Saturday, December 4, 2010

Interpreting the Neshek and Repko contracts

Generally, when arbitration-eligible players sign contracts just before the tender deadline, it indicates that

  • They were candidates to be dropped by their team; and
  • They weren't sure they would land 40-man roster spots elsewhere.

Things aren't necessarily
looking up for Pat Neshek
Thus the Twins' Pat Neshek and Jason Repko, who each inked one-year deals for less than $700,000 on Thursday.

Repko is a first-rate defensive outfielder, but he's a reserve outfielder because he has shown little evidence that he can hit. And, remember, he only got to the active roster last season because Justin Morneau's concussion moved Michael Cuddyer from the outfield to first base and left the Twins without a fourth outfielder.

Assume that Morneau is indeed sound next season and that the Twins sign a part-time DH (whether it be Jim Thome or, as Seth Stohs suggested on Friday, Matt Diaz, non-tendered by Atlanta). Further assume that the Twins carry their usual 12-man pitching staff.  The four-man bench may not have room for Repko, as it didn't last spring:

  • Extra hitter (Thome/Jason Kubel/Cuddyer/Delmon Young)
  • Backup catcher (Drew Butera)
  • Utililty infielder (Alexi Casilla/Matt Tolbert)
  • ??

If the Twins figure, as they did last spring, that Cuddyer is an acceptable fill-in in center, that fourth slot might go to another infielder. If they sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka and keep J.J. Hardy, they may well keep both Casilla and Tolbert, who is out of options.

There is, on the other hand, an obvious opportunity for Neshek. The Twins middle relief corps must be rebuilt; there is no way they will retain all four of their prominent relief free agents (Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes).

But Neshek did not pitch well in his first season back from ligament-replacement surgery, not in the majors and not in Triple-A. His velocity was not at its accustomed level when I saw him pitch in September.

This contract suggests to me that the Twins aren't confident he's going to help them this year either -- but neither are they ready to cut bait.

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