Monday kicked off the second annual SB Nation Mock Winter Meetings. Essentially it is a brilliant, exhausting and complex exercise to see how each team might revamp for the future if the people in charge were SB Nation's community managers. Or fans, basically.
Each team is assigned a payroll, which they are encouraged not to exceed too heavily. For our exercise, my Twins' budget is $100 million. Mock GMs have to make decisions on qualifying offers, options, and arbitration contract tendering, and then we are free to place bids on free agents and contact each other to discuss trades. It's a flurry of activity, and Day 1 was particularly active for the Twins.
These "meetings" run through Thursday. At the end of each day (or the following morning), I will post an update to let you know how the Twins have performed. For the sake of entertainment value, I'll try to frame each of the reports as though they were coming from a source reporting on the meetings - as opposed to me just telling everyone what happened.
Twins Trade Josh Willingham, Cash to Rays
After days of rumors surrounding Willingham's future in Minnesota, the Twins traded their 35-year old left fielder early on Monday afternoon. Coming to the Twins are four players, rumored to be second baseman Thomas Coyle, infielder Vince Belnome, and starting pitchers Jacob Faria and Jose Alvarado.
What's most surprising is that the Twins agreed to send the Rays $5 million in order to trigger the deal.
"Money wasn't an issue for us, and the return involved for the money was much better than the alternative," said Twins Mock GM Jesse Lund. "Belnome might have an opportunity to play some infield for us this year, and the other three were all players we really liked."
Belnome, 25, is a left-handed hitting infielder who was a 28th round selection by the Padres in the 2008 draft. 2013 was his first season in the Rays' system, where he played mostly first base, but in his minor league career has accrued 108 games at first, 129 games at second, and 189 games at third. In 2121 minor league plate appearances he's hit .300/.412/.476, including .300/.408/.446 this season in Triple-A Durham.
Coyle was in Single-A in 2013, a 22-year old second baseman with great speed and plate discipline. A 16th-round selection in the 2012 draft, this was just his first full minor league season. He stole 40 bases in 48 attempts (83% success rate), but also took 91 walks in 552 plate appearances (16.5% walk rate) compared to 78 strikeouts, leading to a .276/.399/.405 triple slash. He's undersized, at just 5' 7", but his polish, defensive prowess, speed, and discipline will make him an interesting player to watch in Fort Myers this season.
Faria was 19 years old in 2013, completing a third season at Rookie ball where he struck out 71 batters in 62.1 innings over 12 starts. The 2011 tenth-round selection will be ready for Cedar Rapids this season, where the Twins will test him to see how he adjusts to a longer season. With impeccable command and a full arsenal of pitch types, Faria generates a lot of ground balls to go with his strikeouts. He's still at least three years away, but there's some upside here.
The final player in the trade is Jose Alvarado. Signed out of Venezuela, Alvarado has spent the last two seasons playing in the Venezuelan Summer League. This season he made 13 starts as an 18-year old, striking out 54 in 45.2 innings but surrendering 21 walks to go along with 41 hits. He's certainly the wild card of this bunch, and if he pans out will be the last of this group to do so in four or five years.
Scott Kazmir Signs With Oakland
Kazmir, rumored to be one of the many pitchers being targeted by the Twins and Mock GM Jesse Lund during the winter meetings, signed with the AL West-winning Athletics on a two-year, $20 million dollar contract with a vesting option for $10 million.
"We're willing to overpay for free agents," Lund said on a conference call late Monday, "but even that can only be taken so far. We were willing to grant a third year option, but we weren't willing to go above and beyond what the A's were doing. We were happy to match their offer, but that's part of the gamble in free agency. Even if the money is right, sometimes the location isn't what the player is looking for."
"We'll be focusing quite a bit on the trade market," Lund later added. He did also say that he has extended offers to six other free agents.
Twins Acquire A.J. Griffin from Athletics for Brian Dozier
On Monday evening, the Twins landed their first starting pitcher of the off-season in 25-year old A.J. Griffin. One of Oakland's several young starters this season, in his second pro season Griffin made 32 starts and threw 200 innings, posting a 1.25 WHIP including 171 hits and a 6.6% walk rate to go along with a 20.8% strikeout rate.
Minnesota clearly chose starting pitching over second base, giving up popular second baseman Brian Dozier in order to land Griffin. "It wasn't something we were planning on doing, but the chance to get a cost-controlled pitcher (ed. note: Griffin is under team control through 2018) of his quality wasn't something we could overlook. We'll look for other ways to fill second base, be it through free agency, trade, or even giving Vince Belnome an opportunity."
When challenged on the move by several reporters, Lund eventuallly said:
"We have a lot of talent and depth in the middle infield coming up through our system that will make us better. Yes, it could make things difficult this season, but this move is all about making our team competitive in the long term. There's still a lot of work to be done, and starting pitching was the priority. I was willing to make things more difficult this season if it meant adding talent where we really needed it long-term."
- Word is that another trade for a starting pitcher could be imminent, with the other team being an AL club according to one source.
- A number of teams have expressed interest in Glen Perkins, including Arizona, Philadelphia, and a mystery team.
- Numerous inquiries have been made about the availability of Miguel Sano, although Lund has publicly said he'd need to be "blown away" before he considered moving the prized prospect.
- No calls have been made regarding Joe Mauer, Oswaldo Arcia, or Ryan Doumit.