Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monroe, Tyner, and all things Santana

Yesterday the Minnesota Twins apparently completed their recent mission of solidifying the corner OF/DH block of their lineup with the signing of OF Craig Monroe to a one-year, $3.82 million contract. The price was the minimum the Twins could offer the former anti-Twin, and about $1-2 million more than Monroe would have made on the open market had the Twins non-tendered him today.

Chances are negotiations went something like this for Bill Smith:

Twins: We'd like to have you for 2008 at half your 2007 salary.
CM: I made $4.8 in 2007, you have to offer $3.82.
Twins: True, but if we don't, how much do you think a team will give you?
CM: We'll find out, but since I have no ties whatsoever to the Twins, I doubt that I'll end up with you.
Twins: (Blink)

It's the second time in weeks that Smith has blinked and been bluffed into giving up a lot more than he planned to. Tampa Bay hooked the new GM with Delmon Young and by the end of the negotiations not only got Smith to remove the erratic and expensive Juan Rincon from the equation, but convinced our young pup to give up a top five Twins prospect in Eduardo Morlan.

So now the Twins pay too much for a limited Monroe. Fortunately, Monroe has an upside, and that is his reasonable success against left handed pitchers. His downside, of course, is his horridness against righties. Other than the price, this would seem a perfect move for the Twins. Young and Michael Cuddyer will play full-time, and Jason Kubel should only play against righthanders, leaving Monroe to pick up Kubel's ABs against lefties.

Unfortunately, the Twins have shown themselves under Ron Gardenhire to not fully understand their players' limitations, and to play players in situations with higher risk of failure. Whereas 200-250 (expensive) Monroe ABs against mostly lefty pitching would optimize the Twins hitting and run production, Smith gives Gardy the go-ahead to continue to sabotage the offense by saying:
“We wouldn’t have signed Craig Monroe if we didn’t think he would get enough at-bats,” Smith said.
And so it goes.

--News is leaking out that the Twins are non-tendering Jason Tyner. It's understandable, but it's hard to know how to feel about this. As a starting corner OF or especially a DH, Tyner can't come close to providing the necessary offense. As a fifth OF sort who can run, steal, play all three positions, and get a timely basehit against a righthander, Tyner has some value. It will be interesting to see if the Twins re-sign Tyner, perhaps to a minor league contract.

--Rumors are the Twins are getting closer to a Johan Santana deal with the Red Sox, particularly a deal including Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Justin Masterson, and another prospect. While this is not a deal the Twins should be accepting at this time, let's not forget the alternatives. It can be worse. Ellsubury is a sure thing to be at least a solid AL CF. Lowrie, if he can play defense well enough, will get on base as well as Justin Morneau does, probably better. There's a Todd Walker similarity there for me. Each of these players will be under the Twins control for at least six seasons.

In terms of this deal, here's how I rank the alternatives:

1. Sign Santana. The Twins have the money. It's more about whether they can build around the $22 million man.

2. Insist on Jon Lester with Ellsbury. It's not like the Twins couldn't sweeten the pot here. If Santana goes to the Red Sox, that pushes Lester back anyway. Maybe throw them back Brian Duensing, who's close yet doesn't need to be protected?

3. Wait for an offer out of nowhere. I would rather have Adam Jones or Philip Hughes as the centerpiece, but the extras added thus far have not impressed me. If the Angels offer Jerod Weaver, Brandon Wood, and Reggie Willits, the Twins have to do this. Likewise, if the Dodgers offer Chad Billingsley, Andy LaRoche, and Matt Kemp. I certainly don't expect the latter, but the former doesn't seem that out of whack for the Angels.

4. Take the deal as offered. Ellsbury himself is a haul, though he may currently be the most overrated player out there. I would not expect him to be more than adequate in 2008. Lowrie has a chance to be a very solid player for years, and the deeper prospects may also turn into useful pieces or even starters. That's a huge bounty compared to:

5. Get two picks as compensation at the end of 2008. The two picks would likely cost $2 million and probably won't ever be key pieces to the Twins. If they are, it will be 5-8 years from now.

There's a vast difference between 4 and 5, bridged only slightly by the unlikely shot Santana gives the Twins of making the playoffs.

No comments: