Twins thoughts

A closer look at the new deals for Liriano, Harris

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Some notes from the fine print of the contracts the Twins handed out Tuesday, avoiding arbitration:

(*) Francisco Liriano’s one-year, $1.6 million deal includes up to $100,000 in incentives. He can reach those incentives two ways — as a starter or as a reliever. He’ll receive $25,000 payments when he hits the following thresholds: Games started (24, 26, 28, 30) OR appearances (40, 45, 50, 55).

This is notable because there have been internal discussions about making Liriano a reliever this season, unless he bounces back in a big way. Liriano struggled mightily to command his fastball last year, but the feeling is his slider could make him highly effective in relief, especially against lefthanders. Despite his immense struggle last year, he still held lefthanded hitters to a .255 average and .631 OPS.

The Twins could open with a rotation of Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and either Brian Duensing or Glen Perkins, allowing Liriano to move into a bullpen role.

(*) Brendan Harris signed a two-year, $3.2 million contract. The deal will pay him $1.45 million this year and $1.75 million in 2011, but his 2011 salary can increase by up to $675,000 depending on his playing time this year. The 2011 salary increases by $75,000 when Harris reaches 450 plate appearances, $100,000 for 500 PA, another $150,000 for 550 PA, $175,000 for 600 PA and another $175,000 for 650 PA.

Harris finished the 2007 season as Tampa Bay’s starting shortstop and racked up 576 PA that season. He reached 490 PA and 453 PA in his first two seasons with the Twins, batting .263/.319/.379. He’s never been a favorite of Manager Ron Gardenhire’s, but for now, Harris is among the leading in-house candidates to fill third base (along with Matt Tolbert and Nick Punto), at least until prospect Danny Valencia proves he’s ready to hold down the position.

Twins agree to terms with Pavano, Hardy, Young and five others

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

With eight players eligible for arbitration, the Twins appear to be paring down that list.

They reached agreement on a one-year deal with shortstop J.J. Hardy worth about $5 million, with incentives for plate appearances, a person familiar with the negotiations told our La Velle Neal today.

Other players eligible for arbitration include Carl Pavano, Matt Guerrier, Delmon Young, Francisco Liriano, Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek and Brendan Harris. Today is the day arbitration figures are released, which usually spurs a few settlements, so we’ll post updates as we learn them.

Update: Hardy’s deal is for $5.1 million, according to La Velle’s source.

Update: The Twins have agreed to a $2.6 million deal with Young, a person familiar with the negotiations said. The deal includes up to $50,000 in performance incentives. Young made $1.15 million last season.

Update: The Twins agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with Carl Pavano, La Velle confirmed with a person familiar with the negotiations.

Update: A team source has confirmed that the team has agreements with all eight of these arbitration eligible players. We are working to get the terms for Liriano, Neshek, Guerrier, Harris and Crain.

Update: Guerrier gets $3.15 million, more than doubling his salary. He made $1.475 million last year, posting a 2.36 ERA in 79 G.

Update: Harris agreed to a two-year, $3.2 million contract with up to $650,000 in incentives. Harris gets $1.45 million in base salary this year and $1.75 million in 2011.

Update: Neshek gets $625,000 with $75,000 in incentives after missing all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Update: Liriano’s deal is for $1.6 million, and Crain’s deal is for $2 million. Harris was only Twin to receive a multi-yr deal today.

Game 163 — a chance to live it all over again

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Shortly after the Twins’ season ended, Star Tribune sports editor Glen Crevier came up with the idea for an in-depth story reflecting on Game 163.

It all happened in such a blur, that 12-inning, see-saw epic to determine the AL Central title. The Twins won 6-5, in one of the most exciting games most of us could remember seeing. We tried doing it justice on deadline that night (Oct. 6), and had flights to New York first thing the next morning.

If the Twins had made an extended playoff run, the legend of Game 163 might have built, but the Yankees spoiled the fun with a three-game sweep. We knew it would make a great follow-up story, but first we needed to track down a copy of Game 163. It seems everyone had forgotten to set the DVR that night, myself included.

Eventually, the Twins helped us track down a copy, courtesy of TBS, and Jim Souhan spoke with several players and coaches for this story, which ran last weekend. Anyway, it was fun for us to go back and watch the actual telecast, and soon everyone else will have a chance, too.

The Twins and Fox Sports North have teamed up to present a look back at Game 163, telling the story through the eyes of people on and off the field. The first showing will come Christmas night. Eventually, there will be four showings (all at 7 p.m., on FSN):

Jan. 26
Feb. 15
March 9

This time, I’m going to be sure to hit ‘Record.’ For now, I’m curious what stands out the most from that game in your mind? What’s the first thing you think of when someone says, “Game 163?”

Update: KSTP AM-1500 also will be airing a replay of Game 163 on Thursday at 5 p.m., so check out that one for the call from John Gordon and Dan Gladden.

Holiday gift ideas for the baseball fan in your life

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Before the Twins’ annual holiday party Wednesday, the team’s employees received another surprise from Santa Morneau. 

Last year, Justin Morneau and his wife, Krista, gave scarves to each Twins employee. Teammates teased Morneau for making the rest of them look bad for not giving their own gifts, but the Morneaus were undeterred. This year, they gave winter hats and autographed cards.

I’ve been meaning to write a post with my own gift ideas — books, always books — so here goes:

The Machine, by Joe Posnanski
A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series — The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds

Posnanski delivers with this highly anticipated book profiling the Big Red Machine, then and now. It has the reporting and writing we’ve come to expect from Posnanski, and he does a masterful job weaving cultural events from 1975 into the narrative. He captures the personalities of Manager Sparky Anderson, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez — especially the enigmatic Rose. The beginning and ending anecdotes about baseball’s all-time hits leader stick with me, several weeks after reading it.

The First Fall Classic, by Mike Vaccaro
The Red Sox, The Giants and the Cast of Players, Pugs, and Politicos Who Reinvented the World Series in 1912

This book snuck up on me because, unlike “The Machine,” I had no idea it was coming. I started reading a few pages and couldn’t put it down. (This happened with Posnanski’s book, too, but I’d been looking forward to that one for so long, there wasn’t the element of surprise.)

If you love history, Vaccaro takes you back to the year Fenway Park opened and back to a time when gambling hovered over the game. You ride the train between Boston and Manhattan between games with Christy Mathewson, Tris Speaker, Smoky Joe Wood and Boston’s Royal Rooters. After scouring newspaper accounts, Vaccaro uses his writing touch to bring these characters back to life. An excerpt from before Game 3, as the writers interview Giants manager John McGraw (from page 112):

“Will sharing the Polo Grounds [with the New York Highlanders in 1913] be awkward?” Grantland Rice of the Mail wanted to know.

“Those animosities are long gone,” McGraw insisted, his generosity no doubt fortified by the 50-102 record the Highlanders posted in 1912. “Besides, when our park burned last year, they showed great hospitality to us. They took us in, and treated us neighborly, and we plan on treating them the same exact way. Though they’ll likely need a new name now that they won’t be playing in the highlands of Manhattan any longer.”

“Our headline writers already call them by a different name,” said Damon Runyon of the American. “They call them the Yankees.”

“Yankees, eh?” McGraw said. “Hmmm. I wonder if that name will catch on?”

Did Toronto do better with Halladay than Twins did with Johan?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

If your head is spinning, trying to determine winners and losers in this week’s blockbuster deal between Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle (and Oakland), ESPN’s Jayson Stark gives a good team-by-team breakdown here.

I’m most impressed by Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik’s ability to get involved and give his team a 1-2 punch of Felix Hernandez/Cliff Lee at a time when the Angels have just lost John Lackey (to Boston) and Chone Figgins (to the Mariners).

I don’t know enough about the prospects involved to know how Toronto ultimately did in the Roy Halladay sweepstakes, or how Philadelphia did in the Cy Young for Cy Young swap of Lee for Halladay. For Twins followers, Stark makes an interesting point toward the bottom of his column:

Whether the Blue Jays’ end of this deal makes total sense is another story. “I thought they’d get more,” said one scout. But when you size this up, they did better than the Twins did in the Johan Santana deal, got more than the Indians got in either the CC Sabathia or Lee deals and at least got this over with — for everyone’s sake.