Episode 62: Rule 5 Drafts and other Non-Sense

Episode 62 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Paul's sad Christmas tree.

Paul’s sad Christmas tree.

This week on the podcast we have a full slate of beers and a full tray of Twins news. Christmas comes early this season for Twins fans as Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes are Minnesota Twins; what does it all mean? Seth Stohs joins us to break down Rule-5 Draft possibilities and to talk minor league ball. The Hot Stove is on fire this seasons, listen in for analysis of Twins moves, roster transactions and more.

It’s another long episode this week, but with so much news, and so many beers, it was impossible to keep it any shorter.

Enjoy the podcast!

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps the the Vikings draft another terrible quarterback.

Episode 43: Kyle Gibson’s Debut

Episode 43 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Betsy Bissen

Kyle Gibson, Spring Training 2013. Photo Credit: Betsy Bissen

Eric and Cody talk recent Twins happenings, including a struggling bullpen, an awful PJ Walters, and whatever it is that is going on with some Twins Minor Leaguers in the Futures Game.

The two are then joined by Seth Stohs from TwinsDaily.com to talk about all things Twins Minor League and what fans can expect from Kyle Gibson as he makes his MLB debut on Saturday.

After the break the boys talk beer, baseball, and the news.

92 minutes of chatter.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 15

Episode 15 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

itunes pic

This week Paul and I are joined by Twins prospect guru, Seth Stohs, of TwinsDaily.com to discuss the Twins trade with the Nationals, his blogging career and Travis Harrison. After Seth departs we take a quick look at the Rule 5 draft, Twins HOFer Brad Radke and a lengthy discussion on the 2013 BBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame ballot, specifically Barry Bonds and the steroids era. We also talk about beer, of which it becomes evident that I had several, along with a few other Twins news items and notes.


If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become warlocks.)

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

– ERolfPleiss

BASEBALL’S OPENING DAY IS HERE!!

Congratulations baseball fans – the off-season is over and you have survived to begin again!

We Twins fans don’t see action until tomorrow but regardless, it’s a good day to be a baseball fan.

Here’s the schedule of games that will be played today:

All times Eastern. Subject to change.

 

 And in another piece of just general news, I received this notice from Tinger this morning:

“All these years we’ve been calling C.C. “Captain Cheeseburger”. They just said on ESPN that he dropped 25 pounds this winter by cutting Captain Crunch out of his diet. We’ve been going about this all wrong! I think that’s a solid reason for a name change.”

Given the long history many of us have with the Captain Cheeseburger moniker, and given the general distrust I have for C.C.’s ability to maintain this supposedly lower weight – afterall, who can actually tell? – I will accept BOTH names as appropriate nom de plume. I wonder if C.C. has an opinion on the cut mouth situation??

[EDIT]  Seth from SethSpeaks is offering a special discount on his Twins Prospect handbook in honor of Opening Day!  If you don’t have one already, you should check it out!

[UPDATE]  Two former Twins played today and had records I thought worth noting. 

A) Pat Neshek recorded his first National League Win for the San Diego Padres tonight. I couldn’t be happier for him.

B) Livan Hernandez pitched his 4th Season Opener for the Washington Nationals – and recorded his 4th Loss.  Ouch.

Things That Make Me Go “Hmmm”

George Carlin

I was a big fan of the late George Carlin back in the days of my misspent youth. I mean, I liked Bill Cosby and Gallagher, too… but Carlin always made me laugh. My favorite part of his stand-up routine was when he’d come up with the “Things That Make You Go Hmmm”. You know what I mean… like “Why don’t you ever see the headline ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?”

Well, since Bud Selig and the other geniuses at MLB decided we should all take what seems like a month off between the end of the LCS and the World Series, I thought this would be a good time to share some of what I’ve read lately that made me go “hmmm.” So that’s what I’m going to do. Below are a few things I found interesting and links to where you might read more.

I’ve been a big fan of Zack Greinke and have been up front for some time about wishing there was a way to get him in to a Twins uniform. So this tidbit from Seth Stohs’ post on Sunday caught my attention:

Speaking of the offseason, the Zack Greinke rumors are already in full gear. Apparently the Twins are among the teams that Greinke would accept a trade to. There is talk that due to his social anxiety disorder, he would prefer to stay in a small market. Travis Aune (of) TravisTwinsTalk.blogspot.com tells me that he has heard rumors of a potential deal involving Greinke and David DeJesus coming to the Twins in exchange for Kevin Slowey, Delmon Young and Aaron Hicks.

Zack Greinke

Greinke is due $13.5 million for both 2011 and 2012. DeJesus gets $6 million for 2011. Together, that’s about $12 million more than the Twins would be paying Slowey and Young next season (Hicks would remain a minor leaguer for at least another year with the Twins). I’m not sure the Twins have room for that kind of payroll bump, but it’s an interesting thought.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are chomping at the bit to get moving on making sure they don’t fail to reach the World Series two years in a row. Frustrated, I’m sure, by not being able to throw gazillions of dollars at Cliff Lee while Lee is still pitching for his current team, the Rangers, in the World Series, the Yankees decided to do something immediately to begin the process of fixing their team… they fired their pitching coach, Dave Eiland. Right, guys, it wasn’t your overpaid, underperforming, arms that cost you the World Series berth you feel entitled to, it was your pitching coach.

Coincidentally, while the media seems to have determined it’s a foregone conclusion that Lee will be a Yankee in 2011, those classy Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium may have screwed up GM Brian Cashman’s plans. According to USA Today, it seems Cliff’s wife Kristen was none too impressed with how she was treated at Yankee Stadium during the ALCS.

Perhaps the Rangers’ greatest sales pitch simply was having Kristen sit in the visiting family section at Yankee Stadium during the playoffs. She says there were ugly taunts. Obscenities. Cups of beer thrown. Even fans spitting from the section above.

“The fans did not do good things in my heart,” Kristen says.

“When people are staring at you, and saying horrible things, it’s hard not to take it personal.”

Wouldn’t it be a gas if the typical Yankee fan behavior turned out to be a critical factor in Cliff Lee telling the Yankees  to “shove it” and staying with the Rangers?

While on the subject of the Yankees, I’ve read the following “rumors” about Cashman’s offseason plans (beyond the obvious intent to throw money at Cliff Lee):

  • While Derek Jeter’s value on the open market to teams other than the Yankees would be about $7 million on a one-year deal, the Yankees are likely to sign him to a 3-year contract for about $45 million. HOWEVER… as part of that deal, they should let him know that he should no longer expect to always hit in the top two spots in the order and he should be made aware that he’ll not be playing shortstop every day. He may transition to other positions, including possibly DHing. (Where do I sign up for a gig that gets me paid, by my current employer, twice what I’m worth to anyone else, on the condition that I accept the fact that I won’t be working as much?)
  • One writer speculated that Jeter would begin transitioning to 3B, with Alex Rodriguez beginning to DH.
  • Jorge Posada will not be catching as much next year but would be used as the primary DH. In fact, the Yankees may carry three catchers including current part-time catcher Francisco Cervelli and uber-prospect Jesus Montero, with the plan being to gradually get Montero MLB catching experience and using both Montero and Posada as DHs.
  • In an effort to figure out how to justify spending even more Steinbrenner money to bring in Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth for 2011, there’s speculation that the Yankees might trade current RF Nick Swisher or… if the Yankees find no takers for Swisher and his $9 million contract… move Swisher to DH.

All of which has me wondering just how soon Bud Selig will be proposing a new rule allowing the Yankees to use five DHs in their line up.

Mike Sweeney

Finally, I’ve gone several weeks now without linking to a Joe Posnanski “Curiously Long Post” so I’m going to link/recommend two of them that should be considered “must reads”. One is about Mike Sweeney (caution… if you’re anything like me, reading this may make you feel inclined to wish the Twins would offer Sweeney a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, just to see if they could wring a little more magic out of him as a right handed DH/PH) and the other is actually a re-post of an article he wrote about accompanying Tony Pena on a trip to his native Dominican Republic several years ago when Pena was the Royals’ manager. I have to admit, I loved the way Pena ran a team from the catcher position and wish there was a bit of Pena’s fire in Mr. Mauer.

That’s all for now! – JC

Ramos, Mauer and Morneau… who’s gonna go?

Warning: This is another lengthy post from JC with the occasional use of numbers.

There have been a number of interesting things going on in the past few days and weeks that seemingly have nothing to do with one another and there’s been no shortage of media and blog attention to them individually. But I’m a “connect the dots” kind of person who tends to see patterns and conspiracies in just about any set of random events.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I would look at the new contracts of Joe Mauer and Ryan Howard, along with the remarkable Major League debut of Wilson Ramos, and see threads that bind them together.

Just so we’re all coming at things from the same starting point, let’s review a few things. All of Twins Territory knows Joe Mauer begins making $23 million a year next year and has a no-trade contract through the following eight years.

Phillies 1B Ryan Howard signed a lucrative (some would say absurd) extension that will pay him $20 million a year in 2012 and 2013 and $25 million from 2014 through 2016. By comparison, a couple of years ago, Justin Morneau signed a deal with the Twins that pays $14 million a year through 2013.

The Twins have generally spent about 50% of their revenues on their Major League payroll. With 2010 estimates coming in around $200 million in revenues and just south of $100 million in payroll, they seem to be continuing along the 50% path. It’s tough to imagine those revenues increasing much (if at all) as the newness of Target Field begins to wear off, so it’s also tough to imagine their payroll being allowed to increase significantly, either. But this isn’t a post about the Twins’ payroll anyway… well maybe it’s a little bit about payroll.

It’s not so much that the Twins may not have room in their payroll to afford their current stars, as it is that they may not have room on the field for them.

How could this possibly be? What happened? Things have been humming along nicely so far this season with nothing but the occasional “Kubel or Young?” debate among Twins faithful.

In short, Wilson Ramos happened.

Not that Ramos has come out of nowhere. Ramos has been one of the Twins top 3 prospects as ranked by Baseball America (and pretty much anyone else who ranks such things) for the past couple of years. In fact, he was BA’s Winter Player of the Year this past off season. There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” where baseball prospects are concerned, but the last time the Twins had a catcher in their system this close to being a “sure thing”, his name was Mauer.

The Twins didn’t have a lot of leverage in their negotiations this spring with Mauer and his agent, but what little they did have was named Ramos. If Mauer were not a Twin Cities native and/or if he and his agent had insisted on A-Rod money, Wilson Ramos might already be the Twins’ regular catcher.

In other words, while nobody should make too much of the hot start to his Major League career, nobody should make too little of it, either.  He’s good.

Seth Stohs posed the question of what to do about Ramos and Mauer in his TwinsCentric blog at the Strib. He proposed that the Twins have four options, though at least one of them arguably is not an option at all. Joe Mauer isn’t going to be traded any time soon and Ramos is almost certainly headed back to Rochester when Mauer is healthy enough to play every day again.

But what about next year? How long do you keep a guy like Ramos “down on the farm” once he’s demonstrated to you (and everyone else in baseball) that he’s ready to contribute at a high level in the Bigs?

The answer is, “you don’t”. In 2011, absent injury, Wilson Ramos will be a starting Major League catcher… somewhere.

The easy solution, when you’re the GM of a team that sees itself as a World Series contender, is that you trade a valuable, yet blocked, talent like Ramos to a team who is building for the future and has an established Major League ballplayer who’s getting too expensive for a team in that situation to keep. You don’t trade Wilson Ramos for washed up 35 year-olds, for one-year rentals, or for another team’s “prospects”. You get someone you KNOW will add wins to your record immediately.

But what if you want to keep Ramos? Well, despite what some people (who likely never played the game) seem to think, you can’t simply give Ramos a different glove and turn him in to a Major League third baseman. Everyone reading this has watched Nick Punto and Brendan Harris charge slow rollers or leap to their left or right to snag a ball, then make some sort of acrobatic throw to 1B for an out. And by now, everyone has gotten a look at Wilson Ramos. Seriously… do you see this guy making those plays? To my eyes, Wilson Ramos is a catcher and a very good catcher. He hits well, for a catcher. He is not and never will be a 3B. You don’t waste time making him your DH either. He’s just too valuable a commodity as a catcher.

No, if you want Wilson Ramos on the field for the Twins in 2011, Joe’s gotta go… probably 90 feet up the line to either 3B or 1B. Unlike Ramos, it’s not hard to imagine Joe Mauer excelling at either corner infield spot, given enough work at the job. He could also probably perform well in a corner OF spot, but the Twins have a pretty solid supply of corner OFs both on the Major League level and in the minors.

People I respect continue to maintain that Danny Valencia will become the Twins’ answer at 3B by 2011. If not, a couple of years behind him, they have Miguel Sano coming up. Sano is the Dominican prospect that the Twins shelled out over $3 million for last winter. But try finding a legitimate offensive threat among the first basemen in the Twins organization, not named Morneau.

And what about Morneau?

Well, this is where payroll comes in. See… I told you this was a “little bit” about payroll.

As I mentioned, Doc is locked in at $14 million a year through 2013. That seemed like a lot of money a couple of years ago. But that was before someone in the Phillies organization went insane and gave Ryan Howard a deal that will pay him $25 million annually starting in 2014… coincidentally, the same year that Morneau’s next contract will start.

But Howard’s deal is just the beginning. Between now and the time Morneau’s agent will begin negotiating his next deal, fellow star 1Bs Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder and some guy in St. Louis named Pujols will have new deals. All of those players are likely to exceed Howard’s contract and they’ll be setting new bars for Morneau and his agent to be aiming for.

As much as I would love to see the Twins’ M&M boys ride off in to the sunset of their careers together in Twins uniforms, I simply can’t envision a scenario where that happens.

So if I’m the Twins’ GM and I look in to my crystal ball and see no Justin Morneau being re-signed and nobody in my farm system looking like the “next Morneau”, what do I do?

I trade Justin Morneau before the 2011 season.

In the next year or so, the Cardinals, Padres and Brewers are going to be faced with negotiating new deals with  Pujols, Gonzalez and Fielder for anywhere between $25 and $30 million a year (or trading those players to another team who will meet their respective prices). The market for Morneau, who will still have three years at a comparatively modest $14 million per year remaining on his contract, will never be higher.

The Twins are almost certainly going to lose Morneau, either by trade before his final contract year, or to free agency following 2013. Postponing the inevitable makes sense if you have nobody to replace him of comparable abilities. But that’s not the case, if you move Joe Mauer to 1B.

The bottom line is this. This off season, the Twins will have two valuable trade chips in Ramos and Morneau.

If the Twins won’t trade Ramos, they need to create a spot for him in the everyday lineup and the only logical spot is at catcher. Moving Mauer to 1B allows them to put Justin on the market. Morneau would likely bring back pitching and infield talent to upgrade multiple roster spots immediately and in to the future.

Of course, trading Ramos instead could also bring immediate help at other positions and if the Twins are prepared to say unequivocally that Joe Mauer will be catching for the foreseeable future, then trading Ramos makes perfect sense.

But that means that a couple of years later, they’ll have neither Ramos nor Morneau and, considering the abuse any catcher takes over the course of a couple of seasons, it’s a fair bet that the Twins will be forced to move Mauer to a new position by then anyway.

If I’m the GM, I listen to offers for Wilson Ramos this summer and if, say, the Royals decide they don’t want to pay Zach Grienke the $13.5 million they’re going to owe him starting next season, I’ll deal Ramos and strengthen my team right now. But absent that kind of “knock me off my feet” offer, I’m holding on to Ramos this year and if everyone stays healthy, I’m going to look for a good deal in return for Morneau after this season… and buy Joe Mauer a new first base mitt.

GameChat – Exhibition – Cardinals @ Twins

I haven’t quite figured out where Babs copies the lineups with links from, so for the moment, lineups grabbed from Kelly’s Corner. Come join me/us in the GameChat channel!

Here’s the chart!

St. Louis @ Minnesota
Schumaker, 2B   Span, CF
Ryan, Br, SS   Hudson, O, 2B
Pujols, 1B   Mauer, C
Holliday, LF   Morneau, 1B
Rasmus, CF   Cuddyer, RF
Ludwick, RF   Kubel, DH
Lopez, F, DH   Young, D, LF
Freese, 3B   Hardy, SS
Pagnozzi, C   Punto, 3B
Lohse, P   Pavano, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
St. Louis 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 5 0 8 13 2
Minnesota 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 4 4 1

But the boxscore just really can’t accurately describe what it was like for those of us here watching the game from the live chat.  From Span kicking tail and getting the first  HR in Target Field, seeing random friends enjoying the amenities, or even seeing Jacque Jones back in Minnesota!!  What a fantastic day for baseball in this state!

Because it wasn’t enough for Span to have the first triple at Target Field, he also had to smash the first home run.

span040210

It’s always nice to see someone you know, Seth Stohs, on TV. Eating a cheese-covered nacho chip.

seth040210

It was great to see that the fans at the ballpark remember Jacque Jones fondly too.

jones040210

WE’RE NUMBER… um… 64?

So I was making my daily rounds of my favorite Twins blogs on Wednesday when I noticed Seth Stohs’ had posted an “I like this Top 10 list!” entry. Seth linked to Bob Ingrassia’s “newsbobber” site where Bob had posted the Top 10 Minnesota Twins blogs list.

Now, let me just say, I had no illusions that our brand spanking new “Knuckleballs” blog would have cracked the “top 10″… or even the top 20… or 30. We were well aware that there’s a boat load of Twins blogs out there when we started this blogging adventure.

But newsbobber doesn’t stop at the “top 10″. Nooooo… it lists 63 Twins blogs! None of them “Knuckleballs”! This means that we are… at BEST… the 64th most popular Twins blog!

Of course, we’ve only been up and running for about a week, so we can use that as an excuse for our poor showing (or non-showing, in this case). But I don’t accept excuses from Gardy or any of the Twins and I won’t accept it from us, either. We can do better… we must do better… we WILL do better! (But then, it would be tough to do worse than “not listed”.)

Newsbobber ranks the blogs by “Newsbobber Score”. I admit I didn’t dig in to how that score is determined, but somehow we need to figure out how to get one!

Oh, I would also point out that Bob invites people to let him know if you, “Don’t see one of your favorites.” (Hint hint.) Yes, I realize it may be way too soon for any of you to consider Knuckleballs to be, “one of your favorites.” But, I promise, you won’t go to hell for telling Bob a little white lie and helping us out in the process.

Just for the record, I was pleased to see almost all of the blogs on our “Additional Twins Blogs” list ranked highly on the list and congratulate Aaron Gleeman on his perch at the top (though I wonder how he feels about being referred to as the “grandpappy of Twins bloggers”).

Seriously, I had no idea there were that many Twins blogs out there. Obviously, there are a lot of them I’ll be checking out for the first time, very soon. That should be time consuming enough to keep me from doing anything remotely productive for a while. – JC