The day after the World Series ends, players around the league whose contracts have expired are allowed to file for free agency. Every year, ESPN and other news outlets make this a big story, breathlessly reporting that Manny and Texeira have filed for free agency! I click the articles half expecting to see a couple of “OMG!!11″ ejaculations amongst the baffling excitement. I mean, isn’t this expected? Did you think Manny and Tex were going to retire? Because I didn’t.
This year the Twins have fewer free agency filers than we have in recent years — instead of Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva, this year we have to deal with Nick Punto, Dennis Reyes, and Eddie Guardado.
So the question becomes: what will the Twins do with each of these players?
One player is extremely simple; Guardado is as good as gone. He was set for a regression after an unsupportably good first half, and boy did he regress hard. He just couldn’t get anyone out once he came to the Twins, and Gardy didn’t seem to trust him at all. Good bye Eddie.
Some sources think we might re-sign Reyes, given that he had an “excellent 2.33 ERA” this season. This, of course, demonstrates one of the major problems with using ERA as a stat for a reliever, especially a lefty specialist. How many times this season did Reyes come in with men on base, give up a walk and a hit (with a wild pitch or two thrown in for good measure), either lose the lead or put the game out of reach by allowing inherited runners to score, then leave the game for another reliever to clean up (putting undue stress on other relievers)? Seriously, what percentage of the time did that happen? 50%? 90%? If Reyes gets, as some seem to expect, a $4M yearly salary, he’s gone. There’s no way the Twins are paying that for someone as unreliable and replaceable as Reyes. (Hey FunBobby, you’re left handed: think you can throw a ball fifty feet and bounce it against the backstop four times in a row, three times a week, for a million dollars? You can be a lefty specialist!)
That leaves Nick Punto. We’ve been pretty hard on Punto over the years, and some of it had good reason. He’s not a starting infielder, and shouldn’t play as much as Gardy likes to let him play. But when our other infielders have been nonexistant/ineffective/injured, Punto has been able to step in and produce at a nearly-average level. He has value as a fill-in, as a talented utility man. Especially if he can hit well enough to post a 100 OPS+, as he did this year.
This year he made $2.4M, and no doubt he’ll be looking for a raise. He may be thinking that he deserves to be paid like a starter. At the same time, the Twins should be looking to find a real starter at SS, and not to pay someone like Punto as if he were. It really depends on what Punto thinks he is (a starter or a utility man) and accordingly what he thinks he should be paid — as well as what the Twins think of Tolbert and whether he’s ready to get over his Punto-like early-career-effort-injuries, which come from trying too hard in situations where you shouldn’t (diving into first base, diving for a foul ball you can’t possibly reach and breaking your collarbone, etc).
My guess is that Tolbert isn’t ready yet, and the Twins know it. I also think we’ll offer Punto a contract, hopefully somewhere in the Mike Lamb range. Like 2 years, $6-7M total. If he demands more than that, it’s just not worth it.
Oh, and we should be doing everything possible to keep him under 300 at bats next season. First step: find a real shortstop and commit to Buscher at third base until someone else comes up throw the system.
Thoughts on the Punto dilemma?1 comment