November 7, 2007
Twins Notes: Surveys, Splits, and Bud Light
Of 15 insiders surveyed by Crasnick, 14 responded that they expect Johan Santana to be the Twins' Opening Day starter. Crasnick suggests that "the folks at the players' union would love to see Santana go the distance and send starting pitchers' salaries into the stratosphere" after Carlos Zambrano settled for $91.5 million from the Cubs. He also notes that "if Barry Zito's seven-year, $126 million deal set the standard, it's hard to imagine what Santana might fetch once he's available to 29 other clubs."
Most observers think Smith might as well wait until July to assess his options, because teams still will be lining up to make a run at Santana if he's out there at the non-waiver trade deadline.
"Zito was riding a little off reputation, and there were some clubs that just weren't in on him," an AL executive said. "There isn't a team in baseball that wouldn't be in on Santana if it had the opportunity. There's a big difference."
Asked whether they'd rather have Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones in center field, 14 of 15 respondents chose Hunter. That initially struck me as surprising because in addition to being younger, Jones has a 5-to-2 edge in All-Star appearances and a 10-to-7 advantage in Gold Glove awards. Of course, Hunter is coming off what was arguably the best season of his career, while Jones is coming off what was arguably the worst of his. Still, there's little doubt that Jones was the superior hitter prior to 2007:
2006 G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI
Jones 156 .262 .363 .531 .894 41 129
Hunter 147 .278 .336 .490 .826 31 98
2005 G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI
Jones 160 .263 .347 .575 .922 51 128
Hunter 98 .269 .337 .452 .789 14 56
2004 G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI
Jones 154 .261 .345 .488 .833 29 91
Hunter 138 .271 .330 .475 .805 23 81
2003 G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI
Jones 156 .277 .338 .513 .851 36 116
Hunter 154 .250 .312 .451 .763 26 102
2002 G AVG OBP SLG OPS HR RBI
Jones 154 .264 .366 .513 .879 35 94
Hunter 148 .289 .334 .524 .858 29 94
Hunter was far better than Jones in 2007, but in each of the previous five seasons Jones played more games, hit more homers, got on base at a better clip, and posted a higher OPS, often by wide margins. Jones' .263/.342/.497 career hitting line is clearly superior to Hunter's .271/.324/.469. It's human nature to place more value on what's happened recently and perhaps Jones' sub par showing in 2007 is a sign of things to come, but I'd bet on the long-term track records holding true going forward.
Lastly, Crasnick asked which free-agent starter was most desirable. That Carlos Silva tied for the most votes isn't surprising, because I've suggested several times over the past month that he'll end up with a much bigger contract than most people seem to think given the incredibly weak market for starting pitcher. However, that he tied with Kyle Lohse is somewhat surprising given that he's been dealt for a mid-level prospect twice in the past 18 months (including once by the Twins).
I'd expect Silva to end up getting a four- or five-year deal worth $40 or $50 million, in which case Terry Ryan's decision to hold onto him at the trading deadline will look like a major mistake. Unlike Hunter the Twins will receive no draft-pick compensation for losing Silva, so Ryan essentially chose keeping him for a final dozen starts over whatever prospects he could have fetched. Of course, perhaps Silva began looking good only after general managers saw the pathetic list of free-agent starters.
YEAR G AVG OBP SLG OPS IsoP IsoD BIP
2004 120 .282 .358 .550 .908 .268 .076 .345
2005 162 .306 .402 .559 .961 .253 .096 .350
2006 159 .286 .386 .532 .928 .246 .100 .330
2007 145 .247 .327 .418 .745 .171 .080 .292
Bay had a tremendously disappointing 2007 season, but much like with Jones I'd trust his outstanding track record. He's a 29-year-old career .281/.375/.515 hitter with good power and plate discipline who figures to see a rise in batting average if his ball-in-play numbers return to previous norms. Bay has been a better hitter than Justin Morneau during their respective careers, his right-handed bat would fit nicely in a lefty-heavy lineup, and he's signed for a reasonable $13.25 million over the next two years.
AVG OBP SLG OPS BIP
Home .294 .374 .410 .784 .316
Road .332 .414 .509 .923 .353
Mauer's career is 1,756 plate appearances long, so it's still a relatively small sample, but the numbers are extreme. He's been about 16 more effective away from the Metrodome, which includes 53 percent more Isolated Power. Mauer has also hit 38 points higher on the road, which is due largely to a .353 batting average on balls in play that's 12 percent higher than at home. I'm not sure what to make of his splits, but I am sure that Dan Barreiro would use them as evidence that Mauer should be traded.
Why would the Yankees part with their 22-year-old starting center fielder, arguably the best pitching prospect in all of baseball, and two other top-50 prospects for a pitcher who has 33 starts left before hitting the open market and will then perhaps allow them to pay him $25 million per season beginning in 2009? I'm not necessarily in favor of trading Santana at this point, but if Bill Smith is getting offers that are even remotely close to the deal that Reusse suggested, he'd be a fool to pass on them.
Along those same lines, Reusse also suggested that the Twins trade Joe Nathan to the Yankees "and get bullet-throwing Joba Chamberlain." Much like Reusse's proposed Santana package that would be a no-brainer move for the Twins, but at some point you have to consider why in the world the Yankees would ever consider that trade. Nathan is an elite closer, but he's also 32 years old and becomes a free agent after one more season.
After posting a 2.00 ERA and 169-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 112.1 innings during his pro debut, including a 0.38 ERA in New York, Chamberlain also looks capable of being a dominant late-inning reliever. The difference is that he's 21 years old, will be making the minimum for several seasons, and is under the Yankees' control through 2012. Age, salary, and service time are all things that warrant a lot more attention from message-board posters, radio-show callers, and newspaper columnists.
I'd imagine that there's some sort of correlation.
Evanson: This past season, what area of your game improved the most and what will you be working on for next spring?
Bonser: Actually, the mental game was the big part for me. Having a full year in and learning from our veteran guys, Santana and Silva. As far as things I'm working on, there are a couple things; the thing they don't like was how heavy I was. I was a little bit heavier than I was last year, so that's one of the biggest keys that they want me to work on so that's what I'm going to try to do.
Evanson: Beer of choice?
Bonser: Who says I drink beer? I like drinkin' Bud Light. That's my beer of choice.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.