We're almost halfway through the season, and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the players some of us thought would make for good acquisitions this past offseason. One or two were my ideas, the rest were fairly common requests. Let's take a look.
Adam Dunn, Cincinnati Reds
Dunn was mentioned on TwinkeTown (ah, the early days...) a few times by folks hoping that Terry Ryan could pull some deal with the Reds for pitching, probably Kyle Lohse. Dunn, in spite of sub-par batting averages, manages to hoist more than solid on-base percentages. Why? Pitchers respect his power.
At 26, Dunn is still pretty young. Is there a place on the roster for him? With those power numbers and his ability to reach base, absolutely. It would probably mean Cuddyer playing more third base, but this is a sacrifice most would be willing to make for a hitter like Adam Dunn. Realistically, this wasn't something that was going to happen, but speculation and offseason optimism can breed bright, shining pipedreams.
Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics
Thomas is slightly different from Dunn in that only now is he hitting for sub-par averages. For years he was the diamond in the rough, the combination of the power hitter and the hitter for average. What makes him similar to Dunn these days is that he still hits for power, and he is shown respect by being pitched around. The power numbers and the high OBP, even in comparison to the low batting average, makes Thomas a threat...at least once he comes off the disabled list.
Is there room for The Often Hurt on the Twins roster? Definitely at the DH position there is. For the money Oakland signed him for, the Twins could have competed for Frank's services. The Twins simply felt that Rondell White was a better angle to take, in spite of the inflated salary, and at the time it didn't seem like that bad of an idea. Thomas was an injury waiting to happen, and as long as Rondell was healthy, he'd hit just fine.
Well, that didn't exactly work out. Thomas is hurt and White is not, and yet in spite of the fact that Thomas is on the DL, the Athletics came out ahead in the free agent gamble.
Tony Graffanino, Kansas City Royals
Graffanino seemed like a great idea, because he could play both second and third base. Before the trade for Castillo and the signing of Batista, both these positions were up for grabs. Tony G. had just come off a decent offensive season, and while he was approaching his mid-30's, he only needed to be around for one season. Graffanino looked like an affordable and serviceable stop-gap player.
Could Graffanino fit in with the Twins now? Nope. His offensive lines are off the table due to a very slow start, and younger players like Nick Punto and Luis Rodriguez can play both second and third just fine; each with servicable bats and gloves. Why overpay for these services when you can get them on the cheap? Might as well have kept Juan Castro...
Kevin Millar, Baltimore Orioles
Millar's name was left over from 2005 trade deadline rumors. The Twins needed a guy to play a corner infield spot, and Millar was available. Now playing mostly first base with the Orioles, Baltimore is getting exactly who Millar had been showing himself to be: an aging corner infielder with no power an little maneuverability.
I'm not even going to ask, because no, there isn't room for Millar on the Twins roster. His OPS barely clears .700, and just like Graffanino, why overpay for those services? The Twins organization, and Twins fans, were clamoring for a corner infielder with power, and yet here were rumors of Kevin Millar. It just didn't make sense in July of last year, and it makes less sense now.
Mike Lowell, Boston Red Sox
Last July there were rumors of Lowell coming to Minneapolis, and in retrospect, that would have been a great deal. Seeing the year he's having now makes highdsight 20/20, but at this time last year Lowell was floundering, and there were a number of rumors swirling that he'd just lost it. The Twins apparently agreed as they didn't push for Lowell, and who could blame them? After the career he'd had up to that point, it certainly looked like the tank was suddenly empty.
Had we been able to look forward a season, we'd have discovered that yes, there would definitely be room for Lowell on the 2006 Twins roster. He's bounced back from his worst season, and at 32 looks like last year was just an abberation. Still, even if he'd had a year this season like last season, at least his glove would have been better than Batista's.
Mike Piazza, San Diego Padres
Piazza was one of the "big" offensive names last winter. I say "big", because none of the names were really roses without thorns. Frank Thomas and Nomar Garciaparra were both injury prone, and Piazza was getting up in age with bad knees from catching. Still, many around Minnesota hoped that the future Hall of Famer would find his way into a Twins uniform. He could be a leader, could DH and spot Mauer behind the plate occasionally, and would probably be a serviceable 5 or 6-hitter.
Is there room for Piazza with the Twins now? Maybe. For some reason the Padres, a National League team, signed him, which meant he had to catch if he wasn't going to play first base, which he wasn't. Had Piazza been able to be a DH most days, the physical wear and tear may not have caught up with him quite so fast, and his offensive lines would have reflected that. Now, catching when he plays, his numbers continue to decline. So, had he signed with the Twins, maybe he could have been better. Even now he's an improvement on our everyday DH...but that's not saying much.
Bill Mueller, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mueller, like Millar, was left over from trade rumors from Boston last summer. Also like Millar, it's a good thing he didn't sign with the Twins. Mueller is hurt, and while he hasn't been bad per sey, he's been not-good-enough. His defensive and leadership services aren't worth what the Dodgers pay him, especially for the bat he provides.
Same as Millar, there's no room for Mueller on the Twins roster. Shannon Stewart will be coming back fairly soon, and when he does he'll own the DH position (fingers crossed). Mueller's bat was never great, and, again, like Millar, profited from being a name on Red Sox playoff rosters. Had either of these players been someplace else, their names never would have been in a conversation.
Nomar Garciaparra, Los Angeles Dodgers
The last of the "big three" from the last offseason to be presented, he's also had the best season. The Dodgers were smart enough to sign him and recognize his health liabilities, making him their new first baseman. This move has perhaps rejeuvenated Nomah's career, as he's quietly having his best offensive season in years.
As a DH, there is definately room on the Twins roster for Nomar. Too fragile to play short, second or even third, first base is where Garciaparra will continue his bid for a Hall of Fame career. He may not have aged as gracefully as contemporaries Jeter and Rodriguez, but his OPS of 1.000 in 55 games this season is nothing to shrug off. Welcome back, Nomah.
Preston Wilson, Houston Astros
Preston Wilson was one of my bright ideas. Before we found out Cuddyer would be patrolling the outfield, before we knew for sure that Kubel would be ready to play in the spring, when all we knew was that Hunter was in center and Ford was...there...I thought somebody like Preson Wilson could be used as a one-and-done guy. His defense isn't hideous, and while his offensive numbers aren't blinding they are decent. When he plays full time he can be good for 25-30 homers, 25-30 doubles and a handful of steals.
Even with the good season he's having in Houston, I have to say there's no room for Wilson on the Twins roster today. Again, as a DH, of course there's room, but the outfield is crowded enough, and I'm excited by what Cuddyer and Kubel have done. There's very little I'd remove them for; Adam Dunn is one of these things, but he's not coming, is he?
Basically, I saw Wilson as a clone of Jacque Jones with some subtle differences. When it's all said and done though, I'm happy with Kubel and Cuddyer.
Joe Randa, Pittsburgh Pirates
Yeah. Joe Randa. Some were convinced he was THE ANSWER. Others were convinced he was one of the worst decisions we could have made. Depending on how much he cost, I was convinced he would have been a nice bench player...just not a starter. The Twins were looking for a third baseman, which Randa is, but in his mid-30's with an above average yet declining glove, and with the bat he provided historically, there was no reason to get into a bidding war over him. He wasn't the starter we were looking for.
In part-time duties with the Pirates, Randa can't crack an OPS of .600. He's lost the starting job to a younger man, Freddie Sanchez, who is nearly tearing the cover off the ball in 73 games, hitting .352/.390/.504. There's no way Sanchez continues this pace, but he's been good enough for Randa to lose the job he was brought in to do. With how he's played, there isn't anyone sad that he didn't make it to Minnesota.
Reggie Sanders, Kansas City Royals
Sanders was another one of my bright ideas. The Twins needed a DH, and with the outfield a little up in the air, he could be made available to play a little right field as well. Instead he signed with the hapless Royals, and it's turned out for the best from our angle. Sanders is having an okay season, but the emergence of Cuddyer and Kubel have made the presence of the ageless wonder useless.
There's probably room for Sanders as a DH on the Twins roster, since he brings a little more power to the plate than Stewart, but with the season Sanders is having that power is mostly negated. Between the two of them, Stewart would get the nod. Besides, at 38, you never know when Sanders falls off the table completely.
Alfonso Soriano, Washington Nationals
Soriano was another name left over from the July '05 trade rumors; he just wasn't from Boston. Coming out of 2005 the Twins were looking for a second baseman, which Soriano was. The Twins were also looking for a possible outfielder, where Soriano was rumored to be heading. Minnesota also needed power, check that box as well. The main problem was salary; a secondary problem was attitude.
Thankfully the Twins have to worry about neither. Soriano is the problem of the Nationals in the outfield and in the clubhouse, although to be fair Soriano has been a fan favorite and a favorite in the clubhouse wherever he's played before. With the season Soriano is putting together in Washington, I definitely think room could be made on the Twins roster if salary considerations were taken care of. I'd try Soriano at third base. Unfortunately, the Nationals aren't about to pay Soriano while sending him elsewhere. End of story.
Out of the 12 players listed, there are only 2 or 3 I really wouldn't mind having with the Twins. Of those 2 or 3, none of them will realistically end up here this season if ever. It's interesting to look back at players you wanted, and see how they're doing so far in the year. While their performance with another club is no guarantee to how they would have played for the Twins, it's at the very least a guideline as to whether or not they would have been worth the gamble on a trade or free agent signing.
Here are the numbers on the season for the players we've just reviewed.
Name AB H 2B HR RBI Avg Obp Slg
Dunn 258 57 12 23 43 .221 .366 .535
Thomas 184 44 4 16 39 .239 .356 .522
Graffanino 161 40 10 4 21 .248 .305 .385
Millar 191 45 7 6 30 .236 .342 .366
Lowell 261 81 26 8 38 .310 .366 .510
Piazza 193 49 9 10 29 .254 .318 .456
Mueller 107 27 7 3 15 .252 .357 .402
Garciaparra 216 78 20 8 44 .361 .426 .574
Wilson 272 77 9 8 39 .283 .320 .419
Randa 98 23 5 1 8 .235 .276 .316
Sanders 208 52 13 9 38 .250 .300 .452
Soriano 309 86 15 24 51 .278 .342 .560
Is there anyone you'd prefer we'd signed, from this group or otherwise, who'd making a difference somewhere else? Of our four offensive acquisitions this last offseason, one is no longer with the club, one won't be for much longer, one is old and will probably get hurt again, and the final one started hot but has cooled over the last month and a half. Just goes to show that you never know.