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Twins Blueprint For 2008
Posted by Peter Schoenke at 10/9/2007 11:34:00 PM
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The Twins are at a crossroads for the 2008 offseason with Johan Santana entering the final year of his contract, Torii Hunter becoming a free agent and plenty of young talent due raises. Here's my blueprint for how to attack the offseason.

Sure, it's short on details. I didn't research all the trade possibilities and salaries, but this is the bigger picture outline. It's kind of a rebuttal to the 2008 offseason wish list on Nick & Nick's Twins Blog. Love their story, but disagree with the plan. Here's mine:

1. Keep Johan Santana

Try all offseason to sign him to a long-term deal. The Twins can afford it. Payroll may climb to $100 million by 2010 with the new stadium. They can back-load the deal.

Sure he may take up 20 percent of the payroll, but he's worth it. Santana has been the most durable pitcher in the majors the last four seasons. Having an ace like him makes it possible to win it all. Get hitters, keep Santana. If you get 1/2 the potential trade value in July if he's not going to re-sign, worth the shot. This team can seriously contend if the right hitters are brought in. And they have the pitching prospects to make that happen.

2. Let Torii Hunter go

This one will hurt since the minor league system is devoid of hitting help. But he's 33 and a 5-year deal will be an albatross in year five and beyond.

Maybe revenues keep growing that the money won't look so bad in a few years (kind of like how Johnny Damon's 4-year, $52 million Yankees deal doesn't look bad now), but Hunter just isn't that great a hitter to think he'll be worth the money in his decline phase. Offer him a four-year deal at $60 million max. Maybe a two year $36 million deal. Go to like $18 mil a year for a one-to-three year deal if he really wants to come back. But if the Rangers or whoever are going to give him five years at $15 million-plus a year ... let him walk.

3. Trade pitching prospects for two impact hitters.

The Twins have nine pitching prospects almost any other organization would trade for:

Scott Baker
Matt Garza
Boof Bonser
Kevin Slowey
Nick Blackburn
Jeff Manship
Anthony Swarzak
Oswaldo Sosa
Eduardo Morlan

I know you can never have enough pitching, but let's say 4 of these are traded for two impact hitters. Throw them in a hat. I don't care who returns, the Twins will have a good staff whichever of these guys you subtract.

Here are some good trade targets:

Jason Bay
Adam Dunn
Garrett Atkins

Let's just say for the sake of argument these two deals happen:

Kevin Slowey and Jeff Manship for Jason Bay
Oswaldo Sosa and Anthony Swarzak for Garrett Atkins (copying Nick & Nick's trade for sake of argument)

I know this isn't very thought out, but you get the idea. Maybe it takes three pitching prospects or other throw ins. But these are the deals that need to happen. The Twins just can't go into 2008 with such an imbalance of talent at the majors and high minors.

4. Do not under any circumstance sign Carlos Silva

The Twins have pitching prospects coming out of the woodwork. There's no reason to spend $20+ million on a replacement-level pitcher. Remember what he did in 2006 (5.94 ERA and 38 homers allowed)? For a likely $7 million or more salary, you can get close to his production from a $350K Scott Baker or Boof Bonser.

5. Sign a replacement level center fielder, DH or third baseman (whichever the trades above don't bring in).

Sure, losing Hunter's defense will hurt. But now there are just two holes in the lineup to fix. I believe Jason Kubel's hot September and minor league success are worth taking another shot on him. So just one minor signing or trade here is needed. The bar shouldn't be that high. Don't think a Tony Batista or Ramon Ortiz on the cheap can get it done.

After all that is finished, here's the lineup:

SS - Jason Bartlett
DH - Jason Kubel
C - Joe Mauer
LF - Jason Bay
1B - Justin Morneau
3B - Garrett Atkins
RF - Michael Cuddyer
CF - free agent
2B - Punto/Casilla

SP1 - Johan Santana
SP2 - Matt Garza
SP3 - Francisco Liriano
SP4 - Scott Baker
SP5 - Boof Bonser

That's a team that can seriously contend for the world series in 2008. And there are still several pitching prospects vying for spots on the roster to bolster the bullpen (which is still good as everyone is back). The future hasn't been mortgaged. The payroll works. Try to sign Morneau and Cuddyer to extensions. Take Nathan's $6 million 2008 option (duh). It would pain me to see Nick Punto in an everyday lineup again, but if all these moves are made, his bat will be an afterthought.

The trades are the hard part of the equation, but the Twins have the ammo. It's a very thin free agent market this offseason. It's a seller's market. The Twins could make a plan like this happen.


It's a sound approach to getting the team on track.

Guess we'll have to see if the new guy takes a different approach than Ryan though, because there's no way Terry would have had this aggressive an offseason.
Posted by ESiegrist at 10/10/2007 8:59:00 AM
Who knows what Huntington will do in Pittsburgh, but would he really trade a guy like Bay for Kevin Slowey and Jeff Manship, two fine young pitchers, but hardly top-of-the-rotation type guys. The Pirates need to keep Bay and add a veteran arm to Gorzelanny, Snell, Maholm, and (yuck) Morris. Of course drafting arms that don't immediately get hurt (Brad Lincoln over Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum..really?) would also help.

I love the Twins and their young pitching and they should certainly deal from that strength, but I'd be careful about dealing too many of them.
Posted by vtadave at 10/10/2007 9:12:00 AM
Jason #(*&ING Bay? NO!!
Posted by asby22 at 10/10/2007 9:27:00 AM
Your right on everything, Nick and Nick had some less than intelligent ideas, such as trade Santana and basically give the money to Barry Bonds instead, dumb. Signing Carlos Silva on a team with ridiculous pitching depth, dumb. CF should be the least of the their worries, much like fantasy it is harder to find a 3B which has been a weak spot for them than a CF. They gotta let Hunter go, it seems like when someone gets the big contract they let down the year after (Vernon Wells comes to mind, yes I know he was hurt). And don't sell Slowley short, think a lesser Greg Maddux (good control not a ton of K's).
Posted by kevinccp at 10/10/2007 9:30:00 AM
Generally speaking, when a team posts 15 straight losing seasons there should be no untouchables on a team. New GM Huntington hasn't tipped his hand as far as who is in play and who isn't, but aside from Tom Gorzelanny anyone could be moved. The talk in Pittsburgh is that Jason Bay is definitely tradeable at the right price. That price is also lower than what it was before a disastrous 2007, so the buy-low concept would work well for the Twins. Not only that, but Bay is locked in at $13.25 million for the next two years, a very reasonable price. Kevin Slowey is a Pittsburgh native, so right there his value goes up in the eyes of a hometown-crazed sports town. I like the way Jason Kubel has rebounded from major surgery, but can he cover a spacious PNC Park left field? How much would the Twins take on for Matt Morris's contract? Sorry I couldn't help myself on that one...
Posted by jtopper at 10/10/2007 2:36:00 PM
Peter -- these aren't bad ideas, but I think you are trading away far too much young pitching. Your blueprint suggests that the Twins trade (in my opinion) their four top pitching prospects. What happens if they can't re-sign Santana? If Liriano continues to have elbow problems? If Bonser continues to fizzle? The Twins have a lot of pitching depth in their organization, but that doesn't mean they can afford away that much in one offseason.

Furthermore, if they did find a way to re-sign Santana, it would be nearly impossible to extend some of the guys you suggest they bring in via trade (Bay, Atkins, Dunn) while hanging onto guys like Mauer and Morneau. You need to keep this team's budget in mind.

I'd love to keep Santana, but if he's going to be gone after next year, it just doesn't make sense to hang onto him. Yes, having an ace like him makes World Series championship possible, but so does a great offense combined with a good rotation and a good bullpen. The Twins' offense needs a major overhaul, which was certainly proven this year.

As for kevinccp's comments...

***I***Your right on everything, Nick and Nick had some less than intelligent ideas, such as trade Santana and basically give the money to Barry Bonds instead, dumb.***/I***

The key there is that Bonds would be a relatively low-risk one-year commitment. That's a lot different than throwing $120+ million at Santana. So instead of paying Santana's salary next year, you're getting Bonds plus two of the game's top prospects in Kershaw and Kemp. It's debatable maybe, but dumb?

***I***Signing Carlos Silva on a team with ridiculous pitching depth, dumb. ***/I***

They wouldn't have ridiculous pitching depth after they trade away their top four pitching prospects, as Peter suggests. I only suggested that the Twins re-sign Silva because I know Gardenhire will want at least one veteran in his rotation, and you at least know what you're getting with Silva, which can't be said about a single one of the team's young starters.

Anyway, good thoughts over here and I'm glad my article invoked some great conversation.
Posted by Nick N. at 10/10/2007 7:58:00 PM

Sorry for the late response. Love the debate. My rebuttal to your post:

1) I agree that if the Twins are sure they can't re-sign Santana beyond 2008 then they have to deal him this winter IF they get compelling offers. But I don't think we're at that point yet. Santana has frequently said he'd sign with the Twins and give them a discount. It seems very likely he'd sign an extension if the Twins decide there's room in the budget. I'm advocating that the Twins make a strong offer and go with a strategy of him making $20 million a year. The Twins have the means to do so if they want because they'll get a $20 million to $50 million a year short-term boost in revenue with the new stadium (the honeymoon period). They can back-load a deal. It can be done, which is different that a few years ago when that wasn't an option. But if Santana spurns a 5-year, $100 million or similar deal ... then I'd be for a trade.

2) Pitching prospects are pitching prospects.
You can never have enough, but you also can't bet on any of them to be stars. I'm fine with dealing some if it helps fill needs elsewhere with impact players. I'm also throwing out names like Bay and Atkins who are signed to lower salaries beyond 2008 (Dunn would be a one-year rental). I think that would help the budget situation. But I do need to get out a spreadsheet and crunch the numbers. I think it fits even with Cuddyer, Morneau and others due raises in arbitration or extensions.

And I'm all for a higher-priced, shorter-term deal for an impact bat. But that's not likely given free agents like Bonds don't like Minnesota and the Twins' history. Plus this year's free agent market is very weak.

But it's a great debate overall because it's always so easy to second guess a GM ... not as easy to be in their spot and make this decision.

3) I'm all for Bonds .. or a big hitter on a one-year deal. I just don't see that happening given the history of both sides.
Posted by schoenke at 10/18/2007 2:28:00 PM

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