TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.
I'm not a doctor. I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Nonetheless, it's been clear to me for some time that Joe Mauer was destined for a permanent move away from catcher after concussion issues cost him a quarter of his 2013 season. There was simply no way that continuing to expose the organization's most valuable asset to the heightened risk of head trauma behind the plate was going to be palatable, no matter how well his offseason recovery went.
On Monday, the Twins made official what has been apparent for months: Mauer is now a first baseman.
Already at Twins Daily, Parker has shared manager Ron Gardenhire's thoughts on the announcement and Cody has examined some of the ripple effects that will stem from Mauer's relocation. Both articles are well worth checking out.
Here I'm going to break down the challenge that the Twins now face, one that at this time last year they likely felt was nowhere near. For the first time in 12 seasons, they need to find an answer at the catcher position.
When the Twins signed Mauer to a $184 million contract in 2010, the hope was that they would be covered behind the plate for the next eight years. Of course, that was never a particularly realistic hope, considering the history of full-time catchers aging into their 30s. Looking back, when you account for the numerous lower-body ailments faced by Mauer over the course of a career that started with a severe knee injury, it may be that he was lucky to last as long as he did.
Now, the organization sets upon the task of finding his successor -- an unwelcome distraction with the rotation in need of much attention. Josmil Pinto is the obvious choice following a hugely impressive audition in September, but I wouldn't assume that he'll enter spring training as a lock -- or even a favorite -- to be the starter.
During his interview for the Offseason Handbook a few weeks back, Terry Ryan was guarded in his comments about Pinto. When Parker started a question about the rookie backstop with "Pinto had a great first month of his big-league career," Ryan interjected: "Not great." The two eventually settled on "solid."
There wasn't much not to like about Pinto's offensive performance; in 83 plate appearances, he hit .342/.398/.566 while showing decent plate discipline, driving the ball to all fields and repeatedly coming up with huge hits.
Plainly, Ryan isn't convinced that the 24-year-old is fully developed in the many vital aspects of catching: calling games, framing pitches, controlling the run game, and the like. It's understandable given that Pinto essentially skipped Triple-A on his way to the big leagues. The GM showed little long-term concern, stating that Pinto's flaws are "gonna be workable" and adding that he is "very coachable."
In the meantime, the Twins will surely seek a contingency plan for the event that Pinto demonstrates in March he still needs work. No strong candidates exist within the system, as Ryan Doumit is no one's idea of a regular catcher, Chris Herrmann is a replacement level talent and 2013 third-round pick Stuart Turner -- who may be on the fast track as a college draftee with an advanced skill set -- is still at least a couple years away.
There is little doubt that the Twins will venture into the free agent market to find an established player who can serve as at least a short-term solution. Already the club has been connected to multiple names. Later this week at Twins Daily, I'll take a look at some of the likely candidates, each of whom could fit in a different way.
The baseball offseason can be a lot of fun for rumor mongers. It is always interesting to hear what rumors are going around, particularly about the Minnesota Twins. Maybe it’s the cynic in me, but I have to take everything I read in the offseason with a little grain of salt, at least until things get going a little further.
For instance, we heard last week that the Twins have already talked to some agents about several pitchers including Bronson Arroyo and Phil Hughes. I read that and immediately think, “Yeah, no surprise on either of those.” But what does it mean? Terry Ryan likely has talked to most agents (or at least agencies) already this offseason. In doing so, he probably is getting a feel for what they are thinking about all of their clients. This is likely something that every GM in baseball has already done.
Then we read that the Twins have asked to review the medical reports of Johan Santana. Guess what? It’s likely most teams in baseball have requested that paperwork. It doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Twins and Santana are close to any deals. My assumption is no less than 28 teams will at least have a conversation about the former Twins Cy Young recipient.
The day that the Twins and Joe Mauer announce that he is going to move to first base, they are linked to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. I love reading stuff like that. I mean, it’s fun to read the hometown nine linked to such a big (and long) name. “Salty” has been very good. But, when the Twins have a guy like Josmil Pinto very nearly ready to post .750 OPS in Target Field, does it make sense to give a catcher a four year deal worth 8 figures each year? I can see them adding a veteran to a one year deal to split time with Pinto, or even give Pinto another half-season in Rochester. I’d be perfectly fine with giving a one year deal to someone like AJ Pierzynski or John Buck, or any of those veteran catchers.
I find all of it fascinating, and I enjoy dissecting each rumor, putting it to a test in my mind to see if there is anything worthy of excitement. With the General Manager’s meetings going on this week, a lot of those rumors will start up. Little, if anything of not, will happen during the week, but it may set the table for the annual Winter Meetings in early December.
My favorite rumors may be those rumors where we hear what a player is expecting or asking for as a free agent. In the last week, it came out that Ervin Santana was looking for five years and at least $100 million. Ricky Nolasco was looking for five years and $80 million. Sure, those are the numbers their agents and the players want, but will they get them? I guess it’s like when you were younger and walking through the toy section at the store with your parents. It doesn’t hurt to ask for the really cool, spendy toys, but generally speaking, the parents will say no. Except this offseason, will 30 GMs all balk at this crazy types of numbers? Well, I guess we will find out.
We know that each team is expected to get $25 million in additional revenues from the television deals. 52% of that is about $13 million. So, there are extra funds, but will teams just give that money to one player or will it be spread over a few players, or will it just be used to pay arbitration-eligible players? I guess we will find out.
I do think a little sanity check is needed when it comes to a few of these top starting pitching free agents.
After a horrible 2012 with the Angels, Santana was traded (given away) to the Royals. He put together a very solid season in 2013. He will be 31 years old in December.
Stats since 2006:
Santana certainly put himself in a good position for a new contract, but if we’re being honest, he’s no Anibal Sanchez. A year ago, Sanchez signed back with the Tigers for 5 years and $85 million. Sanchez was also about three years younger when he signed his deal. Santana has been healthy for the most part. He has value. I know a lot of Twins fans want to see a guy who can miss bats. Though Santana’s strikeout rate would be higher than most Twins pitchers, he is far from a strikeout pitcher. He has eaten a lot of innings for most of his career, and has really been good in two of his last three years.
I think that the Twins (and any team) would be crazy to give him more than four years, but he will likely get a fifth year. There’s no way he should make more than $16 million per season, but I would expect he will get at least $18 million. He will probably get five years and $90 million. The team that signed him will likely be looking to get rid of the contract by year three.
I have not yet read any rumors on what Jimenez’s side is requesting. I’m certain he’ll be looking for at least $16 million a year for four years. Hey, it’s understandable for him to ask for those kind of dollars. He was very good in 2013, in his contract year. He even struck out more than a batter an inning. Jimenez will turn 30 in January.
Stats since 2008:
Again, Jimenez was pretty good in 2013, but even then, he gave up a bunch of base runners thanks to walking 3.9 batters per nine innings (4.0 BB/9 career rate). The drop in fastball velocity has to be a concern for injury going forward. Frankly, he has not been a great pitcher since the All Star game in 2010.
I can see him getting a four year contract at $16 million per year. That would scary me as a Twins fan to no end. Three years, maybe up to $36 million is where I would feel comfortable with the risk-reward, and even then, I would be immensely nervous.
Nolasco spent a lot of time in relative anonymity with the Marlins. He has been a guy that people have thought would take the next step for several years. He really just hasn’t, and yet, some of his peripherals look very good. He will turn 31 in December.
Stats since 2008:
Although his ERAs haven’t looked great, his xFIP has consistently been around a full run less than his ERA. He walks just 2.1 per nine inning. His fastball velocity has dropped, but minimally. Again, if you look at his strikeout rate and his velocity, he is not the kind of guy that I think many visualize when they think of a $15 million pitcher.
I think that Nolasco is a guy I would feel comfortable going to four years with, but maybe at $13 or $14 million year, not the $16 million that he is looking for. I’d feel OK about a four year deal between $52 and $56 million. At that price, he would likely have a few suitors, which means he may get that fifth year, and the average annual rate may move up a bit.
Some may vary based on what MLB and Japan work through on a new posting system, but rumors earlier indicated that his posting fee would be upwards of $75 million, maybe more. Let me remind you, under the current system, that means that a team would pay $75 million just to negotiate a contract with Tanaka. That’s not even counting the 6 years and $75 million that he might get. Yes, he was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP this season. He’s he’s just turned 25 and in his last three seasons has BB/9 rates of 1.1, 1.0 and 1.4. He’s got talent, and he most likely will be good. But there’s no guarantee at all.
I’m certainly comfortable with the 6 years and $75 million or so. But, those numbers guarantee nothing. Yu Darvish was certainly good in his second season in the States after coming from Japan. In 2013, he went 13-9 with a 2.83 ERA. Through two seasons, he has a 3.34 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. For comparison’s sake, in Daisuke Matsuzaka’s second season in the States, he went 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. Like any pitcher, there is no certainty that Darvish won’t follow the Dice-K path. Tanaka could be great, but the adjustment to starting every fifth day instead of every sixth day is always significant.
Tanaka may be very good, but would he be worth 6 years and a total of $150 million? Maybe. I guess I would rather take my chances and sign Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes (or another starter who could get $20-30 million packages), and you could still sign a Saltalamacchia or another hitter as well.
I have no problem with the concept of the Twins spending. I just think that fans need to understand that these guys that are likely to get 4-5 year contracts worth $60 to $100 million are not the sure-fire aces that their contract will say. If the Twins sign one of them to crazy money, I’ll hope like crazy that they stay healthy and pitch consistently well. I just don’t see an arm in this free agent class that is worth breaking the bank on.
Thankfully we have this comment section so we can all go back and remember what we said, what we would have offered, and stand by those same comments over the life of these contracts.
Head on over to Twins Daily for much more Twins related content, articles, blogs, forums and much more.
Aaron and John talk about the Twins' interest in Johan Santana, Alex Meyer's impressive Arizona Fall League, the $4,700 exploding tire, injuries to Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, redoing or undoing Denard Span and Ben Revere, beer-soaked iPads, tailgating at Gophers games, weddings in Dallas, mailbag questions from listeners, and going to see Dave Chappelle. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
LOTS of stuff at TwinsDaily over the weekend:
Plus, a ton more. Swing by and get a taste of summer.
Baseball agent Matt Sosnick speaks strongly of loyalty, honesty and trust in his industry.
His agency, Sosnick Cobbe Sports, was grown from scratch in the hills above the San Francisco Bay and relies on building relationships, sticking with clients regardless of on-field performance and adheres to principles such as automatically dropping players who engage in detrimental activity like domestic violence. He discusses his clients as friends rather than means to a paycheck. Character above all.
It probably should come as no surprise then that he holds the Minnesota Twins operations in high regard for similar reasons. When asked the agent’s perception of the organization, Sosnick raved.
“First of all, I love the Twins,” he admitted. “I obviously have had lots of players who have run through there the past few years. I have [Josh] Willingham and [Ryan] Doumit. I have a very close relationship with both [assistant GM] Rob Antony and [vice president of player development] Mike Radcliff and there’s no GM that I respect more than Terry Ryan.”
That may seem like an odd response from a person whose livelihood is tied to how much a team is willing pay for one of his clients and, so far, the Twins have not been exactly a blank check. In fact, Willingham’s 2012 contract has been the richest free agent contract the team has distributed to date.
What is interesting is that had Willingham’s home was further west, he may never have been a Twin to begin with. When fans wonder why their team didn’t sign a particular free agent, there are factors that go beyond just the dollars and cents. As a free agent after the 2011 season, Sosnick fielded an offer from a West Coast team that was superior to that of the Twins. But Willingham, who calls Alabama home, opted to sign with Minnesota because it was in closer proximity to his family and turning down more money in the process.
Willingham’s reign as the team’s highest compensated free agent may come to an end this winter and one of Sosnick’s other clients could be the one to dethrone him. Among the Sosnick Cobbe client list are Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Randy Messenger -- three pitchers whom the Twins have had varying degrees of interest.
Under different circumstances, Johnson could have been the headliner of the offseason. At just 30 years old, Johnson has battled both shoulder inflammation (2011) and elbow issues (2013) that has curbed his innings over the past three seasons. More importantly, it has curbed teams’ appetite for doling out a large contract.
“He’s probably got the highest upside of any free agent pitcher,” says Sosnick, “but when you factor in the amount of games he started the last few years and the amount of different injuries he’s had you realize, in our case, our choice was to take a shot at a two or three-year deal or take a shot a one-year where we rebuild his value. There’s no question that we are going to go after a one-year and try to rebuild his value because he’s going to be treated as an injury liability -- even though I think he’s totally healthy right now -- but I understand that mindset.”
<To read the rest of this article, please go to TwinsDaily.com>
"There isn't any shortcut to get where we want to go."
Although the above quote from Terry Ryan was published back in February, the sentiment has been a common refrain for the Twins' general manager throughout his ongoing efforts to rebuild a broken product in Minnesota. No shortcuts.
And why not? It's a nice-sounding way to quell the growing calls from a disgruntled fan base for aggressive measures to restore the franchise to contention. Shortcuts sound bad. They sound lazy, and sloppy, and potentially harmful in the grand scheme.
But when you more closely examine that mentality, and the present state of the organization, it's awfully tough not to be disenchanted by the front office's apparent commitment to building internally and avoiding impactful additions that may prove costly.
In terms of position players, the Twins are set up to fill their needs from within the system. Whether in the outfield (Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks), the infield (Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Danny Santana) or catcher (Josmil Pinto) there are a number of candidates to lend support at the major-league level within the next few years. On the pitching side, the situation is considerably more dire.
Alex Meyer is presently lighting up radar guns in Arizona, touching 100 MPH with his fastball, and he is the shining beacon in the high levels of the organization. However, he also may be the lone hope for top-of-rotation support within the next several years. Kyle Gibson stumbled in his big-league debut and appears to lack dominant upside, though I remain confident in his ability to become a quality MLB player. Trevor May could be destined for the bullpen. Beyond those three, there aren't really any legit pitching prospects to be found on the farm above Single-A.
Names like J.O. Berrios, Kohl Stewart and Lewis Thorpe deservedly draw attention, but they're all teenagers and shouldn't realistically be expected to become rotation staples for four or five years, at least. So if indeed the Twins are unwilling to take "shortcuts" in the process of rebuilding their starting corps, we could be looking at a depressingly lengthy timeline.
Considering just how far behind the pack the Twins are lagging in the starting pitching department, it's hard to imagine Meyer and the existing mish-mash of iffy talent aligning to create a rotation that is any kind of true asset within the next handful of seasons. Outside help is needed. That might require taking steps that could be viewed as shortcuts. It might require an approach that Ryan has consistently eschewed: building through free agency.
Of course, there are other ways to acquire ready or near-ready pitching talent. We saw that last year, when Ryan dealt away Denard Span and Ben Revere to bring aboard two high-level prospects and an established guy in Vance Worley. But the Twins are now almost completely bereft of desirable trade chips at the big-league level, and giving up prospects sort of contradicts the whole rebuilding concept. Signing free agent talent costs nothing but money (and maybe a second-round draft pick, if you're ambitious).
Now, obviously, any move that endangers the club's long-term outlook would be ill-advised at this point. So Ryan should clearly avoid making sizable commitments to aging veterans that would restrict his ability to spend in future years. But there are plenty of 30-and-under pitchers entering the market, and the Twins aren't remotely close to hitting any sort of payroll ceiling, now or in the near future.
Ryan and his staff have frequently scoffed at the notion of taking shortcuts to address their problems, but the current layout of the organization calls for an influx of more immediate pitching help, if the Twins truly hope to field a high-caliber rotation within the next several years. As loyal as ownership has been to Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the gang, I can't imagine they'll continue to stick with the current leadership if the team remains stuck in a holding pattern while waiting for teenagers to develop into major-league pitchers.
All of which reinforces my belief that the Twins will, indeed, spend this offseason.
We are getting close now. Today, we enter into the Top 10 Twins prospects by looking at prospects six through ten. To give a heads up, the Top 5 prospects will be posted at Twins Daily on Thursday, so be sure to come back for that. And on Friday, I'll review my Top 50 and encourage all of you to post a Top 20 (or 30 or 50, or whatever you like).
I would argue that the top five Twins prospects approach the 'elite' status. Prospects six through ten all have great upside, but each still has a question or two. It may be youth. It may be plate control or discipline. It may be development of a third or fourth pitch. These guys have a chance to be solid major league contributors. Likely they wouldn't be big league All Stars, but they can be big league regulars (and sometimes they do become All Stars).
Part 9: Prospects 6-10
As we start the Top 10 Twins prospects today, this group is really pretty interchangeable (and I think that Josmil Pinto fits with this group). I think it's fair to say that Cedar Rapids is pretty well represented as four of the five players on this list spent at least most of the season. One was the Midwest League's Player of the Year, according to Topps. Two are hold-overs from last year's Top 10 while the fourth has jumped up prospect rankings over the last 18 months. The fifth is a hard throwing kid who would still be a senior in high school if he were from the US.
|Vikings (13)||Bears (3)|
|NFC (1)||NFL draft (1)|
|Super Bowl (3)||Vikings fans (1)|
|Off the field (12)||On the road (24)|
|Quarterbacks (1)||Rookies (11)|
|Roster moves (3)||Vikings draft (42)|
|Vikings trade talk (6)||Twins fans (2)|
|Adrian Peterson (4)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Brett Favre (3)||Leslie Frazier (1)|
|Percy Harvin (1)||Brad Childress (3)|
|Leslie Frazier (1)||Twins Players (1)|
|Delmon Young (1)||Joe Nathan (1)|
|Nick Blackburn (1)||Twins (4)|