• 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. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      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.
      You are comparing the extremes of a subjective score and drawing hypothetical conclusions with no data to back the outcome..
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mitchsull52 View Post
      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.
      Last season, these were the OPS+ numbers for Twins middle infielders (non Jamey Carroll edition):

      Brian Dozier: 67 OPS+ in 340 PAs
      Eduardo Escobar: 41 OPS+ in 49 PAs
      Pedro Florimon: 61 OPS+ in 150 PAs

      Now here are some bargain middle infielders who could have been nabbed for a song ($2m or under, or Jamey Carroll's 2014 option):
      Kelly Johnson: 2011, 111 OPS+ in 132 PAs / 2012, 84 OPS+ in 581 PAs
      Ronny Cedeno: 2011, 70 OPS+ in 413 PAs / 2012, 104 OPS+ in 186 PAs

      You really don't see any room for improvement there? There are two middle infield spots to play, after all. Picking up a second body who has proven the ability to hit Major League pitching is not an unreasonable request. If Dozier (possible) or Florimon (not so much) steps up, you're still allowed some flexibility instead of relying on someone who has a very good chance of being awful at the plate by sliding one of the vets into a utility role. If it allows you to bench Carroll if/when he gets old overnight, even better. Otherwise, you're forced to run Carroll out there nearly every night because he's still better than your second and third options (Escobar and Florimon). As it stands now, Carroll could post a 75 OPS+ and he'd still get his 401 PAs because the chance of Florimon being a viable option at short over the course of a season is virtually zero. Add in a Johnson or Cedeno and you don't have to lean on Jamey so heavily when Florimon and Escobar fail spectacularly.

      Also, what happens at third base if Plouffe fails?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Han Joelo View Post
      All this angst over such minutiae! I hope they need the saved money for a big mid season trade.
      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.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      What is the gain in runs with OPS+ and runs lost in UZR for Kelly Johnson versus anything the Twins ran out there?
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      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.
      You do realize, this is why 'fan outrage' doesn't register with team decision makers, right? With one hand, you're lambasting them for signing players to deals, and then having said players explode on them. With the other, you're suggesting they sign players who have proven to be bad for major chunks of their careers. Or in the case of Cedeno, for every single season until the 130 AB stretch last year.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      You do realize, this is why 'fan outrage' doesn't register with team decision makers, right? With one hand, you're lambasting them for signing players to deals, and then having said players explode on them. With the other, you're suggesting they sign players who have proven to be bad for major chunks of their careers. Or in the case of Cedeno, for every single season until the 130 AB stretch last year.
      There's no such thing as a bad one year contract. I'm not talking about going out and giving Shaun Marcum or Ronny Cedeno a three year deal. I'm talking about exploiting guys who have fallen through the cracks and using them to bolster the weak spots on a roster.

      Particularly when there's a good chance that those guys and their one year deals will deliver more wins than the guy you did sign to a multi-year contract.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      What is the gain in runs with OPS+ and runs lost in UZR for Kelly Johnson versus anything the Twins ran out there?
      Another question is what kind of impact on Johnson's OPS would Target Field have?
      I think it's fair to say that Kelly Johnson is an adequate defender on artificial turf. He will likely be a pretty good player for Tampa.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      There's no such thing as a bad one year contract. I'm not talking about going out and giving Shaun Marcum or Ronny Cedeno a three year deal. I'm talking about exploiting guys who have fallen through the cracks and using them to bolster the weak spots on a roster.

      Particularly when there's a good chance that those guys and their one year deals will deliver more wins than the guy you did sign to a multi-year contract.
      I see the idea that Johnson might provide some slight value upgrade, but it's tiny, considering he's been a bad defender on grass, and he's only hit in launching pad situations.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      drawing hypothetical conclusions with no data to back the outcome..
      Pissed that someone's trying to steal your gameplan?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      I see the idea that Johnson might provide some slight value upgrade, but it's tiny, considering he's been a bad defender on grass, and he's only hit in launching pad situations.
      On the other hand, he also gets to face AL East pitching all season long. Here's his spray chart. Would he fail miserably at Target Field? It's possible but given his tendency to pull the ball hard (four of his nine homers at Rogers to extreme right field), he could do okay for himself in the ballpark.

      Kelly Johnson Hit Chart | Tampa Bay Rays | Player Hit Chart | MLB Baseball | FOX Sports on MSN

      edit: meh, that spray chart is old. I hate it that Fox Sports always comes up first in Google searches for those things.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by LoganJones View Post
      Ronny Cedeno's career OPS plus is 71. What insurance does he provide over Florimon?
      Yet his OPS is 85,82, 79 and 104 the past 4 years. Florimon had 61 last year. I realize it's a small sample, but Cedeno most likely produces more with the bat and he has proven he can actually play in the majors.

      I'm not saying Florimon doesn't have a chance to be a starter, but I'd like to have another option besides Carroll who we might need at 2B or 3B. $1.15M is pretty cheap insurance.
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by Physics Guy View Post
      Yet his OPS is 85,82, 79 and 104 the past 4 years. Florimon had 61 last year. I realize it's a small sample, but Cedeno most likely produces more with the bat and he has proven he can actually play in the majors.

      I'm not saying Florimon doesn't have a chance to be a starter, but I'd like to have another option besides Carroll who we might need at 2B or 3B. $1.15M is pretty cheap insurance.
      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. The reason I'm not jumping off the Correia cliff is that I see him as a worthy upgrade over what the Twins had to offer. Cedeno & Johnson? Not true upgrades. If they'd signed Johnson, I would have been cool with it, as he's likely to hit some key homers. Cedeno would have mystified me since they already have him in Florimon.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by FrodaddyG View Post
      Pissed that someone's trying to steal your gameplan?
      Nope. Hopeng that I would get the data. I see that you have nothing
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Plouffe should be at third all year....see what you have. Dozier should be at second all year, see what you have. Carroll and the others can fight it out for short and bench. Once they decided not to sign two legit pitchers, the strategy for the infield should have been clear, see what you already have. Lots to rip them for at the MLB level, but this was always dependent on the other actions.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      The bottom line is there's no excuse for trotting out a sub .600 OPS talent at any position. It would require an anomalously high number of fielding opportunities to make up for all the lost production at the plate, and that's assuming he's the best defender at his position in baseball. (I am open to the exception at catcher although I realize I'm on a limb with that one).

      The reality the Twins seem slow to grasp is that you can stick a DH like Hanley Ramirez at SS and he will still make most the plays. The best fielding SS's are no more valuable on defense than the best fielding left fielders, yet no FO would accept a sub .600 player in LF. Why should that be acceptable at SS?

      Besides, I'm not convinced Kelly Johnson's anything less than an average fielder. With the potential, unlike anyone else on this roster, to hit 20-30 bombs.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Found this on another site...I don't tweet, so I have no way to verify if it's true

      'Tweet from Darron Wolfson..."Checked with a #MNTwins source on their pursuit of Cuban SS Aledmys Diaz: "The projected money is getting out of hand," the source texted."
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Here's a napkin math hypothetical.

      If Kelly Johnson hits near his career mark, he's worth about 0 runs above average offensively.

      If Florimon hits like he did last year, he'd be worth about -25 runs in a full season.

      Assuming that Dozier pairs up full-time with either player, the question becomes, what is the total defensive difference between SS Florimon / 2B Dozier and SS Dozier / 2B Johnson?

      I'd put Johnson as a -5 at 2nd, Florimon as a +5 at short (not much to work off of), Dozier a 0 at SS and +5 at 2nd. That would give a 15 run benefit to the Florimon/Dozier combo defensively, but a -10 run difference overall.

      Hypothetically.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      The reality the Twins seem slow to grasp is that you can stick a DH like Hanley Ramirez at SS and he will still make most the plays. The best fielding SS's are no more valuable on defense than the best fielding left fielders...
      Um, I'm not sure I'm following this...
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Nope. Hopeng that I would get the data. I see that you have nothing
      His point being, you routinely demand proof of others, while never providing any yourself.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Um, I'm not sure I'm following this...
      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.
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