Sunday, November 21, 2010

OtB Twins Notes

The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers wonders aloud if the Twins might be willing to swing a trade with the Boston Red Sox. It is no secret that the Sox are shopping shortstop Marco Scutaro, and Rogers speculates that it might take just a bullpen arm to land him.
Stepping back for a second, I’m not sure what “bullpen arm” Rogers believes it will take to get Scutaro. Right now, the Twins do not have three of their main arms under contract including Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain. If the Sox were that interested, they’d just sign them. As far as Scutaro goes, the Sox overpaid for Scutaro’s beefed up numbers in 2009 when he hit .282/.379/.409 while scoring 100 runs and playing serviceable defense at short. Signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, Scutaro had a rough first season in Fenway. In addition to a reduction in his offensive-output – at a right-handed friendly home ballpark no less – Scutaro didn’t wow anyone with his defense as fans gave him very poor marks on the Fans Scouting Report. Predictably, dishing out deals to 33-year-olds who produce career-highs is often ill-advised. Trading for them would be an even bigger gaff.
In a conversation with Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson, St Paul Pioneer Press’s Charley Walters notes if the Twins do not bring back free agent Carl Pavano (who has strong interest from the Nationals and the Brewers), Anderson said his rotation “appears” to be Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey.
“Appears” is the operative word here. While moving forward with this group wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world however given the interest in Japan’s Hisashi Iwakuma and possibly Brandon Webb, the Twins do not emit the appearance of a team set with their rotation. The current crop of free agent arms is not highly thought of. If you are not landing Cliff Lee, you are relegated to either overpaying on potential (Jorge De La Rosa) or gambling on reclamation projects (Webb, Chris Young, Jeff Francis). In speaking about his option to finding another starting pitcher to replace Webb, Arizona GM Kevin Towers recently commented: “The starting pitching market is fairly weak this year. To me it's minor league free agents, trades. You're more apt to find that guy via trade vs. getting major league free agents." The Twins may just be following this philosophy as well having seemingly avoided the major league free agent market – targeting Iwakuma while signing the likes of minor league arm Eric Hacker, who the Twins considered the best six-year minor league free agent available.
MLBFanhouse’s Jeff Fletcher tweeted from the GM Winter Meetings that Jim Thome had not given any indication to the Twins’ Bill Smith if he was interested in playing again next year.
Back in the beginning of November, Smith told Reusse & Mackey that he was very interested in bringing Thome back. Of course, Thome’s response at the conclusion of the Twins’ 2010 post-season run was that he was going to spend some time with his family before making a decision. With the 600 home run mark in sight, all but solidifying his Hall of Fame candidacy, Thome’s return is probably assured.
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says it now appears unlikely that the A’s and Hisashi Iwakuma will come to terms within their 30-day negotiating period as Iwakuma has been requesting “Barry Zito type deal” (7-years, $126 million).
Two weeks ago, it was announced that the Twins had submitted a bid on the 29-year-old Hisashi Iwakuma but were ultimately trumped by the Oakland Athletics who paid roughly $15-16 million for just the negotiating rights. It looks as if that even had the Twins outbid the A’s, they would have little hope of signing him. For a ballclub like Oakland whose payroll was $32.1 million in 2010 and practices fiscal restraint like a religion, there seems to be little chance that Iwakuma lands in Oakland. The good news for the A’s is that they will be reimbursed their posting fee.
The Baltimore Orioles have contacted the Twins in regards to J.J. Hardy reports the Baltimore Sun’s Jeff Zrebiec.
There is no update as to how far the talks extended, just that Zrebiec noted that the Orioles did not know what the Twins wanted in return. The Twins sentiment on Hardy is anything but confidence inspiring for the 28-year-old shortstop as front office personnel and management have hid their intentions with a thinly-veiled euphemism of “looking to get faster” or “injecting speed”. According to 1500ESPN’s Phil Mackey, Ron Gardenhire said on Reusse & Mackey that “We like Hardy a lot. He's a great guy, great teammate, and we believe when he's healthy he's solid at shortstop. But when you start looking at speed and everything, and other options, that's one of the areas we're going to look at options at and see if we can find more speed -- a little more versatility out there.” How’s that for writing on the wall? Because of the uncertainty of the bullpen, the Sun’s Dan Connolly thinks that the Twins could target David Hernandez. The 25-year-old Hernandez throws 93.6-mph with a supurb curve and eventually could become a team’s closer. He is, however, erratic (42 walks in 79.1 innings in ’10) and hittable (72 hits allowed). If the team is really set on moving on without Hardy, trading him would be a much better option versus non-tendering him by the December 2 deadline.
Amongst their cavalcade of minor league signings last week, Joe Christensen tweeted that the team has re-sign first baseman Justin Huber, who was with the organization in 2009.
While spending most of the season in Rochester, Huber provided a dash of shock and awe, batting .273/.356/.482 with 22 home runs in 506 plate appearances. After a one-game cameo with the Twins, the right-handed hitting former Baseball America Top 100 Prospects of ’03 and ’06 signed with the Hiroshima Carp – where he did not fare well at all. According to, Huber’s failed to provide the team the power they anticipated, hitting .220/.340/.378 with 7 home runs in 209 plate appearances. Currently playing for the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League, Huber hasn’t demonstrated much in his native country – going 2-for-29 (.152) in his first eight games. With the release of Brock Peterson, Huber is likely Peterson’s replacement for the Red Wings but with his history of handling left-handed pitching well, Huber is potentially a call-up candidate if he can put up some solid numbers in the spring.