Monday, February 17, 2014

Minnesota Twins Power Rankings: Remaining Free Agents

Another quiet week in Twins territory.  Spring Training started, so "news" aficionados have their fill, but I don't care for "news."  The Twins did claim Brooks Raley from the Cubs, meaning they are just one punch away from a free left-handed starter at the Soft Tosser shop.  Beyond that most minor of minor deals, things are silent. 

Of course, the Winter had been bustling.  The Twins made a big splash early and now we can just enjoy the soft waves that rustle from the aftershock.  Of course, when you look at payroll figures, even though the Twins spent a bunch of money, the overall payroll is still about $84 million, roughly the same figure as last season.  Then, you consider that the Twins will shed another $20 million after this season (Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia, Jared Burton, Kurt Suzuki), and you figure there's still plenty of available money to spend. 

So, let's use these Power Rankings to spend some Pohlad cash!  There isn't much left on the current market, but I can still find 10 guys worthy of discussion.  Note, QO means they received a qualifying offer at the beginning of free agency and would cost the Twins their second-round selection this June. 

10.  Octavio Dotel

The Twins have absolutely no need for Dotel, but he's played for 13 different teams and the Twins aren't one of them.  With Dotel so close to a complete set, the team could throw him a bone, sign him and then trade him to one of the other 15 teams he hasn't played for.  It's just solid PR/karma.

9.  Nelson Cruz - QO

Cruz has hit at least 22 home runs in each of the past five seasons.  He's just 33 and slugged .506 last season.  He also got hit with a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal.  I'm proud to say that is the first time I have ever typed "Biogenesis."  Anyway, Cruz doesn't walk much and he isn't much of an outfielder.  If the Twins were interested, they'd have to put him at DH or risk having literally the worst corner outfielders in baseball.  I'm not sure it's worth paying Cruz a lot of money to be a DH while also losing a second-round pick. 

If his stock dropped so much that he can't get more than say 1 year, $5 million, then he would make for a good value.  I'm just not sure he really helps enough to give up that pick.

8.  Kendrys Morales - QO

It seems that the general perception is that Morales is a better player than Cruz.  They had an identical 123 OPS+ last season.  Morales has been better in the past, but he's also missed a lot of time with injury.  In his last three healthy seasons, he's averaged 26.3 home runs.  Cruz has averaged 26.7.  Morales walks more, but he can't even fake it as an outfielder like Cruz.  My point is, these two are pretty similar:  above-average hitters with good power.  Morales walks more, but Cruz has more power.  Cruz is capable of standing in the outfield, Morales isn't.  Morales is three years younger and a switch-hitter, so I do ultimately prefer him.  However, I'd pass on both and just make Josh Willingham the DH. 

Bailey is very interesting.  His career in Boston was a combination disaster of injuries and poor play.  Prior to those two seasons, Bailey looked like a dominant closer with Oakland.  His 2012 was just horrible and he only managed 28.2 innings in 2013.  He did finish 2013 with a 110 ERA+ and the highest strikeout rate of his career.  Although, he didn't pitch after July 12 due to shoulder surgery. 

Yet, I'd still take a flier on him, especially if he is available on a Minor League deal.  He won't be 30 until May 31 and there aren't a lot of innings on his arm.  He's been generally good when healthy and his fly ball tendencies would play well at Target Field.  He won't be ready for Opening Day, but if the Twins invest a few million in him and give him an opportunity, they might find a willing trade partner at the deadline or a young-ish, talented reliever for the back of their bullpen. 

6.  Ubaldo Jimenez - QO

You can't argue that he's not the best or second-best free agent starter still on the market, but I wouldn't touch him.  Jimenez was basically awful from 2011-2013, save for September and MAYBE August of last season.  Even in August, his walk rate was much too high for my liking (10%).  In September, he was dominant.  His strikeout to walk ratio was over seven, he didn't give up a home run and he finished the month with a 1.09 ERA.  He could not have peaked at a better time and yet, here we are in mid-February and he's still unemployed.  Some of that is due to the qualifying offer, but some of it is due to Jimenez scaring the bejeebus out of teams.  I can't ignore 17 bad months, even if that one month was truly outstanding. 

That said, 2 years, $20 million?  I'd do that.  Has his value fallen that far?  I doubt it.

The Twins have worked so hard to put together their soft-tossin' lefty master set, why not just sign the guy who all of those youngsters hope to one day be?  Instead of hoping Scott Diamond rebounds, why not just sign a better version of Scott Diamond?  Instead of filling the roster with Brooks Raley and Kris Johnson, why not sign the guy who those two guys aspire to be?  Capuano doesn't throw hard, but he limits walks and gets just enough strikeouts to be effective.  Over the past three seasons, Capuano has averaged 163 innings and a 4.15 ERA.  Nothing special, but do you expect any of the three lefties I mentioned earlier to approach that?  He's only 35 and apparently will take a one-year deal.  Unless he wants 1 year and Elevendy Billion dollars, the Twins should really consider Capuano.   

Niemann is not special, but he's been a successful pitcher in the past and he's just 30.  He's coming off of major shoulder surgery and might not be ready until the second half.  His strikeout, walk and ground ball rates have been roughly in line with league-average over his career and his ground ball rate specifically was climbing over the years, prior to his injury.  Niemann would never be anything more than a number 3/4 starter, but he could replace Kevin Correia cheaply for 2015 and likely would surpass Correia's performance as well. 

Scott Feldman got 3 years and $30 million from the Astros and I think he and Niemann are pretty similar.  If the Twins can get Niemann for 2014, they might be able to work out an extension if they find him to be healthy.  I mean, once Niemann gets the sweet taste of Minnesota, he'll never want to leave.  Right?

3.  Ervin Santana - QO

I saw one report that Santana's new asking price was 3 years and $40 million.  I can't find it now because my computer is allergic to me giving credit to anyone else, but I know I read that.  I wasn't super high on Santana when I thought he could cost $90 million and a second-round pick.  However, that new contract figure seems very reasonable and possibly even a bargain.  When Santana can keep the ball in the park, he's a pretty good pitcher.  Target Field famously suppresses home runs, so it seems like a pretty good fit.  He'll be just 31 next season and could be a steal at the price listed above.  I'd even go a little higher than that, if it meant he would sign.  I don't love him, but I do think he'd be the Twins' best starter next season.

2.  Stephen Drew - QO

This is the guy the Twins need to sign.  He's going to cost a pick and that sucks, but the Twins need a shortstop.  I love Eduardo Escobar as much as anyone, but I'd gladly give up on the Eddie 400 at the end of this sentence if the Twins signed Drew.  The Twins' most MLB-ready prospect is Danny Santana and he might still be two years away.  Their best overall SS prospect is Jorge Polanco and he might be better suited for second.  Among likely 2015 free agent shortstops, I only count Jed Lowrie as being on Drew's level as a shortstop.  I doubt Hanley Ramirez and Yunel Escobar get to free agency.  Lowrie is also older and injury-prone.  J.J. Hardy is nice, but Drew is younger. 

This is the Twins' chance to address a need they've had since Greg Gagne.  Drew might be willing to take a one-year deal, but I'd rather sign him for 3 and just fill that void for a few years.  By then, who knows who is available via trade, free agency, draft or development.  The Twins can basically cross this position off their Xmas list right now, at a reasonable cost.  I wasn't high on Drew early in the off-season, but now I'm basically ready to by a Drew Twins shirsey the second he signs. 

This is pure sentimentality, as Santana likely will not be ready to pitch until mid-season.  However, I love him.  I just want him back with the Twins.  I don't care if it's extremely unlikely that he ever throws another MLB inning.  At least then, he could retire with the organization that helped him make his name.  I'd sign Santana, sight unseen, for a few million.  I wouldn't even give other teams a chance to swoop in.  This is reason number 573 why I would be a terrible GM. 

There's my list.  Who would you sign if you could spend ownership dollars?  I'd sign all of the top three, if it were possible.  That seems very unlikely, but I'd guess the Twins can afford to grab at least one of them.  It would be a great show of faith to the fans, that's for sure. 

Have a great week, everyone!


  1. I think it may be worth it for the Twins to take a flyer on Barry Zito. Yeah, he's not even close to what he once was, but he could be a decent (and cheap) bottom of the rotation innings eater.

    1. Yeah, I considered him for this list actually. The Twins could use a lefty, as they have a very right-handed rotation right now.

  2. I've always liked Dotel, if nothing else, for his excellent taste in socks:

    1. Those are some great socks, and I appreciate good socks.