Thursday, September 06, 2007

Question the Easy

It seems I can't hear a summary of the Twins system without It. Corporate media, bloggers, sports radio all have to mention It. It has gone from symbolic to distraction to bad habit. And it's long past time to start the pendulum swing the other direction on It.

I'm talking about the signing of Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson for a combined $4 million dollars. It's the default criticism of the franchise these days, and it breaks my heart to say that it's parroted among blogs and baseball sites where one hopes for some real analysis. Instead of being viewed as what it was - a low-cost, early season gamble to insure against too much reliance on young pitching - it's become the #1 reason that the Twins aren't returning to the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.

So let's touch touch ground again quickly, shall we?

1) If you want to rip those signings, you must include Silva in the triumverate. He was every bit the gamble, and maybe a bigger one considering his salary and his dismal 2006. In spring training, he was the one which drew the most concern.

Nobody, including the Twins, expected all three to pitch 30+ games each. If one paid out, they broke even on the combined $8M they paid them. If two paid out, they were ahead. Silva justified that salary all by himself.

2) The signings were abll about depth, which just happened to be THE key area that bit the Twins in the butt this year. Unfortunately, the Twins just invested in depth on the wrong side of the ball.

But last offseason, that seemed ludicrous. The Twins had every regular starter returning and had one of the top offenses in the American League after the All-Star break. On the other hand, the pitching had lost two of their top pitchers and was legitimately looking at three gaping holes behind Johan Santana and (ironically) Boof Bonser.

3) I have yet to see someone show me exactly how the $4M they spent on those two guys would’ve improved the offense this year. (And PLEASE don't throw a diamond-in-the-rough name at me like Dmitri Young. Young was only still in the league because Jim Bowden knew him, and Bowden brought him into camp the same way the Twins brought in Ken Harvey - as a 3rd option if everything went wrong.)

4) There’s now plenty of evidence that the $3M they threw at Ortiz wouldn’t have been spent otherwise – that Ryan stretched the budget just to make sure. In fact, while I have trouble identifying how the Ortiz deal hurt the club considerably this year, it's legacy might be more significant in the future. It may have hurt their draft strategy this year (though certainly nobody from the Twins would fess up to that) and it likely gave Ryan another hurdle when looking for an impact bat at the trade deadline.

5) Oh, and let’s not forget that the problem this year hasn’t been the starting pitching. In fact, it can be argued that the development Scott Baker and Matt Garza have shown is a result of starting the season in the minors. God knows making the team out of spring training hasn’t helped Boof.

It's similar to the criticism the Twins face to this day for keeping Johan Santana in the bullpen (a move I was highly critical of, by the way). It's easy to get lathered up about what this team might have done in 2002 if he was in the rotation. But then you realize you're criticizing an organization for how it developed a multiple Cy Young Award winner. And that just makes you sound kinda, you know, stupid.

The Ortiz/Ponson criticism is starting to become an embarrassment to the blogger community. It’s everything that we used to criticize corporate media for. It’s bad enough that we keep ripping a gamble that everyone knew was a gamble because it didn’t work out. It’s downright ridiculous that we keep attributing an entire season of failure to a dozen bad starts in April and a couple of million dollars that probably would not have been spent otherwise.

We do it in part because it's something that we could have predicted. Great. Pat yourself on the back for successfully reading a career statistical chart. So did the rest of the league - that's why those guys were so cheap.

But mostly we do It because it's easy and because we've heard it so much. Let's quit taking the easy way out. We're better than that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2008 GM Cheat Sheet (Part II)

Ok, time for the second half of the exercise. Here are your options. You're not limited to them, and feel free to push back on the price, but I'm not completely pulling these out of thin air. This is a pretty good guess to what the market will bear....

(Oh, and I apologize in advance for how far down below this the table is. It has to do with how blogger handles white space. Which, by the way is "not well". It's there. Just scroll down a bit.)

CF· Re-signing Hunter will cost approximately $16M/year for several years.
· You can offer Jason Tyner arbitration for approximately $1 million.
· You can promote Denard Span, AAA CF hitting .252/.302/.359 and pay him $.4M
· Other free agent CFs and their approximate cost…
o Aaron Rowand - $12M
o Andruw Jones - $10M
o Mike Cameron - $8M
o Corey Patterson - $4M
o Darin Erstad - $2M
3B· You can hand it back to Nick Punto (who is already listed at MI) and just list his replacement here for approximately $1M.
· You can hand it to Brian Buscher (who is already at CI) and just list his replacement here for approximately .5M
· Other free agent 3B and their approximate cost….
o Alex Rodriguez - $28M
o Mike Lowell - $12M
o Mike Lamb - $7M
o Russel Branyan, Morgan Ensberg, Abraham Nunez - $2-3M
DH· You can bring back Rondell White for…oh, who are we kidding? Nobody is bringing back Rondell White.
· Other possible free agent DHs and their approximate cost….
o Adam Dunn - $15M
o Moises Alou, Geoff Jenkins, Bobby Abreu - $8M
o Jeff Conine, Sean Casey - $6M
o Mike Sweeney - $4M
5th starter· Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey or Glen Perkins will cost about $400,000.
· Re-signing Carlos Silva will likely cost $4-5M
· If you want more experience, free agent Ps and their approximate cost….
o Curt Schilling - $15M
o Kenny Rogers, Freddy Garcia - $8M
4th OF· You can offer Jason Tyner arbitration for approximately $750,000.
· A veteran free agent will cost about $1M
Last Bench· A fifth outfielder free agent will cost about $.5M
· You can promote someone from the minors like Garret Jones, Matt Tolbert or Denard Span for $.4M
· Another middle infield free agent will cost about $.8M
· A left-handed bench bat with some power will cost about $1M.
MR· Bringing back Rincon will cost about $2 million
· You can promote a pitcher from the minors, like Glen Perkins, Carmen Cali or even start Francisco Liriano again in the bullpen for $.4M
· A veteran free agent will cost anywhere from $.5M to $2.5M depending on how much success they’ve had recently.
Long Relief· You can promote a pitcher from the minors, like Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, or Brian Duensing for $.4M
· A long relief veteran will probably cost around $1M
TOTAL$· Remember, it needs to be under $30 M unless you’re going to start searching the cushions of Carl’s couch.

How’d you do? Did you improve the offense? Did you add power? Are you relying on young pitching? And, most importantly, is your boss going to be happy with how much you spent?

Great. Now let us know by commenting below. (Unless, of course, it involves Sidney Ponson. Then you might want to try again.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

2008 Twins GM Cheat Sheet (Part 1)

So, you’re a little dissatisfied, huh? Thinking you could do a better job? Well, to be a major league GM, you could either:

a) put some time in at the major league level, probably schlepping around as a scout for a dozen years or so years, stay on top of the free agent market, and show you can negotiate with players’ agents. Or…

b) you could just swing by

It looks like you chose (b), so we know you’re smart, but let’s see how smart. Your job is to create a competitive 2008 team while keeping the payroll under $80 million (a pretty realistic guess as to next year’s salary level).

We’ll give you the tools you need. Below you’ll find lists of the positions, the players who will most likely be back, their approximate salaries, and a list of the other assumption we’re making in case you want to challenge them.

Then you’ll find your area. We’ll list the open positions and some of the options you have (including how much they cost). You can build your own team and compare it to the job Terry Ryan does this offseason. Just make sure the total is under $80 million, because your boss isn’t known as the freest spender in the world.

The Lineup
The numbers for a lot of these players are estimates, since Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer and eligible for arbitration, but they’re close. If you’re able to sign them to long-term deals, you might be able to knock a million off of that, but that’s about the most you can expect. We’ve included Alexi Casilla, since the Twins seem sold on him. We put Kubel in left field, but you could move him to DH, or just leave him off if you like. And Nick Punto is listed as the middle infield backup a little later.

The remaining spaces are center field, third base, and designated hitter for you to play with, and we’ve spent $23.05 million.
Starting Pitching

We’ll assume that Silva’s spot is open, though you can re-sign him later. We’re keeping Bonser in the rotation for now, since he’s certainly passable as a 4th starter. Those salaries bring our grand total to $38 million.

Punto and Redmond are both under contract, so they’re playing someplace. For now, we put Brian Buscher in a Jeff-Cirillo-type role – if you don’t like it, move him around as you like, including back to AAA. Those salaries bump us up to $41.25M


You could quibble about whether Guerrier should be included here. We included him despite being eligible for arbitration because he looks like a relative bargain, and we have enough spots to fill. The additional salaries bring us up to $49.65 million.

You’re 2/3 of the way there! Seventeen of the 25 roster spots are spoken for, and $49.65 million is spent. That leaves about $30 million to fill eight spots. Take a stab at what you think you want to do and we'll be back tomorrow with some more specific options and salaries. We'll see you then.