Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What If The Twins Are Buyers?

Never fear. Trade talk is still here.

Three weeks ago, the Twins were destined to be sellers at the MLB trade deadline at the end of July. Speculation centered around which veterans were on the block because… well, what else were you going to talk about? The latest injury? How many guys were under .200? Whether Trevor Plouffe's next throw would make it into the second deck?

No more. If the Twins do nothing more than tread water for the next few weeks, they would still likely be buyers at the trade deadline. But that doesn't mean the idle speculation has to end. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Being a buyer is far juicier than being a seller.

With so many young players being given significant roles early this season, this team could suddenly have a lot of tradable chips IF they can ever get healthy.

Starting Pitchers
Every current member of the starting rotation is either under contract for next year or the Twins have a team option to bring him back. In reserve, they have Kevin Slowey and Anthony Swarzak. Plus, they have Kyle Gibson, a blue chip prospect, waiting for room in Rochester. Want to dream about a big acquisition? There's where you start.
Topic: Kyle Gibson for elite Royals closer Joakim Soria, who is under contract through 2014. Discuss.

Third Base
Another great place to start is where there are obvious position battles. Luke Hughes has been giving Danny Valencia a run for his money at third base, and it's really the only position they both fit well. Once Morneau returns, could Valencia be traded to a non-contender for a useful guy? Or could Hughes?
Topic: Blue Jays relievers Jason Fraser (who has a $4M team option next year) of Frank Francisco (who will be a free agent) for Valencia or Hughes. Does any combination of those guys make sense to you? Or what would you trade away for BOTH Frasor and Francisco?

Middle Infield
Or how about the middle infield? Both Casilla and Nishioka look like they can handle shortstop. Could Hughes or Plouffe or Tolbert handle second base for a half season for the right deal?
Topic: If JJ Hardy decides he would rather test the free agent waters than sign a long-term deal with the Orioles, would you trade Casilla for him? (And if not, why are we still kvetching about that trade?)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pavano vs The Thieving Giants

Despite giving up more baserunners than last year, Carl Pavano has been stingier with base-stealers. Last year, he gave up 31 stolen bases in 33 games, while he's given up just 10 in his fourteen starts.

That difference is due, in part, to a change the Twins made last year in response to teams running crazy against Pavano - Drew Butera became his personal catcher. That will undoubtedly NOT be the case tonight. with the Twins playing in a National League park, the only way Joe Mauer makes his way into the starting lineup is as the starting catcher.

So I'll be paying special attention to how Pavano and the Twins react to any Giants that make their way to first base. It could be that Pavano has made some adjustments to better hold runners. It could be that Mauer has recovered enough over the last couple of months to close the defensive gap between he and Butera. And it bodes well that the Giants don't have a single player in double-digits with steals.

You can bet the coaching staff and front office will be paying special attention to that, too. Injured players are getting healthier. One of the healthy players left with options is Butera. It would make that decision a lot easier if Pavano and Mauer can work together to control the opposition's running game.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cuddyer's Contract Push

Where does Cuddyer rank vs. other potential free agents?

The recent news that the Phillies approached the Twins about trading Michael Cuddyer made me wonder...where does Cuddyer rank with the upcoming free agent class of outfielders?

A: Right near the top.

I'm guessing the top guy is going to be Carlos Beltran. His injury history and age (34 years old) likely will mean clubs won't go Werth-crazy about him, but he he's a premier guy who seems to have bounced back.

But Cuddyer is currently in the next group, along with Jason Kubel. I'd add Cody Ross to that group too, and I find them mostly interchangable. A half-step below those guys but similar in age are Josh Willingham, Jonny Gomes and Ryan Ludwick. One could add Juan Rivera too.

JD Drew kind of belong in his own group. He's older than those guys (35) and not doing much this year, but I would think he would draw as much interest as Cuddy, Kubel and Ross.

Then we get to the older guys. Tops might be Johnny Damon, just because he can still play in the outfield. I'm not sure I can say the same thing about Bobby Abreu and Vladamir Guerrero, but they can still hit. I don't think any American League team will touch Pat Burrell with a 10-foot pole, but he'll be available. Raul Ibanez might be re-animated. I suspect Hideki Matsui will be back in Japan soon.

There are some intriguing bounceback guys, too. Carlos Guillen hasn't played yet this year. Magglio Ordonez essentially hasn't either. David DeJesus shouldn't be overlooked.

Still, that means today Cuddy finds himself in the top five of free agent MLB outfielders, and is blessed with being fairly young. That feels to me like a contract that is at least 3 years long, and approaching $9-$10M/year. And if the Twins balk at that price for him and Kubel, they'll be harder than we think to replace.