Saturday, July 30, 2016

A trade tree

Follow the bouncing roster spot:

In 1999 the Twins drafted right handed pitcher Travis Bowyer in the 20th round. In 2001 they drafted Scott Tyler, also a right-handed pitcher, in the second round. Tyler never got above Double A, but Bowyer reached the majors for eight appearances in 2005.

The Twins traded the two after the 2005 season to the then-Florida Marlins for veteran second baseman Luis Castillo. Castillo was one of the "Piranhas" in 2006; in 2007, with the team out of contention and Castillo approaching free agency, the Twins shipped him to the New York Mets for two minor leaguers, outfielder Dustin Martin and catcher Drew Butera.

Martin is still active, playing this year in the Mexican League, but he has not reached the majors. Butera caught for the Twins 2010-13, then was traded to the Dodgers in a deadline deal for Miguel Sulbaran, a left-handed minor league pitcher.

The following spring, 2014, acting general manager Rob Antony (filling in while Terry Ryan recovered from his cancer treatment) traded Sulbaran to the Yankees for Eduardo Nunez. Sulbaran reached Triple A last year but has not appeared in a game at any level for any team this season.

Nunez, as we know, was a reserve player for the Twins in 2014 and 2015 before emerging as a superutility regular this year, starting games at shortstop, third base and second base and gaining the Twins' All-Star roster spot. As we also know, he was traded Thursday night to the Giants (Antony again) for Adalberto Mejia, a left-handed minor league pitcher.

And the future will tell what Mejia will do -- or be turned into.

This has not been a highly productive trade tree. The Twins have gotten a little more than two seasons of leadoff hitting (Castillo in 2006 and more than half of 2007 plus Nunez this year) and a handful of bench seasons (Butera and Nunez). But it's been more than 17 years since the Twins drafted Bowyer, and that move is still faintly echoing in the system.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Nunez trade

Eduardo Nunez just gained
20.5 games in the standings
going from the Twins to
the first-place Giants.
Rob Antony pulled the trigger on a trade Thursday night, shipping the Twins' token All Star, Eduardo Nunez, to the San Francisco Giants for Triple A lefty Adalberto Mejia.

Mejia is 23. Baseball America lists him as No. 91 in its midseason prospect ranking, No. 5 in the Giants organization. That's a pretty decent return for a 30-year-old whose breakthrough season seemed to be decaying even as the Twins shopped him around.

Mejia is, right now, rotation depth. He projects, apparently, as a back-of-the-rotation guy, and there's genuine value in that. He may or may not be in the majors by September (he opened 2016 in Double A), but he might be. If nothing else, he further frees up Antony to deal one or more of the current major league starters. 

Meanwhile, Jorge Polanco is getting called up to take Nunez' roster spot. I'd like to see him get regular playing time, but ... he's been playing second base in Rochester, and that makes sense because that's his best position, and that's Brian Dozier's spot. The only game Polanco's played at short in 2016, it appears, was with the Twins. We'll see what the Twins have in mind for Polanco, but I suspect that trading Nunez mainly opens up playing time for Eduardo Escobar.

The Giants, whose lead over the Dodgers in the NL West has slid to two games, just brought second baseman Joe Panik off the disabled list, but third baseman Matt Duffy is still on the shelf. The plan is for Nunez to fill in for Duffy until his return, then be a utility man.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Relics of 2002

A.J. Pierzynski has caught more games than Johnny Bench,
Yogi Berra and Gabby Hartnett -- or a lot of other people.
The Twins this month have seen a number of survivors of the 2002 Twins: Kyle Lohse with the Texas Rangers, David Ortiz with the Boston Red Sox, and this week A.J. Pierzynski with the Atlanta Braves.

Ortiz, having a big season, has declared, repeatedly, that this is his final season. Lohse made two starts with Texas this month (one against the Twins), fared ill in both, and has now been designated for assignment; it's possible that he's had his last chance.

And the 39-year-old Pierzynski, who hit .300 last season for the Braves, is hitting a career-worst .215 this year.

I've commented before on the remarkable durability and longevity of Pierzynski, who now stands ninth all-time in games caught and will match Jim Sundberg for eighth the next time he squats behind the plate and flashes signs to a pitcher. He has a realistic chance of rising to sixth before the end of the season (ahead of him are Brad Ausmus and Tony Pena).

But ... for next year, he'll be a 40-year-old catcher coming off a bad year at the plate. This may be his last season too.

We may be seeing the end of the 2002 Twins. Johan Santana apparently hasn't abandoned his ambitions of returning, but he hasn't taken the mound since 2012. LaTroy Hawkins, Michael Cuddyer and Torii Hunter hung 'em up after last season. Lohse, Ortiz and Pierzynski are all that's left from that legendary (at least in Minnesota) squad.

That realization makes me feel as old as I am.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Notes, quotes and comment

Nice game Tuesday for Ervin Santana. Can't say the same for the Twins hitters, of course, but Santana knocked his ERA under 3.80 with the complete game.

Rob Antony. the interim GM, has said he's not actively shopping the veteran starter as the trading deadline approaches. If Antony is being honest when he says he's not under orders to pare the payroll, I'm fine with that. The Twins need to open a rotation spot for Jose Barrios, but I'd rather open that slot at the end of the rotation than at the head of it.

That said, the clamor for Ricky Nolasco's services is somewhat less than deafening.

---




This search firm reportedly comes highly recommended by the owners of the Blue Jays and Brewers, who used it to hire their GMs last offseason, and the Timberwolves used it in the process of hiring Tom Thibodeau. I doubt any basketball fan needed a search firm to identify Thibodeau; the guy the Jays hired had worked with Mark Shapiro in Cleveland; David Stearns was widely known in the industry as an up-and-comer. I'm skeptical that the firm added any real value to the outcomes of those hires.

Mike Berardino offers this 10-man list of outside candidates. Not on his list, for whatever reasons, is Kim Ng, who I've seen named elsewhere.

---

Kurt Suzuki caught Tuesday, three days after getting seven stitches in his chin. I mention it with a sense of incredulity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Cubs bullpen

Aroldis Chapman may have the fastest pitch in
major league history. 
A big deal went down Monday: The Yankees shipped fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for a rather impressive package of prospects. I don't much care for what we know of Chapman the human being, and this piece from the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh defines the uneasiness that should accompany rooting for Chapman. (He only details one incident, but there have been others.)

But as far as the Cubs are concerned, Chapman really only has to behave himself for three months or so. Then he becomes a free agent. The Cubs are willing to overlook his character flaws in pursuit of their first World Series title since 1908 and their first World Series appearance since 1945.

But then there's this:




The Cubs have fallen off their early-season pace not because of its lack of stars in the bullpen for other reasons. Example: Ace Jake Arrieta allowed four runs in six innings Monday night; it was the fourth time in five starts he's allowed that many runs. His ERA has risen from 1.74 to 2.76 in that span.

Still, it's the bullpen that the Cubs are aiming to beef up. Chapman is the second lefty reliever the Cubs have traded for -- they got Mike Montgomery from the Mariners for a couple of prospects last week.

And Old Friend Joe Nathan, back from another Tommy John surgery, made his first appearance of the year Sunday and struck out the side against Milwaukee. Nothing's certain about Nathan, of course; he's 41 and there's a lot of mileage on his arm. But if he is sound again ... well, he and Chapman and Hector Rondon (1.95 ERA with 18 saves) look like a pretty darn impressive crew for the late innings.

If Nathan is sound. If Chapman behaves himself, If, if, if.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Notes from the weekend

The Twins certainly had an odd series in Boston: One pitchers duel, one blowout, two close high-scoring affairs, and a series split.

Good: Kyle Gibson was stellar Friday night: two hits and a walk in eight innings, with six strikeouts. He also had a pair of wild pitches with Juan Centeno behind the dish. And he knocked almost a half-run off his ERA (5.12 entering the game. 4.67 exiting it).

The PioPress' Mike Bernardino on Gibson's potential trade value:




The analytics issue with Gibson is easily identified: A low strikeout rate. This year he's averaging 6.4 K/9, slightly down from 2015. There are times when he appears to be able to use his changeup as a strikeout pitch; other times, not so.

Bad: Miguel Sano's error rate at third base is ridiculous. He's been charged with 10 errors in 15 games since July 3, and he's had other make-able plays go unmade that were ruled hits. This audition at the hot corner while Trevor Plouffe recovers from his cracked rib is making the right field experiment look less silly by the day.

I didn't expect him to be Brooks Robinson, or even early Corey Koskie, at third base. I find it difficult to believe that he's this awful, but the evidence is mounting.

The ugly: Kurt Suzuki took a foul ball off the mask and wound up with a seven-stitch cut on his chin. Somehow:

  • he passed the concussion protocol test
  • he's expected to be available to catch Tuesday, their next scheduled game.
I'm no physician or trainer, but neither of those make much sense to me.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pic of the Week

David Ortiz embedded this ball into the Pesky Pole
down Fenway Park's right field line during
batting practice Thursday before facing the Twins.


This photo was one of several that crossed my Twitter feed. It's from the Boston Herald's Matt Stone.