Thursday, December 1, 2005
Konerko Re-Signs with Sox
Why Baseball Contest
"Roger" on the Twins Third Basemen
Good Morning to all!
Well, the big news yesterday was that the White Sox were able to sign Paul Konerko. Believe me, I have a couple of thoughts on that topic below that you'll want to check out. But again, I would really like for more people to send me a Why Baseball article for our contest. The deadline is Friday at 5:00 pm (central time), and three people will win a GuardDog Watch. Click here for details. Today though, Roger is back with his review of the Twins Third Basemen. In previous weeks, he has looked the the Twins minor league catchers and first basemen.
Before we get started, please take a couple of minutes and head over to Twinkie Town to read Roger's posting and question regarding which Twins rookies will most contribute to the 2006 Twins. There are a number of other great topics including predictions for the Twins 2006 Opening Day roster and a look at the 2006 salaries.
ROGER'S MINOR LEAGUE REVIEW - Third Base
After starting his positional review of the Twins system with the catchers two weeks ago, Roger reviewed the team's first base minor leaguers last week. This week, we will review the 2005 seasons of their third basemen. There are a couple of players at this position who really have a chance to contribute to the Twins. So, lets see what Roger has to say about all of the players. If you have any thoughts for me or Roger, e-mail me. Have a great day!
Twins Minor League System Review
The Third Basemen
Today we will take a look at another strong position, third base. A reminder about the ranking I show for each player. It is based on their performance in 2005 and if they missed part of the season, their ranking will be lower as a result. I have highlighted all rankings that were lowered because of injury or another reason (#46). Players included on the Twins 40-man roster will have their names in Bold Green.
Rochester Red Wings (AAA)
Several players manned third base for Rochester this past season including Luis Maza. He played mostly second and some left field and will be discussed with the middle infielders. Terry Tiffee (#21/D26, 1999) was in Minnesota part of the season where his performance (150ab/.207Ave/.245OBP/.293SLG) wasn‘t up to the level of his production in 2004 when he hit .273 in 44ab. While in Rochester, Tiffee’s play was solid (229ab/.266Ave/.313OBP/.454SLG), including 10 home runs.
Glenn Williams played third base prior to joining the Twins and his subsequent season ending injury. Williams performed well at Rochester (175ab/.303Ave/.341OBP/.469SLG), however, not as well as in his short stint with the Twins (40ab/.425Ave/.452OBP/.450SLG). He was waived from the 40-man roster following the end of the season, and later signed to a minor league contract at Rochester with an invitation to spring training.
New Britain Rock Cats (AA)
The Rock Cats had two players at third who were injured and spent part of the season on the disabled list. Jake Mauer (#81/23, 2001) was injured shortly after the season began, compiling a .250 average in 32 at bats at New Britain. Felix Molina (#38/D21, 2001) began the season playing second at Ft. Myers (155ab/.258Ave/.331OBP/.342SLG). He was promoted to New Britain early in the season where he played third, putting up solid numbers (122ab/.287Ave/.333OBP/.418SLG). At 22 he is young for AA where his performance made him a legitimate prospect, perhaps as a future utility player.
After the injuries to Mauer and Molina, the Twins promoted Matt Moses (#1, D1, 2003) from Ft. Myers following the Florida State League All Star game. Moses performed well at New Britain for a 20 year old (186ab/.210Ave/.275OBP/.366SLG), however not as well as his excellent performance at Ft. Myers (265ab/.306Ave/.376OBP/.453SLG). Based on his combined performance during this past season, Moses had the top performance of any position player in the system based on my formula. As a former #1 pick, the Twins also consider Moses one of their top prospects as evidenced by his assignment to the Arizona Fall League where he was one of the three youngest players on the Grand Canyon Rafters (Moses, Eric Duncan and Lastings Milledge were the only 20 year olds on a team with most players ages 22-24). Moses hit reasonably well in the AFL for a young player (69ab/.275Ave/.286OBP/.406SLG) and will likely begin 2006 at New Britain. He should be ready to help the Twins by late 2007.
Ft. Myers Miracle (Hi A)
The Miracle began the season with Matt Moses at third. Although several players played a few games at third during the season, the primary third baseman following Moses’ departure was Jose Leger (#64/ndfa) who joined the team from extended spring training. Leger, who is 23 years old, was very solid offensively (179ab/.279Ave/.327OBP/.352SLG) and will likely begin 2006 at either Ft. Myers or New Britain.
Beloit Snappers (Low A)
The Snappers had one player at third throughout the season. David Winfree (#7/D13, 2003) was arguably the most productive player in the Twins system as evidenced by his 101 rbi, making him the first 100+ rbi player in their minor league system since Michael Ryan (101) and Todd Sears (100) both reached 100 rbi at Edmonton in 2002. Although Winfree had the second highest number of errors in the system (34), the 19 year old had a great year offensively (562ab/.294Ave/.329OBP/.452SLG). The Twins have a difficulty scoring runs, therefore a productive player such as Winfree must be one of the brightest prospects in the system.
Elizabethton Twins (Rookie)
Two 21 year olds shared third base for the champion Elizabethton Twins. Matthew Betsill (#55/D10, 2005) had a productive first season with solid numbers (148ab/.277Ave/.359OBP/.365SLG). Travis Kalin (#71/D43, 2003) had offensive numbers (98ab/.265Ave/.339OBP/.418SLG) that were very similar to Betsill. Both players will likely get a chance to continue their development next year at Beloit, although their continued movement to higher levels will eventually be blocked by Moses and Winfree who are both younger and two of the top prospects in the system.
Gulf Coast Twins (Rookie)
The Gulf Coast Twins had at least four players play regularly at third base. A 21 year old Australian, William Luque (#42/ndfa) played as much as any of the others putting up great numbers (.322Ave/.406OBP/.378ALG). Luque has excellent plate discipline as evidenced by his 10BB/16SO in 90 at bats. Luque was also one of the most successful base stealers on the team with 13 steals in 17 attempts. Daniel Berg (#86/D30, 2004) was a 2004 draft and follow who was only 18 years old during his first season with the Twins (88ab/.159Ave/.265OBP/.205SLG). Juan Delgado (#87/ndfa) is another young player (19) playing in his first season with the Twins (72ab/.097Ave/.120OBP/.236SLG). Joe Abellera (#88/D21, 2004) is a 20 year old local Twins Cities product (Hopkins) who was playing in his second season with the GCL Twins (56ab/.179Ave/.193OBP/.196SLG).
Glenn Williams and Terry Tiffee are both AAAA type players who will be available to help in a reserve role during the coming season, if needed. Two of the top prospects in the Twins system are third basemen, Matt Moses and David Winfree. Both are very young, 20 and 19 respectively, so neither will be ready to help the team in 2006. As the Twins look to solve their third base situation in 2006, it is likely they will be looking for someone to fill the position for two years as either Moses or Winfree should be available some time in late 2007 or 2008. It will be interesting to see how the other players such as Felix Molina, Jose Leger and the various third basemen at Elizabethton and the GCL do during the coming season(s) to see if any of them develop into future prospects for the Twins. Assuming that either Moses or Winfree becomes the third baseman of the future, anyone currently in the rookie league will need to change positions or become a utility player to have a chance of making the Twins roster in the future.
Unlike the 1B position where the Twins seemingly have a prospect at each affiliate, they really have just two guys that I think could really contribute at the big league level. We've heard so much about Matt Moses since the Twins drafted him #1 in 2003. We know he can hit, and this year he was able to stay healthy for much of the season. Even at Ft. Myers, he was young for the level and really performed well. Yes, he struggled with the transition to AA New Britain, but that is expected. I am in no way worried about him. Because of his youth, the Twins can afford to be patient with him. I agree that he will start the season in New Britain and probably spend the whole year there unless he forces the issue for them.
The other is David Winfree. I was thrilled when the Twins announced him as the winner of their minor league hitter of the year award. He isn't the big name that Moses or Span or Romero or Jones are, but he has been solid offensively throughout his brief minor league career. Like Moses, Winfree has plenty of room for improvement defensively, but being so young, he can continue to work on it. And, of course, there is always the possibility of a position change at some point. I expect him to spend 2006 in Ft. Myers and it will be interesting to see how he develops there.
Glenn Williams was a great story in 2005 as Terry Tiffee was in 2004, but both of them are utility type players in the big leagues, or AAAA players, as Roger called them.
3B is a position that the Twins perceive to be one of their biggest needs. It is likely that they sign a player or trade for a player for the position. However, if the Twins feel that Matt Moses would be ready in 2007, there is no reason to give a free agent more than a one year deal with a 2nd year option. However, if they would trade for Hank Blalock or someone that they think could be around for longer, then suddenly Moses and Winfree become trade chips or DH options.
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins minor league third basemen? If so, e-mail me. Check back next week when Roger will help us learn more about another position in the Twins minor league system.
The Sky is Falling Down! The Sky is Falling Down! No, this isn't a section on the new movie version of Chicken Little. But it does sound to me like Twins fans are preparing themselves for a long offseason. It sounds like the fact that Paul Konerko has signed to stay with the White Sox for the next five years has been what the Sox needed to win another World Series much less the AL Central.
What types of things am I reading?
Jim Thome and Paul Konerko will combine to be a power duo much like Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
The White Sox are willing to spend money to win.
The Twins have to spend money to be competitive.
The Twins have to sign someone NOW just to keep up!
Let's look at these points individually, but first I want to share my overall thought of this signing. Here is what I posted yesterday on the Dickie Thon Twins Fan Forum:
Again, I just have to ask how this signing makes them a better team in 2006 than in 2005? To me, it just keeps things the same for them. 2005 - Konerko on the team. 2006 - Konerko on the team. Sounds like a wash to me.
The only change for the team really is with the Thome trade. So, to determine if they're a better team than last year, you have to decide for yourself if you think that they are better with Jim Thome and Brian Anderson in the lineup, or with Aaron Rowand and Carl Everett and/or Frank Thomas.
Signing Konerko in no way makes the Sox a better team in 2006 than they were in 2005. Konerko was on both teams. To me, that says that the team actually stayed the same. Of course, as I said, the big question is which Jim Thome they will have received for 2006, but also for 2007 and 2008. As I said earlier this week, I thought that was a good trade for both the White Sox and the Phillies, if Thome is healthy. However, we don't know that he will be healthy or that he will return to his 40 home run days. He is already 35 years old and we can assume that his strikeout totals will stay the same. I like Konerko and I think that, in the current market, the Sox got him for a fair deal. But five years for anyone is a long time.
Can Thome and Konerko equal Manny and David? First, those two won't be together next year, but if they were the Sox duo is not as good. Add in the injury risk, and it's not that great.
The Sox are willing to spend money to win? Sure, but to an extent. However, we already know that these deals will probably mean that one of the Sox starters will be traded. Most likely Freddy Garcia, from what I hear, will be traded. Why? To save money. In other words, not only do we have to determine which combination (from above) of players the Sox were better with, but we have to account for the fact that at least one of their starters will have to be replaced by a younger pitcher. Now, it is fine if El Duque is replaced by Brandon McCarthy, but can McCarthy replace Garcia's production. In my eyes, that is not as obvious as Scott Baker being able to do better than Joe Mays did a year ago for the Twins, or Francisco Liriano being able to out-pitch Kyle Lohse.
Do the Twins have to spend money to be competitive? Of course not, but I know that there are many Twins "fans" who think that they need to spend money, that the only way for the Twins to compete is to spend money. Look no further than the 2005 Cleveland Indians. They had a salaries of less than $35 million and they were one of the best teams in the league. In 2006, I think they'll be just as good, if not better. That will happen despite likely losing Kevin Millwood, Bobby Howry and Bob Wickman (who accounted for a large chunk of that salary). It is ridiculous to say that spending wins. Look the other direction at the New York Yankees who broke $200 million a year ago with high-priced veterans yet won what? Nothing. And, aside from A-Rod, Jeter and Matsui, guys like Robinson Cano, Chien-Ming Wang and Aaron Small were their biggest contributors. In other words, there is no reason to spend just to spend.
And what is on the market? Anyone with a big name that might be able to help the Twins comes with a huge injury risk! (Nomar Garciaparra, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, and others) Should the Twins throw three years and $21 million at Piazza just to counter the White Sox moves and show that they are willing to spend? Of course not. It makes no sense. As a small-market team, they have to be smarter than that. If Nomar gets a 2 year, $12 million from the Dodgers, should the Twins counter by offering him 4 yeas and $30 million? Of course not! It makes no sense! Spending does not win! Picking the right players and the right combinations wins. Developing from within and trusting your scouts and minor league coaches and those young players is important.
And, do they need to make a move now? Of course not. Although it would be nice for Twins fans to see that the Twins are doing something, I fully trust that Terry Ryan is working hard to figure out how to put the best lineup on the field day in and day out in 2006. I also hope that he is working on making smart deals. Here are a couple that I would not mind:
Nomar signed a one year deal with the Cubs for 2005. I have to believe that he is looking for some stability. He is a big-time injury risk having missed time not only the last couple of seasons, but in previous years in his career. However, when healthy, he can be one of the best right-handed hitters in the league. I would make an offer to Nomar giving him three years and $13.5 million. ($4 million in 2006, $4.5 million in 2007 and $5 million in 2007). They could work in a number of incentives to bring the value of the deal up. Maybe something like if he gets 500 plate appearances in 2006, he gets an extra $1 million in 2007 and 2008. In he reached 1,100 plate appearances in 2006 and 2007, then his 2008 contract increases to $7 million. The Twins lock up a guy looking for some stability, a guy who at 32 still has potential, at a dollar value that the Twins can afford. Even if he were hurt, that is less than the Twins gave Joe Mays while he was bad and hurt. It also allows incentive for Nomar to stay healthy and stay in the lineup.
If that falls through, I would then turn to Bill Mueller. I would offer him a two year, $9 million deal. Again, that is probably a little less than retaining Kyle Lohse for those two years would be. He would provide consistency and quality at bats from 3B. He would hit for some average and a little bit of power, and would be a good team guy. However, I do not believe he is worth more than this, and Matt Moses and David Winfree could be ready by 2008.
I don't want Hank Blalock or Alfonso Soriano. But if there is any chance that Mark Teixeira is available, he is one of three players I would probably trade Scott Baker for, and yes, I realize it would take a little more to get a hitter of that kind. (Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera are the other players).
To get players to come to Minnesota at fair market price is not always possible for the type of impact players that the team may need and want. So, Terry Ryan has to get creative. I have a feeling that he is working on a trade or two for players that we have never even heard mentioned in trade rumors.
I know. I'm too positive. But again, I am fully of the belief that the Twins are not too far off. Remember that they had a better-than-.500 record this year with a horrible offense. They should see better numbers in 2006 from the likes of Jason Bartlett, Shannon Stewart, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and even Michael Cuddyer (if he's given the second base job). Torii Hunter is what Torii Hunter is. Lew Ford can do a lot of things will and will hit better again in 2006. And, at some point, Jason Kubel will contribute. Add to that the likelihood that Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano will replace Joe Mays and Kyle Lohse in the starting rotation, and you've got a very strong team. Does it have a bunch of big names and big salaries? No.
But can it win? I absolutely believe they can, with the addition of two players. But I don't want them to just sign someone to sign someone. I want it to make sense, for 2006 and beyond that.
I know many disagree with me on this thinking. I would love to hear any thoughts on why the Twins can't win in 2006, or how the White Sox have actually bettered themselves for next year? Or, of course, any other baseball topic. E-mail me.
Why Baseball Contest
That's all, folks! I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Roger's third baseman article worth reading, and I hope that many of you will have comments for him. I will be back tomorrow for more of my own thoughts on some of your questions, as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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