digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.

Posts about Twins rumors

Section 219: Storen and Young Lombo? Make the deal

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: July 31, 2011 - 10:17 AM

In about five hours, this post will be moot because the non-waiver trade deadline will have passed.

I like Denard Span a lot, and I won't feel bad if all the trade talk is just that and a deal doesn't go through.

I also think that if the Twins can get Drew Storen and Stephen Lombardozzi from the Washington Nationals, it's a deal that should be made.

The Twins are not going to pay Joe Nathan the $12.5 million option on his contract for 2012 and I'm going to assume that, as much love as he might have for the Twins, there will be a team willing to offer him enough money for him to go elsewhere. Matt Capps shouldn't be a trusted part of the future and Glen Perkins, if this season is an indication of what he can really do, can't be the entire bullpen.

To dismiss Storen as "Capps, the sequel" is silly.

To trade a 600 at-bat outfielder for an 80-inning pitcher isn't a slick idea, either.

But if the Twins can address another issue, I'm for taking the risk.

Lombardozzi, whose father played second base for the Twins in the 1980s (and has never gotten enough credit for his play during the 1987 World Series), has been a better-than-solid minor-leaguer in the Washington organization. Split between Class AA and AAA this season, he has a .364 on-base percentage and .445 slugging percentage, with the numbers staying consistent after his promotion. He's a switch-hitter too.

Minor-league fielding metrics are sketchy, but Lombardozzi has made only two errors in 407 chances this season -- almost all at second base with a few games at shortstop.

If the Twins can pick up a closer and an every-day second baseman in return for Span, they'll be a better team for doing so. Middle infield isn't exactly a strength, right?

But the deal needs to be for Storen and Lombardozzi. Accept no substitutes.


Here are a few recent stories and blog posts about Lombardozzi:

Washington Times, July 12.

Federal Baseball, July 27

Bleacher Report, January 5



Liriano and Michael Young: Planet of the misfit ballplayers

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: February 10, 2011 - 9:05 AM

It's below zero and the hot stove is burnin'.

Did anyone else think that the Twins were a little quick the other day to dismiss speculation that Michael Young would be a good fit? The Twins need another reliable right-handed bat to balance their left-heavy lineup and Young is one of eight teams on the current list to which the Texas veteran would accept a trade.

Now, Joe Christensen reports that the Twins don't think of Francisco Liriano as a long-term part of their plans. I have to admit to being a bit surprised by that news, but I don't doubt it.

The Rangers really, really wanted to keep Cliff Lee. But the lefty escaped to Philadelphia.

The Twins have acknowledged that Young's name has come up in trade talks from time to time.

The fact that manager Ron Gardenhire has talked about the need for more speed in the middle infield is all well and good. But when you have the chance to replace Alexi Casilla with Michael Young, this is a time when you sacrifice speed and some defense and go for the bat. Casilla would make a fine fifth infielder.

And as Jim Bowden, the former Reds and Nationals GM, said on his XM/Sirius show Wednesday afternoon, the Rangers are in a position where they won't get 100 percent value for Young.

In a deal with the Twins, that would mean Texas picking up a big chunk of Young's salary. For the Rangers, it means getting a lefty pitcher who doesn't have Lee's credentials, but brings a lot more to them than other options. (Somehow, I don't think that signing ex-Brewer Dave Bush is viewed as a replacement for Lee.)

Rangers beat writer Evan Grant wrote the other day that "right now, about all you can get (for Young) is a bad contract." The Rockies had been talking about a Young deal that included second baseman Eric Young Jr.

So Liriano totally blows away anything that's been discussed -- which is why the Rangers have so far dismissed what's on the table.

In the short run, the Twins would be adding some salary. But if the Rangers pick up half of Young's remaining contract, the Twins get him for $24 million over three years, which is reasonable. Liriano signed this season for $4.3 million and, if he performs modestly well and stays healthy, would make similar money (and quite possibly more) in the 2011-13 time period -- which includes his first year of free agency.

So money shouldn't be an issue on this one.

Then it'll be time to think about getting that top-of-the-rotation starter at midseason who can make the right things happen in October. I have a name in mind. It would likely have to be a Young type of deal -- with his current team picking up salary -- but if you can find a guy who was lights-out in his final 11 starts of 2010 and is on a team that usually goes nowhere, you'll know who I'm talking about.

The other teams on Young's list are the Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Colorado, Houston, San Diego and St. Louis. (And the Cardinals don't need him because they signed Nick Punto, right?) That list is in effect until May, when Young becomes a 10-and-5 player (10 years in the majors, 5 with his current team) and can veto any deal.

Span, cf; Nishioka, ss, Mauer, c; Morneau, 1b; M. Young, 2b, D. Young, lf; Thome, dh; Cuddyer/Kubel, rf; Valencia, 3b.

I'll have some of that.

Slowey and more: A weekend of good things

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: August 16, 2010 - 11:10 AM

For all the times when athletes, their bosses and their handlers don't tell you what's really on their minds, Sunday afternoon made up for some of that. In the aftermath of the excitement, drama and disappointment of Kevin Slowey's seven no-hit innings, I sensed that we were hearing the pitcher and the manager talk from their hearts about what happened.

Slowey said he was a little disappointed but understood what was going on. Ron Gardenhire said he felt the frustration of the fans -- and felt some of it himself -- but there was no question in his mind that he did the right thing. About three-quarters of the people who have responded to a instant poll think that Gardy did the right thing.

There is no shortage of Internet and media love for Gardy this morning.

A sampling:

Aaron Gleeman said it was "exactly the right call."

Twins Geek wrote that Gardenhire and Rick Anderson "showed foresight, caring, courage and leadership. And that should be celebrated, not criticized."

K-bro was at the game and captured the crowd mood while writing that Slowey "was beginning to pitch erratically and leave some pitches up; he was getting outs by sheer luck. When he hit (Mark) Ellis, it was pretty clear he was done. Gardy made the right choice."

Seth Stohs called it "controversial but clearly correct"

Mankato's Baseball Outsider mentioned this irony: "When even Bert 'pitch until your arm falls off' Blyleven doesn't argue with the decision to pull a pitcher, it's probably pretty obvious."

This isn't quite love, but one of Aaron's commenters offered this grudging endorsement: "Yeah there’s no reason to criticize Gardenhire for this move. The man is a buffoon but he was right today."

Some people aren't going to be satisfied until Bill Smith calls and asks for their opinion, I guess.

If we were in Kansas City or Pittsburgh or Houston, Slowey could well have stayed in and the game would have turned into a quest for the cover of the team's 2011 media guide -- a woeful team celebrating its bright, shining moment and trying to sell it as reason to care about the future.

The Twins haven't rolled like that for years.

But the interesting second-guess in the aftermath was by TwinsCentric's Parker Hageman, who questioned the choice of Jon Rauch as the reliever to be the first link in keeping alive the no-hitter. Rauch hadn't pitched since hurting his toe during a mop-up stint. (For those of you who missed it, radio announcer Dan Gladden apologized on Thursday for the misinformation he offered about the possible cause of Rauch's injury.)

After Brain Duensing's marvelous complete game on Saturday and with today's day off, I was wondering too about the decision to go with Rauch as opposed to Jesse Crain in the eighth and Matt Capps in the ninth. I also wonder if Gardy's call would have been different if the Twins had gone into the eighth with a one-run lead instead of the 4-0 lead provided by Jim Thome's three-run homer.

But whatever the case, getting Rauch work with (what should have been) a comfortable lead was consistent with Sunday's most important thing -- winning and adding another game to the advantage over the White Sox, who have gone 3-7 while the Twins have excelled lately.

If you reduce the situation to one thing -- winning -- then all of the right things happened over the weekend.

Not only here, but in Chicago, where Ozzie Guillen watched his White Sox lose ion a ninth-inning homer on Saturday and get smoked by Detroit on Sunday, after which Ozzie said: “I’ll be honest with you, the ball club didn’t have energy today.”

Poor Ozzie.

The Twins have come a long way since many people wanted to exile three-fifths of the starting rotation and send Joe Mauer to therapy. It's another reminder that sometimes the moves of spring and early summer -- or an exciting Sunday in August -- may seems puzzling in the moment, but they can pay off later on.

A Triple-A performance all around

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: August 12, 2010 - 10:40 AM

Call up a Triple-A pitcher and get a Triple-A outcome from start to finish. Everything from Denard's dumb decision to try stretching a leadoff double into a triple in the first inning to the sloppy infield play to some sorry at-bats to the scary finale in the eighth when Michael Cuddyer went flopping after a ground ball, Jose Mijares twisted his knee after a slow start toward first and Cuddyer just missed having his hand stepped on when he was it to tag the base.

Glen Perkins pitched like a Triple-A guy and home plate umpire Mike DiMuro called the game like a Triple-A ump.

There were other minor-league moves: The inability to turn a couple of double plays and a lousy throw from Cuddyer to Orlando Hudson after Perkins had caught Juan Pierre off first base.

Then, atop all of that clownishness, the Twins reported that 12 percent of the roster is banged up. Mijares with his twisted knee, J.J. Hardy with the recurring sore wrist and Jon Rauch with a sprained toe that either occured when he was closing out Tuesday's game (Gardy's version) or when he may have kicked something afterward (Dan Gladden's version).

Just when you think stuff is heading in the right direction...

Wednesday's follies should hasten the urgency of finding relief help and I'm a bit skeptical of Hardy's assertion that he thinks he can avoid another long-term absence. (I'm hoping to be wrong about that one and I'm also OK with Alexi Casilla as a fill-in.)

Also, I'm still trying to find overwhelming evidence that Perkins somehow "found himself" recently in Rochester. There were a couple of clunkers mixed in among the good starts that had people hopeful.  Time to hope that Kevin Slowey is ready to go on Sunday and doesn't force the Twins to use a Plan C.

When you look at Rochester's team stats, the only conclusion to draw is that Nick Blackburn's numbers in his two Red Wings starts haven't been as impressive as the statistics, Perkins had been more impressive lately than Jeff Manship and there simply wasn't another option. (The Twins would have been using Blackburn on three days' rest instead of four, but that wouldn't have been a deal-breaker if the Twins thought he was ready to return.)

But there's little that happened Wednesday that can't be medicated with a victory in the series finale.



Guest post: Trade? Got two words for you (Doyle Alexander)

Posted by: Howard Sinker Updated: July 6, 2010 - 9:47 AM

By Dave Wright

(Note: Howard's away from the computer for a few more days. Today's guest post is from St. Paul author Dave Wright. Dave will be signing copes of his new Twins book, "162-0," at Midway Stadium on Friday prior to the St. Paul Saints game.)

It is the cause célèbre of the week for Twins fans – the team needs to figure out a way to pry Cliff Lee loose from the underachieving Seattle Mariners. In a nutshell, the theory of many of the folks who have jammed their way into Target Field this summer goes like this: Give up what you must from your farm system but get Lee here. Otherwise, the team is going nowhere fast.
In time, we will find out if this will happen. However, while the rampant speculation continues, Twins’ fans would be well reminded of what happened years ago when another team in similar straits faced a similar situation.
That club went out and got the veteran arm they thought would carry them to the Promised Land of the World Series. Although the arm they purchased performed well, the price they paid for that arm would haunt them for years to overcome.
The date was August 12, 1987. The Detroit Tigers were involved in a testy three-way fight for the AL East lead. At the time, Toronto led the Tigers and the Yankees by a game and a half. The veteran Tigers felt they needed one more starter to get over the top. So, they called up the Atlanta Braves, who were nine games out of first and going nowhere in the NL West.
Shortly thereafter, Detroit had acquired Doyle Alexander, a veteran with 165 MLB wins and a lifetime ERA of around 3.50 for a minor leaguer who had been a 22nd round draft choice a couple of years before. Sure, the guy was only 20 and showed promise. But the race was afoot and Detroit needed a pitcher.
Four days later, Alexander made his debut with a so-so no-decision effort against the Royals. On August 20, he did a little better, tossing eight shutout, five-hit innings in an 8-0 win over, of all the people, the Twins.
After that, Alexander quickly became Detroit’s best pitcher. By the end of the regular season, he stood 9-0 with three shutouts and a 1.53 ERA. The Tigers rallied past the Blue Jays on the last day of the season to win the East.
The fairy tale ended there, though.
The Twins earned more than revenge against Alexander in the AL playoffs. They beat him twice, pounding him for 10 runs in nine innings worked. The second start resulted in Minnesota’s first pennant in 22 years.
Alexander stuck around for a second season in Detroit, going 14-11 as the club began a gradual decline. After signing with the team as a free agent in 1989, he led the AL in losses with 18.
His career was over.
As for the prospect Detroit gave up, well, he went on a to a 21-year career that could very well end up with a trip to the Hall of Fame. His name? John Smoltz.
One suspects that if you called up Sparky Anderson, Detroit’s manager in 1987, that he would still say getting Alexander was worth it because his team couldn’t have won the division without him. But if you pressed ol’ Sparky a bit further, he might also allow that perhaps it would have been best if Smoltz had stayed in the Tiger system.
Thus, the conundrum that now faces the Twins. Lee seems to be in the prime of his career. He is a proven success in the American League. But pitchers in the prime of their career who are playing on teams that are not in the pennant race don’t come cheaply. To get him, the Twins will likely have to part with one of their top prospects. That would be for a player who may only be here for a couple of months at best.
Furthermore, as Doyle Alexander found out, regular season success doesn’t necessarily translate into post-season happiness.
Making a trade just to say you made one sounds good on paper. But it doesn’t necessarily translate to success in the locker room.
As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the price for Lee is likely to increase. The Twins may find themselves in the same predicament the Tigers were in.
It bears noting that, after that 1987 East title, the Tigers spent the next 19 seasons watching the post-season on television. In 10 of those seasons, they could see their old farmhand pitching for the Braves.
But is the future now? If so, find a prospect the Mariners like and make the deal. A reminder, though to Twins’ fans. If, say, in 2013, Wilson Ramos, Ben Revere or Liam Hendriks or somebody of that ilk helps the M’s to the postseason, remember you were warned.
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