September 12, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Every night at the Arby's in Uptown at least one doofus tries to use the drive-through on foot and I've never once thought "I bet that's a fugitive."

• Can someone please tell Gwyneth Paltrow thanks but not thanks. We're all set.

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are feuding over John Mayer, whose music I've consistently been mocked for liking since 2002.

• This is wonderful, but after seven decades together I'll bet they already have a gravy boat.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I talked/argued with David Brauer and John Bonnes about whether the Twins' management saying "we get it" means a damn thing.

• I was convinced Ben Revere would never hit an over-the-fence home run in the majors, but now he has two of them and the most recent one tied the game with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning:

Revere has hit .307 in two seasons with the Phillies, but still has a sub-.700 OPS.

• I want this 26,000-hour DVR, just for "Chopped" episodes.

• McDonald's has applied to trademark the word "McBrunch." Their mimosas could be interesting.

• I thank god for this every day.

• If you watch this GIF of per-capita cigarette sales from 1972 to 2012 it's almost like people realized at some point they weren't good for you.

• How does Danny Santana compare to the other standout rookies in Twins history?

Vladimir Guerrero has a 15-year-old son, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Vladimir Jr., who's already working out for MLB teams in the Dominican Republic:

Guerrero played his first full season in the majors when I was 15 years old. I feel very old.

• As a kid I had plenty of logo-clad yarmulkes, but Chief Wahoo seems like a bad choice.

• A lawsuit claims the Mets fired a woman because she had a baby out of wedlock. Seriously.

• Having been to many of the bars in this "The Best Places To Watch Each Pro Football Team In Minnesota" article it sure seems like they assigned teams randomly.

• Cardinals linebacker John Abraham, the NFL's active leader in sacks, "is suffering from severe memory loss and has been for more than a year." He is 36 years old.

Parker Hageman and Dan Anderson are apparently shooting video to accompany their "No Juice Podcast" episodes, which I can assure you is not something being considered for "Gleeman and The Geek."

Hannibal Buress was a funny guest on "Late Night" with Seth Meyers:

Fedora basketball seriously sounds like a great idea.

• Old friend Francisco Liriano and his filthy slider are dominating again, for the Pirates.

• My colleague Craig Calcaterra wrote a billion or so words about the "baseball is dying" silliness.

• I still need two more owners for my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports. Details here.

• My latest television obsession is "Property Brothers" on HGTV. Highly recommended and oddly addictive, with Canadian accents to boot.

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

- "Upped usages"
- "Hunan chicken Weight Watchers points"
- "Head-first slide"
- "How will Joe Mauer be remembered?"
- "Will Ron Gardenhire be fired?"
- "Hawk Harrelson net worth"
- "Kevin Slowey fan mail"
- "Weakness in baseball"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the Mayer-Perry duet "Who You Love":


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."

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.

January 12, 2011

Twins Notes: Thome, Pavano, relievers, and invites

Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune is among multiple sources reporting that the Rangers are making a strong push for Jim Thome, which is surprising considering Texas spoke publicly about shifting Michael Young to designated hitter after inking Adrian Beltre to an $80 million deal last week and announced they were no longer interested in re-signing their 2010 designated hitter, Vladimir Guerrero.

Thome has talked about wanting to return to Minnesota and general manager Bill Smith told Christensen that the Twins still hope to re-sign him, but clearly the two sides are far apart on money or contract length. Thome's projected role could also be a factor, because if he re-signs and Justin Morneau is healthy the Twins would have five hitters for four lineup spots, which is the same logjam that led to Thome starting just 34 of 84 games prior to Morneau's concussion.

If the Twins are offering him only a part-time gig and won't pay a premium or make a two-year commitment it makes sense that other teams have entered the mix for Thome, who was one of the most valuable hitters in the league last season while earning just $2 million. Thome also isn't an ideal fit for the Twins' lefty heavy lineup because he's a left-handed bat who should be on the bench versus most left-handed pitching.

However, handedness is a secondary concern that should come well behind overall production and Thome is the best bat available. For instance Guerrero, who Thome would be replacing as the DH in Texas, is a right-handed hitter, but his OPS was 200 points worse than Thome's and he slugged just .426 in the second half before struggling mightily in the playoffs. Swapping out Thome for a righty might make the Twins' lineup more balanced, but it won't make it better.

• For much of the offseason the Nationals were believed to be the Twins' main competition for Carl Pavano, but last week general manager Mike Rizzo downplayed Washington's interest in Pavano, claiming "we haven’t talked to his agent since the winter meetings." Shortly after that reports began to surface that Pavano and the Twins were closing in on a two-year deal, but no new developments have emerged yet this week.

Pavano is a 35-year-old with an extensive injury history and the second-lowest strikeout rate in baseball last season among all pitchers with more than 180 innings, so even a two-year deal is a big risk for a team that could let him walk and fill the rotation with Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn. Beyond that, by re-signing him the Twins would be passing on two compensatory draft picks.

I'd probably let Pavano walk, take the draft picks, spend the money on relief help or a veteran bat, and head into the season with the above five-man rotation and Kyle Gibson waiting in the wings at Triple-A, but re-signing him for two years and $15 million or so would be palatable enough. Bringing back Pavano could also enable the Twins to move one of the other starters to the bullpen or use them as trade bait, although those aren't necessarily good things.

• Most of the relievers I highlighted early in the offseason as potential low-cost bullpen targets are now off the market and many of them signed cheaply enough that they would have made sense for the Twins. Here are the statuses of the 13 relievers I suggested the Twins pursue:

D.J. Carrasco - Signed two-year, $2.5 million deal with Mets
Todd Coffey - Unsigned
Octavio Dotel - Signed one-year, $3.5 million deal with Blue Jays
Frank Francisco - Accepted arbitration from Rangers
Bobby Jenks - Signed two-year, $12 million deal with Red Sox
Will Ohman - Signed two-year, $4 million deal with White Sox
Hideki Okajima - Signed one-year, $2.75 million deal with Red Sox
Chan Ho Park - Signed with Korean team
Joel Peralta - Signed one-year, $925,000 deal with Rays
Chad Qualls - Unsigned
George Sherrill - Signed one-year, $1.2 million deal with Braves
Koji Uehara - Signed one-year, $3 million deal with Orioles
Dan Wheeler - Signed one-year, $3 million deal with Red Sox

Aside from perhaps Jenks' two-year, $12 million contract every one of those relievers would've made sense for the Twins at those prices, but instead they've essentially done nothing to plug the bullpen holes left by Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch. Jim Hoey is an intriguing pickup from the J.J. Hardy deal and there are some minor leaguers capable of stepping in, but it would've been nice to see the Twins sign one or two of the above relievers.

Coffey and Qualls are the only unsigned relievers from my low-cost list, and yesterday Buster Olney of ESPN.com wrote that Qualls "is looking for a one-year deal to re-establish his value before going back out on the market." Here's what I said about Qualls in recommending him as a low-cost target a month ago:

With a 7.32 ERA in 59 innings between two teams Qualls had a dreadful season, but most of that can be blamed on a .399 batting average on balls in play that was the worst in all of baseball among the 327 pitchers who logged at least 50 innings. In fact, Qualls was one of just two pitchers with a BABIP above .375. Qualls could be unlucky again in 2011 and that number would still probably drop by 40 points, and his career mark is .309.

Thanks to a solid strikeout rate and high percentage of ground balls he posted a nice-looking 3.91 xFIP that would've ranked second on the Twins behind only Francisco Liriano and both his xFIPs and ERAs were consistently in the 2.75-3.50 range from 2004-2009. He's maintained good velocity on a fastball-slider combo and if the Twins can avoid being scared off by his ugly ERA there's a quality setup man to be found in Qualls' track record and secondary numbers.

There's no indication that Qualls is even on the Twins' radar, but I'd feel a lot better about the middle relief corps if they could sign him for $2 million or so.

• Yesterday the Twins announced non-roster invites to spring training, which are players not on the 40-man roster who'll report to big-league camp in Fort Myers. Six of the 19 non-roster invitees are catchers, which is common since teams need battery mates for the extra pitchers in camp. Beyond all the backstops the list includes minor-league veterans given invites as part of their deals and three legit prospects in Gibson, Carlos Gutierrez, and Kyle Waldrop.

Here's the full list:

Hitters                  Pitchers
Jeff Bailey              Yorman Bazardo
Matt Brown               Phil Dumatrait
Ray Chang                Kyle Gibson
Brian Dinkelman          Carlos Gutierrez
Brian Dozier             Chuck James
Jair Fernandez           Kyle Waldrop
Chris Herrmann
Steve Holm
Justin Huber
Chase Lambin
Danny Lehmann
Danny Rams
Rene Rivera

Odds are that none of those guys will crack the Opening Day roster, but there are certainly a handful of non-roster invitees with a chance.