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Jeremy Nygaard

Problem or Solution?

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As we suffered through a 99-loss season last year, many of us believed the biggest issue was health (or lack of it) and that a winter recovering would help solve that problem.

While competing with the big wigs in the American League was still going to be a tall task, finishing the 2012 season with just as many wins as losses seemed within reach. I don't think even the most pessimistic fans assumed that 30 games in - and relatively healthy - the Twins would have 3 less wins than any other team in baseball. I think this has given all Twins fans a shot of reality. The reality is that Division Titles, October baseball, sweeps against the Yankess - things that almost became habit - are a couple (at best!) years away.

Maybe it's the elementary school teacher in me (in fact, I'm sure it is), but a habit of mine (that will continue) is to focus on certain behaviors, results or people and analyze those as it pertains to the big picture. Or in elementary terms: "Are you contributing to the problem or are you trying to be part of the solution?"

Unfortunately, there is usually a small percent of, in this case, people that serve as the fulcrum of this problem vs solution battle. Fortunately, I'm not trying to salvage 2012. I'm trying to compete in 2015. So with an eye on 2015, let's look at the current 25-man roster.

The first group of players are the "Mehs". Think about that high school girlfriend you had that you forgot to tell your wife about. It's not because you were trying to hide anything; it's because you simply forgot about her. These are guys that aren't really part of the problem, but they aren't going to be part of the 2015 solution. You think about their long-term value to the team. You shrug your shoulders and say, "Meh".

There are seven guys I put in this group today. They could go either way or stay the same or, meh, whatever...

C Ryan Doumit - While he has played better of late, the free-agent-to-be remains a strong candidate to be traded. The return on that trade isn't likely going to be part of the solution.
P Nick Blackburn - At his best, Blackburn can burn 200 innings and give his team a chance to win. He's at his best one month of the season. Luckily (yawn), the Twins locked him up through at least next year.
P Anthony Swarzak - As a long-relief/spot-starter, he does provide value. Can he make the rotation next year?
RP Alex Burnett - Burnett is still young enough that he could become a solid, late-inning bullpen arm... or just fade away.
C Drew Butera - Do you remember this? While I understand the value of a "Drew Butera", I also understand the pain of having a .167 BA while getting regular at-bats.
INF Jamey Carroll - He'll be around, probably, and be a good clubhouse presence for the next year (or two), but that's about it.
OF Erik Komatsu - Is he a 4th outfielder at best? He'll get his shot to stick or suck. But there's a good chance we'll forget about him by this time next year.

The next group of guys are part of the problem, for various reasons. As Luke Hughes, Sean Burroughs and Clete Thomas before them, some may say they didn't get a fair shake. Or they just weren't (ever?) very good.

RP Jeff Gray - Gray has bounced around over the last five years. He'll keep bouncing. Right now, he's here. He might not be tomorrow.
LRP Matt Maloney - Maloney's wikipedia page compares him to a "young Tom Glavine". Really? How young are they talking? Another pitcher on borrowed time.
INF/OF Trevor Plouffe - The leash on "home-grown" guys typically is a little longer than others, but am I the only one that thinks that going 6-for-43 isn't going to "earn" more chances? The 10 walks might be his saving grace. Or his defense might be the final straw.
INF Alexi Casilla - The biggest positional tease on the roster, Casilla has never played more than 97 games in a season. Lack of durability is a problem.

Some other problems...

P Jason Marquis - Though he seems like a good guy - and decent pitcher - he offers very little short- or long-term value to the club. He's serving as a placeholder and those doesn't make teams better (but also usually don't make them worse).
3B Danny Valencia - It sounds like Valencia is being shopped and there are no takers. I bet there would be if he provided something a team needed, like... hmm... well, there are times I like his right-handed bat at Target Field.
P Carl Pavano - I do like Carl Pavano. (No, not like this guy.) He's great to have around a young staff, but his loss of velocity and age might be signaling the end.

The big problems...

"Matt Capps" - It's not so much P Matt Capps, but what "Matt Capps" symbolizes. Wilson Ramos, proven closers, forfeited draft pick. All things that make Twins fans cringe. Oh, and his penchant to give up the long ball.
P Francisco Liriano - Less than a month ago, I would have been okay with offering Liriano arbitration (and possibly $12.5m) next year. After the alcohol wore off, I just wish the Twins would have traded for Ivan Nova when they had the chance. Liriano may be headed to the bullpen in a spot-swap with Brian Duensing.
1B Justin Morneau - The 2006 MVP is still capable of playing at high levels. The problem is that he's not often capable of playing at all. If Morneau can get and stay healthy (fat chance!), some team will add him for a playoff push... if the Twins are willing to kick in a few million dollars.

So now that the painful part is over, let's look at the solutions...

C Joe Mauer - Like it or not, he's locked in town until 2018. So if he wants to win a Title, he's going to need to be part of the solution.
CF Denard Span - It's been mentioned several times that Span is an asset. I couldn't agree more. But if he's not traded, he's definitely a part that can help the Twins compete again. If the Rangers call and dangle LP Martin Perez... well, I would say that Span helped solve the pitching problem.
LF Josh Willingham - Whether there is a market for The Hammer or not, I'm smitten by his power at Target Field, his contract and the fact that, by the end of his contract, he can be the DH. The only problem is that, in looking towards 2015, his contract ends after 2014.
LRP Glen Perkins - I feel about Perkins a lot like I feel about Span. Perkins is going to be around long-term... unless the Twins can spin him for other assets.
LP Brian Duensing - It seems like Duensing has been around forever, but he hasn't even hit arbitration yet, which means he's under team control through 2015. Whether it's in the bullpen or rotation, Duensing should be around to help turn it around.
RP Jared Burton - Burton has been a rarity for the Twins - a guy signed to a minor league deal and turned out to be a gem. Could he get a long-term deal?

Others - that the jury is out on - but could be part of the solution...

SS Brian Dozier - Long-term, I view him as a utility guy, but definitely someone that has impressed in his short time in the bigs.
1B Chris Parmelee - Showed signs in September, but should probably be given more time to develop in AAA.
LSP Scott Diamond - Let's not make too much out of last night's game, but he'll be given every opportunity to stick.
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  1. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
    Well, just like that two problems off the roster... Walters and Mastroianni will get a chance to be a part of a long-term solution.
  2. James Richter's Avatar
    With an eye on 2015, this is spot on with one exception: you've got to let go of Willingham. By then there will be somebody homegrown who can hit better than he will at age 36, and most likely field and run the bases better, for less than 1/10th the price.
  3. Jeremy Nygaard's Avatar
    I agree with your take on Willingham. But, unlike most of the other clowns, I think that what he brings to the table (or in a trade) will/should be part of fielding a competitive team in 2015. With his current contract, it will probably have to be through a trade.
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