January 4, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Here's the job posting for the St. Paul Pioneer Press' new Twins beat reporter. Apply today!

• In their most controversial decision since naming Nick Blackburn the Twins' top prospect, Baseball America named me one of the "top 50 baseball-related Twitter accounts."

• I'm not much of a soccer fan, but Mark Willis' soccer-style MLB jersey designs are fantastic.

Jeff Piascik of College Baseball Daily wrote a nice article about Twins coach Joe Vavra's son, Tanner Vavra, who plays Division I baseball at Valparaiso University despite being blind in his right eye. Remarkable story. He hit .332 with a .425 on-base percentage as a junior.

• Minnesota is close enough to Iowa that she probably should have stopped by to say hello.

• I wrote about turning 30 years old, being a weirdo, doing something for a really long time, and pondering life changes.

• I'm kind of sad that no one got me Anthony Mason for my birthday this year.

• Presumably to celebrate my birthday Netflix instant has added two of my favorite dozen or so movies in "Blue Valentine" and "Blue Chips." I own "Blue Chips" on VHS and have seen it at least 20 times, and I watched "Blue Valentine" four times in one weekend a while ago. I recommend viewing them back-to-back and then having a good cry. The order isn't important.

• Easily the sexiest dress I've ever seen.

Nick Nelson subbed for a vacationing John Bonnes on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode and we discussed our decreasing expectations for the Twins in 2013 and which pitchers they should have signed as free agents.

• Vita.mn named "Gleeman and The Geek" one of the best podcasts of 2012.

• I saw "Django Unchained," which is nowhere close to Quentin Tarantino's best movies but right up there with his most enjoyable movies. If that makes any sense. In terms of overall quality, I'd rank them: "Pulp Fiction," "Reservoir Dogs," "Jackie Brown," "Inglourious Basterds," "Django Unchained," "Kill Bill," "Grindhouse."

• Speaking of Tarantino, this video of every pop culture reference in his movies is pretty great:

"That is Marilyn Monroe. That is Mamie Van Doren. And I don't see Jayne Mansfield, so she must have the night off or something."

Bobby Womack, whose song "Across 110th Street" is one of my all-time favorites, may be suffering from Alzheimer's at age 68.

Ryan Freel's family is donating his brain to science to find out if the former major leaguer's numerous concussions led to his suicide at age 36.

• One of my favorite podcasters/people, Julie Klausner, was profiled in the New York Times.

• Rotoworld surpassed one billion (yes, billion) page views in 2012, which makes a man feel extra good about dropping out of college for a full-time job there in 2005.

• I've soured on Adam Carolla over the years, but my fellow old school "Loveline" fans should definitely check out his new weekly podcast with Dr. Drew Pinsky.

• Former big leaguer Fernando Tatis replied to a random tweet of mine from two years ago.

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus wrote a great article about those absurd "scouting reports" television broadcasts show for starting pitchers.

Torii Hunter used religion as an excuse for intolerance and then showed off his backpedaling skills, which we've seen before.

• My attempt to put Joe Mauer's season in context, which is something few people in Minnesota seem interested in doing.

Chipper Jones is keeping himself busy in retirement.

Andruw Jones was arrested on Christmas for allegedly abusing his wife after she "asked him to help her assemble a computer table." And then she filed for divorce.

• A few people wondered if this was me, as if I'd ever leave the house to go to St. Cloud.

• I really liked "Gosford Park" on Netflix instant, so I also watched another Robert Altman movie, "The Long Goodbye," and was amused to see former major leaguer and "Ball Four" author Jim Bouton in a sizable supporting role. Toss in Elliott Gould and his chest hair in the leading role and the whole thing really made me wish I lived in the 1970s.

• "Stop Podcasting Yourself" is my favorite podcast and Alicia Tobin is my favorite guest, so this made me happy.

Jessica St. Clair's appearance on "Who Charted?" with Howard Kremer and Kulap Vilaysack was very funny.

• This e-mail from Pandora sums me up well.

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

- "Marney Gellner hot"
- "Lori Loughlin twins"
- "Dave Attell twins"
- "Julie Klausner nude"
- "Mitchell Kowitz arrested"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "16-year-olds on Chopped"
- "Lindsay Guentzel model"
- "Clarence Clemons and Robin Quivers"
- "Phil Ivey girlfriend"
- "Linda Cardellini martial arts"

• Finally, in honor of hearing this song for the first time in "Blue Chips" as an 11-year-old and immediately becoming hooked on Van Morrison this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Baby Please Don't Go":

This week's blog content is sponsored by Paul "Fantasy Camper" Bennett, who'll be blogging and tweeting about his annual experience at Twins fantasy camp in Fort Myers the week of January 6. Please support him for supporting AG.com.

November 18, 2011

Offseason shopping on a budget: Right-handed bats

Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel potentially both departing as free agents has the Twins in the market for help in the form of corner outfielders, designated hitters, or first basemen, and Cuddyer's exit would leave them even shorter than usual on strong right-handed bats. Below are 15 free agent options--some everyday guys, some platoon guys--who could help balance the lineup from the right side of the plate without costing a ton.

Josh Willingham: Normally the Twins would never forfeit their first-round pick to sign a Type A free agent, but because next year's top pick is protected it might be an option. They've been linked to Willingham, who's quietly posted an OPS above .800 in six straight seasons despite playing in pitcher-friendly ballparks. Over the past three years Cuddyer has hit .276/.341/.465 and Willingham has hit .257/.360/.479. It all depends on price, but he wouldn't be a dropoff.

Derrek Lee: Last offseason Lee signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Orioles and he should be even cheaper this time around after playing 35 fewer games with a nearly identical OPS compared to 2010. Lee is no longer a middle-of-the-order threat and his plate discipline vanishing this season is worrisome for a 36-year-old, but even a repeat of his .267/.325/.446 line with solid defense at first base would be worth a one-year investment.

Andruw Jones: Jones looked completely washed-up at age 30, but he's gotten back on track enough to be a solid bench player for the past three seasons, batting .228/.338/.478 in 881 plate appearances spotted mostly versus lefties. If you focus on the Hall of Fame-caliber player Jones was in his twenties he's sure to disappoint, but as a 34-year-old corner outfielder who's hit .254/.374/.492 off southpaws since 2009 he's still plenty useful.

Jonny Gomes: Strikeouts, poor defense, and flailing away against righties have limited Gomes to part-time roles, but he's always fared very well versus lefties and batted .298/.383/.492 off them during the past three years. As an everyday player he's overmatched, but as a platoon player and bench bat Gomes would be worth adding and figures to be cheap. He has big-time power, draws plenty of walks, and at age 31 might be helpful beyond 2012.

Cody Ross: Ross predictably resumed being a mediocre hitter after his out of nowhere playoff breakout in 2010, but as a right-handed bat with 20-homer power and enough range to play center field in a pinch he'd be a worthwhile pickup at the right price. During the past three years Ross hit .272/.342/.521 versus lefties and his .258/.316/.404 line off righties is passable enough to not be a total disaster if pushed into extended action, assuming he's cheap.

Magglio Ordonez: Ordonez finally stopped hitting at age 37 and two fractured ankles in two years means he may simply be finished, but he's also just a year removed from a decade-long run as one of the elite right-handed hitters in baseball and has always destroyed left-handed pitching. Limiting him strictly to designated hitter duties could help keep Ordonez healthy and prior to the first fractured ankle in mid-2010 he hit .303/.378/.474 in 84 games for the Tigers.

Ryan Ludwick: Since batting .299/.375/.591 with 37 homers in a 2008 breakout Ludwick has seen his OPS drop from .966 to .775 to .743 to .674. He was terrible this season against both righties and lefties, but was an above-average hitter in 2009 and 2010 despite poor batting averages and is a solid defensive corner outfielder. If a team still wants to pay Ludwick like a middle-of-the-order bat the Twins should bow out, but as cheap right-handed pop he's decent.

Reed Johnson: Johnson has always been an ideal fourth outfielder because he can handle all three spots defensively, puts up strong numbers versus left-handed pitching, and isn't totally overmatched versus right-handers once in a while. At age 34 his range has slipped some and his strikeout-to-walk ratio over the past two years is laughably bad at 113-to-10, but he also hit .303/.327/.467 off lefties during that time.

Scott Hairston: He never really developed as expected or found an obvious home defensively, but Hairston is a .274/.328/.486 career hitter versus southpaws and has outfield experience in all three spots. He's a free agent after hitting .235/.303/.470 in 79 games for the Mets on a one-year, $1.1 million deal and Hairston has averaged 23 homers per 550 at-bats throughout his career despite calling pitcher-friendly Petco Park home for half that time.

Vladimir Guerrero: At age 36 his knees are shot, he looks lost in the outfield, and his bat is no longer anywhere near elite, but Guerrero hit .304/.319/.456 in the second half to finish with an above-average OPS overall for the Orioles. He shouldn't be playing every day or batting in the middle of the lineup, but for a one-year deal and a part-time job focused mostly on lefties the former MVP still has some value.

Xavier Nady: As a 29-year-old Nady batted .305 with 25 homers in 2008, but multiple injuries have limited him to 208 games in three seasons since and he's hit just .254/.299/.359. Prior to all the injuries Nady consistently knocked around left-handers and he has lots of experience as a first baseman and corner outfielder. Assuming he's willing to accept an inexpensive one-year contract and a part-time role Nady would fit as a backup and platoon player.

Mark DeRosa: Injuries derailed DeRosa's career, limiting him to 71 unproductive games during a two-year, $12 million deal with the Giants. He's also 37 years old, which adds to the risk, but DeRosa is a career .297/.370/.481 hitter versus left-handers and has started games at every position except catcher and center field. On a cheap one-year contract he'd make sense and a part-time role might help him stay off the disabled list.

Marcus Thames: Thames has quietly been one of the most powerful bats of the past decade, ranking sixth among all active right-handed hitters in Isolated Power. He's actually had slightly more raw pop versus righties, but low batting averages and little plate discipline mean Thames should be limited to facing mostly lefties. He's also 35 years old and terrible defensively, but figures to be available on the cheap after being cut loose following a 36-game Dodgers stint.

Aaron Rowand: San Francisco finally gave up on Rowand four seasons into his five-year, $60 million contract, releasing the 34-year-old outfielder in September with $12 million still on the books for 2012. Rowand was a bust for the Giants and has hit just .231/.277/.363 during the past two seasons, but the former Gold Glove winner still covers enough ground to be a fourth outfielder and could be reasonably productive if spotted versus left-handed pitching.

Conor Jackson: Once upon a time Jackson was a top prospect who hit .287/.367/.443 through his first three seasons, but valley fever threatened his career in 2009 and he hasn't been the same since. It'd be worth a minimal investment to find out if Jackson can still be productive in a part-time role and he's played lots of right field, left field, and first base in addition to being an emergency option at third base.