Monday, July 25, 2011

Twins For Sale

This is a posting that I meant to put up months ago when the Twins had fallen desperately out of the race.  By the time I was ready to post it, however, losses started turning into wins.  Out of respect for the nearly unprecedented run that followed, I held off on posting my thoughts. Now that the team has returned to something resembling an average baseball team, the post is starting to feel relevant again.  My fear is that the Twins winning ways, combined with a terrible AL Central division, may force the front office into some bad decisions in the next couple weeks.   

I've decided to post the original version, so please take that into account.  I have provided updates in a few places.

If there is one positive thing about the Twins falling out of contention in May, it is that the front office can approach the trade deadline as sellers.  There is a legitimate argument to be made that competing for a division title every year can take a toll on your organization.  First of all, it means that your draft picks are in the 20s and 30s instead of single digits each year, where most of the “can’t miss” prospects are drafted.  It also makes it difficult to leverage current assets to accumulate additional prospects at the trade deadline. 

Imagine the haul that the Twins could have received in 2007 had we been sellers at the trade deadline.  With almost no hope of retaining Torii Hunter and Cy Young pitcher Johan Santana long term, both players could have been dealt to contenders for big returns.  As it turns out, staying in contention left us with compensatory picks for Hunter when he signed a $90M deal with the Angels and a number of marginal prospects for Santana that have currently amounted to Jim Hoey and his 10+ ERA (Update: Hoey continues to dominate AAA hitters with an ERA of 2.63 and WHIP of 1.06, while his major league ERA has dropped below 8).  In fact, the “big piece” of the Santana deal, Deolis Guerra, is currently 3-5 with an ERA of 9.0 at AA (Update: Guerra has been much improved since moving to the bullpen: 2-2 4.13 ERA and 1.375 K/IP) . 

Last year we missed an opportunity to trade bullpen arms such as Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at the deadine, and instead sent Wilson Ramos to the Nationals for Matt Capps.  The move, which looked questionable at the time, looks even worse now that Ramos is doing well as the starting catcher in Washington (Update: Ramos is still a work in progress with a .243 average, but has slugged 9 HR) and Joe Mauer is on a “leg strengthening program” in Ft. Myers. To make matters worse, Mauer’s replacements have batting averages of .216, .133, and .118 (does it really matter who’s who?) (Update: Mauer's return to the lineup as a singles hitting utility infielder has been welcome, but has not had a huge impact on wins and losses).

As clear sellers this year, the powers that be have a lot of options as they look out to next year and beyond.  Personally, I would look to trade the following players in order to strengthen the club in the future.  I wouldn’t necessarily make all of these trades, as it depends on what we would receive in return.

  • Kevin Slowey: Since anyone reading the newspaper knows this trade will happen, I’m not sure what we could expect in return, but his combination of major league experience and low cost should generate some interest (Update: Still waiting on this one).
  • Carl Pavano: I still like “stache” and advocated resigning him this year, but if you can pickup a decent prospect or two, it would make sense to move him now and hand his spot to Kyle Gibson next season.
  • Jason Kubel: This is a difficult one as Kubel has been our best player this year.  He will be a (type A) free agent after the season and looking for a long term deal, which we probably can’t afford.  My guess is that we hold onto him, offer arbitration, and take the picks when he signs elsewhere (Update: Kubel's injury has hurt is trade value, and may knock him back to a type B free agent, which could affect this decision).
  • Matt Capps: We’re paying him too much this year, and can’t afford to pay him next year just to justify trading away Ramos.  He is still young and a good setup man for a contender with bullpen issues. (Update: Capps' play of late definitely limits his trade value)
  • Delmon Young: I can’t imagine a more frustrating player than the D-Train.  Trading him at this point would be the definition of buying high and selling low, but I just can’t stand watching him play baseball anymore.  As logic takes over, however, I probably hold onto him one more year to see if anything clicks.

During the offseason, I wrote that the Twins needed to make significant changes in the outfield, mostly maintain the status-quo in the infield, keep the bullpen together to the extent possible, and make some changes to the starting pitching staff.  I find it interesting that the front office decided to keep the same outfield, make major changes to the infield, blow up the bullpen and maintain the starting staff.  I’m not suggesting that the Twins are the worst team in the league because no one listened to me…but they ARE the worst team in baseball, and clearly no one listened to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

As a new blogger, I'm interested to hear what others think. Please leave your comments here.