Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Contemplating the 2002 Twins

Michael Cuddyer: Will the Rockies outfielder
be the last man standing from the 2002
Minnesota Twins?
A few members of the 2002 Twins gathered at Monday's home opener for the first-pitch ceremony and general accolades.

It wasn't close to a full turnout, of course; for one thing, there are at least nine players still active from that team, and that's not counting two guys (Cristian Guzman and Casey Blake) released during spring training.

Which raises the question, at least in my mind: Who will be the last of the 2002 Twins to play in the majors?

My guess, in reverse order:

9) Juan Rincon, pitching for the Angels Triple A team, hasn't actually been in the majors since 2010. He has a better chance at pitching in the majors than I do, but he's not likely to last long if he does.

8) LaTroy Hawkins, Anaheim. He's 39 and no longer a late-inning guy. There's still tread on the tires, and he could out last ...

7) J.C. Romero, St. Louis. Left-handed One-Out GuYs (LOOGYs) tend to last forever, and Romero is four years younger than the Hawk, but he's been limited to fractional innings for a couple years now.

6) David Ortiz, Boston. The final six are all lineup fixtures or rotation anchors, and they all could have years left. I put Ortiz here because (a) he's 36; (b) all of his value is in his bat; (c) he's been up-and-down in recent seasons and (d) his days of multi-year contracts are past.

5) Johan Santana, Mets. I put him here because he's recovering from a significant shoulder injury. While he fared well in the opener against the Braves, his velocity is down, and it's clear that he is being monitored closely. As he should; the Mets owe him $50 million over the next two years and would like something for the money. The question once past the current deal may be how difficult it is for him to continue to pitch. 

4) Torii Hunter, Anaheim. Last year of his contract. Last won a Gold Glove in 2009 and no longer a center fielder. Power numbers well down in recent years. Has a bigger reputation as a leader than I suspect he deserves. I wonder how much demand there'll be for his services this winter, and how willing he'll be to take a steep cut. Pride has ended some careers.

3) Kyle Lohse, St. Louis. Started (and well) on Opening Day for the defending champions. Led the Cards in wins and starter ERA last season. Not an ace, but a good mid-rotation guy.

2) A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox. A remarkably durable catcher. Now 35, he is essentially the same hitter he was a decade ago, which is almost unheard of in regular backstops. Doesn't throw well, but even after his bat declines he can still stick around a few years as a backup. If he wants to.

1) Michael Cuddyer, Colorado. A similar player now to Hunter – right-handed hitting right fielders with bigger contracts and reputations than their current production warrant — but younger and with two more years on his contract. 

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