Wednesday, November 03, 2010

My Offseason Blueprint

“Keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars.”
Casey Kasem, American Top 40

Shaggy’s sage advice is easier said than done, but the Minnesota Twins this year are going to need to do both. On the one hand, they face a payroll situation that likely means disassembling the team they have, let alone adding players. On the other, they have a fan base (not to mention people in their own organization) that expects significant upgrades to overcome their futility in the playoffs.

The reality probably is that they can’t do both, and maybe shouldn’t take the risks that come with trying to do both. The AL Central is going to be less, not more, competitive next year. The White Sox and Tigers are retooling and the Royals and Indians are at least another year away. Also, the Twins payroll situation loosens up to the tune of $23M in 2012 when Michael Cuddyer’s and Joe Nathan’s contracts come off the books.

So the sage thing to do is probably stay the course for one year, and that’s what I expect the Twins will do. I think they’ll offer arbitration to Carl Pavano, who I think will accept it. They’ll negotiate a multi-year deal with Matt Capps that will keep them from overpaying him in arbitration. They’ll re-sign or bring in some cheaper relievers and a veteran right-handed bench bat like Fernando Tatis. They might trade one of their young starters (Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey or Brian Duensing) for a decent, affordable, middle infielder. And, of course, they’ll re-sign Nick Punto as a utility player or maybe shortstop.

They will wave goodbye to Orlando Hudson, JJ Hardy, Brian Fuentes, Jesse Crain and (sigh) Jim Thome. They will also wave goodbye to a considerable amount of good will that was generated by the first year in Target Field. But that good will should return when they once again win the AL Central – and hope they don’t face the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs. This is a sage, risk-adverse, and probably successful strategy.

I, however, am not sage.

I also don’t need to be risk-adverse, since I’m just (virtually) flapping my gums. And I really, really, REALLY dislike the Yankees. Really. So I’m going to go in another direction.

The Yankees faults are well documented. To beat them a team needs left-handed pitching, preferably powerful. It needs big right-handed bats, especially if they add Cliff Lee to their pitching arsenal. It helps to be patient, since it allows a team to antagonize a fairly thin bullpen. And a team would love to have some speed.

This free agent market has some opportunities. The first baseman market is chock full of talent. There are a lot of relievers who are attractive. There are quite a few sluggers with bad gloves. And even the starting pitcher market has several workhorses.

We’re going to try and take advantage of those and acquire a couple of pieces to make beating the Yankees a reality and make my fan base (and clubhouse) happy. And we’re going to try and keep the tab under $18 million ($110 million total), so it keeps my bosses happy.

1. Sign LHP Jorge de la Rosa to a 4 year/$44M contract. Don’t offer Carl Pavano arbitration. Trade away Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey.

It’s unusual to have such a good fit as de la Rosa on the free agent market, so I’m paying up and taking on the risk of a four-year contract. He’s young, he can strike guys out and he’s left-handed. He’s also a little wild, but I’ll trust Rick Anderson to help him with that. (I’m trusting Rick Anderson to help with a lot of stuff, you’ll soon see.)

Affording de la Rosa means bidding Pavano adieu. I disagree with the rest of the TwinsCentric crew on offering Pavano arbitration. I don’t think that I could offer him arbitration because he might take it rather than face the market with that Type A loadstone tied around his neck. If he accepts it, I’m already over my whole budget, and I have more to buy.

That gives me six starting pitchers, which I would normally love, but I need to unload some salary. So I need to trade away Baker(-$5M), Blackburn(-$3M) or Slowey(-$3). I don’t really care which one, so long as I get back some speed, preferably from a middle infield spot. (Is Oakland SS Cliff Pennington available?)

(BTW, I don’t rule out trading away Brian Duensing instead. It doesn’t save me any money, but for the right return, I figure something else out. He might really be overvalued by other teams right now given he early success, and he’s left-handed.)

2. Sign Derrek Lee to a 2 year/$14M contract.
There’s my right-handed bat and my insurance policy if Morneau doesn’t come back, since Lee is an exceptional glove man. He wasn’t good last year, but he’s only 35 and I’m hoping that was a fluke. It raises the sticky question of which guy is the first baseman if Morneau is better, since they both are very good, but I’ll let my manager work that out.

If I can’t get Lee, this is a banner year for big right-handed bats, provided you don’t care if they DH. Paul Konerko, Jayson Werth, Magglio Ordonez, Vladamir Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Pat Burrell are all out there. I suppose you could stick Jorge Cantu and Troy Glaus in there, too. I settled on Lee because I expect him to be the guy who is the cheapest of those premier guys. This is an area in which one stretches the extra million or so if necessary.

To make room, both in the lineup and on the books, I trade away Jason Kubel (-$5.25M). Actually, I would listen to offers for Michael Cuddyer (-$10.5M) or Delmon Young (~$5M) but I’d like to retain their right-handed bats, so I’m mostly shopping Kubel. I’m flexible as to what I get back, but a fast middle infielder or some power middle relief pitching would be nice.

3. Say goodbye to Orlando Hudson, JJ Hardy, Jim Thome, Brian Fuentes, Matt Capps, and Jon Rauch. Possibly Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier.

I can’t afford them, so it’s fairly easy, but dumping all those relievers with the save statistic has an ancillary benefit too – it make a ridiculously talented reliever free agent market even deeper.

As for the middle infield, Alexi Casilla is getting one of the middle infield spots and I’m either hoping to get a decent middle infielder back in one of my trades or even re-sign Nick Punto. I’ve unquestionably hurt my infield defense, which isn’t the best strategy with de la Rosa coming on board, but I’ve also improved my speed. Casilla and Punto can both be aggressive on the base paths.

4. Sign at least two power bullpen arms from this list: Grant Balfour ($3.75M), Joaquin Benoit ($3.6M), Jason Frasor ($3M), JJ Putz ($3M), Jeremy Affeldt ($3M) or Frank Francisco ($3M).

I cannot believe how deep this middle relief market is this year. I’ve never seen anything like it. There are power arms everywhere. What’s more, the relief pitching market tends to value saves, making guys like Fuentes, Capps and Rauch valuable, while some of these guys fly under the radar. I’d like nothing better than to load up my team with these arms and let Rick Anderson work his magic.

I’m not gonna lie – I’m giddy about this. I wouldn’t necessarily stop at two - I’d sign as many of them as I could afford. This is the offseason I set up my bullpen for the next three years.

How many can I afford? Let’s see. I added $11M with de la Rosa, subtracted at least $3M by trading away one of my young starters. I added $7.5M with Lee and subtracted $5.25 with Kubel. All told, I’ve spent $10.25M of $18M, leaving me $7.75M. I’ll assume I can get two of these guys for $7M and hope the guys I get back in the trades aren’t arbitration eligible yet.

Let’s see how things look:

Denard Span (LH)
Alexi Casilla (SH)
Joe Mauer (LH)
Derek Lee (RH)
Justin Morneau (LH)
Delmon Young (RH)
Michael Cuddyer (RH)
Danny Valencia (RH)
Nick Punto/Other (SH)

Francicso Liriano (LH)
Jorge de la Rosa (LH)
Scott Baker (RH)
Nick Blackburn (RH)
Brian Duensing (LH)

Joaquin Benoit?
Frank Francisco?
Joe Nathan
Jose Mijares
Pat Neshek
Jeff Manship/Glen Perkins

That looks like a right-handed leaning lineup that can make the Yankees southpaws work a bit, as well as provide a little speed. I have a couple of tough left-handers at the top of the rotation. And I have the power arms I need in the bullpen.

But I"ve kept the team within a pretty restrictive fiscal limit. It takes advantage of a couple of market surpluses. And, finally, I think there is enough depth to handle the challenges an AL Central race inevitably throws at a team.

Stars? Check. Ground? Check. I think Casey would be proud.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Offseason Begins!

The day after the World Series, a new baseball season begins - the offseason. It's a second season, and it demands it's own Annual.

Here it is.

The TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook allows you to treat the Twins like your own fantasy team, but within real world parameters. This $9.95 e-book will give you everything you need to enjoy the offseason almost as much as the real season:
- What free agents are available?
- Who can the Twins afford to bring back?
- Who are to trade targets?
- What can Twins fans expect from the farm system?

Last year's book identified place JJ Hardy on the top of the Twins trading wish list and Orlando Hudson as a top free agent target. This year's 95-page e-book is even better, giving you the chance to develop you own blueprint and competitive reports on what the other AL Central rivals are up to. It's less than the cost of a dog and a beer, and it will last you all offseason. Just click on the button to add it to your shopping cart and receive it almost immediately!

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This year's version includes a foreword by KSTP's Joe Schmit, and is the in-depth analysis that the Minnesota media relies on and values. Just ask them!

"If you want the best data for playing along with the Twins front office, what you really need to do is order the soon-to-be-released 'Off-Season GM Handbook' by the TwinsCentric crew. It's 30,000-plus words about all the issues that will go into shaping the Twins in 2011 and beyond. It's on my list of the Top 10 things you can buy for under $10, right up there with the Kramarczuk's sausage at Target Field."
- Howard Sinker, editor,

"The book sets out practical, realistic assessments of what the organization has, what it needs, and where and how it might fill those needs. There are no 'trade Nick Blackburn even up for Felix Hernandez' pipedreams here."
- Ed Thoma, Mankato Free Press

"I also look forward to reading the 2010-2011 TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. I followed the TwinsCentric crew long before they joined the Star Tribune's blogging army and their exhaustive work continues to impress me."
- Joe Christensen, Star-Tribune beat reporter

"John Bonnes' kid goes to school with my kid, and my Target Field seats are next to his seats, so trust me when I say he can't shut up about this stuff."
- David Brauer, MinnPost

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Right about now is when someone asks about a paper version. And unfortunately, it's also when I explain why it won't be available in as a paper book. The reason? It just plain has too much information in it to print at a reasonable price level. I'm sorry.

Last year we offered both, sold the paper version at a LOSS - and still sold 10 times the number of ebooks as hard copies. It also ends up being considerably more work as the retailers require reformatting for it to work on paper. Instead, we're looking into sites where you can turn the e-book into a paper book for those who don't mind the extra cost. Again, I'm sorry, but we can't offer it.

The good news? You get it almost immediately after you order it, and since most smartphones support the pdf format it is in, you'll have it at your fingertips all offseason. Provided, of course, you buy it....

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Still not convinced? Well, we're so sure you'll like it that we'll give you your money back if you don't. Just email us at and I will make sure to get your money refunded. Give it a shot.

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We'll be back tomorrow with more Twins offseason coverage. Hope you can stop by.