Monday, November 30, 2009

The JJ Hardy/Carlos Gomez Swap

Like most Twins fans, I was pretty happy with Bill Smith's decision to send Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for JJ Hardy. If Hardy bounces back to even 80% of his 2008 season, he's a major upgrade at shortstop for a team that hasn't had a quality season from a shortstop in over five years.

Unlike most Twins fan, I'm a big Carlos Gomez fan. His defense is sensational, and with an extremely fly-ball heavy staff, his defense was far more valuable than the casual fan (or the manager, for that matter) realizes. Since arriving in Minnesota, Delmon Young has been incorrectly labeled the future star while Gomez was always considered the project. Over the last two seasons, Young has been 30 runs below replacement level. That takes into account both his offense and defense, and being a mediocre offensive player with terrible defense over the last two seasons will lead to that terrible number.

What the casual fan doesn't seem to realize is that, as bad as Gomez has looked at the plate the last two seasons, he's been 30 runs better than a replacement level center fielder. Over the last two seasons, Gomez has been FIFTY runs better than Delmon Young. Of course, the Brewers undoubtedly valued Carlos Gomez extremely high and likely wanted nothing to do with Young.

Despite my original excitement about the deal, as more time passes I'm getting more and more worried. First, and foremost, it's Bill Smith making the trade and his track record with transactions has been terrible to this point. Second, as reports emerge about what Milwaukee was offered from other teams and what they countered with, it's very clear they value Gomez extremely high. Over the last few weeks reports have emerged that the Brewers reportedly passed on Matt Capps or Ryan Doumit from Pittsburgh, top prospect Michael Bowden from Boston, and they requested either Adam Lind or Travis Snider from Toronto.

Is it possible that for the second time in 3 years, a deal that looks good on paper for the Twins is a huge mistake? Smith was able to convince the local fan base two off-seasons ago that Matt Garza was a huge headcase and needed a change of scenery, Jason Bartlett was an error-prone shortstop and Delmon Young was the next big superstar in the league. Needless to say, that deal has become one of the worst trades in the last decade, and regardless of the rest of Smith's tenure, he likely will always be remembered for that colossal mistake.

On the other hand, Brewers GM Doug Melvin has proven to be a good judge of talent. Milwaukee traded Matt LaPorta two seasons ago to land CC Sabathia, and it was widely considered a win-win trade. LaPorta was expected to rise to stardom as soon as this season, but he struggled in his slight major league time. Obviously it's worth noting that LaPorta is still young and is hardly a bust at this point, but if his short stint in the big leagues showed anything it's that he likely will never become the impact, middle of the order hitter everyone thought he would. In my opinion, LaPorta will become a poor man's Adam Dunn. Think a better version of Jack Cust.

My biggest concern with this trade is that Hardy continues to struggle next season, and ultimately the Twins decide it's not worth paying Hardy upwards of $6 million in 2011 and non-tender him. That would mean they've given up on Gomez for a poor season of JJ Hardy. That also means the team is locked into Delmon Young, which after next season I hope people will finally realize he arrived here with way too much hype, and he likely will never come close to living up to it. I fully expect Young to be basically the same player he's been the past two seasons, and his biggest fans will continue to point to his hot streaks as proof he's finally breaking out.

I'm still cautiously optimistic that Bill Smith can finally get the upper hand on an off-season trade and am hoping JJ Hardy can become a big part of the 2010 and 2011 Twins teams. That said, I do believe Carlos Gomez is going to emerge as a top 10 center fielder in the near future, and I fully expect the Brewers pitching staff to be much improved with Gomez replacing an aging Mike Cameron in center field.

Just remember, when you're watching Gomez almost nightly on Baseball Tonight that the Twins once again gave up a young promising player away to fill what appeared to be a need. Hopefully, unlike the Delmon Young trade, JJ Hardy will come over and produce making the loss of Gomez far less painful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Pete Rose: Hall of Famer

This was a paper I wrote for an English class... certainly nice to get to choose our own topics.

To this day, Pete Rose has the most hits in Major League Baseball History. Only two players in the history of Major League Baseball have finished their careers with 4,000 hits. Those two players are Ty Cobb, who is in the Hall of Fame and currently second on the all-time hit list, and Pete Rose. Despite this incredible record, since 1986, baseball has banned Rose from even being considered for baseball’s Hall of Fame. While Rose was managing, after he had retired, he committed what is considered to be the cardinal sin of America’s pastime: betting on baseball. Rule 21 in the MLB Rule Book is lengthy and verbose but essentially states anyone affiliated with any Major League Baseball team is forbidden from betting on baseball, with the punishment resulting in a lifetime ban from the game. This rule is misguided and oftentimes misinterpreted, which has kept Rose from being enshrined into the Hall of Fame. Major League Baseball is acting hypocritically in its interpretation, as are the sports writers who vote for the Hall of Fame nominees. The Hall of Fame includes multiple admitted rule-breakers such as Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford. Rose was caught betting on baseball during his managing career, not his playing career by which he should be remembered. Rose is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player, not a Hall-of-Fame caliber manager. Major League Baseball is committing an injustice not allowing this former marquee player into its Hall of Fame.

Pete Rose finished his playing career with 4,256 hits, the most in Major League Baseball history. He finished his managing career with a slightly above average record of 412-373. Rose committed his offense as a manager and was banned from baseball for life because of it. However, his accomplishments prior to the ban are important and should be a serious part of the conversation. While Rose does admit to betting on his team while managing, he is adamant that he never bet against it and there is no proof to suggest otherwise. In an interview with ESPN’s Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann (both now of NBC), Rose said, "I bet on my team to win every night because I love my team, I believe in my team. I did everything in my power every night to win that game." No one has disputed these claims. Rose belongs in the Hall of Fame for what he achieved as a player, not a manager. He bet as a manager, he hit as a player.

Pitchers Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford both currently have plaques in the Hall of Fame. However, both admitted to breaking MLB rules during their playing careers. In 1920, baseball banned any doctoring of the baseball, as it gave an unfair advantage to the pitcher. Throughout his career and prior to his 1967 retirement it was widely known that Ford doctored the ball in order to gain a competitive advantage. Following the 1963 World Series, in which Ford’s Yankees were swept in four games by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ford was quoted as saying, according to ESPN, "I used enough mud to build a dam.” He was referring to using mud to doctor the baseball. Ford was the starting pitcher in games one and four.

Perry retired following the 1983 season, yet in a 1977 interview with Newsweek, Perry was quoted as saying "Greaseball, greaseball, greaseball, that's all I throw him [Rod Carew], and he still hits them. He's the only player in baseball who consistently hits my grease. He sees the ball so well, I guess he can pick out the dry side." Perry was clearly referring to his famous Vaseline ball, in which he would put Vaseline from inside his jersey that he had placed on his chest all over the ball. Both of these pitchers had very successful playing careers and sports writers voted both into the Hall of Fame. However, both admitted to cheating while still playing, yet Pete Rose isn’t allowed into the Hall of Fame for breaking a rule of the same caliber while he was managing. As long as Major League Baseball celebrates certain cheaters and bans others, it will be an organization marred by hypocrisy.

There are those who believe what Rose did does not compare to what Perry and Ford did. They claim a much fairer comparison is that of one ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. Jackson was the star player on the notorious 1919 Chicago Black Sox team that willingly threw the World Series in exchange for payment from Arnold Rothstein. Eight of the nine starting players accepted the payment, including Jackson. The heavily favored White Sox lost the best-of-nine series five games to three. Despite Jackson’s denials of throwing the Series, the league banned him from baseball during his prime, although he likely would have been a Hall of Famer. Those who believe Rose doesn’t belong argue this as an example that the principle of the two crimes is ultimately the same. Both bet on their teams, and both were banned from baseball.

However, there are critical differences between the two players and situations. First, Rose bet on his team to win while Jackson accepted a cash payment to ensure his team lost the World Series. Also, Jackson committed the offense in the middle of his career, and therefore was unable to increase his statistics. Therefore, Jackson’s career numbers don’t provide a legitimate case for Hall of Fame consideration. Pete Rose finished his playing career outright with nearly 2,500 more hits than Shoeless Joe did. Although both broke the same general rule, common sense dictates that is where the similarities between the offenses end. Additionally the issue is clearly more complicated and not black and white.

Over his 24-year playing career, Pete Rose earned a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. Nevertheless, he is being kept out for an offense he committed during his managing career. Clearly the Hall of Fame does not deal in moral absolutes when it allows the plaques of Gaylord Perry and Whitey Ford to be prominently placed in the Hall of Fame with no mention of their offenses. It is unfair and duplicitous to leave Pete Rose out of the Hall of Fame. Like all inductees, he deserves to be honored for his extraordinary accomplishments during his playing career and not remembered for the mistakes he made after his retirement.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NFL Picks

Sorry for being away for a few weeks. I had a post all planned for the Twins shortstop options, but when they acquired JJ Hardy (which would have been my #1 option) that sort of ruined that idea. I'll be back to posting routinely from now on, so keep checking back.

With 3 games on Thursday, here are my NFL Picks for the week. I do reserve the right to change these picks as some injury information becomes available later in the week. The home team is in caps, with the spread in parenthesis.

DETROIT (+10.5) over Green Bay

On paper, the Packers look poised to dismantle the Lions on Thursday. Matt Stafford likely won't play, and even if he does, his 5 TD performance last week was due more so to the Browns terrible defense than Stafford suddenly growing up. I like Stafford a lot, and I do believe he's going to be a very good QB for a team that has needed one for quite some time.

That said, I have a hunch the Packers are going to struggle for most of the game. Despite me wanting to cheer for Detroit, I simply believe the Lions will manage to keep this a one possession game throughout the game. At least that's what I'm banking on. If Stafford indeed doesn't play, hopefully Culpepper has some magic left in that right arm. Watching the Packers lose to Detroit would make my Thanksgiving perfect.

Final Score: Green Bay 23, Detroit 15

Oakland (+13.5) over DALLAS

This seems like too high of a spread for a team that has scored 7 points in the last two weeks. Oakland's pass defense is deceptively good, with Asomugha being the best corner in the World. I think Dallas will win, but would not be surprised at all if Oakland pulls off another surprising upset. Romo has looked terrible the last few weeks, Miles Austin has disappeared after his stretch of breakout games, and Jason Witten is going to be a game-time decision. Bruce Gradkowski hardly gives me confidence, but sadly he's a better option than former #1 overall pick Jamarcus Russell.

Final Score: Dallas 27, Oakland 17

New York Giants (-7.5) over DENVER

This was the toughest game of the week for me to choose. Before the year started, I felt Denver would be better than people expected, but I certainly didn't expect them to start 6-0. Being 6-4 at this point in the season is about what I expected, which I'm sure many people will doubt, but it's the truth. This is a game with two struggling teams, which makes it very tough to pick.

Denver's defense has had trouble stopping the run, and I think this week is the week Brandon Jacobs finally erupts for 100 yards and 3 touchdowns. With Bradshaw likely out, that makes Jacobs that much more important, and the Giants seem poised to give him the ball and let him run it down the Broncos throats. Neither team seems destined for greatness after such promising starts, but this should be the most intriguing game of the three Thanksgiving Day games.

Final Score: New York Giants 34, Denver 20

HOUSTON (+3.5) over Indianapolis

The Colts have managed to escape four consecutive weeks with victories, and in at least three of those games they probably deserved to lose. That shows how valuable Peyton Manning is to that team, and honestly as long as he's playing I'll never feel safe about betting against him.

With the Texans still in the AFC Wild Card race, this is arguably the biggest game in Franchise history. I think Matt Schaub is going to have a sensational day, and he'll carry the Texans to an upset over the undefeated Colts. With Steve Slaton apparently getting back into the starting lineup, he should help the Texans passing game, and hopefully this week they give him more than 5 carries. Chris Brown looked terrible against the Titans, which made it that much more surprising that Ryan Moats was basically forgotten. If the coaching decisions are better this week, I expect the Colts to suffer their first loss of the season.

Final Score: Houston 37, Indianapolis 31

CINCINNATI (-14) over Cleveland

With or without Cedric Benson, the Bengals should dominate this game. The Browns are terrible, plain and simple, and their coaching is a major problem. I expect to see Brady Quinn throwing 95% of his passes shorter than 10 yards yet again this week against a real NFL defense, and the Browns will again have trouble scoring any points.

Final Score: Cincinnati 34, Cleveland 6

PHILADELPHIA (-9) over Washington

Washington is at home, and coming off a hard fought game against the Cowboys, which kept this game's spread under 10. I don't buy it, as I think the Eagles are going to embarrass the Redskins and become the frontrunners for one of the final NFC playoff spots. Without Portis or Betts the Redskins likely will have trouble scoring points just like they did last week, which makes a 9 point cover virtually guaranteed for the Eagles.

Final Score: Philadelphia 27, Washington 10

Miami (-3) over BUFFALO

T.O. played well last week, but there's no way I'm backing Ryan Fitzgerald and the Bills against a Dolphins team that seems destined to compete for an AFC Wild Card spot all season. I expect Ricky Williams to continue his fantasy dominance, and be the focal point of the Dolphins offense yet again, leading the Dolphins to a surprisingly close win.

Final Score: Miami 24, Buffalo 16

Seattle (-3) over ST. LOUIS

Marc Bulger's hurt yet again, and as bad as Seattle looked last week, they're offense excels against weak teams. With a win already over the Rams this year, I think the Seahawks will again have their way with arguably the league's worst team. Without Bulger, Seattle should probably just keep 10 guys in the box and use their lone remaining defender to cover the Rams 3 receivers, because Steven Jackson is going to need close to 50 touches this week if the Rams are going to move the ball at all.

Final Score: Seattle 31, St. Louis 9

ATLANTA (-12) over Tampa Bay

Matt Ryan has been frustratingly inconsistent this season, which makes me a bit worried to take Atlanta by double digits even at home. The Bucs have shown a willingness the last few weeks to fight on every play, and for that reason I wouldn't be entirely surprised to see Tampa Bay keep this close. However, even if Michael Turner is injured this week, the Falcons offense should play well enough to put quite a few points on the board.

Final Score: Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 10

Carolina (+3) over NEW YORK JETS

Mark Sanchez seems lost, and while I don't think the Jets should bench him, I don't see anyway they're covering the spread against a talented defense like the Panthers. Carolina has underachieved quite a bit this season, especially on defense, but with the potential there and a QB making terrible decisions playing against them for once rather than for them, I expect Carolina to win this game rather easily. DeAngelo Williams is having a great season, and I feel fairly confident in him carrying the offense.

Final Score: Carolina 28, New York Jets 17

Jacksonville (+3) over SAN FRANCISCO

Another tough game to choose. Both teams have played inconsistent for most of the season, so all I did here was take the team with the best player in the game. If Jack Del Rio can finally get MJD more than 15 touches, Jacksonville should run away with the game. I think Del Rio finally figures it out and gives MJD 25 touches and he comes through with a huge game, leading the Jaguars to a double digits victory over the favored 49ers.

Final Score: Jacksonville 30, San Francisco 16

SAN DIEGO (-13.5) over Kansas City

Kansas City looked very good last week in upsetting Pittsburgh, but that was more Pittsburgh allowing them to hang around and then Big Ben getting hurt than Kansas City playing exceptionally well. San Diego is playing arguably the best football of any team in the league right now, and I think Philip Rivers will continue to carry the offense this week. Look for a rather easy cover, as I think San Diego crushes Kansas City.

Final Score: San Diego 38, Kansas City 13

MINNESOTA (-10.5) over Chicago

When the Vikings were 4-0 and the Bears were 3-1, a buddy of mine who is a Bears fan bet me $100 the Bears would finish with a better record than the Vikings. I agreed to the bet, and ever since then the Bears have looked terrible. This game means little in that bet, or for the division for that matter, but I expect the Vikings to cruise. Cutler should be forced into a lot of quick decision making with the great Vikings D-Line, and that usually results in plenty of turnovers for the "Franchise QB." Yes, I put those in quotes because I think a more appropriate term for Cutler with what the Bears gave up is "Franchise killing QB."

Final Score: Minnesota 41, Chicago 17

New England (+3) over NEW ORLEANS

I don't expect the game to come down to 4th and 2 with 2 minutes to go, but if it does, I'm guessing Belichick will go for it again, if for no reason other than to prove to his critics he does what he believes is best for his football team. I think the Patriots will have their way with a very talented Saints team, though, and I expect Tom Brady to have his way with a defense that to this point has been the biggest overachieving defense in recent memory.

Final Score: New England 38, New Orleans 30

Friday, November 6, 2009

Finding a Shortstop: Free Agents

Ever since allowing Cristian Guzman leave via Free Agency years ago, the Twins have been trying to fill the void at shortstop. Needless to say, they've been unsuccessful in replacing Guzman, and he was hardly a superstar player over his time here. Outside of his outstanding all-star season, he was slightly above average, but that's such a major upgrade over what the Twins have thrown out there over the last 5 years it makes Guzman look like Derek Jeter.

After Nick Punto turned in a solid performance following the 2008 season, the Twins decided to sign him as their shortstop rather than give a contract to older, declining veterans such as Orlando Cabrera and Omar Vizquel. Punto unfortunately regressed to his 2007 form, struggling for most of the season, before the Twins decided to acquire Orlando Cabrera from the Athletics.

Cabrera was an interesting player. He hit just .237/.268/.361 over the first 43 games, but thanks to his ridiculous late season hot streak he finished at .289/.313/.430, which was slightly above average offensively this season. Of course, his defense took a major nosedive, as he was terrible using any defensive metric, which is expected of a soon to be 35-year-old shortstop.

Personally, I'd rather not see the Twins re-sign Cabrera, because I don't think he's going to be average next season when factoring both offense and defense. The shortstop market is undoubtedly bare, but here are some of the realistic options, with today's piece focusing on the Free Agents and Monday's focusing on the potential trades.

Free Agents:

Orlando Cabrera
Omar Vizquel
Marco Scutaro
Khalil Greene
Adam Everett
Jack Wilson

We've already discussed Cabrera above, but there are some intriguing names on that list.

Vizquel is going to be 43 years old when the season starts, but as a part time player last year in Texas he was still elite defensively. His offense was rather poor, as he hit just .266/.316/.345, but UZR put his defense at 32.6 runs above average per 150 games, a fantastic number. FanGraphs said he was worth $5.2 million last season, despite his terrible offensive line, and his outstanding defense makes him an average shortstop. Vizquel certainly is simply a 1-year option, but if the Twins decide to go the veteran route yet again, they could do much worse than Vizquel.

Everett and Wilson are elite defensive shorstops who don't offer much with the bat, although Wilson has shown more potential to hit over the years. Everett already failed in one stint with the Twins, so he seems like a long shot at best, but Wilson may be a solid option if the Mariners decide to buy him out rather than pay him $8.4 million next season. Wilson had a worse offensive year than Vizquel, hitting .255/.292/.362 between Pittsburgh and Seattle last year, but is only 2 years removed from a .296/.350/.440 line. Of course, Wilson has struggled each of the past 2 seasons, so it'd be foolish to expect him to return to his 2007 form, although it's worth noting he has produced at a high level before. His defense has remained very good, as he was nearly 21 runs above average last year per 150 games. Wilson likely will require more than 1 year commitment though, and I'd expect something like 3 years $14 million to be the number he agrees to. That's simply too much money for his production.

Khalil Greene is a potential buy low candidate. Greene struggled for the most part this year after leaving San Diego, and dealt with an anxiety disorder of some sort, and I'm not sure if he's close to coming back from that. Greene was a solid offensive shortstop during his time in San Diego, and many people expected him to have a breakout season for the Cardinals this year after leaving the pitcher friendly confines of Petco Park. Unfortunately, his offense has been terrible the past two seasons, and despite being a consistent highlight reel type player at shortstop, his range is not a plus. He's been a below average defender each of the last 4 seasons, and has only been slightly above average in 2 of his 7 seasons. Calling Greene a "buy-low" candidate may be an extreme understatement, as his production since 2007 has been Delmon Young like.

Scutaro had a very productive season in a contract year, but he seems likely to land a very favorable contract. He's the best shortstop in a very weak market, his .282/.379/.409 line shows that, but his defense at shortstop was below average and he's been a utility player for most of his career before enjoying this breakout season. Add in the fact that he's a Type A free agent, meaning he'd cost the Twins their first round draft pick if they signed him, and it seems like an obvious decision not to target Scutaro.

Based strictly on the free agent options, I would prefer the Twins sign Omar Vizquel for one season. His offense leaves a lot to be desired, but he's at least a solid role player who has shown he's fine splitting time and is an excellent defender. He would provide the veteran, clubhouse presence the Twins seem to value so highly, and if Punto continued to hit like he did last season the Twins would at least have an elite defensive shortstop rather than a slightly above average one.

Based on the potential free agents, including ones I left out, who would you prefer they sign? Or would you rather just stay the course and give Punto the job again? Discuss in the comments!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Second Base Solution

I was originally planning on writing this for Wednesday's piece, but with the news on Tuesday that Akinori Iwamura was on his way out of Tampa Bay alot of speculation seemed to be around the Twins acquiring him. Therefore I waited until I knew where he was going, because if the Twins did indeed acquire him they would have no need to find a second baseman. Unfortunately, the speculation was incorrect as Iwamura was sent packing to Pittsburgh for a run-of-the-mill middle reliever, and it appears the Twins again missed out on a golden opportunity to upgrade one of their biggest weaknesses without giving up a lot of value.

That said, I think the Twins apparent unwillingness to acquire Iwamura is the clearest sign yet that the Twins payroll will be closer to $80 million than the $90-$100 million some people are projecting. If the team indeed was willing to move their payroll into the mid 90-millions, adding Iwamura's $5 million salary for 1-year wouldn't be a big deal. However, with a payroll closer to $82 million, that $5 million could potentially net them a 3B on an incentive-laden deal and an older, slightly less productive 2B than Iwamura. Is that possible? I was going to breakdown the 2B Options, but Aaron Gleeman did that a few days ago with literally exactly the same players I planned on breaking down. He also described them in much more detail than I could have, so if for some reason you are reading this but don't read AG, follow the link to see the potential 2B upgrades the Twins should be going after. Of course, Iwamura is out of the picture now.

Tomorrow, I'll look at the potential shortstop upgrades, with a few different ideas than Gleeman had on his blog today. Check back tomorrow, feel free to post your opinions on how to upgrade 2B in the comments.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Filling the Hot Corner

During the trading deadline, many sportswriters wrote about teams asking the Twins for 3B prospect Danny Valencia, with the Twins immediately telling those teams they weren't trading Valencia. This led to many of the same sportswriters declaring Valencia as the '3B of the future' (probably true) and the 'odds on favorite to win the job for the start of the 2010 season' (unlikely). I have to admit, after the Twins refusal to trade Valencia for Freddy Sanchez, according to reports, I also assumed the plan was for Valencia to be the team's starter at the Hot Corner next season.

Unfortunately, that seems very unlikely. The Twins refused to promote Valencia in September, even with Joe Crede seemingly out for the season. The Twins instead gave most of the at-bats to Matt Tolbert, who hit surprisingly well during his September starts, but his career numbers make him a light hitting, borderline major league utility player, certainly not a starting caliber 3B.

If the Twins were going to give Valencia every chance to win the job this Spring, I believe they would have at least given him a few at bats with the big league club during September. I realize the team didn't do that with Joe Mauer, but he was blocked at the time by a healthy and very good AJ Pierzysnki. Mauer almost certainly wouldn't have gotten more than a few at bats, so it was understandable that the team didn't want to rush their future. However, as mentioned above, the Twins passed over Valencia for a utility player.

I do believe the team is high on Valencia, I just don't think they see him as being the Opening Day starter. A mid-season call up seems much more likely, and if Valencia becomes a solid contributor over the next few years delaying his arbitration clock by a few months will in fact allow the Twins to control him for an extra season, so it might not be all bad. That said, the team does need to find a starting caliber 3B this off-season, because Tolbert is not a starting caliber player and likely shouldn't even be on the roster at all.

With Joe Crede entering the market again, coming off a productive yet injury plagued season, it seems entirely possible that the Twins will wait out the market yet again and try to sign Crede or another buy low candidate to an incentive based contract. Here are the free agent 3B that I believe would be starting caliber:

Chone Figgins
Mark DeRosa
Joe Crede
Adrian Beltre
Troy Glaus
Miguel Tejada?
Pedro Feliz?

Tejada seems willing to move to third, but many people believe he'd only do it to stay in Houston, so he seems very unlikely to be available as a 3B upgrade for the Twins.

Feliz has a $5 million team option that the Phillies seem likely to exercise, but if they don't he could be a potential bargain for the Twins.

Those are the only players I see as potential starters this off-season. Melvin Mora, Juan Uribe and Adam Kennedy are all free agents as well, but I don'see any of them having a good enough season next year to warrant what they'll likely get paid.

Figgins is undoubtedly out of the Twins price range, and while he would be a perfect fit in the #2 hole, he's likely going to be extremely overpaid and for too long. I think DeRosa is a possibility for the Twins, but I expect him to match or exceed the 3 years $18 million Casey Blake signed for last year. That's too many years for a guy that will be 35 when the season starts, which is unfortunate because DeRosa's versatility would extremely valuable for the Twins.

Crede, Beltre and Glaus seem to be the kind of player the Twins will target. All have injury concerns, and are coming off disappointing seasons for different reasons. Personally, I'd rank them as Beltre, Crede, Glaus--in that order-- and I think Beltre will get someone to commit to him for at least two seasons. That seems too long for the Twins, especially with Valencia likely ready by mid-season. Crede seems like the ideal player this year, even more so than last year, because if he gets hurt the Twins can simply promote Valencia and allow him to fill in during Crede's injuries. Of course, Crede was productive when healthy last season and a team may be willing to pay him enough on a 1-year contract to keep him out of the Twins price range.

Glaus likely will end up signing a 1-year incentive based deal, and if Crede and Beltre are given contracts too rich for the Twins, I'd have no problem with a Glaus signing. That's also assuming the Phillies pick up Feliz's option, or he is priced out of the Twins range as well.

After playing in just 14 games last season Glaus likely won't garner a ton of interest on the open market, but he's only one year removed from a .270/.372/.483 line in which he hit 27 bombs and knocked in 99. If the Twins can get even a .250/.350/.450 season from him he'd be a major upgrade in their lineup. It's very possible that his brief appearance last year is a sign of things to come, but with only 14 games played it's hard to know for sure. In my opinion, the most likely 3B next season for the Twins is Joe Crede, but if the Twins decide to settle on a different buy low candidate, Glaus could prove to be the bargain of the off-season.

*If anyone is curious, Glaus projects as a Type B free agent, meaning the Twins wouldn't lose a draft pick to sign him. I got that information from MLB Trade Rumors and Eddie Bajek*