Darren "Doogie" Wolfson

Darren "Doogie" Wolfson has a passion for sports, but not a consistent forum in which he's allowed to spew his thoughts. Well, now he has one. Darren spent 12-plus years with KFAN Radio, wearing multiple hats - from producing and technically directing, to reporting and hosting. He spent a majority of his time working with Sid Hartman's son, Chad on the 'Chad Hartman Show.' Read more about Darren Wolfson.

Posts about Twins rumors

One of many ideas for the Twins this offseason: call Pat Gillick

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: August 29, 2011 - 6:38 PM
This past Wednesday, a letter from the Minnesota Twins arrived. It was a heads-up about renewing our 20-game season-ticket package for 2012. As far as I am concerned, as long as Dippin' Dots -- the most underrated dessert on the planet -- continue to be sold at Target Field, they have our money. I am also a sucker for outdoor baseball after growing up going to games in the Metrodome. 
 
But that doesn't mean that the status quo works. When you're the first team in franchise history to not exceed .500 at any point during the season, and have the potential to become only the second team in MLB history to lose 100 games with a $100M payroll, everyone needs to be evaluated, including TC the Bear. OK, not him, but the medical personnel, training staff, front office, coaches, and players all need serious year-end reviews.
 
Suggestions:
 
  • In an offseason where they need to be pro-active, at least call new Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick. If he says no to a special-assistant position, so be it, but they should try.
 
  • Offer Paul Molitor a full-time coaching position. I have no idea if he is interested, but since he's already a minor-league instructor in the organization, it should be an easy one to gauge.
 
  • Instead of adding three extra days of fundamentals work in February, start that process now. The Twins allow far too many ground balls to get through the infield, fail to throw runners out on balls in the infield regularly, strand runners at third base with less than two outs, commit errors, don't go first to third enough, don't get runners from second to third enough, don't steal enough bases, or draw enough walks.
 
  • Hire the Orioles' trainer. It took him minutes to solve J.J. Hardy's aching wrist that the Twins struggled to fix all of last year. Hardy told 1500 ESPN's Phil Mackey: "In spring training I started to feel it and got a little bit nervous, going, 'Oh (expletive), here we go again.' But the trainers worked on it, got rid of it in about a week, and I haven't dealt with it since." Hardy added that the treatment he received from Orioles' trainers was different than what had been tried in Minnesota, but he added, "I don't want to get into that too much and make people look bad, but yeah. It definitely was a little bit different."
 
  • Small-ball is fine, but they still need multiple guys who can occasionally deliver the ultimate equalizer: the home run. It was thrown out by multiple people via Twitter on Sunday that the middle infield next year should be Trevor Plouffe (SS) and Luke Hughes (2B). Plouffe is out of options, so he should be on the opening day roster. But his throwing from that position is too suspect. I'd ask Plouffe to take 500 grounders per day Monday-Friday in Fort Myers from mid-November until spring training and see if he is capable of being the starting second baseman. I get it: finding home run power is no easy task. That's where the front office needs to get creative.
 
  • The ultimate equalizer for a pitcher is the strikeout. With a minimum of two starters needed -- Brian Duensing, who can be trusted in high-leverage situations in small doses, and Nick Blackburn should be moved to the bullpen -- they should look at signing free-agent Edwin Jackson and explore trade scenarios. With Hughes potentially capable of handling third-base duties, use Danny Valencia as a trade chip.

 

  • Find a Kyle Farnsworth (Rays), Al Alburquerque (Tigers), or Octavio Dotel (Blue Jays) on a one-year deal. In fact, sign multiple. Relievers are always available on one-year deals in free agency. It's on the front office to locate the right ones this winter. To a lesser degree, the same can be said about corner outfielders -- Johnny Damon (Rays), Jeff Francoeur (Royals), etc. In other words, if free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel are asking for too much money, it's not curl-up-in-the-fetal-position time. Pitching is the bigger priority.
 
  • Ask shortstop Tsuyohshi Nishioka if he really wants to be here, or if he has an interest in returning to Japan, where he remains a hero. If there's a way to get out from the remaining $6M on his contract, they need to do it.
 
I had three fans ask me at Saturday's game if this is the beginning of a three or four year down-cycle. It doesn't have to be, but shrewdness needs to be demonstrated.
 
This much is guaranteed: it'll be a fascinating offseason.

Time for Twins to think about 2012

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: August 9, 2011 - 2:23 PM

It's time for 1500-ESPN, the Twins' flagship radio station, to put their "#itshappening" t-shirts on clearance, or they could do a massive reprint with the Twitter hashtag, "#**itshappening."

Outfielder Delmon Young quit on a play against Toronto in May, and gave minimal effort on a home run by Chicago's Brent Lillibridge on Saturday, yet those two moments are easily forgotten when looking at his offensive statistics. Through arbitration, is he really worth $7.5 million next year? But can the Twins just non-tender him? It's one of many layered decisions for the front office.

Pitcher Nick Blackburn was mistakenly given a long-term contract when the team could have gone year-to-year and, predictably, he has struggled.

Catcher Joe Mauer has about the same slugging percentage as White Sox speedster Juan Pierre, and is lower than Texas' Elvis Andrus. However, if you are clamoring for a Mauer trade, he has a full no-trade clause. He still is a great player having a not-so-great year.

Danny Valencia comes at a very reasonable cost, but still has us wondering if he's the long-term answer at third base.

There is no wondering if Tsuyoshi Nishioka is the long-term answer at shortstop. He's not.

We have no idea if first baseman Justin Morneau will ever mash like he did in 2006, or the first three months of last season.

Outfielder/infielder Michael Cuddyer, the team's MVP this year, will command an eight-figure-per-year salary in free agency, making his return, and rightfully so, doubtful.

Soon-to-be free agent outfielder Jason Kubel should have no problem getting an offer that will trump anything the Twins present.

Except for lefty Glen Perkins, the bullpen has to be rebuilt. That could include current starter Brian Duensing, who has struggled mightily to contain right-handed hitters.

A shrewd move by the front office was not signing Francisco Liriano to a long-term deal. But for $5 million, he should be tendered this off-season and given one more chance in 2012. If he disappoints again, he'll still have trade value next July.

Another shrewd move will be to explore if a No. 1 bulldog-esque ace is available. The issue: do the Twins have enough ammo to pull off such a move?

This is a monstrous off-season for the Twins' front office. They can't botch it like they did the non-waiver trade deadline. It was a seller's market, and they didn't sell.

A lot will be forgiven if the right moves are made this winter. But the convenient excuse of injuries this year shouldn't be accepted. It partially explains this year's downfall, but not nearly all of it. What this year mostly has become is a reminder about how many guys had career years in 2010: Morneau pre-injury, Valencia, Young, Carl Pavano, Liriano, and Duensing, and a dominating bullpen.

An infusion of talent is necessary on many fronts.

Central parked no longer: Division race over for Twins

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: June 1, 2011 - 12:23 AM

This season, the Twins have more blown leads -- 18 -- than they have wins -- 17. Worse: eight of those 18 blown leads have come after being up after seven innings. They have the worst run differential in the American League by more than 50 runs (-91). They have scored the fewest runs, and given up the most runs, in the American League. They have yet to win a three-game series.

 
That said, they may still approach 75 wins because the offense is capable and the starting pitching can tease us enough. But defensively, in left field and right field, and at second base and shortstop, they don't represent well enough, especially when they lack enough strikeout-type pitchers. They are incapable of running the bases well and lack the ability to steal bases (12th in A.L. with 24). Plus there is an inability to score from first on balls to the gap and poor judgement from third base coach Steve Liddle. It all adds up to one simple conclusion: any hope of making the playoffs is over. 
 
Yet, all their issues pale in comparison to the bullpen. I can see why the Twins' brass thought they could get by with this collection. In the nine previous years with manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson shaping and molding the relievers, the worst they ever finished in collective earned run average was 6th-best in the A.L. They had always found a way before. But this year is different. Even with minimal success in the remaining 109 games, there is a decent chance that this collection will finish as the worst bullpen in Twins history.
 
I don't fault Smith for not offering free agents Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch multiple-year deals. Where he failed was not signing a few viable alternatives to one-year deals. Relievers can always be found on those type agreements. For example:
 
  • Kyle Farnsworth - 1 year, $3.25 million with the Rays
  • Al Alburquerque - 1 year, $400,000 with the Tigers. They were ripped for giving him a major league contract, but savvy work by general manager Dave Dombrowski's scouts has manager Jim Leyland with a solid seventh-inning option.
  • Matt Albers - 1 year, $875,000 with Boston.
  • Todd Coffey - 1 year, $1,75 million with Washington.
  • Chad Qualls - 1 year, $1.5 million with San Diego.
Statistical analysis, particularly with Coffey and Qualls, suggested that they would have bounce-back years. No level of analysis presented very positive data that Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Eric Hacker, or Jeff Manship could provide any level of decency this season. In addition, reliever Billy Wagner is the exception when it comes to post-Tommy John surgery success. It was ridiculous to think that Joe Nathan would be adequate one year removed from that type of injury. 
 
It is not, however, all doom-and-gloom for the organization. Heads shouldn't roll in the front office or in the dugout. Six division titles earns Gardenhire, et al., the equity to return. This year should convince them that major player-personnel changes need to take place. The Twins haven't drafted and developed a shortstop in over 20-years. Jose Reyes will be a free agent this winter. Sign him. Like relievers, corner outfielders can be found on short-term deals in free agency -- Johnny Damon, Jeff Francoeur, etc. It's time to cut the chord on Delmon Young. Get what you can for him before making the mistake of investing big dollars and a lot of years. Michael Cuddyer is a stand-up guy, and an easy guy to root for, but his numbers since the start of 2010 trump everything else. Not an easy decision considering all that he does behind-the-scenes, but it's time to move on. Offering Jason Kubel arbitration is an easy call. Bringing him back on a one-year deal is a no-brainer, but he'll likely say no, sign elsewhere, and 2012 draft picks can be had. At the non-waiver trade deadline, offers need to be considered for Cuddyer, Young, Thome, Kubel (if the offer is better than draft picks), Matt Capps, Carl Pavano, and others.
 
Until then, all I can ask for is entertaining games. The Twins have at least provided that in the last few weeks. 46 more wins from June 1 on, and they can avoid being just the second team in history to have a $100 million payroll and lose 100 games. 

Trading Liriano foolish unless an established commodity is the return

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: February 14, 2011 - 8:47 PM

I really wanted to blog the absurdity of Iowa fans taking a picture with the Insight Bowl trophy this weekend or the impossible feat that director Adam McKay pulled off with "Step Brothers" -- making a movie with Will Ferrell unwatchable.

Instead, I will focus on the Twins and a trade idea.

It was a simple question via my Twitter account (@DarrenWolfson): Who says no to this trade: pitcher Francisco Liriano, outfielder Ben Revere, and prospects Chris Parmelee (1B) and Adrian Salcedo (P) to Arizona for outfielder Justin Upton?


Some of the 38 responses:

 

  • From @winegarden13 -- I want to believe but please convince me that Upton trade wouldn't be Garza/Young part deux.
  • From @SixHoleMN -- MLB is not a video game. How about Kubel and 8 best prospects for Pujols and Wainwright? Who says no? Dumb.
  • From @Skiumah_Smokers -- why are you targeting an OF. It's the easiest position to fill. If Liriano's gotta go, get a SS prospect.
  • From @CoreyEttinger -- I'm all about getting Upton, but your deal seems like a significant overpayment.
  • From @fran_the_man -- Already likely overpaying just with Liriano. He'd be best pitcher in NL, outside of Philly.
  • From @cjloken -- Almost every scout, baseball expert or GM would say that Upton for Liriano + 3 prospects is a great trade for #twins. #MLB
  • From @mission1619 -- Liriano for a guy who OPS'd .898 with 26 hrs and 20 stls and great D in his age 21 season. I'll take it.
  • From @minnemike -- If Liriano gets traded, we better get some nice arms back.
  • From @rolson21 -- I don't think that is enough for J. Upton. Gonna have to be Liriano-Hicks +, J. Upton is gonna be a top 5 guy and soon.
  • From @MNTwinsGUFS -- whoa... our #1 pitcher and 3 of #Twins top 15 or 20 prospects for Upton? What are you smoking?
  • From @oscardagrouch27 -- Twins giving up way too much.
  • From @T_Charbonneau -- I have concerns about Upton's health.
  • From @consigliari51 -- No conversation about Upton to the Twins can occur without Sano in the package.
  • From @rpwhales11 -- no way minny makes that deal, just stupid.
  • From @ben_gundy -- Love it. Liriano goes to the NL, Cuddy doesn't re-sign and we spend all that cash next year on an ace.

 

According to Aaron Gleeman, only six players in the last 50 years -- Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Boog Powell, and Cesar Cedeno -- have gotten at least 1,500 plate appearances by age 23 and posted a higher OPS than Upton.


He can run, hit for power, make good pitchers look ordinary, and play Gold Glove-caliber defense. He also has a team-friendly contract that runs through 2015. Why Arizona discussed him in trade talks at the winter meetings makes about as much sense as Lady Gaga's alien-like egg costume at the Grammy Awards.

 

Adding, or even slightly overpaying, for Upton is a no-brainer for any team. So why not put together a package for him headlined by Liriano? This basic idea is how Twins general manager Bill Smith should be thinking when talking with teams.

 

For reasons mostly unknown, two reports last week -- the Star Tribune and 1500espn.com -- indicate that Liriano is not in the Twins' long-term plans. Talking to one baseball insider this weekend, there is concern among many organizations that Liriano's violent delivery will eventually catch-up to him again. The Twins probably feel the same way, plus Liriano isn't exactly Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay on the dedication scale. 


Being two years away from free agency, Liriano's trade value will never be higher. Personally, I would keep him for myriad reasons, mostly because he is the only Twins' starter with electric stuff. Everyone else gets by on guts and guile. Scott Baker occasionally teases us, but not enough to move Liriano for two or three B+ prospects. But if a trade of Liriano is inevitable, Smith should stay away from a package of minor-leaguers, no matter how tantalizing they are. Move Liriano for an already-established player. If Smith has to sweeten the offer with his own prospects, then he should.

Trade talk: Twins should go after Cliff Lee

Posted by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson Updated: June 13, 2010 - 11:22 PM

In 2004, hours before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline, the Twins sent first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox for minor-leaguer Justin Jones. With the Red Sox in town at the time, all Mientkiewicz had to do was walk down the hallway at the Metrodome to join his new teammates. Six years later, here's hoping a comparable scenario takes place at Target Field when Seattle is in town July 30 - August 1.

Here's the deal Twins general manager Bill Smith should propose to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik: Wilson Ramos, Kevin Slowey, and a "C" level prospect for starter Cliff Lee and reliever David Aardsma. Such a deal would only increase the payroll by approximately three million dollars - not much for a team with a new ballpark and money still coming in from revenue-sharing.

The Twins will win their division. Smith's sole focus should be on winning in October. It's hard to believe that the team, as currently constructed, is good enough to win the World Series. Three wins in their last 19 playoff games is no longer just a coincidence. As nice as home-field advantage against the wild-card entrant would be; if it were the Yankees, facing C.C. Sabathia and then Phil Hughes or A.J. Burnett in back-to-back games would offset that in a hurry. But not if Lee is your Game 1 starter. Lee is one of the top five starters in all of major-league baseball, and also happens to have have playoff experience.

The Twins are 29-1 when leading entering the seventh inning. In other words, the bullpen has been very good. But Aardsma brings the threat of a strikeout (18 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings; 80 strikeouts in 71 1/3 innings last year) and would be under team control through 2012. Aardsma's fastball would become the most reliable on the team. Would Seattle deal Aardsma? That's where Slowey comes in. They need a starter to replace Lee, and the Twins have minor-leaguer Kyle Gibson to take his spot next year. Sure, Carl Pavano is a free-agent, but he genuinely likes it here. I could see a two-year deal being worked out.

Offensively, the Twins are challenged a bit more than I would have guessed. But with closer Joe Nathan's contract partially insured, and extra money coming in via standing-room only tickets, adding a right-handed bat can be done through the waiver process in August. Guys like Kansas City's Jose Guillen, Seattle's Jose Lopez, and Baltimore's Miguel Tejada should be available, or making a separate deal in July for someone like Cleveland's Austin Kearns or Baltimore's Ty Wigginton would make sense. Also, if the Twins can get a look at Boston's Mike Lowell for virtually nothing, they should.

In 2006, the Twins made a competitive offer for Alfonso Soriano (Slowey, et al.), so it is not unheard of for this regime to try something drastic. Minnesota is starving for a champion. The Twins offer hope, maybe even more so than the Vikings this year. But the team needs to be tweaked. It would be a shame to have two MVPs in the prime of their careers -- Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau -- and not win at least one World Series. The time is now for Smith to give those guys the best possible chance to win.

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