It's been an active Winter Meetings by Minnesota Twins standards. On day one the Twins put in place the deal for Matt Capps, and today included a pair of Twins-related nuggets:
- Trading Kevin Slowey to the Rockies for PTBNL
- Offering Michael Cuddyer a three-year contract worth $24 million dollars (more or less)
We've already covered this in some detail today, and not much new. Terry Ryan has come on record as stating that a change of scenery was the best option for Slowey, and ultimately it's hard to argue. This has been an unpleasant coupling for both Slowey and the Twins for the last few months. In terms of the player to be named later, Adam commented on it in his evening update.
If you don't think that Mr. and Mrs. Cuddyer giving birth to Twins today wasn't a sign from the baseball gods for him to return to Minnesota, then you're nuts. Originally it was reported that his offer was for $25 million over three years, but LEN III eventually reported that it's closer to $24 million. While I'm still a bigger fan of Josh Willingham simply because he hits both left and right-handed pitchers pretty well, this isn't a bad offer for Cuddyer.
His market hasn't been as active as people originally thought. The Phillies and Giants are more or less out of room when it comes to outfielders, and the Red Sox appear to view him as a backup option and have been quiet on Cuddyer in recent days. At this point I'd be surprised if Cuddyer didn't come back to Minnesota, but we probably won't have to wait too long to find out.
It should be noted that Cuddyer's versatility could be an asset for the Twins, and stop them from trying to bring in more players who play multiple positions while also not being able to hit. Cuddyer smashes left-handed hitters, can start in right field or first base, and hits right-handed. Those are all needs for Minnesota.
Update, 3:50 pm - The Twins have admitted that they probably don't have room for both Cuddyer and Kubel in their budget, but are clearly keeping their options open as Kubel also has an offer on the table from the Twins.
Nothing has changed here, either. You have to wonder what would happen if Kubel turned around and accepted the offer. Would the Twins move on? Or would they say "Okay, one sec Jason, we need to make a quick phonecall..."
The Relief Pitcher Market
With the Matt Capps deal now official, the Minnesota bullpen lines up with Capps as the closer, Glen Perkins as the set-up man, and Brian Duensing as the left specialist. I assume the Twins are eyeing Anthony Swarzak as the long man, meaning they have a trio of relif spots available. One of them is likely to be handed to Jose Mijares, which puts the Twins in need of two right-handed pitchers. The current pool of talent includes Alex Burnett, Jim Hoey, Lester Oliveros and Kyle Waldrop.
Clearly, at least one upgrade is necessary. I'd prefer two, but I'll settle for just one good one.
The bullpen market was active today. The Mets signed Frank Francisco to a two-year, $12 million dollar deal, signed Jon Rauch as their set-up man, and earlier traded for Ramon Ramirez. (That's how you piece together a bullpen, people.) This means that David Aardsma, Francisco Cordero, Ryan Madsen and Francisco Rodriguez are still without suitors, while big money teams like the Red Sox are considering a trade for under contract closers like Huston Street or Andrew Bailey.
Minnesota may have an opportunity to wait out the market, and snag a quality reliever at a reduced price late in the season. This includes middle inning relievers, not just those proven closers. But do they want to take that chance? The bullpen is still a major weakness for this team, and as Ryan has been fond of saying the last few days: you don't want to be left without a chair when the music stops. Well, if he really wants to build a contender for 2012 then he needs to be sure this team isn't left without another quality reliever (or two) when the off-season ends.
I should take a moment to talk about one of the very few new names to come up since yesterday in regards to the Twins, as there's some (more or less baseless) speculation that he could be the PTBNL for Slowey. Smith bats left handed, just turned 29 and plays outfield, and has put up a pretty decent career in Colorado: .275/.348/.485 in 1449 MLB plate appearances. That's not bad.
But he's another platoon outfielder. Smith destroys right handed pitching, smashing them to a .290/.364/.518 line in his career. That's great, and makes him a good comp for Kubel ( .283/.341/.443 versus righties). Unfortunately, like Kubel, Smith also can't hit a southpaw. He's awful away from Coors FIeld too, hitting just .257/.332/.418 away from home. The Twins would also need to find a platoon partner for him, and while some would like Trevor Plouffe to take that role, Plouffe's MLB sample size is pretty small.
The biggest ticket this season appears to be down to three teams, all of them offering ten years and more than $200 million dollars: the Cardinals, the Marlins and the Angels. Personally I'm cheering for St. Louis, because I like the idea of an icon playing in one city for his entire career. Call me sentimental.