Loss of key players still haunting Twins

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2009 - 12:10 AM

Through trades and departures of free agents, glaring holes have been left unfilled in the lineup since 2006.

If you look back to the 2006 Twins, when Torii Hunter was the center fielder, Luis Castillo the second baseman, Jason Bartlett the shortstop and Matt Garza and Johan Santana were on the pitching staff, you realize how much the Twins lost when these players left the club.

They have had a very difficult time filling the holes left by trades, or players signing with other clubs as free agents.

Carlos Gomez, who came to the Twins in the Santana deal, certainly hasn't filled Hunter's shoes. He might have a future since he is a great outfielder, but he is hitting only .225. The other players who came here in the Santana deal are Kevin Mulvey, who is 2-2 with a 3.75 ERA for Class AAA Rochester, and his teammate, pitcher Phil Humber, is 1-1 with a 6.12 ERA. The other pitcher secured in that deal, Deolis Guerra, is 3-4 with a 5.05 ERA at Class A Fort Myers. Meanwhile, Santana is 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA for the Mets.

The Twins received two extra draft choices when Hunter left as a free agent for the Angels, using them to select two pitchers: Carlos Gutierrez, who is 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA for Fort Myers; and Shooter Hunt, who is 0-1 with a 10.70 ERA for Class A Beloit. Both are rated outstanding prospects. Meanwhile, Hunter is hitting .323 and has driven in 40 runs this season.

In the trade that sent Castillo to the Mets, the Twins received catcher Drew Butera and outfielder Dustin Martin, who both entered Wednesday hitting .221. Castillo is hitting .283 for the Mets and playing a strong second base.

Then you had the trade that sent Garza and Bartlett to Tampa Bay for outfielder Delmon Young, infielder Brendan Harris, outfielder Jason Pridie and pitcher Eduardo Morlan. Young is hitting .284 with 14 RBI and Harris is hitting .257, while Pridie is hitting .240 for Rochester. Bartlett, who was voted Tampa's MVP last year, is hitting .373, although he was placed on the disabled list this week. Garza, who was the MVP in the 2008 ALCS, is 4-3 with a 3.65 ERA.

Santana signed a contract for $137.5 million over six years with the possibility of making $151 million over seven years. Hunter signed a five-year deal with the Angels for $90 million. And Castillo signed a contract for four years for $25 million.

The point I'm trying to make is that, had the Twins decided to sign Hunter, and not have made the deals involving Castillo, Santana, Bartlett and Garza, they would have a lot more solid club with fewer holes in the lineup. They have Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer under long-term contracts.

Talking about holes, if they should lose Joe Mauer, it would be impossible to replace him. And experts in the baseball world are saying that Mauer, whose deal with the Twins ends after the 2010 season, could get an eight-year contract calling for $200 million with the Yankees or Red Sox, who are both looking for catchers.

Let's hope the larger revenue in the new stadium will enable the Twins to sign Mauer and future free agents.

Farwell healthy

Heath Farwell, the Vikings' best special teams player who missed most of last season, is taking part in the Organized Team Activities, and he was asked how the knee on which he had surgery is holding up.

"I'm pretty close to 100 percent, about 85 percent now," Farwell said. "I'm out here running around, able to do everything wearing a knee brace, able to do everything that they do. Yeah, I'm doing all the drills, all the practicing I can, I'm pretty good. We will see how that training camp goes and everything else."

Jottings

The Twins will open Target Field with exhibition games April 2 and April 3 against National League foes who are opening the regular season close to this area. The Cubs, Dodgers or Cardinals are three possible teams that might fill the dates. The Twins are scheduled to open the 2010 season on April 12.

Today is May 28th, and after today the Twins are done playing the Red Sox for the 2009 regular season, another quirk in the schedule. ... Sports Business Magazine has a banquet each year in New York where they give out a number of awards, including naming the top college athletic director in the country. Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi is one of four finalists for the award, which will be announced tonight. The other three nominees are: Sandy Barbour, California; Joe Castiglione, Oklahoma; and Jeremy Foley, Florida.

Eric Decker, the Gophers receiver and baseball center fielder, hit .450 for the Gophers in the recent Big Ten baseball tournament in Columbus, Ohio, with two four-hit games. ... Marcus Coker, a 6-1, 225-pound running back from DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., has committed to the Gophers. Iowa, Kansas State, Maryland and Pittsburgh were among the schools interested in Coker. ... The reason freshman receiver Brodrick Smith of Garden City, Kan., is leaving the Gophers is because he was getting a lot of pressure from friends to transfer to either Kansas State or Kansas. His father played for Kansas State. Smith had a good spring game, catching two passes. Last season as a freshman, he played in 12 of the Gophers' 13 games and had five catches for 50 yards and one touchdown.

Gophers football recruit Bryant Allen, who played football and basketball in high school in Maplewood, Mo., set a record last Friday -- then did it again Saturday -- in winning the state 300-meter hurdles. His best time was 38.23 seconds. ... As it turns out, St. Joseph's will be on the 2009-10 Gophers basketball schedule for a game on Dec. 12. The Gophers will play the Hawks in Philadelphia during the 2010-11 season.

The Gophers have signed an outstanding wrestler in Tony Nelson of Cambridge-Isanti, who won a state championship and a national junior title.

Travis Busch, who has decided to leave the Gophers basketball team for his fifth year, is trying to get a waiver so he can play at Colorado State. Failing to get the waiver, he will likely play at a Division II school such as Winona State or Concordia (St. Paul).

Former Holy Angels standout Joe Loftus, whom the Twins drafted late in last season's amateur draft, is batting .263 with three homers and 27 RBI in his freshman season with Vanderbilt. ... Chaska native Brad Hand, a second-round pick of Florida in last season's amateur draft, is 2-5 with a 7.68 ERA for the Marlins' Class A affiliate Greensboro Grasshoppers of the South Atlantic League.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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