January 3, 2011
• With the Brewers out of the free agent starting pitching market following their trade for Zack Greinke various reports have Carl Pavano deciding between the Twins and Nationals. If the speculation about it coming down to which team offers him a three-year deal proves true fans should hope the Twins bow out. Signing a 35-year-old pitcher with an extensive injury history to a three-year pact that would surely be worth at least $25 million is just asking for trouble.
• They made no legitimate effort to re-sign Matt Guerrier or Jesse Crain and seemingly have no interest in bringing back Jon Rauch, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Twins are still talking to Brian Fuentes. Fuentes showed that he still has plenty left in the tank at age 35 and he'd be worth re-signing for, say, $10 million over two years, but it seems likely that he'll be able to get more money or an opportunity to close elsewhere.
• Many people have been assuming that Jim Thome re-signing was only a matter of time, but LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that Thome wants to "make up for what he didn't earn last season." It's tough to blame Thome, because he was certainly worth far more than the $2 million or so the Twins paid him in 2010. On the other hand there aren't many openings for pure designated hitters and he hasn't really been linked to other teams.
Bringing back Thome would be great if the price is reasonable, but it's also worth remembering that he wasn't a regular until Justin Morneau's concussion in early July, starting just 34 of the first 84 games. Thome and a healthy Morneau along with Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, and Delmon Young would give the Twins five players for four lineup spots, and it's hard to imagine Ron Gardenhire benching Cuddyer versus righties no matter how much sense it would make.
• General manager Bill Smith revealed during a recent interview with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey on 1500-ESPN that the Twins finished runner-up in the bidding for Japanese starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, which took place about four weeks before they won the bidding for infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. According to Smith the Twins bid $7.7 million for Iwakuma, which was nowhere near the A's winning bid of $19.1 million. And ultimately he didn't sign.
Based on Iwakuma’s reported asking price the Twins likely would have balked at his demands too, but had the posting fee been $7.7 million instead of $19.1 million it's possible he would've asked for significantly less money or the Twins would've had more room in the total budget for the acquisition to offer him a palatable deal. Whether that would've changed their pursuit of Nishioka is unclear, but Iwakuma is considered an elite Japanese pitcher.
• Dan Szymborski is gradually publishing his annual ZiPs projections at Baseball Think Factory and the Twins are his latest release. Before checking out the list keep in mind that no fan base has ever looked at projections for their team's upcoming season and concluded they were too optimistic. So, try not to be a homer. ZiPs projects Nishioka to hit .281/.337/.403 based on his track record in Japan, which is pretty close to my quick-and-dirty projection of .275/.335/.375.
• One interesting name among the Twins' latest batch of minor-league signings is left-hander Chuck James, a former top prospect who found success in the Braves' rotation before injuries sidetracked his career. James went 11-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 119 innings as 24-year-old rookie in 2006 and started 30 games with a 4.24 ERA in 2007, but struggled mightily in 2008 before undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in his shoulder.
He missed all of 2009, but came back very strong last season in the Nationals' system by going 10-1 with a 2.32 ERA and 69-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. James was an extreme fly-ball pitcher with a fastball that topped out in the high-80s even before going under the knife, so resurrecting his career is a long shot, but he's still just 29 years old and will be worth keeping an eye on at Rochester.
• After trading Jose Morales to the Rockies for reliever prospect Paul Bargas the Twins signed veteran minor-league catchers Steve Holm and Rene Rivera. They've both had brief stints in the big leagues, but neither can hit and they're definitely Triple-A caliber. Joe Mauer and Drew Butera are the only catchers on the 40-man roster, so presumably Holm and Rivera will vie for the spot behind Butera on the "hopefully he only has to start once a week" depth chart.