Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Upgrading the roster

On Tuesday, the Star Tribune's Howard Sinker (who is one of the better Twins followers around) wrote a blog piece discussing ways to upgrade the current roster for the Minnesota Twins.

In much of his blog, he discussed ways to upgrade the roster by going outside the organization - bringing in a guy like Mike Lowell or Kevin Kouzmanoff to upgrade the hole that is third base for the Twins; or bringing in Cliff Lee to solidify the rotation - giving the Twins one of the best 1-2 punch in Major League Baseball (along with Francisco Liriano).

While I am not opposed to going outside the organization to upgrade the roster - almost because it is necessary to make this team a legitimate World Series contender rather than a 'one and done', as Sinker says. This team built itself during the off-season to contend for a World Series title - why stop there?

However, there are ways to upgrade the roster right now - without having to give up a top prospect like Wilson Ramos or Ben Revere; or having to surrender one of their current starting pitchers. How is that, you may ask? Well, here are my offerings:

Demote Drew Butera and recall Jose Morales from AAA Rochester

Some people would ask why not promote Wilson Ramos? Well, it is pretty clear that the Twins want Ramos playing everyday and he just would not get that opportunity at the big league level. While Butera is a significant upgrade defensively over Morales, he does not play enough to provide much of an impact with his defensive abilities.

Having Morales on the bench would give the Twins another late-inning option as far as pinch-hitting goes - rather than having Butera on the bench who is essentially as effective as Kevin Slowey is at the plate. While Morales is hitting just .259/.352/.330 at Rochester in 112 at bats, that is a significant upgrade over what Butera currently offers the Twins.

While it is just a handful of at-bats, Morales has also hit .311/.381/.361 at the major league level.

Demote Ron Mahay and recall Anthony Slama or Kyle Waldrop from AAA Rochester

This one seems like a pretty easy one. The Twins currently have three left handed relievers in their bullpen, and Mahay is clearly number three on the depth chart behind Brian Duensing and Jose Mijares. So what is the purpose of keeping Mahay on the 25-man active roster?

He was a non-roster invitee during spring training, and did not make the team out of camp. While he was a terrific find to begin the season, boasting a 0.90 ERA in his first 12 appearances, Mahay has had a had time finding work as of late - and when he has found work, he has been less than effective during those outings.

In Mahay's last 7.1 IP, he has allowed 8 runs including two poor outings versus Toronto and Milwaukee.

He just has no purpose on this baseball team at it's current state. On the flip side, both Slama and Waldrop could be useful arms in the Twins bullpen. Both have been terrific for Rochester so far in 2010, boasting the first and second best ERA's on the Red Wings pitching staff.

Slama: 38.1 IP, 16 H, 19 BB, 44 K, 0.91 WHIP, 1.64 ERA
Waldrop: 45.1 IP, 36 H, 8 BB, 29 K, 0.97 WHIP, 1.19 ERA

There are not too many teams in Major League Baseball that would let two young pitchers, with those statistics, continue to sit at AAA in favor of a middling veteran reliever - except for the Minnesota Twins.

I understand the reluctance to recall Slama because he is not on the 40-man roster; but that excuse cannot be used with Waldrop as he is one of the 40 individuals on the Twins 40-man roster. Plus, there are plenty of candidates to be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Slama. Estarlin De Los Santos, Glen Perkins, Matt Tolbert, and Ron Mahay all make sense.

Plus, couldn't one move Alexi Casilla, who is expected to miss significant time with an elbow injury, to the 60-day DL to make room? You would think so.

DFA Brendan Harris and recall Jason Repko from AAA Rochester

This move would require some more roster shuffling, but it is a move that makes the most sense if one is looking to upgrade the current Twins roster - which is what this blog post is all about, right?

Harris, who signed a 2-year deal during the off season (for whatever reason), no longer has a place on this baseball team. Even with the injuries to J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson, Harris cannot find himself in the lineup - wondering what the purpose is of having him on the active roster to begin with.

During the month of June, Harris has received just 18 AB's - resulting in a .111/.111/.222 slash line. For the season, Harris is hitting just .160/.237/.217 and has not recorded an extra base hit since May 9th versus the Baltimore Orioles. You think that's bad? Harris hasn't recorded an RBI since April 21st versus the Cleveland Indians.

Repko seems to be the player who makes the most sense for what the Twins need. If the Twins want to reward Denard Span with a day off every now and then, they would be best served doing so without shifting Michael Cuddyer to center field. Keep Cuddyer in right field where he belongs, and put a guy capable of playing center field in that position.

In 202 AAA at bats, Repko is hitting .297/.389/.446 which would be a heck of an addition to the Twins underwhelming bench - especially with the recent injury plague.

If you don't want to do Repko, fine. Then go with Dustin Martin who has been equally as good for Rochester so far (.294/.356/.468) and can play center field more effectively than Cuddyer.

While none of these moves figure to place the Twins above the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays, they will improve the current roster of the Minnesota Twins - giving them a better chance to win the American League Central Division and move forward toward competing for a World Series Championship.

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