January 15, 2008

Twins Notes: Money, Money, Money, and Money

  • Over at MLB.com, Kelly Thesier reports that "so far it appears no progress has been made" in the Twins' attempt to lock Justin Morneau up to a long-term contract extension. Morneau told Thesier that he's "looking for a long-term deal if it makes sense for me" before adding that "no discussions have been had." Morneau figures to make around $7 million via arbitration this season, but is under the Twins' control through 2010.

    At one point last season Morneau said that he'd be willing to sign a five- or six-year extension to remain in Minnesota, but reportedly turned down an offer from the Twins that was similar to the four-year, $33 million extension that Joe Mauer agreed to last winter. As good as Morneau has been and can be, his .276/.340/.498 career hitting line is just slightly above average for an MLB first baseman and paying that type of player something like $12 million per season would be risky for a team like the Twins.

  • On a somewhat related note, a little birdie informed me that a long-time AG.com reader will soon be joining the staff at MLB.com and covering the Twins alongside Thesier.
  • When the Twins traded for Craig Monroe in November and then signed him to a one-year deal worth $3.82 million last month, I suggested that there were several other right-handed hitters on the market who're better than Monroe and figured to be available for significantly less money. Among the players mentioned specifically by name was Emil Brown, who sure enough is now property of the A's after inking a one-year deal worth just $1.45 million earlier this week.

    Monroe and Brown were equally awful last season and neither player is an especially good bet at this point, but Brown's recent track record is clearly superior. Combined over the past three seasons Brown hit .279/.340/.428, including .289/.353/.488 against lefties. During that same stretch Monroe batted .254/.300/.439, including .281/.332/.481 against southpaws. Brown was seven percent more effective overall and five percent more effective against lefties, yet Monroe is set to make 2.5 times as much.

  • In laying out various potential replacements for Torii Hunter earlier this offseason, I noted that Mike Cameron was one of the more appealing options because he "figures to be far less expensive than Andruw Jones or Aaron Rowand" despite being a relatively comparable player. While Hunter got $90 million from the Angels, Rowand got $60 million from the Giants, and Jones got $36 million from the Dodgers, Cameron signed a one-year deal with the Brewers that's worth just $7 million.

    Cameron is 35 years old and has been suspended for the first 25 games of the season, but for a total commitment of $7 million he's a fine short-term investment. Cameron was once among the truly elite defensive players in all of baseball and remains a good center fielder, and he's hit .255/.341/.456 over the past two seasons despite playing in the majors' most extreme pitcher's ballpark. Take a look at how his numbers compare to Hunter's over the past three years and for their respective careers:

    2005-2007        PA      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     OPS+
    Hunter 1677 .279 .335 .487 .822 114
    Cameron 1628 .259 .342 .461 .803 112

    Hunter 4894 .271 .324 .469 .793 104
    Cameron 6299 .251 .341 .445 .786 106

    That the Twins were never even rumored to be in the mix for Cameron seemingly suggests that they're confident about acquiring a new center fielder via trade, in which case signing a 35-year-old makes little sense. However, if dealing Johan Santana or Joe Nathan doesn't net a good, young center fielder who can immediately fill Hunter's shoes then the fact that Monroe is making almost $4 million and Cameron is making just $7 million means that the Twins made a mistake somewhere.

  • In an effort to add some organizational pitching depth, the Twins signed Randy Keisler and Zach Day to minor-league contracts. Keisler should be little more than Triple-A rotation filler at Rochester, but Day is more intriguing. He debuted for the Expos as a 24-year-old in 2002 and posted a 4.01 ERA through his first 285.1 big-league innings, but hasn't been healthy since 2004 and didn't throw a single pitch in the majors last season following rotator-cuff surgery in June of 2006.

    Day is closing in on his 30th birthday and has thrown a grand total of 87.1 innings with an ugly 6.80 ERA since 2004 (with minor-league numbers that aren't much better), but was a ground-ball machine prior to his arm problems and possesses at least some semblance of upside. If signing Day keeps the Twins from bringing in this season's version of no-upside veterans like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson it's a plus whether or not he ever throws a pitch in Minnesota.

  • As a follow-up to my suggestion last week that the Twins' bonus-related stinginess may keep them from taking full advantage of having three of the first 31 picks in June's draft, Baseball America notes that only two teams spent less on their 2007 draft picks than the Twins. First rounder Ben Revere was widely considered a second- or third-round talent and thus cost just $750,000, which is the smallest bonus any first-round pick has received since 1998, and the Twins spent a grand total of $1.8 million.

    To put that in some context, 14 players received at least $1.8 million on their own and the average team forked over $4.5 million, including a half-dozen teams that spent over $7 million. Having two "extra" first-round picks also means having to give out two "extra" first-round bonuses, so the Twins may be even less likely than usual to select an elite player who has large bonus demands. MLB payrolls get most of the attention, but the draft is another area where money gives some teams a huge advantage.

  • General manager Dan O'Dowd revealed recently that the Rockies "stuck our nose in on the Santana thing," but didn't get very far in talks with the Twins because "Santana has a no-trade clause and has a desire to stay more on the East Coast." That may explain why high-payroll, prospect-rich teams like the Dodgers, Angels, and Mariners haven't been linked much to Santana, and may keep the Twins from getting the best possible return for him.
  • Last but definitely not least, Mike Fast over at Statistically Speaking recently posted a fascinatingly unique breakdown of Santana's pitching that mixes scouting and stats in amazing detail.

  • No Comments

    No comments yet.

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.