Monday, July 12, 2010

Cliff Lee Fallout: Now What?

So the Twins missed out on Cliff Lee. If they want to address their pitching issues, there is a list of 40 starting pitchers in the 2010 Trade Deadline Primer (available here), 38 of whom are not Twins. Let's go through some of the bigger names, and to play along, we'll coax the Geek Chorus out of retirement....

Roy Oswalt -
This is the name everyone likes to mention, which is a shame. Because this is not ever, ever, in any way, shape or form, ever going to happen.

Geek Chorus: What if....

No. Not happening.

GC: But if...

Stop. Stop now. Quit talking.

GC: B...

Listen, and listen good. Oswalt is owed $16 million next year. The Twins payroll is already looking like it's going to go up as much as $10 million in 2011, and that's without re-signing any of their free agents. (You can find details in a Primer essay.) They cannot absorb that salary. It would gut the team.

GC: Maybe the Astros will pay it? The Mariners paid part of Cliff Lee's salary for the Rangers...

It is thought that the Mariners paid about $2.5 million of Lee's salary. Oswalt is owed almost 10 times that - $8 million this year and $16 million next year. How many prospects would the Twins need to include in a deal to make that worthwhile? The mind boggles.

So repeat after me: This is not going to happen. It is SO not going to happen that it is not worth the breath it takes to say it is not going to happen.

Dan Haren
This seems to be the next most popular name out there and is seen as a better, more long-term and economical choice than Oswalt.

GC: That's why you've publicly pimped him on Twitter. As usual, you're about 1/3 right. He's long-term alright - he's under contract through 2012. But what exactly is economical about $12.75 million over each of the next two years?

Right. I didn't realize that contract was for quite so much. That doesn't fit it too well with that whole payroll thing I just talked about.

GC: Don't forget to talk about how he sucks.

TG: "Sucks" is a strong word. He has a 4.36 ERA. His problem seems to be how many home runs he's given up. The league average is about 1 per nine innings, which would be about 14 home runs for him. He's given up 19. But his career ERA is 3.61. That's worth something.

GC: Yes. Apparently it's worth $25 million over the next two years. But before you expect him to extract himself from this year's slump, don't forget that this slump actually started last year. After the All-Star break, he posted a 4.61 ERA, due largely to a spike in his home run rate. It's possible you actually supported someone who is a worse fit than Oswalt.

Pedro Martinez
TG: My personal favorite. Last year Pedro showed that in a short season, he's still a heck of a pitcher. After signing late with the Phillies, he posted a 3.63 ERA in nine starts during the regular season. Then he started three postseason games, pitching reasonably effectively in two of the three games and posting a 3.71 ERA. He's worth kicking the tires on.

GC: Be careful kicking Pedro in the tires. I'm pretty sure that's what Don Zimmer was going to do a few years ago..... Hey YO-O-O!

TG: Best of all, you don't need to trade anyone for him - he's a free agent. He was signed last year for $2 million plus incentives, which should be well within the money the Twins received back for insurance for Joe Nathan's injury.

Jarrod Washburn
GC: No. NO! Don't say it.

TG: I can't believe it isn't already done. This is who the Twins are going to get, right? He's available without giving up any prospects. He's got to be desperate. They can try him in the minors for awhile, make sure he's still effective.

GC: The horror. THE HORROR!

TG: It's also got to be enticing to Washburn. Back to his midwestern roots. A chance to pitch in a pitcher's ballpark to show what he can do. Behind a stellar defensive, hold on.

GC: Leave it alone! What is the matter with you?

TG: Ok, let's move on to....

Carlos Silva
GC: Blink. Blink. You pulled me of retirement just to torture me, didn't you?

TG: Hey, this isn't your old Carlos Silva.

GC: The old Carlos Silva was OK. It's the newer Carlos Silva that has been killing teams. Good lord - the man was traded straight up for Milton Bradley. And everyone thought Jack Z got the best of that deal.

TG: Everyone always believes Jack Z gets the best of every deal, all evidence to the contrary. Silva has apparently added a pitch to his repertoire and not only is his ERA at 3.45, but he's only given up just 97 hits in 101.2 innings, and he's struck out 72. He's a different guy.

GC: He'll kill us. He's like Jason. He's risen from the dead and he'll come back to kill us.

TG: Don't worry, you can still take that late-night walk with the hottie in the woods. Silva is owed $11.5 million next year. The Twins can't afford him the same way they can't afford Oswalt and Haren. He won't be coming here.

Ted Lilly
TG: He's left-handed, he's a free agent next year, and he's got a 4.08 ERA. He's also a 34-year-old veteran. And the Cubs are likely done.

GC: He's also been knocked around in his last two starts and is coming back from arthroscopic shoulder surgery.

TG: Fair enough. But he needs to be on the watch list. He says he's healthy. Let's see what happens.

That's it for today. If you would like to kick around another 20 names or so, please stop by and take a look at the $9.95 Primer or download the 1/4 book sample of it for free. But first a few more notes....

- On 7/24 at the Hennepin Stages Theater, baseball historian (and Twins scorekeeper) Stew Thornley is going to be doing a baseball talk. If you don't know Stew, he's an absolute local baseball stud and literally wrote THE book on Minnesota baseball history. He's also funny.

They're going to have drawings for theatre and baseball merchandise and it's the same night as the Aquatennial fireworks so people can come downtown and enjoy two events for free! You can find more information here. I'll almost certainly be there, too.

- Tomorrow morning I'll be on KFAN at 7:20 to talk baseball with the Powertrip morning show. You'll be able to download the podcast here.

- I took part today on Fox 9's "Sports on Demand" webcast with Jim Rich and Seth Kaplan. It looks like it isn't posted in the archives yet, but it may be by tomorrow morning. So check it out and then come back and bust on me in my comments for using the word "frankly" too much.


TT said...

The problem is none of those guys are all that certain, or in some cases even likely, to be better than Slowey and Blackburn over the second half of the season. Not the ones that are serious possibilities for the Twins.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't do a deal, but its almost certainly not going to be a major improvement.

Jack Ungerleider said...

At the risk of being relegated to the Geek Chorus and then retired I'll jump in on the Roy Oswalt option.

Yes, it's a lot of money and no, the Twins ownership doesn't have a history of "extravagance" when it comes to payroll. But they sold out the season before the halfway point. There is no reason to believe that they won't do it next year, especially if the team succeeds this year. So if the front office tells the Pohlads that whatever deal they have for Oswalt will put them over the top, maybe they go for it. Even if it means "hyper-extending" the payroll for a season. Off course they could trade for him now and then try to trade him to someone else in the off-season.

One last thing, decision time will be July 25. That's 11 games after the break (2 times through the rotation), with 4 games on the road in Baltimore. We'll know by then whether the break helped any of the "terrible trio" get back on track.

USAFChief said...

There's no reason to logically conclude the Twins can't absorb a good chunk of Owalt's salary over the next 1.33 years.

This year, it's a no-brainer. They have whatever Nathan insurance money they received in their pocket, and they planned their payroll budget before Nathan got injured. Considering that, they are actually under budget for payroll this year as we speak.

TF revenues have to be exceeding even the most optomistic projections, and will likely do so for the next couple years. I know they have spent some of that money, but they are only around $25M above what they were willing to spend in the 'dome. If we believe their previously stated stand that they'll spend in the neighborhood of 52% of revenue on payroll, they are expecting us to believe TF is only adding around $50M in revenue.

I call BS on that. And I also call BS on the "52% to payroll" model still being viable when you add significant revenue. None of the other expenses the Twins incur each year (travel, minor leagues, spring training, non-MLB salaries, etc) changed much when the Twins moved into TF, so most of that new revenue should be available for the major league payroll.

I say again, the Twins shouldn't have a major problem absorbing most of Oswalt's salary, and should be easily in the $120M payroll range over the next couple years at least.