Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Long Road to Hudson

I'm supposed to be writing about Orlando Hudson on this blog today, given reports that he's all but signed with the Twins. But what do you write about a guy who you've covered from just about every angle over the last few months?

The answer, of course, is that you write about how much you've been writing about him. This has extra benefits in that:

a) it's basically phoning in a story and
b) I get to remember stories I had completely forgotten about.

So let's go back a little over a year and see where this path started....

October 1st, 2008 - In the Minnesota Twins GM Cheat Sheet, I pointed out that Orlando Hudson was the top second baseman on the market. Remember, this was last year. It says something about how deep this year's second base free agency class was that last year Hudson was clearly the top guy available and this year he's middle of the pack.

You can see why he held out for more money this year. He really did get screwed over last year when he didn't take arbitration from the Diamondbacks. I estimated he would make $44 million over four years in that story. Instead, if this is a $5 million deal he'll make $13 million over two of those years instead. I know I'd be a little bitter.

October 21st, 2008 - Three weeks later in Procrastinatory Notes I cited Hudson as an example of how difficult it was going to be to get any kind of upgrade in the infield. Eventually the Twins settled for Joe Crede.

July 19th, 2009 - The Twins signed Mark Grudzielanek a couple of weeks before the trade deadline, and I wrote about it in The Grudzielanek Twist. Hudson was mentioned as an example of how difficult it was for second basemen to get a job last offseason.

October 27th, 2009 - At the beginning of this offseason I acknowledged my Polanco Crush. I reprinted my excerpt from the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook where I mentioned Hudson as one of a handful or desirable options the Twins could pick up for second base.

November 5th, 2009 - A week later, I mourned the loss of Akinori Iwamura (who I still believe the Twins almost traded for. But I pointed out to the Geek Chorus in Silver Linings that there were lots of better options freely available, including Hudson.

November 10th, 2009 - While many folks were writing off Hudson as unavailable because he was going to be a Type A free agent, I talked about pendulums and suggested he could still be an option because he should not be offered arbitration.

November 12th, 2009 - In a longer story about the other Orlando, I noted at the end that it was looking increasingly unlikely that the Dodgers would offer arbitration to Hudson.

December 23rd, 2009 - Twins fans were tired of waiting for a move to be made, and so I compared the offseason to an ebay auction. I stated that the only way the Twins were going to end up with Hudson at that time was to overpay for him, and that the Twins were playing this the right way.

January 12th, 2010 - Two weeks later, as the free agent field narrowed, we started Watching Washington, who was making overtures to Hudson and Adam Kennedy. I also started to worry that this was going to be a wasted opportunity.

January 27th, 2010
- Two weeks later I was plenty worried. So I locked and loaded a story outline if the Twins came up empty at second base.

January 28th, 2010 - And the next day, I Touched Base with Second Base, reexamining Hudson and Felipe Lopez, and added Orlando Cabrera to the list of acceptable options. I noted that neither Hudson or Lopez were perfect players, but either was close to a perfect fit for the Twins.

Which takes us to today. Hopefully the long road to Hudson will finally be complete, and he'll end up being worth the journey.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Ten-Year Solution

Ten years? Ten? Ala ARod? Gulp.

There have been rumors of a 10-year contract with Joe Mauer for weeks now, and it gained steam recently with Mark Rosen's report that a 10-year framework was in place.

Ten years is tough to swallow for anyone but the blindest fans. I'll admit, at first that number caught me off guard to the point where I was ready to write about it being irresponsible. And there is plenty of internet and radio chatter about whether the Twins can commit that long of a contract to a catcher. After a little examination, I've found two points that temper my concerns:

1) Mauer would likely get that long of a contract on the open market anyways, and probably for more money. Or at least he would if the Yankees were involved.

Over the previous two offseasons, the Yankees signed:

  • a 28-year-old (Mark Teixeira) to a 9-year deal worth $22.5M per year and

  • a 32-year-old (Alex Rodriguez) to a 10-year deal worth $27.5M per year
Mauer would be just 27 years old and certainly in that class of players. Plus, think about the environment those deals were made in. Mauer is likely to be even more coveted by other teams (like the Red Sox or Mets) than Teixeira was, given that he plays catcher. And the Yankees gave that contract to ARod without there being any chatter of any other competing teams.

Would a 10-year deal for $250 million be out of the question? Probably not. And if the expectations of a $20 million per year deal are accurate, it would look like a bargain.

The easy rebuttal is that he's a catcher, and catchers break down. You can give those deals to non-catchers, but not to catchers. Which brings us to the next point...

2) Even if he moves from catcher, Mauer's bat plays anywhere.

Does moving him from catcher decrease his value? Absolutely. But if he needs to move to any position other than first base or designated hitter, he's still not a payroll drain. For instance, if he moves to second base ala Craig Biggio, he's basically Chase Utley. If he moves to third, he's a step below Rodriguez.

And he's enough of an athlete that he should be able to move to those spots. He's not your prototypical paunchy catcher. You're talking about a guy that turned down the quaterback job at Florida State to sign with the Twins. He won't play centerfield or shortstop, but that's about where the limitations end.

So the 10-year deal, while a little shocking, isn't crazy. In fact, I suspect his side will want opt-out clauses lest the recession ends and payrolls go crazy. For the Twins, it's certainly a risk. But rarely do winners win without taking a risk.

So gulp hard and press on.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

From the Handbook: Joe Crede

In last night's Seth Speaks podcast, I was asked if I thought Joe Crede might return to the Twins. By way of an answer, I'm pulling this piece I wrote for the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, addressed to the Twins General Manager. I hope you like it.


Call it the Luis Rivas syndrome.

For years, the Twins and Twins fans lamented the lack of development of Rivas, who started at second base for the Twins for five years, posting a career OPS of 681. Yet despite the perennial disappointment, he always returned for a simple reason: he never became good enough to get expensive.

I wonder if we might need to rename the syndrome this offseason.

Prior to the All-Star break, if anyone would’ve told me that this organization would have any chance to re-sign Joe Crede, I would’ve politely questioned their sanity. Crede had performed too well with 14 home runs and Gold Glove defense. He was positioned to draw a multi-year deal from someone, and the Twins weren’t going to make a multi-year commitment when they had prospect third baseman Danny Valencia working his way through the minors.

Three dismal months later, Crede suddenly makes more sense, because he never became good enough to get expensive. He spent a good chunk of the last three months injured (only 81 at-bats) so it seems unlikely he’ll earn a multi-year deal. (That dismal showing also means he won’t be ranked highly by Elias, eliminating the need to offer him arbitration.)

On the Twins side, there is still a need. Valencia wasn’t called up in September, so it’s unlikely everyone in the organization feels he’s the answer for Opening Day. And if someone keeps the position warm for half a year, Valencia won’t qualify for Super-2 status down the road. Plus, Crede’s key assets still remain – he’s a righthanded power hitter who plays fantastic defense at third base. That’s a better fit than most free agent third basemen.

And the injuries? Well, the team won’t be playing on the turf next year, which makes Crede more appealing. Also, the Twins were more patient than they probably should have been with Crede’s nagging injuries, which likely earned some points with Crede and agent Scott Boras. And if Crede breaks down over the second half of the season, you can turn to Valencia who should be a little closer to ready. On the other hand, he’s undergoing his third back surgery this year. Maybe you just want to move on.

Either way, there’s bad news here. You’re managing a team that wouldn’t even think about signing a guy who had a 750 OPS at the all-star break. However, once he posted a 558 OPS while playing in just 22 games afterwards – now he’s looking like a good fit. How depressing is that?

Estimated Contract: 1 year, $2M plus incentives

Monday, February 01, 2010

Twinsfest (Day 2) and Nick Punto Day (really!)

The internet is crawling with exciting reports about the Twins becoming a serious player for Orlando Hudson and an agreed 10-year framework for Joe Mauer's new contract. So let's talk second day at Twinsfest?

Yep. Really, I have to, partly because I didn't get to the Nick Punto Day thing, and partly because I want to give some shouts out to some folks I met.
  • I met Seth Stohs at Twinsfest, complete with his baseball hat. I gotta admit, that hat is brilliant. It gives readers a chance to easily identify him and we had several long and fun conversations with folks who simply wanted to talk about offseason moves or prospects.

    You probably already know this if you listen to his podcast, but he's about the nicest guy ever. If you ever see him, I encourage you to introduce yourself and talk Twins with him. I promise, it won't be awkward.

  • Speaking of awkward, I also met Topper Anton of the Twins blog Curve for a Strike. In the course of getting to know each other, he revealed that he attended Jefferson High School in Bloomington, from which I also graduated. Which led to this conversation:

    Me: Really? Cool. We probably had some of the same teachers. I graduated in 1985.

    Topper: I was born in 1985.

    And that's when I punched Topper in the face. Which was awkward.

    (No, I didn't. Because he's 18 years younger than me and could probably kick my butt.)

  • The three of us headed over to the Star-Tribune booth to meet Howard Sinker who we knew was going to be there from 12:00 to 1:00. It was great talking about the offseason and the plans for the's new Twins page, which I'm very excited to see. I also met his fiance, who looks way too familiar, but I can't place.

  • Also at the Star-Tribune booth was Kirsten Brown of K-Bro's Baseball Blog and her mom. We had a nice conversation about having a Nick Punto Day, which is something in which I'm hoping every Twins blogger can participate. It was proposed by blogger Andrew Kneeland of Twins Target on Twitter a few days ago, and I fully support the idea. His followup email explains it well:

    Nick Punto could quite possibly be the most controversial figure on the Minnesota Twins. Some hate him, a few love him, and even more think he is a decent utility infielder.

    I thought it would be a good idea to hold a Nick Punto Day among Twins' bloggers. On Feb. 12 (two weeks from now) post your Nick Punto thoughts on your blog, and we will get a chance to see how this incredible blogging community feels about Nick Punto. (In the future we can hold these events for other players, but for now, the focus is on Little Nicky Punto!)

    Where do you stand? How do you view the player who Gardy seems to be obsessed with? What is the ideal position for Punto? Feel free to go any number of ways with this topic, but please keep the focus on Punto.

    I am going to LOVE seeing what the wide independent audience of Twins bloggers comes up with for this. Praise? Rants? Analysis? History? Whimsy? I can hardly wait.

    Which brings up another good question: how can we find all the entries? I think we need a central place where people who are creating Nick Punto entries can post links so we can all find them. Otherwise, this should be an opportunity for the less-known bloggers to show what they can do alongside some of the more read blogs, don't you think?

    So I'm open to ideas. Here's the thing: it can't involve me fielding a bunch of emails and posting a bunch of links. Is there a way an RSS feed could be setup that we could all post to and then include on our sidebars for one day? Or someone want to set up a site that we can all email links to? Post your ideas/thoughts in the comments section or email me.

  • Also at the Star-Tribune booth I spoke with Joe Christensen for several minutes about the offseason and internet publishing. He is a kind and very genuine guy.

  • And I finished off the time at Twinsfest by wolfing down some lunch while speaking with Fanatic Jack who is a lot less tense than you might expect from listening to his podcast. We had a pleasant debate about several of the Twins offseason moves and priorities over a Turkey sandwich.
And then I left before my car got a ticket. I'll mimic that now, bolting from this entry earlier than I'd like. I hope to be back tomorrow with some real news to talk about. Until then, plan your Nick Punto Day entry!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Twinsfest and Nick Punto Day!

I promised several tweet from Twinsfest - and then totally failed to make any. Sorry gang. The simple fact is that I was almost always with people at Twinsfest, and I haven't mastered the younger generation's skill of texting on my phone while not appearing (or at least feeling) rude. So instead, let's just have a bullet list entry with notes from Twinsfest.
  • I started with a highlight - a couple of hot dogs with sauerkraut and mustard. I swear to gawd, I would go to Twinsfest annually just to have a couple of hot dogs. Since it was Friday night, I washed it down with tap Summit and the whole kit-n-caboodle cost me just $7.50. Turns out that the hot dogs were 2-for-1 and tap Summit was $3.50 less than any bottled beer. It also turns out that caboodle is spelled with a "c" according to Who knew?

  • Before the event we went to Dan Kelly's for a beer and after it we went to Maxwell's. Those two are my two favorite pre/post game bars, and I'm wondering how soon I will find a regular place nearer Target Field.

  • We tried to win the free season tickets from the KSTP booth, but would have been more than satisfied with a free pint glass. We were shut out. I'm really disappointed with myself for not trying to negotiate the free pint glass. That's just bad driving.

  • Speaking of bad driving, we talked with the folks at the Target Field display about their food options. It started as a very pleasant conversation. I'm excited about the options there, and they were receptive to our lobbying for Surly to be included in the available beers. Of course, we also pointedly argued that they couldn't claim to have Minnesota food fare and not have anything with Spam.

    OK, we likely didn't help our credibility much with that last point.

    But the really disappointing part of that conversation was the revelation that the Murray's Steak Sandwiches that are going to be served at Target Field are not the same as the ones they currently serve in the bar at Murray's. They're coming up with something new, instead. In fact, they haven't even determined what it is going to be.

    (These sandwiches, as you know if you know me, are ambrosia. Char-grilled, oh-so-tender, pink-fibered ambrosia, cut into tiny chunks and covered with cheese and bacon. I would walk over hot coals for that thing. They only serve it at lunch and they only serve it in the bar. There. Now you have lunch plans today.)

    Worse, once they create this new...this new... I'm going to go with "monstrosity"..., they're going to replace the sandwich they currently have with it. It's the worst possible situation.

  • My pint glass remorse was lightened at the bargain merchandise table. I got a kinda neat orange Twins spring training hat for $2, and then we talked the guy down on a button-up Twins shirt for $10. The hat has quickly become on of my favorites. And though it's a good hat, I'll fully admit it's reached that status mostly because it was just $2. They didn't have pint glasses.

  • Please, gawd, don't let them shave the steak for those sandwiches. It HAS to be bite-sized chunks of beef. If they try to create a Philly Cheesesteak, which they will inevitably butcher, and ALSO screw up my steak sandwich, I'm going to be inconsolable.

  • I paid considerably more than $2 at our next stop, which was a booth where they were selling the coffee table book The Twins at the Met by Bob Showlers. I had a great talk with Bob about putting the book together, and it was probably the highlight of the night.

    The book started as a bunch of pictures from The Met of players, coaches, press - everyone. Then he interviewed players, showing them the pictures and letting them spit out their memories. Taking a look at it today I came across a great passage that I have to share. It's in a section about Billy Martin and the person remembering is Charley Walters, who you may know as a Pioneer Press columnist but who was also a pitcher for the Twins in 1969, the year Martin managed.

    "In 1969, we started the season 0-4. We're in Anaheim for a series against the Angels and I'm sound asleep in my hotel room when the phone rings at 3:30 am. It's Ted Uhlander, and he says "We've got an unbelievable party going on. You've got to come down to room 203." I could hear women and music and laughter in the background. I was 22 years old and single at the time, but there was no way I was going down to that party. It was the middle of the night, we've just lost our first four games and I wasn't going to do anything that might get me sent to the minors. I told Ted I wasn't coming down and he tells me to hang on because someone wants to talk to me. Another guy gets on the phone and says "Hey Big Shooter, this is Billy. You've got five minutes to get your ass down here. It was Billy Martin, our manager. I said, "I'll be right down."

    I'm excited about this book. I wish I would've had it earlier. By the way, if you want some more stories on Billy Martin and that 1969 season, be sure to pre-order the new Twins Annual by Maple Street Press which TwinsCentric put together (and I edited). It has a fantastic story by Jim Thielman about the 1969 Twins focusing on the Billy Martin-Dave Boswell fight. I can't think of a better thing to have handy when listening to those spring training games.

  • If you want to sell something from Murray's, how about the garlic toast they have in the bar? Offer me a sleeve of those things for $5 and the popcorn guy will go out of business.

  • I later had a talk with Nick Vetter, the owner of Low and Inside, a printing company which specializes in printing baseball merchandise and publishing. He shared that he has been going to the opening game of each brand new ballpark since sometime in the 90s. Needless to say he's pretty excited about being able to finally go to one for his hometown team. I love that idea.

  • It's hopeless, isn't it? It's going to go the way of my lamb sirloin with that tasty dipping sauce they had at Palomino in the 09's. I hate change.

  • And I finished Friday night with a long conversation with Minnesota Score magazine about publishing sports magazines, getting advertising and where one can distribute the issues. I stopped by their web site and found out that David Zingler, who used to write for MPR's baseball blog, is writing there, which is a nice surprise.
And that's it for Friday night. I'd like to tell you about Saturday which was probably a lot more relevant to a Twins blog, but I'm out of time for tonight. For that matter, it's also when we talked about Nick Punto Day, which is part of the title of this post, but still, it's going to have to wait. I'll check in tomorrow with the rest, and likely another half dozen Murray's steak sandwich rants.