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

Posted on December 16th, 2009 – 8:34 AM
By Joe Christensen

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.

Tuesday update: Chapman, Twins 3B options, White Sox move

Posted on December 15th, 2009 – 12:05 PM
By Joe Christensen

I had concerns about overplaying the Twins’ interest in Cuban LHP Aroldis Chapman with this story after hearing they’d have two scouts in Houston today for Chapman’s highly publicized workout.

No, I don’t think the Twins will sign Chapman because that would mean outbidding the big boys (Red Sox, Yankees, Angels, etc.), but the Twins surprised us earlier in the fall by signing Dominican SS Miguel Angel Sano. Tony Oliva has raved about Chapman, based on reports he’s heard from Cuba, but it’s not like the hard-throwing lefthander has been a secret. He was lighting up the radar gun in the World Baseball Classic last spring.

Chapman, 21, has been called a lefthanded version of RHP Steven Strasburg, the San Diego State phenom drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals. One MLB executive told me yesterday that if Chapman were in the June amateur draft, he’d be a high first-round pick.

Again, he’s a prospect who will likely need to start in Class A or Class AA before gaining the polish he needs for the big leagues. So it’s not like we’re talking about the final piece of anybody’s 2010 rotation. This will be an investment in the future. ESPN.com has reported that Chapman has a $15.5 million from the Red Sox. I can’t imagine the Twins matching a bid like that, but they have become a team to watch on the international market, and their interest in Chapman is at least notable.

Notes: Heard Monday that the Twins are nowhere close to a move for a 3B, as that market is oversaturated with options, which figures to eventually drive down prices. Doesn’t make sense to overpay now when there will be bargains to be had later. Meanwhile, across MLB, moves are being made at a dizzying pace. Besides the Roy Halladay/Cliff Lee blockbuster, the White Sox traded for CF Juan Pierre. Here, Aaron Gleeman notes that this appears to complete Chicago’s offseason puzzle.

Pushing 90: A new Twins payroll glance

Posted on December 8th, 2009 – 9:57 AM
By Joe Christensen

When Carl Pavano accepted the Twins’ salary arbitration offer Monday, it pushed the team’s 2010 projected Opening Day payroll close to $90 million, based on salary estimates for those players currently in the fold.

Last year’s Opening Day payroll (for the 25-man active roster) was about $65 million, and there have been indications the payroll could reach $90 million as the team enters Target Field. Twins officials are careful not to mention specifics when discussing the payroll budget, so it’s unclear if the team is willing to exceed $90 million as it continues addressing the roster.

It’s important to keep this perspective when discussing the team’s various free agent and trade pursuits, so here’s an updated look at the team’s roster and salary estimates. Again, this isn’t my suggested Opening Day roster, but more of a depth chart. I’m not sure exactly how much Pavano will command through arbitration, but my best guesstimate is $7 million.

Another fun part of this exercise: Deciding the 1-5 spots in the starting rotation. Should Pavano or Scott Baker get the ball on Opening Day? And, as La Velle noted in his coverage from the winter meetings, what becomes of Glen Perkins, and how about that battle for the fifth spot in the rotation?

1. CF — Denard Span: $450,000 (estimate based on his 0-3 years service time)
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

C — Jose Morales: $410,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Matt Tolbert: $415,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Alexi Casilla: $440,000 (0-3 estimate)
OF — Jason Pridie: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
C — Drew Butera: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
Total (5 bench players): $2,065,000

1. Scott Baker: $3,000,000
2. Carl Pavano: $7,000,000 (arb. estimate)
3: Nick Blackburn: $450,000 (0-3 estimate)
4. Kevin Slowey: $450,000 (0-3 estimate)
5. Francisco Liriano: $1,000,000 (arb. estimate)
Total (5 starters): $11,900,000

Joe Nathan: $11,250,000
Jon Rauch: $2,900,000
Matt Guerrier: $3,000,000 (arb. estimate)
Jose Mijares: $420,000 (0-3 estimate)
Jesse Crain: $3,000,000 (arb. estimate)
Pat Neshek: $800,000 (arb. estimate)
Total: (6 relievers): $21,370,000

Projected 25-man total: $89,802,000

(Starting pitchers)
LH — Brian Duensing: $410,000 (0-3 estimate)
LH — Glen Perkins: $460,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Anthony Swarzak: $410,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Jeff Manship: $410,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Deolis Guerra: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)

RH — Boof Bonser: $800,000 (arb. estimate)
RH — Bobby Keppel: $410,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Rob Delaney: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Anthony Slama: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Alex Burnett: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
RH — Loek Van Mil: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)

(Position players)
C — Wilson Ramos: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Luke Hughes: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Trevor Plouffe: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Estarlin De Los Santos: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)
INF — Steven Tolleson: $400,000 (0-3 estimate)

Ninety-one days until pitchers and catchers report

Posted on November 25th, 2009 – 9:34 AM
By Joe Christensen

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

Posted on November 24th, 2009 – 10:56 AM
By Joe Christensen

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.”