Will Twins Strike Quickly for Pitching?

Twins General Manager Terry Ryan has made no secret of the fact that his top priority this offseason is to rebuild his team’s pitching rotation. He’s also described the free agent class of potential starting pitchers to be, “thin.” Whether we agree with that assessment or not is of really no concern, because only Ryan’s opinion matters at this point and if he feels that’s the case, it stands to reason that he’s going to be looking at his trade options.

Terry Ryan

That being the case, the question probably isn’t, “Will Terry Ryan trade for starting pitching?” so much as it is, “WHEN will Terry Ryan trade for starting pitching?”

I don’t think we should be all that surprised if the answer turns out to be, “Right now.”

The reason for moving quickly is that a couple of teams with arguably surplus arms that could be considered close to “top of the rotation” quality (certainly, at the very least, top of the Twins’ rotation) have to make some decisions this week concerning whether or not to exercise team options on those pitchers or let them walk as free agents. Even if they let them walk, in some cases, those teams have relatively expensive buy-out payments to make. Of course, there’s nothing to stop the GMs from picking up the options and then trading the pitchers later in the offseason, but right now, they have to be thinking they’d be better off getting the best deal possible in return for those pitchers before the option deadline is reached later this week.

So who might the Twins be looking to acquire? Three pitchers with impending options come immediately to mind.

The Angels have two pitchers with options that must be exercised or bought out this week: Dan Haren and Ervin Santana. Haren’s option is for $15.5 million but the buyout is a lofty $3.5 million. Santana’s option is for $13 million and comes with a $1 million buyout.

The Rays have a similar decision to make with James Shields. The perennially cash-strapped Rays paid Shields $7 million this year and his contract has a $9 million option for 2013, as well as a $13 million option for 2014. The buyouts for 2013 and 2014 are $1.5 and $1 million, respectively. Media reports indicate the Rays intend to exercise his 2013 option but that doesn’t make him any less of a trade possibility.

Of course,  the Twins aren’t the only team looking for starting pitching, so why should we expect them to end up with one (or dare we hope, two?) of these pitchers? The answer, of course, is that we shouldn’t “expect” any such thing. But it’s possible because the Twins can make players available in a trade that the Angels and Rays may want.

To my mind, Shields would be the preferred target from among this group. The Rays could be looking to cut payroll (aren’t they always?) and one way to do that would be to part ways with BJ Upton. The Twins certainly have centerfielders that could fill that void. The Rays also are among the teams who could stand to upgrade at 1B. Would they take on Justin Morneau’s contract? Not likely, but Chris Parmelee might be of some interest to Tampa Bay. Anyway, the “how” is Terry Ryan’s business, but the point is that Shields could be in play this week.

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto is probably feeling more inclined to move his pitchers quickly. He wants to re-sign Zack Greinke. Combine that factor with the more significant buyout price of Haren’s contract, and you realize he may be feeling a bit more of sense of urgency than the Rays are feeling with regard to Shields.

But do the Twins have anything the Angels would want? After all, they’ve got a pretty decent centerfielder already and their first baseman is no slouch, either.

The answer, as pretty much any fan of one of the Angels’ minor league affiliates could tell you, is, “absolutely yes.” The Angels farm system is a mess. I’d have to go back and check for sure, but I recall that about half of their minor league affiliates finished dead last in their respective standings in 2012. I don’t know exactly what Dipoto is asking for in return for Haren and Santana, but even marginal prospects would likely jump several spots on a “top prospects” list by switching to the Angels organization.

Having Shields under team control for two more years is another reason he’d be the best acquisition for Terry Ryan to make, from among this group. But if he can get Haren or even Santana in a deal that doesn’t cost him any of his best prospects and/or get the Angels to kick in some cash to offset their 2013 salaries, I’d welcome either of those pitchers, as well. As a matter of fact, since the Angels and Rays would be looking for different types of players in return, there may be no reason Ryan couldn’t be talking to both teams.

Finally, let’s be honest about addressing the question of whether the Twins can afford to pay between $9 million and $15 million for a pitcher in 2013. The answer is yes, they certainly can. There’s no reason in the world why the Twins shouldn’t be able to start the season with a $100 million payroll. None whatsoever. I think Ryan already knows this, but he’s smart enough not to say so publicly. Why let the agents of potential free agent signings know how much money you really have to work with?

A couple of big deals early in the offseason will generate some enthusiasm among the fanbase and perhaps even jumpstart some season ticket renewals. It may also make a few mid-level free agents more inclined to sign on with you in coming months if they think you’re really committed to competing in 2013. If things don’t go the way you hope the first half of the season, Ryan could no doubt turn around and deal any of the three pitchers mentioned here to a contender (assuming the pitcher’s healthy, of course).

While I’m not “expecting” any of these pitchers to be Twins by the end of the week, I won’t be all that surprised if one of them (or perhaps even more likely, some other pitcher I haven’t even thought about yet) is brought in to the fold relatively soon by Terry Ryan. I believe he has nothing to lose and much to gain by striking quickly.

- JC

If you’d like more information about Shields, Haren, Santana and a whole host of other potential acquisitions (not to mention an excellent interview with Terry Ryan by the TwinsGeek, John Bonnes) you really should consider purchasing TwinsCentric’s Offseason GM Handbook. It’s available for purchase and download now!

It’s Officially the Baseball Off Season.

I know it seems quick but the post season is OVER. Yep, the San Francisco Giants completed the sweep of the Detroit Tigers to win the 2012 World Series.

 

Of course, they did take a LITTLE more than the minimum amount of possible time because it took them 10 innings – nothing like a little bonus baseball.

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San Francisco

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9

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Detroit

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In addition, Pablo Sandoval has been voted the World Series MVP! Congrats Panda!

Congratulations to the Giants and we hope to have that experience again sometime soon here in Minnesota.

And as ERolf pointed out to me this morning, 106 days until Pitchers & Catchers!

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 10

Episode 10 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact, is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week Paul and I are joined by Chuck Ruether of www.AllSportsAlways.Blogspot.com to discuss the recent coaching assignments and 40-man roster predictions. We go on to discuss the arbitration process and take a look at how the Twins prospects down in the Arizona Fall League have done before getting into a host of other topics including Joe Benson, beer and the World Series.

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at the  Puckett’s Pond.

- ERolfPleiss

Watching the World Series With the Kernels & BJ Hermsen

UPDATE: Click here to check out the local Cedar Rapids CBS affiliate’s video report on Thursday’s event!

It wasn’t a big crowd Thursday night at Veterans Stadium for the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ World Series party, but those of us who showed up had a good time! It was a bit too chilly to sit outside and watch the game on the stadium’s video bard, but there were plenty of televisions inside.

I confess to having a $2.00 “Thirsty Thursday” beer or two (or five) and the brat was very good, but the company was even better. It was a great opportunity to meet and talk to some fellow Kernels fans, as well as make several new acquaintances among the fans in Twins gear that showed up.

The “guest of honor,” though, was Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year and fellow Iowan, BJ Hermsen. After spending an hour or so in an adjacent suite signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, he joined the rest of the crowd, including several members of his family, in the main “Grand Slam Suite” to watch the Tigers and Giants do battle in San Francisco. Even then, he was more than gracious about continuing to sign autographs and pose for pictures with fans (and even the occasional old blogger).

Thanks to the Kernels, as well as the Hermsen family, for a very enjoyable evening!

BJ Hermsen signs an autograph for a young fan

Hermsen, along with friends, family and a mixture of Kernels and Twins fans enjoy food, drink and World Series baseball

BJ Hermsen and a blogger to be named later

 

 

 

 

GameChat: WS Game 2, Tigers @ Giants 7:00 pm

Justin Verlander lost the battle of Cy Youngs to Barry Zito, and then Barry Zito yielded to yet another Cy Young out of the Giants’ bullpen, Tim Lincecum.  Three pretty impressive pitchers, and that was just Game 1!

Tonight Doug (Not Dog) Fister is on the bump for the Tigers with his 1.35 2012 postseason ERA.  For the Giants Madison Bumgarner and his 11.25 postseason ERA awaits the Tigers bats.  I’m in favor of this series going more than 4 games, so I’ll be rooting for the Tigers to even the series tonight. But really, if the game is close into the 9th inning we’re all winners.

The Giants are running out the same lineup for Game 2 as they had yesterday, just swapping pitchers (duh!).  The Tigers made one small adjustment with Gerald Laird handling the catching duties (likely looking for the platoon advantage from the right handed hitting Laird against Bumgarner).

TIGERS

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GIANTS
Jackson, A, CF Pagan, CF
Infante, 2B Scutaro, 2B
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Sandoval, P, 3B
Fielder, 1B Posey, C
Young, D, LF Pence, RF
Peralta, Jh, SS Belt, 1B
Garcia, A, RF Blanco, LF
Laird, C Crawford, SS
Fister, P Bumgarner, P

The Giants have held serve by winning the first two games of the World Series in their own ballpark and now the two teams move on to Detroit for the next three games.

Game 2 highlight’s included watching Prince Fielder churning his way from second base, around third and sliding home just… not… quite… quick enough to beat Buster Posey’s tag, as well as Tiger pitcher Doug FIster taking a line drive off his head that hit hard enough to land out in centerfield. Yet Fister not only stayed in the game, but continued to pitch very effectively.

If the Tigers are going to make this series competitive, they’re going to need to figure out how to score some runs. It’s hard to believe that the same team that beat the holy crap out of the Yankees in four straight games in the ALCS can’t solve the Giants pitching so far. And arguably, San Francisco hasn’t even shown the Tigers their best pitching yet.

Of course, if this year’s postseason has taught us anything, it’s that no series is over until it’s over (ask the Cardinals about that). I’m not counting the Tigers out yet, but to call Saturday and Sunday “must win” games for Detroit is not much of an overstatement. – JC

Was It Really 25 Years Ago?

Yes, it was.

Twenty-five years ago, to the day, as a matter of fact.

(Photo: Minnesota Twins)

For some of us, it doesn’t seem that long ago, but many other current Twins fans have no memory of it whatsoever. Speaking only for myself, it was perhaps the happiest moment of baseball fandom I’ve ever experienced (though the Game 163 vs. the Tigers, which I attended in person with family and friends has to be a close second).

I could drone on about how close or how far away the current Twins are from bringing another such moment to Twinsville, but today I choose to simply smile and say, “thank you,” to Kirby, Hrbie, TK and everyone else who brought us that moment in time.

- JC

GameChat: WS Game 1, Tigers @ Giants 7:00 pm

We took the first couple of rounds of the MLB Postseason off from GameChats, but decided we’d open up the chat window in case anyone is interested in hanging out during the World Series.

MLB prefers that teams not make any major announcements during the World Series, but I guess roster moves by teams that were eliminated from the Postseason pretty much by the end of April are OK because the Twins made such an announcement today. They outrighted Esmerling Vasquez, P.J. Walters, Kyle Waldrop, Jeff Manship, Luis Perdomo and Matt Carson, removing them from their 40-man roster. In addition, Carlos Gutierrez (a 2008 first-round draft pick) was claimed on waivers by the Cubs.

In addition, the Twins announced they had elected not to exercise their $6 million option for Matt Capps’ services in 2013, instead paying him a $250,000 buy-out. Not exactly shocking news, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if the Twins at least talk to Capps’ agent about an invitation to Spring Training at a far lower price tag. Speaking of underperforming pitchers, Nick Blackburn reportedly will be getting his throwing elbow examined and could be looking at arthroscopic surgery on the elbow for the second time in three years.

Finally, former Twins catcher Mike “Naked Batting Practice” Redmond is being mentioned as a possible candidate to replace Ozzie Guillen as manager of the Miami Marlins. The Marlins have reportedly requested permission from the Blue Jays to discuss their opening with Redmond, who’s been managing the past couple of years at the Class A level (Lansing in 2011 and Dunedin in 2012) for Toronto. I’m not sure Redmond is qualified to manage at the Big League level yet, but perhaps the most important qualification the Marlins are looking for in a new manager is, “not anything like Ozzie Guillen,” and if that’s the case, NBP certainly qualifies. Redmond was a member of the 2003 Marlins World Series Champions.

Now on with Game 1 of the World Series… I wonder if Justin Verlander is excited to have Delmon Young playing left field behind him tonight.

TIGERS

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GIANTS
Jackson, A, CF Pagan, CF
Infante, 2B Scutaro, 2B
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Sandoval, P, 3B
Fielder, 1B Posey, C
Young, D, LF Pence, RF
Peralta, Jh, SS Belt, 1B
Garcia, A, RF Blanco, LF
Avila, C Crawford, SS
_ Verlander, P _ Zito, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 8 0
San Francisco 1 0 3 1 1 0 2 0 x 8 11 0

Well that didn’t exactly go the way most people thought it would. Justin Verlander was human. Barry Zito was very effective. Tim Lincecum was perfect in relief. And Pablo Sandoval was unfrigginbelievable. 3 home runs in his first three plate appearances, 2 of them off of Verlander.

The Tigers suddenly are facing a pretty important Game 2 on the road.

Twins Announce New Coaches: Cuellar, Bruno and Steinbach

The Twins announced Monday that they’ve filled their three open Major League coaching positions. As had been speculated, two of those coaches are Bobby Cuellar (bullpen coach) and Tom Brunansky (hitting coach). But the third addition qualifies as a mild surprise, as Terry Steinbach will be stepping in as the Twins bench coach (and catching instructor).

While many Twins fans had wanted Minnesota native Paul Molitor to fill one of the openings, it turned out to be another native of the Gopher State, New Ulm’s Steinbach, who got the gig.

Many had expected Rochester Red Wings manager Gene Glynn to be promoted to the Twins dugout, but reports are that he will remain in his role at Rochester.

Tom Brunansky, new Twins hitting coach (Photo: Knuckleballs)

Of particular note, two of the new Twins coaches come with championship jewelry that they can flash in the clubhouse. Brunansky, of course, was a member of the Twins 1987 World Series Championship team and Steinbach got his ring with Tony LaRussa’s 1989 Oakland Athletics team that swept the Giants.

Brunansky came up through the Angels system and appeared in a few games with the Halos in 1981 before being traded to the Twins a year later. In 1988, Brunansky was traded to the Cardinals for Tommy Herr in one of the most infamous trades in Twins history. Over the final seven years of his career, he played for the Cards, Red Sox and Brewers.

Following nearly a decade in an A’s uniform, Steinbach finished his playing career with three years, from 1997-99, with the Twins.

Both Brunansky and Steinbach also have All-Star credentials. Clearly, in these two coaches, the Twins have added plenty of credibility to the coaching staff. Any player that won’t listen when Brunansky and Steinbach talk probably won’t listen to anyone.

Brunansky has been working his way up through the Twins minor league coaching ranks the past two and a half years and Steinbach has served as an instructor during Spring Training with the Twins for several years.

While Cuellar doesn’t come with the same Major League credentials that the other two do, having just the proverbial “cup of coffee” with the Rangers in 1977, he does have a long history of working with successful pitchers on their way up to the Big Leagues.

Most notably, to Twins fans anyway, Cuellar is credited with working with Johan Santana to perfect the change-up that Santana used to lay claim to two Cy Young awards as a Twins pitcher. However, Cuellar also worked with other pitchers, such as Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, who didn’t turn out so bad, either. Most recently, he’s been the Red Wings’ pitching coach, but he has also spent time on Major League staffs with the Expos (pitching coach), Rangers (bullpen coach) and Pirates (bullpen coach).

In the same announcement, the Twins indicated that Scott Ullger would be the first base coach and Joe Vavra will man the third base coach’s box.

I can’t help but wonder if Glynn was left off the Major League staff for essentially the same reason that Molitor wasn’t seen as a “fit” by GM Terry Ryan. Specifically, both men would probably be viewed as a potential “manager in waiting” to replace Ron Gardenhire should the Twins get off to a slow start in 2013. Assuming they both remain in the organization in their prior roles, they would still be available to step in if the ship starts sinking early in the year, but it makes some sense to me not to have them standing there looking over Gardy’s shoulder every game.

To my mind, there’s nothing not to like about these hires. The Twins have brought on a bullpen coach that has a long track record of success working with young pitchers (which the Twins bullpen is likely to have a plethora of well in to the future) and both a bench coach and hitting coach who not only have related well to young players, but should have credibility with the Twins’ veterans, as well.

I’m on board with these hires, although I cringe a bit at Ullger and Vavra coaching the bases. Most importantly, now that the coaching staff is set, Terry Ryan can turn his attention to adding a few new players for these guys to coach.

- JC

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 9

Episode 9 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact, is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

It’s been a slow week in Twins news, but we still found some things to talk about in episode 9. I talk about Twins related items that I’m trying to acquire from Ebay for less than a quarter (shipping included) and why I hates the St. Louis Cardinals. We discuss Jim Rantz’s pending retirement and what it means for the club and check in on the Twins players down in the Arizona Fall League, among other things. We also bring you a couple new beer selections and weigh in on the loveliness of Delmon Young’s mustache.

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at the  Puckett’s Pond.
- ERolfPleiss