January 9, 2006

So Much For That

The first week of 2006 was filled with speculation about the Twins trying to re-acquire Corey Koskie from Toronto. One day they were said to be going after him hard, they next day they reportedly had zero interest in him, and the day after that they were supposedly trying to work out the money with the Blue Jays. That all came to an end over the weekend, when Toronto sent Koskie to Milwaukee for a non-prospect named Brian Wolfe who was actually property of the Twins as recently as a few months ago.

Details of the negotiations remained sketchy throughout, but the one key piece of information that was finally clarified is Koskie's contract. He will receive $5.25 million in 2006 and $5.75 million in 2007, and there is a $6.5 million option for 2008 that vests if Koskie reaches 1,200 plate appearances over the next two seasons. The time Koskie had to reach those 1,200 plate appearances was in question, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Joe Christensen apparently got his facts straight from a copy of the actual contract.

Koskie's injury history makes it extraordinarily unlikely that he'll get 1,200 plate appearances between 2006 and 2007 -- he's had 600 plate appearances in a season just once, back in 2001 -- essentially making his remaining contract $11 million over two years. Plus, in shipping him to Milwaukee, Toronto reportedly agreed to pay approximately $7 million of that remaining $11 million, leaving the Brewers with a total commitment of around $4 million over two seasons.

Now, it's certainly possible that the Blue Jays didn't offer the same sort of deal to the Twins. Perhaps Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi was willing to pay more to get Koskie out of the AL or maybe he has a grudge against Terry Ryan. However, I find it unlikely that the Twins couldn't have had Koskie for, say, $5 million over two seasons. After all, regardless of Ricciardi's preference for dealing Koskie, he was clearly willing to deal with the Twins and his mind likely could have been changed for a million bucks.

All of which means one of two things happened. The first is that Ryan wanted to re-acquire Koskie, was willing to give up a mediocre prospect while taking on a $4-5 million commitment over two seasons, and could not find room in the budget to do so. In this scenario you can either blame Carl Pohlad for not giving Ryan extra money to work with in order to make an important last-minute addition or you can blame Ryan for choosing to commit his last few million to Kyle Lohse.

The other option is that Ryan was never really all that interested in bringing Koskie back. Perhaps he contacted the Blue Jays just to see if he could get Koskie for virtually nothing, and when the asking price got up to even the modest sum of a non-prospect and a couple million bucks per season he bowed out. In this scenario you can blame Ryan for thinking that Tony Batista is a better option at third base and for not realizing that Koskie, even with his faults, is a bargain at that price.

Of course, it's very possible that a combination of those things kept Koskie from coming back to Minnesota. Whatever the case, the Twins had an opportunity to address one of the team's biggest weaknesses heading into 2006, and they failed to do so. Whether it had to do with haggling over a relatively small amount of money or with incorrectly evaluating the options at third base, I think a mistake was clearly made.

Either Ryan is unable to see that Koskie, warts and all, is a lot more likely to contribute positively to a contending team than Batista, or Pohlad was unwilling to spend some more of that additional revenue he'll pocket this season. Either scenario is extremely disappointing and they may ultimately be equally damning. The bottom line is that the Twins could have significantly improved themselves for a total of about $5 million and chose not to do so. As a fan I find that difficult to swallow.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Let’s talk: A Look At Player Agents (Part 2 - Perspectives) (by Maury Brown)
- Top 20 Catchers for 2006 (by Tim Dierkes)
- Daily Graphing: Corey Patterson (by David Appelman)

Pick of the Day (162-145, +$1,435):
Toronto +6 (-110) over Chicago

Tuesday's Pick:
Wisconsin -2 (-110) over Minnesota

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