Thome Slugging in Target Field?

January 22, 2010

Jim Thome has been the biggest Twin killer of them all over the past decade (Keith Allison/Flickr).

I’ve seen numerous reports this afternoon popping up around the Internet that the Minnesota Twins may be close to signing the veteran slugger Jim Thome.

Not only would this type of a signing be uncharacteristic of the normally frugal Twins, but it would also make a very left handed heavy lineup even heavier. The Twins currently have an abundance of lefties including Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Justin Kubel in their starting lineup.

It’s unclear whether Thome would slide into their DH role (which would surely bump Delmon Young to the bench) or if he would simply play a major role off their bench.

The Twins have most likely jumped in on Thome due to the declining dollar amounts in the free agent market and possibly the fact that Thome has been a Twin killer over the years. In only 662 career at-bats against the Twins, Thome has posted a .311/.410/.628 line with 57 HR and 142 RBI. Now that’s a vicious thrashing he’s given them over the years.

The bottom line is as a lifetime die hard Twins fan, a Jim Thome signing would shock me only to follow that up with a big smile.


Mauer and Halladay Set Deadlines

December 1, 2009

Mauer should receive his payday any day now (Keith Allison/Flickr).

It appears as if the two biggest names that have been swirling this winter, AL MVP Joe Mauer and ace pitcher Roy Halladay, have set deadlines for their teams to get something done.

The reigning American League MVP has laid down a deadline of opening day for the Twins to resign their franchise player according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. If the Twins don’t by then, Mauer will enter free agency following the season in which the Twins will have absolutely no chance to match dollars with the Yankees and Red Sox. According to reports the Twins do plan on having the issue resolved by Christmas which would make many Twins fans (including myself) sleep better at night.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Blue Jays only have until the start of spring training to trade their lanky righthander. Following that he will veto any trade attempt (a powerful clause in his contract) in order to avoid distractions during the season. If the Jays can’t get the trade done all they will get is a compensatory draft pick while one of the best pitchers in baseball walks right out the door. They need to get something done ASAP.

I agree that it is extremely important for the players to set deadlines so that it doesn’t carry over into the season. Both sides have plenty of time to make something happen and I expect to see both stories wrapped up in plenty of time for pitchers and catchers to report.

[Update @ 8:25 AM: Halladay’s friend and former teammate AJ Burnett has spoken out about his desire to see the ace land with the Yankees and pitch alongside him once more. This would give the Yankees and incredibly strong top half of the rotation most likely making them the strong favorites to win the AL East again in 2010.]


ESPN Picks AL MVP

November 22, 2009

Joe MVP (Keith Allison/Flickr)

ESPN News: In an almost unanimous decision, the baseball analysts over at ESPN have chosen Joe Mauer as the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player. 20 of the 22 voters picked Mauer as the man they believe should win the award when it is announced tomorrow at 2PM EST.

Diamond Cutter Spin: I couldn’t agree more with the choice of Joe Mauer for MVP. As someone who watches the Twins all season long, I can’t tell you enough how much he has improved at the plate (if that was possible) with his addition of power and just an awe inspiring presence at the plate. But the fact that two voters chose someone other than him makes me scratch my head.

Yes, I’ll admit Mark Teixeira had a good season. But not as good as Mauer. Then there is the idea of Derek Jeter winning it which I believe to be completely out of the question. It seems year after year we hear the discussion of Jeter being an AL MVP candidate and I can’t find any logical justification. I know he’s a solid player and a great hitter but I don’t believe it’s worthy of being crowned with the league’s most prestigious award.

Mauer was the best hitter in the AL this year and if you removed him from the Twins they would have had zero chance to win the division. That’s more than you can say about either of the other two.


Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: Joe Mauer

November 21, 2009

Joe Mauer has become an elite hitter (Photo: Keith Allison Photography)

Name: Joe Mauer
Number: 7
Position: Catcher
Born: 4/19/1983
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Height: 6’5″
Weight: 225
Debut: 4/5/2004

Scouting Report: Joe Mauer has evolved into arguably the best hitter in baseball which is quite a statement. Mauer has always been a line drive hitter who has finally developed his power that so many scouts thought he would eventually develop. He has incredible hand-eye coordination with very fast wrists. This in combination with his understanding of the strike zone and recognition of pitches very quickly after their release make him a very dangerous two strike hitter. Mauer stays inside the ball well and drives the ball extremely well to left and left center. Not only has he developed power but he has miraculously done so without sacraficing average or plate discipline. One of the toughest outs in baseball for a pitcher to record.

While everyone knows Mauer is an offensive dynamo, what many forget is what a great receiver he is behind the plate. Mauer has won back-to-back Gold Gloves and is a top notch catcher. He moves with ease behind the plate from side-to-side and blocks balls in the dirt very well especially for someone as tall as he is (6-foot-5). Mauer also has a solid arm which helps keep runners honest and takes pressure off his pitchers ont he mound. He is a very intelligent player who calls a solid game and handles his staff very well.

All in all Joe Mauer has not only become the best player in baseball at his position, but one of the best overall players in the game today. The future is very bright for this young Minnesota native.


News and Notes: “Mannything Else in the News?”

March 7, 2009
Baker has developed into a true ace for the Twins (San Diego Shooter/Flickr).

Baker has developed into a true ace for the Twins (San Diego Shooter/Flickr).

We haven’t had too much in the way of updates around here lately as I’ve been working on some big projects as well as preparing for The Diamond Cutter‘s big move to their new home on the Bloguin network. More on this coming soon. But for now, on to the news!

• I’m not sure if you heard or not, but apparently Manny Ramirez signed with the Dodgers. Strange, I wasn’t aware he was a free agent. Go figure.

• The Twins closed the deal on a four year, $15.25 million deal with young stud pitcher Scott Baker. Not only is this great that they have locked him in for four years, but they did it relatively cheap. Baker was 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA last season with the Twins as he assumed the role of ace when the Twins needed one most. Look for more big things heading into 2009.

• Fragile shortstop Bobby Crosby has requested the A’s trade him since the signing of Orlando Cabrera. Apparently he wants to be traded to a club that needs a starting shortstop. My question is what team would want to invest in Crosby who a.) can’t stay healthy and b.) when he is healthy has put up horrible numbers? He has a career line of .239/.306/.380 and finally was able to play more than 100 games last season for the first time in four years. Can you imagine trying to sell that to your fan base? I just don’t know of a team that would sabotage themselves enough to trade for Crosby. Well except for the Pirates.

• I’m happy to see the Baltimore Orioles and Brian Roberts are working with Adam Jones on his base stealing abilities. I really see Jones as a huge breakout star this season as I think he’s right on the cusp of getting it. I see a .290/.360/.490 line with 20 homers, 80 RBI and 20 stolen bases. While those aren’t superstar numbers, I think it is a giant steps towards better things for Jones as well as the future of the Orioles.

Other than the WBC (which frankly bores me) and A-Rod’s injury (which bores me more and couldn’t happen to a better guy or team) that’s about all the news going on right now. This week we will begin the divisional previews as we grow closer and closer to the start of the 2009 season!

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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2009 Preview: Baseball’s Top Bullpens

February 21, 2009
Where do the Twins and baseballs best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Where do the Twins and baseball's best closer rank? (gamergirl27/Flickr)

Often the most overlooked part of a team’s success is also often the most valuable. In this case, it’s usually the bullpen.

The bullpen isn’t as sexy as a powerful or fast lineup and it’s not as glamorous as a dominating rotation. But in this day in age where starting pitchers have become coddled and pitch fewer innings each game, bullpens have had to get 9-12 outs per game now and having it loaded with reliable arms is more important than ever.

With that being said, I figured the best way to start our 2009 Preview series (one of this site’s most popular series) is to take a look at the top five bullpens in all of baseball.

[5] Chicago Cubs
With the Cubs not bringing back their closer Kerry Wood, the spot has been seemingly opened up for hard throwing right hander, Carlos Marmol. But the winter addition of Florida Marlins closer Kevin Gregg has added some competition for the ninth inning gig. These two will battle this spring, one with power on his side and the other with experience, with the winner getting the nod from skipper Lou Pinella. Don’t be surprised if Gregg wins this job with Pinella’s track record favoring veterans. Also make sure to keep an eye on the youngster Jeff Samardzija this season as he could be the closer in the making.
Closer: Kevin Gregg (R)/Carlos Marmol (R)
Set-up: Carlos Marmol (R)/Kevin Gregg (R)
Impact Arm: Jeff Samardzija (R)
The Rest: Aaron Heilman (R), Luis Vizcaino (R), Neal Cotts (L), Chad Gaudin (R)

[4] Philadelphia Phillies
It’s hard not to put these guys in the top five considering they had one of the best set-up men in baseball (Ryan Madson) and a closer who was perfect right up until the final pitch of the World Series (Brad Lidge) last season. Lidge seems to have gotten over the Pujols shot heard round the world that seemingly crushed his confidence back in the 2005 NLCS and was able to become the most reliable closer in the game. The Phillies had inklings of making Madson a starter until he became an indispensable 8th inning guy. The Phillies pulled in the number four spot even without the cheater JC Romero who won’t be back until mid season due to his suspension.
Closer: Brad Lidge (R)
Set-up: Ryan Madson (R)
Impact Arm: JC Romero (L) (if he’s still good without the juice)
The Rest: Chad Durbin (R), Scott Eyre (L), Clay Condrey (R), Adam Eaton (R)

[3] New York Mets
I haven’t had too many kind words for the choke artists over the years, but I will say they have put together a pretty good bullpen. Going out and getting the best closer available in Francisco Rodriguez was something they had to do with Billy Wagner being out for a long, long time. Then they went out and acquired another solid closer in JJ Putz to be their set-up man. Pretty good start. I do however have a bad feeling about Rodriguez. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just have the feeling Rodriguez is on the verge of completely burning out. His strikeout total took a big drop last and I just don’t know how much longer he has as an elite closer. His 62 saves last season was miraculous but I see troubles possibly late this season.
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (R)
Set-up: JJ Putz (R)
Impact Arm: JJ Putz (R)
The Rest: Pedro Feliciano (L), Sean Green (R), Bobby Parnell (R), Duaner Sanchez (R)

[2] Minnesota Twins
Those on the outside looking in may not be very impressed with the Twins’ bullpen. Granted they don’t have the big arms they once had (Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek, etc), they do have some good young arms that can hold their own. They have Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain ready to take the 7th and 8th innings as well as newly added Luis Ayala available to get hitters out. But the impact arm may be left handed rookie Jose Mijares who had a spectacular September call up last season posting a 0.87 ERA and 0.29 WHIP in 10 games and holding hitters to a .088 batting average. Oh and there’s always that Nathan guy who happens to be the best closer in baseball.
Closer: Joe Nathan (R)
Set-up: Jesse Crain (R)
Impact Arm: Jose Mijares (L)
The Rest: Matt Guerrier (R), Craig Breslow (L), Luis Ayala (R), Phil Humber (R)

[1] Boston Red Sox
We all know the intensity of Jonathan Papelbon and how lights out he has been. But it’s the rest of the group that can make or break them. The addition of Takashi Saito was huge as he gives the Sox a right handed set-up guy. This is especially important after Francona backed off using Hideki Okajima in close and late games down the stretch last season after a rough first half. Of course the wild card in all of this is the man who would be starting for most other teams in Justin Masterson if not for the Red Sox 19 veteran starting pitchers they have to choose between. If Okajima can bounce back, look out.
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon (R)
Set-up: Takashi Saito (R)
Impact Arm: Justin Masterson (R)
The Rest: Hideki Okajima (L), Manny Delcarmen (R), Javier Lopez (R), Ramon Ramirez (R)

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
diamondcutter@columnist.com

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News and Notes: “Stocking Signings”

December 27, 2008
The Big Unit moves home to San Fran (SD Dirk/flickr).

The Big Unit moves home to San Fran (SD Dirk/flickr).

After a short break to celebrate the holiday with my family, I figured we’d jump back into things covering some recent signings and other miscellaneous happenings around Major and Minor League Baseball. Look for the top 25 list to continue tomorrow.

• Future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson will attempt to gain his elusive 300th victory back near his home with the San Francisco Giants as he signs a one-year deal for $8 million the day after Christmas. This is a great signing for the Giants who I have been very critical about in the past for horrible signings. This adds a third former Cy Young winner to be added along with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito (even though he hasn’t looked anything like one since winning it). Not only will Johnson bring the attention to his 300th victory, the Giants also get a mentor for Lincecum and growing star Matt Cain. While this will help solidify their rotation, it still doesn’t help their flimsy offense which still needs a lot of help if they hope to contend in the NL West.

• The Cincinnati Reds pulled a head scratcher today in signing Willy Taveras to a two-year deal. While Taveras did have a decent 2007 hitting .320 and stealing 68 bases in 2008, he isn’t the great lead off hitter GM Walt Jockety makes him out to be. Sure he has blazing speed and stole 68 bases, but his OBP was only .308 last season and that’s the last issue you want your lead off hitter to have. The financial info on this deal hasn’t been released yet but hopefully the Reds received some sort of discount to warrant signing him for two-years.

• Minnesota Twins beat writer La Velle E. Neal III discussed the Twins signing of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Just like La Velle, I too am a little confused as to the Twins thoughts behind this. The Twins have a slew of youngsters that they could use as a spot starter or middle reliever and need to address a set-up man before anything else in their bullpen. Also Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune mentions the DeRosa to the Twins talks saying it would take “outfielder Ben Rivere [sic] and pitchers Jose Mijares, Jeff Manship and Andy Swarzak” to get the deal done. I don’t know if Rogers over values DeRosa, has no idea how good those prospects really are or is just delusional, but there is no way that a deal would involve a combination of those players. I want DeRosa on the Twins as much as anyone, but not at that ridiculous price.

By Matthew Whipps
The Diamond Cutter
Major & Minor League Baseball Columnist
mlbdiamondcutter@gmail.com | Facebook

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