• Inefficient Managing of "Dollars and Years"

    In Twinsland, this offseason has been marked by a couple of trades that have been embraced by the community and a couple of free agent acquisitions that have been viciously attacked by a large portion of the fan base.

    Most of us love what Terry Ryan did with the Twins' only marketable surplus, center fielders. Moving Denard Span for Alex Meyer and then flipping Ben Revere for Vance Worley and Trevor May were classic Ryan moves, taking advantage of competitive teams' desire to win now in exchange for a youth movement.

    On the flip side of that coin, we've seen some questionable handling of the free agent market by the Twins front office. After losing out on the Baker sweepstakes early in the offseason, it appears that the front office reacted rashly and offered up two years to Kevin Correia, whose stat line last season is frighteningly close to that of a certain Jason Marquis in 2011 (88 ERA+ for Marquis for the Padres, 87 ERA+ for Correia for the Pirates). Before I flog that already bloodied horse for the thousandth time on this site, let's take a look at another part of the Twins roster that was completely ignored:

    The middle infield.

    Last season, Brian Dozier posted some rather abysmal numbers for the team (.234/.271/.332) before being sent back down to the minors to regain his stroke (and fielding, and patience, and probably a bit of his sanity). He was replaced by Pedro Florimon, who hasn't authoritatively hit a baseball since playing as a teenager in the Dominican Republic. They are coupled with Jamey Carroll, veteran steward of middle infields across MLB for the past decade. While I like Carroll as a player and think he brings a very steady hand to an organization that - dons Hat of Positivity - has scuffled with their middle infield options since the departure of JJ Hardy and Jason Bartlett, it cannot be ignored that Carroll is entering his age 39 season as a middle infielder, an area of baseball where very few players make it out of their mid 30s as productive players.

    All in all, Carroll would be a great player to have on a competitive team. He's steady, gets on base at a rather good clip, and is a nearly perfect player to come off the bench and spell the starters up the middle of the diamond. Which brings me to a few issues:

    1. The Twins aren't competitive, particularly in the middle infield. That means Carroll, like Nick Punto before him, is not being used in his natural role as a bench player with versatility.

    2. If Jamey Carroll receives 401 plate appearances in 2013, the Twins are on the hook for a $2 million player option in 2014. Given the Twins, uh, lack of expected production in the middle infield spots in 2013, those 401 plate appearances are nearly guaranteed, barring an injury to Jamey.

    3. The Twins have payroll flexibility. A lot of flexibility, as their adjusted 2013 payroll is on par with their payroll in the final years of the Metrodome.

    Most everyone agrees that the free agent market for the middle infield was lacking in quality players but that doesn't mean the cupboard was entirely bare and the Twins need middle infield help nearly as much as they need starting pitching. Despite that fact, the Twins failed to pursue any of the free agents available to them. Which, in turn, means that the Twins are likely to be forced to pay a 40-year-old Jamey Carroll $2 million in 2014. Add in the second year of the Correia contract at $5.5 million and you're looking at $7.5 million committed to large question marks in 2014. That's nearly 10% of the 2013 payroll as it stands now. Add in the rather inexplicable contract to Drew Butera, a historically bad hitter, and that number jumps over 10% of payroll.

    Is this guaranteed to be a failure by the Twins? No, most certainly not. Carroll is a quality player (right now, anyway) and there's a chance Correia will earn his money.

    But that's not the point, is it? The point is that a mid-market team such as the Twins has to be using their resources as intelligently as possible to fill in the gaps left by their minor league system at an above-average rate. By nearly anyone's standard, using 10% of their payroll to field a below average National League pitcher and a 40-year-old middle infielder is not the smartest use of available resources.

    By doing nothing to shore up the middle infield, Ryan is essentially writing off $2 million in 2014 that could have gone to a younger player that could help the middle infield enormously and wouldn't be such a risk to decline overnight as they pass the start of their fourth decade on planet earth. A 29-year-old Ronny Cedeno just signed with the Cardinals for $1.15 million after posting a .259/.332/.410 shortened season with the Mets in 2012. Kelly Johnson, 31 years old, was just snapped up by the Rays after posting a .225/.313/.365 line for the Blue Jays and is just two years removed from a .284/.370/.496 line with the Diamondbacks.

    None of these options are great ones; far from it. But given the wide-open nature of the Twins middle infield going into 2013, their obvious ability to spend some of that money, and the looming player option for Carroll, wouldn't it have been prudent to add another player to the mix in hopes that another body gives you a better chance to field a competitive team while also relieving you of being forced into a player option for 2014 that you may want to avoid?

    It's only $2 million. I realize that, yes. On the other hand, it's $2 million that isn't being used in the best way possible by the front office.

    And, unfortunately for Twins fans, that seems to be a recurring theme through this offseason.
    This article was originally published in blog: Inefficient Managing of "Dollars and Years" started by Brock Beauchamp
    Comments 118 Comments
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I would feel beeter if they signed Theriot to a minor league deal. My biggest concern is that Florimon is not goint to work out at SS so having someone to fill in would be a good idea. I think Dozier could be successful. But i am not convinced. Carroll can only play one of the 2 positions. As for Carroll, I hope his option vests. He is solid enough so as not to be wasting money. the Twins have the money to burn.

      I was hoping the Twins would have signed one MI to a contract (Sanchez, Johnson Theriot, Izturas, to name a few) so only one of Dozier/ Florimon is exposed at a time. Let Florimon show he can play up here before bringing Dozier back.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      As for Carroll, I hope his option vests. He is solid enough so as not to be wasting money. the Twins have the money to burn.
      There is no reason to hope Carroll's option vests. No matter what happens, the Twins can always fall back to the team option they have on him if he doesn't reach 401 PAs.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      TR has stated in the last week that he fully expects to compete and be a contender into the fall. He clearly either thinks 20m of payroll in hand isn't needed to field a quality team or he thinks we might all have our stocking caps pulled firmly down over our eyes and will continue to buy tickets and hot dogs no matter how bad they may be.
      Or, he thinks the players he has in house will get the job done and that the currently unsigned (apart from Saunders, obviously) fellows are no upgrade over who might come available over the course of the spring. But I suppose the idea that he decoded to come back out of retirement just to intentionally jerk around a fanbase makes a lot more sense.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Hopefully both Dozier and Plouffe play acceptably (both ways), mitigating the need for Carroll to accumulate any plate appearances at those positions and rendering the vesting option moot.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      Ronny Cedeno's career OPS plus is 71. What insurance does he provide over Florimon?
      Didn't you berate Nick in another thread over a similarly small improvement?




      (nevermind that Cedeno's recent history is an improvement over his early years, making his career mark less meaningful)
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Here is my impression of how the Twins generally want to piece their teams together: you field a PTC pitching staff and defensively-skilled middle infielders to soak up the extra batted balls, since both of these groups historically are cheap, and since a high proportion of batted balls go through the middle infield. And then when you spend significant FA dollars, you spend them on sluggers in the corner positions where their defense is supposed to be less of a liability.

      One thing I know for sure, from hearing Jr and Gardy talk about their MIfers every year, is that "we want guys to make the routine play."

      I looked into this. There were 41 players who logged at least 1000 innings at SS since 2010. On average, those guys had 431.5 balls hit into their "zone" for every 1500 innings of work (ignoring balls out of the zone and any plays made on them). The average SS completed 350.3 plays on these in-zone balls in a season. The best SS was Brandon Crawford, with 402 in-zone plays made per 1500 Inn. And the worst was Elliot Johnson - although to be fair, the Rays use a lot of shifts and therefore move their guys around and out of their zones altogether, a lot. Just above EJ is Hanley, at 303 in-zone plays made per 1500 Inn. A spread of 99 plays over the course of a season.

      Compare this to say, LF, where the average defender had just 254 balls hit into his zone over the same period. But, at the bottom of the scale was JD Martinez, who was good for 178 plays per season, and at the top was Austin Kearns, good for 310 plays. The spread in defensive output, over the period 2010-2012, on "routine plays," was actually greater in LF than at SS, even though more total chances are available at SS.

      Carroll and Hardy are the only former or current Twins SS's who have played 1000 inn at SS the past 3 years. Both are above average in this regard, by 14 and 32 BIZ-plays per 1500/Inn, respectively. And in LF, Delmon is actually slighly above average, while Willingham is slightly below. In any case, there doesn't appear to be any greater benefit to having a good glove at SS, than there is at a "power" position like LF. Certainly not when it comes at the expense of hitting.

      Furthermore, what are the ramifications of a MIfer botching a routine play? Outfielder gets the ball and the hitter gets a single. What if a LFer botches a play? What about 1B or 3B? Guy gets to 2B, or if the ball gets through on the right side, it could be a triple. So if anything, if your resources are scarce, it might be more prudent to put above averge defenders at the corners, and your slow, poor defenders up the middle.

      Obviously the point with the Twins is that neither are their resources scarce, nor are they getting particularly fantastic defensive value out of their MI, just by having a contact-heavy pitching staff. At least, not in terms of measuring the "routine play."

      edit: The point being, that when a power guy like Kelly Johnson comes along for cheap, and he's not a particularly lousy defender either, you take him, regardless of his position.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      When I look at the Twins starting lineup this season, I see a stopgap solution. The only established power hitters are Willingham and Morneau, and both could be gone by mid-season if a contender needs help. The middle infield I would generously describe as 'iffy,' and the pitching staff is once again a long shot at rising to mediocre.

      The good news is, there's hope. Not at the major league level, of course, but it looks like several promising young players are bubbling up through the minor leagues, and their ETA's fall anywhere from 2013 to 2016. In light of that, I'll be watching and cheering for all kinds of teams this year, mostly in the minor leagues.

      Go, someday maybe Twins!
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      If Jamey Carroll gets those 401 plate appearances, I'll happily hand him the $2 million next year. I have 0 problem with Jamey Carroll. His batting average was down a little last year, but his walk rate was pretty similar, and he really is a steady, solid player in the infield. yeah, he'll be 39 this year, but if he gets through it healthy (and hence reaches the PA number), then there's no reason to believe someone that keeps himself in such great shape can't be a solid utility player in 2013.

      I've always (maybe inexplicably) liked Ronny Cedeno, but he'll likely be available again next season if the Twins need a utility infielder.

      I also like Eduardo Escobar as a utility guy and think he can be fine in that role for a long time.

      I'm definitely in agreement that I don't think that Florimon will be very good with the bat. I don't think anyone would disagree.

      I do believe that Brian Dozier will prove himself to be a solid MLB player. Not great, but solid. If you have Dozier and Carroll up the middle, with Escobar playing all three infield spots, I'm comfortable with that. I'm also OK with giving Florimon more of an opportunity.

      I went into the offseason thinking pitching-pitching-pitching, so I never placed any emphasis on the middle infield. I wouldn't have spent any extra dollars there. I would have spent more on SP, but I get what they did there too (with the Correia exception, of course).
      Thanks Seth for again being the voice of reason. I for one am so tired with all the garbage continually thrown at the front office on this site I am at the point that I hate coming here. Yet, this is the only place I can find you and what you have to say about the kids down on the farm. I guess I should listen to Bonnie and stop reading most of it.

      As for the middle infield, I have often thought that Dozier could become 'Dustin Pedroia lite.' Before everyone cuts me to shreads, I mean a player similar to Pedroia, just not as good. I do however, see Dozier as a solid major leaguer both at the plate and in the field.

      Maybe the best way to approach this year is to sit back and see what the Twins look like come June or July. Personally, I think they are going to surprise a lot of people. Based on what I have read here, I suspect most!
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I really don't care too much about paying Carroll $2 million in 2014, even if he is (hopefully) forced into a full utility role. I actually wouldn't mind sending him back out to SS with Dozier getting a chance at 2B, and Florimon in the utility role. Escobar needs to get the stick going in AAA . . . having Escobar and Butera on the roster at the same time is frightening.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Also I agree with *some* that Dozier could be a .700+ OPS player, even in 2013. You couple that with a slight improvement from Carroll and some modicum of defensive consistency from Florimon and it isn't too bleak. I could almost not care at all about that situation--where I DO care about the MI is in AA, A, A-, etc. That's where it matters going forward with Beresford, Santana, Michael, Rosario, Polanco, and Goodrum.
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      One thing is for sure, if the Twins are going to be a contender at all (unlikely, IMO) they'll need the middle infield and rotation to over achieve.

      I think the OF will be OK, I think the corners of the infield will be at least cerviceable and Catcher is good. BP looks good, IMO.

      The rotation and middle infield look to be the ball and chain for this team.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I have no issue with the middle infield plan this year. There did not appear to be many options, and I want Dozier out there all year.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      I like Carroll, in fact I think his superior OBP and the Twins lack of top of the order hitters means he should get one of the starting gigs. That being said, I was remembering a Fangraphs article I read a couple days ago. It was mostly about the likelyhood that Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano would regress this year. According to author Bill Petti, his new metric CLIFFORD shows that the top five players likely to regress are Granderson, Cano, Jordan Schaffer, Delmon Young and Jamey Carroll.

      Cano, Granderson, and Other CLIFFORD Candidates for 2013 | FanGraphs Baseball

      Considering he's 39, you probably don't need any kind of advanced statistics to show a decline is likely. I still ride him until he shows he's inferior to Florimon and Escobar. I have no hope of those two ever producing any kind of offense.
    1. panolo's Avatar
      panolo -
      My thoughts fall in line pretty much with what Seth and Logan said. Carroll is not spectacular or special, he just gets the job done. I don't think we have to worry about him breaking down and if he hits 401 PA's $2mil doesn't seem unrealistic or a waste of money for what he does.

      I don't have much confidence in Florimon's bat and think Dozier has the best chance of giving us production from the SS in the next few years. Hopefully he takes the bull by the horns this spring and wins that job.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by nicksaviking View Post
      I like Carroll, in fact I think his superior OBP and the Twins lack of top of the order hitters means he should get one of the starting gigs. That being said, I was remembering a Fangraphs article I read a couple days ago. It was mostly about the likelyhood that Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano would regress this year. According to author Bill Petti, his new metric CLIFFORD shows that the top five players likely to regress are Granderson, Cano, Jordan Schaffer, Delmon Young and Jamey Carroll.

      Cano, Granderson, and Other CLIFFORD Candidates for 2013 | FanGraphs Baseball

      Considering he's 39, you probably don't need any kind of advanced statistics to show a decline is likely. I still ride him until he shows he's inferior to Florimon and Escobar. I have no hope of those two ever producing any kind of offensive production.
      So resign him through 2017? =)
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by panolo View Post
      I don't have much confidence in Florimon's bat and think Dozier has the best chance of giving us production from the SS in the next few years. Hopefully he takes the bull by the horns this spring and wins that job.
      Whatever the decision is, it'll be made before ST if it hasn't been made already (and it likely has). ST isn't gonna change anything.
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Nothing about the Twins MI infield situation last year should have them saying "we're good enough", bringing in some players, if only to serve as competition would have been the prudent thing to do. Dozier deserves another chance to claim the 2nd base job but in no way should it be handed to him and what about Florimon would make anyone think "good enough"?
    1. Highabove's Avatar
      Highabove -
      In response to Roger,

      I believe the Twins run a forum on their site which is cheerful and positive.
      When a company is dishonest with their consumers, you're going to see rocks and arrows thrown their way.
    1. Mitchsull52's Avatar
      Mitchsull52 -
      So to be clear the argument being made is- the twins should have spent roughly 3.5 to 4.5 million to have two marginally useful middle infielders. Between the two of which they would get, lets say, at most 700 abs. That scenario would be preferable to 4 million for a single marginally useful player over two years and getting so where in the range of 800-100 abs.

      You see where you went astray on the frugality point? Now throw on top of the real world scenario your critiquing that there is a risk averting vesting option and it seems pretty clear that what your advocating for is wrong.
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      I agree with you, Roger, 100 percent. I tortured myself reading the Correia comments yesterday, and was kind of dismayed. Thanks Logan for fighting the good fight, but apparently at TD, one man's vitriol is another man's snark.

      All this angst over such minutiae! I hope they need the saved money for a big mid season trade.
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