Sunday, December 2, 2007

Heating Up...

For the hardcore baseball fan there are three events during the year that make us giddy. The first is seeing the following line in the newspaper in mid-February: “Pitcher and Catchers Report Today”. The second is the beginning of the postseason (remember, “There is Only One October!”). It is the third event that might be the most exciting and talked about of all though…the winter meetings.

For those who don’t know, the winter meetings are a four day event (Dec. 3-7 this year) where all of the general managers in baseball get together to discuss potential rule changes and other issues regarding the state of baseball. It is also the time when most big time trades and signings go down since everyone can sit down face to face and hash out deals. Because of this, it is also the time when baseball’s rumor mill starts spinning out of control. It’s the time when everyone “knows a guy” who works for a team and has given them insider information as to whom their favorite team is going to sign and/or trade for. If you believe everything you read during this time of year, 90% of the biggest stars in the game are on the verge of being traded. For fans, there is nothing more fun than speculating who’s going where. Unfortunately, in years past, this would be the week when the Twins sign Rick Reed or Tony Batista.

(Beckett has this valued at $0.12--if it's in mint condition)

But not in Year 1 of the Smith Era. Oh no, here in the Year of Our Lord 2007, the Minnesota Twins are the busiest and most talked about team heading into the winter meetings; not the Yankees, not the Red Sox, not the Mets, not the Dodgers. We could be at the center of one of the biggest trades in the history of the game. In fact, there is a better than good chance that our roster will be completely shaken up by the time this week is over. So without further ado, I present to you the five most important points of interest for this year’s meetings.

The trade of the best pitcher on the planet—Johan Santana.
I know that I don’t need to say much about this because it has been big news around the country and the biggest news here in Minnesota. The best pitcher in baseball, still in the prime of his career, is about to be traded. That never happens, which is why this is such a huge story. While there are factors that make this trade a bit tricky (Santana’s no trade clause, his contract demands from whomever acquires him, the amount a team would have to give up to get him), the writing is on the wall and deal will likely get done during the meetings. For the time being, it would appear that the Red Sox and Yankees are the frontrunners for Johan. I know, weird. There are whispers of a team like Seattle or the Dodgers coming in at the last minute and blowing the Twins away with a huge offer, but that has been nothing more than hearsay thus far. This will be the biggest trade in Twins history and will shape this team for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that we get a quality package of players as we head towards 2010 (stadium opening) and beyond.

The trade of Florida third baseman Miguel Cabrera.
It would appear that it’s a one-horse race for the 24 year old power hitter. The Angels and Marlins have been in talks for at least a week now, and it looks like they are starting to shape out a deal. Rumors have Anaheim/Los Angeles building their package around second baseman Howie Kendrick and catcher Jeff Mathis, while also including at least one top tier prospect (likely a pitcher). But this is no where near a far gone conclusion. A report earlier this week said the talks between these two teams have stalled. By opening that window, there is an opportunity for some other team to get in Florida’s ear this week and pull off a mega-trade. Make no mistake about it; this could be a gigantic deal. It’s not every day that a 30/100 guy, entering his prime no less, is made available like this. What does this mean for the Twins? Nothing, but it does bring up that painful reminder that we were the organization that discovered Cabrera as a promising teenager and offered him a minor league contract. He turned it down and signed a $1 million deal with Florida a couple years later. Good times.

The potential use of instant replay for homeruns.
Lost amid all of the trade talks will be the likely rule change that allows umpires to use instant replay to make a ruling on borderline homeruns. This would be a monumental decision. Of all the sports, baseball has always been the one that has relied solely human sight to make calls. Most baseball purists (myself included) see this rule change as a Pandora’s Box. Once you allow any form of replay, there’s no telling how much it will infiltrate the game. What about close plays at the plate? Bang-bang plays at first? Diving catches in the outfield? Borderline strikes and balls? Baseball is game that uses four umpires per game. Between the four of them, they should be able to get most calls right. A blown call here or there is just part of the game. You want fewer bad or missed calls? Get better umpires, not cameras.

The courtship of A’s pitcher Dan Haren.
As mentioned, either the Red Sox or Yankees should win the Santana sweepstakes, which will leave the loser still looking for pitching help. Enter Dan Haren and the Oakland Athletics. A very talented pitcher that many casual fans don’t know, Haren won 15 games last year with an ERA just over 3. Those are very good numbers for a 27 year old pitching for a team that couldn’t score him any runs. I know that it’s probably not good to lose out on acquiring the best pitcher in the game, but the loser of the Johan derby might actually end up in better shape. You’re going to have to give up the house to get Santana, not to mention the piles of money you’ll have to pay him. On the other hand, Haren is only making about $2.5 million a year and you could get him without giving up your entire farm system. I think people will be shocked to see just how much attention and talks there are between the big market teams and Oakland this week. The effect on the Twins? It could mean fewer suitors for Johan and thus you can’t play offers against other teams to up the ante.

The overpaying of free agent centerfielders.
The 2007 free agent class, for the most part, is pretty weak. Consider that the two pitchers likely to receive the highest contracts should be Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse. Seriously. Other “big” names available via free agency include Brad Wilkerson, Tadahito Iguchi, David Eckstein, Milton Bradley, Shannon Stewart, Jose Guillen, and Eric Gagne. Um, yuck. Then there’s the position of centerfield, which boasts a very impressive list players, led by Aaron Rowand, Andruw Jones, and Mike Cameron. There seems to be quite a few teams that are in the market for this position as well. When you combine that need with Torii Hunter’s ridiculous 5 year, $90 million contract (which set the market way too high), you have the recipe for incredibly high deals. What does this mean for a team like the Twins (who definitely have a gaping hole in center)? It means you better get a CF in the Santana trade; otherwise it will be the Denard Span Experience all season long.

So buckle up for what is looking like the most important week in recent (and future) Twins history. When all is said and done, Johan will most likely be gone, Nathan could very easily be dealt too, there should be at least four new members of the organization, and there is an outside chance that we make a relatively big signing. It’s going to be a fun week.

1 comment:

Dogg said...

I think the game of baseball takes a hit if they bring a replay system into affect. The games are 3 hours long already and this is a game of human error by the umpires and I think that is part of the game.