December 2009

All-Decade Team: Infield

All-Decade.png
The year is changing to 2010, and the first decade of the 21st century is coming to an end. It has without a doubt been an interesting 10 years for the Minnesota Twins as they’ve faced contraction, made the playoffs in five of the past eight seasons, and put forth two great comebacks. 
Several Minnesota Twins’ bloggers and writers were sent questionnaires to help put together the All-Decade team, and four responded: Seth Stohs from SethSpeaks.net, John Bonnes from TwinsGeek, Nick Nelson from Nick’s Twins Blog, and Michael Rand from RandBall, all made their picks for the best of the decade.
Catcher
Who played: Matt LeCroy, A.J. Pierzynski, Henry Blanco, Joe Mauer
Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Catcher
Joe
Mauer
Joe
Mauer
Joe
Mauer
Joe
Mauer
Joe
Mauer

Joe Mauer was the unanimous selection at catcher, and the reasoning in pretty simple. After being injured during his rookie season in 2004, Mauer began taking off with his first full season in 2005.
In 2006 Mauer became the first American League catcher to ever win a batting title, and he won a second in 2008 and a third in 2009. He made the All-Star Game three times, won two Gold Glove awards, was chosen as a Silver Slugger winner twice, and capped off the incredible decade with an American League MVP award.
The decade was great to Mauer, and the greatest hope for the new decade is that Mauer will again be in Minnesota. 
First BaseWho player: Ron Coomer, Doug Mientkiewicz, Justin Morneau

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
First
Base
Justin
Morneau
Justin
Morneau
Justin
Morneau
Justin
Morneau
Justin
Morneau

Much like his good friend and teammate Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau was the unanimous selection at first base. Morneau received his first opportunity in 2003, and took over first base full time when the team traded Doug Mientkiewicz in 2004.
In 2006, Morneau broke out. He hit 30 homeruns on his way to winning the American League MVP award, and was an integral part to a historic second half comeback. In the past decade, Morneau made the All-Star Game three times, won two Silver Slugger awards, and won the 2008 Homerun Derby.
Second BaseWho played: Jay Canizaro, Luis Rivas, Nick Punto, Luis Castillo, Alexi Casilla

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Second
Base
Luis
Castillo
Luis
Castillo
Luis
Castillo
Luis
Castillo
Luis
Castillo

Rolling along with the unanimous selections, Luis Castillo was selected as the second baseman of the decade. The Twins acquired Castillo before the 2006 season, and played in Minnesota for two years.
In 2006, Castillo was an integral part to the historic comeback, hitting .296 with 25 stolen bases. In his two seasons combined in Minneapolis, Castillo hit .299 with 3 homeruns and 67 RBI.
Third BaseWho played: Corey Koskie, Michael Cuddyer, Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Joe Crede

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Third
Base
Corey
Koskie
Corey
Koskie
Corey
Koskie
Corey
Koskie
Corey
Koskie

Corey Koskie was a fan favorite, and he was also the last player at third base before the position became a consistent question mark. Koskie played in Minnesota for seven season, with five coming in the decade.
In seven seasons with the Twins, Koskie hit .280 with 101 homeruns and 437 RBI. He played a solid third base defensively, and appeared in the playoffs in three seasons for the team. 
ShortstopWho played: Cristian Guzman, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Orlando Cabrera

Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Shortstop
Cristian
Guzman
Cristian
Guzman
Cristian
Guzman
Cristian
Guzman
Cristian
Guzman

Rounding out the unanimous selections in the infield is shortstop Cristian Guzman. Guzman played in Minneapolis for six seasons, and five of those seasons came in the decade.
Guzman began his career in 1999, and in 2001 he established himself as he represented the Twins in the All-Star Game. In six seasons with the Twins, Guzman his .266 with 39 homeruns, 289 RBI and 102 stolen bases. 

Designated Hitter
Who played: David Ortiz, Matt LeCroy, Jose Offerman, Rondell White, Jason Kubel
Seth
Stohs
John
Bonnes
Nick
Nelson
Michael
Rand
Alex
Designated
Hitter
Jason
Kubel
Jason
Kubel
Jason
Kubel
Jason
Kubel
Jason
Kubel

Had David Ortiz played longer in Minnesota, he may have been the choice as the designated hitter of the decade. He didn’t however, and the title deservingly goes to Jason Kubel. Kubel has been in Minnesota for six years, and has played five seasons.
Knee injuries hindered Kubel’s career in the early years, but in 2007 he started becoming the player everybody expected. In five seasons as a Twin, Kubel has hit .278 with 71 homeruns and 279 RBI. He nearly hit 30 homeruns during the 2009 season, and received an MVP vote. 

What About Second?

Since the off-season first began, the reports have been centered around various third basemen, and the talk has been about who will play next to J.J. Hardy on the left side of the infield next season. Just weeks after the Winter Meetings came to a close, most of the Minnesota Twins’ options have signed elsewhere, and what they’ll do is now uncertain.

Chone Figgins is off to Seattle, Pedro Feliz is going to Houston, Troy Glaus will be in Atlanta, Garrett Atkins is headed to Baltimore, and Mark DeRosa is now headed to the west coast and San Francisco. One potential upgrade remains in Adrian Beltre, but his price might be too steep.
Joe Crede could return or the Twins could go with Danny Valencia to fill the third base void. But there is one other option that might just make sense. If Nick Punto is bound to be in the lineup, why not place him at third and go after a second baseman?
Two primary second basemen remain on the free agent market in Orlando Hudson and Felpiz Lopez. Both would be solid upgrades for the team at the right price, and they’d fill not only the second base void, but also the second spot in the lineup.
Last season, Hudson hit .283 with 9 homeruns, 62 RBI and 74 runs scored. Lopez meanwhile hit .310 with 9 homeruns, 57 RBI and 88 runs scored. Lopez is three years younger, but Hudson is just 32 and a deal would likely be for two or three seasons. 
If the Twins were to add Hudson or Lopez to the roster, a potential 2010 Opening Day lineup might be as follows:
1. Denard Span (cf)
2. Hudson/Lopez (2b)
3. Joe Mauer (c)
4. Justin Morneau (1b)
5. Michael Cuddyer (rf)
6. Jason Kubel (dh)
7. J.J. Hardy (ss)
8. Delmon Young (lf)
9. Nick Punto (3b)
Last season, the Minnesota Twins hit just .262 in the second spot in the lineup to go along with a .306 on-base percentage. Their second basemen combined meanwhile, hit just .209 with a .302 on-base percentage. Both Hudson and Lopez had on-base percentages around or above .360, and each could get on in front of Mauer rather than empty the bases. 
The general consensus has been that the Twins would obtain a third basemen and fill second base with Nick Punto. With options running out however, it might be just as wise to go after Orlando Hudson or Felipe Lopez and stick Punto on the left side. 

On Joe Crede…

Joe Crede.jpgThe biggest question remaining for the Minnesota Twins this off-season, outside of the Joe Mauer contract situation, is what to do at third base. Second base too is a gaping hole as December nears an end, but the team has several in-house options to fill the void if only they can put someone next to shortstop J.J. Hardy on the left side of the infield. 
With half the options joining teams across baseball, three primary options seem available for Minnesota: sign Mark DeRosa, sign Adrian Beltre, or trade for Kevin Kouzmanoff. 
If no trade occurs or the other options sign elsewhere, the Twins will have a backup option in the form of third basemen Joe Crede. While Crede played in just 90 games last season, there are some reasons he could make sense if other options don’t develop.
Why Crede Makes Sense…
He’ll be cheap: A back injury ended Crede’s season early in 2008, and after playing in 90 games last season, he was done yet again. Crede may have one more opportunity to stay healthy, and where he receives that opportunity, he’ll likely go cheaply. 
Shortly before spring training earlier this year, Crede signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with incentives that could have pushed it to $7 million. Crede earned very few of those incentives with just 333 plate appearances, and so the Twins got him relatively cheap. 
A deal this off-season would again be incentive-laden, would likely have a cheaper base salary, and possibly include fewer incentives. 
Low-risk, high-reward: The same was said when the Twins signed Crede before, but the same would be the case if they sign him a second time. Crede has potential to put up solid power numbers and play decent defense at third base. He’d be a cheap option who would be underpaid if he played a full season at his capable level. 
Better than nothing: The Twins do have other options to fill third base if the primary ones run out. They could put Nick Punto there and sign a second basemen, or they could go with upcoming prospect Danny Valencia.
Nonetheless, Crede makes sense even if he has a high likelihood of being injured again in 2010. If the team doesn’t feel Valencia will be ready until mid-season or the beginning of 2011, Crede could push his debut date back, and even if he lasted only until mid-season, Valencia would have a half-season at triple-A Rochester to improve his game.
Why Crede Doesn’t Make Sense…
There are second basemen: If the Twins can’t get DeRosa, Beltre or Kouzmanoff, they could always switch their focus to second base. Two key second base options are Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez, and both would also fit nicely into the lineup.
Nick Punto seems like a lock to be in the lineup at some position, and whether he’s at second or third isn’t a big issue. Punto will be inserted much more for his defense than hitting capabilities, and he’s an above-average defender at both second and third. 
Crede’s injury history: While Crede would come on the cheap, it may be better to just go in-house. If Danny Valencia is closer to the majors than some believe, would it be a terrible move to let him take a shot at starting from the first day of spring training and use the money elsewhere?

Third Base Options Dwindling

The off-season plan is much of the same for the left side of the infield after the Minnesota Twins again received little production at both third base and shortstop in 2009. Less than two days after the World Series, the Twins upgraded at shortstop, but as the year nears an end, third base remains uncertain and time is running out. 

In recent weeks the list of third base options has been nearly cut in half. Garrett Atkins is off to Baltimore, Troy Glaus is off to Atlanta, and Pedro Feliz is headed to Houston. Remaining are Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, trade candidate Kevin Kouzmanoff, and the often injured Joe Crede. 
The price tag for both DeRosa and Beltre has been high. At the Winter Meetings nearly three weeks ago, reports put their price at $9 to $10 million per season for three seasons. While the Twins will see an increase in payroll for the 2010 season, that price is far too high for most major league ball clubs. 
Earlier this week, DeRosa reportedly was offered a two-year, $12 million contract by the San Francisco Giants. If the price has fallen to that point, the Twins could be in on the veteran third baseman capable of playing second base and the corner outfield positions as well.
Outside of the two remaining premier free agents lies Kouzmanoff. The Twins had interest last off-season according to reports, and had several talks with the Padres at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis earlier this month. 
Kouzmanoff is expected to make around $5 million next season and is under control for three more years. The Twins have offered Glen Perkins according to reports, but on Thursday it was reported that talks have “cooled” and there is a possibility he could now stay in San Diego.
When all is said and done, the team’s only option just might be to re-sign Joe Crede. After playing in just 90 games last season, Crede will be cheap on an incentive-laden deal, and he is willing to return to Minneapolis for the first season at Target Field.
Fans almost certainly would favor DeRosa, Beltre or Kouzmanoff, but the options at third base are dwindling, and unless the team acts fast, they may have the same starting third baseman on Opening Day for the first time since 2007.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas.png
It’s been an exciting year in Twins Territory, and many presents are on the way courtesy of the Minnesota Twins. Target Field might be the great of all, and after 28 seasons of outdoor baseball in Minneapolis, the Twins will be back under the sun in just over 100 days.
Enjoy the Holiday season wherever you may be, and hopefully the Twins will put some players under the tree in the coming weeks. Third base and second base remain questions, and so does Joe Mauer’s contract. But there is still time to get work done, and you can bet the front office is hard at work.
Merry Christmas!

Prospect Ranking: #18 Aaron Hicks

Baseball America is regarded as the evaluator of major league talent on the Internet. Each year they publish their list of the best prospects from each organization, and the best of the entire league combined.

Editor John Manuel has posted his personal Top 20 Prospects list, and one player from the Minnesota Twins organization made the cut. In the 18th spot is the team’s 2008 first round selection, Aaron Hicks. 
Hicks hit .318 in 45 games for the Gulf Coast League Twins in 2008 after signing. Last season he spent the year with the Beloit Snappers where he hit .251 in 67 total games. 

Why he’s here: Five-tool ability to go with the ability to take a walk and premium defensive tools make Hicks an exciting prospect, even if he’s never played above Class A. 

What he’ll be: Hicks has some similarities to the Phillies’ Domonic Brown, though he might actually have more speed and a bit less power. He’s a tremendous athlete who was a scratch golfer as a teen, so it’s hard to put a limit on his talent. 

When he arrives: The Twins know what they’re doing with raw, toolsy center fielders, having developed Torii Hunter and Denard Span in succession. Hicks is next in line and has more offensive polish at a similar stage.

From Kirby to Torii to Denard, centerfield has been a position long developed through the system. Will 2007 first round selection Ben Revere or Hicks be next in line?

Mauer Catches ‘The Show’ Cover

Mauer.png
Joe Mauer has had quite the off-season. From the final regular season game to date, Mauer has collected the Batting Title, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and the American League Most Valuable Player award. Now, he has grabbed the cover of MLB ’10: The Show, which will come out on Playstation systems next March.
The moment will mark the first time in franchise history that a player has made a video game cover. Several new features will make the game, one closely related to Mauer’s position. With the MVP and catcher on the cover, ‘The Show’ will now offer gamers the chance to call the pitches in the ‘Road to the Show’ mode as Mauer does with his own pitching staff.
Not only will Mauer grace the cover, MLB ’10: The Show will also be worth waiting for as it’ll include the all-new Target Field. 
Watch for more information on the cover, Target Field, and the game in the coming weeks. 

Game of the Decade

It’s difficult to put the final regular season Metrodome game into words. After fighting in the final month and overcoming a seven-game deficit in the American League Central by ending the season on a 17-4 run, the Minnesota Twins made the playoffs with a victory in Game 163.

It wasn’t just an ordinary victory. It was a victory consisting of ups and downs and gut-wrenching moments inning after inning. The Twins fell behind, drew closer as the game progressed, took a lead, blew a lead, fell behind, tied the game, and then eventually won in the 12th inning.
Joe Nathan got an improbable double play, Bobby Keppel came up with a huge strikeout, and two players who didn’t even start, entered the game in the final innings to get the winning hit and score the winning run.
All of these things are why Sports Illustrated has dubbed Game 163 on October 6, 2009 at the Metrodome, the Greatest Regular Season Game of the past decade:

The beautiful thing about baseball is a great game doesn’t necessarily have to be a well-played game. The Twins-Tigers tiebreaker to decide the AL Central had blunders, errors, pickoffs and all sorts of confusion. But it was loaded with drama. The Tigers had a lead going into the bottom of the 10th inning. The Twins tied it up and had a chance to win, but Alexi Casilla was thrown out at the plate by Ryan Raburn. The Tigers had the bases loaded in the 12th but could not score. The Twins scored in the bottom of the 12th to win 6-5. Sometimes sloppy, sometimes brilliant, always exciting — that’s baseball at its best.

Winter Meetings: Third Base Talks

There is still no action on the Minnesota Twins’ front, but there have been several rumblings in the past day regarding the team and several players. There has been no talk of starting pitchers or second baseman, just third basemen. 

With just three days to go by, indications are that the club is looking at third base as the position of choice to upgrade. Currently it seems that they’ll go in-house to fill the second base void and sign a free agent or make a trade to finish off the left side of the infield. 
So who have the names been?
Mark DeRosa 
The Twins apparently have “strong” interest in DeRosa. The veteran apparently is looking for a three-year, $27 million deal. That won’t happen in Minnesota, but if the price drops, he could be a fit. 
So far it seems, there have been only preliminary talks:

Just spoke with Mark DeRosa’s agent, Keith Grunewald, and he confirmed that he’s talked with the Twins about the free agent third baseman. They haven’t talked much and it’s just been preliminary. Grunewald said there’s a great deal of interest in DeRosa and called him one of the best commodities in the third base market.

Pedro Feliz
While FoxSports reported yesterday that Pedro Feliz was interested in Minnesota and the Twins were potentially interested in him, that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems the Twins especially haven’t been looking in his direction:

…The agents for Feliz have not heard from the Twins. 

…Indications are that the Twins just aren’t feeling Pedro Feliz.

Kevin Kouzmanoff
The Twins seem to have the most interest in Mark DeRosa as far as free agents are concerned, but the name Kevin Kouzmanoff has been a popular one recently. There were several indications Wednesday that there is mutual interest between the Twins and Padres. 
The talks were first reported on Tuesday night when it was learned that the Twins had offered the Padres Glen Perkins and were rejected with San Diego asking for another player. Wednesday talks apparently continued:

The Twins and Padres have had several discussions about Kevin Kouzmanoff, perhaps a better (cheaper) fit for Twins than other 3B options.

Later in the day the Padres heated talks and continued to talk with the Twins:

Padres now “aggressively” trying to move Kevin Kouzmanoff, says one source who spoke with them. Hear Twins & Giants have been most interested. 

Hearing that Padres offered Kouzmanoff to Giants for Fred Lewis & Kevin Fransden. Asked Twins for Glen Perkins & 2nd player.

With all of those talks, the general feeling is that nothing will happen at least until the non-tender deadline passes Saturday. Several infielders are expected to be let go by their teams rather than offered contracts, with Garrett Atkins being one potential player. 
The Twins are apparently not keen on giving up more than Glen Perkins in a Kouzmanoff deal, but he’s cheap with pretty good production, and if other options don’t become available, something could happen. 

Winter Meetings: Day Two Rumblings

The Minnesota Twins are traditionally a quiet team at the Winter Meetings, and halfway through the 2009 session they’ve maintained that quietness. The Twins have locked up Carl Pavano for next season, but no other moves have been made with one full day remaining in Indianapolis.

No moves doesn’t mean no news however. The Winter Meetings are a time for many talks and many rumors, and the Twins can be found sparingly in the Tuesday rumblings.

Perkins Trade? Kouzmanoff Coming?
When Carl Pavano was signed it secured four of five rotation spots for next season. Only one spot now remains, and several pitchers including Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will likely compete next spring to fill it. 
A fallout between the organization and lefty Glen Perkins along with a crammed roster has many believing Perkins may be traded rather than tendered a contract by this Saturday’s deadline. 
Tuesday afternoon reports broke that the San Diego Padres were interested in talking with the Twins regarding third basemen Kevin Kouzmanoff. Late Tuesday evening it was reported by USA Today sportswriter Bob Nightengale that the Twins had made an offer:

“The Minnesota Twins are offering pitcher Glenn Perkins for Padres 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, but the Padres are seeking more.”

How much more the Padres want, and how interested the Twins truly are remains to be seen. But for the first time at the 2009 Winter Meetings, Minnesota seems to be active. 
Third Base Options
Outside of Kevin Kouzmanoff third base options remain on the free agent market. FoxSports.com says the Twins have interest in four players thus far:

The Twins are sifting through a number of free agent options at third base, including Adrian Beltre, Pedro Feliz, Mark DeRosa and Juan Uribe, according to a major league source. 

Beltre will probably be out of the team’s price range. DeRosa might be, too. But Feliz and Uribe could fit.

Bonser Designated

With the 40-man roster full and no room for Carl Pavano, the Twins were faced with a decision Monday night. On Tuesday they announced that Boof Bonser had been designated for release or assignment.
The Twins now have until Saturday to non-tender him (release him) or trade him according to the Pioneer Press
Blockbuster in Detroit
Finally, the Detroit Tigers may have moved on to the future after trading away both Edwin Jackson and Curtis Granderson. They received a pretty good package, but it seems as though they’re now looking past the 2010 season. 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.