Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Others Who Weren't So Lucky

Monday night, news broke that the Twins had retained all of their arbitration eligible players, including both Luis Rivas and Jacque Jones. These two moves will be questioned up until spring training and even into next season. Jones is an outfielder coming off an off-year and is now eating up 5 million of the Twins payroll. Rivas has actually regressed the past couple of seasons and is only marginally better then his competition in the infield (despite a much earning a much higher salary than every one of them). Add those two to the payroll and it now appears the Twins are, at best, several million over budget for next year with no room left to sign any other free agents. With the Twins off-season moves all but done they will now turn their attention to signing franchise player Johan Santana. Not only were things happening at 34 Kirby Puckett Place, but there were also several other intriguing players non-tendered Monday. A quick walk through those transactions:

The White Sox allow Scott Shoeneweis to become a free agent.

As of yesterday it appeared the Sox had also cut bait on Ben Davis, who was a part of last summer's Freddy Garcia trade. However even though the team did non-tender Davis on Monday, they re-signed him as a free agent today. Shoeneweis is coming off a year in which he had a 5.59 ERA in 20 games, 19 started. It was not a very good year for him but previously he had been a valuable pitcher. Shoeneweis pitched much better in 2003 as a reliever with both the Angels and White Sox. He wants to start but if used in the bullpen he will be a great pick up for another team. Leave it to the White Sox to not have utilized him properly.

The Angels sign Orlando Cabrera and non-tender David Eckstein.

Eckstein was the catalyst when the Angels won the World Series in 2002 and Cabrera was a major part of the Red Sox championship in 2004. Cabrera is hands down the better player but it’s worth noting what Eckstein has done. He is the antithesis of the usual professional athlete. With limited athletic ability was actually a major part of the Angels' success. He will add chemistry to any team he is on and might have been a good option for the Twins. He is probably better suited to play 2nd with his arm but people have been doubting him for years and he has continued to prove them wrong.

Houston non-tenders Wade Miller.

Miller is now one of the most attractive pitchers on the free agent market. He is a top of the rotation guy and a former All-Star. It is a bit surprising that Houston did not decide to hold on to him. He was injured for parts of last year but when healthy, he pitched pretty well behind the other big three (Oswalt, Clemens, and Pettitte) in Houston’s rotation. This is probably a sign that they are saving their resources to bring back Carlos Beltran.

Former Twins Kevin Frederick and Dustan Mohr both were non-tendered Monday.

What is your favorite Kevin Frederick memory? I must admit I barely have any Kevin Frederick memories, let alone a favorite one. With an ERA over 6 this past season he probably deserved to be released. Dustan Mohr on the other hand had a decent season for the Giants batting .274 with a .394 OBP. He is a great 4th outfielder but may be able to find a starting spot somewhere. If he leaves the Giants, they will have will have nothing to show for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser, and Franscico Loriano, whom they traded to the Twins last winter (A.J. was cut loose last week).

It is important to remember that by being non-tendered, a player becomes a free agent and is no longer eligible for arbitration. They are still able to re-sign with their old team but they must now compete with everyone else. Jacque Jones would have been one of the biggest names in this group had he not been offered a contract. Usually the Twins are not forced to make such controversial decisions in this process but it is a reality all teams across baseball must face.

Note - Joe Randa signed with Cincinnati yesterday, officially ending any speculation that he would play third base for the Twins next year; when the Twins chose to bring back Jones and Rivas Monday they pretty much shut the door on this possibility. This is rather disappointing because Randa would have been the solid veteran Ron Gardenhire likes and he would have allowed the team to move Michael Cuddyer to second. That infield would have been much stronger both defensively and offensively but Terry Ryan chose to play it safe with his outfield and maintain the status quo. In the past he has made such questionable decisions and they have worked out so we will all have to sit back and see how it goes.

-John Betzler

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