Or: Reading Between the Lines.
As the Twins look to trim a pitcher from the roster, are we at the end of Juan Rincon's tenure with the team?
Earlier this year I asked whether Juan Rincon could have a career after 2008. Even last May I was talking about how good Rincon was. Here's the thing...I'm happy to say I've always been a big fan of Rincon, and I've always hoped for a rebound, especially when he's struggled, but as the days wear on this season it really appears that it's never going to happen with the Twins.
If the Twins must have a performance like this from a bullpen pitcher, it has to be from a guy who's making less than a seven-digit income. There's no reason to pay a guy millions of dollars to come into a game and just get owned.
Ultimately, I believe the only reason the Twins went with a 13-man pitching staff is because they've been searching for someone to take Rincon off of their hands. Because whether they keep him on the roster and just don't use him unless they're forced to, or if they send him through waivers and nobody picks him up, Minnesota would still be on the hook for his salary. So they protect him by bringing up another pitcher, so they don't have to use him and risk damage to themselves or further damage to Rincon's appeal, and hope that they can find someone willing to give something back in exchange for a reclaimation project.
What you'd be able to get back from Rincon could be any combination of three things: money, personnel or roster space. The first thing I'd be looking to do, if I'm Bill Smith, is find someone who's willing to not just take Juan Rincon but to pick up what's due on his salaray for the rest of the season as well. In hopes of making that a reality, I'm also asking for a mid-level prospect who's still two or three years away from breaching the major leagues. Once the opposing GM is done laughing at me, we could negotiate down from there.
After talking up Rincon's health, makeup and discussing the things necessary for him to regain his form, if I'm able to come away convincing the other GM to take the pitcher's salary, I'd probably make a deal. Without the prospect. Making roster space and clearing a dead salary would be my number one priorities.
One scenario which is likely rearing its ugly head is that no team is willing to pay a struggling relief pitcher more than half of his $2.5 million dollar contract for the rest of 2008. It's very likely that opposing GM's will be countering Bill Smith by saying they'd take Rincon off his hands to help him clear roster space, but would require the Twins to still be on the books for the money. Even though there's nothing like paying the salary of a guy who doesn't play for you anymore, in this case it's likely the Twins are still listening, because it's not a good idea to chase away what potential suitors Rincon may have. There probably aren't many.
At this point I'm making it sound like I'm wary of where this potential deal is heading and what it does for my team, but also that I'd be willing to make it work if we can get a low-A or A-ball prospect thrown in. If I'm paying for a guy who isn't on my team, I'm still looking to get something more back than roster space.
This is all speculation on my part--everything from the idea that the Twins have 13 pitchers so that they can move Juan, to exactly what the Twins could be looking for in a deal--but it makes sense.
If the Twins are indeed looking to move the player who's been with the Twins longer than anyone else, one of the scenarios above are the likely endgame. Either a team takes Rincon and his salary and that's the end of it, or the Twins pay Rincon's salary while he pitches for someone else and the Twins also get some 20-year old quasi-prospect in return. I can't really say I have a preference either way. All I know is that Juan's time in Minnesota has probably come to an end, and the Twins need his roster spot.
It's been a good run, Juan, and we've had some good times. But now I need to break up with you. Good luck.