January 2010

TwinsFest 2010: Part I

Another year of TwinsFest has now passed, and three weeks from the conclusion of the three-day event will bring day one of spring training for the Minnesota Twins. With football a week away from a finish and winter slowly moving by, baseball is making a comeback. 

Nearly every Twin on the roster, several top prospects and several all-time greats were in attendance, and yet another year brought yet another seemingly good outcome for the organization and the Twins Community Fund. 
This is the first of a two part look at TwinsFest 2010, and it includes a few photos of the things outside of the many opportunities for autographs. 
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Can the Minnesota Twins add a third trophy to the collection in 2010?

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In this angle of the Target Field replica on display you can see the Target Field Station, the plaza in right field, the celebration sign in centerfield, and the trapezoid seating area.

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In this angle of the Target Field replica, you can see the Budweiser Deck, the scoreboard, the wind veil on the parking ramp, and the team’s new pro shop, Twins City.

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Will you have one of these?

Reality Setting In

The first real game at Target Field is now just over 70 days away. As the days slowly pass, reality is beginning to set in that the Minnesota Twins will really have their own ballpark and be back outdoors next season. 

It seems like just yesterday that the team was breaking ground on the construction site and fans were looking at simple renderings of what the future park might look like. Those renderings are now a direct resemblance of Target Field.
The Aerial View
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The Plaza
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The Homeplate View
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Odds and Ends: TwinsFest Day One

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(*) The Official Twitter account of the Minnesota Twins was all over the Metrodome grounds taking pictures of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, the newest Twin, Jim Thome, the picture of Denard Span above, and much more. 
(*) There were many quotes from several players, including Joe Mauer’s thoughts on the Homerun Derby last season:

Mauer says home run derby was tiring “because Morneau kept me out late the night before.”

(*) Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story on Joe Mauer’s contract situation, and the following excerpt shows just how much the catcher means to the city and the Minnesota Twins organization:

The line for Joe Mauer’s autograph started outside the Metrodome at 8 a.m. Friday. He was eight hours from signing, and the temperature was minus-4.

TwinsFest 2010 will resume on Saturday at 9 a.m. and will wrap up with a third day on Sunday. No Joe Mauer signing is expected this weekend, but the annual event will help get baseball back in the news nonetheless. 

The Thome Aftermath

After being a Twin killer for most of his career, a run that included hitting 57 homeruns against Minnesota, Jim Thome is joining the organization. For just $1.5 million and up to $750,000 in incentives based on plate appearances, Thome will become a powerful bat off the bench and a spot starter at designated hitter. 

What exactly Thome will do is hard to tell, but it is know that the signing affects the team’s roster, the team’s bench plans for the 2010 season, and the current payroll.
40-Man Roster
The team’s 40-man roster is currently jam packed. There is nowhere to put Thome, and the Twins will have until this weekend when Thome completes his physical to make a roster decision. 
It’s currently difficult to tell who exactly the Twins will remove from the roster as several candidates would be in danger of being lost through waivers. Both Glen Perkins and Alexi Casilla are rumored to be available, but it’s also difficult to see something happening on that front before spring training. 
Bench Plans
The Twins will in all likelihood go with a 12-man pitching staff. Going in that direction would allow for four players on the bench, and with Jim Thome onboard, the plan might change just a bit.
Jose Morales, or any other catcher who may need to start the season after Morales’ has surgery this week, will take one spot. Two spots remain after that, and it sounds as if Jason Pridie might get one spot while the other could come down to a battle between Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert if no further moves are made. 
If the Twins sign a second or third baseman, either Nick Punto or Brendan Harris could shift to the bench, costing both Tolbert and Casilla roster spots. All in all, the bench battle won’t be fully solved until spring training gets underway. 
Payroll Situation
Thome’s contract was rather small, and it really adds just about $1 million to the payroll since he’ll be taking a player’s roster spot who would have made the minimum of around $500,000. Now that Thome is signed, the Twins are right at or slightly above the $90 million mark.
Assuming the Twins might have $5 million more to spend if the right move comes along, there could still be a move to re-sign third baseman Joe Crede or a second baseman such as Orlando Cabrera, Orlando Hudson, or Felipe Lopez. 

Thome Talk

Thome.pngAll around baseball, slugger Jim Thome is regarded as the ‘nice guy’. He’s well respected for his involvement in the community, his leadership in the clubhouse, and his general likability by opposing teams and players. 
For 16 seasons, Thome has been the Twins’ nemesis. First the five-time All-Star spent 12 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, and most recently he spent four seasons with the Chicago White Sox. Thome has hit 57, count them 57, homeruns against Minnesota, with the notable one helping Chicago capture a division title over Nick Blackburn and the Twins in 2008. 
After being the bully for 16 years in the American League Central, the Twins are now trying to add the powerful lefty to their own roster in hopes that he’ll turn the tide on Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City. 
Thome makes sense for the Twins, a team in need of a powerful hitter off the bench, and a team still searching for a fourth outfielder. 
No, Thome won’t be patrolling the outfield anytime soon, but he would indirectly affect the situation. With Thome on board, the Twins would add a powerful pinch hitter off the bench, and a more than capable designated hitter against right-handed pitching.
While Delmon Young, Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer are plugged into the outfield, the Twins currently have Jason Pridie as their fourth outfielder. Thome would allow the team to shift current designated hitter Jason Kubel to left field and Young to the bench when necessary.
Outside of Minnesota, the White Sox and Rays are still in on the 39-year old veteran. Chicago is leaving the choice up to manager Ozzie Guillen, and he’s expected to make his decision in mere hours. If his former team passes, Thome could choose his 2010 destination by the end of the week. 

To-Do List: Late January

The Minnesota Twins have made some improvements to the roster this off-season, but they have nonetheless been relatively quiet. Outside of acquiring shortstop J.J. Hardy, retaining starting pitcher Carl Pavano, bringing in reliever Clay Condry, and avoiding arbitration with eight eligible players, the Twins have kept to themselves.

Questions remain regarding the roster, and the team is now just four weeks away from reporting day in Fort Myers, Florida. Every question can be answered with a roster move in the form of a free agent signing or trade; those same questions can be answered in-house if the front office deems that to be the best route.
Now one week away from TwinsFest and one month away from day one of spring training, here is a look at the team’s current to-do list.
1) Sign Joe Mauer
Whether the Twins sign two more players or make no additional roster moves, their off-season will be judged based on what they’re able to do with Joe Mauer. The Twins will be assessed by the outcome of their negotiations, and they must lock up the hometown hero to keep fans not just happy, but calm as well.
2) 5th Starting Pitcher
Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano seem to be locks for the 2010 Opening Day rotation. One final spot remains however, and the Twins must decide what their plan will be.
Lefties Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins and Francisco Liriano could compete for the job, or the team could sign veteran Jarrod Washburn, whom they offered a one-year deal weeks ago. The best route and money-wise way would be to let the in-house candidates fight for the job this spring.
3) Fourth Outfielder
If the season were to start today it seems as though Jason Pridie would be the team’s fourth outfielder. He isn’t the worst option since he brings both speed and the ability to play each outfield position.
Nonetheless, the Twins must decide if they’re comfortable with Pridie or if they feel they need to bring in a veteran who can provide pop off the bench. One popular name is Eric Byrnes, whom the Diamondbacks released earlier this week. 
4) Solution Needed: 2B and 3B
The organization’s third base options are now limited. They can re-sign Joe Crede to an incentive laden deal, or they can go in-house with a combination of Brendan Harris and Nick Punto. Whatever the case, they’ll soon be forced to pick a solution.
Second base is more complicated. Two premier upgrades remain on the market, and each would provide a solution to both the infield position and the two-hole in the lineup. The Twins have had internal discussions about both Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez, but are waiting for the price to drop. 

Arbitration Aftermath: Payroll Implications

It took only one day for the Minnesota Twins and their eight arbitration eligible players to agree to terms. After all players filed by the deadline last Friday, the sides exchanged offers on Tuesday and agreed to contracts for the 2010 season by the end of the day.

Carl Pavano signed for $7 million, J.J. Hardy for $5.1 million, Matt Guerrier for $3.1 million, Delmon Young for $2.6 million, Jesse Crain for $2 million, Francisco Liriano for $1.6 million, Pat Neshek for $625K, and Brendan Harris agreed to a two-year, $3.2 million contract.
On the day, the Minnesota Twins committed an additional $23,475,000 to their payroll for next season. In addition, they took another huge step toward a $90 million payroll for their first season at Target Field. 
January Payroll.pngCurrently at about $88.5 million according to rough estimates, the Minnesota Twins may have a small amount of money left to spend in the coming weeks. With reports that the Twins offered Jarrod Washburn a one-year, $5 million contract two weeks ago, there are indications that the organization could approach $95 million if the situation is right.
With second base, third base, and the fourth outfield spot uncertain, it is still very possible that the Twins could make another addition before the club reports to Fort Myers, Florida in four weeks. 

Bullpen Logjam

The Minnesota Twins have a bullpen logjam, and while it seems to be a problem waiting to be solved, it isn’t a bad issue to have. With pitchers returning from injuries this upcoming spring, pitchers being exiled into the bullpen, and even an addition, the bullpen is already full.

There are some locks: Joe Nathan, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares and Clay Condrey all seem to be locked into the bullpen. Jesse Crain isn’t far behind, but Pat Neshek needs a spot too, and the team also has starters Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing and Francisco Liriano who could potential be up for a spot. 
With the current roster, one of the three starters, Perkins, Duensing, or Liriano, will be in the rotation. Another is likely to become an extra left-handed option in the ‘pen. 
Most seasons, the Twins go with a 12-man pitching staff, and with six spots seemingly locked up, the Twins will need to solve the current logjam. There will be an extra starter to deal with, and Perkins has already been well-connected in trade talks. Meanwhile, the Twins will need to decide if Neshek is ready from day one or if they want him to wait out the cold Minnesota days and begin in sunny Florida.
If the trade rumors involving Perkins are accurate, and the lefty is eventually moved prior to the season, the situation could play itself out. Either Liriano or Duensing, whoever misses out on the fifth spot in the rotation, would enter the bullpen, and Neshek would takeover a spot after some extra innings down south or when needed due to injury. 
The Twins don’t have a problem, but more so a minor issue. They have plenty of pitchers to fill out the staff, now they just need to figure out which ones fit the best and figure out what to do with the extras. 

Two Upgrades Remain

With each passing day, the Minnesota Twins’ chances to upgrade both the infield and lineup have gone right with. Off the table are Pedro Feliz, Garrett Atkins, Chone Figgins, Troy Glaus, Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre and Kevin Kouzmanoff. The third base options have dried up, and if the team upgrades before spring training, it’ll need to be in the form of a second basemen.

At third base, there are no more options. Joe Crede would be much of the same; a half-season player with decent production when healthy, and Miguel Tejada has never played anywhere but short, and the Twins haven’t been connected with him all off-season.
At second base, there are two sensible options for the Twins. Due to currently high demands, both Orlando Hudson and Felipe Lopez remain on the market. There are many teams interested, and in the end it may come down to which team is willing to give the extra year or extra dollars. 
Between Denard Span and Joe Mauer, both Hudson and Lopez would fit well. While Hudson hit .283 in 149 games last season, Lopez hit .310 in 151 games, Hudson posted an on-base percentage of .357 while Lopez posted one of .383, and Hudson hit 9 homeruns and drove in 62 runners while Lopez hit 9 homeruns and drove in 57 runners. 
A recent report put Hudson’s demand at $9 million per season. No team will pay that number, and so it’ll be a waiting game. The Washington Nationals are interested, as are other teams, but if the Twins want to make one final mark and truly upgrade the infield, they have just two more obvious chances remaining. 

So Long, Mike Redmond

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For five seasons Mike Redmond called Minnesota home, but when the 2010 season kicks off in April, Redmond will be in Cleveland. After being a leader in the Twins’ clubhouse since his arrival in 2005, Redmond was forced out by an overloaded position.
In five seasons with the Twins, Redmond hit .297 with 2 homeruns and 101 RBI. More important than his numbers was his leadership and durability. Redmond was a leader in the clubhouse each season, and it showed immensely in 2006 when he introduced “Smell ‘Em” en route to a playoff run. 
One season later in 2007, Redmond showed his toughness when he was hit in the head by Jim Thome’s bat. Redmond received stitches, but the next day he was back behind the plate catching.
The time went by fast, and while Redmond wasn’t an All-Star catcher, he was an integral part to multiple playoff teams with his leadership. When Redmond does call it quits, there have been indications that the organization would welcome him back as a coach.
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