On Thursday, MLB teams had to announce which arbitration-eligible players were tendered contracts for 2011 and which ones did not receive offers to stick with their current teams for the next season. Those that did not receive contracts became free agents, and while they will most likely earn less money than if they had been tendered a contract, they do gain the ability to negotiate with any of the 30 teams. I’ve scoured the list of non-tendered players and picked out the ones that could be useful in some sort of role for the Twins next year. Due to the nature of who was not tendered a contract and the current needs for the Twins, the list consists of mainly relievers and right-handed bench bats.
Note: All numbers are from the 2010 season unless otherwise noted.
RHP Alfredo Aceves (2009): 3.54 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 84.0 IP, 7.39 K/9, 1.71 BB/9, 1.07 HR/9
If it wasn’t for picking up Aceves for my fantasy team last year, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about him. Aceves built his 2009 success off of a solid strikeout rate and an excellent walk rate (perfect for the Twins!), and although he’s a flyball pitcher (only a 35.2 GB % in 2009), there’s a rumor going around that Target Field may be a haven for flyball pitchers. His best role would be as a long reliever that could spot start (averaged nearly 2 innings per appearance in ’09), and maybe even as an occasional set-up man if the regulars that bridge the gap to the 9th inning are gassed.
RHP Blaine Boyer: 4.26 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 57 IP, 4.58 K/9, 4.58 BB/9, 0.47 HR/9
If you want to keep your infielders active in the game, Boyer is your guy. With a groundball percentage of 65.8, he would benefit if the Twins kept J.J. Hardy at shortstop rather than handing it over to Alexi Casilla or Tsuyoshi Nishioka. His strikeout and walk rates were career worsts, and while you may worry about his home run rate rising, it’s been very low for the 3 full seasons he’s played in his career. I would imagine Boyer as being a Brian Bass-like middle reliever, but with the ability to actually have a respectable ERA.
RHP D.J. Carrasco: 3.68 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 78.1 IP, 7.47 K/9, 3.91 BB/9, 0.57 HR/9
Carrasco is similar to Boyer, except that he’s got better stats. He has been consistent the past 3 years in the ERA department, posting a 3.96, 3.76, and 3.68 and low home run rates despite spending 3/4 of that time in bandboxes U.S. Cellular Field and Chase Field. Plus, his FIP over those three years suggest that his consistency is not a fluke. I’d imagine Carrasco as holding a similar role to Alfredo Aceves.
OF/DH Jack Cust: .272/.395/.438, 13 HR, 52 RBI (112 games)
Here’s an interesting tidbit that circled around Twitter: Jack Cust’s wOBA* was .371, while Adam Dunn’s was .379. Dunn just signed a 4-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox, while Cust may be lucky to top a 1-year, $3 million deal. With Jim Thome’s resurgence last year, he may find some better offers than what the Twins could give him, so Cust could be a Thome Lite. He won’t have a great batting average, but he’ll walk a ton and still has some pop in his bat. However, signing him (just like if the Twins re-signed Thome) would force Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young, and Jason Kubel into fighting for 2 corner outfield spots.
* Stands for Weighted On-Base Average, a stat that combines a player’s offensive contributions into one handy stat. If you want a better explanation, click this.
OF Matt Diaz: .250/.302/.438, 7 HR, 31 RBI (84 games)
If signing Jack Cust as a DH would make the outfield more crowded, then imagine what signing Matt Diaz would do. He’s built a fairly successful career as the right-handed half of a platoon. With a .334/.373/.533 batting line against LHP, he would be a great compliment to Jason Kubel, and with his defense rating much better than Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer, he could even shift one of these guys to DH when the Twins face a left-handed starter. In other words, signing Diaz would most likely mean that Jim Thome would not be coming back to Minnesota.
RHP Sammy Gervacio (2009): 2.14 ERA, 2.62 FIP, 21.0 IP, 10.71 K/9, 3.42 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9
Gervacio is an interesting case. Whereas most of the players on this list are in their late-20s or older, he will only be 26 years old on Opening Day. He didn’t spend much time in the majors in 2010 due to control problems, but ’09 shows that he is able to get it under control. He primarily throws a slider, and his pre-pitch ritual is as unique as Pat Neshek’s delivery. However, his delivery uses a lot of his throwing arm, and his ’10 control problems were partially caused by a rotator cuff injury, so he would most likely be an injury risk in the future.
OF Scott Hairston: .210/.295/.346, 10 HR, 36 RBI (104 games)
Hairston had a bad 2010 season partially caused by hitting a ton of balls right at fielders (.236 BABIP), but he’s always been a low average, medium-to-good power hitter. He’s not as good as Matt Diaz in hitting LHP (.278/.331/.498) but I’d still take that production over letting Jason Kubel hit against Matt Thornton. Plus, although he’s not exactly a defensive wizard, he could fill in at second base if necessary.
LHP J.P. Howell (2009): 2.84 ERA, 3.71 FIP, 66.2 IP, 10.67 K/9, 4.46 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9
Howell missed all of 2010 due to surgery on his left shoulder, so it would be a bit of a gamble if the Twins signed him. When healthy, he induced a good number of grounders (50.5 GB% for his career) and his strikeouts have risen every single year despite possessing a mid-80s fastball, but he’s also been a bit erratic with his control. However, the Twins do need another lefty in the bullpen to go with Jose Mijares, and if Joe Nathan and Matt Capps struggle as closers, Howell has some experience.* There were some rumors that Howell and the Rays made an agreement to non-tender and then re-sign him to a minor league contract, so perhaps he’s not even a realistic option for the Twins.
* I don’t personally care if a pitcher has had closing experience, but we saw at the beginning of last season that the Twins valued it enough to give Jon Rauch the first crack in replacing Nathan.
RHP Bobby Jenks: 4.44 ERA, 2.59 FIP, 52.2 IP, 10.42 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, 0.51 HR/9
Oh, how unlucky Bobby Jenks was last year. We know him by his bleached facial hair, heftiness, and poor ERA, but his other numbers suggest that 2011 will be a rebound year for him. Once again, he’s got the closing experience that some GMs love, and you have to admit that you’d love to see him, Matt Capps, and Jose Mijares get mistaken for sumo wrestlers in training by Japanese reporters.
LHP Hideki Okajima: 4.50 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 46.0 IP, 6.46 K/9, 3.91 BB/9, 1.17 HR/9
After an impressive debut with the Red Sox, Okajima stock has fallen quite a bit recently. Once again, a lefty reliever to join Mijares would be nice, and Okajima could be cheap to sign. Plus, he could help acclimate Tsuyoshi Nishioka to the States, and the Twins could gamble on him rediscovering his success from past years.
LHP George Sherrill: 6.69 ERA, 5.20 FIP, 6.19 K/9, 5.94 BB/9, 0.99 HR/9
Oh, George Sherrill. Although his numbers look pretty bad, he was still very successful against lefties last season. Unfortunately, he still was allowed to pitch against more righthanded hitters than lefthanders. Once again, he has a closing pedigree, and I could see him as the cheaper 2011 version of Brian Fuentes.
LHP Erick Threets: 0.00 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 12.1 IP, 4.38 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 0.00 HR/9
Speaking of cheap, Threets could top everyone else. He doesn’t have a ton of major league experience (24.2 IP in his career), but a near mid-90s fastball from the left side can be useful. He has had success in the minor leagues, so maybe he could finally translate that to big league success… or maybe he’ll just be another Sean Henn.
RHP Chien-Ming Wang (2009): 9.64 ERA, 5.38 FIP, 42.0 IP, 6.21 K/9, 4.07 BB/9, 1.50 HR/9
Finally, we have my only starting pitcher on this list. Wang is a sinkerballer that is coming off shoulder surgery from 2009, and from what I can see, he didn’t pitch in the minors or majors last year despite being signed to a 1-year, $2 million by the Washington Nationals. When healthy, Wang succeeded with the New York Yankees, and with the Twins reportedly interested in Brandon Webb, Wang could be a consolation prize. The lack of activity is a bit of a concern, though, so maybe he won’t be a serious option to fill the rotation, especially when the Twins appear set anyway.
Looking over this list, I feel that the players that make the most sense for the Twins would be Alfredo Aceves, D.J. Carrasco, and George Sherrill. All three of these guys should be fairly cheap to sign, and although there is a need for a righthanded bat, the problem with Diaz and Hairston is that they both play in the outfield, a position that the Twins don’t need to add. Of course, their signing of Eric Hacker and the bids on Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Nishioka has shown that the Twins may not be as predictable as we think.
If you want to add someone that wasn’t on this list, feel free to mention them in the comments.