June 19, 2012

Bust to building block? Trevor Plouffe slugs his way into Twins’ plans

Going into the 2004 draft many teams liked California high schooler Trevor Plouffe more as a pitcher than as a position player, but the Twins were among the teams convinced he could be a good-hitting shortstop and took him 20th overall. Plouffe was one of their five first-round picks that year, as the compensation for losing LaTroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado to free agency allowed the Twins to restock the farm system with five selections in the top 40.

Nine years later Glen Perkins is the only one of those picks to become a quality big leaguer and even that didn't take place until last season when he faced a career crossroads moving from the rotation to the bullpen. Kyle Waldrop is still in the organization as a potential middle reliever, but has just 11 innings in the majors at age 26. Matt Fox got a cup of coffee with the Twins in 2010, but is now a Triple-A journeyman. Jay Rainville never reached the majors.

And then there's Plouffe.

After signing for a $1.5 million bonus Plouffe had a decent pro debut at rookie-ball, but then hit .223/.300/.345 in 127 games at low Single-A in 2005. Despite that lack of production at age 19 the Twins moved Plouffe up to high Single-A the next season anyway and he again struggled, hitting .246/.333/.347 in 125 games. And then despite that lack of production at age 20 the Twins promoted Plouffe to Double-A in 2007, where he hit .274/.326/.410 in 126 games.

Plouffe repeated a level for the first time in 2008, hitting .269/.325/.410 in 58 games back at Double-A before a midseason promotion to Triple-A. At age 22 he was one of the International League's youngest players despite not cracking even a .750 OPS at any level and predictably hit just .256/.292/.410 in 66 games for Rochester. By promoting him so aggressively in the face of mediocre performances the Twins put Plouffe in an odd situation developmentally.

He was a former first-round pick one step from the major leagues at age 22, yet he'd never actually shown anything to suggest that he was a top prospect. And so he repeated Triple-A in 2009. And then he repeated it again in 2010. At that point Plouffe was 25 and had spent three seasons in Rochester, hitting .253/.303/.419 in 286 games and 1,194 plate appearances. He'd also spent a brief stint with the Twins, going 6-for-41 (.146) with 14 strikeouts and zero walks.

In short, he looked like a bust. Plouffe was still fairly young and within the consistently modest overall production at Triple-A was some decent power for a shortstop, although the reviews of his defense made projecting him as a potential big-league shortstop very iffy. In seven years in the minors, including three at Triple-A, his career-highs were a .280 batting average, .340 on-base percentage, and .430 slugging percentage. And two of the highs came in rookie-ball.

Plouffe failed to make the Opening Day roster last spring and was assigned back to Triple-A for a fourth consecutive season, at which point he shockingly hit .313/.384/.635 with 15 homers in 51 games for a 1.019 OPS that topped Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel for the highest mark by any Rochester player since the Twins' affiliate moved there in 2003. Suddenly he was back on the prospect map and back in the majors, although it didn't translate to immediate success.

In fact Plouffe hit just .238/.305/.392 with an ugly 71-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 81 games for the Twins and was so bad defensively at shortstop that they started using him primarily in the outfield. Because he was out of minor-league options and the rebuilding Twins weren't ready to give up on Plouffe he made this year's team out of spring training as a non-shortstop utility man, but played sparingly and poorly while going 8-for-60 (.133) through mid-May.

And then everything changed. Starting third baseman Danny Valencia played his way back to Triple-A and the Twins turned to Plouffe as his main replacement while hoping his throwing issues wouldn't carry over from shortstop. He'd never played third base regularly in the minors or majors, but Plouffe has looked capable there at the very least and his arm strength is a real asset when he's making accurate throws. Oh, and he started hitting like Babe Ruth.

As of May 15 he'd played 125 career MLB games with a .212 batting average, .286 on-base percentage, .357 slugging percentage, and 97 strikeouts versus 11 homers. Since then he's hit .315 with 13 homers and a .793 slugging percentage in 24 games, including a stretch in which he went deep seven times in seven games. Obviously the sample size is small and he's not suddenly Miguel Cabrera, but Plouffe has been the hottest hitter in baseball for a month.

And even combining his month-long homer binge with his hideous first six weeks equals power numbers that are tough to brush aside. Despite a still-poor .243 batting average in 46 games overall this season his .566 slugging percentage ranks sixth among AL hitters behind only Josh Hamilton, Paul Konerko, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, and David Ortiz. Last time a right-handed Twins hitter was slugging higher at this point in a season was Kirby Puckett.

Isolated Power is a stat that takes slugging percentage and subtracts batting average to focus strictly on a hitter's raw power and Plouffe's current mark of .322 ranks third in the league behind only Adam Dunn at .345 and Hamilton at .343. No other AL hitters have an Isolated Power above .300. In the entire history of the Minnesota Twins they've had a hitter top a .275 Isolated Power seven times and all seven of them were Harmon Killebrew.

Expanding the sample size further to include Plouffe's terrible 2010 debut and ugly 2011 showing still produces some pretty amazing power numbers. For his major-league career he's now played 149 games and logged 536 plate appearances, totaling 24 homers and 26 doubles for an Isolated Power of .209 that ranks seventh in Twins history among all hitters with 500 or more trips to the plate. Here's the complete top 10 in a Twins uniform:

Jim Thome          .296
Harmon Killebrew   .258
Don Mincher        .239
Bob Allison        .225
Justin Morneau     .218
Jimmie Hall        .212
TREVOR PLOUFFE     .209
Tom Brunansky      .202
Kent Hrbek         .199
Torii Hunter       .198

Some pretty decent company, huh?

Of course, in addition to the relatively small sample size it's also important to note that his elite power has come along with a lowly .232 batting average and .301 on-base percentage in those 149 career games. Those marks are tough to live with, huge power or not, and because Plouffe also hit just .262 with a .316 on-base percentage in 337 games at Triple-A it's difficult to project a ton of improvement.

With that said, Parker Hageman of Twins Daily did some video-based analysis breaking down Plouffe's altered swing and the same mechanical adjustments that led to his power explosion could potentially lead to a more palatable batting average. He's never going to hit .300, but if Plouffe could hit .265 while maintaining what has always been a decent walk rate--and one that figures to rise as pitchers avoid throwing him strikes--his all-around value would soar.

Plouffe will come back down to earth and there's still reason to be skeptical of his upside long term, but he's shown enough power dating back to Triple-A last year, enough plate discipline throughout his nine-year career, and enough early promise defensively at third base to believe he won't simply turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. Much like Scott Diamond, his emergence is one positive from giving chances to untested players in a rebuilding year.

For even more about Plouffe's power and the changes in his swing, check out my discussion with Hageman on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

May 10, 2012

Twins’ latest shakeup sends Valencia to Triple-A and Liriano to bullpen

Minutes after the final out of last night's loss the Twins shook up the roster for the second time this week, demoting Danny Valencia to Triple-A and designating Matt Maloney for assignment while calling up utility man Darin Mastroianni and right-hander P.J. Walters from Rochester. They also announced that Francisco Liriano has been shifted to the bullpen, with Walters taking his spot in the starting rotation beginning Saturday against the Blue Jays.

Less than 48 hours earlier Ron Gardenhire insisted that the Twins would stick with Liriano as a starter, but now they're apparently hoping to get him back on track for an eventual return to the rotation with some low-leverage relief work. Liriano has taken some very small steps forward in his last two starts, but has been mostly terrible since the beginning of last season and it would be worth seeing what he can do in a one-inning role before free agency beckons.

Unfortunately his rotation replacement is a 27-year-old soft-tosser, so while watching Walters get knocked around may not be quite as frustrating as watching Liriano struggle to find the strike zone the end result figures to be largely the same. Walters has a 7.24 ERA with 12 homers allowed in 51 innings as a big leaguer, averaged just 88.0 miles per hour with his fastball during that time, and has a 4.51 ERA in 91 career starts at Triple-A.

As soon as the Twins called up Brian Dozier to start at shortstop and shifted Jamey Carroll into a utility man role it was clear that Valencia and Alexi Casilla were on some very thin ice. Carroll has started each of the past three games at second base, but apparently that was due mostly to Casilla being limited by a shoulder injury and instead Valencia is the one on the chopping block after serving as the starting third baseman since mid-2010.

Valencia was never a top prospect and a modest minor-league track record made it obvious that his strong half-season debut was largely a fluke, but he's declined even further than expected since then both offensively and defensively. He's played 266 games in the majors and hit just .262/.304/.395, which would be poor production from a shortstop or a catcher and is downright awful for a third baseman who's mediocre defensively on a good day.

On the other hand he's 27 years old with more than 1,000 plate appearances in the majors, so a demotion to Triple-A furthering his development seems like wishful thinking. Valencia is what he is at this point, and that's simply not a quality regular because he can't hit right-handed pitching. With that said, he's a career .325/.374/.485 hitter against left-handers and that type of production certainly has a place on a major-league roster if used correctly.

Mastroianni is technically replacing Valencia on the roster, but don't count on him making much of an impact. Claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays in February and assigned to Double-A to begin the season despite being 26 years old, he moved up to Triple-A because of injuries in Rochester and took advantage by hitting .365 in 19 games. That obviously got the Twins' attention, but Mastroianni hit just .279/.358/.389 in 79 games at Triple-A last season.

Mastroianni's lack of power has limited him to a .372 slugging percentage as a minor leaguer and makes him unlikely to be more than a useful bench player, but he has good on-base skills, spectacular speed, and can play all three outfield spots along with some second base. It'll be interesting to see if Mastroianni gets any action as an infielder or if Gardenhire will stick with Carroll, Casilla, and Trevor Plouffe in some combination at second base and third base.

Maloney was claimed off waivers from the Reds in October and there's a good chance he'll clear waivers this time around, in which case the Twins can stash him at Triple-A sans 40-man roster spot. He's the latest in a long line of examples showing the folly of putting any kind of faith in spring training performances, as Maloney was one of the most impressive players in camp and then predictably reverted back to the marginal big leaguer he's always been.

It was easy to see that the first roster shakeup was done to facilitate immediate improvement, as Liam Hendriks simply not being ready to thrive in the majors at age 23 made it reasonable to prefer Scott Diamond in the short term and the Twins have high hopes for Dozier. It's not so easy to see how the second roster shakeup really improves much, save for perhaps the fans' viewing experience and Gardenhire's mental state.

For as awful as Valencia has been, giving his starts to Casilla or Plouffe or Mastroianni isn't likely to be much of an upgrade and if nothing else he provided a right-handed bat capable of knocking around left-handed pitching. Liriano has been bad enough for long enough that trying to salvage some value out of him with a move to the bullpen is perfectly reasonable, but replacing him with Walters isn't likely to actually keep more runs off the board.

Of course, making changes mostly for changes sake may not be such a terrible thing at this point considering the Twins are now 73-132 since the final 10 games of the 2010 regular season. It'd be nice if they had better options to call up than Mastroianni and Walters, but they've already rushed non-elite prospects like Hendriks, Chris Parmelee, and Ben Revere to the majors with poor results and the rest of the upper-minors cupboard is mostly bare.

Beyond that, Liriano is at a career crossroads five months from free agency and Valencia may beat him out the door if the Twins can find a taker willing to trade even a mid-level prospect for him. Casilla is next in line for the guillotine if they go into full-on housecleaning mode and unlike last season hopefully they'll commit to a rebuilding effort by ditching more dead weight and getting whatever they can for any veterans not in the plans for 2013 and beyond.

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May 8, 2012

Morneau’s latest injury leads to Dozier’s arrival and roster shakeup

Justin Morneau exited last Monday's game with soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist, immediately flying from California to Minnesota to be examined by team doctors and admitting that the injury had been bothering him for several days. At the time I wondered why the Twins wouldn't just put him on the disabled list for two weeks if the situation was serious enough for a cross-country flight and an MRI exam for a chronically injured player.

Instead, as they've done far too many times with far too many injured players during the past few seasons, they kept Morneau on the active roster for a week despite his being unavailable to actually play and then, only after completing an entire West Coast road trip with a one- or two-man bench, finally put him on the DL. Sadly when it comes to both Morneau's health and the Twins' handling of injuries, it turns out not much has changed.

When the Twins finally decided to shut down Morneau it set in motion a series of moves that reshaped the roster following an MLB-worst 7-20 start. Brian Dozier was called up from Triple-A and handed the starting job at shortstop, shifting Jamey Carroll into a utility man role that will also involve pushing second baseman Alexi Casilla and third baseman Danny Valencia for playing time.

Scott Diamond joined Dozier in being promoted from Triple-A and will step into the rotation for Liam Hendriks, who allowed 18 runs in 18 innings replacing the injured Scott Baker. And then just for good measure the Twins swapped backup outfielders too, designating Clete Thomas for assignment three weeks after claiming him off waivers from the Tigers and replacing him by claiming Erik Komatsu off waivers from the Cardinals.

Dozier arrives with inflated expectations thanks to assorted fans who don't know any better and media members who should know better touting him as a top prospect. In reality Dozier is 25 years old with limited upside and was at Single-A as of the middle of last season. He can certainly be a valuable player and ranked 10th on my annual list of Twins prospects coming into the season, but he hit just .276/.339/.371 in 28 games at Triple-A before the call-up.

There are also plenty of questions about Dozier's defense, with many prospect analysts believing he's better suited for second base than shortstop. Ron Gardenhire has been publicly clamoring for Dozier since last season, so it's not surprising that the manager would anoint him the starting shortstop upon arrival, but it's worth noting that Carroll was perfectly solid defensively even if he wasn't hitting.

Whenever a 38-year-old hits .208 through 27 games it's natural to wonder if he's simply washed up, particularly since Carroll was never exactly a star-caliber player to begin with, but drawing 13 walks with just 14 strikeouts in 116 plate appearances are positive signs at the plate and while he's in no danger of reminding anyone of Ozzie Smith range-wise his defense was hardly a major weakness at shortstop.

By signing Carroll to a two-year, $6.5 million contract the Twins committed to him as more than just a short-term stop gap, as he's both in their plans for next season and being paid way too much for a typical backup role. In other words, expect to see Carroll in the lineup plenty even if Dozier sticks at shortstop and expect to see plenty of speculation about the Twins parting ways with Casilla and/or Valencia in the near future.

Hendriks' struggles are more a confirmation that he wasn't ready to thrive in the majors than an indictment of his future value. He remains a potential mid-rotation starter, perhaps as soon as later this season, but at 23 years old and with just nine starts at Triple-A pushing him to the big leagues was always an iffy idea. Diamond is 25 and a lesser prospect with 39 starts at Triple-A, so turning to him while giving Hendriks a chance to develop further makes sense.

Last year the Twins selected Diamond in the Rule 5 draft, decided they couldn't keep him in the majors all season, and traded former second-round pick Billy Bullock to the Braves for the ability to stash him in the minors. That move made no sense to me at the time and was even weirder when they called up Diamond in July anyway. He didn't pitch well at Triple-A last year and struggled in seven starts for the Twins, but did some nice work in Rochester this season.

Diamond was my 35th-ranked Twins prospect coming into the season and projects as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter who'll hopefully make up for modest velocity and poor strikeout totals by inducing lots of ground balls. He posted a 2.60 ERA and 26-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings for Rochester before the call-up, but that only improved his career Triple-A numbers to a 4.50 ERA with just 6.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

Three weeks ago the Twins claimed Thomas off waivers from the Tigers because they decided he was much better suited for a little-used bench role than Ben Revere, who at 24 years old deserved a chance to continue developing by playing regularly at Triple-A. Thomas homered in his second at-bat for the Twins and they proceeded to give him more starts than Revere was getting, but when he followed the homer by going 3-for-26 with 16 strikeouts they cut bait.

Thomas isn't as bad as he looked for the Twins, mostly because it's nearly impossible to actually be that bad, but as I noted at the time of the waiver claim he's a 28-year-old with a mediocre track record in the minors and majors who rates as essentially a replacement-level outfielder. In designating Thomas for assignment they removed him from the 40-man roster and exposed him to waivers again, assigning him to Rochester after he went unclaimed.

They filled his spot by claiming Komatsu, who's now with his fourth team in 10 months after the Nationals acquired him from the Brewers for Jerry Hairston last July only to lose him in the Rule 5 draft when they opted not to protect him with a 40-man roster spot. Rule 5 picks must remain in the majors all season or be offered back to their original team, which means the Twins won't be able to send Komatsu to the minors if they sour on him like they did Thomas.

It's also worth noting that the Twins picked second in the Rule 5 draft and passed on Komatsu to select Terry Doyle, whom they returned to the White Sox. None of which means Komatsu isn't a useful player. He lacks Thomas' power, but is four years younger with much better plate discipline. Because he skipped Triple-A it's tough to get a feel for Komatsu's readiness, but he plays all three outfield spots and hit .302 with a .389 on-base percentage in the minors.

Much of that was in the low minors and isn't particularly relevant now, but Komatsu spent all of last season at Double-A as a 23-year-old and hit .277/.367/.382 with 21 steals and nearly as many walks (64) as strikeouts (66). Commanding the strike zone that well is impressive for a hitter with just seven homers in 124 games, as pitchers certainly weren't afraid to throw him strikes. He doesn't project as a regular, but Komatsu's skill set fits the backup outfielder role.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Coordinated Business Systems, which offers innovative technology solutions for Minnesota businesses. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

May 2, 2012

Twins Notes: Butera, Burroughs, Mauer, Morneau, Pavano, and Guerra

• I was on KFAN this morning, sitting in for a couple segments on Paul Allen's show to talk Twins and blogging and all sorts of other stuff. You can listen to my full appearance here.

• After playing every inning of the first 21 games Joe Mauer took a foul ball off his knee and sat out Monday. He returned last night as designated hitter, but the Twins felt the need to add Drew Butera as a third catcher while designating Sean Burroughs for assignment to make room on the roster. Butera was hitting .279/.319/.419 in 15 games for Rochester, which is simultaneously terrible for a 28-year-old at Triple-A and the best numbers of his career.

Burroughs was signed to a minor-league deal in December and the 30-year-old former top prospect impressed the Twins during spring training, winning an Opening Day bench spot. In theory he was a nice fit, offering a left-handed bat and solid glove at third base to complement and perhaps even push Danny Valencia, but in practice he got three starts and 17 at-bats in a month. He's barely played since 2005, let alone had any success, so he may clear waivers.

Justin Morneau gave everyone a scare when he exited Monday's game with soreness in his surgically repaired left wrist and immediately flew from California to Minnesota to be examined by team doctors. Now he's on the way back to the West Coast after an MRI exam showed no structural damage, but Morneau revealed that the wrist was bothering him before Monday and the Twins have said that Friday is the best-case scenario for being back in the lineup.

Thursday is a scheduled off day, so that absence isn't quite as long as it sounds, but giving him 15 days to heal up on the disabled list would seemingly be worthwhile. Instead the Twins will keep Morneau on the active roster, which is something they've done too often with injured players in recent years and becomes particularly problematic when combined with a 13-man pitching staff and Butera. Last night's bench was literally only Butera and Trevor Plouffe.

Carl Pavano managed zero strikeouts Friday for the third time in his last 33 starts and his average fastball has clocked in at just 86.6 miles per hour this season, down from 89.0 mph in 2011 and 90.1 mph in 2010. Pavano signed a two-year, $16.5 million contract with the Twins after throwing 221 innings with a 3.75 ERA in 2010, but since then he's logged 255 innings with a 4.38 ERA and just 4.2 strikeouts per nine innings. At age 36 he's running on fumes.

Deolis Guerra's overall numbers at Double-A last year were ugly, but his success shifting to the bullpen in the second half earned him the No. 27 spot in my Twins prospect rankings. He picked up where he left off at New Britain with a 0.71 ERA and 15-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 13 innings, at which point the Twins promoted the last remaining piece of the Johan Santana trade to Rochester and he debuted there with three scoreless innings Saturday.

• Another potential bullpen option, Kyle Waldrop, is on the comeback trail after an elbow injury cost him a spot on the Opening Day roster. I'm skeptical of Waldrop's ability to be more than a decent middle reliever because he's already 26 years old and his strong ground-ball rate comes along with underwhelming velocity and few strikeouts, but he certainly warrants more of an extended opportunity than Jeff Gray.

• As has too often been the case recently Twins management subtlety cast some doubt on the legitimacy of Scott Baker's elbow injury before a second opinion from outside the organization led to Tommy John surgery. In speaking to the local media following surgery Baker addressed what Jon Krawcynski of the Associated Press described as "whispers both inside and outside Target Field":

I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew there was some speculation that maybe I was babying it or taking it easy, but good grief. I did everything I possibly could to get better and to try to pitch with it. But that just wasn't going to happen.

When an injured player has to defend himself amid speculation that his injury isn't as serious as he claims and that speculation is fueled at least in part by the team that's obviously not a good situation. Toss in the ongoing questions about the competency of the Twins' medical staff and it gets even worse. On the other hand, Baker also admitted injured pitchers "are not always completely forthright with the staff" and made it clear that he doesn't hold a grudge.

• As expected Ben Revere's return to Minnesota was brief, with the end of Josh Willingham's paternity leave sending him back to Triple-A. Revere is still better off playing in Rochester than mostly sitting in Minnesota, although Sunday being "Ben Revere bat day" at Target Field perhaps wasn't the best timing (or planning) by the Twins.

• In an effort to beef up the Double-A and Triple-A teams the Twins signed a bunch of veteran minor leaguers during the offseason, yet some reinforcements were still needed a month into the season. Joe Thurston is the latest veteran to join Rochester, although once upon a time he was a promising prospect in the Dodgers' system. Now he's 32 years old with 184 games in the majors and 1,485 games in the minors, including 5,000 plate appearances at Triple-A.

Ron Gardenhire will be away from the team for this weekend's Mariners series, missing all three games to attend his daughter's college graduation from Southwest Minnesota State. Bench coach Scott Ullger will fill in as manager, as he's done on a few other occasions.

Luke Hughes' time as Oakland's starting third baseman was short-lived, as he went 1-for-13 with three errors in four games and the A's signed a washed-up, recently released Brandon Inge to replace him. Hughes was designated for assignment, so he's back on the waiver wire.

• Congratulations to Delmon Young for making the front page of the New York Post. MLB suspended Young for seven days following his arrest on assault and hate crime charges, presumably because an eight-day suspension would have made Hanukkah jokes too easy.

• Willingham was a smart free agent signing and has been amazing at the plate so far, but his defense in left field has been just short of Delmon-esque.

Interesting note from Twins media communications manager Dustin Morse: Saturday was the ninth time weather caused a delay or postponement in 174 total games at Target Field.

• Compared to this same time last year MLB-wide attendance is up 1,700 fans per game overall, but the Twins' attendance is down an MLB-worst 5,000 fans per game.

• For his career Valencia has hit .328/.378/.491 versus left-handers and .243/.282/.369 versus right-handers, which is one of the more extreme platoon splits you'll see and along with iffy defense makes him a poor fit in an everyday role. By the way, that play was ruled a "double."

• After last night Denard Span has 76 career steals and has been picked off 26 times.

No. 11 prospect Adrian Salcedo was hit in the face by a comebacker while pitching Monday at high Single-A and suffered a broken nose.

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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.

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