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  1. “I’ll Be A Free Agent” Dozier made it clear to the assembled media last week that he is heading into free agency. When the Twins signed Dozier, it was certainly a unique contract. He signed a four-year contract for $20 million that bought out the remainder of his arbitration years. For the Twins, it created some cost certainty. For Dozier, it allowed him some financial stability, he got to avoid the messy arbitration process, and he knew he could enter free agency in his early 30’s. This offseason’s free agency period has been strange to say the least. Yu Darvish, the biggest name on the free agent market, took his time in selecting a new home. Even after his signing, the market has been moving slowly despite spring training being well underway. While the free agent class wasn’t one of the best classes in recent memory, there were some names that should have drawn interest. There were very few second baseman on the free agent market and not many of them were of the same caliber as Dozier. Players like Neil Walker and Brandon Phillips aren’t exactly going to be huge difference makers for a team. Former Twin Eduardo Nunez is the lone second baseman to sign. A year after hitting .313/.341/.460, Nunez was able to sign only a one-year, $4 million deal. According to FanGraphs, Brian Dozier has been worth 14.2 WAR over the last three seasons. That means he’s been worth roughly $113 million over that span. Nunez has been worth 5.9 WAR and $47.4 million during the same time period. Dozier is one of the best offensive players at his position and he won his first Gold Glove last season. Since 2006, there have been few second basemen who have been able to score big free agent contracts. Baseball Prospectus found five second basemen to get more than $25 million as free agents. Only Ben Zobrist (4 years, $56 million) and Robinson Cano (10 years, $240 million) brought in over $40 million. It’s clear to see Dozier’s value but his age going to start playing a factor. Better With Age? Dozier fits the definition of a late-bloomer. His breakout season came at Double-A when he was 24 years old. He wouldn’t make his big league debut until age 25 and he wouldn’t play a full big league season until he was 26. He hit under .245 in each of his first three big league seasons and never had an OPS higher than .762. Over the last two seasons, his OPS has jumped to .886 (2016) and .856 (2017) while averaging 38 home runs per year. I’ve been critical of Dozier’s defense in the past but his defense made remarkable strides last season. According to SABR’s Defensive Index, only Ian Kinsler ranked better than Dozier among AL second basemen. Moving On Many of Minnesota’s top prospects currently play shortstop and Jorge Polanco is coming off a strong second half. Royce Lewis, Nick Gordon and Wander Javier all could shift to second base if Dozier finds another home for 2019. If Polanco can continue to play well this year, a starting middle infield of Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco seems a likely scenario for next season. Considering Dozier’s age, and other options in the system, it seems likely for the Twins to say goodbye to Mr. Dozier. Younger players are going to be ready for the big league level. I believe Dozier’s veteran presence is something that also can’t be overlooked. A team trying to contend can’t be made of all young and unproven players. However, the front-office still has a difficult Dozier decision. Do you think it’s time for the Twins to say bye-bye to Brian Dozier? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  2. Pitchers and catchers report for the Minnesota Twins in less than a week, yet the pile of free agents looks as picked over as a Thanksgiving buffet after the first pass. In short, there are plenty of leftovers — and primo ones, at that. The Twins have already signed four pitchers to MLB deals, but could still stand to stock up on the remaining goods — all of which are likely to come at a lower price than when the winter started. It also isn’t a perfect roster for the Twins at this point. Sure, it’s a perfectly decent one that prior to the Ervin Santana injury was very similar to the one that won 85 games last year, but there are numerous avenues the team could take to shore up depth across the board. Let us take you down that road. Insurance for the Miguel Sano situation If it wasn’t enough that Sano was sidelined with a stress reaction in his left shin down the stretch last year, the threat of the third baseman missing games from a possible suspension due to sexual assault accusations throws another wrinkle into the situation as well. While Sano has been working out in Fort Myers to get ready for the season for most of the winter, there’s still no guarantee he’ll be 100 percent to start the season, and manager Paul Molitor told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger in late December that it’s a stretch to believe Sano will play 150 games at the position in 2018. Now with that said, 150 games is a huge bar to clear, and those comments were made the day before the allegations came out. Now it’s a virtual certainty Sano won’t come anywhere close to those numbers for one reason or another, and to that end, it makes sense for the Twins to pick up the pieces in free agency and get some insurance. Eduardo Escobar did a fairly good job replacing Sano down the stretch, hitting .252/.298/.529 with 10 of his 21 homers coming in that 39-game stretch. But expecting anything like that again — or Escobar to be able to outrun a .298 OBP for a long stretch — is a fool’s errand. Escobar is a terrific utility infielder and occasional starter, but there’s a chance for the Twins to make a move here to shore up the infield, and in the meantime make sure there’s as little of a dropoff as possible from Sano. That means signing Eduardo Nunez. The last time Twins fans saw Nunez, he was the team’s only All-Star just before being traded to the San Francisco Giants. The last time the rest of the baseball world saw him, he was being carried off the field in the playoffs after suffering a flare-up to a previous injury to his right knee. He did not need surgery in the offseason, and has since been working out for teams in hopes of signing a new deal. If he’s willing to sign a two-year deal for something like $15 million, the Twins should run, not walk, to him to get it done. He’s great insurance for Sano at third base — not only to start the season, but all year — and gives the team added depth across the infield. That would be very valuable for a team that, in this case, would be leaning heavily on Robbie Grossman at designated hitter. In that case, days where Nunez spells guys like Brian Dozier means the latter could slide into the DH role. Nunez hit a solid .313/.341/.460 between the Giants and Red Sox last year (2.2 fWAR) which is pretty much in line with what he was doing for the Twins in 2016 with a bit more power. He frankly should be starting someplace, but as a utility player starting anywhere from 3-to-5 times per week would be an absolute luxury. This makes too much sense not to be seriously considered. Signing someone to get significant DH at-bats If Thad Levine and Derek Falvey don’t want to go down the Nunez path, there are still plenty of hitters available who can help the team at DH in a fairly regular role. If the Twins prefer to have Grossman in more of a fourth outfielder role while cycling through some at-bats at DH, there is no shortage of options on the market right now who can give the team added thump. The two guys who jump off the page — for different reasons — are Lucas Duda and Logan Morrison. Duda is terrible defensively and can’t hit left-handed pitching, but he absolutely mauls righties. He’s coming off hitting just .217/.322/.496 with the Mets and Rays last year — including fading hard with Tampa (.306 wOBA) — but the power makes up for the low batting average and OBP for the most part, and again, he crushes righties. Duda is a career .249/.356/.486 hitter against righties, and will come extremely cheaply on just a one-year deal most likely. Morrison’s track record is a bit more spotty and he was once the purveyor of a strange Twitter account, but he absolutely crushed for the Rays last year. Morrison hit .246/.353/.516 with 38 homers as he went from a groundball-hitting machine with low strikeout rates and average walk numbers to a fly-ball fiend with more walks, more strikeouts and a heck of a lot more power. What he did was almost identical to Yonder Alonso, who scored a two-year deal at just under $20 million from the Indians. At this point, it doesn’t seem like Morrison will even get that — and he could be a good pickup for the Twins to DH, play some first base and give them insurance after Joe Mauer’s deal expires and before Brent Rooker makes it to the big leagues. Either one of these guys would help the Twins immensely at DH, but another plan could be in the works as well, and….. …this includes perhaps looking at some cheaper right-handed bats, too The prevailing theme from last year was that the Twins did not hit left-handed pitching very well, though they got markedly better as the season went on. By the end of the year, the Twins hit .260/.332/.412 against southpaws for a 96 wRC+ — the 13th-best mark in baseball. In other words, they were about in the middle of the pack, and are bringing back almost exactly the same offense. But there’s certainly room for improvement. The offense will again be pretty lefty-heavy, so adding a right-handed bat — preferably cheap or on a short-term deal — again makes sense. J.D. Martinez can help literally anyone, but we’re not looking that direction at this point. Nor does it really seem like Jose Bautista is a fit — Target Field numbers be damned. Keep in mind that if he did sign with the team, he wouldn’t be feasting on Twins pitching like he did with the Blue Jays. Anyway, the two guys who make some sense who can be had for almost nothing are Mark Reynolds and Mike Napoli. Reynolds hit a ridiculous .267/.352/.487 with the Rockies last year, but that comes out to just a 104 wRC+ due to park factors and that sort of thing. In other words, he hit 30 homers but it wasn’t all that impressive because of the offensive environment he played in. Still, for a couple million bucks he could pop a few homers and see time at first base and DH. Napoli is regarded as solid in the clubhouse — nobody would know this more than Levine — and while he hit just .193/.285/.428 last year with the Rangers, he still provided some (though still not much) value against lefties. He battled some nagging injuries last year, and between the price, fit and a few other factors, it almost seems like a foregone conclusion that Napoli will garner strong consideration from the Twins. Then again, it felt that way last year and he picked the Rangers — a better team at the time that still finished seven games worse in the standings. Additionally, Jayson Werth is no spring chicken and hasn’t put together a good season in what feels like forever, but he can still hit lefties and might be worth a look on a minor-league deal with an eye on the Michael Pineda 40-man spot when the season starts. Higher up on the totem pole would be Matt Holliday, who almost makes too much sense. He’s going into his age-38 season, probably can’t play every day anyway and hit .267/.366/.477 against lefties last year. I believe he’s regarded as a really strong clubhouse presence as well — like Napoli. Please click through to read the rest of this article on Zone Coverage here!
  3. With just a handful of days left until pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for spring training, Minnesota is nearing the end of its offseason. The main focus when it comes to additions is starting pitching, and due to the market, that remains the one area left unattended at this point. Whether before or after spring training officially kicks off I expect that to be dealt with. What remains to be seen is whether or not Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have interest in adding a bat to supplement their bench.As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be content opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas who is likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skill sets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Grossman being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be an issue) as well as play in a rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove, but he showed that he can be less of a liability than he had previously been. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be intriguing to Minnesota. Another more elderly option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. After posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems if given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating power numbers in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no-lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25-man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There are a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a story line worth watching this spring. Originally published at Off The Baggy. Click here to view the article
  4. As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be content opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas who is likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skill sets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Grossman being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be an issue) as well as play in a rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove, but he showed that he can be less of a liability than he had previously been. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be intriguing to Minnesota. Another more elderly option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. After posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems if given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating power numbers in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no-lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25-man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There are a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a story line worth watching this spring. Originally published at Off The Baggy.
  5. With just a handful of days left until pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for Spring Training, Minnesota is nearing the end of its offseason. The main focus when it comes to additions was starting pitching, and due to the market, that remains the one area left unattended at this point. Whether before or after spring training officially kicks off I expect that to be dealt with. What remains to be seen is whether or not Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have interest in adding a bat to supplement their bench. As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be alright opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver, and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas that is more than likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed. Operating under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skillsets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Robbie being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess. In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be a detriment) as well as play in rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar, and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove there, but he showed that he can be less of a liability if need be. Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be of intrigue to Minnesota. Another more elder option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. Posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue. If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well. At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating them in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him. This seems like a no lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25 man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There's a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a storyline worth watching this spring. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  6. “Improvement” is something that can be found and defined in several ways. It’s hard to believe that a Most Improved player can be coming off an All-Star season. Brian Dozier posted a .751 OPS in 2015 with 39 doubles and 28 home runs. In 2014, Brian Dozier hit 33 doubles, 23 homers and had an OPS of .762. In other words, Brian Dozier was a really good player before 2016. However, Dozier saw an 18% improvement in his OPS. He hit .268/.340/.546 (.886) with 35 doubles, five triples and 42 home runs (including 40 as second baseman, an American League record). In 2015, he set a Twins record with 148 strikeouts. He cut that number down to 138. We often wondered what Dozier could do if he could cut down the strikeouts and find a way to hit for better batting average. We found out in 2016. Dozier raised his batting average from .236 to .268. In doing so, his on-base percentage moved from .307 to .340. A .034 improvement in batting average, with about the same walk rate meant that he was on base 7.5% more often than in 2015. However, the biggest area of improvement came in the Slugging Percentage and Isolated Power. In 2015, Dozier’s Isolated Power was a very respectable .208. That number jumped to .278 in 2016. I guess that’s what happens when you jump from 28 home runs to 42 home runs. But improvement can mean different things, including improvement within a season. For Dozier, his improvement from the first two months of the season to the final four months of the season was as dramatic as you can imagine. In late May, Dozier was out of the Twins lineup two straight games, given a couple of days by his manager to regroup. At that time, he was hitting .199/.284/.318 (.602) with just six doubles and four home runs. There were even some fans calling for the Twins to send him to Rochester. He was back in the Twins lineup on May 25, and from that point forward, he hit .291/.356/.621 (.977) with 29 doubles, five triples and 38 home runs in 115 games. And that is even after ending his season by going 7-58 (.127) over his final 13 games. There were certainly other candidates for Most Improved Twins player in 2016. If Eduardo Nunez had stuck around all season, it is possible he would have been the lead candidate for this award. He went from utility infielder to All-Star shortstop with a strong first half. Kennys Vargas had an immensely disappointing 2015 season. While he spent most of the 2016 season putting up fairly pedestrian numbers in Rochester. Those numbers were boosted by a ton of walks, which is what we needed to see from him. He was terrific in his limited duty with the big league club, hitting .238/.343/.517 (.860) in 46 games with the Twins, including 10 home runs. 21 of his 35 hits for the Twins went for extra bases. And Byron Buxton’s September was a major improvement over anything we’ve seen from him in the big leagues over the previous 14 months. Kurt Suzuki was good with the bat again in 2016 after a rough 2015. While the Twins took a huge step backwards (maybe 10-12 steps backwards?), it should not cloud our vision on the fact that there were some positives during the 2016 season. Brian Dozier led the way in many categories and it was his improvement in 2016 that helped make the team something to watch. Feel free to share your thoughts, and your ballot, in the comments below. In an attempt at transparency, below are the votes from our writers and the results: The Ballots Seth: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas Nick: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kurt Suzuki, 3.) Byron Buxton Parker: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Eduardo Nunez, 3.) Kennys Vargas Cody: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas Jeremy: 1.) Byron Buxton, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Ryan Pressly Steve L: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Byron Buxton Eric: 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Buddy Boshers, 3.) Byron Buxton Points Brian Dozier - 13 Eduardo Nunez - 8 Kennys Vargas - 7 Byron Buxton - 6 Max Kepler - 3 Buddy Boshers - 2 Kurt Suzuki - 2 Ryan Pressly - 1
  7. The Twins season is over, mercifully. However, that also means that it is time to hand out some Major League Awards. Last month, we gave out five Minor League awards. Over the next four days, we’ll hand out four Major League Awards. Our first 2016 Twins Daily award of the offseason is the Most Improved Player. The Twins Daily writers, including minor league writers, voted for their top 3 most improved. There were a handful of decent candidates, but at the end of the day/season, Brian Dozier was the overwhelming choice for the Twins Most Improved Player.“Improvement” is something that can be found and defined in several ways. It’s hard to believe that a Most Improved player can be coming off an All-Star season. Brian Dozier posted a .751 OPS in 2015 with 39 doubles and 28 home runs. In 2014, Brian Dozier hit 33 doubles, 23 homers and had an OPS of .762. In other words, Brian Dozier was a really good player before 2016. However, Dozier saw an 18% improvement in his OPS. He hit .268/.340/.546 (.886) with 35 doubles, five triples and 42 home runs (including 40 as second baseman, an American League record). In 2015, he set a Twins record with 148 strikeouts. He cut that number down to 138. We often wondered what Dozier could do if he could cut down the strikeouts and find a way to hit for better batting average. We found out in 2016. Dozier raised his batting average from .236 to .268. In doing so, his on-base percentage moved from .307 to .340. A .034 improvement in batting average, with about the same walk rate meant that he was on base 7.5% more often than in 2015. However, the biggest area of improvement came in the Slugging Percentage and Isolated Power. In 2015, Dozier’s Isolated Power was a very respectable .208. That number jumped to .278 in 2016. I guess that’s what happens when you jump from 28 home runs to 42 home runs. But improvement can mean different things, including improvement within a season. For Dozier, his improvement from the first two months of the season to the final four months of the season was as dramatic as you can imagine. In late May, Dozier was out of the Twins lineup two straight games, given a couple of days by his manager to regroup. At that time, he was hitting .199/.284/.318 (.602) with just six doubles and four home runs. There were even some fans calling for the Twins to send him to Rochester. He was back in the Twins lineup on May 25, and from that point forward, he hit .291/.356/.621 (.977) with 29 doubles, five triples and 38 home runs in 115 games. And that is even after ending his season by going 7-58 (.127) over his final 13 games. There were certainly other candidates for Most Improved Twins player in 2016. If Eduardo Nunez had stuck around all season, it is possible he would have been the lead candidate for this award. He went from utility infielder to All-Star shortstop with a strong first half. Kennys Vargas had an immensely disappointing 2015 season. While he spent most of the 2016 season putting up fairly pedestrian numbers in Rochester. Those numbers were boosted by a ton of walks, which is what we needed to see from him. He was terrific in his limited duty with the big league club, hitting .238/.343/.517 (.860) in 46 games with the Twins, including 10 home runs. 21 of his 35 hits for the Twins went for extra bases. And Byron Buxton’s September was a major improvement over anything we’ve seen from him in the big leagues over the previous 14 months. Kurt Suzuki was good with the bat again in 2016 after a rough 2015. While the Twins took a huge step backwards (maybe 10-12 steps backwards?), it should not cloud our vision on the fact that there were some positives during the 2016 season. Brian Dozier led the way in many categories and it was his improvement in 2016 that helped make the team something to watch. Feel free to share your thoughts, and your ballot, in the comments below. In an attempt at transparency, below are the votes from our writers and the results: The Ballots Seth: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas Nick: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kurt Suzuki, 3.) Byron Buxton Parker: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Eduardo Nunez, 3.) Kennys Vargas Cody: 1.) Eduardo Nunez, 2.) Brian Dozier, 3.) Kennys Vargas Jeremy: 1.) Byron Buxton, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Ryan Pressly Steve L: 1.) Brian Dozier, 2.) Kennys Vargas, 3.) Byron Buxton Eric: 1.) Max Kepler, 2.) Buddy Boshers, 3.) Byron Buxton Points Brian Dozier - 13 Eduardo Nunez - 8 Kennys Vargas - 7 Byron Buxton - 6 Max Kepler - 3 Buddy Boshers - 2 Kurt Suzuki - 2 Ryan Pressly - 1 Click here to view the article
  8. Days before the July trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins traded their All-Star Game representative Eduardo Nunez to the San Francisco Giants for lefty Adalberto Mejia. Also that day, the Twins announced that infielder Jorge Polanco was being recalled. At the time, I wrote an article asking Where Should Jorge Polanco Play? With Brian Dozier at shortstop, and Miguel Sano and Trevor Plouffe at third base, shortstop made the most sense, at least until you looked at his playing time at shortstop at that time in 2016:: In Rochester, he had played: 2B - 64 games, 559.1 innings3B - 2 games, 17 inningsSS - 0 games, 0 inningsIn his brief time with the Twins, he played:2B - 4 games, 34 innings3B - 1 game, 7 inningsSS - 1 game, 8 inningsAnd there was good reason for it. In 2015, between Chattanooga and Rochester, he had 28 errors in 102 games at shortstop. In AAA, he had a .908 fielding percentage at shortstop in just 19 games. In 83 games in AA, his fielding percentage at shortstop was just .942. As noteworthy, I had people who watched him frequently last year wonder whether he could play any defensive position adequately. His arm was questioned at shortstop, but many saw that he struggled mightily just fielding the ball at times. His spring training performance this year was more than enough to understand why he was moving to second base. Since that article was written, here is the breakdown of games and innings played by Polanco: 2B - 1 game, 9 innings3B - 8 games, 70 inningsSS - 34 games, 310 inningsIn the first weeks or two following the Nunez trade, Polanco pretty much split time between third base and shortstop. However, with his start at shortstop on Sunday, his last 29 games have been played at shortstop. What does our readership think of the Polanco defense at shortstop? Here’s a look at some numbers: In 148 chances, Polanco has just six errors. That is a .959 fielding percentage.If you’re a fan of UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), Polanco has been a -2.4. That equates to a UZR/150 of -11.3.Both of those bullet points certainly indicate - in a small sample - that Polanco is clearly a below average defensive shortstop. Again, no surprise. But can Polanco be a regular shortstop if this is the question: Can he make the routine play? For many, if you don’t have a shortstop with huge range, the key is for that player to make the routine plays. In watching, the eye test tells me that he’s been solid. He’s made most of the plays. He’s had a half-dozen errors, but not many have been of the really bad category. My eyes tell me that he has been fine. Certainly not great. Maybe not even all that good, but certainly well within the realm of adequate. Well, Inside Edge provides some numbers to FanGraphs to help quantify that. They break each ground ball into six categories: 1.) Routine, 2.) Likely, 3.) Even, 4.) Unlikely, 5.) Remote, 6.) Impossible. Here is how Polanco has fared in each of those categories: Routine: 96.9% (of 98) Likely: 80% (of 5) Even: 42.9% (of 7) Unlikely: 25.0% (of 4) Remote: 0% (of 12) Impossible: 0% (of 3) Of course, for each of these categories, the sample size is far too small to make any grandiose statements. For the routine, 96.9% is low end of where you would want to be. However, that is 95 out of 98 which isn’t too bad at all. For the most part, Polanco has made the routine play. Of the likely category, four out of five isn’t too bad. Very small sample. Over time, you would certainly want this number to come up a little bit. “Even” would, in my mind, be a 50/50 proposition. Polanco is at 42.9%, but if he had made one more of those, he’d be at 57.1%, which could be good. Unlikely,remote and impossible are all “bonus” categories, in my mind. Remote would be the great diving plays where not only you make the grab but are able to throw the runner out too. It appears that Polanco has been successful in one out of just four opportunities. I’m not even worried about the 15 that showed up in the remote or impossible categories. A week or so ago, Nick wrote an article in which he discussed the scary idea of Polanco and Sano manning the left side of the Twins infield. It is difficult to envision. It certainly would not provide a lot of range. There would certainly be some limitations. However, after reading Tom’s article on the Recent Success of 100 Loss teams, I am OK should the Twins and their new front office decide they would like to see that alignment on the left side of the infield. Of course, should the Twins decide to trade Brian Dozier, Polanco could make the move to second base and they could go get a new shortstop. At least in my mind, and eyes, and my review of the defensive stats (admittedly small sample), Polanco has expectedly been a little bit below average. However, I believe he has done enough to keep the experiment going, even beyond the 12 games remaining in this season. What do you think? Click here to view the article
  9. And there was good reason for it. In 2015, between Chattanooga and Rochester, he had 28 errors in 102 games at shortstop. In AAA, he had a .908 fielding percentage at shortstop in just 19 games. In 83 games in AA, his fielding percentage at shortstop was just .942. As noteworthy, I had people who watched him frequently last year wonder whether he could play any defensive position adequately. His arm was questioned at shortstop, but many saw that he struggled mightily just fielding the ball at times. His spring training performance this year was more than enough to understand why he was moving to second base. Since that article was written, here is the breakdown of games and innings played by Polanco: 2B - 1 game, 9 innings 3B - 8 games, 70 innings SS - 34 games, 310 innings In the first weeks or two following the Nunez trade, Polanco pretty much split time between third base and shortstop. However, with his start at shortstop on Sunday, his last 29 games have been played at shortstop. What does our readership think of the Polanco defense at shortstop? Here’s a look at some numbers: In 148 chances, Polanco has just six errors. That is a .959 fielding percentage. If you’re a fan of UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), Polanco has been a -2.4. That equates to a UZR/150 of -11.3. Both of those bullet points certainly indicate - in a small sample - that Polanco is clearly a below average defensive shortstop. Again, no surprise. But can Polanco be a regular shortstop if this is the question: Can he make the routine play? For many, if you don’t have a shortstop with huge range, the key is for that player to make the routine plays. In watching, the eye test tells me that he’s been solid. He’s made most of the plays. He’s had a half-dozen errors, but not many have been of the really bad category. My eyes tell me that he has been fine. Certainly not great. Maybe not even all that good, but certainly well within the realm of adequate. Well, Inside Edge provides some numbers to FanGraphs to help quantify that. They break each ground ball into six categories: 1.) Routine, 2.) Likely, 3.) Even, 4.) Unlikely, 5.) Remote, 6.) Impossible. Here is how Polanco has fared in each of those categories: Routine: 96.9% (of 98) Likely: 80% (of 5) Even: 42.9% (of 7) Unlikely: 25.0% (of 4) Remote: 0% (of 12) Impossible: 0% (of 3) Of course, for each of these categories, the sample size is far too small to make any grandiose statements. For the routine, 96.9% is low end of where you would want to be. However, that is 95 out of 98 which isn’t too bad at all. For the most part, Polanco has made the routine play. Of the likely category, four out of five isn’t too bad. Very small sample. Over time, you would certainly want this number to come up a little bit. “Even” would, in my mind, be a 50/50 proposition. Polanco is at 42.9%, but if he had made one more of those, he’d be at 57.1%, which could be good. Unlikely,remote and impossible are all “bonus” categories, in my mind. Remote would be the great diving plays where not only you make the grab but are able to throw the runner out too. It appears that Polanco has been successful in one out of just four opportunities. I’m not even worried about the 15 that showed up in the remote or impossible categories. A week or so ago, Nick wrote an article in which he discussed the scary idea of Polanco and Sano manning the left side of the Twins infield. It is difficult to envision. It certainly would not provide a lot of range. There would certainly be some limitations. However, after reading Tom’s article on the Recent Success of 100 Loss teams, I am OK should the Twins and their new front office decide they would like to see that alignment on the left side of the infield. Of course, should the Twins decide to trade Brian Dozier, Polanco could make the move to second base and they could go get a new shortstop. At least in my mind, and eyes, and my review of the defensive stats (admittedly small sample), Polanco has expectedly been a little bit below average. However, I believe he has done enough to keep the experiment going, even beyond the 12 games remaining in this season. What do you think?
  10. The initial thought when the Twins traded their starting shortstop might be that Polanco, who was named to several Top 100 prospect lists, would take over the job for the Twins the rest of the way. But will it and should it happen. Consider Polanco's playing time by position so far in 2016: In Rochester, he has played: 2B - 64 games, 559.1 innings 3B - 2 games, 17 innings SS - 0 games, 0 innings In his brief time with the Twins, he played: 2B - 4 games, 34 innings 3B - 1 game, 7 innings SS - 1 game, 8 innings Polanco was signed in July of 2009 as a slick-fielding shortstop. He moved slowly through the lower levels of the minor leagues ,playing a variety of infield positions. At Cedar Rapids in 2013, he split his time fairly evenly between shortstop and second base. However in 2014 and 2015, the Twins committed to giving Polanco a real opportunity to play shortstop full time. It didn't go well. In 2014, he committed 37 errors at shortstop between Ft. Myers and New Britain. In 2015, he had 28 errors between Chattanooga and Rochester. Reports indicated that he may have been worse than the error numbers indicate as he struggled with even the most routine of plays. The question about Polanco at shortstop has generally been whether or not he had the arm strength to make all of the throws from the position. In spring training, he really struggled at shortstop, particularly with the throws. He frequently short-hopped the first baseman. Sometimes they were scooped. Other times the first baseman didn't have a chance. As spring training ended and he was sent back to minor league camp, he took ground balls at third base and second base. At Rochester this year slick-fielding Wilfredo Tovar has been playing shortstop most every day. As the numbers above show, Polanco hasn't played a single inning at shortstop this year in Rochester. His one game at shortstop this year came with the Twins. So, what do the Twins do with Polanco the rest of this year? First and foremost, they need to play him most every day. He is out of options next season and will have to remain with the big league club or be lost (he would be lost) on waivers. As I see it, they have two options with Polanco. Maybe you have some other ideas. Idea #1: Play Polanco almost every day at shortstop. Brian Dozier is at second base and is back to showing power. Unless Dozier is traded, he will be the Twins second baseman the next couple of years at least. So Polanco will need to find time at shortstop of third base. Well, Miguel Sano factors into the third base decision so he needs to play there often to find out if he can play the hot corner. That leaves shortstop as the position where Polanco has a chance to play. Eduardo Escobar remains in the picture. He was the opening day shortstop after posting great numbers the last two second halves. But, Polanco needs an opportunity. It is a lost season for the Twins. Play him. Idea #2: Play Polanco every day at either SS, 2B, 3B or DH. Maybe even in the outfield? He needs to hit and be in the lineup every day. But with other options, they need to play to. So, Polanco can play all over, find out where he's best and most comfortable. OK, your turn. What do you do with Jorge Polanco the rest of the season?
  11. Seemingly a minor note in the Thursday night news that the Twins had traded Eduardo Nunez for Adalberto Mejia was the fact that Jorge Polanco was recalled to the big league roster. But now what? Will Polanco finally get an opportunity to play every day for the Twins?The initial thought when the Twins traded their starting shortstop might be that Polanco, who was named to several Top 100 prospect lists, would take over the job for the Twins the rest of the way. But will it and should it happen. Consider Polanco's playing time by position so far in 2016: In Rochester, he has played: 2B - 64 games, 559.1 innings3B - 2 games, 17 inningsSS - 0 games, 0 inningsIn his brief time with the Twins, he played:2B - 4 games, 34 innings3B - 1 game, 7 inningsSS - 1 game, 8 inningsPolanco was signed in July of 2009 as a slick-fielding shortstop. He moved slowly through the lower levels of the minor leagues ,playing a variety of infield positions. At Cedar Rapids in 2013, he split his time fairly evenly between shortstop and second base. However in 2014 and 2015, the Twins committed to giving Polanco a real opportunity to play shortstop full time. It didn't go well. In 2014, he committed 37 errors at shortstop between Ft. Myers and New Britain. In 2015, he had 28 errors between Chattanooga and Rochester. Reports indicated that he may have been worse than the error numbers indicate as he struggled with even the most routine of plays. The question about Polanco at shortstop has generally been whether or not he had the arm strength to make all of the throws from the position. In spring training, he really struggled at shortstop, particularly with the throws. He frequently short-hopped the first baseman. Sometimes they were scooped. Other times the first baseman didn't have a chance. As spring training ended and he was sent back to minor league camp, he took ground balls at third base and second base. At Rochester this year slick-fielding Wilfredo Tovar has been playing shortstop most every day. As the numbers above show, Polanco hasn't played a single inning at shortstop this year in Rochester. His one game at shortstop this year came with the Twins. So, what do the Twins do with Polanco the rest of this year? First and foremost, they need to play him most every day. He is out of options next season and will have to remain with the big league club or be lost (he would be lost) on waivers. As I see it, they have two options with Polanco. Maybe you have some other ideas. Idea #1: Play Polanco almost every day at shortstop. Brian Dozier is at second base and is back to showing power. Unless Dozier is traded, he will be the Twins second baseman the next couple of years at least. So Polanco will need to find time at shortstop of third base. Well, Miguel Sano factors into the third base decision so he needs to play there often to find out if he can play the hot corner. That leaves shortstop as the position where Polanco has a chance to play. Eduardo Escobar remains in the picture. He was the opening day shortstop after posting great numbers the last two second halves. But, Polanco needs an opportunity. It is a lost season for the Twins. Play him. Idea #2: Play Polanco every day at either SS, 2B, 3B or DH. Maybe even in the outfield? He needs to hit and be in the lineup every day. But with other options, they need to play to. So, Polanco can play all over, find out where he's best and most comfortable. OK, your turn. What do you do with Jorge Polanco the rest of the season? Click here to view the article
  12. The Giants have an All-Star caliber shortstop in Brandon Crawford. Second Baseman Joe Panik is about to come off of the Disabled List. Matt Duffy has been their primary third baseman. Eduardo Nunez will likely play all three positions, and maybe even a little in the outfield. Once considered the heir-apparent to Derek Jeter as the New York Yankees shortstop, Eduardo Nunez never really got that opportunity. Instead, he had to play as a utility infielder. In April of 2014, he was traded to the Twins in exchange for left-handed pitcher Miguel Sulbaran. He played in 72 games for the Twins in 2014 and hit just .250/.271/.381 (.654). In 2015, he finally seemed to really accept the role of a bench player and thrived. He hit .272/.327/.431 (.758). Because of injury, Nunez finally got an opportunity to play every day and he took full advantage. While he has slowed down in the last month, he is still hitting .300/.326/.444 (.771) with 15 doubles, 12 homers, 47 RBI and a league-leading 26 stolen bases. He made - and earned - his first All Star appearance. Popular in the clubhouse, Nunez will likely be missed by teammates. He is considered a leader among the players, particularly the many young players from Latin American countries. However, to get a prospect the caliber of Adalberto Mejia for him is rather impressive. Mejia was suspended 50 games for PEDs following the 2014 season. He missed time at the start of the 2015 season. Since, he he pitched very well. Mejia is listed at 6-3, 195 pounds, but most believe he is at least 20 pounds more than that. However, the southpaw has a fastball that reached to 93-94 mph.He also throws a slider in the mid-80s and a low-80s change up. For Rob Antony's first move as the interim GM, I would think this would go down in the "Pro" column for his candidacy for the full-time job. Mejia's Twins career will begin with the Rochester Red Wings. Jorge Polanco was recalled to the Twins.
  13. Following the Twins 6-2 win against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night, the team announced that All Star Shortstop Eduardo Nunez has been traded to the San Francisco Giants. In return, the Twins received left-handed pitcher Adalberto Mejia. He just turned 23 years old. In 18 starts between AA Richmond and AAA Sacramento this year, he is a combined 7-3 with a 2.81 ERA. In 105.2 innings, he has 27 walks and 102 strikeouts. He made 11 starts in AA and has now made seven starts in AAA.The Giants have an All-Star caliber shortstop in Brandon Crawford. Second Baseman Joe Panik is about to come off of the Disabled List. Matt Duffy has been their primary third baseman. Eduardo Nunez will likely play all three positions, and maybe even a little in the outfield. Once considered the heir-apparent to Derek Jeter as the New York Yankees shortstop, Eduardo Nunez never really got that opportunity. Instead, he had to play as a utility infielder. In April of 2014, he was traded to the Twins in exchange for left-handed pitcher Miguel Sulbaran. He played in 72 games for the Twins in 2014 and hit just .250/.271/.381 (.654). In 2015, he finally seemed to really accept the role of a bench player and thrived. He hit .272/.327/.431 (.758). Because of injury, Nunez finally got an opportunity to play every day and he took full advantage. While he has slowed down in the last month, he is still hitting .300/.326/.444 (.771) with 15 doubles, 12 homers, 47 RBI and a league-leading 26 stolen bases. He made - and earned - his first All Star appearance. Popular in the clubhouse, Nunez will likely be missed by teammates. He is considered a leader among the players, particularly the many young players from Latin American countries. However, to get a prospect the caliber of Adalberto Mejia for him is rather impressive. Mejia was suspended 50 games for PEDs following the 2014 season. He missed time at the start of the 2015 season. Since, he he pitched very well. Mejia is listed at 6-3, 195 pounds, but most believe he is at least 20 pounds more than that. However, the southpaw has a fastball that reached to 93-94 mph.He also throws a slider in the mid-80s and a low-80s change up. For Rob Antony's first move as the interim GM, I would think this would go down in the "Pro" column for his candidacy for the full-time job. Mejia's Twins career will begin with the Rochester Red Wings. Jorge Polanco was recalled to the Twins. Click here to view the article
  14. Thanks to the MN Corn Growers, Aaron and John recap the trades the Twins didn't make (Kurt Suzuki & Ervin Santana) and the trades they did make (Eduardo Nunez, Fernando Abad, Ricky Nolasco & Alex Meyer) while drinking beer and eating a Royale with Cheese at Lyn-Lake's Iron Door Pub. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcher or find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click the Play button below. Click here to view the article
  15. http://traffic.libsyn.com/gleemangeek/Episode_268_Trade_Deadline_Recap.mp3
  16. The Twins have played 104 games this year. In the first 52, they went 15-37, digging into a hopelessly deep hole. In the second 52, they went 25-27. They're still mired in last place because of that horrendous start, but they have been playing decent ball for two months now. The offensive breakthrough has been a striking component in this improvement. Over the first 52 games, the Twins posted a .686 OPS while averaging 3.7 runs per game. In the latter 52, they posted a .774 OPS and averaged 5.2 runs. Yet, we all know the reason they are still two games under .500 over the past couple months despite their prolific scoring. It's pitching, which is also the reason many fans are understandably skeptical of the club's ability to turn around and contend in 2017. Recognizing this, Antony told reporters last week that he was honing in on starting pitching, noting that "we don't have a lot of guys that are right on the cusp." This is indeed true, and especially problematic with questions swirling around so many players that figure to be in the rotation mix next year. Against this backdrop, the acquisition of Adalberto Mejia from the Giants looks like a master stroke by Antony and the front office. While he's not an ace-in-the-making, Mejia is a big, young, MLB-ready left-hander whose stock is on the rise. The 23-year-old crept onto Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list for the first time last month, appearing at No. 91 on the site's midseason update. With a still-developing slider, he has struck out 24 percent of batters faced between Double-A and Triple-A this season, improving over his previous career mark of 20 percent. At the Futures Game three weeks ago, Twins prospect J.T. Chargois started the top of the ninth for the U.S. team. Mejia started the bottom half for World, closing out a victory with his scoreless frame. He is exactly the kind of arm the Twins needed to add, and they did so while giving up a player that, in my opinion, should have been behind Eduardo Escobar in the shortstop pecking order anyway. This team has given up the most runs in the American League, and is on pace to allow more than any Twins squad since 1996. Obviously, there are many legitimate reasons for concern about the pitching staff's outlook. On offense, the pieces are already in place. Turning this rotation into one that can contend is easily the most pressing task Antony or his replacement will face. But it feels a bit less insurmountable with Mejia joining Jose Berrios, who makes his return to the big-league mound on Monday night, as promising young hurlers that are on right on the cusp.
  17. Rob Antony's first big move was a tough one to criticize. The interim general manager flipped Eduardo Nunez at peak value and got back an impressive pitching prospect in return. It's not clear that Antony will remain in the GM's chair long-term, but he's operating with an acute focus on the organization's No. 1 big-picture priority.The Twins have played 104 games this year. In the first 52, they went 15-37, digging into a hopelessly deep hole. In the second 52, they went 25-27. They're still mired in last place because of that horrendous start, but they have been playing decent ball for two months now. The offensive breakthrough has been a striking component in this improvement. Over the first 52 games, the Twins posted a .686 OPS while averaging 3.7 runs per game. In the latter 52, they posted a .774 OPS and averaged 5.2 runs. Yet, we all know the reason they are still two games under .500 over the past couple months despite their prolific scoring. It's pitching, which is also the reason many fans are understandably skeptical of the club's ability to turn around and contend in 2017. Recognizing this, Antony told reporters last week that he was honing in on starting pitching, noting that "we don't have a lot of guys that are right on the cusp." This is indeed true, and especially problematic with questions swirling around so many players that figure to be in the rotation mix next year. Against this backdrop, the acquisition of Adalberto Mejia from the Giants looks like a master stroke by Antony and the front office. While he's not an ace-in-the-making, Mejia is a big, young, MLB-ready left-hander whose stock is on the rise. The 23-year-old crept onto Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list for the first time last month, appearing at No. 91 on the site's midseason update. With a still-developing slider, he has struck out 24 percent of batters faced between Double-A and Triple-A this season, improving over his previous career mark of 20 percent. At the Futures Game three weeks ago, Twins prospect J.T. Chargois started the top of the ninth for the U.S. team. Mejia started the bottom half for World, closing out a victory with his scoreless frame. He is exactly the kind of arm the Twins needed to add, and they did so while giving up a player that, in my opinion, should have been behind Eduardo Escobar in the shortstop pecking order anyway. This team has given up the most runs in the American League, and is on pace to allow more than any Twins squad since 1996. Obviously, there are many legitimate reasons for concern about the pitching staff's outlook. On offense, the pieces are already in place. Turning this rotation into one that can contend is easily the most pressing task Antony or his replacement will face. But it feels a bit less insurmountable with Mejia joining Jose Berrios, who makes his return to the big-league mound on Monday night, as promising young hurlers that are on right on the cusp. Click here to view the article
  18. The steady playing time for Nunez has come largely at the expense of Eduardo Escobar, who entered the season as starting shortstop. Some health issues have factored in, including a recent minor hamstring injury, but since the end of May, Escobar has started only 16 of 40 games. It's not like Escobar hasn't been hitting during that span. In his 70 plate appearances dating back to the start of June, he has a .774 OPS; during the same time period Nunez is at .754. There is also little doubt that Escobar is the superior defensive player. Nonetheless, Nunez has elevated himself to the top of the depth chart thanks to his hot start, his persisting effectiveness at the plate, and his dynamic work on the base paths. It's tough to argue with the approach at this time. Escobar has not done a whole lot to distinguish himself and the offense has been clicking nicely with Nunez at the top of the order. But with the trade deadline only two weeks away, the Twins need to determine whether they really think this is a long-term solution. If it's not, they should be trying to get whatever they can for Nunez, while recommitting to Escobar as their starting shortstop until Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon or another long-term fixture emerges. It's difficult to gauge how the market views Nunez, but as a breakout spark plug type player who is under 30 and can play several positions, there is value. He's a nice asset for a contender. While Escobar hasn't been great this year, the muscle strains have slowed him somewhat, and he still hasn't been terrible. He has a solid track record of performance over the last three seasons, and is two years younger than Nunez. Given his superiority with the mitt and his lengthier window of team control, he is the one I would be betting on. Nunez looks like the definition of a guy that a rebuilding club like the Twins should sell high on. But will they? And what could realistically be expected as a return for such a player who finally seems to be reaching his offensive potential?
  19. He was Minnesota's lone representative at last Tuesday's All Star Game. He has been the team's leadoff hitter, almost exclusively, for two months. While others have endured slumps and demotions, he has kept hitting relentlessly, earning an entrenched status in the daily lineup. But is Eduardo Nunez really the answer at short for the Twins? And if he isn't, then what is the plan?The steady playing time for Nunez has come largely at the expense of Eduardo Escobar, who entered the season as starting shortstop. Some health issues have factored in, including a recent minor hamstring injury, but since the end of May, Escobar has started only 16 of 40 games. It's not like Escobar hasn't been hitting during that span. In his 70 plate appearances dating back to the start of June, he has a .774 OPS; during the same time period Nunez is at .754. There is also little doubt that Escobar is the superior defensive player. Nonetheless, Nunez has elevated himself to the top of the depth chart thanks to his hot start, his persisting effectiveness at the plate, and his dynamic work on the base paths. It's tough to argue with the approach at this time. Escobar has not done a whole lot to distinguish himself and the offense has been clicking nicely with Nunez at the top of the order. But with the trade deadline only two weeks away, the Twins need to determine whether they really think this is a long-term solution. If it's not, they should be trying to get whatever they can for Nunez, while recommitting to Escobar as their starting shortstop until Jorge Polanco, Nick Gordon or another long-term fixture emerges. It's difficult to gauge how the market views Nunez, but as a breakout spark plug type player who is under 30 and can play several positions, there is value. He's a nice asset for a contender. While Escobar hasn't been great this year, the muscle strains have slowed him somewhat, and he still hasn't been terrible. He has a solid track record of performance over the last three seasons, and is two years younger than Nunez. Given his superiority with the mitt and his lengthier window of team control, he is the one I would be betting on. Nunez looks like the definition of a guy that a rebuilding club like the Twins should sell high on. But will they? And what could realistically be expected as a return for such a player who finally seems to be reaching his offensive potential? Click here to view the article
  20. In the order in which they'll be answered (hopefully): Friday's signing deadline - The Twins have nearly a quarter of a million dollars - SIXTH ROUND MONEY! - to throw at any single unsigned player. The problem is that they've already signed 33 (of 42) picks and there aren't any great (deserving or affordable) options left. There's a very strong chance the deadline comes and goes and the Twins didn't spend every last dime in their pool and, while that's ok, fans will likely be very upset. When asked recently about it, a Twins source told me they "would try" to spend it, but that kids just don't think $250K is that much money anymore. <insert crying Jordan emoji here, I think> (Sidenote: I offered to take $125,000, play as a feel-good story in the GCL for the rest of the summer and accept being cut the day the season is over... I'm still waiting for the team's counteroffer.) Byron Buxton - Last we saw of Buck, he's was being wheeled off the field on a John Deere. Is he healthy? Can he build on his recent still-not-great-but-not-terrible-either streak? I really hope so. The non-waiver trade deadline - Pushed back to August 1st this season, the Twins (and all other teams) have one extra day to negotiate trades that don't involve players clearing waivers. Ervin Santana will likely be the Twins most appealing trade chip. From where I'm sitting, I'd have a hard time betting on any players beside Santana and (fingers-crossed) Kurt Suzuki getting moved in the next two and a half weeks. Fernando Abad would have made a great addition to the list had he not, you know... sucked as of late. Jorge Polanco and Jose Berrios - I need to see both of these guys get extended major league looks. Can Polanco be the next Danny Santana (and by that I mean, "the next Ben Zobrist")? Give him some run everywhere but first base. Jose Berrios is going to be in the rotation for the better part of next year. Let's get him acclimated to the big time. If all that's standing between him and stardom is better results (sounds funny doesn't it?) - he's the most confident pitcher in the system - he's going to be a star. The other trade deadline - The month of August, assuming he can come back, is going to be huge for Trevor Plouffe. Miguel Sano is the future of third base. Trevor Plouffe's future is likely elsewhere. He would certainly clear waivers, but the question is: How good will he be? Could the Twins look to move any of their other guys in August? Ricky Nolasco maybe? (I'm looking at you, Dodgers.) Would Joe Mauer consider waiving his no-trade to play in the playoffs again? (Short answer: No.) Roster expansion - Maybe a bigger deal to me than most, but I love to see who the September call-ups are each year. Will we get to see Adam Brett Walker's or Daniel Palka's power? Will Nick Burdi (or JT Chargois or Zack Jones) finally make the Target Field radar gun touch triple-digits for the hone team? Will James Beresford get that major league cup of coffee? The Little Things (that might be really Big Things) - What's up with Byung Ho? And opposite of that... what's up with Kennys Vargas? Is Max Kepler going to keep this run going? Eduardo Nunez can't be capable of this all year... can he?! Who's the real Eddie Rosario? 2015 Eddie or first half of 2016 Eddie? Who's going to lead this rotation? Kyle Gibson has to continue to move forward, right? Will last year's Tyler Duffey return? Trevor May.... starter or reliever? Please tell me the bullpen doesn't forget how to strike people out. As we turn the page to the second half, what are you most anxious to see?
  21. The second half of the season kicks off on Friday. The Twins have used a recent hot stretch to propel themselves to only 20 games out of first in the AL Central, making up three games on the Indians over their last ten games. So it goes without saying that the playoffs aren't what we fans have our minds on. So what should we have our minds on?In the order in which they'll be answered (hopefully): Friday's signing deadline - The Twins have nearly a quarter of a million dollars - SIXTH ROUND MONEY! - to throw at any single unsigned player. The problem is that they've already signed 33 (of 42) picks and there aren't any great (deserving or affordable) options left. There's a very strong chance the deadline comes and goes and the Twins didn't spend every last dime in their pool and, while that's ok, fans will likely be very upset. When asked recently about it, a Twins source told me they "would try" to spend it, but that kids just don't think $250K is that much money anymore. <insert crying Jordan emoji here, I think> (Sidenote: I offered to take $125,000, play as a feel-good story in the GCL for the rest of the summer and accept being cut the day the season is over... I'm still waiting for the team's counteroffer.) Byron Buxton - Last we saw of Buck, he's was being wheeled off the field on a John Deere. Is he healthy? Can he build on his recent still-not-great-but-not-terrible-either streak? I really hope so. The non-waiver trade deadline - Pushed back to August 1st this season, the Twins (and all other teams) have one extra day to negotiate trades that don't involve players clearing waivers. Ervin Santana will likely be the Twins most appealing trade chip. From where I'm sitting, I'd have a hard time betting on any players beside Santana and (fingers-crossed) Kurt Suzuki getting moved in the next two and a half weeks. Fernando Abad would have made a great addition to the list had he not, you know... sucked as of late. Jorge Polanco and Jose Berrios - I need to see both of these guys get extended major league looks. Can Polanco be the next Danny Santana (and by that I mean, "the next Ben Zobrist")? Give him some run everywhere but first base. Jose Berrios is going to be in the rotation for the better part of next year. Let's get him acclimated to the big time. If all that's standing between him and stardom is better results (sounds funny doesn't it?) - he's the most confident pitcher in the system - he's going to be a star. The other trade deadline - The month of August, assuming he can come back, is going to be huge for Trevor Plouffe. Miguel Sano is the future of third base. Trevor Plouffe's future is likely elsewhere. He would certainly clear waivers, but the question is: How good will he be? Could the Twins look to move any of their other guys in August? Ricky Nolasco maybe? (I'm looking at you, Dodgers.) Would Joe Mauer consider waiving his no-trade to play in the playoffs again? (Short answer: No.) Roster expansion - Maybe a bigger deal to me than most, but I love to see who the September call-ups are each year. Will we get to see Adam Brett Walker's or Daniel Palka's power? Will Nick Burdi (or JT Chargois or Zack Jones) finally make the Target Field radar gun touch triple-digits for the hone team? Will James Beresford get that major league cup of coffee? The Little Things (that might be really Big Things) - What's up with Byung Ho? And opposite of that... what's up with Kennys Vargas? Is Max Kepler going to keep this run going? Eduardo Nunez can't be capable of this all year... can he?! Who's the real Eddie Rosario? 2015 Eddie or first half of 2016 Eddie? Who's going to lead this rotation? Kyle Gibson has to continue to move forward, right? Will last year's Tyler Duffey return? Trevor May.... starter or reliever? Please tell me the bullpen doesn't forget how to strike people out. As we turn the page to the second half, what are you most anxious to see? Click here to view the article
  22. Here are my picks for the top five worst All-Star selections in Twins history. I took into consideration the player's career WAR total and the season in which the player was elected but there have been some bad players who were able to put the title of All-Star next to their name. 5. Joe Mays, 2001 All-Star (Career 9.0 WAR) The 2001 season was the only year Mays finished with an ERA under 4.00 and it was also his lone season of pitching more than 200 innings. He would actually lead the entire league in ERA+ that season but the rest of his career was hardly All-Star worthy. He struggled with injuries and posted a career 5.05 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Almost all of his WAR value was accumulated during the 2001 campaign when he finished in the top 10 for WAR. 4. Dave Engle, 1984 All-Star (Career 3.9 WAR) Engle, the brother-in-law of Tom Brunansky, was the team's lone representative in 1984. He wasn't even having that great of a season when he was elected. He hit .266/.308/.353 with four home runs and 20 doubles during the 1984 campaign. He actually finished ninth on the team in WAR behind the likes of Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Gary Gaetti. Maybe he was being rewarded for his 1983 season where he combined for a .800 OPS with 34 extra-base hits. 3. Tim Laudner, 1988 All-Star (Career 3.2 WAR) The two catchers on the AL roster in 1988 were Terry Steinbach and Tim Laudner. Minnesota was coming off the World Series victory and more of the team's players were represented on the roster including Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Jeff Reardon and Gary Gaetti. Laudner played in a career-high 117 games in 1988 and hit .251/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 18 doubles. However, he allowed the second most stolen bases in the AL and he would play only one more season at the big league level. 2. Eduardo Nunez, 2016 All-Star (Career 2.1 WAR) Nunez is thriving in one of his first opportunities to play on a regular basis. He played in 112 games for the Yankees in 2011 but those games resulted in a negative WAR total for the season (-0.5 WAR). His time in Minnesota has been more productive as he has been worth 3.7 WAR over the last three years. The Twins are bad this year and someone had to represent the team. My vote would have been for Brian Dozier but they didn't ask me. 1. Ron Coomer, 1999 All-Star (Career 1.4 WAR) The 1999 version of the Twins went 63-97 so there wasn't much to be excited about. Players like Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones and Terry Steinbach might have been more deserving of an All-Star selection as Koskie's WAR ended up being more than three times that of Coomer. Mr. Coomer was in a stretch of five straight seasons with 12 home runs or more and he combined for a .744 OPS during that stretch. In an era where baseballs were flying out of stadiums at a record pace, Coomer got to be on the same roster as the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome. There are my top-five worst Twins All-Stars of all-time. Should someone else have made the list? Who would be your worst Twins All-Star? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  23. If someone would have told me at the beginning of the season that Eduardo Nunez would be the Twins All-Star representative, I would have laughed in his face. Nunez is having a great first half of the season but he doesn't exactly conjure up thoughts of being one of the best players in baseball. Every team gets an All-Star and there could be a lengthy discussion over the validity of this practice. It gives each team's individual fan base someone to root for in the game. The best players might not always be on the field but that's not always what the Mid-Summer Classic is all about. There have been some bad Twins teams throughout the franchise's history. The early 1980's and mid 1990's come to mind as some rough times in the not so distant past. Over the last handful of years, there have been some of the organization's worst teams but those teams still get an All-Star representative.Here are my picks for the top five worst All-Star selections in Twins history. I took into consideration the player's career WAR total and the season in which the player was elected but there have been some bad players who were able to put the title of All-Star next to their name. 5. Joe Mays, 2001 All-Star (Career 9.0 WAR) The 2001 season was the only year Mays finished with an ERA under 4.00 and it was also his lone season of pitching more than 200 innings. He would actually lead the entire league in ERA+ that season but the rest of his career was hardly All-Star worthy. He struggled with injuries and posted a career 5.05 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. Almost all of his WAR value was accumulated during the 2001 campaign when he finished in the top 10 for WAR. 4. Dave Engle, 1984 All-Star (Career 3.9 WAR) Engle, the brother-in-law of Tom Brunansky, was the team's lone representative in 1984. He wasn't even having that great of a season when he was elected. He hit .266/.308/.353 with four home runs and 20 doubles during the 1984 campaign. He actually finished ninth on the team in WAR behind the likes of Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, and Gary Gaetti. Maybe he was being rewarded for his 1983 season where he combined for a .800 OPS with 34 extra-base hits. 3. Tim Laudner, 1988 All-Star (Career 3.2 WAR) The two catchers on the AL roster in 1988 were Terry Steinbach and Tim Laudner. Minnesota was coming off the World Series victory and more of the team's players were represented on the roster including Kirby Puckett, Frank Viola, Jeff Reardon and Gary Gaetti. Laudner played in a career-high 117 games in 1988 and hit .251/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 18 doubles. However, he allowed the second most stolen bases in the AL and he would play only one more season at the big league level. 2. Eduardo Nunez, 2016 All-Star (Career 2.1 WAR) Nunez is thriving in one of his first opportunities to play on a regular basis. He played in 112 games for the Yankees in 2011 but those games resulted in a negative WAR total for the season (-0.5 WAR). His time in Minnesota has been more productive as he has been worth 3.7 WAR over the last three years. The Twins are bad this year and someone had to represent the team. My vote would have been for Brian Dozier but they didn't ask me. 1. Ron Coomer, 1999 All-Star (Career 1.4 WAR) The 1999 version of the Twins went 63-97 so there wasn't much to be excited about. Players like Corey Koskie, Jacque Jones and Terry Steinbach might have been more deserving of an All-Star selection as Koskie's WAR ended up being more than three times that of Coomer. Mr. Coomer was in a stretch of five straight seasons with 12 home runs or more and he combined for a .744 OPS during that stretch. In an era where baseballs were flying out of stadiums at a record pace, Coomer got to be on the same roster as the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome. There are my top-five worst Twins All-Stars of all-time. Should someone else have made the list? Who would be your worst Twins All-Star? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  24. The fireworks dust has settled and this means baseball's trade deadline is quickly approaching. Following next week's All-Star Game festivities in San Diego, contending teams will be wheeling and dealing to try to find the right pieces to push their organization to the next level. Minnesota's terrible first half has put them in a position to be sellers in 2016. This isn't a terrible position to be in but the Twins have been bad in recent years and the front office hasn't been willing to part with trade chips. Maybe this year will be different as Terry Ryan looks to add to one of the best farm systems in baseball. Who is available? What can the Twins get in return? Let's dive in...Starting Pitchers: Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco The Twins spent a lot of money on both of these pitchers on the free agent market and it hasn't gone according to plan. Santana spent the first part of his contract being suspended for 80 games and he hasn't been anything fantastic since returning to the mound. His name has even popped up in national headlines as "perhaps the most viable trade deadline pickup on the market." Nolasco has struggled with very brief flashes of being the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting. With both pitchers, the Twins would have to pay some of their remaining contracts. Santana is owed $27 million over the next two seasons and Nolasco is owed $24 million during the same stretch. That's a lot of money to two pitchers that haven't lived up to expectations but maybe both could be helped by moving to the National League. Trading one or both of these players would free up a second half rotation spot for the likes of Jose Berrios. Some Twins fans have even started the discussion about Trevor May being stretched out and put back in the rotation. Minnesota needs to see what they have in their young pitchers and the second half can offer them that opportunity. Relief Pitchers: Fernando Abad Contending teams pay a premium for effective relief pitching near the deadline (see Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade). Even Minnesota traded for relief help last year when Kevin Jepsen was acquired for a pair of pitching prospects. Jensen was designated for assignment over the weekend which can show how fickle relief pitchers can be. Abad has run into some rough outings in the last week but he still might be one of the team's most valuable trade pieces. As a left-handed relief pitcher, he has held lefties to batting under .175 and they are getting on-base less than 21% of the time. He also comes with an extra year of team control so that adds some value to him since he can't be a free agent until 2018. Much like trading one of the starting pitchers would open a spot for Berrios, dealing Abad could open a role for an up-and-coming relief arm. J.T. Chargois didn't get much of a look in his brief call-up so it would be nice to see more of him in the second half. Position Players: Brian Dozier, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki Dozier isn't going to be part of the next winning team in Minnesota. He has busted out of his early season slump in a big way and he's under contract for the next two seasons for and average value of $7.5 million per year. Jorge Polanco has been ready for the big leagues but the Twins have no where to put him. Trading Dozier opens up a spot for Polanco and he could bring back an intriguing prospect or two. Nunez has been the biggest surprise on the Twins roster this season. For the first time in his career, he has become an everyday starter and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. He is arbitration eligible for one more season and he can play multiple spots around the infield. For a team looking for a bench player with some versatility, Nunez could be their man. It might also be the first time in a while where the Twins have sold high on a player and not waited until his value was gone. The Miguel Sano outfield experiment seems to be coming to an end. Plouffe's time in Minnesota has included plenty of good moments and he has become a fan favorite. However, Plouffe would likely leave in free agency after the 2017 campaign so trading him now could result in more value. A contending team might need a bat off the bench or a replacement at third and Plouffe can serve both of those roles. He will be on the disabled list until for the next couple weeks so he might be able to be dealt until the off-season. Much like Dozier, Suzuki has broken out of his early-season offensive slump. His contract expires at the end of the year and the Twins will likely need to go in a different direction from the aging catcher. He is below average on the defensive side of the ball but Twins pitchers have like his ability to call games. Suzuki could serve in a back-up catcher role or be asked to fill in for an injured starting catcher. His veteran leadership and experience could be intriguing. There's the list of potential trade targets. Who else do you think the Twins should make available? What can Minnesota get back for the pieces that they have? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  25. Starting Pitchers: Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco The Twins spent a lot of money on both of these pitchers on the free agent market and it hasn't gone according to plan. Santana spent the first part of his contract being suspended for 80 games and he hasn't been anything fantastic since returning to the mound. His name has even popped up in national headlines as "perhaps the most viable trade deadline pickup on the market." Nolasco has struggled with very brief flashes of being the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting. With both pitchers, the Twins would have to pay some of their remaining contracts. Santana is owed $27 million over the next two seasons and Nolasco is owed $24 million during the same stretch. That's a lot of money to two pitchers that haven't lived up to expectations but maybe both could be helped by moving to the National League. Trading one or both of these players would free up a second half rotation spot for the likes of Jose Berrios. Some Twins fans have even started the discussion about Trevor May being stretched out and put back in the rotation. Minnesota needs to see what they have in their young pitchers and the second half can offer them that opportunity. Relief Pitchers: Fernando Abad Contending teams pay a premium for effective relief pitching near the deadline (see Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade). Even Minnesota traded for relief help last year when Kevin Jepsen was acquired for a pair of pitching prospects. Jensen was designated for assignment over the weekend which can show how fickle relief pitchers can be. Abad has run into some rough outings in the last week but he still might be one of the team's most valuable trade pieces. As a left-handed relief pitcher, he has held lefties to batting under .175 and they are getting on-base less than 21% of the time. He also comes with an extra year of team control so that adds some value to him since he can't be a free agent until 2018. Much like trading one of the starting pitchers would open a spot for Berrios, dealing Abad could open a role for an up-and-coming relief arm. J.T. Chargois didn't get much of a look in his brief call-up so it would be nice to see more of him in the second half. Position Players: Brian Dozier, Eduardo Nunez, Trevor Plouffe, Kurt Suzuki Dozier isn't going to be part of the next winning team in Minnesota. He has busted out of his early season slump in a big way and he's under contract for the next two seasons for and average value of $7.5 million per year. Jorge Polanco has been ready for the big leagues but the Twins have no where to put him. Trading Dozier opens up a spot for Polanco and he could bring back an intriguing prospect or two. Nunez has been the biggest surprise on the Twins roster this season. For the first time in his career, he has become an everyday starter and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. He is arbitration eligible for one more season and he can play multiple spots around the infield. For a team looking for a bench player with some versatility, Nunez could be their man. It might also be the first time in a while where the Twins have sold high on a player and not waited until his value was gone. The Miguel Sano outfield experiment seems to be coming to an end. Plouffe's time in Minnesota has included plenty of good moments and he has become a fan favorite. However, Plouffe would likely leave in free agency after the 2017 campaign so trading him now could result in more value. A contending team might need a bat off the bench or a replacement at third and Plouffe can serve both of those roles. He will be on the disabled list until for the next couple weeks so he might be able to be dealt until the off-season. Much like Dozier, Suzuki has broken out of his early-season offensive slump. His contract expires at the end of the year and the Twins will likely need to go in a different direction from the aging catcher. He is below average on the defensive side of the ball but Twins pitchers have like his ability to call games. Suzuki could serve in a back-up catcher role or be asked to fill in for an injured starting catcher. His veteran leadership and experience could be intriguing. There's the list of potential trade targets. Who else do you think the Twins should make available? What can Minnesota get back for the pieces that they have? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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