Sunday, March 20, 2011

Prepaid Price

Minnesota Twins announce RHP-Pat Neshek was placed on irrevocable waivers and claimed by the San Diego Padres.

Let's start with the big picture.

The Twins biggest concern this year is their bullpen. This was the case entering spring training and spring training has done little to alleviate that concern. While roster battles are being waged, and the Twins may be able to identify seven guys to take north, certainly no shut-down option has emerged.

And yesterday, the Twins lost Pat Neshek for nothing. Supporters will point out at Neshek hasn't been a shut-down option for three years. The truth is sadder than that. Neshek hadn't shown enough this spring to Twins brass to even be one of the seven guys to come north. So what is the harm in this move?

The harm is that Neshek isn't unique in his status. There are a lot of relievers in the Twins systems who aren't going to make the Opening Day roster, and the Twins didnt waive any of them. What's more, Neshek, unlike some other relievers, had "an option" left, meaning he could be sent to Rochester this year and recalled later in the year. So why give up an organizational asset (in an area where we KNOW there are so many question marks) for nothing? What was gained?

The glib answer is "40-man roster flexibility," which sounds great until you start to unpack it a bit. Yes, the Twins gained a spot on the 40-man roster - but Bill Smith admitted yesterday they don't know if they'll need it in two weeks or six months. What's more, that kind of move can be made at any time - like when a team actually NEEDS the spot. There isn't any advantage to having it early.

Its also been suggested that the Twins did this as a favor to Neshek. Sorry, no. If Neshek or the Twins or Neshek's agent found a team that wanted Neshek, and the Twins wanted to do him a favor, a trade for a player to be named later or cash would have been worked out. Leaving is to the whims of the waiver wire process isn't doing anyone a favor.

No, this move fits a different modus operandi of major league teams. Teams make moves like this earlier in spring training because they think it is less likely a player will be claimed now. Most teams are struggling with 25 and 40 man roster decisions at this time. The Twins gambled.

It almost paid off. If my understanding of the waiver claim order is correct, Neshek made it through 25 of 29 teams before he was claimed. But he WAS claimed. The Twins lost that bet.

Presumably, they made it because they anticipate needing that spot. Is that because they foresee adding Kyle Waldrop? Is a trade in the works? Do they expect another team to run out of room as Opening Day approaches?

I expect we'll find out sooner, rather than later. But we shouldn't pretend that future opportunity didn't come at a prepaid price.