Cuddyer Media Treatment

Not much news coming from the Twins these days other than the official notice of all the free agents. The Twins have four this year – Capps, Cuddyer, Kubel and Nathan. I’ve discussed all but Cuddyer in previous posts so it is time to make a few comments about him.

The Twin Cities media all seem to like him. I suspect that is at least in part due to his willingness to speak to the media on a regular basis and when he does, he is generally reasonably articulate and entertaining. I wonder how much that has influenced the many stories about Cuddyer and how much the Twins would like to re-sign him. Are the sports writers engaging in wishful thinking or do they have inside information? Is there a bit of panic about who they can count on to step up and be the sound bite guy if Cuddyer is gone?

To Twins fans who follow the game closely, it is fairly obvious that Gardenhire likes and respects Cuddyer. That alone may lead to a reasonable assumption that the Twins will make a good effort to re-sign him. He also is valuable off the field in his community connections. This coming year that may be even more important as the Twins try to rehab their image after the 2011 disaster of a season. The real question is how much they are willing to pay.

Bloggers have been somewhat mixed in their assessments both of Cuddyer’s value based on his age and past production, and the likelihood of his going elsewhere.

I am ambivalent. On the field he is not anything special and it is almost certain that his production will decline with each year of continued play. Clubhouse leadership is important, though, and from all reports he is a key person for the team. I’d be surprised if the Twins do not improve on the original offer at some point, but I’m fairly certain that they will wait until they and Cuddyer can gauge the interest by other parties. Neither party will be in a hurry and that probably means it will be at or after the winter meetings before we hear much more.

Will the best source of information be Cuddyer himself via Twitter? (@mcuddy5)

Matt Capps

Every story lately about the Twins and their free agents when referring to Matt Capps uses the phrase “unlikely to return”. It is a bit odd that no writer says anything more.  Are the reasons for his non-return so obvious it is unnecessary to cite them or is something more going on that is being politely left alone?

The primary reasons for Capps not returning seem to be: 1) the Twins do not see him as their closer with or without Nathan next year, 2) his salary is too high for a non-closer role, and 3) Capps wants to be a closer. Therefore, the assumption might be that he will not be offered any contract during the exclusive period the Twins have to negotiate with him.

If anything else is going on, the media have not uncovered or reported it. There was no evidence that Capps had a falling out with Gardenhire and/or Anderson during the season. In fact, toward the end of the season Capps was become a little more effective again after having some terrible outings. Like many other relievers, he was overused for a while and it took its toll on his ability to get hitters to swing and miss.

I’m left to conclude that Capps will almost certainly accept an offer from some other team to be their closer. But I’d be very surprised if it is with a contender. So I join the masses and say he is unlikely to return.

Kubel Chances of Return

Most of the Twins bloggers and sports writers I’ve read recently have all but written off the return of Kubel to the Twins in 2012. They may have more direct knowledge than I about this, but it seems to me a good case can be made that he will be back.

First, he has been a productive hitter and being younger than Cuddyer he is more likely to continue to be productive over the period of a longer term contract. He has already proven he can hit as a DH or when he plays in the field – an important attribute for an American League player.

Second, there are no guarantees that Span, Mauer, and Morneau will all return to form next season. In fact, it is more likely that at least one of them continues to struggle or even ends up out of baseball. The extended absence of Mauer and/or Morneau especially would mean Kubel’s bat from the left side would continue to be welcomed in the lineup whether at DH or as a corner outfielder.

Third, Kubel is not a negative presence in the clubhouse. All reports I’ve read indicate he is quiet, but a positive influence. As time goes on his “leadership” will be demonstrated more by example than by being vocal in the dugout.

Fourth, because he is such a low profile player in the league, it is possible that he will not draw as much attention in the free agent market as we expect. If that happens, his best deal might be the one the Twins offer him. He has indicated the preference of returning and if the offers to leave are not overly attractive, he may choose the known over the unknown.

Yet if other writers are correct, the Twins may favor re-signing Cuddyer for all the intangibles he brings. Also, they may believe some of the younger outfielders are closer to ready than I do. And they may be more confident that the left handed power bats will return to form next year. Or, they may be reserving the DH slot for Morneau and Mauer leaving less playing time for Kubel.

I like Kubel. I like his style as well as his production at the plate. Although he does not have speed and therefore his range is limited, he is a reliable outfielder with a strong, accurate arm who catches everything he gets to. The latter cannot be said of several of the other Twins outfielders.

Even though I would like to see him in a Twins uniform again in 2012, if he ends up elsewhere I wish him well and hope he lands in a hitters’ ballpark where he can produce numbers that will show his value.

Joe Nathan – Free Agent to Be

Over the last couple of weeks with the playoffs and World Series going on, official Twins news has been limited.  The most significant story of the off-season for the Twins so far hit this week when the Twins announced that they would not be exercising their option on Joe Nathan. This did not come as a surprise to anyone who follows the Twins closely, as the cost of the one-year option was well beyond his worth at this point in his career.

What is most intriguing now is where Nathan will end up in 2012.  Although the Twins will have a brief window of time following the end of the World Series to negotiate with him exclusively before he becomes a free agent, it is unlikely that they will come to any agreement then as the Twins probably will not be offering more than a two-year deal and Nathan will want to at least discover if he can get a three or four year deal somewhere else.  He and his agent have expressed an interest in testing the free agent market and while there are several closers on the market this off-season, Nathan is sure to generate at least some interest beyond the Twins.

Nathan has expressed a desire to be a closer and that will limit his options as a free agent.  He has also given indications that he is interested in going to a team that has a good chance of winning it all.  As his free agency plays out, it will be interesting to see which of those two desires is the stronger.  I’d be quite surprised if a contending team would see him as their top closer prospect given his negatives (age 37 and only one year following TJ surgery).  If he genuinely wants to finish his career on a championship team and that is his primary interest, he may well have to accept a set-up role.

My guess is being a closer is a higher priority for several reasons, not the least being it will command a higher salary.  If that is correct, Nathan is going to be patient as the process of teams signing free agent closers progresses.

For some reason, my gut feeling is there will be some interest in Nathan but nothing that will overwhelm him and his agent early on.  I fully expect this to be a repeat of what occurred with Pavano last year and eventually the Twins will be the best option for Nathan to remain as a closer and late in the off-season they will work out a deal.

If I were the Twins’ GM, in the exclusive window opportunity I’d offer Nathan a two-year deal for a total of $15-16 million to enter the 2012 season as the closer.  I’d also stipulate a gentleman’s agreement that if the Twins are out of contention by mid June, he would be put on the block for a trade to a contending team needing a closer or the final bullpen piece to get over the top.  Assuming Nathan would want more than this offer, I’d then wait until he had a chance to test the market and see how it all works out.