December 19, 2011

Reassessing the Twins’ roster and payroll

Where do we go from here? Where do we go?
And is it real or just something we think we know?
Where are we going now? Where do we go?
Cause if it's the same as yesterday you know I'm out, just so you know

- Fink, "Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us"

I examined the Twins' roster in early October to see which holes needed filling and how much money was available to fill them, but in the two-and-a-half months since then they've filled out the lineup with Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Jamey Carroll, dumped Kevin Slowey and Jose Mijares, and indicated that the payroll will drop from $115 million to $100 million or so. With all that in mind, here's an updated look at where the Twins' roster and payroll stand:

    LINEUP                                      BENCH
 C: Joe Mauer - $23.00 million               C: Drew Butera - $0.48 million
1B: Justin Morneau - $15.00 million         IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka - $3.00 million
2B: Alexi Casilla - $1.50 million           IF: Luke Hughes - $0.48 million
SS: Jamey Carroll - $2.75 million           OF: Trevor Plouffe - $0.48 million
3B: Danny Valencia - $0.48 million
LF: Ben Revere - $0.48 million
CF: Denard Span - $3.00 million
RF: Josh Willingham - $7.00 million
DH: Ryan Doumit - $3.00 million

There's still some talk of the Twins re-signing Jason Kubel and I'm sure they haven't ruled out acquiring various other position players via free agency or trade, but it shouldn't shock anyone if the Opening Day roster includes the above nine starters and four bench players. Their three lineup holes back in October were shortstop, right field, and designated hitter, and those were filled by Carroll, Willingham, and Doumit for $12.75 million. Here's my projected batting order:

1. Denard Span, L
2. Jamey Carroll, R
3. Joe Mauer, L
4. Josh Willingham, R
5. Justin Morneau, L
6. Ryan Doumit, S
7. Danny Valencia, R
8. Alexi Casilla, S
9. Ben Revere, L

Terry Ryan also revealed that the Twins no longer plan to use Trevor Plouffe as an infielder and his switch to the outfield clears up the bench picture somewhat. Ben Revere can serve as the backup center fielder while starting in left field and Doumit is capable of playing an outfield corner, leaving Plouffe as the bench's lone outfielder. Tsuyoshi Nishioka sounds likely to get a second chance as utility man, Luke Hughes is out of options, and they still love Drew Butera.

If those are the 13 position players on the Opening Day roster they'll combine to earn around $60.5 million, depending on Alexi Casilla's raise in arbitration. That would leave approximately $40 million to spend on what is all but guaranteed to be a 12-man pitching staff, which at the moment still has at least a couple holes to fill (and makes it tough to envision Kubel returning unless his price really drops). Here's how the rotation and bullpen look right now:

    ROTATION                                    BULLPEN
SP: Carl Pavano - $8.50 million             RH: Matt Capps - $4.75 million
SP: Scott Baker - $6.00 million             LH: Glen Perkins - $2.00 million
SP: Francisco Liriano - $5.50 million       LH: Brian Duensing - $0.48 million
SP: Nick Blackburn - $4.75 million          RH: Alex Burnett - $0.48 million
SP: [UNKNOWN]                               RH: Anthony Swarzak - $0.48 million
                                            RH: Terry Doyle - $0.48 million
                                            RP: [UNKNOWN]

As the No. 2 pick in the Rule 5 draft I'm assuming that Terry Doyle will make the Opening Day roster, in which case they'd have 10 of the 12 spots filled for around $33.5 million. They also bought out Joe Nathan for $2 million, which leaves just $4.5 million or so for a fifth starter and a seventh reliever. Brian Duensing and Anthony Swarzak are options to start, but Duensing is needed in the bullpen and the Twins have been linked to moderately priced free agents.

Presumably signing a starter like Jeff Francis or Paul Maholm to an inexpensive one-year deal would leave enough payroll space to add some right-handed bullpen help. Duensing and Glen Perkins are a solid duo from the left side, but relying on Swarzak and Alex Burnett to get key outs from the right side seems crazy. And the Twins had MLB's worst bullpen ERA in 2011, so merely losing Nathan and re-signing Matt Capps doesn't exactly address that huge weakness.

UPDATE: Kubel got a two-year, $15 million deal from the Diamondbacks, which is an odd fit.

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.

November 21, 2011

Twins Notes: Carroll’s contract, Kubel’s compensation, and minor moves

Jamey Carroll's deal was initially reported as two years and $7 million, but the actual details are slightly different. Carroll will get $2.75 million in 2012 and $3.75 million in 2013, and there's also a $2 million team option or $250,000 buyout for 2014 that becomes a player option with no buyout if he tops 400 plate appearances in 2013. Most likely it'll wind up being a two-year, $6.75 million deal, but it could become a three-year, $8.5 million contract.

Obviously committing multiple seasons to a 38-year-old middle infielder isn't ideal, but Carroll's deal seemed like a fair one to me at the time and looks even better now compared to a pair of middle infielder signings that followed. Mark Ellis got two years and $8.75 million to basically replace Carroll on the Dodgers. They're similar players, but Ellis hasn't played shortstop since 2005 and is coming off a career-worst season that saw him hit just .248/.288/.346 at age 34.

Clint Barmes got two years and $11 million from the Pirates, who'll use him as their everyday shortstop. All things being equal Barmes might be a better choice than Carroll for the next two seasons because he's five years younger and an elite defender with 15-homer power, but the money isn't close to equal and Barmes has also hit just .230/.275/.360 away from Colorado. Even with Coors Field included his .302 on-base percentage is 54 points below Carroll's mark.

Reported changes in the soon-to-be-signed collective bargaining agreement would eliminate compensation for Type B free agents, meaning the Twins would receive nothing if Jason Kubel signs elsewhere. Getting rid of the Type B free agent designation and lessening the number of Type A free agents qualified for compensation seems like bad news for the Twins long term, as they lose more free agents than they sign and rely heavily on the extra draft picks.

Not trading Kubel was a questionable decision when the Twins assumed they'd be receiving a supplemental first-round pick if he left as a free agent, but if that compensation for Kubel and other Type B players is eliminated they'll obviously regret the non-move. Instead of cashing him in for a decent prospect or two they'd get nothing, although certainly you can't blame the Twins for not being able to predict the future of collective bargaining changes.

Phil Dumatrait re-signed with the Twins on a minor-league deal after being trimmed off the 40-man roster. Dumatrait's track record shows that even his limited success involved pitching way over his head, but as Triple-A depth he's fine. Along with Dumatrait (and Brian Dinkelman and Jared Burton, who signed last week) the Twins also inked minor-league deals with Jason Bulger, Brendan Wise, Matt Carson, Wilkin Ramirez, Samuel Deduno, and Luis Perdomo.

When the Angels acquired Bulger from the Diamondbacks for Alberto Callaspo in 2006 he was a potential late-inning reliever, but injuries and control problems have held him back and now he's 32 years old with just 133 career innings in the majors. On the other hand he has a 4.33 ERA and 138 strikeouts in those 133 innings and throws in the low-90s with a good curveball, so the right-hander could be a midseason bullpen option.

Perdomo throws hard and spent 2009 in the Padres' bullpen with a 4.80 ERA and 55/34 K/BB ratio in 60 innings, but the 27-year-old righty has been mediocre at Triple-A since then and mostly just adds to the sudden collection of relievers with big velocity and little else. Wise and Deduno don't fit that mold, topping out in the low-90s. Wise's pretty ERA at Triple-A hides poor secondary numbers and Deduno is a ground-ball guy who doesn't miss bats or throw strikes.

Carson and Ramirez are both journeyman outfielders with brief stints in the majors who'll add some speed and right-handed pop to Rochester's lineup. Carson has hit .280/.343/.515 in 378 games at Triple-A, including .279/.337/.533 with 24 homers and 11 steals in 112 games this year at age 29. Ramirez is 27 years old and has hit .247/.308/.431 in 270 games at Triple-A, including .267/.307/.458 with 11 homers and 19 steals in 81 games this season.

• Bulger, Burton, Dumatrait, Dinkelman, and Carson are examples of the type of guys available on minor-league deals every offseason, which is why it's so confusing that the Twins decided to give 40-man roster spots to similarly mediocre talent like Matt Maloney and Jeff Gray. They can always drop Maloney and Gray from the 40-man roster, of course, but in the meantime the deadline to add prospects newly eligible for the Rule 5 draft came and went.

Oswaldo Arcia, Carlos Gutierrez, and Tyler Robertson were the three additions, protecting them from being selected in next month's draft, but the Twins also left decent prospects Angel Morales, Manuel Soliman, and Tom Stuifbergen unprotected and changed David Bromberg from protected to unprotected by outrighting him off the 40-man roster. Odds are that none of those four will be Rule 5 picks, but it certainly wouldn't be shocking if the Twins lost someone.

Bromberg was named Twins minor league pitcher of the year in 2009, but saw his stock drop with the jump to Double-A and Triple-A in 2010 and missed most of this year after a line drive broke his forearm in May. He ranked No. 13 on my list of the Twins' best prospects coming into this season and will probably drop into the 20-30 range for 2012, which is also where Morales, Stuifbergen, and Soliman will likely end up if they remain in the organization.

Delmon Young's postseason power surge caused some people to overreact about the Twins dumping him in mid-August, but now Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com writes that the Tigers are trying to deal him because they're "concerned about his defense." They apparently offered Young to the Braves for Martin Prado, but were turned down. And if the Tigers keep Young for 2012 they'll likely be paying him at least $7 million in his final season before free agency.

November 1, 2011

Twins Notes: Maloney, Gray, roster spots, and free agent rankings

• Last week I commended the Twins for trimming a half-dozen replacement-level players from the 40-man roster, but yesterday they filled two of the newly created spots with others teams' replacement-level players. By virtue of a 63-99 record the Twins have the No. 2 waiver position and it makes sense for them to take advantage of that as teams remove players from 40-man rosters and pass them through waivers in bunches to prepare for the offseason.

Unfortunately neither Matt Maloney nor Jeff Gray possesses any kind of significant upside or has a particularly intriguing track record, and for the Twins to give 40-man roster spots to the caliber of talent they could simply sign to minor-league contracts is strange. Last offseason they made similar moves to add Eric Hacker and Dusty Hughes to the 40-man roster and the results were predictably poor based on their underwhelming resumes.

Maloney, who was claimed off waivers from Cincinnati, is a former third-round pick whom the Reds acquired from the Phillies for Kyle Lohse in mid-2007. He's a 27-year-old left-hander with a 5.40 ERA in 80 career innings as a major leaguer and averaged just 87.1 miles per hour with his fastball. Maloney has very good control and some nice-looking ERAs in the minors, but he's an extreme fly-ball pitcher and doesn't miss many bats.

Maloney served up 18 homers through his first 80 innings in the big leagues, which works out to 2.0 homers per nine innings and would be the highest homer rate in Twins history. He also gave up 19 homers per 200 innings at Triple-A, which is a lot for an experienced pitcher in the power-deflating International League. Along with all those homers Maloney also managed just 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings in the majors and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings at Triple-A.

Gray is a 29-year-old reliever joining his fifth team in two years. He was originally picked by the A's in the 32nd round of the 2004 draft and they traded him to the Cubs in a 2009 deal for Aaron Miles and Jake Fox. He left the Cubs as a minor-league free agent and signed with the White Sox last offseason, only to be claimed off waivers by the Mariners in May of this season. Bouncing around doesn't preclude Gray from having upside, but his track record isn't pretty.

Gray has spent at least some time in the majors during each of the past four seasons, logging 89 total innings with a 4.57 ERA, 50-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .286 opponents' batting average. In theory averaging 93.5 miles per hour with his fastball and 86.7 miles per hour with his slider should allow Gray to miss more bats than Maloney, yet that hasn't been the case in the majors so far and he had just 142 strikeouts in 199 innings at Triple-A (with a 3.94 ERA).

Maloney and Gray aren't totally without value and certainly every team needs pitching depth, but for the Twins to choose them as waiver targets and give them each 40-man roster spots is hard to understand. Maloney is a 27-year-old fly-ball starter with a high-80s fastball and Gray is a 29-year-old journeyman reliever with iffy control and few strikeouts. Every winter dozens of pitchers just like them are available for minor-league deals that don't require 40-man spots.

• MLB Trade Rumors got its hands on the free agent compensation ratings ahead of the official release and the Twins' free agents are ranked as expected. Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps qualified as Type A and Jason Kubel qualified as Type B. Capps' rating is irrelevant, because in order for the Twins to receive compensation for him leaving they'd have to offer him arbitration first. And if they did that he'd simply accept and force them into a one-year, $8 million deal.

Obviously the Twins would welcome both Cuddyer and Kubel back on one-year deals, so they'll be offered arbitration and will each decline. Any team signing Cuddyer would have to give their first-round pick (or second-round pick, if their first rounder is in the top 15) to the Twins, who'd also receive a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. Teams are able to sign Kubel without losing a draft pick, but the Twins would receive a supplemental pick if he leaves.

MLB's compensation system has always vastly overrated relievers, which is why Capps is rated Type A while superior players like Kubel, Mark Buehrle, Aramis Ramirez, and Hiroki Kuroda are Type B. Because of the disconnect between ratings and actual value some Type A players have their free agent options limited when teams don't want to forfeit a pick to sign them, but in Cuddyer's case contenders are likely willing to surrender a pick as part of a multi-year deal.

• We're recording this week's episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" a day later than usual, so if you have any questions, comments, or topic ideas for us to cover on the show feel free to post them in the comments section or send them to me via Twitter.

August 29, 2011

Twins Notes: Waivers, trades, types, reinforcements, and Bernardo Brito

• Cleveland claimed Jim Thome off revocable waivers to facilitate last week's trade, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Indians were also the team that claimed Jason Kubel. No deal was struck and the Twins pulled Kubel back off waivers, in part because their asking price for him was much higher than for Thome and in part because the Indians ceased needing a left-handed bat after acquiring Thome.

Ron Gardenhire revealed during his weekly radio show that Thome and his agent asked the Twins to place him on waivers "to see what happened." There's speculation that Thome ideally wanted to land back in Philadelphia, where a playoff appearance is guaranteed, but he would have been merely a pinch-hitter for the Phillies. Cleveland's playoff hopes are slim, but Thome is playing every day for the Indians and homered Saturday on his 41st birthday.

Joe Nathan explained that he "would consider" waiving his no-trade clause for a Thome-like trade to a contender, but his contract complicates things. He's owed around $2 million for the rest of this season and has a $12.5 million option or $2.5 million buyout for 2012. To get even a mid-level prospect in return for Nathan the Twins would presumably have to eat nearly that entire $4.5 million and any move would have to be made by Wednesday.

Michael Cuddyer moving to first base has helped the Twins during Justin Morneau's lengthy absences, but it also appears to have hurt his free agent ranking. MLB and Elias Sports Bureau keep their official rankings secret until the offseason, but MLB Trade Rumors reverse-engineers the data and posts frequent updates. Cuddyer was projected as a Type A free agent until last week, when his listed position changed from outfield to first base and he dropped to Type B.

• Based on MLB Trade Rumors' latest projection Cuddyer and Kubel are both slightly below the Type A cutoff, but a lot can still change. It's an important distinction in terms of compensation the Twins would receive if they sign elsewhere, but also in terms of how many teams figure to pursue them. Carl Pavano was an example of Type A status hurting a free agent's market, as many potentially interested teams didn't want to forfeit a first-round pick to sign him.

• There are seven AL pitchers who qualify for the ERA title with an opponents' batting average above .290 and the Twins have three of them (Pavano, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn). In throwing 181 innings this season Pavano has allowed the most runs (103), hits (214), and baserunners (264) among AL pitchers and also has the league's second-lowest strikeout rate at 3.98 per nine innings. He'll be 36 years old next season and is owed $8.5 million.

Scott Diamond coughed up 10 hits in Friday's spot start versus the Tigers, becoming the fifth Twins pitcher to allow double-digit hits in a game this year. Diamond, Duensing, and Francisco Liriano have done it once apiece, Pavano has done it four times, and Blackburn has done it seven times in 26 total starts. Overall a Twins pitcher has allowed double-digit hits 14 times, which leads MLB. Not coincidentally their rotation has MLB's third-lowest strikeout rate.

• So far the Twins have used 16 players who weren't on the Opening Day roster and the only one of those 16 call-ups with an OPS or ERA better than league average is Anthony Swarzak. Seven are hitters and they've combined for 20 percent of the lineup's playing time while hitting .232/.281/.323 in 1,018 plate appearances. Nine are pitchers and they've logged 18 percent of the staff's batters faced while posting a 4.57 ERA in 187 innings (5.09 ERA without Swarzak).

Trevor Plouffe air-mailed a throw to first base over the weekend, but for the most part he's looked much improved at shortstop while subbing for the injured Tsuyoshi Nishioka. However, the destruction of Triple-A pitching that got him recalled to Minnesota hasn't shown up yet, as Plouffe has batted just .250/.293/.411 with an ugly 30-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34 games since rejoining the Twins in mid-July.

Ben Revere swiped his 25th base yesterday, moving into second place on the Twins' all-time list for rookies. That sounds impressive, except the person atop the leaderboard is Luis Rivas, who stole 31 bases as a rookie in 2001. Not only did Rivas bat just .266/.319/.362 in stealing those 31 bases, he went on to steal a grand total of just 48 bases in his next 479 games. Of course, even .266/.319/.362 is quite a bit better than Revere's current .255/.301/.294 mark.

Luke Hughes went deep twice yesterday in his 73rd career game, becoming the first Twins hitter with multiple homers in one of his first 75 games since Morneau and Joe Mauer both did it in 2004. Before then the last Twins to do that were Corey Koskie in 1999 and Ron Coomer in 1996. Oh, and Bernardo Brito in 1993. Brito, who spent seven years at Triple-A for the Twins and totaled 164 homers there, managed just five homers in the majors.

• Mauer came off the disabled list on June 17. Since then he's played 61 games and Cuddyer has played 55 games. Since the All-Star break Mauer leads the Twins in batting average (.320) and on-base percentage (.380) while playing more games than anyone but Revere and Danny Valencia. Not everything must fit the pre-established narrative. Speaking of which, this is one of the rare times when Patrick Reusse and I are in complete agreement.

Dr. David Altcheck, who performed Tommy John elbow surgery on Nathan in March of 2010, provided a second opinion on Kyle Gibson's partially torn elbow ligament and agreed with the Twins' recommendation that he attempt to rest and rehab the injury before going under the knife. Gibson will miss all of 2012 whether he undergoes surgery now or in two months, so the delayed decision won't necessarily impact his return timetable much.

• Gardenhire finished ninth in a Sports Illustrated poll asking players which manager they'd like to play for, with Joe Maddon of the Rays holding the top spot at 14 percent.

• One big Thome is back in Cleveland, but 10,000 little Thomes are still in Minnesota.

Charley Walters wrote the most St. Paul article in the history of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

• Old friend Pat Neshek learned the hard way that there's a considerable difference between "designated for assignment" and "optioned."

Delmon Young has zero walks in 58 plate appearances since being traded to the Tigers.

• Since the All-Star break the Twins are hitting .247 with a .305 on-base percentage and .366 slugging percentage compared to their opponents hitting .297 with a .353 on-base percentage and .467 slugging percentage.

• Overall this year the Twins have been out-scored by 144 runs for the worst run differential in the league and the second-worst mark in baseball ahead of only the Astros at -157. Last year the Twins out-scored their opponents by 110 runs.

• Dating back to 2010 and including the playoffs, the Twins are 58-88 in their last 146 games.

• Here's how the race for the top draft picks in 2012 looks:

              W      L       GB
Astros       44     90     ----
Orioles      53     78     10.5
Royals       55     79     11.0
TWINS        56     77     12.5
Mariners     56     76     13.0
Cubs         57     77     13.0

They may have to call up Mark Madsen to shoot some three-pointers in late September.

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