteran scrap heap mediocrities for starters.

    Garza has easily been one of the 15-20 best starting pitchers during his time, so yes….as for my “crap”, I’m not the first to bring it up. Seth has brought it up on his site, as something he’s heard in the organization….

    Yup. Look it up.

    Gardy’s not a terrible manager, but he tends to not like some players and then they run them out of town – even though they’re valuable players – Hardy, Bartlett, Garza, and clearly Valencia and Slowey are on that list too.

    If Gardy had his way, his lineup would be Nick Punto and 5 Nick Punto clones, Matt Tolbert, a clone of himself at 24 (basically Nick Punto), and Juan Castro. Maybe Micheal Cuddyer off the bench because he’s “versatile.”

    … and that team would lose 150 games. Maybe more.

    Gardy needs to be protected from himself, often, since he’s kinda of an idiot.

  • birdofprey

    Let me get this straight. The Rays got rid of Garza because they had alternatives. However, the Twins got rid of Garza because he’s “educated”?

    I changed my mind, Mike. Your ridiculous notion, backed up by Seth, who apparently has heard people in the organization say the Twins don’t like players with that there edurcation problem? That’s bullshit.

    Don’t confuse yourself regarding your original premise. Whether Garza is good is irrelevant, and you don’t know squat about the reasons the Twins, or any other team, has decided Garza, or Bartlett for that matter, should be put on the block. Neither do I, but I’m damn certain it has nothing to do with anyone’s attitude towards “education”.

  • D-Luxxx

    birdofprey – I find it funny that you attack Mike et all for citing Seth as a source of information in regards to the organizations handling of certain kinds of players. And considering that it is a “tired” argument, tells me that there are enough people in the organization stating this that perhaps it IS an issue. Where there’s smoke there’s fire, right?

    You however, throw out “reports” about Valencia’s attitude and don’t say where they come from. How about some backing from your “reports” stating that the players have a problem with Valencia’s attitude…

  • mike wants wins

    I never said they got rid of Garza for any reason. I said I never understood the issues with him. Those are two very different things. As for the Rays, you are right, I did state why they made the move. I’m only going off their words.

    But I’ll just not bring up the college thing again, even if there are sources telling it to Seth (and I think LaVelle mentioned it, but I could be wrong about that). But I’ll stop bringing it up.

    More important to me, is that Gardy seems to like guys that have no attitude at all, and that decreases the talent pool. No team that won’t sign high priced free agents and that won’t trade for players in their prime earning years can afford to limit the talent pool.

    But if it will increase the quality of the discussion here, I just won’t bring up the college thing here again (I’ll do my best to remember that, remind me about this post if I forget).

  • BR

    Switching back to another topic touched on by AG – I just experienced a brief but brilliant epiphany. There’s been much hand-wringing about whether to bring Cuddy back. $10M per for 3+ years is too much, most agree. BUT! What if he comes back as the regular RF, back-up 1Bman, AND closer?! We’ve already seen him pitch. His stuff is at least as good as Everday Eddie’s. And for those games where his arm is shot because he’s thrown back-to-back, you could DH him.

    $10M/yr for an All-Star RF/Closer would be a bargain, imo.

  • birdofprey

    D-Luxxx, the reporters from the Star Tribune have mentioned perceptions related to Valencia many many times. Are you seriously going to tell me you’ve never heard those reports before?

    As for the assertion that Mike made about certain organizational folks that are biased against educated players? First, I’m skeptical that Seth ever “reported” that he has heard directly from any Twins official that this is the case. Second, even if he did, who else did? Valencia has been called out by many more than one report.

    I attacked the argument Mike made, specifically on the “education” crap. ANd Mike is the only one I can recall repeating this tired argument, which tells me you’re misinformed in thinking that there IS an issue. Perhaps there is, as you say, but I find it presumptuous for anyone to assert it.

  • birdofprey

    Mike, I came down hard on your conclusion on the college thing. I won’t mention it again either. Unless you do.

    And see how much more quality we can have in our discussions when we don’t draw unsupportable conclusions? For example, you say that Gardy SEEMS to like guys that have no attitude at all.

    I mean, who could argue with that?

  • thegeneral13

    I don’t think it’s education or attitude that Gardy cares about, it’s effort. He would rather have less talented players who achieve 100% of their ability than more talented players who only achieve 75%. What frustrates me (and others) is that if 75% of X > 100% of Y you should choose X, but Gardy often prefers Y.

  • birdofprey

    I would tend to think the same thing general. Except for those exceptions like Casilla. Maybe Liriano. Possibly Mijares. Perhaps Mauer. Some think Morneau. Optimal talent, yet sub-optimal performance, but due to attitude? Effort? Bi-lateral weakness?

    I just think it’s complex and fluid out there. Does Casilla have a bad attitude? Is Mauer not tough? We as fans may not be as good at judging all this stuff as we’d like to think.

  • Son of Shane Mack

    More important to me, is that Gardy seems to like guys that have no attitude at all, and that decreases the talent pool. No team that won’t sign high priced free agents and that won’t trade for players in their prime earning years can afford to limit the talent pool.

    Good point. I don’t know what Gardy looks for in players, but some people he just doesn’t seem to like. And he doesn’t like to play/pitch those guys, even if they’re talented or better than someone else.

    I don’t think it’s education or attitude that Gardy cares about, it’s effort. He would rather have less talented players who achieve 100% of their ability than more talented players who only achieve 75%. What frustrates me (and others) is that if 75% of X > 100% of Y you should choose X, but Gardy often prefers Y.

    I had never thought about this, but it might be true. The real sad fact is, with some of Gardy’s favorites 50% of Y > 110% of X. Still he prefers X.

    Example?

    75% of Jason Bartlett > 110% Juan Castro. Yet it took TR trading him to get him out of the lineup.

    Like I said, I think if Gardy had his pick and cloning technology, he’d play 5 Nick Punto clones, his own clone, Juan Castro, Matt Tolbert, and Micheal Cuddyer – and lose 150 Games a year.

  • haplito

    “Educated”?

    Be serious. Garza went to Fresno State.

  • MC

    Now we’re taking shots at Morneau Birds??

    I think the beef with Gardy is not educated or not, just the poor logic of the decisions as expressed in his line-up construction, roster influence, and a track record of having certain players perpetually in the dog house and the utter refusal to do the same for “his” guys.

    I like Gardy as a personality but I do think he has some limitations. I think TR is back as much to manage Gardy as to construct a better roster.

  • burntside

    Birdofprey, did you go to college?