December 1, 2010

Twins Notes: Pavano, Crain, Hudson, Hardy, Nishioka, and Pimentel

• As expected Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain, and Orlando Hudson each declined arbitration offers from the Twins ahead of last night's deadline. Pavano and Crain had no-brainer decisions, as they're both drawing significant interest as free agents and should have no trouble securing multi-year deals, and Hudson was only offered arbitration in the first place because he agreed ahead of time to decline.

Assuming all three sign elsewhere the Twins will get a total of four compensatory draft picks. Pavano is a Type A free agent, so he'd fetch a first rounder and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds. Crain and Hudson are both Type B free agents, so they'd fetch one supplemental pick apiece. Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, and Jon Rauch weren't offered arbitration and Jim Thome didn't qualify as Type A or B, so there's no compensation attached.

• In reporting on Hudson officially declining arbitration yesterday Jon Heyman of called him a "fine player who could help any clubhouse." Heyman is basically just parroting the same national media perception of Hudson that ESPN, FOX, and TBS announcers repeated whenever they broadcast Twins games, but in reality little or no effort is being made to re-sign Hudson in part because the team specifically didn't like his presence in the clubhouse.

None of which is to suggest that Hudson is a terrible person or anything, but multiple sources affiliated with the Twins told me throughout the season that his outspoken jokester persona grew tiresome even though national media members like Heyman continue to constantly tout it as a positive trait treated as fact. Hudson will soon be playing for his fourth team in four years despite consistently solid performances on the field, so you can probably do the math there.

• The next key deadline for the Twins arrives tomorrow night, when they must decide whether to tender a 2011 contract to J.J. Hardy. Doing so would essentially guarantee him a one-year deal worth at least $6 million via the arbitration process. Because the Twins have seemingly soured on Hardy despite his above-average performance this season and are now negotiating with Tsuyoshi Nishioka to possibly replace him at shortstop non-tendering him is an option.

However, based on various reports there are multiple teams interested in trading for Hardy. That means even if the Twins are no longer interested in keeping him for 2011 they can tender him a contract and later deal him for some value rather than just cutting him loose and making him a free agent with a non-tender. Of course, I'm still holding out a slim hope that they keep Hardy at shortstop, sign Nishioka to play second base, and use Alexi Casilla as a utility man.

• Speaking of Nishioka, here's a lengthy highlight video that his representatives at the Beverly Hills Sports Complex put together:

Like many Japanese hitters Nishioka has a pronounced leg kick that precedes his swing, so it'll be interesting to see if the Twins would ask him to ditch it. Also of note after years of watching Nick Punto is that Nishioka appears to always slide first first.

• Last year the Twins spent a ton of cash in the international prospect market, landing Miguel Sano and several other high-upside players, and they've followed that up this year by possibly spending around $15 million on Nishioka. Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that they also recently signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Javier Pimentel for $575,000. Here's part of BA's scouting report on Pimentel:

Pimentel is a skinny shortstop with a projectable body who has shown good hands and arm in the field. He's a solid-average runner. He isn't a huge threat at the plate right now, but he could grow into more power as he fills out his lanky body.

I'm a big fan of investing heavily in international prospects. They're younger and typically less advanced than American high school and college prospects, but that added risk is mitigated by a lower cost to sign them and the value of draft picks. For instance, Pimentel signed for what is basically second-round money and the Twins were able to acquire him without actually using a second-round pick that, by itself, is worth several hundred thousand dollars.

• Not adding Kyle Waldrop to the 40-man roster and exposing him to next week's Rule 5 draft struck me as an error, but I'm pleased that the Twins did also clear a spot by dropping Estarlin De Los Santos. De Los Santos was a questionable 40-man addition last offseason and ranked just 30th on my annual list of the Twins' prospects. Since then he's hit .225/.294/.295 in 123 games between high Single-A and Double-A, so he had no business being protected.

Mike Redmond left the Twins as a free agent last offseason after five years as Joe Mauer's backup, spent a half-season with the Indians while hitting .206/.242/.270, and announced his retirement. Throughout his time in Minnesota he was regularly mentioned as manager material and sure enough Redmond has been hired to manage the Blue Jays' low Single-A affiliate that plays in the Midwest League with the Twins' team in Beloit.

• Thome being drafted as a shortstop is a known, albeit nearly unbelievable fact, but here's an even harder-to-believe fact discovered while poking around Through his first 247 games in the minors Thome stole 24 bases at a 71 percent success rate. In his 2,559 games since then between the minors and majors Thome has stolen a total of 20 bases while being thrown out 25 times, including no more than one steal in any season after 1996.

• While the Twins decide what to do with Hardy, this should be good for a chuckle.