December 4, 2003
HALL OF FAME DISCUSSION - Part 1 (First-Timers)
HALL OF FAME DISCUSSION - Part 2 (The Returners)
OTHER BASEBALL TRANSACTIONS
GOPHER BASKETBALL RECAP
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL THOUGHTS
Can You SayÖ Salary Dump?!
Late yesterday afternoon, I heard the news. The Twins had traded starter Eric Milton. That certainly did not come as a surprise to me. Trade rumors surrounding Milton have been circulating the newspapers and web sites for the past month. It was not so much a matter of if Eric Milton would be traded, but to whom and more importantly, for whom.
The answer to the first question came first. We found out that Milton was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, but for who? Shortly thereafter, we found out. The Twins and GM Terry Ryan traded Eric Milton to the Phillies for utility infielder Nick Punto and middle reliever Carlos Silva, along with the ever popular Player to be Named Later.
I have to admit, that upset me. I knew Milton would be traded, however, I expected that he could bring the team a prospect or two. But no, we get a utility infielder and a middle reliever. (thatís the part that disappoints me, I understand that his $9 million salary for this year is a burden that needed to be moved) I was planning on going home after work and typing up a major rant right away about how upset I was about the trade, but I decided to go a different route instead.
I got home. I checked my e-mail. I saw that Aaron Gleeman had posted my two Hall of Fame discussions (Part 1 - The First-Timers, and Part 2-The Returners) on the Baseball Primer website. I noticed that there were already over 40 Comments about it on that site (there are probably more now, so check them out here, and add to it, if you would like). I was pretty excited. It was my first Baseball Primer mention.
I still wasnít ready to start typing about the Milton trade yet, so I figured Iíd do something productive. I paid my bills. Thatís always fun and puts me in such a good mood! That took awhile, but I have to admit, I was watching The Simple Life because itís funny, followed by Ryan & Tristaís Wedding because itís cool!
So now I am able to write more clearly about the Eric Milton trade. That said, it will probably still turn into a rant. So, letís see:
First, letís discuss Milton and what was the main reason for his trade, his $9 million contract for 2004. Eric Milton made just three starts last season because of his knee surgery. When he came back, he was basically still in Spring Training mode. My thinking all along in regard to trading Milton was that if they got a very good prospect or two, it would be a good trade. However, if the Twins were unable to get fair market value in return for Milton, I was excited to see him pitch in 2004. I think that his arm will be stronger next season, and his knee, although a risk, could be back near 100%. His lost weight and the workout necessary to rehab his injury put him in the best shape he has been in. I look for big things from Eric Milton in 2004. If that is that case, the $9 million salary would be bearable. If not, well, he isnít on the books for 2005 anyway.
So what did the Twins get in return for Eric Milton?
24 year old Carlos Silva is a middle relief pitcher who came up from AA in 2002 and performed very well for the Phillies. He spent the entire 2003 season in the majors in a setup role and did well. In his two seasons, he has pitched in 130 games for the Phillies and has an 8-1 record. In my mind, Carlos Silva is a reliever in the mold of Juan Rincon, and as Iíve mentioned before here, I think Rincon does a good job. With the loss of LaTroy Hawkins to the Cubs via free agency yesterday, Silva provides another strong bullpen arm to the Twins, along with Joe Nathan.
The second player the Twins received was a middle infielder named Nick Punto. Although his name is fun to say, Punto is not a great player (or even a good player) and, already 26 years old, his ceiling is not high. In 2003, Punto played in 64 games for the Phillies and hit .217/.273/.272 with 92 at bats. I know that the Twins wanted to address their middle infield situation. They want to improve over Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas. Well, so far they have added Nick Punto and Augie Ojeda to the mix. Neither of them is even as good as the current players. Essentially, these two players will be, at best, the teams two utility infielders (if the team goes with 2 utility infielders again next season). When asked about Punto, here is what Ron Gardenhire said:
"The kid can play. Guzie's my shortstop going into camp, but we're going to put the best people out there. There should be no more excuses for Guzie -- he should come in ready to play, and I think he will."
Maybe a little actual pressure on Guzman will bring the best out of him. We can hope!
The Player to be Named Later will be determined after the Rule V draft. Youíll remember that the Twins will also be receiving a player from the Blue Jays as part of the Bobby Kielty trade. Depending on who that player is, I really am disappointed by this trade.
So, why would Terry Ryan jump into this trade? The only reason I can think of is that the $8.4 million that this trade frees up will be used to sign either Shannon Stewart or Eddie Guardado, or both, or go in a different direction altogether. With the slow-down in the market that we have seen this winter, it is possible for the Twins to get two quality starting pitchers with that money. Maybe they re-sign Guardado and Kenny Rogers with that money? Maybe they sign Stewart and another veteran pitcher? Maybe they make a couple more deals and look into my idea to acquire Vlad Guerrero.
My assumption is that Terry Ryan has a plan. With the need to decide whether to offer salary arbitration to Shannon Stewart and Eddie Guardado due by the end of the week, I would expect that the Twins will make a couple more transactions this week. I think they will make every effort to sign both of these players before that deadline. To do that, Ryan will need to make at least one more deal, and clearly, that means that Jacque Jones will be traded.
It is important to look at this from a bigger perspective. Scrooge, I mean Pohlad, has said that the teamís salary will remain at $56 million for the 2004 season. That makes creativity essential. I will always think that this particular trade was terrible for the Twins. They got a good relief pitcher for a pitcher who could return to an All-Star status to save almost $9 million. However, how Terry Ryan uses the money that this deal frees up will determine how the deal will affect the Twins. And thatís really what matters.
Weíve known all along that the 2004 Twins could look far different from the 2003 version, so I expect more dealing. AJ Pierzynski was traded, and I liked that move. LaTroy Hawkins signed with the Cubs, and that was expected (hence receiving Joe Nathan in the AJ deal was so important), and now Eric Miltonís salary was traded to the Phillies. The roster will look different, but that doesnít mean it will be worse off. The Twins still have Johan Santana, Kyle Lohse and Brad Radke. They will probably sign a veteran pitcher (Steve Sparks?) as a starter. JD Durbin could also get a long look and do well. Joe Mauer may not be better offensively than AJ Pierzynski in 2004, but he probably will be by 2005, and heíll probably handle the job defensively better than AJ right away. Losing Jacque Jones will hurt the team in some ways. Heís a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder. Heís a .300 hitter. If he stays healthy (which he wasnít for a large portion of last season), he will hit a lot of home runs. But the Twins have a plethora of outfielders who can step in and contribute right away, if they are only given a chance. Michael Cuddyer, Michael Restovich, Michael Ryan, Lew Ford. Any one of them, given real playing time, would do well. It is still uncertain what will happen with Doug Mientkiewicz. He too could be traded, and if he is, the Twins would be OK. I completely have confidence that Justin Morneau could step in and play great. I think he could accidentally hit 30 home runs given 550 at bats. What will happen with the shortstop and second base positions?
We knew this would be a tough offseason. We knew tough decisions would have to be made. And now, weíre seeing those decisions happen. Itís hard to watch, but I hope (and Iím sure) that the Twins brass has a plan. They have built up a strong group of top prospects that are ready to contribute now.
Hopefully the fans will understand this and still come out to support the Twins. But at this point, I donít think even the current Twins players know whatís going on. Jim Souhan has some good quotes in his article today. Hereís what Torii Hunter said:
"This stinks! It looks like we're rebuilding again. If I had known this was going to happen, I probably wouldn't have signed my deal. We still have time to prove we're not going in that direction. We might sign someone who makes everybody happy. But right now we're falling backward."
When asked about LaTroy Hawkins signing with the Cubs (without the Twins even making him an offer!), Hunter said:
"You'd think we could have afforded that. I think we're forgetting who we're dealing with here. Joe Nathan is no LaTroy Hawkins. He might be a good pitcher, but LaTroy has proven himself here, and he's a chemistry guy."
Just wait until Jacque Jones is traded. I think Hunter should have some very strong quotes then! It should be entertaining, if nothing else.
By the way, yesterday, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com wrote a piece on LaTroy Hawkins, saying itís unfortunate the Twins didnít make an effort to resign him.
So, what do you think of the Milton trade? Did they receive enough in return? How about the loss of LaTroy Hawkins? E-mail me.
OTHER BASEBALL TRANSACTIONS
∑ In the worst kept secret of the offseason, the Red Sox surprised no one in naming Terry Francona their new manager, replacing Grady Little. Curt Schilling wanted him, and it was clear all along that Theo Epstein wanted him too. The 44 year old Francona had a career that spanned ten years, but he never did play full-time. He became the manager of the Philadelphia Phillies before the 1997 season and managed there for four complete seasons before being replaced by Larry Bowa.
∑ What was the Yankees one glaring problem last season? Getting the ball from their starting pitchers to Mariano Rivera. Not much worked in terms of relief pitching for the Yankees. So what have they done the last two days?
1.) Signed Tom ďFlashĒ Gordon to a 2 year, $7.5 million contract.
2.) Signed Paul Quantrill to a 2 year, $6.8 million contract.
3.) Re-signed Felix Heredia to a 2 year, $3.8 million contract.
Iíd say thatís addressing your problems. Gordon had a great comeback season last year with the White Sox. He finally seemed back to 100%. His fastball was clocked in the upper-90s consistently, and the break was back on the curveball that put him on the map. In 74 innings pitched (in 64 games), he struck out 91 batters.
Paul Quantrill has been a model of consistency in his career. The 35 year old Canadian has pitched in no less than 80 games each of the past three seasons. His ERAís over those three years have gone from 3.04 to 2.70 to 1.75
Heredia is a youngín at just 28 years old. Also, heís left handed. The Yankees retained Heredia for two years. He gave up just 2 runs in 15 innings pitched with the Yankees this season, after coming to the team in a trade deadline deal with the Reds.
The three combined will help the team make that exchange from starter to close much better. We know the Yankees arenít done tinkering either. Should be interesting what else the team adds. Probably a pitcher or two aside from resigning Andy Pettite. The Kevin Brown discussions sound somewhat legitimate.
∑ The White Sox sent infield ďprospectĒ Aaron Miles to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for SS Juan Uribe. Iím not sure what this trade does. Does it mean that Jose Valentin will DH or move back to CF with Uribe taking over? Does it set up a platoon between the two since Valentin can not hit lefties? I donít think Twins fans need to worry about this trade impacting the Central Division race.
Any thoughts on these moves or other pending deals, e-mail me.
The Wolves picked up a big, impressive win last night down in Phoenix. The defeated the Suns 92-79. First, the team isnít traditionally good against the Suns, especially on the road. And, the Wolves are sick of it being an excuse, but their injury situation has to be frustrating! To the game, Sam Cassell led the Wolves attack. He scored 27 points, dished out 8 dimes and recorded 7 rebounds. Kevin Garnett was held to 16 points and 12 rebounds, a quiet night for him. Latrell Sprewell added 21 points and 6 boards. Fred Hoiberg contributed 14 points. For the Suns, Stephon Marbury scored 32 points and handed out 6 assists.
GOPHERS BASKETBALL RECAP
Like most of the other Big 10 teams in the ACC/Big 10 matchups, the Gophers lost to their ACC opponent. They traveled to Virginia and once they got there, they turned the ball over too much and lost the game 86-78. They tied the game at 62 with under 10 minutes to play, but then Virginia went on a 10-0 run and the Gophers couldnít make up the difference. Michael Bauer knocked down 5 more three pointers on his way to 20 points. Moe Hargrow added 11 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. But again, the Gophers were led by freshman Kris Humphries with 32 points to go with 13 rebounds.
NEBRASKA FOOTBALL THOUGHTS
Vic Quick, the Sports Director at KDUH-TV in Scottsbluff, NE, is a member of our Football Picks panel. He is also a good friend and former college roommate. Yesterday, he wrote a quick column on the firing of Nebraska head football coach Frank Solich. He asks the question: Who is out there to replace Solich? Of course, the big rumor is that Steve Spurrier will leave the Washington Redskins to become the next Nebraska head coach. That would bring a big name to the Cornhusker program.
I feel bad for Mr. Solich. He followed the legend of Tom Osborne. Sid Hartman said he has proof that Osborne cheated and got away with a lot of NCAA rules while he was coaching. Osborne hand-picked Solich, and you have to agree that there is no way that Solich gets fired if Osborne would have backed him. In other words, he didnít. Solich went 9-3 and he gets fired. His record through his years is far better than even Osborne had in his first years.
Any thoughts? E-mail me.
Well, thatís going to be it for today. Be sure to check out a number of those links on the left hand side of this screen. Iím sure plenty will write about the Eric Milton deal. If you have any questions or comments or anything, send me an e-mail.
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