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  1. Minnesota’s Last Decade of Free Agency

    Minnesota Over the Last Decade
    Ervin Santana’s four-year, $55 million contract represents the biggest free agent contract in franchise history. Over the life of the contract, Santana compiled a 3.68 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP in 525 1/3 innings. He was named an All-Star in 2017 as he finished the year with a 16-8 record and a 3.28 ERA with a league leading five complete games and three shutouts. The 2018 season saw him limited to five starts as he dealt with injuries and had a falling out with the club.

    Minnesota’s best free agent signing of the last decade was signed last off-season as the club took a chance on 38-year old Nelson Cruz, He went on to lead the Bomba Squad with 41 home runs while being named the DH on the inaugural All-MLB Team and being awarded a Silver Slugger. According to ESPN, Cruz has been responsible for three organization’s best free agent contracts in the last decade.

    Before Cruz, Jim Thome might have represented the organization’s best free agent signing of the decade. Prior to the 2010 season, he signed for $1.5 million and hit .283/.412/.627 (1.039) with 25 home runs. Minnesota would bring him back for 2011 on a $3 million deal on his way to crossing the 600-home run plateau. He’d be limited in his final big-league season, so his last productive season came in a Twins uniform.

    Not all of Minnesota’s deal have worked out in the team’s favor. Prior to Santana’s deal, Minnesota handed Ricky Nolasco a four-year, $49 million deal. He struggled to the tune of a 5.44 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP in parts of three seasons. The deal was so bad, the Twins wound up dealing him to the Angels in 2016 and he hasn’t pitched at the big-league level since 2017.

    Major Free Agent Teams
    When it comes to free agency, there are some of the usual suspects at the top of the spending list, but there are some other surprising teams. The Red Sox (1st), Yankees (2nd) and Cubs (4th) have all found success in the last decade and some of that success can be attributed to spending millions on the open market. Boston won multiple titles and the Cubs were able to end their own curse.

    Philadelphia and Detroit are the other top five teams. Detroit had strong teams near the beginning of the decade, and they spent money to help them to multiple AL Central titles. Philadelphia spent a third of all their free agent money last offseason on one player, Bryce Harper. Detroit currently seems to be a mess, but Philadelphia might be trending in the right direction.

    Free agency is a tough gamble for every team. Players are paid based on their previous performance when most of these players are in the prime of their careers. Prime years for a player are usually associated with their mid- to late-20s. When a player hits their 30s, there is usually a decline in performance and that is when they are getting paid the most money. Players like Albert Pujols, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Prince Fielder were paid a lot of money for some poor seasons.

    There are some ageless players that seem to find success into their 30s. Nelson Cruz has fit that mold for multiple clubs as he entered the 2010s at age 29 and hit a decade-leading 346 home runs. MLB.com just named him to the all-decade team as the club’s designated hitter. Cruz is more of the exception to the rule than the standard, but Minnesota certainly benefitted from his signing last year.

    How do you feel about Minnesota’s free agent choices over the last decade? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Dec 22 2019 02:29 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. The Best Free Agent Signings in Twins History

    Nelson Cruz (2019)
    Baseball Reference WAR: 4.0
    Cruz has smashed almost every designated hitter record in Twins history. He became only the third player in franchise history to hit 40 home runs following in the footsteps of Harmon Killebrew and Brian Dozier. He set the team’s DH records for home runs and RBIs and will add to those totals with a handful of games remaining this season. The influence of Cruz goes well beyond the numbers he has put up on the field as he has served in a mentor role to many players on the Twins roster. There’s no doubt in my mind that Miguel Sano wouldn’t have hit 30 home runs this season if not for the mentorship provided by Cruz.

    Josh Willingham (2012)
    Baseball Reference WAR: 3.3
    Willingham doesn’t get as much reignition for his impact because he played on a pair of bad Twins teams. However, his 2012 campaign was one of the best in franchise history for a free agent signing. His defense was atrocious in the outfield, but he clubbed 35 home runs and collected 110 RBI, both career highs. He’d be out of the league after two more seasons, but it doesn’t take anything away from his first year in a Twins uniform. Like Cruz, he was credited with being a mentor to other players and he helped Brian Dozier turn in to a power-hitting threat in the years that followed his signing.

    Jim Thome (2010)
    Baseball Reference WAR: 3.6
    At his signing,Thome was near the end of a career that led him to be enshrined in Cooperstown, but he had a little magic left in the tank during Target Fields’ first season. He hit 25 home runs, but it sure felt like a lot more with his foul pole shot and walk-off hits to help the club. Target Field was packed on a nightly basis and Thome was certainly helping the club on their way to the AL Central title. Heck, even Sports Illustrated did a story on him that season and it takes a lot for them to make their way to Minnesota. He hit his 600th home run while in a Twins uniform, but his impact on the club was felt long after he had left the city.

    Jack Morris (1991)
    Baseball Reference WAR: 4.3
    Jack Morris only played one season in a Twins uniform, but it was certainly a memorable one. He went on to be an All-Star that season and pitched one of the greatest games in baseball history. At age 36, it would be his last All-Star appearance and it would be the last season he pitched over 245 innings. He led the American League in games started for only the second time in his career and he had 10 complete games to his credit by season’s end. He was a workhorse on a team that needed starting pitching help to reach the ultimate goal. Other pitchers like Kevin Tapani and Scott Erickson were able to outperform expectations that season and maybe Morris and his example were able to play a role in helping the team.

    These are just a few of the team’s best free agent signings. Who was left off the list? Who would you rank as the team’s best free agent signing? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Sep 22 2019 08:16 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. Twins Hope to Replicate Success of Torii, Thome With Cruz

    Fan favorite, and longtime Twins great, Torii Hunter was brought back by Terry Ryan prior to the 2015 season. He was playing that year at the age of 39 and coming off just a .765 OPS. Despite no longer being a good defensive outfielder, the front office ponied up for $10 million and he played 139 games in his final year. As expected, the production sagged further, and the OPS ended up at just .702 on the season. 83 wins were accomplished, and Hunter’s impact was felt most within the clubhouse. If judging this by motivational impact, the contract was a win.

    Back in 2010, the Ryan regime went the way of a 39-year-old yet again. This time recently inducted Hall of Famer Jim Thome found himself joining one of his longtime rivals. 2009 saw Thome post an .847 OPS and hit 23 longballs. His first year in Minnesota was incredible, owning a 1.039 OPS and earning MVP votes for the first time since 2006. He’d then go on to join the 600-home run club in a Minnesota uniform the following year and did so with an .827 OPS across 71 games. Thome was a leader on one good team, and one bad one, but there was clearly plenty left in the tank as well. Paid just $4.5 million after making $13 million in his final year with the White Sox, this was larceny for the Twins.

    So where does that leave Nelson Cruz, and the expectations for what he can bring in 2019?

    From the get-go we can count out any sort of defensive effort. Cruz hasn’t been a regular fielder in years, and given his offensive prowess, that’s a plenty fine stipulation. He’s a year removed from a .924 OPS, and since 2013 his 230 homers rank first in all of baseball. Cruz has surpassed the 40-home run plateau in three of the past five seasons, while hitting 39 and 37 in the other two. In 2016 Brian Dozier hit 42 dingers for the Twins, but the only other player to surpass the 40 mark is Harmon Killebrew.

    It’s certainly fair to note that there’s risk relying on Nelson’s offense. After all, he’s 38 and his .850 OPS in 2018 was roughly a 75-point drop from the year prior. He’s a strong on-base contributor, and while there’s a strikeout potential, it isn’t close to danger territory. Last season Cruz posted his worst fWAR (2.5) since 2013, and we already know the overall package is completely reliant on plate production.

    In looking at the numbers, somewhat of a rebound seems possible. Outside of completely hitting an age cliff, Cruz has many things still going in his favor. The 42.3% hard hit rate last season was a career high, and there’s room for a better BABIP with the ground ball rate jumping up to 44% (a 4% increase over 2017). Cruz has owned a consistent swing profile for roughly six years now though, and he’s coming to a park with a much more batter friendly left field line.
    A marriage between these two parties seemed destined from the onset, and the eventual deal is much more about production then it is nostalgia. I’d still imagine Cruz will be plenty beneficial to players like Miguel Sano in the clubhouse (assuming he has willing observers), but there’s reason to think he can pace this lineup. ZiPS projects Cruz for a .266/.348/.500 line with 30 longballs this season. I’d argue that’s reflective of his slide in 2018 and take the over on almost all of that.

    Nelson Cruz isn’t the Hall of Famer that Jim Thome was, but I think he could have a similar impact for the Twins in 2019. Reaching the 400-homer run plateau (he’s currently 40 shy) and raking in the middle of Rocco Baldelli’s lineup are good bets. Torii Hunter was fun, and his dance parties helped to spark a looseness that elevated a Twins squad. Jim Thome was on a 94-win team that grabbed a division title, and that seems like a much more fun outcome this time around.

    • Mar 07 2019 01:56 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  4. Hall Of Famers On And Off The Field

    There are a lot of similarities between Jim Thome and Joe Mauer, though they may not be obvious at first glance.

    Sure, Mauer has been mostly a singles and doubles hitter, batting for high average while Thome knocked over 600 home runs in his career. Mauer is long and lean while Thome is power-packed and burly. Hey, there’s a reason that the Paul Bunyan comparisons (and bobbleheads) have been made.

    But as Paul Molitor discussed the impact that Thome made in his brief time in Minnesota, it was natural for the conversation to swing toward Mauer and his accomplishments on and off the field.

    Jim Thome spent the 2010 season with the Twins and hit 25 home runs. In 2011, he played with the Twins until an August 25th trade sent him back to Cleveland.

    According to Molitor, Thome certainly made an impact. “He did. I think it’s to his credit that, although the time wasn’t very long, there was a bigger impact that maybe didn’t match up with the time.”

    Molitor continued, “What he did on the field was obviously impressive, added to his Hall of Fame credentials, but the influence he had on our group of young players. I remember in spring training, he’d go over to to the minor league fields to get extra at bats. Just the way he responded to those young kids and the example he set (provided an impact). He never took himself too seriously. It was always about enjoying the game and trying to make people around him better. It’s nice that we have the chance to honor him tonight.”

    But both Jim Thome and Joe Mauer are such nice people, caring people. Generally, they are quiet people as well. But don’t doubt their drive. Players don’t achieve as much as Thome and Mauer have in their careers without being extremely competitive and driven.

    Molitor noted. “I don’t think that you should be misled by the external demeanor or the fire of both of those guys. For a long time, I’d be asked ‘What’s Joe like in the clubhouse?’ He’s top shelf. You may not see it. He handles the ups and downs without the heavy outbursts. But even last night, in talking to his teammates, it was about staying in the moment and looking forward to come out today and trying to win a baseball game.”

    He noted that Mauer and Thome are strong leaders. “People define vocal. Vocal doesn’t mean volume.”

    Jim Thome’s career began in 1991 in Cleveland. At that time, Molitor’s Milwaukee Brewers were still in the American League. Then Molitor moved to the Blue Jays and ended his career with three years for the Twins. So, he saw a lot of Thome through the 1998 season when Molitor retired.

    Molitor noted that it’s been a long time, but he remembers Thome’s early years. “I remember him coming up as a third baseman. I’m not sure if I bunted on him somewhere along the way. You could tell early on. A guy who was exuberant on the field and played with passion and his power stuck out back then as a young player, maybe a little smaller version of the current Jim Thome. His run in Cleveland. Transition to first baseman. DH. Turned into one of the better power hitters of his generation.”

    In the same way that Thome had an impact on the field and in the clubhouse, Mauer still is having an impact. One way that he does that is providing a game ball after each Twins win. The ball doesn’t always go to the obvious choice. According to Molitor, “I think his biggest intent in getting up there is to make sure he recognizes all the little contributions. It’s not always about the two-run homer or the 7-inning shutout. It can be about a guy making a play or advancing a runner or battling with two strikes.”

    After the Friday night game when Mauer passed Rod Carew on the Twins all-time hit list, Molitor addressed the team following the game. “We took a moment. Talked about the history of the organization, how far back it goes, and over that span of time, Joe has more hits than anyone wearing this uniform than anyone else except one guy. It speaks a lot.”

    The Twins have stated publicly that they have not approached Mauer about a contract extension, and the Mauer side hasn’t reached out to them about his plans beyond 2018 when his contract ends and he can become a free agent.

    Mauer continues to do so much around the community. You may hear often about the work he and his wife Maddie do with the Gillette’s Childrens Hospital, but we have probably all heard stories of things that Mauer has done in the community which have never been made public.

    Mauer has been making an impact in the Twin Cities for a couple of decades. Jim Thome impacted this community for a couple of seasons. Both are Hall of Famers on and off the field.

    • Aug 26 2018 12:08 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  5. Twins Daily Roundtable: Hall of Fame Impact

    John Bonnes
    I've followed the Twins since 1972, and in my mind, there is no doubt that Kirby Puckett has had the biggest impact. It wasn't just the World Series championships or the postseason heroics. Indeed that was just a small fraction of what he brought, as was his performance on the field. His personality, specifically his childlike enthusiasm and joy, separated him from any other athlete I've witnessed.

    He was also fortunate enough to have his career fall into the perfect media landscape: media was ubiquitous, but not chaotic and social. I wasn't able to witness first-hand the greatness on and off the field that Harmon Killebrew embodied, but I have trouble imagining that any player from the 60s could impact an organization and community the way Puckett did in the 80s and 90s.

    Nick Nelson
    For me personally, it’d have to be Kirby Puckett. He was easily the team’s biggest star while I was growing up, and had a major impact on my fledgling affinity for Twins baseball at the time.

    However, given that Kirby’s playing career was relatively brief (by HoF standards) and his greatness somewhat overstated (*ducks*) I’ve gotta go with Harmon Killebrew. I didn’t have the privilege of watching him play, but the numbers speak for themselves: to still own essentially all the franchise’s power-hitting records 30-plus years after retiring is nothing short of incredible.

    Plus, Killebrew stuck around as a fantastic ambassador for the organization many years after his playing career ended, whereas Kirby faded from the spotlight unceremoniously. Puckett’s legacy is ultimately a complicated and checkered one, but Killer’s is rock-solid through and through. He arrived along with the team from Washington in 1961, on the front end of a legendary run, and will forever be emblazoned in my mind as the eternal face of the franchise.

    Cody Christie
    When looking at the organization, Tony Oliva, a player not in the Hall of Fame, might have had the greatest impact on the organization. He’s been a great ambassador for the game and an asset for the organization. However, other players elected to Cooperstown like Kirby Puckett, Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Bert Blyleven have impacted the organization in different ways.

    Puckett brought multiple titles to the Twin Cities. Killebrew was the heart and soul of the organization’s first pennant winning team. Carew and his Heart of 29 campaign have brought him back into the fold in Minnesota. Even Blyleven and his terrible announcing have left an impact on the organization.

    If I am picking one player, it has to be Killebrew. His on and off the field impacts have touched every generation of Twins fans. Puckett was my idol growing up but his post career life was filled with various demons. Killebrew wasn’t perfect but his reach goes far beyond Twins Territory.

    Steve Lein
    Just to point this out while I go into my why: this is a tough question for me (for reasons discussed below and others I won’t).

    I grew up as a little kid loving baseball and my home/favorite team won two world series before I was ten years old. My views may be a little skewed because of that and the vivid memories I still have (one of those World Series was the first time I can remember my parents letting me stay up late).

    Since I’ve grown up and sought to learn much more about the franchise’s history, I know the name Harmon Killebrew should top a lot of our writer’s lists. I don’t know if you could find a Hall of Famer anywhere that without a doubt could be called a better human being. Because of that, while I was in a vintage store this past weekend I was very tempted to drop far too much money on an okay-condition Killebrew baseball card from 1958, while still in a Senators jersey.

    But as far as impact on the organization for me, the answer to this question will likely always be Kirby Puckett. He’s unquestionably the reason why you came to the Metrodome during his star-studded career, his joy playing the game was apparent every day with his smile, and his charisma was known throughout the major leagues. He also led his teams to those two World Series Championships, so he’s my pick.

    SD Buhr
    Given my advanced age, it’s not surprising that I’m going to go with Harmon Killebrew. Many fans may not have an appreciation for just how sorry the Washington Senators franchise was at the time Calvin Griffith moved the team to Minnesota.

    Washington won the AL pennant in 1933. From that point until the franchise landed in Minnesota, the Senators had three seasons in which they finished in the top half of the A.L. standings (two were during the talent-challenged World War II era). They finished dead last in the standings in four of their final six seasons in Washington.

    That is the legacy that Calvin Griffith brought to Minnesota. Fortunately, he also brought Harmon Killebrew to Minnesota.

    With Killebrew as the face of the franchise, the Twins quickly became one of most successful teams of the 1960s.They finished 6th in their debut season of 1961, but finished 2nd in 1962, 3rd in 1963 and won the franchise’s first A.L. pennant in 32 years in 1965. They were runners-up in 1966 and 1967 and then won the first two Western Division pennants of the Divisional era in 1969 and 1970.

    Under Griffith’s frugal ownership, the Twins became an also-ran during the following decade and a half, until Griffith sold the team to Carl Pohlad. Killebrew was the virtual embodiment of “Minnesota Nice” off the field, while being a cold blooded “killer” when he stepped into the batter’s box.

    If the Twins had continued their Senators legacy of being the league doormats, it’s not hard to imagine that Griffith would have been forced to sell his team much sooner than he did and who knows whether there would have been much local interest in even trying to keep the team in Minnesota.

    Thanks to Killebrew and his friends, the Twins were still around when Kirby and his buddies won their Championships.

    Andrew Thares
    Now batting, number 34, Kirbyyyyyyyyyyyyy Puckett! In the history of the Minnesota Twins, there isn’t a single player who has had a greater impact on the organization than Kirby Puckett.

    It would be easy to talk about him being the best player on both World Series winning teams, or reminisce on his brilliant preforming in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series, but really it was how Kirby played the game that left the lasting impact on the organization.

    As a Twins fan who isn’t old enough to remember Kirby Puckett before he retired, I think it speaks volumes to the fact that he is still my favorite baseball player of all time.

    Ted Schwerzler
    While Harmon was a man that has been gone from baseball for quite some time now, I think it's safe to say his impact has been felt over multiple generations. He was consistently a figurehead for the Twins organization even after his playing days, and his instruction towards young players is still disseminated today. He instilled a way in which to go about doing things that has been bought into by players like Torii Hunter, and consistently passed down as those guys give back to the organization today.

    If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
    Baseball in 2028
    Second Half Star
    Sell, Sell, Sell?
    Fixing the Offense

    • Aug 01 2018 12:07 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  6. Twins Weekly for Jan. 19-25: It’s a Celebration!

    Let’s take a quick look back at all the articles from the front page in the order they were published. This edition of Twins Weekly covers Friday, Jan. 19 to Thursday, Jan. 25.

    Diamond Awards A Big Success | John Bonnes
    Players’ Union Rejects Pace Of Play Proposals | Cody Christie
    Johan Santana Elected To Twins Hall of Fame | Seth Stohs
    The Twins Almanac for January 21–27 | Matt Johnson
    Gleeman & The Geek, Ep 352: Winter Meltdown 2018 | John Bonnes
    Can Addison Reed Become Minnesota's Bullpen Ace? | Nick Nelson
    Twins On Deck With Seth Podcast (Episode 3) | Seth Stohs
    Top Ten Twins Players Under 25 (6-10) | Cody Christie
    Overheard at TwinsFest: Granite Wants to Kick Yankee @!# | Tom Froemming
    Fernando Romero Is Healthy, Ready To Compete | Seth Stohs
    Glen Perkins: Tribute To A Twins Daily Hall Of Famer | Nick Nelson
    Would You Rather: Darvish or a Cobb/Lynn Combo? | Tom Froemming
    5 Challenges The Twins Should Be Prepared To Face In 2018 | Nick Nelson
    Report: Darvish Decision Expected This Week, Twins In Consideration | Cody Christie
    Video: Slowing Things Down To See Jason Castro’s Silent Skill | Tom Froemming
    Get To Know Rule 5 Pick Tyler Kinley | Seth Stohs
    The Minnesota Twins Said No To Jim Thome | Parker Hageman
    Dollars Make Sense for 2018 Twins | Ted Schwerzler

    Twins Daily Blogs
    Below are some additional items of note from the blog area. I've pulled excerpts from each piece in an attempt to hook you in.

    The Sport of Immigrants
    By mikelink45

    From the start the Minnesota Twins had an international connection. In the 1960’s before the recent surge in Foreign born players, the Twins had a Cuban connection that brought us Camilo Pascual, Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles, Sandy Valdespino, and Luis Tiant. And from Venezuela – Cesar Tovar who took us to the 1965 World Series. In their first years, when I was an usher, I always tried to get near the first base bag as the game moved on and the seats were full so I could watch my favorite player – Vic Power from Puerto Rico. I loved Pedro Ramos who complimented Pascual on the mound and does anyone remember Elmer Valo from Slovakia? Or Reno Bertoia from Italy who lived in Canada and is in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? There were 9 foreign born players on our first Minnesota Twins team.

    Twins Analytics Infrastructure
    By jharaldson

    This Twins have had a bit of a tortured history with analytics. In 2010 Rob Antony did an interview with TwinsDaily’s own Parker Hageman and revealed some interesting facts about the Twins and Sabermetrics. Antony stated this about their analytics department, “we're probably one of the last, if not the last, team to address it with a person dedicated solely to that.”. He went on further to fail to understand some fairly basic concepts about Sabermetrics. He thought FIP was “first strike in inning pitched” and was unable to guess about BABIP. He then revealed they had just hired their analytics guy and stated he would be “Gathering information and creating databases. This will be his first year. The guy that we brought in will start creating systems to build a foundation of our own that we can look at.” This is what I primarily want to get into as I have a background in IT.

    WAR on Twins Hall of Fame
    By sethmoko

    The announcement of Johan Santana's well-deserved selection to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame as well as the round-and-round Twitter and blog conversation about MLB Hall of Fame selections got me thinking: Who is in the Twins Hall of Fame that might surprise and who are other deserving candidates.

    Twins Showing Interest in Wade Miley
    By Andrew Thares

    Wade Miley isn’t the sexiest name out there on the starting pitcher market, but he could be a value grab for the Twins as they look to add depth to their rotation. One thing the Twins will be able to count on in Miley is his durability, as he has averaged 186 innings per season over the last six years. Miley has a respectable 4.38 ERA, and 3.95 xFIP, over his career, though he has been suspect of late with a 5.48 ERA over the past two seasons. This will make Miley a cheap signing, that the Twins could take a flyer on.

    Bullish - The Upside of the 2018 Bullpen
    By Jamie Cameron

    Looking at the most effective bullpens of 2017, an even more integral stat is K/9. This makes a ton of sense, not much can go wrong if you’re striking hitters out on a consistent basis. In 2017, there were 9 teams with a bullpen K/9 of at least 9.5. Between them, these clubs averaged a WAR of 6.5 for their bullpen. The Twins bullpen WAR in 2017 was 2.2, not a disaster, good for 22nd in MLB. By K/9, the Twins ranked 29th, with just 7.66 strikeouts per nine innings. Hardly surprising, when you are cycling through nearly 30 relievers over the course of the season. So how do the Twins new additions stack up in generating more strikeouts?

    What does one of the newest predictive measurements tell about the Twins' bats in 2018?
    By Thrylos

    As indicated only Joe Mauer, and in a lesser degree, Jason Castro are projected to improve, as far as the 2018 startling 9 of the Twins go. Pretty much everyone else is projected to decline.

    If one looks at several projections about what the 2018 will do, which are based on xwOBA, expect them to show an overall decline in wins.

    Video of the Week
    New Hall of Famer Jim Thome was only with the Twins for two seasons, but he sure gave us some tall tales during his time here.

    eBay Item of the Week
    It’s too bad Glen Perkins’ prime coincided with a down period for the Twins, but Perk closing out the All-Star Game at Target Field was one of the highlights of that period. Check out this sweet program from that game with the hometown boy on the cover:
    This isn’t on eBay, but if you’re looking to score some other sweet Twins memorabilia and support a good cause, check out the listings at the Darrell and Merry’s Cancer Fund charity auction. There are 14 items up for grabs from Twins legends like Tony Oliva to prospects like Royce Lewis and everybody in between.

    Additional Links

    Baseball: Twins' Curtiss saves the day in relief
    By the Duluth News Tribune

    John Curtiss took the call on Monday in Dallas asking if he could fill in for fellow Minnesota Twins pitcher Jose Berrios on the team's annual Winter Caravan after Berrios returned home to Puerto Rico to attend to a family matter.

    Curtiss sprang into action, but his flight to Minneapolis on Monday was delayed due to the blizzard that hit the Twin Cities. He even offered to fly to Omaha, Neb., and then drive the rest of the way, but he instead ended up flying out Tuesday morning, where he joined the Winter Caravan later that day.

    Target Field renovations for 2018 unveiled
    By Maija Varda of Twinkie Town

    The biggest change happening is that the Metropolitan Club — the big glass area in right field reserved exclusively for season ticket holders — will be no more. Instead, it will be replaced by a new club called Bat & Barrel, and will be open to all ticket holders. It’ll have bar, table, and lounge seating, a bunch of TVs, alcohol, new food, and all the other things you’d expect the Twins to put in there. More unexpectedly, the club will also be the home for various team awards, including both World Series Championship trophies! Woo! Unfortunately, the team didn’t say whether these would be the real World Series trophies, or replicas like the ones they already display in the Champions Club behind home plate (the real trophies are kept in the team offices).

    Torres, Tatis Jr. lead Top 10 SS Prospects list (includes Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon)
    By Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com

    Keep an eye on - Wander Javier, Twins

    By the end of the year, it's possible that Javier will be getting more of the attention among Twins shortstops. Signed for $4 million in 2015, he had a strong United States debut in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2017 and could really break out with a move to the Midwest League this season.

    Minnesota Twins Spring Training Countdown: 22, Brad Radke
    By Benjamin Chase of Puckett’s Pond

    The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectations after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card. We will have bring out numbers from team history that represent the number of days until spring training from now until pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.

    Some pitchers put up incredible ERA numbers, some pitchers put up incredible strikeout numbers, and some pitchers simply put up consistent numbers year-after-year to create their value over time. One of the best examples of that model is Twins Hall of Fame starter Brad Radke, who wore #22.

    Baseball is Good
    By Cory Engelhardt

    I had my 32nd episode last night. I was my own guest. It was really interesting/unusual doing a show all on my own, and I felt at times like I was rambling on a bit. Outside of that, I enjoyed doing the show and asking myself some of the questions that I have asked other people in previous podcast. I touched on how I grew to love the sport, why I enjoy still talking about baseball, what I see as the future of Baseball is Good, and lastly I ended the show going over some memories I had from TwinsFest this past weekend. Please give it a listen!

    Calling All Bloggers!!!
    Reminder: Anyone can start a blog at Twins Daily. If you're interested in being a regular writer for the site, the blog section is how you get your foot in the door. The only reason you're reading my words right now is because I started my own blog at Twins Daily.

    Calling All Readers!!!
    I don’t want to leave you out, either. If there's anything you'd love to read about next week, please let us know in the comments.

    That does it for this edition of Twins Weekly, have a great weekend everyone.

    • Jan 26 2018 06:39 AM
    • by Tom Froemming
  7. The Minnesota Twins Said No To Jim Thome

    Earlier that spring, 18-year-old James Howard Thome, all of six-foot-four and fungo thin, was manning shortstop at Illinois Central College. The Limestone High School graduate from just outside of Peoria, was getting little interest from within the professional baseball ranks. The summer after high school Thome attended a St. Louis Cardinals camp and was dismissed. Dozens of scouts would be at the junior college games, mostly looking at players on the opposing team.

    One scout, Ellsworth Brown, had noticed him. He saw him in high school and followed him around the state’s junior college circuit. Brown was working for the Minnesota Twins. Several years prior, he had scouted Kirby Puckett and eventually signed the center fielder. Brown could recognize hitters no matter the shape. He believed, in spite of the obvious positional limitations, that Jimmy Thome would indeed hit.


    He tried to convince everyone above him that this kid would hit. For their part, the Twins’ higher ups told him that they didn’t believe Thome could play shortstop. There are eight other positions, Brown informed them.

    According to Terry Ryan, then the team’s scouting director, power was a high priority in the draft. It was the reason the team spent the second round pick on a little remembered outfielder out of Riverside, California by the name of John Gumpf. Other picks were spent in search of power.

    As Brown was trying to convince his superiors that Thome would be worth the investment, the Cleveland Indians had a scout named Tom Couston who was also enamored of Thome’s hit tool. After spending a game with the intention of tracking an opposing player, Thome caught his attention by hitting rockets all over the field. According to Couston, Thome was seen running a 5.2 down the line to first, which is a full-second slower than the average left-handed major leaguer. Couston also had timed Thome running a 6.8 60-yard dash time so he was confident there was enough athleticism to find him a position. Watch this kid hit, was the mantra Couston repeated to his bosses.

    With Couston’s endorsement, the Indians opted to draft Thome in the thirteenth round of the 1989 draft, with 332 players drafted ahead of him. They offered $10,000 to sign him. He asked for $15,000. They agreed.

    Two rounds prior, the Twins drafted Dan Masteller, a first baseman out of Michigan State, who saw a spattering of starts in 1995. A round later, they drafted a catcher, Alvin Brown, who eventually converted to being a pitcher in the Tigers organization. They drafted outfielders and middle infielders, leaning more towards athleticism than power. Eventually they tabbed two hulking first baseman in the later rounds hoping for some slug. None, of course, would compare to Jim Thome.

    Needless to say, the draft is filled with stories of scouts saying they begged their bosses to draft so-and-so, whether it was Mike Trout or Albert Pujols or Jim Thome. With every great player comes the tale of a scout who believed in him when others doubted.

    It is hard to say what his career trajectory would be had the Twins listened to Brown and drafted Jim Thome. The Twins obviously had Kent Hrbek at first but you could easily see them shifting Hrbek to the DH spot in 1993 or 1994 and allowing a young Thome to learn first. Had the Twins drafted him, the mid-to-late 1990s could have been radically different. Instead of shoehorning Dave McCarty at first or experimenting with Scott Stahoviak for several seasons, they would have had 40 home run potential locked in. It’s possible they never trade for David Ortiz or try to draft Travis Lee (which means they don’t get Matthew Lecroy either). Thome’s presence with the Twins would not have fixed the dreadful pitching problems but it could have been improved considering he wouldn’t be in a Cleveland uniform blasting white missiles into the blue seats at the Metrodome.

    At the same time, it’s possible Thome never fulfills his destiny if he were drafted by Minnesota. After all, Thome credits a lot of his success to working with Charlie Manuel while in AAA Charlotte. It was Manuel who gave Thome is iconic pre-pitch bat point, a move he borrowed after watching The Natural. It was after that season that Thome’s home run power arrived. Then again, hitters hit. It would likely be a matter of time before he sandblasted baseballs all across the universe no matter what uniform he was in.

    Fortunately, MInnesotans did get to witness Thome’s Hall of Fame power up close and firsthand. While he was in the twilight of his career and moving at the speed of a glacier, Jim Thome could still melt baseballs like no other. The 600th home run milestone was achieved in a Twins uniform and that moment will forever be associated with the organization. Still, what if Terry Ryan and others listened to Ellsworth Brown when he described Thome’s hitting abilities all those years ago? How different would the Twins’ franchise look today?

    While we can all dream of an alternate history, in the end, Jim Thome reaches the Hall of Fame, he will don a Cleveland Indians hat, just the way the baseball gods intended.

    • Jan 25 2018 10:16 AM
    • by Parker Hageman
  8. Running Down The Hall (Of Fame Ballot)

    If you missed any of the series on Johan Santana’s Cooperstown Case, there were three parts to the series. The first post looked at the Kirby Puckett Clause and how it can be applied to Santana. The second article touched on the similarities in careers between Santana and the great Sandy Koufax. The third and final piece touched on his missing third Cy Young.

    Class of 2018
    Vladimir Guerrero: In his first year on the ballot, Guerrero garnered 71.7% of the vote and finished a mere 15 votes shy of induction. He will most certainly get the call this season. Across 16 big league seasons, he hit .318/.379/.553 with 449 home runs, 477 doubles and 2,590 hits. He ranked in the top five in the MVP voting four times and took home the 2004 AL MVP. His .318 average and 449 home runs have only been matched by Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx.

    Trevor Hoffman: Much like Guerrero, Hoffman fell just votes shy of being elected last year. He received 74% of the vote and only needed five more votes to be inducted. He held the all-time record for career saves before Mariano Rivera took over the lead. Even as a relief pitcher, he finished second in the Cy Young voting twice and had two other top six finishes. He was the first pitcher to reach 500 saves and he is one of two players to reach the 600-save mark.

    Chipper Jones: The long-time Braves third baseman is making his first appearance on the ballot and he should easily make it to Cooperstown. During his 19-year career, he hit .303 while combining 468 home runs with a .930 OPS. He took home the 1999 NL MVP Award. He is one of five players to compile a .300 batting average, .400 on-base percentage, .500 slugging percentage, at least 450 home runs and at least 2,700 hits over a career. The other players are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial and Mel Ott.

    Jim Thome: Twins fans are well aware of the legend of Jim Thome. From home runs off the top of the flag pole to his devastating Game 163 bomb, Twins Territory has seen the good and the bad of Thome’s career. Thome smashed over 600 home runs, got on base over 40% of the time and compiled a career .956 OPS. Beside his performance on the field, he was known as one of baseball’s great ambassadors for his contributions off the field. Because of a log-jam on the ballot, he might be close in his first year but I still think he makes it.

    Future Inductions
    Omar Vizquel: Vizquel is an interesting case in that nearly all of his value came on the defensive side of the ball. He slashed .272/.336/.352 including only two seasons with a 100-plus OPS+ in his 24-year career. He was a defensive wizard who won 11 Gold Glove awards. Many compare him to Ozzie Smith, a first ballot Hall of Famer, who didn’t provide a lot of offensive value. With a loaded ballot, I’m guessing Vizquel won’t be elected in 2018 but he will gain some support in the years to come.

    Edgar Martinez: I continue to push for Edgar Martinez since he is one of the best designated hitters in history. Unfortunately, voters continue to hold his lack of defensive value against him. It’s shaping up to be a very close race for him. Out of the almost 60 public ballots, he is polling at over 80%. This would be good enough to get in but there are still plenty of unknown ballots to be counted.

    May Never Get In (But Still On My Ballot)
    Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, Johan Santana
    Bonds and Clemens are two of the greatest players of all time but their connection to the steroid era has kept them out of Cooperstown. Mussina continues to make it on to my ballot and I think he might start to pick up some voters in the years to come. He was a very good pitcher for a long time but it might not be enough to find a place in Cooperstown. I built Santana’s Cooperstown case in multiple posts. I think he deserves to get in.

    To be transparent, little has changed in my ballot from last year to this year. I correctly predicted the three players who would be elected last year (Bagwell, Raines and Rodriguez) and I dropped Curt Schilling from the end of my ballot. I have replaced those four players on this year’s ballot with four first-time nominees (Jones, Thomes, Vizquel and Santana).

    Here is the official list of players available to be voted for by the BBWAA. Who makes your list? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Dec 18 2017 07:50 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. Thome, Santana Get First Shot At The Hall

    Thome’s Resume
    Thome’s numbers speak for themselves. Only nine players have surpassed the 600 home run plateau and Thome is one of them. He also compiled 1,699 RBIs, 1,583 runs scored, a .402 OBP and 2,328 hits. According to Baseball Reference’s Offensive WAR, he has the 44th highest total in baseball history and his WAR for position players is in the top 55. His career slugging (.544) and OPS (.956) both rank in the top 25 all-time. He also ranks seventh in base on balls (1,747). His demeanor on and off the field also separated him from the pack. Former teammate Joe Crede said, “He’s the epitome of a baseball player.” That kind of resume will be tough for the writers to ignore.

    Santana’s Resume
    Santana provides a more interesting case for the Hall of Fame. He was the most dominant pitcher in the game for a five-year stretch but his career was eventually derailed by injuries. Earlier this year, Seth compared Santana’s career to the great Sandy Koufax. There are similar career paths for both players. Baseball Reference’s Cy Young Career Shares (2.72) has him 12th all-time. Of the players in front of him, eight are in the Hall of Fame. The four not in the Hall are Roger Clemens, Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay, and Max Scherzer. Clemens may never get in but the other three all have a very strong chance. He ranks in the top 20 all-time in strikeouts per nine and adjusted ERA+.

    Other sluggers from Thome’s era have struggled to make it on the first ballot. A steroid era cloud has hung over some players like last year’s inductee Jeff Bagwell. Thome’s numbers are some of the best all-time and his overall contributions to the game will make it tough to keep him out of Cooperstown. This year’s ballot is stacked so he could fall victim to too many people passing him over to keep other players on the ballot. That being said, I still think he gets in.

    Santana is going to be a tough player for the writers to consider. I think it would take multiple years of him being on the ballot to start building up a case in his favor. He would need writers talking about how dominant he was before the injury. Twins fans saw a player like Kirby Puckett get inducted even though his career was cut short by an injury. Could the baseball writers do the same thing with Santana? It doesn’t seem likely for him to make it in 2018.

    Do you think either player makes the cut? Should Santana make it for his dominant stretch? Who else on the ballot will be elected? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    • Nov 20 2017 07:48 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  10. Should The Twins Sign Alex Rodriguez?

    Let’s start with this. Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest baseball players of the last 25 years. His numbers speak for themselves. He arrived in Seattle about a year after being the #1 overall pick in the 1993 draft. He was a 14-time All-Star, starting at age 20. In 2,783 games, he has a career line of .295/.380/.550 (.930) with 547 doubles, 696 home runs and 2,085 RBI. He has won three MVP awards, won ten Silver Slugger awards and even a couple of Gold Gloves.

    But for all of his accomplishments on the field, most people in and around and outside of baseball choose to jump straight to his PED usage and his elaborate cover-up. He missed the entire 2014 season because of suspension. It’s an era of baseball that we can’t move past and that’s understandable.

    This year with the Yankees, he is hitting just .199/.247/.348 (.525) with nine homers in 64 games. He has been relegated to Joe Girardi’s bench the last few weeks. It makes sense for the Yankees to get rid of him.

    But again, the assumption is that he will sign somewhere. If I was a betting man, I’d say he winds up signing with the Miami Marlins. It just makes the most sense. But, I did want to take just a little bit of time to consider whether it makes any sense at all for the Twins to sign A-Rod.

    The Pros

    While my sense as I start typing this is that the Cons will outnumber (and out-value) the Pros, there are legitimate reasons to at least consider it.

    While 2016 has been a bad year for Rodriguez, he was really pretty good in 2015. He hit .250/.356/.486 (.842) with 22 doubles, 33 homers and 86 RBI in 151 games as a 39-year-old. He can still provide some power.

    At 696 home runs, it would be pretty cool for a fan base to be able to watch a chase to 700 home runs. It certainly was fun watching Jim Thome chase his 600th home run.

    Many have indicated that Rodriguez has done a very nice job as a teammate, particularly with the young Yankees players. Many have said that the Twins need a veteran leader on the roster, particularly with so many young players. Rodriguez is eloquent and fluent in both English and Spanish, and with the Twins having so many young players from Latin American countries, his voice could be helpful.

    It would not require much money, if he chose to sign. He is owed and will be paid $23 million by the Yankees in 2017, the final year of his 10-year, $275 million deal.

    The Cons

    I think it’s fair to say that Alex Rodriguez comes with some baggage. The PED stuff is always a topic in the minds of media and fans. There certainly would be plenty of public scrutiny. Some of it fair. Some of it unnecessary.

    His age-40 season has been a disaster. Age is certainly not his friend. While his 2015 season was solid, the precipitous drop in production in 2016 doesn’t bode well for his presumed productivity in 2017.

    The Twins already have plenty of DH options. As much as it may be nice to have Alex Rodriguez around as a mentor for Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco, Jose Berrios, Eddie Rosario, Kennys Vargas, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and other young players, he would have to accept that he would basically be a pinch-hit option. Miguel Sano, Kennys Vargas, Byung Ho Park, Daniel Palka and Adam Brett Walker are all DH candidates, as well as DH days for Joe Mauer.

    While the reports of Rodriguez's work with young players has been positive, there does seem to be a general uneasiness and lack of trust in him. Signing an aging veteran could be positive, but it could be destructive if it doesn't play out as you hope.

    My Opinion

    Certainly you have your opinions on Rodriguez the player, Rodriguez the person, or Rodriguez the legacy. Maybe there are other Pros or Cons that you would include. Feel free to (respectfully) discuss them below.

    While I would love to watch Alex Rodriguez finish his career in a Twins uniform, I just don’t think it makes a lot of sense for the Twins. He likely would be a terrific mentor for the Twins' young players. It would be fun to watch a chase for 700 wins. However, his at-bats would likely come at the expense of some young players who either are, or hope to be, a part of the Twins future. With that, it makes it harder to justify the PR hit that the Twins might take (by some) for signing someone with such a tainted history.
    In the end, I would be very excited if the they signed Rodriguez either yet this season or going into the 2017 season. I just can’t see it as making sense for the Twins.

    • Aug 12 2016 08:52 AM
    • by Seth Stohs