Friday, December 16, 2011

Minnesota Twins Off Season Moves

Three long time Minnesota Twins have or are about to depart the Twins via free agency. Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer have signed with Texas and Colorado respectively, and indications are Jason Kubel is leaving as well.

From 2004 – 2009 Joe Nathan was the second best reliever in all of baseball. He made 4 All-Star teams in those six years while compiled a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 21.2 which is a very impressive total for a reliever.

Through his time was the Twins Nathan was a class guy, and importantly to me as an autograph collector, he always answered fan mail, and has a beautiful signature.

However 2010 and 2011 were not kind to Nathan mostly due to injury. At 36 Nathan probably does not have many playing years left, so it is understandable that he was looking to sign with a team that has a good chance to win it all. Texas has better chance of getting to a World Series than the Twins, so Texas is where he went.

With the Twins signing of Josh Willingham to play right field, Michael Cuddyer’s 11 year stint with the Twins came to an end. Cuddyer will be remembered mostly for his amazingly dignity and numerous charitable efforts. Like Harmon Killebrew before him, Cuddyer treated fans with great respect, and was loved by many for doing so.

Cuddyer also answered his fan mail, and had one of the most readable autographs in the game. I like Michael Cuddyer, but he really only had 2 great years (2006 & 2009). In 11 years with the Twins Cuddyer hit 141 home runs, posted an OPS + of 111, and had a WAR of 11.1. In the last 6 seasons Willingham has hit 131 home runs, posted an OPS + of 121 and had a WAR of 12.6.

Willingham’s numbers have been superior. Both men are 32, but Willingham was willing to settle for a 3 year $21 million dollar contract while Cuddyer signed with Colorado for 3 years and $31 million. Cuddyer is a great guy, but Willingham gives the Twins more production for less money.

I have a photo of Michael Cuddyer dumping a bucket of Gatorade over Jason Kubel after Kubel had hit a home run to win an important game back in 2006. At Twinsfest 2008 I had Jason Kubel sign the photo. Cuddyer had already signed it, and after Kubel signed it he would not give it back to back to me. Instead he took a minute to look it over which normally players don’t do. I told when the picture was from. The normally reserve Kubel look up at me with a big grin and said “Oh yeah, I know when it’s from,” then he gave out a satisfied chuckle. It was great to see a player get a chance to relive a good memory from something I had.

Unfortunately Jason Kubel’s time with the Twins is likely up. Kubel had an up and down career with the Twins. His best year was 2009. Overall he hit 104 home runs, posted an OPS + of 112, and a WAR of 6.4. Kubel seemed to hit a lot of big home runs for the Twins, but with $96 million of the Twins supposed $100 projected payroll already committed, Kubel is likely to sign elsewhere for some pretty good cash.

Ryan Doumit has been signed to replace Kubel at DH. Doumit also offers protection at catcher, 1st base, and right field all positions he has played before. Doumit can hit, but his defense is ordinary. Still with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau’s health still in question, the Twins need Doumit’s versatility.

Jamey Carroll has also been signed by the Twins. Carroll is slotted to take over at shortstop. 2011 was a disastrous year at short for the Twins. Carroll steady defense and solid hitting in the #2 spot in the batting order will be welcomed, though he 37 and his performance could decline quickly.

I will miss Nathan, Cuddyer, and Kubel. Good guys who played hard for the Twins. I am pleased with the signing of Willingham, Doumit, and Carroll. I think they will help. I am also intrigued by the signing of Sean Burroughs to a minor league contract. In the early 00’s Burroughs was a highly rated 3rd base prospect who had stardom written all over him. Unfortunately substance abuse problems ended his playing days and nearly destroyed him. He is making a comeback, and played briefly with Arizona last year, after putting up some impressive numbers with their top minor league team. Could Burroughs be a diamond in the rough? I guess we will find out.

In fact we will find out if the moves to let Nathan, Cuddyer, and Kubel go and bring in Willingham, Doumit, and Carroll will work out best for the Twins. All Twins fans including me really hope they do.