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  • 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. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Nope. Hopeng that I would get the data.
      Well, the only player who the Twins have who has comparable data for the past 3 seasons is Carroll. He's been worth 2.6,2.2 and 2.4 WAR Compared to Johnson's 5.8, 2.2, .7.

      I do have to take back my claim he's only had good fielding years on turf. He actually was rated highly in 2010 in the field, too. Thanks to a strong 2010 He's been worth one win more than Carroll. Florimon was worth .3 win last year based on defense and base running. Weird.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      If we buy the idea that Ronny Cedeno is suddenly getting better at hitting, just kinda out of the blue, then we also have to consider the idea that Florimon can get better with some time.
      No, we don't. Florimon hasn't posted an OPS above .700 since A ball and never posted a season anywhere close to .800.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      Yeah that was confusing. I meant, as I posted earlier in more detail, that the spread between the best-worst fielding LFers and SS is almost exactly the same. (Its actually greater for LFers). Ergo, you can afford to sacrifice leather at SS for power just as you would, conventionally, at the corners. Like with Hanley, who is probably the worst SS in baseball no matter what metric you like. And yet just by being a 6 hole type bat, he's a starter and a overall a pretty valuable one at that.
      So, your comment wasn't just about pure defense look? Because a guy who gloves like, say, Hardy or Ryan at shortstop should be way more valuable on the defensive side than even an Alex Gordon in LF...if just looking at what their value is on defense on an even scale, if you get what I mean.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      No, we don't. Florimon hasn't posted an OPS above .700 since A ball and never posted a season anywhere close to .800.
      Add in, while Cedeno was putrid as a really young player in the minors, he posted a 900+ OPS in his time at AAA, and generally improved as he went up the ladder.

      The two players obviously aren't a great comparison offensively.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      No, we don't. Florimon hasn't posted an OPS above .700 since A ball and never posted a season anywhere close to .800.
      Cedeno was a terrible hitter in the minors, too. His numbers get puffed up a bit from playing in the PCL, but beyond that his track record looks pretty much the same. I'm not hating on the guy, he's a fine slick fielding no-hitting big league shortstop. I just don't see where he's worth a look when Florimon is following in his footsteps.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Fangraphs has Ryan with 27 defensive runs saved. Tops for the qualifying shortstops. They have Jeter last at -16.4 runs saved. So a gap of 43.4.

      Fangraphs has Gordon with 24 defensive runs saved. Tops for qualifying LF. Gonzalez and Willingham are tied with -13. A difference of 37.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      In trying to assess what player brings the stat guys are using strictly batting statistics, wouldn't WAR be a little more reflective of the total effect of the player. Or in using WAR alone, the problem is that it might show the Twins should have hung onto Casilla?
    1. panolo's Avatar
      panolo -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      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.
      I don't know if I totally agree with that but... I can see Dozier having a very good spring and him starting the season AAA so as he doesn't have extra pressure on himself. Not that I would like that move.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by panolo View Post
      I don't know if I totally agree with that but... I can see Dozier having a very good spring and him starting the season AAA so as he doesn't have extra pressure on himself. Not that I would like that move.
      The last three big ST battles we had...or at least that I can remember:

      2008 ST battle for CF: When Gomez 'won' the CF battle, Span had better numbers.
      2010 ST battle for 3B: Harris out played Punto. Punto won. You remember. Punto is my starting shortstop (Twins trade for Hardy)...um, okay, Punto is my starting 2B (Twins sign Hudson)...um, ok Punto and Harris will battle for 3B. Oh, surprise surprise, Punto 'wins'
      2011 rotation battle with supposedly six quality starters but only 5 spots. The guy who had the best ST ERA (Slowey) was the one who ended up out of the rotation.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      His point being, you routinely demand proof of others, while never providing any yourself.
      The post was using statistical data and I was interested in more. I see you have a problem with that. So it is wrong to ask for more data from someone who presents data? You have the moderator behind your name, so you tell me? Should I not ask for more data and information from people? Or should I do as some and write mostly snark?
    1. panolo's Avatar
      panolo -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      The last three big ST battles we had...or at least that I can remember:

      2008 ST battle for CF: When Gomez 'won' the CF battle, Span had better numbers.
      2010 ST battle for 3B: Harris out played Punto. Punto won. You remember. Punto is my starting shortstop (Twins trade for Hardy)...um, okay, Punto is my starting 2B (Twins sign Hudson)...um, ok Punto and Harris will battle for 3B. Oh, surprise surprise, Punto 'wins'
      2011 rotation battle with supposedly six quality starters but only 5 spots. The guy who had the best ST ERA (Slowey) was the one who ended up out of the rotation.

      I remember and maybe just hope things get finalized without some pre-determined outcome. So maybe against my better judgement I won't agree totally with you
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      God forbid a team adds more assets.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by panolo View Post
      I remember and maybe just hope things get finalized without some pre-determined outcome. So maybe against my better judgement I won't agree totally with you
      Fair enough :-)
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      Cedeno was a terrible hitter in the minors, too. His numbers get puffed up a bit from playing in the PCL, but beyond that his track record looks pretty much the same. I'm not hating on the guy, he's a fine slick fielding no-hitting big league shortstop. I just don't see where he's worth a look when Florimon is following in his footsteps.
      Minor league numbers don't really matter when the player has 2500 Major League plate appearances, with the last 1300 of them being of a respectable OPS+ (somewhere in the mid to high 80s).

      Even if Florimon was following Cedeno's footsteps (and there's no real reason to think that), Cedeno had 1200 plate appearances of pretty awful offense early in his career. Is that what the Twins want from Florimon over the next two seasons?
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      I guess we are scraping the bottom of the barrel if we have been relegated to complaining about the potential of a $2 million vesting option on a fringe starting middle infielder.

      Can we officially now say that there is nothing left for us to complain about when it comes to the Twins?
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fire Dan Gladden View Post
      I guess we are scraping the bottom of the barrel if we have been relegated to complaining about the potential of a $2 million vesting option on a fringe starting middle infielder.

      Can we officially now say that there is nothing left for us to complain about when it comes to the Twins?
      Conveniently ignoring the part about him being 40 in 2014 and initially signed as a FA in the role of "utility infielder".
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      So, your comment wasn't just about pure defense look? Because a guy who gloves like, say, Hardy or Ryan at shortstop should be way more valuable on the defensive side than even an Alex Gordon in LF...if just looking at what their value is on defense on an even scale, if you get what I mean.
      That's what I thought would be the case before I cracked into some numbers. You can look at the data for 2010-2012 players here (min 1000 Innings): https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5pI...it?usp=sharing

      Although SS will have more balls hit to him, there is just as much variation from the mean in terms of balls fielded, as with LF. This is the case whether or not you include out of zone balls in your totals. (Previously I just looked at in-zone opps and plays made).

      For LFers:
      Bottom Range of Total Plays made / 1500 Inn 260
      Upper Range of Total Plays made / 1500 Inn 398
      Mean Total Plays / 1500 Inn 310
      STDEV 34.4
      2 STDEV Low Limit 241
      2 STDEV High Limit 379
      For SSs:
      Bottom Range of Total Plays Made / 1500 Inn 361
      Top Range Total Plays Made / 1500 Inn 470
      Mean Total Plays / 1500 Inn 424
      STDEV 30
      2 STDEV Low Limit 364
      2 STDEV High Limit 484
      When you think about it, its not surprising. IN today's game, Brett Gardner, Ben Revere and Juan Pierre are playing in the corners. Meanwhile Derek Jeter, Ricky Weeks, and Dan Uggla have MI jobs. Things have leveled out.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Fangraphs has Ryan with 27 defensive runs saved. Tops for the qualifying shortstops. They have Jeter last at -16.4 runs saved. So a gap of 43.4.

      Fangraphs has Gordon with 24 defensive runs saved. Tops for qualifying LF. Gonzalez and Willingham are tied with -13. A difference of 37.
      I don't know how they're arriving at a run value. All I'm looking at is simple: total inzone and out of zone plays over innings, and scaling to 1500 innings.
    1. Han Joelo's Avatar
      Han Joelo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      It's not minutiae when the team is coming off back-to-back last place finishes, is fielding the same waaaaaaaay below average middle infield, and those combined "minutiae" players add up to over 10% of payroll (over 15% if you toss Nick Blackburn on the list, over 20% if Nishioka hadn't bowed out of his contract).

      "Minutiae" adds up when you continue to pile up bad decisions.
      I think we can agree that the Twins have a slim chance of contending this year. Why worry about the marginal value of MI's and 4/5 Starters? For the Twins to have had a decent chance of competing would have required throwing insane amounts of money at Greinke and Sanchez--far more than they signed for, to be complementary pieces on winning teams, vs. saviors on one of the worst, something I don't think either guy is exactly mentally suited for.

      I'm not a big stat head, but the moves all this commenting has inspired might only improve the team by a win or two. I mean really, signing Kelly Johnson for MI or Kelly Shoppach to replace the Pariah or signing Kelly Marcum-Villaneuva-Baker-Saunders-Blanton is going to turn this team around? Hell no. If Gibson, Meyer, May, and Berrios develop, than we've got a juggernaut.

      For me, these names and stats and contract figures are minutiae. Injury prone Marcum for 4 + 4 Mill for 1 year vs. Steady Correia for 10 for 2 years? Minimum wage Florimon vs. 2 Mill Cedeno? Who cares! They all suck. The difference is one or two wins. This team will blow as the winds of Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, and the cast of youngsters Seth outlined in his post takes them. If the winds blow favorably, like Luke Skywalker/Death Star or Frodo/Mt. Doom favorable, the unspent payroll will come in exceedingly handy come trade deadline. Maybe the pitching is adequate and the offense awesome and the competition horrible and the Twins are in striking distance at the deadline. Maybe Lincecum is revived in a walk year with a big contract. That cash in the Pohlad's bank will come in handy.

      If not, they've gotten a good look at some failed decisions. And we'll hopefully get to watch a bunch of (hopefully) promising young prospects get their feet wet in MLB instead of a bunch of has beens.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      I don't know how they're arriving at a run value. All I'm looking at is simple: total inzone and out of zone plays over innings, and scaling to 1500 innings.
      Since you appear to be advocating best bat possible for short than why not Doumit for SS? Since Doumit is a better LF than Willingham, Willingham to short and Doumit to left. Beloit moved Sano to third rather than short because of defense. Under your theory of having better defenders on the outside, that would appear to be a mistake as his replacements did not hit nearly as well as he did. Point really being you have to balance the defense with the offense. Yes it is putrid to have a .600 ops guy at short but there is a balance point somewhere with defense and offensive skills. Hanly has superior offensive skills that more than balance the defense as did Jeter in his younger days.
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