Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who is the Solution at Starting Pitcher?

Since trading Johan Santana, the Twins have been lacking something huge -- a top starter.

There are a few options in the free agent market for a top starter this year. The problem is the Twins will not spend highly for a player like Lackey or Randy Wolf, so the pitcher would either have to be someone had an off-year or got injured this year.

Let's take a look at a few of the options that are being talked about for the Twins in the free agent market, including a somewhat unusual choice.

Rich Harden (28) - Type B (Would not cost the Twins their draft pick)

Harden is a player that is amazing when healthy. But that's the thing, when he is healthy. Here is his innings pitched followed by his ERA from the last 5 years:

2005: 128 - 2.53
2006: 46.2 - 4.24
2007: 25.2 - 2.45
2008: 148 - 2.07
2009: 141 - 4.09

Look at the innings pitched. The reason his innings pitched are much lower than normal is because of injuries. It's expected each year that he will be injured with something, so you just can't expect him to come in and pitch 200 innings and carry the team. Though when healthy, he can be a dominating pitcher (see 2005, 2007, and 2008).

Harden would be a great option for the Twins who are generally willing to take a risk on a player's health, as shown by their signing or Joe Crede last year. He could probably be signed to a 1-2 year contract because of all the injuries. Maybe 2 years $14 million?

Erik Bedard (31) - Type B (Would not cost the Twins their draft pick)

Erik Bedard has the same issue as Harden. Bedard is amazing when healthy, though he just underwent shoulder surgery... Again... Bedard seems to have been very injury prone the last two years. Bedard threw only 81 innings in 2008, and 83 innings in 2009. Though before 2008, Bedard was considered much healthier.

Erik Bedard should be fairly inexpensive because of all the injuries, though he could be like winning the lottery if healthy next year. He could probably be had on a 1-2 year deal because of how injury prone he is. Maybe 2 years $14 million?

Jarrod Washburn (35) (Not a Type A or B free agent.)

Washburn was having a career year this year for Seattle. Though once he was traded to Detroit, it all seemed to go downhill. 2.64 ERA for Seattle in 20 starts, but then a 7.33 ERA for Detroit in 8 starts. To make things worse, Washburn was having knee problems toward the end of the year. The result of the knee problem was surgery.

The Twins shouldn't go anywhere near Jarrod Washburn. Before last year, his ERA was nothing special.

Ben Sheets (31) (Not a Type A or B free agent.)

Sheets hasn't been talked about a lot. It seems that people forget that this guy had a 3.09 ERA in 2008. Though he did have flexor tendon surgery and missed all of 2009. If he could be signed on a one-year deal with incentives, then he would be well worth the risk. If he does come back to form next year, then he could easily place himself toward the top of the Twins pitching staff. Maybe 1 year $4 million with up to $4 million in incentives?

Between those four pitchers, the Twins should have their top focus on Rich Harden. He has the best chance of the four to be that top pitcher for the Twins. If they cannot land Harden, they should go after ether Bedard or Sheets. They are both talented, and very injury prone, so either would be fine. They are both lottery picks though, as no one knows if they will do terrible, or great.

The Twins shouldn't even consider Washburn. Period. He is not the starter they should be looking to get. If the Twins wanted Washburn, they would of just held onto Livan Hernandez.

Who do you think should be the Twins top free agent target for starting pitcher?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Look at the Joe Mauer Contract Situation

There has been a lot of buzz around the Internet recently about the Joe Mauer contract. But what is the difference between this article and every other article on the Joe Mauer situation? Well, this article speculates that the contract negotiation is going to require a little bit of creative thinking by Ron Shapiro (Joe Mauer's agent), which will be explained later on.

The Twins need to sign Mauer to a long-term deal. The Twins would lose a lot of fans if the they were to let him walk after next year.

Joe Mauer is 26 years old. That means that this contract would be going through his prime. His numbers have already been outstanding, and with his age it doesn't look like his numbers will drop off anytime soon.

Because of this, the Twins will be looking at a hefty contract, but just how hefty?

Well let's start by looking at the Twins current payroll:

2009: $65,299,266

With all of their arbitration eligible players, the Twins will probably be on the hook for about $72 million. According to many news reports, the Twins want to raise their payroll in 2010 to a maximum of $95-100 million. Joe Mauer's contract is paying $12.5 million at the moment. If the Twins spend about $12 million on free agents this year, the payroll will reach $84 million. That should leave an additional $11 million to $16 million for Mauer's contract. Given that many sources believe that Joe Mauer could command a free agent contract on the open market of $25 million per year, the financial ability to sign Mauer to a long-term contract is there. The question is how much will be available to surround him with the talent to compete for a World Series appearance.

I think the first year of his new contract will land $26 million, and I will explain why later on. The Twins seem to have the payroll space to be able to do that this year. They would even have $3-4 million more to spend during the season on new acquisitions.

Now that the facts show there is enough money to spend on Mauer, let's look at just how much it might take.

Mauer has 3 batting titles at age 26. All three were done at catcher. Mauer is the first player to ever have 3 batting titles at catcher. Remember, he is only 26! This year he also hit 28 home runs, and drove in 96 RBIs. To top it off? He led in BA, OBP, and slugging percentage this year!

Defensively, Mauer is just as good. He just won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award this year. His range at catcher is also considered among the best in the game. Finally, when he is behind the plate, it seems like the younger pitchers feel more confident when pitching to him than any other catcher on the staff.

Joe Mauer's hometown is St. Paul, Minnesota. This means that he might be willing to accept a slight "hometown discount". This does not mean though that he would probably take anything under $20 million a year. He is probably going to want $22-23 million per year from the Twins. That is about what Mark Teixeira got per year in his new contract, and he is 3 years older. That amount would still be less than what he could get on the open market. If he stays in Minnesota though, he probably wouldn't want to take all of the Twins payroll. This being because he would probably want the Twins to be able to sign the players necessary to be able to make a World Series run.

Mauer is probably going to also want the most amount of years possible. My guess is the max the Twins would give is 6 years considering he is a catcher. The reason being is you never know if a catcher will not be able to play that position anymore because of injuries that arise from the position. If Mauer is for some reason only DHing at age 30, he would be worth considerably less per year than if he was catching.

My guess on what it will take for the Twins to resign Mauer? 6 years $132 million. Another guess is this new contract will void his current one. With the Twins voiding the current contract, it means Mauer would make that much more money. It also means it's one less year Mauer is committed to. He would only be 32 at the end of the contract, so that means he could test the free agent market at that point if he so chooses.

I also think that the Twins will try and front-load the deal. They will do this because they would not only have extra money to spend each year moving forward, but then they don't have to worry as much if Mauer for some reason can't play catcher 5 years from now as they wouldn't be committed to as much money later in his contract.

Finally, this contract may have an unusual clause designed to ensure that the hometown discount is used to surround Joe Mauer with the players needed to compete for a title. It wouldn't be surprising to see a six-year, $132 million contract where the Twins have to spend at least $100 million on payroll each year. If the Twins do not spend the required $100 million a year, then Mauer would have the right to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. I don't even know if this type of a contract would be allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or MLB rules. But either way this is a very interesting idea that should be thought about.

Here is how I think the money would be spread out:

2010: $26 million
2011: $24 million
2012: $22 million
2013: $22 million
2014: $20 million
2015: $18 million

Now the final question is: When will Mauer resign with the Twins?

My guess: Sometime between Christmas and New Years. He is probably going to wait and see if the Twins are willing to stay competitive or not. Mauer will probably not know the answer to that until after the Winter Meetings, which is in December. If the contract is signed during that frame, it would make the holiday season that much more memorable.

What do you think it will take to resign Mauer?

Who is the Solution at 3rd Base?

Ever since Corey Koskie, it seems the Twins have never really had a third baseman who solidified the position.

The Twins are probably going to try and get someone in Free Agency.

Let's take a look at some of the free agent third baseman that are available:

Miguel Tejada (36) - Type A
Chone Figgins (32) - Type A
Adrian Beltre (31) - Type B
Mark DeRosa (35) - Type B
Troy Glaus (33) - Type B
Melvin Mora (38) - Type B
Joe Crede (32)
Pedro Feliz (35)

These are the main players that are believed to be targets. Also included are all of the other Type A and B free agents at 3rd as they could be options.

Let's look at these players one at a time:

Miguel Tejada - He is 36 years old and was accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. Sorry, he is not even someone the Twins will consider.

Chone Figgins - This is the guy that seems to be getting a lot of talk. He has everything the Twins like: speed, defense, OBP, and SB. The problem is the price. Not only would he cost us our first round draft pick (Type A Free Agent), he would also probably cost us somewhere around 5 years and 50 million. I just don't think they will spend that much unless they trade away Joe Nathan. The Twins cannot spend all of their available money on just a third baseman as they have other glaring needs (Veteran Pitcher, resigning Joe Mauer, and maybe getting a second baseman.).

Adrian Beltre - Seems like a player that the Twins were always interested in. Problem is, almost all his stats have dropped off this year. Most teams will probably think it's just a fluke though, as he still had fantastic defense (21 UZR). He is still a great defensive third baseman and if he comes back to 2008 form offensively he would be the power hitter they always wanted. Also, as a Type B Free Agent, he wouldn't cost the Twins any draft picks.

Mark DeRosa - 35 years old, and had a career year in 2008. Yes, he had more home runs in 2009, though most other stats took a dip including 35 points off his batting average. Also, he is not that great defensively (-8.7 UZR). I just don't think the Twins would go after him.

Troy Glaus - He underwent arthroscopic right shoulder surgery and barely played last year. This is the kind of player the Twins like to go after normally as he has shown big numbers throughout his career. The Twins could probably give him a 1-2 year deal with incentives so he can redeem himself. Definitely someone to look at if their top choices are taken. He also wouldn't cost them any draft picks.

Melvin Mora - 38 years old, stats dropped a good amount this year... I don't think the Twins would go anywhere near this guy.

Joe Crede - Underwent his third back surgery this year. Wrong side of 30. Continues to get injured. If all other options are gone maybe the Twins would consider him on a 1 year incentive laden deal.

Pedro Feliz - This is the most interesting player that I have been hearing about. Defensive stud (9 UZR), can hit 10+ homers a year, and has shown to be able to drive in 80+ rbi's a year. Also he probably won't cost a lot. Finally the Twins wouldn't have to give up any draft picks for him. What's the down side with him? He is 35, which means he could start a decline at any point. Just like Crede, Feliz is probably a backup option if they can't get who they want.

In conclusion, I think that the Twins should get Adrian Beltre. Not only is he a great defensive third baseman (21 UZR), but he also could be that offensive weapon they have been looking for for years at third. It might take some money to get him, but it shouldn't take as much as Chone Figgins.

If the Twins cannot get Adrian Beltre, I think the Twins second option should be Troy Glaus. He won't cost a lot as he barely played last year, and could be a huge offensive weapon. He had a 5 UZR in 2008, which is above average, and could hit 25+ home runs.

If both of those players are gone, they will probably go after either Crede or Feliz.

Who do you guys think should be the Twins top free agent target at third base?

Little birdie note: Justin Morneau and his wife were recently spotted in London, on their way to Ireland for a vacation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ellsbury vs. Gomez

So the Santana trade was a few years back, and some people still think the Twins got fleeced on the trade. Though some people think they should have easily taken the Ellsbury package over the Gomez package.

I am going to try and break this down the best I can.

Ellsbury offensively in the last 3 years:

2007 Red Sox 33 116 20 41 7 1 3 18 59 8 15 9 0 .394 .509 .353
2008 Red Sox 145 554 98 155 22 7 9 47 218 41 80 50 11 .336 .394 .280
2009 Red Sox 153 624 94 188 27 10 8 60 259 49 74 70 12 .355 .415 .301

Gomez offensively in the last 3 years:

2007 Mets 58 125 14 29 3 0 2 12 38 8 27 12 3 .288 .304 .232
2008 Twins 153 577 79 149 24 7 7 59 208 25 142 33 11 .296 .360 .258
2009 Twins 137 315 51 72 15 5 3 28 106 22 72 14 7 .287 .337 .229

Looking at the two players, it looks like Ellsbury easily wins offensively in 2009 right?. Well, part of that though was that Gomez only got about 300 AB's. If you look as if it was 600 AB's, he actually improved from his 2008 year. Gomez's 2008 year was actually pretty close to Ellsbury's in 2008. Gomez had almost the same amount of walks in 2009 than 2008. That means that Gomez almost doubled his walks per AB in the last year. That is a huge improvement. Now note this: Gomez is two years younger than Ellsbury. That means the comparison should be between Gomez's offense in 2009 to Ellsbury's in 2007 right? Well, if you do it that way, Gomez looks like he will be much better in two years than Ellsbury was in 2009. I have to give the edge to Ellsbury for right now, but I think Gomez has a lot more talent considering he is two years younger.

Now lets look at the UZR ratings, which pretty much shows how much range they have in the outfield (how many balls they can get to):

Gomez: 11.5
Ellsbury: -16.5

That means that Ellsbury gave up 16.5 more runs than the average center fielder. Gomez on the other hand gave up 11.5 less runs than the average center fielder. That is a difference of 28 runs! That is why I easily give the defensive edge to Gomez.

So between offense and defense, I have to give the edge to Gomez, as I feel his center field defense has saved so many games that I can cut him slight slack on his offense. His offense is only going to get better according to the numbers while learning how to play defense like Ellsbury is trying to do is going to be a lot harder.

So since I gave Gomez the edge, lets look now at the Gomez for Hardy trade.

Gomez's defense is superb right? I mean his UZR rating is one of the best if not the best out of all center fielders. Well lets look at Hardy's UZR rating:

Hardy: 11 UZR over his 5 year career.

When putting into effect how much better J.J. Hardy is offensively at the moment, I have to give the edge in that trade to Minnesota. At least for the short-term. If Gomez becomes the player that I think he will be, long-term Gomez might be a much better player.

We will just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Look at the Santana Trade

This was a very interesting situation a few years back.

Santana was forcing a trade. He had one year left on his contract and the Twins needed to decide whether to trade him or keep him for one year and then let him walk.

The Twins decided to trade him to the Mets, though some people think that the Twins should have taken Boston's or the Yankee's offer. I am going to break this down.

To start, nobody knows if the Yankees or Red Sox actually made offers. Santana's value was lower because Santana was not only forcing a trade, but Gardenhire also wanted a trade done because he didn't want Santana's attitude on this whole situtation in his clubhouse. Santana also had a no-trade clause, so he took away all the leverage that the Twins had.

Another reason that the Red Sox and Yankees didn't want Santana anymore was because Santana was showing a decline in velocity. This was a big warning sign.

So because of that, the Twins traded for four of the Mets top prospects. Though prospects are just what they are: prospects. Just because they didn't get as much as the Orioles did when they fleeced Seattle (Bedard trade) doesn't mean that it was a bad deal.

Lets break this whole trade down though real quick:



Kevin Mulvey>>>> Jon Rauch
Carlos Gomez>>>> JJ Hardy
Deolis Guerra (Top pitching prospect, 20 years old in AA)
Philip Humber (Now a free agent)

So in return the Twins now have Jon Rauch, who was amazing for us toward the end of last season. It seems as if he was the only person the last month+ of the season who could hold a game for Nathan. JJ Hardy was an All-star SS and can hit 25 homers 80 RBIs. Yes, he had a bad 2009 season, but it looked as though he wanted out of Milwaukee. Maybe that is why his stats were down, though that will be found out next year. Finally, Deolis Guerra, still has talent at only 20 years old and could easily be a #1 to #2 starter in the next 4 years.

If the Twins would have done the trade with the Yankees or Red Sox, they would have gotten:

Ellsbury (His defense in center field this year was sub-par, -16.5 UZR.)
Lowrie (Can't hold down the starting short stop job..)
Masterson (Traded to the Indians, though did pretty bad...)
Bowden (Ok prospect, #3-4 Starter ceiling though.)


Lester (Ace for Red Sox right now, turned out to be a good player..)
Crisp (Yuck)
Lowrie (See Above)
Bowden (See Above)


Hughes (3+ era in the bullpen? This is someone who was supposed to be a top starter...)
Cabrera (Ok batting average with ok defense? The Twins already have their hands on Delmon Young)
+an ok prospect.

So after looking over that, the only deal that would have been better was the Lester deal, and that is in hindsight. Remember he was coming back from cancer. No one knew if he would come back great or not. Also, note that the Twins did not really want to trade Santana to someone in the American League as then they would have to face him. That in itself is a good reason why they ended up trading him to the Mets.

I personally think that having Jon Rauch, JJ Hardy, and Deolis Guerra is much better then having any of the other packages (excluding the Lester deal).

What do you think?