- UPDATE #1 12/12. Jones v. Morlan: After asking a Twins official what the logic was in selected Jones over Morlan, who was still on the board when the Twins drafted, I was told that the Twins scouting staff is still very high on Morlan however the impression is that Jones has the opportunity to make the club out of spring training whereas Morlan may need a few more innings in the minor leagues. Le Valle reaffirmed this by saying Terry Ryan gave Jones a high recommendation. Knowing that Ryan was the person that gave the recommendation validates the decision in my mind. "He's got a lot of pitchability and strikeability,'' said Mike Radcliff, the Twins' vice president of player personnel. "He's always been in a starting role. The key will be if he's able to apply his pitches and tools to being a reliever.''
- UPDATE #2 12/12. Kouz. It sounds as if the Twins are not even considering a trade for Kouzmanoff and he is off their targeting list. The decision stems from Ron Gardenhire's displeasure in Kouzmanoff's defense. Managerial and scouting wisdom notwithstanding, Kouzmanoff is coming off a season in which he has made some progress in the fielding department. In over 200 additional innings in 2008 versus 2007, Kouzmanoff committed 11 fewer errors plus started 22 more doubleplays. Furthermore, John Dewan's Fielding Bible reaffirms his improvement, grading his bunt-fielding capabilities a "B" in 2007 and an "A-" in 2008 and highlighting that his ability to make plays ranging to his right - towards the line - has improved from a -3 plays in 2007 to a +8 in 2008. To write him off as a non-entity seems absurd.
A Punto Offer? It sounds like the Twins are ready to offer Nick Punto a contract worth 2-years, $8-million to keep him as the starting shortstop forgoing any need to fill the role through a trade opportunity. "We would like to re-sign him,'' Bill Smith said. "He has been a good player for us. Gardy loves the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the lineup and clubhouse on a daily basis.'' Punto's retention is contingent on what the Phillies may be offering.
The shortstop market quickly dried up for the Twins as free agent Edgar Renteria signed with the Giants for a two-year, $18.5 million dollar deal and Rafael Furcal priced himself out of the Twins' market by turning down a four-year, $37 million dollar deal with Oakland. ESPN's Keith Law viewed the Renteria signing as a solid one, noting Renteria's .299/.340/.493 batting line the last two months of the season.
Trades for shortstops J.J. Hardy, Miguel Tejada, Yunel Escobar never finalized which indicates that the Twins greatly value their starting pitchers (Slowey, Blackburn, Baker) whose names have been associated to most rumors.
Interestingly enough, the Padres accepted a AAA reliever, Mark Worrell, who has a funky delivery but 90-mph stuff and an attitude to boot, for shortstop Khalil Greene. Greene had a terrible year in which he hit .213/.260/.339 in 2008. Naturally, people will reference this trade wondering why the Twins didn't offer a similar package. Most telling is that Greene is simply an out-machine. His career on-base total is .304 - yes, he does have power for a shortstop but his glovework has declined since 2006. Last year Greene was a -4 according to the Fielding Bible. by comparison, Nick Punto was a +4.
The 30 year old Punto hit .284/.344/.382 in 338 at bats in 2008, which was better than your league average shortstop who hit .266/.319/.375, however the last time Punto was given a starting job he slugged .271 in 2007, the lowest among any starter.
- Kubel the Kub? Though the Twins (finally) realize what they have, it sounds like the Cubs have been trying to formulate a deal that would land them Jason Kubel, requesting him in a package for Mark DeRosa, to gain a left-handed power bat.
- Rule 5 Results. The Twins selected Jason Jones from the Yankees. Jones, who spent last season split between AA and AAA, was drafted by the Yankees in the 4th round of the 2004 draft. After a solid first season in professional baseball, Jones repeated high-A and the AA. Last season he threw 159.3 innings with a 102/50 K/BB ratio and a 3.78 Runs Allowed Average. But the fact is that at 25 years old, Jones was old for the AA level. He appears to be a four-pitch pitcher that throws his fastball in the high-80s. Jones joins an organizations that is full of like-styped pitchers and will most likely be returned to the Yankees at the end of the spring. Surprisingly avoiding Eduardo Morlan a one-time Twins prospect but was involved in the Young-for-Garza trade. Now traded by the Twins and unsecured by the Rays, there must be something about Morlan's makeup that does not merit keeping him.