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  1. The 2022 Major League Baseball Trade Deadline is now behind us. The AL Central remains a tightly contested division, even if seemingly no one wants to actually go on a run and take command. Minnesota brought in reinforcements while everyone else is banking on their own options to hold serve. The Standings: Minnesota 55-50 Cleveland 54-51 (1.0 GB, 2.0 GB of 2nd Wild Card) Chicago 53-52 (2.0 GB) Kansas City 42-64 (13.5 GB) Detroit 42-65 (14.0 GB) The Guardians and White Sox have used the opportunity presented by the Twins to draw closer. Back as many as five games just before the All-Star Break, both clubs find themselves within striking distance as August gets underway. The division might not be good (it isn’t), but it should remain interesting. The Stories: Minnesota made all of the splashes during the trade deadline. Needing pitching help, in both the bullpen and rotation, arms such as Jorge Lopez and Tyler Mahle were both acquired. After Ryan Jeffers went down with a broken thumb, a catcher became a need as well, and Sandy Leon was grabbed from Cleveland. The bullpen pecking order has changed, but it didn’t take long for Emilio Pagan to mess things up again out of the break. Carlos Correa is slumping and Byron Buxton continues trying to manage his knee issues. Rocco Baldelli’s club needs to get going sooner rather than later. Somewhat shockingly the White Sox did virtually nothing at the trade deadline. They shipped catcher Reese McGuire out in exchange for lefty Jake Diekman, but that was the extent of their moves. A clean bill of health may be the best thing afforded to them the rest of the way, and that started with Luis Robert being activated off the injured list. Tony La Russa will need to do a better job managing down the stretch, but he’s certainly got a club capable of making some noise. Unlike Chicago, Cleveland literally did nothing at the deadline when it comes to the Major League roster. Leon was at Triple-A when sent to the Twins, and although Ian Hamilton may have a big league impact, he too was pitching for St. Paul. The Guardians need a full rotation if they’re going to hold serve with Minnesota, and getting Aaron Civale back should help. He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A on Thursday. Steven Kwan currently has an 18-game hitting streak and prospect Tyler Freeman made his big league debut. Despite suggesting they were open for business, Detroit wound up being quiet at the trade deadline. They did allow Michael Fulmer to walk across the diamond at Target Field, but Tarik Skubal stayed put. The Tigers ace probably sapped any trade possibility when he left his most recent start with left arm fatigue. He was later placed on the injured list. Hopefully it’s not a long injury or anything serious, but it’s obviously smart that Detroit is taking things seriously. The Royals wound up trading Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees and then finally shipped Whit Merrifield to the Toronto Blue Jays. Merrifield had been a subject of trade rumors for years, but this time it finally happened. He did also go through with vaccination for Covid in order to be eligible to enter Canada. Former Twins prospect Brent Rooker rejoined the division when San Diego sent him to Kansas City in exchange for Cam Gallagher. Heart and Hustle Nominees: The Heart and Hustle nominees for each team were announced this week. Voting takes place prior to the All-Star Break. MLB defines the award by saying, "This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players." The nominees for each club are: Minnesota Twins - Luis Arraez Chicago White Sox - Jose Abreu Cleveland Guardians - Jose Abreu Kansas City Royals - Bobby Witt Jr. Detroit Tigers - Eric Haase The Week Ahead: Things get tougher before they get easier on the Twins. A four-game set with Toronto starts the weekend, but then they travel to California and have a two-game set with the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter against them earlier this season, and Minnesota was clearly outmatched. An underwhelming Angels squad will greet them next weekend. Chicago remains on the road against bottom feeders for most of the week. Playing against the Rangers and then headed to Kansas City, they should have plenty of wins to stack before returning home against Detroit. They could find themselves leading the division a few days from now with this slate. Terry Francona’s Guardians have a four-game set with the Astros over the weekend, but then travel to Detroit and Toronto next week. They could be in a spot to lose ground if Minnesota and Chicago are able to string wins together. Detroit has to fend off the Tampa Bay Rays at home this weekend which won’t be an easy task. Divisional matchups follow and they can’t get caught looking ahead, if that’s a thing for a team this bad. Eris Hosmer returned to Kansas City as the Red Sox new first basemen. He’s there over the weekend before the Royals host Chicago, including a doubleheader, then welcome the Dodgers for three. What are you looking forward to this week? Are the Twins actually going to lose the division lead? View full article
  2. The Standings: Minnesota 55-50 Cleveland 54-51 (1.0 GB, 2.0 GB of 2nd Wild Card) Chicago 53-52 (2.0 GB) Kansas City 42-64 (13.5 GB) Detroit 42-65 (14.0 GB) The Guardians and White Sox have used the opportunity presented by the Twins to draw closer. Back as many as five games just before the All-Star Break, both clubs find themselves within striking distance as August gets underway. The division might not be good (it isn’t), but it should remain interesting. The Stories: Minnesota made all of the splashes during the trade deadline. Needing pitching help, in both the bullpen and rotation, arms such as Jorge Lopez and Tyler Mahle were both acquired. After Ryan Jeffers went down with a broken thumb, a catcher became a need as well, and Sandy Leon was grabbed from Cleveland. The bullpen pecking order has changed, but it didn’t take long for Emilio Pagan to mess things up again out of the break. Carlos Correa is slumping and Byron Buxton continues trying to manage his knee issues. Rocco Baldelli’s club needs to get going sooner rather than later. Somewhat shockingly the White Sox did virtually nothing at the trade deadline. They shipped catcher Reese McGuire out in exchange for lefty Jake Diekman, but that was the extent of their moves. A clean bill of health may be the best thing afforded to them the rest of the way, and that started with Luis Robert being activated off the injured list. Tony La Russa will need to do a better job managing down the stretch, but he’s certainly got a club capable of making some noise. Unlike Chicago, Cleveland literally did nothing at the deadline when it comes to the Major League roster. Leon was at Triple-A when sent to the Twins, and although Ian Hamilton may have a big league impact, he too was pitching for St. Paul. The Guardians need a full rotation if they’re going to hold serve with Minnesota, and getting Aaron Civale back should help. He began a rehab assignment at Triple-A on Thursday. Steven Kwan currently has an 18-game hitting streak and prospect Tyler Freeman made his big league debut. Despite suggesting they were open for business, Detroit wound up being quiet at the trade deadline. They did allow Michael Fulmer to walk across the diamond at Target Field, but Tarik Skubal stayed put. The Tigers ace probably sapped any trade possibility when he left his most recent start with left arm fatigue. He was later placed on the injured list. Hopefully it’s not a long injury or anything serious, but it’s obviously smart that Detroit is taking things seriously. The Royals wound up trading Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees and then finally shipped Whit Merrifield to the Toronto Blue Jays. Merrifield had been a subject of trade rumors for years, but this time it finally happened. He did also go through with vaccination for Covid in order to be eligible to enter Canada. Former Twins prospect Brent Rooker rejoined the division when San Diego sent him to Kansas City in exchange for Cam Gallagher. Heart and Hustle Nominees: The Heart and Hustle nominees for each team were announced this week. Voting takes place prior to the All-Star Break. MLB defines the award by saying, "This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players." The nominees for each club are: Minnesota Twins - Luis Arraez Chicago White Sox - Jose Abreu Cleveland Guardians - Jose Abreu Kansas City Royals - Bobby Witt Jr. Detroit Tigers - Eric Haase The Week Ahead: Things get tougher before they get easier on the Twins. A four-game set with Toronto starts the weekend, but then they travel to California and have a two-game set with the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw nearly threw a no-hitter against them earlier this season, and Minnesota was clearly outmatched. An underwhelming Angels squad will greet them next weekend. Chicago remains on the road against bottom feeders for most of the week. Playing against the Rangers and then headed to Kansas City, they should have plenty of wins to stack before returning home against Detroit. They could find themselves leading the division a few days from now with this slate. Terry Francona’s Guardians have a four-game set with the Astros over the weekend, but then travel to Detroit and Toronto next week. They could be in a spot to lose ground if Minnesota and Chicago are able to string wins together. Detroit has to fend off the Tampa Bay Rays at home this weekend which won’t be an easy task. Divisional matchups follow and they can’t get caught looking ahead, if that’s a thing for a team this bad. Eris Hosmer returned to Kansas City as the Red Sox new first basemen. He’s there over the weekend before the Royals host Chicago, including a doubleheader, then welcome the Dodgers for three. What are you looking forward to this week? Are the Twins actually going to lose the division lead?
  3. Hi friends! We have a new show for you. Chargois, Odorizzi, Aybar, and LoMo are on the docket for Twins topics. We also brought in Sean to talk about Eric Hosmer going to SD (pukes everywhere) and what that means for the Royals going forward. Check out this show, and all other shows using the link below, or search "Twins And Losses Supershow" on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts. #TampaBayTwins https://www.spreaker.com/show/twins-and-losses-supershow
  4. This offseason free agents across Major League Baseball have felt a squeeze of sorts. Now into February, more than 50 quality big leaguers still remain out in the cold with respect to playing destinations for the upcoming season. While I will always argue in favor of millionaire players over billionaire owners, the complaints of the job seekers seem to be somewhat shallow given the current marketplace.Looking at the list of the top 25 free agents for 2018 from MLB.com, only four of the top 10 players available have been inked to deals. Shohei Ohtani chose the Los Angeles Angels in a deal that was never going to reflect true market value. Wade Davis inked the largest relief contract ever with the Rockies, Jay Bruce rejoined the Mets, and Lorenzo Cain entered the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, the battle cry continues to be that money is scarce on the market, and players demand better. In a tweet from agent Brody Van Wagenen, threats regarding a strike were made, and indications of former $200 million and $300 million deals were alluded to. It's absolutely fair on one hand to see players band together; being represented by a union, that's what should take place. That being said, the threat of a strike while failing to realize market indications seems somewhat like misplaced frustration. First and foremost, a strike would effectively squash all positive momentum the sport has, which is currently experiencing popularity at its peak. The players stand to gain nothing in the long run from a strike, and comparing the current landscape to that of 1994 couldn't be further from level ground. The second part of the equation however, is what both market factors and available commodities are telling us. There're two real situations at play this offseason in my mind. Situation number one is that the crop of free agents is, for lack of better descriptors, rather week. Jay Bruce was a top ten name, Yu Darvish is truly the only ace, and as good as he is, J.D. Martinez as a true designated hitter becomes a top three get (this coming from someone who genuinely supports the DH, and believes it ought to be universal). No doubt owners have revenues to disperse, but there is a lack of players worthy of the funds to be allocated, in a sense. The second situation is that the impending free agent class represents one of the greatest to ever hit the open market. Brian Dozier, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, Byrce Harper, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen highlight the bats. On the mound, names like Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw (likely), Dallas Keuchel, Klevin Herrera, Craig Kimbrel, and Zach Britton all get the engine running. As harsh of a reality as it may be, the money allocated for those players should be significantly more than what's currently available. I'm absolutely in favor of a player being paid whatever they can get, and your worth as far as a contract goes should be whatever someone is willing to pay you. However, it seems that agents are overreaching while players are lulled into a false sense of reality. When it comes to a free market structure, it's generally the market that dictates valuations. One player commanding an unrealistic amount would effectively throw off the valuations surrounding the entirety of a current class or one in the future. We have heard reports of Darvish seeking something north of seven years and $175 million, while someone like Hosmer has been reported to have seven year deals on the table, but holding out for eight. There've been notes reporting Martinez is looking for $200 million, and Arrieta could be commanding as much. Sure, given the current availability of free agents, those numbers might not be ridiculous in a vacuum. The problem however, is that organizations are trying to create a culture of consistent winning. By offering Martinez $200m or Hosmer eight years, the correct structure of a Machado or Harper deal becomes $600m or 15 years. At some point, there has to be reality to the sliding scale matching talent or return, with valuation. Throw into the equation that front offices are also now more intelligent than ever before. Analytics may not have entirely taken over the on-field product, but you can bet that algorithms are run for virtually every dollar amount thrown into a discussion. No longer does a team want to get stuck paying Albert Pujols $240m over 10 years, while he limps through two-thirds of the deal. The Zack Greinke's and Giancarlo Stanton's over the world make the money easier to wrap your head around given the age factor (similar to what Machado and Harper will experience), but massive paydays spread across significant time commitments for players into their 30's has long been a negative proposition. At the end of the day, I expect a dam to break, and it's the players that probably need to do some budging. Sure, there's absolutely money to be spent, and the sport should continue to foster payroll growth. What can't happen however, is for talent to hold money hostage until market inefficiencies are forced. The future viability of contracts relies upon a level of consistency year over year. Baseball being an uncapped sport leads to an interesting economic study created entirely by its own doing. The sport needs Darvish and Hosmer thrilling fans, but it also needs them doing it in a scenario that makes sense for future markets as well. We may have had one of the most boring off-seasons in recent memory, but there's a time crunch coming, and the craziness could just be about to start. Originally posted at Off The Baggy. Click here to view the article
  5. Looking at the list of the top 25 free agents for 2018 from MLB.com, only four of the top 10 players available have been inked to deals. Shohei Ohtani chose the Los Angeles Angels in a deal that was never going to reflect true market value. Wade Davis inked the largest relief contract ever with the Rockies, Jay Bruce rejoined the Mets, and Lorenzo Cain entered the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, the battle cry continues to be that money is scarce on the market, and players demand better. In a tweet from agent Brody Van Wagenen, threats regarding a strike were made, and indications of former $200 million and $300 million deals were alluded to. It's absolutely fair on one hand to see players band together; being represented by a union, that's what should take place. That being said, the threat of a strike while failing to realize market indications seems somewhat like misplaced frustration. First and foremost, a strike would effectively squash all positive momentum the sport has, which is currently experiencing popularity at its peak. The players stand to gain nothing in the long run from a strike, and comparing the current landscape to that of 1994 couldn't be further from level ground. The second part of the equation however, is what both market factors and available commodities are telling us. There're two real situations at play this offseason in my mind. Situation number one is that the crop of free agents is, for lack of better descriptors, rather week. Jay Bruce was a top ten name, Yu Darvish is truly the only ace, and as good as he is, J.D. Martinez as a true designated hitter becomes a top three get (this coming from someone who genuinely supports the DH, and believes it ought to be universal). No doubt owners have revenues to disperse, but there is a lack of players worthy of the funds to be allocated, in a sense. The second situation is that the impending free agent class represents one of the greatest to ever hit the open market. Brian Dozier, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, Byrce Harper, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen highlight the bats. On the mound, names like Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw (likely), Dallas Keuchel, Klevin Herrera, Craig Kimbrel, and Zach Britton all get the engine running. As harsh of a reality as it may be, the money allocated for those players should be significantly more than what's currently available. I'm absolutely in favor of a player being paid whatever they can get, and your worth as far as a contract goes should be whatever someone is willing to pay you. However, it seems that agents are overreaching while players are lulled into a false sense of reality. When it comes to a free market structure, it's generally the market that dictates valuations. One player commanding an unrealistic amount would effectively throw off the valuations surrounding the entirety of a current class or one in the future. We have heard reports of Darvish seeking something north of seven years and $175 million, while someone like Hosmer has been reported to have seven year deals on the table, but holding out for eight. There've been notes reporting Martinez is looking for $200 million, and Arrieta could be commanding as much. Sure, given the current availability of free agents, those numbers might not be ridiculous in a vacuum. The problem however, is that organizations are trying to create a culture of consistent winning. By offering Martinez $200m or Hosmer eight years, the correct structure of a Machado or Harper deal becomes $600m or 15 years. At some point, there has to be reality to the sliding scale matching talent or return, with valuation. Throw into the equation that front offices are also now more intelligent than ever before. Analytics may not have entirely taken over the on-field product, but you can bet that algorithms are run for virtually every dollar amount thrown into a discussion. No longer does a team want to get stuck paying Albert Pujols $240m over 10 years, while he limps through two-thirds of the deal. The Zack Greinke's and Giancarlo Stanton's over the world make the money easier to wrap your head around given the age factor (similar to what Machado and Harper will experience), but massive paydays spread across significant time commitments for players into their 30's has long been a negative proposition. At the end of the day, I expect a dam to break, and it's the players that probably need to do some budging. Sure, there's absolutely money to be spent, and the sport should continue to foster payroll growth. What can't happen however, is for talent to hold money hostage until market inefficiencies are forced. The future viability of contracts relies upon a level of consistency year over year. Baseball being an uncapped sport leads to an interesting economic study created entirely by its own doing. The sport needs Darvish and Hosmer thrilling fans, but it also needs them doing it in a scenario that makes sense for future markets as well. We may have had one of the most boring off-seasons in recent memory, but there's a time crunch coming, and the craziness could just be about to start. Originally posted at Off The Baggy.
  6. This offseason free agents across Major League Baseball have felt a squeeze of sorts. Now into February, more than 50 quality big leaguers still remain out in the cold with respect to playing destinations for the upcoming season. While I will always argue in favor of millionaire players over billionaire owners, the complaints of the job seekers seem to be somewhat shallow given the current marketplace. Looking at the list of the top 25 free agents for 2018 from MLB.com, only four of the top 10 players available have been inked to deals. Shohei Ohtani chose the Los Angeles Angels in a deal that was never going to reflect true market value. Wade Davis inked the largest relief contract ever with the Rockies, Jay Bruce rejoined the Mets, and Lorenzo Cain entered the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers. However, the battle cry continues to be that money is scarce on the market, and players demand better. In a tweet from agent Brody Van Wagenen, threats regarding a strike were made, and indications of former $200 million and $300 million deals were alluded to. It's absolutely fair on one hand to see players band together; being represented by a union, that's what should take place. That being said, the threat of a strike while failing to realize market indications seems somewhat like misplaced frustration. First and foremost, a strike would effectively squash all positive momentum the sport has, which is currently experiencing popularity at its peak. The players stand to gain nothing in the long run from a strike, and comparing the current landscape to that of 1994 couldn't be further from level ground. The second part of the equation however, is what both market factors and available commodities are telling us. There's two real situations at play this offseason in my mind. Situation number one is that the crop of free agents is, for lack of better descriptors, rather week. Jay Bruce was a top ten name, Yu Darvish is truly the only ace, and as good as he is, J.D. Martinez as a true designated hitter becomes a top three get (this coming from someone who genuinely supports the DH, and believes it ought to be universal). No doubt owners have revenues to disperse, but there's a lack of players worthy of the funds to be allocated in a sense. The second situation is that the impending free agent class represents one of the greatest to ever hit the open market. Brian Dozier, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, Charlie Blackmon, Byrce Harper, A.J. Pollock, and Andrew McCutchen highlight the bats. On the mound, names like Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Kershaw (likely), Dallas Keuchel, Klevin Herrera, Craig Kimbrel, and Zach Britton all get the engine running. As harsh of a reality as it may be, the money allocated for those players should be significantly more than what's currently available. I'm absolutely in favor of a player being paid whatever they can get, and your worth as far as a contract goes should be whatever someone is willing to pay you. However, it seems that agents are overreaching while players are lulled into a false sense of reality. When it comes to a free market structure, it's generally the market that dictates valuations. One player commanding an unrealistic amount would effectively throw off the valuations surrounding the entirety of a current class or one in the future. We have heard reports of Darvish seeking something north of seven years and $175 million, while someone like Hosmer has been reported to have seven year deals on the table, but holding out for eight. There's been notes reporting Martinez is looking for $200 million, and Arrieta could be commanding equally as much. Sure, given the current availability of free agents, those numbers might not be ridiculous in a vacuum. The problem however, is that organizations are trying to create a culture of consistent winning. By offering Martinez $200m or Hosmer eight years, the correct structure of a Machado or Harper deal becomes $600m or 15 years. At some point, there has to be reality to the sliding scale matching talent or return, with valuation. Throw into the equation that front offices are also now more intelligent than ever before. Analytics may not have entirely taken over the on field product, but you can bet that algorithms are ran for virtually every dollar amount thrown into a discussion. No longer does a team want to get stuck paying Albert Pujols $240m over 10 years, while he limps through two-thirds of the deal. The Zack Greinke's and Giancarlo Stanton's over the world make the money easier to wrap your head around given the age factor (similar to what Machado and Harper will experience), but massive paydays spread across significant time commitments for players into their 30's has long been a negative proposition. At the end of the day, I expect a dam to break, and it's the players that probably need to do some budging. Sure, there's absolutely money to be spent, and the sport should continue to foster payroll growth. What can't happen however, is for talent to hold money hostage until market inefficiencies are forced. The future viability of contracts relies upon a level of consistency year over year. Baseball being an uncapped sport leads to an interesting economic study created entirely by its own doing. The sport needs Darvish and Hosmer thrilling fans, but it also needs them doing it in a scenario that makes sense for future markets as well. We may have had one of the most boring off-seasons in recent memory, but there's a time crunch coming, and the craziness could just be about to start. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  7. Minnesota Meeting With Darvish https://twitter.com/JonHeyman/status/948756578777354241 Yu Darvish and his team certainly seem to be doing their due diligence. The top free agent pitcher on the market has already met with multiple clubs as he looks for his next team. Minnesota has not been one of those organizations. It’s hard to know if he is avoiding the Twins or if he’s actually familiar with the organization’s front office so a meeting isn’t necessary. He might also be trying to avoid the cold in Minnesota. https://twitter.com/LaVelleNeal/status/948759484213743616 For those worried about Darvish not coming to the Twin Cities, local baseball writers have also chimed in. It sounds like he might already know everything he needs about Minnesota. This might be enough to sway his decision. In the meantime, fans will have to sit back and wait for more news from the Darvish camp. Sano Fallout Miguel Sano was in the news for all of the wrong reasons last week. Major League Baseball started its review process of the situation as soon as the allegations were brought to their attention. It’s hard to know how long the process will take. This is the first major allegation against an MLB player since the #MeToo movement has come to light. https://twitter.com/MikeBerardino/status/948669512890634240 In 2016, Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman was suspended 30 games for allegedly choking his 22-year-old girlfriend and firing eight shots in the garage of his home. He was never prosecuted by law because there were conflicting account and not enough evidence. Will the Chapman suspension be the baseline for Sano’s potential punishment? Ice Cold Stove https://twitter.com/CespedesBBQ/status/947975422284849154 There hasn’t been much action on the free agent market so far this year. In fact, it’s the coldest “hot stove” over the last half of a decade. Eric Hosmer, a former AL Central foe, has been offered seven year deals by the Padres and the Royals. The St. Louis Cardinals are also rumored to be interested in Hosmer’s services. As one of the top available free agent bats, his signing could set-off a series of other signings. The Rockies have been busy signing multiple pieces for their bullpen. A “super bullpen” might be the wave of the future. One has to wonder if the Twins will be able to improve some of their relief pieces for 2018. Young players like Trevor Hildenberger and John Curtiss could figure prominently in Minnesota’s plans. Tyler Jay continues to lurk in the minors and could be the team’s wild card in the second half of 2018. Do the Twins need to meet with Darvish? How fast will the Sano situation be resolved? Will the hot stove ever heat up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  8. Kohl Stewart Not Added to 40-Man https://twitter.com/RodneyE77330908/status/936985378304745472 It was a little surprising not to see Kohl Stewart’s name on the team’s list of additions to the 40-man roster. Stewart, the former fourth overall pick, signed for $4.544 million when he was selected in the 2013 Draft. That’s a lot of money invested in a player who could end up being selected by another organization in the Rule 5 Draft. However, he was picked under the previous front office regime. As a pitching prospect, Stewart has yet to put it all together. In high school, he was a two-sport star with a Division I scholarship to play quarterback. He has been over two years younger than the competition at every minor league stop, so he has been facing older players. That being said, his strikeouts haven’t ever shown up and he still has things to prove. If a team wants to take a flyer on him in the Rule 5 Draft, they could try to hide him in their big league bullpen. He’s only made three relief appearances in his entire professional career. Even if a team picks him, I think he will end up back in the Twins organization. Stewart isn’t ready to be on a big league roster for the entire season. Joe Mauer Extension https://twitter.com/StevoFromSD/status/937866011184914432 Here at Twins Daily, there has been a lot of talk about who the Twins should offer extensions to this off-season. There is a young core of players who are going to get expensive. Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier both will see their contracts expire at the end of 2018. This leaves the front office with some decisions to make about the veteran leadership around their young core. I believe Mauer will finish his career in a Twins uniform. At this point in his career, I don’t know if it make sense to sign him to a four-year deal. I also don’t know if he is going to want to play for another four seasons. He has a young family and a life outside of baseball and there are other opportunities he could pursue. On Twitter, I wondered out loud if he would be open to a Tim Wakefield-type of contract. Keep him on one-year contracts as long as the team and the player agree with him playing. When it comes to the 3,000 hit mark, Mauer is going to need to have quite the stretch. Since 2014, he’s averaged 143 hits per season. At that rate, he wouldn’t crack the 3,000 hit mark for another seven years. He would be in his age-42 season so that seems like it will be an uphill climb. Free Agent DH Options https://twitter.com/neilnagle22/status/938231800157044737 Eric Hosmer and JD Martinez are the two players who are going to make a lot of money this off-season. MLB Trade Rumors ranks Martinez as the second best free agent with an estimated six-year, $150 million contract. Hosmer ranks as the number three free agent with an estimated six-year, $132 million deal. I think if the Twins are going to spend that kind of money it would be in the club’s best interest to spend their funds on pitching. There is another tier of designated hitter-type players who could fit better with the Twins. Carlos Santana is a name that has been thrown around but plenty of other teams would be interested in his services as well. According to MLB Trade Rumors, he could sign in the $45 million range on a three-year contract. Some of the market will begin to unfold after Ohtani picks the club where he is going to sign. Adding More Pitching https://twitter.com/jzenk42/status/938546916245278722 Spending money on free agent pitchers isn’t always the smartest investment. Pitchers like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are going to command multi-year contracts for north of $100 million. Both players are in their early 30’s which would put them in their late 30’s before their contract would expire. This usually results in some dead money at the end of the deal. As players age further into their 30’s, they lose some effectiveness. Falvey and Levine were a little surprised by the Twins being in contention during their first year on the job. With that being said, I think they want to make a splash this off-season. They are going to go hard after Darvish to try to lure him to Minnesota. If that doesn’t work out, I could see them packaging multiple prospects to go after the likes of Jake Odorizzi or Gerrit Cole. Nick Gordon would likely need to be a centerpiece of that kind of trade. The front office might be fine with dealing him after Jorge Polanco’s emergence in 2017. Was leaving Stewart off the 40-man a mistake? Should Mauer get an extension? What DH could the Twins sign? Do free agent pitchers make sense for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  9. With MLB’s Winter Meetings on the horizon, thing have continued to be relatively cold when it comes to the off-season hot stove. Shohei Ohtani has been getting most of the headlines as he has narrowed his list down to a handful of teams. Unfortunately, one of those teams is not the Minnesota Twins. While we wait for the hot stove to actually star heating up, you asked me questions on Twitter and I’m going to take the time to answer them. Here’s a look into the Twins Daily Mailbag.Kohl Stewart Not Added to 40-Man It was a little surprising not to see Kohl Stewart’s name on the team’s list of additions to the 40-man roster. Stewart, the former fourth overall pick, signed for $4.544 million when he was selected in the 2013 Draft. That’s a lot of money invested in a player who could end up being selected by another organization in the Rule 5 Draft. However, he was picked under the previous front office regime. As a pitching prospect, Stewart has yet to put it all together. In high school, he was a two-sport star with a Division I scholarship to play quarterback. He has been over two years younger than the competition at every minor league stop, so he has been facing older players. That being said, his strikeouts haven’t ever shown up and he still has things to prove. If a team wants to take a flyer on him in the Rule 5 Draft, they could try to hide him in their big league bullpen. He’s only made three relief appearances in his entire professional career. Even if a team picks him, I think he will end up back in the Twins organization. Stewart isn’t ready to be on a big league roster for the entire season. Joe Mauer Extension Here at Twins Daily, there has been a lot of talk about who the Twins should offer extensions to this off-season. There is a young core of players who are going to get expensive. Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier both will see their contracts expire at the end of 2018. This leaves the front office with some decisions to make about the veteran leadership around their young core. I believe Mauer will finish his career in a Twins uniform. At this point in his career, I don’t know if it make sense to sign him to a four-year deal. I also don’t know if he is going to want to play for another four seasons. He has a young family and a life outside of baseball and there are other opportunities he could pursue. On Twitter, I wondered out loud if he would be open to a Tim Wakefield-type of contract. Keep him on one-year contracts as long as the team and the player agree with him playing. When it comes to the 3,000 hit mark, Mauer is going to need to have quite the stretch. Since 2014, he’s averaged 143 hits per season. At that rate, he wouldn’t crack the 3,000 hit mark for another seven years. He would be in his age-42 season so that seems like it will be an uphill climb. Free Agent DH Options Eric Hosmer and JD Martinez are the two players who are going to make a lot of money this off-season. MLB Trade Rumors ranks Martinez as the second best free agent with an estimated six-year, $150 million contract. Hosmer ranks as the number three free agent with an estimated six-year, $132 million deal. I think if the Twins are going to spend that kind of money it would be in the club’s best interest to spend their funds on pitching. There is another tier of designated hitter-type players who could fit better with the Twins. Carlos Santana is a name that has been thrown around but plenty of other teams would be interested in his services as well. According to MLB Trade Rumors, he could sign in the $45 million range on a three-year contract. Some of the market will begin to unfold after Ohtani picks the club where he is going to sign. Adding More Pitching Spending money on free agent pitchers isn’t always the smartest investment. Pitchers like Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta are going to command multi-year contracts for north of $100 million. Both players are in their early 30’s which would put them in their late 30’s before their contract would expire. This usually results in some dead money at the end of the deal. As players age further into their 30’s, they lose some effectiveness. Falvey and Levine were a little surprised by the Twins being in contention during their first year on the job. With that being said, I think they want to make a splash this off-season. They are going to go hard after Darvish to try to lure him to Minnesota. If that doesn’t work out, I could see them packaging multiple prospects to go after the likes of Jake Odorizzi or Gerrit Cole. Nick Gordon would likely need to be a centerpiece of that kind of trade. The front office might be fine with dealing him after Jorge Polanco’s emergence in 2017. Was leaving Stewart off the 40-man a mistake? Should Mauer get an extension? What DH could the Twins sign? Do free agent pitchers make sense for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. Click here to view the article
  10. MINNESOTA TWINS – JOE MAUER After ten years as a major league catcher, foul tips to the mask finally caught up to Mauer and he made the move to first base in 2014. Did the concussion(s) affect the beginning of Mauer’s 2014 season at the plate? I think it would be hard to argue that it didn’t, and Mauer had the most difficult offensive season of his career. (Admittedly, he had set the bar very high) He hit just .277/.361/.371 (.732) with 27 doubles and four home runs. One big question for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 has to do with the soon-to-be 32-year-old Mauer. Will he be able to get close to those remarkable offensive numbers he put up for most of his first decade in the big leagues, or did that decade behind the plate do him in and he’ll continue to “struggle” in 2015? That’s the question, and of course, there is no way to answer that question with any certainty. So what are we projecting from Joe Mauer in 2015? The projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .296/.371/.428 (.799) with 37 doubles and 8 HR. Nick – .315/.410/.445 (.855) with 40 doubles and 10 HR. Parker – John – .300/.380/.400 (780 OPS) with 35 doubles, and 8 HR. AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMEN Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Jose Abreu – 28 - .317/.383/.581 (.964) with 35 doubles, 36-HR Cleveland – Carlos Santana – 29 - .231/.365/.427 (.792) with 25 doubles, 27-HR Detroit – Miguel Cabrera – 32 - .313/.371/.524 (.895) with 52 doubles, 25-HR Kansas City – Eric Hosmer – 25 - .270/.318/.398 (.716) with 35 doubles, 9-HR AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS #1 – Jose Abreu – Chicago #2 – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit #3 – Carlos Santana – Cleveland #4 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota #5 – Eric Hosmer – Kansas City NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it a little thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Joe Mauer in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central first basemen? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions.
  11. Earlier, we discussed Kurt Suzuki and the rest of the AL Central catchers. Now, we take a look at Joe Mauer and the AL Central first basemen. Mauer had a tough season in 2014 and looks to rebound in 2015. There are some really good first basemen in the division as well. As we continue through this series, we’ll be taking a look at the Twins roster. We’ll make some projections and compare the Twins players to the rest of the American League Central.MINNESOTA TWINS – JOE MAUER After ten years as a major league catcher, foul tips to the mask finally caught up to Mauer and he made the move to first base in 2014. Did the concussion(s) affect the beginning of Mauer’s 2014 season at the plate? I think it would be hard to argue that it didn’t, and Mauer had the most difficult offensive season of his career. (Admittedly, he had set the bar very high) He hit just .277/.361/.371 (.732) with 27 doubles and four home runs. One big question for the Minnesota Twins in 2015 has to do with the soon-to-be 32-year-old Mauer. Will he be able to get close to those remarkable offensive numbers he put up for most of his first decade in the big leagues, or did that decade behind the plate do him in and he’ll continue to “struggle” in 2015? That’s the question, and of course, there is no way to answer that question with any certainty. So what are we projecting from Joe Mauer in 2015? The projections of our Twins Daily writers: Seth – .296/.371/.428 (.799) with 37 doubles and 8 HR. Nick – .315/.410/.445 (.855) with 40 doubles and 10 HR. Parker – John – .300/.380/.400 (780 OPS) with 35 doubles, and 8 HR. AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMEN Opponent – Player – 2015 Age – 2014 Statistics Chicago – Jose Abreu – 28 - .317/.383/.581 (.964) with 35 doubles, 36-HR Cleveland – Carlos Santana – 29 - .231/.365/.427 (.792) with 25 doubles, 27-HR Detroit – Miguel Cabrera – 32 - .313/.371/.524 (.895) with 52 doubles, 25-HR Kansas City – Eric Hosmer – 25 - .270/.318/.398 (.716) with 35 doubles, 9-HR AL CENTRAL FIRST BASEMAN RANKINGS #1 – Jose Abreu – Chicago #2 – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit #3 – Carlos Santana – Cleveland #4 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota #5 – Eric Hosmer – Kansas City NOW IT’S YOUR TURN Give it a little thought and then go to the comments section below and post two things. First, make your statistical projection for Joe Mauer in 2015. Second, how would you rank the AL Central first basemen? Of course, then discuss with the rest of the Twins Daily community. Finally, check back throughout this next week as we’ll do these same things for each of the positions. Click here to view the article
  12. The Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series. The AL Central team that was seemingly in a perennial rebuild suddenly has put itself in a great position. They won the 1985 World Series and this is the first time since then that they've been back in the playoffs. They have now gone 8-0 this postseason and will represent the American League in the World Series. The Twins have had a run of four-straight 90-loss seasons, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the Royals roster and see how their players were acquired. Are there similarities between the Twins and the Royals?THE CORE I always write and talk about how important it is for the Twins to develop their core and then supplement it with free agents or through trades to find final pieces. Both the 1987 and 1991 World Series championship Minnesota Twins teams had strong cores. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Greg Gagne were part of both cores. The 1987 team included Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola who were on the team when they were losing a lot of games. Dan Gladden, Juan Berenguer and Jeff Reardon were added. Gladden became part of the core of the 1991 team. At the core of the Royals roster have been four first-round picks. Billy Butler was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Alex Gordon was the #2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Mike Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Eric Hosmer was the #3 pick in the 2008 draft. All four of these players have certainly had their ups and downs in their big league career. Fans complain about the lack of power shown by Butler and Hosmer. Alex Gordon struggled early in his career and switched positions. Mike Moustakas has struggled with the bat, and in fact, he was sent down to AAA this year because he was playing so poorly. Other guys whom they have drafted and developed are around the roster. Closer Greg Holland was the team’s 10th round pick in 2007. Lefty Danny Duffy was their third round pick in 2008. Jarrod Dyson was the team’s 50th round pick in 2006. Yes, I meant to type 50th. In addition, the Royals signed some of their new, expanded core as international free agents. Flamethrower Yordano Ventura was signed from the Dominican Republic in 2008. Fellow triple-digit tosser Kelvin Herrera signed in 2006. Salvador Perez, who is one of the best catchers in baseball offensively and defensively, signed out of Venezuela in 2006. In addition, reliever Brandon Finnegan became the first person, ever, to play in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year. The lefty pitched for TCU this spring, was selected with the 17th overall pick in June, and was up in September. He played a huge role in the Division Series. TRADES The Royals then made a few trades that have had a huge effect on their roster, and on this year’s results. There were a couple of completely opposite trades. When the Royals were struggling and had a terrific starting pitcher in Zach Greinke, they were able to trade him to Milwaukee. The Brewers sent to Kansas City Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and the ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain in that deal. Odorizzi was on the other end of a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago. Instead of acquiring prospects, the Royals traded one of baseball’s top prospects, Wil Myers, along with Odorizzi and more in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields had become an ace for the Rays and pitched in the playoffs and the World Series. Davis was a soft-throwing starter who was being moved to the bullpen. The Royals gave him a shot to start last year, but he became arguably baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2014. In addition, the Royals traded soft-tossing lefty reliever Will Smith to the Brewers last offseason for outfield Nori Aoki. They acquired reliever Jason Frasor at the trade deadline for a minor leaguer. They also got Josh Willingham from the Twins in mid-August. FREE AGENCY With that core having gained some experience and the Royals starting to show signs of life, they supplemented their team with some free agent signings. In July of 2012, the Royals traded lefty Jonathan Sanchez to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie. Both pitchers had struggled immensely and maybe a change of scenery would help. Well, Guthrie pitched well down the stretch in 2012 and turned it into a three year deal worth $25.2 million deal with the Royals. Though he has been about league average in those 2 1/2 years, he has worked a combined 505.1 regular-season innings for the Royals. After letting Ervin Santana go elsewhere after the 2013 season, the Royals signed very soft-tossing left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract. The move was widely criticized at the time, but Vargas has pitched well in the first year. After trotting out guys like Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz at second base in recent years, the Royals gave Omar Infante a four year, $30.25 million contract to be their second baseman. Granted, the 32-year-old hit just .252/.295/.337 (.632), but he has 13 years of big league experience which likely helped the club in some way. After getting released by the Angels in June, veteran Raul Ibanez signed with the Royals. He hit just .188 with six extra base hits in 90 plate appearances. Consider this: Had the Twins gone out and signed free agents like Guthrie, Vargas and Infante, would those moves have excited the Twins fan base? Do they scream "OK, now, we're heading to the World Series?" SUMMARY The Royals have a fairly young core of talent that should allow them to make a run for a few years. In their regular lineup, Omar Infante is the only hitter over the age of 30. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer are still under 25 while Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakus are all 28 or less. Yordano Ventura is 23, and Danny Duffy is 25. Meanwhile, James Shields becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the 32-year-old could bolt for big money. Jeremy Guthrie is 35 and Jason Vargas is 32. They’ll need to develop a couple more pitchers and possibly sign one or two to replace Shields. The bullpen is full of hard throwers, and they are quite young. The forgotten name might be 2009 first-round pick Aaron Crow who was very good the last couple of years before struggling a little bit in 2014. A reminder of the Royals first round picks in the last decade: · 2004 (14) – Billy Butler – High School · 2005 (2) – Alex Gordon – College – Nebraska · 2006 (1) – Luke Hochevar – College – Tennessee · 2007 (2) – Mike Moustakas – High School · 2008 (3) – Eric Hosmer – High School · 2009 (12) – Aaron Crow – College – Missouri · 2010 (4) – Christian Colon – College – Cal State Fullerton · 2011 (5) – Bubba Starling – High School · 2012 (5) – Kyle Zimmer – College – San Francisco · 2013 (8) – Hunter Dozier – College – Stephen F. Austin · 2013 (34) – Sean Manaea – College – Indiana State · 2014 (18) – Brandon Finnegan – College – TCU The Royals have had a boatload of very high draft picks and for the most part, they have made good on them. Hochevar was moved to the bullpen in 2013 and posted an ERA south of two. He had Tommy John surgery this spring. Colon made his MLB debut in 2014. Starling, Zimmer and Dozier are all participating in the Arizona Fall League. HOW DO THE TWINS COMPARE? Are the Twins doing any of the things that have made the Royals successful this year? The draft has been a struggle in the last decade, though they have had their successes as well: · 2004 – Trevor Plouffe (20), Glen Perkins (22) · 2005 – Matt Garza (25) · 2006 – Chris Parmelee (20) · 2007 – Ben Revere (28) · 2008 – Aaron Hicks (14) · 2009 – Kyle Gibson (22) · 2010 – Alex Wimmers (21) · 2011 – Levi Michael (30) · 2012 – Byron Buxton (2), Jose Berrios (32) · 2013 – Kohl Stewart (4) · 2014 – Nick Gordon (5) While the Royals were accumulating high first-round picks for a decade, the Twins were competing (and often winning) division titles. Only in the last three drafts (and the 2015 draft) have the Twins had high picks. It will be important for the Twins long-term success to have those guys hit. The Twins now have Kyle Gibson and Trevor May as young starters in their rotation. They have added free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes last year. Hughes out-pitched all but a handful of starters in the American League in 2014 while Nolasco showed how hard free agent pitchers can be to judge with a rough first season. Obviously, for the Twins to compete in 2015 and 2016, Nolasco will have to return to at least mediocrity. The team also continues to have hope for Alex Meyer, hoping he can become a top-of-the-rotation starter. So will they add another high-priced free agent starter to the mix as the Royals have in recent years? The Royals bullpen is among the best in baseball, and they are a huge reason why the Royals have yet to lose a game in the playoffs. They are able to bring in hard-thrower after hard-thrower to dominate. They drafted Finnegan with the 17th overall pick this year. The Twins drafted Nick Burdi with the 46th overall pick and he has thrown a legitimate 102 mph fastball with a 90+ mph slider. Third round pick Michael Cederoth will get a chance to start, but he was clocked at 100 in college this year. Fifth round pick Jake Reed hit 98, and according to Jason Kanzler (in a Twins Hangouts interview on Tuesday night) he has just filthy movement on his pitches. He’s pitching in the AFL now, too. The Twins have about 10 guys in the system who reach 98 or better on their fastballs including Meyer, Zack Jones, JT Chagois and more. Each of these guys has a realistic chance to debut with the Twins in 2015. Joe Mauer was part of the core in the last decade and will be a big part of the team’s success the next few years. However, the core for the next winning team starts with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Hosmer and Moustakas were both among Baseball America’s top 10 prospects prior to the 2011 season. Buxton and Sano were both in BA's top 10 prospects list prior to this season. Though both missed significant time in 2014, they remain among baseball’s elite prospects. Beyond them, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario are guys who could come up in the next year or two and compete. JO Berrios took a huge step forward in 2014 as a prospect. It's certainly far to early to know how Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon will fare over time, but both had good showings in 2014. Oswaldo Arcia made strides and continued to hit for big power as a 23-year-old in 2014. Danny Santana put up Rookie of the Year numbers this year, though White Sox 27-year-old Jose Abreu will win that award unanimously. Kennys Vargas showed great power in his surprise debut. Brian Dozier (eighth round, 2010) won’t turn 28 until mid-May. Trevor Plouffe will be 28 through the first half of 2015. The Twins need Aaron Hicks to step up in 2015 as well, but the Twins offense was actually pretty good in 2014. Free agent Kurt Suzuki played a role in that. Another trait of the Twins strong teams has been defense. The Royals defense all around the diamond has been incredible. There are web gems, yes, but there is also great positioning. This is an area where the Twins have fallen flat, squished, you could say. The Twins defense is dreadful, and in order to help their pitching staff save some runs, it will also have to be a focus. The Twins aren’t just suddenly going to compete in 2015 unless a lot of things go really well. However, it’s clear what the Twins are building. The next core of hitters and pitchers is just starting to arrive and will continue to do so over the next two years. They will have to take their lumps, no question, just like the Royals core did over the last several years. But there are certainly pieces in place for the Twins to contend within the next couple of seasons, and hopefully for an extended period of time again. As the Royals have shown this year, it’s about getting to the playoffs and peaking. They certainly aren’t the best team in baseball. They probably aren’t the best team in the American League. Frankly, they weren’t the best team in the American League Central Division this year. However, they have the right pieces in place, in the lineup, on defense and in that bullpen. And right now, Lady Luck is shining on the Royals and they are playing great. Hopefully it will continue through the World Series. Click here to view the article
  13. THE CORE I always write and talk about how important it is for the Twins to develop their core and then supplement it with free agents or through trades to find final pieces. Both the 1987 and 1991 World Series championship Minnesota Twins teams had strong cores. Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek and Greg Gagne were part of both cores. The 1987 team included Tom Brunansky, Gary Gaetti and Frank Viola who were on the team when they were losing a lot of games. Dan Gladden, Juan Berenguer and Jeff Reardon were added. Gladden became part of the core of the 1991 team. At the core of the Royals roster have been four first-round picks. Billy Butler was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Alex Gordon was the #2 overall pick in the 2005 draft. Mike Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, and Eric Hosmer was the #3 pick in the 2008 draft. All four of these players have certainly had their ups and downs in their big league career. Fans complain about the lack of power shown by Butler and Hosmer. Alex Gordon struggled early in his career and switched positions. Mike Moustakas has struggled with the bat, and in fact, he was sent down to AAA this year because he was playing so poorly. Other guys whom they have drafted and developed are around the roster. Closer Greg Holland was the team’s 10th round pick in 2007. Lefty Danny Duffy was their third round pick in 2008. Jarrod Dyson was the team’s 50th round pick in 2006. Yes, I meant to type 50th. In addition, the Royals signed some of their new, expanded core as international free agents. Flamethrower Yordano Ventura was signed from the Dominican Republic in 2008. Fellow triple-digit tosser Kelvin Herrera signed in 2006. Salvador Perez, who is one of the best catchers in baseball offensively and defensively, signed out of Venezuela in 2006. In addition, reliever Brandon Finnegan became the first person, ever, to play in the College World Series and the Major League World Series in the same year. The lefty pitched for TCU this spring, was selected with the 17th overall pick in June, and was up in September. He played a huge role in the Division Series. TRADES The Royals then made a few trades that have had a huge effect on their roster, and on this year’s results. There were a couple of completely opposite trades. When the Royals were struggling and had a terrific starting pitcher in Zach Greinke, they were able to trade him to Milwaukee. The Brewers sent to Kansas City Alcides Escobar, Jake Odorizzi, and the ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain in that deal. Odorizzi was on the other end of a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays two years ago. Instead of acquiring prospects, the Royals traded one of baseball’s top prospects, Wil Myers, along with Odorizzi and more in exchange for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields had become an ace for the Rays and pitched in the playoffs and the World Series. Davis was a soft-throwing starter who was being moved to the bullpen. The Royals gave him a shot to start last year, but he became arguably baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2014. In addition, the Royals traded soft-tossing lefty reliever Will Smith to the Brewers last offseason for outfield Nori Aoki. They acquired reliever Jason Frasor at the trade deadline for a minor leaguer. They also got Josh Willingham from the Twins in mid-August. FREE AGENCY With that core having gained some experience and the Royals starting to show signs of life, they supplemented their team with some free agent signings. In July of 2012, the Royals traded lefty Jonathan Sanchez to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie. Both pitchers had struggled immensely and maybe a change of scenery would help. Well, Guthrie pitched well down the stretch in 2012 and turned it into a three year deal worth $25.2 million deal with the Royals. Though he has been about league average in those 2 1/2 years, he has worked a combined 505.1 regular-season innings for the Royals. After letting Ervin Santana go elsewhere after the 2013 season, the Royals signed very soft-tossing left-hander Jason Vargas to a four-year, $32 million contract. The move was widely criticized at the time, but Vargas has pitched well in the first year. After trotting out guys like Johnny Giavotella and Chris Getz at second base in recent years, the Royals gave Omar Infante a four year, $30.25 million contract to be their second baseman. Granted, the 32-year-old hit just .252/.295/.337 (.632), but he has 13 years of big league experience which likely helped the club in some way. After getting released by the Angels in June, veteran Raul Ibanez signed with the Royals. He hit just .188 with six extra base hits in 90 plate appearances. Consider this: Had the Twins gone out and signed free agents like Guthrie, Vargas and Infante, would those moves have excited the Twins fan base? Do they scream "OK, now, we're heading to the World Series?" SUMMARY The Royals have a fairly young core of talent that should allow them to make a run for a few years. In their regular lineup, Omar Infante is the only hitter over the age of 30. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer are still under 25 while Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakus are all 28 or less. Yordano Ventura is 23, and Danny Duffy is 25. Meanwhile, James Shields becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the 32-year-old could bolt for big money. Jeremy Guthrie is 35 and Jason Vargas is 32. They’ll need to develop a couple more pitchers and possibly sign one or two to replace Shields. The bullpen is full of hard throwers, and they are quite young. The forgotten name might be 2009 first-round pick Aaron Crow who was very good the last couple of years before struggling a little bit in 2014. A reminder of the Royals first round picks in the last decade: · 2004 (14) – Billy Butler – High School · 2005 (2) – Alex Gordon – College – Nebraska · 2006 (1) – Luke Hochevar – College – Tennessee · 2007 (2) – Mike Moustakas – High School · 2008 (3) – Eric Hosmer – High School · 2009 (12) – Aaron Crow – College – Missouri · 2010 (4) – Christian Colon – College – Cal State Fullerton · 2011 (5) – Bubba Starling – High School · 2012 (5) – Kyle Zimmer – College – San Francisco · 2013 (8) – Hunter Dozier – College – Stephen F. Austin · 2013 (34) – Sean Manaea – College – Indiana State · 2014 (18) – Brandon Finnegan – College – TCU The Royals have had a boatload of very high draft picks and for the most part, they have made good on them. Hochevar was moved to the bullpen in 2013 and posted an ERA south of two. He had Tommy John surgery this spring. Colon made his MLB debut in 2014. Starling, Zimmer and Dozier are all participating in the Arizona Fall League. HOW DO THE TWINS COMPARE? Are the Twins doing any of the things that have made the Royals successful this year? The draft has been a struggle in the last decade, though they have had their successes as well: · 2004 – Trevor Plouffe (20), Glen Perkins (22) · 2005 – Matt Garza (25) · 2006 – Chris Parmelee (20) · 2007 – Ben Revere (28) · 2008 – Aaron Hicks (14) · 2009 – Kyle Gibson (22) · 2010 – Alex Wimmers (21) · 2011 – Levi Michael (30) · 2012 – Byron Buxton (2), Jose Berrios (32) · 2013 – Kohl Stewart (4) · 2014 – Nick Gordon (5) While the Royals were accumulating high first-round picks for a decade, the Twins were competing (and often winning) division titles. Only in the last three drafts (and the 2015 draft) have the Twins had high picks. It will be important for the Twins long-term success to have those guys hit. The Twins now have Kyle Gibson and Trevor May as young starters in their rotation. They have added free agents Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes last year. Hughes out-pitched all but a handful of starters in the American League in 2014 while Nolasco showed how hard free agent pitchers can be to judge with a rough first season. Obviously, for the Twins to compete in 2015 and 2016, Nolasco will have to return to at least mediocrity. The team also continues to have hope for Alex Meyer, hoping he can become a top-of-the-rotation starter. So will they add another high-priced free agent starter to the mix as the Royals have in recent years? The Royals bullpen is among the best in baseball, and they are a huge reason why the Royals have yet to lose a game in the playoffs. They are able to bring in hard-thrower after hard-thrower to dominate. They drafted Finnegan with the 17th overall pick this year. The Twins drafted Nick Burdi with the 46th overall pick and he has thrown a legitimate 102 mph fastball with a 90+ mph slider. Third round pick Michael Cederoth will get a chance to start, but he was clocked at 100 in college this year. Fifth round pick Jake Reed hit 98, and according to Jason Kanzler (in a Twins Hangouts interview on Tuesday night) he has just filthy movement on his pitches. He’s pitching in the AFL now, too. The Twins have about 10 guys in the system who reach 98 or better on their fastballs including Meyer, Zack Jones, JT Chagois and more. Each of these guys has a realistic chance to debut with the Twins in 2015. Joe Mauer was part of the core in the last decade and will be a big part of the team’s success the next few years. However, the core for the next winning team starts with Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Hosmer and Moustakas were both among Baseball America’s top 10 prospects prior to the 2011 season. Buxton and Sano were both in BA's top 10 prospects list prior to this season. Though both missed significant time in 2014, they remain among baseball’s elite prospects. Beyond them, Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario are guys who could come up in the next year or two and compete. JO Berrios took a huge step forward in 2014 as a prospect. It's certainly far to early to know how Kohl Stewart and Nick Gordon will fare over time, but both had good showings in 2014. Oswaldo Arcia made strides and continued to hit for big power as a 23-year-old in 2014. Danny Santana put up Rookie of the Year numbers this year, though White Sox 27-year-old Jose Abreu will win that award unanimously. Kennys Vargas showed great power in his surprise debut. Brian Dozier (eighth round, 2010) won’t turn 28 until mid-May. Trevor Plouffe will be 28 through the first half of 2015. The Twins need Aaron Hicks to step up in 2015 as well, but the Twins offense was actually pretty good in 2014. Free agent Kurt Suzuki played a role in that. Another trait of the Twins strong teams has been defense. The Royals defense all around the diamond has been incredible. There are web gems, yes, but there is also great positioning. This is an area where the Twins have fallen flat, squished, you could say. The Twins defense is dreadful, and in order to help their pitching staff save some runs, it will also have to be a focus. The Twins aren’t just suddenly going to compete in 2015 unless a lot of things go really well. However, it’s clear what the Twins are building. The next core of hitters and pitchers is just starting to arrive and will continue to do so over the next two years. They will have to take their lumps, no question, just like the Royals core did over the last several years. But there are certainly pieces in place for the Twins to contend within the next couple of seasons, and hopefully for an extended period of time again. As the Royals have shown this year, it’s about getting to the playoffs and peaking. They certainly aren’t the best team in baseball. They probably aren’t the best team in the American League. Frankly, they weren’t the best team in the American League Central Division this year. However, they have the right pieces in place, in the lineup, on defense and in that bullpen. And right now, Lady Luck is shining on the Royals and they are playing great. Hopefully it will continue through the World Series.
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