Friday, September 02, 2011

Making the Twins' plan work

This is Joe Benson. He is part of one of the two assumptions this plan takes. The other is that the Twins stay healthy next year. Joe Benson is a prospect in the Twins system who, like other Twins prospects, is known for his glove, a little bit for a his speed, and maybe a little bit for his bat. Still, the assumption here is that his glove is going to be above average. He is hitting .284 with 16 home runs in AA ball, so there is hope that he could be an offensive asset, but really, the Twins are high on Ben Revere, and he can't hit at all.
Ah yes, Revere. The outfield. This is the most vital component of the plan to make the Twins work next year. What the Twins need to do, obviously, is improve the pitching staff, starting with the rotation. To do so, I propose this: Let Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer (and Joe Nathan, and Matt Capps) go. Use this money on pitchers and a designated hitting right handed bat.
Now, with an outfield potentially featuring Revere, Span and Benson, the Twins suddenly have one of the better defensive outfields in the game. This means, of course, that the team should then go after flyball pitchers, especially ones who may be coming off of years where their stats don't reflect their true skill. The flyballiest of flyball pitchers tend to keep their jobs by being strikeout pitchers as well, which tends to increase their salary, so I looked further down the line for some players that might work. First, as a free agent signing, I propose the Twins sign the Cubs' Ryan Dempster.His ERA is 4.74 this year, however his peripheral stats lend him to a FIP of 3.85 and an xFIP of 3.50 (fielding independent and park related fielding independent ERA projections, based on other stats). With a year with the proposed outfield, he gets immediately better.
That's part of the equation. The next is to execute a trade. The trade I propose involves the Florida Marlins and the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco. There are two years left on Nolasco's contract, which is still of the rookie variety. He has improved almost every year, though he had a break out 2008, regressing in 2009 a bit. The Marlins being the Marlins, would certainly like to unload Nolasco before he gets too expensive, and would surely enjoy getting something back. How about some of the detritus from the rotation we are rebuilding, I don't really care who.
Well, I do a little bit. If we want a cost controlled, fly ball staff, we will want to keep Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker in the rotation. Of the remaining rotation prospects, I guess Brian Duensing is the most palatable, because he is the best flyball guy. His season hasn't been quite as bad as his numbers suggest either. Perfect as a 4th or 5th starter in this rotation. Carl Pavano can and should be moved for almost any asking price, though help in the bullpen would be most appreciated, and a year of Pavano should bring some sort of return. Nick Blacburn is virtually untradeable do to his his contract and lack of skill. That leaves... Liriano. Perfect! The Marlins, I think, would love this trade: Francisco Liriano/Matt Tolbert for Nolasco/Steve Cishek. Liriano would only have one year left on his deal, which means that he would be trade bait at the deadline, should he turn it around and become Liriano of old. More prospects for the team to build with. If not, he is off the payroll next year, no worries! Matt Tolbert, believe it or not, actually would be better than any of the utility players the Marlins have in the system right now. Ozzie Martinez and Alfredo Amezaga are each batting below .150. Horrible. As for Cishek, he is a young, first year reliever who has done fairly well for himself. Actually, the Marlins actually have a pretty good bullpen. There is a lot of depth there to work with.
All right! The rotation is set! Nolasco is the ace, Baker, Dempster, Slowey and Duensing. The bullpen is better, with Cishek and whomever comes over in a Pavano salary dump. The offense, though, is still pretty bad. We would need Mauer and Morneau to be healthy. We would also need to go after a designated hitting type. But who? How about Josh Willingham? The right hander is a free agent this year and has had 23 home runs with Oakland. While his batting average is down, you could certainly make a case for that having a lot to do with his time in the Coliseum. He has been an injury concern in the past, but the goal here is to use him as a designated hitter. Instant right handed offense!
I don't foresee a lot of movement in the infield, excepting Tolbert. The idea here is that Valencia is young, Nishioka is unmovable, a healthy Morneau is a vital component to next season's success and frankly, the way Alexi Casilla has come around, you aren't going to get much better at second, no matter what you do. Still, Tolbert is now gone, and the Twins can use a little bit more Luke Hughes, which I think would eventually be very beneficial to the offensive prospects of the team, especially if he can spell pretty much anyone in the infield.
The rotation is more fly ball than ground ball now, so the problems with the defense are somewhat nullified. Still, the Twins, using this plan, have saved themselves some money, and defensive infield (and catching, please) depth shouldn't be too hard to acquire.
So, what does everyone think? Good ideas? Especially the part about trading Tolbert, right?
We're all counting on you, Joe Benson.

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