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Oldgoat_MN

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    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Get Ready for the Opposite of Joe Mauer   
    In March of 2010, Minnesota inked hometown hero Joe Mauer to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension. He’d played in 699 games to that point and tallied three batting titles along with an MVP. With free agency looming, the Twins did the right thing and signed him to a deal that kept him from being paid by the Boston’s or New York’s of the baseball world.
    Because we know that we can’t have nice things as Twins fans, Mauer’s career would be forever changed due to injuries. He’s still a Hall of Famer, and he was still underpaid, but what could’ve been is something we can always wonder about. Due to those injuries changing production Mauer’s contract was long a point of consternation for fans. Working through revisionist history, detractors will often suggest a desire to have let Mauer walk and watch larger markets pay him more. As luck would have it, those same people may now have their day.
    Coming into 2022, Byron Buxton will have played 493 games for the Minnesota Twins. He’s owned an .897 OPS over the past three seasons and has a Platinum Glove to his credit before turning 28-years-old. An expected prime still ahead of him, this is a player that’s one of the ten best in the sport when he’s healthy. That’s where we pick up this story. Unlike Mauer, Buxton has experienced injury issues early on in his career. Also, unlike Joe, those injuries are the only reason Minnesota has a chance to sign the superstar in the first place.
    Reportedly offering an $80 million deal, Minnesota has not yet pushed to the $100 million asking price even with a valuation that would far exceed that number with an average bill of health. Instead of being asked to pay $250 million or more to keep their home-grown talent, the Twins are being asked to pay pennies on the dollar to factor in the availability, or lack thereof, that comes with Buxton. Instead of jumping at that chance, they are said to be leaning in the opposite direction.
    This isn’t a scenario in which history can be aligned to Terry Ryan’s ultimate gaffe regarding David Ortiz. No one is getting released, and the Twins will undoubtedly get something in exchange for Byron. The problem is that no player as valuable can be had for the same dollar amount, and a move regarding someone so intertwined with the fan base will forever cause ripple effects that only Mauer could’ve mirrored.
    We should know soon how the front office is going to play this situation. Maybe they’ve purposely been leaking misinformation to increase their negotiating stance. However, time is running out on wondering what may happen as we are less than a year from knowing what will.
    Byron Buxton might not be from St. Paul, Minnesota. Still, the Baxley, Georgia, native is every bit as Twins Territory as it gets and there isn’t an opportunity to put the band-aid back on this bullet wound once the trigger is pulled. Target Field was sold as an opportunity to keep the internal stars. That rung hollow when flipping Jose Berrios, and it hits rock bottom in moving on from Buxton. Whether he stays healthy or not isn’t the question for now. It’s whether or not you are willing to keep your best talent or continually recycle it.
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    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Nick Nelson for an article, What the Hell Are the Twins Doing with Byron Buxton?   
    On Tuesday, Dan Hayes and Ken Rosenthal bylined a report in The Athletic with the headline: Byron Buxton’s future with the Twins remains in limbo as team gauges trade interest, potential extension offers. The article depicts a team struggling to decide whether it should trade its best player with one year remaining under contract, or hold him for the 2022 season.
    The option that seems most obvious and desirable — striking a long-term extension with this generational talent in his prime — doesn't really seem to be on the table, even if it hasn't been ruled out.
    "Chairman Jim Pohlad, according to major-league sources, is reluctant to move Buxton, knowing such a decision potentially would upset a fan base tired of seeing the team part with homegrown stars," per The Athletic. 
    Pohlad's absolutely right in his assessment of how trading Buxton will be perceived by Twins fans, who just watched Jose Berrios sign an extension with Toronto. Fortunately, it would seem nobody is in better position than he to ensure Buxton sticks around. Pohlad and his ownership group have the power to greenlight an offer that keeps Buxton in Minnesota long-term, and such a framework — from all indications — is extremely achievable under team-friendly terms.
    The article from Hayes and Rosenthal reiterates that a 7-year, $80 million offer was extended in July, which we've heard before, but later offers up this detail: "Sources said talks about an incentive-laden extension in July broke down because of the Twins’ unwillingness to push the potential total value to $100 million."
    Back in July, reports indicated Buxton's side was amenable to that guaranteed amount of $80 million (which surprised me), but that an agreement couldn't be reached over the incentive structure. In my mind, I figured Buxton's camp must have been demanding some extravagant bonuses that could've done something like double the base amount.
    Yet, the wording of this new report — talks about an incentive-laden extension in July broke down because of the Twins’ unwillingness to push the potential total value to $100 million — well, that sure sounds like the team was not open to a contract that would maximize at $100 million.
    And if true, that's nothing short of embarrassing. Shameful. And egregiously foolish.
    I mean, come on, that would average out to about $14 million per year. That's Ricky Nolasco money, for a homegrown MVP-caliber player in his prime years. 
    I'm having a really hard time connecting the dots here. If Twins ownership is adamant about keeping Buxton, and the center fielder's side is open to a reasonable deal, then what is the hold-up? 
    Why are the Twins mired in internal debate over whether to trade Buxton or let him leave as a free agent, rather than opting for the best choice, which is neither of those?
    Here are a few possibilities I can conjure. If you have others, I'd love to hear them in the comments.
    The reported numbers are inaccurate. Hayes and Rosenthal are two of the more respected writers in the biz, and I trust they're providing a realistic view of the overall dynamic, but that doesn't mean every single detail is spot-on. Perhaps there are some specifics getting obscured in the communication loop. Or maybe they're receiving false info from a biased source with an agenda. (Ostensibly, this would be Buxton's agent, but I'm not sure what their end-game would be in leaking a low-ball offer?) Also: the numbers that've been reported would have be a loooong ways off to not make sense for the Twins.
    The Twins front office doesn't believe in Buxton. Or at least doesn't have enough confidence in his durability and aging regression to feel that a long-term extension is in their interest. I find this kind of hard to believe, but when you look at the evidence available to us — an owner expressing his desire to retain a player who is seemingly open to reasonable terms, and a front office that isn't making it happen — it's a plausible explanation. 
    Buxton has no interest in signing an extension in Minnesota. This would run contrary to what he's said publicly, but it'd hardly be the first time a pro athlete gave lip service to appease fans. Maybe the bridge truly was burned when the Twins held Buxton in the minors in September of 2018. Or maybe Buck has a yearning to return to the South where he was raised. Or maybe he simply recognizes an opportunity to earn a much bigger payday one year from now if he can deliver in 2022. Sadly, I think this is probably the most likely answer behind everything, and also the only one that completely ties the Twins' hands.
    Pohlad is bluffing, and doesn't really want to pay up. It's the favored explanation for many, I'm sure. Maybe it's true, and Pohlad is portraying himself to media as the good guy who fought for Buxton before an inevitable trade. But if the reported number he's targeting is anywhere close to correct, there's no reason that Twins shouldn't be able to keep Buxton while building a quality team around him under the payroll parameters that have become standard under this ownership. 
    One thing I will say: if Pohlad is pushing to prevent a Buxton trade solely to mitigate fan blowback, knowing the team won't be able to re-sign him (which is one way to read the opening in the Athletic article), the front office needs to shut him out and not listen. Team strategy cannot be dictated by such factors. 
    Trading Buxton will be a bitter pill to swallow, but it may result in making the best of a bad situation. A totally self-inflicted bad situation, if reports around these negotiations are to be believed.
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    Oldgoat_MN reacted to Allen Post for an article, Assessing One Internal Bullpen Candidate   
    Okay, let me start by saying this is an absolutely terrible idea. If you want a serious look at bullpen options for 2022, check out Jamie Cameron’s article from Friday on that very topic. Astudillo will never be seriously considered as a pitcher, partially because selling such a decision to the fanbase unironically would be impossible, but what if he was? What if he got a full sixty innings of relief work?
    As a primer, let’s look at Astudillo’s pitching numbers from 2021. He was given four opportunities to toe the rubber, all as a mop-up dude in blowout losses. In those four games, he pitched four full innings and allowed only one (rather infamous) run. That’s an ERA of 2.25, which is better than every actual reliever the Twins put out there this year except for four innings of Devin Smeltzer and 12 innings of Nick Vincent. Also, with only one hit allowed all year, Astudillo’s WHIP of .750 was second on the club, trailing only Smeltzer.
    On the other hand, having walked two and struck out exactly zero (0) hitters, Astudillo’s strikeouts per walk rate is in the mud (at 0.00), but, as Twins fans, we like to pretend that Wes Johnson can fix everything, so let’s assume he gets at least a strikeout every two innings out of Astudillo. 
    Now, obviously, La Tortuga’s four innings pitched is a ridiculously small sample size, but if that’s the type of thing that bothers you, this may not be the article for you, because this entire flimsy argument is based on that small sample size. And, even with that said, we’ve seen position players be immediately terrible on the mound before, and the fact that Astudillo gave the Twins even just four innings of competence means something. 
    With his stats settled (just don’t look at his FIP), let’s examine Astudillo’s stuff. According to FanGraphs, Willians has a fastball that sits in the low-80s, a seldom-used changeup in the low 60s and a heavily-used eephus that comes in at a bizarrely slow 45 miles per hour. Now he’s certainly not blowing up the radar gun, but he can throw each of these pitches for strikes (a remarkable skill) and pitchers have gotten Major League hitters out before with little velocity. Heck, Jamie Moyer’s fastball was tipping the scales at 78 mph when he was pitching real innings in the majors as a 49-year-old. 
    The key is the difference in velocity between your fastest and slowest pitch. In Moyer’s autobiography, Just Tell Me I Can’t, he repeatedly mentioned that he aimed for a 10 mph difference between his fastball and changeup velocity. Well, check out Astudillo; he’s got a 35+ mph difference between his fastest and slowest pitch. This overlay shows you exactly what that looks like:
    I mean, these pitches cross the plate in completely different time zones. And, it’s not as if those are the only two pitches he throws. If that were the case, hitters could either sit on one or the other and smack the baseball into next week. But Astudillo can get the ball across the plate at virtually any velocity between 45mph and 85 mph, so hitters never really know when the pitch is going to cross. With this bizarre pitch arsenal, there is reason to believe that Astudillo would be unpredictable enough on the mound to have real success. Just check out this highlight tape:
    It’s clear that big league hitters just simply don’t know what to do with 45 mph over the middle, and then after seeing it a few times, Astudillo shows them the same delivery but fires it in at 72, which is suddenly way too fast to adjust to. 
    Now, obviously, professional hitters would be able to adjust to Astudillo’s antics if he actually became a full-time reliever. The eephus surely wouldn’t be as effective the 100th time Astudillo threw it and his fastball might start to look like batting practice fodder more than anything else. But, given that Astudillo is the only guy in the league that pitches like he does, I’m just not sure hitters would be spending time preparing for the one at-bat a series they might get off him. 
    And, even if they did, it might not matter. When you spend all your career preparing for—and all day hitting off of—high velocity, high spin rate guys, adjusting to hitting off Astudillo likely feels like playing a completely different sport. And that might be just enough to make him viable as a full-time reliever. 
    Again, Falvey and Levine certainly won’t be able to trot out an Opening Day roster that has Astudillo as a pitcher, because, you know, we want the team to be good. However, if the team is going to be bad again—if we make it to July and Minnesota baseball is just as depressing as it was this year—I’d love to see him coming out of the bullpen on a regular basis. I only kind of believe he could do it, but if the Twins are going to be bad, I’d rather they be fun to watch.
    What do you think? Could La Tortuga actually do it? Let us know in the comments!
     
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