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  • Changing Focus: The Danny Valencia & Francisco Liriano Moves

    At some (very depressing) point, as a season turns into an extended offseason, the focus needs to change. For the Twins, that change has been coming since the middle of last week. The turning point was tonight.

    At some point, the focus changes from the team to the players. The moves become less about what the team needs, and more about what each player needs. It doesnít necessarily mean coming down on one side or the other, but the balance changes. That balance changed tonight.

    Tonight third baseman Danny Valencia was sent to AAA-Rochester and starting pitcher Francisco Liriano was sent to the bullpen. I like both moves, because I agree with the change in focus.

    I donít know if Valencia is ever going to be a competent starting third baseman in the majors. Nobody does. But I sure used to think so. This move isnít a punishment Ė itís a release. Valencia is hitting .198, 50 points lower than last year, which was 50 points lower than 2010. As bad as that is, thatís not the most alarming of his statistics. Heís also struck out 23 times in 96 AB Ė and walked just twice.

    I donít know what he needs, but he isnít finding it here. I wonít argue with those suggesting that itís foolish for a club to invest time in a 27-year-oldís career in AAA. But at this point, one needs to try things. Maybe AAA might reestablish Valenciaís confidence. With literally zero third base options in the Twins pipeline until at least 2014, why not try it?

    Which is exactly the philosophy for the other big move. Liriano is moved to the bullpen to try and regain some Ö. well, name it what you will. Confidence? Mojo? Momentum? Or, if you're especially cynical: Equity? They all work. The Twins and Liriano have tried everything else, and short of demoting him (which I suspect he and his agent would resist) this is the last option.

    If youíre of the opinion that Liriano needs to be traded for something valuable, I gotta think you like this move. Maybe Liriano can build some value. A decent reliever is valuable at the trade deadline. Even more so if heís a southpaw. His value certainly canít decrease.

    As for the rest Ė meh. Matt Maloney was the odd man out with another lefty moving to the bullpen. That's unlucky for him. I like Darin Mastoianni as a infield/outfield utility guy, though his infield coverage is limited. One can argue whether heís the best fit, but Iím getting weary of sweating where deck chairs should be moved. PJ Walters must have had the right mix of control, BABIP and veterany goodness to make him the default pick for the open rotation spot. That's not the way I would go, but Iím not nearly as close to this situation, and it's close to a tie. Whatever.

    The bad news is that these look more and more like the moves of a last place team looking to the future. The good news is that is probably the correct philosophy to embrace. The focus is changing from the team to the individuals, and for both of these individuals, the change in focus looks to be wise.
    This article was originally published in blog: Changing Focus: The Danny Valencia & Francisco Liriano Moves started by John Bonnes
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      I agree with the moves and the change of focus as you describe it. There are guys producing on this team - we should invest in them and move on those who are not. The amount of energy and expectations set on these two is exhausting and dragging the entire club down. Sometimes addition by subtraction is the way to go. The moves don't completely cut ties, but they send a message to these players that it is now or never for them in a Twins uniform.
    1. TwinsFan01's Avatar
      TwinsFan01 -
      The only thing I don't like about these moves is that they should have happened a couple weeks ago. Better late than never!
    1. powrwrap's Avatar
      powrwrap -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Clearly Valencia has the talent and confidence to succeed in the big leagues.
      Clearly not. His fundamentals are wrong on both offense and defense. His judgment on the strike zone is terrible. He's an awful player but he thinks he's A-Rod.

      John, I liked your take on the transition from focusing on the team to focusing on individual players. The Twins need to work on developing their younger players and what better place than the major leagues with the best coaches in the system. They need to forget about contending for the playoffs and admit they are rebuilding. Maybe this recent spate of maneuvers shows that they finally get it.
    1. James's Avatar
      James -
      Quote Originally Posted by lee_the_twins_fan View Post
      So when Morneau comes off the DL, and is able to play 1B will Parmalee get the regular 3B job? To me, it makes the most sense.*
      Parmalee throws left handed, so he won't be seeing any time at 3B.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      I think this is a good direction for the team to go but these type of moves cannot just be limited to guys that are already in Gardy's doghouse but need to go beyond that. A specific example is Blackburn. Nick currently has an ERA of around 7.00 and would be the joke of the rotation if Liriano had not imploded to the extent he did. If Blackburn doesn't turn it around in the next few starts the Twins need to push him in to the bullpen as well.
    1. Mr. Ed's Avatar
      Mr. Ed -
      Quote Originally Posted by jharaldson View Post
      I think this is a good direction for the team to go but these type of moves cannot just be limited to guys that are already in Gardy's doghouse but need to go beyond that. A specific example is Blackburn. Nick currently has an ERA of around 7.00 and would be the joke of the rotation if Liriano had not imploded to the extent he did. If Blackburn doesn't turn it around in the next few starts the Twins need to push him in to the bullpen as well.
      The bullpen is getting awfully crowded. Who is next to start in the bigs? They're running out of options(some would say they already have).
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      One other point I should have made in the story: right about now it might be nice to have Luke Hughes in the organization.
      And I was having a good morning until you reminded me of that John. The Twins didn't reclaim him when the A's DFA's him last week and he is currently in Sacremento. But yes, Hughes would be a huge addition to this team right now.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      But yes, Hughes would be a huge addition to this team right now.
      I suppose Hughes could land somewhere and do a Casey Blake, but I don't think that is very likely. I think he is more limited than Valencia as a potential starting 3B, both offensively and defensively. Not, that I am holding out a lot of hope for Valencia, either.

      Actually the best hope for a medium term answer at 3B is probably Plouffe, though I am not too sure he will get much of an opportunity.

      I am not sure I agree with John's take on what the Twins focus is. It kind of looks to me, that the Twins are flipping cards over, hoping one or more will play. I don't see where they have much choice, but I doubt if it has much to do with develpment of individual players.
    1. robesinfargo's Avatar
      robesinfargo -
      This seems like a good time to make a move outside of the organization...i see Kevin Youkilis may be on the block...seems like a great fit to me
    1. Brett's Avatar
      Brett -
      Looking forward to 2013, with our rotation of Liam Hendriks, Nick Blackburn, PJ Walters, Scott Diamond, and the washed-up remains of wily veteran innings-eater...like Carl Pavano.

      Kyle Gibson should be beside himself right now...uninjured, he's the ace. Coming off of TJ surgery, he'll be mediocre for the first year or so.

      Wake me up when it's 2014.
    1. matthew0211's Avatar
      matthew0211 -
      Mauer to 3B. Do it. Now.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I suspect the same. Carroll, mostly. Some Plouffe.
      Exactly what a rebuilding team playing .250 baseball should be doing...investing time in a 38 yr old 3bman who has trouble hitting enough to stay at SS.

      Sheesh, this organization is in bad shape.

      Make the Mauer to 3b move now. Right now. Let's at least try to solve some problems long term, rather than diddle around with Alexi Casilla or Jamie Carroll at 3b. At the very least put Plouffe over there and leave him alone.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post

      Make the Mauer to 3b move now. Right now. Let's at least try to solve some problems long term, rather than diddle around with Alexi Casilla or Jamie Carroll at 3b. At the very least put Plouffe over there and leave him alone.
      This is what I would do, and considering the Twins just sent down an infielder to call up an outfielder, it's what I suspect Gardy will do. There's really no reason to play Plouffe in the outfield now.
    1. jessellsworth's Avatar
      jessellsworth -
      Vavra needs to go... ASAP!
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Coomerific Career for Danny? Coomer played hard and studied hitting (as well as teaching) and overcame size and weight to have a rather pleasant career and enjoyed every moment he was on the field.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      Coomerific Career for Danny? Coomer played hard and studied hitting (as well as teaching) and overcame size and weight to have a rather pleasant career and enjoyed every moment he was on the field.
      Yep, and Coomer had quite a bit more success than Disco Danny in the minors before finally getting a crack at the majors.

      Maybe a better comparison to Valencia's offensive ceiling is Scott Leius. He was a nice little piece of the puzzle in '91, posting a .795 OPS while platooning at third against lefties. Pressed into service as a near-everyday player in '92, he went down in flames with a .626 OPS.

      Now the Twins just need Burroughs to get his Pagliarulo on...
    1. dadawg41's Avatar
      dadawg41 -
      call philly about trading for D. Brown. Start the Sept. call-ups in june (sano, hicks, guerra) and ride the "storm" out!
    1. scottyc35's Avatar
      scottyc35 -
      absolutely had to be done. seeing Valencia ground into a bases-loaded 1-2-3 double play, swinging at bad pitch after bad pitch, he does not belong at the major league level right now.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      And I always cut a little slack to 3B for their age. For some reason, a lot of them make it to the bigs a bit later.
      I was not aware that 3B's make it to the bigs later. I would have guessed more catchers and left handed pitchers may develop later. I suppose speed positions may be on the earlier side. Anyone seen a study in this area? My interest is player development and career path. It hasn't been in my mind to be more patient with thirdbasemen.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by jorgenswest View Post
      I was not aware that 3B's make it to the bigs later. I would have guessed more catchers and left handed pitchers may develop later. I suppose speed positions may be on the earlier side. Anyone seen a study in this area? My interest is player development and career path. It hasn't been in my mind to be more patient with thirdbasemen.
      Often times it is because they were shortstops who had to move to third, but at third you have to produce more offensively than the more common move from short, second base.
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