Is There a Magic Wand(y) Out There?

I find myself in unfamiliar waters these days.

Despite what some may believe, I tend to be pretty supportive of the job the Twins’ front office does. I know the organization is a business and understand they aren’t going to spend more money than they take in. I know they aren’t going to go out and overpay for free agent talent the way the Yankees do. Unlike many Twins fans, I’m not one who constantly finds fault with the owner or the GM or the manager. I consider the lack of recent success in the playoffs to be a source of frustration, but not abject organizational failure.

Yet, I’ve been quite up front about my impatience with regard to the Twins seeming lack of progress toward making any sort of real improvement in the make up of the roster so far. And Day 1 of the Winter Meetings did nothing to make me feel better. Bill Smith indicated that the only non-pitching positions that are undecided already are SS and 2B. And while he didn’t come right out and say that JJ Hardy would be traded once Tsuyoshi Nishioka is signed, that is clearly where the signs are pointing.

I also understand that my Zack Greinke wish is not going to come true. In fact, given that the Royals would clearly demand from the Twins a premium of prospects over and above the premium of prospects that they’re going to demand from teams that AREN’T in their own division, I’m willing to admit it would probably be foolish for Smith to pay the Royals’ asking price.

So given that the Twins won’t be bidding on the lone remaining top of the rotation pitcher (Cliff Lee) and probably shouldn’t be bidding on the next best starting pitcher (Carl Pavano) because of his expectations regarding a three-year contract, what does constitute a reasonable expectation for a fan who strongly believes the Twins need another strong starting pitcher?

Let’s try this scenario on for size.

Near the bottom of a column he wrote on December 1, Jayson Stark mentioned that the Houston Astros were in the market for a reasonably priced, left-handed hitting outfielder. If the Twins re-sign Jim Thome, they will, coincidentally, have an arguably superfluous lefty-hitting outfielder floating around in the person of Jason Kubel.

Wandy Rodriguez

The Astros, in return, have a certain lefty starting pitcher who’s going to start getting a bit expensive very soon. Wandy Rodriguez lost his arbitration contest with the Astros last year and ended up pitching for $5 million and now he and his agent are trying to work out an extension that will buy out his last year of arbitration and first couple of years of free agency.

Shortly after Rodriguez overmatched the Twins in a 4-1 Astro win in June, the Twins reportedly tried, unsuccessfully, to trade for the lefty prior to the trade deadline at the end of July. They should try again.

I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about the Astros. (I think they play in Houston, right?) But what I do know is that they are reportedly for sale and they’re trying to cut payroll while remaining at least competitive enough not to screw up their sale price.

I have no idea whether Houston would want Kubel. I have no idea whether they might be interested in a shortstop like JJ Hardy. Maybe, instead, it would take prospects or maybe the Twins would have to eat part of Kubel’s or Hardy’s 2011 salary. Smarter people than I would have to figure out exactly what a fair exchange would be.

I don’t even know if Rodriguez would be available, but given the current state of that franchise, it’s hard for me to believe he’s going to be an Astro beyond 2011, his final arbitration year. In any event, the purpose of writing this is simply to demonstrate that there ARE options out there, other than Lee, Pavano, Greinke, et al. The Twins need to improve their rotation and the time to do it is now, before other teams beat the Twins to the punch.

I’ve heard enough about middle-weight infielders and middle-inning relief pitchers. I don’t want to hear that we should just be satisfied to replace most of the talent being lost to free agency. If you’re standing in place, you’re falling behind and there are options out there that can, and would, actually improve the Twins roster now and in the future. The Twins have some highly compensated businesspeople who should be able to turn over a few rocks and find those options.

Either that or they should find another line of work.

-JC

8 thoughts on “Is There a Magic Wand(y) Out There?

  1. I’ve been saying this for months about Wandy Rodriquez, he fits the Twins pitching mold, he’s effective, and he’s not that expensive. I’m completely on-board with your outline. There are a number of tasty starting pitchers out there who would be relatively inexpensive and who could be had in a trade…and Kubel is good bait (provided they re-sign Thome).

    The Twins have been awfully confusing so far this off-season. I don’t like the Nishioka business because a) he doesn’t really want to play here, b) he’s not that great, and c) they have a known quantity in JJ Hardy so why take a risk on a guy who’s never played in the Majors? Additionally, you’re right, they have made many strides in shoring up other weak areas of the team and, to be honest, some of those areas (the bullpen, starting rotation) are more important than the middle infield.

  2. Trading for Wandy would be nice and he would make a very nice addition to the Twins pitching staff but if you are looking to add an “Ace” pitcher, Wandy is not that guy.

  3. AK, I think the frustrating thing is that, when the Twins decision makers got together to decide on their game plan for improving the team, they listened to Gardy and his “we need to get faster” line without really looking at the facts. They scored more runs WITHOUT this supposed speed they lacked than they had been scoring in the ‘piranya’ days. So instead of focusing on where real improvement was needed… in the top half of the rotation and outfield defense, for example… they went looking for more middle infielders. It’s almost like they totally forgot why they went and got Hardy in the first place.

    jjswol, you’re absolutely correct about Wandy not being an ace. And I’d love to find a true ace that the Twins could realistically obtain. I just don’t see one falling in to the Twins’ laps. Even Greinke, who I would absolutely love to get, isn’t a sure-thing. I know Rodriguez’s home/road splits reflect evidence that his numbers (which are pretty impressive the past couple of years) benefited by playing home games in Houston. But I’m not so sure he wouldn’t get the same benefit from Target Field. He may not be an ace today, but he looks to me like the kind of pitcher who is, or could become, a top-half of the rotation lefty pitcher for the Twins. And he’d be worth a lot more than some bullpen arms, which is all the Twins are reported to be looking for out of a Hardy trade.

    (By the way, if they keep badmouthing Hardy, they’ll be lucky to get that… do they really think the way they’re talking about Hardy is going to HELP his trade value with other teams?)

  4. I can jump aboard a Kubel for Wandy trade. Hell, throw in Glen Perkins and maybe get another player from the Astros back

  5. This would be fantastic but it won’t happen. GM Bill Smith has no intention of doing what it takes in the off-season to take the team to the next level. It’s unfortunate, and sounds like I’m being negative, but very, very true. Target Field will be sold out every night in 2011 just to watch the Mediocre Twins. I don’t believe they will even win the weak A.L. Central next year because of so many unfilled holes they have. Keep up the nice work!

  6. I’m frustrated that improvements haven’t been made, but I’m not giving up hope. As currently constituted, I question whether the Twins would compete with Detroit and Chicago in the Division… but they won’t take the field as currently constituted. I’ll stay tuned to see what happens next. After all, what else do we have to do during the off-season? :)

    Oh… and jamar…

    :P

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