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  • The Hammer Pounds Again


    Rightfully so, the big story from the Twins 6-4 win in Cleveland was Liam Hendriks. The right-hander won his first big league game in his 18th big league start. It was a tremendous moment for the Australian.

    However, it was also a huge night for another Twins player. He went 4-5 with a home run and four RBI. He had two RBI singles, and the home run came with a runner on.

    It’s been a huge season for the powerful outfielder. After last night, he now has career-highs with 35 home runs and 110 RBI. If he plays in just four of the final 14 Twins games, he will play in the most games he has played in. Being able to DH at times certainly helped keep his bat in the lineup. Manager Ron Gardenhire has done a terrific job of giving him occasional days off to help keep him healthy and strong.

    Here are the single-season home run leaders in the Twins 52-season history:


    Hitter Home Runs Year
    Harmon Killebrew 49 1964
    Harmon Killebrew 49 1969
    Harmon Killebrew 48 1962
    Harmon Killebrew 46 1961
    Harmon Killebrew 45 1963
    Harmon Killebrew 44 1967
    Harmon Killebrew 40 1970
    Harmon Killebrew 39 1966
    Josh Willingham 35 2012
    Bob Allison 35 1963
    Gary Gaetti 34 1086
    Kent Hrbek 34 1987
    Justin Morneau 34 2006



    The relationship between Willingham and the Twins seems to align perfectly. When Terry Ryan let Michael Cuddyer go to Colorado for 3 years and $31.5 million, some Twins fans were upset. When the Twins signed Willingham for 3 years and $21 million days later, Twins fans had mixed emotions. Cuddyer was the face that Twins fans saw most, and he was most often the voice of the Twins players, always willing to talk after games, good or bad. Stat-heads continued to write that the Twins got the better player for $10.5 million less. There is no question, not only was Willingham the Twins biggest free agent signing in their history, he clearly has been the Twins best free agent signing.

    Last month, Willingham let it be known that he would be open to talking to the Twins about signing an extension. He is owned $7 million in 2013 and $7 million in 2014. If Willingham were a free agent following the 2012 season, what would he get in the free agent market? Despite the fact the he will turn 34 years old about the time spring training starts next February, he would most likely get a deal in the three year, $30 million range. If he were willing to play the 2015 season at $7 million, it would be like signing him to a three year, $21 million contract again.

    The Twins have long had a need for right-handed power in the middle of their lineup. Can Trevor Plouffe take that next step in his career to provide consistent power? Willingham gives the Twins what they have needed for years. Also, unlike many Twins hitters in recent years, he is not intimidated by Target Field.

    Fangraphs
    is a tremendous site for baseball information and statistics. They have a stat called “Value” the takes a look at how players compare to a ‘replacement players’ and based on that, they place a “value” on his season. Right now, Willingham’s 2012 “Value” is placed at $17.5 million (and that factors in his negative defense). He has been consistently valuable since 2006, his first full season.


    Year “Value”
    2006 $7.7 M
    2007 $8.6 M
    2008 $13.3 M
    2009 $11.4 M
    2010 $12.0 M
    2011 $9.1 M
    2012 $17.5 M



    There are reasons that not adding a year to Willingham’s contract are probably the right thing to do. The Twins do have lots of outfield prospects. Denard Span’s name will likely be remain in trade rumors and Ben Revere has shown he can be a solid big leaguer. Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson are all prospects that could be ready as early as sometime in 2013. Many believe that Miguel Sano will be ready by late 2014 or 2015 and could be in the outfield. The other side of that remains that you never know how good prospects will actually be no matter how elite their prospect status.

    Harmon Killebrew had all those 40 home runs seasons, but his last home run season was in his age-34 season in 1970. He then hit 28 homers in 1971 and 26 homers in 1972, still good power numbers. Over the final three seasons of his career, he combined to hit 32 more home runs. Of course, that isn’t to say that Willigham’s last great season would be in 2012, but that trajectory of declining numbers certainly is not unusual.

    The other angle for not extending Willingham beyond 2014 is that right now his value is likely the highest it would ever be. The Twins are likely a couple of years from competing for another division title, so as much as Willingham is great in the middle of the Twins lineup, he is someone that the Twins could get a very nice player/prospect return from in a trade.

    Willingham is right in making his request to add another year to stay with the Twins known. As a Twins fan, I want to hear that. It is wise for the Twins to let 2013 play out before considering extending Willingham. It will be another year to see how he performs as well as seeing how the prospects progress. Finally, as Twins fans, I think it’s wise just to sit back and marvel at what an incredible season 2012 has been for Josh Willingham, and leave it at that for now!
    This article was originally published in blog: The Hammer Pounds Again started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      "It is wise for the Twins to let 2013 play out before considering extending Willingham. It will be another year to see how he performs as well as seeing how the prospects progress."

      Initially, I agreed with your statement, but after thinking it through a little more I think adding another year may be worth it. If Willingham received another 7 million for his age 36 season that extra year may provide the peace of mind for him to replicate his 2012 season in 2013 and increase trade value or even help the Twins make an unexpected run. I highly doubt his contract would stay on the books in 2015, but sometimes guys press to get one more payday. If an extension can help him perform by eliminating this distraction I am all for it.
    1. mikeee's Avatar
      mikeee -
      I told my boys last night that I thought Willingham at 35 homers was the most in the modern Twins history.
      I thought Hrbek was the last one with 34..
      I didn't remember Morneau or the G-man having that many, but the number 34 stuck in my head.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      What? Extend him now, no way. You mentioned all the reasons not to extend the guy. He has 1 maybe 2 good years left, which just so happen to be with us. He has never played this many games in a season. We have MAJOR outfield depth in our farm system. The number one question to ask oursevles is whether or not we should trade him because this offseason. His contract is amazing, 7 mil for 100+ RBI and 35 hr is a better deal than the Louisiana Purchase.

      IMO, you wait it out, if you can contend next year keep him w/o the extension. If you plays the next two years at the same level, THEN you start talking extension. Even then, you offer him the 12 to 13 million for one year. If he takes it, you get a guy whom can mash (at age 37), if he does not take it, you recieve a compensatory pick. It is as easy as that.

      In other words, don't sign this guy until you have to.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      What? Extend him now, no way. You mentioned all the reasons not to extend the guy. He has 1 maybe 2 good years left, which just so happen to be with us. He has never played this many games in a season. We have MAJOR outfield depth in our farm system. The number one question to ask oursevles is whether or not we should trade him because this offseason. His contract is amazing, 7 mil for 100+ RBI and 35 hr is a better deal than the Louisiana Purchase.

      IMO, you wait it out, if you can contend next year keep him w/o the extension. If you plays the next two years at the same level, THEN you start talking extension. Even then, you offer him the 12 to 13 million for one year. If he takes it, you get a guy whom can mash (at age 37), if he does not take it, you recieve a compensatory pick. It is as easy as that.

      In other words, don't sign this guy until you have to.
      Pretty much this, though I might offer up the extension next offseason if he posts another .900 OPS in 2013.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Twins Twerp, Did I write somewhere in the article that I thought they should extend Willingham this offseason?
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Twins Twerp, Did I write somewhere in the article that I thought they should extend Willingham this offseason?
      \
      After reading it agian, no. I wasn't insunuating that you did either. The premise of the end of the article was whether or not he is worth extending this winter. You laid out both arguments. Your conclusion was spot on that he should not be extended. I found it to be such a good point, and the other side so absurd, that I had to comment on it. The sargastic, almost talk-down tone I used was directed towards the Willingham camp that says they would be open to talking about an extension. I am sorry if it looked like I was bashing you. Good article btw.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      I agree with the sentiment that we should not extend WIllingham because of his age/injury concerns but we need to keep in mind that Terry Ryan has this opportunity. The easiest thing in the world for a GM to do is NOT sign someone. Part of being a GM is judging that risk and inaction can be as costly as action.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Correct. My point wasn't completely saying I'm against it. I wouldn't extend him because I don't think there is any reason to. However, if he was willing to add a year at $7 million, it'd be like the Twins signing him to a 3 year, $21M deal after a mammoth year. There's risk, but based on his history, even in some of his years where he missed a little time, he was worth well more than $7 million. So I guess I put it back out there to say that there are three options with Willingham, none of which is really terrible.
    1. mnfireman's Avatar
      mnfireman -
      Why not extend him now? Yes the team has OF prospects up the a$$, but that is exactly what they are, PROSPECTS. They may or may not pan out. In a couple of years the team will be needing a veteran DH, why waste time looking through the scrap heap and piles of rejects when he might already be on the team. And if it doesn't pan out or he gets traded, its not a big expense.
    1. SpantheMan's Avatar
      SpantheMan -
      Signing him to a one year extension isn't really like signing him to 3/21 again. We already have the 2/14. He will probably be good value for those two years. But just because signing to 3/21 now would also be good value, that doesn't mean we should do it. The question is how valuable would he be in that age-37 season that we would be extending him for.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      I think another year, even at 7 million which is cheap for his production, might hurt his trade value. The trade Willingham sentiment has died down recently because he has just kept producing, but we have to look at this team and see that he may get traded soon (my guess at the trade deadline next season). Does extending into a guys 37th birthday hurt or help his value? What do you think and more importantly, what does T-Ry think?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Twins Twerp View Post
      The trade Willingham sentiment has died down recently because he has just kept producing
      Allow me to rekindle - any idea but trading Willingham at this value is a mistake.
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