Saturday, November 12, 2011

Bill Smith Out, Terry Ryan In

          With the off-season underway, many Minnesota Twins fans were hoping the Twins would re-sign Michael Cuddyer and/or Joe Nathan and that would be a majority of the Twins off-season. Well that was quickly put on the back burner for a little bit. The more shocking news of the off-season was the firing of General Manager Bill Smith. I, like most Twins fan, had no idea their was disagreement within the Twins front office.
           There were thoughts about some possible re-shuffling within the front office once the Twins told the Baltimore Orioles they weren’t allowed to interview Mike Radcliff for their General Manager vacancy. People quickly started to wonder if there was going to be a change sometime down the road or maybe that Radcliff would just be the next in line for the GM position.
           Instead, former GM Terry Ryan will be in the interim GM until the Twins find a new, permanent GM. A time table has not been giving to find a replacement for Bill, so I expect for Terry to make smart baseball decisions and bring this team back to what it was two years ago. Terry was known for building from within the organization and acquiring players who fit the “Twins way”.
           Terry has already said that he expects the Twins payroll to be around the $100 million mark, slightly down from last years payroll of $113 million. So I could see him signing some veteran players at a lesser price to fill the holes on this team. It also appears this could help the Twins re-sign Cuddyer, who was drafted under Ryan’s first reign as Twins GM and also signed him to the contract that recently ran out.
           So as a Twins fans, I am very excited for a Twins off-season for the first time in a while as I expect some drastic changes to take place with the Twins roster. The first task for Terry is to sit down and talk with Cuddyer and Nathan along with their agents to discuss new contracts as well as to find an everyday shortstop. Terry has already said the current team doesn’t have a shortstop that is an everyday player, so I look forward to seeing what Terry can do in such a short amount of time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts About Upcoming Contract Decisions

          As I sit at home watching the World Series, I can only think of what kind of season the Twins could have had this year. In no way did I expect the Twins to make a playoff run or anything, but to end up losing 99 games, the 2nd most losses in a single season since arriving in 1961, was just shocking. Most people were predicting the Twins to contend for another AL Central title this year, but quickly realized this wasn’t going to be their year.
          Everything from very poor pitching to ongoing injuries, the Twins were behind the eight ball from the very beginning. Having a payroll over $100 million doesn’t necessarily mean that you will do well that season, as that was clearly evident with the Twins. For the first time in franchise history, they passed the $100 million payroll mark as they had a payroll of $113 million. Many people thought that since they had a high payroll, that they would do well and make a playoff run.
          But if you look at the breakdown of the team payroll, you have to realize that 52% of the $113 million were the contracts of Joe Mauer ($23 million), Justin Morneau ($15 million), Joe Nathan ($11.25 million) and Michael Cuddyer ($10.5 million). The only healthy player out of that group of four this year was Cuddyer. Mauer and Morneau have been dealing with injuries for the last several years and Nathan was entering his first full season since Tommy John Surgery, so they weren’t sure how he would respond.
          Either way, that is a lot of money to have tied up with four players. With Mauer entering the first year of his 8 year, $184 million contract this past year, the Twins were very limited to their off-season moves prior to the season and will likely be in the same situation this off-season. However, the Twins have a few things going for them. They were able to get rid of Delmon Young, who made $5.37 million this year and expecting to make more and more as gets closer to free agency. The Twins also have a few impending free agents in Matt Capps, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, plus the $12.5 million club option on Joe Nathan.
          I fully expect that Capps and Kubel will not be members of the 2012 Minnesota Twins, so that will free up $12.4 million to use towards possible free agent moves. Also, the tough decision whether or not to re-sign Cuddyer will be the biggest decision for General Manager Bill Smith. There are rumors that the Twins had an offer on the table for the last few weeks, which is a $16 million, two-year offer. I could see the Twins giving Cuddyer a two-year, $18 million deal with a possible third year team option. Not only is Cuddyer a clubhouse leader, but he has also been one of very few regular Twins to remain healthy the last few seasons.
          Then there is the case of Joe Nathan. He has a team option for $12.5 million that is all but sure to be voided by the Twins, which will cost them just $2 million to void. After the option is void, I expect the Twins to quickly give him a new deal to return as the full-time Twins closer. Heading into the 2011 season he was assigned as the set-up man to Capps, but that didn’t last very long. Capps was very inconsistent and was given multiple chances by manager Ron Gardenhire, but was later swapped with Nathan. Nathan eventually settled into the role and proved that he was meant to be the closer from day one. Look for Glen Perkins to be the new set-up man, assuming Bill Smith pleases the fans and lets Capps become a free agent this winter.
          With a few key players become free agents this winter, Bill Smith will have to put his thinking cap on and get that check book ready if he wants to sign some players that can fill those holes and allow the Twins to return to contending for the division title.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Joe Nathan & Jim Thome Reach Milestones

          Over the last week, there have been a few Twins items to note. First thing that might come to mind is the fact that Delmon Young was traded to the Detroit Tigers on August 15th. Don't get me wrong, that is important news as many Twins fans were happy the Twins got rid of Delmon, but during that same night, something happened at Comerica Park in Detroit.
          Sitting at 598 career home runs, Jim Thome stepped to the plate in the 6th inning and hit a 2-run homer to left field. Ironic that former Twin, Delmon Young was making his first start as a Tiger and watched 599 go over the fence? I don't think so. Just wait, it gets better. In the top of the 7th inning, Jim stepped up to the plate again. this time with two runners on base. On a 2-1 count, with Daniel Schlereth pitching, Jim launched historic home run number 600 to the same spot, left field.
          Immediately following the home run, Twins fans and Tigers fans all stood and gave Jim a well deserved standing ovation. Then from behind home plate, Jim's father, wife and two children came out to have a family moment after the historic feat. Jim is only the eighth player in Major League Baseball to eclipse the 600 home run mark. That number really should be five with Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds on that list, but that's not important at the moment.
          When showing the replay of the 600th homerun, I couldn't help but notice who was holding the ball, which landed in the Twins bullpen, which was none other than closer Joe Nathan. Joe also reached a very big milestone just a few days before Jim reached his. Joe Nathan became the Twins All-Times saves leader at 255 career saves as a Minnesota Twin. I actually had the opportunity to go to the August 10th game against the Boston Red Sox when Joe picked up his 255th career save as a Minnesota Twin.
          After being acquired in a trade after the 2003 season, Joe quickly became one of the best closers from 2004-2009, racking up a league-leading 246 saves during that span. Without Joe, the Twins probably would not have been able to win the four division titles since acquiring Joe. The Twins will have a very important decision to make following the 2011 season as Joe has a 12.5 million dollar team option that would need to be exercised in order to be a Twin in 2012.
          In my opinion, it is a no brainer to pick up the option and even look to extend Nathan for two or three more years to allow him to retire as a Minnesota Twin. So, despite the Twins having a challenging year with so many injuries and very inconsistent play, this has been an exciting few days for the Minnesota Twins and Twin Nation.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Denard Still a Twin; At What Price Though?

          As the non-waiver trade deadline passed today at 4:00 eastern, the Twins didn’t make any moves, but sure created some buzz around a Denard Span deal. There had been talk about a trade with the Washington Nationals involving Denard Span for closer Drew Storen. In the end though, the teams just couldn’t agree on other players to include in the trade.

          Despite not agreeing to a deal with the Nationals, it might have done more harm than good on the Twins front. It appears as though Denard was starting to get irritated with all the ongoing talks and can you blame him? He had waited a couple years behind Torii Hunter before he was able to get his shot at the center field job. Once Torii left, it was Denard’s job to lose.

          Then over the past week or so, there had been talk about Denard being traded to make room for Ben Revere to be the full-time center fielder. I think there will be some tension in the Twins clubhouse once Denard rejoins the team. They can say that the Twins weren’t the ones to start the trade talks, but to continue to discuss trade possibilities with the Nationals won’t sit well with Denard. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins revisit a possible trade once the season ends.

          I fully expect Span to retake his center field job back when he is activated from the disabled list and rejoins the Twins, hopefully later this week. But as we all saw and heard this week, anything can happen come the week of the trade deadline. I also expect the talks over the last week to light a fire under Denard and look for him to go out and prove that he should be and will be the center fielder for the next 5 years.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Denard On Way Out?

With the non-waiver trade deadline just 3 days away, there was a few major moves yesterday, but none involving the Minnesota Twins. There was very little expectation of the Twins making any trades before the deadline, but one name has surfaced a bit the last few days. Outfielder Denard Span, who is currently rehabbing in Triple-A Rochester has been the focus of a rumored trade to Washington.

Why trade Span? That is the question many Twins fans maybe asking themselves. I look at it like this. The Twins have a plethora of outfielders currently at the major league level and then a few good looking prospects that will be at the major league level within the next three years, hopefully. With Delmon Young going through the arbitration years, I expect the Twins to hold onto him. Michael Cuddyer will be re-signed after the season ends. It would be a mistake for the Twins to not re-sign him, but that discussion is for a different day.

That brings me to Jason Kubel, who is also rehabbing at Triple-A. He will also be an impending free agent after the current season. I think the Twins will try to re-sign him, but signing him and Cuddyer could be an issue. The other outfielder on the current roster is Ben Revere. He appears to be set in the Twin Cities for a while. However, when Span comes back, where do you put Span or Revere?

This then brings us to the potential trade to Washington. The player that keeps coming up on the Nationals side, is closer Drew Storen. This may bring flashbacks to the Matt Capps-Wilson Ramos trade, but this is not at all like that trade. I personally am in favor of this trade as the Twins need to really bolster the bullpen if they want to make any attempt of a 2nd half run towards another Central crown.

Storen will turn 24 years old in a couple of weeks and has really impressed me this year so far. He has a record of 5-2 with 25 saves (28 opportunities) along with a 2.68 ERA. He could essentially be the Twins closer post-Nathan. Nathan has a team option for the 2012 season worth 12.5 million with a 2 million buyout, so the Twins will need to start thinking about the future closer role. There isn’t really anyone in the minor league system that would be suitable, so I think the trade for Storen would be a good one for the Twins.

Toss in the fact that Storen hasn’t even been in the league for two full seasons yet, so he will be under team control for many years to come. You can also argue that same point with Span, but Span will start asking for more money in arbitration years soon. Don’t forget that Span is coming off a concussion and as the Twins have seen with Justin Morneau, it could really alter his career, so if we can get someone as good as Storen for Span, I say pull the trigger.