Friday, March 29, 2019

One down, 161 to go

That was an historically good opening day start for Jose Berrios on Thursday:


Justin Morneau handled the commentary for the FSN broadcast, and before the game started said, appropos of the 11-man pitching staff and deeper-than-usual bench, that Rocco Baldelli had plenty of in-game moves available.

He made exactly one. The nine men in the batting order were in for the entire game, and he used just one relief pitcher.

That is pretty much what I expect, at least with the position players. Just because Jake Cave, Ehire Adrianza and Tyler Austin are on the bench right now doesn't mean they have genuine in-game roles. This roster is built for nine guys to play and everybody else sit and watch. Which nine plays, that will change on a daily basis. 

As for the pitching staff, giving Taylor Rogers a four-out save opportunity is an interesting data point. We don't really know how Baldelli is going to handle the bullpen. I'm confident that Ron Gardenhire, had he used Rogers to finish the eighth, would have used given somebody else the ninth. But as Dick Bremer said on the telecast, the ninth was a really good set of matchups for Rogers.


After watching Jake Bauers slip on Byron Buxton's double and watching Marwin Gonzalez's game-winning hit get past Leonys Martin, I offered this observation on Twitter:

Cleveland's outfielders went 1-for-10 against Berrios and Rogers. But Saturday is another game, and Jake Odorizzi is no Berrios.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Opening day and off days.

The Twins got down to their initial 25-man active roster Wednesday by deeming Jorge Polanco's balky shoulder ready to go and putting three relievers -- Addison Reed, Gabriel Moya and Matt Magill -- on the injured list.

So Tyler Austin stays around, although I have no idea what he's going to do. He has no purpose as long as C.J. Cron, Nelson Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez are all sound enough to play.

But soon enough the Twins will get to the point where they feel the need for 12 or 13 pitchers, And then either Austin will go or Cron will. And the Twins have a lot more invested in Cron than in Austin.


I doubt the early start to the regular season is accomplishing what the players wanted, at least in these northern climes.

The players wanted more offdays during the season, and got that in the current labor deal. That required

  • cutting games out of the schedule, which means reducing revenue; or
  • making the schedule longer at the end of the season, which means a World Series played after Halloween, which nobody wants; or
  • adding games at the start of the season, which means playing games in March

The third option was reckoned the least bad.

But too many of the added offdays are slated in April (and March) because of interleague play and unbalanced schedules. A high percentage of series for any team involves the given rival's only visit to town. The offdays are there to accomodate those days that get weathered out.

An offday in April is less useful in a rest and recuperation sense than an offday in August. But there are bound to be more cancellations in April.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

End of spring training

The Twins on Tuesday played their final Grapefruit League game. They open the 2019 season Thursday at home against Cleveland.

I decided weeks ago that I was not going to encourage March openers with my presence and cash. I'll work my usual Thursday shift rather than go to Target Field. It appears, however, that the weather is going to cooperate with the absurdly early date.

And I am optimistic about this year's outlook for the Twins. There are two teams in the Central who figure to contend. Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City are all somewhere in the rebuilding/talent gathering mode, while Cleveland and Minnesota are, or should be, in talent-shaping mode.

But the Indians are not the team they were in 2018, much less what they were in '17 or '16. Their outfield ... OK, I'm not necessarily being strictly objective here, but I suspect the Twins have a better major league outfield in Triple A and Double A than the Indians have in the majors. It's certainly not less talented.

And the Cleveland bullpen is nowhere near as deep as we've seen in the past few years, with Chad Allen gone to Anheim and Andrew Miller to St. Louis.

But that is still a very imposing starting rotation in Cleveland, and Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are awesome, and the Cleveland front office generally knows what its doing. They think more of Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin and Greg Allen than I do.

We'll see how it plays out, starting on Thursday.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Contemplating the bullpen

Two pronouncments Monday out of Fort Myers by manager Rocco Baldelli about the Minnesota bullpen:

  • He is indeed not naming a closer, or designating specific roles for his relief crew. (This matches the thesis of the Monday print column.) 
  • Non-roster invitee Ryne Harper will be on the opening day roster.

Harper, as you can see by clicking the above link, has a rather extensive minor-league resume, heavier on Double A innings than Triple A. While he has had a (very) brief major league callup, he never appeared in a game, so when he takes the mound it will be his major league debut. Expect lots of curve balls from him.

Contemporary bullpens are always a work in progress. This will be no exception. The Twins are to open the season with an 11-man pitching staff. The number will rise from there.

Three of last year's bullpen appear likely to be on the injured list by Thursday's opener (righties Matt Magill and Addison Reed and lefy Gabriel Moya), and it sounds as if the Twins expect Magill and Moya to be ready relatively soon. Presumably at least one of them will be ready when the Twins need to shift Martin Perez to the rotation.

Perez, the fifth starter, is going to begin the season in the bullpen because of a cluster of April off days. So this 11-man staff breaks down for now as:

Starters: Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Kyle Gibson (that's the announced order).

Late-inning relievers: Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Blake Parker, Taylor Rogers

Not-so-late: Perez, Harper, Aldaberto Mejia

One thing to watch in these first couple of weeks is how Baldelli uses Perez. One major goal is going to be keeping the lefty stretched out so that when he's inserted into the starting rotation he's ready to give them at least five to six innings. I suspect that's part of why Gibson's going last, so that Perez can "piggy back" with either Odorizzi (who seldom pitches deep into games) or Pineda (who will probably be handled with some care early on in his second year back from Tommy John surgery).

Monday, March 25, 2019

Goodbye, Reed

The Twins had no room for outfielder Michael Reed on their major league roster, so they moved him on to the San Francisco Giants during the weekend for another outfielder, John Andreoli, and cash.

Reed is the more interesting of the two outfielders, a speed guy who figures to get a genuine opportunity to play with the Giants even the manager doesn't know much about him yet. When the Twins picked him up on a waiver claim early in the offseason, I surmised that his appeal was as Buxton insurance. With Byron Buxton having a strong spring training, and with the later addition of Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins could let that insurance policy lapse.

Andreoli is Triple-A depth. I think the Twins have shed two better outfielders than him this spring (Reed and Zach Granite). Beside the three regulars (Rosario, Buxton and Kepler) and super-utility man Gonzalez, the Twins also have Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade ahead of him. The chances of Andreoli playing for the Twins are slim.

This does open up a spot on the 40-man roster, which is good news for a non-roster invitee -- probably Ryne Harper, a reliever whose curve ball has caught eyes this spring.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Some notable cuts

The Twins trimmed their major league camp roster a bit more Friday, and they narrowed their opening bullpen options significantly.

First they optioned out youngster Fernando Romero, once a prized starting prospect and now a prized relief prospect. I had put him in the "Is there room" category a while back. The answer, even as some injury issues arise among the bullpen candidates, is apparently "no." He'll be up at some point. But he hasn't been kicking the door down, and it makes sense to give him some minor league time as a reliever.

Then they released a pair of veteran non-roster invitees, infielder Adam Rosales and lefty reliever Tim Collins, both of whom presumably had opt-out clauses.

Rosales hit well in camp, with four homers. But the 35-year-old's chances of making the roster were more about other people than about himself. There weren't enough injuries to make him useful.

Collins is the more surprising release. His stuff has drawn positive reviews, even though his Grapefruit League ERA (4.91) isn't impressive, and in-house lefty Gabriel Moya hasn't pitched in more than a week with reported shoulder issues. I thought Collins had a chance.

But even if Moya can't go on March 28, the bullpen still figures to have Taylor Rogers and Aldaberto Mejia as lefties. Plus there is chatter that, with a bevy of offdays in the first few week, the Twins will open with 11 pitchers rather than their usual 12 or 13, with No. 5 starter Martin Perez shifting temporarily to the pen. He would be a third southpaw. Presumably the Twins hope/expect Moya to be ready by the time Perez returns to starting duties.

Collins had less opportunity than it appeared a few days ago.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Farewell, Ichiro. And thanks

Ichiro Suuki bows at the end of his postgame press
conference at which he announced his retirement.
I was up and at-em early enough Thursday morning to watch Ichiro Suzuki's final professional at-bat and to watch his teammates greet him outside the dugout as he left the field. Some had tears. So did I.

These season-opening games in Japan, about a week before the rest of the major league schedule gets underway, always feel a little gimmicky to me. And Ichiro's very presence on the Seattle roster after a 2018 in which he barely played, had some of the same artifical flavor.

And still, I'm pleased it worked out that way. Pleased that this great player got to go out in his homeland, in the uniform of the American team for which he won an MVP and became a star on this side of the Pacific. Pleased that Japan got to see him one more time.

A younger Ichiro might have beaten out the soft grounder he hit in his final at-bat, but he's 45 now. He ceased being a full-time player some time ago -- his last season with 500 plate appearances was 2013 -- but he accepted a reserve role with grace and dignity. Indeed, he did pretty much everything with grace and dignity.

I will miss seeing him play. I am grateful to have seen him play.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Goodbye, Duda

The Twins released Lucas Duda after informing the camp invitee that he wasn't going to make the roster. Presumably the camp invitee then informed the club that he would exercise his opt-out on Saturday, and they agreed to let him start looking for a new team immediately rather than wait a few more days.

None of this is surprising. Duda never seemed like a particularly good fit for the Twins roster. Like C.J. Cron and Tyler Austin, he's limited defensively to first base, he's older than either and he's been bouncing around the league. The Twins were his fifth organization since 2016.

But he had a three-year run -- 2015-2017 -- in which he hit 30, 27 and 30 homers, so I kept seeing superficial pieces that mentioned him as a key addition to the Twins. Those same pieces seldom mentioned Jonathan Schoop, who will be Minnesota's second baseman.

It was, in a sense, a useful barometer as a reader: If the writer thinks Duda a more significant piece than Schoop, it signaled a lack of knowledge.

The Twins also reassigned four prospects to minor league camp, so they are down to 36 in major league camp. None had a genuine chance of making the opening roster. Indeed, the only cut I can think of who had any realistic chance of coming north was Tyler Duffey, who was optioned out shortly after I listed him in the "Is there room" category of bullpen candidates.

But there was a development that figures to affect the opening roster. Lefty reliever Gabriel Moya has had some shoulder issues and appears destined for the injured list (new nomenclature for the disabled list). This would appear to enhance the status of Aldaberto Mejia and Tim Collins.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

History as their guide

I was tooling around town Monday afternoon running errands when I heard one of the ex-players on MLB radio -- I think it was Brad Lidge, but no guarantee of that -- spout some nonsensical reasoning about the Twins.

I shall paraphrase:

Remember those contracts the Twins gave pitchers a few years ago? Five years for Phil Hughes, four years for Ricky Nolasco, four years for Ervin Santana. Why on earth wouldn't they do that for Dallas Keuchel? They have all that money coming off the books.

Yes, I remember. Those contracts were part of what got Terry Ryan fired:

Ricky Nolasco was awful with the Twins: 15-22 with a 5.44 ERA in 56 starts.

Phil Hughes gave the Twins an excellent first season (2014). Ryan gave him a rich extension, but Hughes immediately fell apart physically and he never mastered the art of pitching with diminished velocity. Both the Twins and Padres released him last season, but the Twins are still on the hook for the final $13 million plus. (He's almost certainly their most expensive pitcher this year).

Ervin Santana's signing was described this winter by LaVelle Neal as successful for the Twins, which suggests a really low bar. He was suspended for half of one season and essentially unable to pitch another. The Twins got two-and-a-half good seasons out of four from "Magic."

(I resent Santana's PED suspension far more than I resent the injuries that wrecked Hughes' career or Santana's final season, or even Nolasco's snotty public persona.) 

These are specific examples of a general principle: You sign a veteran pitcher, you are buying into a declining market. And the longer that contract runs, the more time it has to go sour. 

Citing Santana, Hughes and Nolasco as reasons the Twins should sign another veteran free agent is inane. Yeah, the money's there, but why wantonly burn it?

Keuchel has a resume. He has a Cy Young plaque to hang on his wall, he led the AL in starts last season, he helped the Astros win a World Series a couple years back, he has in other seasons led the league in innings, complete games, wins and shutouts.

And now, a bit more than a week before opening day, he remains unsigned.  He's also 31 years old and 2018 was the first season in three years in which he worked 200 innings. Teams, including the Twins, obviously don't think he's worth what he demands. Whoever it was filling airtime on Sirius Monday afternoon may not like it, but a part of that is the track record of Hughes, Nolasco and Santana.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Cron vs. Austin

A debate of sorts broke out Sunday night on LaVelle Neal's Twitter feed, with respondents demanding that the beat writer justify the Twins' intent to have C.J. Cron at first base over Tyler Austin.

Part of this is small sample size theater. Austin, in 41 exhibition plate appearances, has hit three homes and hit. 390. (He also has zero walks). Cron hasn't been bad -- two homers and .367 in 34 PA -- but the Twitter yellers say Austin is outperforming Cron. There's no room on the bench for a 1B-only bat, and Austin is out of options.

It feels weird to say this, as my immediate reaction to Cron's addition was What does he give the Twins that Austin doesn't? But the reality is, spring training has not given the Twins a legitimate reason to change plans at first base.

Point one: Seventy-five plate appearances don't mean a while lot at any time. Seventy-five plate appearances are particularly shy of meaningful in March.

Point two: Even if they are indicative of current level of ability, Cron has the higher OPS -- on-base plus slugging -- against a slightly higher level of competition as Baseball Reference measures it.

Point three: For whatever reason, the Twins decided during the offseason that they are better off with Cron. Maybe it's because new manager Rocco Baldelli knows Cron from last year with the Rays. Maybe it's because Austin has a history of nagging injuries. Maybe it's because they see Cron as having a higher floor. Whatever the rationale, they made a measured, non-impulsive decision during the winter to add Cron. They aren't going to change course on a March whim.

The Twins have, for now, an embarrassment of riches in right-handed first base-only sluggers. That suggests a trade, but the market on such players has not been generous. Unless there's a team that really wants C.J. Cron, he's going to be the first baseman in Minnesota, at least when Marwin Gonzalez is playing some other position.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The coming change

There's a lot to unpack in the set of rule changes announced Thursday, a handful to take effect this season but most in 2020.

I love, love, love the tightening of the time between innings for nationally televised games. I won't be so fond of the likely increase of split-screen ads, but they weren't going away regardless. It's like ticket prices. Ticket prices have nothing to do with player salaries; they're set by demand for the tickets. As long as somebody wants to buy a split screen ad, Fox and ESPN will sell it to them.

And I don't give a rat's behind about the All-Star Game changes.

Those are 2019 changes. Coming in 2020:

Three-batters-or-end-of-inning minimum for pitchers. Say goodbye to the LOOGY, and to 17 minutes  24 seconds to face four hitters (as detailed in this piece).

We may well have passed the period of peak LOOGY, or Left-handed One Out GuYs. Certainly the Twins have not had somebody like Dennys Reyes in some years. Reyes, in three seasons with the Twins, made 191 appearances and pitched a total of 126.1 innings for Ron Gardenhire, and if he faced a right-handed batter that meant anything in the context of the game, the manager made a public apology.

But there are still LOOGYs around. Tim Collins, of whom I wrote here the other day, was certainly used in that manner last year by the Nationals, and if he makes the roster that would be his likely best-use.

Limits on September rosters. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I dislike the bloated rosters and the occasional games in which a manager uses nine relievers because he has them to use.

On the other, as noted on Twitter by J.J. Cooper, the September callup has been used by at least some organizations to reward org players who are on their way out. Consider Brian Dinkelman, who spent eight seasons toiling in the Twins system. He got a September callup in 2011. That may well have meant the majority of his career earnings.

Minor leaguers are mistreated by the system. The players union abets the maltreatment and the commissioners office, to put it bluntly, lies about it.  It's a disgrace. September call-ups alleviated it a little. Now that's going away too.

26-man rosters for most of the season. This is a sop to the union, which probably expects the extra space to go to a veteran. It won't. Kids are cheaper.

Designated pitchers and position players. I really don't understand how this is supposed to work on a Shohei Ohtani, or more to the point, Brendan McKay. who is coming up the Rays system as a pitcher-first baseman. Yes, we see more position players pitching than we used to ... but it's in blowouts or deep in extra innings, and that's still permissible until this rule.

Pitch clock. Dropped for the duration of the collective bargaining agreement. Too bad.

Reopening the CBA. OK, that's not a rule change. But it's potentially significant. The economic relationship between labor and management has shifted sharply under the current one, and it seems obvious to me that we will either see a drastic reimagining of that relationship or a labor war, and maybe both.

I can't see how the reimagining can happen in a six-month negotiation. It will take time. If the commissoners office negotiates in good faith, we might avoid the labor war. I'm skeptical, but I'm certainly willing to be proven wrong.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Gordon and Arraez

The Twins sent four more prospects who aren't contenders for the opening roster to the minor league side Tuesday. Two of them were infielders Nick Gordon and Luis Arraez.

Gordon is the name, the first-round pick who is the son of one All-Star player and the brother of another. Arraez is the one I think has a chance to be a useful major league player.

Rocco Baldelli, speaking about Gordon after a game this weekend in which Gordon hit a ball over the center fielder's head for a triple, said Gordon, despite his skinny frame, is "plenty strong enough/" But the rookie manager mentioned endurance as a question mark without going into details. Gordon has fallen off sharply in the second half pretty much every season as a pro -- and, of course, in the majors there's another month of play to get through.

Gordon's tools are routinely described by Baseball America as average across the board. That's not to be disparaged, but it is difficult to identify something you'd put him in the lineup to do. (Despite his slender frame and the relationship to speedster Dee Gordon, Nick is not a particularly fast runner.)

Arraez is a player with more obvious flaws. There is debate about whether Gordon can play short in the majors; nobody even asks that question about Arraez. While he gets a few games a year at third and short, he's a second baseman, and not a sensation there either. He's not fast, and he's never hit more than three homers in a minor league season.

But he can hit line drives. His minor league batting average, mostly compiled in the lower levels, is .329. He seldom strikes out. The bat is real.

It's an uphill fight, really, for both of them. The Twins signed Jorge Polanco to a multi-year deal, and my expectation is that he'll move to second when uber-prospect Royce Lewis is deemed ready for the shortstop job in Minnesota. Wander Javier, another shortstop prospect who lost last season to injury, has reportedly been wowing observers on the minor league side.

Gordon and Arraez are sandwiched between these guys, and it will probably require trade or injury for either to get a shot in a major league lineup, not that either is ready for that opportunity quite yet.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Contemplating Tim Collins

When I composed Monday's post on the Twins bullpen, I left out the non-roster invitees, mainly because I didn't view any of them as genuine candidates for the roster.

Then I saw Tim Collins's outing on the FSN rebroadcast. He looked good.

Collins is a little lefty, smaller than Dick Bremer and Dan Gladden apparently realize. Dick said Collins is 5-10. Baseball Reference lists him at 5-7, and considering the liklihood of height inflation, he may be shorter than that. But he has a good fast ball and a better curve than I had realized.

Collins had 38 games in the majors last year with Washington, and a sour final outing (three runs without retiring a hitter) really wrecked his ERA (it went from 3.18 to 4.37). It was still a successful year for him, because he made it back to the majors after missing two full seasons with Tommy John surgery.

I'd put him in the "Is there room?" category. He certainly isn't making the roster ahead of Taylor Rogers, and I doubt the Twins are eager to expose Aldaberto Mejia to waivers. But I can see them deciding to take Collins north ahead of Gabriel Moya, especially if Collins has an early opt-out clause.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Contemplating the bullpen

The Twins made their first camp cuts at the start of the weekend. Sent down the road to the minor league complex were a collection of prospects -- some on the 40, some not -- who came to camp with little realistic chance of making the opening roster unless a wave of injuries hit.

We are less than three weeks from opening day, and it's time for big league camp to focus at-bats and innings on the guys who will be going north. And its time for this corner to go through out annual exercise of projecting bullpen roles.

Which, this spring, is well-neigh impossible. There is no established closer in camp. There is a manager who has never managed at any level before and a pitching coach who has not been in professional baseball before, so we can't look at what they've done in the past. And pitcher usage patterns in exhibition games are meaningless.

There have been suggestions that Rocco Baldelli and Wes Johnson won't base the bullpen on set roles, meaning no specific closer, no specific eighth-inning guy.

But they must have some sort for framework in mind. Let's try to work one out on our own.

Roster locks

Taylor Rogers. He might be emerging as one of the better lefty relievers in the game.
Blake Parker. A couple good years with the Angels, and if the Twins do go with a set closer a genuine candidate for the job.
Trevor May. My choice for closer if the role exists. Out of options.

Depending on health

Addison Reed. If he's healthy, he's a lock. But he wasn't sound last season and it's unclear if he can go two days in a row, and that's pretty much a necessity for bullpen arms. One year and more than $8 million left on his contract.
Gabriel Moya.  Lefty has been limited in camp. Probably the preferred second lefty.

More than likely

Trevor Hildenberger. Had a rough end to an up-and-down season. He and the Twins seem to think the issues are solvable.
Aldaberto Mejia. Lefty, out of options. As a starter has struggled to go five innings, and there is no obvious opening in the rotation anyway.

Is there room?

Matt Magill. Spent most of 2018 with the big club, appearing in 40 games and working 56 innings. The big drawback: 11 homers allowed. Not sure of his option status.
Tyler Duffey. Less time in the majors than I expected last year, and a horrid 7.20 ERA when he was up. His stock has certainly diminished.
Fernando Romero. Eleven games in the bigs in 2018, all starts. Supposedly a reliever now. He may not open 2019 with the Twins, but he'll be there at some point, and may well wind up with a major role.

Already down

Andrew Vasquez. Shipped out with the first wave of camp cuts. Lefty whose early departure suggests the decision makers are satisfied with Mejia and Moya behind Rogers.

So ... I make the top three the most likely late-inning choices, although if Hildenberger and Romero are capable of wedging their way in. Reed, with the biggest paycheck of the group, is a big question mark. I wonder how likely the Twins are to eat his salary if he's limited early on.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Serving Vegas first

A disturbing tweet Wednesday afternoon from Peter Gammons:

I dare say that every commissioner prior to Rob Manfred would have suspended any manager who gave the oddsmakers advance notice of their plans. And now the commissioners office itself intends to do just that? 

Nothing in that tweet truly makes sense, but there is a sentence, or more accurately part of a sentence, that goes to a different level of nonsense. "It's OK to not field (t)he best team, for service time reasons ..." Service time relates to days on the active roster, not at-bats or innings or any other measure of playing time. If Byron Buxton is on the active roster, it's service time whether he starts in center, pinch runs in the eighth or spends the day on the bench. 

I've seen nothing else about this anywhere else so far, and I'm hoping that Gammons got it wrong, or alternately that this is a trial balloon that will be quickly popped.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Oh no, Sano (Part whatever)

So ... the big news Tuesday about the Twins was that Miguel Sano's cut heel is going to keep him out into May.

The Twins rather emphatically avoid blaming Sano, who, as they see it, spent the winter doing what they wanted him doing. He lost weight, he played winter ball -- and then he got hurt in the celebration, and the wound got infected. He reported to spring training with the infection, and the wound wasn't healing as it should, so now comes a more aggressive treatment.

I'm not a medical professional, so I am in no position to second-guess what was done (or not done) when Sano reported to Fort Myers. You probably aren't either, and if you are, you probably didn't examine his specific injury. But there is an irrational contigent of media and fandom that, having lost its favorite target in Joe Mauer, will now almost certainly turn its scorn on Sano. Blaming the athlete for the injury is a longstanding if unattractive tradition.

As a practical matter, this probably means, at least for the first five or six weeks of the season, a lot more time at third base for Marwin Gonzalez than the Twins expected or intended. Which, in turn, means less time for him at any of the other positions.

Another possibility is a steady dose of Willians Astudillo at third, with Gonzalez rotating among positions as originally envisioned.

I don't think this is a case where the injury creates an opening for  La Tortuga (Astudillo) to make the opening roster. I think this creates an opportunity for him to get significant playing time. The guys whose chances of coming north out of camp have improved are Ehire Adrianza and Jake Cave.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Minor transactions

The Twins designated outfielder Zack Granite for assignment when they signed Marwin Gonzalez. On Sunday they announced a series of transactions related to that:

  • Granite goes to the Texas Rangers. The Twins got minor league right-handed pitcher Xavier Moore and "cash considerations" for him.
  • The Twins then shipped Moore to the Baltimore Orioles for $750,000 in international signing bonus cap room. The permission to spend that money expires June 15.

Moore probably isn't too much of a much. A 16th-round draft pick in 2017, he has a 4.54 minor league ERA in 33.6 innings in the lower levels of the Texas chain, all in relief. He's only 20 and is said to be "projectable." Which means the scouts think he's got some physical maturity ahead of him. He's a lottery ticket.

The $750,000 in international cap space sounds significant -- that's the kind of bonus Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler got -- but there's not a lot of talent unsigned in the current international class. My hope is that the Twins have a plan for that cap space.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Hail Cesar: Remembering Cesar Tovar, multi-position regular

The Monday print column concerns Marwin Gonzalez, the Twins new multi-position regular, and how he's fit into the lineup.

Twins fans of a certain age have seen this act, or something like it, before. Cesar Tovar in the late 1960s played pretty much every day while splitting starts between second base, third base and the outfield.

He may be remembered for the 1968 gimmick game in which he played all nine positions, but he was truly a multi-position regular:

1966: 73 starts at second base, 27 at shortstop, 16 in center.

1967: 60 starts in center, 56 at third, 31 at second. (Tovar that year played 164 games in a 162-game schedule, an iron-man feat made possible by two ties.)

1968: 67 at third, 29 in center, 15 in left, 20 at short, 12 at second.

1969: 65 in center, 33 at second, 14 at third.

And those are just the positions at which he had at least a dozen starts in a season.

Tovar was essentially locked in as the center fielder for 1970, and he was predominately an outfielder the rest of his career. The Phillies did shuffle him around in 1973 in a part time role.