Ryan, in his semi-regular radio appearance Sunday, said that the current plan is for Miguel Sano to go on a rehab assignment later in the week. And when the big guy returns to the majors, it won't be as an outfielder.
He'll DH, the general manager said, while deferring to the absent manager, Paul Molitor. He'll play third base some. He might even play some first base. But not right field, which was Sano's usual position before his hamstring pull, because of the leg issues. Sano's future? Said Ryan: "No question, it's third base."
I know this was discussed yesterday, but I was out of town, so I thought I'd put my opinion down. Feel free to ignore it. Short version: I wouldn't have done it, but I'm not down on Terry Ryan for doing it.
I wouldn't have done it because I see it as a trade with small upside potential and large downside potential, and I don't like trades like that. The upside potential is that Jepsen becomes a useful set-up reliever. That's not nothing. In fact, a pitcher like that can be very important. But Jepsen's not going to be shut-down set-up guy like the Yankees and Kansas City have. He may be useful, but that's all he'll be. The downside, of course, is that either Hu or Tapia becomes a star. Given that, I would not have made the trade.
The reason I'm not down on Terry Ryan, though, is that I think he was under a lot of pressure to make some kind of a move. That pressure did not just come from fans and media--I think it came from the clubhouse and from ownership as well. Had Ryan not done anything, I think the reaction from all those groups would have been, "Here we are with a shot at the playoffs, and we're not even trying to improve!" It not only would've been a PR hit, it would've been a problem throughout the team.
I assume Ryan would like to have brought in an impact player who could've propelled the team to the playoffs and beyond, but such a player either wasn't available or the price was higher than he thought it was wise to pay. I suspect, in that situation, he'd have preferred to do nothing, but he didn't think that was one of his options. So he made a move for a player who might be able to provide some help at what he hopes will be a small cost.
And it could very well turn out that way. There's a good chance that Jepsen, while again nothing special, will be a useful reliever. I don't really know anything about Hu or Tapia beyond their stat lines. Those lines look good, but they've been compiled at Class A or below. There are lots and lots of players who have great stats at those levels who never make the majors, and lots more who make it to the majors but never do anything significant there. So, while I wish Hu and Tapia well and I don't see anything that proves they can't be stars, the odds are certainly against it happening. The chances are better that they will be two more players who looked good in the low minors but ultimately didn't pan out.
To sum up, then, what I think is that Terry Ryan would rather have done nothing at all. Since he thought he had to do something, he did something that was as close to nothing as he could get. I'd rather we hadn't done it. But I'm not particularly upset about it.
In the weeks approaching the trading deadline I am going to take a look at negotiations that Terry Ryan will be taking part in an attempt to make the Twins better for the future. This week, Terry Ryan makes a stop in Vegas.
Next week: Trade talks heat up and Terry Ryan looks for shop credit.
I used a random number generator to pick a season from the past with the idea that I would quickly highlight the Twins history that occurred today in that year. The generator sent me to the year 1993.
On this date in 1993, pitchers and catchers had reported to Ft. Myers but position players were not expected for another four days. However, forty-one year old Dave Winfield, the big off-season acquisition for the Twins, reported to camp. The only two regulars who were not in Ft. Myers by this point were Pedro Munoz (expected tomorrow) and Scott Erickson who was attending a wedding.
Winfield brought a first-basemen's mitt with him to camp despite having only played ten innings in his entire career - all in 1978 - at the position. Tom Kelly told the media that he anticipated that Kent Hrbek would play 120 games at first base in 1993 with his other appearances being at DH while Winfield would play about 120 games at DH with his other games at either first base or right field.* Winfield told reporters that he had not picked up a bat the entire offseason, but worked out often to remain in shape.
*Winfield would play just thirty-two innings at first base during the regular season. Hrbek started 110 games at first base that year with David McCarty, Gene Larkin and Terry Jorgensen each making more appearances at first base than Winfield.
Winfield had driven in the game-winning run in Game 7 of the previous World Series for Toronto, and Kelly expected another strong offensive season from Winfield. When asked if Winfield's performance would decrease because of his age, Kelly said, "If he had a decline last year from the previous year, then you might be able to say that. But he was in a good lineup and we feel we have pretty much the same kind of lineup, where he should be just as productive. Even if he does tail off a little bit, those would still be pretty good numbers."*
*While Winfield would record his 3,000th hit that season, his OPS dropped 100 points, his OPS+ dropped from 137 to 105, and his WAR dropped almost four wins to replacement level.
Besides the addition of Winfield, another hot topic was Tom Kelly's discussion about Kirby Puckett's future. Kelly suggested that he might transition Puckett to right field over the course of the season. In typical Kelly double-speak, he rambled, "I'd always consider it. I'm going to talk to him about it. If he wants to move I might move him. But then I might not. It wouldn't seem right. It just doesn't seem like the Twins if you move him from there. It's like a peanut butter sandwich - you're supposed to have jelly."*
*Kelly did eventually move Puckett to right field over the course of the season, and Puckett would start just three games in center field after 1993. The move occurred over the All-Star Break as Puckett started just three games in centerfield over the next two months. Curiously, he then shifted back to centerfield for his final sixteen starts in September.
The organization prided itself on its focus on simplicity and working hard. Having won at least ninety games in each of the previous two seasons, and a World Series title, the Twins expected to compete in the AL West again. Still, the front office conceded that its success hinged on young pitching.
"The top three [of Scott Erickson, Kevin Tapani, and Jim Deshaies] I think will be fine," VP of Player Personnel Terry Ryan said. "Whether or not the other three guys [Pat Mahomes, Willie Banks, and Mike Trombley] will provide us with solid fourth and fifth starters is the big question. If they give us consistency at that four spot then we're certainly going to be competitive. Any time you throw our offense out there, then we're going to be OK."
The team also planned to realign the left side of its infield as Scott Leius attempted to shift from third base to shortstop while Terry Jorgensen would start at third base.* The Twins also suggested that they were attempted to acquire Dave Hansen from the Dodgers to work into the third base logjam. Discussing the rotation and lineup, Ryan explained, "We have some question marks on the left side of our infield, and we are awfully righthanded, both on the mound and with our bats. But I think we'll show that if you can hit, it doesn't matter whether you bat right or left."
*Leius only played in eight games that season and Pat Meares took over at SS during the year. Jorgensen struggled at third while splitting time with Mike Pagliarulo and Jeff Reboulet.
Weather: 60°F, cloudy
Wind: 16 mph, in from CF
- Highest WPA, hitter: Span .150 (2-4, R, BB) | Highest WPA, pitcher: Mijares .299 (2.0 IP, H, BB)
- Outfield defense - Revere's diving catch and Span's sliding catch
- Lowest WPA, hitter: Tolbert, -.346 (0-5, 1 SO) | Lowest WPA, pitcher: Hoey, -.350 (0.1 IP, H, BB, ER)
- Tolbert: still batting second
- MLB's continued employment of Angel Hernandez and Joe West
BOSTON -- The latest rumblings out of the Twins' clubhouse are something else indeed. General Manager Bill Smith accidentally ran his iPhone through the visitor's clubhouse washing machine in Chicago last week after spilling a Chicago-style hot dog on his pants. Smith immediately put the device in a box of rice, to no avail, and had to reluctantly borrow infielder Matt Tolbert's phone so he could make some calls and find a new catcher. Steve Holm wasn't quite Corky Miller bad in his brief appearance, but Bill Smith eventually figured out he wasn't an answer to any question worth asking. Tolbert reportedly told Smith he doesn't make enough for the Twins' GM to call 411 and ask for the Rangers' front office (more on this in a moment), but could swing a call to AAA Rochester as long as it happened on his plan's nights & weekends minutes.
Red Wings infielder Toby Gardenhire is apparently #3 on Tolbert's speed dial, right behind Voicemail (#1) and former teammate Nick Punto (#2). Smith accordingly placed his call to Gardenhire the Younger, who relayed the request for a catcher to Red Wings manager Tom Nieto. Nieto, himself a former Twin, initially volunteered his own services, but apparently requested a few days to iron the fungoes out of his swing, time that Smith just wasn't willing to waste.
In his first season with the Twins, Nieto briefly served as Tim Laudner's backup and outhit regular backup Sal Butera late in the season (.071/.188/.143 for Nieto vs. .063/.118/.125 for Butera in Sept/Oct) before being inexplicably left off the playoff roster. Nieto actually paced Twins catchers in hitting and on-base percentage that year, posting a .200/.276/.314 line to Laudner's .191/.252/.389 and Sal Butera's .171/.217/.243 mark. Overall, Nieto posted an OPS+ of 17 in his Twins career, which spanned 183 plate appearances between 1987-88. When reached for comment, Nieto said, "I out-hit Sal Butera in 1987, and I believe in the depths of my soul I can out-hit his son in 2011." Drew Butera currently owns a positively Buterian .172/.213/.251 line. "But the Twins value defense behind the plate," Nieto continued, "and I accumulated -0.2 dWAR in my Twins career, so Bill Smith elected to pursue other options."
So, that's why Rene Rivera is now with the Twins. But why Rivera instead of, say, Rangers catcher/first baseman Mike Napoli, who has only 63 at bats (but 6 HR) this season despite a career 119 OPS+ and a .238 ISO? Napoli, only 29, is likely still in his hitting prime, and despite whatever Mike Scioscia - Napoli's former manager - thinks, he appears to be a serviceable catcher. Unfortunately, Smith laundered his iPhone and apparently hasn't yet worked up the nerve to tell Jim Pohlad, Dave St. Peter, or Wade Navratil, the Twins' Senior Director of Technology. Of course, Smith could always look up Rangers GM Jon Daniels' number in his laptop's address book, or drop Daniels an email for that matter, but an unnamed source in the Twins' front office divulged that Smith has forgotten how to turn his laptop on. According to another source in the Twins' front office, former Twins GM Terry Ryan and former Twins manager Tom Kelly have offered to call former Twins GM Andy MacPhail, currently the Orioles' President of Baseball Operations, about the availability of Matt "Mauer with Power" Wieters, but Smith has repeatedly expressed the desire to put his own stamp on the club.
This week's View from the Ballpark:
I know at least
5 6 7 10 Hall of Famers played here. | photo by Flickr user LugoLounge
Remember, no embiggening.