Monday, August 15, 2011


I’m confident that my wife is happy that the trade deadline has passed, as it means that I can stop checking Twitter on my phone every 3-5 minutes. My emotions, however, are much more complicated.

I’m frustrated that the Twins front office decided the best move was to stand pat at the trade deadline instead of making moves to improve the team either now or for the future. I can’t remember a season when the Twins have had so many tradeable assets as they have this year, and yet we pass into August with nothing in return. We can be confident that the team got calls about Cuddyer, Kubel, Span, Revere, Thome, Slowey, Liriano, Pavano, Baker, Nathan, Capps and Young. Of that group, I would at least consider cashing in on a few, but apparently the offers just weren’t good enough.

In order to run any sort of business, you have to have a plan. In the Twins case, you need to know what direction you are going. At the trade deadline, this requires a simple decision. Are you buyers or sellers? Answering neither to this question is a cop out, and is unacceptable to me. It would be like playing the stock market and deciding to wait and see if the start-up company pans out before deciding to invest more or sell off. It is your job to decide what to do and doing nothing is not doing your job! I’m not saying that every GM has to make a move at every trade deadline in order to do their job. Some GMs don’t have enough tradeable assets to be sellers, or don’t have enough minor league prospects to be buyers. If you are truly unable to predict the chances of making the playoffs, I can see why standing pat may be the smart choice. When you have a 2% chance of winning the division, a 0% chance at the wild card, and a variety of tradable players at your disposal, passing up good trade opportunities is just bad business.

The Denard Span rumors kept me entertained for the past few days, but I’m both happy and relieved that no deal was struck. I am not surprised that the Nationals were interested in Span, but I can’t imagine anyone on the Twins roster that should bring a larger package of players in return. Span is relatively young at 27, signed to a team friendly contract through 2014 (team option in 2015), bats very well in the leadoff spot (..366 OBP) and plays an above average CF. He is also a solid person and good team player. In short, he is exactly the type of player that the Twins should NOT be trading, unless it is to add a sure thing missing piece to a World Series run.

Odds and Ends:
• August Trades: Bill Smith seems to do a better job making transactions after the trade deadline has passed, rather than before. Maybe this is because there are fewer options to confuse him. We’ll have to wait and see what happens, but waiver trades typically pan out better for buyers than sellers, and we’ll be sellers soon enough.
• Outfield Logjam: The only reason that I didn’t hate the Span rumors was because it did address a real problem for the Twins. We not only have too many outfielders on the current roster (assuming everyone is healthy), but the majority of our top prospects play the same positions. Filling two (or three) holes on a potential major league roster in return for a player like Span would seem like a logical move. A deal involving Storen or Clippard plus a solid middle infield prospect (Lombardozzi) and a younger prospect would make sense for the Twins. Such a deal leverages a valuable asset at a position where we have an excess, and fills obvious holes in the middle infield and bullpen with young major league ready prospects who can help right away (or soon).
• Payroll Issues: In addition to the numbers problem in the OF, there is a numbers problem in the finance department. The Twins are going to have to trim the payroll for a second straight year in the offseason. Much of this could be accomplished by simply allowing our free agents to leave and/or declining expensive team options. This includes Cuddyer (FA), Kubel (FA), Thome (FA), Capps (FA) and Nathan (12M Option / 2M buyout). Some very quick math suggests letting these players walk will save the team about $35 million in 2012. Some of that savings will be eaten up by the arbitration raises of players like Casilla, Young, Liriano, Slowey, Mijares and Perkins. It is not scientific, but this is essentially the list of players we should consider trading in order to get the books in order.
• Mauer: It is becoming more and more likely that Mauer will spend most of his gigantic contract as something other than a catcher. I know he doesn’t like the idea, but it has to happen. No matter when it happens, or what form it takes, it would be nice if the organization were actively planning for it. Here are a few options that should be considered.
o First Base: As much as I hate to use Mauer defensively at first base, he could potentially be the best defensive first baseman in the league within a year or two. In this scenario, Mauer splits his time between catcher and first base, with Morneau as DH when he is not playing in the field. Ideally, we trade or sign a free agent catcher who can hit to split duties with Mauer, and Butera becomes our third catcher or is traded.
o Third Base: A couple years ago, this was Mauer’s most likely landing spot, and I think it is still a possibility. Is Danny Valencia really capable of holding down this spot long term? That is the question that the organization needs to decide. A Mauer/Valencia platoon would be possible, but at Valencia’s age, he needs to either start or be traded. I truly believe Mauer could win a gold glove at 3rd base which would be more valuable than at first.
o Corner OF: Mauer doesn’t have great speed, but he is very athletic for his size, has excellent instincts, and an above average arm. I don’t think this move makes much sense, especially due to the large number of OF prospects in the system.
• In any of the above scenarios, the Twins need to somehow acquire a starting caliber catcher. I don’t mind Butera as a backup, but his offense creates a big hole in the lineup. If Mauer moves to third base, we not only need to decide about Valencia, but will also need to find a new home for Miguel Sano should he work his way to the majors in 3-4 years. If first base is the answer, what do you do with a steadily improving Chris Parmalee, who should be playing in AAA right now?

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