Monday, January 21, 2008

Territory Talk

As we sit here in the middle of January in Minnesota, people tend to fall into a brief period of depression. It could be because it gets dark so early in the afternoon/evening, or the blanket of snow that has been covering our world for months, or possibly the sub zero temperatures that we have been dealing with over the last week or so. Whatever the reason behind it, there are many ways to fight off the winter blues. You can take a trip to somewhere warm. You can turn up the thermostat, put on a Kenny Chesney cd, and sit in a kiddie pool in your basement. Or if you’re like me, you can focus on the fact that the Minnesota Twins start spring training games in roughly five weeks. With that thought in mind, here are some recent Twins notes.

•The Twins avoided arbitration with three prominent players the other day, signing Justin Morneau, Juan Rincon, and Jason Kubel to one year deals. Morneau received $7.4 million, up from the $4.5 million he made last year. Rincon got a significantly smaller raise, signing for $2.475 million, a slight increase from the $2 million he was getting in 2007. Kubel finally got paid, signing for $1.3 million—almost a million more than he made last season. While it’s nice to get these guys taken care of without dealing with arbitration, I think most Twins fans would like to see Morneau get a much longer deal to ensure his future with the team.

•On the flip side, the team will go to arbitration with two other players, Michael Cuddyer and Matt Guerrier. Cuddy is seeking $6.2 million; the Twins are offering $4.7 million. I’d guess the arbitrator will rule something closer to Mike’s number than the teams’. Guerrier and the Twins are much closer: he’s looking for $1.15 million, and the team is offering $750,000. Both cases will be settled sometime in the month of February.

•What would a Twins article be without mentioning a Johan Santana trade update? Obviously if you’re looking for breaking news on this front, TKOT might not be your first stop. Nonetheless, we can give you the basics in a nice, neat format (with opinions) just in case you are not up to speed on the latest rumors.

There are still only three teams that could be considered serious contenders to acquire the best pitcher on the planet: the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Mets. The Yanks may or may not still be in it, depending on what Hank Steinbrenner feels like saying to the media on any given day. Their offer has not wavered, as they are still going with a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and a couple of minor leaguers (though not the ones Bill Smith wants, namely Ian Kennedy). The Red Sox have multiple offers, one surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury and minor leaguers Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson, and the other involving Coco Crisp, Jon Lester, and the same minor leaguers. The Mets are throwing out a plethora of minor league players including Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, and Phil Humber.

Personally, I don’t like any of the three/four deals on the table. It doesn’t seem to me like we’re getting equal compensation in any of them. For the time being, I would rather the Twins keep Johan for the start of the season and take their chances. If he starts out hot (which is not normal for him) and/or one of those teams falter out of the gate (or have injuries), they might be much more willing to part with a bit more talent to acquire the 2-should be 3-time Cy Young winner. That said, if I had to pick one of the deals currently out there, I like the Yankees trade the best. It fills an immediate need in center with Cabrera, and gives the team a frontline starter in Hughes who isn’t a prospect that might work out.

•Lost in all of the will they or won’t they talk surround the team and Santana is the status of closer Joe Nathan. The original thought was that once Johan was traded that Nathan would be the next to go. Well, with the Santana saga dragging on and on, there’s been very little talk about Joe. At one point this winter, a rumor popped up that the Twins and Cubs were discussing a trade that might send a couple of youngsters, including the speedy centerfield prospect Felix Pie, to Minnesota for Nathan and a low level prospect. However nothing ever came of that. It would be my guess that if the Twins start the season with Santana on the roster, then Nathan will also still be here. Keep in mind that this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I know that both guys would be free agents at the end of the year, but with both of them on the roster and the additions the team has made in the lineup (Young, Lamb, etc.), this team could very easily compete for a playoff spot.

•Normally I pay very little attention to anything that Charlie “Shooter” Walters of the Pioneer Press has to say. He spends most of the space in his column throwing out asinine predictions without any reason or logic to them or talking to little birdies. However, a little note in his Sunday column caught my eye. It briefly mentioned the possibility of Cuddyer playing centerfield for the team this year. I would have blown it off as the usual hot air that he is allowed to put in print, but he had quotes from Ron Gardenhire that actually backed up his claim. Gardy says that he is going to talk to Cuddy about the move once they see where they’re at in spring training. This seems outrageous to me. For years Mike couldn’t get a regular position as the team bounced him around from third to second to outfield. Finally the last two years he has been given the everyday right fielder’s job and has flourished. His hitting has improved and he has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in baseball. I’m not saying he couldn’t do the same in center, but what is this organization’s fascination with moving him around? You’ve found a place that works and now you’re going to try and change that? This sounds like a potentially terrible idea to me.

•One last note, pitcher and catchers report on February 17th. That’s less than a month away. Buckle up.


Kent said...

Nice work Q. I agree that moving Cuddy to center is outrageous. Probably as bad as moving Dogg down to the post. He's going to have another solid year in right, don't fuck it up.

As far as the Santana trade, I don't know what Billy's waiting for. I think Hughes and Cabrera along with minor leaguers (by the way Ian Snell pitches for the Pirates, Billy wants Ian Kennedy) is a good deal for us. Obviously, Santana is gone. If we can get a 23 year old, switch hitting center fielder who hit .273 last year with 73 RBI's and has 25 sb's over the last two years, along with a front of the rotation prospect, I don't understand why we wouldn't do this deal. I know Jo-Hizzy is the man, but it's rare to get this much for a guy that if we keep, probably will end up in pinstripes anyway. We can get a solid, young centerfielder and a 21 year old top pitching prospect. Oh yeah, and they'll throw in a couple of other prospects. I say pull the trigger, I love Hughes and Liriano as my 1, 2 punch and Cabrera hitting leadoff for me. (although his OBP needs some work) I think people are underestimating what Cabrera brings to this deal. This is a guy who at age 21 hit .280 in 460 ab's and stole a dozen bases for the Yankees. Any 21 year old who gets playing time in that lineup you know somebody sees something in him. Plus he's a switch hitter. I want him in a Twins uniform bad, and I think him and Hughes is enough to get the deal done.

Mr. Cue said...

Kent, thanks for the insight. It's always nice to hear from another great Twins mind. Oh, and way to go on spotting the wrong Ian. It has been corrected. See kids, that's why you always have to edit your papers before turning them in.

Pup Money said...

I wouldn't mind Cuddy playing Center Field by any means. He has some speed, a very nice glove, and a terrific arm. I recommend not to trade Johan. Lets ride it out, and besides keeping Johan would still give us a very solid rotation coming into the season. This team will compete for the Wild Card this season. Just because we lost an aging Torii Hunter does not mean this team will fall. I'm excited for this upcoming season. Morneau just better get back into 2006 mode, same with Mauer. The M&M boys MUST make a comeback. That's my two cents.

Mr. Cue said...

UPDATE: In case you care about these things like I do, the Twins signed Guerrier to a one year, $950,000 contract. That leaves Cuddyer as the only unsettled contract (other than the one we need to offer to Kenny Lofton to be our center fielder for one year).

Pup Money said...

Well looks like Bill Smith got something done. Justin Morneau 6 years 80 million and Michael Cuddyer 3 years for 24 mill. Not bad. Now let's lock up Santana so he can win some more Cy Youngs. Lets play with what we have now.