January 11, 2009

Hello Like Before

Hello like before
I'd never come here if I'd known that you were here
I must admit though that it's nice to see you, dear
You look like you've been doing well

- Bill Withers, "Hello Like Before"

I'm back from Beckett Media headquarters in Dallas and my annual blog-neglecting hibernation while putting together the Rotoworld baseball magazine each winter is finally over. We seemingly never have quite enough time at the Beckett offices to be fully comfortable with how every last inch of the magazine turned out, but I'm very happy with the product that will be hitting newsstands next month. Based just on word count alone you won't find a better value, because $6.99 for 175,000 words is ridiculous.

About one-third of those words were written by me, one-third were penned by Matthew Pouliot, and the rest were split between Craig Calcaterra, David Pinto, Nate Stephens, Nick Nelson, Chris Wesseling, Derek Carty, Drew Silva, and Conor Glassey, which is a group that likely includes several recognizable names whether you're a Rotoworld reader, blog enthusiast, or Twins fan. Toss in Beckett turning those words into a great-looking magazine and I'm confident stacking it up against anything on the market.

Not only does the name Beckett rightfully carry a ton of weight in the magazine world, their ability to put out great products is matched only by their hospitality. Last week was my third trip to Dallas and each trek has involved a ton of stressful, last-minute labor on an important project, yet it always seems more like spending a few days at a friend's house than work. Mike Obert is the friend whose place we crash at, Tim Trout makes life easy coordinating things on Beckett's end, and everyone at the office is great.

We work hard on the magazine all day in a wonderful environment full of smart, easygoing people and then go out to dinner together each night. In fact, even considering the part about having to actually put together a 175,000-word product in a short period of time I look forward to the Beckett trip each winter. All of which is a long way of saying thank you to Mike, Tim, Brett, Brent, Kyla, Pete, and everyone else for treating us so well and making a tough few days seem easy. And for introducing me to hibachi.

Between my trip to Las Vegas for the winter meetings and self-imposed hibernation for the Rotoworld magazine it's been a while since AG.com was running normally with near-daily entries. Thankfully the Twins were kind enough to do absolutely nothing during that time, sitting on their hands until blogging resumed. Thanks, fellas. There's still an outfield logjam and it still involves Delmon Young, third base still belongs to Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris, and the bullpen still looks exactly the same.

I'm on record saying that decent-bat, poor-glove third basemen like Garrett Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Casey Blake, and Ty Wigginton simply aren't sizable enough upgrades over a Buscher-Harris platoon to justify the prices to acquire them, so the Twins' lack of action on that front doesn't bother me one bit. Similarly, while my sense at the winter meetings was that the Twins were clearly looking to deal Young, hanging onto him is far from disastrous at this stage.

However, the Twins' odd refusal to address the bullpen cost them a trip to the playoffs last season and has led to them watching this winter as quality late-inning options like Jeremy Affeldt, Bob Howry, Joe Nelson, and Takashi Saito signed reasonably priced deals elsewhere. There's some talk of being in the mix for Brandon Lyon and they were in attendance last week when a rehabbing Chad Cordero tried to show that he's healthy following surgery, but most of the good, low-cost options have dried up.

It's possible that the Twins are essentially counting on Jose Mijares to be their big bullpen addition for 2009 and certainly he looked as good as any free agent while allowing just one run in 10 appearances down the stretch last season, but he's hardly a sure thing late-inning option if you trust his career-long track record more than his two-week debut. For one thing, Mijares walked zero batters in 10.1 innings with the Twins after handing out 60 walks in 85 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Mijares had a 3.71 ERA in those 85 innings and less than 10 percent of those frames came at Triple-A, which means that he'll enter 2009 as a 24-year-old rookie with a grand total of 19 career innings above Double-A. I'm all for giving young, inexperienced players a chance in key roles, but I'm also a believer in minor-league track records predicting major-league success and nothing Mijares did prior to those two weeks in Minnesota suggested "sure thing."

Far too many fans and media members are criticizing the Twins for not spending money just to spend money without realizing that throwing millions at someone like Wigginton wouldn't actually improve the team much, if at all. However, bringing in even one capable veteran reliever could have a major impact and comes with a minimal cost. Not only were Affeldt, Howry, Nelson, and Saito all reasonably priced individually, the foursome is guaranteed a combined $9.1 million for 2009.

If you're curious, last winter the Twins gave out $8.8 million in guaranteed money to Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe. I'm perfectly fine with the Twins coming in significantly under what everyone seems to feel their budget should be if the likely alternatives are using that excess money to pay a premium for marginal upgrades or swap cheap talent for expensive mediocrity, but they were (and still are, to some extent) in position to cheaply boost the bullpen and so far at least have watched the pitch go by.

I'm back now, guys. Feel free to, you know, do something.

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