Thursday, January 22, 2009

Last Reminder: Hot Stove League Banquet

I promise, this weekend I'll throw together a post about Russ Springer (Cliff Notes version: I like) and about Joe Crede (Cliff Notes version: I still think a RH 3B is gonna be signed this offseason). But right now I've got about fifteen minutes, so it's gonna need to wait.

But I hope to catch up with you all on Saturday night at the Hot Stove League Banquet. In case you missed it, MinnPost writer Jay Weiner had an excellent article on the history of this banquet and of the characters that organize it every year. It begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Harriet Island Pavilion, St. Paul.

Tickets are still available. They can be purchased for $30 at Anodyne Coffee in Minneapolis or Golden Thyme Coffee in St. Paul, by email at, or they can be bought at the door, though it's and extra $5 there. It's for the benefit of St. Paul's Dunning Midway Little League.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Cool Kubel Gambit

The Twins and Jason Kubel have apparently agreed to a two-year contract with an option for a third year, pending a physical by Kubel. Details of the dollars haven't been released (or discovered), but even before we learn those important details, it's an interesting deal for both sides:

The Twins
Before the deal, the Twins essentially had Kubel under a one-year contact with an option for a second year. Now he's under a two-year contract with an option for a third year. So the Twins agreed to throw in an extra guaranteed year of money - and it will be an expensive guaranteed year, too. The Twins would've only needed to guarantee about $3M before the deal, and are likely up to about $9M with the deal.

So what did the Twins get in return?

Jason Kubel
They got an option on a third year at a point in Kubel's career where his numbers should project upwards. Kubel is just 26 years old right now, turning 27 at the end of May. So he's just now entering his prime, and was scheduled to be a free agent when he was just 28 years old. This deal gives the Twins the chance to lock Kubel up for three of his prime years instead of just two. We'll see how astute that is when we see just how much that option year will cost.

I'll be surprised if the details don't include a signing bonus, since the Twins should have plenty of unspent payroll money in their coffers. But it shouldn't be huge (almost definitely less than $2M) and certainly won't be significant enough to limit other moves that they could (and should) make.

Overcoming Difficulties
When word leaked out that the Twins were pursuing a two-year deal with Kubel, I had my doubts that anything positive would come of it. First of all, it didn't make sense for the Twins to pursue a two-year deal when the already had Kubel under arbitration for the next two years. And it didn't make much sense for Kubel to sign a deal any longer than that, given that he was in a favorable position to score big in free agency.

I was wrong. The Twins and Kubel came up with a somewhat creative solution that gives Kubel his first enormous payday while giving the Twins an extra prime year of Kubel in the new stadium. Pending some crazy financial details, it sounds like a win/win, and both sides deserve a healthy scoop of credit for that.

Upcoming Events!
Hey gang, just a couple of extra notes.....

First, I'm thinking about getting a ticket to the Diamond Awards banquet on Thursday night. Has anyone else gone? If so, can you throw down your impressions in the comments below?

Second, don't forget that I'll be at the Hot Stove League Banquet on Saturday Night at a GameDay table and answering questions afterwards. I'd love to meet folks, and it really is a very good and informal good baseball time. Here are the details:

WHEN: Saturday, 1/24. Doors Open: 5:30 pm. Festivities Begin: 7:10 pm.

WHERE: Harriet Island Pavilion Building (across from Dtwn St. Paul via the Wabasha Avenue Bridge).

PRICE: $30, adults; $25, ages 16 or younger. $5 more at the door.

TICKETS: Anodyne @ 43rd, 4301 Nicollet Avenue South in Minneapolis; Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe, 921 Selby Avenue in St. Paul or at the door.

MORE INFO: 651-227-3437, 651-644-9254 or

This year our line up includes former Minnesota Twins and Millwaukee Brewers great Corey Koskie, Major League Baseball Umpire Tim Tschida and a tribute to our friend the late Andy Nelson (who was a great local sports and mural artist). StarTribune scribe LaVelle E. Neal III, another Twins Alumni (TBA) and other special guests are expected to join us as well.

Howard Sinker has signed on to be our our host this year. Cribbed from his web site, "A Fan's View From Section 220": "In a former life Howard has covered the Twins for the StarTribune. Today, he is a commentator on baseball and other sports for Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program. He grew up rooting for the Cubs, back before it was trendy, has settled quite nicely into a season-ticket package in Section 220 of the Metrodome and owns two XM Radios."

Finally, if you haven't signed up as a friend of on Facebook, I hope you will. I hope to use it to stay in closer touch with everyone, including special short posts that I'll be "throwing against The Wall" there.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Signing Joe

Friday I wrote about Twins players who are are ripe for signing a long-term deal. And on Saturday, Jim Souhan pointed out there is another guy that the Twins should be targeting:

What is the immediate lesson to be learned from recent history?

That the Twins should sign Joe Mauer to a long-term deal as quickly as possible, because this is the rare athlete our local teams can't afford to trade, or lose, under any circumstances.

Easier said than done. The difference between the guys we reviewed on Friday and Mauer is that Mauer could not be much harder to sign to a deal beyond his contract that ends after 2010. In fact, when you look at the deals, it might be impossible. Here's what the Twins would need to overcome:

The Money
This is the obvious one, right? Consider that Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both received $13 million/year contracts within the last couple of years. That puts the the starting bid for Mauer at $14M. And climbing.

Oh, and it's not like the offer of giving him guaranteed money early is particularly enticing. Mauer isn't exactly looking for two nickels to rub together. He's already in the middle of a contract that is paying him $33 million. And that's not including the $5 million signing bonus that he got just for getting drafted. Is an extra $28 million, two-year extension really going to be all that appealing? Not given...

The Timing
Joe Mauer will be just 27 years old when he becomes a free agent. That means that any team signing him will be singing him for the prime years of his career, and will bid accordingly. They can also have confidence that he'll be productive offensively for the length of a very long contract, meaning lots of guaranteed years.

For instance, the Yankees just signed Mark Teixera an 8-year deal, and he was a year older than Mauer will be. And that contract also had a full no-trade clause, giving him...

Freedom of Choice
A no-trade clause would almost be mandatory, since Mauer isn't going to want to accept a trade to just any team. Especially if he signs with the Twins because it's his hometown.

But it goes further than that. There were a few instance this year where premier free agents also received opt-out clauses in their contract. That way, if things go south for an organization, or salaries soar, or if a player just wants to have some leverage with his head coach, he can opt out of his contract early.

Considering that the Twins tend to rebuild every couple of years, and that their inaction this offseason doesn't exactly scream "commitment to winning", can you imagine an opt-out not being included? And then, do you really have a long-term deal? For instance, if there is an opt-out clause after 2012, aren't we having this same conversation two years from now?

So Do You REALLY Want To Sign Him?
Try and digest all of the above. So you really want to sign Mauer? If so, you had better bring a monster offer, something like this....

Keep the two year deal you still have in place:
2009 - $10.5M
2010 - $12.5M

Add a seven-year extension with escalating pay:
2011 - $14M
2012 - $15M
2013 - $16M
2014 - $17M
2015 - $18M
2016 - $19M
2017 - $20M

That's essentiall a nine-year, $142 million contract. It will also need to have a full no-trade clause. And it will likely need to have opt-out clauses when he's 28 (after 2011) and 31 (after 2014). Meaning you'll be talking about him possibly opting out for most of then next six years.

And if he ends up having knee problems again, or never hits for power, or never really tries to hit for power, that is the team's problem, not Joe's. That money is guaranteed.

Still convinced they need to sign Joe as soon as possible?