November 2009


Ninety-one days until pitchers and catchers report

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

The Twins announced their 2010 spring training schedule. Some highlights:

Feb. 21 — Pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, Fla.
Feb. 27 — First full-squad workout
March 4 — Grapefruit League opener @ Red Sox (in Fort Myers)
March 5 — Grapefruit League home opener vs. Red Sox (Hammond Stadium)
March 7 — vs. Yankees (Hammond Stadium)
March 27 — vs. NL champion Phillies (Hammond Stadium)
April 1 — Getaway day game @ Red Sox (in Fort Myers)
April 2 — Exhibition game vs. Cardinals at Target Field (5 p.m.)
April 3 — Exhibition game vs. Cardinals at Target Field (1 p.m.)

Regular season opener – April 5 @ Angels.
Home opener (Target Field’s official debut) — April 12 vs. Red Sox.

Note: Twins single-game spring training tickets go on sale Jan. 16. Spring training season tickets and group sales can be purchased now by calling 1-800-33-TWINS. To see the entire spring schedule, see www.twinsbaseball.com.

What’s Mauer thinking long-term? Morneau offers clues

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

One thing that struck me Monday at Joe Mauer’s press conference was the deepness of his friendship with Justin Morneau. We’ve written volumes about the M&M Boys’ friendship, but this was cool because they’d barely seen each other since the season ended, so this was one celebratory reunion. It’s hard to say who was more happy, the 2006 MVP or the 2009 MVP?

Morneau and his wife, Krista, planned to be in Minnesota for Thanksgiving, but they arrived early to celebrate with the Mauer family. Mauer was at the Metrodome, doing a national teleconference, when the Morneaus arrived with a bottle of champagne.

“I got the news right after he did,” Morneau said. “I was pretty excited. I was smiling. I was grinning ear-to-ear. I was thinking about how great of a day this is for him, how crazy it’s going to be. I kind of went back to what it was like [in 2006], and now he goes down in the books as the Most Valuable Player in the league for 2009; that’s something that never goes away.”

Morneau, 28, has repeatedly said he hopes he and Mauer wind up spending their whole careers with the Twins, but Mauer, 26, will be eligible for free agency next fall if the Twins don’t sign him to a contract extension.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep him as a Minnesota Twin,” Morneau said. “He’s still going to be here for next year for sure, and after that, it’ll take care of itself.”

In late September, Morneau expressed confidence that a deal with Mauer would get done and casually mentioned a six-year extension. In this story, I estimated that Mauer’s next deal will average about $20 million per season, so a ballpark estimate could be a six-year, $120 million extension.

“You know, the biggest thing now isn’t the money,” Morneau said Monday. “It’s not going to be that. It’s going to be whether or not he feels we can win everyday with the talent we have the players we have.”

Do the M&M Boys really believe they can win a World Series with the Twins? Yes, Morneau said, answering his own question.

“We’ve made the playoffs five times in the last eight years,” Morneau said. “As a player, that’s all you can ask for. You don’t want to go in feeling like you don’t have a chance of making the playoffs and we’ve got that here, and hopefully that’s what keeps him here.”

Morneau, 28, has four years remaining on his six-year, $80 million contract. He has said he doesn’t want to imagine what it would be like playing here without Mauer. Another question came about maintaining the team’s chemistry, and he gave another telling answer.

“That’s something that makes this organization special,” he said. “When you’re drafted as an 18-year-old kid, coming out of high school — playing together in rookie ball, and rooming together in A-ball, Double-A — you make it to the big leagues, and you see your buddy make up the next year, and you’re pulling for each other to do well.

“You have that opportunity in this organization. That’s something that everybody loves, and when everyone leaves, they always say how much they miss it, how much they miss being a Twin. You ask Torii, you ask Johan — they left, but they still miss it here, and that’s something that we have that other teams don’t have, and that keeps them wanting to stay.”

Note: After missing the season’s final month with a stress fracture in his lower back and undergoing surgery to remove a bone chip from his right wrist, Morneau said he feels good. “I started working out a couple weeks ago,” he said. “My back feels good. I’m slowing getting into it, trying not to push it too fast and should be full-go by January, 100 percent.”

Mauer looking like a lock for MVP

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I think Joe Mauer’s a lock for MVP today. The official announcement comes at 1 p.m., but we could hold the press conference now.

The BBWAA strongly encourages voters not to reveal their choices before the announcement gets made, but to get a feel, note that Mauer received 20 of 22 first-place votes in ESPN’s in-house poll, with Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter getting the others.

Jeter and Teixeira had fantastic seasons. Mauer’s was historic. He was the first AL player since George Brett in 1980 to lead the league in batting average (.365), OPB (.444) and SLG (.587).

Teixeira tied Carlos Pena for the AL lead with 39 home runs and led the league with 122 RBI. That’s impressive, but it’s worth noting that Teixeira also played in a hitter’s paradise and had more RBI chances than anyone. According to Baseball Prospectus, Teixeira had 508 runners on base for his plate appearances this season. The next closest AL hitter was teammate Robinson Cano, with 476.

Mauer ranked 49th on that list with 355 runners on base and still managed a career-high 96 RBI. For more on Mauer’s MVP chances, click here, or to see La Velle and I break it down on video, click here. Howard Sinker weighs in today, noting that the MVP is not a lifetime achievement award.

Update: Mauer won with 27 of 28 first-place votes. The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera got the other first-place vote. Counting the vote totals, Mark Teixeira finished second behind Mauer, with Derek Jeter third, Cabrera fourth and Kendry Morales fifth.

Jason Kubel received one eighth-place vote, and Michael Cuddyer received both an eighth and a 10th. 

Tracking the Twins’ payroll, depth chart; 40-man updates

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Today’s story on the free agent market opening includes a payroll update, now that J.J. Hardy is in the mix. After spending $65 million on last year’s Opening Day 25-man roster, the Twins are currently projected to spend $83 million, just with the players in-house. I did this at season’s end, trying to give readers a look at what a potential 25-man roster would look like if the season started that day.

(Note, as written before, this is not a suggested Opening Day roster or lineup. It’s more like a current depth chart. I originally had 3B Danny Valencia in the projected starting lineup. Since most indications we’ve gotten are that he’ll need more seasoning at Class AAA Rochester, I’ve inserted Brendan Harris at 3B.)

Update: The Twins added six prospects to their 40-man roster today, protecting these players for the Dec. 10 Rule 5 draft. They added Valencia, SS Estarlin De Los Santos, RHP Deolis Guerra, RHP Alex Burnett, RHP Loek Van Mil and RHP Rob Delaney. They also trimmed one player from the 40-man, outrighting 3B Deibinson Romero to Class AAA Rochester. These changes are noted below:

STARTING LINEUP
1. CF — Denard Span: $450,000 (estimate)
2. SS — J.J. Hardy: $6,000,000 (arbitration estimate)
3. C — Joe Mauer: $12,500,000
4. 1B — Justin Morneau: $15,000,000
5. DH — Jason Kubel: $4,100,000
6. RF — Michael Cuddyer: $9,417,000
7. LF — Delmon Young: $2,000,000 (arb. estimate)
8. 3B — Brendan Harris: $1,000,000 (arb. estimate)
9. 2B — Nick Punto: $4,000,000
—————————————————-
Total (9 starters): $54,467,000

BENCH
C — Jose Morales: $410,000 (estimate)
INF — Matt Tolbert: $415,000 (estimate)
INF — Alexi Casilla: $440,000 (estimate)
OF — Jason Pridie: $400,000 (estimate)
C — Drew Butera: $400,000 (estimate)
—————————————————
Total (5 bench players): $2,065,000

ROTATION
1. Scott Baker: $3,000,000
2: Nick Blackburn: $450,000 (estimate)
3. Kevin Slowey: $450,000 (estimate)
4. Brian Duensing: $410,000 (estimate)
5. Francisco Liriano: $1,000,000 (estimate)
————————————-
Total (5 starters): $5,310,000

BULLPEN
Joe Nathan: $11,250,000
Jon Rauch: $2,900,000
Matt Guerrier: $3,000,000 (arb. estimate)
Jose Mijares: $420,000 (estimate)
Jesse Crain: $3,000,000 (arb. estimate)
Pat Neshek: $800,000 (arb. estimate)
——————————————
Total (6 relievers): $21,370,000

Projected 25-man total: $83,212,000

(Rotation depth)
LH — Glen Perkins: $460,000 (estimate)
RH — Anthony Swarzak: $410,000 (estimate)
RH — Jeff Manship: $410,000 (estimate)
RH — Deolis Guerra: $400,000 (estimate)

(Bullpen depth)
RH — Boof Bonser: $800,000 (estimate)
RH — Bobby Keppel: $410,000 (estimate)
RH — Rob Delaney: $400,000 (estimate)
RH — Anthony Slama: $400,000 (estimate)
RH — Alex Burnett: $400,000 (estimate)
RH — Loek Van Mil: $400,000 (estimate)

(Position depth)
C — Wilson Ramos: $400,000 (estimate)
INF — Luke Hughes: $400,000 (estimate)
INF — Trevor Plouffe: $400,000 (estimate)
INF — Estarlin De Los Santos: $400,000 (estimate)
INF — Steven Tolleson: $400,000 (estimate)

(Twins free agents)
Carl Pavano: $7,000,000 (estimate)
Orlando Cabrera: $5,000,000 (estimate)
Joe Crede: $2,500,000 (estimate)
Mike Redmond: $1,000,000 (estimate)
Ron Mahay: $1,500,000 (estimate)

Report: Telling war of words between Boras and Manfred

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

With the free agent market set to open tonight at 11 p.m. (Central), there’s an important piece by Ken Rosenthal on FoxSports.com today, about the growing tension between players and owners. Yes, the C-word gets mentioned again. Collusion.

Prominent agent Scott Boras basically says follow the money. Though his estimates are disputed by MLB officials, he points to the tens of millions teams are receiving from the central fund — from national TV contracts, licensing, etc. — and the tens of millions more some teams get in revenue sharing, and concludes some are pocketing the cash, instead of re-investing in payroll.

Rob Manfred, MLB’s chief of labor negotiations, counters: “Just like when [Boras] does a player negotiation he lies about the numbers in order to get the price up, now he’s taken that to the macro-economic level and lying about industry numbers in order to get player [contract] numbers up,” Manfred said. “There is no one club getting $80 or $90 million in combination from revenue sharing and Central Baseball. Not one.”

Rosenthal notes that the owners and players have agreed to shelve any collusion grievance until after the offseason. But the current collective bargaining agreement expires after 2011, and baseball’s unprecedented stretch of labor peace could be in jeopardy.

For now, with the economy struggling and amid hints that some teams are determined to trim payroll (Tigers, Reds, etc.), this creates an interesting backdrop as the current free agent class begins testing the market.