Wounded Tiger

So Detroit is going to spend $13 million this season for Victor Martinez NOT to play for them.

Welcome to our world, Tigers.

Victor Martinez (Photo: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE)

Martinez reportedly tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) doing a pretty routine side-to-side workout. It just goes to show how quickly and bizarrely those things can happen.

There’s no rhyme or reason to it. These guys just scaled up Mt. Kilimanjaro, presumably without incident, and Martinez blows out his knee exercising. (I suppose, to be safe, I should have waited until they successfully scaled down the mountain, but certainly if they got up, they certainly have a plan for getting down, right?)

The Tabbies won 95 games in 2011, claiming the AL Central Division by 15 games over the Indians (and 32 games over the Twins) and pretty much everyone who gets paid money to opine about such things has been willing to just hand Detroit a free ticket to the playoffs in 2012. It’s hard to blame them, I suppose, given that none of the Tigers’ division rivals appear intent on spending the money to challenge them for the division title. In fact, some potential challengers are even (ahem) slashing payroll.

While I’m not so crass as to celebrate Martinez’s injury, it’s pretty difficult as a Twins fan to muster up much sympathy for the Tigers organization. Our guys certainly racked up more than their fair share of Disabled List time in 2011, especially among the big contract guys.

But here’s the thing… doesn’t it seem like the Tigers have pretty much sat out this off-season? I know they won the AL Central going away, but if the Rangers came within one pitch of winning the World Series and still feel the need to improve their roster, wouldn’t you think Detroit might think adding more than Octavio Dotel might be necessary? Have they added more than that? (OK I looked it up… they also added Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago.)

The Tigers’ payroll in 2011 opened the season a little under $106 million and reports have it sitting at close to $109 million for 2012 after they came to terms with their arbitration-eligbile players. (That includes agreeing to pay Delmon Young $6.75 million, by the way. I have to admit I’m glad it’s not the Twins that are ponying up that kind of money for DY. As I Tweeted Tuesday night, I don’t know for sure that Ben Revere is going to be a better starting left fielder than Young, but I’m pretty sure the Twins are glad they have Revere rather than Young at this point.) In any event, you have to figure the Tigers aren’t looking to significantly jack up their payroll number at this point.

I know I’ve read that they were kicking the tires on Mark Buehrle before he signed in Miami and, more recently, may be talking with the Cubs about trading for Matt Garza. An upgrade would make sense because their rotation, after Justin Verlander, really is nothing to brag about (and seriously, how likely can it really be that Verlander would have another season like his 2011?). So it’s possible that they’ve been quietly sniffing around one of the remaining free agent starting pitchers.

But with Martinez likely out for the season, you have to imagine their attention might be shifted toward finding someone to take over Martinez’s DH responsibilities. There certainly is no shortage of DH options still on the market, so in the end, their offense may not the biggest victim of the injury. The biggest victim may be their starting pitching if they have to use remaining payroll budget for a bat instead of rotation help.

So speaking very selfishly, Martinez’s injury may help the Twins in three ways:

  1. Most obviously, he won’t be in Detroit’s line up.
  2. On the off chance the Tigers were in the market for the same starting pitcher(s) the Twins might be talking to, their need to replace Martinez may take them out of contention for pitching.
  3. Finally, that same shift in priorities likely may leave the Tigers’ rotation unfortified.

Most of all, it simply makes Detroit more beatable. And that’s never a bad thing.

And, yes, I really am this desperate for anything resembling good news for the Twins at this point.

– JC

Twins: Foreign/Domestic, New/Old, Friend/Foe

Just a few things that have come up around TwinsWorld lately that we haven’t gotten around to commenting about yet.

International Flavor:

Hope this is "our" Javier Pimentel. If not... oh well, worth a try, right?

In the past week, the Twins have submitted the high bid for the rights to negotiate with Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka and signed the supposed #10 prospect in the baseball-rich Dominican Republic, 17-year-old infielder Javier Pimentel. This continues the trend, started a couple of years ago, of the Twins flexing their international muscles more than a bit. They’ve had a strong presence in Australia for some time, but they’ve now made a name for themselves in the European, Latin American and Japanese markets, as well.

You have to give the Twins front office credit for not waiting for the increased revenues from Target Field before starting to bolster their international scouting organizations. Rather than waiting until the ballpark opened to start the long process of establishing a presence, learning how things worked, and getting to know the markets, they started doing all of that pretty much as soon as they had a deal in place to build the ballpark. As a result, now that the money is available, they’re already a recognized “brand” in those markets and it appears we’re seeing the fruits of those labors starting to be realized.

Red Dog gets a gig:

The Big Lug

Our old friend Mike “Naked Batting Practice” Redmond has been announced as the new manager of the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts. It will be interesting to hear whether his BP style (if you can call being naked a “style”) is passed along to his players. Red Dog will be hanging out with Lansing mascot “The Big Lug”, who is certainly no TC Bear (but then, who is?). In any event, I’m already looking forward to seeing Red when the Lugnuts travel to Cedar Rapids to face the Kernels in 2011. Good luck NBP!

Keeping an Eye on the Competition:

It’s starting to look like it may be difficult to recognize some of the Twins’ AL Central competitors in 2011. The Tigers have been the media’s big “winner” in the free agent market so far, having added Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit to their ranks. It doesn’t look like they’ll have familiar faces Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson and Maglio Ordonez  around any more (though word is that they could still re-sign Mags). Detroit had something like $50 million in contracts come off their books after this season, so they’re still looking to add more. I have to say, though, that I think they’re overpaying for what they’re buying. I understand they probably had to overpay to get the guys they wanted, but in a year or two, I think they’ll be saddled with contracts they wish they didn’t have.

The bitchiest Bitch Sox?

The White Sox could very easily have neither Paul Konerko nor our old friend AJ Pierzynski in uniform next season. GM Kenny Williams always pulls some sort of surprise signing out of his butt so I’m sure they’ll make a splash yet. But they apparently don’t have a lot of salary room and his deals seem to almost always blow up in the Sox’ face, so it’s hard to worry too much about them getting a lot better. Admit it though… it won’t be nearly as much fun hating the Bitch Sox if their chief bitch, AJ, isn’t around, will it? On the other hand, if he gets no other offers and has to return to Chicago on some sort of minimum wage deal, that might be kinda humorous. As for Paulie, I hope he finds a nice place to play ball… preferably in the National League. I don’t want to see him back in Target Field unless it’s in the World Series… or he’s wearing a Twins uniform (or both). [UPDATE: Appears I may have spoken too soon. The Sox have signed Adam Dunn to a 4-year, $56 million deal and still are interested in bringing Konerko back. If they manage to sign both, there’s no doubt they’ll be improved. Twins should hope they stop at Dunn and let him play 1B]

Media experts keep talking about how the Royals have all these great young players coming up through their system and that now is the time for them to trade Zack Greinke. I’m on record already as wanting the Twins in on that action if the Royals are serious about letting him go, but after reading that his “partial no-trade” clause expires at mid-season (meaning after that date, the Royals are not limited with regard to who they can trade him to), I don’t really expect KC to get serious about letting him go until the trade deadline. And as for the Royals actually getting competitive… I’ve heard it all before, so pardon me if I’m skeptical until I see evidence on the field above the AA level.

Finally, there’s the Indians. I haven’t really heard or read anything of interest about Cleveland except that they’re the only team I’ve read about (other than possibly the Twins, of course) having an interest in signing Nick Punto. I guess if there’s one franchise around who could use a Tiny Superhero, it’s the Indians. By the way,we’re hearing that one of the things Nishioka is known for over in Japan is… wait for it… yes… sliding head first in to first base. Sigh.

New Road Jersey:

In case you missed it, the lone change to the Twins’ uniform options in 2011 will be a new alternate road jersey. It’s a navy blue jersey with the same “script Minnesota” across the chest that the grey road jersey has.

The Twins dropped the very popular navy “block MINNESOTA” road jersey from their options a couple of years ago and, since then, the only alternate road jersey has been the same “script Twins” jersey that’s also worn at home.

Twins new "alternate" road jersey for 2011

As others have pointed out, the Twins tended to wear their navy jersey most of the time, at home and on the road, through the middle third or so of the season. The home whites and road greys seemed to be worn regularly early and later in the season and some people wondered if it had to do with superstitions among the players.

While I’m certainly not going to reject that possibility, because ballplayers are notoriously superstitious, I think there’s actually a more likely reason. The navy jerseys are made of much lighter weight material and during the dog days of June, July and August, the players (especially the starting pitchers, who have traditionally chosen the jersey they want to wear for their starts) opt for the coolest jersey among their choices. Conversely, they were more likely to wear the heavier (and warmer) white or grey jerseys during the cooler spring/fall parts of the season.

While the new road jersey will hopefully give them a second light-weight option, the real question that you would think someone would get around to asking is, “Why can’t they make a second set of white/grey jerseys out of the cooler material?”

Anyway… maybe we should keep track, here at Knuckleballs, of how many times each jersey is worn by the Twins next season. It seems like one of those interesting, if not at all important, pieces of information that would fit in nicely around here.

– JC