Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Molding and Shaping

There were actually a few Twins-related nuggets to grace the pages of our two local papers the past few days. The 2005 Twins are beginning to take shape, and I actually feel pretty good about the direction things seem to be going. It appears Corey Koskie may be as good as gone, but otherwise, things are looking up.

Twins sign Juan Castro to a 2-year, $2.05 million deal

I know that a lot of Twins fans out there don’t like this move particularly much, but as of right now, I don't think it's that terrible (and don’t fall under the impression that I love every move the Twins make, because I obviously don’t). I know very little about Castro other than what I can glean from his statistics (which you can read here), but it sounds like he’ll fit quite nicely into the Twins’ plan for next season. Castro is only a .226 career hitter, but he’s hit about .250 in limited duty the past couple of years (his OBP numbers are horrendous though). He’s a slick fielder and can play three infield positions. Also, Castro is a guy who has been praised at and on Baseball Tonight for his outstanding glovework and overall value to a ballclub (you can also read this article from the Cincinnati Post).

A million dollars was probably too much to spend on a utility infielder, so expect Castro to be given every opportunity to earn the shortstop job this spring. Jason Bartlett is going to have to show some significant improvement to prove to Gardy that he can handle the shortstop job on an everyday basis. We could potentially see a platoon of some sort, but ultimately, I think that Castro is the guy who will be chosen (with Bartlett opening at AAA). Whether this is right or wrong remains to be seen. We do know for sure that he won't be much worse than Guzman.

Twins sign Mike Redmond for two years at just under $2 million

I do not believe this move is official just yet, but it’s almost certain to be announced very soon. This also marks the end of the Henry Blanco-era (oh Babe, we hardly knew ye). While I was lukewarm about the Castro signing, I wholeheartedly endorse this move. $1 million may seem like a lot for a backup catcher (although remember the Twins offered Blanco $1.8 million for two years), but not only is Redmond a backup, he’s an insurance plan. Simply put, we don’t know what to expect from Joe Mauer next year. All indications are that he will be healthy, but his injury is one that could flare up at any time. Even best case scenarios have Mauer catching only about two of every three games, maybe 4-5 per week. It would be incredibly depressing if Joe had to endure another injury-riddled season, so I welcome any move that will help preserve his health. Redmond, a career .284 hitter, is not only an outstanding defensive catcher, but he can hit a bit too and would not be an embarrassment at the plate if forced into extensive duty. Remember Henry Blanco’s 900 infield pop-ups last year? I’m glad we’re not going to toss 300 at-bats into that black hole again.

Redmond was actually poised to be the Marlins’ starting catcher in 2003 before the surprise signing of Pudge Rodriguez, and there were some people who decried that move because of Redmond. He hit .305 with a .372 OBP in 2002, and .312 with an impressive .802 OPS in 2001. I don’t expect Redmond to put up numbers of that caliber, but if he doesn’t embarrass himself for the 200-250 plate appearances I expect him to get, this will have been a smart move by Terry Ryan.

Brad Radke asks for 3-year, $27 million contract

This was an expected development, but it’s nice to have a definite figure to chew on. Freddy Garcia received an identical contract from the White Sox this summer, and many people (including the Twins Geek) expected Radke to sign a similar contract. Radke, while three years older than Garcia, is obviously the superior player. $9 million a year isn’t much of a pay cut for Brad (he made $10 million in 2004) but there are a number of clubs out there who will gladly pay Radke that amount. The Twins will propose a counteroffer next week, but if I was them, I would be tempted to sign the dotted line right now. I only hope TR doesn’t lowball Radke and squash any chance the Twins have of re-signing him. Expect more news to emerge in the coming days.

As you can see, the Twins are finally making some noise in the marketplace, and the 2005 iteration of your favorite ballclub is finally beginning to take shape. Backup plans are now in place for both Bartlett and Mauer, and I firmly believe that TR’s vision (whatever it is) will be fulfilled. If Radke can be signed, all signs point to a four-peat in ’05.