This is the time of year when people throw out names.
“Why can’t the Twins get Roy Halladay?”
“Well, Toronto will want this, that and the other thing and the Twins aren’t really in position to give up this, that and the other thing.”
“Let’s get Chone Figgins to play third base!”
“You like the idea, I like the idea, I suspect Chone Figgins doesn’t share our enthusiasm, though.”
And so it goes. Some good ideas, some awkward fits, some trade schemes that work only if you’re working both sides and only looking out for one of them.
Even against that backdrop, there are several moves that could be made to make the Twins what they should be going into 2010. There are lots and lots of possibilities, but I’m going to throw out a few and get out, because doing anything else could numb the brain and threaten to douse the hot stove with spittle. However, if you want to play along at this point, here are two good sources to work with:
ESPN’s free-agent tracker lists players alphabetically and includes Type A and B free-agent notations. Click on a player’s name for career stats and his 2009 salary information.
Cot’s Baseball Contracts gives salary information for players on team rosters.
That being said, here are my three preferred and realistic moves in the free-agent market. None of them are especially novel, but they’re the result of sifting and sorting through all of the possible combinations and saying, “Hey, I think this could work.”
Playing second base and batting second …
Orlando Hudson Felipe Lopez.
Orlando Hudson is an All-Star and a Gold Glove in 2009 for the Dodgers (his fourth), who signed him on the seriously cheap at $3.4 million and then gave his position to Ronnie Belliard for the postseason. But there’s something deceptive last year’s salary: Hudson had a novel contract that ended up paying him about $8 million in 2009 — more than twice his base. What made the contract especially interesting is that his incentives included $10,000 for every plate appearance from 576 to 632. (He ended up with 631.) Here’s the breakdown on last year’s deal.
Hudson is a Type A free agent and would cost the Twins their first-round draft choice next June. A better move? Felipe Lopez is a Type B free agent, which doesn’t come with the loss of a draft pick, and a younger, cheaper version of Hudson. He made $3.5 last year, a cut from his $4.9 million in 2008, which came after he lost an arbitration case. He’s younger than Hudson and had better defensive numbers, when using revised zone rating as your measure. He also gives the Twins a second baseman and a No. 2 hitter who isn’t named Nick. Some can argue that he struck out 100 times last season, I’ll argue that a .383 on-base percentage (2009) and a career .338 mark looks a lot better than the pretenders who have been filling that spot in the batting order.
Playing third base and batting ninth … Pedro Feliz.
The main name that seems to come up (Figgins aside) is Mark DeRosa, who is 34 years old and had made a name by being versatile in the field and providing right-handed power at the plate. Wanna know why DeRosa is a man without a position? He doesn’t play any of them well and is pretty statuesque at third base.
Here’s my deal: With the current Twins lineup, I’m willing to trade on-base percentage for defensive prowess, and that’s why I want Feliz. I’ll take a solid glove and some power at that position, and feeljust fine about seeing him at the bottom of the order. Feliz, 34, made $5 million last season plus some modest performance incentives, and I suspect that he can be had for something close to that figure
Yeah, I’d rather have Figgins, but I’m not wearing drunk glasses.
And pitching for the Twins … Ben Sheets
Can you think of a pitcher with more to prove? He missed the entire 2009 season after major surgery to reconstruct his right elbow and will likely be forced to take a low-base, high-incentive deal. If Sheets can recover his old form, how could the Twins not take seriously a pitcher with Sheets’ statistics? Eight seasons with a 3.72 career ERA, 1.2 WHIP and hardly a weak number — aside from the entire reason that he’ll need to settle contract-wise. He made $12.1 million in 2008 with Milwaukee.
In addition to last season, Sheets also was on and off the mound from 2005-7, averaging only about 135 innings per season during that time. Jarrod Washburn? Jon Garland? Brad Penny? More Carl Pavano? I’d rather take a risk on Sheets.
Players can start talking to teams on Friday. Let’s hope there’s some action this winter to go with the noise.