Monday, October 31, 2011

Quick Hits: Nathan eyeing the Mets, Madson a Twins option & more Iwakuma

Joe Nathan told reporters during a ceremony for the dedication of the baseball field which will bear his name at Stony Brook University in New York that the Mets “are going to be on my radar”.
Seeing as this was in New York and covered by local reporters, it is only natural that the question regarding the Mets’ closer vacancy comes up. I do believe that his answer is more lip service than a genuine interest in the team. That said, there will be plenty of teams who should have him on their radar as well. His second-half performance suggests that he is capable of providing high-quality work and his recent injury history coupled with his age likely equates to a bargain price (in years and dollars). In the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, we have him scheduled for a contract for two-years at $7 million per.

In my personal offseason blueprint, I had encouraged re-signing Joe Nathan for the $7M but after more consideration – and depending how the market develops for Nathan – I’m leaning towards giving Glen Perkins a chance as a close and build the bullpen from the bottom up rather than the top down. Perkins has the capability and stuff to be a solid closer and in the small sampling he compiled in 2011, he seemed to work well in high leverage situations (2.83 xFIP). This would save the team $5 million to address other needs.
Regardless of who assumes the closers role, the Twins bullpen needs plenty of attention this offseason - one way or another. 

Newsday’s Ken Davidoff released his annual MLB free agent rankings and predictions. Among them, Davidoff thinks that the Phillies closer, Ryan Madson, will sign with the Twins for a three-year, $27 million contract.
Madson has been a very productive reliever in the Phillies bullpen since 2003 but last season was his first sustained shot at being the team’s closer. He responded well by working in 62 games while posting a 2.37 ERA with a solid 62/16 K/BB ratio. He’s armed with a mid-90s fastball that he complements with a devastating changeup – one that has been baseball’s best since 2009 according the’s pitch value (25.3 runs above average). This past season opponents missed on 57% of their swings while hitting just .085 off of it.

He’s a high strikeout, low-walk rate type of reliever that the Twins under normal circumstances would be interested in. The problem is I just do not see the Twins investing three years in to any one for the bullpen. After all, it was one of the reasons (for better or worse) they refrained from re-signing either Jesse Crain or Matt Guerrier at the end of the 2010 season.
Again, similar to the Nathan situation, I believe the Twins would be better served not committing that money to a closer but earmarking that payroll towards filling other needs in the rotation, bullpen and middle infield. 

One potential Twins starting pitching target, Hisashi Iwakuma, made his intentions known regarding his desire to play in the US, saying he was going to “exercise international free agency.”
The Twins have had interest in the 30-year-old Iwakuma as recently as last winter so there will likely be explorations with his agent to see what sort of money he will be looking for. Last year, he was rumored to have been seeking a high sum out of Oakland to which the A’s were not willing to pay. Now, without the hindrance of purchasing his negotiating rights from his Japanese team, Iwakuma figures to make it to the MLB as a B-level free agent this year.

He’s stacked up inning in Japan and completed plenty of games. So if a better option like Mark Buehrle is not willing to leave Chicago, Iwakuma shares a similar profile to Buehrle and could draw attention for other suitors. In theory, he’s got better stuff (including a splitter that has been compared to Dan Haren’s) but it is hard to tell if that will play well on this side of the Pacific as those pitchers making the transition have had mixed results.