The Minnesota Twins and MLBTR's Top-50 Free Agents

Tim Dierks is of the opinion the Twins will ink Kazmir. What do you think of this? - Leon Halip

Warne examines the players MLBTradeRumors.com's Tim Dierkes predicts the Twins will sign.

Every year for the past seven, MLBTradeRumors.com -- which also employs our very own Steve Adams -- puts out a list of the top-50 free agents. And on the eve of free agency for as many of those years as I can recall, they also do predictions, as well as a prediction contest.

You can actually get in on that here.

With this year figuring to be one of the Twins' most active in the free agent market, it's perhaps a bit surprising that Dierkes only predicts the club to sign two top-50 guys.

But the two he predicts might even be more surprising.

The first is left-handed starter Scott Kazmir. Dierkes has predicted a two-year, $16 million deal for the 29-year-old, which would seem to be a deal that works for both sides. Kazmir, who'll turn 30 between now and opening day, experienced nothing short of a resurrection in 2013, as he went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA for division rival Cleveland. Not only did Kazmir's strikeouts come back (9.2 per nine), but his walk rate was the best in his career by half a walk, and more than a full walk beneath his career rate of 4.0 per nine.

Kazmir had last pitched effectively in the major leagues in 2008.

Signing Kazmir would be a pretty big character break for Terry Ryan, though the money surely makes sense. While it's unclear exactly how many strikeout pitchers the Twins have pursued on the free agent market, it's pretty obvious how many they've chased down and pummeled into submission.

Few, if any.

To attempt to break down what Kazmir did in his return to form required a furtive glance at his PITCHf/x profile. Kazmir stuck to his guns with a rejuvenated fastball (92.5 mph, well above his career mark of 91.8), and backed off his trademark slider by introducing a cutter to his repertoire. How much he used the cutter in lieu of the slider can certainly be contended due to pitch recognition by the f/x system, as a lot of sliders can be mid-identified as cutters. Still, Kazmir had never thrown a cutter before, and it looks as though he did so with some regularity -- and success. By Fangraphs' pitch weights feature, it looks as though the cutter was Kazmir's most effective pitch.

My verdict would be that this signing would make sense.

The other player Dierkes predicts the Twins end up with is first baseman James Loney. Dierkes doesn't predict a dollar amount, but I'm not sure I see this as a fit even if the money is right.

Loney is the latest player to have his rebirth in a Rays uniform, though his numbers this year aren't entirely different than his career marks.

Consider:

2013 - .299/.348/.430 (.339 wOBA)
Career - .284/.340/.421 (.330)

Loney is long regarded as a very good defensive first baseman -- defensive stats don't bear that out, for some reason -- and with a decent bat to boot, he could be a good, but not great fit in a lot of places. I just don't think the Twins are one of them, as the local nine may well just go with whatever iteration of Joe Mauer, Chrises Colabello and Parmelee, and Trevor Plouffe as they see fit. In fact, one projection system at Fangraphs sees Colabello as a possible 20 home run guy if he gets enough run. More on that another day.

Dierkes also lists the Twins as contenders/fits/finalists for the following other top-50 guys: SP Masahiro Tanaka, SP Ervin Santana, SP Ubaldo Jimenez, SP Scott Feldman, SP Ricky Nolasco, SP Bronson Arroyo, 1B-DH Kendrys Morales and 1B-OF Corey Hart.

Interestingly, Dierkes doesn't have the Twins in on right-hander Phil Hughes (signing with his hometown Padres), and has the Tampa Bay Rays signing Justin Morneau.

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