Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hello Cirillo.

Have you ever had that friend that had a particular "type" of girl that he dated? All the women in his life shared a similar defining characteristic of a certain celebrity that he is obsessed with -- say Jennifer Garner -- then subsequently dates various women that looked vaguely like Garner in some low-grade way (brown hair, knobby-kneed, named Jen, etc). Once you heard that he was dating someone, you instantly had a mental image of what they looked like. This friend is so transparent with his love-life, that when you see a girl at a bar that shares those same qualities, you instinctively know that your buddy is going to comment on her long before he before he does. What is known is that the friend of yours would never in a million lifetimes end up with Jennifer Garner, for several glaring reasons such as 1) he spends too much of his time at a peanut bar called Williams in Uptown Minneapolis where Jennifer Garner rarely shows up, 2) it's doubtful if she is into dudes that play Golden Tee in Prior Lake and 3) she already in a committed relationship to one Ben Afflack. So he is going to find the next best thing on the market that resembles Garner and will also sleep with him. That's sort of how the Twins operate. That is what is transpiring when you read the paper and find out the Twins signed Jeff Cirillo on Tuesday. They become infatuated with a certain type of player's tools. Most of the time, there are obvious reasons to why a premium player won't come to Minnesota such as 1) too high of an asking price, 2) they prefer to play on "the coast" or 3) in a committed relationship to one Scott Boras. So the Twins seek out the next closest (and cheapest) player. One such example of this was the Dmitri Young Years. Over the past few seasons, the Twins were rumored to be seeking potential deals to bring Dmitri Young to the organization. The Twins front office coveted his switch-hitting power in 2002 and 2003. Bert Blyleven reminded us every time the Twins were playing the Tigers that the Twins "loved how Young just drops the head of the bat". In the 2003 season he put up semi-monster power numbers considering he was playing in Comerica prior to the walls being moved forward (29 HRs 84 RBIs, .297/.372/.537 (.909 OPS)) and was elected to the All-Star team. All drug addictions aside, the Twins were fortunate not to have made this deal. At 32 years old, Young is averaging 21 HRs 82 RBIs, .289/.346/.476 (.822 OPS) per season and limited to first base and DH. The problem was that he was a little out of the Twins' league at the time. He had a 4 year/$28.5 million dollar contract. In 2002 he signed a deal with the Tigers that would allot him $5.5 in that year, 2003 he would receive $6.7 million, $7.7 million in 2004 and $8.0 in both 2005 and 2006. These were figures that the Twins were reserving for Torii Hunter who would be commanding a 4-year/$32 million deal. Meanwhile the Twins in the 2005 offseason signed Rondell White to an incentive-laden contract that was worth $2.5 million for the year with trigger options for 2007. Despite not being a switch hitter, White shared many traits with Young. Both had bursts of power, both have a low walk/high strikeout rate and both could play DH and the corner outfield if asked. Rondell's career average offensive numbers (22 HRs 94 RBIs, .286/.339/.465 (.805 OPS)) are very similar to DY's. Even in this past season when both players missed a significant amount of time, they seemed to replicate stats: DY 172 ABs 7 HRs 23 RBIs .250/.293/.407 (.700 OPS) RW 337 ABs 7 HRs 38 RBIs .246/.276/.365 (.641 OPS) For all intents and purposes, White was every bit as good (or bad depending on the season) as Young. The difference was White was a more frugal signing for the same kind of output with less off-field problems. That's what the Twins do. They find the characteristics that they value in a player then see if they can obtain it for a bargain. White was a gamble who didn't necessarily pay dividends. I would rather pay $2.5 million for those stats as opposed to $8.0 million. Similar to Dmitri, baseball insiders have said the Twins have had a long-standing man-crush on Joe Randa (aka the Joker). Randa has spent most of his career playing against the Twins in the AL Central for the Kansas City Royals and putting up respectable, workman-like offensive numbers and showing a solid glove at third base. In 2005 Randa split a one-year/$2.1 million contract with Cincinnati and San Diego. His offensive season (17 HRs, 68 RBIs .276/.335/.452 (.787 OPS)) was good enough to earn him a raise from Pittsburgh (1-year/$4.0 million) in which is output dropped off after injuries and the emergence of doubles-machine Freddy Sanchez. Randa has since announced his retirement this offseason due to the stress fracture in his foot. So once again, the person that the Twins desire is not available. The Twins went searching for the next best thing. The boys at Baseball-reference.com proclaimed Jeff Cirillo to be the most similar batter to Joe Randa. Consider their career offensive averages, keep in mind that Cirillo spent two seasons at Coors, but otherwise they are almost interchangeable: JR 13 HRs 79 RBIs .284/.339/.426 (.765 OPS) JC 12 HRs 74 RBIs .298/.368/.432 (.800 OPS) And in the past season where both had limited playing time (Cirillo because he was cast to the bench and Randa because he had a nagging foot injury) they nearly duplicated numbers: JR 4 HRs 28 RBIs .267/.316/.388 (.714 OPS) JC 3 HRs 23 RBIs .319/.369/.414 (.783 OPS) Even after digesting all those numbers, here is the most crucial one: JR $4 million JC $850,000 The Twins have signed Cirillo for a 1-year/$1.25 million dollar contract to play a limited role this season. Cirillo should be durable enough to adequately back up/platoon at third with Punto, even if he puts up the exact same numbers as his previous season with the Brewers he would still be worth it.