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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Werner Bros. Offseason Guide and Notes: Part III

Hope you enjoyed reading about CRAP yesterday. (Hopefully I'll never write that again on the blog) By the way, how about that ALCS game last night? Let's hope the Rays don't choke this one away. In Part III, Brett will look at what the Twins have to offer in any offseason moves...

Offseason Riches

OF (Cuddyer, Young, Gomez, Span, Kubel, Pridie, etc.)
Having addressed the offseason targets (both common and those I’d like to see), it’s worth asking what the Twins have as trading potential. Moving ahead with Cuddyer, Young, and Kubel (Corner OF and DH options) and Gomez and Span (CF and corner options) means that at least one of these guys will not play every day. From a defensive standpoint, it would be nice to have both Kubel or Cuddyer off the field every day (like most of the 2008 second half). From an offensive standpoint, it would be nice to have Gomez out of the lineup (unless he becomes more consistent at the numbers he had in May and September with an 800 OPS, which could happen, this along with his best-in-the-majors defense being the two main reasons why the Twins are hesitant to trade him).

Seth is endorsing a rotation where each of the five guys play their OF spot and DH some (no DH for Gomez or Span, no OF for Kubel). I can support that if the Twins don’t do anything in the offseason. But instead, I would try to trade Delmon and Kubel, and pick up Dunn to fill the OF/DH spot. I’m not the only person that likes both Delmon and Kubel (free them, etc.) but still sees the logic in trading either Delmon or Kubel, but I may be the only person who has said to trade both. So far my plan is going to be more expensive than Seth’s, but with more production and likely more defense (by freeing up the outfield for Span and Gomez). We lose the cheapness of Kubel’s arbitration years, and we lose the potential production of Delmon (along with his age: he’s still quite young, but this is why he may be valuable to other teams). When I look at the Twins Minor League prospects, I think that at least one of Morales, Revere, and Hicks (not to mention Parmelee, Tosoni, and Benson) will be able to step up in a few years once Cuddyer’s contract is up and either Gomez or Span hasn’t produced the way we’re now hoping (after all, it’s just the 2008-9 offseason: both have only played about a year in the majors). In other words, the Twins don’t need Delmon and Kubel if they get the production out of Dunn and Cuddyer, and they get the defense (and potential production) out of Span and Gomez. In summary, the Twins outfield is too full, and it only gets worse if the Twins sign a player like Adam Dunn (like I recommend above).

OF/DH available (2 of the three, and Pridie in any case):
Cuddyer (RF/DH)
Kubel (OF/DH)
Delmon (OF)

SP (Baker, Liriano, Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins, Boof)
6 MLB starters return (including Boof, but not even including Humber) and a wealth of SP at AAA/AA (Swarzak, Mulvey, Duensing, Manship, Mullins, possibly Pino)

Name (RHP/LHP, Age09) - InningsMLB - WHIP - ERA - xFIP - K/BB-  GB% - HR/G
Scott Baker (RHP, 27) 172 - 1.18 - 3.45 - 4.25 - 3.4 - 33 - 1.1
Francisco Liriano (LHP, 25) 76 - 1.39 - 3.91 - 3.40 - 2.1 - 42 - 0.8
Kevin Slowey (RHP, 24) 160 -  1.15 - 3.99 - 4.14 - 5.1 - 36 - 1.3
Nick Blackburn (RHP, 27) 193 - 1.36 - 4.05 - 4.55 - 2.5 - 45 - 1.1
Boof Bonser (RHP, 27) 118 - 1.48 - 5.93 - 4.31 - 2.7 - 41 - 1.2
Glen Perkins (LHP, 26) 151 - 1.47 - 4.41 - 5.05 - 1.9 - 38 - 1.5
Philip Humber (RHP, 26) 12 - 1.37 - 4.63 - 5.30 - 1.2 - 50 - 3.1
Liriano w/o April 66 - 1.19 - 2.74 - ? - 3.2 - ? - 0.95

2008 Minors League Pitchers (by level)
Francisco (AAA) 118 - 1.13 - 3.28 - ? - 3.7 - ? - 0.8
Humber (AAA) 136 - 1.42 - 4.56 - ? - 2.2 - ? - 1.4
Mulvey (AAA) 148 - 1.35 - 3.77 - ? - 2.5 - ? - 0.97
Duensing (AAA) 139 - 1.33 - 4.28 - ? - 2.3 - ? - 1.0
Manship (AA) 77 - 1.49 - 4.46 - ? - 2.6 - ? - 0.9
Manship (A+) 79 - 1.12 - 2.86 - ? - 3.2 - ? - 0.0
Mullins (AA) 148 - 1.54 - 4.31 - ? - 1.7 - ? - 1.1

The table above summarizes some pitching statistics I find useful when evaluating pitching (when the stats are available), stats that SABR-metrics researchers seem to like (xFIP to ERA, etc.). The table indicates to me that the Twins may have a better pitcher in Boof than his trading value is going to indicate. Conversely, Perkins may have more trade value than is likely to be sustainable with his numbers (he just finished his rookie season with a 12-4 record, a 4.41 ERA, and learned to pitch in a good system). Whether or not the Twins recognize it, we have a number of good pitchers available who are probably MLB ready (at least the six in the majors aside from Humber, and including Mulvey). I will say that whoever put Slowey as a comparable pitcher for Mulvey didn’t look at the same things I’m considering. Because Mulvey hasn’t yet pitched in the majors, I have the career minor league (all levels) numbers for the MLB pitchers and Mulvey, just to give you an idea of where they fit.

Name (RHP/LHP, Age09) - Innings Minors - WHIP - ERA - K/BB
Scott Baker (RHP, 27) - 486 - 1.09 - 3.02 - 4.25
Francisco Liriano (LHP, 25) - 608 - 1.21 - 3.42 - 3.25
Kevin Slowey (RHP, 24) - 367 - 0.85 - 1.94 - 6.94
Nick Blackburn (RHP, 27) - 701 - 1.20 - 3.68 - 2.82
Boof Bonser (RHP, 27) - 884 - 1.30 - 3.63 - 2.30
Glen Perkins (LHP, 26) - 368 - 1.27 - 3.50 - 2.66
Philip Humber (RHP, 26) - 426 - 1.27 - 4.25 - 2.80
Kevin Mulvey (RHP, 23) - 321 - 1.27 - 3.37 - 2.55

The Twins tend to focus their drafts on starting pitching and fast/defensive CF. In times like the 2008-9 offseason, the Twins can and should use those starting pitchers as trading potential. The last few years the Twins have brought in 1-2 awful veteran Free Agent starting pitchers, none of whom have worked out well. I don’t think they should need to do that this year with the number of potential starters they have. The question is how many pitchers to trade. They could do zero, stick with the five starters they had at the end of 2008, and hope that both Boof and Humber adjust to roles in the bullpen. They would have available long relief or guys who could switch to starting if anyone got hurt (like Slowey in the last week, which was our first starting pitcher to get injured once the season began: Slowey and Baker had late starts to the season). But this leaves little to no opportunity for the pitchers at AAA to move up, at least on a steady basis, and the Twins have had a lot of success lately when guys started in AAA and moved to the Twins in May or June (see Slowey, Garza, Baker in ’07 or Perkins in ‘08). This usually comes from the veteran Free Agent problem mentioned above (Ponson and Ortiz in ’07, Livan in ’08), but also with younger pitchers missing starts (Liriano, Baker, and Slowey in early ’08). In any case, having a chance for the AAA pitchers to move up is good, whenever it happens.

It seems like the club would like to trade Boof so that he could be a SP somewhere rather than a RP with the Twins. I think we should be open to that if we can get value out of him. Otherwise, as in, if we could get value for Blackburn or Perkins that we can’t for Boof, I’d be fine with trading Blackburn or Perkins, keeping Boof to be our 2009 Livan/Boof (hopefully we give him chances until the end of May like Boof ’08 rather than until the end of July like Livan ’08). This would allow Boof one more chance to prove himself (his fielding independent numbers were as good as Perkins in ’08), and an easy opening for a younger pitcher that could emerge in early 2009 in Rochester. We could then trade Boof midseason after trading the Perkins/Blackburn option in the offseason, maximizing our trade potential. If nothing else, this allows us to call Boof our “innings-eater” for a while (and the innings he eats allows a pitcher at AAA to emerge as in ’07 and ’08).

Beyond that, I try to build my pitching staff for the next few years around Liriano, Baker, and Slowey. I try to buy out at 1-2 years of free agency with each of these guys with a longer-term contract (also avoids arbitration mess), which can backfire if they get injured, but it’s at least as safe of a bet as signing someone like Ponson, Ortiz, or Livan for $5 million for a year.

What this means for players I’d make quite available:
Kubel (OF/DH)
Delmon (OF)
Boof (SP/RP)
Humber (SP/RP)
Blackburn or Perkins (SP)—though probably not both, unless both got me Davis (maybe more)
Pridie (OF)
Slowey, Baker, or Liriano (SP)—only if someone offered me a superstar and then some

One final note: I think it’s important to point out how good Twins players look to other teams. Our free agents and trades end up with player friendly contracts (they get much more money than the Twins would ever offer, and sometimes it works out: Torii and Johan, and other times it doesn’t: Castillo and Silva). Additionally, I think that the Twins lost more Minor League prospects to the draft last year than any other team, which says something about either the Twins minor league system, or about the Twins front office and how they manage the 40-man roster (not protecting the right players). I think that most teams do well to protect their top threatened players, and it’s a question of how many players they can’t protect. In the end, I think this should be an indication to the Twins front office that teams value what the Twins have, and they should use this to their advantage.

Trading Targets (Teams)
Rangers (Great Hitting, Weak Pitching: Target is Chris Davis)
Mariners (In Need of Major Overall: Target is Beltre)
Brewers (In Need of Pitching with loss of Sheets/Sabathia: Target is Hardy)

Free Agent Targets
Adam Dunn (OF/DH)
Orlando Hudson (2B)
Casey Blake (3B)

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