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Tag:Joe Mauer
Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:11 pm
 

Spring position battle: American League Central



By C. Trent Rosecrans


Gearing up for spring training, we're headed east -- -but not too far east, just east from west, or in other words, to the Central, starting in the American League and what positional battles will be fought in the American League Central this spring, continuing the spring position battles series.

Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton vs. Jesse Crain vs. Addison Reed

With Sergio Santos in Toronto and Chris Sale headed to the rotation, the White Sox are once again looking for a closer. Thornton saved three games last season and Crain one, but both are more or less keeping the seat warm for Reed, the team's top (and perhaps only) prospect. Thornton, an All-Star in 2010, won the closer battle last season before blowing his first four save opportunities to start the season and he was ultimately replaced by Santos. Crain pitched well last season, but it's Reed that has a chance to be special.

Cleveland Indians
Fifth starter: Kevin Slowey vs. David Huff vs. Jeanmar Gomez vs. Zach McAllister

Ubaldo Jimenez is the team's opening-day starter followed by Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. The fifth spot is probably Slowey's to lose. The 27-year-old right-hander was twice traded this offseason, first to Colorado and then to Cleveland. While he struggled last season (0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in eight starts and 14 games), he's a proven back-of-the-rotation starter with a 39-29 record and 4.66 ERA. He's also familiar with the AL Central. Gomez made 10 starts for the Indians last season, as did Huff, the only lefty of the group. McAllister made four starts and wasn't overly impressive.

Detroit Tigers
Third base: Miguel Cabrera vs. third base

When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, the stated plan was that Cabrera will move to third, leaving the DH spot for Victor Martinez -- who isn't playing this year. The Tigers, it appears, are trying to keep Cabrera from getting too big to play third in preparation for 2013 when they'll really have a logjam at the position with Fielder, Cabrera, Martinez and Delmon Young. For now, it seems like wishful thinking that Cabrera can play a passable third base. But if he can, it helps the team out -- especially defensively in the outfield with Young not trying to figure out what to do with that that thing on his left hand.

Kansas City Royals
Second base: Johnny Giavotella vs. Chris Getz vs. Yuniesky Betancourt

What you've heard is true -- there's a ton of talent in Kansas City. In fact, the lineup is nearly set, except for second base and center field. Center should be manned by Lorenzo Cain, who doesn't have a realistic competitor for the spot, but second could be a question. Giavotella came up in 2011 to middling results - .247/.273/.376 with two homers and five stolen bases in 187 plate appearances, but he has a chance to take the position if he can play at the level he established in the minors, where he was a .305/.375/.437 hitter since being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. While just 5-foot-8, he has shown the ability to make contract (striking out no more than 67 times in any of his minor league seasons) and walk nearly as much as he strikes out (192 minor-league walks to 212 strikeouts). He's not the best defender, but he's adequate. Getz is nobody's idea of a long-term answer. He hit .255/.313/.287 last season, but plays good defense. And then there's Betancourt, who was signed not add depth. The former Royals shortstop will not and should not be pressuring light-hitting Alcides Escobar, but he could add some pop to the infield at second.

Minnesota Twins
Disabled list: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau vs. the disabled list

No two players may be as essential to their team's success as Mauer and Morneau. The two made a combined $37 million last season -- more than the entire Royals team. And, by the way, Kansas City finished eight games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. The Twins just barely avoided being a $100-million, 100-loss team, but it took a 1-0 victory over the Royals on the last season to do it. Mauer played in 82 games, while Morneau played in just 69, with the two combining to hit seven home runs between them. Morneau's never seemed to fully recover from the concussion he suffered in July of 2010 and Mauer's had a variety of injuries, missing games with a leg injury, as well as lower back stiffness, a bruised shoulder, neck stiffness and pneumonia. Both players will play first base and DH some to try to keep them healthy, but questions will continue until either plays a productive 130-game-or-so season.

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Posted on: February 4, 2012 2:57 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2012 3:21 pm
 

Several NFLers took swings at baseball

Tom Brady

By C. Trent Rosecrans


In 1995 the Expos drafted a catcher out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif., the same high school that produced Barry Bonds and Gregg Jeffries. Montreal scout Gary Hughes thought the team got a steal, but knew the catcher lasted until the 18th round because he was a good football player and would be difficult to sign.

In the end, Tom Brady passed on baseball, went to the University of Michigan on a football scholarship and will be playing in a football game this weekend. He made the right choice, but that doesn't mean the Expos scouts were wrong -- Brady was obviously a good athlete with a strong arm and good leadership skills, all things you want in a catcher.

CBSSports.com's Super Bowl Central

Brady's not the only NFL player who flirted with a career in baseball, several current NFL players have a baseball background. While there's no Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders or Brian Jordan currently playing at the highest level in both sports, there are a variety of NFL-MLB ties, from players who, like Brady, were drafted and didn't sign, to those who played in the minors and even one minor-leaguer who is hoping to be drafted into the NFL this year.

Here's a look at some current NFL players with baseball experience:

Cedric Benson -- The Bengals running back was drafted by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 2001 draft and played nine games for the team's Gulf Coast League team, going 5 for 25, with all five of his hits going for extra bases -- three doubles and two triples. While he didn't homer, he walked 10 times in 34 plate appearances and was hit twice for a .412 on-base percentage and an .892 OPS.

Mark Brunell -- The 41-year-old Jets backup was… the lefty was drafted by the Braves in the 44th round of the 1992 draft, but didn't sign.

Kerry Collins -- The Tigers took him in the 26th round of the 1990 draft, the first of three future NFL players drafted, before Greg McMurtry and Rodney Peete. He was drafted again by the Tigers in the 60th round of the 1991 draft and the 48th round of the 1994 draft. He never signed.

Quan CosbyQuan Cosby (right) -- The former Broncos and Bengals kick returner was a sixth-round pick by the Angels in 2001 and played four years in the team's minor-league system, spending two seasons with Cedar Rapids in the Class A Midwest League. In four seasons, he hit .260/.330/.321 with 71 stolen bases. In his last season, 2004, he stole 23 bases and hit five homers. After that season he went back to school at Texas and played wide receiver with the Longhorns. Undrafted in football, he signed with the Bengals and played last season with the Broncos before being waived at the end of the season and signed by the Colts.

Eric Decker -- The Broncos wide receiver was drafted in the 39th round by the Brewers in 2008 and in the 27th round by the Twins in 2009.

Dennis Dixon -- Twice drafted, the Steelers' third-string quarterback signed with the Braves after going in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. He played in the Gulf Coast League and Appalachian League that year, hitting a combined .176/.322/.216 as an outfielder. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases, but struck out 22 times in 90 plate appearances, while putting up just a .176 average.

Matt Moore -- No, not the Rays' lefty Matt Moore, but the Dolphins quarterback. Moore was taken in the 22nd round of the 2004 draft by the Angels.

Golden Tate --  The Seahawks' wide receiver was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 draft and the Giants in the 50th round of the 2010 draft. He played two seasons of baseball at Notre Dame, hitting .329 as a sophomore and scoring 45 runs, the third-most in school history.

Michael Vick -- The Rockies drafted Vick in the 30th round of the 2000 draft, but he never signed.

Hines Ward -- The Marlins took Ward in the 73rd round of the 1994 draft, but he never signed.

Brandon Weeden -- CBSSports.com has the Oklahoma State quarterback the fourth-rated QB in the upcoming draft after leading Oklahoma State to an 11-1 record last season as a 28-year-old. The reason Weeden was so advanced in age as a college quarterback was that he spent five seasons in the minor leagues after the Yankees took him in the second round of the 2002 draft. Weeden, a right-handed pitcher, was 19-26 with a 5.02 ERA in 108 games and 65 starts in the minors. He averaged nearly a strikeout an inning, but had a 1.573 WHIP for the Yankees, Dodgers and Royals systems.

Ricky Williams -- The same year the current Ravens running back won the Heisman Trophy at Texas, he hit .283/.309/.283 in 55 plate appearances in the short-season New York-Penn League for the Batavia Muckdogs in the Phillies system. Despite a career .211/.265/.261 line in four years in the Phillies' system, the Expos took him in the 1998 Rule 5 draft before trading him to the Rangers. Williams didn't join the Rangers and never played another professional baseball game.

Russell Wilson -- Wilson is the 10th-ranked quarterback in the upcoming draft, according to CBSSports.com. Wilson, a second baseman, was drafted in 2007 by the Orioles and again in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Rockies. After spurning the Orioles out of high school, Wilson did sign with the Rockies, which led to a rift between him and his college coach at N.C. State, Tom O'Brien. WIlson played baseball each of the last two summers, playing 61 games for the Asheville Tourists of the Class A South Atlantic League last season, hitting .228/.366/.342 with three home runs and 15 stolen bases. He struck out 82 times in 236 plate appearances before heading to Wisconsin for his senior year of college. At Wisconsin, he led the Badgers to the Big 10 title. He recently told the Rockies he won't be reporting to spring training. The Rockies hold his rights for five more years and have said they'd welcome him back.

Of course, there are plenty of guys who went the other way and chose baseball instead of football, players like Todd Helton (who once started ahead of Peyton Manning at Tennessee), Adam Dunn (who was at Texas as a quarterback), Seth Smith (who backed up Eli Manning at Ole Miss), Joe Mauer (who was the nation's top recruit at quarterback and signed with Florida State) and Matt Holliday (who was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at Oklahoma State).

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Posted on: February 1, 2012 7:57 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 8:48 am
 

Baseball's worst contracts, Part I: IF/C



By Matt Snyder


This past weekend I posted a blog about Joe Mauer feeling healthy so far this offseason and in the comments section a small discussion about bad contracts broke out. So, I figured, why not sort through all the contracts in baseball and come up with some of the worst? We're still more than two weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting, but it would be shocking to see a free agent sign for a contract that would rank among the worst in baseball -- considering the players left unsigned. So the timing works well. Let's check it out and discuss, shall we? If there's one thing baseball fans love, it's arguing.

We'll go at this in three different parts. First (now) is infielders and catchers, Thursday we'll look at the outfielders and designated hitters while Friday is pitchers.

One last note before we proceed. The way baseball's salary structure is set up, the overwhelming majority of the players can't make big bucks -- relatively speaking, of course -- until they've been in the league for about three years. Then there is arbitration, so they aren't free agents for another few years. So, most of the time, the overpaid players were underpaid -- again, relatively speaking -- when they were young studs. So you could argue it evens out. And I would in many cases. I also don't begrudge any of them for making gobs of money to play a game. They have a special talent that people pay to watch. They deserve a huge cut. So let's just try to stay on topic here, OK? Great. Let's dive in.

Catcher

Worst: Joe Mauer, Twins
Remaining contract: 7 years, $161 million

Mauer is obviously coming off a disastrous season and should improve greatly in the next few years. That being said, his health issues throughout 2011 were a bit of a wakeup call on how bad that contract will likely prove to be. He has to remain behind the plate to be worth anywhere close to $23 million per season, and what are the chances that he stays productive and healthy as a full-time catcher for the next seven years? If he moves to first base, he's a well-below average power hitter at the position and that harms the offense as a whole. While Mauer is certainly a stand-up guy and a hometown hero, it's hard to see this contract coming close to paying off for Minnesota in the end.

Honorable Mention
Victor Martinez, Tigers: This one is mitigated by the fact that the Tigers have insurance (that will reportedly pay almost half), but he's still owed $38 million over the next three seasons. In fairness to the Tigers, though, this wasn't really a bad deal when signed. They didn't know he'd get badly hurt and they'd then sign Prince Fielder to a gargantuan contract. It's just that there aren't really any other bad catcher contracts. I'm even cheating by putting Martinez here because he's predominantly a DH. I just had to list someone here.

First Base

Worst: Ryan Howard, Phillies
Remaining contract: 5 years, $125 million

The achillies injury wasn't taken significantly into account because there's no way the Phillies knew that was coming. Still, this deal was signed in April of 2010 but is just now kicking in for the start of the 2012 season. We're talking about a guy who hit .253 and only had a .488 slugging percentage last season. Jose Reyes and Shane Victorino had higher marks in slugging, which is a power stat. The 33 home runs and 116 RBI look good, but Howard is set to make $25 million per season for the next five years. He also hit just .105 with a .263 slugging percentage in the 2011 NLDS, where the Phillies lost in five games to the Cardinals due predominantly to a lack of offense. When Howard is 36 and making $25 million, it'll be an albatross of a contract.

Honorable Mention
Albert Pujols, Angels: It's actually a huge bargain for the next two seasons, when Pujols will make a combined $28 million, but by the time you get to age 42 and $30 million per year, it's pretty rough. The Angels are counting on having already made their money by then. And they very well might do so, which is why he's only in "honorable mention." We'll see.

Prince Fielder, Tigers: Similar to Pujols, the nine-year, $214 million deal doesn't look bad until several years down the road. We'll see, part two.

Mark Teixeira, Yankees: Teixiera is similar to Howard in several ways. He is actually coming off back-to-back seasons of sub-.500 slugging percentages (Howard was only below in '11) while getting most of his value from home runs and RBI, the latter of which is a team stat. The difference is Teixeira is a great defender and is owed slightly less ($115 million and change in five years). And he is completely healthy, which bodes better in his chances to right the ship these next few years.

Second Base

Worst: Dan Uggla
Remaining contract: 4 years, $52.8 million

Uggla salvaged what could have been an awful 2011 season by getting insanely hot in the second half. He ended with a career-high 36 homers, but that's about all that looks good, on the whole. He hit .233/.311/.453 with 156 strikeouts, poor defense and a career-low 22 doubles. He'll be 35 in the final year of his contract.

Honorable Mention
Chase Utley, Phillies: Past performance means he's probably earned this, but $30.575 million for the next two seasons seems awfully high for a 33-year-old coming off a .259/.344/.425 season.

Brian Roberts, Orioles: Let's just hope he finds a way to recover from all the post-concussion symptoms for the sake of his quality of life. The Orioles have far bigger problems than the $20 million Roberts will make the next two seasons.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins: OK, so $6 million for two seasons isn't much money to any team in the majors, but Nishioka was probably the worst position player in baseball last year and it's hard to see any improvement.

Shortstop

Worst: Jose Reyes, Marlins
Remaining contract: 6 years, $106 million

I don't think this was an awful signing at all, from a certain point of view. The Marlins wanted to make a splash and Reyes is the type of player that can single-handedly energize an entire lineup ... when he's in it. Yep, there's that qualifier and that's why he's here. Leg injuries -- on a player who relies on speed -- have limited Reyes to 295 games the past three seasons. Can he stay healthy for the next six? That's a tall order. Again, though, I don't think this one is egregious, and it's possible he ends up well worth the money. It's just that there aren't many bad contracts at shortstop and this represents a huge risk.

Honorable Mention
Derek Jeter, Yankees: What he means to the franchise -- in addition to how much money the Yankees can afford to spend -- says this deal isn't hurting anyone at all. But if you look at what he's likely to provide in the next two seasons, there's no way it's worth the $33 million Jeter is owed. Again, though, Jeter has earned the "pension," if you will, by this point in his legendary career.

Third Base

Worst: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
Remaining contract: 6 years, $149 million

If A-Rod hit the free agent market right now, what would he get ... half that contract? He's 36, he hasn't played in more than 138 games since 2007 and is coming off a season where he hit .276/.362/.461. I have no doubt if he stays healthy he has another two or even three great seasons left in him, but he's set to make at least $20 million during the season in which he turns 42.

Also, there are marketing bonuses in the contract for several home-run milestones from A-Rod's 660th to 763rd home runs (he currently has 629). It's probably not worth getting into in this space, because if A-Rod actually breaks the home run record, the Yankees will be rolling in the promotional dough from the event(s) and aftermath.

Honorable Mention
Brandon Inge, Tigers: When the Tigers signed Fielder and announced Miguel Cabrera was moving to third base, it made Inge a $5.5-million backup for the 2012 season.

On the other hand ...

Evan Longoria, Rays: Even if the Rays pick up all their club options on Longoria -- which they surely will, barring major injury -- the All-Star third baseman is only owed $40.5 million over the next five seasons. He's only 26 years old and already has two Gold Gloves, 113 career homers, an .874 career OPS and three postseason appearances in just four seasons. He's received MVP votes in all four of his seasons at the majors. He'll make $4.5 million in 2012 while A-Rod will make $29 million. Now that is a club-friendly contract, one that is surely the envy of general managers -- and certainly owners -- across the league.

Next

Thursday: OF/DH

Friday: Pitchers

Source for all figures was Cot's Baseball Contracts

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Posted on: January 28, 2012 4:36 pm
 

Mauer reports he's feeling healthy, 'great'



By Matt Snyder


While it wasn't even close to Adam Dunn bad, Twins catcher Joe Mauer had a season to forget in 2011. He suffered setbacks in his recovery from offseason knee surgery and was said to have "bilateral leg weakness" for much of the early part of the season. He only played in 82 games and wasn't the type of offensive presence we've grown accustomed to seeing when he was on the field.

After a nearly complete offseason of working out, Mauer sounds like he believes he's in line for a good 2012 season.

"The knee's been feeling great," Mauer said during a TwinsFest appearance (MLB.com). "The last year and a half, just trying to compensate for that kind of took a toll on my whole body. I don't think it's going to be an issue. I'm feeling good, so I'm excited. This is the best I've felt in a long time. I'm excited about that."

More, from MLB.com:

"This point last year, for me it's been night and day physically for how I feel," Mauer said. "I really was just kind of doing rehab stuff with the knee. I don't think I grabbed a bat until, I don't even know, later. I feel good. I'm excited to get out there on the field and move around. Things are a lot better for me physically than they were last year."

Look, the stories about guys who are in the "best shape" of their lives heading into spring training are seen every year. It's nothing new and I fully expect to see many more as we get into February. But with some players it's legitimate to check in on their status. Mauer obviously had a series of bad circumstances mar his 2011 season. If he's taken steps forward with a better offseason conditioning regimen while also feeling completely healthy, there's every reason to take him seriously as a huge bounce-back candidate.

Mauer, 28, hit just .287/.360/.368 last season with three homers and 15 doubles in 82 games. He only started 47 games behind the plate. The 2009 AL MVP brought a career line of .327/.407/.481 into the season. Considering he is set to make $23 million per season through 2018, how he plays this season is going to be one of the most important storylines in all of baseball, let alone for the Twins.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: January 7, 2012 12:10 am
 

Under-30 players building Hall of Fame foundation



By Matt Snyder


T-minus two days until the Hall of Fame vote for the 2012 induction is unveiled, so we'll continue talking about the Hall of Fame in this relatively slow time of the year. This time around, we'll take a look at active players younger than 30 who have laid a foundation that makes a run to Cooperstown possible.

Now, make no mistake about it, none of these players are close to having completed their big-league careers nor are they currently close to being locks to the Hall of Fame. Still, some are well on their way and others have started a journey that may push them into the discussion in a decade or so.

Obviously things could change in just one season -- just take a look below at a certain catcher from Minnesota. Or think about how good it looked for Grady Sizemore three years ago at this time before injuries completely derailed him. And we have to understand that just a few seasons of being an elite player doesn't necessarily mean the longevity will be there -- take the cases of Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, for example. For various reasons, careers can get off track. Still, it's fun to take a look at which young players have built a possible Hall-of-Fame foundation.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but here are 20 under-30 guys who could be on the right track, in alphabetical order (age in parentheses):

Hall of Fame coverage
Miguel Cabrera (28) - The first name we list might well be the most impressive case on here. In eight full seasons (he appeared in 87 games as a rookie) Cabrera has been an All-Star six times and finished in the top five of MVP voting five times. He's hit .317/.395/.555, which is good for a 149 OPS-plus. Saying Cabrera is just about halfway through his career is probably reasonable and he already has 277 homers and 984 RBI.

Robinson Cano (29) - He wouldn't have appeared on this list until the past two seasons, but Cano has grown into one of the more dangerous hitters in baseball. He'd need to continue this pace for another six to eight years at least before being a Hall candidate, though.

Prince Fielder (27) - Six full seasons -- with 39 games in '05 -- have yielded 230 homers and 656 RBI. Fielder also has an impressive .390 on-base percentage and a whopping .929 OPS (143 OPS-plus). He's already finished in the top four of MVP voting three times. Can his robust body hold up long-term? If it does, he's probably headed to Cooperstown. Baseball-Reference.com's top similar statistical player through age 27 is Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.

Adrian Gonzalez (29) - Did he get started too late? Gonzalez didn't become a full-timer until '06 and wasn't a dominant force until '09. Still, four All-Star Games, three Gold Gloves and two Top 10 finishes in MVP voting. He also has a career .889 OPS (140 OPS-plus) and over 1,100 hits already.

Felix Hernandez (25) - We've seen so many pitchers flame out over the years after huge starts -- I mentioned two in the intro -- but King Felix basically only needs to stay healthy and keep his head on straight. He's already 85-67 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 1,264 strikeouts. He has one Cy Young and also finished second once. And he could conceivably pitch 15 more seasons. Even conservatively -- assuming health -- you have to say he has 12 more in him.

Matt Kemp (27) - After a runner-up finish in MVP voting this past season, Kemp inked a huge contract with the Dodgers. He could be the face of the franchise for a decade. The power-speed combo (128 HR, 144 steals) along with a Gold Glove shows he can do it all.

Clayton Kershaw (23) - He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA, 248 strikeouts, an All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award last season. At 23. Enough said.

Tim Lincecum (27) - Two Cy Youngs, four All-Star appearances and a World Series ring so far. Not too shabby. Like Hernandez, Kershaw and all other great young pitchers, health and avoiding major off-field trouble are the biggest roadblocks. But there is serious foundation and talent here. I wouldn't bet against Lincecum. 

Evan Longoria (26) - He's going to be the face of the Rays for a long time and his arrival coincided with them shedding the laughingstock label. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year has three All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger. His 136 OPS-plus bodes well. But his average dropped 50 points last season. Harbinger or aberration? I'd guess the latter.

Joe Mauer (28) - Would've seemed a lot more firm here last year at this time. The disaster of a season doesn't erase the amazing good Mauer did through the first six-plus seasons in his career, but it raises health questions moving forward. His bat means a whole lot less if he's playing first base instead of catching.

Andrew McCutchen (25) - He already has 95 doubles, 19 triples, 51 homers and 78 stolen bases. He has an .822 OPS (123 OPS-plus). What if he gets even better and is the driving force behind a complete Pirates turnaround?

Dustin Pedroia (28) - The 2007 Rookie of the Year followed up that act with a 2008 MVP. He's hitting .305/.373/.463 in his six-year career, while he's also won a World Series ring, two Gold Gloves and been to the All-Star Game three times.

Hanley Ramirez (28) - He would've been one of the best bets two years ago, but he's now mired in a two-year decline. Goes to show how quickly things can change. Of course, there's plenty of time to get back to 2007-09 form.

Jose Reyes (28) - In six "full" seasons (we'll say at least 125 games played), Reyes has been among the best players in baseball. There's no questioning that. Can he stay on the diamond enough to make himself a viable Hall candidate? It doesn't look great, but the talent is there.

Troy Tulowitzki (27) - Tulowitzki brings in three straight top-eight finishes in MVP voting and is the premier defensive shortstop in the National League. He really only has four seasons worth counting toward a possible Hall induction so far, though, so he's gonna need about eight to 10 more.

Justin Upton (24) - The potential here is insane. He came in fourth in MVP voting last season and should only get better. Again, there are many ways for younger players to derail, but Upton has all the tools to one day hit Cooperstown. Consider me a believer.

Justin Verlander (28) - Yes, he's only 28. Verlander already has 107 wins, 1,215 strikeouts, four All-Star appearances (that is, he made the team, not pitched in the game), a Cy Young and, yes, an AL MVP. He was already one of the better aces in baseball, but then went into a new stratosphere last season. If that continues, he's a cinch to make the Hall. We'll see.

Joey Votto (28) - In just four full seasons, Votto has made a name for himself as a marquee slugger. He won the 2010 MVP and followed it up with a stellar 2011 campaign as well. His career .955 OPS (151 OPS-plus) is incredible and he added a Gold Glove last season, too.

Jered Weaver (29) - Weaver was quietly really good until last season, and you can now drop the "quietly." He was the All-Star Game starter and could have easily won the Cy Young Award, if Verlander didn't happen to be putting up a historic season in the same league. In six seasons, Weaver is 82-47 with a 3.31 ERA and 977 strikeouts. Considering his age, though, this is a pretty tall order. He'll need another eight years of dominance, I'd guess.

David Wright (29) - I think I would have felt pretty good about him after 2008, but he's fallen off a slight bit since then. Perhaps the change in the ballpark dimensions helps, in addition to some health -- for himself and teammates. Wright does already have five All-Star appearances and a .300/.380/.508 line with 183 homers and 151 steals.



I think my four best bets right now would be, in no particular order: Verlander, Cabrera, Hernandez and Upton. Could be a lot more, could be a lot less. All 20 of these guys have plenty of time to either build a resume or screw it up. History tells us there's no chance all 20 make the cut, and even guessing half of these guys getting to Cooperstown is a big stretch.

Feel free to add more names in the comments, as there definitely isn't a wrong answer in this department.

Coming Sunday: "Asterisk" guys with Hall-type resumes
Monday: 2012 Hall of Fame inductee(s) announced
Monday: Looking ahead at the 2013 first-year eligibles
Monday: Looking at the '14, '15 and '16 first-year eligibles

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 10:55 pm
 

Twins want to decide Morneau's position soon

Justin Morneau

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday said the team is considering moving Justin Morneau from first base to designated hitter -- something that would also allow Joe Mauer to play more at first base in an attempt to keep him fresh.

Morenau, who missed the second half of the 2010 season after suffering a concussion, played in just 69 games in 2011, while still battling the after effects of his concussion. He didn't play after diving for a ball on Aug. 28 and felt similar symptoms as his more serious concussions, despite landing on his shoulder, not his head. That had to scare the Twins, who have Morneau under contract through 2013 with $28 million due to the 30-year-old.

Speaking with ESPN 1500-AM in Minnesota on Wednesday, Gardenhire said the team would likely make a decision on Monreau's position soon.

"One of the things Terry [Ryan] and I talked about is making sure before we get too deep in this thing [is] what we're going to do with Morny," Gardenhire said (via the Star Tribune). "Where he is going to play, if it is DH, if it is first base. Morny has to eventually tell us what's right for him or I'll make the decision for him and we will go from there. If he can't decide and we talk to the doctors and they give me information where I think the best thing for him to do is to DH and protect him as much as possible, then that is what we will do.

"First thing, you talk to Morny and let him do the doctor things and go from there."

Gardenhire said he's been talking to Morneau via text message. He also said the team is making "a mad effort" to re-sign outfielder Michael Cuddyer and hoped to retain Matt Capps as the team's closer.

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Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2011 1:38 pm
 

Homegrown Team: Minnesota Twins



By C. Trent Rosecrans


What if players were only permitted to stay with the team that originally made them a professional? No trades, no Rule-5 Draft, no waivers, no minor- or major-league free agency ... once you are a professional baseball player, you stay in that organization. This series shows how all 30 teams would look. We give you: Homegrown teams. 

For years, the Minnesota Twins were the model of how to build a consistent winner in a small market. From 2001-2010, the Twins appeared in the playoffs six times and recorded just one losing season. But the wheels fell off in 2011, with a mixture of bad fortune and bad pitching. The Twins have two former MVPs in their lineup, but it would be tough to find two former MVPs who did less in 2011 than Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Those two homegrown players were supposed to be cornerstones for the franchise, but their performance last season was more fitting a tombstone. The team's fortunes, for better or worse, will be tied to those two for the next few years.

Lineup

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Michael Cuddyer, 3B
3. Joe Mauer, 1B
4. Justin Morneau, DH
5. Torii Hunter, RF
6. Jason Kubel, LF
7. Wilson Ramos, C
8. Danny Valencia, 2B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

Starting Rotation

1. Matt Garza
2. Nick Blackburn
3. Kevin Slowey
4. Brian Duensing
5. Anthony Swarzak

Bullpen

Closer - Jesse Crain
Set up - LaTroy Hawkins, J.C. Romero, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Grant Balfour, Peter Moylan

Notable Bench Players

A.J. Pierzynski, Ben Revere, Luke Hughes, Trevor Plouffe.

What's Good?

With Ramos and Pierzynski on the roster, there's zero reason for Mauer to get anywhere near catching gear -- unless it's for another commercial. With Mauer freed of pitching duties, he can concentrate on first base and Justin Morneau doesn't have to worry about playing in the field. Even though Morneau is a very good defensive first baseman, keeping him off the field could keep him on the field. Last year he suffered concussion-like symptoms after merely diving for a ball. Limiting his risks for a recurrence of head injuries should be a top priority for the Twins, and the easiest way to do that solves the team's other big problem, getting the most out of their long-term deal with Mauer. While the Twins don't have anyone on this list with a large number of saves on their resume, there are a ton of good relievers.

What's Not?

It's a good thing the team has good relievers, because they're going to need them -- and even more than the seven listed above. The rotation, after Garza, is shaky. That rotation isn't going to get much help from its defense, either. The roster makeup requires several position shuffles, including Cuddyer to third, a position he's played, but is not too keen on playing. The Twins also have to put Nishioka at shortstop. Although he played there some in 2011, the team signed Jamey Carroll to play shortstop every day in 2012 for a reason.

Comparison to real 2011

Well, if you thought it couldn't get much worse in Minnesota than it did in 2011, it may with this lineup and rotation. Minnesota went 63-99 in 2011, and it probably breaks the 100-loss barrier with this squad, but don't expect them to be historically bad, so it'd probably only cost four-to-eight wins in my unscientific research. Either way, it's an ugly summer in Minneapolis.

Up next: Pittsburgh Pirates

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Posted on: November 18, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Twins sign catcher Ryan Doumit to 1-year deal

Ryan DoumitBy C. Trent Rosecrans

The Twins have signed former Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit to a one-year deal worth $3 million.

Doumit, 30, has played catcher, first base, right field and designated hitter for the Pirates in his seven seasons in Pittsburgh, meaning he provides a valuable insurance policy for the uncertain status of Twins stars Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer and Morneau combined to play just 151 games in 2011 and hit seven home runs.

Doumit hit .303/.353/.477 with eight home runs and 30 RBI in 236 plate appearances (and 77 games) in 2011, missing 57 games with a non-displaced fracture of his left ankle from May to August. He also suffered a strained oblique in spring training. 

Like Morenau, Doumit suffered from concussion-related injuries in 2010, missing three games in June and then going on the disabled list in July of 2010 because of a concussion.

Doumit made $11.5 million from 2009-2001 with the Pirates, but Pittsburgh turned down a $7.25 million option for 2012. He's a career .271/.334/.442 hitter with 67 homers, including a career-high 15 in 2008 before signing his big contract.

Follow all the free agent moves with the CBSSports.com Free Agent Tracker. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com