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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game

Thursday, October 17, 2002

The Minnesota Twins:  A Plan for the Future

Aaron takes a look at the upcoming years of the AL Central champs.  Part one of two.

Growing up in Minnesota and having been a Minnesota Twins fan all my life, I am quite used to thinking about "next season."  From 1993 to 2000, the Minnesota Twins failed to win more than half their games in any season.  During each of those eight seasons, they failed to finish higher than second-to-last place in their division. Throughout the better portion of the 1990s, usually by about the All-Star break, most Twins fans were saying something along the lines of, "Yeah, they stink this year, buy maybe next season?"

Well, this year is a little different.  The Twins won 94 games, the American League Central Division title during the regular season, and a first round series in the post-season.  Perhaps more importantly, they appear to be in a good position to dominate their (admittedly inferior) division for most of the remaining decade.

However, because of their financial circumstances (Pohlad?s tight wallet), making good on the promise that the franchise currently is showing will be a major challenge.  They will be working under tight payroll constraints which means they will have a disadvantage when it comes to signing both their own players and other teams? free agents to long-term contracts.  This is obviously a tough situation for a team to be in, but with good management and especially smart planning, it can be done.

Coming off of their first playoff appearance in over a decade, the Minnesota Twins have some crucial decisions to make during this off-season.  Torii Hunter, who is still only arbitration eligible, has expressed an interest in signing a long term contract to remain a Minnesota Twin.  Several other players who had previously been making very little are now ready for substantial raises in salary.  With most teams, these decisions would be relatively easy; if they have a good, young, established player that they like, they negotiate a contract with him and sign him to a long-term contract.

For the Twins, it isn?t so simple.  With a payroll that will likely remain in the $40-$50 million range (one of the lowest in baseball) for the foreseeable future, every little increase in salary has a large affect on the team.  It has been suggested that Hunter is looking for a deal that would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $8-$10 million per season.  That is certainly a fair amount for a player of his caliber, but on the Twins, $10 million would take up nearly one-fourth of their entire payroll and would have a huge impact of their ability to retain other players. 

Fortunately for the Twins, and the reason their situation is unique, they have an extremely well-stocked minor league system, particularly in regard to position players.  The key for the Twins and their future will be making the correct decisions on who they sign to long-term contracts and who they let go (or trade) and replace with young, cheap, minor league prospects.

Let?s take a look at their current Major League roster and the various options the Twins have in their minor league system, position-by-position?

Catcher:

A.J. Pierzynski       Age:  25     Bats:  Left
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   381   .289   .322   .441   7   33   2   16
2002   440   .300   .334   .439   6   31   6   13

Pierzynski is deathly afraid of the walk, but other than that, he is a pretty good hitter and he is definitely consistent.  He doesn?t have very much home run power, but he has shown the ability to hit for a high average, he has decent doubles (and even triples this season) power and he showed an improvement against left-handed pitchers this season.  Also, he is an above-average defensive catcher.  Pierzynski is never going to remind anyone of Mike Piazza, Jorge Posada or Ivan Rodriguez, but he is young, consistent and valuable to a team.

While Pierzynski has already established himself as the Twins starting backstop at the age of 25, he is not the future of the Minnesota Twins behind the plate.  That honor belongs to Minnesota native and the #1 pick in the 2001 draft, Joe Mauer.

Joe Mauer           Age:  19     Bats:  Left
Year   Level   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   Rook   110   .400   .492   .491   0   6   2   19
2002   A     411   .302   .393   .392   4   23   1   61

He already has everything but power.  Good batting average, good plate discipline (especially for a 19 year old) and he gets rave reviews for his work defensively.

Baseball America ranks him as the #1 catching prospect in baseball.  It looks like the Twins have themselves a future star behind the plate in Mauer.  However, he is only 19 and is likely a minimum of 2-3 years from being ready for the big leagues which means that Pierzynski should be able to keep his job as the Twins? starting catcher for at least the next few years.

The catching situation appears to be an almost perfect scenario for the Twins.  They have a relatively young, established catcher at the Major League level and a potential stud several years away at the minor league level.  With the way catchers age, it is very likely that the Twins would be best served to start looking for a replacement for Pierzynski in a few years anyway as Pierzynski will be nearing 30 and Mauer will hopefully be ready to assume the starting role.

So, the Minnesota Twins? catching plan appears to be pretty simple:  Keep Pierzynski as the starter for approximately the next 3 seasons.  At that point, assuming Joe Mauer is ready for the Major Leagues, always a big assumption for a kid who just finished A-ball, let Pierzynski go, either as a free agent or through a trade and replace him with Mauer behind the plate.  In a different circumstance, it might be nice to allow Pierzynski to "tutor" Mauer at the Major League level for a year, with Mauer serving as his backup.  However, with both Pierzynski and Mauer being left-handed hitters, that scenario seems extremely unlikely.

My catching plan:  Pierzynski in 2003, 2004 and 2005.  Mauer in 2006 and beyond.

First Base:

Doug Mientkiewicz         Age:  28   Bats:  Left
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   543   .306   .387   .464   15   39   1   67
2002   467   .261   .365   .392   10   29   1   74

Mientkiewicz is an absolutely phenomenal defensive first baseman, which I suppose is sort of like being the smartest kid in the dumb class.  It means you are good, but, well, how good could you be if you are playing first base for the dumb class?

His hitting leaves a lot to be desired.  The on-base percentage is nice and the fact that he drew more walks in significantly less playing time in 2002 is a good thing too.  Unfortunately, his power numbers are pretty pathetic for a starting first baseman, particularly in this era.

Mientkiewicz presents what I believe to be the most important decision in regard to a single position (first base) that the Twins will be faced with.  He has become a fan favorite because of his great defense, long name, high batting average last season, lack of batting gloves, high socks, pine-tarred helmet and probably several other interesting factors.

As a Twins fan, I am worried that the organization will confuse Mientkiewicz being a likeable player and perfectly good temporary first baseman with someone that should be signed to a long-term contract and made the starter for the rest of his career.

If they make the wrong decision, it could be very costly.

One spot of optimism for the Twins making the correct decision on Mientkiewicz (no long-term deal) is their minor league first base prospect, Justin Morneau.  The Twins appear to be extremely high on Morneau, and rightfully so, which gives me some hope that they are planning on having him as their long-term solution at first base.

Justin Morneau           Age:  21   Bats:  Left
Year   Level   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   A/AA   471   .314   .384   .497   16   28   5   53
2002   AA   494   .298   .356   .474   16   31   4   42

While the power numbers are certainly less than awe inspiring, the general consensus among scouts and analysts is that Morneau will eventually develop into a big time home run hitter.  Baseball America ranked him as the #1 first base prospect in baseball.  It appears as though Morneau will eventually be a star in the majors, but the question is, when?

I think he definitely needs a minimum of one full season in Triple-A.  Unless he absolutely tears the cover off the ball there next season (which could certainly happen), I would like to see him at least start a second season at Triple-A with the possibility of being called up sometime during the middle of the 2004 season, or at the very latest, when rosters expand in September of 2004.

Under that scenario, Doug Mientkiewicz would have at least one and possibly two full seasons remaining as the starting first baseman.  Those two seasons would be Mientkiewicz?s age 29 and 30 years, which would be at the end of the typical peak and would probably be fairly productive seasons.

However, if there are other teams that value Mientkiewicz for the same reasons the Minnesota fans do, the Twins should not hesitate to trade him and cash in his value while they can.  They have plenty of internal options for potential first basemen (more on that later) to bridge the gap between now and when Morneau is ready.

My first base plan: Look into trading Mientkiewicz.  Otherwise, Mientkiewicz in 2003 and most of 2004.  Morneau in 2005 and beyond.

Second Base:

Luis Rivas             Age:  23   Bats:  Right
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001   563   .266   .319   .362   7   21   6   40   31   11
2002   316   .256   .305   .392   4   23   4   19   9   4

During most of this season and particularly this post-season, I, and I suspect many other Twins fans, generally referred to the Twins? starting second baseman as "[Firetrucking] Rivas."

For most of the 2001 season, Rivas? first full year, I had high hopes for his future.

He was 22 years old, looked athletic, showed some speed, occasional power and generally appeared to have a somewhat bright future.  Then he suffered a broken hand after being hit by a pitch during the first week of this season and missed significant time.  Somewhere between the time he returned to the lineup and the start of the post-season, I lost all hope for Luis Rivas becoming a quality Major League second baseman.

You see, Rivas is that so-called enigma wrapped in a riddle and after seeing him this season, I am certain that I do not want to spend the time and waste the at-bats trying to solve the riddle.

He is young and athletic, but he is a horrible defensive second baseman.  He has trouble on any ball that is hit to his right and he isn?t much better going to his left.  In fact, his range is so bad that, among everyday second basemen last season, he ranked 19th out of 20 overall and dead last in the American League in Zone Rating, with a pathetic .781.  For reference, Adam Kennedy led MLB 2B last year with a .888 ZR.

This season, Rivas missed too much time to place him among everyday second basemen, but if you take his Zone Rating (.803) over the 93 games he did play and compare them to the actual everyday second basemen, he ranks 15th out of 19 total and, once again, dead last in the American League. 

So, he is 23 years old and has played in two full major league seasons in which he showed, at least according to Zone Rating, the worst range of any second baseman in the American League.  I don?t have any scientific studies to back this up, but I am going to take a wild guess and say that most second basemen that stink defensively at 22 and 23 don?t start improving as they get older and their speed and athleticism decrease.

So, Rivas stinks on defense, but what about his offense?  I?m sorry you asked.

Rivas showed some promise offensively last season.  While he didn?t hit for a very good average or much power, he did have a somewhat decent walk rate for a 22 year old rookie and he did pretty good job stealing bases.

This season, Rivas continued to hit for a low average, but he did improve his power slightly.  But that slight improvement in power was more than offset by his regression in plate discipline and his lack of stolen bases.

Basically, Luis Rivas has one thing going for him, his age.  On the other side of the ledger, you have his wretched defense, a low batting average, regressing plate discipline, tons of strikeouts to go along with very little power, and vanishing stolen base abilities.

Rivas might be young and he might have some talent, but personally, I have seen enough.  If this team were in a complete "rebuilding" mode I might be willing to stick with Rivas and see if his defense or plate discipline could be improved or if his power would develop further, but the Twins are contenders right now and they can?t afford a black hole at 2B.

The biggest area of concern and the spot that the Twins need to upgrade the most is without a doubt second base, but the problem is, they have essentially nothing as far as second base prospects go.  That being the case, the Twins main concern for this off-season should be locating and acquiring a new starting second baseman.  Doing so would not only be an upgrade over their current "situation," but would also allow them to trade Luis Rivas for whatever they could get for him, which I suspect would be something of at least decent value.

Second base is a position that has readily available talent most of the time.

Former shortstops get moved there, former third basemen get moved there, even former catchers get moved there.  It is a place for guys who couldn?t hack it defensively at shortstop or couldn?t hack it offensively at another position.

Current quality MLB second basemen like Frank Catalanotto or Junior Spivey or Mark Bellhorn were all minor league veterans and/or major league bench players, and guys like that are always readily available to smart major league teams.  One example of a guy who is rotting away on the bench and could probably be had relatively cheaply is Marcus Giles of the Atlanta Braves.

Bobby Cox seems intent on not playing Giles in a full-time role and I would love to see him playing every day in Minnesota.  Giles has some pretty good pop with the bat, is willing to draw a walk and he is at least passable defensively.

Another option would be to try to trade for a second base prospect that would be your second baseman for years to come.  Some intriguing guys like Joe Thurston (Dodgers) or Bobby Hill (Cubs) would look pretty good in Twins uniforms, but they would probably come at a pretty high price.

Yet another option (albeit one that isn?t likely to happen) would be for the Twins to go out and trade for or sign an established veteran second baseman.  Ray Durham will be a free agent this off-season, Jeff Kent too.  Kent would likely be way way way out of their price range, but if Durham could be signed to a 3 year deal for about $15-$18 million, I think the Twins would benefit by doing it.

Whatever the choice, the Twins need to do something to solve their problem at second base.

My second base plan: Someone other than Rivas (Giles? Thurston? Hill? Durham? Gleeman?) in 2003 and beyond.

Shortstop:

Cristian Guzman         Age:  24   Bats:  Switch
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001   493   .302   .337   .477   10   28   14   21   25   8
2002   623   .273   .292   .385   9   31   6   17   12   13

Well, I already used the enigma wrapped in a riddle line for Rivas, so I am not sure how to describe Guzman.

Guzman?s first half of 2001 is the kind of shortstop play that gets grown men feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  He hit .308, got on-base nearly 35% of the time and slugged over .500, including 13 triples, 22 doubles and 7 homers in under 350 at-bats.

Combine that with his age at the time and his position and you had something to really get excited about.  Then, he injured his shoulder and missed some time, and when he came back, all the power was gone (he hit .288 in the 2nd half, but his SLG dropped to .404).

And this season, well, this season was just a mess.

Guzman has never been confused with Barry Bonds (or even Bobby Bonds) when it comes to allowing the pitcher to throw four called balls to him in one plate appearance.

But he had been making improvements in that area.

In 1999 (his rookie year) he drew 1 walk per 21 plate appearances.

In 2000 he drew 1 walk per 15 plate appearances.

In 2001 he drew 1 walk per 25 plate appearances.

This year he drew 1 walk per 39(!) plate appearances.

He almost got to the top plate discipline mountain in 2000, but then fell right back down in 2001 and sunk all the way to center of the earth in 2002.

Personally, I think there is something physically wrong with Guzman?s legs (or knees or feet or whatever).  His once jaw dropping speed (34 triples and 53 steals in 2000+2001) is suddenly gone.  When Guzman hit a ball into an outfield corner or gap in 2000 and the first half of 2001, he would get a triple, there was no question about it.

Now, when he hits a ball into a gap, he inevitably ends up jogging into second base.

And his stolen base % this season?  48% (12/25), which is just awful.  He grounded into 12 double plays this season, which is twice as many as his previous career high.

I fear his top notch speed is probably lost for good, but he still has some valuable skills.  Even though he had a horrible offensive season this year, he still managed to hit .273.  You have got to think that if a guy can come so close to having a good walk rate in only his second season in the major leagues, he can learn to do so again.  All he needs to do is get back to drawing a walk every 15 trips to the plate, like he did in 2000, and along with his fair-to-good batting average, he can be a pretty decent source of OBP.

Of course, there is always the chance that 2000 was a fluke and that he is a full- on hacker, incapable of learning to take even a mediocre amount of walks, in which case you are looking at the possibility of sub .300 OBPs every single year.

He also has shown consistently good extra base power.  Even with his ability to hit three-baggers almost gone, he is still a very good gap hitter, capable of hitting 30-40 doubles a season.  Eventually, as he ages, some of those gappers should find their way over the fence and then you are looking at a 15 HR, 30 double guy, which is pretty good out of a normal (non-ARod) shortstop.

Like Rivas, Guzman?s defense is pretty bad.  He has trouble going up the middle and, although he has a strong arm, he tends to lob the ball to first base, which goes along with his all-around lazy image.  But while I have no hope for Rivas, I am surprisingly optimistic with Guzman.  He and Rivas are just about the same age but Guzman has shown several skills (hitting for average and extra base power) that Rivas hasn?t even approached yet.  Plus, what are the chances of the Twins ditching both of their young middle infielders and finding two replacements?  Not very good, so I am putting on my hopes and dreams into them replacing Rivas.

That said, the Twins definitely need to focus on acquiring middle infield depth via the draft or trades.  As it stands now, they have no real options, other than Guzman and Rivas, to play 2B and SS on an everyday basis.

My shortstop plan: Guzman in 2003 and beyond.  Draft a shortstop (and a second baseman) for the distant future.

Third Base:

Corey Koskie           Age:  29   Bats:  Left
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001   562   .276   .362   .488   26   37   2   68   27   6
2002   490   .267   .368   .447   15   37   3   72   10   11

Corey Koskie is just a good, solid major league baseball player.  He plays good defense, he hits for a decent average, he draws some walks, he steals some bases, he hits with decent power so he is definitely the kind of player that can push a team toward a championship.

But, he is also real close to being on the wrong side of thirty, which means a swift decline is a distinct possibility at any time.  At some point in the very near future, Koskie is going to both old and pretty expensive to keep, so the Twins should be planning on having a new third baseman in place by the start of the 2005 season at the latest.

Depending on how bad Michael Cuddyer?s defense at third base really is (I have heard varying reports), I would consider moving him back there within the next year or two, slowly making the shift by playing him at 3B against lefties, with Koskie on the bench and then playing him there occasionally against righties too.

My third base plan: Koskie in 2003, 2004 and possibly 2005.  Cuddyer in 2005 and beyond.

Center Field:

Torii Hunter           Age:  27   Bats:  Right
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001   564   .261   .306   .479   27   32   5   29   9   6
2002   561   .289   .334   .524   29   37   4   35   23   8

Torii was the Twins’ best player in 2002 and is a pretty good bet to be their best player in 2003 and a for few more years after that.

He hits for a good batting average (.289 career).  He hits for good power (56 homers and 69 doubles the last two years).  He recently started stealing bases (22 career SB through 2001, 23 in 2002).  And he does it all while playing perhaps the most important defensive position, particularly on a team with a pitching staff that is as fly ball oriented as the Twins staff is.

The only thing keeping him from being an absolute superstar is his lack of plate discipline.  Torii goes up there hackin?, and in his career he has walked a grand total of 110 times in 2,006 plate appearances.  For comparison, Jason Giambi walked 109 times in 689 plate appearances this season.  But, not all players are the complete package, and Torii can certainly be a very valuable player without drawing walks.

While Torii?s hitting has improved each year of his major league career, his defense, which was simply amazing in 2001, regressed slightly in 2002.  Torii had a lot of balls bounce off the end of his glove and even more balls go shooting a foot or two past him and into the gaps.  He is still a very good defensive center fielder, capable of making some wonderful plays, but I think he is slightly slower and/or less athletic in the field, possibly because he bulked up a little bit or maybe because of a minor injury or two that is limiting his mobility slightly.  In either case, it is a little worrisome when a great defensive player declines noticeably from one year to the next.

Here are his defensive stats from the last 2 years:

Year ZnRt RngF

2001 .904 3.29

2002 .897 2.70

Now, the difference between making 3.29 plays per game (which is what Range Factor measures) and 2.70 plays per game might not seem like a lot, but over the course a of 162 game season, that is a difference of nearly 100 outs, which is a huge amount.  However, the amount of plays a fielder makes is dependent a lot upon the fly ball-groundball nature of the pitching staff.  It is very possible that the 2002 Twins pitchers did not allow as many fly balls to be hit into center field, in which case Hunter would obviously make less plays out there.

However, even if that were true, Zone Rating accounts for the balls that are hit into his zone (center field).  If 5 balls are hit into Hunter’s “zone” and he catches all 5, he has a 1.000 ZR, if he catches 4, he has a .800 ZR…it is just like a batting average.

So, not only did Hunter make significantly fewer plays than he did last season, he made less plays on the balls that were hit into his zone than he did last year.

All of that being said, I think the Twins would be best served to lock Hunter up with a long term contract, preferably one that is 4-5 years in length.  He is the best player on the team and he is still fairly young.  At some point, the team is going to have to make a commitment to retaining some of their key players and I think Hunter is the best possible choice for that.  Good hitting center fielders that can hold their own defensively are very hard to find.

On the other hand, the Twins do have a possible CF replacement for Hunter in Jacque Jones?

Left Field:

Jacque Jones           Age:  27   Bats:  Left
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001   475   .276   .335   .417   14   25   0   39   12   9
2002   577   .300   .341   .511   27   37   2   37   6   7

Like Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones made great strides in improving as a hitter from 2001 to 2002.

Also like Hunter, Jacque is a very good defensive outfielder, capable of playing a good center field and he doesn?t like to walk a whole lot.

However, unlike Hunter, Jacque Jones cannot hit both left handed and right handed pitchers and that becomes a big disadvantage, especially when Ron Gardenhire has shown a complete unwillingness to platoon Jones with someone who can actually hit southpaws.

I believe that the Twins would be best served by trading one of their potential center fielders.  They have too many corner outfield types that are in need of playing time and the luxury of having two center fielders in the outfield is not one they can have.  Jacque Jones? hitting abilities are very good, but compared to other left fielders, they are not much more than average.  If Jones were to be in center field, his hitting numbers, compared to the other players at his position, would be far greater.

			 AVG	 OBP	 SLG	 EqA

Jacque Jones&#9       .300	.341	.511	.287	

Average LF		.271	.355	.452	.283

Average CF		.268	.336	.428	.268

As you can see, major league left fielders hit a whole lot better than major league center fielders.  As good as Jones? 2002 season was, it was barely better than the average major league left fielder.

By having Jones in left field, they are not only wasting his defensive talents, they are diminishing his overall value by allowing him to play a more "offensive"  position.  Jacque Jones becomes significantly more valuable to a team as a center fielder, which means the Twins should either move him there (and trade Torii Hunter) or trade Jones to another team (that would likely him their CF).

So, the question becomes, which CF do you want to keep?

One of the main factors in that decision is what each player would bring back in trade value.

I think Hunter would almost certainly fetch more in a trade, although Jones would also likely be able to fetch quite a bit.  However, I believe Hunter is and will continue to be the better player.  Despite his slight drop in defense this season, Hunter is still an upper level defensive center fielder and while I believe Jones would be a good center fielder, no one is really sure of how good he would be.  I think it is unlikely he would be as good as Hunter.

Offensively, on a team that is willing to platoon Jones with a player who hits lefties well, Jones is worth just as much, and possibly more, than Hunter.

Let?s say, for the sake of discussion that Jones had a .325 EqA against righties and a .200 EqA against lefties.

For the record, he hit .333/.372/.580 against righties and .213/.259/.331 against lefties in 2002.

If a manager were to only use Jones against lefties and was able to find a hitter that hit lefties reasonably well to platoon with him?

Jones vs. R (400 PA x .325 EqA) + Player X vs. L (190 PA x .270 EqA) = .307 EqA total

That platoon would be good for about a .307 EqA total, which would be excellent.

However, Gardenhire is unwilling to bench Jones against lefties, which means not only does he play against righties full-time (when he has a .325 EqA), but he also plays against lefties full-time (when he has a .200 EqA).

Jones vs. R (400 PA x .325 EqA) + Jones vs. L (190 PA x .200 EqA) = .285 EqA total

So, the pure Jones "platoon" is about 20 points of EqA worse than the "Jones against righties and someone else against lefties" platoon.

All of this is essentially a protracted way of saying that because Ron Gardenhire keeps Jacque Jones in the lineup against lefties and because he can?t hit lefties, his overall offensive value isn?t as high as it could be.

Torii Hunter, on the other hand, hits lefties and righties pretty equally (.860 OPS vs. R, .855 OPS vs. L), so he can be in the lineup everyday and he is not a liability in a quarter of the games like Jones is.

Hunter is the better defensive player and the better offensive player, which is why I would keep him and sign him to a long term contract, while finding a trade for Jacque Jones (anybody with a spare 2B need a good CF?).

The question then becomes, who replaces the departed Jones in left field?

The Twins have several options.

Bobby Kielty, Michael Cuddyer and Michael Restovich are all capable of playing an outfield corner position and putting up very good offensive stats.

Bobby Kielty           Age:  26   Bats:  Switch
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2001*  445   .279   .366   .456   14   33   2   61   8   0
2002   289   .291   .405   .484   12   14   3   52   4   1  

*The 2001 stat line is Kielty?s combined totals from AAA and the Twins.

I am not sure how else to say this in order to make my point crystal clear, so here goes?

FREE BOBBY KIELTY!

Bobby Kielty deserves 600 plate appearances a year and I think the Twins should be the team to give them to him.

I have been singing the praises of Kielty for quite some time now and people often say things about the "small sample" size of this season, in which he had a .291/.405/.484 line.

I will admit that 289 at bats are not enough to completely judge a player on, but Kielty?s minor league track record more than speaks for itself.

Year	Level	 AB	 AVG	 OBP	 SLG

2001	AAA	341	.287	.391	.478

2000	AA	451	.262	.396	.435

1999	A	245	.294	.401	.514

Take those stats and add them in with 2002 performance with the Twins?

2002	MLB	289	.291	.405	.484

? And you have a guy who has put up .390-405 on-base percentages for four consecutive years at every single level of professional baseball, in significant playing time at each level.

He switch hits, he can play any outfield position well, he is fast, he hits for power, he hits for average, he takes tons of walks?what else do you want?

My center field plan: Hunter for 2003 and beyond.

My left field plan: Trade Jacque Jones.  Bobby Kielty in 2003 and beyond.

Right Field:

Dustyael Kielmohrdyer     Age:  2_   Bats:  All
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2002   572   .274   .351   .462   23   30   4   60   6   4

6 different players appeared in at least 1 game in right field for the Twins in 2002.  The bulk of the playing time went to Dustan Mohr, Bobby Kielty and Michael Cuddyer (or morphed together, Dustyael Kielmohrdyer).  Also making appearances out there were Brian Buchanan, Michael Restovich and Denny Hocking.

Those stats above are the combined numbers of all Twins right fielders in 2002.

I have already talked about the glut of qualified corner outfield types that the Twins have.  That glut is the reason why I suggest they trade Jacque Jones and one member of the group, Bobby Kielty could step in and play LF as Jones? replacement.

With Kielty in LF, that leaves three main guys left to find playing time in Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich and Dustan Mohr.

Let?s start with the worst of the bunch, Dustan Mohr.

Dustan Mohr             Age:  26   Bats:  Right
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB   SB   CS
2002   383   .269   .325   .433   12   23   2   31   6   3

Mohr is what I would consider a very good fifth outfielder and a decent fourth outfielder.  He plays pretty good defense in either of the outfield corners, he can play a passable center field, he can hit a little and run a little.

For some reason, the Twins organization and particularly manager Ron Gardenhire became enamored with him during the 2002 season.  Some of it probably had to do with Mohr?s hot start, in which he hit .366/.423/.563 in the season?s first month.

After that hot first month, Mohr failed to hit over .300 in any of the remaining 5 months of the season and slumped horribly in the second half, hitting .229/.297/.389 in 157 at bats.

With the outfield talent the Twins have even if they trade Jacque Jones, Dustan Mohr has absolutely no business with a starting job and probably shouldn?t get more than 150-200 at bats in a season.

That leaves us with two candidates from our glut of outfielders to fill right field.

Michael Restovich         Age:  23   Bats:  Right
Year   Level   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   AA   501   .269   .341   .489   23   33   4   54
2002   AAA   518   .286   .353   .542   29   32   7   53

Like Joe Mauer, Restovich is a Minnesota native.  A huge man, Restovich is 6-4, 235, and generates some big power to go along with his physical stature.  His defense in the minors got mixed reviews - while he is not considered a defensive liability, his average arm and somewhat limited range make him, at best, an average defensive corner outfielder.

Baseball America ranks him as the #3 outfield prospect in baseball, right behind?

Michael Cuddyer           Age:  23   Bats:  Right
Year   Level   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   AA   509   .301   .391   .560   30   36   3   75
2002   AAA   330   .309   .379   .594   20   16   9   36

Those are Cuddyer?s minor leagues numbers from the last two years, but he was also called up to the big leagues for the final couple months of this season.  He struggled a little bit, but still managed to hit .259/.311/.429 with 4 homers and 7 doubles in 112 at bats.

Like Restovich, Cuddyer?s defense is definitely not great.  At times in his stint with the Twins during the season and particularly during the playoffs, he looked a little lost in right field and he definitely lacks outfield instincts.  But, you have to remember that he was originally drafted as a shortstop and was moved to third base where he played most of his games prior to this season.  He appears to have a decent outfield arm and pretty good athleticism, so I would expect his outfield defense to improve.

I think that the best bet for the Twins right now would be to set up the 3-way platoon that I hinted at earlier, at right field and third base.

Against left handed starters, I would suggest playing Restovich in right field and Cuddyer at third, with Corey Koskie (who struggles a bit with lefties) on the bench.

Against right handed starters I think they should start Cuddyer in right field, Koskie at third base and have Restovich either on the bench or at designated hitter.

Getting Koskie out of the lineup and two good right handed bats into the lineup against lefties should help the Twins improve upon their horrible hitting stats against lefties this season.

That is my short term suggestion.

Long term, as I talked about with Koskie, I would suggest gradually shifting Cuddyer to the full-time third baseman.

My right field plan: Restovich/Cuddyer in 2003 and 2004.  Restovich, all by himself in 2005 and beyond.

Designated Hitter:

David Ortiz             Age:  26   Bats:  Left
Year   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
2001   303   .234   .324   .475   18   17   1   40
2002   412   .272   .339   .500   20   32   1   43

David Ortiz has been frustrating Twins fans for several years now.  He will hit a monstrous home run in his first at bat of a game and then look absolutely lost in his next 3 at bats.  He?ll be dreadful at the plate for months at a time (.240/.310/.410 in the 1st half of 2002) and then crush the ball for prolonged stretches (.297/.363/.572 in the 2002 2nd half).  As much promise as he has shown off and on through the years, I think, quite simply, that it is time to let him go and try to live up to the promise on another team?s roster.

As was the case with the corner outfield spots, the Twins have a good, cheap, young player ready to step in and be the full-time designated hitter.

Matthew LeCroy           Age:  26   Bats:  Right
Year   Level   AB   AVG   OBP   SLG   HR   2B   3B   BB
1998   A     200   .305   .372   .540   12   9   1   21
1999   A     333   .297   .364   .526   20   20   1   42
      AAA   119   .303   .331   .605   10   4   1   5
2000   AA   195   .282   .390   .508   10   12   1   29
      AAA   65   .308   .348   .615   5   5   0   4
2001   AAA   396   .328   .390   .523   20   17   0   36
2002   AAA   174   .351   .412   .609   12   7   1   17

I am showing more than just a couple of LeCroy?s minor league seasons for one reason:  Matthew LeCroy has been hitting the snot out of the ball for about 5 straight years now.

In 1999, after hitting 20 homers and 20 doubles in 333 Single-A at bats, the Twins skipped LeCroy past Double-A and gave him one hundred and some odd Triple-A at bats to finish the 1999 minor league season.  He adjusted pretty damn well to Triple-A, slugging over .600.  The Twins then decided that, with less than 150 at bats above Single-A, Matthew LeCroy was ready to be in the major leagues.

He started the 2000 season with the Twins as a catcher (his original position) and (predictably) struggled.  The Twins gave him 167 at bats and decided they had seen enough, sending him back down to the minors, where he picked up right where he had left off, slugging .508 in AA and then .615 in AAA in 2000.

Despite his continued crushing of pitched baseballs in minor league parks across America, the Twins decided that the same guy who they thought was ready for the majors with under 150 at bats above A-ball the year before, was now not ready for the Majors and gave him a grand total of 40 Major League at bats at the end of last season, in which he hit .425/.429/.775(!).

Back in 2000 the Twins were so unimpressed by LeCroy?s first 167 at bats in the Major Leagues that they sent him back down to the minors, where he continued to hit like crazy.  Then, a year later, the same team that judged him on those 167 at bats saw him kill the ball in 40 ML at bats and didn?t really care.

He started the season in Triple-A once again, but even bad planning and short-sightedness can’t keep a good man down forever.  LeCroy hit .351/.412/.609 in Triple-A this year, was called back up to the Majors and has finally won a job (or so it would seem) with the big league club.

If ever there was a baseball player suited to be a designated hitter, it is Matthew LeCroy.  He is big, he is "husky," he is fairly un-athletic and he can flat out hit.  The Twins, having already wasted a couple of productive LeCroy seasons (he is already 26 years old) would be best served to let go of David Ortiz and install LeCroy at the everyday DH, effective immediately.  They would also be smart to use LeCroy as A.J. Pierzynski?s platoon mate at catcher, allowing LeCroy (who has caught throughout his career) to catch against tough left handed starting pitchers.  When LeCroy is catching, the Twins can use the DH spot to give some extra at bats to the members of my proposed right field/third base quasi-platoon.

My designated hitter plan: LeCroy in 2003 and beyond, with a little Cuddyer and Restovich mixed in.


Here is a year-by-year lineup chart (aka my 5 year plan):

2003           2004           2005
C - Pierzynski   C - Pierzynski   C - Pierzynski
1B - Mientkiewicz 1B - Mientkiewicz 1B - Morneau
2B - Not Rivas   2B - Not Rivas   2B - Not Rivas
SS - Guzman     SS - Guzman     SS - Guzman
3B - Koskie     3B - Koskie     3B - Cuddyer/Koskie
LF - Kielty     LF - Kielty     LF - Kielty
CF - Hunter     CF - Hunter     CF - Hunter
RF - Restovich/  RF - Restovich/  RF - Restovich
    Cuddyer         Cuddyer
DH - LeCroy     DH - LeCroy     DH - LeCroy

2006           2007
C - Mauer       C - Mauer      
1B - Morneau     1B - Morneau
2B - Not Rivas   2B - Not Rivas
SS - Guzman     SS - Guzman
3B - Cuddyer     3B - Cuddyer
LF - Kielty     LF - Kielty
CF - Hunter     CF - Hunter
RF - Restovich   RF - Restovich
DH - LeCroy     DH - LeCroy

There you have it, my complete blueprint for the Minnesota Twins lineup, both present and future.

Now, someone just needs to kidnap Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire and make them read this?

Coming soon: Part 2 of my look at the Twins future…The Pitching Staff.

 

Aaron Gleeman Posted: October 17, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606793)
Javier Valentin (not Valentine) is a useful backup catcher, who would be stretched as a regular. Todd Sears is a veteran minor leaguer who doesn't have quite enough power for a typical 1B and is defensively challenged at any other position. Neither would likely bring much of anything useful in a trade.

I expect that the Twins will try to trade Jones, but I really think they ought to try to cash in on Hunter's career year (or career half-year, really). He hit .263/.315/.464 after the break, not too far from his .261/.306/.479 season in 2001 or his career .271/.317/.458 log, and I think there's a good chance that he will revert to that level of performance in 2003. I don't see the defensive dropoff from Hunter to Jones in CF as being substantial, certainly not enough to justify a lengthy long-term deal for Torii.

-- MWE
   2. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606794)
Valentin may have fetched something if he this were 1996. Remember when he had that big 1995 season that got everyone excited about him as a prospect? Now, he's 27 as hard as that is to believe and even if he'd make a good backup catcher, he's not going to get much of a chance anywhere unless something breaks his way.
   3. Eric Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606796)
Good job Aaron, well thought out. My small disagreement with you concerns Mientkiewicz--I hope they aren't planning for more than 1 more season with him. Morneau will start the year at Rochester, i don't know why (barring injury) he wouldn't be ready at the beginning of 2004.
2
My bigger disagreement is with Cuddyer. I don't think you can do that--moving him around the field in his first (full) season. I know the timing isn't ideal, and in an ideal world he'd be the 3B of the future, but sometimes things don't work out perfectly. I don't want him hanging around playing OF/3B for 2-3 years until he can start his "real" job as full-time 3B. I feel strongly that you have to just stick the guy in RF and move on. Other plans will have to be made for the post-Koskie future at 3B. Given that, I would also at least consider dealing Restovich if the right deal presented itself.

I wholeheartedly agree, though: Free Bobby Kielty (and Matt LeCroy).
   4. Cris E Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606797)
I'm with Eric on the Cuddyer plan: you can't be moving him around that much and expect him to thrive. Further, if he's only OK with the glove at 3b today, how good will he be in three years after only playing a few dozen games there? Either make him your 3b soon or don't, as expecting him ot return to those reflex-based skills after a long layoff isn't likely to work out.

There are some guys in the minors you didn't mention that go a long way toward supporting your plan. They aren't good enough to give long term roles to, but fill in spots where guys are supposed to be developing. If we move out a CF and something bad happen there's still Lew Ford doing very well at AA/AAA. If Mientkewicz flops or Morneau stumbles there's still the Sears option at AAA. 25 YO Mike Ryan pounded the ball (31 HR but only 51 BB) in LF at AAA last year. Valentin (.286, 21 HR last year) can replace Prince at backup C any time now. The point is, the guys you selected above are the right ones, but hardly the only ones. The Twins are set up pretty good for the next few years.
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606801)
Why exactly does Todd Sears always get labeled as a guy with "not enough power to play 1B" ? His numbers this year at AAA were very good: .310 / .388 / .525. OBP = .913.

In Edmonton, a good hitters' park in a league filled with good hitters' parks. At age 26 (he's about to turn 27 in a week or so), repeating the level. Take the air out of those numbers and you get - well, Doug Mientkiewicz.

-- MWE
   6. John Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606804)
You obviously did your homework and I agree with you on just about every position. The one position I don't think you have a handle on very well is second base. Luis Rivas is an excellent fielder, that (according to you) may not have much range, but he's steady and he has an uncanny knack of making the difficult throws to first or second. He is also one of the best second basemen at turning the double play (I'm not the only one who has said this. So has Harold Reynolds and Peter Gammons). I say give Rivas another year at second. Broken wrists arer really tough to come back from...they take more time to really heal than just about any other injury.
   7. Aaron Gleeman Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606805)
Hi guys -

There are a lot of good issues raised here, so I will try to touch o a few of them.

Starting from the top and working my way down...

The only question I have is what to do with the Twins' other AAA players. Javier Valentine and Todd Sears.<i>
With Valentin and Sears and other guys like that, I did not make mention of them because I don't consider them to be much more than replaceable talent.
I think Valentin might make a pretty good backup catcher, but I would much rather be giving those 100-150 at bats a season to LeCroy.
Sears is a decent hitter and a good defensive first baseman, but I think he would probably put up numbers along the lines of .275/.340/.440 in the Majors, which isn't really going to put him a position replace a major league player that puts up similar numbers, let alone get him in the teams long term future plans.

<i>My small disagreement with you concerns Mientkiewicz--I hope they aren't planning for more than 1 more season with him. Morneau will start the year at Rochester, i don't know why (barring injury) he wouldn't be ready at the beginning of 2004.


My idea with Morneau is basically not to rush him. If he has definitely shown himself to be ready at the end of next year, I would not hesitate to make him the starting first baseman at the start of 2004, which is part of the reason why I said they should look into dealing Mientkiewicz if they can.

My bigger disagreement is with Cuddyer. I don't think you can do that--moving him around the field in his first (full) season. I know the timing isn't ideal, and in an ideal world he'd be the 3B of the future, but sometimes things don't work out perfectly. I don't want him hanging around playing OF/3B for 2-3 years until he can start his "real" job as full-time 3B. I feel strongly that you have to just stick the guy in RF and move on.

Keep in mind that this plan is just basically my "Plan A." It is, as most good plans are, flexible.
However, I don't think that having a player split time in 2 positions is going to seriously stunt his development.
I would play Cuddyer at third base for about 50-60 games a year (against lefties and against some righties), which I think is plenty to keep him okay defensively at third base, at least for a year or two.
I would certainly agree that only playing a guy at a position for a "few dozen" games over the course of a couple of seasons would not be a good idea, but my plan would call for him playing over 100 games at 3B over the course of two seasons.

Good work. While it may not be what I'd do or what "should" be done, it's certainly creative. The Braves need to hire you as an assistant. John Schuerholz is great with drafting/player development and pitching but he's not creative enough with the Braves' offense.
If anyone knows John, tell him I will work for free.

I think you put way too much credence in defensive statistics. Rivas and Guzman are both outstanding fielders and will get better as they get older.
I disagree that I put too much credence in defensive statistics.
I use the stats to support what I have seen over the course of many Twins games.
At a minimum, I would say that I watched about 120 Twins game this season and about as many each of the last 3-4 seasons.
I am not sure how you would even go about supporting your claim that "Rivas and Guzman are both outstanding fielders."
My personal observations go against that statement and any statistical evidence definitely goes against that statement.

The one position I don't think you have a handle on very well is second base. Luis Rivas is an excellent fielder, that (according to you) may not have much range, but he's steady and he has an uncanny knack of making the difficult throws to first or second. He is also one of the best second basemen at turning the double play (I'm not the only one who has said this. So has Harold Reynolds and Peter Gammons).

I was thinking about making some sarcastic remarks about your Reynolds and Gammons comment, but I will leave it alone, this being my first article on Primer and all.

As I said, I don't see any evidence, statistical, visual, whatever, that would support Luis Rivas being an excellent fielder at second.
If by "steady" you mean he doesn't throw a lot of balls into the dugout or doesn't bobble a lot of balls, then I guess I agree with you.
But someone not making "errors" is very low on my list of things to judge a defender.

Okay, that's it for now.
I have to get back to writing Part 2...
   8. Aaron Gleeman Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606806)
All right, it looks like I completely botched the putting what other people said in italics part of my post.

Sorry about that.
Hopefully it isn't completely useless.
   9. Marc Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606808)
Having been a Twins fan since 1961, I've had plenty of conversations about all of this. We need to recognize that the Twins' continuing success, even short term, depends on two things not yet discussed:

1. Carl Pohlad's wallet
2. The health and development of Radke, Mays, Milton and Santana

Everything discussed above is #3. The Twins payroll this year was $41 million, up from just $27 last year. It is generally agreed that keeping this year's nucleus together will increase the payroll a similar amount, to about $55 million. It is also generally agreed that we will be lucky if Pohlad decides to spend $50. $41-$45 is more likely.

So if a significant change of any kind is needed from a monetary perspective, I think Jacque Jones is a good choice. He certainly did yeoman work as leadoff hitter this year, but his playoff performance shows his limitations and they are severe. His defense might be missed but given the various options his offense can be replaced.

I think Mientkiewicz upside career potential is small, but his offense is too valuable, especially given Guzman and Rivas, to let get away just yet. I think that after as little as one year, however, Cuddyer becomes a good 1B option. I don't think Mike will ever be a regular 3B in MLB and his outfield defensive limitations were apparent in the Angels series. Maybe Morneau will be better but if not Cuddyer is a good option and right now my favorite, that is, my expectation/prediction. And, BTW, given the budget, that talk about Jim Thome is just that. Fahgeddaboutit.

Left and rightfield are no problem short or long-term with Kielty, Mohr, Cuddyer (for one or two years before moving to 1B), Restovich and Ryan.

I also agree 100% re. Rivas.

So the more or less indispensable guys short term are Hunter, Koskie and AJ, and only at catcher is there an heir apparent.

So there you have an offensive and defensive lineup that will never be any better, or at least not significantly better, than in 2002. Which brings us back to the pitching. On a $41-$45, maybe $49 million budget, those four guys are going to have to carry this team for the next two years, and hopefully there will be somebody to follow on in 2005. Hopefully the bullpen will be OK now that the Twins finally got rid of long-time Tom Kelly-favorite pitching coach whose name mercifully escapes me now. But LaTroy Hawkins will not be back and I doubt that Mike Jackson will be back and that means more innings for Bob Wells and Tony Fiore. And Every Day Eddie is a question mark for even the short much less the long-term. The more the league gets to see of Eddie the tougher it will be for him with his lack of closer-type stuff. He is a tough, gutty pitcher with the mentality to do the dirty work, but a new closer by 2004 is a must.

So this is a very delicate balance, and we need to recognize that 2002 may have been the peak.
   10. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606809)
</I></I></I>Yes, you do need to account for the park when considering Cuddyer's and Restovich's performance - but there are quite a few other things to consider. Sears isn't anywhere close to being on the same level as Cuddyer and Restovich. Cuddyer and Restovich are both 23; Sears is about 3 years and 3 months older than Restovich, 3 years and five months older than Cuddyer. Cuddyer outhit Sears at AAA this year, and Restovich produced numbers that were about the same as Sears's overall (less OBP, more power) - at a level where neither had played before, unlike Sears. The age and experience at a level makes a huge difference when evaluating prospects; younger players are better prospects than older players with similar levels of performance, usually *much* better prospects when the age differences are as great as those between Sears and Cuddyer/Restovich, and a player who improves while repeating a level doesn't have the same value as one who posts the same level of performance on his first pass through.

In fact, Sears's numbers weren't significantly better than those of Casey Blake, who hit 309/383/492, and I haven't seen anyone touting Blake as a power-hitting corner guy lately.

Edmonton *is* a hitters' ballpark (not a great one, but a good one), and the PCL *is* a hitters' league. In 2001, every team in the PCL with the excpetion of Memphis had a team slugging percentage higher than .415 (five teams were under that in this year's AL), every team in the PCL except for Portland hit .260 or better (five teams were under that in this year's AL), and every team in the league except for those two had an OBP of .330 or better (six AL teams were under .330 this year). BP 2002 shows Edmonton with a park factor of 1019 (increasing offense by about 2%).

-- MWE
   11. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 18, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606810)
Amazingly, Edmonton suddenly was a pitchers' park this year after years of being a mild hitters' park, with a PF just a tad under (80!). Was the weather there odd or something? I double-checked my numbers, too.
   12. Marc Posted: October 20, 2002 at 12:57 AM (#606823)
I obviously meant to say Mientkiewicz' DEFENSE is too valuable short term to move him just yet. But, again, by 2004 I see Cuddyer at 1B with Kielty/Mohr/Restovich at the corners and LeCroy (and maybe a [hopefully inexpensive] platoon) at DH.

I take back what I said about LaTroy Hawkins, there is talk of bringing him back at $3 million. He is obviously worth that on the open market but on a $45 million payroll it is very questionable. Again what a remarkably delicate balance.

The other new word is that Reed is out. We know somebody is out and Santana in the rotation. The other theory is maybe Milton is out because his contract is right now easier to move, but clearly Reed would be the first choice. That frees up some money, all of which goes to re-signing the Twin's own free agents. Maybe that enables them to keep Jones and Hunter (and Mientkiewicz), but I doubt all three.

I don't see how the Twins (and I'm a 41 year Twins fan) can avoid backsliding 5-8 wins next year just because of the law of competitive balance and the fact that the bullpen will not perform all year long like it did this year (hopefully not like in the Angels series either, but anywhere in between is potentially a BIG drop). So the real question is how much the Sox and Indians improve, because clearly only one of the three will advance.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2002 at 12:57 AM (#606825)
Perhaps more importantly, they appear to be in a good position to dominate their (admittedly inferior) division for most of the remaining decade.

That's where I think my main disagreement is. This year the Twins had a run differential of only 56. The Sox had a run differential of 58. The Twins just eke it out on pythagorean win percentage, 538 to 535. Their margin in the division is primarily the result of their record in 1-run games: 29-16 vs. the Sox 15-21. The Sox have the better offense and a young pitching staff that will probably improve. The Sox have their own problems of course (replacing Durham, Thomas' decline, etc.) and their long-term future probably isn't quite as bright as the Twins, but folks are definitely writing off the Sox too easily.

The Twins are an above-average team, not a dominant one. The moves you suggest, most of which I'm in basic agreement with, will maintain them as an above-average team, which basically means we can expect them to trade AL Central titles with the White Sox for the next 2-3 years, by which time Cleveland may have reloaded.

That's not necessarily a bad position to be in, but it seems to me it suggests two possibilities. (1) This team is a big bat and maybe a big arm away from being as good as the best in the AL. So you could go for it all over the next 2-3 years. (2) Maintain where you are now (competitive, not dominant) with the plan of moving towards dominant 3 years from now.

(1) is unlikely. Pohlad's not going to expand payroll enough to bring in a Thome (even if he'd come) or even if you could trade Hunter for, say, Delgado.

(2) seems very possible and it's a real nice position to be in. Obviously dominance down the road depends on Mauer and Morneau developing and maintaining a quality pitching staff (i.e. not guaranteed), but it seems to me that the Twins could lose almost any of the players being talked about without severely damaging their short-term competitive chances.

It seems to me that this primarily affects two of the decisions to make. First, and perhaps most obvious, is Mientkewicz. You know he's not going to be part of that team 2-3 years from now. You also know that he's going to cost a few million over those 2-3 years -- not many, but as noted with a $40-45 M payroll, every little bit hurts. The team has Cuddyer and LeCroy to fill 1B/DH slots, leaving right to Mohr/Restovich. With Sears as a fall back -- OK, he won't hit better than Mient but he'll cost $2.5 M less. Maybe keep Ortiz around, depending on price.

Keeping Mient as a placeholder isn't a bad idea but not keeping him around only impacts current team quality minimally, frees up at least a little money, and frees up playing time for the kids.

The second place is the Hunter/Jones debate. And here I think the decision hinges on who'll bring in the most. Strictly on ability and expected future production terms, I prefer Hunter too. But I think it's close and I expect most GMs think it's wide. I think Hunter could bring a good bit more in trade than Jones. Ideally I think I'd trade him for a big bat or an immediate solution to 2B/SS but I doubt that's available/affordable. The question is would I be gutsy enough to trade him for younger players that I think will be productive a few years from now. In the real world, where I'd have to worry about fans moaning how we're having a fire sale, maybe not. But in primer world, I think this is a good gamble to take. It likely won't seriously damage your short-term chances but it could greatly enhance your long-term chances -- you're probably going to need some pitching 3 years from now.

[Jones against lefties is a problem but his overall OPS this year was only .007 less than Hunter's and he actually had the slightly higher OBP, so even if Gardenhire remains obstinant, it's not that big of a problem.]

The big glitch for both (1) and (2) is 2B and SS. It's hard to be a dominant team without being strong at at least a couple of C/2B/SS and decent at another. Mauer will hopefully be one, so they really only need to find an above-average MI. I agree with you that there aren't a lot of options for replacing Guzman -- though maybe you can get a long-term option by trading Jones/Hunter -- so Rivas would seem to be the obvious guy to replace. Still, easier said than done.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: October 20, 2002 at 12:57 AM (#606826)
Whoops, meant to say you need to be good at at least one of 2B/SS/C and decent at another.
   15. Marc Posted: October 20, 2002 at 12:57 AM (#606832)
Walt, you're right, the Twins are NOT in a position to dominate, just to stay competitive. All of the moves Aaron proposed are only things to stay competitive. And you're right, no one position player is indispensible, not even Hunter. So the only challenges are to maybe make two changes--one, shore up your worst weakness and two, manage your payroll. To point one, Hunter, Jones or Mientkiewicz must go and go now; to point two, Rivas must go now. All of this saves money and breaks even in the win column.

The big deal will be pitching. Can't wait to see how Aaron is going to maintain the regular season productivity of the bullpen and prevent a slide into a second half 2001/Angels series performance. This is the biggest danger, this is where a decline of 5-8 wins could come home to roost. If that happens, the only possibility to counterbalance is if Radke, Mays or Milton wins the Cy.

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