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  1. Mather, inexplicably, shared unspoken but well-known secrets about how teams… well, his team, specifically, will keep MLB-ready players in the minors to prolong team control for an additional season. This isn’t new and certainly isn’t a secret. The Cubs did it to Kris Bryant. The Blue Jays did it to Vlad, Jr. The Twins, who never played service time games under Terry Ryan, did it to Byron Buxton in 2018 by not bringing him back for September, while healthy, to leave him 12 days short of achieving a “service year.” Because of that, Buxton will enter his last year of arbitration after this season, instead of becoming a free agent. Some might argue that manipulating service time after winning a Gold Glove and receiving MVP votes is an even worse look than doing it before a player’s major league career begins, but I digress. That is not the point of this article. This is an idea of how to fix the problem. It’s just an idea. It’s not designed to solve all the problems; however, it is designed to eliminate “service time manipulation.” (Ultimately, teams and agents will continue to look for loopholes to best serve the side they are on.) Currently, players need to be on a major league roster for 172 days to get credit for a full year. There are exceptions, for example, if you’re on the 40-man roster and start the season on an optional assignment and get recalled within the first 20 days of the season, you get credit for those service days. Kris Bryant was not on the 40-man, so the Cubs simply held him down until 171 days were left in the season, selected his contract and knew that, no matter what, they’d have his service for almost seven full seasons instead of six. One solution would be to handle free agency the same way as Super-2 status and award the top group (for arbitration it’s 17%) of players with 5+ years of service time free agency at the conclusion of the season. I wouldn’t love it and teams would likely never agree to it. Could you imagine going into a trade deadline and not knowing if your best pitcher is going to be a free agent after this season or next season? Another solution would be to make all players free agent-eligible after three years of arbitration, which would essentially let Super-2 players hit free agency one year sooner. It would be simple enough, but teams would still control this and could potentially hold players down longer to miss the Super-2 threshold, thus extending team control for a year. (The advantage would be that the “threshold” isn’t known until the end of the season and that free agency is still three (or four) seasons away.) The problem with both ideas and the current method is they are both based on service time and clubs hold all the control over that. Therein lies the rub. So let’s peel this back even further, to when teams first acquire player’s rights. Without getting into all the minutiae of how everything works from initial player acquisition to free agency, the basic timeline goes like this: Players are drafted (typically as high school seniors or third-year college players) or signed internationally (at 16 years old). Teams sign players to a minor-league contract that can be renewed up to six times. After four or five years (depending on how old the player was when acquired), teams must protect the player on the 40-man roster or risk losing him. Once a player is on the 40-man roster, he can be held in the minor leagues for three (or four) years on “optional assignments.” When a player reaches three years of MLB service (or if you’re a Super-2), you enter your three (or four) arbitration years. Once a player reaches six years of service, he finally becomes a free agent. So, in theory, you can hold a player in the minors for seven years, add him to the 40-man for three seasons and then finally see him make his debut 11 years after joining the organization, potentially making him free agent-eligible up to 17 years after being brought into the organization. (This never happens, by the way. But could.) More likely, though, players are added to the 40-man when they’d be Rule 5 eligible (after four or five years), bounce up and down for a year or two and then are major leagues, hitting free agency 10-13 years after being drafted or initially signed. For reference, Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios were drafted in 2012 and will be free agent-eligible after the 2022 season. Miguel Sano, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler were signed in 2009. While all three have signed extensions, Sano would reach free agent-eligible service time after the 2021 season, while Polanco and Kepler are likely to do it after the 2022 season. Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis, two of the fastest moving prospects, would hit free agency 10 years after becoming professionals. So let’s eliminate “service time” all together from free agent eligibility as it seems to all balance itself out over time anyway. Here’s the idea: If you’re signed at 19 or older, teams get 11 seasons of control. If you’re signed at 17 or 18, teams get 12 seasons of control. If you’re signed at 16, teams get 13 seasons of control. If you miss a significant amount of any season (“significant” can be negotiated or defined by someone independent… but I’m thinking Tommy John surgery), add one year of control. After your third season accumulating service time in the Major League, you’re eligible for arbitration. (If you are on the roster for one day or every day, it counts towards the three seasons.) Every season from the fourth season until free agency, you are eligible for arbitration. If you win League MVP or Cy Young at any point before your last two years of control, the last season of control becomes a player option at a price to be determined and accepted or declined prior to the last season of control. The motivation for everyone now becomes getting your best players to the show quicker. For teams, it is more seasons of your player; For players, it is more chances to make money. What do you think? Is it time to abolish the current rules and start over? Or do we simply adopt the rules laid out above? Disclaimers: Are the 11, 12 and 13 years of control the right lengths? I don’t know, but it’s a start. And it’s close. Whenever I say “arbitration,” I’m talking about a process that helps determine salaries. I think the current process is garbage, but how to fix arbitration is a story for another day. Does the ability to reduce control have to be tied to winning MVP or Cy Young? Absolutely not. Not specifically those awards nor only those awards. Could an independent metric like WAR be a factor? Yes! All told, this would be a great thing to negotiate in the CBA. I just don’t want it to have anything to do with the amount of days a player has spent in the major leagues. I used Soto and Tatis as examples and, as such, they would basically spend three extra years in the majors before free agency, which theoretically seems like a not great deal for them. Players could and would still sign big deals like Tatis did. On the flip side of that, Soto *could* go through the arbitration process six times. Could you imagine how much money he would stand to make in those final three years? He could be the highest paid player in baseball.
  2. As we turn the calendar page over on a new year (or actually replace the calendar I guess), it’s fair to say that we’re all a little bit anxious. We may be anxious about any number of things, but, specifically regarding the Twins, we see holes in the roster, unsigned free agents capable of filling those holes, and a whole lot of nothing in terms of new signings. Everybody has their favorite potential signing and their own opinion on whether Nelson Cruz should come back, but, save for the Minnesota contingent of the Hansel Robles fan club, nobody’s ideal plan has even started to take shape. We’re just waiting, hoping that the holes get filled soon, and guessing at who they’ll be filled by. Though it’s been worse this year due to uncertainty about game schedules and a potential National League DH, this anxious waiting-for-things-to-happen period has become a staple of the Major League Baseball offseason because the league’s free agency rules have one pretty major flaw. Every year, fans have to sit and wait while signings trickle in slowly and the top free agents – some of the best players in the league – can go months without a team. And it’s due in large part to the league’s rules about service time. Under MLB’s free agency rules, a player does not qualify for free agency until they have six years of major-league service time or if they’re not offered a contract by the team that owns their rights (non-tender free agents). This means that almost all successful major-league players won’t see free agency until they’ve been in the league for six years. And, taking into account the significant time players spend in the minors, it means that most are pushing thirty by the time they get to choose where to play (as you can see here). Ok, so what? The issue is that, at 30, most players are at their career peak or just past it, and there’s often no telling how fast a player’s decline will come. There are just as many immediate disappointments like Lance Lynn as there are ageless wonders like Nelson Cruz. There are very few “sure things.” Lynn's failures as a Twin show the unpredictability of signing most veteran free agents And, because baseball doesn’t have a salary cap, the guys that are closest to “sure things” (Realmuto, Ozuna, Springer and Bauer this year) can demand massive, $25+ million per year deals as the price for their services. Understandably, teams are wary of spending this kind of money, but they still want those blue-chip players. As a result, we get long drawn-out negotiations that cause fans to wait while players and teams are stuck in stalemates. And, because many teams are holding their money for the star free agents, the markets for the lesser free agents don’t really start until the big fish find new homes. The result of all of this is a lot of waiting for the upper- and mid-level free agents to sign, and when they do, the best players will cost a scary amount of money and the others may or may not ever significantly help the team that signs them. Major League Baseball could fix this by peeling back the service time requirements (creating younger, deeper free agent classes) or by instituting a salary cap and max contract system (keeping players from demanding such huge contracts), but neither is likely to happen, so it seems that we’ll be stuck with baseball’s inefficient free agency system going forward. Fortunately, this inefficiency actually helps the Twins. You see, if baseball had less stringent service time rules and free agency was more efficient, the wealthy teams that already dominate free agency would become that much more dominant. The better free agency gets, the better rich teams get. Imagine for a second if baseball had free agency rules like the NHL, where players are eligible for free agency at age 27 at the latest (NBA and NFL players see free agency even earlier) – Miguel Sanó and Max Kepler may already be in Yankee pinstripes or Dodger blue and José Berríos would be a year away from heading to Boston. That’s not good. Flashback to reality and the Twins can feature these players for years to come and have time and security to work out long-term deals without having to bid against richer teams. That is good. Major League Baseball’s free agency rules value team control more than any other major sports league in America and team control of young talent is exactly what the Twins have been successful with throughout their history. Sanó and Kepler are players the Twins are glad to have long-term Sure, the new front office group has been able to spend more in recent years and they deserve real credit for turning Target Field into a free agent destination worthy of bringing in players like Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz. But, even so, it’s naïve to think that the Twins could compete with the top spenders in the league if free agency were expanded. The team is still built on developed talent, and that’s okay because they’re damn good at it. “Fixing” free agency would only allow other teams to steal the Twins’ homegrown talent away earlier in their careers. So, the next time you find yourself getting frustrated at the lack of Twins signings or at the fact that Jorge Polanco is still the best shortstop on the roster, remind yourself to be thankful that Jorge Polanco and others are still on the roster at all. Yes, I’d like a more exciting free agency period, too. But, in this case, we should be careful what we wish for.
  3. In my follow-up to the 5 “Under the Radar” Free Agent Pitching Targets blog, I thought it would be fitting to also describe a few key free agent utility players that should come at a bargain. One of the top priorities of the Twins offseason is to find replacements for utilitymen, Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza - both now free agents. In 2020, Marwin and Ehire combined to produce .1 fWAR while costing just north of $10.5M in salary, if it were a normal 162 game season. Injuries to the Twins regular lineup forced Gonzalez and Adrianza to play much more than the Twins would have liked. They appeared in 53 and 44 games, respectively. Gonzalez had a .606 OPS in 199 PA’s while Adrianza produced a .557 OPS in 101 PA’s. Both leaving much to be desired. For this reason, the Twins have to find a way to upgrade their bench in the event of an (inevitable) injury to a starting infielder. But also because Rocco likes to rest starters frequently. A solid utility player will be useful to mix into the lineup on occasion. The two players that they add to the roster need to be able to at minimum play 2B, 3B, and SS. Having one of those players that could also play 1B or OF would be a nice bonus and allow for lineup flexibility. The players below are “value” free agent targets that the Twins could sign to fill one of those needs. Ideally, they would be signed at a low-cost so that the money saved could be applied elsewhere to a payroll that is sure to decrease from 2020. Note: ***Obviously, a player like Kike Hernandez, Jurickson Profar, or Tommy LaStella would be preferred to any of the names on this list. However, signing one of the above names may jeopardize a spot in the lineup elsewhere. Think, “would you rather have Asdrúbal Cabrera and Tyler Clippard for a combined $5M or Kiké Hernandez for $6M?” when going through these names***. Asdrúbal Cabrera Speaking of Asdrúbal Cabera… He could be playing for his 5th team since 2018. Once an All-Star SS for the Cleveland Indians from 2011-2012, Cabrera has spent his last season and a half with the Nationals in an everyday utility role. This has mostly been at 3B, 2B, and 1B. No longer an option at SS (last played there full-time in 2016), Cabrera still offers plenty of positional flexibility and is a switch hitter. Cabrera was basically league average in terms of offensive production in 2019-2020. In a combined 183 games he slashed .254/.331/.443, good for a .774 OPS and also mashed 26 HR’s. While he is not great defensively at any one position, (combined -10 DRS across 1,400 innings in 2019 and 2020) what Cabrera offers you is positional flexibility at 3 infield spots. He is also a fine player if he has to play every day due to an injury. Since 2018, he has started: 120 games at 3B 120 games at 2B 25 games at 1B (22 in 2020 alone) Cabrera could also help the Twins immensely against LHP, which they struggled with in 2020. In 194 PA against southpaws in 2019 & 2020, Cabrera produced a .840 OPS. Cabrera could be a great veteran option on a one-year deal. He also comes with playoff experience, coming off a 2019 World Series championship with the Nationals. Fangraphs projects him for a 1.0 fWAR in 2021 and he shouldn’t cost too much more than his $2.5M salary in 2020. 2018 - '20 stats: Howie Kendrick A fellow Washington teammate to Cabrera, Kendrick does a lot of the same things. Howie Kendrick can play 1B, 2B, and 3B, all exactly fine. He had 0 DRS in 2019 across those positions. The Twins were rumored to be interested in trading for him at the 2020 trade deadline. A hamstring injury, however, ended his 2020 season prematurely. Injuries have always been the question mark for the 37 year old. Kendrick has only played in 100 games once (2019), since 2016. He’s had countless injuries including a torn achilles and a hyper-extended knee. When in the lineup, he is productive. In 630 PA since 2018, Kendrick has produced a line of .322/.367/.516. Good for a .883 OPS and 23 HR’s. He is especially lethal vs LHP where he has posted a 132 wRC+ in 199 PA’s since 2019. His injury concerns, age, and poor showing in 2020 (.705 OPS in 25 games) all are valid question marks. But, if the Twins can find a way to get near his 2019 level performance, they could have a nice value utilityman. He should come at a price tag less than the $6.25M he would have earned in 2020 on a one-year deal. 2018 - '20 stats: Brad Miller Once a SS, definitely not known for his defense in Seattle and Tampa Bay (-36 DRS in 3,300 innings at SS in career), Miller has found a role in the bigs as an “everywhere nowhere man” utilityman. He has played on 5 teams since 2018 and may be looking for his 6th. He has played all over the diamond. Since 2018: 308 innings at 1B 230 innings at 2B 194 innings at 3B 44 innings at SS 102 innings in LF 2 innings in RF As a left-handed hitter, he posted an .853 OPS across 341 PA’s in 2019 and 2020 with 20 HR’s. He has been especially effective vs RHP posting a 131 wRC+ across 299 PA’s but borderline unplayable vs LHP only posting a .619 OPS in a small sample size of 42 PA’s. With two LHH up the middle in Polanco and Arraez, Miller could look to spell Sano or Donaldson on day’s where there is a tough righty on the mound and you need to give those guys a day off. He could also fill in adequately against RHP in case of an injury to Miggy, JD, or Arraez, and in small emergency instances Kirilloff/Cave/Wade in LF. Fangraphs projects Miller for a 1/$2M salary and a .8 fWar in 2021. Both seem like good value. 2018 - '20 stats: Jonathan Villar Villar has played on 4 teams since 2018 (do you sense a theme here?). He’s been an everyday SS/2B his whole career. I almost didn’t put him on this list, but his abysmal 2020 and the pending suppressed free agent market don’t necessarily point to Villar getting a large contract this offseason. Maybe there is a chance he falls to a team like the Twins on an affordable pillow contract. In 303 combined games between 2018 and 2019, Villar produced a line of .268/.333/.424 with 38 HR’s and 75 SB - so he has some speed, something the Twins desperately need. In 2020, he completely imploded. He only slugged .292 in 52 games, producing an OPS south of .600. Since 2018, he has appeared in: 233 games at 2B 136 games at SS As a switch hitter, Villar is more effective from the left side vs RHP where he has produced a .767 OPS in 610 PA’s compared to a .709 OPS vs LHP in 311 PA’s. Villar projects to be the 5th best SS in this year’s FA class behind Semien, Didi, Simmons, and Galvis. Fangraphs projects Villar for a 1/$6M deal and .9 fWAR which seems like overpayment for what the Twins potentially need. But, like I said, the hope is that he could be brought here on a lesser deal. The other hurdle would be convincing him to play a part-time role vs starting which he’s been doing. 2018 - '20 stats: Jedd Gyorko In a somewhat surprising move, the Brewers declined Gyorko’s $4.5M club option two weeks ago making him a free agent. Gyorko was the Brewers best hitter in 2020. Twins fans may remember him from that game-tying homer he hit off Taylor Rogers in Milwaukee earlier this year Gyorko started his career in STL as a 2B but has transitioned into a 3B/1B with the ability to play 2B on a pinch. In 42 G in 2020, Gyorko produced an .838 OPS with 9 HR’s. A big step forward from his 2019 campaign where he produced an OPS under .500 in 62 games. Overall, Gyorko has been a solid offensive producer. Especially vs LHP where he has slugged .480 with 10 HR’s against them in 110 G’s since 2018. With the Twins he would give them flexibility at the corners and injury insurance for Donaldson/Sano. He would make some sense to bring in if the Twins didn’t bring back Cruz at DH but instead keep the DH spot open as a revolving door. Then I could see Gyorko getting starts at all three spots. It’s hard to see him making more than the $4.5M he would have made in this offseason market. He too could make sense on a one-year deal with the Twins. 2018 - '20 stats: Here are stats featuring the 5 players mentioned in this article plus Marwin Gonzalez and Ehire Adrianza. 2018 - 2020 stats. Please note the two players at the bottom: So, that’s it. Here are a few names that I think would make sense as “bargain” utility options. As you can see from the stats above, each player has provided more offensively than Marwin or Ehire. Honorable mentions: *old friend* Eduardo Nunez, Brock Holt, and Eric Sogard Are there any names I am missing that you’d like to see the Twins add in free agency?
  4. Here is the link to their Top 50 Free Agent List with player write ups, community estimated contracts and Fangraphs estimated contracts. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/2021-top-50-free-agents/ Looking through the list the names that jumped out to me as good targets based on their projected contracts, need for the Twins, and upside/projected production are as follows: 12: Michael Brantley 2 years/24M Good Cruz replacement if he signs a 2 year deal elsewhere. 14: Kevin Gausman 2 years/28M or 3 years/36M Good breakout year in 2020 and always had potential. Good value signing imo that may be undervalued by the short season. Could backload the contract if payroll is tight. 16: Andrelton Simmons 2 years/17M Ankle injury really hurt him offensively and defensively this year. This move makes more sense if the Twins want to make Polanco their super utility guy or move him to 2B and make Arraez the super utility guy. Might be more likely to sign a 1 year deal to rebuild value. 19: Tommy La Stella 2 years/14-17M Super utility player 20: Nelson Cruz 1 year 12M I'm only giving him 1 year guaranteed. If he get's a 2nd guaranteed year elsewhere I'm passing. 21: Trevor May 2 years/12M 2nd best rated BP guy. Insane HR/FB will regress. Love the guy and this projected contract is reasonable. I took him over Rogers at this cost in my payroll spreadsheet. 24: Jake Odorizzi 1 year/12M or 3 years/39M He looked good when healthy just never could stay healthy. Unlikely to get the long term deal he wants but who knows. Might be more likely to sign a 1 year deal to rebuild value. 25: Drew Smyly 2 years/17M or 1 year 5-10M I like Smyly a lot. Him and Gausman were the 2 players I picked for the Twins' 4th and 5th SP spots in the payroll spreadsheet and even at a larger cost than the Twins Daily writers projected I would still target them as my top 2 starting pitchers. 26: Kolton Wong 2 years/15M Surprise add to the list. Would play 2B everyday and move Arraez to super utility. 27: Mike Minor 2 years/14M Might be more likely to sign a 1 year deal to rebuild value. Would want to work him out first to make sure his velocity is ok. 34: Alex Colome: 2 years/14M Good reliever. 35: Jurickson Profar 2 years/9-15M Super utility guy 36: Trevor Rosenthal 2 years/13-16M Good reliever is healthy again. 37: Kirby Yates 2 years/10M or 1 year/7M Might be more likely to take a 1 year deal to rebuild value. Great when healthy. 39: Corey Kluber 1 year/9M Bounce back SP target 40: Joakim Soria 1 year/7M Solid reliever 42: Garrett Richards 1 year/7M Always injured but good when healthy (ala Rich Hill) 46: Robbie Ray 1 year/8M Bounce back SP target 48: Robbie Grossman 1 year/6M If the Twins miss on Cruz and Brantley or they don't want Brantley Robbie's improved defense and power plus his existing on base skills make him a great stopgap as a LF/DH. Not listed: Tyler Clippard 1year/3.5M Clippard is my #1 BP target. Consistently been very good for a long time, durable, very cheap and was excellent last year. He was as good or better than nearly all of the other top FA relievers, will cost half as much with no multiyear deal needed. Sign me up. Kike Hernandez 1 year/5-7M Much discussed super utility guy that may be more affordable than we thought to begin this offseason. Clippard and Hernandez weren't included in Keith Law's top 40 Free Agents list either. I didn't include Bauer because I don't think the Twins will pursue him, especially with the lost revenue of this past season. What do you guys think of Fangraphs' list and the players I highlighted as targets? What are the players you would target or avoid? Let me know your thoughts!
  5. One of the biggest mysteries and also one of the best ways to add quality to a system is through International Free Agency. It’s one of the best because you look at some of the premier players in the game and they come from the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, countries where players are not subjected to the draft. But it’s a mystery in the sense that teams have only so much money to spend, yet only a few signings make headlines and you never seem to know if teams have more to spend or even who the players are. Putting this report together at any time of the year is going to be misleading. When the Twins release their media guide, it includes all the players they have signed - including players from the current signing period. But the signing period runs until the middle of next June, so they’ll continue to add players to the class. As of now, there are 15 players in this group. 2019-20 Signings (July 2, 2019 - June 15, 2020) Luis Blanco, RHP, Venezuela. (9/1/2000) Miguelangel Boadas, RHP, Venezuela. (12/7/2002) Gregory Duran, OF, Dominican Republic. (10/8/2002) Argenis Jimenez, OF, Venezuela. (4/21/2003) Yon Landaeta, P, Venezuela. (3/16/2000) Juan Nunez, P, Dominican Republic (12/7/2000) Ricardo Olivar, C, Venezuela (8/10/2001) Breilin Ramirez, INF, Dominican Republic (9/6/2002) Bonus: $400k Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF, Dominican Republic (2/28/2003) Bonus: $2.5 million Endy Rodriguez, INF, Dominican Republic (6/10/2003) Malfrin Sosa, OF, Dominican Republic (9/13/2002) Bonus: $900k Yonardy Sota, OF, Dominican Republic (1/31/2003) Bonus: $550k Amilcar Vasquez, C, Venezuela (12/26/2001) Carlos Velasquez, RHP, Venezuela (9/13/2001) Joseph Yabbour, RHP, Venezuela (7/9/2003) As you can see, all hail from Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. And there are definitely some names to remember. Emmanuel Rodriguez received the biggest bonus and will be the highest-ranked prospect on this list for at least a couple of seasons. Joseph Yabbour signed the day he turned 16 and will continue both the pipeline of hard-throwing prospects - he’s in the mid-90s already - and the family tradition, which includes the Escobars and Acunas. It is expected that every single one of these players will play exclusively in the Dominican Summer League this summer. 2018-19 Signings (July 2, 2018 - June 15, 2019) Hector Acevedo, C (11/20/1997): .183 (17-93 in 28 games), 26:12 K:BB, .296 OBP, .344 SLG (.640 OPS) Develson Aria, LHP (3/20/2001): 2-4, 5.25 ERA, 17 games (1 start), 39:27 K:BB in 36 innings Julio Bonilla, RHP (11/15/2000): 3-2, 3.20 ERA, 11 games (2 starts), 25:12 K:BB in 25.1 innings Yennier Cano, RHP (3/9/1994): 0-0, 4.2 ERA, 10 games, 15:14 K:BB in 15 innings. (Split time between GCL Twins and high-A Fort Myers.) Rubel Cespedes, INF (8/29/2000): .271 (45-166 in 42 games), 32:9 K:BB, .322 OBP, .404 SLG (.726 OPS) Oscar Corporan, RHP (10/4/2000): 0-0, 27.00 ERA, 2 games, 1:7 K:BB in 1.1 innings Rhodery Diaz, OF (9/12/2001): .319 (46-144 in 41 games), 26:18 K:BB, .406 OBP, .458 SLG (.864 OPS) Ricardo German, OF (8/17/2001): .208 (10-48 in 15 games), 22:5 K:BB, .278 OBP, .250 SLG (.528 OPS) Steve German, RHP (2/15/1999): 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 8 games, 12:9 K:BB in 10 innings Carlos Gutierrez, RHP (1/16/2000): 2-1, 5.73 ERA, 15 games (4 starts), 43:11 K:BB in 44 innings Jeury Lopez, INF (11/3/2001): .208 (26-125 in 39 games), 55:20 K:BB, .338 OBP, .248 SLG (.586 OPS) Jesus Medina, RHP (4/25/2002): 0-2, 7.13 ERA, 8 games (2 starts), 24:11 K:BB in 17.2 innings Jorge Mesa, INF (4/2/2002): .196 (11-56 in 17 games), 20:5 K:BB, .262 OBP, .393 SLG (.655 OPS) Erasmo Moreno, RHP (6/22/2002): 2-3, 3.35 ERA, 14 games (6 starts), 39:16 K:BB in 40.1 innings Anferny Olivo, C (1/12/2002): .197 (14-71 in 23 games), 20:13 K:BB, .329 OBP, .240 SLG (.569 OPS) Alexander Pena, INF (4/12/2002): .281 (41-146 in 20 games), 32:13 K:BB, .356 OBP, .411 SLG (.767 OPS) Elpidio Perez, LHP (11/11/1998): 1-1, 4.38 ERA, 6 games, 16:7 K:BB in 12.1 innings Juan Pichardo, LHP (6/25/1998): 4-1, 1.69 ERA, 14 games (11 starts), 65:9 K:BB in 58.2 innings Leyner Ponce, RHP (12/22/2000): 0-3, 4.11 ERA, 20 games, 34:13 K:BB in 30.2 innings Saul Puente, INF (7/21/2002): .206 (20-97 in 33 games), 43:10 K:BB, .287 OBP, .217 SLG (.504 OPS) Wilker Reyes, LHP (2/25/2002): 1-4, 5.67 ERA, 16 games (5 starts), 33:21 K:BB in 33.1 innings Jose Rodriguez, INF (2/17/2002): .221 (32-145 in 40 games), 22:12 K:BB, .285 OBP, .324 SLG (.609 OPS) Jose Rosario, INF (12/31/2001): .248 (28-113 in 42 games), 21:33 K:BB, .422 OBP, .283 SLG (.705 OPS) Misael Urbina, OF (4/26/2002): .279 (51-183 in 50 games), 14:23 K:BB, .382 OBP, .443 SLG (.825 OPS) Miguel Vallejo, OF (8/21/2001): .209 (23-110 in 32 games), 40:13 K:BB, .318 OBP, .309 SLG (.627 OPS) A much longer list, adding over 20 prospects in a signing period is very typical. With the exception of Yennier Cano, a Cuban, all of these players played in the DSL last summer. Misael Urbina, a center fielder, was the headliner of the group, receiving a reported bonus of $2.75 million. He also put up the most impressive stats. Though stats can sometimes be misleading, Urbina played in more games and hit for more power than any other first-year international player in the organization. He also took more walks than he struck out. In addition to age relative to the league, those are some of the biggest things to look at when considering DSL stats. A struggling 16-year-old should be viewed differently than a struggling 21-year-old. Things that stood out to me besides Urbina: Rhodery Diaz, a switch-hitter who played mostly left field and isn’t much younger than Urbina, put up similar numbers with higher slugging. There just aren’t many guys at this level hitting for much power. Jose Rosario is another switch-hitter, who played a lot of second base, and drew more walks than strikeouts. He didn’t hit for a lick of power (only three of his 28 hits went for extra bases) and had 15 stolen bases. When you have great plate discipline, you can learn to become very dangerous. Oh, and at 5-9, 150, there’s a decent chance he’ll get stronger. Without having any idea about pitchers’ stuff, I look most closely at K:BB. Despite being older, Juan Pichardo had a 65:9 K:BB ratio in just less than 60 innings. That’s quite impressive. Of course, all of these names - with one exception - are seven promotions from the big leagues. The vast majority will never make it past AA, but it’s still fun to follow. And dream.
  6. I was thinking the other day... Do the Twins have anyone on their current roster that can help recruit a 2019 free agent? Last year I know Jonathan Schoop was instrumental in bringing Nelson Cruz to Minnesota. I wonder which connections the Twins front office can leverage to help sign players this offseason. Here are a few I found when doing some research today: - Zach Wheeler and Jake Odorizzi were teammates on the 2012 USA Futures Team. - Thad Levine was the Assitant GM on the Rangers that traded for Cole Hamels in 2015. - Gerrit Cole and Marwin Gonzalez were teammates on the Astros in 2018. - Josh Donaldson follows Special Assistant of Baseball Operations, Torii Hunter on Instagram Please post your findings below!
  7. It’s April 16, 2018. The Twins own a 7-4 record. The front office has added free agents at several key positions to complement an 85-win team from the previous year that earned its first post-season berth in seven years. It's April 16, and despite a string of postponements due to an early spring snowstorm, the team is playing well, and flying to Puerto Rico for an unusual two-game series against their division rivals. Minnesota Twins and Puerto Rico, April 2018 (copyright Brace Hemmelgarn, for Twins/MLB) After dropping the first game of the series, native Puerto Rican Jose Berrios pitches 7 shutout innings in the second game, and the Twins win in the 16th inning on a Ryan LaMarre base hit. LaMarre was a minor league signing prior to the season who won a spot on the team with a good spring. With the win, the Twins reclaim first place with an 8-5 record and prepare to fly to Tampa to play a series against the Rays. Then it fell apart. In the first game of that series, free agent relief pitcher Zach Duke failed to touch first base on a toss from Joe Mauer that would have ended the 10th inning; instead, the winning run scored all the way from second base. The Twins lost to Blake Snell in the second game of the series, and in the final game, free agent addition Addison Reed surrendered a 9th inning, walk-off home run to Carlos Gomez. Then the Twins flew to New York for a four game series in Yankee Stadium. After losing the first three games in their typically inept Yankee Stadium way, the Twins had a chance to salvage the series finale. Starter Kyle Gibson held the Yankees to just one hit over 6 shutout innings, and the Twins entered the bottom of the 9th with a 3-1 lead. The first Yankees batter reached when first baseman Logan Morrison, yet another offseason free agent addition, failed to scoop a not-too-difficult short hop throw from Miguel Sano. That baserunner gave the Yankees life. Two batters later, free agent closer Fernando Rodney surrendered another game winning, walk-off home run, a three-run shot by Gary Sanchez. The Twins flew home from New York on a seven game losing streak. They tacked on another dismal loss to the Reds, extending their losing streak to eight. Their record sank to 8-13 and they would not climb back to .500 for the rest of the 2018 season. The free agent acquisitions prior to 2018 were meant to complement the young corps of players that had been developed internally in the organization, but instead, the free agents seemed to torpedo the season. This season, so far, is different. Much different. Those players from 2018 are elsewhere, and the players brought in by the front office for 2019 are making the plays. First baseman C. J. Cron, coming from Tampa Bay, has proven just as adept at first base as Joe Mauer, making all the scoops and showing more pop at the plate. Many fans (I was one of those) thought that the front office should encourage Mauer to sign an extension for 2019, but Cron appears to be performing just as well. Second base pickup Jonathan Schoop gives the middle infield youth and arm strength that Brian Dozier did not have. Here is his throw from shallow left in Houston April 22 to nab Josh Reddick at the plate: https://twitter.com/Twins/status/1120513457491795975 And, “super utility” player Marwin Gonzalez, despite his slow start at the plate, is making the plays in the field, while filling in at third base, at first base, and in left. His sliding catch in the first inning against the Astros on April 29 saved perhaps two runs, in a game the Twins won with only a single run, 1-0. All of this, while free agent designated hitter Nelson Cruz is hitting even better than advertised. The additions to the pitching staff for 2019 did not seem impactful; however, Ryne Harper and Blake Parker have been assets in the bullpen, and Martin Perez has now strung together four good starts. It’s a group of pitchers who are far outperforming last season’s acquisitions Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney, and Lance Lynn. After 30 games in 2018, the Twins had already suffered five walk-off losses. Here in 2019, none as of yet. While it’s yet to be seen whether the pitchers will continue to protect leads, the new additions to the every day lineup are providing enough offense and defense to keep the team in the win column more often than not. As Jonah Keri, writing for The Athletic, summarized it: The combination of up-and-comers in their 20s, big-hitting veteran imports and managerial guidance [from Rocco Baldelli] has borne fruit. A lot can be said of Baldelli as well, the new Twins manager and perhaps biggest offseason acquisition of all. But that's another article for another day. Prior to the 2018 season, the front office might have thought they were acquiring the final complementary parts to a team that won 85 games the previous season. It did not work out that way. The acquisitions for the 2019 season, however, are working out incredibly well so far. And I haven’t even mentioned Willians Astudillo yet.
  8. Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with landing the replacement for Paul Molitor. Once their manager is in place, reconstructing the 25-man roster will shift towards being the focus. Now having MLB Trade Rumors put out their projected arbitration salaries, we being to see a clearer picture for what the in-house options may round into. As is always the case, Minnesota can either explore the open market or make deals with the competition in hopes of raising the overall water level. This offseason, each avenue presents some interesting opportunities. Open Market Looking at MLBTR’s salary projections, the Twins would be on the hook for something like $38.3MM spread across 10 players. $4MM seems a bit rich for Robbie Grossman if he’s going to slot into a 5th outfielder spot, and Ehire Adrianza could be expendable depending on how the middle infield is addressed. From there, the Twins have $33.5MM committed to four players under contract (and including $1MM for the buyout of Ervin Santana). That total comes to $71.8MM. Pre-arbitration players still exist on the Twins roster, and there’s a group of roughly seven guys that could or should be on the Opening Day roster. With their salaries checking in at something like $600k, the organization would be looking at roughly $50MM in payroll compared to the franchise-record $128.4MM mark that opened this past season. With that much money to spend, the front office should have plenty of leverage on the open market. A guy like Manny Machado would easily fit within the constructs of the budget, pair well with the current group, and fill a need in the lineup. On the flip side, all the money in the world may not be enough to convince top end talent that Minnesota is the place they want to be. Beyond having money to spend however, there needs to be players worthy of spending it on. Certainly, the class is headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and there’s a bit of depth to it, but things fall off rather quickly. Yasmani Grandal is maybe the only premiere name behind the dish, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel headline the pitchers, while the up-the-middle talent is sparse at best. There’s a good deal of names in this class but looking past their warts is something any bidding team must do. Can Josh Donaldson still be an impact player? Is D.J. LeMahieu any good away from Coors? Do you want an aging Gio Gonzalez? Having money to spend is certainly a good problem for the Twins to have, but this market could dictate aiming high or settling, and that’s not necessarily the position you want to be in. Making Deals On the flip side of spending dollars, the payroll flexibility also allows Minnesota’s front office the opportunity to take on contracts. With so much space left in the budget, acquiring a big splash from a team not yet ready to compete, or going through a full-on rebuild, is an enticing option as well. Venturing down this road would cost the Twins prospect capital, but the goal would obviously be to see meaningful returns in the majors. Players like Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Santana, and Justin Bour could all fill Minnesota’s presumed hole at first base. J.T. Realmuto is likely still available from the Marlins, and Justin Smoak or Wil Myers could be on the block as well. Maybe the Royals would move Whit Merrifield, and there’s a list of names yet to be unearthed. Before panicking, the Twins would certainly leave both Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff on the untouchables list. Brusdar Graterol may not be far behind them either. However, with a top 5-8 farm system, there’s depth and top-end talent that would be enticing for many an organization to jump at. Should the front office be more inclined to operate in this manner, their human assets are almost as appealing as the dollars themselves. I’d be relatively surprised to see the market move as slowly as it did this past offseason. There was a bit of a market correction it seemed, in shying away from long term commitments to players reaching a tipping point in age. Machado and Harper will still get theirs this winter, but the rest of the group should have a more realistic stance on what the message from organizations was. With that in mind, I’d also imagine we’ll see more action earlier, and fewer guys showing up to new homes once spring training has started. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota leans one way or the other when adding talent this winter, or if the go with a healthy mix of both routes. Being well positioned financially is half of the battle, and now it’s on the front office to identify the right talent and entice them to the belief that the Twins are who they want to play for.
  9. Coming off a 78-win season, the Minnesota Twins took a step backward from their postseason berth in 2017. With the same core intact, and significant added talent throughout the offseason, it was a relatively unexpected result. With the AL Central remaining down, and an opportunity for the core to put up a more expected result in 2019, winning shouldn’t be far off for this collection. Given the circumstances, this offseason is a big one for the hometown nine, but how do they go about executing on that?Derek Falvey and Thad Levine will be tasked with landing the replacement for Paul Molitor. Once their manager is in place, reconstructing the 25-man roster will shift towards being the focus. Now having MLB Trade Rumors put out their projected arbitration salaries, we being to see a clearer picture for what the in-house options may round into. As is always the case, Minnesota can either explore the open market or make deals with the competition in hopes of raising the overall water level. This offseason, each avenue presents some interesting opportunities. Open Market Looking at MLBTR’s salary projections, the Twins would be on the hook for something like $38.3MM spread across 10 players. $4MM seems a bit rich for Robbie Grossman if he’s going to slot into a 5th outfielder spot, and Ehire Adrianza could be expendable depending on how the middle infield is addressed. From there, the Twins have $33.5MM committed to four players under contract (and including $1MM for the buyout of Ervin Santana). That total comes to $71.8MM. Pre-arbitration players still exist on the Twins roster, and there’s a group of roughly seven guys that could or should be on the Opening Day roster. With their salaries checking in at something like $600k, the organization would be looking at roughly $50MM in payroll compared to the franchise-record $128.4MM mark that opened this past season. With that much money to spend, the front office should have plenty of leverage on the open market. A guy like Manny Machado would easily fit within the constructs of the budget, pair well with the current group, and fill a need in the lineup. On the flip side, all the money in the world may not be enough to convince top end talent that Minnesota is the place they want to be. Beyond having money to spend however, there needs to be players worthy of spending it on. Certainly, the class is headlined by Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, and there’s a bit of depth to it, but things fall off rather quickly. Yasmani Grandal is maybe the only premiere name behind the dish, Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel headline the pitchers, while the up-the-middle talent is sparse at best. There’s a good deal of names in this class but looking past their warts is something any bidding team must do. Can Josh Donaldson still be an impact player? Is D.J. LeMahieu any good away from Coors? Do you want an aging Gio Gonzalez? Having money to spend is certainly a good problem for the Twins to have, but this market could dictate aiming high or settling, and that’s not necessarily the position you want to be in. Making Deals On the flip side of spending dollars, the payroll flexibility also allows Minnesota’s front office the opportunity to take on contracts. With so much space left in the budget, acquiring a big splash from a team not yet ready to compete, or going through a full-on rebuild, is an enticing option as well. Venturing down this road would cost the Twins prospect capital, but the goal would obviously be to see meaningful returns in the majors. Players like Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Santana, and Justin Bour could all fill Minnesota’s presumed hole at first base. J.T. Realmuto is likely still available from the Marlins, and Justin Smoak or Wil Myers could be on the block as well. Maybe the Royals would move Whit Merrifield, and there’s a list of names yet to be unearthed. Before panicking, the Twins would certainly leave both Royce Lewis and Alex Kirilloff on the untouchables list. Brusdar Graterol may not be far behind them either. However, with a top 5-8 farm system, there’s depth and top-end talent that would be enticing for many an organization to jump at. Should the front office be more inclined to operate in this manner, their human assets are almost as appealing as the dollars themselves. I’d be relatively surprised to see the market move as slowly as it did this past offseason. There was a bit of a market correction it seemed, in shying away from long term commitments to players reaching a tipping point in age. Machado and Harper will still get theirs this winter, but the rest of the group should have a more realistic stance on what the message from organizations was. With that in mind, I’d also imagine we’ll see more action earlier, and fewer guys showing up to new homes once spring training has started. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota leans one way or the other when adding talent this winter, or if the go with a healthy mix of both routes. Being well positioned financially is half of the battle, and now it’s on the front office to identify the right talent and entice them to the belief that the Twins are who they want to play for. Click here to view the article
  10. Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?? After years of luke-warm stove off seasons the new front office has made their mark on the roster by signing five players to the big league roster who are ready and able to contribute on opening day. Add to that the trade for Jake Odorizzi and you’re talking nearly 25% of the 25 man roster acquired this off season from outside the team. What is particularly stunning about these additions is the money which was spent on acquiring the players. While the latest additions, Lance Lynn and Logan Morrison appear to be team friendly deals, Lynn will still be the 4th highest paid player on the roster in 2018 and Morrison the 9th. Call is savvy management, or call it bargain hunting, these guys will command a healthy share of the Twins payroll in 2018. In fact, if you look at the 2018 Base Salaries of the five free agents the Twins signed, plus the $2M paid to Michael Pineda in 2018, the total ($34M) is the fourth highest for 2018 salaries paid behind only the Phillies ($56M), Cubs ($53M) and Rockies ($42.3M). Surprised? I was. And what is even more impressive is that these short term deals will allow the front office to continue to have roster flexibility into the future, particularly when the likes of Hughes and Mauer come off the books. After all the dust settles, it looks as though the Twins opening day payroll will be right around $130M. While this is an increase of about 24% over 2017’s opening day number, it puts the Twin’s only right around the median of all MLB teams in terms of total payroll. And how do we feel about being in the middle of the pack for payroll? I’ll take it. Particularly when the front office appears to be adding players in a smart way, to what is already a solid roster of young talent.
  11. Don’t worry Twins Fans. Almost every upper echelon Free Agent is yet to sign. Here is my list of the Top Remaining Free Agents at each position and then my top 50 overall. It is worth noting that the highest rated player I had that has signed thus far has been Mike Minor, who was at 18 behind Logan Morrison. All top of my 17 Free Agents are still available, including 7 pitchers. Starters: 1. Yu Darvish 2. Jake Arrieta 3. Alex Cobb 4. Lance Lynn 5. C.C. Sabathia 6. Jaime Garcia 7. Jason Vargas 8. John Lackey 9. Andrew Cashner 10. Jeremy Hellickson 11. Jhoulys Chacin 12. Charles Tillman 13. Francisco Liriano 14. Matt Garza 15. Miguel Gonzalez Only guys of note to sign are Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly, Michael Pineda, and Doug Fister (I guess). I would argue that if healthy, Pineda is the best of those 4 and would have gotten 3 to 4 years for $45 to $60 million. Not a bad get for the Twins, but I expect them to be targeting one of the top 4 starters or looking to acquire one via trade. Relievers: 1. Wade Davis 2. Greg Holland 3. Addison Reed 4. Tony Watson 5. Tyler Clippard 6. Hector Rondon 7. David Hernandez 8. Seung-Hwan Oh 9. Trevor Cahill 10. Matt Belisle 11. Matt Albers 12. Boone Logan 13. Brian Duensing 14. Bud Norris 15. J.J. Hoover 16. Koji Uehara 17. Sergio Romo 18. Francisco Rodriguez 19. Neftali Feliz 20. Craig Stammen Interestingly enough, I had Davis, Holland, and Reed as the top 3 Free Agent Relievers available. With all the relievers flying off the shelves, it is worth reminding that the top of the relief market is still there. Specifically pertaining to the Twins, nobody outside of the top 6 would be an initial priority. It will be interesting to see if someone like Addison Reed struggled to find that 3 year $27 million deal, or if he is holding out for more. After Reed, there is a massive drop off, but Watson, Clippard, and Rondon are all intriguing and affordable. After that, there are plenty to circle back on in late January and February, including some old friends. Catchers: 1. Jonathan Lucroy 2. Alex Avila 3. Rene Rivera 4. Nick Hundley 5. Chris Gimenez Welington Castillo quietly did pretty well for himself early on in Free Agency. But since then, not much has happened pertaining to catchers. The Twins should feel comfortable with Garver as the backup catcher / DH / 1B / LF type player. I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing back Gimenez though. Especially if it means he brings his friend Yu with him. First Basemen: 1. Eric Hosmer 2. Carlos Santana 3. Logan Morrison 4. Yonder Alonso 5. Mitch Moreland 6. Lucas Duda 7. Mark Reynolds 8. Mike Napoli 9. Adam Lind 10. Matt Adams This market is at a stop sign. Literally nothing has happened, as is true with just about all position players (What an odd market / boring winter meetings – No?). I’m an advocate of circling back here for a right handed platoon DH type later in Free Agency. However, the only two guys on this list that are right handed are Reynolds and Napoli. Probably doesn’t make a ton of sense to go after Lucas Duda, Yonder Alonso, and Hosmer and Santana will be too expensive while not really being a need. Second Basemen: 1. Neil Walker 2. Howie Kendrick 3. Brandon Phillips 4. Chase Utley 5. Danny Espinosa I fell asleep typing this list of names. I guess Howie Kendrick would be an interesting utility guy. However, I’d rather have Adrianza in that role based on age, cost, and massively superior defense. Pass on all of them. Third Basemen: 1. Mike Moustakas 2. Todd Frazier 3. Eduardo Nunez 4. Yunel Escobar 5. Danny Valencia 6. Jose Reyes 7. Trevor Plouffe 8. Pablo Sandoval It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I just don’t see the Twins really paying any attention to it unless someone blows them away with a Miguel Sano offer or something. Shortstop 1. Zack Cozart 2. Alcides Escobar 3. Erick Aybar 4. J.J. Hardy 5. Adam Rosales Yeah I don’t have much to say here. Outfielders 1. J.D. Martinez 2. Lorenzo Cain 3. Jay Bruce 4. Carlos Gomez 5. Carlos Gonzalez 6. Jarrod Dyson 7. Jon Jay 8. Austin Jackson 9. Curtis Granderson 10. Melky Cabrera 11. Jose Bautista 12. Matt Holliday 13. Colby Rasmus 14. Rajai Davis 15. Cameron Maybin I’d be curious to see if the Twins have any activity here. I think we’ll know based on how they treat Robbie Grossman and Kennys Vargas. If they move on from Robbie via trade, I think it is highly likely they add at least one outfielder via free agency. Granted, it would be a lower end 4th outfielder type. There are also some cheaper 4th outfielder / DH type options here that might be worth pursuing if you lose Vargas. I’m biased and want to see us take a $5 million flier on Joey Bats, but I understand the hesitation on that. Overall Rankings 1. OF J.D. Martinez 2. SP Yu Darvish 3. 1B Eric Hosmer 4. SP Jake Arrieta 5. OF Lorenzo Cain 6. 3B Mike Moustakas 7. RP Wade Davis 8. SP Alex Cobb 9. 1B Carlos Santana 10. RP Greg Holland 11. SP Lance Lynn 12. SS Zack Cozart 13. 3B Todd Frazier 14. OF Jay Bruce 15. RP Addison Reed 16. C Jonathan Lucroy 17. 1B Logan Morrison 18. OF Carlos Gomez 19. 1B Yonder Alonso 20. SP C.C. Sabathia 21. 3B Eduardo Nunez 22. SP Jaime Garcia 23. RP Tony Watson 24. 2B Neil Walker 25. RP Tyler Clippard 26. C Alex Avila 27. SP Jason Vargas 28. OF Carlos Gonzalez 29. 1B Mitch Moreland 30. SP John Lackey 31. SP Andrew Cashner 32. OF Jarrod Dyson 33. OF Jon Jay 34. 1B Lucas Duda 35. RP Hector Rondon 36. OF Austin Jackson 37. RP David Hernandez 38. OF Curtis Granderson 39. SP Jeremy Hellickson 40. OF Melky Cabrera 41. 1B Mark Reynolds 42. RP Seung-Hwan Oh 43. SP Jhoulys Chacin 44. OF Jose Bautista 45. RP Trevor Cahill 46. 3B Yunel Escobar 47. SP Charles Tillman 48. 2B Howie Kendrick 49. SS Alcides Escobar 50. RP Matt Belisle Happy Shopping, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
  12. Players are the lifeblood of your team. Acquire them well and often. The Minnesota Twins are finally at a point where they have built a team with a lot of talent. Most of that talent is young and still developing into what they could potentially be. They will go a long way towards making the Minnesota Twins a perennial playoff team now and in the future. All those years of losing are...uhh...finally paying off? Wait...that doesn’t sound right. They are finally seeing the fruits of having the higher draft picks as a result of all those losing seasons. This is part 2 of our “Trusting the Process” series on what it takes to build a perennial playoff and championship contending team. The first part, simply called Trusting the Process, was about how the Twins Front Office and CBO Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have helped or let the Minnesota Twins compete this season and why what they did, or didn’t do, at the trade deadline was actually showing how they are trusting the process. At the end of the series, we’ll go over how the Minnesota Twins have done in each area. Maybe we’ll find why they struggled for so many of the last 6 seasons. Today, though, we will continue the series with how a team acquires players and what tools are available to each organization to do it. 4-Tool Player Acquisition There is a process to developing a team into a champion. The front office of any organization needs to trust that process to become a championship caliber team, not just for one season, for every season. That is every team’s goal, to contend for a championship every season. Acquiring and developing players is how teams compete, how they improve and ultimately, how they win. Every team has the same tools at their disposal to acquire players. The major tools are the Draft/Drafting, Free Agency, International Signings, and Trades. They have to use any means necessary to acquire players. If they lose focus or don’t do very well on any one of them, they’re probably not going to become that perennial championship-caliber team. If a team doesn’t draft well, they won’t have many prospects. If they don’t sign good players in Free Agency, they’ll be stuck with bad contracts which will affect payroll and not allow them the flexibility to get other free agents or acquire the players they want or need in trades. If they get nothing from International Signings, they aren’t getting anything from all the time and money they put into their baseball academies and their international scouting and if they don’t make good trades, they’ll either get rid of their best players for nothing or trade their best prospects for very little return. A team may need to make a few moves to help push an already contending team to the brink of winning a championship but, those moves could also change their team for the worse in the future and if they don’t win that season, they may set themselves back because of it. If they’ve done well in all areas of acquiring players, they should be able to recover from those trades.* *One name….Matt Capps! Ughh! First Draft The best way to get players is through the draft. It happens every year and every organization picks and signs about 30+ players and they don’t have to give anything up to acquire these players. Obviously, the biggest problem with the draft is having to wait for 3-6 years or more for most of those drafted players to reach the majors but, if you’ve consistently drafted well, there should always be players coming or close to ready to contribute to the big club. Of course, if the organization has done well in the other 4 areas of player acquisition, they won’t need to rely on rookies as much. If they do have players coming consistently every season, they have the opportunity to trade other pieces to either improve the club now by adding a good veteran or in the future by adding more prospects. We can’t cover acquiring players without talking about scouting. Without scouting or a team’s scouts, they would have no idea how good a player is right now or how good they might be in the future. The movie, Moneyball, taught a lot of us that scouting is now a lot more than just watching a player and seeing their skills in person. Analytics now play a big part in evaluating a player and their talent. Another area probably not talked about enough is a player’s makeup and how he’ll look on television and in a team’s promotional videos. Noooo….not that kind of makeup! Makeup as in what makes each player tick, how hard they compete, how good of a teammate they are and how they handle adversity. It’s not talked about very much because the fans rarely see that side of a player, especially when it comes in the dugout or in the clubhouse but a player can change the whole team with his makeup. The draft is the easiest way to acquire players but it might be the hardest way to produce players. You can get a lot of players at one time but, of the 30 or so a team signs, very few of them make it to the majors at all or become impact players once they get there. That being said, the years a team has control over a player and their salary is a big reason why they need to get players from the draft. Free Agency isn’t Free at All Free agency is the quickest way for a team to improve. Teams can simply negotiate with a player and give them a better deal or more money than any other team. It’s not that simple, of course, and it doesn’t always work the way teams would like it to. Maybe a player just doesn’t fit or wasn’t as good as advertised so there are risks involved with every signing. There is the problem of not getting the player you want and then having to go to further down your list and/or maybe overspending to get the player you want. Free agent contracts in Major League Baseball are getting crazier by the year. Because of how long teams have control of their players, the majority don’t hit actual free agency until they are in the high 20s or early 30s. Obviously part of that also has to do with teams re-signing their players and buying out some of their free agent years but it may make free agency even more of a risk. Depending on many factors, players hit their peak sometime around 30 years old, give or take a year or two. That’s also when most of them hit the free agent market. So, teams are signing players to gigantic multi-year contracts and it’s very likely they end up paying more money as they age and as their play declines. Yoenis Cespedes signed the biggest contract last offseason at 4 years/$110M and he was 31 years old when he signed that contract. Will he get better in the span of that contract or will his play decline as he gets even older? That’s up for debate and it’s different for every player but you might want to keep that receipt just in case.* *”Umm...this didn’t work like it was supposed to. Can I get a refund?” Free agency is a great tool to use to quickly strengthen an area of weakness or to get that player a team might need to get them over the hump but it might not work as well as they'd like it to work. I’m sure that won’t matter when the General Managers get their owner’s checkbooks out next offseason, though. Foreign Signatures The MLB International Signing Period is how teams sign players born outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico because there isn’t an International Draft. So, it’s basically International Free Agency but it’s for prospects and players who are as young as 16 years old. That means every team has to trust their international scouts but every team also has Baseball Academies in the Dominican Republic and other countries so they can develop these players and get them into their system. Look no further than the current Twins roster as proof that International Signings work. 2009 was a good year for the Minnesota Twins on the International market as they signed current players, OF Max Kepler, SS Jorge Polanco and 3B Miguel Sano*. Those players are a part of the core of this young Twins team and it shows how big of a part international signings are for every team. *Pelotero: Ballplayer (2012) is a highly recommended documentary that is mainly about the signing of Miguel Sano and all of the problems that occurred through that process. A sequel, The Miguel Sano Story, is on the way. No release date is available at this time. Trading Place There is also the possibility for any team’s General Manager to pick up the phone and call another team’s General Manager, tell them they’re interested in a player and ask if he’s available. The answer could be no, he’s untouchable, what would you give us or this is what we’d need coming back to us if we were to trade him. It could get done right away. It could take a week, a month or even more. They could get really close to making a deal and then something makes it go wrong. Look at the Brian Dozier saga from last offseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers were looking for a 2nd baseman. The Minnesota Twins have Brian Dozier and the whole league knew he was on the trading block. Did the Twins want to trade him? Not necessarily but he was the player with the most value at that time. The Twins need pitching. Starting, relieving, sales, any kind of pitching. They need it. They wanted a significant return for their All-Star 2nd Baseman who had 2 years left on a contract at a good salary. The Dodgers did not want to give up more than one of their top pitching prospects, Jose De Leon. The talks seemed to go on forever. The Twins wanting another top prospect added to the deal. The Dodgers, not wanting to give up another prospect or, at least, a prospect as high as the Twins may have wanted, decided to go in another direction and trade Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for 2B Logan Forsythe. Some have said the Dodgers basically traded for Brian Dozier because of how similar they are but, as the season has gone on, you have to wonder if the Dodgers will be kicking themselves if the postseason doesn’t work out like they want it to. Just like in Free Agency, there’s risk involved in making trades. It’s almost the same thing except teams are giving up prospects instead of money to acquire players in a trade. They can acquire almost any level of player in a trade so if they believe there’s a diamond in the rough and they can get him on the cheap for a low prospect or two, the risk isn’t nearly as steep. Closing Time You may already be home and you can stay here! There aren’t many other ways to acquire players but they shouldn’t be considered major tools. Waiver claims are another way to acquire players but I’d consider that either under trades or free agents. Teams may have to waive one of their own players to get the player claimed on the roster or not so that’s pretty much a player for player trade if they do lose the player or signing a free agent if they don’t. There’s also the Rule 5 Draft. Yes, it’s another way to acquire players but it hasn’t really shown to be a very consistent way to find good players. In the next article, we’ll delve into Trusting the Process of Player Development. After the series, we’ll see how the Twins have done in all these areas of Acquiring Players and Trusting the Process. There has to be a reason they’ve had such a terrible run since 2010. Was it because they didn't trust the process? Thanks for reading our TwinsTakes on Trusting the Process of Acquiring Players! We’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on the subject! Please comment below or on the posts of this article on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Google+! After all, it is... Our 'Takes, Your 'Takes... TwinsTakes.com
  13. Mike Moustakas tore his ACL and would figure to be out for months, perhaps the remainder of the season. If, in fact, he is done until September or longer, the Royals would need to plug the hole at third. While Plouffe isn't a gold-glover, he is solid in the field and provides a bit of power for the Royals. It is a pretty good fit and the Twins shouldn't have to worry about trading within their division when they are light years behind everyone else. Both Plouffe and Moose would have one additional year before hitting free agency, so the Royals would probably have to trade one of them before 2017. It isn't a perfect fit, but there has to be some interest down I-35 for a proven player.
  14. I want to talk about the Twins and payroll, and how we talk about the Twins’ payroll. It’s been about a month since Jack Moore wrote the excellent and scathing The Minnesota Small-Market Con over at Baseball Prospectus Milwaukee. The points it makes are numerous and wide-ranging -- the most important, I think, is “f the billionaire Pohlads had been willing to take a short-term loss, they could have made their way out of the Metronome years earlier without taking the public for such a ride” -- but being published as it was in the latter part of an offseason in which fans have watched the team take very few substantial visible steps toward getting better, most seemed to take it as a chance to complain about the team’s unwillingness in recent years to spend on free agents. And I get it. Having taken the public for said ride and secured a stadium that is maybe the most appealing in baseball, the Twins (per Cot’s Contracts) ended their first two seasons in Target Field with top-ten payrolls, but then fell back to 13th in 2012, and haven’t been out of the 20s since. While attendance predictably declined from 2011 to 2015, it seems a safe bet that they could generally have spent more money than they did in those years and still turned a nice profit. The problem I’ve always had, though, is that this (at the most) is generally where the fan’s analysis stops. They could have spent more money, but they didn’t, and they should have. The obvious next questions that get left on the table, though, are “on what?” and “why?”: what could that money have gotten them, and what makes it a good idea? The 2011 Twins had a $115 million payroll and were coming off a 94-win, first-place year, but with injuries to almost literally everyone -- only Danny Valencia and Michael Cuddyer would play as many as 120 games for the Twins in 2011 -- they lost 99, finishing a whopping 28 games out of a wildcard spot, and it was pretty clear their window had slammed shut. They lost 96 in both 2012 and 2013 (22 and 26 games out of the playoffs, respectively), and 92 (18 out) in 2014. Their season-ending payroll declined, meanwhile, from 9th in 2011, to 13th, to 24th. But, again, what could and should they have spent more money on, and what could we have expected it to bring them? In a league in which the very best player might be worth about nine wins and four is a typical All-Star, the Twins would’ve had to add the equivalent of four or five All-Stars, two Mike Trouts, or some combination thereof (assuming each of them takes the place of true replacement-level players, to boot) in order to have had any chance at a postseason berth in any of those years. That’s not the kind of thing that’s ever happened via free agency--teams have tried, typically with disastrous consequences (check out the turn-of-the-century Devil Rays sometime). But what if the postseason isn’t the goal? What about just putting a marginally more entertaining product on the field? I question whether that’s a thing, personally--it’s the competing that draws the crowds, the Timberwolves are as entertaining as a bad basketball team can get right now and not drawing substantially more than their terribly depressing squads of the last couple years did--but I get that, too. It’s not as though a team puts those savings in an interest-bearing account and adds them to the pot for next year. They would, in a perfect world, but they don’t; those savings go to the owners, and the next year’s budget is its own thing. So to the extent you’re concerned only about this season, yes, you as a fan should want the team to spend as much money as they can possibly get away with, because that money’s gone for your purposes after the season either way. The problem with that is that the one-year deal for a good (or even just “entertaining”) player exists in baseball only when that player comes with huge risks. Most free agents worth signing as anything more than filler in this game demand commitments of three years, or four or five or more. Most free agents are also in their 30s, which means almost without exception that they’re likely to get worse over those three to five years, not better. What that means is that most of the free agents the Twins could’ve signed to make them marginally better or more fun in 2013 or 2014 would still be getting paid as Twins in 2016, and would be less good or fun now than they were then (but probably making at least as much money). When you don’t expect to win, you probably shouldn’t (and can’t, to field a team that avoids challenging the ‘62 Mets) stop spending entirely. But your focus in spending, way ahead of getting better for the now, has to be to avoid hamstringing the team in future seasons, when -- if your prospects pan out and you’re not too bogged down by aging players’ contracts -- you might be positioned to spend to fill more immediate needs and make a run at it. In that light, I tended to think the Twins’ spending from 2012 through 2014 was just about perfect--a weird thing for me to say, as I’ve never been one to go easy on the front office (Tony Batista and Ruben Sierra? Seriously?). In 2012, there was just a long, black-dark road ahead, and nothing to do but fill a couple of the gaps to try to be interesting and wait it out. And that’s exactly what they did, bringing in Josh Willingham (who worked) and Ryan Doumit (who didn’t) to fill in for the departing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, and otherwise just stayed put and take their lumps. Heading into 2014, with Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and others now on their way, it made sense to take a look at some relatively low-risk, 30-or-younger free agents who could reasonably be expected to be contributing at about the same level a couple years down the line, and they did that, bringing in Phil Hughes (who I’d argue worked) and Ricky Nolasco (who thus far clearly hasn’t), along with more stopgaps like Mike Pelfrey and Kurt Suzuki. For whatever else the Twins have done right or wrong, this is exactly how a non-contending team should spend its money. Should they have spent more of it? Perhaps--but it’s on the one arguing they should to identify where they should’ve spent it and why. Whining that they’re cheap and run by billionaires just doesn’t cut it; they’re losing ninety-plus either way. Show your work. I’ve left out 2015 so far, of course, and that’s a tough one because we know how it ends: the Twins win 83 games, surprising everyone, and miss the wildcard play-in game by just three wins. They entered the last week with a real shot, and as it turns out, even one modest upgrade in the offseason could have gotten them there. That’s cheating, though: the Twins didn’t know how it would end, and I really think they were looking at 2016 or 2017 as their next legitimate chance, and so they stayed the course, bringing in 32-year-old Ervin Santana to add to their stable of average starters who seem likely to still be about average by the next time they thought they’d be competitive. Were there moves that not only could have put them over the top as things turned out, but that they should have made in December or January 2014-15, knowing and believing what they reasonably did then? Maybe! But I’d like to know what those specifically were. (Note also that a first half from Santana might itself ultimately have put them in the playoffs.) So that gets us to today. I’ve been as frustrated as anyone with the lack of activity: Byung-Ho Park is certainly interesting, but hardly fills a glaring need, and there’s not much else that’s even worth mentioning. It feels much like a team with two third basemen and three or four 1B/DH types, which seems to suggest moves to be made, and I would’ve loved to see them land, say, Darren O’Day, an elite reliever who signed a four-year deal to stay with the Orioles similar to the ones the Twins gave Santana and Nolasco. But: O’Day is 32 years old, and at his very best -- at any modern reliever’s best -- is worth about three wins. The Twins had a lot of luck last year, and while I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do in 2016, there’s good reason to believe they’re not quite there yet, with or without the upgraded bullpen. If, as Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA expects, they go 79-83 and miss the playoffs by seven games, O’Day probably wouldn’t have made a difference, and neither would most anyone else. And then what about in 2018, when Buxton and Sano are MVP candidates, but O’Day is 35 and ineffective, while his $9 million salary helps prevent you from signing that year’s Darren O’Day, who could be the difference between an LDS loss and a world championship? I have no answers. I thought they should have done more this offseason, and I sure hope that they do well enough that there’s a worry it might come back to bite them. But too often, we collectively seem to want the team to spend more money without considering (a) the limits of what that spending can actually do, or ( the risks down the road of imprudently committing money now. Fans can complain that the team is cheap all they want -- and why not, it’s just baseball, it’s all in fun, you do you -- but without an idea of how they should spend that extra money, why they should and what might happen if it goes bad, all it is is whining for whining’s sake. Seems to me it’s more fun, more instructive, and, at least in this case, harder to argue with the plan, if you show your work.
  15. over at http://www.talktocontact.com/2013/11/episode-58-brandon-warne-and-infield.html you can find the latest episode of the Talk to Contact podcast where we are joined by 1500 ESPN Twins beat reporter Brandon Warne and discuss Infield and DH Free agent options available for the Twins this off-season. Do you see any options that make sense for the Twins to bring in to man a spot in the infield? I like Corey Hart at 1B/DH, and he'd also give the lineup some flexibility at a corner OF spot.
  16. Players who spent less that the whole season with the Twins. Here is where they stand going forward when looking at arbitration and free agency. Darin Mastroianni--Gets a full year of service time. He will have one year plus 149 days meaning he would be eligible to be a Super 2 after the 2014 season, but not eligible for free agency until 2018. Scott Diamond--With his option, he will have one year plus 161 days. Presuming he stays in the majors going forward, he will be in the same situation as Mastroianni. Caleb Thielbar & Oswaldo Arcia--both accumulated over 120 days. If they stay in the majors, they would be eligible for Super 2 in two years, but have six more years before free agency. Samuel Deduno & Chris Parmelee--Now have approximately 1 year + 100 days. Wouldn't be eligible for Super 2 next year and five more years to free agency. Clete Thomas--Now over two years service time. In the unlikely event he stays in the majors going forward, he'll be arb eligible in one year and eligible for free agency in four years. Pinto, Albers, Herrmann, Kyle Gibson, Tonkin, Colabello, Bernier, and Pedro Hernandez--None have accumulated enough time to get Super 2 status two years from now. So all would need three years of service to get arbitration and six more for free agency. Aaron Hicks--With his 124 days of service, if he spends no more time in the minors, he would be eligible for Super 2 in two years. However, just a week on option would put him below the threshold. Vance Worley--He is over 2 years, but won't be eligible for Super 2. Not eligible for free agency until 2017. Eduardo Escobar--He is at one year, 127 days. If he stays in the majors, he will most likely be eligible for Super 2 after 2014. If he spends three weeks in the minors, he would not be eligible for Super 2.
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