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Who Won't Return for the Twins In 2009?

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With the season over and many of us already looking forward to a promising campaign next summer, it will be important to know how many roster spots will be up for grabs this winter.  To get that answer, we'll have to figure out which familiar faces will hit the dusty trail for the free agent market.

Some years this list is easy to make and some years it's not quite so straight forward.  This off-season it is fairly straight forward, although at this point nothing is ever really guaranteed.  We'll take a quick pass through some of the more obvious choices before bringing up a couple of guys who might join the ranks.

Dennys Reyes, LHP
'09 Age:  32
Possible Replacements:  Craig Breslow, Jose Mijares


K/9 BB/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG LD% GB% FB% BABIP LOB% G IP ERA xFIP WHIP

2006

2007

2008

8.7

6.4

7.6

2.7

6.4

2.9

0.53

0.31

0.78

.197

.309

.235

.259

.419

.305

.275

.391

.353

10.9

13.5

17.1

69.0

64.0

59.7

20.2

22.5

23.3

.254

.348

.282

91.7

77.3

87.6

66

50

75

50.2

29.1

46.1

0.89

3.99

2.33

2.89

5.12

3.42

0.99

1.88

1.19



After three years of Dennys Reyes being to the Twins LOOGY situation what Old Faithful is to geysers (did that work?), we've likely seen the last of him in a Twins uniform.  He's given us three statistically good years, with his most useful asset the ability to strand base runners.

In his nine seasons before coming to Minnesota, only twice did Reyes strand base runners at a rate better than league average, and the last time was in 1999.  What the Twins saw in him, other than a live arm, was a mystery to me at the time.  It was the first season post-J.C. Romero and there was clearly a need for a southpaw in the bullpen, but going back now and browsing the free agent market from that year, there wasn't much to pick from.  Alan Embree would be 36 in 2006, there probably wasn't much of a push to sign Ricardo Rincon for more than a million dollars, Billy Wagner was a closer and Mike Stanton was about to be 39.  For a team that wasn't about to spend mega-bucks in free agency on a LOOGY, especially an old one, then 29-year old Reyes probably came out smelling of roses.

Clearly his 0.89 ERA in 50.2 innings was a bonus, as he stranded almost 92% of all base runners; league average is always a hair over 70%.  That performance earned him a very reasonable two-year contract, and I think it's safe to say the Twins got their money's worth.  In three seasons Reyes appeared in 191 games, throwing 126.1 innings and walking 51.  He wasn't dominant, even in the spectacular 2006, but he was usually very effective.  There was always a factor of uncertainty because of his stuff, and how generally ineffective he'd been in the past, but he did his job.

This off-season he'll likely be looking for the last good contract of his career, and with Craig Breslow's good year and Jose Mijares coming up big at the end of the season, it's likely the Twins won't be looking to balloon payroll by paying a veteran seven figures for a job that can be done at a fraction of the cost.  The Twins could try to temp fate by offering him arbitration in hopes that he turns it down, because Reyes will likely qualify as a free agent worth draft pick compensation, but I doubt it happens.  The only other way the Twins would get a compensatory draft pick would be if another club signed him before the arbitration deadline in December, but that also seems unlikely.  Happy trails, Dennys.

Nick Punto, Utility
'09 Age:  31
Possible Replacements:  Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris


PA LD% GB% FB% BABIP ISO P/PA BB% K% INN RZR OOZ AVG OBP SLG

2006

2007

2008

524

536

377

23.6

14.6

20.5

46.3

50.9

44.7

30.1

34.5

34.8

.338

.257

.337

.083

.061

.098

3.7

4.0

3.9

9.3

10.4

8.6

14.8

19.1

16.9

1047.1

1211.1

815.1

.794

.747

.822

35

46

25

.290

.210

.284

.352

.291

.344

.373

.271

.382



How do you feel after five seasons of Nick Punto?  That's a genuine question.  Because truth be told, while there's no substitute for talent, he gave us adequate defense and some much needed versatility.  And in the even years his on-base percentage wasn't bad, either.

After originally being drafted by the Twins in the 33rd round of the 1997 amateur draft and not signing, he moved up 12 rounds for the Phillies in '98.  Punto arrived in Minnesota in December of '03, along with Carlos Silva (and a PTBNL), from Philadelphia in exchange for Eric Milton.  At the time, Punto had just turned 26 and had only accumulated 103 major league at-bats.  In the minors he hadn't been too big of a standout at the plate either, but the '04 Twins were in their last year with an affordable Christian Guzman...who wasn't progressing as a hitter.  And when Luis Rivas was either hurt or struggling the following season, Punto made a name for himself within the organization.  Since then he's been shuffled around, playing every position except first base and catcher.

His 2006 season was probably his best, when he stepped into a big void at third base with the glove, and, into the final days of August, held an on-base percentage around .390.  Most of the complaints about Punto were about him as an everyday player, where his lack of power and decision-making skills in particular were questioned.  If that's the scale on which his tenure with the Twins will be judged, then the outcome is not going to be favorable.  But if we view him as a backup who was forced to play as often as he did, whether it be by injury to others or the decision of the manager, then it's hard to be quite as critical.  He was flawed, he was inconsistent, and he didn't have the range to make him an elite defender, but he did step in and play some important roles when he was needed.

Turning 31 next season and in line for another raise, the Twins will have younger and cheaper options to replace him within the system.  While there's always the option for the Twins to bring him back on a one-year deal to shore up the depth charts, I'm not sure I can see a significant benefit from going that route.  Of course, I've been wrong before.

Oh, by the way...that PTBNL...it was Bobby Korecky.

Adam Everett, SS
'09 Age:  32
Possible Replacements:  Matt Tolbert, Brendan Harris


PA LD% GB% FB% BABIP ISO P/PA BB% K% INN RZR OOZ AVG OBP SLG

2006

2007

2008

566

236

150

20.0

17.2

14.8

37.1

44.6

39.1

42.8

38.2

46.1

.268

.262

.227

.113

.086

.110

150

66

48

6.2

6.0

8.6

13.8

14.1

11.8

1292.1

535.1

364.0

.891

.871

.854

60

35

13

.239

.232

.213

.290

.281

.278

.352

.318

.323



It seemed like a good idea at the time, didn't it?  Over the last handful of seasons Adam Everett had been the best defensive shortstop in baseball.  Unfortunately, a bum shoulder turns a light-hitting, elite shortstop into a pretty bad player in general.  There's not much else you can say about his year in Minnesota, except that he was almost designated for assignment back on July 29th.  Actually, he WAS designated for assignment, and then Alexi Casilla went down, and then they had to call him and take it all back.  Which is funny, in an awkward, Ben Stiller movie kind of way.

On December 13th of last winter, Bill Smith made a move to give his team a full time, veteran shortstop.  Coming off a bad season from Punto at third and shortstop Jason Bartlett getting shipped to Tampa just two weeks prior, the left side of the infield needed some answers.  Both positions had answers from the Astros; Everett came first.  Not only would be be playing everyday, but he'd be seen as a grounding presence for an infield with questions and what was projected to be a young starting rotation, although Johan Santana had not yet been traded.

We all know how the plans for Everett turned out.  He hit the disabled list on April 19th due to a right shoulder strain, then again on May 22nd, again, for a right shoulder strain.  He stayed there until July 30th this time, and finally played on a quasi-regular basis throughout August, and for a time he actually did well.  For 11 days, from August 6th to August 17th, he hit .333/.438/.444; while that line was over Everett's head, it was the only time all summer where we saw anything remotely resembling the player he could be when healthy.  Unfortunately, the bumps and bruises remained, and with expanded rosters he appeared in only four games in September.

Another year older, it's hard to imagine Everett coming back in 2009.  Of the three guys on this list, I wouldn't mind if the Twins offered him arbitration or signed him to a one-year, incentive-laden contract, but I still find it unlikely.  With another year of experience throughout the team, a seasoned leader at short won't be the priority it was last winter.

And that's it.  Pretty much.

You could throw Brendan Harris into that group, or an obvious choice like Randy Ruiz if you wanted to.  But each of the three listed have one main thing working against them--they're veterans making millions, with production that could be replaced by younger, cheaper players.  And when it comes down to it, when there are only 25 spaces available at any given time, three slots up for grabs is a pretty significant ratio.

Personally, I'm just happy this off-season will be nothing like last winter.  We don't have to find a way to appease an ace pitcher, we don't have to worry about replacing production from a hitter in the middle of the order, and we don't have to wonder if "the kid starters are up for it", because none of them imploded (well, except for maybe Boof Bonser) or hurt themselves this year.  And when I look at it that way, it makes me think this winter will be relatively low-stress.