May 22, 2006

Twins Notes

  • I suggested a couple weeks ago that the Twins would be smart to trade Shannon Stewart before he becomes a free agent this offseason, but the potential return on such a deal dropped yesterday when the Twins placed Stewart on the disabled list with the dreaded "plantar fascia tear."

    Jason Kubel was recalled from Triple-A to take Stewart's place on the active roster, and despite Ron Gardenhire's spotty track record on such things I'm hopeful that he'll actually get a legitimate chance to establish himself in the lineup this time around. Kubel hit .283/.343/.475 with four homers and 13 total extra-base hits in 30 games at Triple-A.

    A platoon of Kubel against right-handed pitching and Lew Ford against left-handed pitching should have little problem duplicating Stewart's relatively modest production offensively (.298/.355/.376) and they'll be better defensively regardless of how the playing time is distributed.

    As good as Stewart was down the stretch in 2003, the decision to sign him to a three-year contract extension is looking like a mistake. Stewart hit well (.304/.380/.447) while missing 70 games in 2004, hit poorly (.274/.323/.388) while missing 30 games in 2005, and now this year is looking like a repeat of last season.

    If the Twins are lucky they will have gotten about 350 games of .290/.340/.425 hitting from a sub par defensive left fielder for $18 million, which isn't the sort of thing a small-payroll team can make a habit of doing if they hope to remain successful. Perhaps the Twins can recoup some of that value if Stewart returns from the DL in time to be traded at midseason, but I'm not holding my breath.

  • B.J. Garbe, who is one of the biggest draft busts in Twins history, retired over the weekend. A toolsy high-school outfielder from Washington who was the fifth overall pick in the 1999 draft, at no point did Garbe ever resemble a quality prospect after a decent 41-game stint at rookie-ball to begin his pro career.

    Garbe went on to post OPS totals of .636, .597, .619, .508, and .561 in five full-season stops in the Twins system, spending two seasons at both Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. After hitting .201/.283/.278 in his second year at Double-A in 2004, the Twins traded him to the Mariners for 41-year-old backup catcher Pat Borders in September.

    Garbe hit .275/.335/.426 as Single-A roster filler in 2005 and then latched on with the Marlins' Double-A team this season. Still just 25 years old, Garbe finishes his eight-year pro career with a .235 batting average in 722 games and is the middle man in a three-year run of top-10 picks (Ryan Mills in 1998, Garbe in 1999, Adam Johnson in 2000) that provided the Twins with zero value.

  • Gordon Wittenmeyer had a nice article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Friday about Corey Koskie's first season with the Brewers. Koskie was one of my favorite players while he was with the Twins and I was very disappointed when Terry Ryan failed to bring him back when he became available at a discount this offseason, so seeing him do well in Milwaukee is tough to take.

    Here's an interesting excerpt from the article:

    Koskie, 32, still lives in the Twin Cities and said at one point he would have welcomed a trade back to the Twins, once the Blue Jays said they intended to deal him.

    And J.P. Ricciardi called the Twins first once he completed the trade for all-star third baseman Troy Glaus and decided to aggressively shop Koskie to break his infield logjam. But despite the Jays' willingness to pick up two-thirds of Koskie's salary over the next two seasons (leaving a $2 million-a-year cost), Ryan declined.

    The Twins GM already had the $1.25 million Batista on the rolls and said afterward the decision to turn down the Blue Jays was based largely on the same baseball decision the team made a year earlier when Koskie left as a free agent.

    In other words, a declining number of games for four consecutive years, because of injury, made Koskie a risk the team didn't want to take.

    Tony Batista is hitting .252/.313/.422 this season while Koskie is at .289/.363/.537, and they've each played 37 games. Quite the "baseball decision."

  • A take-it-for-what-it's-worth note from Bob Matthews of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle:

    There is a much better chance of temporary Red Wings pitcher Kyle Lohse being traded than returning to the Twins. Minnesota should get a decent hitter from a team in dire need of a durable starting pitcher who would benefit from a change of scenery.

    "Durable" is certainly not the way I'd choose to describe Kyle Lohse at this point, but to each his own.

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