Today, let’s take a peek at the Twins incoming players, excluding Matt Capps, who was inked to a one-year deal to stay in the Twin Cities.
Jamey Carroll – IF
Carroll is a versatile defender (220-plus games at 2B, SS, and 3B each) who has a pretty good eye at the plate (9.9 percent walk rate/13.9 whiff rate). There are some knocks on his lack of full-time playing opportunities in the past, but he has actually put together his three best seasons –offensively, anyway– in those in which he had the most plate appearances (2011, ’10, and ’06). After a really rough season at short following J.J. Hardy’s departure, the Twins are simply looking for someone to be there and be accountable in 2011. Carroll is the right fit in that regard.
Carroll has no discernible power whatsoever. His career ISO is .070, and his OBP is actually higher (.356) than his career SLG (.348). Carroll is also coming off his worst season as a fielder in his 10-year career, according to Fangraphs, as he graded out 5.1 runs below average. Additionally, his UZR/150 at shortstop for his career is -2.0, which doesn’t necessarily bode well when playing with a staff that tosses strikes, and strikes only. Carroll will also be 38-years-old when the season starts, so there’s a decent chance his decline phase will set in at some point during his two-year deal with the club.
The Twins did well to strike on Carroll when the shortstop market hadn’t fully developed. After such a ghastly season last year, the Twins did well to find a very good stopgap type for the next two years, and to do so at such a reasonable cost. Plate discipline is often something a player keeps longer than most other skills, so even if Carroll declines a bit in batted-ball rates, he should still draw enough walks to at least not embarrass himself.
Ryan Doumit – C/1B/RF
When Doumit is healthy and right, his career triple-slash of .271/.334/.442 portrays a capable hitter. In fact, his 2011 season, which was one of his best, saw Doumit hit .303/.353/.477, good for an .830 OPS which, even when adjusted for home park, is still better than Josh Willingham’s 2011 mark. Caveats aside, Doumit was signed to a reasonable one-year deal to keep the Twins from having to run a bunch of young players through the three roles that Doumit is likely to fill.
There are quite a few marks in this area for Doumit, whose name ironically sounds like Dough-mitt and rhymes with no-mitt. Yeah, he’s a pretty bad defender. Mike Fast of Baseball Prospectus recently spun yarn on some catcher’s numbers, and they weren’t pretty in Doumit’s case. I’ll include them after the jump, but make sure that no children are in the room. Similarly, Doumit has never reached the 500 plate appearance plateau, which can at least in part be blamed to being a catcher. Still, injuries have been also to blame for Doumit’s lack of playing time, as he spent a stint on the 60-day DL in 2011 and had injuries to his chest and ankle at various points in the season, and his oblique during spring training.
He’ll be a capable bench bat if that’s where the club needs him, or if the recent news about Justin Morneau means he won’t be around much, it would seem likely that Doumit would slot in nicely over at first base. Either way, the price was right for a competent MLB bat. After all, his career OPS+ is only six points lower than Jason Kubel’s, yet Kubel received double in AAV and a multi-year deal.
Josh Willingham – OF
Willingham adds a nice element of power to a Twins lineup that is sorely lacking. Willingham pounded nearly 30 home runs in an equally cavernous O.co Coliseum last year, with a pretty much even split in his home-road home run rates. As Parker Hageman aptly noted, Willingham’s swing/approach really suit Target Field well, and he should help dispel the notion that Twins hitters simply can’t hit the ball out of the park. At three years and $21 million, Willingham’s deal checks in a full $10 million and change less than Michael Cuddyer’s, even though Willingham is the superior hitter.
There really isn’t a ton to not like about Willingham’s skill set. He’s not a particularly good fielder (22.1 runs below average in his career), as he has only one full season — 2008 — in which he posted a positive UZR in the outfield. He also does have a slight propensity for the strikeout (21.0 percent career whiff rate), though that alone is not really cause for concern, considering his career .364 wOBA and rather healthy 11.3 percent walk rate. He’ll be 33 when the season starts, but in all actuality he’s only about 40 days older than Cuddyer.
With what the Twins are trying to accomplish this offseason — get back to contention while leveraging a possible rebuild/retooling in the near future — Willingham was the ideal signing. According to Fangraphs $/WAR, Willingham has been worth more than the $7 million he’ll be due the next three seasons since 2006, which is a pretty nice six season run. So to summarize: He’s a better player than Cuddyer, who signed for a lot less, and allowed the Twins to pocket some draft picks. This is a sensational move for the club. Props to TR.
Jason Marquis – SP
He gets a ton of ground balls, and you simply can’t hit home runs on ground balls. Beyond that, well, I really have nothing.
Marquis doesn’t really fit the Twins mold in any respect. Sure, he gets a ton of ground balls, but he doesn’t pound the strike zone (Lirianian 3.5 career BB/9), doesn’t limit base runners (1.43 WHIP), and really isn’t particularly all that good (4.55 ERA actually out-pitching his 4.62 xFIP). I don’t particularly understand what he’ll do better than Terry Doyle, Brian Duensing, or maybe even Liam Hendriks might have done this season, but for $3 million, I’d probably have wanted to find out.
I’m definitely not in love with this signing. The Twins would have been better suited seeing what scraps were left on a minor-league deal near the beginning of spring training, and using this cash + whatever is left to sign a couple bullpen arms, or one more hitter.
Minor League Deals:
3B Sean Burroughs: Like most other minor league deals, Burroughs is a former top prospect clinging to his big league life. He could challenge Valencia at third or for a bench role, but is likely to spend his time in Rochester.
C J.R. Towles: A one time top-100 prospect according to Baseball America, Towles’ major and minor league numbers could not be more discrepant. With an .859 minor league OPS, and a .583 mark in the bigs, it’s obvious that Towles carries the dreaded Quad-A label. The Twins are the first organization to take a chance on him, so here’s to hoping a change of scenery is what he needs.
1B Steven Pearce: Pearce is another of the dreaded Quad-A players, carrying a .668 big league OPS and a much more palatable .886 down on the farm. Pearce was likely brought in to beef up a bad Rochester lineup, but he’s right-handed, has some pop, and plays first base. Don’t be surprised if he gets some time over there if Morneau isn’t healthy, and the Twins need Doumit to either DH or play in the outfield. Like the other two listed, Pearce is a very nice ‘get’ for the Twins in minor league free agency.