February 6, 2012

Twins Notes: Relievers, starters, outfielders, draftees, and signing an MVP

Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com has the details of Joel Zumaya's one-year deal with the Twins. He's guaranteed $400,000 even if they cut him during spring training and that would turn into $850,000 if Zumaya is on the Opening Day roster, with another $900,000 in potential bonuses based on appearances. If he were to stay healthy and effective for the entire season Zumaya could earn a total of $1.75 million.

Of course, Zumaya hasn't stayed healthy and effective since he was a 21-year-old rookie in 2006, so when he signed my assumption was that the Twins would still look to add another veteran right-hander for the bullpen. At this point, however, that looks increasingly unlikely, as capable relievers continue to sign elsewhere for modest one-year contracts and minor-league deals with no indication that the Twins will snatch one up.

I wrote about the bullpen last week, noting that the Twins' impatience led to overpaying Matt Capps in an obvious buyer's market and is extra frustrating when combined with the apparent unwillingness to spend even $1 million more to address a clear weakness. Since then Todd Coffey signed with the Dodgers for $1.3 million and Chad Qualls signed with the Phillies for $1.15 million. They had plenty of chances to cheaply add a decent setup man and refused.

Terry Ryan said that he views the rotation as a strength, which might be true relative to the rest of the team but certainly isn't true relative to the rest of baseball. Last year Twins starters combined for MLB's fifth-worst ERA and while they might be healthier this time around the front four of Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, and Nick Blackburn made 104 starts in 2011. Jason Marquis replacing Brian Duensing is the only real change and he had a 4.43 ERA.

Clearly the rotation is capable of being better and healthier, but when Pavano is your Opening Day starter and both Blackburn and Marquis are taking the mound every fifth day it's tough to see the group as anything but below average even if you're optimistic about Baker staying healthy and Liriano being way closer to the 2010 version than the 2011 version. My blog-mate Matthew Pouliot projected numbers for all 30 rotations and has the Twins in the bottom five.

• Ryan and Ron Gardenhire have both made it very clear that the starting outfield will be Ben Revere in left field, Denard Span in center field, and Josh Willingham in right field. Assuming that Span is healthy after missing much of last year following a concussion, obviously. Trevor Plouffe is no longer viewed as an infield option and platooning his right-handed bat with the left-handed Revere in left field would make sense, but as usual with Gardenhire that's unlikely.

• With the No. 2 overall pick in June's draft and seven of the first 100 picks the Twins will have MLB's highest signing bonus allotment at around $12 million, according to Jim Callis of Baseball America. February speculation is mostly silly, but Baseball America's early ranking has Stanford pitcher Mark Appel first, followed by high school pitcher Lucas Giolito, high school outfielder Byron Buxton, Arizona State shortstop Devin Marrero, and Florida catcher Mike Zunino.

Camilo Pascual will be this year's inductee into the Twins' team Hall of Fame, which should please Patrick Reusse and the other local media members who've stumped for him in recent years. Pascual, who pitched in Minnesota from 1961-1966, ranked 20th on my list of the best players in Twins history.

Tom Kelly will also have his numbered retired by the Twins, which rendered the normally stoic former manager speechless during the Diamond Awards banquet last week. "Tom Kelly Day" at Target Field is scheduled for September 8, when he'll join Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, and Bert Blyleven as retired numbers.

Chris Colabello is one of the more intriguing minor-league signings in an offseason filled with them, as the 28-year-old first baseman joins the Twins after winning MVP of the independent Canadian-American Association. Colabello has hit .317/.390/.541 in seven years in the CAMA, including .348/.410/.600 with 20 homers in 92 games last year. Not only was he MVP of the CAMA, he was Baseball America's choice as player of the year in all independent leagues.

Luke Hughes injured his shoulder while playing back home in the Australian Baseball League and the Twins have pulled him from the Perth Heat's roster for the championship series.

Justin Morneau denied Nick Nelson's report that his wrist surgery stemmed from an injury that occurred during a clubhouse incident.

• Old friend Pat Neshek, who split last year between the majors and Triple-A for the Padres, signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles.

• Because the Twins are seemingly done adding players this offseason, it's worth noting that their current roster doesn't fare very well based on early projections.

• Finally, just a heads up: My annual series ranking and profiling the Twins' top 40 prospects will begin either later this week or early next week. I'm putting the finishing touches on it now.

15 Comments »

  1. This is an Organization that has sold over six million tickets the last two years. It has already sold over two million tickets this year, but it will not even spend a few more dollars to strengthen the leagues worst Bullpen.
    How can anybody take this Organization seriously?

    Comment by Dave — February 6, 2012 @ 12:31 am

  2. Terry Ryan should be fired! He wasted 4.5 mil on Capps and gave up a draft pick for him. He could’ve signed Coffey, Qualls, Harden (as a RP), and a much better SP than Marquis with the savings.

    Ryan is so old he has no clue what he is doing and how the market works. He must be kicking himself for spending like a drunken sailor for Capps, Carroll, and Marquis when he could’ve had all these guys for the minimum or minor league deals.

    Comment by Al — February 6, 2012 @ 6:21 am

  3. Wonder how many other special “days” they can add in August and September? Have to give fans some reason to go to the park since its unlikely the local boys will be competing for the post-season.

    But congrats to Tom Kelly on a well-deserved honor.

    Comment by JB_Iowa — February 6, 2012 @ 9:06 am

  4. This is all philosophical with the Pohlad family. If they wanted a good team on the field the right, or proper players would be signed. This is not a Terry Ryan thing. It is all on the family and the type of players that they want to bring in. This team will be one of weakest in all of baseball this year. Toward the middle of the year the new stadium effect with wear off.
    This is really hard to accept with the new stadium. But remember they tried to move the team to North Carolina few years ago, and they also were in favor of contraction.

    Comment by peterb18 — February 6, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  5. Random responses:
    - If the Twins take a high school pitcher with the #2 pick, I’ll drop my season tickets.
    - Harden’s name keeps popping up here, but no one has signed him yet, which likely means he’s either looking for too much money or waiting to show that he’s healthy enough (or until other pitchers get hurt in ST) to sign a later, larger deal.
    - I don’t actually like retiring Kelly’s number. Had a great run, got it done when it counted, and we love him for it, etc. But it’s not like he managed here for 30 years. Or, you know, even had a winning record. Call me a purist, but I’d save the number retiring bit for players, absent highly unusual circumstances.

    Comment by BR — February 6, 2012 @ 9:45 am

  6. I’m glad the Twins are finally retiring Earl Battey’s number 10. It’s about time…

    Comment by Adam — February 6, 2012 @ 10:07 am

  7. looking forward to the top 40 prospect list!

    Comment by jason — February 6, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

  8. I’ve concluded the Twins don’t build teams to contend. They build teams to be the best they can for as little money as possible. The reason you never hear the Twins making any big free agent signings is not because they don’t have the revenue streams — comparable teams and markets like the Mariners and Cardinals make these signings pretty regularly. The Twins build teams based on how cheaply they can do it. They never set a payroll amount because they are not willing to commit to a $120 million payroll if they can put together a team for $105 million. That way they keep fan expectations in check, so even if they can afford a big signing (or even a mid-level Oswalt-type signing), they won’t go after it because of the PR risk. They don’t play to win, they play to profit.

    I thought this franchise was moving in the right direction with Ryan. But $8 million on Marquis/Capps would’ve yielded either Edwin Jackson or maybe Oswalt for this season. Neither of those players are perfect but they both offer a lot more upside than the two we have. And let’s not forget about Slowey, who we really needed this year when you look at our rotation. The margin for error this offseason for the Twins was zero, and what we have seen has been a decent but completely insufficient upgrade from Bill Smith.

    I’ll be surprised if this team doesn’t lose 90 games, and 100 is a strong possibility if our main upside players (Morneau, Mauer, Span, Liriano) spent significant amounts of time on the DL. And with those four, that’s probably more likely than not, so a 90 loss season is probably conservative.

    Comment by Sean — February 6, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

  9. “They don’t play to win, they play to profit.”

    You are just now figuring this out?

    Comment by Dirleton — February 6, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  10. Al, Al, Al,…

    Terry Ryan is old, so therefore he has no clue??

    Oh, you youngsters….

    Comment by birdofprey — February 6, 2012 @ 2:54 pm

  11. The level of frustration with the Twins is at a high and will not go away soon. Give them a few years- M and M will be gone, but they need to be smart and aggressive with the cash saved.

    Comment by brad — February 6, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

  12. Sean–Excellent Post! I like the “I’ve concluded the Twins don’t build teams to contend. They build teams to be the best they can for as little money as possible”. That is well put!!

    Comment by peterb18 — February 6, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  13. Al, Terry Ryan is younger than you might think…………58

    Comment by spoofbonser — February 6, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  14. I know it does seem kind of obvious and in a way it is. It’s also arguably unfair to accuse the Twins of trying to make money, because every sports franchise does that. I was trying to figure out the right way to emphasize that the reason why the Twins don’t make big name signings isn’t because they don’t have the payroll. It’s because they don’t want people to figure out they actually do have the payroll to make a big signing like that once in a while. So even when they make their big signings (Mauer), they only do it to preserve the status quo. They will never go out and get the Pujols or Fielders, they wouldn’t have even done that if they had $40 million of extra revenue this year. The point I am trying to make is that they tell us it’s because of payroll, but it’s not — it’s because they don’t want to open that Pandora’s box with the fan-base.

    Comment by Sean — February 8, 2012 @ 7:08 am

  15. Sean,

    My frustration isn’t so much a lack of big signings (Fielder and Pujols would never have happened), just the lack of common sense signings. As others have said, they could have signed Oswalt, Lidge, Wheeler, etc. at reasonable prices and have overspent on moves that don’t improve the team (I’m still fuming about the Marquis signing). If they had made those moves, I’d be absolutely giddy about the upcoming season. Instead, I’m bracing myself for another 2011. This is basically the problem I’ve been having since the 2010 playoff debacle: It’s just blindingly obvious that this organization isn’t committed to winning a World Series (like we were promised Target Field would help out with), and the added payroll isn’t being put to good use. I know this is an obvious statement, but as long as the franchise is profitable and fans fill the stands, that’s just how they’re going to be run.

    Comment by Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) — February 10, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

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