Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

A Third Base Target and “Expected” Twins Moves

Lost in all the excitement about having made an offer to Casey Blake, and the pipe dream of stealing JJ Hardy from the Brewers, is the fact that there’s another option at third base staring us in the face.

Russell Branyan played third (kind of) for the Brewers last season until an oblique injury ended his season, but while he was on the field he was able to hit. And by “hit,” I mean .250/.342/.583 … for a 138 OPS+. That’s pretty good hitting. He had 12 HR in just 132 AB (in 50 games).

Sure, he’s left handed. Sure, he’s 32. Sure, he can’t play defense. Sure, he was hurt last year and we don’t actually know what we’d get from him. But realistically, these are all things that should make him one other important thing: cheap. Other teams may be shying away from him for these reasons — and the fact that we very well may be able to snag him on a one or two year deal should mean we should be sniffing around for that deal.

Bear in mind that this isn’t even a rumor. I didn’t hear this anywhere. But it would sure be nice if this is the kind of thing the Twins were considering. I have the feeling Branyan would be a better investment than Mike Lamb, at the very least.

Oh, and another thing. Baseball Prospectus went through the AL Central to see what each team should do in the offseason, and they have a few ideas about the Twins.

  • We’re not scoring 829 runs again — we only earned 764 “equivalent runs,” which I believe are calculated by weighting home runs highly because runs count for more if the ball travels over the fence. That’s why the White Sox scored more runs than the Twins, right? Right?
  • Brendan Harris improved greatly and was better than we thought — but we should replace him anyway.
  • Bill Smith has demonstrated that he doesn’t make big deals in the offseason, so he’ll spend more time playing craps than talking to other GMs this offseason. I don’t know what about his track record indicates that he doesn’t make deals, but thus far in his tenure he’s made two blockbuster deals per offseason. And earned the nickname “Wild Bill” from the only source that matters. (Us.)
  • We’re an 80-85 win team, not an 85-90 win team, and that we shouldn’t make any moves to improve.
  • It would be wise to package Jason Kubel and one of our established starts for a corner outfielder. (Really? The team that wants to unload a corner outfielder should instead acquire one by getting rid of the one guy on the team who needs more playing time? I … disagree.)
Usually Baseball Prospectus is pretty good about analysis, but this reads like it was written by a White Sox fan. Really Nate Silver? I think you’ve spent too much time on the South Side. I don’t know what the Twins will do this offseason, but I don’t think they’d be wise to heed your advice.
And we’d better not trade Jason Kubel. The only move we should make with Kubel is to write his name in at DH in permanent ink and then lock Gardy in his office where he can’t change the lineup.

18 comments

18 Comments so far

  1. FunBobby November 17th, 2008 8:17 pm

    Branyan had crossed my mind, and I’m totally willing to make a deal (since that really matters) if it is similar to the Mike Lamb deal. Granted he turned out to be terrible, but it was only six mil over two years. I think Branyan will be much more productive, and even if he is good for one season, I would consider that a good move. I would prefer a one year deal, but I get the feeling that nobody gets those anymore. His defense is suspect, so that would make our SS defense that much more important. I don’t like the idea of having another lefty, what are his splits like? But if the guy can hit, he can hit, who cares what side of the plate he stands on.

    Most of those bullets from Silver are pretty terrible. I think he spent too much time on that political website that updated us on how much Obama was going to win by. Thanks, Nate. Why don’t you tell us more things we already know. Will he use advanced statistical measures to tell us that the sun will rise tomorrow?

    Anyway, isn’t another outfielder the LAST thing we need? Yes, if we trade an outfielder we will need one, so lets not trade him. That is like me going to the fridge and saying “I will need more milk after I pour this full gallon down the drain” How about we just keep the milk…I mean outfielder.

    Wild Bill made some VERY aggressive moves last offseason, his first as a GM. That takes balls considering Terry Ryan never made moves and was quite successful. So everyone assumes if you do something different than Terry Ryan it will turn out poorly. False. Bill has proved he is willingly to trade away some of our depth (starting pitching) to fill a hole.

    My biggest fear of this offseason is that if (or when) we trade one of our starting pitchers, we will sign some garbage starter off the scrap heap to replace him. Livan is available again.

  2. sirsean November 17th, 2008 9:17 pm

    Keep the milk! That has campaign slogan written all over it.

    Nate Silver’s contribution to the media’s election hype campaign was invaluable — this is America. In America, we want to spend as much time as possible breathlessly predicting what we think will happen, and then once it does (or doesn’t) happen we want to move on to the next thing without talking or thinking about the things that are actually currently happening. So predicting the winner of the election is more valuable than talking about the winner of the election — or explaining why millionaires who wasted billions of dollars are getting a bailout while I’m here typing on a non-Apple computer and don’t have a car. Where’s my bailout?! Explain that, Nate Silver. In future tense, the only tense with any value.

    More importantly, Branyan’s splits are not great.

    In 2008, he was 0/14 with 8 strikeouts against lefties. In his career, he has a 78 OPS+ against lefties and a 103 OPS+ against righties. So he’s not an everyday starter, and we’d still have to see a lot of Harris and Punto/Tolbert if we signed him. I think delving deeper into Branyan, it looks like it might not be a great idea.

  3. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 7:51 am

    So it looks like Branyan should be at best a second or third teir option at third. The more and more I think about it, we might be better off just platooning Buscher and Harris, and spend our time and money going after a shortstop. The way I figure it, we have Valencia and Hughes in the minors, but nothing even resembling a Major League shortstop. Plus, Harris finished the season strong against lefties, and Buscher looked solid all season. They can’t be that much of a downgrade defensively over Blake. Maybe if they grow beards…..

  4. sirsean November 18th, 2008 8:40 am

    I fully support sticking with Buscher/Harris at third this year; I still think Buscher is a more-than-adequate stopgap until Hughes and/or Valencia is ready.

    And Rob Neyer was right about Blake: “If the Twins weren’t interested in him when he was young and cheap, why are they now interested in him when he’s old and expensive?”

  5. sirsean November 18th, 2008 8:41 am

    And yes, Buscher and Harris should grow beards. Maybe then Gardy would think they’re established veterans and let them play.

  6. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 9:08 am

    That is a nice way to sum up Casey Blake. I can’t see him being that much better than Buscher/Harris. This team has several large holes to fill, so if we can fill one of them with a cheap in-house option we should. Use our money to look for a shortstop who isn’t Nick Punto, and some relievers who aren’t Jesse Crain or Brian Bass

  7. sirsean November 18th, 2008 9:15 am

    Actually the team doesn’t have THAT many holes. We need to upgrade the left side of the infield and shore up the bullpen; we have four starters in the outfield, MVP candidates at C and 1B, a solid 2B, and five or six (or seven or eight, if you want to be optimistic) talented young starters in the rotation. Oh, and while we have a DH, we need to let him actually play.

    And we’re about $25M under-budget. (Want to get crazy? Trade Cuddyer or Delmon and a starter for a guy like Hardy, and sign Manny. Instant offense, and we’re still on-budget. For the record, I do not want to get that crazy.)

    There are a lot of teams that would love to trade holes with the Twins. And these issues seem pretty addressable, as long as Wild Bill is still willing to take risks.

  8. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 11:48 am

    I only consider them big holes because they will be difficult for the twins to fill. They will have to fill at least some of them via free agency, and the twins are really bad at that. If they stick to their guns and use their great farm system to fill holes, either by playing our young guys or trading some of them for a talented player, we should be ok. but if we decide to sign the oldest, cheapest, most far removed from any level of success free agent to fill them, we are screwed.

  9. sirsean November 18th, 2008 11:58 am

    No argument there — even though the holes aren’t that big, if we fill them crappily it’ll still hurt us pretty badly.

    Fortunately, this is still the part of the year when we get to hope the team makes wise decisions, rather than having to look back on baffling moves (example: every time the Twins have signed a free agent … seriously, every time).

  10. Schulte November 18th, 2008 12:45 pm

    Would you take shot with Joe Crede? As that post suggested, offer a one with a option for a second? Granted, his health is the concern and the hope is regaining his old form…

  11. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 1:19 pm

    I’m pretty sure he is a Boras guy, so a) I don’t want to deal with him, and b) I can’t imagine any player Boras reps will get less than 3 years.

  12. sirsean November 18th, 2008 1:22 pm

    Boras might do it if it’s a high salary and either an opt-out or a player option (rather than team option). But I agree that we should avoid Boras clients as a rule.

    Player options and opt-out clauses. “If I’m playing well you have to pay me more or I’ll go elsewhere, but if I’m not playing well or am injured you still have to pay me.” Why do teams agree to stuff like this?

  13. Schulte November 18th, 2008 2:06 pm

    If we signed Crede to a one year deal that was identical to his salary in 2008 it would be cheaper than Blake by a $1,000,000 (plus he’s 5 years younger).

    Casey Blake – $6,100,000 Joe Crede – $5,100,000

    Thanks baseballsalaries.usatoday.com.

    Still want to avoid him?

  14. sirsean November 18th, 2008 2:21 pm

    Crede’s $5.1M was in his third and final year of arbitration, following a 2007 in which he was injured and played in only 47 games. Rest assured that it is Boras’ plan to convince teams that he is now fully healthy and will try to get him a good long deal in his first free agent contract.

    Also, his numbers aren’t all that great. Did you know that his career OPS+ is just 93? And that his career high is 113, in 53 games in 2002, his rookie season. Since then, he’s only broken a 100 OPS+ once — in 2006.

    For comparison, Nick Punto’s 2008 OPS+ was 99. (Nick Punto isn’t better than Joe Crede — I’m just pointing out that Crede isn’t some amazing player and he’s been too hurt to play for the last two season.)

    If Crede wants more than one year guaranteed, we simply have to stand up from the table.

    And always expect players to get a big raise in their first contract post-arbitration. As long as they can waddle out onto a baseball field, they’ve earned a big raise. Agents have proven this over the last decade or so.

  15. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 3:17 pm

    Of course I don’t want to avoid Crede if he is willing to accept a 1 year deal identical to his 2008 salary. However, he will not sign such a deal. Boars will be looking to get him a multi-year deal worth big bucks. If nobody bites, Boras will do the standard threats of going to play in Japan or some crap. Eventually he will be forced to sign a deal below what he wants, and if the twins are there to swoop in, then we’ll talk. The same thing happened to Kyle Lohse, which makes me think we are turning a corner and teams just flat out aren’t willing to throw tons of dollars and/or years at a player just because. GMs seem more willing to “stand up from the table” and let the FA go elsewhere, instead of taking a big gamble. I like that attitude.

  16. sirsean November 18th, 2008 3:23 pm

    I also like that attitude. And I hope the trend continues.

    Too often GMs are forced to pay a big dollar, long term salary because the agent convinces them that that’s what the player is “worth,” as if the Yankees are going so sign every single player. Agents convince arbiters that a player’s fair free market value is what the Yankees would pay — thus, players’ salaries are bloated in their arbitration years.

    This isn’t a free market system, and as such we haven’t found an equilibrium yet. But if GMs start to kick agents out and refuse to pay these bloated prices, we’re getting closer. Once teams start to overvalue their homegrown talent at the expense of free agents (we’re on our way there), then the time will be ripe for some team to swoop in and make a killing by converting overrated prospects into established players. We’re not close to that yet, but I’d say it happens within the next few years if agents and players don’t wise up to the fact that they’re not getting a 20% raise every year regardless of age, performance, and competition.

    Agents are calling it “collusion,” but in reality it’s just a case of “GMs finally not being stupid.”

  17. FunBobby November 18th, 2008 3:34 pm

    Agents and the MLBPA tried to call collusion on the owners for not signing Barry Bonds. He is a player nobody wants, can’t produce, is possibly on steroids, and might be hauled away to federal prison at any time.

  18. sirsean November 18th, 2008 3:38 pm

    I wouldn’t say it’s a guarantee that he can’t produce, but it’s certainly a possibility.

    But I really don’t think there was any kind of collusion involved. Just because teams didn’t want to overpay for a giant question mark and the worst clubhouse presence and negative media attention doesn’t mean there’s collusion. It just means every team was acting in their own self interest.

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