Thursday, October 04, 2007

Help Wanted

A couple of days ago, I ripped the Wolves for trading Trenton Hassel for Greg Buckner, and things got a little testy in the comments section. The facts that I presented surrounding Buckner's contract were questioned, and to be fair, those details make all the difference. If the Wolves did indeed trade Hassell for a player whose contract they can dump a year earlier, power to them, even if he is three years older.

For the record, I got my info from, where they list nba salaries and contracts. They claim that Buckner's contract goes a year longer than Hassell's and that it's the player's option. On the other hand, Patricia Bender's excellent site seems to indicate the the contracts end the same year, and that Buckner's has a team option, which is a critical difference.

I'm going to assume that Bender's site (and the contract info reported by the PiPress) is correct, because otherwise, the trade would either be overwhelmingly stupid or... well, maybe something even be uglier. The fact that Buckner is $750,000 cheaper for this year can't help but make me wonder - was this done to save some nickels and dimes for this year?

Of course, the problem is that I can't get a straight answer on any of the questions that naturally arise, like "What is the Wolves salary level this year?" I can tell you that the NBA salary cap is at $55.63M, and that if I add up the salaries from's Wolves roster, it equals $55.16M. Which makes it looks like Hassell's salary would have put them over the cap, resulting in a luxury tax. But I don't know if all that money on that page really counts against the cap, or if more than that counts against the cap, or what.

The same problem existed tonight when I wanted to talk about the Wild and their season opener. The Wild look like a team that Twins fans should enjoy, given their philosophy of buuilding a young core of talent in the minors and slowly integrating them into the NHL for an extended run of success.

But is all this talk of young talent a bunch of hooey? Are they rated highly by national publications? The first two links returned from a Google search of "top NHL minor league prospects" were links to baseball prospects. The next link looks promising - for those willing to pay $12/month. Another site has two Wild prospects in the top 50, but one is the new backup goalie and the other is #47 and was a little dissappointing last year. However, they're ranked as having the 7th best minors in the NHL. Of course, this is all by the same (and totally unknown to me) source.

It isn't clear that these sports have found the intersection of entertainment and information that baseball has. But I'm determined to start putting some of these together so we have more to go by than corporate media.

So I'm asking for help. If you have some favorite sites for basketball, football or hockey, even if they're super wonkish and geeky, please let me know about them in the comments below. And while your at it, if you see any MN professional sports blogs or news that aren't included in our feeds on, by all mean let me know.

Don't worry, we'll get back to baseball soon. It's still my passion. But as we move through baseball's offseason, I'll also try to use these new links to get a level deeper into some of these other sports, too.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Another CF Option and the Madness of McHale

The two great loves of my life, TVOR and TIVO are patiently waiting for me to come to bed, so rather than a full story, let's throw three developments out there that I think deserve more attention and call it a day.

Another CF Option
I still think the Twins will make it difficult for Torii Hunter to walk out the door, but I've been wrong about that before (see Koskie, Corie). The local fan base is starting to understand that the length of the deal is a much bigger issue than the amount of the deal, but there's another happier barrier that might keep the Twins from showing Hunter the money.

There are a hell of a lot of replacements for Hunter.

You might be a little confused right now, seeing as we've been subjected to nearly limitless rants about how irreplacable a presence Hunter is, but if the Twins don't sign Hunter, they'll have plenty of options on the free agent market. Indeed, not only is center field the lushest position of this year's free agent market, it's more loaded than it has been in recent memory.

You've probably heard of Andruw Jones, but there's also Mike Cameron, Aaron Rowand, Corey Patterson, and Kenny Lofton. Granted, none of these guys will replace Hunter's offensive production by himself, but none is likley to be as expensive, either. And at the risk of being labeled a blasphemer by the various high priests of sports opinion, that money is going to be spent, and it's likely going to be spent on offense.

And now we can add another name to that list. Kosuke Fukufome of Japan's Chunichi Dragons will likely be coming to the US this offseason, too. He's played right field in Japan, but has the speed for center and reportedly has an arm that is "better than Ichiro". Given the success Ichiro had playing CF for the Mariners this year, Fukudome might very well end up there next year.

Hmm, what else to tell you about Fukudome? He's 30 years old, bats left-handed (darn), and is one of the top stars in Japan. In fact, last year he won the batting title and the MVP with a .351 batting average and 31 home runs. He was hurt this year midway through the season, and is underwent endoscopic elbow surgery, but was hitting .294 with 13 home runs when his season ended.

It's a stretch to think that the Twins would subject themselves to the goofy system involved with signing a Japanese player, but even if they don't, this adds one more premier name to the market. It also makes the market that much more lush, and could eliminate one suitor for Hunter.

Another McHale Mcstake
I suppose at this point, nothing should suprise me, but did anyone realize the Wolves made yet another horrendous trade last week?

The Wolves sent Trenton Hassell to the Dallas Mavericks for Greg Buckner in a straight swap. It was widely reported as two similar players trading teams. After all, both are defensive specialists who struggle to make much difference offensively.

But that misses two items in the small print. First, Hassell is three years younger than Buckner. Second, Hassell's contract has one less guaranteed year than Buckner. So Buckner is older AND more expensive. Quite the exacta.

Oh, hell, it gets even a little better than that, too. Both players have a 'players option' for the last year of their contract (Buckner in 2010-11, Hassell in 2009-10). It's for almost exactly the same amount of money, about $4.3 million. Except that Hassell will be 30 when making that decision and Buckner will be 34. So guess which player is more likely to tack another guaranteed year onto the end of that deal?

That's right. The guy the Wolves got.

So let's unpack this a little. The Wolves, a team with absolutely no expectations for this year, just made a trade that:

a) removed one of their more popular players and
b) made themselves older and
c) hurt their financial flexibility for at least one and probably two extra seasons.

It's stunning. Obviously it doesn't have the impact of some of the other boneheaded trades this team has made. But when you take into account the simplicity of it (swapping similar players) this might be one of the most blatantly stupid trades McHale has made.

And that's saying something.

New Stuff
I'm determined to blog a lot more this offseason, and I'd really like to mix-in some non-baseball stuff regularly. I'd sure love to see the progress that I see with baseball coverage in this town expanded to some of the other professional teams. The more voices, the better, especially because I still trust bloggers to give us twice as much analysis as we're likely to get in dailies.

So, in addition to the Twins (and Vikings) blogs and news that have been at the bottom of, you'll now find feeds for the Wolves and Wild. As always, if you know of any great blogs or sites about our local teams that I'm missing, please let me know.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thoughts as I Simmer

So, after wrestling with a spreadsheet for a couple of hours that disected the free agent market, I discovered I massacred the damn thing beyond repair about an hour-and-a-half ago.


The Bonnes household will be watching the MLB postseason with a rooting interest after all. The Philadelphia Phillies finally lived up to their "Fighting" monikor and found their way into the postseason today. In case you don't know, The Voice of Reason is a native Philadelphian, and I courted her for several years in that fair city. In fact, we had season tickets to the Phils the last time they made the postseason, in 1993.

(In fact, that banner picture of me screaming was taken at one of those postseason games. It was snapped from the upper deck of Veteran's Stadium minutes after the Phils eliminated the Braves in the NLCS. If you look really closely, you can see the "P" on the hat.)

Most of the coverage will likely center around the collapse of the New York Mets, and strangely enough, that's probably fine with Philly fans. I'm not sure which they enjoy more: the Phils' incredible finish or the Mets' historic collapse. For Phils fans, it's the sports equivalent of a menage a trois with two supermodels. One is unbelievable. Two is - well - where does one go for unbelievable squared?

But I think it's worth noting that this was one hell of a clutch performance, especially for a franchise traditionally know for their futility. The Phils won 13 of their last 17 games, and needed every damn one. They also played the Mets seven times in August and September and won every one of those games, too.

If you've seen any tapes of their games, you can see that Philadelphia has rallied around this team like very few other Phils teams, and there is no doubt that is partly based on some of the personalities involved, particularly Jimmy Rollins. But mostly it's because this team earned that playoff spot. And in doing so, they also earned a spot in a great sports town's hearts.


In my search for info on the free agents, I came across a pretty good site that some of you might find interesting. has several tools for analyzing the free agent market, including a complete list of possible free agents and a list of the top free agents available, including predictions on where they'll end up.

It's by no means perfect. First of all, it looks like most of the overviews haven't been updated in a month of so, and that leads to some questionable predictions, such as suggesting Eric Gagne will receive a 3-year, $36 million deal. But a lot of their predictions look like they're in the right ballpark, and Twins fans might find the sixth name on the list especially interesting.

It's Carlos Silva. Yeah, OUR Carlos Silva. The same one. Their prediction on Silva is that he'll sign a 3-year, $35 million deal. (They predict the Dodgers.)

The brutal truth is that the free agent starting pitching market is razor thin, and while one could argue whether or not Silva is the best free agent pitcher likely to be available, it's hard to argue that he's not one of the best free agent pitchers available. He looks like a legitimate #2 or #3 starter, and he's just 28 years old, and those guys get three year contracts for $10 million per year in this market.

It also brings home a couple of other brutal truths. First, any announcers or scribes who wasted their breath or ink this month suggesting that the Twins might re-sign Silva needs to take a look at how they do their jobs. There is no chance. There hasn't been any chance since, ironically, Silva showed that he didn't suck. This should put that crap to bed once and for all.

And while we're wishing things nighty-night, can we also break out the bedtime stories for talk about how not signing Silva could reduce the Twins chance of signing Johan Santana? Yeah, I'm sure Santana will be bitter about his good friend signing a deal for $35 million. And he'll be particularly furious about their part in converting Silva from a swingman with the Phils into one of the wealthiest men in Venezuela. Johan will just be spitting about it.

The second, much more brutal truth, is that it shows how the Twins really, really, REALLY screwed up at the trade deadline this year. It's one thing to think a team has a chance when they don't - that's an easy mistake to make. It's almost forgivable, because the Twins really were only a handful of games back at the time.

But if that's where Ryan's head was at, he can't trade Castillo unless it's for a super-prospect or significant help next year or payroll room to add help this past year. And if he's going to trade Castillo, why the hell isn't he shopping the two more valuable free agents on the roster?

And as unforgivable as it was to not use the deadline as a decision point for Hunter, it was even more unforgivable to not leverage Silva's value. Look, Silva was both more valuable to the league AND more replacable for the Twins than Castillo. So even if you do subscribe to the middle-of-the-road path the Twins tried to walk, Silva needs to be moved too.

I have spent an inordinate amount of time defending moves the Twins have made over the last year or so, in part because I think the criticism often has more to do with advancing an agenda than with anaylsis. But the more we look at the Twins moves (and lack thereof) around the trade deadline, the more I think the Twins have gotten off easy. This offseason is poised to show exactly how flawed their decision-making was. Silva's free agent value might just be the first very bad sign.

And another reason to simmer.