Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Winter Meetings Roundup (of Sorts)

The winter meetings are, for all intents and purposes, over. I’m sure there are some loitering front office personnel and sportswriters, because, hey, who doesn’t want to spend extra time in Indianapolis? But, essentially the winter meetings have come to a close.

As expected, there was some maneuvering by other teams, but aside from Carl Pavano accepting arbitration, the Boofing, and some Kouz-arosa rumors (see what I did there? I am quite the wordsman), not much happened in Twins land.

(By the way, doesn’t Kouz-arosa kind of sound like the name of a Chinese restaurant? I bet they would have some bitchin’ wontons…but I digress.)

Be that as it may, there are a few names implicit in the Twins actions during the Winter Meetings that I would like to explore in a little more detail.

Boof Bonser

As I stated above by turning Boof’s name into a verb, the Twins cut ties with the burly (ok, hefty) right-hander to make room on the 40 man roster for Pavano and his nose. I met the Boofing with a “meh” and a shrug, but the response from other Twins fans seemed to be much more cryptic.

If had a dollar for every Twins fan Tweet that said some variation of, “shouldn’t have let Bonser leave,” I would have like four dollars.

I am more than willing to acknowledge that Bobby Keppel would have been a better designate-for-assignment candidate, but Boof certainly would have been second on the list. Moreover, with Boof rejecting the Twins contract offer, you can certainly see why the Twins cut ties with Mr. Bonser.

When you consider that the Twins have five bullpen spots essentially locked up (assuming Jesse Crain is tendered a contract, which he should be) there wasn’t really room for Bonser anway.

The following pitchers are essentially locked in for next year (again under the Crain assumption):

Joe Nathan
Matt Guerrier
Jose Mijares
Jesse Crain
Jon Rauch

Add a hopefully healthy Pat Neshek into the mix, and you only have room for at most one more arm. And, that is dependent on if the Twins stick with the misguided twelve-man-staff theory.

Even with seven guys in the bullpen, however, the Twins would probably want a lefty or long man, or better yet, a lefty long man. Bonser, would fit neither of those positions. Boof is obviously not left-handed, and struggled in the long role when he last pitched in 2008.

At this point, the best case scenario for Bonser is a righty setup role, and the Twins have plenty of candidates for that spot already.

Instead of creating a logjam in the bullpen, the Twins got rid of a coming-off-injury pitcher and received a player to be named later or cash in the process. Plus, think how much money the team will save on the postgame spread? (Sorry, I had to.)

Danny Valencia

Valencia’s name has come up a lot lately during the Twins third base search. And, even though every between-the-lines message the Twins organization sends screams “we don’t think Valencia is that special!” some Twins fans are fixated on the young third baseman.

Valencia has shown moderate offensive success in the minors while playing, by all accounts, absolutely awful defense. After putting up a very good .336/.402/.518 line in high A ball, Valencia has been somewhere between decent and deceptively bad in AA and AAA.

Between Valencia’s modest Minor League numbers, and the Twins obvious lack of Valencia commitment, I just don’t understand why Twins fans are so worked up. Honestly, I want someone to explain the allure.

If the Twins truly believed Valencia was an option next year, they would have called him up last September. Oh, but wait,“he isn’t ready.”

Even more telling is the Twins interest in the relatively young Kevin Kouzmanoff, and apparent willingness to give Mark DeRosa a two, or more, year contract. An obvious sign that the organization has no interest in waiting around for a mediocre prospect.

Simply put, the Twins don't seem too keen on waiting for Valencia's phantom potential, so why are all the fans?

Chip Hale

Yes, I am aware Chip Hale almost certainly wasn’t mentioned as target for the Twins this offseason. (His name may have come up at some point during the week, though, he is the Diamondbacks third base coach after all.)

My point here, however, is that one of the Twins most pressing needs lies outside the starting lineup. Also, I wanted to add a third player to this list because two seemed awkward.

So, as you can see, I am using Hale as symbol for what the Twins need. (I chose Hale because I defy you to name me a more randomly awesome bench player in Twins history. I dare you –- Al Newman, Gene Larkin, and Randy Bush are too easy.)

So far the Twins have been linked, albeit tenuously, to Robb Quinlan. For now, being tenuously linked to anyone is fine, especially if that anyone is the exceptionally mediocre Quinlan. As the offseason progresses, however, and more players begin finding homes, the Twins should sniff around for low-cost, proven, veterans for their bench.

There are always plenty of Chip Hale’s available late in the offseason, and the Twins would be wise to wrap one or two up. If, for no other reason, than to keep Danny Valencia off the roster.

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