November 15, 2009

Twins Notes: Washburn, Buscher, Huber, Crede, Neshek

  • Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that the Twins "are expected to pursue" free agent Jarrod Washburn, which certainly isn't surprising. At various points over the past two years the Twins have been linked to Washburn in trade rumors, and depending on who you believe they were on the verge of acquiring him from the Mariners two seasons ago. However, based on his likely price tag signing Washburn would be a mistake for the Twins.

    An extreme fly-ball pitcher who took advantage of the Mariners' power-deflating ballpark and historically great outfield defense to post a 2.64 ERA through 20 starts this year, Washburn allowed 35 runs in 43 innings for the Tigers following a midseason trade. His struggles in Detroit can perhaps be blamed on a knee injury that required post-season surgery, but regardless of that he's a soft-tossing 35-year-old with mediocre control and a horrible strikeout rate who hasn't thrown 200 innings since 2003.

    Since that last 200-inning season Washburn has posted the following Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) totals: 5.06, 5.01, 5.35, 5.30, 5.11, 4.97. Not surprisingly xFIP doesn't think very much of extreme fly-ball pitchers who lack pinpoint control and don't miss any bats, and once you add in his age and knee surgery Washburn is the epitome of a bad free-agent target. If he ends up with the Twins they better pray that Denard Span's early defensive ratings are fluky and the new ballpark plays very big.

  • Removed from the 40-man roster last week, Brian Buscher opted for free agency rather than re-sign with the Twins on a minor-league deal. Buscher is a tweener in that he's not strong enough defensively to be a regular third baseman and not strong enough offensively to be a regular first baseman, which makes him merely a decent bench player. He hit .266/.343/.356 with eight homers, 22 total extra-base hits, and a 93-to-53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 502 plate appearances for the Twins.

    Plucked from the Giants organization via the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft three winters ago, Buscher hit .309/.385/.493 in 103 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2007 and .319/.402/.514 in 53 games at Triple-A last year, but showed an extreme lack of power with the Twins and ultimately isn't much of a loss. Buscher's patient, relatively high-contract approach could make him a solid pinch-hitter and backup at both corner infield spots, but at 29 years old there isn't much upside to be had.

  • Justin Huber initially agreed to a minor-league contract with the Twins after being trimmed from the 40-man roster, but the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese League are reportedly close to acquiring him. Huber is the type of player who Japanese teams often target, because he has a lengthy track record of minor-league success without a big-league future. In fact, he's accumulated a grand total of 175 plate appearances in the majors despite hitting .283/.375/.484 over 3,533 plate appearances in the minors.

    UPDATE: Seth Stohs reports that Juan Morillo has also signed with a team in Japan despite the Twins adding him to the 40-man roster last week.

  • Bill Smith indicated that the Twins are still open to re-signing Joe Crede, but view him as more of a fallback option than they did at this time last year. He recently underwent a third back surgery, but will be ready for spring training and no longer has any pretense of getting anything but an incentive-laden one-year contract. He's hardly an ideal target at third base, but as noted in last week's "Realistic Free Agent Options" look at the position Crede for $2 million or so wouldn't be an awful last resort.
  • After missing the entire season following Tommy John elbow surgery, Pat Neshek recently blogged that he's throwing fastballs, changeups, and sliders off a mound at "max effort" and "feels great." What to expect from Neshek in 2010 is anyone's guess, because for every pitcher who bounces back quickly from the surgery there's a Francisco Liriano who leaves his dominant stuff on the operating table, but before going down he had a 2.91 ERA, .188 opponents' average, and 142 strikeouts in 120.2 innings.
  • Joe Mauer won his second straight Gold Glove, which might be somewhat meaningful if not for the fact that Derek Jeter also won his fourth Gold Glove and Franklin Gutierrez failed to capture his first. Yet another award that, for me at least, has lost all meaning thanks to years and years of bad choices.

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