Monday, October 29, 2012

Pitching and Second Chances: Giles 2012-13 Offseason Blueprint

First of all, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on winning the World Series. The weren't my first choice, but after the Division Series, they were my only choice.

But, we have said adieu to the 2012 baseball season, and now it is time to start looking ahead and preparing for 2013.

For those who have not yet purchased their copy of the Twins Daily 2013 offseason handbook, please do so now. It is 72 pages of pure gold, giving you everything you need to know about the upcoming Twins offseason.

At the end of the book, the guys give their blueprints for how they would like the offseason to go. And in the past two years, I have taken part in that on this blog, and I will continue that here.

This year, my focus is pitching, and giving some guys second chances to prove they can play with the big club. Pitching has been the theme in just about anyone's offseason blueprint, but im relying on the hope that some of these young guys getting second chances can iron their stuff out and be the player the Twins need them to be. So here is my offseason blueprint:

(The salary figures are based on the Twins Daily staff's projections, which can be found in the handbook)

1. Offer salary arbitration to Alex Burnett ($800,000), Brian Duensing ($1,750,000), and Jared Burton ($2,000,000). This move really solidifies the backend of the bullpen. The latter two are kind of no brainers. Burton was a pleasant surprise for the Twins out of the bullpen (2.18 ERA, 0.919 WHIP, 55K, in 64 IP), and became the 8th inning setup man to closer Glen Perkins. Duensing posted decent numbers for the Twins as a reliever (3.47 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 57 IP), but saw his overall numbers get skewed when he was thrown into the rotation for 11 starts in 2012. Burnett was one that I had to think about, but, after taking a closer look at his numbers (3.53 ERA, 1.35 ERA, in 71.2 IP), I am inclined to keep him on for 2013. I am not a believer in Burnett yet, but another season like that, and I may have to change my mind.

2. Release Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, Scott Baker, and Matt Capps. Matt Capps was let go a few days ago by the Twins, so no surprise there. Scott Baker has a $9.25 million team option, and I am choosing to decline this and just let him go. If he returns from TJ surgery and has great success, then Ill be happy for him. But its time to just move on. Drew Butera's run as the defensive specialist has to come to an end sometime, and I am choosing to do so now by not offering him salary arbitration. I also am not offering arbitration to Alexi Casilla as well, ending one of the more disappointing Twins tenures in recent memory. 'Lexi gave us some great moments, but his overall play was terribly inconsistent.

3. Keep SS Brian Dozier, 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, C Chris Herrmann, SS Pedro Florimon, OF Darin Mastroianni, SP Liam Hendriks, RP Anthony Swarzak, and RP Casey Fien on the 25 man roster. This is where most of the second chances are being handed out. Having Brian Dozier be the opening day shortstop will not be a welcome sight for most Twins fans, but the kid deserves a second chance. Not everyone can come up to the big leagues and produce instantly. The message should be clear to Dozier entering spring though, that if he does not get it going, he will not have a roster spot for long. Parmelee is another deserving guy of another shot at being in the lineup everyday. Last year, he opened up as the starting first baseman, but Justin Morneau moved back into that spot and Parmelee's poor play and Ryan Doumit's great play earned Chris a trip to the bench, and eventually a trip back to AAA. A move later on will give Parmelee a chance to play everyday again to start 2013. The same things can be equally said for Liam Hendriks and Pedro Florimon as well. Hendriks will have a spot in the rotation, and Florimon will begin the year on the bench, but could share time with Dozier at short, if Dozier can't make the plays.

4. Re-sign Carl Pavano to a 1 year, $3.5 million contract. The Twins need starters who can eat up innings. Before 2011, Pavano notched back to back seasons of 220 innings pitched. A shoulder injury sidelined Pavano for most of 2011, but he should be back in full form for 2013. So why not bring him back for less than half his 2012 salary ($8.5 million), and if it pays out, you have a pitcher who will give you and ERA around 4.25 and 200+ innings. Those were things the Twins sorely missed in 2012.

5. Trade Denard Span and Oswaldo Arcia to Tampa Bay for SP James Shields. It seems inevitable that the Twins are going to trade Denard Span this winter. Its a thought I do not like to entertain, but I have to get over it. Span will bring the Twins something the really need. And in this case, Span and top prospect Oswaldo Arcia will bring Tampa hurler James Shields to the Twin Cities (Nick Nelson also had a Span-Shields trade going down in his offseason handbook). I am a huge fan of James Shields. If not for Tampa having David Price, Shields would be considered the team's ace. In the past two seasons, Shields has recorded 31 wins with a ERA of 3.15 and 448 strikeouts. He has done a tremendous job of keeping teams off the bases posting a WHIP in the past two seasons have been 1.043 and 1.168. Span is a native of Tampa, and has a very team friendly contract (Under contract for the next two seasons making $4.75M and $6.5M respectively, with a $9M team option for 2015). With the departure of incumbent CF BJ Upton, the move makes all the sense in the world for both teams to make. Shields has a $9M team option for 2013 and a $12 team option for 2014, which doesn't fit into the Rays budget very well, but fits perfectly for the Twins. (BTW, Joe Christensen mentioned on twitter a few days ago it would take a player like Arcia with Span to get Shields from Tampa Bay)

6. Sign SP Edwin Jackson to a 3 year, $33 million contract. With Shields, Jackson makes for a good 1-2 punch at the top of the Twins rotation. Then throw in the fact the pitchers behind them will be Diamond, Pavano, and Hendriks, and the Twins rotation looks very promising. Last year with Washington, Jackson posted a 4.03 ERA with a 10-11 record, with 168 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.22. Jackson has been a good innings eater in his career, going at least 183 innings (Including 2 200+ inning seasons) in the past five years. Jackson also has previous experience pitching in the AL Central, as he has pitched for the White Sox and Tigers. Jackson is kind of a gamble, for the money being given to him (A career 4.40 ERA), but, its a gamble that needs to be taken.

7. Sign RP J.P. Howell to a 1 year, $2 million contract. Now that the starting rotation has been addressed, its time to look at the bullpen. The back end of the bullpen appears to be a lock with the combination of Jared Burton and Glen Perkins holding it down in the 8th and 9th innings. But, its those 6th and 7th innings that need some solid arms to get the ball to Burton and Perkins. Alex Burnett and Brian Duensing appear to be the top choices for those innings. But, Duensing would be the only lefty arm available before Perkins in the 9th. Enter JP Howell. Howell had a rough 2011 (6.16 ERA), but rebounded quite nicely in 2012 posting a 3.04 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts. Howell doesn't give you much for velocity (Fastball will be in the 85-88 range), so he needs to rely on command of his three pitches (fastball, curveball, and changeup) to get him through innings. Problem is, he has a career 1.38 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, and 4.2 BB/9. Runners will get on, but in 2012 he showed great poise of getting out of jams (He notched 25.2 consecutive scoreless innings at one point). Howell will make for another good lefty option out of the pen for Ron Gardenhire, and should be worth the $2 million contract.

8. Sign 3B Eric Chavez to a 1 year, $1 million contract. This moves gives the Twins a pinch hitting option late in games. Also, it gives a competition for the 3rd base job, so the hope is that Trevor Plouffe takes the hint and steps up his play at the hot corner. Chavez is coming off a rebound season with the Yankees in which he hit .281 with 16 HR and 37 RBI, in a similar bench role. Chavez spent time at 1st, 3rd, and DH, so he can be used in different roles on a daily basis, should the situation call for it. Also look for Chavez to be a veteran presence to the younger infielders on the team, as he has 13 years of big league experience behind him. A pretty decent investment for $1 million.

So after all of this, here is how the opening day 25 man roster will look with their salaries in parenthesis.

C: Mauer ($23M)
1B: Morneau ($14M)
2B: Carroll ($3.75M)
3B: Plouffe ($500K)
SS: Dozier ($500K)
LF: Willingham ($7M)
CF: Revere ($500K)
RF: Parmelee ($500K)
DH: Doumit ($3.5M)

BN: C-Herrmann ($500K)
BN: SS-Florimon ($500K)
BN: 3B-Chavez ($1M)
BN: OF-Mastroianni ($500K)

SP: Shields ($9M)
SP: Jackson ($9M)
SP: Diamond ($500K)
SP: Pavano ($3.5M)
SP: Hendriks ($500K)

RP: Swarzak ($500K)
RP: Fien ($500K)
RP: Burnett ($800K)
RP: Howell ($2M)
RP: Duensing ($1.75M)
RP: Burton ($2M)
CL: Perkins ($2.5M)

Other contracts: Nick Blackburn ($5.5M)

Total 2013 Payroll: $90.80M

And after all these moves, the payroll adds up to $90.80 million, just above that mark of $90 million that we expect the payroll to be around. You'd figure the payroll would be at $85.30M, but that eye sore contract to Nick Blackburn is still out there at $5.5 million for the 2013 season.

Its not the greatest team. But, it is a vast improvement from the 2012 squad with a big focus on pitchers who can eat innings, and giving some young players second chances at a big league job. As my previous offseason blueprints have been nowhere close to what happens, I have no doubt the same will happen with this one. So lets hope that Terry Ryan and Co. can get the job done greatly. 

154 days until the Twins 2013 opener. 

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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