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  1. There has been a flurry of free-agent signings with the looming lockout. Let’s revisit the top-five remaining free-agent starting pitcher options for the Twins. Minnesota’s current rotation is expected to include Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Other rotational options include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, and Lewis Thorpe. Some of the team’s top prospects are also on the 40-man roster, including Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, Drew Strotman, Chis Vallimont, and Josh Winder. Each of the players below is still available with the looming lockout on the horizon. Included with each player is his projected salary, according to the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. 5. RHP Michael Pineda TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million/season Twins fans are well familiar with Pineda, and he likely won’t get the fanbase excited about what he can bring to the rotation. He seems like an excellent candidate to be the team’s number three starter, but that would mean the Twins need to acquire two other arms to put ahead of him in the rotation. Pineda is a known quantity, and he has been a strong veteran presence during his time in Minnesota. He can add rotational depth, but he can’t be the team’s only offseason move. 4. LHP Yusei Kikuchi TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $15 million/season Kikuchi was an All-Star last season, but he struggled mightily in the second half with an ERA close to 6.00. He surrendered the hardest average exit velocity in baseball last season because he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. He will be a project for any team that signs him, but he’s left-handed and has a three-pitch mix, so that’s intriguing. 3. LHP Clayton Kershaw TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Kershaw is a future inner-circle Hall of Fame member, so it seems unlikely for him to sign with a Twins team coming off a last-place finish. In the twilight of his career, Kershaw can pick the right destination for him and his family. That destination won’t be in Minnesota. 2. LHP Carlos Rodon TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Earlier this week, KSTP reported that the Twins were taking a serious run at Carlos Rodon, an intriguing name. He was one of the American League’s best starters last season, but shoulder issues kept him out near the season’s end. Another item to consider is the White Sox didn’t make him a qualifying offer. Chicago knows Rodon’s health better than anyone, and they may believe his injury will continue to linger. 1. RHP Marcus Stroman TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $20 million/season Stroman is one of the last men standing out of the tier one starting pitchers. Twins fans may be suspicious of another pitch-to-contact arm at the top of the team’s rotation. He doesn’t have some of the injury question marks surrounding some of the other top names on this list. Also, his market is likely more extensive than the beginning of the offseason because the supply of top-tier pitchers is running low. Stroman seems like an excellent fit for the Twins, but will they outbid other teams to get an ace. There isn’t much left on the shelf for the Twins to spend money on this winter. Likely, this points to the team needing to make multiple trades to fill numerous rotation spots. Do you think the Twins will be able to add any of these starters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  2. Minnesota’s current rotation is expected to include Bailey Ober and Joe Ryan. Other rotational options include Randy Dobnak, Griffin Jax, and Lewis Thorpe. Some of the team’s top prospects are also on the 40-man roster, including Jordan Balazovic, Cole Sands, Drew Strotman, Chis Vallimont, and Josh Winder. Each of the players below is still available with the looming lockout on the horizon. Included with each player is his projected salary, according to the Twins Daily Offseason Handbook. 5. RHP Michael Pineda TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $8 million/season Twins fans are well familiar with Pineda, and he likely won’t get the fanbase excited about what he can bring to the rotation. He seems like an excellent candidate to be the team’s number three starter, but that would mean the Twins need to acquire two other arms to put ahead of him in the rotation. Pineda is a known quantity, and he has been a strong veteran presence during his time in Minnesota. He can add rotational depth, but he can’t be the team’s only offseason move. 4. LHP Yusei Kikuchi TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $15 million/season Kikuchi was an All-Star last season, but he struggled mightily in the second half with an ERA close to 6.00. He surrendered the hardest average exit velocity in baseball last season because he leaves too many pitches over the middle of the plate. He will be a project for any team that signs him, but he’s left-handed and has a three-pitch mix, so that’s intriguing. 3. LHP Clayton Kershaw TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Kershaw is a future inner-circle Hall of Fame member, so it seems unlikely for him to sign with a Twins team coming off a last-place finish. In the twilight of his career, Kershaw can pick the right destination for him and his family. That destination won’t be in Minnesota. 2. LHP Carlos Rodon TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $18 million/season Earlier this week, KSTP reported that the Twins were taking a serious run at Carlos Rodon, an intriguing name. He was one of the American League’s best starters last season, but shoulder issues kept him out near the season’s end. Another item to consider is the White Sox didn’t make him a qualifying offer. Chicago knows Rodon’s health better than anyone, and they may believe his injury will continue to linger. 1. RHP Marcus Stroman TD Offseason Handbook Prediction: $20 million/season Stroman is one of the last men standing out of the tier one starting pitchers. Twins fans may be suspicious of another pitch-to-contact arm at the top of the team’s rotation. He doesn’t have some of the injury question marks surrounding some of the other top names on this list. Also, his market is likely more extensive than the beginning of the offseason because the supply of top-tier pitchers is running low. Stroman seems like an excellent fit for the Twins, but will they outbid other teams to get an ace. There isn’t much left on the shelf for the Twins to spend money on this winter. Likely, this points to the team needing to make multiple trades to fill numerous rotation spots. Do you think the Twins will be able to add any of these starters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  3. There’s no secret that the Minnesota Twins chief focus this offseason will be finding pitching help. With the rotation currently consisting of only Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober, there’s a need for at least three arms. Should the front office target a veteran ace even if there are big question marks? Yesterday was the deadline for teams to decide whether they’d hand out a qualifying offer to impending free agents. The player then chooses to accept a one-year deal worth $18.4 million or enter free agency with draft pick compensation being awarded to their former team should they leave. A handful of players were tagged with qualifying offers, but two stand out to me. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. Two aces. Two veterans. Two entirely different situations. Of these two, only Verlander was given a qualifying offer. Kershaw is a part of this story because he DID NOT receive a qualifying offer. Verlander, the former Astros ace, will be 39-years-old in 2022 and has not pitched since one game in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season but bowed out in October with an elbow issue that cost him three months during the 2021 season. In assessing what the Twins involvement should be regarding either player, I think it’s first worth looking at how their respective teams view the former aces. Verlander being slapped with a qualifying offer suggests the Astros believe he’s near-ready to go and has been on a good path when it comes to his recovery. If they thought he wouldn’t be a significant contributor in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’d swallow nearly $20 million on an arm that won’t be available. Maybe they don’t want him for multiple years as he’s aging, but they’ll gladly take him back to bolster a rotation that was beyond depleted in the postseason. On the flip side, Los Angeles decided to walk away from Kershaw at this point. He’s spent all 14 years of his Major League career there, but the Dodgers didn’t feel an $18.4 million gamble was worthwhile given his injury situation. Kershaw already had to miss significant time for Dave Roberts’ club during the year. Going under the knife would seem like a genuine possibility if the problem doesn’t resolve itself through rest this offseason. In that scenario, Los Angeles would need at least a two-year deal to recoup any on-field production. With Dustin May returning from Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer potentially being reinstated after opting into his 2022 contract, there are already enough internal hurdles for them to deal with. So, where does that leave the Twins in regards to either arm? This offseason should be fascinating when it comes to reading the tea leaves from the front office. Minnesota’s brass has said they intend to compete, and the lineup is mainly in place to do just that. If a bunch of one-year pacts are handed out, though, it would seem to be more of a toe-dip into the water, allowing further assessment of what is there. That route seems to favor Verlander. At 39, Verlander is nearing the end of his Major League run. He’s likely seeking a two-year deal but could have a tough time finding that coming off an injury. I’m not sure that Minnesota should be parting with a draft pick on a one-year agreement. While Verlander does have divisional familiarity, he represents a whole lot of expensive risk for a team that should be looking to squeeze more upside out of any potential deals. Kershaw is interesting given his age, but the mileage on his arm causes reason for pause. Despite being five years younger than Verlander, he’s thrown just 500 fewer innings. Having already endured plenty of back problems, Kershaw undergoing an arm procedure would be less than ideal. However, not being saddled to a qualifying offer, Minnesota may find themselves in a similar situation as to where they are with superstar centerfielder Byron Buxton. The only reason Kershaw may have a diminished price tag is due to health concerns. If the Twins want to embark on a longer-term deal knowing they may not have his services out of the gate, that could be an excellent asset a year from now. This winter's pitching landscape is fascinating, as there are more than a handful of big names on the free-agent market and plenty available by way of trades. If I’m Derek Falvey looking at these two former aces, though, it’s Kershaw’s medicals I’m most intrigued by. If he can be had at a reasonable amount for three years, that’s a risk Minnesota might be willing to make. Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately supplement the rotation, but if the goal is sustained competitiveness, that could work in their favor. Twins fans have clamored for a true ace over the years, and now here’s two the organization can consider. Are you out on both, or is their one that provides a level of intrigue even with the surrounding question marks? What would you do? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  4. Yesterday was the deadline for teams to decide whether they’d hand out a qualifying offer to impending free agents. The player then chooses to accept a one-year deal worth $18.4 million or enter free agency with draft pick compensation being awarded to their former team should they leave. A handful of players were tagged with qualifying offers, but two stand out to me. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. Two aces. Two veterans. Two entirely different situations. Of these two, only Verlander was given a qualifying offer. Kershaw is a part of this story because he DID NOT receive a qualifying offer. Verlander, the former Astros ace, will be 39-years-old in 2022 and has not pitched since one game in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Kershaw will be 34-years-old next season but bowed out in October with an elbow issue that cost him three months during the 2021 season. In assessing what the Twins involvement should be regarding either player, I think it’s first worth looking at how their respective teams view the former aces. Verlander being slapped with a qualifying offer suggests the Astros believe he’s near-ready to go and has been on a good path when it comes to his recovery. If they thought he wouldn’t be a significant contributor in 2022, it’s hard to imagine they’d swallow nearly $20 million on an arm that won’t be available. Maybe they don’t want him for multiple years as he’s aging, but they’ll gladly take him back to bolster a rotation that was beyond depleted in the postseason. On the flip side, Los Angeles decided to walk away from Kershaw at this point. He’s spent all 14 years of his Major League career there, but the Dodgers didn’t feel an $18.4 million gamble was worthwhile given his injury situation. Kershaw already had to miss significant time for Dave Roberts’ club during the year. Going under the knife would seem like a genuine possibility if the problem doesn’t resolve itself through rest this offseason. In that scenario, Los Angeles would need at least a two-year deal to recoup any on-field production. With Dustin May returning from Tommy John surgery and Trevor Bauer potentially being reinstated after opting into his 2022 contract, there are already enough internal hurdles for them to deal with. So, where does that leave the Twins in regards to either arm? This offseason should be fascinating when it comes to reading the tea leaves from the front office. Minnesota’s brass has said they intend to compete, and the lineup is mainly in place to do just that. If a bunch of one-year pacts are handed out, though, it would seem to be more of a toe-dip into the water, allowing further assessment of what is there. That route seems to favor Verlander. At 39, Verlander is nearing the end of his Major League run. He’s likely seeking a two-year deal but could have a tough time finding that coming off an injury. I’m not sure that Minnesota should be parting with a draft pick on a one-year agreement. While Verlander does have divisional familiarity, he represents a whole lot of expensive risk for a team that should be looking to squeeze more upside out of any potential deals. Kershaw is interesting given his age, but the mileage on his arm causes reason for pause. Despite being five years younger than Verlander, he’s thrown just 500 fewer innings. Having already endured plenty of back problems, Kershaw undergoing an arm procedure would be less than ideal. However, not being saddled to a qualifying offer, Minnesota may find themselves in a similar situation as to where they are with superstar centerfielder Byron Buxton. The only reason Kershaw may have a diminished price tag is due to health concerns. If the Twins want to embark on a longer-term deal knowing they may not have his services out of the gate, that could be an excellent asset a year from now. This winter's pitching landscape is fascinating, as there are more than a handful of big names on the free-agent market and plenty available by way of trades. If I’m Derek Falvey looking at these two former aces, though, it’s Kershaw’s medicals I’m most intrigued by. If he can be had at a reasonable amount for three years, that’s a risk Minnesota might be willing to make. Unfortunately, it doesn’t immediately supplement the rotation, but if the goal is sustained competitiveness, that could work in their favor. Twins fans have clamored for a true ace over the years, and now here’s two the organization can consider. Are you out on both, or is their one that provides a level of intrigue even with the surrounding question marks? What would you do? MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  5. After unloading Jose Berrios at the trade deadline, watching Kenta Maeda go under the knife, and seeing Michael Pineda hit free agency, the Twins starting rotation is bare. Who is the top choice to bolster it? As of right now you’d have to bank on either Bailey Ober or Joe Ryan being the Opening Day starter in 2022 for Rocco Baldelli. Both showed well in their rookie seasons, but if that’s the top of the rotation, there’s cause for concern in the year ahead. Minnesota failed tremendously on the mound, and depth was exposed quickly as both J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker flopped. For the Twins to make a turnaround in the year ahead, the focus must be on a resurgence from the bump. Similarly to the 2021 season, the hope is that Minnesota will see graduations from the farm. Top arms like Jordan Balazovic, Jhoan Duran, and Matt Canterino all posted mixed results with injuries sprinkled in. Another year back from the cancelled 2020 season, and the hope would be that a clean bill of health is parlayed into peak effectiveness. Before banking on the youth though, the Twins need to give Wes Johnson some workable ammunition for a group that is essentially bare. The free agent crop this offseason is a who’s who of big names, and while not all may make it to the open market, there should be one or two that fit to Minnesota’s liking. Here’s how I’d categorize the options: The Injured - Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander There’s a known commodity and a more unknown question here. Kershaw represents the unknown as he’s dealing with an elbow injury that cost him multiple months this season. He is avoiding surgery for the time being but could be ticketed for a much longer time on the shelf if he goes under the knife. The career-Dodger will be 34 next season but has a ton of miles on his arm. Production has never been the issue and if he can avoid back and elbow concerns for the next year or so, there’s reason to like him on a short term deal. On the flip side you’ve got a guy in Verlander who will be returning from Tommy John surgery having last pitched in 2020. He’ll be 39 next season and has thrown just six innings since 2019. There’s hardly been a time in which you’ve questioned his ability though, and a clean elbow could have him looking like an appetizing option on a one-year deal. The Astros will likely give him a qualifying offer should that still exist, but Verlander definitely has familiarity with the AL Central. The Aging - Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke Having just turned 37, that’s about the only reason to define Scherzer as aging. He’s still every bit the dominant pitcher he has been over the course of his career, and he’s attempting to carry a Dodgers staff through the Postseason. Of the options available, I think he’s probably the most likely to be retained by the current team, and while I wouldn’t expect Los Angeles to give him a long extension, they certainly have the money to persuade him to stay. With the Astros having rotational issues this Postseason it’s clear they have work to do in that department. I’m not sure they hang onto a guy in Greinke that has hit somewhat of a decline. His 4.16 ERA was the highest mark since 2016 and he’s clearly struggled down the stretch. If another team believes they can work through the current ineffectiveness, this is probably the best bet for a good starter on a one-year deal. He seems like a fit for Minnesota but comes with plenty of uncertainties. The Youth - Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman If you want to secure a long-term pact with a rotation anchor this is where you’re turning. Starting with Stroman, you’ve got a guy in the midst of his prime and coming off a very strong season. Not a big strikeout guy, Stroman needs to be backed by a good infield as he’s a ground ball maestro. Someone that appears to be a very good leader and clubhouse presence, this is a personality that could mesh well with the Twins plans for quite some time. The breakout finally happened for Gausman, and it came in a big way. With the Giants being baseball’s best team, the 30-year-old posted a career best 2.81 ERA. He racks up strikeouts, limits walks, and looks every bit the ace you’d hope for. 2020 is where things seemed to click for the former Orioles pitcher, so you’ll need to make sure there’s a belief in the results going forward, but nothing he’s put up recently is anything an organization would want to avoid. A positive this winter is that pitching options are plentiful. Those above just barely scratch the surface considering names like Syndergaard, Bundy, and even Pineda are all available. The Twins need to find a path forward, and for a transitional time it might make sense to focus on short term deals. There should be any number of options that are within their wheelhouse, and while the big names are there as always, this might be an opportunity to land the right fit without breaking the bank. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. Part 1: The Puckett Clause Part 2: The Koufax Argument Part 3: The Missing Cy Young The Cy Young Award is baseball’s highest pitching honor. Some pitchers are in the conversation for the award on a regular basis. For current baseball fans, names like Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander are regulars on the year-end balloting. In his prime, Johan Santana was in this elite group. When the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot was released, one of the first items I noted was Santana’s high ranking on Baseball Reference’s Cy Young Award Share scale. His 2.72 shares rank him 13th all-time. This sandwiches him between Sandy Koufax and Justin Verlander. The only players in front of him who aren’t in the Hall of Fame are Roger Clemens (7.66 shares), Clayton Kershaw (4.56), Roy Halladay (3.50), and Max Scherzer (3.14). There’s a chance that all of those men eventually have a plaque in Cooperstown. Santana’s biggest resume flaw might be the Cy Young that was taken away from him. During the 2004 season, he posted a 20-6 record with a 2.61 ERA, 265 strikeouts and an 8.6 WAR on the way to his first Cy Young Award. He was nearly as good during second Cy Young season (2006) when he went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA, 245 strikeouts and a 7.5 WAR. The season between his two Cy Youngs is the trophy that was stolen from him. Bartolo Colon was named the 2005 Cy Young Award winner. He went 21-8 that year with a 3.48 ERA, 157 strikeouts and a 4.0 WAR. Santana couldn’t match Colon’s win-loss record but he bested him in every other category. He finished that season with a 16-7 record including a 2.87 ERA, 238 strikeouts and a 7.2 WAR. Winning a third Cy Young is an elite resume item. There are ten three-time Cy Young winners and all of them are likely to eventually end up in the Hall. The list includes Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Clayton Kershaw, Steve Carlton, Pedro Martinez, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer, Max Scherzer and Sandy Koufax. Had the voters picked the correct winner in 2005, Santana would have joined this elite group and even furthered his Hall of Fame resume. Ryan Romano at Beyond the Box Score wrote a piece in 2015 called “Cliff Lee and Johan Santana belong in the Hall of Fame.” He examined the peak value of these two players by looking at their WAR per 200 innings pitched and seasons of 5+ WAR. Santana ranks 10th all-time ahead of players like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Bert Blyleven. This is just another measurement that puts Santana into elite company. Is Santana likely to be a first ballot Hall of Famer? The answer is no but there are very compelling arguments as to why he should eventually be enshrined. If the voters applied the Kirby Puckett Clause, Santana’s case gains some steam. After comparing Santana to Sandy Koufax, it’s easy to see how their peaks were similar. Lastly, his missing Cy Young would have lofted him into the elite group of sure-fire Hall of Fame pitchers. He was a master on the mound. A once in a generation pitcher. A pitcher who deserves his place in Cooperstown. Case closed.
  7. Jerry Crasnick, one of ESPN’s national baseball writers, is reporting that contract talks between Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins have come to a halt. https://twitter.com/jcrasnick/status/979140242321100800 For those following the Twins this spring, it seemed like Dozier was destined for free agency. When he signed his current contract with Minnesota, the deal only bought out his remaining arbitration eligible seasons. For Dozier, it provided him some financial stability. At the same time, it allowed the Twins to have some cost certainty. Dozier and his agency took a gamble on Dozier being able to produce in his late 20s to set him up for free agency for his age-32 season. This is typically the time when players start to decline but Dozier has been one of the best hitting second basemen over the last two seasons. Barring an injury, Dozier might be headed for a big pay day. Next year’s free agent class looks stacked. Dozier will join a free agent class including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Cody Allen, Adam Jones, and Andrew McCutchen. Other players like Clayton Kershaw and David Price could be free agents if they opt out of their current contracts. After this year’s cool free agent market, it will be interesting to see how much money will be thrown around next season. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could get record-breaking deals. Heck, Harper could be headed for the richest contract of all time. For teams that miss out on the top tier free agents, there will be other options like Dozier waiting in the wings. As I wrote about this spring, Minnesota has a multiple top prospects in the middle infield. Nick Gordon will be knocking on the door of the big leagues this season. Other top prospects like Royce Lewis and Wander Javier also play up the middle. If Dozier signs with another organization, one of these players could take over at second base next year. What are your thoughts on a possible Dozier extension? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. There is plenty of hope at the dawning of a new season. Every team starts with an equal playing field. No batters have struck out. Pitchers have a perfect ERA. There are 162 games to separate the contenders from the pretenders. It’s an exciting time for every fan. The beginning of a new season also means players want to focus on the season. A lot of players and agents don’t want to be bogged down in contract negotiations. For Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins, this seems like the situation they are facing.Jerry Crasnick, one of ESPN’s national baseball writers, is reporting that contract talks between Brian Dozier and the Minnesota Twins have come to a halt. For those following the Twins this spring, it seemed like Dozier was destined for free agency. When he signed his current contract with Minnesota, the deal only bought out his remaining arbitration eligible seasons. For Dozier, it provided him some financial stability. At the same time, it allowed the Twins to have some cost certainty. Dozier and his agency took a gamble on Dozier being able to produce in his late 20s to set him up for free agency for his age-32 season. This is typically the time when players start to decline but Dozier has been one of the best hitting second basemen over the last two seasons. Barring an injury, Dozier might be headed for a big pay day. Next year’s free agent class looks stacked. Dozier will join a free agent class including Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, Cody Allen, Adam Jones, and Andrew McCutchen. Other players like Clayton Kershaw and David Price could be free agents if they opt out of their current contracts. After this year’s cool free agent market, it will be interesting to see how much money will be thrown around next season. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado could get record-breaking deals. Heck, Harper could be headed for the richest contract of all time. For teams that miss out on the top tier free agents, there will be other options like Dozier waiting in the wings. As I wrote about this spring, Minnesota has a multiple top prospects in the middle infield. Nick Gordon will be knocking on the door of the big leagues this season. Other top prospects like Royce Lewis and Wander Javier also play up the middle. If Dozier signs with another organization, one of these players could take over at second base next year. What are your thoughts on a possible Dozier extension? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  9. Part 1: Johan Santana's Cooperstown Case: The Puckett Clause At the end of the 1960 season, Sandy Koufax had pitched almost 700 innings at the big league level. He had a 4.10 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP. He was not a Hall of Fame pitcher but he was only 24-years old. Over the next six seasons, Koufax would dominate on the mound like few had done before. During that stretch, Koufax posted a 2.19 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP while striking out more than a batter an inning. He had punched his ticket to the Hall. Koufax became the youngest ever inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He was able to accomplish this feat because he retired at the height of his pitching prowess. Following his age-30 season, he stepped away from the game. Elbow problems and arthritis caused him worry about his golden left arm. He rode off into the sunset with a Hall of Fame resume. Like Koufax, Santana took some time to reach “ace” status as a starting pitcher. Minnesota acquired Santana as part of the 1999 Rule 5 Draft. This meant Santana was required to stay on the Twins 40-man roster for the entire 2000 season. Between 2000 and 2001, he pitched 129.1 innings out of the Twins bullpen to the tune of a 5.90 ERA and a 1.71 ERA. His change-up wasn’t full developed and it was hard to imagine the type of starter he would become over the next decade. While Koufax walked away from the game on his own terms, Santana didn’t step away from the game so lightly. Santana tried multiple comebacks with organizations like Baltimore and Toronto before finally calling it a career. As I mentioned in the first piece in this series, many trace the beginning of the end for Santana to his no-hitter in 2012. Many comparisons have been written about the similarities between Koufax and Santana. Pitching at Dodger Stadium in the 1960’s was much different than pitching at the Metrodome in the early 2000s. Baseball is an ever-changing game and it’s lazy to look at simple numbers like ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts to try and get a full picture of a pitcher. Baseball Reference has the ability to neutralize pitcher’s numbers to align with different eras. Santana pitching at Dodger Stadium in the 1960’s would result in some statistical numbers that are usually only seen in video games. https://twitter.com/NoDakTwinsFan/status/937720911200968704 While Koufax pitched in an era of pitching dominance, Santana’s era was known for offensive dominance. Since the expansion era (post-1993), Santana’s 136 ERA+ ranks sixth among starting pitchers. Take a look at the names ahead of him: Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Brandon Webb, and Chris Sale. Martinez is already in the Hall. Kershaw and Sale look well on their way. ERA+ has Santana ranked higher than Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux, two recent Hall of Fame inductees. Jay Jaffe literally wrote the book on who should and shouldn’t get into Cooperstown. His JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score system) takes a player’s career WAR averaged with their 7-year peak WAR. Using this system, Santana ranks 85th which is three spots higher than Koufax. Santana’s JAWS is higher than 15 enshrined starters in Cooperstown. At age 31, Santana was headed to the Hall. His shoulder gave out, he was forced under the knife, and his career took a different path. However, his WAR through his age-31 season ranks in the top-40 all-time. Only 24 Hall of Fame pitchers rank higher than Santana with Koufax coming in at number 30. Does the Santana and Koufax comparison hold up? Should the same logic that was applied to Koufax be applied to Santana? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  10. Like his older brother, Petru grew up playing soccer. It is the sport most kids around Europe play. Petru started playing baseball in his third year of school. He didn’t know the sport. It wasn’t at all developed in the country. “Coaches made for us a presentation of this sport. It seemed very unusual and interesting.” Along with four years of soccer, he also played football as a youth. However, at some point, he was pushed to make a decision. “In the end, I had to chose between two sports, soccer and baseball. I’ve been playing baseball now for 12 years.” He continued to throw the javelin. His coach was Alexander Moiseenko. “I was a javelin thrower for four years, until I was 17 years old. I had the one coach in both the javelin and baseball. He is still my coach. One of the best coaches ever. He taught me everything since I was a kid.” Like his brother, Petru spent his formative years learning the game and representing his country in various international competitions. “We represented the Moldova National Team in the European Championships in Poland in 2007, 2008 and 2009.” His brother did a lot of the research, but Petru traveled and participated in the MLB tryouts too. “When I was 16 years old, we went to the MLB tryout in the Czech Republic. It was my first competition in front of a lot of pro scouts. I hit 89 mph. After the tryout, five pro teams took my personal information. They were interested in me.” After the tryout, he returned home to Moldova, unsigned. “Two or three weeks later, scouts came to Moldova to see our games.” They received their invitation to the MLB academy in 2012 in Italy. “51 of the best European players were invited. That is three weeks of camp. We were coached by MLB coaches and players. And, we were playing against each other. There were a lot of scouts coming to watch, looking to sign contracts.” Over the next few years, Petru was invited to the MLB academies three times. He went to Germany in 2014 and The Netherlands in 2015. “Twins scout Glenn Godwin was looking at us. I started pitching in the Czech Extra League for the season. Glenn came to Ostrava and offered our contracts. Vadim signed, but I didn’t.” He had an offer to sign a professional contract. It would have allowed him to sign with the same team as his brother. So, why didn’t he sign? “I decided that I needed more game practice before I signed.” That brings us to 2016. He was invited to be part of the European All-Star team. The team would travel a lot and play all over. “In March, we went to the MLB tour to St. Petersburg, Florida. I did very good there. The Twins were still interested in me.” When that camp was complete, he flew to the Czech Republic for another season. In October, he was selected for the World Select team. It consisted of 29 players from four continents and included a one-month trip to the States. They spent two weeks in Tennessee and two weeks at the Arizona Fall League. “There I also did well. After that, the Twins offered to sign me again.” This time, he agreed to the terms and became a professional baseball player, a member of the Minnesota Twins organization. Like Vadim, Petru is now living his dream. “It was so important to be together with my brother. We support each other, and we can help each other any time as we move forward.” He joined his brother at spring training this year. And he has learned a lot about himself already, and he’s made several adjustments. “There have been many changes, both on the field and off the field. Full-scale training process, work regimen, sleep, nutrition. This is what we need to observe daily to be better every day.” Petru Balan throws a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup, and sometimes a two-seam fastball. “What makes me successful? Well, every time when I’m on the baseball field, it makes me happy. Most of that when I am on the mound. Every day, I try to get better. That is my mindset.” Balan uses the following motto to drive him. “You are what you think about and how you manage your thoughts” Petru has some solid goals and high expectations for himself. “My goal for 2017 is to get better every day, and as soon as possible, to play in the Major Leagues.” When asked his favorite team? “My favorite team is the Minnesota Twins!” Good answer. As for which pitchers he enjoys watching, he clearly knows who the right guys to watch. “I have favorite pitchers, like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Aroldis Chapman. I’m trying to find for myself something from them.” This 21-year-old southpaw has a live arm, but he’s still raw. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of years. But like his brother, his arm makes is worth taking a shot and seeing what happens.
  11. Earlier this week, we introduced you to Vadim Balan, the first player from the Republic of Moldova to sign a contract with a Major League organization. Today, we will learn more about the second player signed out of Moldova. His name is Petru Balan, and yes, he is the brother of Vadim Balan.Like his older brother, Petru grew up playing soccer. It is the sport most kids around Europe play. Petru started playing baseball in his third year of school. He didn’t know the sport. It wasn’t at all developed in the country. “Coaches made for us a presentation of this sport. It seemed very unusual and interesting.” Along with four years of soccer, he also played football as a youth. However, at some point, he was pushed to make a decision. “In the end, I had to chose between two sports, soccer and baseball. I’ve been playing baseball now for 12 years.” He continued to throw the javelin. His coach was Alexander Moiseenko. “I was a javelin thrower for four years, until I was 17 years old. I had the one coach in both the javelin and baseball. He is still my coach. One of the best coaches ever. He taught me everything since I was a kid.” Like his brother, Petru spent his formative years learning the game and representing his country in various international competitions. “We represented the Moldova National Team in the European Championships in Poland in 2007, 2008 and 2009.” His brother did a lot of the research, but Petru traveled and participated in the MLB tryouts too. “When I was 16 years old, we went to the MLB tryout in the Czech Republic. It was my first competition in front of a lot of pro scouts. I hit 89 mph. After the tryout, five pro teams took my personal information. They were interested in me.” After the tryout, he returned home to Moldova, unsigned. “Two or three weeks later, scouts came to Moldova to see our games.” They received their invitation to the MLB academy in 2012 in Italy. “51 of the best European players were invited. That is three weeks of camp. We were coached by MLB coaches and players. And, we were playing against each other. There were a lot of scouts coming to watch, looking to sign contracts.” Over the next few years, Petru was invited to the MLB academies three times. He went to Germany in 2014 and The Netherlands in 2015. “Twins scout Glenn Godwin was looking at us. I started pitching in the Czech Extra League for the season. Glenn came to Ostrava and offered our contracts. Vadim signed, but I didn’t.” He had an offer to sign a professional contract. It would have allowed him to sign with the same team as his brother. So, why didn’t he sign? “I decided that I needed more game practice before I signed.” That brings us to 2016. He was invited to be part of the European All-Star team. The team would travel a lot and play all over. “In March, we went to the MLB tour to St. Petersburg, Florida. I did very good there. The Twins were still interested in me.” When that camp was complete, he flew to the Czech Republic for another season. In October, he was selected for the World Select team. It consisted of 29 players from four continents and included a one-month trip to the States. They spent two weeks in Tennessee and two weeks at the Arizona Fall League. “There I also did well. After that, the Twins offered to sign me again.” This time, he agreed to the terms and became a professional baseball player, a member of the Minnesota Twins organization. Like Vadim, Petru is now living his dream. “It was so important to be together with my brother. We support each other, and we can help each other any time as we move forward.” He joined his brother at spring training this year. And he has learned a lot about himself already, and he’s made several adjustments. “There have been many changes, both on the field and off the field. Full-scale training process, work regimen, sleep, nutrition. This is what we need to observe daily to be better every day.” Petru Balan throws a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball and a changeup, and sometimes a two-seam fastball. “What makes me successful? Well, every time when I’m on the baseball field, it makes me happy. Most of that when I am on the mound. Every day, I try to get better. That is my mindset.” Balan uses the following motto to drive him. “You are what you think about and how you manage your thoughts” Petru has some solid goals and high expectations for himself. “My goal for 2017 is to get better every day, and as soon as possible, to play in the Major Leagues.” When asked his favorite team? “My favorite team is the Minnesota Twins!” Good answer. As for which pitchers he enjoys watching, he clearly knows who the right guys to watch. “I have favorite pitchers, like Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Aroldis Chapman. I’m trying to find for myself something from them.” This 21-year-old southpaw has a live arm, but he’s still raw. It will be interesting to see how he develops over the next couple of years. But like his brother, his arm makes is worth taking a shot and seeing what happens. Click here to view the article
  12. To this day, I have kept at least one ticket stub from every MLB game I have attended. However, the future is changing and the ticket stub is slowly dying. Ticket stubs are a physical representation of childhood and historical memories. Kirby Puckett's walk-off hit, Target Field's first game, or even the 2014 All-Star Game are all important Twins memories and they are all stubs I proudly display. As technology has increased, the use of actual printed tickets from professional sports teams has declined. Fans can print out their tickets at home or have them sent to their phone. As the Vikings open US Bank Stadium this fall, all season ticket holders will only have electronic versions of their tickets. Major League Baseball wants to see the end of the traditional ticket stubs sales. According to Market Watch, in 2012 "the traditional ticket stub accounted for less than a third of single-game seats sold this past season, down from 55% in 2011." This number will only continue to shrink as most fans have apps on their phones like Apple's Wallet or the MLB Ballpark App that make it easy to transfer tickets at the click of a button. Bob Bowman, President of Business and Media of Major League Baseball, knows it will still take time for there to be a complete shift away from paper tickets. "It's been a tradition of 100 years, and some traditions die harder than others," he said. In 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers all but did away with paper tickets. They called it a fan enhancement because fans could transfer tickets easily to friends, clients, or sell them on the secondary market. Some fans even started petitions to bring back their paper tickets. When Clayton Kershaw tossed a no-hitter later that year, the Dodgers printed commemorative tickets for their season ticket holders. I recently interviewed Dave St. Peter, the Twins President, about the shift in the ticket market. He said, "Including 'Print at Home' capability, roughly 35% of our total tickets are in electronic form. Less than 10% of our current tickets are used via a mobile device." When I asked him if he sees a time when all MLB tickets will be electronic, he said, "That's certainly a goal, but it's going to take some time for it to become reality." St. Peter went on to say, "The Twins will continue to migrate more fans to digital tickets in 2017 and beyond." However, "That being said, current plans call for 'Print at Home' capability to remain an option." The owner of FAN HQ, a Minnetonka based chain of sports apparel and memorabilia, Shaun Hagglund told me, "It's too bad hard tickets are going the way of printer tickets or even electronic tickets." He continued by saying, "Not only did they serve as a personal memento for a game attended, they were also unique items to have autographed by players who made an impact in a particular game or had a milestone event- first game, 3,000 hit, etc." Ticket stubs will always be part of baseball's history. They are a collector's item that continues to be harder and harder to find. Actual ticket stubs might be relegated to Cooperstown relics but that takes nothing away from baseball's past and the ticket's tiny slice of history. I was at Target Field this weekend but my tickets were in electronic form. The nine-year old kid in me looked through the stands after the game to come away with a rare relic to add to my ticket collection. The ticket stub might be on it's death bed but that doesn't mean fans have to forget about this important part of baseball history.
  13. So, let’s start our prediction segment with my predictions for the AL Central: American League Central Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins Cleveland Detroit Tigers Chicago White Sox The Royals are now the two-time defending AL champs and now the reigning World Series champs. They return with a very similar team. The Twins and Cleveland will compete with the Royals atop the division as well as for a Wild Card spot. The Tigers continue to do two things, spend crazy money and get older. The White Sox remain a mess and it’s likely Robin Ventura is the first manager let go in 2016, though Brad Ausmus may not be far behind. American League East Toronto Blue Jays Boston Red Sox New York Yankees Tampa Bay Rays Baltimore Orioles The Blue Jays may not have the best pitching, but their lineup will flat-out outscore teams in the regular season. The rest of the division appears weak. The Red Sox should be improved with the acquisition of David Price and a defense with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. will help. The Yankees didn’t spend in the offseason and they’re going with a few youngsters in their rotation. The Rays have Chris Archer which gives them a chance every fifth game. The Orioles do have some offense. I mean, Pedro Alvarez, and his 35 home run power, is hitting seventh. American League West Houston Astros Texas Rangers Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Seattle Mariners Oakland A’s Houston surprised many last year as their youth started paying dividends. Carlos Correa is a star in the making. But it will be another shootout in the West. In Texas. The Rangers will again be solid and Cole Hamels will be there a full year. The Angels have Mike Trout. The Mariners have Robinson Cano. The A’s are going to have to battle to compete. National League Central Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers Last year, the top three teams from this division each won at least 97 games and made the playoffs. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens again. The Cubs youth is in place with some veteran additions. The Pirates outfield is spectacular and they have Liriano and Cole at the top fo their rotation. The Cardinals hope to have a full season of Adam Wainwright atop their rotation. The Reds and Brewers will compete for last, as they fully intend. National League East Washington Nationals New York Mets Miami Marlins Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta The Nationals were a disappointing team last year yet still finished over .500. With Bryce Harper and a strong pitching staff, they could take over in 2016. The Mets have the arms to compete with anyone, but we’ll see if they have enough bats. The bottom three teams are in rebuild mode, hoping for a high draft pick. National League West San Francisco Giants Los Angeles Dodgers Arizona Diamondbacks San Diego Padres Colorado Rockies The Giants-Dodgers series should again be huge in 2016. The Giants added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, as well as Denard Span. The Dodgers have a new manager, Dave Roberts, and Kenta Maeda hopes for a clean transition from Japan. The Dodgers lost Zach Greinke to the Diamondbacks. He will team with arguably the best hitter in the National League, Paul Goldschmidt, and help fight for a playoff spot under former Twins pinch hitter Chip Hale. The Padres and Rockies will fight for last. THE PLAYOFFS American League Wild Card - Minnesota over Texas National League Wild Card - Pittsburgh over the Mets ALDS - Toronto over Minnesota, and Houston over Kansas City NLDS - Pittsburgh over Chicago, and San Francisco over the Mets ALCS - Toronto over Houston, and San Fransciso over Pittsburgh. World Series - San Francisco over Toronto The Giants continue their every-other-year World Series championship run. Next, let’s get to the individual awards for 2016. Others have made their predictions, but here are mine. American League MVP Carlos Correa, Houston Mike Trout, Los Angeles Josh Donaldson, Toronto Miguel Sano, Minnesota Mookie Betts, Boston American League Cy Young Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Marcus Stroman, Toronto Chris Archer, Tampa Bay American League Rookie of the Year Byron Buxton, Minnesota Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Byung Ho Park, Minnesota National League MVP Bryce Harper, Washington Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Kris Bryant, Chicago National League Cy Young Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Max Scherzer, Washington National League Rookie of the Year Trevor Story, Colorado Kenta Maeda, Arizona Corey Seager, Los Angeles Your Turn… how will the division playoffs and the individual awards go down in 2016. Make your picks now.
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