Thinking the Unthinkable: Trade Joe Mauer?

This is what happens when the offseason rolls around and I really have no rooting interest among the four remaining MLB teams in the respective League Championship Series. I write 2000 words about something that will never, ever happen. At least that’s what happened to me Sunday.

But it’s not my fault. I’m blaming Eric and this Sunday morning Tweet:

@ERolfPleiss Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Red Sox should target Mauer and/or Morneau this winter. #MNTwins http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2012/10/13/few-ideas-shore-red-sox-roster/npiJ3r49NrtnhnGInPoQ1L/story.html …

Having nothing better to do, I clicked the link to Cafardo’s article, which goes through several possible moves the Red Sox could make to get their team back on track, starting with trading for Joe Mauer. Cafardo mentions that the Red Sox are reportedly a bit gunshy about taking on more expensive long-term contracts and wonders if the Twins would eat some of his salary. On the other hand, if you’re the Twins, the only reason to deal Mauer would be to get out from under that contract. Putting those factors together, you quickly conclude that any such deal is beyond unlikely and bordering on unthinkable.

But this is the offseason and what’s the offseason for if not to think about the unthinkable?

I’m not surprised to see a Boston writer bring up Mauer’s name as a possible target for the Red Sox. In fact, given how old and fragile the Yankees line up is looking, I’d be shocked if Mauer’s name didn’t appear in more than one New York writer’s “How to Fix the Yankees” column in coming weeks, as well.

Joe Mauer (Knuckleballs photo)

But there are any number of logical reasons why Joe Mauer won’t be going anywhere. Local boy. Popular with local fans. Historically great hitting catcher. Huge contract. No-trade clause. The list goes on.

But if you’ll promise not to misinterpret this as an article suggesting that Mauer either should or will be traded, let’s at least take a look at whether there are any circumstances under which Terry Ryan might actually consider a discussion.

Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Boston GM Ben Cherington places a call to Ryan and asks the simple question, “Can we talk about Joe Mauer?”

Understand, it’s unlikely that question would even be asked. Cherington is unlikely to be looking to take on $23 million per year long-term contracts. Still, as Cafardo points out, Mauer would fit nicely in to a line up that would accommodate a catcher/1B/DH like Mauer. He might also set some kind of modern-day record for doubles in Fenway Park. Bringing in a legitimate superstar would send a strong message to Red Sox Nation that the team has no intention of taking several years to rebuild their brand. And let’s be honest, the Red Sox can afford to pay Mauer his money. They freed up a lot of payroll space with their late-season deals and if they decide to let David Ortiz walk away, they’ll have even more money to play with.

So just maybe the Red Sox could see themselves calling about Mauer. But should the Twins even answer that call? That answer may not be as obvious as many fans think.

The Twins gave Mauer an excessive contract before the 2010 season because they could not afford, from a public relations standpoint, not to sign him at any price he and his agent demanded. Opening a new stadium built largely with public funding, with virtually every seat bought and paid for through season tickets (and a waiting list of people willing to replace any holder who drops out), there was no way the Twins could allow themselves to be seen as letting the local hero get away because they didn’t want to pay for him. For the first time in franchise history, money really didn’t matter.

But those days are nothing more than a misty memory today. The Twins are coming off of consecutive seasons of more than 95 losses and attendance is dropping. Put those factors together and it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the Twins to slash payroll for the second straight offseason. Today, money does matter. Paying one player $23 million dollars when your total payroll is $110 million is one thing. Doing so when your total payroll is $85 million is something else, altogether.

Still, it’s not like the Twins are destitute, either. With the money coming off the books after the past season, Terry Ryan has enough payroll to work with to make improvements to his team. There aren’t a lot of top of the rotation pitchers out there, but there are plenty of more reasonably priced arms on the market and he even has a couple of trade chips he can afford to flip for pitching if he wants to go that direction. Also, despite what some folks might think, Joe Mauer is still really, really good at baseball and he’s likely to stay good for a number of years. You don’t just give that kind of talent away for a handful of magic beans (or in this case, for just a few million dollars of payroll space).

What this all means is that if, as Cafardo suggests, Cherington asks TR whether the Twins would eat any of Mauer’s contract, the answer would be (or at least should be), “hell no!” But what if Boston agrees to take on that contract?

Conventional wisdom in these kinds of trades is that the team trading a big contract either gets high level prospects back by eating some salary OR gets marginal prospects back while dumping the entire contract. That’s considered “fair return.”

Yet the Red Sox themselves managed to not only unload more debt owed to less talented players on to the Dodgers a couple of months ago, but got legitimate talent back in return, as well. They should be congratulated for that. They should also be reminded of that when they call the Twins about Joe Mauer. “Fair” is a relative term. “Fair” depends on how badly you want what I have. If you don’t want Mauer that badly, that’s fine. If you do, then shut up about “fair” and let’s get serious.

There are 3-4 players in the Red Sox system that the Twins would have to target as possible players they’d need in return. I’m not any kind of expert on minor league players, but fortunately I know how to read things written by people who are. I also have a pretty good idea what the Twins need (then again, who doesn’t at this point?).

Any discussion with the Red Sox about Mauer would have to start with the Twins dumping his entire contract AND getting at least one of the following players in return:

Allen Webster: 22 year old right-handed starting pitcher that the Sox got from the Dodgers in the Crawford, et al, trade. He’s got a mid-90s fastball and strikes out nearly a batter per inning. He pitched in AA this season and should be a AAA arm to start 2013. He was the #2 prospect in the Dodgers organization prior to the trade.

Matt Barnes: Righty starting pitcher was the Sox first round pick out of UConn in 2011 and covered both levels of A-ball in 2012. Barnes also has a mid-90s fastball and strikes out a ton of hitters. He’s likely to be a year behind Webster in terms of being Major League ready, however.

Garin Cecchini: 21 year old 3B had a .305/.394/.433 split in high-A ball in 2012. He also stole 51 bases in 57 attempts. He hasn’t shown a lot of power yet but hits a ton of doubles. With Will Middlebrooks perhaps entrenched at 3B for the Red Sox, Cecchini could be blocked unless he’s converted to a 2B. The Twins could use help in either spot.

Speaking of third basemen being blocked by Middlebrooks, the Red Sox top prospect is reportedly Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts is playing shortstop and the Sox hope he can stay there but scouts have doubts about whether he will be able to do that. They think he will more likely need to move to 3B or, perhaps even more likely, a corner OF spot or 1B. He was just 19 years old through the past season but has already shown both an ability to hit for average and power through Class A and even in a month of games at AA. It sounds like Boston has their own version of Miguel Sano, but it’s unlikely they’d trade him for anyone. I wouldn’t.

With Cecchini and Bogaerts knocking on the door, maybe Boston should consider trading Middlebrooks?

A step below these guys would be someone like Henry Owens, who is a 20 year old string bean of a pitcher with what appears to be a lot of potential. He’s 6’7” and a bit over 200 pounds and only throws in the low 90s at this point. But he had 130 strikeouts in 101.2 innings at Class A in 2012 and that would certainly move him to the top of the Twins’ starting pitching prospects list in a hurry.

If the Twins could score one of these top prospects from Boston in addition to shedding Mauer’s contract, Ryan could then be free to have conversations with his peers about Major League level pitching without being as concerned about salary. Would a trade for someone like James Shields (who has a $9 mil club option with the Rays in 2013) then be something worth considering?

Terry Ryan (Knuckleballs photo)

But even if Ryan and Cherington could come to some kind of agreement, what about that pesky no-trade clause in Mauer’s contract? Would he even consider giving approval? Let’s just say I no longer believe it’s necessarily a certainty that he’d say “no” to such a deal.

On the one hand, Joe’s a very private person and it would seem that moving to a large-market team that is as dysfunctional as the Red Sox has been would be counter-intuitive. On the other hand, he’s a really big fish in a mid-market fishbowl and you wonder if he might not welcome the opportunity to be just one of many mega-stars in the New England sports scene. As Cafardo points out, Mauer also lives in Fort Myers in the offseason. Guess who, besides the Twins, has their Spring Training facility in Fort Myers? Yep… the Sawx.

Let’s also be honest about something else. Despite the colossal belly flop of a season that the Red Sox had in 2012, if you were Mauer and were weighing the Sox against the Twins as to which organization was more likely to field a Championship level team over the remaining six years of your contract, there’s no doubt who you would see as being more likely. Boston may not always make the right decisions, but their clear goal every year is to win it all. And every year, they make moves they believe will give themselves a better shot at doing so. You simply can not say that about the Twins.

Joe Mauer is not a naïve little boy any more. Family is important. But he already lives in Florida half the year and the life of a MLB ballplayer during the season doesn’t leave much time for family anyway. With Boston training in Fort Myers, I think they might just be one team he would consider waiving his no-trade deal for.

So, IF the Red Sox call… IF Terry Ryan will listen… IF the Red Sox would take on the entire contract… and IF the Twins could also get a top prospect (or two?) in return… would Mauer agree to a trade?

Let’s just say that if, like me, you are one who never wants to see Joe Mauer in anything but a Twins uniform, we should probably hope it doesn’t come down to that last factor.

- JC

[EDIT: Changes have been made above to correct original errors regarding the timing of Mauer's contract.]

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

GameChat – Yankees @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

so.. Phil Hughes has kind of been on a roll lately – he’s trying for win #17 this season. I would love to see him not quite get there.

Of course, that means our offense will have to do something about that..

and who knows what we’ll get from Vasquez up against the Yankee lineup.

Let’s try this again. It might really be a good idea to win this game tonight because I don’t think we want to rely on the chances of beating Captain Cheeseburger on Wednesday to avoid a Yankee series sweep.

If there was any roster news today, I’m unaware of it… just haven’t been in the loop on news today, sorry. – JC

NY Yankees

@

Minnesota
Jeter, SS Span, CF
Suzuki, I, RF Revere, LF
Rodriguez, Al, 3B Mauer, C
Cano, DH Morneau, 1B
Swisher, 1B Doumit, DH
Granderson, CF Parmelee, RF
Martin, C Plouffe, 3B
Ibanez, LF Carroll, 2B
Nix, J, 2B Florimon, SS
  Hughes, P, P   Vasquez, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
NY Yankees 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 4 9 0
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 0 x 5 8 0

Yes, I know the Twins have lost 90 games and are playing out the season, but it’s still fun to beat the Yankees, right?

Esmerling Vasquez threw a nice six innings of baseball. The bullpen wasn’t perfect tonight, but they managed to keep things from getting out of control long enough for the bats in the lineup to put together a four-run 7th inning and hang on for a 5-4 Twins win.

Denard Span had a big two-out double in that inning, followed by an RBI single by Joe Mauer. Mauer had three hits in the game. I was apparently the only person in GameChat still awake at the end of the game and I couldn’t decide between the two for the BOD award so we’re going to let them split it. – JC

Denard Span

GameChat – Twins @ Tigers #2 & #3, 12:05pm & 6:05

So today actually is the double-header to make up for Friday’s rainout. No, really it is. It also makes for a LOT of baseball today but at least there isn’t any rain in today’s forecast. Fall baseball has definitely begun however since it’s not supposed to even reach 60 degrees.

Good luck guys!

Game #2:

Minnesota

@

Detroit
Span, CF Jackson, A, CF
Revere, RF Infante, 2B
Mauer, DH Cabrera, Mi, 3B
Willingham, LF Fielder, 1B
Morneau, 1B Young, D, DH
Doumit, C Peralta, Jh, SS
Plouffe, 3B Dirks, LF
Escobar, 2B Garcia, A, RF
Florimon, SS Laird, C
  Diamond, P   Scherzer, P

 

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

0

5

1

4

0

10

13

1

Detroit

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

2

4

6

1

This game went pretty much like you’d expect until the 6th inning… and then the TWINS actually started getting RUNS! Scott Diamond also seemed to get things figured out and settled down by the 4th inning or so and had a pretty darn good outing!

But today the BOD went unanimously to Joe Mauer. Thanks Joe!

Game #3:

We did a pretty good job of going through the Detroit bullpen this afternoon, let’s see if we can get to them again. Let’s hope that PJ can keep us in it long enough to have that make a difference.

Minnesota

@

Detroit
Revere, CF Jackson, A, CF
Carroll, 2B Berry, LF
Mauer, C Cabrera, Mi, 3B
Willingham, LF Fielder, 1B
Morneau, 1B Young, D, DH
Doumit, DH Boesch, RF
Plouffe, 3B Peralta, Jh, SS
Carson, RF Avila, C
Florimon, SS Santiago, 2B
  Walters, P   Smyly, P

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

2

7

1

Detroit

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

6

3

Well THAT was fun!!! I think close games are entertaining. This was a hard fought game from the pitching standpoint and PJ did a very good job! Jared Burton also pitched an IMMENSE bottom of the 9th against the heart of the Tigers order in a beautiful way. For that they both get a classic internet High Five! I hope he keeps it up!

Apparently the Twins are 6-0 when it comes to winning double-headers. I don’t know why that is but I’m not going to argue. I like winning, I like beating the Tigers. I’m not so fond of helping the White Sox reach the post season but.. I like beating the Tigers.

We all agreed that tonight’s BOD was the ever ‘youthful’, Jamey Carroll. He might be mad at himself for getting that out at 2B but he still is the one who got that winning RBI. Don’t be so hard on yourself, Jamey and enjoy the recognition of all that you have brought to your new team!

Jamey Carroll

GameChat: Twins @ Indians, 6:10 pm

Glancing at the Twins line up, it kind of looks like the closest thing Gardy can come up with to a legitimate “A line up,” right up to the point where you see who’s pitching. Tonight we have the return of P.J. Walters. I’m going to be honest, I don’t really remember enough about him to opine about whether I’m glad he’s back or not. I guess at the very least, I’m glad he’s healthy again.

TWINS

@

INDIANS
Span, CF Choo, RF
Revere, RF Kipnis, 2B
Mauer, C Cabrera, A, SS
Willingham, LF Santana, C, C
Morneau, 1B Brantley, CF
Doumit, DH Canzler, DH
Plouffe, 3B Chisenhall, 3B
Carroll, 2B Kotchman, 1B
Escobar, SS Carrera, LF
  _Walters, P   _Huff, P

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

R

H

E

Minnesota

2

0

0

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

2

6

16

2

Cleveland

1

1

0

0

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

5

11

0

What a long time to watch the Twins play the Indians. And for the record, I’m pretty sure there were more people tweeting about the Twins game than were sitting in the stands watching the game. BUT! Our endurance was rewarded! Our boys managed to get the WIN! It’s been a bit since we saw that and it feels good to come back and get a win in the division fight..

It was a battle from early on – we got an early lead that disappeared almost immediately and stayed tied or a run apart for most of the game. Nothing like making a game late in the season go 12 innings. And breaking that final tie took a LONG time.

A few highlight players:

  1. Duensing who threw 3 innings with 1 hit and no runs after a short, somewhat shaky but not irreparable start from PJ.
  2. Mastroianni who manufactured the tie breaking run and got himself to home on an error in the top of the 12th.
  3. Florimon who ended up getting the actual winning RBI since we needed BOTH of the runs we got in the 12th to get the win.

All these guys deserve a steak dinner. Seriously, there was a point when I thought this game would never end.

But the real standout effort tonight came from Joe Mauer – who else? He was on base every at bat, 3 hits, 2 walks and an RBI. For such an outstanding plate performance, he earned today’s BOD! – CB

 

Some EARLY 2013 MLB Draft Options for the Minnesota Twins – Part 1

It is way to early to start thinking about the MLB draft, especially with real, meaningful baseball being played.  But it probably does not hurt to start familiarizing ourselves with some of the names that might be floating around the top of the pre-draft rankings.  If the draft was to start today, the Twins would find themselves with the third overall selection.  Here are the first 6 of 11 potential first round draft picks the Twins could take in 2013.

Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel is back in the draft for the third time after being selected in the 15th round by the Detroit Tigers in the 2009 draft, and again by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (8th overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He has a fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a nice looping slider that devastates right handed batters.  Appel will be 22 next July and with the current state of Minnesota’s pitching staff, he would instantly become one of the best pitchers in the organization.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas
Stanek was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by the Seattle Marinersbut chose instead to attend college at the University of Arkansas.  From his Arkansas Razorbacks profile, he has a low 90s fastaball and a “tremendous” breaking ball.  He was 8-4 in 2012 as a weekend starter for the Razorbacks and was an All-SEC performer.  Matt Garrioch at MinorLeagueBall.com says of Stanek, “One of the best college pitches I have seen over the last 3 years.”  He’ll need another strong season in the SEC to move onto the Twins’ radar at the top of the 1st round, but with a big time need for starting pitchers, you can’t count him out.

Jeremy Martinez, C, Mater Dei HS (California)
Jeremy Martinez is ESPN’s number 1 rated HS prospect on the ESPN 60 list.  He’s committed to playing for the USC Trojans in 2013, but if the Twins are looking down the road for a guy to replace Joe Mauer, Martinez could be their man.  Power showcase.com lists his pop-time from home to 2nd base at 1.86 seconds, which is pretty quick no matter who you are (MLB average is usually right around 1.8-1.9).  In 2011 he was one of just two juniors on the USA 18 and Under squad so he’s been a front runner for the 2013 draft for some time now.  The Twins seem to like current Minor League catcher Chris Herrmann, but Martinez would have a much higher ceiling than any catcher in the Twins organization.

Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford
Austin Wilson was drafted in the 12th round of the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals but found his way to onto Stanford Cardinal squad instead of going pro.  As a sophomore in 2012 Wilson hit .285 and lead the team with 56 runs scored and 10 home runs.  He also walked 24 times and was hit 15 more, raising his OBP to .389.  Wilson will need to cut down on his strike outs (44) without sacrificing any of his power to move up the draft boards prior to the 2013 draft.

Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA)
Meadows is a big kid at 6′ 3″ and 200 lbs as a HS Junior and the number two ranked player on ESPN 60, and like the Twins 2012 first round draft selection, is also a toolsy outfielder from Georgia.  He had a big junior season hitting .390 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 steals, brining his team all the way to the Georgia 5A state semifinals.  Meadows is also a great football player, but has decided his future lies in baseball and will forego his senior season on the gridiron to focus on baseball.  He is, however, committed to Clemson, so any team that drafts him will likely need to offer him a significant signing bonus.  With all of the outfield talent spread throughout the Twins’ farm system, I do not see them going after Austin Meadows, but Minnesota is a team that is not afraid to draft the best available player, regardless of position, so Meadows could end up being their guy with a strong senior season.

Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego
Bryant has been destroying West Coast Conference pitching for two yeasr hitting .366/.483/.671 over 110 games.  Bryant was previously drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 18th round of the 2010 draft.  Bryant does not play great defense, but he has pretty decent speed, hits for a lot of power (9 home runs as a freshman and 14 as a sophomore, to go along with 17 doubles each year), and walked more than he struck out in his sophomore season.  The Twins may have found a long-term slugging solution at 3B in Trevor Plouffe, but Kris Bryant would fit into the Twins MiLB system with as much power as anyone other than Miguel Sano.

Like I said, it is still REALLY early to start thinking about the 2013 draft, but the the Twins season spirally quickly down the drain, it cannot hurt to look toward the future.  Part 2 coming on Saturday.

-ErolfPleiss

 

CameChat – Mariners at Twins #4 12:10pm CDT

Day baseball is the best kind of baseball.  So I feel good about that.

Last night Samuel Deduno pitched 7 innings of no-hit baseball with ZERO walks and 9 strikeouts.  So I feel good about that.

Trevor Plouffe and Josh Willingham both hit home runs last night and Joe Mauer hit a triple.  So I feel good about that.

Jeff Gray was demoted to AAA Rochester and Chris Parmelee was called up and is starting in right field today.  So I feel good about that.

Brian Duensing is pitching today.  So I do not feel good about that.

Seattle Mariners

@

Minnesota Twins
 Ackley, 2B  Revere, CF
 Gutierrez, F, CF  Casilla, A, 2B
 Seager, 3B  Mauer, C
 Montero, C  Willingham, LF
 Smoak, 1B  Morneau, 1B
 Olivo, DH  Doumit, DH
 Robinson, T, LF  Parmelee, RF
 Thames, E, RF  Plouffe, 3B
 Ryan, SS  Florimon, SS
 _Beavan, P  _Duensing, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle 1 0 0 0 0 4 0 0 0 5 6 0
Minnesota 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 6 1

Well that was pretty disappointing.  The Twins had just six hits, one of them a two-run bomb from Josh Willingham (his 33rd of the season), but a disastrous 6th inning from Brian Duensing and Casey Fien led to four runs and that was enough for the Mariners to secure the win.

Try again tomorrow in Kansas City.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Twins @ Red Sox #3, 6:10pm

I can honestly say that I never thought we’d be halfway through the Red Sox series knowing that at the WORST we’d split and have the opportunity to WIN this series. Knowing how important each and every game is to the Red Sox right now, I really expect them to come out hard every game and even harder now that they are down two games.

Cole has been doing well enough that I think he should be able to face this lineup with confidence despite their tremendous abilities. I also enjoy the face that our offense seems to be able to bring the bats when necessary. However, facing Clay Buccholz is no small thing but that’s what baseball is supposed to be – a challenge for any given day.

Minnesota

@

Boston
Span, CF Kalish, CF
Revere, RF Crawford, LF
Mauer, 1B Pedroia, 2B
Morneau, DH Gonzalez, Ad, 1B
Doumit, C Ross, C, RF
Mastroianni, LF Saltalamacchia, DH
Dozier, SS Aviles, SS
Casilla, A, 2B Shoppach, C
Carroll, 3B Punto, 3B
  De Vries, P   Buchholz, C, P

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2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Minnesota

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

4

6

12

0

Boston

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

0

4

6

3

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!?!!?!?

There are really no words to describe the roller coaster of emotions watching this game tonight. Just crazy… coming from behind twice and leaving the big runs for the final inning of the Twins half… I think these boys are TRYING to give me an ulcer.

I spent more than an inning complaining that Cole DeVries had really pitched well enough to get better support from his team and they were really letting him down.. Did he get the win tonight? No, but since the team did, I don’t think he will mind all that much. HOWEVER, we do believe he deserves SOMETHING in the way of a gratuity for a tremendous outing. Since he’s a Minnesota boy, we here at Knuckleballs thought he would appreciate some down home comfort food from the North woods. So, because you are just so special Cole, you are awarded a plate of beer battered walleye fingers.. they are making me drool just looking at them..

But when all was deemed lost and even Nick Punto was wondering why the Twins were still trying in the 9th inning despite being down by 2 runs.. things seemed to happen.. remarkable things.. guys at the top of the order got on base – the way they’re supposed to. And then Mauer strode to the plate… all confidence and swagger. Ok, no swagger because that’s not his style but let’s just say there was a glint in his eye! All of Twins Territory held their breath with each pitch and groaned when he took a 2/2 pitch and gets the ball call… There aren’t a lot of people I would choose to be at the plate in the 9th with runners on base and a full count over a healthy Joe Mauer. And he proved exactly why that incredible eye for the strike zone serves him so well by launching one over the Green Monster. What a dramatic storyline!! I really love that the Twins are making it fun to watch baseball again!! And yeah, pretty much an automatic BOD!

Just Winging It: The 2012 Minnesota Twins Starting Rotation

There can be no doubts that a 63-99 team has plenty of areas for improvement.  In 2011 the Twins were 28th in team OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage), ahead of only the Seattle Mariners and the San Diego Padres.  Sure, they were playing half of their games in the pitcher friendly Target Field, but even when adjusting for park factors, the Twins posted an OPS+ of just 84 (100 is average), 29th in the MLB, this time behind the Padres.  Clearly there were issues with the Twins’ bats a year ago.  Part of that was attributable to injuries to Joe Mauer (replaced by Drew Butera and Rene Rivera) and Denard Span (replaced by Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, and Jason Repko).  Another part of the hitting problem was related to dreadful offensive production from the middle infield, as Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Luke Hughes, Danny Valencia, and Matt Tolbert, and the the old Trevor Plouffe all posted below leave average offensive numbers.

As bad as the Twins’ bats were in 2011, it did not really matter what their pitchers were doing.  And maybe that is what the front office was thinking heading into Spring Training.  If the Twins could just upgrade their offense, even with a mediocre pitching staff, they were likely to see a big improvement.  Unfortunately, the Twins did not have a mediocre pitching staff in 2011, their 4.58 team ERA was 29th, and were one of just two teams (along with the Baltimore Orioles) to allow more than 800 runs.  So to go along with their 29th place OPS+, the Twins also had the 29th worst pitching staff, and yet somehow they still only lost 99 games.

After a winter of free agent signings and departures the Twins arrived in Spring Training as optimistic as any team in baseball.  After all, they were only a year removed from a 94-win AL Central Championship team, and they were truly healthy for the first time in more than a year.  Their franchise catcher, Joe Mauer, had finally recovered from whatever it was that was ailing him in 2011 and caused him to miss almost half a season, and Justin Morneau was finally overcoming his concussion symptoms that cost him the better parts of 2010 and 2011.  Ryan Doumit and Josh Willingham were on board to replace Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, and the Twins signed veteran on-base sepcialist Jamey Carroll to compensate for the failures of Nishioka.  Alexi Casilla was coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his underwhelming career and looked poised to finally become the everyday player the Twins had been hoping he would be since 2007.  Despite all their failures in 2011, the Twins looked like their bats were ready to hit in 2012.*

*And to some extent, they are.  The Twins’ 2012 OPS+ is 6th in the American League, and they are scoring runs at an almost league average rate (4.30/4.47).  

The Twins, however, did little to improve a pitching staff that was one of the worst in 2011.    They inexplicably resigned 9th inning reliever Matt Capps to a $4.75 million dollar deal to step in for the departed Joe Nathan.  They also sent starting pitcher Brian Duensing back to the bullpen where he had previously been successful and replaced him in the rotation with free agent acquisition Jason Marquis, hoping that he would rebound from a broken leg that cost him the end of the 2011 season, and become the renaissance man that Carl Pavano had been for the Twins since he arrived in 2009.  But with just five real candidates for starting pitching Minnesota was walking a pretty thin line.  The Twins also brought in just about every free agent relief pitcher they could find hoping that a couple of them would pitch well enough in Spring Training to head north with the big league team.  They even went against their traditionally risk-averse strategy and signed Joel Zumaya to a minor league deal hoping to add a power arm to their bullpen without paying the power arm price.  And with that, the Twins were seemingly ready to start the season.

Just five starting pitchers and not a lot of MLB ready pitchers in AAA ready to step in if things went poorly.  Among the starting pitchers not in that group of five, only Liam Hendriks and Scott Diamond seemed like realistic replacements to join the Twins if things did not go well in Minnesota.

As you are well aware, things have not gone well for the Twins’ starting pitchers in 2012.  Even before leaving Spring Training the Twins were forced to move Liam Hendriks into starting rotation as Jason Marquis was pulled away from the team to be with his daughter while she was recovering from a serious bicycle accident.  To make matters worse, Scott Baker did not leave Ft. Myers with the Twins either, dealing with supposedly minor arm issues which ended up as a worst-case scenario as Baker would eventually require Tommy John surgery to repair the UCL in his pitching arm.  That meant that Anthony Swarzak would start the season in the starting rotation, leaving with Twins without their regular long-reliever until Marquis would be back with the team.  Before long the Liam Hendriks experiment was over and he was back in AAA looking garner some additional seasoning.  Now the Twins had to start getting creative.  They had already burned through the only two replacement options they’d planned for and with the Twins already well below .500, it was unlikely that they would be playing any meaningful baseball in October.  Since that time the Twins have used five additional starting pitchers, none of whom the Twins were counting on in April.  P.J. Walters was first, then Scott Diamond, Cole De Vries, Brian Duensing, and finally Sam Deduno.

The Twins still have 63 games remaining in 201. With Francisco Liriano now pitching for the Chicago White Sox the Twins will have to find another arm to step in.  While the next pitcher they call upon to start will likely not be a fresh face, they will still be tip-toeing around a problem unlikely to be resolved without the infusion of some fresh arms this winter.

Twins fans should have known that when Minnesota signed Jason Marquis and hoped for the best that the team was just winging it in 2012.

-ERolfPleiss

GameChat – Orioles @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

So yeah, it’s hot again. The actual temperature isn’t as bad as yesterday but the humidity is still ridiculous.

It’s also just been announced that Matt Capps will be going to the DL with rotator cuff irritation. That can’t be good.. for anybody..

I have no idea if the Twins have any offense left in them after last night but I sure hope that it’s something they know how to do.

Baltimore

@

Minnesota
Markakis, RF Span, CF
Hardy, SS Revere, RF
Thome, DH Mauer, C
Jones, Ad, CF Willingham, LF
Wieters, C Morneau, 1B
Reynolds, Ma, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Davis, C, LF Doumit, DH
Betemit, 3B Dozier, SS
Flaherty, 2B Carroll, 2B
  Britton, Z, P   Deduno, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Baltimore 1 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 4 9 1
Minnesota 0 0 0 1 3 0 2 0 x 6 13 1

A bit more drama in tonight’s game than was involved Monday night, but it seemed to take just about as long to get the game played. Nevertheless, the Twins came away with another win, 6-4 this time.

The bullpen came up big in this game, with Jeff Gray. Tyler Robertson, Alex Burnett, Glen Perkins and Jared Burton combining to throw 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout baseball. Offensively, Denard Span, Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit all contributed two hits each with Doumit also racking up a pair of RBI.

But I’m awarding the BOD honors to Joe Mauer in recognition of his three hits, including one double and a RBI, not to mention a pretty nice diving catch of a foul ball in front of the dugout. – JC

Joe Mauer