Danny Valencia Rumors

Third Base Options For The Twins

The Twins are a good team, but it's in spite of the production they're getting at the hot corner. Ron Gardenhire's third baseman have combined to hit just .213/.283/.280 with a pair of home runs. Nick Punto and Brendan Harris each have slugging percentages below .300, so the Twins recently called on top prospect Danny Valencia. That move gives the Twins more power than the Punto-Harris combination, but it doesn't assure them of anything. Let's take a look at the Twins' options as they try to get some offense from their third basemen:

  • Hope that Valencia hits - Baseball America named Valencia an untouchable before last year's trade deadline, and ranked him sixth among Twins prospects heading into the year. At that point, Valencia had a promising bat, but was an inconsistent defender because of "subpar concentration and footwork." Valencia, 25, has hit .323/.364/.323 since arriving in the majors in early June, so his bat is no sure thing either.
  • Call up the Red Sox - Ken Rosenthal reported over the weekend that the Twins' field staff would like to add Mike Lowell, though the front office has concerns about his durability. The $7.1MM remaining on Lowell's 2010 salary would also be an obstacle.
  • Trade for an Oriole – The Twins could call the Orioles about Miguel Tejada (.676 OPS, $6MM salary) or Ty Wigginton (.854 OPS, $3.5MM salary). Tejada is playing third for the O's and Wigginton has spent most of his career at the hot corner and has recent experience there.
  • Ask about LaRoche – There's no room for Andy LaRoche in Pittsburgh, now that the Pedro Alvarez era has begun. LaRoche has just a .232/.295/.316 line, but the 26-year-old posted a .731 OPS and played solid defense last year. 
  • Turn to the free agent market - Joe Crede defended well and hit 15 homers for the Twins in 2009. However, he had back, shoulder, hand, knee and hamstring issues last year and hasn't faced MLB pitching since.
  • Hope that the Blue Jays keep slumping – There's no guarantee that the Blue Jays keep slumping or that they'll have interest in moving Jose Bautista if they do fall out of contention. Those 18 homers and the fact that Bautista doesn't become a free agent until after 2011 mean the Jays could ask for a highly-touted prospect or two. It wouldn't be the first time the Twins picked up a former Blue Jay with power to play third; the club added Tony Batista back in 2006.

Danny Valencia Called Up By Minnesota

With Michael Cuddyer on the bereavement list, the Twins called up top prospect Danny Valencia from Triple-A Rochester.  MLB.com's Kelly Thesier tweets that Valencia will make his major league debut tonight at third base when the Twins play the Mariners. 

A 19th-round pick in the 2006 draft, Valencia has a .298/.353/.469 line in 2005 minor league at-bats, though just a .742 OPS in 483 PA at the Triple-A level.  Baseball America's John Manuel described Valencia as one of the "untouchable" prospects at last year's trade deadline, and the Twins hope the 25-year-old can develop into an everyday third baseman.

Valencia is the third notable Twins prospect to get a cup of coffee with the big club this season, as Trevor Plouffe (their first-round pick in the 2004 amateur draft) and catcher Wilson Ramos ("one of the better trade chips in baseball") made their debuts earlier this season to fill holes in the banged-up Minnesota lineup.  While Ramos was never going to displace Joe Mauer behind the plate and Plouffe hasn't hit well enough in the minors to be considered a blue chipper, every opportunity exists for Valencia to stick around in the majors.  As Manuel noted in his story, "third base has been a black hole" for the Twins since the days of Corey KoskieNick Punto (.574 OPS this season) and Brendan Harris (.478 OPS) could both be easily displaced if Valencia gets off to a hot start.


Crede Unlikely To Re-Sign With Minnesota

Reporting from the TwinsFest fan session, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune (via Twitter) has "got hints" that the Twins won't bring back free agent Joe Crede in 2010. In a follow-up tweet, Christensen said the reason was that it is "too hard to keep Crede on the field, which hamstrings your roster" and that the Twins would prefer to see Brendan Harris play third for now with an eye on prospect Danny Valencia eventually taking over the position.

Crede signed a one-year, $2.5MM deal with Minnesota last February that could have been worth as much as $7MM had he reached all of the contract's many incentive levels.  Unfortunately for Crede, he was limited to just 367 plate appearances last season thanks to the latest in a series of back problems that have plagued the veteran third baseman.  His September surgery to remove fluid from a herniated disk was the third procedure on his back in as many years.  Crede hit .225/.289/.414 last season.



Odds & Ends: Dukes, Astros, Twins, Giants

Some Saturday afternoon tidbits….

  • Nationals' manager Jim Riggleman spoke about what he thinks Elijah Dukes can do next season, writes Byron Kerr of MASNSports.com.
  • Satchel Price at Beyond The Box Score thinks the Astros have overpaid for the players they've picked up this offseason.
  • Kelly Thesier of MLB.com points out that for all of the talk about the Twins' need for a third baseman, the club is only looking for a "short-term stopgap" given the presence of top prospect Danny Valencia.  Thesier's mailbag piece also shoots downs a couple of Twins-related trade rumors and discusses the club's attempt to re-sign Joe Mauer.  
  • In another MLB.com mailbag, Chris Haft says there hasn't been any talk of the Giants signing Carlos Delgado (though he would fit their need for a left-handed bat) and proposes that Ryan Church would be a better outfield option for San Francisco than Rick Ankiel.
  • Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke to Chris Capuano about the pitcher's attempt to return from (his second) Tommy John surgery.
  • The Reds' budget may limit them to just pinch-hitting options in their search for a hitter, reports MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.
  • John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com grades the top 20 prospects in the Mets and Indians systems.  The only player on either list to rate an A-grade was Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana.
  • Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com looks at the youngsters who will be fighting to be the Dodgers' No. 5 starter next season.  Jackson points out that these pitchers might be going for the No. 4 spot too if L.A. doesn't sign a veteran starter before Opening Day.

Twins Notes: Mauer, Morneau, Valencia

MLB.com's Kelly Thesier answered a few e-mails from fans in regard to what Minnesota might have up its sleeve in the offseason, and here are some of the most notable bits of news from the piece… 

  • Thesier said that though talks between the Twins and Joe Mauer about a contract extension  haven't yet begun, "don't take Mauer's patience to mean that the catcher isn't interested in signing an extension."  Thesier also noted a possible good omen for Minnesota fans — Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, also represented single-franchise stars Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken Jr.
  • Justin Morneau should be recovered from minor wrist surgery in four weeks' time, and looks to start rehabbing his injured back by the middle of November.
  • Top prospect Danny Valencia will need a big performance in spring training to win the third base job, given that the 25-year-old didn't even receive a call-up last September.
  • Money may be the only thing that prevents Minnesota from re-signing Orlando Cabrera, since the Twins "appreciated" his contribution to their AL Central crown.

Twins Acquire Orlando Cabrera

6:59pm: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A's will send a total of $500k to the Twins.

12:45pm: Via Twitter, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the Twins are also getting cash in the deal.

12:08pm: Yahoo's Tim Brown said it was a done deal, with the Twins sending shortstop prospect Tyler Ladendorf to Oakland for Cabrera.

Cabrera, 34, is hitting .280/.318/.365 on the season in 448 plate appearances.  He has $1.75MM remaining on his contract, once you factor in a $250K bonus for being dealt.  Though he profiles as a Type A free agent after the season, Cabrera's agent wisely negotiated a clause disallowing his club to offer arbitration.  So, no draft picks for the team for the loss and no impediment to signing Cabrera from the player's point of view.

11:56am: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle says Cabrera to the Twins is "very close."  Slusser says Valencia is not part of the deal.

11:41am: La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune doesn't see the Twins as close to a deal for Cabrera.  The A's apparently want third base prospect Danny Valencia.  Neal wonders whether the Twins might go after David Eckstein or Kennedy instead.

FRIDAY, 1:26am: ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports that the A's and Twins are making "steady progress" as they discuss a deal that would send Cabrera to Minnesota.

THURSDAY, 11:31pm: Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report that the Twins are making progress in their attempt to acquire Cabrera. The teams continued talking today and expect discussions to resume tomorrow.

9:30am: Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has a few hot stove notes on the A's this morning.

  • Despite interest, the A's do not intend to trade infielder Adam Kennedy.  They might even try to re-sign him for 2010 eventually.  The 33 year-old is hitting .296/.350/.434 in 327 plate appearances while playing second and third base.  Oakland acquired Kennedy back in May from the Rays.
  • Slusser debunks a Providence Journal report from Daniel Barbarisi that the Red Sox turned down a trade for Orlando CabreraNick Cafardo of the Boston Globe agrees with Slusser, saying Cabrera "is not keen on returning to Boston."
  • We do know that the Twins have talked to the A's about O-Cab.  Bob Elliott of the Toronto Sun says the Twins are "still chasing" Marco Scutaro as well.

Odds & Ends: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox

Thursday linkage…