Thursday, June 30, 2011

Minnesota Twins Trade Comps

By Matt Tschida

Building off of Monday's post, I've dug up a few comparable trades from the past couple years that the Twins could use as a model at this year’s trade deadline (if they end up sellers). I will also go through and discuss some other players who might possibly be moved before July 31.

A comparable trade involving Michael Cuddyer would be the move the Indians made in 2008 when they sent Casey Blake to the Dodgers for top catching prospect Carlos Santana. The Indians included cash in the deal, something the Twins would also need to do given the price of Cuddyer’s contract. Another similar trade again involved the Indians, when in 2009 when they traded Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals for Chris Perez (now a potential All-Star closer) and a player to be named later.

How about a comparable trade involving Jason Kubel? Last year Houston traded Lance Berkman to the Yankees for Mark Melancon (who's doing a nice job closing this year) and infield prospect Jimmy Paredes. I think Kubel’s value is higher than Berkman’s--he’s having a much better season than Berkman was, he's six years younger and his contract is reasonable given his production. If the Twins are planning on trading Kubel, they can expect better return than what Houston received.

Jim Thome might provide similar trade value to Kubel if he can stay healthy for a while, although he isn't a Type B free agent, so he wouldn’t net his new team a compensatory draft pick if he returned somewhere else next year. Still, I think Texas (who made a hard push for him last offseason) is a team that would be very interested.

We don't have to look far to find a comparable Matt Capps swap, as the Twins traded away top catching prospect Wilson Ramos for Capps just last season. Given that the Twins gave away such a high prospect for Capps, and that he's a Type A free agent, look for the team to stand pat. They're highly unlikely to land a prospect of Ramos' caliber.

If he can recover quickly from this current injury and put together a solid stretch, Delmon Young would have some value. He's under team control for another year, and if the Twins can’t find a deal at the deadline he'll likely be moved this winter. Ben Revere looks like he’s just about ready to stick, and he's much better defensively. Even if the Twins creep into the race and become buyers, they could use Delmon as trade bait in an attempt to patch the leaky bullpen. They could also use him to build their minor league system with a decent middle infield prospect or two.

If Carl Pavano can put together a solid month he'll have some value in what's looking like a weak starting pitching market. His contract for next season isn’t terrible for an innings eater with an ERA around 4.00. He was brought in to be the veteran presence for this team, but Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn have been around long enough to fill that role. For comparison, last season the Indians sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis for pitching prospects Corey Kluber and Nick Greenwood (from the Padres) in a three-team deal.

Both Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn are signed for at least another year (Blackburn's signed through 2013), so they probably won't be shopped. However, if the Twins are offered a great prospect, it might be hard to turn down given that Kyle Gibson should be ready to step into the rotation by the end of the year.

Two players who have virtually no trade value are Joe Nathan and Kevin Slowey. They've both been injured or ineffective for most of the year, and Nathan’s contract certainly hurts his trade value as well. The hope is that Nathan will build on Tuesday night's performance and become the reliable right hander the team needs in the bullpen. Slowey's value is slumping, but the Twins are still likely do everything they can to eliminate him as a distraction.

The one player I haven’t discussed at all is Francisco Liriano. Unless someone gives the Twins a great offer, it will be difficult to trade him at this point. He has been the Twins least consistent starting pitcher--he's essentially been either great or terrible. Liriano's under team control for one more year, so it will be interesting to see how he finishes the season (assuming the Twins don’t trade him) and what the team does next offseason. Remember, the Yankees were all over him this spring.

Even if the Twins can push into contention over the next couple weeks, there are everyday players (Delmon Young and any starting pitcher) that could be moved to make room for younger players (Revere and Gibson), who appear ready enough to join the chase.

Boser's Tweetbeat :: June 30, 2011

There are a handful of Tweeters out there who’ve been working overtime throughout the lull of the lockout, churning stale subject matter into fresh conversation. One of these luminaries is my pal, Jim Day, from Go Ahead Score. While most of us are trying our damnedest to be productive members of society, Jim’s sitting on a beanbag chair in a dark basement concocting his ever-popular “Twitter Question of the Day.” Thank you, Jim. Your dedication to fake football has not gone unnoticed.

The following are my answers to Jim’s fantasy-focused challenges at Lester's Legends.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

5 Sleeper Breakout Candidates for the 2011 Vikings

By Ryan Boser

When the 2011 NFL season kicks off, the Minnesota Vikings will find themselves submerged in the slippery purgatory that exists somewhere between rebuilding and retooling. They're in no-man's land. Caught in the middle.

They're the Demi Moore of the NFL.

Nightmares of Los Angeles and the lockout will subside, but the memory of a horrific 2010 campaign is here to stay. Picking up the pieces will be a tall task with key veterans aging or departing, a new coaching staff playing catch-up and a rookie quarterback learning on the fly.

Yes, the Vikings are on thin ice. There's a fine line between 10-6 and 6-10, and barring any major personnel moves, the following five players may determine whether the Vikings sink or swim in 2011.

Click here to read the rest of the story at Bleacher Report.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Recap and Trade Considerations

By Matt Tschida

After it appeared the Twins had figured a few things out, the past five games looked awfully similar to their early-season woes. While Nick Blackburn, Brian Duensing and Scott Baker all pitched well enough to win, the offense (with many starters still out and Mauer and Nishioka still trying to find their timing) came up empty, scoring just eight runs during their five-game losing streak.

Is there still a glimmer of hope? I think so, but it’s fading fast, and the next 13 games will likely determine the fate of this season. Playing 21 of their next 25 games at home will finally even out the season home/road splits. To have a decent shot, the Twins will probably need to win at least nine of their remaining 13 games going into the break. Moreover, they'll likely need to scratch 17 or 18 wins out of this 25-game stretch. The only way I see this happening is if the healthy starting pitching can continue to give the club strong efforts, carrying the injury-depleted lineup on their backs.

Trade Position: Sellers?
It appears that at this point the Twins will (or probably should) be sellers. At second glance, however, they may be better off sitting on their hands (even past the trade deadline). Their top trade candidates – Cuddyer, Kubel and Capps (impending free agents) have been moving up the Elias player rankings. Why is this important? Bill Smith's trading record is an absolute train wreck, and the fact that the Twins could land two or three extra first round compensatory picks if these players leave via free agency probably makes standing pat a more logical decision.

As of a couple weeks ago (before winning 15 of 17), I felt that Cuddyer needed to be traded. Not because of his play, but because of his contract situation and the fact that he wasn’t even ranked as a
Type B player at the time. Now, after a month of being one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Cuddyer has leapt into Type A status. Jason Kubel is sitting at the top end of the Type B plateau, only percentage points away (just below Tampa Bay’s Matt Joyce) from qualifying as a Type A player. One could easily argue that had Kubel been healthy the last 2-3 weeks and continued to produce at his current rate, he would be in the Type A class. Matt Capps, even without a great first half, is right in the middle of the Type A relief pitcher rankings.

Just a refresher for those not familiar with the
Type A/Type B rankings – this link explains it well.

Why do the
Type A/Type B rankings matter when determining whether a team will trade a player or not? Well, let's look at Cuddyer, now considered a Type A player. If the Phillies (a team that reportedly has interest in Cuddyer) want to trade for him and the prospects they offer are rated lower than what the Twins scouts think they could get in next year’s first round, then they might decline the trade. Conversely, if Cuddyer was still ranked lower than Type B and he declined arbitration, the Twins would not receive any compensation this offseason if he were to decline arbitration and walk.

The Twins can actually use this information as leverage when negotiating deals. Going back to the Cuddyer/Phillies example – The Twins can argue that the Phillies are getting Cuddyer for the rest of this season, plus they’re getting a 2012 first rounder if he declines arbitration and signs elsewhere.

So, do I think the Twins should trade Cuddyer, Capps or Kubel? If they can find an aggressive buyer, as other teams have in recent years, then sure. However, I don't think they should sell just because these players are impending free agents. Bill Smith has had a lot more success building this team’s minor league system (see Gibson, Hicks, Gutierrez) than he has making major league trades. Stay tuned — later this week I'll be breaking down recent comparable trades for these three players, as well as other possible Twins who could be moved at the deadline.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Timberwolves Post-Draft Musings and the Next Steps

By Joey Cavalier

The dust is finally settling on the Timberwolves' draft, giving me a chance to catch my breath and sort things out. Draft night for the Wolves started with the team selecting Derrick Williams at No. 2, and ended with a bullet storm of trades executed by the mad scientist, David Kahn.

The Wolves absolutely did the right thing in selecting D-Will. The kid is excited to play for the Wolves (which makes him one of a kind), and he possesses as much skill and potential as any prospect in this year's draft class.

The ensuing trades were almost impossible to follow, but when it was all said and done, the Wolves ended up with several cash considerations and a player that could have easily went in the first round, Malcolm Lee. The UCLA product is a legitimate perimeter defender who can shut down either guard position. Additionally, he has good vision and can play either the 1 or the 2 (though he is more of a natural shooting guard at 6’5").

Overall, I have to give Kahn a B+ for his draft night performance. He would have gotten an A if he had drafted Marshon Brooks and/or shipped out scrubs like Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster via savvy trades. But a B+ grade is good nonetheless, and I have to credit Kahn for not panicking and giving away the No. 2 pick for a large, three-item pizza topped with expiring contracts…

So, now that the draft is over, the biggest question for the Timberwolves is this: Where do we go from here? Well, the first step is to get rid of the bench baggage in order to acquire veteran role players and leaders/mentors. Kahn has said that he would like to add key veterans to the roster who can help groom the young players and contribute in clutch moments in games. The only way this can be done effectively is if players like Webster, Ellington, and Nikola Pekovic are moved to create minutes and locker space for the incoming vets. Kicking Jonny Flynn to the curb was an encouraging start.

The next step is to find a new coach, as Kurt Rambis failed miserably on multiple levels. He didn't develop the young talent, he refused to take ownership of the team’s struggles, he tried to shove a bogus (for this roster) system down the team's throat, his rotations were baffling, and he seemed detached, dazed and even disinterested at key moments during games. Assuming reports are true and Rambis is on his way out, the Wolves need to find someone to develop the young talent and improve in the win column. Sam Mitchell seems like a logical candidate, but the University of Washington's Lorenzo Romar appears to be Kahn's top choice for what might be the league's worst coaching position. Romar's probably a long shot, and Kahn has even pursued Coach K, so only time will tell.

Once a coach is selected, his job will be to define, develop and commit.

This new coach must define the roles of the young talent. Starters need to know they're starters. Stars need to know they're expected to be stars (Ricky Rubio?). Supporting pieces need to understand their place in the grand scheme of things.

This new coach must develop the plethora of young talent that exists on the roster. The team is filled with potential stars who need to be chiseled into professionals.

Finally, the organization needs to commit to players for the long road. They cannot just keep adding “talent” to the team and expect to improve. Without committing to key players, there's no stability. The Wolves are in dire need of stability.

Rambis failed to define, develop and commit. Unless the next coach can succeed in these areas, the Wolves will continue to be a punchline for NBA writers and commentators.

This will indeed be a long offseason (especially with the impending lockout), and the Wolves' organization has its work cut out for them. But with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Rubio and Williams on roster, the future has a chance of being really, really bright.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recapping the Wolves' Draft Night Extravaganza

Here's my best attempt to sort out last night's mess.

With pick No. 2, the Wolves selected Arizona forward Derrick Williams. Then, through a flurry (6 to my count) of trades/purchases,

  • Jonny Flynn was subtracted
  • Buyout candidate Brad Miller was added
  • UCLA perimeter defender Malcolm Lee, who we considered at 20, was drafted 43rd
  • Wolves picked up a protected future 1st rounder from Memphis, and a 2013 2nd rounder from N.J.
  • Purchased forward Targuy Ngombo from Dallas (57th), an enigma from Congo
  • Stockpiled cash for Rambis buyout

I need a drink.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

2011 NBA Mock Draft

By Joey Cavalier

Once the draft is over, I will probably look at my mock draft and laugh, as I do to every other mock draft. But what the hell, here we go anyways!

1. Cleveland: Kyrie Irving (PG) Duke The Cavs will not pass on Kyrie Irving. He will be the new face of the franchise.

2. Minnesota: Derrick Williams (SF-PF) Arizona
After failing to trade the pick, the Wolves will settle on D-Will… I don’t know why I had to use word “settle” here… KAHN!

3. Utah: Brandon Knight (PF) Kentucky Devin Harris is not their future PG. Drafting Knight gives them an electrifying franchise PG in the mold of Russell Westbrook.

4. Cleveland: Enes Kanter (C) Turkey
Kanter gracefully falls to the Cavs at No. 4, and the Cavs gleefully select the big man. An Irving-Kanter draft night is viewed as a success.

5. Toronto: Kemba Walker (PG) Connecticut Jose Calderon doesn’t cut it as the PG up in Toronto. They are desperate to keep the fans' attention, and picking Kemba adds talent and sells tickets.

6. Wahsington: Kawhi Leonard (SF) San Diego State This is a nice pick for Washington at this point. Adding a scorer and playmaker will only make John Wall better.

7. Sacramento: Jan Vesely (SF) Czech Republic Sacramento has never been scared to draft foreign players. Vesely steps in and starts at SF while Marcus Thornton slides to the two spot.

8. Detroit: Tristan Thompson (PF) Texas The paper-thin Pistons need players at every position. Thompson is the BPA, and Detroit feels obliged to take him here.

9. Charlotte: Bismack Biyombo (PF) Spain The Cats select Biyombo to help with their rebounding inadequacies and interior toughness. The biggest wild card in the draft lands in MJ’s court.

10. Milwaukee: Klay Thompson (SG) Washington State Michael Redd is on his way out and the Bucks will not pass on Thompson, who is a deadly sniper. A Jennings-Thompson backcourt is the future in Milwaukee.

11. Golden State: Alec Burks (SG) Colorado Combo guard Monta Ellis will be traded at some point. Alec Burks is the logical choice to replace him at the 2, as he's more of a natural shooting guard.

12. Utah: Chris Singleton (SF) Florida State Andrei Kirilenko will be gone and Utah already has their PG in Knight. Singleton is the guy that will fill the void Kirilenko leaves on defense.

13. Phoenix: Jordan Hamilton (SF) Texas Here’s another team that needs players at almost every position. Hamilton will take his scoring and rebounding talents to the desert.

14. Houston: Jonas Valanciunas (C) Lithuania Contract situation and unknown CBA status causes Valanciunas to free-fall. With the impending retirement of Yao Ming, he falls no further than Houston.

15. Indiana: Tobias Harris (PF) Tennessee The Pacers are looking to add strength to their front court, and Tobias Harris can play the 3 or the 4.

16. Philadelphia: Marcus Morris (PF) Kansas Later than expected, the first Morris brother is drafted. The 76ers badly need big men, and they find a versatile player in Morris at pick 16.

17. New York: Jimmer Fredette (PG) BYU The Tim Tebow of this years draft is finally selected. The Knicks truly crave his services on the perimeter. The young, religious guard lands in the Big Apple.

18. Washington: Donatas Motiejunas (PF) Lithuania The Wizards need big guys who can score. Bottom line. The seven-foot Motiejunas is able to score in a variety of ways and the Wizards scoop him up.

19. Charlotte: Marshon Brooks (SG) Providence Ranked 29th in the NBA for scoring last year, the Bobcats snag Brooks. A pure scorer, Brooks ranked second in the NCAA in scoring in his senior year at Providence.

20. Minnesota: Tyler Honeycutt (SF) UCLA Once again, David Kahn selects two players who play the same position in the first round. However, Honeycutt (if not traded) is taken to be a defensive stalwart who would defend top SGs and SFs.

21. Portland: Norris Cole (PG) Cleveland St. Looking to find a long-term replacement for Andre Miller, the Blazers select the Cleveland State product.

22. Denver: Kenneth Faried (PF) Morehead St. Faried fits the blue collar bill that characterizes the Nugget squad. He's a nice replacement for Kenyon Martin, as he rebounds and blocks a ton of shots.

23. Houston: Reggie Jackson (PG) Boston College Needing depth and/or an upgrade at PG, the Rockets select the nifty guard from Boston College.

24. Oklahoma City: Markieff Morris (SF-PF) Kansas The Thunder need offensive help at the power forward position, as Ibaka’s offensive game is still a work in process. Markieff is welcomed in OKC.

25. Boston: Jeremy Tyler (PF-C) Tokyo Tyler is another big man who is a wild card in this year’s draft. Boston takes a chance on him, as they need help badly at PF and C.

26. Dallas: Nikola Mirotic (SF) Serbia With the impending lockout threatening the 2011-12 season, the Mavs take a chance on a Dirk-like player who has a contract buyout issue with Real Madrid.

27. New Jersey: JaJuan Johnson (PF) Purdue The long and athletic PF brings an explosive style of play to New Jersey. Hopefully Deron Williams likes this pick…

28. Chicago: Iman Shumpert (PG) Georgia Tech The combo guard is taken to help Derek Rose with the scoring responsibility. He's a slasher and finisher who plays lockdown defense--something Chicago really likes.

29. San Antonio: Kyle Singler (SF) Duke The high-IQ, three-point shooter out of Duke will fit right in with the Spurs' fundamentally sound style of play.

30. Chicago: Trey Thompkins (PF) Georgia The big man will bring a legitimate low post game to Chicago that Boozer failed to bring last year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Schedule Tipping in Twins' Direction

By Matt Tschida

The Twins just needed a little more AL Central and a little less AL East in their game day diets.

Based on how they'd performed over the last five seasons, when the Twins looked at their 2011 schedule they had to know they were in for a tough battle early. Add key injuries to a heavy dose of the AL East, and you're left with a putrid 9-15 start and a 7.0-game deficit.

Looking at the past five seasons, the Twins have dominated against the AL Central (.560 winning percentage), against NL Teams in interleague play (.678 winning percentage), and to a lesser extent the AL West (.550 winning percentage). It’s the AL East that they’ve struggled against--they've only won at a .449 clip. It’s been no secret that the AL East has been the best division in baseball for the past five years, as their division has had a team in the World Series three of those years, including two championships. While the Twins, like many teams, haven't figured out how to beat the AL East, they've still managed to finish with at least a tie atop the AL Central (through 162 games) in four of the last five years.

So why are the surging Twins still 7.5 games out of first place in the AL Central? Well, Cleveland obviously played out of their minds for the first couple months, building a nice lead, but they've come back to the pack. Their young pitching staff will continue to have ups and downs, which will likely cost them any real shot at the division title. Injuries have also been an obvious contributor to the hole the Twins find themselves in, as they've only had their “A” lineup on the field for a handful of games. With that said, they've played their best baseball lately with nobody in their lineup hitting over .300. In my opinion, the biggest reason the Twins are still playing catchup is the balance of their schedule.

Now, I’m not one who makes excuses based on schedule, because it’s something you can’t control, and with the exception of some interleague games, the competition is playing the same teams. However, the Twins started out playing 14 of their first 19 games, and 17 of their first 24, against the AL East. In those first 24 games they only played four games against AL Central teams. Their record in those first 24 games: 9-15, including a 5-12 mark against the AL East, and a 3-1 record against AL Central. If you were to swap just one April AL East series with a June/July AL Central series (the Twins play just one series against the AL East in June and July combined), odds are they'd be 2.0-4.0 games better and only be 3.5-5.5 games out. Would they have made the same mental mistakes early in the season? Probably, but the margin for error against teams such as the Royals, Indians and White Sox is much greater than that of the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and Blue Jays.

It's far from an exact science, but if you apply the division winning percentages outlined above to the remainder of the schedule, the Twins project to 28-21 against the AL Central (41-31 overall), 9-7 against the AL West (18-15 overall), 6-9 against the AL East (12-27 overall), and 7-5 in interleague play (10-8 overall). This would put them right at .500, which would likely put them in the 2nd-3rd place range. In order for the Twins to make the playoffs, they'll likely need to find another five or six wins above projection, and the easiest place to find them will be within the division. This would put them at around 88 wins, which should be right around where the division champion ends up. The extra five or six wins against the AL Central is not out of the question, considering that they finished the last two seasons with 47 and 46 division wins. It's still improbable, but it's no longer impossible.

If the team can field a healthier lineup over the final 92 games, and continue to take care of business against the teams they have been successful against in the past, it could lead to another exciting summer of baseball at Target Field.

Monday, June 20, 2011

4 Ideal Draft Night Scenarios for the Timberwolves

By Joey Cavalier

1) Draft Derrick Williams. Subsequently, trade Michael Beasley and Jonny Flynn for center, Marcin Gortat.
Bottom Line: Derek Williams is going to be a star. He is very polished offensively, he's shown improvement every year in his game, and he's a violent, aggressive playmaker. The most ideal situation for the Wolves would be to draft D-Will at No. 2, and then subsequently trade Beasley and Flynn to the youth-starved Phoenix Suns for the underrated center, Marcin Gortat (this would mean Williams is our starting small forward). Gortat would bring stability, defense, low-post scoring and rebounding to a team that is in need of a solid starting center.

2) Draft Derrick Williams, and keep the rest of the roster intact.
As you can see, I like Derrick Williams a lot. Even if the Wolves do not move Beasley, I still want them to draft D-Will and commit to him. The mix-and-match frontcourt of Love/Williams/Beasley could easily grow into one of the most offensively dangerous front courts in the NBA. If this were to happen, Beasley would need to grow in his ability to play for long stretches at power forward, and Love would need to focus on his defensive game, as he would find himself playing center for extended periods. The occasional lineup of Rubio/Johnson/Williams/Beasley/Love may be weak defensively, but have fun trying to stop them from putting up an absurd amount of points.

3) Package the No. 2 pick, Wayne Ellington and Johnny Flynn for DeMar DeRozan and the No. 5 pick. Use the fifth pick on forward Jan Vesely.
If the Wolves do happen to trade the No. 2 pick, they need to get a guy like DeMar DeRozan and a high lottery pick for it. DeRozan would instantly step in and start at shooting guard, while Wes Johnson would become a very versatile sixth man who could play either shooting guard or small forward. With the fifth pick, the Wolves then select Jan Vesely, the electrifying 21-year-old small forward out of the Czech Republic. This kid is 6’11, he's a terrific finisher around the hoop, and he's a very efficient post player as well. Vesely is most noted for his ability to elevate in traffic, where he scores and rebounds aggressively. Jan Vesely would bring a powerful, physical style of play to the Timberwolves offense.

4) Draft Enes Kanter, and keep the rest of the roster intact.
If for some reason the Wolves do not select Derrick Williams, they must take the Turkish center, Enes Kanter. Though he is pegged as inexperienced (which he certainly is), the kid is an absolute freak of nature. He's very driven, and his ability to bang in the low post is something the Wolves need badly. Kanter also possesses a decent mid-range jump shot, which would allow him to stretch opposing defenses. His attacking style of play would be a great addition to a squad that's as tough as Charmin Ultra Soft in the paint. Oh, and if someone were kind enough to take Darko off our hands after the draft, that would be great!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Boser's Tweetbeat :: June 1st, 2011

Fantasy sports industry icon Paul Charchian gauges the lockout's impact on fantasy football.

Click here to read the interview at Lester's Legends.

Minnesota Vikings: Seven Buckets of Fandom

With the lockout depriving NFL writers of tangible topics, I've decided to turn my attention inward--to the fans. Why? Because I'm tired of writing articles that revolve around the invalidating word "could." The Vikings could be interested in Kyle Orton. Legislature could pass the stadium bill in Arden Hills. Ray Edwards could crap himself in the ring. I'm over "could." So this one's for you, Vikings fans--a true exercise in self awareness.

Click here to read the rest of the story at Yahoo.