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Ryan Doumit, Twins Ink One-Year Pact

Minnesota Twins interim GM Terry Ryan fired a second free agency salvo Friday as the club inked C-1B-RF Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal. The deal, which is pending a physical scheduled for next week per Pioneer Press Twins reporter John Shipley, also includes unspecified performance-based incentives. Jerry Crasnick had tweeted earlier Friday that the former Pittsburgh Pirate was choosing between two teams, with the Seattle Mariners apparently drawing the short straw in the Doumit derby.

Since taking over the helm from Bill Smith just over a week ago, TR (too many Ryans to keep straight here) has been more active on the free agent market than in the past, as he officially inked infielder Jamey Carroll on Wednesday and had been linked to Doumit and Josh Willingham – both Matt Sosnick clients – as well a number of other free agents. The scaled-back budget doesn’t appear to be much of a deterrence to TR; after all, if expenditures settle in near the $100 million mark, that would still be nearly $30 million more than he ever had to work with during his first go-round with the club.

It’s an encouraging development for fans of a team desperate for good news following arguably the worst season in Twins history.

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Justin Verlander Wins 2011 AL Cy Young

The BBWAA confirmed what most already expected Tuesday by tabbing Justin Verlander as the 2011 American League Cy Young award winner. Verlander was absolutely dominant in 2011, pacing both circuits with 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA, and an astonishing 251 IP. Verlander similarly dominated ballots by receiving all 28 first-place votes for a perfect total of 196 points, according to the BBWAA’s tabulation system. Rounding out the top-five were Jered Weaver, James Shields, CC Sabathia, and in a bit of a head-scratcher, Verlander’s teammate and closer Jose Valverde.

There are just shy of a million ways to quantify just how incredible Verlander’s season was, so just let me highlight a few of those most noticeable.

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Eulogizing the Departed: Bill Smith Fired

The first domino has fallen following a cataclysmic 2011 season in Twins Territory, as General Manager Bill Smith was dismissed from the position on Monday. Philosophical differences were cited for the split, but according to numerous Twin Cities-area media including Phil Mackey, there was a growing sentiment that Smith was not the proper executive to right the ship following arguably the worst season in the Twins’ 50-plus year history.

In Smith’s stead on an interim-basis is his predecessor, Terry Ryan. There are rumblings that either Wayne Krivsky or Mike Radcliff – whom the Twins denied the Orioles permission to interview for their GM opening – may be the GM in waiting, but Jon Morosi of Fox Sports suggests that Ryan may have the job as long as he wants it. Ryan was the architect of a number of division champions on a much tighter budget, but this bunch provides a whole different challenge, including two oft-injured superstars chewing up nearly 40 percent of his projected (read: slashed) budget.

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Rich Harden: Power Reliever?

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a big Rich Harden fan. To be fair, I don’t get to see many strikeouts by watching my local nine, so he fulfills a need in that respect. But to contextualize, he’s the Will Venable to my Eno Sarris, and today I want to examine why nobody has tried to make Mr. Harden a reliever yet.

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Free Agent Market: Shortstop

The shortstop market took a considerable hit when J.J. Hardy re-upped with the Baltimore Orioles around midseason. Arguably the second-best option at a position rarely flooded with elite available talents, Hardy inked a lucrative multi-year deal which made sense for a guy who’s battled injuries and inconsistency the past couple seasons. As a result, this offseason’s free agent list at shortstop contains one superstar, a few solid regulars, and some question marks.

Jose Reyes is clearly the prize of the shortstop market, and among the top of the entire free agent class this offseason. Reyes is coming off his finest season with the stick in his nine-season career, having posted career bests in wOBA, wRC+, each triple-slash category, and probably just as noteworthy, K/BB ratio. Only a subpar defensive season kept 2011 from being Reyes’ best overall season WAR wise, as his 6.2 mark just missed exceeding the 6.4 he posted in 2008.

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If This Is It…..

Today we appreciate the career of an underrated AL Central outfielder through the lens of Mr. Huey Lewis.

After game one of the ALCS, the Detroit Tigers announced that Magglio Ordonez would be shut down for the rest of the postseason due to a broken right ankle – his second ankle ailment of the campaign. According to the Detroit Free Press, he was considering hanging his spikes up “three or four months ago” because his “ankle wasn’t responding” to treatment and his play wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Statistically, this season was a new low for Ordonez, as he hit .255/.303/.331 with only five round-trippers and an uncharacteristic 41/23 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. Not only was the ankle injury sustained in the ALDS Ordonez’ second of the season, Tigers trainer Kevin Rand noted that this fracture was of a completely different nature than the first (horizontal rather than the initial vertical), which appears likely to require surgery and extensive rehabilitation.

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Your 2012 NL ROY Candidates

Today’s entry concludes a brief two-part series on next season’s Rookie of the Year candidates. This piece focuses on candidates on the senior circuit.

Wilin Rosario – C Colorado Rockies

Rosario isn’t a candidate that I’m wild about, but there’s a chance the Rockies like him enough to consider shopping Chris Iannetta. With Rosario offensively, it begins and ends with his power, as his .267/.316/.449 minor league triple-slash would attest. He’s a complete slug on the bases, as was the case even before he had knee surgery last season. Like Lavarnway last week, if Rosario can win the job outright, he’ll be a candidate of circumstance, with the counting stats to match. However, unlike his Boston counterpart, Rosario doesn’t have the scintillating recent track record to stand on, which includes a step back at Double-A this year and not a single plate appearance at Triple-A. Selling high on Iannetta is probably the right move, but is putting Rosario in his position the proper corresponding move? Only time will tell.

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Your 2012 AL ROY Candidates

It hasn’t been particularly difficult for me to think forward to the 2012 season. The Twins season has been an unmitigated disaster basically from the get-go, and that has largely fueled my desire to look forward on both the large and small scales.

So, with the season winding down, what better time to consider some Rookie of the Year candidates for next season? Today’s entry will only consider candidates on the junior circuit, with next Tuesday’s wrapping up the mini-series.

Matt Moore – SP Tampa Bay Rays

I’ve read many reviews in which a man-love cup overfloweth regarding young Mr. Moore, but the most recent seems awfully poignant. Ben Badler, a scouting and development writer for Baseball America, tweeted the following: “Just wrote up Matt Moore’s scouting report for BA. I don’t smoke, but I’m suddenly craving a cigarette.” This hardly seems like hyperbole, considering Moore has fanned 15 of the first 40 batters he’s faced in the major leagues. Oh, not to mention that he fanned 12.2 per nine this season in the minors, which is the worst K rate he’s posted in his five minor league campaigns in the Rays system. There’s gushing, and then there’s what scouts are doing over Moore. Now Moore certainly won’t fan 14.5 per nine like he has in this incredibly small MLB sample size, nor is he likely to whiff the 12-plus per nine he did in the minors, but even settling into the Michael Pineda area of things should provide Matt with all the firepower he needs to win the award in 2012.

Jesus Montero – C New York Yankees

Filling the shoes of a legend is never easy, but it’s a little easier when the legend begins to slip and is relegated to mostly DH duties. Enter Montero, who has taken the junior circuit by storm in posting a 1080 OPS, eight extra-base hits in his first 64 plate appearances, and a .455 wOBA. None of this serves to suggest that small sample sizes aren’t as deceiving as an XL label at A&F, but to help illustrate just how big the expectations will be for the plodding “catcher” next year in the Bronx. He’ll likely DH for almost the entire season, which may hurt his chances since no DH has won the award since Bob Hamelin in 1994. Then again, catching everyday would probably hurt his chances more. The sky is the limit with Montero offensively, and he appears to be the leader in the clubhouse with everyone I’ve chatted with thus far.

Ryan Lavarnway – C Boston Red Sox

An overachiever in some sense of the word, Lavarnway didn’t find himself on anyone’s top 100 list when he began the season with Double-A Portland. Well, 32 home runs and a .939 OPS across two levels later, Lavarnway has to be at least mentioned in the discussion for ROY nominees. In a sense, Lavarnway is in a similar situation as Montero, replacing a legend that has begun his fade to black. Now, the absence of hype might be a reason why Lavarnway doesn’t necessarily belong on this list, but here’s how I look at it: the only person in his way is Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and the only thing he really has on Lavarnway at this point is a longer last name. I could see Lavarnway having a Mark Trumbo-esque rookie season, with his counting stats giving him a fair shot at taking home the hardware at the end of the season. The Red Sox lineup is the perfect one for him to be born into anyway, as it proved in 2010 that it could hide Salty (and Crawford….and Drew) and still be among the AL’s best.

Other candidates: Mike Trout, Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos

Columnist note: Ideally, I’d have included Trout, but I don’t think he’ll get enough of a shot in a crowded Angels outfield next season to merit nomination.

And Next Year’s Comeback Players Are….

The Major League Baseball Comeback Player of the Year award has been interesting to me since it was conceived by MLB — and Viagra — in 2005. Certainly it’s not an award a player aspires to when beginning a career, but it can be quite an honor for someone who’s struggled but then overcome. In the award’s brief history, the winners have run the gamut. Some have been a one-year blip on the radar — like Aaron Hill or Francisco Liriano. Others have been superstars who’ve had a year away from typical production, only to return to that previous level. Guys like Jim Thome, or Ken Griffey Jr., surely fit that bill. Other times, the award can be a harbinger, like when Cliff Lee won in 2008.

This year, there are a several viable candidates in both leagues: Jacoby Ellsbury, James Shields and Alex Gordon seem like excellent options in the American League. In the NL, Ryan Vogelsong, Carlos Beltran and Matt Kemp all are strong contenders. In the process of thinking about who would get my votes this season (Gordon and Vogelsong) I began considering some players who could be candidates for the award next year. Here’s my list:

Pedro Alvarez – 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates

This isn’t the way it’s supposed to go for top prospects, especially not for one who already had nearly 400 major-league plate appearances that implied there was a developing star in the batter’s box. Yet injuries and ineffectiveness marred Alvarez’s sophomore season, holding him to fewer than 250 plate appearances and an OPS in the .550s. There were questions about Alvarez’s long swing in 2011, but his troubles seem mostly due to bad luck. Not only has the health bug bit Alvarez, but he also owns a .275 BABIP – among the 15 lowest of all players with 200-plus plate appearances – despite an incredible surge in GB/FB, LD%, and GB%. Sure, Alvarez is going to strike out a lot, but it’s safe to say that his rates foretell a return to form for the 24-year-old. He might never become the superstar many folks though he would become, but Alvarez should be an asset next season.

Franklin Gutierrez – CF, Seattle Mariners

To say the least, it’s been an exceptionally rough season for “Death to Flying Things.” If his .224/.261/.273 slash line hadn’t put him in cahoots with Chone Figgins, Gutierrez was hampered by a mysterious stomach illness that required trips to the Mayo Clinic and cost Franklin the first six weeks of the season. An oblique injury later cost him almost all of September. As a result, Gutierrez started slow — with a 467 OPS after a month — and never really recovered. On the plus side, Gutierrez had a .266 BABIP — this, despite no obvious disparity in his batted-ball rates. If he can gravitate back to his .306 career mark — and stay healthy — he should show marked improvement.

Joe Mauer/Justin Morneau – C/1B, Minnesota Twins

If Gutierrez’s season has been bad, the Twins have gotten a double dose. With both Mauer and Morneau shut down for the season, the duo will have missed 173 games for a team that’s probably the worst in the franchise’s 51-year history. With Morneau, there’s plenty of doubt about whether he’ll ever resemble anything close to the All-Star he once was. With Mauer, though, a healthy off-season – which is far from guaranteed – should go a long way to helping him return to his .300/.400/.500-type glory. With $37 million tabbed for this pair in 2012, the Twins simply can’t rebuild.

Adam Dunn – DH, Chicago White Sox

Dunn has had a horrific 2011, but he’s not this bad. His wOBA is nearly 100 points worse than his previous-worse season; his ISO is still only about half what it was in his previous-worst full season; and the same goes for his wRC+. In a nutshell, Dunn’s batted-ball rates are almost identical to his career rates across the board. And while he’s never been a BABIP monger, his .244 mark is still 50 points below his career mark. For one last bit of context: If Dunn magically improved his 2011 OPS by .300 points, it STILL wouldn’t match his career OPS. Even a modest return to form for Dunn should help him lock down this award.

Under the Radar: Deserving MVP Candidates

As the battle rages on between Jacoby Ellsbury, Jose Bautista and Curtis Granderson, or Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Joey Votto, I felt it was necessary to take a peek at a few players who have flown under the radar in their respective league’s MVP balloting — at least on the basis of how much press they’ve received.

Ian Kinsler – Texas Rangers 2B

Kinsler has been rock-solid at the keystone for a Rangers club that has had a bit more trouble putting away the American League West than most expected. Nonetheless, with a pair of former studs having down seasons – namely, Chase Utley and Dan Uggla – Kinsler has stepped in to join Dustin Pedroia at the top of the ranks of the WAR leaderboard, checking in at 6.7 with just a handful of games remaining. In terms of value to the team, Kinsler certainly has it, as he’s played in all but six of his club’s games, and leads the league in plate appearances. This has been pretty noteworthy, considering Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, and Josh Hamilton have each missed 30-plus games for various reasons for the Rangers.

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Offseason Underpay Candidates

To borrow a phrase from an inferior sport, I think it’s a slam dunk to do a follow-up on offseason overpay candidates with a column of those I feel might fly under the radar this winter. The same rules apply from last week’s column, but still feel free to nominate your own or openly question my sanity. I work for Carson Cistulli, so you can’t hurt my feelings. After all, coming up with under the radar candidates for free agency is harder than writing a Penny pitch f/x article, man.

Rich Harden – Oakland Athletics SP

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Offseason Overpay Candidates

With the offseason quickly approaching, today I’d like to take a glance at a few guys that I feel are prime candidates to be overpaid in free agency this winter.

To clarify, I don’t necessarily mean they can’t/won’t perform to the $5 million per win above replacement level. They may well do that. However, I’d like to present these players with all things considered, such as relative price of an available alternative, platoon splits, compensation, or anything else to that effect.

With this said, here are a few of my offseason overpay candidates.

Wilson Betemit – Detroit Tigers 3B

The pickings are slim at third base, where Mr. Betemit has played exclusively since coming over from the Royals earlier this summer. To contextualize a little bit, there are only six third-sackers league-wide with a WAR over 3.0 — in other words, even fewer than the similarly-shorthanded second base and shortstop spots. As a result, even marginal talents like Betemit appear likely to reel in a more lucrative contract than usual in this third base housing market.

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Breakout Candidates for 2012

Predicting big things from up-and-comers has become chic as the information age has exploded, giving everyone from the Kevin Goldsteins of the world to the Brandon Warnes of the world access to minor league statistics. It’s easy enough to find a top 100 list, and predict greatness for guys like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, or Shelby Miller, but today I’d like to take a peek at few less-than-established big leaguers who weren’t big time prospects whom I feel are good breakout candidates for next season.

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Under the Radar

As the season rounds the corner and heads for the home stretch, it’s pretty easy to separate the haves from the have-nots. Whether discussing players like Dustin Pedroia and Jose Bautista leading the charge on the WAR leaderboards, or Adam Dunn and Tsuyoshi Nishioka facing the opposite direction, it’s certainly not difficult to skim the top or bottom of the lists. With today’s entry however, we’ll focus on a few players who have flown under the radar, perhaps outperforming expectations or simply shining despite relative obscurity.

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Waiver Deal Candidates

With all the ballyhoo encompassing the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, it’s sometimes easy to forget that deals can still go down for another month.

Plenty of viable players clear waivers every year, and a fair number of them are dealt to bolster a team’s playoff chances or perhaps to clear some payroll off the books. One of the more notable deals was the Padres’ 1998 blunder in which the club claimed reliever Randy Myers to prevent him from getting to the Atlanta Braves. The Blue Jays gladly allowed the waiver claim to go through, and Myers’ bloated salary was absorbed by the Friars.

Let’s take a peek at a few players who could find themselves on different rosters in the next month.

Ramon Hernandez – Catcher – Cincinnati Reds

Dusty Baker loves veterans. But after all, you’re reading FanGraphs, so you already know that. However, the exact rationale behind not dealing Hernandez and promoting Devin Mesoraco was that ol’ Fistbands didn’t want to have a rookie catcher in the heat of a pennant race. Well, with the club in fourth place and seven-and-a-half games back, it’s hard to really jive with that sentiment. Hernandez doesn’t profile as a player who can play every day in the twilight of his career, but that doesn’t mean it will stop Brian Sabean from trying to pry him away down the stretch in a desperate attempt to bolster his club’s futile offense. Hernandez, whose .364 wOBA is the finest of his career, was and still is a fine sell-high candidate, and perhaps with the race slipping away, GM Walt Jocketty will still get value with the “Free Mesoraco” campaign gaining some steam.

Carl Pavano – Starting Pitcher – Minnesota Twins

The Twins have yet to indicate the Pavano is on the block, but there’s little reason he shouldn’t be. With the club seven games out and treading water in the league’s worst division, it is a bit surprising the Twins opted to stand pat rather than move toward one of the poles. Should the division lead lengthen any further, however, it’s not unreasonable to expect GM Bill Smith to start fielding calls for the suddenly-durable right hander. Pavano’s been roughed up a bit of late, but is still on pace to throw in the neighborhood of 200 innings for the third straight season. His xFIP of 4.15 also serves notice to the defensive struggles the Twins have uncharacteristically suffered from in 2011, but also helps contextualize some of the mistakes made in the club’s offseason planning (dealing Hardy, re-signing Pavano rather than trying to receive compensation picks). If the Twins eat money, it’s not completely out of the question that he could find himself in the same situation as 2009, when he moved from Cleveland to Minnesota for the stretch run.

Wandy Rodriguez – Starting Pitcher – Houston Astros

The biggest reason Rodriguez could wind up on the block is his contract, which just kicked in for the 2011 season. Rodriguez, likely the best pitcher that the average fan hasn’t heard about, has been scintillating for the Astros for the past four seasons, compiling a 3.38 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and a solid 2.9 K/BB. Those numbers landed Rodriguez a three-year extension with a 2014 option, with the big money kicking in next season at $10 million. Rodriguez would probably slip through waivers because the fourth year option is guaranteed with a trade, and Wandy would be 35 at the top of the 2014 season. Still, for a team with cash to burn and a rotation need (Yankees/Red Sox?), Rodriguez could be a viable fit that would slot in nicely in the upper-middle of just about any rotation. The Astros have almost no incentive to hold onto Rodriguez after dealing Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn, but have no reason to give him away either. If a deal gets done, it’ll only be because Ed Wade hears an offer to his liking. Whatever that means.

The Delmon Young Quandary

Teams make tough decisions every season. For the Minnesota Twins this year, nearly every player is a conundrum: From moving Joe Mauer from behind the plate to assessing Justin Morneau’s health to deciding whether Francisco Liriano is a rotation mainstay or trade bait, the Twins have had to make important decisions about several solid ballplayers.

Perhaps the most important one that’s left has to do with leftfielder Delmon Young, who was coming off a breakout 2010 but has performed far less significantly this season. At the beginning of the year, Young was expected to tag-team with Michael Cuddyer as the right handed counterparts to Morneau, Mauer and the venerable Jim Thome in a lineup that produced its best year in recent memory. Instead, every one of those players – with the exception of Cuddyer — missed significant time to injury. And now Young doesn’t look like the same player.

Last year, the now 25-year-old cut his strikeouts nearly 10% and bumped his walk rate up to an acceptable level. But this year? Well, he’s regressed to his career whiff rate and dropped below his career walk rate. While Young made strides with his batted-ball rates in 2010 — cutting his number of routine ground balls — those grounders have returned in full force this year. And now he’s mixing those worm-burners with a bevy of popups (13.7%). Needless to say, his 2.7% home-run-rate is hardly appeasing.

Young’s poor play is exacerbated by another issue that’s clouding his future: finances. Young is arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason.

Young parlayed his 112 RBIs last season into a raise from $2.6 million to $5.375 million. Despite his current struggles, it’d seem likely he’ll be given a slight raise again. But can the Twins afford to keep Young around at a cost upwards of $6 million, despite only one productive season?

Twins’ president Dave St. Peter says the team is financially healthy — but after dealing J.J. Hardy last offseason due in part to his impending salary bump, is it that far-fetched to consider that Young could be tendered, then dealt in the offseason to save money? Perhaps not — but it might be difficult.

Friend of FanGraphs and ESPN1500 Twin Cities host, Phil Mackey, agrees. “Determining Young’s value isn’t easy,” Mackey told me during one of our recent discussions. To him, general managers are trending toward the notion that pitching and solid defense are as equally important as hitting. Because of that, Young’s value might not be that high. Mackey’s point is spot-on. It would seem unlikely that a general manager would spend big money on a corner outfielder with a career triple-slash of .290/.321/.427 and a career UZR of -41.3.

Another thing working against Young is the Twins have a few up-and-comers in the minor leagues who could push for starting jobs in 2012. Financially speaking, the Twins should easily replace Young’s 2011 production with a player who’s making a minimum salary. Ben Revere has already spent significant time atop the Twins lineup, with mixed results, but if the Denard Span trade rumors are any indication, the club thinks Revere is going to be an asset in the near future. Twenty-three-year-old outfielder Joe Benson — and to a lesser extent, Rene Tosoni — could both add interest to the situation. Benson is a more-prized prospect, but Tosoni could be an option to man a corner outfield spot until Benson and Aaron Hicks make their ways to the big club.

Ultimately, with Young’s limited trade value, it seems that the Twins will hold onto him through the offseason and see if he can regain his 2010 form. Perhaps then the team could deal him at the 2012 trading deadline. Failing that, he could garner at least Type-B compensation if he’s offered arbitration.

Derby, Or Not Derby? That Is The Question.

Bobby Abreu’s insane run at the 2005 Home Run Derby and the power-outage that quickly followed has spurred the same discussion each year at this time: Did swinging for the fences on that one night in Detroit hurt Abreu’s gameday swings every night thereafter?

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They May Be Deserving…

We are pleased to welcome Brandon Warne to the FanGraphs team. Brandon has written for every Twins publication in existence and a few that haven’t even been invented yet. We look forward to mocking him for rooting for the 2011 #6org, but more than that, hope you enjoy his pieces here on the site.

Every season when All Star voting begins to wind down, and rosters are finalized for the Midsummer Classic, fans begin murmuring the ‘S’ word. It’s an ugly, dirty four-letter word that gets thrown around with little or no regard to who is within earshot, or how the rosters are constructed.

That four letter word is snub.

With 750 roster spots occupied at any given time in the major leagues, and fewer one-in-ten of those players deemed worthy of an All-Star nod, there’s no shortage of these snubs each season. With this dynamic in mind, let’s take a peek at some players likely to be snubbed from their respective All Star squads, and plead for those with the power to make these predictions wrong to do so.

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