February 16, 2012

Twins Notes: Mastroianni, waivers, options, and avoiding arbitration

Darin Mastroianni is the Twins' latest waiver claim, as they snagged the 26-year-old outfielder after the Blue Jays designated him for assignment to make 40-man roster room for Francisco Cordero. Mastroianni is too old to be a prospect and lacks the skill set to have big upside, but he's potentially a useful role player and could be a solid fit on the Twins' roster as a right-handed hitter with speed and on-base skills who can play all three outfield spots.

Mastroianni's patience and strike-zone control are great for a player with almost zero power, as he's drawn 82 walks per 150 games in the minors despite pitchers never being afraid to throw him strikes. He managed just four homers and a measly .379 slugging percentage in 325 games between Double-A and Triple-A, but also hit .283 with a .368 on-base percentage and nearly as many walks as strikeouts while averaging 54 steals per 150 games.

Ultimately most of his value depends on defense and in asking around about Mastroianni's range I've gotten mixed reviews, which along with about half of his action last season coming as a left fielder suggests he's probably not an elite center fielder. However, even if he's merely average in center field and above average in the corners Mastroianni looks capable of being a worthwhile backup behind two lefty-swinging outfielders in Denard Span and Ben Revere.

• To make room for Mastroianni on the 40-man roster the Twins designated reliever Esmerling Vasquez for assignment after claiming him off waivers from the Diamondbacks in early October. Vasquez has a mid-90s fastball, but it comes with awful control and not surprisingly he passed through waivers unclaimed. That means the Twins were able outright him to Triple-A, keeping the 28-year-old right-hander in the organization without taking up a 40-man roster spot.

Alexi Casilla and the Twins avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1.38 million deal. He filed for $1.75 million and they countered at $1.065 million, settling just below the midpoint. Casilla will be arbitration eligible again in 2013, but keeping him around for a decent-sized raise would be tough to justify unless he can finally stay healthy and consistently productive. He's never played 100 games in a season and is a 27-year-old career .252/.310/.327 hitter.

• MLB Trade Rumors put together a list of players on 40-man rosters with less than five years of MLB experience and no minor-league options, and the Twins' contingent is Casilla, Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe, Luke Hughes, Matt Maloney, and Jeff Gray. Perkins, Casilla, Swarzak, and Plouffe are locks to make the team and Hughes is a near-lock if the sprained shoulder he suffered playing winter ball in Australia doesn't ruin his chances.

Gray and Maloney lacking options is part of why the Twins claiming them off waivers back in October never made sense to me, with the other reason being that they simply aren't much good. Both pitchers are marginal big leaguers without any sort of real upside, so if the Twins need to trim any more players from the 40-man roster they'd seemingly be atop the list. And if not expect to see them both placed on waivers at some point between now and Opening Day.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports calculates MLB's average payroll at $98 million, which is exactly where the Twins stand after choosing not to spend $1 million on one of many decent relievers available. Obviously having an average payroll is much better than the Twins' spending during the Metrodome years, but if they're already merely average in Target Field's third year and have shed $15 million from last season's payroll falling below average soon seems inevitable.

Keith Law of ESPN.com ranked the Twins' farm system 14th among all MLB teams, pegging the strengths as "interesting high school bats and high-impact Latin American prospects."

• I answered some questions about the Twins over at Razzball.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode John Bonnes and I went through the roster for a player-by-player look at each hitter, from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau to Drew Butera and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, discussing where they each stand heading into 2012.

9 Comments »

  1. I agree with your complaints about the drop in the payroll. However, have you ever gotten a good read on the effect of moving from revenue sharing recipients. I understood that was happening about now, or was that determined last year?

    Comment by AM. — February 16, 2012 @ 6:12 am

  2. LaVelle commented on Oswalt, saying the FO DID talk to him, and nothing came of it, because Oswalt said he wanted to play with a team with a good chance of winning.

    This is pretty significant information, to me. Says the FO would be willing to pay $ above current payroll. And says they don’t view this years team as competitive. And it makes me wonder if Oswalt doesn’t have as much destination limitations (close to Mississippi) as reported.

    Regardless, it is sad the FO can’t make an argent with a free agent that they will be competitive this year. It tells me that the last two months of last year were actually important. Yes, they netted a #2 pick, but if they had won, say 70 games, it might have been easier to make re case to an Oswalt that with health, they could be competitive.

    I am crazy to be optimistic, I know, but I see a viable path for tr Twins to be competitive. Oswalt would make a big difference in those prospects, though.

    Comment by AM. — February 16, 2012 @ 6:29 am

  3. Averages are silly. What is the median payroll?

    Comment by mike wants wins — February 16, 2012 @ 8:58 am

  4. “What is the median payroll?” somewhere around the average, give or take, plus or minus!

    Comment by Mike — February 16, 2012 @ 9:07 am

  5. The massive new local tv contracts franchises in large media markets are signing is causing a pretty huge payroll bloat and is sending things back towards teams that are haves and have nots based on local revenue. Despite a huge ramp up in spending in actual dollars, the Twins could quickly drift back into being a revenue sharing recipient. Amazing.

    Comment by Josh — February 16, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  6. I see the front office budget issue as one of 2 possible realities. Either the Twins are using the poor 2011 season as cover to reduce the payroll in year 3 of the stadium with the express intent to become small market in following years (BOO!) OR they see no reason to spend money on a team with so many question marks. If the two ex-MVPs come back and push them into contention with the Tigers, then they decide to spend some money on decent players around mid-year.

    It still doesn’t explain the entirely baffling approach to bullpen building this year, but it’s the best way I can see to spin what we’ve seen so far.

    Comment by Kory — February 16, 2012 @ 9:37 am

  7. I second Mike Wants Wins’ comment about mean versus the median, since the mean is skewed as a result of the Yankees, Phillies, and Red Sex.

    To begin with, Passan’s mean payroll is not $98 but $97.3 million (using his projected numbers, it comes out to exactly $97.2666666 million). However, signing additional players before now and the beginning of the season may well push the mean to 98.

    Using these same numbers, the median payroll is actually only $91.5 million, the midpoint between the Braves and the Mets(!). The Twins are $6.5 million above this median, tied for 12th highest payroll.

    I am frustrated at the lack of a cheap right-handed reliever to back up the inevitable Zumaya injury or Capps ineffectiveness, but the median as a measure of central tendency paints a brighter picture than the mean.

    Comment by chamoman — February 16, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  8. thanks chamoman….

    I read another rant on CBS about teams with low payrolls, and how they should spend more money….who exactly should they spend it on? Becuase we’ve seen high priced players turn down the Pirates all offseason. If they sign a FA, that means the high salary teams spend less, unless people are arguing that the low salary teams sign crappy players for more money?

    Comment by mike wants wins — February 16, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  9. Thanks to Mike Wants Wins for asking my question and chamoman for answering it.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — February 16, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

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