Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lots of moves, lots of criticism

The Jaime Garcia trade finally went down Monday. The trade itself is OK, with one curious aspect. The roster ramifications of adding the veteran lefty starter have, in my opinion, been mishandled.

I discussed in the Monday print column why such a trade was a logical move. Two (to three) months of Garcia will cost the Twins Huascar Ynoa, a 19-year-old Dominican signed in 2015 for a $800,000 bonus. He has to this point put up a 5.26 ERA at Elizabethton (25.2 innings), not that Appy League stats matter. Ynoa is a strong armed project who might make it and might not, a genuine lottery ticket. The major league team has a chance at a playoff spot and it desperately needs competence in the back of the rotation. Giving up Ynoa for Garcia is sensible.

Plus it probably saves me from having to learn to spell Huascar Ynoa.

Less obvious is the addition of "Quadruple A" catcher Anthony Recker. He's 33, he has accumulated 630 major league plate appearances over seven seasons, he landed on the 40-man roster via the trade and I don't really see the point. I would not only rather have Chris Gimenez than Recker, I'd rather have Mitch Garver. (At this point, I might rather have Garver than Gimenez, but that's another matter.) The Twins now have five catchers on their 40-man roster, which seems excessive (Jason Castro, Gimenez, Garver, Recker and John Ryan Murphy).

The Twins, as noted in Monday's post, pushed Craig Breslow off both the active roster and the 40-man roster after Sunday's game. I had expected that they would fill the 25-man spot by bringing back Rule 5 pick Justin Haley from the disabled list. Instead they recalled Alan Busenitz and returned Haley to Boston. Nothing against Busenitz, but I don't care for abandoning the Haley project at this point, even though they almost certainly would have to carry his Rule 5 restrictions over to next season.

Dumping Haley does open a second 40-man roster spot, and they needed that to accommodate the addition of Recker -- assuming that they needed to add Recker. Meanwhile, it's worth noting that last winter the Twins exposed catcher Stuart Turner to the Rule 5 draft and lost him to Cincinnati; in a very real sense, this series of roster moves amounted to trading Turner for Recker. Turner hasn't done much for the Reds, but he's still there, and he's about eight years younger than Recker.

Recker, at least for now, is assigned to Rochester. Garcia, obviously, needs to be on the 25-man roster. And the Twins got there by optioning Kyle Gibson to Rochester for the second time this season. They're going to stick with Bartolo Colon in the rotation.

I've little good to say about Gibson's pitching this season. He remains a highly frustrating pitcher. But if it's a binary choice -- I have to start either Gibson or Colon -- I'd go with the guy with the 6.08 ERA on the season (94 innings) over the guy with the 8.00 ERA (72 innings).

Pedro Martinez, who knows more about pitching than I ever will, backs his countryman Colon:




I will say this for Colon: He made his first two starts against some stiff lineups, the Yankees and the Dodgers. Those were not cupcake assignments. Gibson's seven shutout innings in his most recent start came against a much softer lineup (Detroit).

I would go with Gibson over Colon, which is not claiming that either is an optimal choice.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Goodbye, Breslow (and injury updates)

Craig Breslow was designated for assignment after Sunday's game. The move was unsurprising, necessary and, for me at least, a bit depressing. I've always liked Breslow, or more accurately I liked what Breslow represented -- a top-of-the-charts intellect carving out a space for himself in baseball.

Breslow's been through this before. The veteran lefty is in his 12th major league season; he's pitched for seven teams in that time, but this is his second go-around with the Twins, and he had a pair with Boston as well. So he's been passed around like a dollar bill, and he's getting pretty worn -- he hasn't had a sub-4.00 ERA since 2013, when he helped the Red Sox win the World Series.

This might be it for Breslow as a pitcher, although Paul Molitor said he wants to continue his career and the Twins will try to place him with another major league team. He might even accept assignment to Rochester.

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No corresponding move was announced Sunday, but the expectation is that Justin Haley -- remember him? -- will come off the disabled list. The Rule 5 pick was last seen almost two months ago, and his 30-day rehab assignment is to expire Tuesday.

He's tabbed for long relief, but he is stretched out -- he's been starting for Rochester --  and if there's no trade for a starter and if Bartolo Colon washes out, he might get a chance to start. Those are two "ifs," and I doubt the Twins are eager to go that route.

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Speaking of 30-day rehab assignments, the clock started ticking during the weekend on Glen Perkins, who appeared in a Gulf Coast League game. He faced three hitters, striking out two and getting a comebacker to the mound.

The GCL being what it is -- the lowest rung on the organizational ladder -- the results are almost meaningless. More important:

  • He was reportedly without pain,
  • His velocity topped out at 90.

The first is good, the second less so. I doubt he can pitch effectively in the majors with a 90 mph fastball; changing speeds has never been his forte, and the lack of a usable changeup is part of what drove him to the bullpen.

The timeline is intriguing. If all goes well (that word if again) the Twins would have to bring him off the disabled list in late August, before the expansion of the active roster. Even if Perkins' return is somehow delayed until September, it will require opening a spot on the 40-man roster. There's a lot of time between now and then, to be sure.

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No rehab assignment for Bryon Buxton, in part, it seems, because the Twins will be in Los Angeles today through Wednesday and the travel was deemed excessive. Buxton is eligible to come off the DL Tuesday.

Buxton, incidentally, ranks third on the team in WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference, behind Ervin Santana and Miguel Sano but ahead of Max Kepler and Brandon Kintzler.

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The Twins traded pitcher Nick Tepesch to Toronto on Sunday for "cash considerations." This ranks as an exceedingly minor transaction; he's been on a minor league DL for a while and didn't appear to be in the Twins plans for the rest of the seasons. The "cash considerations" may wind up being dinner at the Winter Meetings.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Pic of the Week

Tom Kelly with his Target Field statute on Friday.
The Twins installed yet another larger-than-life bronze statue at Target Field on Friday, this time honoring Tom Kelly, manager of the 1987 and 1991 World Series champs.

Kelly remains a "special assistant" in the new regime, but he's clearly pared back his activities after his stroke of a couple winters ago, and I doubt that he's as influential with "Falvine" as he was with Terry Ryan.

His influence remains in the organization, however. Paul Molitor, the current occupant of Kelly's former job, played and coached for Kelly. The two best managerial prospects in the Twins organization, Jake Mauer and Doug Mientkiewicz, are also offshoots of Kelly's managerial branch.

The game has changed since Kelly's heyday. It always evolves. The constant challenge for managers is to identify those changes, adjust to them and find how the eternal verities of the sport fit in those changes.

This task, if I may get philosophical, applies to other aspects of life than baseball. Those of us who resist that evolution become grumpy old men. I can identify with that. I suspect that is part of why Kelly retired at an age at which Molitor hadn't started managing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Or not adding Jamie Garcia

Reports of the Twins trading for Jamie Garcia proved to be greatly exaggerated. The Mexican lefty started Friday night in Los Angeles, allowing three runs in seven innings to the mighty Dodgers and even hitting a grand slam -- for the Braves.

The supposedly imminent deal was on the rocks by Friday morning, with the Braves said to be shopping the 31-year-old around to other clubs. I'm in no position to evaluate what went wrong, but with so many reporters -- national and local -- all reporting the same thing Thursday night, I have to assume there was fire behind that smoke.

And this presumably near-deal suggests that the Twins are indeed in the market for a rental starter, despite Thad Levine's earlier statements that the front office is focused on players who would help in 2018 and beyond. (Garcia is a free agent after this season).

A rental makes sense (properly priced, of course). The Twins need to deepen their rotation; right now the fourth and fifth starters are Kyle Gibson (6.29 ERA coming into tonight's start) and Bartolo Colon (8.18 ERA between Atlanta and Minnesota). News flash: Those ERAs are not good.

Assume for the moment that the Twins pick up a rental starter akin to Garcia. Even with Rental X joining Hector Santiago in free agency after the seasons, and even assuming that the Twins nontender Gibson, the Twins would still enter the offseason with:


  • Three effective 2017 starters (Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios, Adalberto Mejia)
  • Two rehab projects (Phil Hughes, Trevor May)
  • Five good to reasonable prospects currently in Double A or Triple A rotations and thus presumably nearly ready (Fernando Romero, Stephen Gonsalves, Felix Jorge, Kyle Stewart, Aaron Slegers).
They'd probably like to add a veteran arm on a one-year deal to open the season. That would allow them some flexibility with the rehab projects and not be forced to rush a prospect. But that list has 10 2018 starters. They can afford to target a 2017-only addition, especially if that rental doesn't cost them Romero or Gonsalves.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Adding Jamie Garcia

News broke Thursday night that the Twins were about to complete a trade with Atlanta that would bring veteran left-handed starter Jamie Garcia to Minnesota for a prospect.

The deal was not complete when I went to bed, and there was no indication of who the prospect would be. And without knowing who the Twins are giving up, there's no way for me to say yeah or nay.

I will say this: Garcia is a step up for the backend of the rotation. The Twins have started 11 different pitchers so far, and three -- Ervin Santana, Jose Berrios and Adalberto Mejia -- have been good to decent. The rest ... ugh. The best ERA of the other eight belongs to Nick Tepesch, 5.40.

No, Garcia isn't a star and isn't going to be a star. That's neither the point nor the goal. Competence is the goal.

He's 31 and in the last year of his contract, which contradicts Thad Levine's statement a week or so ago that the Twins weren't interested in rentals. I always took that as a preference, not a commitment; there is a price point at which you take a rental even if it doesn't fit your long-term blueprint.

We'll see, soon enough, not only who the Twins traded away but who gets bounced from the rotation. Kyle Gibson or Bartolo Colon?  Perhaps there was indeed some credence to the ESPN report that Colon was considering hanging it up after his start Tuesday deteriorated.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

File this suit

I think I'm afeared the suit will jump me.
(Photo by Linda Vanderwerf)
My wife and I rolled up to Target Field for the Wednesday matinee against the Yankees. I expected to comment today about the game.

And there were plenty of things to comment about, and you can find comments elsewhere on the interwebs about Miguel Sano's homer and Jose Berrios' pitching and Zack Granite's first major league RBIs.

On the basis that it's better to give you something unique, some commentary you can't get anywhere else, an EXCLUSIVE, I instead offer for your contemplation this suit, available at the Majestic Clubhouse Store at Target Field for a mere $599. (ADDENDUM: I am told that the price tag I looked at was just for the suit coat.)

It caught my eye almost as soon as I entered, but my wife missed it until I pointed it out to her. She insisted that she had to get some photos of me with it. Then she told me after we got home to put one of those photos on social media. And the tweet and Facebook posts that resulted got, by my low standards, quite the response, including a threat by co-workers past and present to take up a collection to buy it for me.

I'm not worried; they work for the same employer I do, so they won't be able to come up with the scratch.

(Wandering off on a tangent: My Twitter account, @bboutsider, is mostly baseball; my Facebook account is mostly personal, and I typically decline friend requests that aren't people I have real-life interactions or pasts with. I've had a number of FB requests from people I don't know who I assume are interested because of the blog, and I nix them routinely. I'm just not social enough for social media. Let me assure those of you who fear you're missing out: anything baseball I put on Facebook will be on this blog and/or Twitter first and/or better.)

This suit is, obviously, quite the monstrosity, and I would be inclined to give a wide berth to anybody who actually wore the thing. You've heard of "dress for success"; this is more like "dress to distress." But as my nephew replied on Facebook, anybody who can afford to buy this suit can afford not to care what anybody else thinks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gee, Colon? Part 3 (and Hughes and Breslow)

Well, at least he threw strikes.

For four innings, the Bartolo Colon Experiment worked, He carved up the Yankee lineup with mediocre velocity coupled with location and movement, and with some good fielding plays behind him.

Then came the fifth, in which he got no outs, and in which Ryan Pressly did what Ryan Pressly has done pretty consistently all season: give up a homer. The 3-1 lead turned to a 6-3 deficit, and both bullpens put up zeros after that.

Yeah, the Twins had plenty of opportunities to score more runs, but you shouldn't hang your hat on allowing six runs.

Four earned runs in four innings won't do much for Big Sexy's already bloated ERA, but he'll get another start after throwing 53 strikes in 82 pitches. That will come against the Dodgers, who are doing unto the National League what the Astros are doing unto the American. He's not drawing cupcake assignments.

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Despite the report Monday that Dillon Gee has been waived, he remains on the 40-man roster as of early this morning. The 40-man (and 25-man) roster spot for Colon came from putting Phil Hughes on the 60-day disabled list. He's done for the season with a recurrence of his thoracic outlet syndrome with another round of surgery in his near future. This is a discouraging development for Hughes personally, but doesn't really damage the team's outlook for the rest of the season, as he hasn't been very effective as a reliever.

Kennys Vargas was indeed optioned out, and Craig Breslow was returned to the 25-man roster from the disabled list. He got one out on Tuesday. Replacing Hughes in the 'pen with Breslow doesn't do much for me.

The roster maneuvers left the Twins roster in this condition: The game ended with Chris Gimenez on-deck waiting to pinch-hit for Eddie Rosario against Aroldis Chapman. I'm not really sure what the point of that move would have been ... yeah, Gimenez would have the platoon advantage, but I would too. I'd rather have Rosario against Chapman.