Tuesday, December 14, 2004
WINTER MEETING DEAL THOUGHTS
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
The $875,000 Mistake!
Over the last few weeks, I have pondered frequently what the Twins should do this offseason. They locked up Brad Radke for the next two years. I would like to see them sign Johan Santana to a multi-year deal. I still want to see them trade either Jacque Jones or Shannon Stewart. And that was really it, except for one situation. Yesterday, it became official that Corey Koskie was going to sign a contract with the Toronto Blue Jays (pending a physical) for 3 years and $17 million dollars.
People write me all the time and tell me that I am generally too nice, that I don't rant enough. In general, I have agreed with most of the decisions that the Twins have made. I try not to question players because I can understand what they're thinking. I may question Ron Gardenhire at times because of lineup decisions, or in-game calls, but I usually discuss what I think I would have done followed by what Gardy was thinking because different things can work. I try not to talk about Carl Pohlad because he just makes me mad sometimes for being cheap. But that hasn't hurt the Twins too much in recent years as better players have been younger and cheaper. I don't question Terry Ryan because he has made good decisions in recent years, even if I disagree with them. But I have changed my mind on the Corey Koskie decision after the reality of him signing elsewhere hit me.
All along, I agreed with the Twins not giving him a third year of guaranteed money. I also think that almost $6 million is a big risk for a player with the injury history of Corey Koskie. Sure, I think that he has been a very productive player when he is healthy. He usually takes pitches and works good at bats. He has a solid career on-base percentage, and last year was arguably his best power season. He is also a Gold Glove caliber third baseman. But again, he just misses a lot of games over the course of a season.
So, as we were hearing that the Twins had offered him two years at $8.25 million, I thought that was a very fair contract, all things considered. But now that Koskie is about to sign elsewhere, I am beginning to realize that I really didnít consider all things. There were a few things that I didnít think about. And, for the first time, I feel slighted by the Twins "cheap" ways! Let me further explain.
Koskie made it known that he wanted to remain a Twin. Last week, Corey Koskie made a comment that he was willing to sign with the Twins for two years and $9-10 million, as long as a no-trade clause was included in the contract. Because he was willing to sign for one less year and $7 or $8 million less to remain loyal to the Twins franchise, I thought it was more than fair for the team to give him some loyalty in return.
And yet, the Twins did not budge on their 2 year, $8.25 million offer. Koskie was clearly willing to take less to stay a Twin. The Twins increased their two year offer to Brad Radke from $14 million to $18 million to keep him. And, I understand he is a top-level pitcher, so that is very important. However, letís look at what the team would have needed to do to increase their offer to Koskie. Letís just say that they increased their offer to two years and $9 million. They were off by $750,000, over two years! Thatís $375,000 per season! Thatís the amount of a third year player. Even if we were to have increased the offer to 2 years and $10 million, that is the difference of $1.75 million, over two years! Thatís $875,000 a season. Now, we have heard that Twins owner Carl Pohlad gave Terry Ryan the OK to increase his salary cap a little bit. Well, would this much really have been too much? I mean, instead of $54 million in salaries in 2005, they would be at $54.9. Is that a big deal?
Why do I comment on this, and why does it bother me so much? I have voiced my discontent with the Twins signing of bad utility infielder Juan Castro to a 2 year, $2 million deal. That is $1 million worth of wasted contract that the Twins used. Look at it this way, here is how the Twins infield could look with Castro and without Koskie, compared to if they would have given Koskie an extra million dollars a year and not signed Castro:
Pos Now Could Have Been
3B - Michael Cuddyer Corey Koskie
SS - Jason Bartlett/Juan Castro Jason Bartlett/Nick Punto
2B - Luis Rivas/Nick Punto Michael Cuddyer
I know which of those teams I would prefer. Michael Cuddyer is far better defensively at 2B than 3B, and Koskie is as good as anyone in the league at 3B. With Cuddyer likely to play at 3B, the team may feel the need to keep Luis Rivas. And, he will likely get a raise from last yearís $1.5 million contract. I think all Twins fans are sick of watching Rivas Ďplayí ball. The Twins will now have two utility infielders, Juan Castro and Nick Punto. Is that really any better than the utility infield duo of Nick Punto and Augie Ojeda? I donít think so!
Terry Tiffee may not be the greatest defensive 3B, but he showed that he makes the plays he should make. Without Castro, Tiffee could be a backup 3B and 1B and pinch hit, at 1/3 the cost of Castro! If Koskie got hurt, Tiffee could step in for while he was on the Disabled List.
Another option that has been discussed is bringing in Joe Randa as a free agent. I think that he would likely cost $2-3 million (essentially the cost that the team would be saving by being able to non-tender Rivas). I like Randa. I think he is solid. But he is no Koskie, and he would be a short-term solution, allowing the team to determine two things. First, how long until they feel Matt Moses will be able to play 3B for the Twins and secondly, if they really think that Terry Tiffee can take over in the interim.
Another side effect of losing Koskie is that now it is more likely that the Twins will keep Jacque Jones. As I said yesterday, I really like Jacque. I do think that he will be better in 2005 than he was last year. I think he provides a spark and some power despite his inability to draw a walk or hit left-handed pitching. But if they re-sign Jones at the $5-6 million that he will garner, they could have had Koskie for even less. Also, keeping Jones means that Lew Fordís talents will be wasted at the DH Position. Sure, this whole rant goes all the way back to what I said before the 2004 season, that signing Shannon Stewart long-term was wrong because he is a bad outfielder and an injury risk, when Lew Ford could be the every day left or right fielder and leadoff hitter and then Jones could be kept. But for today, Iím still complaining in terms of losing Koskie! Even with the injury to Jason Kubel, the Twins still have outfield depth beyond Stewart, Torii Hunter and Ford. They have Michael Restovich and Kevin West who can hit. They also have Todd Dunwoody, Jason Tyner and hopefully Rusty Greer from the left-side.
So, to summarize:
Corey Koskie at $5 million
Joe Randa or Luis Rivas at $2-3 million, Juan Castro at $1 million (instead of Augie Ojeda at $350,000), Jacque Jones at $6 million, Lew Ford at DH instead of in the field.
So, for a team on a budget, I donít see the cost savings. As a matter of fact, I see this costing the Twins more money!
There must be something more, right? Maybe he doesnít play hard or wonít play in pain?
If youíve watched Corey Koskie play the game of baseball, it is absolutely impossible to question his effort on the field. Yes, he had injuries, but they were all either fluke injuries or injuries incurred through hustle. So that canít be it!
Koskie must be a jerk in the clubhouse and just a bad person that they want off the team, right?
Not at all! By all accounts, Corey Koskie and Torii Hunter were the undisputed leaders of the team. Koskie was known as the prankster who kept things light-hearted in the clubhouse. He would be a great leader for the rest of a very young, inexperienced infield. I know that many people donít take chemistry as a very important part of how a team plays. I agree that it isnít as big as some people would want you to think, but I do believe it is important!
Likewise, the next part of my rant is not important to winning baseball games either. I think I have more than shown that Koskieís presence would be great for the 2005 Twins team. But what about all that Corey Koskie has done for the community? How many thousands of dollars has he given and raised for local charities and churches? How much good-will has he brought to the Twins franchise over his career? He has lived in the community, unlike most of his teammates. He has made himself a valuable member of the community.
Now, again, these things donít win games. These types of things may not even bring in extra fans to Metrodome for Twins games. But these types of things do wonders for the type of respect that the team has in the community. And losing your "name" players certainly does not help a team get a new stadium. And, these are the little things that I think should have made the extra $875,000 something that Carl Pohlad and Terry Ryan should have considered when negotiating with Corey Koskie.
Now, I still fully believe that the Twins can win the American League Central Division. Cleveland will be good again. Detroit appears to be making a big plunge into the free agent market (re: Adrian Beltre, Edgar Renterria, JD Drew, Matt Clement, others), so they will be improved again. But, with some of the other moves the Twins have made and with Radke and Santana in the rotation, there is no reason for Twins fans to feel the team canít still win, and in fact, be better than they were even last year.
I understand that the team is financially strapped by Carl Pohlad! I have no problem with going with younger, cheaper, BETTER players. I was thrilled when the Twins traded Doug Mientkiewicz to allow Justin Morneau to play every day. I was happy when AJ Pierzynski was traded to the Giants to make room for Joe Mauer. I will be happy when the Twins let go of Luis Rivas allowing Michael Cuddyer to be the every day second baseman. I thought that the Nationals overpaid for Cristian Guzman and feel that the Twins will get more offensive production from Jason Bartlett.
Now, I like Terry Tiffee and feel that he will be able to hit at the major league level. But this is a position where I donít think that Tiffee is a better option than Corey Koskie, and that is the difference between this non-signing and those mentioned in the previous paragraph. There are other reasons, both tangible and intangible (mentioned above), that I think that not resigning Corey Koskie will end up being an $875,000 mistake!
What do you think? Iíd love to hear your thoughts. E-mail me.
MORE WINTER MEETING NEWS AND THOUGHTS
RULE V DRAFT - It was a very quiet Rule V draft today. In fact, the whole major league draft took just twelve minutes! Only twelve players were taken. Remember how I was worried that the Twins would lose both Kevin West and Alex Romero? Neither was drafted, which is good for the Twins! But another Twins minor leaguer was drafted. Not only drafted, but taken first overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not only taken first overall, but then traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for $150,000! That kind of investment tells me that he will make the Devil Rays roster and stick with the team. So, who was it? RHP Angel Garcia. Garcia pitched in just seven games for Quad Cities (Low-A) in 2004 after having Tommy John Surgery in September of 2003. He was the Twins fourth round pick in 2001 out of high school in Puerto Rico. He is a tall (6-7) right handed pitcher who was throwing about 95 in his return this year. It is a tough loss for the Twins, but when I listed my top 26 Twins Prospects this year, which included X pitchers, I did not include Garcia, so the Twins arenít hurt by losing him the way they would have been had West been drafted.
The Twins made a selection in the Rule V Draft and he was Ryan Rowland-Smith, a 21 year old, left-handed pitcher from the Seattle Mariners organization. According to ESPN.comís John Sickles:
A 6-3, 21-year-old Australian southpaw, Rowland-Smith allowed 107 hits in 100 innings this year for Inland Empire in the California League. But he also posted an excellent 119/30 K/BB ratio, and his 3.79 ERA was credible given the park and league environment. Rowland-Smith might not be the next Johan Santana, but mechanical refinements have boosted his velocity, and if he continues to throw strikes he could be quite successful. He pitched for Australia in the 2004 Olympics.
I think that this is a good pick. The Twins have had good luck in Australia and likely have a good report on him. Maybe he can be another success story like Grant Balfour. If the team keeps him, it would be as a left-handed reliever, something the Twins may need in 2005. I really like his low walks. Will he make the team in Spring Training or will they offer him back to the Mariners, or make a trade to keep him and send him to the minor leagues? I think a lot depends on what happens in the offseason with JC Romero. This is a good pick and the Twins can determine whether they want him in spring training.
In the AAA version of the Rule V draft, the Twins lost Erik Lohse, Kyle's brother, and Victor Moreno.
Pedro Martinez signs with the New York Mets - Four years and $56 million! The Mets wanted to make a big deal, and to do that, they offered Martinez the guaranteed fourth year that he was looking for! I can understand the Mets trying to get back into the news in NYC, but four years for a clearly declining Pedro just doesnít make sense. Yeah, heís not old, and heís not done, but he isnít the same dominant pitcher that he was three or four years ago. This contract just seems excessive, and I donít blame the Red Sox for letting him go.
Richie Sexson signs with the Seattle Mariners - This is another deal that is pending a physical. Sexson will get either $33 million over three years, or the same 4 year, $45 million contract that Arizona just gave Troy Glaus. Not a bad signing, assuming that Sexsonís shoulder is healed. The interesting part of this deal is that Seattle is also pushing hard to get either Adrian Beltre or Carlos Delgado. Now, of course, Beltre makes sense because he can play 3B while Sexson plays 1B. But if the Mariners sign Delgado, he would play 1B and Sexson would likely play LF, or one of them would DH. That would be a pretty powerful lefty-righty middle of the lineup! I guess if I were picking, I would go after Beltre because he is younger and can keep people in their correct positions.
Mike Matheny signs with the San Francisco Giants - The Gold Glove catcher signed to play on the Bay for three years and $9 million. Probably a good signing for the Giants. Twins fans will remember that Pierzynski not only was not a good defensive catcher, but had earned a reputation as not handling a pitching staff well or being on good terms with umpires. Some Giants pitchers complained about him early in the season. No question that Pierzynski can hit. However, in arbitration, AJ is likely to get about $5 million. So, they will probably just non-tender him and let him become a free agent. So, Twins fans, the Giants got one decent year from AJ Pierzynski in exchange for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and top prospect Francisco Liriano. I think that is a good trade by Terry Ryan!
White Sox Trade Carlos Lee to Brewers for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino and a PTBNL - I love watching White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams work! He just destroys the White Sox, every year. He has already signed Dustin Hermanson and Jermaine Dye to excessive contracts, he will lose Magglio Ordonez and now he trades his best hitter for a guy who hit .250 last year! I love it! The Brewers have to be thrilled with this trade! They get a legit power threat to go with Geoff Jenkins in their lineup. The White Sox thinking is to rid themselves of their boppers and start working a more speed-based team. Podsednikís production last year dropped, and yet he still made things happen by stealing 70 bases. Thatís pretty good. Vizcaino is a good set up guy. But clearly the Brewers win this deal by getting Carlos Lee. Lee is also one of the few White Sox that I actually liked. So, now it is pretty much Aaron Rowand that I like, so even more reason to not like the White Sox. Thatís fine, since they are building a team to battle the Kansas City Royals for fourth place in the AL Central!
So, what are your thoughts on all the rumors, the deals, the non-deals and discussions that happened at the Winter Meetings? E-mail me.
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
Ryan Maus of Twins Chatter is again this week's winner. Things are still very tight at the top of our leader board with Mike Brasel reclaiming the lead all by himself but trailed by just one game by three people, and now we're down to the final three weeks! Check back on Friday to see who our panelists pick in the Week 15 games.
Thru Week 14 Total Week 14 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 13 3 81.3% 142 66 68.3% Melissa Olson SethSpeaks.net 12 4 75.0% 141 67 67.8% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 12 4 75.0% 141 67 67.8% Ryan Maus Twins Chatter 15 1 93.8% 141 67 67.8% Michael Labuda ChiSox Daily 11 5 68.8% 138 70 66.3% David Bergner Baseball Savant 13 3 81.3% 138 70 66.3% Vic Quick KDUH-TV Sports 12 4 75.0% 133 75 63.9% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 14 2 87.5% 129 79 62.0% David Bloom Ya Gotta Believe 11 5 68.8% 127 81 61.1% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 12 4 75.0% 125 83 60.1% Jeremy Kovash Wolf Lake Mgr 14 2 87.5% 125 83 60.1% John Bonnes The Twins Geek 11 5 68.8% 121 87 58.2%
If you're looking for a great way to organize your family's Christmas Wish Lists, be sure to go to this site, designed by a good friend of mine.
And as I mentioned last week, I got my copy of 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual! It is far more impressive than I ever would have thought. Great articles, get writing, and very interesting and comprehensive statistics. It is well worth picking up for yourself or as a Christmas gift for family and friends who are baseball fans! By it here.
And on that note, I am going to call it a day! If you have any thoughts, opinions or questions on any topic, please feel free to e-mail me. Have a great Tuesday!
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