October 2008

Twins add reliever to their 40-man roster

Friday, October 31st, 2008

The Twins have added righthander Armando Gabino to their 40-man roster.

Gabino was 6-5 with a 3.10 ERA in 49 games with Class AA New Britain this season, He’s a 2004 Rule V pick up out of the Indians organization.

According to Twins GM Bill Smith, the club now has 32 spots occupied on its 40-man roster. It was at 34 after some moves were made last week. Nick Punto, Dennys Reyes and Eddie Guardado came off of the 40-man when they filed for free agency on Thursday. So the addition of Gabino makes  it 32.

Scheduling note: Smith leaves on Sunday for the GM meetings in Dana Point, Calif. Joe C. will be at the mike all next week as he monitors news, as I will be on special assignment.

The GM meetings often are where trades are hatched and developed. At worst, it helps identify who the Twins match up with for potential deals heading into the winter meetings on Dec. 8-11 in Las Vegas.

Still wating for the Twins to announce a two-year extension for manager Ron Gardenhire. I’ve heard the deal is pretty much done, but deals for the coaching staff haven’t been completed yet.

5:30 update: Adam Everett has filed for free agency, so the Twins’ 40-man is now down to 31.

Here are Friday’s filings, thanks to the player’s association:

Clark, Tony (1B)
Julio, Jorge (RP); Smoltz, John (SP)
Cintron, Alex        (SS)
Casey, Sean (1B); Colon, Bartolo  (SP); Schilling, Curt (SP)
Chicago Cubs
Blanco, Henry        (C); Lieber, Jon (RP);Wood, Kerry (RP)
Chicago White Sox
Hall, Toby (C); Ramirez, Horacio (RP)
Hairston Jr, Jerry (SS); Mercker, Kent (RP);Valentin, Javier (C)
Elarton, Scott (SP)
Melhuse, Adam (C)
Detroit Tigers
Wilson, Vance         (C)
Hendrickson, Mark (RP)
Ausmus, Brad        (C); Hawkins, LaTroy         (RP);Wolf, Randy (SP) 
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Oliver, Darren        (RP); Rivera, Juan (OF)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Garciaparra, Nomar (1B); Johnson, Jason (RP); Sweeney, Mark (1B) 
Everett, Adam        (SS)
NY Mets
Alou, Moises (OF); Armas Jr., Tony (RP); Ayala, Luis (RP); Martinez, Pedro (SP);  
Martinez, Ramon E (2B); Rincon, Ricardo (RP) 
Thomas, Frank (DH) 
Michaels, Jason (OF); Rivas, Luis (SS) 
San Diego
Prior, Mark (SP)
San Francisco
Aurilia, Rich (1B) 
Tampa Bay
Baldelli, Rocco (DH)
Parrish, John (RP) 
Perez, Odalis (SP)

Let the offseason begin: Here are Thursday’s free agent filings.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Eddie Guardado, Nick Punto and Dennys Reyes all filed for free agency on Thursday, the first of 15 days players can do so.

It’s unlikely that Guardado will re-sign with the Twins. The club dealt for their former closer in August but ended up giving the ball to rookie Jose Mijares as they battled for the playoffs.

There’s a chance that the Twins could re-sign Nick Punto, but it will depend on what Punto’s asking price is. I’ve written before that Punto = Martin Skoula in this town, but he’s valuable as a super-sub. Indications are that the Twins want to upgrade at short and leave Alexi Casilla at second base, so if Punto wants to be paid like a starter he might have to go elsewhere.

Dennys Reyes might not be back either, as Mijares opened eyes during his brief stint in the majors. The price of middle relief is going up by the day, and Reyes, 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA this year, could fetch as much as $4 million a year as a free agent. The way Mijares pitched down the stretch, the Twins appear to be in good hands with him and Craig Breslow facing lefties.

Players have until 15 days after the end of the World Series to file for free agency, so they can sign with any club beginning Nov. 14. If a team signs a Type A or B free agent over the following two weeks, the club losing that player receives draft picks as compensation. 

Dec.1 is the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their free agents so they can receive compensation if they do move. There’s always a batch of players who aren’t offered arbitration, and many teams wait until December to sign. Some don’t care if they lose picks (see: Angels and Torii Hunter, Thanksgiving, 2007).

Here are the 65 players who filed for free agency on Thursday, thanks to info from the player’s association:

Cruz, Juan (RP); Eckstein, David (SS)        
Norton, Greg (OF); Ohman, Will (RP); Tavarez, Julian (RP)
Millar, Kevin (1B); Payton, Jay (OF)
Cora, Alex (SS); Ross, Dave (C); Varitek, Jason (C)
Chicago Cubs
Dempster, Ryan (SP); Edmonds, Jim (OF); Fox, Chad (RP); Howry, Bob (RP)
Chicago White Sox
Crede, Joe (3B); Uribe, Juan (2B)
Affeldt, Jeremy (RP); Lincoln, Michael (RP)
* Donnelly, Brendan (RP)
Detroit Tigers
Garcia, Freddy Antonio (SP);        Jones, Todd (RP)
LoDuca, Paul (C)
Loretta, Mark (2B)
Kansas City
Grudzielanek, Mark (2B)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Anderson, Garret (OF); Garland, Jon        (SP); Teixeira, Mark (1B)
Los Angeles Dodgers
Beimel, Joe (RP); Blake, Casey (3B); Lowe, Derek (SP); Maddux, Greg (SP); Ramirez, Manny        (OF)
Gagne, Eric (RP); Kapler, Gabe (OF); Lamb, Michael (3B); Sheets, Ben (SP); Shouse, Brian (RP)
Guardado, Eddie (RP); Punto, Nick (SS); Reyes, Dennys (RP)
NY Mets
Easley, Damion (2B);         Perez, Oliver (SP); Wise, Matt (RP)
NY Yankees
Abreu, Bob (OF); Moeller, Chad (C); Ponson, Sidney (SP);        Rodriguez, Ivan (C)
Brown, Emil (OF) 
Gomez, Chris (3B); Mientkiewicz, Doug (1B)
St. Louis
Izturis, Cesar (SS); LaRue, Jason (C); Looper, Braden L. (SP); Lopez, Felipe (2B); Springer, Russ        (RP); Villone, Ron (RP) 
Bloomquist, Willie (OF); Cairo, Miguel (1B); Ibanez, Raul (OF) 
+ Blalock, Hank (3B); Bradley, Milton (DH); Jennings, Jason (SP); Vazquez, Ramon (3B); Wright, Jamey (RP)
Wilkerson, Brad (OF)

*Potentially eligible due to contract terms.                                                                                        
+Provisional election pending resolution of option provision in Player’s UPC

What’s going on in Florida?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Instructional league games have ended but Twins officials remain in Fort Myers, Fla. for a few more days as they try to plot a course for the offseason.

They are going over players on other clubs, identifying who’s available and at what cost. They are identifying free agents to go after. They have money to spend, tradeable commodities and the desire to get the team back in the playoffs. This is the time when all kinds of concepts are tossed out for discussion during meetings.

For instance, everyone knows that the left side of the infield must be addressed, but there may be different opinions on who to address it. Here are two things I’ve heard recently:

1. Since Alexi Casilla has established himself as a second baseman there isn’t a rush to move him to short.

2. Everyone would have to be on board if Michael Cuddyer is to move to third and there’s no chance that everyone is on board with that.

This, to me, is the highest priority for the offseason. The Twins’ OPS vs lefties was .729 versus .757 against righties. They should work to balance that out – and they should not expect that the Usain Bolt approach to scoring runs will work as well as it did this year.

But getting a third baseman won’t be easy. The Twins like Adrian Beltre, but he’s in the final year of a contract and is a Scott Boras client, which guarentees that he’ll walk after one season. That affects what the Twins would be willing to give up.

Garrett Atkins is decent, but his home-road splits aren’t good. There were reports late in the season that he could be on the trade block, but don’t they have a bigger issue in Matt Holliday to deal with?

Kevin Kouzmanoff? Not a great good defensive player and doesn’t walk much.

Someone with the club pointed out to me that they could go status quo with third base – especially with prospects Danny Valencia and Luke Hughes getting close to the majors – and look for a good-hitting shortstop. That’s interesting. But I’m not fired up about Orlando Cabrera, if that’s who they have in mind. He’ll be 34 next season. He’s going to want, what, $5-6 million a year? More? And he wasn’t the most popular player in his clubhouse late in the seaosn – although credited the Twins for playing the way his team couldn’t.

Right up there with right-handed pop is right-handed bullpen help. Righthander Pat Neshek, who missed most of the season rehabbing a torn ligament in his elbow, has been working out in Fort Myers and telling everyone how great he feels.

He’ll get to prove it next week, when he climbs on a mound for the first time since breaking down in May.

A healthy Neshek would be a boost. The emergence of lefty Jose Mijares is encouraging. But I still think the Twins should look at free agents and trades to bolster the bullpen during the offseason. And what will Boof Bonser’s role be next season?

And I haven’t even gotten to the oufield logjam, if they keep Cuddyer out there. Twins GM Bill Smith on Sunday did a great job of saying a lot without saying a lot, if you know what I mean. But there’s no way they want to enter 2009 with four outfielders and Jason Kubel locked in as the DH. Someone’s gotta go, and that person could help land a third baseman or a reliever. If the Twins don’t want to admit to it in print, so be it.

Finally, I reported last week that the Twins were expected to announce Ron Gardenhire’s contract soon, but it hasn’t happened yet. People I talk to keep saying it won’t be a difficult negotiation. But, for whatever reason. Smith and Gardy had not sat down as of late Monday. If nothing happens on Wednesday, the Twins probably will wait until after the World Series to announce it.

This postseason reminds me of 2006

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

We are one win by the Rays away from having an unpredictable World Series matchup between Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. Wow.

Rays and Phils. The networks have gotta love that potential matchup. I must remind myself that the Red Sox could start downing shots of Jack at any moment and win the final two games of the ALCS. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. Big Papi isn’t hitting. The bloopers aren’t falling in for Jacoby Ellsbury. Mike Lowell needs hip surgery. Jason Varitek isn’t hitting.

So let’s just go ahead and pretend that the Rays have already won 9-5 tonight and are headed for the series.

It’s been a crazy postseason, hasn’t it?

But we have been here before. Let’s take a look back at the 2006 postseason.

ALDS: Twins vs Oakland and Yankees vs Detroit

The Twins were smoking hot entering the postseason, having won the AL Central  division on the final day of the regular season. Many experts picked the Twins to win the World Series. That ended against Oakland. Frank Thomas hit two homers in Game One. Mark Kotsay got an inside-the-park homer in Game Two when Torii Hunter re-enacted the Ray Durham play from the 2002 postseason. Then the skeletal remains of Brad Radke couldn’t keep the Twins in contention in game three. A couple Twins players admitted to me that, once they won the division, they exhaled – and by the time they took their next breath the ALDS was over.

ALCS: Yankees vs Tigers

Detroit put together a nice team, but the Yankees were the Yankees. With A-Rod, the Big Unit and Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano in contention for a batting title eventually won by Joe Mauer. I, like many, had the Yankees favored to win. But who saw a total offensive collapse by the guys in pinstripes? Joe Torre basically threw up his hands and batted A-Rod eighth in Game Four! The Tigers won the series.

So it’s Oakland-Tigers in the ALCS – and the Tigers sweep in four, finishing the series with a walk-off homer by Magglio Ordonez. So the team few picked to get out of the AL bracket that year was in the World Series.

NLDS: Mets vs Dodgers and Padres vs St. Louis

Most, `experts’ had the Mets and the Padres meeting for the pennant. The Mets stepped up and swept the Dodgers. The Cardinals, with 83 wins during the regular season, beat the Padres in four games as San Diego suddenly became allergic to hitting.

NLCS: Mets vs St. Louis

This was set up for the Mets to reach the World Series. But they fell behind 3-2 in the series before outlasting Chris Carpenter and getting to the bullpen to win Game 6. It’s Jeff Suppan vs Oiver Perez in Game 7. I was already stunned that the series lasted that long. Perez pitched well for six innings and Chad Bradford tossed a scoreless inning. Suppan went seven strong. Something called Randy Flores gets through the eighth for the Cardinals. “Who are these Cardinals pitchers?’’ I kept asking myself.

Ninth inning. Aaron Heilman is on the mound (Billy Wagner was injured, big surprise). In the shot that rocked baseball fans everywhere, Yadier Molina hit a two run homer. Adam Wainwright got through the ninth, and the Cardinals are in the World Series. The Mets were crushed  – a feeling they’ve had to get used to.

World Series: Cardinals vs Tigers

No one gave the Cardinals a chance.

“The National League Championship Series is a nice little event, but no matter what happens between the Mets and Cardinals, it’s not going to change this World Series prediction: Tigers in four.  And when it happens, when Detroit celebrates its first title since 1984, it will confirm what many talent evaluators whispered before October began: Any of the four American League playoff teams – yes, including the Twins – could take down the NL’s best in this year’s Fall Classic.’’ —- Joe Christensen, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Oct. 17, 2006.

He wasn’t alone. The Tigers, with a great lineup and impressive pitching staff, were supposed to chew up and spit out the Cardinals, and I would then turn my attention to watching the Bears roll to the Super Bowl. But Al Reyes won Game One. Tigers pitchers forget how to throw to bases. Detroit actually committed eight errors in the series. And the Cardinals pitchers – household names like Randy Flores, Josh Kinney, Braeden Looper and Tyler Johnson – put up zeroes. St. Louis won 105 games in 2004 but couldn’t win the title – but won 83 in 2006 and won it all. What a game. 

So let’s look at 2008.

The Cubs looked like a juggernaut heading into the postseason but lost to the Dodgers because of breakdowns in every facet of the game. The Dodgers, who got hot in September, look ready to return to the World Series for the first time since 1988 but that homer by Matt Stairs in Game Four was a killer. 

The Angels wrapped up their division early and backstroked into the postseason, and many felt they could go all the way. That was before the Red Sox spanked them in four. Boston had a shot for a third World Series win in five years - and the lead in the team of the decade race - but are getting worked over by the Rays. Frankly, I think the Twins would have been a better matchup for the Rays than the White Sox, who are allergic to playing in Domes and on FieldTurf. 

What an unpredictable sport. You really don’t know what’s going to happen when you get to the ballpark – which is why I love this game.

Gardy closing in on a deal; other notes…

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Most of this will be in the ink version tomorrow, but I figured I’d get some of it out now…..

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire landed in Fort Myers today, and I was told that his contract extension could be done by the end of the week, perhaps Monday since we’re late in the week.

This was a formality, as the Twins organization holds Gardy and his coaching staff in high regard. The coaches are expected to get their deals done soon, too. I’m not sure those will be for one or two years. And Gardy usually negotiates for his coaches before taking care of himself.

The Mariners wanted to interview Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ Vice President of Player Personnel, for their vacant GM job. Radcliff, however, is happy with the Twins and has opted to stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wayne Krivsky, Terry Ryan’s former right-hand man, gets an interview there.

Twins minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp interviewed for 80 minutes on Tuesday for the Tigers’ pitching coach job. Knapp has been a huge help in developing arms. Through drafting and his work, there are more pitchers in the organization who look like legitimate prospects.

I asked a Twins official in Fort Myers today to name some prospects who have been impressive during instructional league. I was given the names of three pitchers: 1st round pick Carlos Gutierrez, sixth round pick B.J. Hermsen and 14th round pick Blayne Weller. All are righthanders.