July 30, 2014

Twins Notes: Morales, Pryor, Guerrier, Pressly, Worley, and Buxton

kendrys morales twins

• The money meant nothing to a team $20 million under budget, but signing Kendrys Morales carried more downside for the Twins than commonly believed because his performance was tough to predict after sitting out the first two months of the season and the move meant stalling Josmil Pinto's development in favor of a potentially inferior player. With that said, no one could have expected things to go as badly as it did.

While batting almost exclusively fourth or fifth in the lineup Morales hit .234/.259/.325 with one homer and a 27/6 K/BB ratio in 39 games, posting a lower OPS in a Twins uniform than, among others: Tony Batista, David McCarty, Nick Punto, Mike Lamb, Clete Thomas, Juan Castro, Adam Everett, Rondell White, Terry Tiffee, Denny Hocking, Tommy Herr, Henry Blanco, Matt Tolbert, Luis Rivas, and Aaron Hicks.

To the Twins' (partial) credit they cut bait instead of stubbornly sticking with Morales for the rest of the season and to my surprise they actually got another team to assume the remainder of his contract and give up a potentially useful player in return. By trading Morales to the Mariners the Twins save about $4 million of his $7.4 million contract, but their lack of spending means the money probably won't be re-invested in the team anyway.

Where they could get value is from Stephen Pryor, a 25-year-old reliever whose average fastball clocked in at 96 miles per hour before shoulder surgery. So far Pryor has struggled since coming back, with a big drop in velocity and poor Triple-A numbers, but there's still some potential there. They basically paid $3 million for 39 terrible games from Morales, the motivation to demote Pinto to Triple-A, and a post-surgery version of a once-promising reliever.

Matt Guerrier's decent-looking 3.86 ERA masked a terrible 12/10 K/BB ratio in 28 innings and similarly underwhelming raw stuff. Guerrier is one of the most underrated pitchers in Twins history thanks to a six-year run as a durable, reliable setup man during his first go-around in Minnesota, but the reunion worked out only slightly better than this year's other reunions with Jason Kubel and Jason Bartlett.

Ryan Pressly replaces Guerrier in a middle relief role after posting a 2.98 ERA and 63/21 K/BB ratio in 60 innings at Triple-A. Pressly spent all of last season on the Twins' roster as a Rule 5 pick and held his own as a 24-year-old, but his control is shaky and his strikeout rate hasn't matched his fastball velocity. He has a whole lot more upside than Guerrier, however, so the switch makes plenty of sense even if it pained the Twins.

• Here's a list of the starting pitchers the Twins have used this season while refusing to call up 24-year-old prospects Alex Meyer and Trevor May from Triple-A:

Phil Hughes
Kevin Correia
Kyle Gibson
Ricky Nolasco
Sam Deduno
Yohan Pino
Mike Pelfrey
Kris Johnson
Anthony Swarzak
Logan Darnell

This season the Twins have used a pitcher younger than 25 years old for a grand total of 12.1 innings, all by reliever Michael Tonkin. Meanwhile, across MLB there have been 447 games started by pitchers younger than Meyer and 504 games started by pitchers younger than May.

Vance Worley, whom the Twins gave away for nothing this spring without needing to for any real reason, tossed a complete-game shutout Monday and is now 4-1 with a 2.54 ERA and 30/8 K/BB ratio in 50 innings for the Pirates. When the Twins acquired Worley from the Phillies as part of the Ben Revere trade he looked like a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter and now at age 26 he looks like that again in Pittsburgh.

• Old friends Danny Valencia and Liam Hendriks were traded for one another Monday, as the Royals and Blue Jays swapped role players. Valencia proved stretched offensively and defensively as an everyday third baseman for the Twins, but has settled into a part-time role mostly facing left-handed pitching. Hendriks continues to thrive at Triple-A and struggle in the majors while frequently finding himself on the waiver wire since the Twins gave up on him in December.

• Because no Twins prospect is ever safe, both Kohl Stewart and Jose Berrios have been shut down with shoulder injuries. That means four of the top five prospects in my preseason rankings have been sidelined by an injury.

Byron Buxton is healthy again after missing nearly half the season with a wrist injury and has hit .378 with a .472 on-base percentage and .622 slugging percentage in his last 10 games at high Single-A.

Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (with the help of Glen Perkins) did a nice job laying out the disconnect between Kurt Suzuki's defensive reputation and defensive numbers.

Oswaldo Arcia smashed his bat over his knee, Bo Jackson-style, after a recent strikeout, but with 183 strikeouts in 151 career games perhaps he shouldn't be blaming the equipment.

• Since signing him last season the Twins have a .346 winning percentage when Correia starts and a .443 winning percentage when anyone else starts.

Brian Dozier is hitting .178 with 29 strikeouts and four walks in 28 games since June 25.

• FOX Sports North showed a great scouting report on Darnell before his first MLB start.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about realistic options at the trade deadline and wondered how thin the ice is getting under Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

July 28, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #155: Ron Gardenhire’s Donut Machine

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included how thin the ice is for Ron Gardenhire and maybe even Terry Ryan, trading Kendrys Morales to Seattle, other potential trades before the July 31 deadline, John Bonnes' rap knowledge, Chuck Knoblauch, Kirby Puckett, and the Twins' Hall of Fame, the August 23 pub crawl, broken clocks being right, cutting Matt Guerrier, and the beauty of mini donuts.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 155

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

July 25, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Last year's "Grand Drunk Railroad" pub crawl was a huge success and incredibly fun, so we've decided to do it again (well, mostly Twins Daily, but I tag along). Tickets to the August 23 event are available for purchase beginning today and we expect it to sell out fairly quickly.

pub crawl

Details can be found here. (Last year we recorded a very slurry podcast episode during the pub crawl and then Glen Perkins bought everyone a round of beer from the bullpen.)

• More on this later, probably, but here's my quick write-up of the Twins cutting bait on Kendrys Morales and actually getting something potentially useful in return.

Caity Weaver recapping her 14 hours spent at TGI Fridays eating "Endless Appetizers" is one of the funniest things I've ever read.

• One of my favorite writers, Joe Posnanski, followed Glen Perkins around during the closer's incredible All-Star experience and wrote a must-read article about the whole thing.

• Posnanski also wrote a really good, touching piece about old friend Pat Neshek, who made his first All-Star team at age 33.

• My cousin, Josh Gallop, and my uncle, Jon Gallop, were featured in a very nice Minnetonka Sun Sailor article about growing up with baseball that makes me proud of them both.

• Yet again The Onion speaks to me: "Mom Starting To Fear Son's Web Series Closest Thing She Will Have To Grandchild."

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I recapped feeling like death for an entire week and my trip to the emergency room, and then Kate Butler and John Bonnes made fun of me.

• Phillies ace Cliff Lee ended his postgame media session by loudly farting and then asked the assembled reporters "did y'all get that on tape?"

 I love how serious he was right up until the questions officially stopped.

• Reminder: All jeans are skinny jeans if you eat enough.

Chuck Knoblauch's induction into the Twins' team Hall of Fame has been canceled after he was arrested this week and charged with assaulting his ex-wife.

• This week in 1988: Twins teammates Dan Gladden and Steve Lombardozzi got into a fist fight on Gladden's lawn and manager Tom Kelly was like "whatever."

• Twins television ratings are down 24 percent compared to last season and have declined each year since 2010. I've been watching their games with the TV muted since 2008 or so.

Tracy McGrady was the starting pitcher for a minor-league All-Star game and then immediately retired from baseball.

LeBron James' new coach, David Blatt, dropped an "as we say in Hebrew" in an interview.

• As a Jewish kid who loved basketball I was a big fan of UCONN guard Doron Sheffer, so it was fascinating to read about what he's up to now in Sports Illustrated.

• Any man who catcalls women is human garbage and there should be zero leeway given.

• The Tangential named AG.com one of its nine favorite Twin Cities blogs, although I'd argue that the writing here is both "glib" and "grouchy."

Christina Walkinshaw finished going on 50 first dates via Tinder and recapped the experience.

Joe Mande wants $1 million to start a podcast and his explanation is hilariously reasonable.

Denny Green makes fortune cookies now.

Heyday has been serving great dinners for a few months and now they've started serving brunch on weekends. I went Saturday and you won't find a better combo of food and old-school rap, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune agrees with me.

Libertine just opened in the old Uptown Cafeteria space and lived up to the hype surrounding James Beard award-winning chef Tim McKee. I'm not even a huge steak eater, but I loved it.

• Best hamburger I've ever eaten: "Jiffy Burger" at Blue Door Pub in Minneapolis. Good tots, too.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Why don't the Twins fire Rick Anderson?"
- "Bike for 400-pound man"
- "Scott Erickson socks"
- "Metrodome hot dogs at Cub Foods"
- "Is 100 pounds of chicken enough for 150 people?"
- "Why so many head-first slides in MLB?"
- "Photo of naked Chris Parmelee"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

July 23, 2014

What are the Twins’ trade deadline options?

kurt suzuki and ricky nolasco

As the Twins stumble toward a fourth consecutive losing season next week's trade deadline is an opportunity to acquire young talent to aid the ongoing rebuilding effort. But will any of the Twins' obvious trade candidates be in enough demand to actually fetch significant long-term help? And does it make sense for the Twins to shop some not-so-obvious veterans in an effort to make a bigger splash? Here's my view of the players they might deal between now and July 31.


Kurt Suzuki: Signed for $2.75 million to, in theory, split time behind the plate with Josmil Pinto and mentor the rookie, Suzuki instead immediately became the primary catcher and then decided to have the best season of his career at age 30. If you trust pitch-framing numbers and/or simply look at the pitching staff's overall ineffectiveness his impact hasn't been quite as profound as the Twins would have you believe, but either way Suzuki has been fantastic.

Of course, the reason he was available so cheaply is that Suzuki hit .237/.294/.357 in 477 games from 2010-2013, and in general investing in catchers on the wrong side of 30 is iffy. Signing him to a contract extension would be the Twins' style, but unless Suzuki is willing to accept similarly inexpensive terms on another deal it would make sense to cash him in for a decent prospect if that's a possibility. One good half-season and a useful prospect for $2.75 million would be ideal.


Josh Willingham: I've been suggesting the Twins shop Willingham since the middle of his first season in Minnesota, when he was a 33-year-old having a career-year and seemed to have a decent trade market among contending teams. Two years later he's a struggling 35-year-old impending free agent who's looked so washed up of late that he might not even have a place in the Twins' lineup, let alone anything resembling trade value.

He can still draw walks and smack the occasional homer, but Willingham has zero business seeing the field defensively and has been one of the worst hitters in baseball since mid-June. Going back even further, since the beginning of last season he's hit just .211/.349/.384 in 163 games. He has $3 million left on a three-year, $21 million deal and while the money saved probably wouldn't be re-invested in the team anyway his at-bats could go to someone with a future in Minnesota.


Kendrys Morales: Signed for $7.5 million two months into the season because the Twins thought they were close to contending and assumed he'd be a sizable upgrade over Pinto, but instead their thoughts of relevance quickly vanished and Morales has been terrible. It's possible that once he shakes off more of the rust Morales will be his usual self, but it's also possible that he won't and either way it won't really do the Twins much good.

Pinto looks capable of being as good or better than Morales right now and at age 25 certainly has a brighter future even if the Twins determine he's purely a designated hitter. Why give playing time to a 33-year-old impending free agent when you can give those at-bats to a 25-year-old who might be better anyway? If any of the teams that wanted Morales in June still want him now the Twins should take whatever they can get and chalk the whole experience up to a misguided flier.


Trevor Plouffe: Coming into the season it seemed likely that the Twins would have parted ways with Plouffe by now and handed his job to stud prospect Miguel Sano, but instead Sano is out for the year following Tommy John surgery and Plouffe has been a decent starting third baseman. And because Sano's future at third base is now very much in question, keeping Plouffe around for next season now seems like a reasonable option.

Plus, it's not like Plouffe is going to fetch much in a trade anyway. He's a 28-year-old career .241/.303/.412 hitter who should probably be platooned and is at best not-horrible defensively at third base. He'd be a decent fit for a lot of teams in a part-time role, knocking around lefties at a few different positions, but teams don't give up significant prospects for those types of players and Plouffe could always fill a similar role for the Twins in 2015 if Sano makes a flawless comeback.


Glen Perkins: In theory trading a closer is almost always a good idea if there's good value to be had because they tend to be overrated. This is a much more complicated case, because Perkins has been one of the dozen or so best relievers in baseball since moving to the bullpen full time in 2011, he's a lifelong Minnesotan beloved by the fan base, and he just signed a contract extension through 2018 in which he'll never make more than $7 million in a season.

Would it make sense to trade a really good 70-inning pitcher for a top prospect or two and try to re-start the whole cycle by replacing him in the closer role with a different former starter or setup man? Sure. But the Twins will never do that and Perkins is good enough and cheap enough that moving him for prospects is hardly guaranteed to look smart a few years down the road anyway. This isn't a Matt Capps situation. Perkins is a legitimately elite reliever, closer or otherwise.


Ricky Nolasco: This offseason there was presumably enough interest in Nolasco as a free agent that the Twins had to pay $49 million to sign him. A half-season later the Twins would surely be thrilled to hand the remainder of his contract over to another team and would probably pay a big chunk of the 2015-2017 bill just to wash their hands of the situation. It's a moot point because he's on the disabled list with an elbow injury that's apparently been present since spring training.


Jared Burton: Whatever trade value Burton had peaked in 2012, but much like Willingham the Twins stuck with him and now there isn't really anything left to trade. His velocity, strikeout rate, and walk rate have all declined to the point that Burton now profiles as a run of the mill middle reliever rather than an elite setup man, and at age 33 exercising the $3.6 million team option for 2015 no longer even looks like a no-brainer decision.


Brian Duensing: He stood out as a potential non-tender candidate this offseason, but the Twins brought back Duensing for $2 million via arbitration and he's been his usual self. Which is to say not good enough versus lefties to be a southpaw specialist and far too weak versus righties to be a trustworthy setup man. He has a nice-looking ERA and one more year of team control, so if the Twins can squeeze a mid-level prospect out of some team for Duensing they should jump at it.


Kevin Correia: One of MLB's worst starters since the Twins gave him a two-year contract last offseason, Correia's durability and innings-eating only appear to be strengths because he's on one of the few teams that wouldn't have dumped him from the rotation by now. He's close to being a replacement-level starter and giving that type of player $10 million and two full seasons worth of starts would be replacement-level decision-making. His rotation spot is more valuable than he is.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

July 21, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #154: Sellers!

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included the All-Star experience, the Twins making it clear they should be sellers at the trade deadline, what to do with Kurt Suzuki, my illnesses, John Bonnes' dancing, paying to get rid of Ricky Nolasco, details on the August pub crawl, why Danny Santana is rushed but young pitchers aren't, ex-girlfriends in the wild, Josh Willingham falling apart, and dwindling television ratings.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 154

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Here's what it looks like when the podcast is uploading in the KFAN producer studio:

podcast kfan upload


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

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