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  • Twins Avoid Arbitration with Duensing, Plouffe, Swarzak

    The Minnesota Twins have reached agreements on one-year contracts with all three of their arbitration eligible players, according to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune. Brian Duensing, who was in his second turn at arbitration, will earn $2 million in 2014. Trevor Plouffe and Anthony Swarzak, both eligible for the first time, will earn $2.5 million and $935K, respectively.

    With that, the Twins have wrapped up one of their last internal procedures of the offseason. Now, the focus shifts to remaining free agent targets and preparing for spring training, which is suddenly only about a month away.

    The salaries for Minnesota's three arbitration eligible players are basically in line with expectations. The agreements serve as a reminder that in many cases compensation is determined more by role than effectiveness. Duensing and Swarzak both had better seasons than Plouffe, but as full-time relievers they received much smaller raises than the regular third baseman.

    One interesting wrinkle is that Swarzak's contract includes a $25,000 bonus if he makes 10 or more starts this year, another indication that the Twins may still view him as a starter despite his success in the bullpen.
    Comments 47 Comments
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I agree. It's telling they didn't add a veteran lefty reliever, as they normally do. Several were available, but they preferred to stick with Duensing and Thielbar. I don't like Albers as a reliever. Ibarra has a chance, but not until he proves it in AAA. Darnell is another option later in the year, I suppose, as are Kennedy and Gilmartin.
      The reason I include Albers as a reliever is because he has little chance to make the team as a starter, but there might be room for a swing man/long man reliever depending on what the Twins decide to do with Swarzak. I really don't see Swarzak making the team as a starter either, but he could be moved into the 6th/7th inning role depending on how the bullpen shakes out.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Good discussion... I enjoy the back and forth that has been respectful. I generally agree with those that say that these were all obvious decisions. Plouffe didn't take the step in 2013 we hoped, but he wasn't a weak spot either. And has been pointed out, we don't know when Sano will be ready, so $2.35M is just fine.

      As for Duensing, he's got a nice track record and $2M is very fair. He's been pretty solid. He struggled last year for a month or two, but came on strong. They could trade him, or keep him and extend him. If they did trade him, in July they could certainly get something for him. Not a Top 10, but probably 2 guys in the 20s.

      I agree with Thrylos in that he's the one guy you kind of know you can probably count on. Where I disagree, guys like Thielbar have value too as a second lefty, and he's certainly got the stuff to be solid and improve. Aaron Thompson is still just 27. Can he be counted on? No. But if he pitches well in Rochester, he could come up and be solid. Ibarra touches 94 and has a great slider. Diamond could step into the bullpen and be just fine. Duensing rarely hit 92 as a starter, and he regularly hits 93-94 out of the bullpen. There are plenty of options who could contribute. Also, they have Perkins in the bullpen and it's not like they are required to have two other lefties.

      Regarding Swarzak, the Twins got an absolute steal. He provided a ton of value to the Twins roster in 2013, and he'd done OK in previous seasons, so I think getting him for less than $1 million is crazy! And, 10 starts = $25K bonus... it's like nothing!
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      Seth, how can you or anyone say that Plouffe was not a weak spot given his production (or lack thereof in 2013)? If every team in MLB had such poor figures from any position offensively they would easily be candidates for 90+ losses each year. And, guess what, that is also exactly the Twins victory total each year for the last three seasons.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      Seth, how can you or anyone say that Plouffe was not a weak spot given his production (or lack thereof in 2013)? If every team in MLB had such poor figures from any position offensively they would easily be candidates for 90+ losses each year. And, guess what, that is also exactly the Twins victory total each year for the last three seasons.
      Plouffe has had a positive WAR two years in a row, so, by definition, he was not a weak spot, where you define "weak spot" as at or below replacement level. The Twins had two positions with negative WAR last year, which they have not addressed. Yet, people are obsessed with a position with positive WAR.

      And is he that weak? He is closer to average at his position than replacement level. His OPS+ was 106 and 94 in his first two seasons at the hot corner. So he's teetered on either side of average at his position (100 is average). If you want a good comp, consider Garret Atkins, who had a career OPS+ of 100. He wasn't as good a defender as Plouffe, but few people thought to get rid of Atkins after his first full season at the position with an OPS+ of 93.

      BTW, in his next three seasons, Atkins proceeded to give the Rockies almost 10 WAR. So it's not out of the question for Plouffe to progress this year. People forget that this is just his second full season at the position. At 27, he's entering his prime. I expect progression. Getting rid of him now would be selling low. After going through David Ortiz nontender, I don't think Ryan wants to make that mistake again.

      Is there room for improvement at third? Sure. Not in the current Twins organization at this time. Could they have upgraded the position externally? Doubtful. Besides, why upgrade a position externally that you plan on upgrading internally within the next season? Anyway, you don't get rid of an average player at a position who's cheap without a better backfill waiting in the wings.
    1. oldguy10's Avatar
      oldguy10 -
      cmathewson, I hardly think Plouffe will start putting up David Ortiz numbers, do you or does anyone else posting here think so either? And within the current organization the improvement at third will obviously be Sano which you implied in a round about way. Plouffe in the outfield or DH down the road? Possibly, but not with the numbers he has put up so far, I am talking real traditional numbers now not WAR which is a problematical stat anyway, isn't it?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      cmathewson, I hardly think Plouffe will start putting up David Ortiz numbers, do you or does anyone else posting here think so either? And within the current organization the improvement at third will obviously be Sano which you implied in a round about way. Plouffe in the outfield or DH down the road? Possibly, but not with the numbers he has put up so far, I am talking real traditional numbers now not WAR which is a problematical stat anyway, isn't it?
      That wasn't my point. My point is, Ryan nontendered Ortiz and he improved greatly afterwards. If Ryan had nontendered Ploufe and he had improved, Ryan would be caught making the same mistake, not of the same magnitude, but the same type.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      cmathewson, I hardly think Plouffe will start putting up David Ortiz numbers, do you or does anyone else posting here think so either? And within the current organization the improvement at third will obviously be Sano which you implied in a round about way. Plouffe in the outfield or DH down the road? Possibly, but not with the numbers he has put up so far, I am talking real traditional numbers now not WAR which is a problematical stat anyway, isn't it?
      He could end up with Willingham's job next year, at about the same production. It's especially important in this stadium to have hitters like Plouffe around. He has shown flashes of greatness (June 2012). It would be nice to see more consistency. It's up to him.

      WAR is only problematic from a defensive perspective, in the sense that there are two different definitions: bWAR (Baseball Reference) and fWAR (Fangraphs). Both have their issues, because the defensive metrics upon which they are based are not definitive. For example, it's entirely possible that two third basemen will have very different WARs primarily because one has a good shortstop next to him and the other has a bad shortstop. Still and all, those problems are mostly due to small samples. Over the long haul, the best stats we have are pretty accurate measuring sticks of players at their positions.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      There are interesting comparisons between Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer, and David Ortiz. Cuddyer and Ortiz both blossomed at age 27, when they both added about 100 points to their OPS numbers. But Plouffe's numbers from ages 24-26 are well below these guys.

      With that being said, this is Plouffe's year to shine, before Sano pushes him either off the roster, or into a super-utility role (3b and a corner outfielder). As stated above, this is his time to replace Willingham, but it will take a career year to do it. I like his chances more than Parmelee's to stick with the club.

      As for Duensing, he's a solid bullpen lefty. Yes, he has a heartbeat, and he's a lefty who should be in the bullpen for obvious reasons--increased velocity, and his second half in 2013 is one to grow on.

      Swarzak is the dark horse candidate for the 5th starter job, provided he doesn't screw around during WrestleMania--I mean Twins Fest. Like Seth said above, he's a steal at $935k
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      Seth, how can you or anyone say that Plouffe was not a weak spot given his production (or lack thereof in 2013)? If every team in MLB had such poor figures from any position offensively they would easily be candidates for 90+ losses each year. And, guess what, that is also exactly the Twins victory total each year for the last three seasons.
      Here is a comparison of 2013 numbers:

      Plouffe: .701 OPS, 44 R, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 0.4 WAR, fDef -6.6 (522 PA) age 28 in 2014
      Willingham: .709 OPS, 42 R, 14 HR, 48 RBI, 0.0 WAR, fDef -13.2 (477 PA) age 35 in 2014

      a. who was the weaker spot of the two?
      b. based on age and shape, who is likely to be better in 2014?

      I think that some players do not get the credit they deserve whether others are getting free rides.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Oldguy, I tend to agree with you about WAR. Anytime you take a bunch of stats, mess around with them and create one number, well you have to trust the creators of this, I guess. It doesn't help that there are 2 versions. For me, I would rather look at the component stats, it is going to tell me, personally, more about the players I am comparing.

      That said, I agree with CMath about Plouffe. He is way too inconsistent both offensively and defensively, but there is enough talent and enough flashes of production, that it is too early to give up on him. Let him play 3rd till Sano shows he's ready to take over. At that point well, the decision about Plouffe might be clearer. There is a fair chance there will be an opening in the OF. Maybe a super utility role will work, or maybe a trade. But there is no big hurry to make a decision on Plouffe now.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      Oldguy, I tend to agree with you about WAR.
      Moderator's note: please, if you (collectively) feel compelled to invite debate on a topic like this, open a new thread. I thought about asking this earlier when it came up, but hoped it would not start to take a life of its own here in this thread about arbitration and signings and specific players.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by oldguy10 View Post
      cmathewson, I hardly think Plouffe will start putting up David Ortiz numbers, do you or does anyone else posting here think so either? And within the current organization the improvement at third will obviously be Sano which you implied in a round about way. Plouffe in the outfield or DH down the road? Possibly, but not with the numbers he has put up so far, I am talking real traditional numbers now not WAR which is a problematical stat anyway, isn't it?
      He didn't compare Plouffe to Ortiz, he said TR didn't want to make the same mistake twice. 1 year 2.3 mil for an ok 3rd baseman you know won't hurt you too bad while you wait for the second coming of Joe Mauer to mature in the minors is fine by me. Especially when you don't have any significantly better options.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Don't Feed the Greed Guy View Post
      There are interesting comparisons between Trevor Plouffe, Michael Cuddyer, and David Ortiz.
      Where exactly? It sounds like there is only a comparison if Plouffe breaks out.

      People were predicting the same thing last year, but the truth is that Plouffe is what he is. When you take away one flukey binge last year he did exactly what you'd project from his minor league numbers: pound lefties, but ultimately only be about a 12 HR 700 OPS player. All he was in the minors was about a 15 HR 750 OPS player, so 2013 Plouffe is exactly what the most reliable means of projection would put him at.

      The guy's future is as a platoon player who can destroy lefties, nothing more. I wouldn't give up on him over a couple million because that skill set can have value, but it really bugs me when people last year thought this guy was good for a minimum of 20 homeruns and now are comparing him to guys like Ortiz. Meanwhile, a guy with better minor league projections (Parmelee) is facing the possibility of being cut and people defend that.

      Cutting Plouffe wouldn't make any sense either, but let's not pretend 2013 was a down year for him either. It pretty much falls in line with what we should expect from him.
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      Quote Originally Posted by Sconnie View Post
      He didn't compare Plouffe to Ortiz, he said TR didn't want to make the same mistake twice. 1 year 2.3 mil for an ok 3rd baseman you know won't hurt you too bad while you wait for the second coming of Joe Mauer to mature in the minors is fine by me. Especially when you don't have any significantly better options.
      Wouldnt Buxton be the 2nd coming of Mauer?
      so that would make Sano the 2nd coming of Justin, right?
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by johnnydakota View Post
      Wouldnt Buxton be the 2nd coming of Mauer?
      so that would make Sano the 2nd coming of Justin, right?
      I don't think it's useful to draw these comparisons. Suffice it to say, Buxton + Sano > Mauer + Morneau at the same points in their careers.
    1. Sconnie's Avatar
      Sconnie -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      I don't think it's useful to draw these comparisons. Suffice it to say, Buxton + Sano > Mauer + Morneau at the same points in their careers.
      My point is, Mauer was the savior of this team (and to an extent Morneau) and so too is Sano and to cmathewsons point Buxton as well. Sure Sano and Buxton have more potential than M and M ever did, but they represent the same promise
    1. DocBauer's Avatar
      DocBauer -
      Swarzak is a steal and should probably find a new agent. Lol

      Deunsing has decent stuff, is mostly proven, coming off a very solid year, especially when you look past the first month or so, and there are a whole lot of teams that would love to have a LHRP like him, especially for only 2M.

      Plouffe may or may not ever break out to be anything more than he's shown the past couple of seasons. Even a slight improvement in overall production, daily/consistently against RHP would make a lot of teams envious to have him around. I don't know that he will ever have the bat or consistency of a Cuddyer, (would love if he did), but his fielding at 3B is not poor (from what I have seen) and at this kind of salary, he could be a very valuable bench player at both INF corners, both OF corners, DH, PH, and even a little second perhaps.

      And hats off again to Twins management to avoid the whole messy process of arbitration hearings and bickerings and just settle fairly. Is there a team in the league, I wonder, who does a better job of just settling peacefully and fairly with their arb. elgible players?
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Where exactly? It sounds like there is only a comparison if Plouffe breaks out.

      People were predicting the same thing last year, but the truth is that Plouffe is what he is. When you take away one flukey binge last year he did exactly what you'd project from his minor league numbers: pound lefties, but ultimately only be about a 12 HR 700 OPS player. All he was in the minors was about a 15 HR 750 OPS player, so 2013 Plouffe is exactly what the most reliable means of projection would put him at.

      The guy's future is as a platoon player who can destroy lefties, nothing more. I wouldn't give up on him over a couple million because that skill set can have value, but it really bugs me when people last year thought this guy was good for a minimum of 20 homeruns and now are comparing him to guys like Ortiz. Meanwhile, a guy with better minor league projections (Parmelee) is facing the possibility of being cut and people defend that.

      Cutting Plouffe wouldn't make any sense either, but let's not pretend 2013 was a down year for him either. It pretty much falls in line with what we should expect from him.
      I get that Plouffe isn't great, but he is still a decent player. Last year showed some serious doubts about his ability to be an everyday player. He could still overcome them, but he might not get everyday playing time if he doesn't show it before Sano is called up. No matter, I think the Twins will hold on to him until another player with his flexibility and skill set comes up (Harrison maybe).
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Where exactly? It sounds like there is only a comparison if Plouffe breaks out.
      Leviathan, please read to the end of the paragraph, where I state that "Plouffe's numbers from ages 24-26 are well below these guys."

      I, like you, don't think there is much of a comparison with Ortiz and Cuddyer, although other posters in this thread brought up their names in reference to Plouffe. My point is that that there isn't much of a positive correlation--other than the fact that Cuddyer and Ortiz were late bloomers who caught fire around age 27. They had already shown, in their younger years, more promise than Plouffe has shown to date.

      I didn't mean to bug you. I don't think he's the next Ortiz. But I do think he can hit 20+ home runs in 2014, and eventually replace a declining Willingham in left field. I also wouldn't be surprised if he has a career year. All the same, he's not Ortiz, or Cuddyer. Are we clear on that?
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      The guy's future is as a platoon player who can destroy lefties, nothing more.
      This may be true, but I'm not sold yet that he can't be a little more. 2014 is probably his last chance to prove it.

      Worst case though, I could live with a Plouffe/Parmelee platoon in RF where Plouffe backs up 3B and Parmelee backs up 1B. Their career splits are 130/104 wRC+ respectively for roughly 115 combined vs 105 league average. Hopefully Molitor can convince Gardy that this new-fangled platoon thing isn't so bad.
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