Otis Nixonlooked to be approximately 48 years old when he was playing center field for the Twins in 1998, but now he's actually 48 years old and is writing a book about his life "in the belly of the beast."
Two weeks ago in this space I passed along some gossip from the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show about how Timberwolves guard Marko Jaric once "dated" Penthouse Pet Jaime Hammer. At the time I wrote that Jaric "must be doing something right" despite being an overpaid role player because "Hammer probably isn't the only woman he's dated who makes a living by being attractive." Little did I know at the time how right that was.
Jaric is reportedlynow dating (without the quotation marks) Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima and being with her has seemingly improved his on-court performance. Jaric is averaging 15 points and six assists per game over the past two weeks after averaging just five points and two assists in 70 games last season. As teammate Mark Madsenexplained: "Ever since he started dating Adriana Lima, he's a new man. He's flying all over the court. He dunked! I've never seen him dunk." A comparison:
That's Hammer on the left, the NBA's luckiest player in the middle, and Lima on the left. It took me about 15 minutes just to find a picture of Hammer that features her in some level of clothing, which shows the great lengths that I'm willing to go for my readers. UPDATE: There's also this.
If you've ever wondered what Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal III looks like while doing his job, here's your chance:
And yes, it's every bit as thrilling as it appears. Sadly, no one snapped any photos of the assembled media at Ron Gardenhire's winter meetings press conference last year, when you would have seen me front and center playing reporter-for-a-day with my little notebook. Gardenhire got more dressed up this time, ditching the sunglasses-around-the-neck look that he sported last year. The first person to identify every media member in the above photo gets a free year's subscription to AG.com.
Here's the winner of this week's Ridiculously Homerish Thing Written By Sid Hartman:
Manager Ron Gardenhire has shown his ability to keep clubhouse problems from escalating out of control.
Does it count as "escalating out of control" when a pitcher takes a baseball bat to the manager's office door? Or how about when one of the team's star players attempts to punch another of the team's star players in the face, but misses and hits one of the team's worst players instead? Apparently the Twins' clubhouse would be like Thunderdome if Gardenhire wasn't so great at keeping things calm.
Speaking of Torii Hunter's attempt to punch Justin Morneau in the face, Hartman's colleague Jim Souhan predictably opined in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his beloved "face of the franchise" only "did so because he thought that's what his manager wanted." Such a prince, that Hunter.
What do you get when you combine Hartman's obliviousness with Souhan's horrendous analysis? St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Bob Sanseveresuggesting that the Twins should acquire Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz from the Red Sox. But wait, the idea that the Twins could somehow pry those five players away from Boston actually isn't the most absurd part. Seriously.
Among the players Sansevere thinks the Twins should send back to the Red Sox in his proposed trade? Free agent Carlos Silva, who the team has absolutely zero control over and can sign anywhere. A well-paid, high-profile writer who's long been employed to provide sports analysis for a major newspaper, Sansevere finishes his embarrassment of a column by writing: "I have just one question. What's Twins general manager Bill Smith waiting for? He should have this deal done by now."
Anyone wanna buy a newspaper?
For someone reason I often forget to include Marisa Miller when the subject of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidates comes up, which is clearly a mistake.
Having seen his last MLB action in 2005, former Twins prospect Matt Kinney is heading to Japan, potentially setting up a historic Kinney-Lew Ford matchup in 2008.
As a Dan Barreiro fan from way back I'm glad to see him sign a new contract, but hopefully at some point within the next six years he'll stop the illogical ax-grinding against Kevin Garnett and Joe Mauer.
One thing that you can always count on is that when a mainstream media member mentions me in a positive light while doing an interview somewhere, I'll link to it (scroll down to the final question).
As a longtime Adam Carolla fan, I couldn't possibly be rooting any harder for former Eagles running back and kick returner Vai Sikahema. I've never actually heard Sikahema speak, but nothing would make me happier than to see them fight for the co-host job.
One of the Diamond-Mind keeper leagues that I'm in suddenly has several openings. It's a hardcore, time-consuming league and we're looking for people who have previous Diamond-Mind experience. If you're interested and fit that bill, drop me an e-mail.
Yesterday was one of the most-trafficked days in the history of AG.com, so apparently everyone enjoyed the near-hourly Johan Santanaupdates. Things seem to have slowed to a crawl on the Santana front after a frenzied 48 hours and the winter meetings finish up this afternoon, so there may not be a ton of Santana-related speculation to pass along today. However, just to be safe I'll devote one more day to Santana rumors. As was the case yesterday, notes will be posted in reverse-chronological order ...
10:05 A.M. UPDATE: Over at his Boston Globe blog, Edes notes that Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is leaving the winter meetings without a deal for Santana, but "said there would continue to be an open dialogue with the Twins."
8:45 A.M. UPDATE: For whatever it's worth, LEN3 passes along this quote from Bill Smith regarding the possibility of simply keep Santana long term: "I've said all along, it's our first choice. We would love to have him, love to keep him." While that sounds good, there's zero chance of Santana sticking around unless the Twins significantly increase their reported offer both in years and per-season salary.
2:30 A.M. UPDATE: Over at his Minneapolis Star Tribune blog, Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal IIIwrites that "the winter meetings are over as far as I'm concerned" because "unless the Twins have a whopper announcement when I wake up, nothing is happening." LEN3 previously reported that the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Mariners, and Rangers were all in the mix, but now thinks that Seattle and Texas are long shots because Santana may only want to go to the East Coast.
Along with the Santana update, LEN3 had some interesting thoughts on the winter meetings:
These meetings were a disappointment. The media horde wanted to see a bunch of deals, but only one was announced this week. ONE! We tired of writing about the same rumors and recycling the same names and putting teams in negotiations, pulling them out and then putting them back in.
I didn't update as much because I didn't know anything new. We shook our heads as crazy rumors were floated. It got to the point where the plausible outranked the factual, and that's when you know you've been here too long. Someone here described the winter meetings as, "four days where good journalism goes out the window." I agree.
We fed the monster. We're tired of feeding the monster. All we want to do is go home on work on the Christmas card mailing lists.
Aside from the part about Christmas card mailing lists, that's almost exactly how I felt after attending last year's winter meetings in Orlando (where I was lucky enough to witness first-hand LEN3 fending off boredom by forcing other writers in the media room to talk about soccer). And on that note, it's probably time for a little sleep.
2:00 A.M. UPDATE:David Lennon and Ken Davidoff of New York Newsdayreport that "the Mets sweetened their offer to the Twins by adding players to the package, but as long as Jose Reyes is not part of it ... the Twins insist a deal is virtually impossible." General manager Omar Minaya reiterated that he has no plans to trade Reyes and Newsday notes that "Minnesota apparently is not satisfied" with some combination of Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, and Philip Humber.
1:30 A.M. UPDATE:Gordon Edes of the Boston Globereports that as of Wednesday night "there was scant evidence that a trade for Santana was in the offing." He notes that the Red Sox "expected to maintain some dialogue" about Santana, but that the Twins seemed "no more inclined to accept the Sox proposals than the Yankee offers that went by the board earlier this week."
12:15 A.M. UPDATE:Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Red Sox "warmed to the idea of trading for" Santana "mere hours after questioning the merits of the deal," but that "the parameters of the trade have not changed." In other words, the Twins are still looking at a Jacoby Ellsbury-led package or a Jon Lester-led package. While Brown confirms previous talk of the Mariners joining the mix for Santana, he notes that "talks there have stagnated, as they did with the Angels."
Part of my job at Rotoworld involves collecting information that's reported from various newspaper, radio, television, and online sources in order to pass it along to readers. Rotoworld's player news page essentially serves as a clearing house for news and rumors. As my colleague Gregg Rosenthalonce put it, Rotoworld's goal is to aggregate every piece of information and have every interesting scrap of news posted to the site faster than anywhere but the original source. We see it, we post it.
Given that goal, you can imagine how busy we've been with the winter meetings in full effect this week. Yesterday alone Rotoworld's player news page contained literally hundreds of "blurbs" passing along information on free-agent signings, trades, and rumors. Johan Santanaled the way with 32 updates in a 24-hour period. In other words, Rotoworld passed along a new, fully sourced Santana update every 45 minutes for an entire day.
Included among yesterday's Santana sources: Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, ESPN.com, Boston Herald, MLB.com, St. Paul Pioneer Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, SI.com, Newark Star-Ledger, Providence Journal, New York Daily News, and New York Newsday. If there was a piece of Santana-related information out there, we found it, shared it, and analyzed it. And my guess is that the Santana rumors and speculation (and perhaps news) will be even more plentiful today.
Rather than simply point you to Rotoworld today, I'm going to try something a little different by bringing the Rotoworld-style news gathering to AG.com. Instead of my usual one-post-per-day approach to this site, I'm going to pass along (and comment on) Santana information from various sources as it pops up. In other words, for one day at least this site is going to be an actual blog rather than a daily column masquerading as one.
If you're anywhere near as obsessed with and intrigued by the ongoing Santana trade talk as I am, my hope is that you'll stop by multiple times throughout the day to stay up to speed on everything that's going on (or at least rumored to be going on). Notes will be posted in reverse-chronological order, so the most recent stuff is at the top and the older stuff is at the bottom. Enjoy and feel free to hang out in the comments section and ... well, comment. And away we go ...
6:20 P.M. UPDATE: LEN3 checks in via his blog to say that the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Rangers, and Mariners are all "interested" or "still interested" in Santana, while the Angels are "not interested, but have talked to the Twins about other players" and "might change their minds on Santana." He also notes that "it appears unlikely a deal will be reached this week." In other words, the past 72 hours appear to have been a whole lot of nothing. Well covered, widely read nothing, but still nothing.
5:15 P.M. UPDATE: Santana's agent, Peter Greenberg, told the New York Post that he's "hearing" that the Mets are talking to the Twins and "reading" that the Yankees are out of the mix. "Everything seems to change on a daily basis," Greenberg said. While it's possible that he's not being completely forthright with reporters, Greenberg figures to know when a trade is nearing because he's expected to negotiate a long-term contract extension between Santana and the team that acquires him.
1:35 P.M. UPDATE: In addition to Heyman's report that the Mets are "trying to get back into the mix," Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com writes that the Mariners' interest in Santana could increase if they miss out on Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda. The Mariners are seemingly a good fit for the Twins, because they could build a package around high-upside, MLB-ready center fielder Adam Jones while also including some combination of Brandon Morrow, Wladimir Balentien, and Jeff Clement.
Rosenthal also notes that "the Red Sox still appear to be the most likely match for the Twins," but quotes an unnamed source as saying that the two sides "are just not matching up right now."
1:05 P.M. UPDATE: Amid speculation that the Twins and Red Sox are still negotiating, Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that "the Mets have been aggressive in trying to get back into the mix" for Santana. Heyman indicates that they remain unlikely to part with Jose Reyes, but suggests that the Twins "are at least listening to Mets proposals that don't include Reyes." Heyman also notes that "the Angels say they aren't involved and rumors that the Dodgers may jump in couldn't be confirmed."
Any Reyes-less proposals figure to include some combination of Gomez, Fernando Martinez, Mike Pelfrey, Kevin Mulvey, and Philip Humber. Gomez projects to be a similar player to Ellsbury, but isn't nearly as MLB-ready at this point, and Pelfrey, Mulvey, and Humber are each at least one step below Lester. Martinez is the best prospect in the bunch and has superstar potential, but he's 19 years old. The Mets' best fit for the Twins was probably Lastings Milledge, but they traded him earlier this week.
12:50 P.M. UPDATE: While various sources have reported today that the Twins may end up leaving the winter meetings without a trade for Santana in place, Ed Price of the Newark Star-Ledgerpasses along information from an unnamed "baseball official close to Boston management" that the two sides "are continuing to negotiate on players in a possible deal" and "the Red Sox are making offers as if there is still competition for Santana."
12:00 P.M. UPDATE: At ESPN.com, Peter Gammonswrites: "Don't expect to see a Twins-Red Sox or Twins-Yankees whopper. The sense is now that Minnesota will hold onto Santana." That sounds newsworthy, but Gammons may simply mean that the Twins plan to hold onto Santana past the winter meetings, which is essentially what LEN3 (and others) reported earlier. If he means that the Twins plan to hold onto Santana, period, then the situation has changed dramatically in the past 24 hours.
11:10 A.M. UPDATE: LEN3 checks in to say that "a lot of us here are coming to the realization that the Twins may head home from the winter meetings with Santana still on the roster" in part because even an agreed-upon deal would be delayed by Santana's new team hammering out a long-term contract extension with him before the trade becomes official. He adds that "the Twins continue to negotiate with multiple teams," which jibes with Law's report about the Mets, Angels, and Dodgers earlier today.
10:00 A.M. UPDATE: Friend of AG.com and ESPN analyst Keith Lawreports that the Twins reached out to the Dodgers, Angels, and Mets regarding Santana. I'm not sure that the Mets are an especially good fit, although the Twins are no doubt very high on speedy 22-year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez. However, the Dodgers and Angels both have more than enough young talent to put attractive packages for Santana together if they feel like jumping into the mix.
Of course, with the Yankees potentially out of the picture (for now, at least), the Twins may simply be trying to find another way to apply some pressure to the Red Sox.
9:20 A.M. UPDATE:Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe, who's one of the best beat writers around, speculates that the Twins can choose between a package that includes Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, and Justin Masterson or a package that includes Jon Lester, Coco Crisp, Lowrie, and Masterson. In other words, it comes down to whether the Twins would rather have Ellsbury or Lester and Crisp. If that's the case, my hope is that they go with the Ellsbury-based package.
Lester has the potential to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, but the Twins aren't hurting for long-term rotation options and Ellsbury could be the team's center fielder and leadoff hitter for the next six seasons. He's somewhat overrated coming off an impressive postseason run and his lack of power would make it tough for him to become a superstar, but Ellsbury looks capable of developing into a cross between Kenny Lofton and Johnny Damon. Think .300/.370/.425 with good defense and 50-steal speed.
7:55 A.M. UPDATE:Bill Madden of the New York Daily Newsreports that the Yankees turned down a 4-for-1 deal that would have sent Hughes, Cabrera, Jeff Marquez, and Mitch Hilligoss to Minnesota. Most previous reports speculated that the Yankees balked at including Kennedy along with Hughes and Cabrera, but Madden suggests that general manager Brian Cashman turned down a version that didn't even involve Kennedy because he "never wanted to do the Santana deal in the first place."
6:15 A.M. UPDATE: Despite various reports suggesting that the Twins had informed teams that they wanted to have an agreement in place by the end of the day, Rob Bradford of the Boston Herald was "the last person in the lobby" last night and notes that Tuesday came and went without a deal being worked out. Depending on how early Theo Epstein and Bill Smith feel like waking up, there should be a whole new batch of rumors rolling in shortly.
12:45 A.M. UPDATE:According to the Boston Herald, "the Twins are in no hurry to conduct business" and the two sides may have called it quits for the night. The newspaper suggests that the Red Sox are "as curious as anyone else what the Twins' next move will be." The lack of urgency involved from both parties seems to suggest that they aren't as close to a deal as some have speculated and the Twins might still be fielding offers from other teams. Sounds like we'll have to pick this up in the morning.
12:20 A.M. UPDATE:T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that the Rangers talked to the Twins about Santana on Tuesday, but came away thinking that they weren't a good fit.
12:05 A.M. UPDATE: Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal IIIreports over at his Star Tribune blog that "the Twins have not been told by the Yankees that they have pulled out of the Santana sweepstakes." LEN3 adds that "it doesn’t look like anything is close," telling his readers to "go to bed." Despite feeling the need to go public with everything, it's clear that Hank Steinbrennerdoesn't speak for the entire Yankees organization.
The odds of the Yankees letting the Red Sox acquire Santana without making one last effort to swoop in seem pretty slim, even with Steinbrenner's self-imposed Monday night deadline having long expired. Various reports suggest that the Yankees have offered Phil Hughes and Melky Cabrera, plus at least one other player. The Twins are said to have asked for Ian Kennedy as that "one other player," which the Yankees have apparently balked at so far.
As of late Tuesday afternoon it sounds like the Twins are on the verge of trading Johan Santana, most likely to the Red Sox unless the Yankees or another team swoops in unexpectedly at the last moment. I'll post an in-depth, Gleeman-length breakdown of the trade as soon as possible if/when it actually becomes official, but until then everyone who's clamoring for Santana-related information should head over to Rotoworld's up-to-the-minute player news page and get familiar with the reload button.
If you've been wondering about the potential impact that trading for Delmon Young could have on the Twins' team chemistry, a familiar name has all the answers (plus an inside look at the thrilling LaVelle E. Neal III-Joe Christensen carpool).
The Twins will have a big hole in the ninth inning if Joe Nathan is traded, but Ron Gardenhiresaid last week that Pat Neshek won't take over as closer if Nathan is dealt:
I think he could do the job part time, but no, we think he still has some things to learn, still get better at getting both sides of the plate out, all those things. That's not an option that we're looking at. If we were forced into it, we would try a lot of different things. I don't count on him as my closer, no.
Talk of Neshek needing to "get better at getting both sides of the plate out" has persisted dating back to his minor-league days, but he held left-handed hitters to .181/.288/.330 in 113 plate appearances this season and has limited them to .201/.292/.388 during his big-league career. For comparison, in 2007 lefties batted .264/.320/.421 against Matt Guerrier and .313/.402/.513 against Juan Rincon. If Nathan leaves and the Twins want to replace him with their best reliever, Neshek should get the job.
Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Pressreports that the Twins have asked Boof Bonser to lose 25 pounds during the offseason, which is the amount that Bonser is said to have gained between 2006 and 2007. Here's what pitching coach Rick Anderson said about Bonser: "The two things that killed him last year were durability, No. 1, and command of his fastball, No. 2. Those are directly related to being overweight." Of course, back in August the Twins wanted to him to lose "about 10 or 15 pounds."
When Jason Bartlett was in Minnesota, the local media misguidedly focused on his error totals when evaluating his defense at shortstop, ignoring his range and the relative uselessness of errors when analyzing defense. It didn't take long for that to change following last week's trade to Tampa Bay, with Devil Rays beat writer Marc Topkin offering the following note about Bartlett's defense in the St. Petersburg Times:
Though his .960 fielding percentage was among the worst for shortstops, he ranked much higher in terms of zone rating, range factor, chances and plus/minus, a complicated evaluation system from the Fielding Bible that rates how many more or fewer plays an individual makes compared to an average player at his position. Bartlett's plus-45 over the last three seasons is second best in the majors.
It would have been nice to read something like that from a mainstream media outlet while Bartlett was still with the Twins.
A month ago in this space I put together a list of 25 potential replacements for Torii Hunter in center field, looking at the "pros" and "cons" of each player from free agents Andruw Jones, Aaron Rowand, Mike Cameron, and Kenny Lofton to trade targets Coco Crisp, Lastings Milledge, Reggie Willits, and Jacque Jones. Perhaps the least-known player on the list was Indians minor leaguer Brian Barton, who was described like this:
PROS: Hit .326/.442/.506, .323/.412/.511, and .305/.402/.420 in three minor-league seasons, but stuck behind Grady Sizemore and has yet to make his big-league debut despite turning 26 years old soon.
CONS: Barton is a perfect low-cost, diamond-in-the-rough target, but might be stretched defensively and the Indians are unlikely to deal within their division.
My sense that the Indians didn't value Barton highly has proven to be correct, but it turns out that their willingness to make trades within the division is a non-issue. Why? Because the Indians left Barton unprotected for this week's Rule 5 draft, meaning that any team can pluck him from their organization for $50,000 as long as they're willing to keep him on the big-league roster all season. In the past the Twins have been fairly active in the Rule 5 draft, but they may not get a chance to grab Barton.
Having lost some outfield depth by trading Young and Jason Pridie to the Twins last week, the Devil Rays are reportedly considering taking Barton with the No. 1 pick in the Rule 5 draft. Interestingly, the Twins originally selected Pridie in the Rule 5 draft back in 2005, but decided not to keep him on the major-league roster and sent him back to the Devil Rays at the end of spring training. Two years later they still liked him and had to give up a lot more than $50,000 to acquire him in a six-player swap.
In past years the Twins have had a lot of success grabbing players from other teams in the Rule 5 draft, with Santana and Shane Mack being the two most prominent examples. However, last season provided an example of the flip side to that, with the Padres plucking reliever Kevin Cameron from the Twins' organization and watching as he posted a 2.79 ERA in 58 innings out of their bullpen. Looking over this year's list of unprotected players, the Twins are in danger of losing several solid prospects.
Yohan Pino and Garrett Guzman were both included on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects heading into the season and each improved their stock with strong performances in the minors. Pino posted a 3.13 ERA and 104-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 115 innings between high Single-A and Double-A while Guzman hit .312/.359/.453 in 125 games at Double-A, yet they're both available to any team that wants them for $50,000 and a season-long spot on the big-league roster.
Brock Peterson narrowly missed making the top 40 for 2007, but will rank highly on the 2008 list after hitting .285/.382/.476 in 112 games at Double-A. With back-to-back strong offensive seasons Peterson is one of the few hitting prospects in the upper minors of the Twins' minor-league system that has some chance to be an impact bat in the majors, but he may not get a chance if another team deems him worthy of stashing on the big-league roster for a season.
The Twins could also lose David Winfree, Matt Moses, Jay Sawatski, Matt Fox, and Luke Hughes, among others. Moses is the biggest name on that list by virtue of being a 2003 first-round pick, but he's been a tremendous bust and had a horrible 2007 season. The only prospect on the list who figures to join Peterson, Guzman, and Pino in my top 40 for 2008 is Winfree, but as a 22-year-old first baseman who batted .267/.308/.426 at Double-A this season he seems unlikely to be selected.
Last week the Twins made some small moves to address their lack of upper-minors hitting depth, including signing 29-year-old Jon Knott to a minor-league contract. Knott is coming off a mediocre year at Triple-A and was no doubt signed to help Rochester win games, but as a right-handed corner bat who's hit .280/.368/.520 in 3,000 minor-league plate appearances he could provide 90 percent of Craig Monroe's offensive production at 10 percent of the cost if asked to platoon against left-handed pitching.
Speaking of right-handed corner bats, Chris Sheltonhas been designated for assignment by the Tigers. Shelton fell out of favor in Detroit after slumping in 2006, but he's still just 27 years old and has hit .281/.348/.477 in 899 big-league plate appearances along with .311/.410/.500 in over 2,000 trips to the plate in the minors. Much like Josh Phelps, who was designated for assignment last month by the Pirates, Shelton would be a perfect low-cost bench bat for the Twins.
Dan Serafini, who's bounced around since being a bust as the Twins' first-round pick in 1992, has been handed a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's steroids policy. The 33-year-old left-hander explained that he "took substances that were prescribed for me by a doctor" while playing in Japan and "didn't use any banned substances in order to gain a competitive advantage," but the suspension likely ends his big-league career following a three-game stint with the Rockies in 2007.
Let go in October by the Twins after hitting .233/.315/.362 for his third straight sub par season, the Kyodo Newsreports that Lew Ford is negotiating to play in Japan for the Hanshin Tigers. Hanshin is likely to lose Kosuke Fukudome, who was one of the 25 potential Hunter replacements covered here last month, so Ford could get a chance to replace him in the outfield.