Thursday, November 05, 2009

Silver Linings

The gray cloud of not acquiring Akinori Iwamura has all kind of silver linings which I’d love to dive into today.

Geek Chorus: Actually, you would have loved to dive into them yesterday, but you were too lazy to finish the column.

Yes. Yes, I was. And that was the Geek Chorus, whose job it is to keep me honest. So honestly, while I'm disappointed to not get Iwamura, there are plenty of positive signs to come out that little episode. Like:

Silver Lining #1: The Twins are interested in upgrading at second base.

Geek Chorus: Uh, doi?

"Doi?" You're going with "Doi?" Nicely done. Very retro.

For most of the nation, this is a "Doi." But those folks don’t root for the Twins, who could trot out at least two reasons to not upgrade:

1) Nick Punto played competently there down the stretch and
2) Alexi Casilla is out of options

The Twins might still mention either or both of those reasons later this offseason, just as Bill Smith did in his interview with TwinsCentric for the Offseason GM Handbook two weeks ago. But neither stopped the Twins from trying to acquire a competent replacement who was going to cost them just short of $5 million next year.

Geek Chorus: Provided it didn’t cost them a B-level prospect – god forbid.

Yeah, the hoarding mentality remains annoying, but there are a slew of free agent second basemen who don’t cost them a B-level prospect, too. Which brings us to…

Silver Lining #2: As good a fit as Iwamura was to plug the vacancy at second base, there are at least a half dozen better fits who will be available this offseason.

When we ranked the free agent second basemen in terms of desirability, Iwamura ranked 6th in guaranteed money, behind Freddy Sanchez, Felipe Lopez, Orlando Hudson, Placido Polanco, and Adam Kennedy. And that list doesn’t include Chone Figgins and Mark Derosa, because they were in the list of third baseman. And doesn’t include potential trade targets like Dan Uggla.

Geek Chorus: Ooh. Dan Uggla. Dan Uggla. The most beautiful sound I ever heard. Dan Uggla. All the most beautiful sounds in the world in two single words - Dan Uggla, Dan Uggla, Dan Uggla, Dan Uggla! I just....

We'll interrupt the Bernstein musical in progress because it's creeping me out a little bit. But the Geek Chorus has a point. I may be guilty of a Polanco Crush, but that's only because Uggla is the girl who is way too far out of the Twins' league to be crushing on. He is Caroline Mulford to Polanco's Molly Ringwald.

Geek Chorus: Now who is the creepy one?

We'll move on.

Silver Lining #3: The Twins recognize that Brian Buscher is not the answer.

Geek Chorus: Unless the question is "Who can strike out more often than Delmon Young?"

Yeah, how about that? Last year at this time Buscher was being touted as two-thirds of the answer at third base because of how he hit lefties. But last year, he not only posted a .235 batting average and a 676 OPS, but he struck out 35 times in 136 at-bats, which was the worst ratio on the team.

Geek Chorus: Careful. This is where one of your more anal-retentive readers points out to you that at-bats are not synonymous with plate appearances.

Super. And this is where I point out that when you're splitting hairs so your boy comes out slightly ahead of Young and Carlos Gomez in flailing futility, you've already conceded the point.

Buscher needs to find a nice non-competitive team that can give him some time playing consistently against right-handers. Maybe there is still time for him to find his way out of the wilderness and into the promised land.

Geek Chorus: Let my people go. (Oh. I guess we did.)

Silver Lining #4: There is a decent chance the Twins think Mike Redmond is coming back as a player.

Why, of all the moves the Twins could have made to the 40-man roster, did the Twins drop Buscher, their main option as a bench bat last year? It's not like there weren't other candidates. Deibinson Romero is a 23-year-old third baseman who is still struggling at High A ball. Trevor Plouffe is a 23-year-old shortstop at AAA who has struggled offensively at every step in his major league career. Is 28-year-old Justin Huber more likely to have a productive role next year than Buscher?

Well, Smith mentioned last month that there is another left-handed bat available:

"Buscher was essentially a left-handed pinch hitter if we needed it. We had pretty good balance. [Jose] Morales was another guy. When he was up for September, he was a switch-hitter, but he’s a better left-handed hitter."

Geek Chorus: So Morales replaces Buscher on the bench, and you think that means Redmond must be coming back as backup catcher? That's a stretch. It might mean just as easily that Redmond is NOT coming back. Can the roster support both Redmond and Morales?

Let's see - five bench spots belong to Brendan Harris, Gomez or Young, Casilla or Tolbert, the backup catcher and...yeah, I think there's room for one more. I'm going with it.

Geek Chorus: Well, I'm withholding my endorsement.

Maybe I should modify #4 to read that it looks like Morales is in the Twins' plans next year. That, by itself, isn't especially good news. Morales' minor league history isn't especially promising. But he had a hot start, cooled considerably, and could end up thrust into a role which he's not ready for...

Geek Chorus: Much like Brian Buscher.


Thanks for stopping by, and make sure to stop by where our first book is now available. We'll see you on Monday.


Jake said...

I'm a fan of the alter ego, but your dating your self with the 16 candles ref. Keep up the good work!

Preserve Vintage said...

For some reason I feel like playing Sudoku. Good post.

Anonymous said...

Redmond is not comming back. If he does, Bill Smith doesn't know what he's doing

TT said...

There is almost no evidence the Twins were doing anything with Iwamura. Which means:

"The Twins are interested in upgrading at second base."

May or may not be true and this

"1) Nick Punto played competently there down the stretch and
2) Alexi Casilla is out of options"

makes it very likely that it is not true.

"The Twins recognize that Brian Buscher is not the answer."

To what question? Its odd that they released Dickey and Humber, but they moved Buscher to the AAA roster instead of releasing him. What do you make of that? Not much I suppose, but it is a curious move if they don't have any interest in bringing him back.

"Deibinson Romero is a 23-year-old third baseman who is still struggling at High A ball. Trevor Plouffe is a 23-year-old shortstop at AAA who has struggled offensively at every step in his major league career."

You are kidding aren't you? Plouffe hit over .300 the last month of the season at AAA and close to .300 over the last three months. And he was one of the youngest players in the league.

"Maybe I should modify #4 to read that it looks like Morales is in the Twins' plans next year. "

That's a good bet. I think he is out of options. But I would not be shocked if they brought Redmond back. He is a veteran who handles the pitching staff well. And I would not be surprised to see Morales lose a spring training competition for a bat on the bench.

Anonymous said...

Silver lining = JJ Hardy.

Wonder if they are giong after Uggla too. I wonder what it would take. I'd think Perkins adn Casilla would be a nice start, but I'm guessing they'd have to add more.

John said...

They would have to add a LOT more....

David Wintheiser said...

You think so, John?

I think this is a pretty good offense. 817 runs may not sound like a whole lot, but it finished fourth in the AL, on top of the pack trailing the 'elite' offenses in Boston, New York, and L.A.: we're not going to have any of those offenses without approaching their payrolls, so fourth is awfully good.

Sure, you can say Cabrera's streak at the end of the year plus getting a struggling Morneau out of the lineup helped, but I don't see those as huge red flags: most of the guys playing down the stretch may have been playing well, but not 'way over their heads' well. 2006 looked to me like a bunch of guys having career years, and I just don't get that vibe here.

The real key to the 2009 off-season will be how the starting staff shapes up for 2010. Blackburn was arguably the most consistent starter, and he led the AL in hits allowed. If the offense finishing 4th in the league is good, then the pitching finishing 4th from the bottom in ERA has to be about the same on the 'not good' scale.

And of course, the new ballpark throws a wrench into all this planning, because nobody knows what kind of park it'll be -- will outfield defense be less important than it was in the Dome? Will there be winds that turn the #1 flyball staff in the majors into the #1 home run staff in the majors overnight? (Heck, we were already #2, so we don't have much ground to make up.)

I really don't envy Smith his job this winter, because anything he does might end up being wrong, or worse yet, right but interpreted as wrong in the new ballpark.

Interesting times ahead...