• Twins Receive Bad News and Make a Minor Move

    The early weeks of the offseason have not been particularly eventful for the Twins. We've seen them connected to a few different pitchers and catchers in free agency, but like many other teams, they have been slow to act here in November. That's not unexpected; with the market going through a significant shift, both agents and team execs are still feeling things out.

    Once a few major contracts are signed, we will likely begin to see the dominoes fall at a fairly rapid pace. I just wouldn't anticipate the Twins being one of the teams to set the standard.

    We did see a few notable developments take place within the system on Tuesday, however.

    ***

    The first was a report coming from Puerto Rico that prospect Eddie Rosario has tested positive for a banned substance and could face a 50-game suspension. Apparently the positive test resulted from some pills the second baseman was taking to treat an arm injury.

    If true, this is obviously horrible news. Rosario is one of the organization's brightest prospects (he ranked No. 7 on Twins Daily's list in the spring) and being forced to sit out 50 games is extremely rough for a young kid who was rising quickly through the system and still adapting to a new position.

    The bright side is that Brian Dozier has firmly established himself at second base and was going to be locked in for at least the first half of the 2014 season regardless, so there was never any rush to get Rosario to the majors. If anything, this gives the club more time to see what they have in Dozier while Rosario serves his suspension and acclimates in the latter part of the season.

    What makes this hurt is that, from my perspective, Rosario was the best trade chip in the organization -- a standout talent at a valuable position coming off a fantastic minor-league season in which he advanced to the high levels. I'm not fully sold on Dozier but I believe in him enough to think that moving his potential successor in the right deal would be worth the risk.

    I'm also personally a bit lower than some on Rosario as a prospect, because although his production has been undeniably impressive I don't see his all-around skill set making him a real safe bet to succeed in the majors. He struck me as a sell-high guy who might have been flipped for maximum value this offseason, or else moved around the deadline next year if he managed to do some damage in Triple-A. Now that's all out the window, assuming the report is true.

    ***

    Later in the day, the Twins announced that they had traded Duke Welker, the reliever received alongside outfielder Alex Presley from the Pirates in exchange for Justin Morneau, back to Pittsburgh. The return is 29-year-old lefty starter Kris Johnson, who performed well at Triple-A in 2013 but has had a decidedly unexceptional career, spent almost entirely in the minors.

    Terry Ryan stated that the impetus for the move was a desire to swap a potential reliever for a potential starter, which makes sense for depth reasons, but Johnson seems like an even greater long shot than Welker to make an impact in the majors. Perhaps the Twins were emboldened by the Andrew Albers surprise, since Johnson is similarly a late-20s journeyman who found his way back into affiliated baseball after spending time in an independent league a couple years ago, but it's tough to find much to like here. He looks like Triple-A filler.

    Not that there's anything wrong with that. But fans are already getting antsy to see some meaningful activity on the starting pitching front. And for now, they're still waiting.
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins Receive Bad News and Make a Minor Move started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 20 Comments
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Is Johnson one of "the fixes" of the rotation promised? I hope not! There are "options" and legitimate options and I am not convinced Kris Johnson is a legitimate option for the rotation.

      Will the TD computer clock "fall back" an hour?
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      I think hes just filler, they are thin on close to the majors left handed starters and he maybe profiles a little better than what they have, his line from last year is promising anyway. While the pen is much better stocked now and has reinforcements coming through the system already.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Perhaps the Twins were emboldened by the Andrew Albers surprise, since Johnson is similarly a late-20s journeyman who found his way back into affiliated baseball after spending time in an independent league a couple years ago, but it's tough to find much to like here. He looks like Triple-A filler.
      Saying that Johnson is an independent league product and a journeyman is not fair. He pitched half season of independent ball after he was let go from the Boston organization in 2011. He pitched for the Kansas team where he went to College and several of his college teammates played. The next season he signed with the Pirates where he has been since. Two organizations a journeyman do not make. He is as much of a journeyman as Morneau

      And his stuff is better than any LHSP the Twins have in AAAA/MLB right now. He can hit 94 miles with his fastball (I think the only other LHSP in the organization that can do this is Melotakis) and has a plus change and a curve. That is better than what Diamond and Albers have. So he is pretty much on the top of the depth chart of LHSP in the organization (not potential of course.)

      Is he a game changer? Likely not. Is he better that what the Twins have? Yes.

      That was a small but very good move.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      Is he a game changer? Likely not. Is he better that what the Twins have? Yes.
      I would beg to differ. He is basically the same as what they have. The last thing they need at this point is more of the same.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I would beg to differ. He is basically the same as what they have. The last thing they need at this point is more of the same.
      How many LHSP on the MLB-ready level who throw 94 mph do the Twins have?
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      It seems to me that Kris Johnson is just a replacement for Pedro Hernandez. Ryan came out and said that the Twins have more of a need for starters than relievers, that's why he swapped Welker. Johnson is clearly just filler. A body we can throw out there if we have a double-header and can add a 26th body at this point. He's certainly not an upgrade to the rotation.
    1. nicksaviking's Avatar
      nicksaviking -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      I would beg to differ. He is basically the same as what they have. The last thing they need at this point is more of the same.
      There has to be some reason the Twins want these clones. Diamond, Albers, Darnell, Dean and Johnson. Some kind of reality TV talent show? Perhaps they needed to replace Hernandez who played bass in their band "The Contact High Lefties"
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      Agree. Replacement for Hernandez. Welker was a Slama clone if we wish to go that route. Pitching depth is never a problem, although three of the same (Diamond, Johnson, Albers) and the maybe Duensing on the 40-man is too much protection We need a star lefty on the roster, not a group of maybes.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I don't understand why we would even want Welker in the first place. Another reliever is not a necessary addition. A possible fifth starter if "it" all hits the fan again with Diamond, Worley, and Hendriks? Not bad. It's very possible that Johnson is ok in that role. I fear that the Twins are not going to acquire more than one upper to mid rotation starter, so adding more at the backend isn't bad. I don't really get how anyone could think that Welker as more value for the Twins than Johnson.
    1. minn55441's Avatar
      minn55441 -
      The fact of the matter is that this was "a player to be named later". You don't normally get a difference maker in this type of trade. there is a chance of striking lightening in a bottle. will Johnson provide that, probably not, but I wouldn't be upset if he gave us one season like Diamond gave us in 2012.

      After the dust settled from the Morneau trade. We had Welker. The two sides continued to talk and TR (and probably his scouts) decided he would rather have Johnson. The Pirates decided they would rather have Welker back. This wasn't a major signing, just an attempt to alter a deal that was already complete.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Thrylos View Post
      How many LHSP on the MLB-ready level who throw 94 mph do the Twins have?
      Why are we so focused on his velocity? He averaged 6.2 K/9 as a 28-year-old in Triple-A so obviously he's not blowing people away despite this purported 94 MPH fastball and "plus change." You can paint him with whatever shade you like, the bottom line is that he's another marginal AAAA-starter type and the Twins have plenty of guys like that.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I'll say this for him - he put up a 2.53 ERA in 135 innings in AAA, and for the most part, his hit rate has been pretty low for the last two seasons. He's not a top half of the rotation guy, but it could be that the Twins scouts are seeing something here to make them think he's the 2012 Scott Diamond type.

      He's still far from a real prospect, but I'll be interested to see what he does. I'm treating it as an early Rule 5 pick.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shane Wahl View Post
      I don't understand why we would even want Welker in the first place. Another reliever is not a necessary addition. A possible fifth starter if "it" all hits the fan again with Diamond, Worley, and Hendriks? Not bad. It's very possible that Johnson is ok in that role. I fear that the Twins are not going to acquire more than one upper to mid rotation starter, so adding more at the backend isn't bad. I don't really get how anyone could think that Welker as more value for the Twins than Johnson.
      Totally agree and I really don't get the frustration for this move. If we'd traded any other 27 year old minor league reliever for a minor league starter wouldn't we consider it a good move? Not earth shattering, of course, but a decent move. Obviously they need to make bigger ones through FA, but that doesn't mean that this was a bad trade(back?)
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I'll say this for him - he put up a 2.53 ERA in 135 innings in AAA, and for the most part, his hit rate has been pretty low for the last two seasons. He's not a top half of the rotation guy, but it could be that the Twins scouts are seeing something here to make them think he's the 2012 Scott Diamond type.

      He's still far from a real prospect, but I'll be interested to see what he does. I'm treating it as an early Rule 5 pick.
      To be fair, there isn't really a "2012 Scott Diamond type" unless you mean "guy who has a fluke good season."

      Johnson's 2013 AAA success was his 5th go-around in AAA (all 5 in the International League, actually).

      Twins scouts have apparently been looking at nothing but marginal AAA pitchers the last few years, judging by our roster and playing time over that span.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I am not *excited* about Johnson (if I were, I should just jump off a cliff to end it). But, given the possibility of trading back Welker for him, it was a smart move.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Has a trade like this ever happened before? After racking my brain, I can't remember a team trading a guy Back to an organization for another guy.
      Did the MLB ownership group work out some kind Returns/Exchange Counter at the winter mmeetings?
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      My guess is that Johnson has no real chance to make the team out of spring training, but that Ryan thought one more near ready starter at AAA might be useful. Given history over the last couple years, he could be right. Still, I expect Albers to be given a chance to make the team as a long reliever. That would make Diamond as first in line(likely competing with righties, Worley, Deduno, and Gibson for maybe 2 spots that could be available). That would leave 2 lefty starters at AAA, Johnson and Darnell. That's not so many. Any could be candidates, eventually for long relief as well.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      He's still far from a real prospect, but I'll be interested to see what he does. I'm treating it as an early Rule 5 pick.
      Ah! But the best kind of Rule 5 pick - we don't have to waste a space on the 25-man roster all season!
    1. diamondlars's Avatar
      diamondlars -
      OMG!! Twins organization, i hope something well goes planned this offseason!

      why did we need to give back talent with duke welker for another aint gonna get no better kris johnson. sad! I think I'd rather see Liam Hendricks back on the mound.

      Swarzak or Duensing can do better than most of our starters! too bad they are too useful to us in the bullpen!

      Pelfrey did show signs in the 2nd half of a .500 starter thank goodness.

      Corriea is good, Deduno will hopefully be healthy, Albers we have no clue what he's going to do, hopefully be around .500 for us. so we still need 2 or at least 1 great starter. Will take a lot to coax a good starter to come to Minnesota, or maybe try and get someone to come back!?

      tons of holes to fill for position players also. Catcher? Pinto, Hermmann? 1st is Mauer, will he ever get a shot at All-Star again? Brian Dozier will be All-star this year, Deduno ss? he does have descent defense but he needs to learn how to swing a bat, maybe Molitor or Mauer can show him.

      Plouffe, would be nice to get his power back. Willingham, needs to stay healthy, need him! Center, Alex Pressly? hopfully hicks can hit .250+ he has everything else a centerfielder needs, just needs to hit consistantly Also, and i guess Arcia and Doumit are good enough for right field at the moment.

      Good Luck Twins, please find us better starting pitching! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!! lets aim for 82 wins next year and have a winning year! Gosh that would be nice!
    1. diamondlars's Avatar
      diamondlars -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Totally agree and I really don't get the frustration for this move. If we'd traded any other 27 year old minor league reliever for a minor league starter wouldn't we consider it a good move? Not earth shattering, of course, but a decent move. Obviously they need to make bigger ones through FA, but that doesn't mean that this was a bad trade(back?)
      Seriously people? why not get a good middle reliever, this welker is due for the big show! another middle reliever to bring up swarzak/duensing as a starter, they've started before and we know they can pitch! yes worley needs to go, cant we just waive him? diamond, who knows he was good in 2012, but could not put it together after surgery, hopefully he just needs a nice well rested offseason! As of right now the Twins Depth chart for starting Pitching is Correia, Deduno, Albers, Hendriks, and Diamond, all i can say is EEKS!!

      Last years were Worley, Corriea, Pelfry, Hendriks, De Vries. I remember I felt ok with this rotation until the 3rd-4th week in the season when i think we only had 4 wins from the starters and 9 wins from the releivers!
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