October 24, 2007
Twins Notes: Cuellar, Koskie, Skippers, and Brothers
And here's Smith on the lack of minor-league hitting depth:
We've tried to get left-handed over the last decade. Mauer, Morneau, Santana, Kubel. And if you go back, Pierzynski, Koskie, Mientkiewicz. It's been a conscious effort. In our ballpark, there's no question left-handed pitching has an advantage because of the bigger left field, and left-handed hitters have an advantage because of the short right field. We have a pretty good handle on the dimensions of the new ballpark. It's not so dramatic, but it still favors lefthanders.
Actions speak much louder than words, of course, but so far Smith is talking a good game.
We'll try and address that. If we are able to make any trades, it could involve trading pitching depth for position-player depth. We have more pitching depth at the higher levels than position-player depth.
Joe Christensen suggesting earlier this month that Silva could command $25 million over three years seemed very low to me, so $21 million is pretty much a non-offer. As I've written here several times over the past month or so, my guess is that Silva will end up getting closer to $40 million than $20 million. My hope is that the Twins don't make a serious play for Silva, because with their MLB-ready pitching depth a mid-rotation starter making $8-10 million per season isn't needed.
Amazingly, whatever work Cuellar did with Liriano ranks second to the fact that he taught Santana his world-class change-up while they were together at Triple-A in 2002. At that point Santana had a modest minor-league resume and a 5.90 ERA in 129.2 career major-league innings. Under Cuellar he began the 2002 season with 75 strikeouts in 49 innings at Triple-A to earn a return trip to Minnesota, posted a 2.99 ERA with 137 strikeouts in 108.1 innings with the Twins, and hasn't looked back.
"Bobby Cuellar," Liriano said. "He's the man."
Cuellar was the Rochester pitching coach. He was hired away from the Twins organization by Pittsburgh to serve as manager Jim Tracy's bullpen coach this season.
Liriano said Cuellar refined the young lefthander's delivery to throw more strikes, taught him a new changeup grip and worked with him to make the slider more reliable.
"I probably would not be in the big leagues, not yet, without the help from Bobby Cuellar," he said.
Koskie isn't even guaranteed to be cleared by doctors at this point, so he's obviously far from a sure thing to ever be a productive major leaguer again. It's also worth noting that the Twins didn't re-sign Koskie in 2004 and then passed again when he was made available by the Blue Jays for pennies on the dollar two offseasons ago, which is how he ended up with the Brewers. With that said, he did hit .261/.343/490 in 76 games with the Brewers before suffering the concussion in 2006.
After visiting doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and working with a Twin Cities specialist, Koskie no longer suffers from headaches or dizziness after the lightest of activities. He can lift some weights and get some light exercise in. Most importantly for him, he can play with his kids. He figures that, at this rate, he will be ready for baseball activities by spring training.
Given the Twins' need for a third baseman and limited budget, they might be willing to see if Koskie has anything left in the tank this spring on a minor-league contract. Being a valuable player as recently as last season makes him much different than guys like Tony Batista, Sidney Ponson, and Ramon Ortiz, none of whom possessed any meaningful upside to balance their risk. If reasonably healthy, he could be a nice backup at both corner-infield spots or perhaps even a platoon starter at third base.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.