Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Minnesota Twins and Baseball Free Agency

Baseball free agency is upon us once again, and millions of baseball fans will clamor for their team to sign a big name player who will help them win next season.

The Twins coming off their worst season in years are looking for a starting shortstop, a backup catcher who can hit, a starting pitcher or two, and plenty of help in the in bullpen. However, the Twins history says they won’t be finding any big name player on the free agent market.

In fact the Twins history shows they will leave most of their free agent go to other teams, and most of those players will achieve little with their new clubs.

After the 1976 season baseball had its first true off-season of free agency. Bill Campbell was the Twins first free agent. Campbell had been the best reliever in the American League for the Twins in 1976 going 17-5 with an ERA of 3.01 and 20 saves.

Campbell signed a 5 year $1 million dollar deal with Boston. This was consider outrageous money (oh, how things have changed since then), and much was expected of Campbell. He delivered in 1977 with a very good season then followed that up with a bunch of subpar years.

Outfielder Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock had brilliant years for the Twins in 1977, and entered free agency as hot commodities. Hisle signed a 6 year $3.15 million contract with Milwaukee while Bostock signed a multi-million dollar deal with the Angels. Twins fans were outraged that Twins had let them go. When starting pitcher Dave Goltz left after the 1979 season to sign with the Dodgers, Twins fans started giving up hope.

However, Hisle, Bostock, and Goltz never lived up to the amount of money they were given. Hisle had a brilliant 1978 for Milwaukee then proceeded to get hurt and never play more then 27 game in a season for the next 4 years. Bostock was having a good 1978 when he was tragically murdered late in the season. Goltz never even came close to having even an average season with the Dodgers, and they released him before the end of his contract.

Gary Gaetti, Greg Gagne, Jack Morris, Jeff Reardon, Dan Gladden, Shane Mack, Chili Davis, Eric Milton, David Ortiz, Eddie Guardado, LaTroy Hawkins, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, Matt Guerrier, and Jesse Crain have all left the Twins as free agents. Some had success, some failure, some a little of both. Were any really worth retaining? You could argue Hunter, Gagne, and Ortiz were, but it is not a high percentage of the number of free agents who have left the Twins.

The Twins will likely loose 4 more free agents this off-season. Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, Joe Kubel, and Matt Capps are free agents. I expect 3 if not all 4 to leave. Cuddyer and Kubel have spent their entire careers with the Twins while Nathan has spent most of his productive years with the Twins, but money talks and all 3 could quickly be out of the Twins price range.

I was trying to think who the Twins biggest free agent signing was. Minnesota natives Jack Morris, Dave Winfield, Terry Stienbach, and Paul Molitor all signed with Twins as free agents, but took less money to do so. Chili Davis signed a 2 year $4.5 million dollar contract in 1991 that was a fairly large investment at the time. However, since then the Twins have signed few free agents. Players such as Orlando Hudson, Rondell White, Livan Hernandez, and Jim Thome took less the below market contracts mainly because not many teams were interested in them.

There is lots of talk of the Twins signing shortstop Clint Barmes and catcher Ryan Doumit or catcher Rod Barajas not to mention a bunch of pitchers of varying talent and price range. Will the Twins invest in any of them? One cannot be sure, but their history says not unless they can get them at below market cost. Then again, when you loss 99 games as the Twins did this year, they may make an exception.