Now where do the Twins go?

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via Star Tribune

The Twins were expected to be active this year. They are reaching the point where many of their top prospects are getting ready to make the leap to the majors, and they should be able to identify which areas within the system are strengths and weaknesses. As such, I, and perhaps many observers, believed that the Twins would be active on the trade market this year. The Twins were bad at the top last year, but they had the pieces necessary to begin a push back towards relevance.

Instead of making those trades, they opted to address their holes via free agency. The pitching stunk last year, and the team needed a full time corner outfielder, so they signed Torii Hunter first for the outfield, and last week signed Ervin Santana to fill out the pitching rotation. I think that anyone who knows much about baseball can tell you that Ervin Santana and Torii Hunter aren’t going to turn the Twins around. What do they still need to do?

Let’s identify the problems that they have now within the system after their moves thus far, and see if we can’t figure out some solutions.

1) The outfield defense still sucks. Despite what I said earlier about anyone being better than the Willingham/Kubel combination in the outfield, the Twins managed to get better by the slimmest of margins. I’ve made mention of the fact that the Twins poor defense is culpable in the poor performance of the pitching staff, perhaps more influential than many people consider. They were one of the worst defenses in the league by any measure, and it wouldn’t be crazy to assert that the poor fielding cost Minnesota as much as .5 runs a game.

2) There is a logjam of prospects now, and nowhere else is it more evident than in the AAA pitching staff. It seems pretty well confirmed that the rotation will consist of Phil Hughes, Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Kyle Gibson and a mystery 5th. Who to give that spot to, though? The candidates are plentiful. Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Alex Meyer seem like the top candidates, but there is also Mike Pelfrey who could be considered. And then J.O. Berrios doesn’t seem too far from making a major league debut either. What do the Twins do with all of this talent, especially now that there is well over $100M locked up in the first 60% of the rotation?

There is still time for a trade, and I believe the Twins should be in the market. In fact, I have an idea. The San Diego Padres, even if the Matt Kemp trade fails to be consummated have a glut of outfielders, and some good ones will be available as we head into January. I’m specifically interested in Cameron Maybin, who is going to be paid $5 million a year for two more seasons, and would be coming to Minnesota at his lowest value after coming off an injury and failing to meet his personal standards last season.

Maybin is two years removed from surgery on his knee and wrist, but managed to return to his high level of fielding ability last season. He’s never been much of a hitter, although he is still better at the plate than Aaron Hicks.  Besides, whatever he adds to the offense, the contribution to the defensive side would be significantly greater.

The Twins have the resources to acquire someone like Maybin. I noted the pitching situation, which could use some clarity. It would be perfect if the Padres wanted Milone, but I think it would be more likely that they would want Trevor May. May might be more valuable than Maybin, but used correctly, Maybin would be more valuable to the Twins.

Of course, this would bring about a different concern. Where do you put Maybin? If you just swap out Hicks and Maybin, there is definitely an improvement, but not as much as moving Hicks to a corner. If you move Hicks to a corner, that takes either Hunter or Oswaldo Arcia out of the field. They can both hit so perhaps they could slot in as a DH. If you do that, then you have 3 people fighting for that spot in the lineup: Hunter/Arcia, Kennys Vargas and Josmil Pinto. Pinto has value because he is expected to become the team’s catcher, eventually. Vargas has a lot of power, but came on strong very recently and happens to be enormous, which likely will lead to a shorter viable career. Vargas is more expendable, and could be spun for younger prospects still. Perhaps he could be used as part of a trade for another starting pitcher. There are a lot of options.

Another option? Wait. If Maybin were acquired, Arcia could be pushed to DH with Hicks going to left. Arcia would move to DH, and would split time with the corner outfielders and Vargas at DH. Pinto continues to bide his time either on the bench or in Rocherster. Torii Hunter is only in Minnesota on a one year deal, and Hicks is nearing the end of his free passes. In 2016, with Hunter, and maybe Hicks gone, there is still a very good defensive outfield available. Assuming healthy, you could stick Arcia in right and Maybin in left and welcome Byron Buxton to Minneapolis for his rookie season. Doing that, you would still have space for Vargas at DH and Pinto would be ready to assume the spot of primary catcher. After all of these machinations, the top 4 of the rotation will still be around, assuming health again, and the 5th spot in the rotation is likely to be confirmed. I think by 2016, it could well be Berrios. That’s not the point though.

The point is that the Twins haven’t done enough to make themselves relevant yet, but that there are options to get there quicker. The Twins just have to choose one.

 

Links of the Day 12/18/14

One week until Christmas! I hope you are done shopping!

Jimmy Clausen is going to start in the NFL again. 

Jim Harbaugh has a huge offer on the table to go to the University of Michigan.

There was a 3 team trade yesterday, and 3 team trades are AWESOME.

SCOREBOARD
NHL
Boston 3, Minnesota 2 (OT) – Rough for the Wild, losing on national TV, and like, 6 seconds into OT.

NFL Computerized Power Ranks: Week 15

We’re nearing the end of the regular season and we are at the point where the ranks might really start to diverge from realistic playoff scenarios, since the ranking formula combines recent and overall season success, meaning we could have non-division leaders ranked ahead of teams they can’t catch.  One of those non-division leaders, the Seahawks, is the new #1 team.  However, it seems somewhat inevitable that they will beat Ryan Lindley and the Cardinals this weekend and take over 1st in the NFC West.  The Packers’ somewhat surprising loss to the Bills (the ranks called it game of the week last week!)  dropped them 3 spots to #4, moving the Broncos up to #3. The Patriots stayed at #2 and the Lions, who caught the Packers in the NFC North race, are sitting right behind them in the ranks at #5.

On the bottom, the Buccaneers fell behind the Redskins and Jaguars to become #31. The rest of the of the 3-11 and 2-12 teams stayed put.  The Bears are the worst non-3-11 or 2-12 team, right behind all 3 teams fighting for the NFC South title (I just love how pathetic this division race is).

The biggest gainers this week were the Steelers, who beat the division leading (hehe) Falcons to move up 5 spots and putting them in a strong AFC playoff position.  The biggest losers were the Texans, who dropped 6 spots after having their playoff hopes crushed by the Colts.

Playoff Projections:

NFC
1st Round Byes: #1 Seahawks, #4 Packers
#7 Cardinals @ #10 Cowboys
#5 Lions @ #23 Saints
Top 5 Out: #15 Eagles, #16 Rams, #19 49ers, #20 Vikings, #22 Giants

AFC
1st Round Byes: #2 Patriots, #3 Broncos
#11 Bengals @ #6 Ravens
#9 Bills @ #8 Colts
Top 5 Out: #12 Steelers, #13 Texans, #14 Chargers, #17 Chiefs, #18 Dolphins

Week 16 Look-Ahead
Game of the Week: #1 Seahawks @ #7 Cardinals (Huge playoff implications AND Ryan Lindley!)
Mismatch of the Week: #4 Packers @ #31 Buccaneers
Pillow Fight of the Week: #32 Titans @ #30 Jaguars (Horrible, Horrible Thursday Night Football goes out for 2014 with the worst game of all!  My favorite part about the ranks this week is the 2nd worst game of the week is Saints vs. Falcons, which could decide the NFC South Title)

Full Ranks

Week 15
1 SEA 78.08 2
2 NE 75.94 0
3 DEN 75.6 1
4 GB 71.34 -3
5 DET 68.13 4
6 BAL 68.02 -1
7 AZ 67.51 -1
8 IND 67.10 2
9 BUF 65.24 4
10 DAL 63.99 -2
11 CIN 63.28 1
12 PIT 62.47 5
13 HOU 56.54 -6
14 SD 53.38 -3
15 PHI 52.92 1
16 STL 51.24 -2
17 KC 50.54 3
18 MIA 49.06 -3
19 SF 47.59 -1
20 MIN 47.34 1
21 CLE 47.20 -2
22 NYG 43.08 2
23 NO 41.78 3
24 CAR 40.92 1
25 ATL 39.29 -3
26 CHI 33.08 -3
27 OAK 26.25 0
28 NYJ 25.60 0
29 WAS 21.34 1
30 JAX 21.05 1
31 TB 15.97 -2
32 TEN 15.37 0

 

Links of the Day 12/17/14

Even more links for your Wednesday at the office.

Marc Trestman sounds like he is on his way out in Chicago. Turns out everything wasn’t Lovie Smith’s fault!

If you are an ESPN Insider, Todd McShay released his first 2015 Mock Draft today. (Brandon Scherff, Tackles from Iowa for the Panthers, Cedric Ogbuehi, Tackle from Texas A&M for the Vikings, Devin Funchess, TE from Michigan for the 49ers and La;El Collins, Tackle from LSU for the Colts are some highlights)

Thank you for this, SportsCenter. 

SCOREBOARD
Not since last night!

Entertainment Roundup: Enjoy some Penguins

No, not the Penguins of Madagascar, though this is the Entertainment Roundup, just regular, real life penguins. They are playing with iPads now! Penguins are just like people!

Cool Hunting Video: Penguin Enrichment from Cool Hunting on Vimeo.

Since this IS the Rhino and Compass, and I feel like I should do something to keep this whole “Rhino and Compass” illusion going, so here is a rhino that has become friends with a goat.

Links of the Day 12/16/14

See, you may think of this as extremely late Tuesday links OR bonus Wednesday links. Decide for yourself!

Andrew Luck is such a lovable weirdo. 

Speaking of Indianapolis quarterbacks, well, here’s this. 

There are some teams who still need to patch some holes this offseason. Here, specifically, are some of those holes. 

SCOREBOARD
NCAAB
North Dakota State 55, Akron 46 – Akron is a decent mid-major. Solid win.
NHL
Chicago 5, Minnesota 3 – Chicago is turning into one of those teams the locals hate because Minnesota can’t beat them.

Mea Culpa on the Big Ten

Big Ten court

I’ve been telling anyone that will listen that I suspected that the Big Ten might just be the best darn conference in the land. Not only did they have Wisconsin at the top, but all the way down to the 10th and 11th best teams in the conference, there was a potential tournament bid. The non-conference schedule is the time for the Big Ten to prove their strength, and… well….

The Big Ten is letting me down.

There are always going to be a few rough games, a few tough losses that expose pretenders. It’s jarring to see how many there have been for the conference this year. Michigan lost, not only to NJIT, a school that doesn’t even have a conference, but also to Eastern Michigan a game later. Nebraska lost to D-1 newcomer Incarnate Word. Purdue has dropped a game to North Florida.

Wisconsin, Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan State are all ranked but all have losses. Wisconsin lost a home game to Duke, which isn’t a huge embarrassment, but it isn’t something you can do as a top 4 team. Ohio State has played 2 major conference schools, and is only 1-1 (though again, the loss was a game at Louisville). Michigan State hasn’t risen to meet any of their best opponents, going 1-3 against major conference schools. Their only win was against Marquette. There is a theme here for Marquette. Of all the ranked teams, only Maryland has defeated a ranked opponent, beating Iowa State (who embarrassed Iowa, by the way).

Illinois dropped from the rankings after losing three of their last 4, Minnesota lost steam after failing to be competitive against Louisville and playing like they had somewhere else to be against St. John’s in New York. Penn State is the only team that seems to be impressing, or playing better than anticipated, though the bar was extremely low. Rutgers lost a game to Virginia in which they only scored 26 points. Indiana lost to Eastern Washington and Northwestern, well, at least they beat North Florida, even if it was only by 2.

What we have is a conference rife with bad losses and with only 1 signature win (Maryland over Iowa State). There isn’t much time to regain some of the esteem they had going into the season. They better take advantage of the rest of this month, otherwise the conference will lose bids on Selection Sunday.

 

Links of the Day 12/15/14

TEN DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! GET GOING! YOU NEED TO BUY ME PRESENTS!

Johnny Manziel started yesterday, and it was tremendous fun for everyone, except Johnny Manziel. 

I enjoy how aggressive American teams are becoming with regards to international players. 

The Titans and Jets are just sad and angry at this point.

SCOREBOARD
NFL
Carolina 19, Tampa Bay 17 – The Panthers are going to make the goshdarned playoffs, with or without Cam Newton.
Indianapolis 17, Houston 10 – Indy clinched the division, but this wasn’t really very inspiring.
Detroit 16, Minnesota 14 – Minnesota missed a 68 yard field goal at the end of the game. Rats. So close.
Seattle 17, San Francisco 7- The team led by Derrick Anderson was the team that scored the most points, of all these teams. That’s amazing.

The annual plea for another Minnesota school to join division 1

MNschools

I had the privilege of going down to Iowa City to visit my in-laws for the weekend. Friday night, the Iowa Hawkeyes squared off against Iowa State. I’ve promised not to discuss it at length, but I will note how cool it is to see cross state rivals play each other. It brings an intensity to a game as well as a program. Not only does Iowa want to beat Iowa State on the court, but they want to recruit Des Moines and Cedar Rapids and Sioux City harder than Iowa State. I want a competitive program for Minnesota to be at odds with as well.

Every other state in our area has an in-state rival to call their own. I already mentioned Iowa and Iowa State, but North Dakota just played North Dakota State, South Dakota State will play South Dakota in conference games later this year. Creighton and Nebraska have played. Northwestern and Illinois are both in the Big Ten. Even Wisconsin can square off with Marquette, which they have done already this season.

It doesn’t have to happen for football, but it would be nice if just one Minnesota school went D-1 in basketball. Just think of how much fun Minnesota -St. Cloud State games are for hockey. Why not hoops? Or Winona State? Or Minnesota Duluth? There are options. Schools just have to take the next step. D-1 isn’t a scary place. Just ask Incarnate Word.

Links of the Day 12/14/14

The server seems to be a little bit wacky this morning. Perhaps because I posted so darn recently, and it’s just not used to it.

Chris Parmelee has been designated for assignment. 

Melvin Gordon still wishes he had the single game rushing record. Also, he did not win the Heisman. Marcus Mariota did, but YardBarker is pushing a SportsNaut article on the topic, and SportsNaut blows. So you get this Melvin Gordon post.

Adrian Peterson would like to compete in the Olympics. OK, buddy.

SCOREBOARD
NHL
Minnesota 4, Arizona 3 (SO) – This was the biggest shootout in Arizona since the OK Corral.