Friday, December 3, 2010

Tender Moment

With the arbitration and contract tender deadlines behind us and the winter meetings just ahead, let's check in on the Twins' offseason so far...


The Twins exercised their $5.25M option on Jason Kubel, but declined Nick Punto's $5M option with a $0.5M buyout.

Kubel is a good value for that price, especially if he is deployed in such a way that he avoids playing the field and facing LHP. The injury to Justin Morneau made that difficult to accommodate, which may help to account for Kubel's disappointing 2nd half numbers. But even with a down year in 2010, over the last 3 years his .881 OPS vs. RHP is impressive - about 90% of what Adam Dunn has, er, done. And the White Sox will be paying him $14M.

As for Punto, he didn't stack up well next to the other internal options last year:

Punto: 288 PA, .238/.313/.302
Casilla: 170 PA, .276/.331/.395
Tolbert: 100 PA, .230/.293/.379

No sense paying Nick 8-10 times more money to do worse than Casilla and Tolbert. Add in the fact that he's 4 years older than Tolbert and 6 years older than Casilla, and it's a pretty easy decision to let him walk.


The Twins offered arbitration to Type A free agent Carl Pavano, but not to Matt Guerrier. They offered arbitration to Type B free agents Orlando Hudson and Jesse Crain, but not to Brian Fuentes or Jon Rauch. Pavano, Hudson and Crain all declined.

I was hoping the Twins would be bold with the relievers, particularly after Joaquin Benoit signed early with Detroit for 3 years, $16.5M. Certainly Crain feels he's in that league, but why wouldn't Fuentes, too? Arbitration might get him a bigger 2011 salary, but not as much guaranteed money as the 2-3 year deal he and Rauch are surely looking for.

In any event, the front office played it safe, and will likely net 4 extra top 50 picks, which is plenty. I guess.


The Twins won the rights to negotiate with Japanese Pacific League batting champ Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a $5.3M bid.

I've got to hand it to Bill Smith for this. That's thinking about 10,000 miles outside the box on how to replace Orlando Hudson. Nishioka is a switch-hitting MI, with terrific contact skills and a pretty decent OBP. He also likes to steal bases and plays gold-glove caliber defense up the middle - for the JPL, at least. He's the ideal fit for the #2 spot in the order. And he's only 26, so his best years may be just ahead. Just have to sign him now...


The Twins offered 2011 contracts to all unsigned, team controlled players on the 40-man roster.

There were only a couple of question marks here. There was a lot of speculation that JJ Hardy might be non-tendered, especially once the Nishioka news came out. But even if the Twins intend to use Casilla at SS in 2011, the dearth of viable MI free agents makes Hardy a valuable commodity. The Twins should be able to get something pretty nice back if they elect to trade him. But I count myself among those who still hope that they'll hold onto him for awhile. At least until Nishioka signs on the dotted line, and hopefully into spring training. Casilla's doing OK in Winter Ball, but I'm not sold yet...

I would have probably cut Glen Perkins loose at this point. But I don't suppose there's a huge downside in giving him one more chance to show that he can be worth something. There are lots of holes in the bullpen, but I suspect he'll find his way onto the waiver wire at some point next year.

Pretty quiet so far, which is fine with me. However, there are some indications that everyone may have underestimated how much the Twins have to spend this season. If that's the case, we might be in for a few (hopefully welcome) surprises this offseason.

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