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Wednesday, December 3, 2008


It's time to change your bookmarks, reset your RSS feeds, and move your favorite links to TWINSMVB.COM - the new home to The Minnesota Twins Most Valuable Blogger!

Please tell your friends, family, and baseball fans about the new blog location and thank you for the support. We thank Blogger for a great year of blogging and promise an even better 2009 season at twinsmvb.com!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reyes future will soon be clearer


As of 4:13 pm, Joe C. of the Star Tribune announced that the Twins DID offer Dennys Reyes arbitration. Big Denny has until this Sunday to either accept or decline the offer. If declined the Twins will receive a draft pick from whatever team signs Reyes.

The Twins have a decision to make today regarding the future status of relief pitcher Dennys Reyes. Monday at 11 PM marks the deadline to offer arbitration to any eligible players.

The team must decide to either offer arbitration and determine the salary of a one year deal, offer arbitration and if Reyes signs elsewhere receive a draft pick as compensation, or simply allow Reyes to walk with no compensation. Of course, the Twins could also not offer Reyes arbitration and then try to resign Reyes later.

I believe the Twins will offer arbitration today to Reyes and I think they should. The Twins certainly value their draft picks and if Reyes leaves an extra pick in next year's June draft would hopefully be put to go use. However, if Reyes accepts arbitration the Twins aren't stuck in a bad situation. The team would only be on the hook for a one year deal for a player who has been quite solid for the Twins bullpen for the past three years.

Twins fans and Reyes alike will have a clearer picture on his Major League future by 11 PM tonight.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

As opposed to last year on this blog, I decided to take Thanksgiving off and instead celebrate Black Friday! Now let me assure you I do not celebrate this holiday constructed by consumerist America. You will not find me waking up at 3:00 am to get in a long line waiting to buy at flat screen TV at 30% off, but rather in the comforts of my chair I will write about which Twins I'm buying on great deals for 2009.

1. Kevin Slowey - This kid really impressed me in 2008 and I think he still has much improvement ahead of him. Buying Slowey is like purchasing that new grill for the family, it's an investment that will only get better with time. Slowey went 12-11 with a 3.99 ERA last year and given his pitching style surprisingly struck out 123 batters in 160 innings. He's a fly ball pitcher who gives up a fair amount of homeruns but makes sure he does it without runners on base. Most of all Slowey has great control walking just 24 batters and simply throwing strikes and letting his defense help him out. With Denard Span and Carlos Gomez both behind him for an entire season look to Slowey to post great numbers.

2. Jose Mijares - Mijares is like the new gadget that everyone has read is really cool, but haven't seen it yet. The 24 year old lefty pitched just 10 innings in the big leagues this year but made a big impression. His 10 innings were in pressure packed situations and the young Venezuelan not only showed great composure but the tenacity and confidence to go after hitters and trust his stuff. I know this is a risk with such little pro experience, but I think it'll be a good buy. Mijares will be in a good situation pitching in front of Joe Nathan and should have great success in his role if he keeps his confidence and nerves of steel.

3. Jason Kubel - Like Tickle Me Elmo it seems like Kubel is on this list every year, but last year he made sure his value was known and I expect nothing less in 2009. Kubel finally established himself with a healthy season getting 464 at bats in 141 games. Kubel had an 08 line of .272 with 20 HR and 78 RBI. Despite what seems like many disappointing seasons, Jason will still be just 26 at the start of the 2009 season. Kubel will have control of the DH position and should get to hit behind Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Look for the native South Dakotan to build on his 08 success with another solid year. I'm not expecting any ridiculous breakout year, but I think a .280/25/85 year is within reach.

4. Michael Cuddyer - If you can afford big purchases this holiday season you can't go wrong with a Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, or a Joe Nathan. With the poor economy I also can't afford a young project with high potential like a Carlos Gomez or a Delmon Young. So to do some discount shopping look to pick up a Michael Cuddyer at a reduced rate for 2009. His 2008 campaign was nothing less than a disappointment playing in just 71 games while batting .249 with just a .369 SLG%. However, I think Michael Cuddyer is too competitive and too good of an athlete to allow another disappoint year to drag him down. Yes, I agree that he'll never have seasons like 2006 year after year, but I expect a solid comeback in 2009. As long as Cuddyer is still in Minnesota and gets his fair share of at bats I think he'll start to produce some value based on his big contract.

That's my shopping list for great deals in 2009. Let's hope I get a good return on my investments!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Off the TePoel

The Case for Morneau

Here it is, as promised. My case for why Justin Morneau is the MVP of the Twins, hands down over Sideburns Joe. Not only is he the MVP of the Twins, he indeed was the AL MVP in 2006 and earned 2nd place this magical season of ought-eight. Statistics are, of course, heavily considered in choosing an MVP, though the subjective is what truly determines the MVP. That is why you won't find much number crunching here. The MVP selection is always surrounded by controversy save the very few unanimous choices - the way it should be due to the fact that most seasons any one of four or five guys could carry the crown. Alas, we are not discussing THE MVP, just the Twins MVP. It's Justin.

There are a lot of reasons why the Twins were one run away from the playoffs. As I think back to my opening day expectations that would have been a rather daring, yet charming belief. I was truly anticipating something resembling more of a Minnesota Timberwolves campaign. Honestly. And I was okay with it. After seven/eight years of high expectations and mild to extreme disappointment, I was ready to lower my guard and simply sit back and enjoy the game of baseball and some young, developing talent. But no, the Twins surprised and were right in the mix because of several factors. I will list them as such; first the factors NECESSARY as a bare minimum for the pennant run:

1) The first half pitching by Livan Hernandez. Without him carrying the load for the young pitching staff the Twins would not have made it to June with a respectable record. I recall our starting five having about 15 combined wins after the first 60 games. Thank you Livo.

2) The failure of the Lamb/Harris/Everett infield allowed the Twins to utilize Alexi Casilla early on in the season and he produced more RBIs than me in the backyard baseball season of '89. Casilla was absolutely on fire. He carried the offensive spark that was missing from Mauer, Young, Cuddyer, et al. Much like the failed Castro/Batista experiment in '06 that allowed Bartlett and Punto to flourish, Casilla ushered in the '08 version.

3) Thank goodness Cuddyer got hurt because Denard Span saved this team as well. Cuddy wasn't doing much of anything in that #3 spot initially, then 5 or 6 or wherever he hit. Span was tearing it up in AAA, deserved to be on the team from day one, and when he got his second call-up he did not blink. Speed, production, defense, he did it all. 

4) Joe Mauer. Hey, just cause he's not the MVP doesn't mean he isn't extremely valuable. That's an understatement. Another batting title certainly is hard to overlook, especially considering he did it as a catcher. He played more this year and stayed healthy which was key to the team's success. A gold glove as well to add to the nonexistence of a running game for opponents thanks to Joe. He deserves a good chunk of the credit for the success of #5 below as well, although he has to split that with Rick Anderson and the aforementioned Hernandez.

5) The Staff of youngins who pitched out of their minds. Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins, Liriano, and Baker. These guys are pure filth. I don't know how the Twins consistently develop such good young pitching. Although they really need to stop giving up the long ball.

6) Go-go. Yeah he helped too. Despite all his strikeouts and stretches of ugly baseball, the kid was a spark at times and played his butt off all season. 

So there it is, six NECESSARY components to the value of the team. But they alone, are not SUFFICIENT to explain the pennant run. That would be Mr. MVP. Take away any one of those six pieces and the Twins still can compete. Don't believe me? They proved it. Harris and Punto filled in for Casilla when he was hurt or struggling. On countless at bats Gomez might as well have walked up to the plate and told the ump, "45,000 people know that I won't come within four feet of the ball these next three pitches, so can I just sit down?" but the Twins still found ways to win. The staff had off days, the bullpen or offense picked them up. And yes, even when Mauer's line read "4-3. 4-3. 4-6-3. 4-3" the team stayed alive. And that is because of the first baseman.

This team simply would have been nowhere near the top without Morneau. Gardy didn't think so either. The Canadian found his way into all 163 games. Morneau had 47 doubles. Mauer had 44 extra-base hits combined. Pitchers gave Mauer stuff to hit because they didn't want to face the MVP. Morneau had no legitimate threat behind him. Most of the time hurlers were licking their chops to get at Kubel or Delmon. That's the cake: Morneau put up a .300 average, 129 RBIs (44 more than Mauer), and 23 HR with pitchers trying to avoid him all season. Not to mention the much improved defense from the once awkward first sacker.

Next year I'll take Justin to prove it again.

A quick take on Casey Blake

Should the Twins sign Casey Blake this offseason? It's been discussed, supported, and belittled on numerous Twins blogs so why haven't the Werner Brothers (at least one of them) weighed in on this issue? I guess our take is a little mixed. Here are three things fans and bloggers should keep in mind when it comes to signing a free agent like Blake:

1. Options at 3B and Meanings for other positions
2. Defense and Offense
3. Strategies of Resilience: First Choices and Back-Up Plans

Options at 3B

Third Base is a great place for the Twins to upgrade this offseason, whether it is short term (waiting for Hughes or Valencia in 2010 or so) or long term (if the player is good). The Twins also need a shortstop (or 2B if Casilla moves). I'm on record from the start of the Twins' offseason saying that I'd enjoy the Twins trying to pick up both a middle infielder and a 3B, even at the expense of Perkins/Blackburn, Boof, and a corner OF/DH option like Cuddyer, Young, or Kubel (though only if the trading options were excellent).

Other options include trading for an experienced 3B--Garrett Atkins of the Rockies, Kevin Kouzmanoff of the Padres, or Adrian Beltre of the Mariners--a less experienced 3B like Chris Davis of the Rangers, or an MLB-ready player with only minor league experience. Unfortunately, there isn't much else available for Free Agent 3B's--maybe Joe Crede, though he is coming off multiple injuries and will remain an injury risk. There are more Free Agent options at SS: they include Orlando Cabrera (whom I don't like), Rafael Furcal (whom I like a little more, but think will be too expensive), Edgar Renteria (whom I don't want), and former/recent Twins like Nick Punto and Adam Everett (both of whom are good defenders, but have little to offer the offense). Trading for a shortstop who can hit and play defense is difficult, being that SS is a premium position, and the Twins have few if any SS options in the high minors. But it is rumored that JJ Hardy or Yunel Escobar might be available for trade with a sweet enough deal for the Brewers or the Braves.

In any case, the Twins would like to improve their offense at both these positions (SS / 3B), but they don't want to give up their first round draft picks without a very special signing, and they likely don't want to trade away too many quality players to bring in a new 3B and SS. So the Twins front office is likely looking for a signing like Blake at 3B to go with a trade to bring in a SS (and maybe a RP). But in improving their offense through free agents and trades, can they keep a solid defense for 2009?

Defense and Offense

The Twins are not the best slugging team, and few Twins excel at taking walks. What they excelled at in 2008 was hitting for average, and somehow improving their average dramatically with runners in scoring position (RISP). Counting on a high team batting average with RISP is a tenuous and unlikely bet, so the Twins need to improve either their slugging with who they have already for 2009, or bring in new hitters to bolster the power side of their batting. But it is important to note that the Twins have developed a team style dependent on good defense, which is one reason why Everett and Punto were good options for the middle infield (though Everett didn't live up to his potential on either side this year, and however well Punto did this year doesn't help erase a horrid 2007 from the minds of fans).

How do you balance defense and offense? Even though I think that many Twins project to slug more in 2009 than they did in 2008 (Young, Mauer, Cuddyer, Kubel, Gomez), I doubt that the Twins average with RISP can match the numbers from 2008. And while the Twins outfield could very easily remain a top defensive outfield in 2009, I'm not sure the same is true of the infield, and that means that our pitchers will have less support and confidence, and Gardenhire will be more frustrated and erratic, which may have cascading effects on the field. I think that the defensive play at SS is key more than it is at 3B. In other words, I think that a healthy Everett would be a perfect fit for the Twins, though a less skilled SS may do fine with fly-ball-heavy pitchers like Perkins, Slowey, and Baker. But this is not to downplay the value of having someone like Beltre at 3B, with Gold Glove defense and solid batting from the right side.

Other bloggers (linked above) have looked at the particular strengths and weaknesses of 3B options, both offensively and defensively, so I'll leave it to you to check that out rather than recapping it. But the question I want to focus on is how the Twins might improve their first choices without losing the resilience that has kept the team a consistent threat year after year (you could say that the Twins have had a dynasty of remaining competitive--even if they aren't winning--for the entire Gardenhire era).

Strategies of Resilience

What the Twins have had the last couple years--for good and ill at times--is flexibility in the infield, due largely to players like Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Brendan Harris. While Harris is now being talked about as a potential platoon partner with Brian Buscher by many in the Twins blogging community, he came in to play SS or 2B, and played both early this year. At the same time, the Twins have had utility players like Punto and Tolbert around to fill in the holes when players get hurt or can't play defense well enough. But the Twins may not retain Punto's services, they've given up on Everett, and Tolbert's defense and offense may end up below and equal to Punto's defense and offense respectively. In other words, the Twins may start 2009 with far less flexibility than they did in 2006-2008: whatever Punto's problems were offensively in 2007, he made up for it with three good years of defense and two solid years of offense.

A player like Blake may be flexible in terms of his ability to play at all the corners (1B, 3B, LF, RF), but he can't play the middle infield, and someone like JJ Hardy (if the Twins could manage to trade for him) may end up needing a switch to 3B from SS at some point in 2-3 years. Finally, when I think about resilience, I think of the Twins outfield and DH slots, which may actually be overflowing with resilience. The Twins are unlikely to have that in the infield, and planning to use Harris and Buscher as a platoon not only cuts down on roster spots, but also cuts down on infield resilience. With the Lamb and Everett signings of last offseason, the Twins tried to bring in players to improve the team, but when that failed, they had other options (Punto, Casilla, Tolbert, Harris, and Buscher). I don't think we'll have as much flexibility if the platoon isn't working.

I think this is one reason that many Twins bloggers are ignoring when they endorse a 3B platoon rather than signing Blake or Crede, or trading for Beltre. I don't like any of these options, but I think they are wise if the price (contracts/trading requirements) is right. That would give the Twins the option to use a Harris/Buscher platoon as the backup rather than the only plan. And if Blake works out similar to Lamb in 2008, there's another option: if Harris/Buscher regressed somehow (offensively, defensively, or injury), the say wouldn't be true, and the Twins might be looking at Hughes or Valencia a year or two earlier than preferred.

The same would be true at SS: I'd prefer to bring in Hardy (even if he cost us Boof, Delmon, and a pitching prospect) rather than trying out Harris there. And while Tolbert might be a cheaper version of Punto, I wouldn't be opposed to keeping Punto around for flexibility even if we wouldn't have enough spots for some of our other infielders with question marks and limitations.


It seems that few others are as interested as I am in (a) bringing in Chris Davis from the Rangers (even if it means sending them Perkins/Blackburn, Boof, Duensing, and Valencia--perhaps even a little more quality in that quantity) in order to give the Twins a great offensive 3B with solid defense to protect Morneau; or (b) trading Boof, Kubel, and Young while signing Dunn to protect Morneau, thereby allowing for a Harris/Buscher/Punto platoon at 3B/SS while still improving the offense. Given that those options don't seem to be working out, and given that trading very much for one year of Beltre without negotiating an extension would be ill-advised (and acquiring Kouzmanoff, Atkins, Renteria, or Cabrera each seems quite foolish to me), I would recommend one of the following two courses of action.

1. Sign Casey Blake for two years with a vested option, at maybe $7-9 million/year and make a hard push for a Hardy trade that would make keeping the Buscher/Harris platoon around a good thing. This gives us one free agent signing (Type B, so no lost draft pick) and one trade (where we might have to give up Boof, Perkins, and a couple prospects, or maybe Boof, Delmon, and a prospect). Then worry about finding a set-up RHP.

2. If we stick with the Buscher/Harris platoon as the primary 3B option and focus all of our attention on someone like Hardy, then signing Punto becomes a much more desirable act (in order to keep a good SS option in house). If Punto is too expensive, I recommend signing Everett again (for cheap) in order to keep the team's infield resilience and defensive ability.

Monday, November 24, 2008

And That Happened

Monday morning sportsfans and again a relatively quiet weekend on the baseball front. As the ESPN boys have noted (Gammons and Olney) CC Sabathia is in control of the free agent market. Because all GM's and player agents want to reach a deal at "fair market value" everyone is still waiting around to see where the fair market value will be.

Gammons says when Sabathia signs than it'll trickle down to AJ Burnett, Derek Lowe, Mark Teixeira, and even Manny Ramirez. I did read one report on MLB Trade Rumors that Rafael Furcal is close to signing. The article is in Spanish but I'll link it anyways because Twins MVB has a surprisingly large percentage of Hispanic followers???

The article notes the rumored deal, from the Oakland A's, at four years $48 million. This seems like a pretty good signing if you ask me. I know I'd love to see Minnesota make a run for Furcal but I understand why they are not. The per year price would actually fit the Twins just fine especially considering Orlando Cabrera could command $10 million a season. However, Furcal does have a history of injuries and I don't think the Twins would want to go four years. Third base seems to be Bill Smith's focus as the moment but I think we'll know more next week during the GM meetings.

Finally, I leave you with another video to start of your week. My good friend Kate sent met this video and knew I would enjoy it. It comes all the way from Japan during MLB's season opener between the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland A's.

As I searched on YouTube the comments mentioned that the "announcer" in this video is actually John Mayer playing a joke because he apparently he hates baseball. I must admit I'm not a huge Mayer fan, especially because when I went to college everyone thought my name was John Mayer.... annoying.

If there are any huge John Mayer fans out there, feel free to confirm in the comments section of this is the real John Mayer.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Twins MVB!

Dear Twins MVB fans and readers today is a day to celebrate. Twins Most Valuable Blogger is celebrating its' first birthday!

A year ago today, which was actually Thanksgiving Thursday, I wrote my first post about Torii Hunter signing with the Anaheim Angels. Funny how quickly things change in one year. Hunter seems like a thing of the past. In that first post I was writing about who will play centerfield, is Johan Santana going to stay a Twin, and how do the Twins rebound from a poor 2007.

Flash forward one year and it's Justin Morneau just missed out on MVP, who's going to play SS and 3B (which were also questions last year), and too bad we just missed the playoffs in 2008.

Doing this blog has been a great experience for me and I think the first year for the blog was a great succes. We had nearly 6,000 visitors in our first year (5,852 to be exact) and I'd like to thank every one of you for stopping by. The blog has continued to grow and evolve and I think we can get three times as many visitors in our 2nd year.

We have a few more exciting changes ahead this offseason for MVB so continue to come back, tell your friends, sign up for the RSS feed, link us on your blogs, and just spread the word about Twins MVB.

Thanks again sincerely to all our fans and readers and go Twins in 2009!