After 133 games this season the Twins are 56-77 and have already lost 9 more games than they did last season when they finished 94-68. The 2011 Twins are winning at a rate of 42.1%. If that holds through the end of the season it will be their lowest mark since 1999 when they won just 39.4% of their games and finished 63-97.
So many things have contributed to this collapse that it’s hard to recount all of them. For me, the primary reasons are the seemingly endless rash of injuries and the disappearance of Francisco Liriano as an average starter let alone the top of the rotation guy he was supposed to be. Certainly there’s plenty of room for debate and discussion to figure out exactly what went wrong but we know for certain that 15 players that contributed last year were not in the organization on Opening Day this spring.
Would the team’s fortunes be different if any of these players remained on the roster? It’s impossible to know of course since one change could have a ripple effect. Perhaps if the Twins front office had kept the most minor of these guys, Liriano would have been the ace we were hoping for. Perhaps Morneau and Mauer would have managed to avoid the DL. The universe works in mysterious ways after all.
The point of this 2-part article isn’t to state, emphatically or otherwise, where the organization went wrong in it’s decision making, but rather just to check in on where each of these guys are and how they are doing in 2011. I hope you’ll follow along, enjoy, and maybe even recall some of the great moments from 2010 in the process.
RHP Jesse Crain -
Signed a 3-year, $13 million deal with the White Sox this offseason
58.2 IP (56 G): 2.30 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 4.0 BB/9, 8.9 SO/9, 182 ERA+
Okay it’s one thing to leave the Twins, it’s another thing to sign with the hated White Sox. But what really gets my goat is that Crain is turning in the best season of his career since his debut season in 2000. I don’t blame him for taking the money, and I don’t blame the Twins for not trying to match or one-up the $13 million over 3 years he got. I just wish he wasn’t pitching so well for the Southsiders. Of the relievers that went elsewhere he is the one I most wanted to keep.
RHP Rob Delaney -
Claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays on January 28th
Majors – 5.0 IP (4 G): 10.80 ERA, 2.20 WHIP, 12.6 BB/9, 5.4 SO/9, 37 ERA+
Minors (AAA) – 64.1 IP (48 G): 1.82 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 8.0 SO/9
Delaney has provided the Durham Bulls with a season similar to what he produced at the lower levels in the Twins farm system. The difference is, of course, that this time around he’s doing it in Triple-A which is the one level he struggled with in years past, but major league success has continued to evade him though his chances have been very limited. He was DFA’d by the Rays on May 24th but went unclaimed and remained in their system.
LHP Randy Flores -
Signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres on February 11th
Minors (AAA) – 59.0 IP (58 G): 3.05 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 7.6 SO/9
Flores opted out of his minor league contract with the Padres on May 11th and signed a minor league contract with the Yankees on May 17th. New York agreed to release him at the end of July and he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers on August 2nd to his 3rd minor league contract of the year. On one hand, he’s kind of in demand as an emergency relief arm you can stash in Triple-A. On the other hand, he’s yet to throw a pitch at the major league level this year.
RHP Matt Fox -
Claimed off waivers by the Boston Red Sox on September 10th, 2010
Minors (AAA) – 124.2 IP (27 G/20 GS): 4.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9
Fox is a bit of an anomaly on this list because he didn’t finish the season in the Twins organization after they DFA’d him on September 5th. He’s mainly listed here for posterity.
LHP Brian Fuentes -
Signed a 2-year, $10.5 million contract with the Oakland A’s on January 19th. The deal includes a $6.5 million club option for 2013
51.0 IP (59 G): 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, 98 ERA+
Fuentes did a decent job filling in as the A’s closer while Andrew Bailey was on the DL to start the season. Beyond that he’s been just another league average reliever this season with waning strikeout skills. Given the contract he received, and his production this season, the Twins were wise not to push to get him under contract.
RHP Matt Guerrier -
Signed a 3-year, $12 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers on December 16th
59.2 IP (61 G): 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 3.2 BB/9, 6.3 SO/9, 103 ERA+
Like Fuentes, Guerrier has essentially been a league average reliever for the Dodgers. He gives up fewer hits than Fuentes but their BB and SO rates are similar. Neither pitcher, by my estimation, is worth the deals they were signed to this offseason.
SS J.J. Hardy -
Acquired by the Orioles in a December 9th trade. Agreed to a $5.8 million contract on January 18th to avoid arbitration
444 PA (101 G): 0.276/.317/.512, 22 2B, 24 HR, 25 BB, 75 SO, 124 OPS+
After 2 straight below-average years, Hardy has bounced back in 2011 and is having a career year at the plate. All while continuing to play above average defense at SS. His 4.3 UZR/150 is the lowest of his 7 year major league career, but it still keeps him in the top-10 (barely) at his position. Just as constant as the quality defense is his penchant for injury, and yes, he’s spent time on the DL in 2011. He signed a 3-year, $22.25 million extension with the Orioles on July 17th.
Trading Hardy stands out as one of the bigger missteps of the offseason. Not necessarily because they dealt him, but because they basically gave him away. For what they got in return, they would have been better off keeping him for 2011 in hopes he would hit an upswing in his 2nd year with the club. Target Field would certainly cut into his production if he was still a part of the organization but he’d still be a relative bargain at $5.8 million this season.
3B Brendan Harris -
Acquired by the Orioles along with J.J. Hardy on December 9th
Minors (AAA) – 528 PA (127 G): 0.229/.288/.335, 20 2B, 9 HR, 37 BB, 77 SO
When you are a 30-year old stuck back in Triple-A, and your SLG is lower than the average MLB OBP, chances are your career is in trouble. At this point Harris is a shell of the player he was in 2007-2008 and is in the final year of his 2-year $3.2 million deal he signed with the Twins back in January 2010. If he chooses to continue playing, I fear a series of minor league contracts are in his future. Given his versatility he might one day make it back to the majors, but it doesn’t look good right now.
If you enjoyed the recaps of the first 8 players, look for Part 2 in the coming days which will cover the remaining 7.