Friday, December 23, 2005
The Final PieceThe Twins signed Rondell White yesterday, inking him to a one-year deal with an option for a second season. The details of the contract are a little confusing, but basically if White plays well and stays healthy it'll be worth about $8 million over two years. If he plays poorly and/or gets hurt, it'll only cost the Twins $3.25 million for one season.
I like the signing a lot. It has very little risk, even for the cash-strapped Twins, and unlike signing Tony Batista, White actually comes along with quite a bit of potential upside. Plus, the fact that Terry Ryan was able to move so quickly to lock him up for a fraction of what Jacque Jones received from the Cubs earlier this week is impressive.
Here's what the Twins are getting in White ...
RONDELL WHITE | 6'1" | 205 LBS | DOB: 2/23/1972 | BATS: RIGHT
For overall offense, White is similar to what Jones provided at his peak in 2002/2003. While Jones' production has dropped off significantly over the past two seasons, White's has stayed remarkably consistent with the rest of his career. Plus, White is capable of holding his own against both right-handed and left-handed pitching, whereas Jones was good against righties and completely lost against lefties.
2003-2005 OVERALL vs RHP vs LHP
White doesn't have much plate discipline or great speed, but he'll likely hit in the high .200s with good power, makes surprisingly solid contact for a free-swinger, and is still a very capable defensive corner outfielder who covers plenty of ground when healthy. Of course, the "when healthy" part has plagued White for his entire career and is why he was available to the Twins at a discount.
A shoulder injury limited White to just 97 games in 2005 and he has averaged 118 games over the past three years. When White goes down with his inevitable injury in 2006, his at-bats can go to guys like Jason Kubel, Lew Ford, and Cuddyer. That's obviously not an ideal situation, but the Twins are fairly well-equipped to handle it and White's production in the 120 games he does play should be good enough to make it worthwhile.
It sounds like the Twins plan to play White exclusively at designated hitter, which should lessen the chances of a major injury. White often served as Detroit's DH over the past two years, but was still the Tigers' left fielder most of the time. He's good enough defensively to start in left field over Shannon Stewart (and owns a similarly horrendous throwing arm), but if keeping him on the bench when the Twins are in the field makes White even 10% more likely to make it through the season, it's worth it.
Signing White is not a headline-grabbing acquisition, but like dealing for Luis Castillo it is a quality decision. Both Castillo and White have established levels of performance that are safely above average and each came at a reasonable price in terms of money and players (in White's case, just money). Rather than misguided, shoot-the-moon fantasies involving overpaying for guys like Hank Blalock or Alfonso Soriano, these are exactly the sort of moves the Twins should be making.
The sad thing is that I like trading for Castillo and signing White so much that it makes me even more upset about signing Batista. The Twins took two steps forward and one step back, while it would have been relatively easy to fill all three spots with good hitters. The upgrades at second base and DH are still sizable, but they're partially offset by Batista sucking up outs at third base and the overall impact of the offseason maneuvering is less than it could have been.
White is arguably the biggest free agent the Twins have signed in a decade, and I'm guessing the team is done making major moves. Ryan will probably look to finish up the offseason by adding a couple middle relievers or a bench bat, but unless he decides to trade Kyle Lohse I don't expect the roster to look much different than it does right now.
Here's what the Twins' lineup looks like at the moment, barring a complete recovery by Jason Kubel (which may be more likely than initially thought) or a surprise move before spring training:
C Joe Mauer .303 AVG .377 OBP .427 SLG
Today at The Hardball Times:
- It's Not The Second Advent In The Bronx, People (by John Brattain)
Pick of the Day (156-135, +$1,935):
Los Angeles -1 (-110) over Orlando
Carolina -4.5 (-110) over Dallas
Chicago -7 (-110) over Green Bay
New England -5.5 (-110) over New York
Cleveland +2.5 (-110) over New Jersey
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Nothing DoingI try to keep Twins-related topics set aside for times like this, when not much is going on. In fact, right now I have no fewer than 10 things saved up to write about whenever the mood strikes between now and Opening Day. Stuff about Twins history, stuff about last season, stuff about future seasons. None of it is particularly time-sensitive, so I can always push them back when things like a trade for a good second baseman or the signing of a horrible third baseman occur.
Anyway, after finishing up my various writing gigs yesterday afternoon, I was considering breaking out one of those topics to write about for today. After all, the dust had settled on the Tony Batista signing, Jacque Jones had already made it clear that he was declining arbitration, and there didn't seem to be much else brewing for Terry Ryan. Instead, I began thinking about how depressing it is to be a Twins fan sometimes.
I'm not quite sure why it finally got to me yesterday, but I guess I just made peace with the fact that this offseason will be a disappointment. Ryan made a nice move for a quality second baseman in Luis Castillo, but then went bargain shopping in Japan for a hacktastic third baseman, took away much of Michael Cuddyer's value by banning him from the infield, and was ignored by free-agent targets like Nomar Garciaparra and Bill Mueller.
I'm not certain to what extent the Twins were ever seriously involved in discussions with Garciaparra or Mueller, but either way it's likely that the cost was too high and neither player was particularly interested in coming to Minnesota. Instead, Batista is manning third base, a move that wipes away whatever gains came from adding Castillo to the top of the lineup, and the best third-base option on the roster is relegated to right field or designated hitter.
And what's in store for the rest of the offseason? Well, if history tells us anything, not a whole lot. The Twins are still reportedly in talks with aging sluggers like Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas, but it's clear that whatever fantasies fans had about significant offensive upgrades taking place this offseason were never likely to happen.
The best-case scenario at this point -- barring the creation of a time machine to erase the Batista deal and send Ryan back to the 1980s so someone can give him a Bill James Abstract for Christmas -- is probably signing Piazza or Thomas to a one-year deal laden with incentives. Even in that case, it's not clear to me that the Twins' offense looks much better heading into 2006 than it did leaving 2005.
2005 2006Aside from Cuddyer switching positions yet again, the only real changes are Nick Punto/Luis Rivas, Jones, and Matthew LeCroy leaving (or going to the bench), and Castillo, Batista, and Piazza/Thomas arriving. Is that an upgrade? Probably. Is it a big enough one for a team that had the worst offense in the AL? I doubt it, and that's even under the far-from-safe assumption that the Twins can land Piazza or Thomas.
To seriously compete for the division title in 2006 the Twins are likely going to have to find a way to score at least 50 more runs than they did this season. That's a big number, but it would still only take them from 688 runs (14th in the league) to 738 runs (ninth in the league). At this point, the chances of doing that look fairly slim and once again come down to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.
They need Mauer to stay healthy and build on an outstanding first full season, and they need Morneau to emerge as a legitimate cleanup hitter. An optimist in search of more offense might also point to potential improvements from Cuddyer and Jason Bartlett, a bounceback from Shannon Stewart, or healthy seasons from Torii Hunter and Jason Kubel, but I've never been accused of being optimistic.
At this point I'd bet on below-average offense from shortstop, third base, left field, and right field, with first base and designated hitter looking iffy as well. The Twins will be competitive in 2006 regardless of their hitting, but it's December 21 and I officially have no expectations of them winning the American League Central. The pitching staff is great and may actually be better than it was in 2005, but the lineup is simply not good enough.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
- Baseball Chain (by Matthew Namee)
- Daily Graphing: Chris Young (by David Appelman)
Pick of the Day (155-134, +$1,945):
New Orleans +8.5 (-110) over Minnesota
Dallas -6 (-110) over Sacramento
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
If Terry Ryan has the ability to make a move on a significant designated hitter, I'm guessing it will happen soon. Ryan has consistently said he wanted to clear Jones' salary from the books before doing anything, so now he's free to pursue guys like Mike Piazza and Frank Thomas without the threat of going over budget.
Beyond that, adding a mediocre veteran first baseman seems like the last thing the Royals needed to do. They already have Mike Sweeney and Matt Stairs on the roster, and one of their top prospects is Justin Huber, a first baseman who hit .326/.417/.560 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs in 120 games between Double-A and Triple-A this year. Luckily, I stopped trying to figure the Royals out a while ago.
Word is the Twins wanted pitcher Chien-Ming Wang and second baseman Robinson Cano from the Yankees for center fielder Torii Hunter before Minnesota acquired second baseman Luis Castillo from the Marlins.As I've said before, if the Twins can acquire multiple young players who are both good and cheap for Torii Hunter, they should jump all over it. Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano certainly each fit that bill, and if there are similar offers out there from other teams keeping Hunter for 2006 is a mistake.
Remember those big plans for the offense everyone had back in November? Well, at this point the Twins' moves have boiled down to replacing Jones and Nick Punto with Tony Batista and Luis Castillo. Batista actually replaces Michael Cuddyer at third base, but Cuddyer seems likely to take over for Jones in right field. Oh, and they've also lost Matthew LeCroy, who was one of the team's most productive hitters in 2005, and are still searching for his replacement. Good times!
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Franchises at Birth: The Royals and the Brewers (Part Two: 1971-1974) (by Steve Treder)
- Not So Sweet Surrender (by Dan Fox)
- Daily Graphing: A.J. Pierzynski & Heath Bell (by David Appelman)
Pick of the Day (155-133, +$2,055):
Los Angeles +3 (-110) over New Jersey
Monday, December 19, 2005
Link-O-RamaLink-O-Rama entries have been an end-of-the-week staple of AG.com for a long time, but me ranting about the Twins' big free-agent acquisition put that on hold Friday. Never one to waste a bunch of random links, I've added a few more things and posted it today.
Losing Elisha from the blogging community is sad -- my dreams of wooing her at a blogger get-together have been dashed -- but it is also understandable. After all, she is far too good looking to be wasting energy thinking about hockey and far too busy looking good to be wasting time typing up her thoughts.
Twins' signing of slugger makes blogger miserableAnd now? Apparently I've become jaded, because not being able to overcome my laziness to actually find a copy means I'm taking the word of everyone who e-mailed me that I'm even in the paper. Either way, thanks to Gary Derong for the nice write-up.
I don't give a **** about Aaron Gleeman, whoever the **** he is.Indeed.
Now, I'm not saying People should be in the business of covering Pryor's recent death particularly well (especially in their "Best of 2005" issue), but if you're going to put him on the cover shouldn't his death be given more emphasis than some complete non-story about a complete non-talent like Jessica Simpson?
My introduction to Pryor's genius came about six years ago when HBO ran an all-day marathon of his four concert movies. I watched them in one sitting and immediately knew what all the fuss was about it, like a teenager who had only seen Michael Jordan's forgettable final days with the Wizards stumbling across a '90s Bulls marathon on ESPN Classic.
I don't pretend to have something meaningful to say in tribute of Pryor. However, the media gives an incredible amount of coverage to people when it's not clear why they're even celebrities these days, so a few more words about Pryor couldn't hurt. If you haven't seen his stand-up, you really should. Rarely does something like that live up to the considerable hype, but decades after the fact Pryor certainly does.
Richard Pryor will be missed, and if you want to read about his amazing life check out his obituary in the New York Times.
Artest said some of the criticism he has received has been unfair. Former NBA great Magic Johnson said Artest doesn't deserve a second chance in the NBA.Yes, but what about telling your wife you want to be traded?
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Demystifying the MLB Constitution (Part 2) (by Maury Brown)
- Range Revisited (by David Gassko)
Pick of the Day (155-132, +$2,165):
Green Bay +3.5 (-110) over Baltimore