September 22, 2014

Who will the Twins purge from the 40-man roster this offseason?

Jared Burton Twins

At the beginning of each offseason every team goes through the ritual housecleaning of shedding players from the 40-man roster to prepare for a winter of adding new players and protecting new prospects. As one of baseball's worst teams for a fourth straight year the Twins have no shortage of dead weight on the 40-man roster, plus plenty of marginal talents clinging to spots, so here's my breakdown of the players most likely to be shed and where they stand (in alphabetical order):

A.J. Achter: Added to the 40-man roster in September after a nice season between Double-A and Triple-A, the former 46th-round pick debuted at age 26. His success this season was driven largely by an unsustainably great batting average on balls in play and Achter's control has never been particularly good, which along with a high-80s fastball and unspectacular strikeout rates makes him unlikely to project as more than a middle reliever.

Doug Bernier: Last year the Twins called up Bernier to fill a little-used bench role and dropped him from the 40-man roster after the season, which is presumably the plan again this time. He had a solid season at Triple-A, hitting .280/.348/.396 in 124 games, but Bernier is 34 years old and the epitome of a replacement-level player. Great to have stashed at Triple-A, not great to have in the majors or even taking up a spot on the 40-man roster.

Jared Burton: One of the Twins' better scrap-heap pickups, Burton was a high-end setup man for a year-and-a-half before struggling down the stretch last year and showing major signs of decline this season. Dating back to August of last season Burton has a 5.12 ERA and 50/28 K/BB ratio in 72 innings. His velocity is down, he's ceased missing bats, and at age 33 it's hard to see him being trusted enough in a high-leverage role to justify picking up his $3.6 million option for 2015.

Chris Colabello: He was a good story and absolutely deserved a shot in the majors after crushing Triple-A pitching, but Colabello hit .214/.284/.364 with a ghastly 124/34 K/BB ratio in 114 games. He has no defensive value and, unlike most right-handed hitters, his approach at the plate doesn't lend itself to crushing left-handers. At age 31 it's tough to imagine giving him another extended opportunity, especially considering the Twins' depth at first base and designated hitter.

Logan Darnell: It's tough to see Darnell sticking in the big leagues as a starter. He has a 3.82 ERA with a poor strikeout rate and mediocre control in 172 innings at Triple-A, his average fastball so far in the majors is 89 miles per hour, and he struggles against right-handed hitters. At age 25 he may still have a future in the bullpen, but the same could be said of nearly every left-handed starter and there isn't much in his track record to suggest his upside there is notable.

Brian Duensing: It's masked by a strong ERA, but Duensing's secondary numbers collapsed with a 32/20 K/BB ratio in 53 innings. His inability to handle righties means he can't be trusted in the late innings and he's not dominant enough against lefties to be a southpaw specialist. Duensing is a perfectly decent middle reliever, but at age 31 and with an arbitration-fueled raise to at least $3 million coming for his final pre-free agency season he's a non-tender candidate.

Eric Fryer: Tabbed to fill the Drew Butera role as a catcher who can't hit enough to warrant a roster spot, Fryer took over as Kurt Suzuki's backup when the Twins demoted Josmil Pinto to the minors. He's hit .248/.325/.345 in limited MLB action, which is actually much better than his .217/.314/.316 line in 204 games at Triple-A. Even if the Twins are convinced Pinto has no future behind the plate they can do better than Fryer as a second (or third) catcher.

Chris Herrmann: In theory Herrmann brings versatility to the table as a catcher/outfielder, but the Twins want nothing to do with him behind the plate defensively and he doesn't hit enough to have any business in the outfield. He's hit .184/.256/.268 in 91 games for the third-worst OPS in the Ron Gardenhire era of 2002-2014, ahead of only Butera and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. And at age 27 his .262/.331/.399 line in 129 games at Triple-A is barely any better.

Kris Johnson: Acquired from the Pirates as part of the Justin Morneau trade, it was never clear why the Twins wanted Johnson unless they focused on his misleadingly good 2.39 ERA at Triple-A last season. He posted another decent-looking 3.48 ERA at Triple-A this year, but managed just 102 strikeouts in 132 innings while walking 3.8 per nine frames. Johnson is 30 years old with 6.2 strikeouts and 3.5 walks per nine innings for his career at Triple-A.

Eduardo Nunez: When the Twins acquired Nunez they talked up his offensive potential as if he hadn't hit .267/.313/.379 for the Yankees or had similar numbers in the minors. He's been even worse for the Twins, hitting .251/.274/.385 in 67 games. Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as one of the worst shortstops in baseball at 30 runs below average per 150 games and he's looked shaky at third base as well. It's unclear where exactly the upside is with the 27-year-old Nunez.

Lester Oliveros: He hasn't looked good in the majors yet, but Oliveros put together an excellent season between Double-A and Triple-A in his first full year back from Tommy John elbow surgery. He struck out 88 batters in 66 total innings, posting a 1.64 ERA while allowing zero home runs. His control remains spotty, but with a mid-90s fastball and outstanding strikeout rates Oliveros seems deserving of an extended chance. It's just unclear if he'll get that in Minnesota.

Chris Parmelee: Since his big September debut Parmelee has hit .237/.303/.372 in 248 games for the Twins, showing mediocre power while failing to control the strike zone. Good numbers at Triple-A suggested the former first-round pick may have finally figured things out, but he's failed to do anything with semi-regular playing time in three straight seasons and will soon be 27 years old. Why keep waiting for what might be, at best, an average first baseman/corner outfielder?

Mike Pelfrey: Re-signing Pelfrey to a two-year, $12 million deal never made any sense and he allowed 23 runs in 24 innings before being shut down with an elbow injury. He's owed $5.5 million next season, so Pelfrey being cut loose would be a surprise, but he's 12-29 with a 5.00 ERA in 390 innings since 2011, throws one mediocre pitch, and injuries have wiped out two of his last three seasons. He's a sunk cost, but perhaps they can salvage some value out of Pelfrey in the bullpen.

Yohan Pino: When he was a prospect posting great numbers in the minors from 2005-2009 the Twins never called up Pino, but they finally gave him a chance as a 30-year-old journeyman in his second stint with the organization. Pino had an ugly 5.07 ERA in 11 starts and struggles to limit home runs, but his 50/14 K/BB ratio in 60 innings was solid. As the past four seasons have shown there's always plenty of need for rotation depth, but elbow problems cloud his status for 2015.

Ryan Pressly: After spending all of last year in the majors as a Rule 5 pick Pressly spent most of this year at Triple-A, throwing 60 innings with a 2.98 ERA and 63/21 K/BB ratio. He throws hard, but it has never led to big strikeout rates and Pressly has just 63 strikeouts 102 innings for the Twins. He has a nice-looking 3.54 ERA and the Twins have been to known to let that sway their opinion more than it should, but at age 26 it's tough to see significant upside.

Stephen Pryor: Acquired from the Mariners in the Kendrys Morales swap/salary dump, Pryor is one of the few players on the 40-man roster not to receive a September call-up. He was once a top reliever prospect with a high-90s fastball, but he's struggled to regain velocity after shoulder surgery. He posted a 3.93 ERA at Triple-A with awful control and just 52 strikeouts in 55 innings. Still just 25 years old, presumably the Twins liked Pryor enough to see what he looks like in 2015.

Jordan Schafer: It seems unlikely that the Twins would get rid of Schafer after how well he's played in 40 games since they claimed him off waivers in early August, but he's the type of player who regularly gets dropped from 40-man rosters. Schafer is a 27-year-old career .230/.312/.311 hitter who also batted just .225/.278/.294 at Triple-A and despite great speed he's a mediocre defensive center fielder. He's a decent fit as a backup outfielder, but that skill set is plentiful.

Anthony Swarzak: After flopping as a starter Swarzak found a fit as a long reliever able to soak up low-leverage innings, but his effectiveness slipped this year and he's due for a raise to around $2 million via arbitration. Swarzak's strikeout rate of 5.2 per nine innings ranks 125th out of the 131 pitchers with at least 50 innings as relievers and his career rate as a reliever is 5.8 per nine innings. His role could be better utilized to break in a young starter.

Aaron Thompson: His flukishly good numbers versus lefties this season caught the Twins' eye and earned him a call-up, but Thompson is a 27-year-old journeyman with a high-80s fastball and a 4.33 ERA in a decade as a minor leaguer. That includes a 3.52 ERA and 107/51 K/BB ratio in 120 innings at Triple-A. Like most reasonably effective lefties he could probably hold his own in a southpaw specialist role, but the Twins should be aiming higher for a Duensing replacement.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 19, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Delmon Young is on a playoff team for the sixth straight season and he has a postseason motto: "Keep your booty loose."

• Stoned Oven Gourmet Pizzas is a solid enough name, but given the product being offered I'd have probably gone with something simple like The Pizza Joint.

• If you only read one article this week about having sex in prison, make it this one.

• Only twice in the history of baseball has a manager not lost his job following four consecutive 90-loss seasons, so why should Ron Gardenhire be the third to keep his job?

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we shared a few beers with our guest, Twins beat reporter Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who had a lot of interesting stuff to say about covering the team and interacting with Gardenhire on a daily basis.

• Two weeks ago on "Gleeman and The Geek" we used the phrase "naughty postman" and John Bonnes jokingly encouraged listeners to send in photo-shopped pictures of me. Several of them actually did it, including me as Cliff Clavin and me as an adult movie star and also these two.

Charles Barkley's ceremonial first pitch at Wrigley Field went poorly:

And yet, still better than his golf swing.

• Wanna go golfing, support a good cause, and possibly win Vikings-Packers tickets? Check out the Todd R.W. Andrews Memorial Golf Tournament on September 27. There's a best-ball scramble tournament followed by dinner and a raffle where "all golfers will be entered for a chance to win tickets to the Vikings vs. Packers game on November 23." Proceeds go to cancer research.

Barry Bonds is already making excellent use of Twitter after joining last week.

• I'm burnt out on the Derek Jeter tributes at this point, but Bryan Hoch of MLB.com wrote about his coffee-drinking routine and it was a surprisingly fun read.

• After 20 years together the Twins have ditched the New Britain Rock Cats for the Chattanooga Lookouts, moving their Double-A affiliate from the Eastern League to the Southern League.

Rihanna is too good for the NFL anyway.

• NFL admits that brain trauma will affect one in three players and at "notably younger ages" than the general population.

• In addition to plenty of other sad quotes, Adrian Peterson's mother says "when you whip those you love it's not about abuse, but love."

• For some reason I'm entranced by videos like this one, showing all of Jose Altuve's hits this season in four minutes:

Altuve is on pace for the most hits in a season by someone other than Ichiro Suzuki since Darin Erstad in 2000.

Ben Revere has two home runs this season, which is two more home runs than I thought he'd ever hit, but it's still funny to read about the Phillies wanting him to hit for more power.

• As a "Top Chef" fanatic I'll definitely be watching Tom Colicchio's new show on Bravo, which will hopefully include some Gail Simmons cameo appearances.

• I'm less enthused about Richard Blais' new show on Food Network, but I'll give it a try because Blais is great and also I watch almost anything on Food Network not involving Guy Fieri.

• Friend of AG.com Mandy Lee is doing food stuff and interviews for City Pages. Perfect fit.

• New brunch spot recommendation: Libertine, which even offers Glam Doll donuts.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Why doesn't Glen Perkins shave?"
- "How did David Caruso lose 305 pounds?"
- "Get ride of Joe Nathan"
- "Brian Harper's brother"
- "Hugely fat guy on a plane"
- "Why would you eat brown rice?"
- "Jerome Felton girlfriend"
- "Chopped strategy"
- "Pedro Florimon can't hit"

• Finally, in honor of the debates about Gardenhire's job status this week's AG.com-approved music video is Irreplaceable" by Beyonce:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 17, 2014

Should the Twins fire Ron Gardenhire?

Ron Gardenhire Twins

I started writing about the Twins during Ron Gardenhire's rookie season as manager, 2002, and for that entire time some fans have called for him to be fired. Such is life as an MLB manager, but now that winning division titles on a regular basis has given way to losing 95 games per season on a regular basis the fringe of Twins fandom has become the people thinking Gardenhire should be allowed to stick around rather than the people calling for Gardenhire to be fired.

I've never called for Gardenhire to be fired and I probably never will. That's just not my style and it has nothing to do with Gardenhire. However, anyone who's read this blog for any length of time surely knows that I'm not a Gardenhire fan and even during the Twins' run of success his batting orders, lack of platooning, small-ball tactics, public call-outs of young players, and various other traits never fit my personal managing ideal.

Once upon a time my criticisms of Gardenhire were met with people taking me to task for having the gall to question the manager of a consistent winning team, but now those same criticisms of Gardenhire--and surprisingly little has changed in terms of what irks me about him--are met with people taking me to task for not being harsh enough toward the manager of a consistent losing team. Such is life as a baseball blogger, I suppose.

Here's the thing, though: Gardenhire has managed the Twins to four straight 90-loss seasons and possibly four straight 95-loss seasons. Only two managers in baseball history have kept their jobs after four straight 90-loss seasons. One was Connie Mack, who did so with the Philadelphia A's from 1940-1943 and also happened to own the team. The other was Tom Kelly, who did so with the Minnesota Twins from 1997-2000 and also happened to be the manager Gardenhire replaced.

In addition to owning the team that continued to employee him as manager Mack was, at the time of his four straight 90-loss seasons, an 80-year-old five-time World Series winner and nine-time pennant winner with more than 3,000 career victories. Kelly didn't have quite that same level of job security, but it was pretty close and for fairly good reason: He managed the Twins to a pair of World Series titles before all the sustained losing started.

Gardenhire is not the owner of the team, nor does he have multiple World Series titles. In fact, during his 13 seasons as manager the Twins have never gotten to the World Series and have advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once, in his first season on the job. His career record is barely above .500 in the regular season and 6-21 in the postseason. He's managed the Twins to 90 or more wins just once since 2007.

Even his 2002-2010 run of six division titles in nine seasons came at a time when the American League Central was extremely weak and often there for the taking with only 87-92 wins despite the unbalanced schedule keeping the more powerful divisions away. You can only play the teams on your schedule and certainly the Twins took advantage of their good fortunate, but "six division titles in nine seasons" was, at the very least, propped up by mediocre competition.

In the entire history of baseball there are a grand total of two instances of a manager keeping his job after four consecutive 90-loss seasons and both cases included circumstances which clearly do not apply to Gardenhire. He doesn't own the team, he doesn't have a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, and his pre-losing run of success is not World Series titles but rather division titles against weak competition followed by historic ineptitude in the postseason. Why should he be the third?

Forget for a moment how much responsibility for four consecutive 90-loss seasons should fall on Gardenhire's shoulders versus the front office. Forget for a moment whether you think a different manager could have coaxed these awful teams to slightly less awful records. Here is the far more important question: If and when the Twins re-emerge as contenders is Gardenhire the manager you want at the helm to get the most out of that new core of young talent?


For a lengthy Gardenhire discussion featuring a reporter who's covered him for years, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode with Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

September 15, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #162: Beers With A Reporter, Starring Phil Miller

On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we were joined by Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and topics included Ron Gardenhire handling the losing, Trevor May's turnaround, Danny Santana's rookie season, whether the timetable for contention has been pushed back, Tommy Milone being damaged goods, the value of stealing bases beyond the numbers, Doug Mientkiewicz as a managerial candidate, the value of a pitching coach, and why it's hard for a baseball fan to be a beat reporter.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 162

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

September 12, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Every night at the Arby's in Uptown at least one doofus tries to use the drive-through on foot and I've never once thought "I bet that's a fugitive."

• Can someone please tell Gwyneth Paltrow thanks but not thanks. We're all set.

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry are feuding over John Mayer, whose music I've consistently been mocked for liking since 2002.

• This is wonderful, but after seven decades together I'll bet they already have a gravy boat.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I talked/argued with David Brauer and John Bonnes about whether the Twins' management saying "we get it" means a damn thing.

• I was convinced Ben Revere would never hit an over-the-fence home run in the majors, but now he has two of them and the most recent one tied the game with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning:

Revere has hit .307 in two seasons with the Phillies, but still has a sub-.700 OPS.

• I want this 26,000-hour DVR, just for "Chopped" episodes.

• McDonald's has applied to trademark the word "McBrunch." Their mimosas could be interesting.

• I thank god for this every day.

• If you watch this GIF of per-capita cigarette sales from 1972 to 2012 it's almost like people realized at some point they weren't good for you.

• How does Danny Santana compare to the other standout rookies in Twins history?

Vladimir Guerrero has a 15-year-old son, 6-foot-2, 220-pound Vladimir Jr., who's already working out for MLB teams in the Dominican Republic:

Guerrero played his first full season in the majors when I was 15 years old. I feel very old.

• As a kid I had plenty of logo-clad yarmulkes, but Chief Wahoo seems like a bad choice.

• A lawsuit claims the Mets fired a woman because she had a baby out of wedlock. Seriously.

• Having been to many of the bars in this "The Best Places To Watch Each Pro Football Team In Minnesota" article it sure seems like they assigned teams randomly.

• Cardinals linebacker John Abraham, the NFL's active leader in sacks, "is suffering from severe memory loss and has been for more than a year." He is 36 years old.

Parker Hageman and Dan Anderson are apparently shooting video to accompany their "No Juice Podcast" episodes, which I can assure you is not something being considered for "Gleeman and The Geek."

Hannibal Buress was a funny guest on "Late Night" with Seth Meyers:

Fedora basketball seriously sounds like a great idea.

• Old friend Francisco Liriano and his filthy slider are dominating again, for the Pirates.

• My colleague Craig Calcaterra wrote a billion or so words about the "baseball is dying" silliness.

• I still need two more owners for my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports. Details here.

• My latest television obsession is "Property Brothers" on HGTV. Highly recommended and oddly addictive, with Canadian accents to boot.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Upped usages"
- "Hunan chicken Weight Watchers points"
- "Head-first slide"
- "How will Joe Mauer be remembered?"
- "Will Ron Gardenhire be fired?"
- "Hawk Harrelson net worth"
- "Kevin Slowey fan mail"
- "Weakness in baseball"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is the Mayer-Perry duet "Who You Love":


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

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