Inbox: Re-examining trade of Young
Twins' beat reporter Rhett Bollinger answers questions from fans
After covering the postseason for nearly three weeks, I'm finally back in Minnesota for the offseason.
It was a great experience covering the National League Division Series and National League Championship Series, but now my sole focus will be on the Twins this offseason.
The Inbox will be a regular feature this winter, as I plan on writing one each Monday, so keep those questions coming.
Why did the Twins trade Delmon Young away during the regular season, and why did they allow him to go to an American League Central opponent? Wouldn't it have made more sense to move him in the offseason?
-- Craig A., Plymouth, Minn.
This has been a popular question among readers, considering Young's impressive performance in the postseason with the Tigers, as he hit five homers in nine games before Detroit ultimately fell to Texas in six games in the ALCS.
But it's important to note that Young only hit four homers -- along with a .266 batting average and .305 on-base percentage -- in 84 games with the Twins before he was traded on Aug. 15.
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He was also claimed on waivers by the Tigers, meaning Minnesota had two days to work out a deal with Detroit or pull him back off waivers and keep him for the rest of the season.
They decided it was in their best interest to trade Young for pitchers Lester Oliveros and Cole Nelson, simply because they wanted to get something in return for him, as he was expected to be non-tendered in the offseason according to manager Ron Gardenhire.
So it's hard to fault the Twins for letting Young go because of his struggles this season, although the best course of action would have been to have traded him last offseason when his value was at a high point, after he broke out in 2010 with a .298 batting average, 21 homers and 112 RBIs.
But even in his breakout '10 season, Young's value was diminished by his subpar defense in left field and inability to draw walks. So while his traditional stats looked gaudy, he ranked just 46th out of 62 qualified outfielders in the advanced statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which is an all-inclusive stat that factors in offense, defense and baserunning.
So it'll be interesting to see if the Tigers think Young's offensive potential outweighs his lack of range in left field, and tender him a contract this offseason, as he's eligible for arbitration and will likely earn a raise over the $5.375 million he earned this season.
Do the Twins have the money and resources to make a run at the AL Central in 2012, or are they going to be forced to start rebuilding?
-- Chris R., Coventry, Conn.
Although the Twins aren't expected to surpass their franchise-record $113 million Opening Day payroll from 2011, they certainly aren't looking to rebuild in 2012.
The Twins believe that their struggles in '11 were the result of injuries, as they utilized the disabled list 27 times for 16 different players. Only Michael Cuddyer and Danny Valencia avoided the disabled list among regular position players, while Carl Pavano was the only starting pitcher to stay off the DL.
Twins general manager Bill Smith definitely has plenty of work to do this offseason, as the club has roughly $83-85 million in payroll obligations with $40-42 million coming off the books.
It appears more likely the Twins will have a payroll closer to $100 million, meaning Smith has about $20 million to work with this offseason.
They're looking to net a starting pitcher, bullpen help, a backup catcher and a middle infielder with the intent of getting back to their winning ways after a forgettable '10 campaign.
Will Jason Kubel be back next year, and who do you think is more likely to return, Joe Nathan or Matt Capps?
-- Mark T., Fredericksburg, Va.
Kubel has stated he'd like to return to the Twins, as it's the only organization he's ever known, but is also going to test the free-agent market this offseason.
Smith has also indicated he'd like to bring back Cuddyer or Kubel to join Denard Span and Ben Revere in the outfield.
It does appear more likely the Twins will retain Cuddyer, however, as they have more of a need for a right-handed bat and he provides more versatility. But it's hard to predict what will happen in free agency, and the Twins would be happy to bring either player back.
As for the question about Nathan and Capps, it's much more likely Nathan returns to the Twins than Capps.
The Twins hold a $12.5 million option on Nathan for next year, and although it seems very likely the Twins will decline that option, Smith has said he'd still be interested in bringing back Nathan on a new deal even after buying out his option for $2 million.
Capps, who is eligible to file for free agency, is not expected to return after struggling in '11 with a 4.25 ERA and nine blown saves in 24 chances.
When does the 2012 Spring Training schedule come out?
-- Craig S., Coon Rapids, Minn.
Twins president Dave St. Peter announced via Twitter that the schedule is expected to be released in early November. Last year, the Twins waited until Nov. 22 to announce their 2011 Spring Training schedule.