The offseason


Notes and notes of notes

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

I have returned from my secret assignment, where it wasn’t as warm as I hoped and it rained during the second day. Bleeck! But it was worth the trip, so stay tuned in the coming weeks for the results.

Morales update

Twins catcher Jose Morales will have surgery a week from Friday on his sprained right wrist (convenient since it’s during TwinsFest). Twins hand specialist Dr. Tom Varecka will preform the surgery.

Morales is expected to need six to eight weeks to recover from surgery, which makes for an interesting end to spring training as he tries to break camp with the club.

Getting LOOGY With It

Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues, said today that he has signed lefthander Mark McLemore to a minor league deal. McLemore 29, posted a 3.86 ERA in 29 games with Houston in 2007 but missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John elbow surgery.

McLemore returned to go 5-10, 4.87 in 18 starts with Class AAA Round Rock last season. Now he has a shot at some innings at Class AAA Rochester.

About Those Contracts

Of the deals the Twins struck on Tuesday, it should be pointed out that only Brendan Harris’ two-year deal and Carl Pavano’s one-year deal at $7 million are guarenteed. The deals with Pat Neshek, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Delmon Young and Francisco Liriano are not.

That means the Twins can cut any of those players by 16 days before the start of the regular season (which I believe is March 20) and owe them one-sixth (30 days) of their salary. If one of those players is cut during the 16 days before the season starts, they owe them one-fourth (45 days) of their salary. Once the regular season starts, contracts are guaranteed.

It’s doubtful the Twins would do such a thing, but those are the rules.

More Moves?

The Twins are keeping their options open for infield and bench help.

Keep in mind that the Twins are only looking for a stopgap at third base because they feel Danny Valencia is their man for the future, a future that could start by midseason – or sooner if Valencia wows them in spring training. Anyone looking for a two-year deal can keep looking past the Twins.

While it’s unlikely that they won’t sign a veteran starter like Jarrod Washburn, the one thing the Twins can’t forget is how injuries to couple starters and Liriano’s troubles put them in a bind last year.

 Jason Pridie should get a chance to win a backup spot in camp, but the Twins are still looking at backup centerfield options.

Checking In With the Canuck

Justin Morneau is in Arizona, his usual offseason location, getting ready for the upcoming season. His offseason is worth watching more closely because his season ended early because of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Morneau, in an e-mail, reported that he’s been slowed by the flu lately but he’s pleased where he’s at, physically.

“Back is doing well,” he wrote. “Almost up to full workouts.”

I’m sure he’ll expand on his condition next week during TwinsFest.

Who Will Bat Second?

 Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is unsure who will bat second this season, indicating that he might not use newcomer J.J. Hardy there. But Hardy has spent most of his career in the two hole and indicated this week that he has no problems filling that role for the Twins if asked.

Hardy, over the past three seasons, was a .273/.324/.468 hitter in the two hole. Who’s a better option on the roster? Will St. Joe have to bat second?

Liriano Watch

Liriano gave up another unearned run on Monday for Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. This outing doesn’t look as crisp as some of the others – five innings, five hits, two walks, six strikeouts. But he’s allowed just two unearned runs in 27 innings since the playoffs began.

I’m trying to find out if that was his final start of the winter. He’s scheduled to fly to the Twin Cities next week for TwinsFest.

Reports on Liriano have his slider clocked at 87-90 miles an hour, which has the Twins encouraged. But they will wait to see him in spring training before declaring that he has his mojo back. Stuff wasn’t the problem with Frankie last season, it was location then, ultimately, his confidence.

Finally

In this story, former Twin Mike Redmond claims that the Twins gave up on him. Knowing Red Dog like I do, I wonder if he was joking. Because even he has to look at his .237 batting average last season and remember how he felt physically – especially when he tried to throw runners out – and understand why the Twins didn’t bring him back.

The veteran, Crash Davis-type of backups are always fun to cover. Especially someone like Redmond, who was great at articulating the game. I’ll miss Redmond and I hope he proves he has a little more left in the tank with Cleveland.

Morales needs surgery and could miss up to eight weeks

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Twins catcher Jose Morales needs surgery to repair a strained tendon in his right wrist and will miss six to eight weeks. The wrist had been bothering him for some time, so the Twins decided to have him checked out.

We’ve had him (examined) twice, confirming everything,’’ Smith said

The Twins are scheduling a time and location for the surgery to take place. If Morales needs the full two months to recover, he’ll be out until mid-March.That could make it tough for him to get ready in time for the Apr. 5 opener at Los Angeles.

Expect to see a lot of Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos in camp this year. I’m also guessing that the Twins will let Mauer take it easy during camp too.

Catchers Danny Lehman, Danny Rams and Jair Fernandez will be in camp as spring training invites. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Twins bring over another cather to help with bullpen duties in place of Morales.

The switch-hitting Morales batted .311 in 54 games with the Twins and ..336 in 58 games with Class AAA Rochester last season. He’s in line to back up Joe Mauer this year, as the Twins allowed Mike Redmond to depart via free agency.

Redmond signed with Cleveland on Friday.

Other notes

Free agent righthander Ben Sheets will throw for teams next week, but the Twins won’t attend the workout. They are more interested in observing future workouts and have been in touch with Sheets’ agent to find out his schedule.

Joe Crede, coming off his third back surgery in three years, has begun swinging off a tee. The Twins will monitor his progress. Crede could be an option for the Twins as stopgap until prospect Danny Valencia is ready.

Francisco Liriano, who has given up just one unearned run in 22 innings during the winter ball postseason, will probably make one more start before shutting it down and getting ready for Camp Gardy.

Aribitration season is upon us. Liriano, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Pat Neshek, Carl Pavano, Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris all filed by today’s deadline. Players and clubs will exchange salary requests and offers on Tuesday. Arbitration hearings begin on Feb.1.

Will Glen Perkins remain with the Twins?

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Lefthander Glen Perkins is believed to still be on the trade block. The Twins spoke with San Diego earlier in the offseason about a Perkins for Kevin Kouzmanoff swap, but the Padres wanted more.

To the Twins’ credit, they didn’t add more. Perkins and Kouzmanoff are similar players in that they are still looking for their breakthrough season.  Suggestions that the Twins should have added Alexi Casilla to the deal are crazy. 

But why is Perkins still with the Twins? He’s left-handed, talented and 26 years old. The Twins should be able to find infield help or a package that included a good backup center fielder.

There are people in the organization who feel that Perkins has to go. The coaching staff wasn’t happy with him when he didn’t say anything about his shoulder until after a rocky start at Oakland. He also got into it with the front office over service time while he recovered from shoulder tendinitis. He still didn’t recover enough service time to qualify for arbitration.

The offseason isn’t over, and something could happen before pitchers and catchers report in about five weeks. But each day Perkins isn’t dealt you have to wonder if he’ll end up coming to camp with the Twins.

Indications are that Perkins knows he’s got to mend some broken fences if he ends up in Fort Myers. He might start doing some of that during TwinsFest at the end of the month. The Twins, historically, have been able to forgive and forget in some cases. The question: Is this one of those cases?

The other layer to this is that lefthander Brian Duensing showed enough last year to have some with the club feel he’s ready to be the fifth starter. I’ve spoken with one person who feels Duensing is just as good, right now, as Jarrod Washburn, whom the Twins offered $5 million to.

And, while winter ball stats aren’t the end-all. Francisco Liriano has pitched well in the Domincan Republic this offseason. Liriano, in four postseason starts for Escogido, has tossed 22 scoreless innings on 11 hits with 2 walks and 24 strikeouts.

Perkins would fight with Duensing and Liriano for the final spot in the starting rotation, and one spot in the bullpen.

This will be an interesting case. Perkins could be dealt somewhere and take off. Or the Twins could give him another chance. After all, it’s hard to give up on a lefthander who will just turn 27 this year.

Some Monday morning links

Monday, January 11th, 2010

There have been many stories about Joe Mauer’s approaching free agency. And there will be many more.

But EPSN ESPN has blown out its baseball section front with a Mauer story, a story on how the Twins do business and, finally, a poll in which voters weigh in on if Mauer will remain a Twin after 2010.

As our Jim Souhan pointed out, Mauer has the advantage in negotiations.

The Twins scouted Cuban lefty Aroldis Chapman when he worked out for clubs recently. But we didn’t think they had a chance to sign him, especially after they stepped up to sign Miguel Angel Sano late last season.

Chapman reportedly is ready to sign – with the Reds. Not Yankees or Red Sox or some other deep-pocketed team.

The deal is believed to be worth $30 million over five years, which is a load of cash for a kid who is not polished and might have makeup issues.

I also agree with a fellow scribe’s tweet that Scott Boras must be seething that Chapman can get $30 million as a free agent while Stephen Strasburg could get only $15 million because he was drafted. But this also is another example of why the draft needs to survive.

Still, the Reds must be salivating over a future rotation of Chapman, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.

Twins closer Joe Nathan has added a bunch of photos to his website.

I visited the Twins offices last week after the staff had some time to move in. The offices are located in the left field corner where the big Budweiser sign sits on top of the building.

I have a feeling that might have been the only time I’ll be in GM Bill Smith’s office because it’s sort of out of the way. All the magic will happen in the pressbox, on the field and in the clubhouses. Smith’s office is near the foul pole. He has a little porch he can walk out onto to watch games. Lucky guy.

Mike Herman, the Twins director of baseball communications, gave me a quick tour of the pressbox. It’s located to the right of home plate and is a little bigger than the old pressbox with more room to walk around. There are separate men’s and women’s bathrooms, a snack room and a work room.

The Twins’ baseball communications office is about three times as big as their old one. They even have a library and an archives room! By the way, if anyone has a 1966 Twins media guide, the club needs one for their files.

I’m going to write this once again. I can’t believe the Twins have a new stadium. And fans are going to love it.

Finally, you ever wonder just how lucrative it is to be a Hall of Famer. Here’s a story about what Andre Dawson can expect. Which will give you an idea of what Bert Blyleven can look forward to a year from now.

Twins announce spring training invites

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Former major leaguer Mike Maroth leads a list of players the Twins will invite to spring training this year.

Maroth, 32, was 50-67 in sixth major league seasons, including a 2003 season in which he was 9-21. He missed all of 2008 because of shoulder surgery and had knee surgery in 2009.

The Twins watched him pitch this winter for Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican league, where he went 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA. In 28 innings he gave up 26 hits and 13 walks while striking out 10.

The rest of the group consists of Twins prospects, including a few I’m sure many of you are interested in seeing.

Pitchers

Lefthanders Maroth and Jose Lugo

Righthanders

Anthony Slama (2008 Twins minor league POY)

Kyle Waldrop (2004 first round pick)

Catchers

Jair Fernandez

Dan Lehman

Danny “Bam-Bam” Rams

Infielders

Chris Parmelee (2006 first-round pick

Brock Peterson

Steve Singleton

Outfielders

Brian Dinkleman (guess he’s been moved from the infield)

Juan Portes

Ben Revere (2008 and 2009 Twins minor league POY)

Rene Tosoni (MVP of 2009 futures game)

These players will join the rest of the team (40-man roster guys) in camp. Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 21.