Archive for the ‘Grudzielanek’ Category

The Twins Know Casilla Sucks Too

July 20, 2009

Hey, I guessed one right! Just took 2 1/2 months longer than I had hoped.

Apparently the team decisionmakers watched Casilla flailing around second base and had the same reaction I did (tastes a lot like what you had for dinner the night before), because today they signed 39 year old Mark Grudzielanek to a minor-league deal.

I expect story-breaker Seth’s reaction will be echoed by most Twins fans: essentially, “ew.” He’s old; he hasn’t played in nine or ten months; he’s old; he’s not Freddy Sanchez; and he’s old.

But. It’s clear that the Pirates want a lot for Sanchez. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be making the big show of making extension offers to him and Jack Wilson (offers both of them rejected, but still). A year ago, Sanchez was a terrible player. At 31, he’s reaching the age where most middle infielders start to break down. For all we know, that could happen in August.

Grudzielanek, meanwhile, made it through that barrier age and then some. In every year from 2003 to 2008, Grudzie hit between .290 and .314 and posted an OBP between .331 and .347 (with an outlier .366 in ’03) with a SLG between .399 and .432. Combined with surprisingly good defense for his age (saving 3.1 runs over average in 2008 per UZR), that’s a damn fine second baseman. Not an All Star or anything, but the kind of solid everyday player that playoff teams have filling all their non-All-Star positions. Not as valuable as Sanchez was in 2006 or has been so far in 2009, but a whole lot better than Sanchez ca. 2008.

Now, some assumptions need to be made. One needs to assume that (a) the Twins did their homework and determined that Grudzie has been working out and is still in playing shape, and (b) if he reports to the complex at Ft. Myers and proves otherwise, the Twins are ready to make another move. Because if one thing on this earth is clear, it’s that nothing is happening this year as long as Tolbert or Casilla stays at second base.

But my hopes are relatively high. Grudzielanek has certainly wanted to play, and would’ve been signed in February or March had it been any other offseason–it would be profoundly stupid of him not to stay in playing shape. I don’t think it’s crazy to hope that he’ll take a week or two in Florida and be ready to be the same .300 hitter with doubles power that he’s been for forever. And if that’s the case, you’ve got a player who, over the remainder of the season, is probably about half a win worse than Sanchez, and who in the context of baseball economics has cost virtually nothing. Whatever small piece of the Twins’ future that would’ve been mortgaged to obtain Sanchez, it’s a good bet that that piece is worth more than a half-win in 2009.

So, for maybe the first time in his tenure, I’m going to provisionally approve of something Billy Smith has done.

Then again, it’s feasible that this is just a tactic for use against the Pirates–if Huntington thinks the Twins are desperate and he has them over a barrel, it would be really, really smart to show him that they have another option besides the two subreplacement stiffs they’ve been throwing out there. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens. Either way, I’m liking this move…and that’s a really weird thing for me to say.