December 7, 2005

Twins Notes

Lots of Twins stuff to get caught up with, so let's get right to it ...

From Charley Walters' column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Sunday:

Forget the Frank Thomas-to-the-Twins rumors. The Twins say they have nothing going with the former Chicago White Sox slugger.

Interesting, of course, although I'd like to see who besides Sid Hartman ranks below Walters in terms of accuracy when it comes to rumors and predictions. And sure enough, the Official Twins Beat Writer of, La Velle E. Neal, has a lengthy article discussing the Twins' significant interest in Frank Thomas in this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune.

From Bob Dutton's "Royals Notebook" in the Kansas City Star Saturday:

The Royals sought to acquire All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo before Florida traded him Friday to Minnesota, but they backed off when the Marlins demanded either relievers Ambiorix Burgos or Andrew Sisco in return.

The Marlins rejected offers of relievers Jeremy Affeldt or Mike MacDougal for Castillo before shipping him to the Twins for minor-league pitchers Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler.

Not that it matters much now, but it surprised me that with the number of teams rumored to be interested in Luis Castillo, the Twins' relatively modest offer of Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler got the Marlins to bite. It gives me some hope that Kyle Lohse and J.C. Romero can be significant parts of a package to acquire an impact hitter.

From Jayson Stark's column on last Tuesday.

Other clubs have been amazed by what a good deal [new Phillies general manager Pat] Gillick was able to make for [Jim] Thome -- without even having to take him to spring training to prove he's healthy.

"To not even pay half of Thome's money, to get a good player like [Aaron] Rowand and to get two good left-handed prospects [Gio Gonzalez and Daniel Haigwood], I don't blame Pat for not hesitating in taking that deal," an official of one AL team said. "He didn't call the Twins back. He didn't call any other teams back. He had to do this deal before [White Sox general manager] Kenny Williams changed his mind. I still can't believe Kenny threw in those two left-handers. He must have had blinders on with Thome."

I'm not quite so quick to proclaim Philadelphia the winner of the swap, but the implication that the Twins were in the mix for Jim Thome at some point is interesting. I doubt very much that Terry Ryan would have come close to giving up a similar package of, say, Torii Hunter, Glen Perkins, and Adam Harben.

From Ken Rosenthal's column on Monday:

The Braves' search for a closer could lead them to pursue deals with the Twins, Astros and other teams with deep bullpens. The Twins, after sending right-hander Travis Bowyer to the Marlins in the Luis Castillo trade, do not plan to trade any of their right-handed relievers, though they would part with lefty J.C. Romero.

Rosenthal reports that the Twins aren't interested in dealing right-handed relievers, but I would love them to shop Jesse Crain. While I like Crain, his value is probably close to its peak after going 12-5 with a 2.71 ERA, and the fact that he is completely unable to strike anyone out is very concerning to me. If the Braves are convinced that they can turn him into a closer and they're willing to part with third-base prospect Andy Marte to find out, I would jump all over it. I'd even toss in Romero and Lohse.

From Neal's article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday:

The Twins will have a new third baseman nest season. It probably won't be Bill Mueller. Many people in Dallas said they thought the switch-hitting Mueller would be a good fit for the Twins, but the Dodgers, Giants and Pirates have emerged as top suitors.

Mueller, 34, batted .295 with 10 homers and 62 RBI for Boston last season. His batting average was fourth-highest among major league third basemen. The fact that the Twins are considered to be out of the running suggests his price in this costly free-agent season has escalated.

That's a shame, because I've really warmed to the idea of Bill Mueller playing third base. He plays solid defense and would have fit nicely in either the second or sixth spot in the lineup. I think he's worth more or less as much as Castillo, so here's hoping the Twins at least offered him something like $10 million over two years. It'll definitely be interesting to see what he ends up signing for.

From Jason Williams' article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Monday:

The Twins are in Dallas for the annual winter meetings looking for a designated hitter. They might end up having to find one from within, and there already seems to be an internal candidate - Michael Cuddyer.

I already talked about how little sense this makes to me last week, but let me repeat it now: To take a guy who is capable of playing second base, third base, first base, left field or right field and stick him at designated hitter would be a mistake. If the Twins think Michael Cuddyer can hit enough to be a DH, then they should be doing everything in their power to make it work with him at another position.

If the Twins end up signing a proven mediocrity like Joe Randa while Cuddyer wastes away on the bench or is miscast as a DH, my confidence in Ryan will be shaken. If you're not going to take advantage of Cuddyer's ability to play passable defense at numerous positions and you don't trust him enough to play a spot the team is desperate to fill, then why not just give up on him completely and be done with it?

Here's how Cuddyer and Randa compare over the past three years:

             AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
Randa .284 .342 .438 .780
Cuddyer .261 .333 .430 .763

Randa turns 36 years old in a couple weeks and will likely cost several million dollars per year over multiple seasons. Cuddyer doesn't turn 27 years old until March and will cost a total of about $1 million over the next two years. (For the curious, Mueller hit .303/.378/.474 for an .852 OPS over that same span, although those numbers can be downgraded a bit thanks to Fenway Park.)

From Williams' article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press yesterday:

The Twins also met with the Cincinnati Reds to ask about a trade involving right fielder Austin Kearns.

I suggested completely out of the blue in this space last week that Austin Kearns is a player I'd love to see the Twins going after. As I've said regarding just about any decent hitter who might be available this offseason, if the Reds will take Romero and Lohse for Kearns, the Twins should jump at it. The deal would free up about $5 million that they could use to up their offer to Mueller or sign someone like Thomas, Reggie Sanders or Mike Piazza.

And finally, from Neal's article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Friday:

Castillo will replace Luis Rivas, who was the Twins' Opening Day starter at second the previous five seasons. The club and Rivas parted ways after last season, and things have gotten worse for Rivas since then. In his first winter league game in Venezuela, Rivas was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist.

While I have devoted many thousands of words to criticizing Luis Rivas here over the years, I certainly don't wish bodily harm upon anyone. I would like to see him make a full recovery with another team, hopefully one in the AL Central.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
- Can Batters Successfully Modify Their Batting Approach? (by John Walsh)

Pick of the Day (149-126, +$2,225):
Los Angeles -2.5 (-110) over Toronto

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