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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. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      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).
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      No matter what, I think Brian Dozier will get his reps. Picking up another FA wouldn't negatively impact him too much. Escobar may be a decent utility guy but let's be honest here... Those guys grow on trees.

      And what's the worst that could happen? You end up with a few too many bodies and dangle somebody at the deadline. On the other hand, the Twins could be looking at a terrible middle infield if Dozier continues to collapse and Florimon can't hit his way out of a paper bag.

      Which also enacts the player option for Carroll in 2014. Again, Carroll isn't a bad player but no matter how well he plays, that team option stays in place for 2014 but for a very small amount of money, you can prevent being on the hook for what could be a really bad player option.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Dozier should get a shot, yes, but I'd have to think he'd be better served by getting some PT and confidence in AAA before coming back. The big issue I see is that this 2014/15 team will still suck up the middle... Maybe the draft will change this, but even that Cuban defector will likely not be playing in MLB by 2015
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Escobar may be a decent utility guy but let's be honest here... Those guys grow on trees.
      Yes, but he'll make $490,000. The veteran utility guys cost $1-2.5 million. Why spend the extra.

      Which also enacts the player option for Carroll in 2014. Again, Carroll isn't a bad player but no matter how well he plays, that team option stays in place for 2014 but for a very small amount of money, you can prevent being on the hook for what could be a really bad player option.
      1 year, $2M?? At worst, he'll be overpaid like $0.5M. If he plays more than 'just a utility role, $2M is nothing. I'd say Jamey Carroll is the least of the Twins middle infield worries.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      1 year, $2M?? At worst, he'll be overpaid like $0.5M. If he plays more than 'just a utility role, $2M is nothing. I'd say Jamey Carroll is the least of the Twins middle infield worries.
      Let's say the Twins picked up Kelly Johnson for whatever the Rays are paying him (probably between $1.5-2m). That's Carroll's player/team option amount in 2014. Sure, it's not a lot of money but it's indicative of the problem with this offseason and that's inefficient use of the free agent market.

      What if Carroll tanks in 2013 but given the continued struggles of Florimon and Dozier, is still run out there for 450 PAs? That means the Twins have a wasted roster spot eating up $2m in 2014 that they could have easily avoided by picking up another player to complement their middle infield. If Carroll continues to play well, good for the Twins. Then they enact the 2014 team option and keep him around for another year.

      There is virtually no risk in picking up a $2m middle infielder for 2013 because they have the money and they have the need. But as it stands now, that money could easily become a sunk cost on an old player who is no longer worth the space on a Major League roster.

      And that's my real problem. The team seems entirely directionless regarding the free agent market. There is no real downside to picking up a guy because he gives you a little more flexibility going into 2014 and he probably improves the 2013 squad. At that point, why not take the small risk and try to field a better team in the short-term?
    1. twinsfanstl's Avatar
      twinsfanstl -
      what about offering minor league contracts to Theriot and Freddy Sanchez? Would either take it? I don't see why we wouldn't, it is not as if we are protecting superior players on the 35-40 positions on the roster....
    1. twinsfanstl's Avatar
      twinsfanstl -
      btw, obviously I agree with Brock wholeheartedly
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Let's say the Twins picked up Kelly Johnson for whatever the Rays are paying him (probably between $1.5-2m). That's Carroll's player/team option amount in 2014. Sure, it's not a lot of money but it's indicative of the problem with this offseason and that's inefficient use of the free agent market.?
      What would Kelly Johnson - a not particularly good fielding left-handed, strikeout prone pull hitter - give the Twins in Target Field?
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      The analysis of the play of 2012 is correct. The analysis of how to fix it is what? They should have done something. The free agent market appeared to have a choice between no field or no hit kind of players. They have plenty of the latter. They traded what players they had to trade for a bigger need in pitching. To get a significant upgrade by the trade route would cost them a better prospect. You did not like the inaction, so what would you have wanted them to do that is a reasonable idea?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The analysis of the play of 2012 is correct. The analysis of how to fix it is what? They should have done something. The free agent market appeared to have a choice between no field or no hit kind of players. They have plenty of the latter. They traded what players they had to trade for a bigger need in pitching. To get a significant upgrade by the trade route would cost them a better prospect. You did not like the inaction, so what would you have wanted them to do that is a reasonable idea?
      At this point, I'm not even asking for a significant upgrade. All I'm asking for is an upgrade, period. It's virtually zero risk, as it lets the Twins out of a $2m player option for Carroll in 2014 if he doesn't perform in 2013.

      In most cases, I'm against the "more bodies equal better team" argument but in this singular case, it makes a lot of sense because the risk is so low. All you have to do is watch Pedro Florimon for five minutes to see that he's never going to be an adequate Major League starter (there are "no hit middle infielders" and then there are the "Pedro Florimons"). Dozier is a huge question mark. After that, there's nobody worth mentioning (sorry Seth but nobody is going to snatch Escobar away from the Twins if they stash him in AAA). Adding another player allows you to shift Carroll to a reserve role and save yourself from what could be a bad player option in 2014. All it takes is one player, a player that can be had for less money than Carroll's 2014 option.

      At that point, you have to ask yourself "Why the hell shouldn't I do this?"
    1. sorney's Avatar
      sorney -
      Why I tend to lean towards Seth here, it is refreshing to have a debate about something other than the crappy pitching decisions.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by sorney View Post
      Why I tend to lean towards Seth here, it is refreshing to have a debate about something other than the crappy pitching decisions.
      Ha! I agree!!
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      Yes, middle infield is one of many areas this team needs to address. I do think they're worse of at those positions than in the rotation at this point. Would have been nice to add MLB caliber infielder to the mix as of right now we're likely to have AAA level player out there at one position. I like Carroll but he is 39 and maybe would be a great bench guy but he's now forced into a role where the Twins are counting on him to produce above expectations.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      With 20 plus million still avalible ,why not make a run at Diaz?
      If we acquire a shortstop , and have added 1 mlb pitcher and 2 prospects,
      I would concider this off season an improvement over last years...
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Johnny is right. With the recent trade aquisitions, middle infield is the biggest weekness on htis team. They have Rosario for 2nd base but his defense is still a bit raw yet and he is still a couple years away anyway. We have a couple other low ceiling guys like Danny Santana and Levi Michael. Michael needs to show something this year.

      It seems that going after Diaz is almost too logical. A couple days ago Doogie tweeted that one of his sources said the Twins were concerned about some of the projected dollar amounts that he may be offered. If the Twins aren't willing to make a competetive offer than they don't care or they are clueless IMO.
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      With 20 plus million still avalible ,why not make a run at Diaz?
      If we acquire a shortstop , and have added 1 mlb pitcher and 2 prospects,
      I would concider this off season an improvement over last years...
      Well, you know the answer to that.......they have no intentions of spending $20m more.

      The way it looks they're going to have to spend clost to $40M between now and next season to make it to the 50% of revenue they talk about.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The analysis of how to fix it is what?
      There's only one man to call:
      Attachment 3180
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post

      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 noticed Ronny Cedeno signed for 1.15M base plus 0.85 in incentives. That sure would have been a cheap insurance policy against Florimon falling on his face. I think Florimon has a chance to be a decent fielder, but his sub-70 OPS+ sure is a black hole at the bottom of the lineup. I guess I can live with one, but that assumes 2B and CF are decent (hopefully Dozier and Hicks).
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Ronny Cedeno's career OPS plus is 71. What insurance does he provide over Florimon?
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      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.
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