I'm a little surprised that there hasn't been more written about Jesse Crain today, considering that he was signed BY THE WHITE SOX yesterday, getting a 3-year deal worth a reported $13M. When I read it I literally said, out loud, "What the F*#%." Crain's deal represents a pretty good raise (he made $2M last year) and it's probably overall a stupid move on the White Sox part, but what really sucks is that he went to a division opponent...
I really don't see the vision of the Twins front-office this off-season...it's getting to the point of absurdity. First (not in chronological order) you trade a VALUABLE short-stop in JJ Hardy for 2 minor-league also-rans. Then you make a run at a Japanese League player (Nishioka) who is completely unproven and every bit as injury-prone as the shortstop you had. Then you watch two of your bullpen stalwarts from last year walk, one to a team within the division. Then you give pretty much everyone the impression that you're trying to sign a 35-year-old pitcher with a lengthy injury history to a multi-year deal. And on top of all that you're probably going to overpay a reliever you traded ONE OF YOUR TOP PROSPECTS for last year. Man, when I look at all of that together in one paragraph, my blood starts to boil, who is running this team and what have they done???
Here's how my blueprint for the off-season would have gone, unfortunately it's WAY too late for any of this to play out:
1.) Re-sign JJ Hardy to a two-year deal, $12-$14M
Rationale: Hardy's had a mediocre two year stretch and he's still one of the top 10 at his position. His defense alone almost makes it worth re-signing him and if he had been able to play the next two years at a level similar to his 2010 second-half production, he would have made a very valuable, and very affordable SS. Instead the Twins decided to blow $5M on a posting-fee for an unproven Japanese player and then sign the kid to what will likely be a 3-year, $10M deal...where did you save all that much money in that equation??
2.) Trade Danny Valencia, a prospect Kevin Slowey/Nick Blackburn ($3M) to the Indians for Fausto Carmona
Rationale: I'm not sure how the money works out there, but the Indians are clearly in cost-savings mode considering they recently slashed ticket prices and are set to have one of the more meager payrolls in baseball this coming season. Let's all be honest with ourselves, Danny Valencia is never going to duplicate what he did last season and the Twins need pitching. Say the Indians bite on Blackburn, Valencia and Hick/Revere/Somebody. The Twins starting rotation then looks like Liriano, Carmona, Baker, Slowey, Duensing...not bad. For a mere $28M the Twins could keep Carmona through 2014. Total addition to the payroll this year: ~$3M
3.) Let Carl Pavano walk, let Matt Capps walk
Rationale: I don't care what the argument is, re-signing Pavano is not a good idea in ANY situation I can see, unless you're talking about a one-year deal and let's be honest, some other team out there is going to be willing to give him more than one-year, I just don't want it to be the Twins and CERTAINLY not for $10-$15M per. As for Matt Capps, come on Billy, you f-ed up, just admit it and move on and drop Capps, it's not worth keeping him.
4.) Try and sign Adrian Beltre
Rationale: Sometimes you have to go for it and that, for the Twins, means extending that payroll, maybe even a little beyond what's comfortable...or practical...kinda like what the White Sox are doing right now. Anyway, the consensus seems to be that 5-years and $70M would do it...that's about $14M per, it's steep, but you're getting a very solid defensive 3rd basemen with quite a bat. He wouldn't duplicate his home-run binge from last year if he played at Target Field, but he would certainly hit his share of doubles and be a nice addition to the Mauer/Morneau combo.
5.) I suppose there's no way, given the previous scenarios I've laid out, to re-sign either Crain or Guerrier, but if the Twins hadn't idiotically committed to re-signing Capps, they'd have a nice bit of change to make a run at it. Short of that, as Gleeman pointed out today, there should be a number of serviceable arms left after this initial bullpen feeding frenzy to piece something together.
So it's pie-in-the-sky. Unfortunately Hardy is already gone and the Twins have already managed to bungle up this off-season pretty badly. I'm really trying to be optimistic, but this is some pretty poor decision making. Maybe I'll be wrong, maybe Nishioka turns into an infield version of Ichiro, maybe the Twins call up Gibson and he becomes David Price-esque. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I see all that, but to me, "maybes" don't win championships and when you're this close, I'd rather spend the extra money to have the better bets. Until the Twins front-office can focus more on the talent than the bottom-line, I fear we will continue to be stuck where they're at, decent, but not championship material.