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Game Thread 5/22/18 7:10 CDT Twins vs Tigers

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Two Veteran Free Agents The Twins Could Target

It's one of those things that can be difficult to quantify, but without a doubt, veteran presence matters in an MLB clubhouse.

In 2015, anyone who spent time around the team will tell you that 39-year-old Torii Hunter played a larger role in the group's success than his numbers show. And this year, 44-year-old Bartolo Colon's impact after joining the roster in mid-August overshadowed his production on the field.

Colon is back on the market and reportedly looking to give it another go next season. It's sadly time for the Twins to move on from Big Sexy, but there are two other well-traveled vets that look like potential fits.
Image courtesy of Gary A. Vasquez and Brad Mills, USA Today
John Lackey "intends to pitch in 2018," according to Jon Heyman. He's 39 and has thrown almost 3,000 innings in the major leagues. When we last saw him on the mound, it wasn't pretty; the right-hander was roughed up in three relief appearances during the NLDS. And in general, it was a trying season for him, as he posted his worst ERA in five years while allowing a league-high 36 home runs.

But outside of the long ball troubles, Lackey pitched fairly well. His 1.28 WHIP would've ranked third among Twins starters and his 20.4% K-rate would have ranked second. From 2013 through 2016, he posted a 3.35 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with an excellent record of durability while pitching for teams that made the postseason every year (Red Sox, Cardinals, Cubs). He took home rings in 2013 and 2016.

Lackey is a capable starter with tons of experience, and he's accustomed to winning. He'll also be surely be available on a one-year deal, leaving the front office with plenty of long-term flexibility if they were to sign him.

The other name I'll be tracking is not a pitcher, but a hitter. Jayson Werth, 38, plans to keep playing and might look very nice on the Twins bench next season.

Like Lackey, he's coming off an inauspicious campaign, having hit .226/.332/.393 in the final year of a fairly disastrous $126 million contract with the Nationals. He was limited to 70 games this year by a bone bruise in his left foot. Werth hasn't had much success lately in general with a sub par .724 OPS over his past three seasons.

As a guy making $21 million and expected to serve as a regular in the outfield, Werth was a major liability. FanGraphs pegged him at -0.3 WAR in 2017.

But what if he were making a fraction of that on a one-year deal, being used more sparingly and more to his strengths? Werth posted an .820 OPS and 10/9 K/BB ratio against left-handed pitchers this year, but made less than 20% of his plate appearances against them. In his career, he has hit .293/.393/.538 against southpaws.

With the Twins, he could spend much of his time at DH while occasionally spelling Max Kepler or Eddie Rosario in the outfield corners against left-handers (though preferably not often as he'd be a huge step down defensively).

As a young team looking to build upon its success and return to the postseason, the Twins will surely have a keen interest in players that fit the veteran leader prototype. As it happens, two of the most experienced players on the free agent market look like pretty solid fits, given their needs. I wouldn't be surprised to soon hear Minnesota connected to one, or both.

Have you gotten your copy of the Offseason Handbook yet? You can read about these names and dozens of other Twins targets. Download yours now and dig in:


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123 Comments

 

Right, but when people are referring to a given player as a 5th starter-- they aren't referring him as if they're referring to the 5th Beatle.

 

They're referring to the starter who is the 5th best on your team and 5th least reliable.

 

I guess not all people. I was literally referring to the fact that the Twins should sign a pitcher that would be among the 5 pitchers in the rotation on opening day. Hence, signing one of these guys would be the 5th pitcher.

 

I am assuming they sign someone to a multi-year deal, and then I was thinking about a good way to spread around risk as they add another starter. I realize that signing one of these one year flyer vets is not going to give the highest probability of performance, but it is a mistake imo to sign multiple free agents to multi-year contracts, and the franchise is not that dire for pitching, as they have multiple guys close in AAA that could potentially contribute next year. A trade for a high-end guy would probably be the best option, but the prospects just aren't there.

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nicksaviking
Nov 08 2017 05:41 PM

John Lackey has a 3.57 ERA, 4.02 FIP and 1.20 WHIP over the past five seasons. If he pitches up to that baseline, he's not a #5 starter on the Twins. He's a #2 or #3.

If you don't like the guy because you think he's a dink, that's OK, but let's not act as though he hasn't been a durable, quality performer.

The guy's 39 though, I'm not putting any weight on what he did when he was 34. If he's a mid season waiver wire deal ala Colon, sure, I'm down for that. However Lackey isn't coming here on a non-guaranteed non-multimillion dollar deal; I don't know how a team that needs two top of the rotation arms could justify using a 25 man spot on him.

I guess I'll add the caveat that if the Twins sign a Chatwood and trade for an Archer and Lackey's still sitting out there come February, sure, then go for it.
    • Mike Sixel and Sconnie like this
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Deduno Abides
Nov 08 2017 06:34 PM

Definitely sounds like Lackey's teammates hate him
 
http://m.mlb.com/new...cubs-teammates/


“He’s a great dude.”
“He’s a great human being.”
“We’d love to have him here.”
“He’s a great father.”

 

“He’s a great dude.”
“He’s a great human being.”
“We’d love to have him here.”
“He’s a great father.”

It's weird that players aren't disparaging their teammate in public.

    • Mike Sixel, DaveW, 70charger and 1 other like this

It's weird that players aren't disparaging their teammate in public.


This. I have no idea what kind of dude he is. He did divorce his wife in the middle of a battle with breast cancer, but I'm guessing there is more to the story.
But, comments from teammates give me absolutely zero information on what kind of person he is.
We heard the same thing from Adrian Peterson's teammates- then we found out that he beats small children with tree branches until they bleed.
    • Mike Sixel likes this
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nicksaviking
Nov 08 2017 06:59 PM

“He’s a great dude.”
“He’s a great human being.”
“We’d love to have him here.”
“He’s a great father.”

  

It's weird that players aren't disparaging their teammate in public.


The subjectivity and grey area that is determining an individual's personality seems like a good reason to put nearly all the emphasis on what the guy can do on the field instead of off of it.

I'd rather use those leadership evaluations for the coaching staff.
    • Mike Sixel, PseudoSABR, jimmer and 1 other like this

 

John Lackey has a 3.57 ERA, 4.02 FIP and 1.20 WHIP over the past five seasons. If he pitches up to that baseline, he's not a #5 starter on the Twins. He's a #2 or #3.

 

2017 against the AL : 4.76 ERA, 1.294 WHIP, 6.4 K/9.That's Ricky Nolasco territory.He is available too ;)

 

I have no problem with them signing older free agents who maybe lottery tickets if:

a. it is a zero risk MiLB contract

b. they are willing to go to the minors and prove themselves in Rochester for a while

 

 

Both Lackey and Werth will not do that.

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Deduno Abides
Nov 08 2017 08:50 PM

2017 against the AL : 4.76 ERA, 1.294 WHIP, 6.4 K/9. That's Ricky Nolasco territory. He is available too ;)

I have no problem with them signing older free agents who maybe lottery tickets if:
a. it is a zero risk MiLB contract
b. they are willing to go to the minors and prove themselves in Rochester for a while


Both Lackey and Werth will not do that.

Lackey had three games against the AL in 2017. If you’re scared by his SSS, you better not look at Lynn’s or Chatwood’s.
    • ThejacKmp and howieramone2 like this

 
As far as getting Werth in the dugout to hit lefties, I'd rather let our young guys take their hacks and learn how to hit lefties rather than taking up a roster spot for that. 


Why?

Serious question. This is a common sentiment, but why? What’s the advantage? Teams carry four outfielders anyway, why not try to maximize production rather than keep trying to force a player to be good at something he’s not good at, and likely will never be as good at as a different player.

You can’t platoon everywhere, or even at more than a couple positions any more, but you CAN get cheap, increased production that way.

Let a RH hitter get most of Kepler’s PAs, and a few of Rosario’s, vs LH pitching. What’s the harm?
    • PseudoSABR and Vanimal46 like this

I don't care if Lackey is the greatest guy ever or a jerk personality wise. The guy gave up more home runs then anyone in baseball last year. The Twins need guys that can keep the ball in the park so that their very good defense can do their thing.

4.77 ERA

5.30 FIP

Turning 40?

Hard pass.
 

I would like to take this opportunity to suggest we offer Liriano a one year, 2 million dollar deal. I think with the proper coaching he could be a solid bullpen piece. 

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

 

Why?

Serious question. This is a common sentiment, but why? What’s the advantage? Teams carry four outfielders anyway, why not try to maximize production rather than keep trying to force a player to be good at something he’s not good at, and likely will never be as good at as a different player.

You can’t platoon everywhere, or even at more than a couple positions any more, but you CAN get cheap, increased production that way.

Let a RH hitter get most of Kepler’s PAs, and a few of Rosario’s, vs LH pitching. What’s the harm?

I want Kepler to continue to get at bats against LHP. I think he is too raw/too important for the future to just platoon him this early on.

Also I doubt Werth would sign on just to be a 2 game a week "starter" anyways, I think he will end up going somewhere were he could legitimately compete for a starting spot.

Why?

Serious question. This is a common sentiment, but why? What’s the advantage? Teams carry four outfielders anyway, why not try to maximize production rather than keep trying to force a player to be good at something he’s not good at, and likely will never be as good at as a different player.

You can’t platoon everywhere, or even at more than a couple positions any more, but you CAN get cheap, increased production that way.

Let a RH hitter get most of Kepler’s PAs, and a few of Rosario’s, vs LH pitching. What’s the harm?


Kepler is 23 with minimal experience. The harm is slowing his growth. No way he should be platooned at this point.
    • Twins33, ThejacKmp, LA VIkes Fan and 2 others like this

Kepler is 23 with minimal experience. The harm is slowing his growth. No way he should be platooned at this point.


Minimal experience? Kepler has 3000 professional PAs.

Kepler will be 25 next year, BTW.
    • Vanimal46 likes this
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FargoFanMan
Nov 08 2017 10:55 PM
Pass. I’ll take someone a bit younger who could possibly improve the team and contribute something other than age and wisdom.
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 09 2017 05:57 AM

 

John Lackey has a 3.57 ERA, 4.02 FIP and 1.20 WHIP over the past five seasons. If he pitches up to that baseline, he's not a #5 starter on the Twins. He's a #2 or #3. 

 

If you don't like the guy because you think he's a dink, that's OK, but let's not act as though he hasn't been a durable, quality performer. 

 

He will also be 39 next season after posting a forgettable season in the NL.I'd pass. If they spend money, go get some one with a better chance of performing.

    • Danchat likes this

 

Minimal experience? Kepler has 3000 professional PAs.

Kepler will be 25 next year, BTW.

 

I mean, we're talking what.... ~300 PA's for the 4th OF? I don't see anything wrong with maximizing those 300 PAs with a good bat. 

    • USAFChief and markos like this

Buxton and Kepler were born in the same year.They are ten months apart.Apparently one seems to have reached the age where his potential has been realized, the other is still a young kid with a lot of room to grow.

    • Deduno Abides likes this

 

I mean, we're talking what.... ~300 PA's for the 4th OF? I don't see anything wrong with maximizing those 300 PAs with a good bat. 

I think some question whether or not it's a good idea to make Kepler a platoon player at this point.Also need to take into account he's a quality defender and how the drop off affects the pitching when he's on the bench and an inferior defender is out.

    • birdwatcher likes this

 

Buxton and Kepler were born in the same year.They are ten months apart.One seems to have reached the age where his potential has been realized, the other is still a young kid with a lot of room to grow.

 

Don't both have a lot of (potential) room to grow? Neither seems to have reached their ceiling.

    • Thrylos, Twins33, Danchat and 2 others like this

 

Don't both have a lot of (potential) room to grow? Neither seems to have reached their ceiling.

yeah, I agree completely.

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

 

I think some question whether or not it's a good idea to make Kepler a platoon player at this point.Also need to take into account he's a quality defender and how the drop off affects the pitching when he's on the bench and an inferior defender is out.

 

Kepler would still get the lions' share of the PAs. Probably ~450-500 PAs. Then the 4th OF would fill in on ~150-200 of Kepler's PAs vs. LH hitting, and another ~100-150 of Rosario's PAs vs. LH. 

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nicksaviking
Nov 09 2017 09:33 AM

I don't know that I'm ready to commit Kepler to being a platoon player going forward, but perhaps if he's still really tanking against lefties by June and the team is winning you've got to adjust the game plan.

 

I'd probably be more favorable about this plan if the team wasn't signing a 4th OF but instead signing a regular DH who could also play OF and hit lefties. Maybe a guy like Melky Cabrera?

Kepler would still get the lions' share of the PAs. Probably ~450-500 PAs. Then the 4th OF would fill in on ~150-200 of Kepler's PAs vs. LH hitting, and another ~100-150 of Rosario's PAs vs. LH.


Plus dh at bats for Mauer. A good rh hitter makes sense. If they think he's an upgrade on Grossman could be a savvy move.
    • markos and Vanimal46 like this

I don't know that I'm ready to commit Kepler to being a platoon player going forward, but perhaps if he's still really tanking against lefties by June and the team is winning you've got to adjust the game plan.

I'd probably be more favorable about this plan if the team wasn't signing a 4th OF but instead signing a regular DH who could also play OF and hit lefties. Maybe a guy like Melky Cabrera?

Probably need to plan on Sano taking most of the dh reps this year.
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Nick Nelson
Nov 09 2017 09:39 AM

 

  
The subjectivity and grey area that is determining an individual's personality seems like a good reason to put nearly all the emphasis on what the guy can do on the field instead of off of it.

Exactly this. I'm interested in evaluating what these guys can do on the field. If there is meaningful evidence that they have a negative impact as teammates, I'll account for that. But comments like "he divorced his wife while she had cancer 6 years ago" have no place in this analysis IMO. 

 

 

 

I don't care if Lackey is the greatest guy ever or a jerk personality wise. The guy gave up more home runs then anyone in baseball last year. The Twins need guys that can keep the ball in the park so that their very good defense can do their thing.

4.77 ERA

5.30 FIP

Turning 40?

Hard pass.

We get it. How many times are you going to say "hard pass" on this thread? 

 

You know who allowed the second-most HR in the AL between 2012 and 2013? Phil Hughes. He did OK in 2014, his first year with the Twins, right? You know who was the only pitcher to give up more? Ervin Santana.

 

When a guy has a fluky year with HR/FB ratio, it should be viewed as an opportunity not a red flag. In the case of Lackey, you're looking at a one-year deal so the risk is minimal. 

    • BigSkyTwinsFan, nicksaviking, Deduno Abides and 2 others like this