Looking Back… and Ahead

I have a poor memory.  I have trouble remembering names and all sorts of other things. I need to be reminded of appointments and family events I’m supposed to show up at. This may well be indicative of some pretty unpleasant final years of my life, but for right now I’m trying to look at the positive side to having a bad memory.

For example, I can tell you I don’t remember predicting before the season started that the Twins would come through with an 86-76 record for 2012.

I can tell you I sure as hell don’t remember predicting Francisco Liriano would be the Twins “pitcher of the year,” before the season got underway or that Liam Hendriks was likely to be the team’s “rookie of the year.”

The problem is that Eric went and made all of those predictions public back in April, so there’s a record of my preseason bout of insanity. Then again, maybe he just made that stuff up?

Scott Diamond

The reality is that the Twins pitcher of the year was probably Glen Perkins and when your best pitcher is a member of your bullpen, that’s probably not good. I suppose Scott Diamond should get some consideration for this award, as well, however. He certainly was the lone bright spot in the rotation (though I suspect he just seems brighter because of how totally dull the rest of the rotation was, by comparison).

Eric and I both apparently thought Justin Morneau was poised for a huge rebound season and predicted he would be the team’s hitter of the year. Justin certainly bounced back well, but Josh Willingham had a huge season and Joe Mauer is once again leading the league in on-base percentage and fighting for the batting title. Either of those two would be legitimate choices for the Twins hitter of the year, but I’d go with Willingham.

I predicted Denard Span would be the team’s defender of the year and I could make a pretty good case for that having turned out to be accurate. But Ben Revere would probably get my vote at this point.

I’m a bit fuzzy on who’s eligible to be considered a rookie and who isn’t, but assuming they’re both eligible, my choices would be Revere and Trevor Plouffe, in that order.

Morneau didn’t turn out to be a bad choice for Twins comeback player of the year, but I’d probably vote for Mauer.

Twins MVP would come down to Willingham and Mauer, but I’d probably go with Mauer because he contributed so much more than Willingham defensively. Then again, does anyone really want to be considered the most valuable player on a 90+ loss team?

I did get one prediction right. I said up front that the Tigers had to be the favorites to win the AL Central Division, but that their defense was going to be bad enough that they’d struggle more than a lot of experts were predicting. I did not, however, expect the White Sox to be the team that challenged them. It does appear that I was slightly overly optimistic about the Twins doing the challenging. (OK, more than slightly.)

But enough about the past, let’s look ahead a bit.

The big question being tossed around these days seems to be whether the Twins will (or should) blow up the roster and rebuild with an eye toward competing in 2016 and beyond or try to improve enough to get competitive again as early as next year.

It’s a fair question. But there’s only one realistic answer.

In a fantasy world where revenue streams are secondary to strategy, you could make an argument that the Twins should blow off the next couple of years and plan for the days when some of their current Class A and AA prospects are arriving at Target Field. But this is the real world and the Twins are a real business.

If they trade away Willingham, Span, Morneau and anyone else with any value who might not be expected to be around in 2016, attendance over the next couple of years will continue to drop even more dramatically, right along with television ratings. That means lower revenues. That means lower payrolls.

Granted, those prospects we’re counting on will be playing for the league minimum for a while, but even by 2016, this team will still be paying $23 million a year to Joe Mauer through the 2018 season. The bottom line is that, regardless of how good prospects look in the Eastern League, Florida State League and Midwest League, the odds are that more than half of them will never become above average MLB ballplayers. That means that blowing the team up now is just as likely to result in bad teams in 2016 and beyond as it is championship caliber teams. Taking that risk might be gutsy to some, but to me it would just be stupid.

Terry Ryan

Building from within with young players is necessary. But it’s not necessary to do so exclusively. Terry Ryan has told media and fans that he and his front office simply need to do better. They need to scout better. They need to trade better. They need to do better at finding the right free agents. He may not have come right out and said it, but he’s certainly hinted that the front office needs to take a very close look at the coaching and training staffs throughout the organization and make better decisions concerning those positions, as well.

Ryan is right. The Twins can’t be satisfied with two or three more seasons of bad baseball while they wait for their top prospects to be ready for prime time. They need to spend the next couple of years improving every. single. year. They need to reinstitute an expectation of competitiveness among their fan base AND in their clubhouse. They obviously need to start that search with their rotation, but whether by trade or free agency, they do need to improve the product on the field immediately.

That may not be the popular approach with some fans, but it is the right approach.

– JC

Minnesota Twins 2011 First Round Draft Selection Levi Michael

The last time the Twins were any good (2010) they were swept out of the post season once again by the New York Yankees.  The Twins finished that season with 84 wins, 4th best in all of baseball.  They were rewarded for their success with the 30th selection in the 2011 draft.  With that pick they selected Levi Michael.

At the time of the draft Levi Michael and the University of North Caroline Tar Heels were playing their way into the College World Series (where they promptly made a two game exit).    Levi Michael was in the midst of a fairly strong junior season (.289/.434/.434 (BA/OBP/SLG)), but he dealt with an ankle injury early on in that season which nagged him for a good part of the year.  His sophomore season at UNC was his best, hitting .343/.484/.575 and ranked as the 13th best hitter in the ACC.  While Michael was never projected to be a power hitter, his on-base skills (more walks than strikeouts 47/41) and his speed, coupled with pretty decent range on the defensive side of the ball made him one of, if not the top shortstops in the draft.

PHOTO BY SCOTT BUTHERUS, NAPLES NEWS

Selecting Levi Michael was a departure from the Twins’ usual draft strategy of drafting toolsy high schoolers (think Ben Revere and Aaron Hicks) and college arms (Kyle Gibson and Alex Wimmers), and was their first college position player taken since Travis Lee in 1996.*  Perhaps the Twins selected Michael understanding that he was one of the best players available to them with the 30th pick and they certainly had a system void of shortstops with high upsides.

The Twins signed Michael late for $1.75 million and despite not having a chance to play competitive baseball for the Twins in 2011, they started him at High A playing a combination of shortstop and second base for the Ft. Myers Miracle.  Going into 2012 Baseball America rated Michael as the Twins 6th best prospect.  TheTwins’  rationale at the time had to be that Levi Michael was a polished college player who should not have much trouble adjusting to professional baseball, and could rise quickly through the Twins MiLB system.

In 87 games for the Miracle, Michael has struggled to get his offensive game going.  He is hitting just .237/.333/.309.  He has continued to showcase a strong understanding of the strike zone at High-A, walking in more than 11% of all plate appearances.  Unfortunately, he is not getting on base enough to steal bases and he has not shown any of the power he did in college, with just 15 extra base hits so far this year (his OPS of .642 does not even rank him in the top 100 of the Florida State League).  Michael’s batting line is held down mostly due to a poor 1st half where he batted just .216/.317/.293.  He’s been much better in the second half so far  (.275/.365/.339) and he’s cut his strike out rate nearly in half down to 12.8% from 22.6%.  However, as a switch hitter he’s still struggling mightily against right handed pitching, with an OPS of just .608, almost 100 points lower than against left handed pitching. At 21 years of age Levi Michael is the 3rd youngest player on the Miracle Roster, and almost two full years younger than the average Florida State League player, so even if he spends all of 2012 and part of 2013 in Ft. Myers he would still be a full year younger than the average player when he joins the Double-A Rock Cats.

While his bat is still adjusting to the professional game, Michael is making most of the plays at both SS and 2B and leads the Miracle in games played and Fielding% at both positions.  Michael’s future in the middle infield is still up in the air as the Miracle have him splitting time between the two positions, spending slightly more time at short.  I’m not going to pretend to know much of anything about his defensive abilities beyond the tidbits I have listed above.  I have not seen him play in person, and I do not know if the errors he is committing are because he is getting to balls outside of his range and not making plays, or because he is just booting balls on routine plays.  Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated.

The biggest take-away on Levi Michael is that it is still early.  He is in his first year of professional baseball and he is one of the youngest players on his team.  He is going to face plenty more ups and downs in his career.  Compared to the Twins’ current shortstop, Brian Dozier, Michael has posted essentially the same line in his first year of High-A baseball that Dozier posted in his first full year at the same level, but Michael is two years younger and did not have the extra two years in the Twins system that Dozier had.  The future might not look bright right now, but Levi Michael is still the best middle infield prospect in the Twins system not named Eddie Rosario.

*The Twins whiffed on Lee in 1996, failing to sign him in the two weeks following the draft.  He eventually signed a $10 million dollar 4-year contract with the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks and was their starting first basemen in their inaugural season in 1998 (and came in 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting).  Lee posted a career bWAR of 5.3.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Orioles @ Twins, 7:10pm

“Help us Diamond Won Kinobi! You’re our only hope!”

Sadly, even Bert Blyleven agrees – he tweeted out earlier today: Twins need more innings out of their starting staff. Only Scott Diamond has given them the quality innings needed to save the bullpen.

Given the heat and humidity still existing in Minnesota, something tells me that the balls will be flying high & long if solid contact is made. So I’m REALLY hoping that Scotty is able to work a little newbie magic tonight.

It’s nice to see JJ Hardy though.. welcome back, just hope he doesn’t abuse the hospitality.

Baltimore

@

Minnesota
Markakis, RF Span, CF
Hardy, SS Revere, RF
Jones, Ad, CF Mauer, C
Wieters, C Willingham, LF
Reynolds, Ma, 1B Morneau, 1B
Pearce, LF Plouffe, 3B
Davis, C, DH Doumit, DH
Betemit, 3B Dozier, SS
Tolleson, 2B Carroll, 2B
  Tillman, P   Diamond, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 0 1 1 0 3 0 0 0 2 7 13 1
Minnesota 7 1 2 1 0 3 0 5 x 19 20 0

I’m not sure where that offensive outburst came from but it was certainly more fun than being on the receiving end of a butt-kicking. How odd was this game? Well, the Twins knocked the O’s starting pitcher out of the game before the end of the first inning despite the fact that he had given up just one earned run. (The six unearned runs were another matter altogether, I suppose.)

There were plenty of offensive stars from which to select a BOD tonight. Justin Morneau went 4-5 with a pair of doubles and Joe Mauer homered to RF. But tonight’s co-BODs are Denard Span and Ben Revere. Not only did they combine to go 7 for 11 with three doubles and 8 RBI, but they flashed plenty of leg & leather in the outfield, as well!

Denard Span

Ben Revere

GameChat – Minnesota Twins @ Kansas City Royals, 7:10pm

Should be a fun night in the chat as the Twins look to win another series from a Central Division foe AND the MLB First-Year Player Draft is in full swing.

MLB.com is running live draft coverage over at their website, and all signs point towards the Twins drafting the toolsy high school outfielder Byron Buxton out of Georgia.  Baseball America rates him as the best talent available in the 2012 draft and with the Twins unlikely to turn their team around in the immediate future, fans should not be concerned about the lengthy development time of a high schooler.  After the #2 pick the Twins still have 4 more of the top 75 picks, and they will likely add a couple of college arms and then look for middle infield depth.

UPDATE: TWINS TAKE BYRON BUXTON WITH THE 2ND OVERALL PICK.

Oh, and here are the line ups for the game, which is being played tonight, not 3-5 years in the future (who would have thought: the Twins have 3 hitters hitting .280+ at the top of the line up and Joe Mauer has the day off to nurse his thumb):

Minnesota Twins

@

Kansas City Royals

 Span, CF  Gordon, LF
 Revere, RF  Giavotella, 2B
 Willingham, DH  Butler, DH
 Morneau, 1B  Moustakas, 3B
 Doumit, C Francoeur, RF
 Plouffe, LF  Hosmer, 1B
 Dozier, SS  Escobar, A, SS
 Casilla, A, 2B  Dyson, CF
 Carroll, 3B  Quintero, C
 _De Vries, P  _Smith, W,

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 2 1 0 1 3 1 0 2 0 10 12 2
Kansas City 0 1 0 3 0 1 0 0 2 7 8 1

Cole DeVries picked up his first Major League win by surviving five innings. He wasn’t great, but he also had some pretty erratic defense behind him at times. The bullpen came through yet again and the offense tagged Royals pitching for 10 runs on 12 hits.

Once again, there was no shortage of Boyfriend of the Day candidates. Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau and Trevor Plouffe went deep. But in the end, we’re going with co-BOD awards for Ben Revere (3 hits, 2 runs, 2 RBI, and a stolen base) and Jamey Carroll (3 hits and a walk in four trips to the plate including a triple, 2 runs, 2 RBI, and a stolen base). Those are some good numbers! – JC

Ben Revere

Jamey Carroll

.

GameChat – Detroit Tigers @ Minnesota Twins 7:10pm

Interesting lineup for Ron Gardenhire tonight.  With Josh Willingham serving as the Twins’  DH tonight, Gardenhire had an opportunity to move Ben Revere into left field and move Trevor Plouffe into right field.  Instead Gardy leaves Revere out in RF where his weak arm is most exposed, and sends Plouffe out to LF where his limited range could come into play.  Perhaps Gardenhire is keeping Revere in RF to chase down liners and fly balls from the 5 left handed hitters in Detroit’s line-up, but a more likely scenario is Gardenhire keeping his guys where he likes them, not where it always makes the most sense to play them.

Either way, should be an interesting game.  Here are the rest of the line ups:

Detroit Tigers

@

Minnesota Twins
Berry, CF Span, CF
Dirks, LF Revere, RF
Cabrera, Mi, 3B Mauer, C
Fielder, 1B Willingham, DH
Young, D, DH Morneau, 1B
Boesch, RF Dozier, SS
Peralta, Jh, SS Plouffe, LF
Avila, C Casilla, A, 2B
Raburn, 2B Carroll, 3B
_Smyly, P _Swarzak, P

 

Detroit Tigers

0

4

0

2

1

0

3

0

0

10

16

2

Minnesota Twins

2

0

0

1

0

2

1

0

0

6

10

0

 

The Twins scored more than their fair share of runs tonight, but the pitching let them down for the second night in a row.Not a lot of positives in a game like this, but at least the Twins were not charged with an error, so that’s an improvement.

Back at it tomorrow.

-ERolfPleiss

 

GameChat – Twins @ Mariners #1, 9:10pm

And we’re back.

Two days ago the Minnesota Twins were no-hit by Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels.  Yesterday, presumably, the Twins licked their wounds and prepared for a three game set in Seattle.

Part of that preparation involved designating Major League Strike-Out King Clete Thomas for assignment to make room for Erik Komatsu, claimed off waivers from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.  Komatsu is a typical lead-off type hitter, reaches base at a solid clip but has never really hit for power.  The move is yet another piece of evidence that the Twins think Ben Revere needs more “seasoning” in the Minor Leagues and an opportunity to play everyday.  Sean Burroughs, who was designated for assignment this past Tuesday to make room for Drew Butera, has cleared waivers and will join the AAA Rochester Red Wings.

Don’t forget: Ron Gardenhire is taking the weekend off and Scott Ullger is serving as the acting manager.

Here are the lineups:

 Minnesota Twins

@

Seattle Mariners
 Span, CF  Ackley, 2B
 Carroll, SS  Liddi, 3B
 Mauer, DH  Suzuki, I, RF
 Willingham, LF  Montero, C
 Doumit, RF  Seager, DH
 Valencia, 3B  Smoak, 1B
 Parmelee, 1B  Carp, LF
 Casilla, A, 2B  Saunders, M, CF
 Butera, C  Ryan, SS
  _Pavano, P   _Vargas, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

 Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

0

0

3

5

0

Seattle

0

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

2

8

1

 

Carl Pavano pitched 6 effective innings giving up just two runs before turning the game over to the bullpen.  In the top of the 7th the Twins took advantage of a Mariners error and a Joe Mauer infield single to score 3 runs.  The bullpen pitched 3 scoreless innings, striking out 5 batters and the Twins hang on to win.

Photo Credit: CapitalBabs

Boyfriend of the Day:

Brian Duensing gets some baked goods for holding the lead in the bottom of the 7th but the real hero of the day is Jamey Carroll.  Not only did he break the Twins’ hitless streak in the top of the first inning, he finished the day 2-4, with a walk, a stolen base, and an RBI.

 

Things Ben Revere is Unlikely to Do

Photo credit: Jim Crikket

Yesterday, during the Twins’ Spring Training loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park, Ben Revere threw out a runner at the plate from left field.  Well, kind of.  Jacoby Ellsbury tripled and the ball bounced away from Valencia at third into shallow left field.  Ellsbury, thinking the ball had skipped into an area void of defenders, took off for home.  Revere, racing in from left, scooped up the ball and threw a rocket to home plate, catching Ellsbury by three or four steps.  If you’re scoring at home, that’s an outfield assist.

While Spring Training stats do not count, Revere throwing a runner out, from anywhere, is a note worthy occurrence, given his weak throwing arm and previous performance (3 assists in 2011, and none of those, as far as I can remember, involved throwing a runner out at home plate).

With that in mind, here is a list of things Ben Revere is unlikely to do in 2012:

1. Throw out a Runner at Home Plate. As mentioned above, Revere’s arm is weak (4/100 per Fangraphs), and if he is not playing every day, his chances of even being in the right situation are limited, at best.

2. Hit a home run.  While Revere has shown that he can occasionally hit a home run (or 2), he has never hit a home run in the Major Leagues, and has just 5 home runs in his entire Minor League Career (with a career high of 2 at Single-A Fort Myers).  While Revere might eventually hit a ball over the outfield fence, his speed could allow him to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run, thus ending his HR drought.  However, Revere only hit 5 triples in 2011, despite his speed, and might not have enough at bats to even match that total in 2012.

3. Have an on base percentage above .335.  While he will never hit for power, Revere’s Minor League numbers indicate that he has great on base skills, posting a career .385 OPB, though he has never played a full season at AAA.  Revere’s biggest asset is his speed, and as a 4th outfielder, he will have plenty of opportunities to showcase his defensive tools, but for the team to put that speed to use offensively Revere will need to get to first base.  If he is not playing regularly, Revere may struggle to find a rhythm, having never been used consistently as a reserve.  While Revere posted a .310 OBP in 2011, that number was helped significantly by a late season push that saw Revere hit .311/.342/.368 in September and October.  If Revere wants to be the Twins’ leadoff hitter and centerfielder of the future, he’ll need to come close to Denard Span‘s career OBP of .361.

4. Says something interesting on Twitter. While Ben Revere (@BenRevere9) has almost 3 times as many Twitter followers as  fellow Minnesota Twin, Glen Perkins (@Glen_Perkins), he rarely, if ever, says anything noteworthy.  The most exciting thing he’s tweeted in the past 30 days is this.  Really, Ben Revere?  Trading in the Statue of Liberty for Tim Tebow Tebowing?  Meanwhile, Glen Perkins has not only spent Spring Training on a quest to hold and photograph himself holding sharks, he also interacts with fans and other Twitter users on a regular basis.  Definitely worth a follow.

What else might Ben Revere not do in 2012?  Steal 40 bases?  Run a marathon? Eat 50 In and Out burgers?  Who knows!

-ERolfPleiss

Twins Regime Change: Winners and Losers

You may have heard the news… the Twins fired General Manager Bill Smith Monday and replaced him with his predecessor, Terry Ryan.

The news has been received well among most Twins fans. That’s not surprising. Most of us had lost much of whatever confidence we may have once had in Smith’s talent as a GM and what better guy to replace him with than the GM who gets most of the credit for molding the Twins in to a contender for most of the past decade? It does seem pretty convenient though, doesn’t it, that fans tend to overlook the fact that he also failed miserably at the GM job during his first half dozen or so years in the GM chair. Then again, he was barely over 40 years old when he first got the job and we all know that nobody under 50 knows a damn thing, anyway.

In any event, I’m certainly not disappointed to see Ryan back in charge. It was a good and necessary move by the Twins ownership and top management.

But make no mistake, this move means things are going to be done differently and there will be changes, both at Target Field and across the Twins organization, from the minor leagues to the international scouts and beyond. You might not think that someone with merely an “interim” GM title would have the clout to turn an organization on its head, but this is no ordinary “interim” GM. There is nothing “interim” about his level of authority.

All of this has me thinking a bit about who the potential winners and losers are likely to be when the dust settles on this little internal drama that’s playing out within the team’s front office.

WINNERS:

Twins prospect Aaron Hicks

Minor league prospects: If you’re a prospect in the Twins organization and were starting to get concerned that the Twins might go out on the open market and sign a free agent to a multiple-year contract that could essentially block your path to the Big Leagues, you’re a winner in this deal. It wasn’t all that likely to happen in the first place, but now, those chances are considerably smaller.

By association, our friend Seth Stohs over at SethSpeaks.net is a winner, too. Seth lives and breathes minor league baseball and nobody knows that stuff better. I doubt that Seth was ever too concerned that the Twins might become a “trade all your prospects for old guys” organization, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Terry Ryan will make improving the Twins minor league organization a high priority. That’s going to make Seth (and, eventually, the rest of us) very happy.

Ben Revere

Ben Revere: Terry Ryan made perfectly clear on Monday that the Twins need to improve their defense. There are questions about whether you’ll ever be a Major League hitter, but if Ryan truly believes that better defense will lead to better pitchers, I think you just got locked in to a starting spot in the 2012 Twins outfield.

Talented prospects buried in other organizations: Terry Ryan’s forte is identifying young talent, whether in his own organization or others, and bringing that talent to the Twins where they get a chance to prove themselves worthy of a shot at the big time. If your organization has been holding you back, there’s a decent chance Ryan already has a file on you that’s about an inch thick. Make sure your agent has Ryan’s number on speed dial.

Wayne Krivsky: It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride for you over the past week. A week ago, you were a frustrated, seldom listened to, advisor in the Mets front office. Then you got the good news… the Twins GM wanted you back in the organization in an advisory capacity. Then you got the bad news… the GM who wanted you back was being canned. Then you got more good news… the new interim GM is your old buddy Terry Ryan and now you’re close enough to sniff your next opportunity to become a Major League GM, once again. That is, if you’re the one person on the planet who actually believes that Terry Ryan is just the “interim” General Manager of the Twins.

LOSERS:

Twins Medics: You may have breathed a sigh of relief a while back when Bill Smith stated publicly that there would be no blood-letting among the organization’s doctors and trainers. Better get back to work on those resumes, folks.

Cuddyer, Nathan, Kubel (assuming any of them wanted to return to the Twins for 2012 and beyond): Bill Smith grew to genuinely like certain players and some feel that he allowed those feelings to affect his decisions. Terry Ryan isn’t heartless, but he is first and foremost an evaluator and appraiser of baseball talent. The next time he overpays for the declining years of a player who’s productivity level has arguably peaked will be the first time.

Mike Radcliff: A week ago, you were being mentioned as a possible GM candidate in Baltimore, then the Twins declined to allow the Birds to interview you. Now, your new boss is publicly talking about how you’ve been spread too thin and will have some of your responsibilities reassigned. Word is that you decided you weren’t interested in their job and the Twins “declined permission” for the Orioles to talk to you merely to allow them to save some face. If that’s the case, you may be regretting that decision. Now, instead of the organization’s highest ranking player-personnel guy and heir apparent to Bill Smith, your new boss is twice the baseball man you are and he’s bringing back his former right-hand man in Krivsky. Ouch.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Tsuyoshi Nishioka: There is absolutely no way Terry Ryan would have committed $15 million to acquire you a year ago and given that you embody everything that Ryan feels is wrong with the current roster, your already meager hopes of ever playing another inning of baseball for the Twins just became virtually non-existent. I don’t know where you’ll be playing ball in 2012, but it won’t be in the Twin Cities.

Trevor Plouffe: Did you hear what Ryan said about needing to improve the Twins defense? Yeah… he was talking about you, Trevor. You’re still inexpensive, so if you’ve been improving your glovework, you may get a shot at redemption in Ft. Myers, but you’d better demonstrate marked improvement or you’re going to be the “throw in” player in one of Ryan’s inevitable trades.

Anyone who pitched for the Twins in 2011: Glen Perkins might be the only pitcher on the roster who’s spot is relatively safe. The rest of you, either by virtue of your performance or your contract (or both… see: Blackburn, Nick, et al), are just as likely to be playing elsewhere in 2012 as playing on a Terry Ryan team.

Carl Pavano

Carl Pavano: I don’t believe for an instant that Ryan would have re-signed you to a two-year deal last offseason. If he can find someone willing to take on most of your remaining salary, I believe you’ll be wearing another uniform in 2012.

Bloggers who spent time assembling a 2012 “blueprint” (unless you didn’t really like your blueprint, in which case you’re in luck because now you can start over and do a new one): Back to the drawing board. Any of us that still want to spend $35 million on free agents need to get creative about figuring out how to cut $15 million from the existing commitments. Then again, we can pretty much rule out the Mark Buehrles and anyone else likely to get several million dollars for multiple years.

TOO EARLY TO TELL:

Ron Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire: You didn’t see eye-to-eye with Smith on a number of personnel issues, so you’re probably feeling pretty good about things right now. But keep in mind that Terry Ryan just actively participated in the firing of one of his best friends. He says he’s going to assemble a team that he thinks should be competitive in 2012. If it isn’t, he’s not going to hesitate for a moment to send you packing, too.

Danny Valencia: On the one hand, Danny, you’re young and cheap and you hit the ball a little bit. On the other hand, your defense is not good and some reports indicate you’re not exactly the prototypical “Twins guy” in the clubhouse. That may not have been a big deal a week ago, but there is absolutely nobody in the organization that’s more of a believer in the “Twins Way” than Terry Ryan. If you thought Gardy was anal about that kind of thing, you’re REALLY gonna love the new sheriff in town.

Denard Span

Denard Span and Alexi Casilla: I’m honestly not sure what Terry will do with you two. You’re not gold-glovers in the field, but by comparison to almost everyone else the Twins have on defense, you almost look the part. I suspect he will start his purge elsewhere, but your salaries are getting to the point where Ryan starts to think he can find someone comparable for less money. Not to mention, you may be two of the few members of the current roster with actual trade value.

Fans: I stand by my previous statements that fans should not accept a slashed payroll without loud objection. We can hold out some hope that Ryan was just tossing out numbers during the press conference and, by the time spring rolls around, the payroll is pretty close to the 2011 levels. At any rate, if (and this is a very big “if”) Ryan can actually unload some dead weight and replace it with players who can actually… you know… play baseball, then fans may be pleasantly surprised with the results.

What are your thoughts? Who do you project to be the big “winners” and “losers” under the Terry Ryan Regime, Part Deux? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

–  JC

If The Price Is Right

If it’s the All-Star Break, then it must be time for fans to start talking about trades. We are, after all, just past the mid-point of the season and the non-waiver trade deadline is less than three weeks away.

At this point there are three kinds of teams… obvious buyers, obvious sellers and everyone else. The Twins are in that “everyone else” category because they haven’t established themselves as an obvious contender nor have they fallen so far back in the standings that they have virtually no chance of becoming contenders.

So, that means everyone is (or soon will be) posing the question, “Should the Twins Buy or Sell?” To me, the answer is… “Yes, if the price is right.”

What’s that you say, it wasn’t a “yes or no” question? Too bad.

Bill Smith

July trades generally are made between two parties, one a contender and one… well… not. The contender (or “buyer”) has a spot or two to fill to help push them to the top of the standings and/or prepare them to be a stronger playoff team. Their GM has to be willing to do one of two things… or both… (a) give up highly rated prospects or young (read: cheap) MLB-ready players; and/or (b) take on significant salary owed to an established (and often overcompensated) veteran player.

The other party to these trades (the “seller”) has some highly paid veteran players that are either having good seasons or have put up good numbers recently enough that a contending team might be willing to bet they could help put their team over the top this season and that team is looking to restock with young players that will help next season… and for several years to come. They also are likely looking to shed some salary because they recognize attendance is going to be dropping the rest of the season.

I think the Twins, thanks to the very weird season they’ve endured, find themselves in a unique position… they’ve pressed a lot of young players in to Major League action and many of them have performed well enough to demonstrate that they fit the “MLB-ready” criteria that “sellers” are wanting in return for established players. They also find themselves with an abundance of veteran outfielders and pitchers… many of whom will be free agents at the end of this season… that could be attractive to contending “buyers”. Finally, they’re already certain to exceed 3 million in paid attendance, so there’s no need at all to consider shedding salary to be a factor.

Denard Span

It amazes me how many suggestions I’ve read that the Twins trade a Denard Span or a Delmon Young for established relief pitching. That’s absurd on two levels. First, nobody who has top veteran relief pitching to trade is likely to look for expensive veterans in return. They’re going to want young players they can continue to pay the league minimum to for a while. Also, you simply don’t trade players of the quality of Span, Young, Cuddyer, etc., for relief pitching. Ever.  MAYBE you trade your Rene Tosonis and Trevor Plouffes… legitimate prospects (but not future superstars), guys you can (and likely will) find a way to live without in the future… for relief pitchers. The Twins SHOULD be “buyers”… they SHOULD get relief help… and they have enough decent young talent to use for that purpose. There are a lot of decent relievers (meaning better than what the Twins have been trotting out there for middle relief) on the market so it should be a buyer’s market. There’s no need to overpay.

At the same time, the Twins have demonstrated that they can compete without the likes of Delmon Young, Denard Span, and Jason Kubel in the line up. The question is… should they trade away a veteran or two and continue to try to compete without them? If the price is right, sure, why not?

Delmon Young

Of course, you do not just give any of these guys away. Even those who are going to be free agents are likely to be good for compensatory supplemental draft picks if they walk away at the end of the season. But because guys like Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Anthony Swarzak, and Glen Perkins have demonstrated they can be relied upon to play a role with a contending team, the Twins CAN afford to deal SOME of their veterans and still remain in contention in the AL Central Division. If Twins GM Bill Smith can get real prospects in return for one of his outfielders or one of his pitchers, he should go ahead and do it. Would that mean running a risk in the event the Twins get hit with more injuries? Absolutely… but a GM’s job is to evaluate and take acceptable risks.

But what if the Twins do none of this? What if Smith takes a summer vacation and leaves his phone in the Twin Cities? Can the Twins compete if they do nothing at all?

Well, I still think getting some relief help is important, but otherwise… yeah… the Twins could stand pat and make a serious run the second half of the season… and in to the playoffs. How is that possible?

Justin Morneau

It’s possible because, even if Bill Smith takes that long summer vacation, he will be adding three quality veteran players by the July 30 deadline and another… a former MVP… by the August 30 waiver-deal deadline. Delmon Young has been reactivated and Denard Span sounds like he won’t be far behind. Jason Kubel should be returning not long afterward. Justin Morneau’s recovery seems on target for mid August. Name me a contending team that wouldn’t give a boatload to get four players like that over the next 5 weeks! And Smith doesn’t have to give up a thing.

And here’s the bonus, in my mind… many teams (including past Twins teams) expend so much emotion and energy trying to make the surge necessary to dig out of a deficit in the standings that their tank is empty in September and October. They’re worn out mentally and beat up physically. But most of the Twins top players shouldn’t be feeling worn down. Mauer, Morneau, Young, Kubel, Span… they’ll all be far fresher than most players at that point in the season.

The Twins also have enough starting pitching, with Swarzak, Kevin Slowey and Kyle Gibson (again, we’re assuming the GM makes no deals) ready to step in, that any member of the current rotation who gets as much as a hangnail could be DL’d for 14 days, allowed to get rested up, and come back strong.

This is not the time for Bill Smith to overspend. He doesn’t need… in fact can’t afford… another trade where he gives up a top prospect for a relief pitcher, like the Ramos-for-Capps deal a year ago. He can afford to wait for a trading partner who’s willing to overspend and, if necessary, settle for a moderate deal for middle relief help.

I hope he shows patience because God knows the blogging world is likely to urge otherwise.

– JC

June’s AL Rookie of the Month!

Congratulations to Ben Revere!

Ben Revere

 

Courtesy of the MN Twins:

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins outfielder Ben Revere was named the Gillette Presents American League co-Rookie of the Month for June along with A’s second baseman Jemile Weeks.

Revere, who batted .294 with 14 runs, four doubles, a triple, nine RBIs and seven stolen bases, was surprised to learn about the honor when told before Tuesday’s game against the Rays.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” said Revere, grinning. “They told me I had a chance but I thought Jemile was [going to be selected]. So it’s awesome. All the coaches helped me out. It’s an honor to be [named] that, but I have a lot more stuff to work on.”

Revere, who was recalled on June 2, helped spark the club atop the lineup while also providing excellent defense in center field. The club was also 17-8 in the 25 games he played after entering the month with a 17-36 record.

“When I first got called up again, my grandpa told me that I was going to help turn this team around by bringing my enthusiasm and work ethic,” Revere said. “So I told him I’d do my best, and he must be psychic, because it’s actually what we’re doing. We’ve been getting back.”