Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cliff Notes Version of the Weekend News

On Wednesday night I was faced with so much news and so little time that I spit out 50 word takes on everything Twins. And tonight is worse. Much, much worse. We're down to bullet points, I think.

Signing Adam Everett
I'd like to agree with Aaron, who does a great job of justifying this signing based on Everett's defensive value. Defensive metrics deserve their own post, as I don't trust them and I wouldn't mind delving into why. But I also overvalue the defensive value of certain positions, and shortstop is one of them. Plus, Aaron rightly points out that just about everyone agrees that Everett really is outstanding defensively, and the metrics support it too. For a GM, it's a logical and defensible move.

Now we'll get to see if the manager can meet that same standard, because the problem with signing Everett is that it dislodges the only position where Nick Punto isn't an offensive drag. You might think that Punto will then end up as a backup super-infielder, but Gardy's history suggests otherwise, and that Punto will end up at second base. Actually, Gardy's history suggests that one of them will end up hitting at the top of the lineup. Check that. At least one of them will end up hitting at the top of the lineup.

If so, the move turns from an interesting move to a kick in the gut. Which is precisely how I felt on Thursday when I heard the move had been made. Smith has give several small signs that he knows what he's doing in this GM role. This single move might tank all the progress he made up to this point in the offseason.

Signing Mike Lamb
If so, Smith started making progress again the very next day. Three months ago, I wrote:

Mike Lamb has had a decent year, and a decent career so far as a platooning first baseman and third baseman. I suspect his at-bats have been limited because he struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. He's been hanging around in Houston for the last few years, and he missed being a free agent by just twelve days this year. He's positioned to either be the bargain of the offseason, or the guy that gets a contract much larger than anyone anticipates.

I was legitimately surpirsed to see the Twins land Lamb, and especially surprised to see the terms of the contract as they have been released so far. The detail that worries me the most, and it's a pet peeve of mine, is that the third year has been listed as an 'option'. But nobody is saying whose option it is, and that is an absolutely critical detail in evaluating these contracts.

Lamb is an interesting fit for this team in at least three ways...
1) He hits right-handed pitching, which is a great match for Brendan Harris. You'll remember that Harris was acquired from Tampa Bay in the Delmon Young-Matt Garza trade, and will probably play second or third base. Harris mashes lefties and struggles with righties. So Lamb can either platoon with Harris at third base (if Gardy, sigh, starts Punto at second) or swap places with Harris in the lineup if they're both playing depending on who's pitching.

2) He's limited defensively at third base, which means he's a nice fit with Everett over on the left side of the infield. To be honest, I wonder if the Twins would've signed Lamb if they hadn't already signed Everett.

3) He's also perfect hitting off the bench or as a backup DH with Craig Monroe, who mashes lefties but struggles against righties. So if the Twins do acquire a third baseman in a Johan Santana trade, Lamb coul still fit the roster. Especially because Monroe's contract isn't guaranteed.

So Where Are We Now?
Things get a little tricky when designing a lineup, because you suddenly realize just how left-handed this team is. And also, that the team speed that they valued so much last year has just about dissappeared.
1 - ??? - CF
2 - JMauer - C
3 - DYoung - LF
4 - JMorneau - 1B
5 - MCuddyer - RF
6 - JKubel - DH
7 - BHarris - 2B
8 - MLamb - 3B
9 - AEverett - SS

That's not half bad, and now the Twins can concetrate moving Santana for overall value, and not for need. With Dan Haren now off the market, and Hiroki Kuroda having signed with the Dodgers, Twins fans can expect some moves in that area soon.

Hopefully I'll have a little more time to post when we finally have some news there.


J. Lichty said...

Monroe will get more at bats than Kubel at least until the end of May. Gardy will play is veteran (and especially the guy who most reminds him of Shannon Stewart, Torrii Hunter and Ronell White) until not even he can escape the reality that Kubel is a better option.

I expect to see on the bench against every lefty so at best we will see a Kubel/Monroe platoon which is not likely given Gardy's history with platoons.

by jiminy said...

It's true that Lamb hit's righties well, .777 OPS last year and .770 career. But he also hits lefties -- .740 career OPS, and last year 1.056! So he deserves to be more than a platoon player, especially if the alternative includes Punto batting.

If they bench Lamb in order to play Punto at second and Harris at third, instead of playing Lamb at third and Harris at second, that would be swapping Lamb's hitting for Punto's. It could happen but it would be very sad indeed.

And if Everett hits second instead of ninth... I wish you hadn't mentioned that possibility because I hadn't even considered it but I can't say it won't happen. He does seem to make lineups based on defensive position rather than hitting.

But maybe instead of taking Rivas's 2B slot in the two-spot, he'll take Bartlett's spot down at the bottom, where shortstops hit.

Anonymous said...

just about everyone agrees that Everett really is outstanding defensively, and the metrics support it

The stupid part of the defensive metrics discussion comes when you start believing them. Its nice when they confirm what everyone already knows. They can just be ignored when they don't.

Anonymous said...

Lamb's option is a team option with a $100K buyout.

JimCrikket said...

Will, according to the PiPress (yeah, I know... not the most reliable source):

"The Twins hold an option for 2010 at $4.5 million, but the option becomes Lamb's (and the salaries in all three seasons can increase) if he reaches certain milestones, particularly in at-bats."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jiminy and sincerely hope that Lamb is an everyday player. But I also think Harris deserves a shot to be an everyday player... where does that leave Punto? Where it should -- in the role filled by Luis Rodriguez the last couple of years... injury sub and slurpee maker.


p.s. Wouldn't that CF spot up top have been a decent (I don't want to overstate it) fit for Tyner? In the alternative, Delmon Young might be our leadoff hitter and (weak) CF with Kubel playing left and the likes of Redmond DHing, at least against lefties (Monroe in OF, Kubel DH v. righties)

Anonymous said...


With the player option, if Lamb gets a certain number at bats and achievs other incentive targets, he'll almost certainly opt out as he can make more money elsewhere. If he doesn't (which he might as he'll be 34 at that point) it should be a pretty decent option for the twins. We get to cut him loose if he's the second coming of Tony Batista and he gets the option to leave if he can parlay the next two years into a bigger contract. not a bad deal

John said...

Good points on the Lamb contract.

On Lamb, splits can be very tricky and a great example of how stats can lie. Last year that OPS came in 47 at-bats, while he had 264 at-bats against righties. That's way too few at-bats against lefties, which likely means he was sitting facing all by the very weakest left-handed pitchers. I don't think you can count on him being productive very often against them. Sorry.