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.
Hunter was a fixture -- THE fixture, really -- in Minnesota's run of AL Central dominance from 2002 through 2006, when they won four division titles in five years. He has continued to produce at a consistently excellent level since leaving in '07. There's no denying that he's had a fantastic career and has taken pristine care of his body.
But the No. 1 imperative for the Twins this offseason, if they wanted to meaningfully improve in 2015, was to find ways to prevent more runs. A contact-heavy pitching staff with a league-worst defensive outfield was a recipe for disaster needing to be addressed.
In theory, signing a nine-time Gold Glover would appear to do just that, but Hunter is no longer the asset in the field that he once was. Far from it.
I don't put a ton of stock into defensive metrics but Hunter ranked as the worst right fielder in the majors this year by both DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), so it's probably safe to say he wasn't good.
Now, the Twins are evidently going to stick him in right field and move Oswaldo Arcia -- who was already a liability there due to lack of range and bad instincts -- to left, where his weaknesses are magnified by increased action and real estate.
The Twins aren't improving their outfield defense. Astonishingly, they are moving in the opposite direction.
In order for this signing to benefit them, Hunter would have to make up for that negative impact in other ways. I can't see him doing it offensively. This year he posted a .765 OPS with 17 homers and 33 doubles in 142 games, which is impressive for a 39-year-old but only slightly above average for an American League right fielder.
He has remained stunningly effective into his late 30s, but Hunter will turn 40 next July and is at an age where skills can deteriorate quickly. As you may recall, Jim Thome went from being an MVP-caliber hitter at 39 to out of the game at 41. Hunter will still probably bring a decent bat but it's a stretch to expect much more than that.
What it comes down to, then, is a word we'll probably hear tossed around a lot in discussion of this signing: mentorship. The Twins have a young club, and Hunter generally has a reputation for being a good guy who brings energy and positivity to the clubhouse.
I don't know how to weigh that. It's the same kind of stuff we heard from Ron Gardenhire last year in justification of Bartlett's inexplicably long leash, so I tend to downplay it. This notion that attitude is the difference between a 90-win team and a 60-win team is comically ludicrous.
The $10.5 million price tag is high, but that doesn't bother me -- quite to the contrary actually. They had to overpay on a one-year deal to lure their guy away from interested contenders, and for that I commend them.
I just feel like the Twins view Hunter as "their guy" for all the wrong reasons. Why do they need to sign a mentor/leader when they just assembled an entirely new coaching staff? Why add a 39-year-old in the twilight of his career when they're rebuilding? How does it aid Arcia's development to be playing out of position for one season before inevitably moving back to right and needing to re-adapt?
The Twins may still be stuck with the idea of Hunter as the player he used to be, but he's no longer a guy who hits 25 homers, steals 20 bases and tracks down everything in the outfield. He's an aging and declining version of what he was, much like the last round of reunion tour additions.
I can only hope things work out a whole lot better this time, but it certainly doesn't seem like the Twins learned much from that fiasco.
Want a more detailed breakdown of Hunter's defense? Head over to Twins Daily, where Parker delivers an in-depth look including various stats and videos.
Aaron and John welcome special guest Steve "Randball's Stu" Neuman for beers atSummit Brew Halland talk about filling out the Twins' coaching staff, having Torii Hunter feelings, Miguel Sano and 40-man roster additions, good charities and $100,000, The Sportive podcast, and trying out for The Voice.
Don't forget, you can subscribe to GATG using iTunes or Stitcher. Or listen by clicking on "Play" below.
Also at Twins Daily this weekend, you'll find everything you would ever want to know about the Korean pitcher with whom the Twins are actively negotiating, Hyeon-Jong Yang. And also about the pitching coach that will be replacing Rick Anderson, Neil Allen.
When Mike Radcliff returned from Arizona he was hopeful with what he had seen from Eddie Rosario.
Among the organization’s prospects playing for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League was the recently rehabilitated prospect. Rosario had served fifty games away from the club due to a failed marijuana test -- his second of such offenses. In the grand scheme, with the nation heading towards increasing tolerance and two major league cities allowing use of the recreational narcotic, it appeared less of a concern then the use of performance enhancing drugs to inflate their numbers. Nevertheless, rules were rules and Rosario had broken them. Twice.
The suspension could not have come at a worse point along his development timeline. Rosario was starting to gain attention as a hitter and, after a line drive that caught him in the face and required plates to be inserted in 2012, he already needed to play catch up. Beyond the lost time due to the injury, the Twins were trying to see if his path to the major could be accelerated by moving to second base. Another hurdle in his path.
“Losing 50 games, that’s a huge setback,” general manager Terry Ryan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune at the time of his suspension. “That’s a lot of development time, a lot of learning that he’ll miss. It sets back his progression going up to the big leagues.”
When he returned in 2015, based on his offensive numbers and reports from scouts, his time away from the game appeared to stunt his development. Shifted back to the outfield because of the emergence of Brian Dozier at second, Rosario struggled to square the ball as frequently as he did in the past. He finished the season with the worst line of his career, turning in a .243/.286/.387 mark between High-A and Double-A. While with the New Britain Rock Cats in June, a Baseball Prospectus’ scout reported he was a “[b]at first player” and believed that he was “not likely to stick as long-term regular” after watching him for two games. They also questioned his hustle. In July another member of the Baseball Prospectus’ team, Jason Parks, concluded that “[w]ith his bat control and bat speed, he could really develop into a good hitter if he works the gaps and takes advantage of his strengths instead playing into his weaknesses. He’s a tweener for me right now, more a hit tool/speed type than a complete player.”
Recognizing the need to get one of their more advanced prospects additional at-bats, Rosario was sent to the Arizona Fall League. In the desert -- while wearing the obsolete Twins pinstripe uniform and facing the game’s top prospect talent -- he started to hit again. The same type that earned him the reputation as one of the best hitters for average.
Perhaps it was clicking at the right time or just a burst of small-sample size magic but the Twins’ Vice President of Player Personnel says there may be due to finally reengaging with the game.
Last offseason, Anderson was a known trade candidate, with just one guaranteed season remaining on his contract and Oakland's rotation flush with young talent. Given his age, his previous success and his depressed value coming off a bad season, he had the makings of a great buy-low candidate with big upside.
Ultimately, it was another pitching-needy team that chose to take the gamble on Anderson, as the Rockies shipped out a couple of prospects in December to bring him aboard.
That move didn't really pan out for Colorado. Once again, the oft-injured hurler could not stay healthy. He made only eight starts, finishing with 43 1/3 total innings. A fractured finger cost him most of the first half, and a bulging disc in his back that required surgery cost him most of the second.
It was the fifth straight year in which health issues prevented Anderson from being able to get in anywhere close to a full season's work. He hasn't completed even 45 innings in any of the past three years.
The overwhelming durability concerns caused the Rockies to opt out of his 2015 option, making him a free agent, and he might have trouble finding a guaranteed contract. Now is the perfect time for a savvy GM to strike, and the Twins are in a better position than perhaps any other club to do so.
Obviously, Minnesota needs pitching help about as badly as anyone. But they also have considerable depth in the rotation, with Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey and others all potentially in the mix. It might not be great quality of depth, but you can argue that all those guys deserve a chance.
The Twins can afford to gamble on an injury risk like Anderson because if he gets hurt once again, they have viable options to fall back on. It's also an attractive situation for the player. Whereas a contending team would want to have strong contingency plans in place -- and thus, a higher barrier of entry -- the lefty should have no trouble locking up a spot in this rotation as long as he's healthy and effective in spring training. From a pure talent perspective, he would be arguably the best starter on the roster.
Beyond the mutually beneficial circumstances in place, there are three key reasons I believe Anderson makes a ton of sense for Ryan and the Twins.
He's still really young. Hughes was 27 when the Twins signed him last year -- uncommonly young for a free agent. Anderson doesn't turn 27 until February, so he's still right in the midst of his physical prime. And the silver lining in all the injuries and setbacks is that his arm is still pretty fresh. It's rare to find a starting pitcher who's been in the majors for six years and has thrown fewer than 500 innings.
He doesn't have chronic arm injuries. He has already undergone Tommy John surgery and hasn't had any elbow issues since. The first injury that cost him several months this year was a broken finger suffered when he got hit by a pitch while batting -- total freak incident and not a long-term concern. The bulging disc that ended his season is more worrisome, as he battled low back soreness late in 2013 as well, but his August surgery hopefully resolved the problem. He should be 100 percent in March. As far as rehab projects go, Anderson's a much safer bet than someone like Josh Johnson or Chad Billingsley, both of whom are coming back from arm operations.
He's still got it. Although his 2014 campaign did nothing to reverse his rep for being fragile, Anderson did show something while on the mound. In an admittedly small sample size, the lefty posted a 2.91 ERA and 2.99 FIP, and did so while making half his starts at Coors Field. He looked very much like the guy who had emerged as one of the best young pitchers in the game years earlier.
Anderson is the rare example of a young pitcher who could be signed to a low-money, low-years deal while offering the real potential to be a No. 2 or No. 3 type in the rotation. Those opportunities don't come along very often and the Twins should be looking to pounce on this one if they can.
His history of health problems is daunting, but one of these years Anderson is going to stay on the field and when he does I suspect that the team that employs him will benefit greatly. No club could use that boost more than the Twins.
Once you're done here, head over to Twins Daily, where today Parker takes an in-depth look at another realistic free agent starter in Justin Masterson.
Each year at this time, Major League teams need to add players to their 40 man roster in order to protect them from being selected in the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings in early December. A year ago, the Twins added Kennys Vargas, Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Logan Darnell.
Who is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft this year? Players who signed when they were less than 19-years-old in 2010 and players who were 19 or older when they signed in 2011. Of course, if they’re on the 40 man roster, they can’t be picked.
As mentioned in the header, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Alex Meyer will all be added. Unless something completely unexpected happens in the next couple of days, their odds of being added to the 40 man roster are 100%
Miguel Sano was actually signed in 2009, but since he signed in October, after the season ended, so he was not eligible a year ago. He’s an elite prospect. There is no question. He should be protected.
Eddie Rosario had a difficult 2014 season, much at his own doing. Even if he wouldn’t have had a spectacular Arizona Fall League, he would have been a given to add.
Finally, Alex Meyer may wind up being a bullpen arm, but the fact that he could become an ace if all goes well means that he is also going to be added to the roster.
There are several other options to be added. We went into much more detail in the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook, but here are some of the names that could be considered.
Sean Gilmartin – I would put the odds quite high, maybe 75% that he is added to the 40 man roster this week. Acquired from the Braves organization in the Ryan Doumit trade, the lefty put up solid numbers between New Britain and Rochester. The former first-round draft pick could be a back-of-the-rotation starter or a lefty reliever.
Levi Michael – The Twins top pick in the 2011 draft has been hurt pretty much his whole career. In 2014, he returned to Ft. Myers where he played well for six weeks before fouling a ball off his foot and missing almost two months. He returned and hit very well in 15 games in New Britain. Maybe his ceiling is that of a utility infielder. Those are the types that get selected in the Rule 5. I’ll put his odds at about 50/50.
Jason Wheeler – Another lefty, this 23 year old was the Twins 8th round pick in 2011 out of Loyola Marymount. At 6-8 and about 250 pounds, Wheeler does not throw real hard, though he can hit 94 at times. However, he’s got real good control of three pitches. He made starts at three different levels in 2014, including a start in Rochester. I’d put his odds at about 45%
Jason Adam – The right-hander came to the Twins in the Josh Willingham deal in August. The Twins didn’t have much time to see him in the regular season so they sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He pitched to mixed results. The Twins want him to start, but he did reach AAA with the Royals as a 23 year old. Might be worth a spot. I’ll put his odds at about 33%
Niko Goodrum – Twins second round pick in 2010 has terrific tools. He was moved to third base this year after being a very good shortstop in the lowest levels. He hasn’t been able to put up the numbers, and he will soon be 23, but there is no denying the athleticism, the tools and the understanding of needing patience. I don’t think he would be selected because I don’t think he would have a skill get that would stick. I’d put his odds at about 25%
(Other First-Year Rule 5 Eligibles: Jose Abreu, Madison Boer, Tyler Grimes, Steven Gruver, David Hurlbut, Cole Johnson, Tyler Jones, Matt Koch, Chris Mazza, Aderlin Mejia, Josue Montanez, Jeremias Pineda, Randy Rosario, Tim Shibuya, Jhon Silva, Matt Summers, Matt Tomshaw, Stephen Wickens, Corey Williams, JD Williams, Reyson Zoquiel.)
Second/Third Year Eligibles
There are several cases of players who go through the Rule 5 draft one year, make strides and then get added a year or two later. The following players have been eligible to be selected previously and could be again this year.
(Pat Dean, Dallas Gallant, Jonatan Hinojosa, DJ Johnson, Kyle Knudson, Mike Kvasnicka, Ryan O’Rourke, Michael Quesada)
Of that list, the player who may have the best chance of being selected could be lefty Ryan O’Rourke. If you look at his overall numbers, they won’t stand out. However, when you look at what he can do against left-handed hitters, it’s remarkable. In 2014, lefties hit just .103 off of him. He also had a 41:4 strikeout to walk rate against same-siders. He struggles against right-handers, but he could pitch in the big leagues now as a LOOGY.
Signed Minor League Free Agents
Since the World Series, the Minnesota Twins have signed many of their own six-year minor league free agents. If they have signed others, those players also could be eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
Two years ago, the Twins signed catcher Josmil Pinto instead of him becoming a six-year minor league free agent. Then in November, they added him to the 40 man roster so he wasn’t exposed to the Rule 5.
A few years further back, the Twins signed a pitcher to a six-year minor league free agent who had just started throwing a knuckleball a year or so earlier. The player was RA Dickey who was selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Mariners just weeks later.
(James Beresford, Mike Gonzales, Mark Hamburger, Nate Hanson, BJ Hermsen, Danny Ortiz, Jairo Rodriguez, Reynaldo Rodriguez, Adrian Salcedo, Tony Thomas)
Of that list, there are a couple of intriguing names. Mark Hamburger had big league time with the Rangers, served a suspension, returned to the Twins and pitched well in a variety of roles with New Britain and Rochester in 2014. That versatility could be of value to a big league club looking for arms.
James Beresford just signed on to stay in the Twins organization. He has now succeeded at every level of the minor leagues. Though he played almost exclusively at second base in 2014, he can play three infield positions. A team interested in a utility infielder might be interested in him.
The Twins have 36 men on their 40 man roster right now. In other words, they can only add four more players unless they remove others from the roster. They could just add the three Givens and still make a Rule 5 pick.
What do you think? Which of these players would you want to add to the 40 man roster, and at the expense of who?
Aaron and John breakdown the free agent outfielders available to the Minnesota Twins, walk through arbitration abitration decisions, introduce you to Starflyer 59’s latest album, discuss the latest additions to Paul Molitor’s coaching staff, encourage you to donate to Aaron Purmont’s family and review Fritos on a pizza.
Don't forget, you can subscribe to GATG using iTunes or Stitcher. Or listen by clicking on "Play" below.
And at Twins Daily, you'll find that a Twins prospect who led his team to the Arizona Fall League title.....
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