Monday, November 21, 2011

Looking to the Outfield

Hats-off to Terry Ryan. In his first couple of weeks back on the job he has already addressed two significant areas of weakness on the ballclub using minimal funds. I could take a few minutes and talk about the Ryan Doumit acquisition, but others have already done a good job of that, particularly Nick Nelson  and Parker Hageman - both of them wrote excellent pieces about Doumit and his fit with the Twins, check out both pieces.

Because Terry Ryan has been so thrifty so far, he has left himself with a good chunk of funding left to fill other holes on the team, particularly in the outfield, starting rotation and bullpen. I want to look to the outfield to see what the Twins options are. I'm operating from the assumptions that the Twins lose either Cuddyer or Kubel, or they lose both of them. I don't see the Twins being able to keep both and I find a situation in which Kubel stays to be much more likely. If the Twins keep either Cuddyer or Kubel they will likely only "need" to add one outfielder to the mix because I'm also assuming that Ben Revere and/or Joe Benson will make the Major League club out of Spring Training. I put "need" in quotes because if they Twins keep Kubel, they could technically get away with not adding an OFer at all, but unless you're willing to make Kubel and Revere full-time outfielders, they're going to have to add someone. Moving along...

**By the way, it has been reported that the new collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball does away with compensation for Type-B free agents meaning the teams with Type-Bs will receive nothing if the player signs with another club. I haven't seen any sources confirming that this is set in stone so I'm leaving the designations there for now...just keep in mind that it may be utterly meaningless if it's true that MLB did away with "Type-B" designations.

Jason Kubel (Type-B) - 2011 Salary: $5,250,000
I've talked about Kubel before, particularly about how I think he has unique value. Kubel, like most other Twins' players, was injured for a large portion of the season, missing a total of 63 games. Through the first two months of last season he was pretty much the only bright spot in the lineup posting a .310/.355/.465 line through the end of May. He was looking like his 2009-self until being sidelined for all of June and most of July with a sprained foot. Anyway, we all know the story. Kubel is unique in the sense that he's a left-handed power hitter. Prior to the 2011 season, he had 3-straight 20+ HR seasons and during those three years he had a .821 OPS. His defense isn't great, but sans-Thome, the Twins could really use a competent hitter in the DH spot, a role Kubel would be able to fill quite competently. Kubel has been a consistent performer when healthy and at 29-years-old, extending him a 2-4 year deal makes sense.

Cody Ross (Type-B) - 2011 Salary: $6,300,000
Ross is an intriguing option from a few different angles. First, he can (and has) play all three outfield positions. Most of his playing time has been spent in centerfield, but he's also played appreciable time in right and left. With as many interchangeable parts as the Twins have (a catcher that needs frequent breaks from catching, no established DH, etc), having a versatile outfielder could be a major positive for a club that needs to move players around on a regular basis. In addition to that, Ross has some decent power (career .456 slugging %) from the right-side which is lacking in the current Twins lineup.
Ross has a couple of downsides as well. His ability to get on-base leaves something to be desired (career .323 OBP) and he doesn't really hit for average either. Fielding-wise he's very average though for the Twins, "average" is probably an upgrade, especially in right-field. There's also the fact that in each of the last 5 season, Ross' OPS has dropped...from 1.064 in 66 games in '07, to .730 in 121 games last season. At 30-years-old Ross definitely has something left in the tank, but unless Ross sits out there on the free-agent market for awhile, the price tag will likely be too high to make it worth the risk.

Ryan Ludwick (Type-B) - 2011 Salary: $6,775,000
It's scary when you look at how similar Ryan Ludwick and Cody Ross are offensively. Ross' career triple-slash is .261/.323/.456, Ludwick's career triple-slash is .261/.332/.455. Pluses for Ludwick are slightly better plate-discipline and slightly better defense, but other than that the two have very similar career stories. Ludwick, much like Ross, has even seen a decline over the last 4 seasons. After an All-Star season in '08 which saw him hit 37 HRs and drive in 113, his OPS and overall production have declined in each season since. Given his poor 2011 season, I'm guessing that Ludwick could probably be had for a discount and would definitely be an upgrade defensively - I think he's in line for a bounce-back of sorts.

Brad Hawpe (Outright FA) - 2011 Salary: $2,000,000
The Padres had a $6M option on Hawpe but after a dismal 2011 season, they understandably decided to opt for the $1M buyout making Hawpe an outright free agent. From 2006 to 2009 Hawpe was a very consistent hitter for the Colorado Rockies posting 4-straight 20+ HR seasons and a .902 OPS over that time. Ever since, he's looked nothing like that while splitting time between 3 different ballclubs. Defensively, Hawpe is nothing special at all with a career-.978 fielding% and a career -18.9 UZR/150 -- and my 'nothing special' I mean he's pretty terrible. Hawpe might be worth a flier - but if I were Terry Ryan I wouldn't offer anything more than a one-year "let's see" type deal.

Josh Willingham (Type-A) - 2011 Salary: $6,000,000
It's hard to say how realistic it is that the Twins could land Willingham. For one thing, he's certainly going to be making more than $6M per year with whomever he ends up signing. His OPS has been north of .800 for the past 6 seasons and at 32-years old, he has miles left on the tires. Offensively he's probably the best of the mid-tier options out there and defensively he sits somewhere between Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick. I would be ecstatic if the Twins went out there and got him, but given their self-reported payroll goals, I find it improbable that he ends up in a Twins uniform. Michael Rand over at the Star Tribune wrote an interesting piece about Willingham and how the Twins fans might be focusing too much on him, can't say I disagree - check it out.

I think we'll continue to see the Twins regularly add pieces as we go through the next couple of months - not all of them are going to be household names, but I would be surprised to see one bigger name in there somewhere - I think it will most likely it will be a starting pitcher or reliever.

I haven't mentioned this in a post before (I don't think), but if you want, follow me on Twitter (@thebatshatters). I try to keep it almost 100% sports and Twins related - unlike some people who choose to share their political views on a regular basis. Also, on this Thanksgiving Week, I want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who are regular readers of this blog, I really appreciate the time you take to read and comment.


  1. At this point, the Twins have 3 OFs (Span, Revere, Plouffe) and Doumit who will get time at RF. I think that the team needs a power RH bat and I really like the idea of getting Andrew Jones. Plouffe/Jones/Doumit can fill the RF/DH positions. Another option would be someone like Jhonny Gomes. The Twins just cannot afford to spend a lot of money at the OF right now, with the pen being such a mess

  2. Thanks for the comment. I don't agree that Plouffe can be counted on as an outfielder for the simple fact that it will be a new position for him. I like your idea of Andruw Jones - that's actually kind of an intriguing option (one that I'm pissed that I missed)given the fact that he can still play in the field and has proven he can still hit as well (OPS north of .800 the last two season in limited ABs).

    Joe Nathan leaving certainly makes the bullpen situation seem even more dire...hopefully the Twins don't overreact by re-signing Capps.