Monday, October 29, 2007

Unorthodox Free Agent Solutions: Barry Bonds

Here at R-D, we like to focus on what SHOULD happen, not what WILL happen. In this series, we'll look at potential free agent signings that make a lot of sense, but have a snowball's chance in hell of actually occurring.

Barry Bonds to the Twins

Bonds is an odd sort of potential bargain this year, because signing him is such a negative PR move. Barry is the best hitter (non-A-Rod division) on the market, but might have to sign a below-market deal because of a lack of suitors. Given a team with holes at DH and left field--and no team fits that bill quite like the Twins--Bonds could easily be a four- or five-win player over 120 games.

Besides having a gaping hole at Bonds' position, Minnesota also is at a point where an extra five wins can make a big difference for their playoff chances. Despite a 79-83 season, things are looking up for the Twins. If Francisco Liriano bounces all the way back, the Twins have the two best starting pitchers in baseball, and even a less-than-full recovery makes him a devastating pitcher. Matt Garza is ready to step up as a solid number 3 (or maybe be dealt for Jason Bay). Boof Bonser, Scott Baker, and Kevin Slowey aren't studs, but they represent a competitive advantage in the 3-5 slots. The bullpen, led by Joe Nathan and Pat Neshek, remains excellent.

The Twins featured below-average hitting last year, but that's mostly the result of awful production from Nick Punto and the DH spot. The Twins head into next year needing a center fielder, second baseman, third baseman, and DH. Bonds fills the DH void. If the Twins trade Garza for Bay, they can deal Jason Kubel for a third baseman (Kevin Kouzmanoff?) or sign fan favorite Corey Koskie, assuming he's fully recovered. The market is full of free agent center fielders; I'd target Aaron Rowand or Mike Cameron, though the Twins may stick with Torii Hunter for sentimental reasons. At second base, Alexi Casilla is still the future, but a short-term deal for a Tad Iguchi type makes a lot of sense.

For about $30 million in additional salary commitments for next year (not counting the savings from the departing Torii Hunter, Luis Castillo, and Carlos Silva), that gives us this lineup:

CF Rowand/Cameron
C Mauer
DH Bonds
1B Morneau
LF Bay
RF Cuddyer
3B Kouzmanoff/Koskie
2B Iguchi
SS Bartlett

SP Santana
SP Liriano
SP Baker
SP Bonser
SP Slowey

RP Nathan
RP Neshek
RP Guerrier
RP Rincon
RP Reyes

That's a team that can absolutely run with the Indians, Red Sox, and Yankees; I might make them the preseason favorites to win the AL.

The point isn't that the Twins will actually do all this, but that they are this close to being a top contender again. It's a lot easier to improve this kind of stars-and-scrubs team than a balanced top-to-bottom squad like Oakland's. The above scenario doesn't involve anything outlandish like signing A-Rod or trading for Miguel Tejada.

If Minnesota won't trade Santana and Nathan this offseason, they owe it to the fans to take one last shot at a title with them. Signing Bonds may be the biggest step they can take in that direction.

1 comment:

The Vegan said...

I am a huge Twins fan. My only request is that the Twins hire YOU as their GM.

Twins aside though, I always enjoy your writing. Thanks!