Tagged: Joe Crede

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. 

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.

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. 

Inspecting Credes Defense

When the Minnesota Twins signed third baseman Joe Crede to an incentive-laden deal in spring training, everybody knew the team was brining in a potential All-Star bat when healthy. The previous year, Crede had hit nearly 20 homeruns and was named an American League All-Star before a back injury ended his season after only 97 games. 

Thus far in ’09, after just over a half season of play, Crede has hit only .234. He has nonetheless been productive in driving in runners with 12 homeruns and 36 RBI. Crede finds himself on pace for 27 homeruns and 80 RBI by season’s end; numbers that third base in Minnesota hasn’t seen in quite some time. 
The offense is great, but Crede’s value extends much further than his presence in the lineup. With only two errors, Crede has the best fielding percentage (.988) of all qualified third baseman in the American League. 
The error total and fielding percentage alone tell a great deal about Crede’s value. They do not however tell the entire story. A newer stat, one now used by some voters to award the Gold Glove, very prominently shows Crede’s value to the left side of the infield and his team in general. 
The Ultimate Zone Rating, a number that factors in things such as a player’s arm and range, ranks Crede at the top of the league among all third baseman. 
Crede’s UZR/150, which is the average number of runs saved over the course of 150 defensive games, has Crede at a solid 27.0; a number that places him first in his position and over Beltre by nearly 10 runs. 
With a career average around .250 and pretty decent power numbers, Joe Crede is right on par with what the Twins signed up for a few months ago; and his defense has been a welcomed addition to a franchise known for doing ‘the little things’.

On Pace: Hitters

With a 5-hour, 16-inning game, the Minnesota Twins have played 81 games in the 2009 season; signifying the completion of half of the season. Through the midway point, the Twins find themselves one game above .500 with a record of 41-40 (compared to 44-37 last season).

The Twins have some work to do in the second half if they hope to make the playoffs. Some players will need to step up, while others will need to continue their first half production. After three months, many players are on pace for career numbers.
** Denard Span is on pace to hit for a .292 average, hit 9 homeruns, and drive in 58 runners. More impressive is his projection to walk 74 times, collect 171 hits and score 97 runs from the leadoff spot.
** Joe Mauer is on pace to knock out a career high 34 homeruns and collect 110 runs batted in. In addition to those eye-popping numbers, Mauer is projected to collect 201 hits despite missing the first month of the season. Some other key projections include a .390 average and 78 walks compared to only 69 strikeouts.
** Justin Morneau is on pace to reach a career high in the homerun department with 38 and in the RBI category with 131 runs batted in. Some other key projections include 191 hits and 42 doubles; all while hitting .311
** Jason Kubel is on pace to hit a career high 28 homeruns and drive in a career high 90 runners. The career high projections also carry over into the hits and average categories where Kubel is on pace to collect 163 hits and hit for a .304 average.
** Michael Cuddyer is on pace to hit .280 with 25 homeruns and 92 runs batted in. The thus far healthy right fielder is also projected to collect 38 doubles and an astonishing 10 triples.
** Joe Crede is on pace to provide some of the best production from third base in quite some time. The powerful right-hander is projected to hit 28 homeruns, drive in 83 runners, and possibly most impressively, be the best defensive third basemen in all of baseball.
** Delmon Young has had a down year, but is starting to heat up which could alter his projections. The youngster is on pace to hit 8 homeruns, drive in 62 runners, and collect 124 hits in only 132 games.
** Brendan Harris is on pace for a solid year with projections of 9 homeruns and 48 runs batted in (compared to projections of 9 HR and 47 RBI midway last season) over the course of a projected 149 games. Harris is also on pace to tie a career high 149 hits and a .280 batting average
** Nick Punto is on pace for 37 runs batted in, Matt Tolbert is on pace for 32 runs batted in, Brian Buscher is on pace for 6 homeruns and 26 runs batted in, Carlos Gomez is on pace for 2 homeruns and 26 runs batted in, Jose Morales is one pace to hit .356, and Mike Redmond is on pace for 16 runs batted in.
Due to lack of games, both Alexi Casilla and Jason Pridie were excluded from the list.
The second half of the “On Pace” series, the pitchers, is due up next.