Thursday, October 13, 2011

Free Agent Market Is Cooperating

The Twins have a fair amount of money to spend this offseason – perhaps $30-35M - which is good, because they have plenty of holes to fill. Fortunately, for many of those needs, the free agent market is cooperating.

Shortstop – Would you be satisfied with nothing more than mediocrity, or even good-glove, no-hit types? (After this year, we probably are.) Then look at this class: Rafael Furcal, Clint Barmes, Alex Gonzalez, Nick Punto, Ramon Santiago, Yuniesky Betancourt, Cesar Izturis, John McDonald and Jack Wilson. Best of all, most could be had for a few million dollars.

Backup Catcher – Again, the Twins are blessed that expectations are low. If you want a fulltime catcher, you’ll need to make a trade, because the top guy is a 36-year-old platoon type. But if you just want a veteran backup that won’t kill you, the market is flush with them this year. One other name that will be mentioned a lot is Ryan Doumit, a catcher from the Pirates who is a good hitter, shaky fielder, but injury prone. If you like mixing and matching Mauer at first base, Doumit might make some sense.

Closer – In last week’s Gleeman and the Geek podcast, I wondered aloud if Twins might actually renew Nathan’s $12.5 million option since it’s really only a $10.5 million option to them (since they must buy out $2 million if they turn it down.) They won’t, because the market for closers is thick. They’ll cost you, but there are names like Jonathan Papelbon, Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero, Nathan, Frank Francisco, Brad Lidge and Jonathan Broxton. Oh, and Matt Capps. Don’t forget “closer” Matt Capps.
On second thought, do.

Starting Pitcher – The Twins could already control their rotation if they offer Kevin Slowey arbitration. If not, there are some veteran pitchers that won’t break the bank. These guys are not aces, but they’re serviceable: Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Roy Oswalt, Aaron Harang, Bruce Chen, Paul Maholm, Javier Vazquez, Joel Pineiro, Jason Marquis, Freddy Garcia and Brad Penny.

First base, Right Field, Designated Hitter – And now the bad news. Depending on whether the Twins lose Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, they could need to fill one or two of these three positions. Odds are, at least one. And the markets on them are not good.
In the outfield, there are some sneaky names, but not a lot of reliable performers, or at least not a lot of reliable good performers. At designated hitter, there are always good cheap options, but my gut feel is that the Twins will keep that spot open for Justin Morneau, and he’s getting scared enough of this head thing to not fight them. At first base, one could try Chris Parmelee, but don’t forget he came straight up from AA last year. If you’re more comfortable with a veteran on the roster, cheaper options include Casey Kotchman, Derrek Lee, Lyle Overbay, Xavier Nady, and Russel Branyan. Ugh.

If the Twins manage to hand onto Cuddyer or Kubel, or if Chris Parmelee is truly ready or if Justin Morneua can play first base, things don’t line up too poorly. If not, there will likely be gaps. But the market is helping the Twins with a lot of their more pressing needs.

You can learn a lot more about these guys, including their likely salaries, by checking out this year’s Offseason GM Handbook. We’ll have more announcements about that soon.


TT said...

I find it hard to believe the Twins will hand a huge, multi-year contract to a free agent closer rather than pay Nathan. That would be foolish.

Anonymous said...

I find it hard to believe Nathan is going to command even close to 10 million a year on the open market so why sign him for such? They can easily re-sign him for 2-3 million or let him go. But, this is why this column further scares me. We need to look at Nick Punto, Clint Barnes, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jack Wilson etc for a couple million but sign a big time closer?
This is why these Twins bloggers make no sense. Why would I ever buy their prospect handbook when they no nothing about baseball?
Fine upgrade the infield for a couple million and don't look at possibilities like Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins or Marco Scutaro who would ALL be better then who were mentioned by A LOT! A closer is NOT needed. A good closer is worth 2-3 wins MAYBE extra a year. The Twins lost 99 games. When guys like Edwin Jackson or Javier Vasquez are thrown out they aren't average starters but solid #2 guys. They would be the best Twins best starting pitcher by far. Why sign a guy at catcher who can't field when a guy like Ramon Hernandez is available that can do both? Why even consider arbitration to Kevin Slowey and act like the rotation would be settled? Are you KIDDING ME! Kevin Slowey has never had a WAR above 3 in his life. You don't pay Kevin Slowey millions of dollars I'm sorry. Josh Willingham the Twins could sign for 1 Year most likely in the outfield and almost get the same production as Cuddyer would command but pay 3-4 million less and 2-3 years less.
Bah! This is what people read on the Star Tribune. Brutal, at least it's better than Souhan.

TT said...

"I find it hard to believe Nathan is going to command even close to 10 million a year on the open market so why sign him for such? "

Because it will cost you $30 million to sign someone else to a three year deal. And its not really likely they will pitch any better than Nathan did the last half of the season.

Shane Wahl said...

They could get Nathan for 2 years 12-14 million and probably should just do that.

Clint Barmes would be an interesting pickup. I like that idea and had not thought of that.

Doumit or even Ivan Rodriguez can do the job at catcher. If the Twins are going to win 85+ games this year it would at least be fun to re-sign Thome and sign Rodriguez to have two first ballot HOFers for a year.

Derrek Lee is not a bad idea since he isn't that far removed from high productivity and would be a much-needed right-handed bat. And he was always one of my favorite players, so . . .

Shane Wahl said...

That should say: "aren't going to win 85+ games."

neckrolls said...

Given the uncertain health of Morneau and Mauer, I don't think the Twins should worry about signing a full-time DH. They should just try to fill 8 fielding positions and 5 bench spots with the best players they can. Hopefully, that would include at least one guy who kills LHP that they could drop into the DH slot when the M&M boys aren't using it.