Thursday, November 29, 2007

Off to Vegas

I have a marathon to run this Sunday, and then I am testing my poker skills at the MGM Grand through Thursday this week. Thus far my tournament finishes (with # of participants) are 3rd (60), 3rd (70), 75th (150), 17th (150). Unfortunately, the money I won in the first two tourneys only paid for my participation in the 3rd and 4th.

This means I will not be blogging for a while, but I will try to address the Johan Santana deal that is sure to happen as soon as I can. Let's hope the Twins can pull the equivalent of Kemp, LaRoche, Billingsley or Ellsbury, Buchholz, Lowrie. Have a great week!

Twins trade Garza for Delmon Young

Twins receive: Delmon Young (rh), Brendan Harris (rh), Jason Pridie (lh)
Rays receive: Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett, Eduardo Morlan (rhp)

Overall this trade does not have me doing cartwheels. I still have no idea how GM Billy Smith goes from giving up inneffectual Juan Rincon to giving up top prospect Eduardo Morlan. That was the last piece to the trade, and it was a blunder by Smith. I will not analyze the trade other than to say I agree with everything Aaron Gleeman writes on the subject.

One thing I will add is that by replacing Rincon with Morlan, the Twins acquired an extra player (in Pridie) who needs to be protected on their 40-man roster. While that may seem harmless enough, there are only so many spots the Twins have available. Morlan is not just a great prospect, but he is a year away from having to be protected. So in essence, the last part of the deal to be completed cost the Twins this:

1) a top five system prospect
2) a player to be determined who will be exposed to the Rule V draft
3) $2.5 million projected difference between Rincon's salary and his replacement's salary.
4) a couple of games in 2008, if Rincon is pitching.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Santana should bring a lot in trade...sorry Joe

In today's Minneapolis Star Tribune Joe Christensen write that Johan Santana's value is not nearly what the Minnesota public perceives it to be:
In any Santana trade, the Twins might want an established star, such as Robinson Cano or Jose Reyes, along with multiple prospects. But that is a pipe dream.

Christensen blogged today that he's been getting nasty emails and such from people disagreeing with him. He defends his column by noting that he's repeating what some major league execs have said: that Santana's pending free agency after 2008 places him in less demand because the team acquiring Santana could lose him after a year. Christensen goes on to say that other pitchers who've been mentioned as available, especially 2007 breakouts Eric Bedard of Baltimore and Dan Haren of Oakland, are not pending free agents and would therefore be more attractive to teams willing to give up prospects for a top pitcher.

The logic is flawed, though Haren/Bedard make it less so. In an attempt to dismiss Haren/Bedard, let me just say that neither has nearly the track record of Santana, nor has either proven to be over the injury nexus that all pitchers must endure. Bedard was shut down this past year, albeit with an oblique injury, and Haren tired considerably in 2007. Santana is through the injury nexus and has proven he can put up amazing numbers all season for five consecutive seasons. They are different products.

As far as the haul made by the Twins and how it's affected by pending free agency, the point is that the Twins are not trading a 2008 FA to be. They are trading a pitcher who will have agreed to a contract extension, and the money, at least for the teams in the hunt, is not all that out of whack for the product.

If the Twins can't make a haul, then there is no reason to trade him. What is wrong with giving Santana the money he's asking for? If the Twins can extend him four years at $20 million per, then they can extend him for six, where that money is even less at the end of the contract (inflation). Who's to say the Twins can't work out a deal that gets rid of the strictest "no-trade" clauses?

Seriously, what risk do the Twins have by adding six years, $126 million without the strict no-trade clause (perhaps have a salary enhancer if dealt)? The risk is an injury risk, and Santana really is past that point, unlike where Joe Mays was when the Twins gave him "big" money.
I see no reason the Twins shouldn't get whatever they ask for.

Oh, and Joe C. keeps mentioning Robinson Cano as a star the Twins might get in trade. He looks good for the Yankees, but anybody who's watch Cano knows that he's a guess hitter who can only hit straight fastballs, unless of course he guesses right. He's hardly a star. Put him in the Twins lineup not surrounded by stars up and down, and you have a different hitter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Friday

Go shopping, eat leftovers. Seriously, it's Black Friday.

  • Tom Powers, columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is an idiot. Speaking about Torii Hunter leaving the Twins, Powers states
    For the first time, the organization lost a player it didn't want to lose. For the first time, it couldn't come up with a way to keep a key component...(the Twins) clearly wanted to keep Hunter. If they didn't, they wouldn't have offered him $45 million toward the end of last season.
    The Twins did not want Hunter. In fact, they only needed him for another season or two.
    If the Twins really wanted Torii Hunter they would have offered him five years. They offered the right amount of money per season, and offering it for two more seasons would actually have been cheaper, given inflation and accounting for the extra revenue they'll have then. Their three-year offer they knew had no chance of being accepted. And given that, no, Tom, they didn't want Hunter.
  • Congratulations to Tubby Smith on a very nice initial recruiting class. ranks incoming freshmen Ralph Sampson #74, Devoe Joseph #82, and Colton Iverson #136. Junior-to-be Devron Bostic is rated the #4 Juco player, while Paul Carter is not rated due to his current freshman status. The class is by no means a top ten class but could rank in the top 25 when all is said and done. Tubby got off to a late start for the 2008 class, but he quickly made the state of Minnesota notice that big-time college basketball is on its way back to Williams Arena and that the Monson era is so, so over.
  • Remember Nate Garth, Tubby's first commitment? I will admit to watching video on the kid after he committed, and it was so obvious that he would be overmatched at point guard in the Big 10, I prepared myself to wait until 2009 for the first quality Gopher recruits. Tubby must have also noticed, because Garth's offer was quickly yanked.
  • The Gopher football recruiting has gone extremely well so far. Currently Rivals ranks Minnesota as having the #27 class, right between Penn St. at 26 and Wisconsin at 28. While the Gophers are unlikely to catch Penn St., they are also unlikely to fall behind Wisconsin, giving Minnesota the 5th best class in the Big 10 after Ohio St. (9), Michigan (12), Illinois (17) and Penn St. Wisconsin has only one more scholarship to offer, while the Gophers have five left. Rivals uses the highest rated 22 recruits to determine class rankings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hunter Signs with Angels

I'm heartbroken.

Well, not really. To me good business sense dictated that Torii Hunter would be elsewhere in 2008. Hunter's age, decreasing fielding abilities, and general quality of hitting make any deal over two years a bad one. That the Twins offered three year is a testament to Hunter's popularity and their gratitude for all his service. Three years would mean Hunter would be the new stadium's first centerfielder.

While Hunter no longer plays an elite CF, he is adequate there and would figure to remain so for the five years the Angels gave him. And therefore his offensive numbers should be held in a CF context. Offensively, for his first seven seasons, Hunter's avg/obp/slg was .267/.321/.458. The slugging number is good for CF, the on-base percentage is bad. Those seven years were highlighted by a .289/.334/.524 in 2002, which, not so coincidentally as it turns out, was the first year his offensive numbers would help determine his salary for the following year. The Twins signed Hunter to a 4 year, $32 million contract, with an option for a fifth year.

Therefore the 2003-05 season would provide Hunter with all sorts of comforts that kind of money could bring, and it would also provide an apparent lack of urgency to learn to hit the breaking balls. Hunter's numbers fell to .262/.325/.460 during the 2003-05 period. With the contract ending after 2006, Hunter bounced back that season to .278/.336/.490, and the Twins picked up his $12 million option. Had the Twins decided not to pay Hunter, he would surely then have been a free agent, and his strong 2006 season would have provided a big payday.

As it was, 2007 was again a year for the free agent salary drive, and Hunter did not disappoint at .287/.334/.505. All told, Hunter's salary drive seasons (2002, 2006, 2007) yielded .285/.335/.506, and his non-salary drive seasons yielded .263/.318/.445.

Does anyone looking at these numbers really think the Twins should have ponied up $75 million for five years? Is this going to be worth $90 million over those five years for the Angels? Since the Angels already had Gary Matthews, Jr playing a fine CF, they need to look at Hunter's numbers as if they were acquiring a LF (regardless of the fact that Hunter will play CF). The average league LF hits .274/.345/.448. If the Angels are able to deal Matthews, then Hunter's offensive numbers should be compared to the average CF: .268/.332/.418/

Hunter therefore is worse in non-salary drive seasons than the average left field the Angels could have plucked for one year, $5 million. If Matthews is dealt, they paid $90 million for an average CF. Anyway you slice it, the Angels made horrendous move, at least until that salary-driven 2012 season gets here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another look at the Castillo trade

The Twins traded pending free agent Luis Castillo to the Mets in late July for uninspiring OF prospect Dustin Martin and organization-filling C Drew Butera. At the time the trade drew criticism from both the clubhouse and from Twins fans hoping to exchange the 2Bman for a true prospect.

Martin was a 23 yr old batting 287/358/421 for the Mets High A farm team, while Butera (who turned 24 days after the deal) after a recent promotion was batting 188/208/231 in 117 AA at-bats. Both players were old for High A in 2007, and neither was consider a top Mets prospect.

The alternative, of course, was to keep Castillo with the hope he could lead the Twins to the playoffs and garner the team both a first round and a supplemental pick as a Type A free agent. But the Twins correctly assessed that Castillo would not be enough to help the Twins reach the playoffs, and they further determined that the loss of Castillo would only yield the one supplemental pick that comes with being a Type B free agent.

So what was the trade worth to the Twins compared to what they would have received in compensation?

First of all, it should be noted that Terry Ryan saved nearly $2 MM by dealing Castillo. One way or another that savings will allow the Twins a 2008 budget 2MM higher than it would have been. Carl Pohlad, miser that he may be, most likely would have taken the money off the 2008 budget if Ryan had not basically cured the 2007 overage by dealing Castillo (and dumping Jeff Cirillo).

The acquisition of Martin provided the Twins with a CF prospect at the high A level behind CFers Denard Span (AAA) and Brandon Roberts (AA), neither of whom has yet shown the promise necessary to reasonably replace Hunter. It should be noted that a prospect on the fast track will generally need less than two years from High A to reach his first cup of major league coffee. Whether or not Martin can be that fast tracker is under debate, although he batted 290/361/426 in a pitcher's league (including 4 GCL ABs). These would be very good numbers for an age-appropriate CF in the Florida State League. As it is, the numbers are okay but nothing to get hopeful about.

Butera was an FSL all-star in 2007 before his promotion, yet again his High A numbers 258/348/418 look worse when one considers his age. The Twins needed a AA catcher, and Butera filled that role nicely. While he might someday make it to the bigs, Butera's ceiling is that of a defensive back-up. Martin is the player the Twins actually have some real hope for. He was drafted as a 22 yr old college senior, and his minor league experience has been one of success against younger competiton.

The cost of acquiring the two prospects was $0, outside of negligible minor league player salaries, and the Twins have at least two organization fillers and possibly helpful position players down the road.

Compare that to the alternative of having kept Castillo. Besides the almost $2MM it would have cost the Twins, they would also have had to sign the player drafted with the supplemental pick they would have received as compensation. The Twins will lose Torii Hunter and receive a pick from the team signing him and a supplemental pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. Supplemental picks are ordered such that the teams drafting in the supp rd will draft in reverse order. The Twins finshish with the 14th worst record in the majors last year, and they have the 8th worst record among team losing Type A or B free agents. So losing Hunter might yield the 38th pick in the draft (along with a first or second round pick from the signing team).

The rule on supplemental draft pick order is one of reverse order, but a team may not draft their second supplement pick until all teams drafting in the supplement round have drafted in that round. There are twenty teams that will lose Type A or B free agents, but some will not select in the supp round due to not offering arbitration to their FA. Teams ahead of the Twins in the round might also have just that one pick. A conservative estimate is that the Twins will select 37th (for Hunter) and maybe 50th for Castillo. The 50th player received a bonus of $620,000 in 2007. So the trade of Castillo saved the Twins approximately $2.5 million and gave them one decent prospect and one organizational filler. Not bad.

One thought looms, however. That 50th player is likely pretty good, and you might liken it to previous 50th (or so) picks. The Royals selected Jeff Bianchi there in 2005 and thought they had a steal. The jury's out still. Outstanding prospects Reid Brignac, Yovani Gallardo, B.J Szymanski, and Brian Bixler were taken between 45-52 in 2004, while top Twins prospect Anthony Swarzak went at 61.

A better indicator might be whom the Twins chose in the 2nd round from 2001-2005, when their picks were somewhat close to #50. A quick look back shows the Twins taking Scott Tyler at #45 in 2001. Tyler, ironically, was traded to the Marlins for Castillo after the 2005 season. Jesse Crain (2002, 61), Scott Baker (2003, 58), Swarzak (2004, 61), and the nice prospect Paul Kelly (2005, 54) show that, at least with the Twins drafting, the 50th pick is a very good player or prospect.

The draft changed in 2006 as the supplemental round grew and the Twins had no supplemental picks. Joe Benson was drafted at 64 that year. For 2007 the Twins drafted Ben Revere at 28 and Danny Rams at 92. Needless to say, these recent draftees need to show more for us to determine their value.

I think what this analysis boils down to is that the Twins saved $2.5 million and received a decent prospect package by dealing Castillo, whereas they would have lost the money and drafted a very good prospect had they held onto him. Given the inherent risk associated with draft picks (although the Twins haven't yet missed), it appears Terry Ryan and the Twins took the safe route.

Somewhere that $2.5 million will come into play, and if you read Aaron Gleeman today, you will see that it might be used to pay newly acquired Craig Monroe (and read the comments to find out how Monroe might take a pay cut to this number).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Twins trade PTBNL for Craig Monroe

The Twins acquired arbitration-eligible LF Craig Monroe from the Cubs today for a player to be named. Monroes stats over the last three years (avg, obp, slug):

vs left: 281/332/481
vs right: 244/289/425

Monroe is what my friend Bobby O. calls an anti-Twin, right up there with Jim Gantner in the legends of Twin-killers. Monroe batted only .219 in 2007, and his plate discipline is modest, but as long as he's hit well against the Twins, that's all we need to know.

Actually, the PTBNL is likely nothing, and this move doesn't as of yet cost the Twins anything. In fact there are reasons to like this addition:

1. The Cubs would have dumped Monroe.

2. The Twins would have had to compete with some other clubs to sign him.

3. Therefore, the PTBNL isn't anybody of consequence...likely just some organizational filler. Consider that it might be a player the equivalent of the Twins 80th best prospect. The Twins have traded a PTBNL before (think Bret Boone) that turned out to be cash instead, and they've received them before (think Bobby Kielty) that turned out to be Dave Gassner.

4. The Twins *do not* have to offer Monroe arbitration.

5. The Twins have a month or whatever to ask Monroe's agent what he expects to get this coming year if he's a free agent and convince him that a 1 yr, 3.5 million contract with a team option at $5 million ($0.5-$1 mil buyout) for 2009 is the safe route.

6. If they can't come to an agreement, then they non-tender him, losing nothing (usually, the PTBNL is determined by some result down the road).

Negatively, the Twins aren't in much of a position to add a 4th OFer at 3-5 million, so you can expect Monroe to play far more than he should. Platooning with Kubel some and getting a few DH ABs is great, but the extra ABs he gets after that will hurt the Twins (though not RonDL-like).

Overall, given that it's the Twins making this move (i.e., they won't pay him to get 200 PAs), this is not a good addition for a club lean on finances that wants to compete in 2008. On the bright side, Monroe at his worst is *still* better than Lew Ford and Rondell White.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Random Friday

Today some musings:

  • This morning Jim Souhan said a whole lot of nothing about the U of M's new coach Tubby Smith but made some time for digs at football coach Tim Brewster, saying:
    His supporters believe Brewster will become the next rebuilding wizard to alter the college football landscape, but to date he has proven only that he's not ready to coach in the Big Ten.
Not only to does Souhan fail to offer some of that proof, he fails to provide even one example of poor coaching. Heck, even Mack Brown at Texas and Coach K at Duke make mistakes (don't they?), so it shouldn't be that difficult to come up with something to support that statement.
  • Joe Christensen reports on the Johan Santana trade talks, and comes up with this interesting bit:
    Specifically, the Yankees plan on making a strong push if the two-time Cy Young Award winner becomes available. They appeared to be holding back their top prospects in the (Miguel) Cabrera discussions to make a run at Santana.
Forgetting about what the Twins might do with or get for Santana, how messed up is baseball that one team can go after and probably get the very best pitcher and one of the top three hitters, and then pay them in perpetuity? Ok, ok, the Yankees appear to be replacing Arod with Cabrera in this scenario. Still, the gall and balls of it all.
  • Over at Gopher Illustrated, the suggestion was made that Tubby Smith should start Lawrence Westbrook with senior Lawrence McKenzie and frosh Al Nolen. My goodness, what a D II world we live in still around these parts. The previously scatterbrained/scattergunning Westbrook apparently looked good at Minnesota State Southwest St. (is that really the name now?) on Wednesday. Gopher fans expectations are such now that a victory over a small division school is the basis of joy and conclusions on what the coach should do. Is it January 5 that the Gophers open the season at Michigan St.? Now there's your reality.
  • Tomorrow I run twenty miles with my running partner Meantforme. While she tends to motor through this kind of torture, I rarely feel good running that kind of distance. The next marathon is a mere few weeks away, and I'm nowhere near ready for it. Surviving 20 is my only goal right now and, truly, to do that I have to eat right, hydrate right, sleep right. There really is nothing worse than giving up your Friday happy hours. I used to live for those damn things.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Shut up and sign Santana

Count me as one who thinks trading Johan Santana unnecessary. He's the best pitcher in baseball, he'll continue to be worth a lot for a while, and trading quality for quantity is rarely a good idea.

The Twins can make two moves that can make quite a difference. They can sign Santana asap, as harsh as the money is going to be. Then they can take one or more of their pitchers not named Santana/Liriano/Garza/Baker and get a young, promising 3B.

From there they can use Hunter's 2008 money (12-15 mil) to acquire stopgaps in CF and at DH and pay raises to Morneau and Kubel and Cuddyer. Santana starts getting his 20+ mil in 2009 and is always tradeable, really, regardless of no-trade clauses.

For 2008 this isn't perfect, but I think the Twins don't really contend anyway. Liriano is a question mark coming off TJ surgery, and the young pitching needs the extra extra experience 2008 will bring. For 2009 they should have three staff aces in Santana/Liriano/Garza, Baker, Slowey, Perkins, Bonser, Duensing, maybe Blackburn et al, minus who they gave up for the 3B. That gives the team a year to consolidate and more efficiently determine their in-house position player options.

Trying to get it right

The first of perhaps many tests as I try to create my blog on a new site. Bear with me! I'll be posting some sports-related content that may seem incomplete or simply be a copy of comments I've made on other blogs or boards.