Monday, October 25, 2010

Taking the GM Role

Today marked the release of the 2010-11 Twins GM Offseason Handbook. If you haven't gotten your copy, I highly suggest you do here. It's a great read for any Twins fanatic and takes you through all the aspects of what GM Bill Smith has on his plate in this offseason. It lets you, the reader, play the role of GM so you can decide every move you want to see the Twins make for the 2011 roster. So here, I, Giles Ferrell will assume the role of Twins GM for the offseason. Realistically the Twins will have a slight budget increase, but not as much as last season. So one would assume the Twins salary cap comes in at $110 million, and $92 million of that is already committed for next season. So here is how I would shape the 2011 roster:

1. Let Orlando Hudson, Brian Fuentes, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay, and Carl Pavano walk as Free Agents: Its hard for me to let go of Matty G and the Stache, but the price would be too great to keep them around. And age and innings pitched the past few years is a concern for me as well. At least you can offer arbitration to Pavano (It's a guarantee he won't take it because he is the second best pitcher on the market behind Cliff Lee) and get something in return. As for the rest, they would be nice to retain (except for Flores), but the cost is too great. And with Hudson departing, Alexi Casilla finds himself in a starting role in what would appear to be his final shot at starting with the Twins.

2. Non Tender J.J. Hardy and let him leave via free agency: Hardy wasn't bad, but he certainly wasn't great either. Injuries limited him to just 101 games at shortstop this past season. He batted .268 with 6 HR and 38 RBI and managed to have a .394 slugging percentage. But Hardy is arbitration eligible and is expected to get around $6-6.5 million from that. The Twins could non tender him and resign him for a lesser amount, but my next move eliminates Hardy from the Twins for now at least.

3. Trade Kevin Slowey, Chris Parmalee, and Ben Revere to Florida for Dan Uggla: If needed throw in another prospect (But more of a low end one) to make this happen. Because the Twins need a right handed power hitting player. And his name is DAN UGGLA!!! As we saw in the postseason, the Twins lack power on the right side. And when lefties get thrown at them, the lineup is shaky. And with the Marlins always looking to cut payroll and Uggla wanting a long term contract, I can see Uggla in a new uniform next season. And why not the Twins. He fills a hole in the lineup and plays second (Which moves Casilla to shortstop, replacing Hardy). He is 30, so I would guess he wants a new contract with a trade, so I would give him a 3 year/$24 million deal. Kevin Slowey is the Twins most marketable pitcher between Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Slowey. So thats why Slowey goes in this trade. And I can imagine the Marlins don't want Scott Baker's $5 million salary back in a trade. Chris Parmalee and Ben Revere have great futures ahead of them, but with Parmalee playing first and outfield, and Revere playing OF with Aaron Hicks waiting in the wings, it makes these players expendable. Its hard for me to part with Revere, but Aaron Hicks is that much better. And the Twins seem set for the outfield in the future with Delmon Young and Denard Span so that leaves just one open spot. So Revere is the odd man out and he goes to Florida.

4. Bring in Free Agent relievers Grant Balfour and Randy Choate. Resign Jesse Crain: The Twins bullpen has some pressing issues this offesason. Of the seven pitchers in the bullpen on the postseason roster, only two (Matt Capps and Jose Mijares) are under team control for 2011. So my first move is to resign Crain at 3 years/$10.5 million. Then go out and sign Grant Balfour (A former Twin) for 2 years/$7.5 million and lefty Randy Choate at 1 year/$1 million. Balfour pitched phenomenally for tampa this past season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 53 games. And if Joe Nathan struggles in his closing duties, Balfour can step in and fill the void. (I'll talk more about this later) Choate wasn't as impressive, but he provides another lefty option in the bullpen for Ron Gardenhire.

5. Trade Matt Capps for prospects: I don't know what team or what prospects. But if the above pieces fall into place, I would be trading Matt Capps for some prospects at this point to clear some cap space. He was great for the Twins after being acquired at the trade deadline, but with Balfour and Nathan in the bullpen, Capps is no longer needed. And don't forget he is arbitration eligible and would make around $7-8 million. I love the guy, but its time to move on. I wish him well elsewhere.

6. Resign Jim Thome: Even if it costs $4 million to bring him back...BRING HIM BACK!!! No one was more glad than I to see Thome put on the Twins uniform this past season. And let's give him another shot at it in Minnesota. He became a fan favorite and provided some memorable swings for the 2010 Twins. He is chasing 600 home runs and the Twins could see some return on that $4 million in merchandise if he reaches the milestone here. Other AL teams seeking a DH (White Sox, Yankees) drive up the price. But you still pay it. Even for a bat off the bench.

7. Trade Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney to Toronto for Mark Rzepczynski: I have one available spot on my 25 man roster thats open. And its my fifth starting pitcher. Rather than trying to fill the void with a used up veteran pitcher, I was more content with trading for Rzepczysnki. If you look at his career numbers, they're not pretty. But he has not benefitted from playing in the AL East and the bandbox that is Rogers Center. So a change of scenery bodes well with him. And he is just 25 years old and has tremendous upside. (If you don't believe me watch his games against the Twins last year. He might not pan out, but for now i'll gladly take him as a fifth starter.

Well, there it is. All the moves have shaped my 2011 25 man roster for the Twins. I'll list each player by position and their 2011 salary next to them. Bold indicates starter. * indicates salary based on arbitration estimates.

C: Joe Mauer ($23M), Drew Butera(450K)
1B: Justin Morneau (14M)
2B: Dan Uggla ($8M), Matt Tolbert ($450K)
3B: Danny Valencia ($450K)
SS: Alexi Casilla ($800K*)
OF: Delmon Young ($5.25M*), Denard Span ($1M), Michael Cuddyer ($10.5M), Jason Repko ($750K)
DH: Jason Kubel ($5.25M), Jim Thome ($4M)
SP: Francisco Liriano ($4.5M*), Brian Duensing (500K), Scott Baker ($5M), Nick Blackburn ($3M), Mark Rzepczynski ($450K)
RP: Pat Neshek ($800K), Jose Mijares ($500K), Randy Choate ($1M), Jeff Manship (450K), Jesse Crain ($3.5M), Grant Balfour ($3.5M), Joe Nathan ($11.25M)

Total Salary comitted for 2011: $110.1 Million (Includes Brendan Harris' $1.75 million contract)

There it is. It wasn't pretty getting there, but I got there. I'd be worried about the lack of experience in the starting picthing, but these guys have to grow up at some point. Otherwise, I love the make up of this team. But of course, this is all fictional and will no way actually turn out to be what happens in the real offseason.

I'll be back once the World Series concludes. (Giants in 7 BTW) I'll start going more into depth on what the Twins should do in certain spots and things like that. So for now, enjoy the fall classic. Maybe one year we will be in it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This is the End...

Usually when the Twins season end, I have this bitterness that lasts a few days, thus the long hold out until I give my final thoughts. So I'm gonna be short and sweet here when giving my thoughts and the 2010 Twins regular season and postseason.

This year the Twins upped their payroll to $96 million and made them a AL contender from start to finish. And with the great in season acquisitions made by GM Bill Smith (Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes), the payroll jumped to over $100 million. And as we saw after the calendar turned to August the Twins were the best team in baseball. They coasted into the postseason and faced their nemesis the New York Yankees. And yes, i'll admit, I wanted the Yankees in the first round. We matched up better than ever before and we had home field advantage in the series. But as we saw the Bronx Bombers dispatched the Twins in three games and adding all the more to the torment of our postseason past. And as we saw, the Twins lacked a power arm (starter or reliever) and their hefty lefty lineup was exposed as New York sent lefties to the hill to start Games 1 and 2. So they clearly need to bring in someone to hit for power from the right handed side. And maybe it's time for some of the home grown talent to move on to another team (Hint: .069 postseason hitter). And honestly from a fans point of view, this team was a failure. It pains me to say that but 3 and out is just unacceptable. And no, that is not a call to fire the manager. Thats the last thing we need to do. We just have to plug some holes in our roster and take care of our pending free agents and we can come back even better next year. I pity Bill Smith. I pity all of Twins Territory. We deserve better than three and out. Farewell 2010 Twins

Friday, October 8, 2010

Feeling Down?

I know we are all hurting after these first two games of the ALDS. And what makes this worse is they were played here at Target Field. So in times like this I like to drown out these negative thoughts with a happy memory in the form of a Twins classic game. I obvioussly can't play any games on here, but I can offer up some photos to help ease our pain.

Or also check out this video I made last year.

I hope this helps...for a little bit at least.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It All Starts At The Top

Tomorrow, the Twins will open up the American League Division Series at home, against the hated New York Yankees. If your gonna question the Twins motivation in this series, it definitely has doubled in size now after this atrocity. Anyway, I have one pressing concern with the Twins as they go into the postseason. No, its not starting pitching. The Twins should be just fine in that category. The main issue for the Twins is their tablesetters at the top of the order, Denard Span and Orlando Hudson. As good as these guys are, they have not played well at all as of late. And the Twins need them to do what they do best, grind out at bats and get on base early and rattle hitters. But in the month of September, the two combined to hit .220, and that all needs to change come Wednesday.

The Twins scored 132 runs in the first inning as a team this season. That was the best in baseball. And in that first inning they hit .308 as a team. But their lead off man, Span (.264 AVG, .331 OBP), only hit .244 in the first inning. Everyone knows Span likes to take pitches and grind out the at bat when he leads off. The problem is the opposition knows that and fires strike one and strike two immediately and Span has an 0-2 hole. But i'd rather him take those pitches than hack at strike one and have a one pitch out. Meanwhile the number two hitter, Hudson (.268 AVG, .338 OBP), has benefited from Span's first at bat while hitting .351 in the first inning. And a good look at Hudson's stats says you need him on early cause as the game progresses his average dives (.219 after the seventh inning). And it also shows that the 3,4,5 hitters get a good look as well and they usually find their way on base and drive in runs.

The reason I bring this is up is because the Twins opponents, the New York Yankees, have a shaky starting rotation right now. And what makes this all the better is that they are a very vulnerable team in the first inning. As a team in the first inning their pitching staff has a ERA of 4.67. The opponents average in the first is .277 with an OPS of .765. For the Yanks, it appears C.C. Sabathia will be their only rock to start games. Behind him you have Andy Pettite (Groin injury), Phil Hughes (Innings Pitched), and A.J. Burnett (Command) who all have their own issues to which they are battling as they come into town. So, if I'm the Twins hitters, I would be more inclined to take pitches early and look to get ahead in the count so they can rattle these starters. And as of late Sabathia has not been at his best, and despite what people think I do not believe he should win the Cy Young award.

The Twins know they can beat this team. Yes, I could of given you a whole post on how starting pitching needs to be at its best for them to suceed. Which I agree with, but I have enough confidence in the starters, despite their struggles to end the season. But I worry more when Span and Hudson step into the box because getting on base has not been easy for them this season. But if they can grind out the at bats early, and get on for the big bats, the Twins have a very good chance to win. Especially with a stacked bullpen that the Twins have it makes it a 6 inning game. So getting on the board early is key. And it all starts at the top.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Tonight is a Very Telling Start

Last night, we all watched the Twins get pounded into the ground by Toronto 13-2. Twins pitchers allowed 6 home runs in the process. 3 of those home runs, were allowed by Francisco Liriano, who had only allowed 6 before that start. And to add to the misery of that beating, it happened at Target Field, a place where opposing teams suffer a beating. I'm not pushing the panic button...yet. And tonight the Twins send Carl Pavano to the mound, and his start might just tell us how ready this team is for the postseason.

You may remember the Twins starters went through a similar phase to what they are going through now back in June. Four out of the five starters struggled to make it out of the 4th inning. The one who didn't was Carl Pavano. In his five June starts he went 4-1 and pitched no fewer than 7 innings in any of those starts. At one point he threw back to back complete games. He carried the starting staff, and saved the bullpen arms. He has by far been the most consistent pitcher for the Twins this season. And tonight, they need that calming veteran presence on the mound once more to give everyone, including the bullpen, a sigh of relief for a night. I'm not saying he needs to throw a complete game shutout. He needs a 7 inning, 2-3 runs allowed, keep the team in the game performance. You may remember last year Pavano pitched one of the best games in the postseason. 7 innings, 2 earned runs. But he took the loss as his counter part Andy Pettite was simply better. I would love nothing more than for that Carl Pavano to appear once again and keep the Twins in the game.

As before said, the Twins haven't played in close games lately. But to be fair most of them have been without the A-lineup on the field. But, none the less, you would want them to play in tighter games to better prepare for next week. Because honestly, I don't want a team that will get discouraged once they are trailing in a game in the postseason. That does not bode well whether you are facing the Yankees or Rays. Some might argue that these last 7 games have meant absolutely nothing. I give you that for the road trip, but these final four home games, you need your A-game. And what better way for the pitching staff to tune up for the postseason, then to face the most powerful team in baseball. But last night, they did not fare well at all. And that's why Carl Pavano will once again save the staff and the Twins. Because if he doesn't, the panic button gets harder and harder not to push.