How Terry Ryan spent his winter.

I don’t know if you poked around my real site lately (that would be for those that didn’t yet know) read a recent post I had about baseball. In it, I complained a little bit about the lack of activity I foresaw from the Twins for the offseason. Well, the Twins did do a few things this offseason, and I thought, since we have a little break between NFL championship week and the Super Bowl, I thought we could look at those moves.

The Twins started soon after I had sent that article to Steve by acquiring Luis Castillo for a couple of minor league pitchers from the Marlins. Now, this may not seem like a ground breaking move to most, but it fulfills a need that was evident even before the Twins fell flat on their face last year. They need an everyday second baseman. Castillo also fills the need for a solid on base guy to put at the top of the order, and will eventually facilitate the trade of Shannon Stewart that Terry Ryan SHOULD make while Stewart still has good numbers, even if he is decomposing in left field as we watch. Castillo could then take over the lead off position to bat ahead of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, both of whom should be improved next season. I thought over all that this was a great trade, harkening back to the great Chuck Knoblauch trade of the last century. Terry Ryan was back!

But then he signed his first free agent. And it was Tony Batista. Here’s a guy that played in Japan last year, which is a little scary. But they pitch funny, and he bats funny, so perhaps that was the logic behind the contract being signed. In his last season in the States, two years ago, he had a mediocre batting average, but he hit 27 home runs, which no Twin did last year. This is what happens when you look only at two statistics when signing free agents. In this case, the statistics were “homeruns” and “position played”, in this case, 3b. Now, Twins fans thought they needed to improve at third, but really, with Michael Cuddyer playing his second season at the hot corner next year, I really think the improvement would be more than we got signing Batista. (It should be noted that Batista did get a 5 million dollar deal in Japan, which was why he went, not because nobody in America would sign him. The Twins tried to get him then too.)

The Twins signed their third bat of the season when they picked up the oft injured Rondell White. Now, White has always been a closet favorite of mine. I’ve had a soft spot for former Expos my whole life. I suspect that in being the designated hitter, White’s stats will drop slightly, sort of like how your golf score seems to go up when you ride a cart, but he won’t get injured as severely, and will do the job at DH for the Twins this year. He has been largely unheralded, which is interesting, because a few years ago, he would have been a prized acquisition.

He left the starting rotation largely untouched, although I would love to see Brad Radke traded while he still has some value in the league. He won’t be, however, because he is a 10/5 guy, and the Twins don’t ever sell high. They did unload the king of the inherited runner scored, J.C. Romero for a guy who may or may not be a stripper, Alexi Casilla. To make up for their new found lack of a bullpen lefty, the Twins have brought Dennys Reyes and Gabe White on to duke it out in Spring Training. The thought that one of those two being on the Twins roster is slightly more reassuring than seeing J.C. on the roster again next season.

Next season, which I will get into in a couple months at IIS, I suspect the Twins lineup will look something like this.
LF Stewart
2b Castillo
C Mauer
DH White
1b Morneau
CF Torii Hunter, who may or may not end the season with the team. The departure of Jacque Jones seems to have made him incredibly agitated. I suspect to see him in the Eastern Time Zone next season.
3b Batista
RF Lew “Why couldn’t you have been traded last off season?” Ford
SS Jason Bartlett, who I have pretty high hopes for in the future. We got him for the immortal Brian Buchanan a few years back. I’m hoping Casilla turns out like Bartlett.

As hopeful as I sound, I know that the Twins just picked up some aging vets, and really, they are just watching the Indians and White Sox pick up steam. They will definitely be in a two team race, however, but with the Tigers for third place in the AL Central. – Ryan

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