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.
Aaron and John talk about what the early free agent pitching signings mean for the Minnesota Twins, protecting prospects from the Rule 5 draft, puking in cabs, weird Duke Welker moves, finding the Jewish guy anywhere, the Tigers trading away Prince Fielder, getting married for $100,000, the best minor league organization in baseball, bachelor parties, Kris Johnson's upside, and the beauty of constructive criticism. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
We had a busy weekend at TwinsDaily.com, dissecting the rumors about the Twins chasing a top catcher, searching for the 15 longest tenured Twins, and hanging out.
In the heat of the chase, it's easy to lose your head. Auctioneers know that the trick is to just get people in the door. Once that happens, the investment, the competition, the excitement and above all the urgency, take care of the price all by themselves.
And free agency is an auction. And Twins fans are feeling the urgency. And so, apparently, are the Twins.
In his latest story on the Twins offseason, Mike Berardino reports that the Twins have showed a willingness to at least consider offering a 3-year contract to 36-year-old right-hander Bronson Arroyo. If you’re an American League snob like me, you might remember Arroyo from his tumultuous years with the Red Sox through 2005 (or possibly from Bill Simmons description of the “Bronson Arroyo face”). He left for the National League, specifically Cincinnati, and has averaged 210 innings with a 4.05 ERA in the eight years since.
It ain’t because of his stuff. For the last five years, his averaged just 5.3 K/9, which (cheap shot alert) undoubtedly is what makes him irresistible to the Twins. He succeeds by keeping the ball on the ground and indeed his ERA has been closely linked to how many home runs he gives up each year. That bodes well for playing in Target Field, which is far friendlier to pitchers than the Reds’ Great American Ballpark. It doesn’t bode as well for a return to the American League.
Arroyo and his agent are fishing for a 3-year deal, and the team that offers it is likely to win his services, provided you define “win” as guaranteeing 36+ million dollars to a 37-year-old pitch-to-contact starter. Is that wise?
Of course not – but free agency rarely is. That’s the thing that can be so repulsive about signing a free agent: by definition the winning team is overpaying. When 29 teams won’t pay the price that the winning team is willing to pay, the odds are stacked against them from the start. So let’s ask another question – is Arroyo likely to be productive through his 39th season?
Historically, no. First, there is the type: low strikeout pitchers far too often end up like Carlos Silva, Joe Mays or more recently, Scott Diamond. When their stuff dips just a bit, or their control slips a little, or the ground balls turn to fly balls, or the fly balls turn to home runs, things can go south in a hurry. Strikeouts are a safety net that they don't have.
Second, there is just the issue of health. Pitchers get hurt, especially when they've been used a lot. 36-year-olds get hurt too. And 36-year-old pitchers who have been used a lot? You know the answer to that, don’t you Joe Nathan?
Finally, looking at Arroyo's closest comparable pitchers from baseball-reference.com, you find a lot of guys whose careers ended right about now. His top 5 are John Burkett, Todd Stottlemyre, Tim Belcher, Esteban Loaiza and John Lieber. None of them has success past his age.
Twins fans know numbers six and seven on that list: Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson. Tap had a 4.49 ERA when he was 37 and then his career was over. Erickson only pitched 66 more innings over two years after he turned 37, and had a 6.35 ERA. But to be fair, all of these guys showed serious signs of decline well before this point, unlike Arroyo.
Regardless, Arroyo is not a good bet to age well - but he hasn’t been a good bet to age well for five years running. And the Twins can certainly afford to overpay right now – but they might wish they had that money for a more reliable starter in 2016.
Ultimately, I can’t believe Arroyo is so much of an outlier from historical precedence. I wouldn’t totally rule out the third year. Perhaps, like Berardino says of the Twins, I might give “indications they might be willing to go that far.” But I think we're getting caught up in the heat of the auction, and there are still lots of items on which to bid. I’d look long and hard at the other pitchers first, opting to pay that 2016 money up front to someone who is a little safer bet.
There's a lot of offseason talk in the TwinsDaily forums this week. My favorite? Would you have traded Joe Mauer for Prince Fielder, now that Mauer is moving to first base?
The early weeks of the offseason have not been particularly eventful for the Twins. We've seen them connected to a few different pitchers and catchers in free agency, but like many other teams, they have been slow to act here in November. That's not unexpected; with the market going through a significant shift, both agents and team execs are still feeling things out.
Once a few major contracts are signed, we will likely begin to see the dominoes fall at a fairly rapid pace. I just wouldn't anticipate the Twins being one of the teams to set the standard.
We did see a few notable developments take place within the system on Tuesday, however.
The first was a report coming from Puerto Rico that prospect Eddie Rosario has tested positive for a banned substance and could face a 50-game suspension. Apparently the positive test resulted from some pills that the second baseman was taking to treat an arm injury.
If true, this is obviously horrible news. Rosario is one of the organization's brightest prospects (he ranked No. 7 on Twins Daily's list in the spring) and being forced to sit out 50 games is extremely rough for a young kid who was rising quickly through the system and still adapting to a new position.
The bright side is that Brian Dozier has firmly established himself at second base and was going to be locked in for at least the first half of the 2014 season regardless, so there was never any rush to get Rosario into the majors. If anything, this gives the club more time to see what they have in Dozier while Rosario serves his suspension and acclimates in the latter part of the season.
What makes this hurt is that, from my perspective, Rosario was the best trade chip in the organization -- a standout talent at a valuable position coming off a fantastic minor-league season in which he advanced to the high levels. I'm not fully sold on Dozier but I believe in him enough to think that moving his potential successor in the right deal would be worth the risk.
I'm also personally a bit lower than some on Rosario as a prospect, because although his production has been undeniably impressive I don't see his all-around skill set making him a real safe bet to succeed in the majors. He struck me as a sell-high guy who might have been flipped for maximum value this offseason, or else moved around the deadline next year if he managed to do some damage in Triple-A. Now that's all out the window, assuming the report is true.
Terry Ryan stated that the impetus for the move was a desire to swap a potential reliever for a potential starter, which makes sense for depth reasons, but Johnson seems like an even greater long shot than Welker to make an impact in the majors. Perhaps the Twins were emboldened by the Andrew Albers surprise, since Johnson is similarly a late-20s journeyman who found his way back into affiliated baseball after spending time in an independent league a couple years ago, but it's tough to find much to like here. He looks like Triple-A filler.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But fans are already getting antsy to see some meaningful activity on the starting pitching front. And for now, they're still waiting.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins (and all Major League teams) will need to submit their 40 man rosters. The Twins current 40 man roster consists of 36 players, 19 pitchers and 17 position players. Since the season’s end, we have seen several players removed from the 40 man roster, such as Clete Thomas (Phillies) and Pedro Hernandez (Rockies) who have signed with other teams and Doug Bernier who remained with the Twins.
The Twins have also added RHP Duke Welker (via trade) and LHP Edgar Ibarra before he could become a minor league free agent.
There are several players on the current 40 man roster who you or I may believe could come off, but they may be there for a reason. You see, the players who get added to the 40 man roster on Wednesday can’t be removed from the 40 man roster until at least spring training. If the Twins were to sign a couple of free agents, they need to be able to make room for them on the roster. So there are players on the 40 man roster who may not feel real comfortable until they get to spring training.
Of course, the Twins may also choose to make a Rule 5 selection as they have the last three seasons. Last year, they added Ryan Pressly and three years ago, it was Scott Diamond. Both have already exceeded the results of most Rule 5 picks. If the Twins want to make a Rule 5 pick, they can only have 39 (or less) on the roster.
So, who is eligible for the Rule 5 draft? Players who signed at age 18 or younger during the 2009 season or players who signed at age 19 or older in 2010. Jorge Polanco signed with the Twins as a 16 year old in July of 2009, so he is eligible. Miguel Sano signed as a 16 year old in October of 2009 (after the season), so he is not eligible. (The Twins could add him, but it would make no sense.)
Here are some more players who could be added to the 40 man roster on Wednesday. Most likely no more than two of three will be added.
There are others who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft if not protected that are interesting. Here is a list of all eligible players, courtesy of the Twins Daily Rosters & Payroll page.
So there you have a look at the players that the Twins will need to protect on their 40 man roster by Wednesday afternoon or risk losing in the Rule 5 draft.
Which do you think will be added? Which do you think could be lost if not protected?
Tonight at 8:30, Hangout with Jeremy Nygaard and myself on YouTube for our weekend Twins Talk. You can interact by asking questions. Tonight, we’ll be discussing the 40 man roster as well as any Twins rumors of the day and week. Join us here. We'll also take your questions.
Aaron and John talk about Joe Mauer moving from catcher to first base, being sponsored by another Twins podcast, the Twins' odds of actually signing Ricky Nolasco or another big-money free agent pitcher, recapping Dave Chappelle's marathon show at First Avenue, Jason Bartlett rejoining the Twins, Hebrew school reunions, Pedro Hernandez' 2014 ERA, Twitter beefs, John breaking his toe, and Aaron getting married. You can listen by clicking below, download us from iTunes or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
If you're trying to dissect the latest Twins offseason rumors - well, so are we. Like the Twins being linked to Matt Garza. Or making a strong push for Ricky Nolasco. Or even losing Pedro Hernandez to the Rockies. And of course, we're also still on top of the latest minor league news, including Seth analyzing the timetable for top pitching prospect Kohl Stewart.
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Employment is not difficult to find if you are a moderately successfully and young starting pitcher in major league baseball. As an example, Ricky Nolasco has several four-year offers in discussion and, as Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal pointed out this morning, the Twins are making a strong push for his services.
In conversation with his agent Matt Sosnick last week, Nolasco is seeking a five-year deal. While multiple teams are levying the four-year offers, it may be the team who submits a fifth year options that lands the free agent.
“I look at options more about breaking a stalemate at the end of negotiation,” Sosnick said. “We’re talking to a lot of teams and we’re hoping to get five years on Nolasco. We’re talking with a lot of teams about deal in the four-year range and what ends up happening is that if no one is willing to go to five year, people will use a club option for a fifth year.”
The option year, Sosnick said, basically gives the pitcher some extra money in the form of a buyout but also provides the team an option to retain that pitcher’s services if they so desire. Based on the reports that the Twins are making the “strong push” for Nolasco, it would be reasonable to assume the two sides are looking at the four-year plus option deal.
Nolasco, who will be 31 in 2014, has been decisively average over his career but is coming off perhaps his best season since his age-25 season in 2008.
Over his career, Nolasco’s actual numbers have performed worse than his projected numbers. His career ERA of 4.37 is significantly higher than what his 3.75 expected Fielding Independent rates would suggest. While his peripherals have been strong, his ability to strand runners once they reach base has been sub-par: His 69.2% left-on-base rate has been the sixth-lowest among starters since 2010 (minimum 500 innings pitched). Part of the reason behind this is that, with runners on, Nolasco has a .288 average against (10th highest) in that time.
To his credit, Nolasco’s seen a steady decline in his home run rate in each of the past three years, resulting in a career-low of 0.77 HR/9 this last season. One of his biggest changes in 2013 that may have played a role in this decrease was going inside with his fastball more.
In general Nolasco eschews the fastball (just 47% vs 50% league average frequency) for his secondary offerings, namely his slider. The slider has been a very good pitch for him despite somescouts suggesting it has not been as sharp as it had been earlier in his career. This past season, he was able to incite more swing-and-misses on it but, judging by the drop in chases out of the zone, does not have the same bite it once did.
Durability-wise, he is almost as stalwart as they come. Dating back to 2008, Nolasco has accumulated 1,151.1 innings – the 24th most in baseball over that time – and placing him alongside other workhorses. In that stretch, he has no arms issues whatsoever, but a tear in his meniscus took him out from 46 days in 2010.
Naturally, the argument could be made that all of that was before he turned thirty and the mileage compiled early in his career could eventually catch up on the wrong side of 30. As Twins general manager Terry Ryan said of signing thirty-year-old pitchers last month “I’d be very careful. I’d be careful,” he said reflecting on the free agent market, “Because you know what happens with 30-year-olds.”
Ryan’s concern is merited, both because of injury and increasing ineffectiveness. Nolasco’s contract would extend him in Minnesota from his age-31 to age-35 season and while he has not shown any signs of arm problems, there are plenty of examples of breakdown from even the biggest workhorses in the stable. The Twins recently requested Johan Santana’s medical records but Santana, who had been a perennial 200-inning hurler, started to suffer a multitude of ailments which have kept his innings total from his age-32 to age-34 seasons to just 117 innings.
Likewise, effectiveness wanes noticeably too as well as starting pitchers begin approach their mid-life crisis. According to the research produced by Fangraph.com’s Bill Petti and Jeff Zimmerman, a starting pitcher’s skills begin diminishing after the age of thirty and continue to regress from that point forward:
To be clear, this not meant as an indictment of a potential Nolasco signing, simply a warning of the price of doing business in the free agent market. As Ryan mentioned before, his ideal process of team building would be to avoid the aging talent for the younger arms.
“In our position I’d rather go after an Alex Meyer, because we are more than one ace away,” Ryan said recently. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. You give me a No. 1 starting pitcher I’ll take him, but we finished 27 games behind the Tigers.”
Obviously Nolasco does not project as an ‘ace’ or a number one starter (well, outside of the Twins rotation anyways) but he does provide the team with a valuable upgrade that can be filled in around him moving forward. Alex Meyer, who has impressed during his time in Arizona this fall, could develop into the front-of-the-rotation type. With progress, Kyle Gibson has the potential of being a two or three in the rotation. A rotation of Meyer-Gibson-Nolasco plus others in 2015 does not sound too bad.
Like Ryan said, the Twins have work to do and beginning with Nolasco is a decent start.
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