Tagged: Felipe Lopez

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

Winter Meetings Primer

The Minnesota Twins have been relatively quiet since shoring up the shortstop position with the acquisition of J.J. Hardy one month ago. As December begins and the year winds to an end, the hot stove is heating up, and this week transactions will begin to come one after another.

Baseball officials began arriving in Indianapolis for the 2009 Winter Meetings on Sunday, and the event will run through Thursday when it concludes with the Rule Five Draft. As Bill Smith and company settle in, they’ll begin work on a roster that has questions remaining at second base, third base, and in the rotation. 
Over the next four days rumors will run rampant; some will be legitimate while others will be blown out of proportion or possibly completely fabricated. Here are some players and teams to watch as possible connections this week.
Second Base
Second base and the second spot in the lineup are a huge hole for the Twins. Both Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert are capable of filling the hole, but neither will upgrade it to the level that several potential targets might.
Felipe Lopez and Orlando Hudson are the two premium second basemen remaining on the market after Placido Polanco signed last week, and they may be the team’s key chances to upgrade plate production in the infield.
Third Base
Chone Figgins is gone, but the Twins never likely had interest anyways. Mark DeRosa and Pedro Feliz remain available, and the Twins could potentially talk with both of their agents this week.
While the team has had interest in free agent Adrian Beltre, unless his reported demand of $10 million annually drops, he won’t be signing in Minnesota anytime soon. 
The best solution for the infield seems to be to fill second base and then look toward third base when that task is completed. The third base options are less desirable than Hudson and Lopez.
Starting Pitchers
Four starting pitchers should be watched this week: Carl Pavano, Jarrod Washburn, Ben Sheets and Rich Harden
Unless Pavano accepts the team’s arbitration offer by the Monday deadline, he’ll be on the free agent market. The Twins are expected to continue work on a potential multi-year deal, and there seems to be a decent chance he stays in the Twin Cities.
If not, the Wisconsin native Washburn and the Twins seem to have mutual interest. After the two veterans, formerly injured starters Sheets and Harden have both reportedly drawn some level of interest from the team as well. 
The Florida Marlins are one key team to keep an eye on. Starter and Minneapolis native Josh Johnson isn’t likely going anywhere, but second basemen Dan Uggla may. If the Twins are unable to sign a free agent there may at least be some talks.
Another team with a second basemen is the Cincinnati Reds. As they cut payroll this off-season, one player reportedly available is Brandon Phillips. If the Twins run out of options elsewhere, he too may be talked about. 
Dark Horse Names 
Ronnie Belliard, 2B – Playing in favor of Orlando Hudson at times last season, Belliard did a decent job. He hit .277 with 10 homeruns and 39 RBI in 110 games.
Robb Quinlan, OF/1B – The utility man has reportedly had talks with the team thus far and could join the roster as the backup outfielder and first basemen. 
Joe Crede, 3B – If the Twins decide the third base options aren’t worth the price, it remains very possible that Crede could be re-signed late this off-season. 
Glen Perkins, SP – While Perkins is on the Twins roster, he is a potential trade target to watch. Eligible for arbitration and a raise, if the Twins don’t feel they have room in the rotation or bullpen, he could be moved.