Monday, November 24, 2008

Odds, Ends (11.25.08)


  • I Love the '80s.  In efforts to - I don't know - honor the Metrodome the Twins have announced that all Saturday home games in 2009 the Twins will don retro jersey commemorating the initial season indoors.  For those that cannot recall the 1982 Dome break-in season, don't worry, you aren't missing much.  It was Billy Gardner's first season as the team's manager and his young squad (averaging just 25 years old) finished the 60-102 - a distant 33 games out of the American League West - and the .370 winning percentage easily the worst since the move from the Nation's capital.  Even with a new stadium centrally located in Downtown Minneapolis, impervious to the outdoor whether conditions, the team struggled to draw 1 million visitors and finished dead last in attendance in the AL.  The roster was constructed with promising yet unproven talent with the likes of Kent Hrbek (22), Tom Brunansky (21), Tim Laudner (24), Gary Geatti (23), Brad Havens (22) and Frank Viola (22).  Fans expected and received very little out of them.  Still, Hrbek and Geatti displayed power of much older men, slugging .485 and .443 respectively with a combined 48 home runs.  Hrbek would experience the first of two voter-inflicted injustices (the later coming in 1984 when he finished second for the AL MVP) being tagged as runner up for the Rookie of the Year while hitting .301/.363/.485 in 532 at-bats while playing for a 100+ loss team.  Instead, ballots would be casted for Cal Ripken Jr who would hit .264/.317/.475 in 598 at-bats though playing for a team with 94-wins.  The franchise would make several significant personnel moves as well.  In April, the Twins packaged 29-year-old Roy Smalley to the Yankees for closer Ron Davis, Paul Boris and future shortstop Greg Gagne.  A month later catcher Butch Wynegar was flipped to the Yankees along with Roger Erickson for John Pacella, Larry Milbourne, Pete Filson and cash.  Though none of the players gained from the Wynegar transaction amount to anything, moving the opening day catcher made room for minor league slugger Laudner.  On the same day, owner Calvin Griffith would ship pitcher Doug Corbett and second baseman Rob Wilfong to California for Brunansky and Mike Walters (along with $400K).  In three moves, the Twins had acquired three integral components of the 1987 World Champion team.  Maybe that is worth commemorating. 
  • More '82.  It should be noted that what burned the Twins the most during this era was their inability to draft successfully in the first round.  According to Kevin Kerrane's book, Dollar Sign on the Muscle, the Twins were one of the frugal organizations that had trimmed their scouting budget in order to partake in the socialized experiment, the Major League Scouting Bureau.  This resulted in uninspired first round draft picks:  Paul Croft (1977 - 15th overall), Lenny Faedo (1978 - 16th), Kevin Brandt (1979 - 11th), Jeff Reed (1980 - 12th), and Mike Sodders (1981 - 11th).  Among the first rounders from '77 to '81, only Faedo and Reed would see the Majors.  In 1982, the team continued this trend.  On the board was the highly touted Tampa high school phenom Dwight Gooden.  All reports indicated that Gooden was going to demand a high bonus so it was evident the Twins were going to passed too. The Twins selected Bryan Oelkers, a left-handed pitcher whose claim to fame is being the first player born in Spain break into the Major Leagues, only threw 34 innings for the team.  With a Gooden/Viola tandem the Twins would have had the potential of being a dynasty from 1984 through 1991. 
  • Twins Aren't Type A Personalities.  Joe Christensen at the Strib reports that the Twins will most likely take a pass on the Type A free agents as to not jeopardize a first-round draft pick in 2009.  This is a fairly evident critic of the organization.  In obtaining a Type A free agent, you are not only committing a large sum of money but you are also losing a draft pick on the opposite end of the pipeline.  Christensen says the Twins have looked at a few Type A relievers, notably Juan Cruz, a hard-throwing relief pitcher for the Diamondbacks, and have stated they have a "Never say never" mentality about it.  The rub is that in the past several offseasons, it has been the Type A reliever that has been the biggest free agent landmine.  For instance:
      • Type A Relief Free Agents in 2006:
        • Denys Baez's A designation came from 112 innings with the Devils Rays, Dodgers and Braves where he accumulated a 90/47 K/BB and a 4.98 RA.  Signed by the Orioles for 3-years and $19 M, Baez did not throw a pitch in 2008 and has contributed only 50.3 innings with a 29/29 K/BB and a 6.44 RA since signing the massive contract.  
        • Roberto Hernandez parleyed a 2005/2006 seasons in which he threw 133.4 innings with a 109/60 K/BB ratio and a good 3.50 RA.  The Indians, desperate for bullpen help, extended him a 1-year, $3.5 M contract that Hernandez threw just 26 innings with a 7.26 RA before the Tribe released him in June. 
        • The 32-year-old Justin Speier had compiled two back-to-back seasons in Toronto where he averaged a 2.89 RA in his 118 innings.  The Angels signed Speier to a four-year, $18 M deal that offseason.  Though his 2007 performance was consistent with his previous seasons, his 34-year-old season swung the opposite way.  Speier surrendered 41 runs in 68 innings of work inflating his Runs Allowed to 4.42 - almost double than was the Angels were paying for.   
      • Type A Relief Free Agents in 2007:
        • Brewers closer Francisco Cordero had two impressive seasons in 2006 and 2007 throwing 138.3 innings with a 170/40 K/BB ratio and a suppressed 3.57 RA.  Cincinnati, in dire need of everything, inked Cordero to a four-year, $46 M contract.  His first season with the Reds was a dominate as ever - almost emulating his previous to with a 3.58 RA in 70.3 innings.  However, at 34 in 2009, Cordero is owed $36 million between now and 2011 as his performance is sure to decline as well
        • At age 29 and 30 Scott Linebrink was dominate left-hander for the Padres and then the Brewers.  He was averaging 3.88 RA and posted a 118/47 K/BB ratio in 146 innings between 2006 and 2007.  In need of bullpen help, the White Sox gave Linebrink $19 M over four-years.  Linebrink's arm broke down and he spent time on the DL, throwing only 46.3 innings in 2008 with his standard 3.88 RA. 
      • Not only does the signing of these player come at the substantial investment to the overall budget and the added shot of losing a high draft pick, but most of the time they are quick to decline.  Though Juan Cruz's power numbers are impressive (33% K% versus 477 batters), he will be seeking a multi-year contract presumed to be worth $4 million a season and is just entering his 30s in 2009.  All this combine indicates that Cruz will command a healthy raise.  On one hand, the Twins have some room to maneuver after decreasing their budget in 2008 but on the other, they are an organization that does not like to be shackled to large contracts.  His previous two seasons merit his Type A status: In 112.7 innings, Cruz had a 158/63 K/BB ratio and a 3.59 RA.  More consistent with the Twins' philosophy is the Diamondbacks closer, free agent Brandon Lyon. In the past two seasons, the 28 year old Lyon has thrown 133.3 innings and possesses a 84/35 K/BB ratio.  Like Cruz, Lyon also has a Run Allowed Average below 4.00 (3.98).  Lyon suffered from an inordinate amount of balls finding gaps (a .355 BABIP) making his numbers slightly worse than they.  After making less than $4 million in 2008, Lyon would be more prone to signing a short-term deal (3 years or less) for a better price.
  • Indian Pirates.  According to the Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed the pair of Indian pitchers I wrote about last week. The Pirates have had troubles in recent years, not having won 70-games since 2004 and have not had a winning season since 1992.  What's more is that the team has had troubles building a solid pitching staff internally - anyone who showed the slightest bit of promise was accelerated to the majors.  When Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny didn't respond to the rapid development, the Pirates were relegated to trade fixtures Jason Bay and Xavier Nady for more pitching prospects since the minors was void of anyone.  It is obvious that Patel and Singh won't contribute for years to come so the signing represents a shift in front office philosophy - one that does not make a ton of sense.  Here is an organization that cannot properly prepare pitchers that have had years of teaching a various levels from high school and college for the Majors and now they expect to groom two that have zero?  How can you expect to invest in attempting to development two raw players?  As noted, these two are 20 years old that have not yet pitched an inning of organized baseball (some JuCo scrimmages though).  This late start puts them well behind the development curve.  Nevertheless, Pirates GM, Neal Huntington, remains optimistic.  "The Pirates are committed to creatively adding talent to our organization," Huntington said. "By adding these two young men, the Pirates are pleased to not only add two prospects to our system but also hope to open a pathway to an untapped market. We are intrigued by Patel's arm strength and Singh's frame and potential."
  • San Francisco Geriatrics.  The best thing that might happen to the Detroit Tigers this offseason is that the San Francisco Giants do indeed sign Edgar Renteria away from Motown.  Rumored by WFAN-AM to have a deal in place with the Bay Area team, the Tigers would get two compensatory draft picks as Renteria received Type A status.  In a season in which he hit .270/.317/.382, Renteria did nothing to persuade analysts that he is unable to hit in the American League.  After a brutal offensive season with the Red Sox in 2005, Renteria slinked back to the National League where he began hitting again.  Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski shipped pitcher Jair Jurrjens and Gorky Hernandez to the Atlanta Braves for the 33 year old shortstop with a shakey track record in the AL.  As the Tigers pitching staff disintergrated during the 2008 season, the Braves extracted 188 innings with a 139/70 K/BB and a 13-10 record.  The Giants, meanwhile, are looking to replace their 41-year-old shortstop Omar Vizquel.  Since the Tigers declined Renteria's 2009 option (at $12 million), the estimated signing price is around $9 million for his services.  Even if Renteria contributes enough to reach 8 win share above bench (as he did in 2007), the Giants would be paying $1.125 million per added victory.  At 34-years-old Renteria would be a free agent landmine - even if he is able to resurrect his 2007 output.  To replace Renteria, the Tigers are attempting to strike a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates for defensive extraordinaire, Jack Wilson. 

  • Non-Baseball.  A man tries to use a drawing of a spider as legal tender. Hilarity ensues.