Monday, October 10, 2005

Farewell, Flounder

The Twins began their offseason housecleaning in earnest last week, cutting ties with Luis Rivas, Matt LeCroy, Michael Ryan, Brent Abernathy, Glenn Williams, Jason Tyner, and Joe Mays. Declining the $8.5m option on Mays was an expected move, and Rivas was a dead man walking since the club sent him down to AAA, and I danced on his grave, last July. Most of the rest are organizational filler, who may or may not be brought back to staff the Rochester roster next spring. I'm mildly surprised, and even more pleased, to see that Terry Ryan apparently does not have serious plans to rely on Jason Tyner as a fourth outfielder to give Gardenhire his desired increase of speed on the team.

Matt LeCroy is the one guy I'll miss next season. He's probably due for a raise, after arbitration, in the $1.5m range. Apparently the GM has other uses for that money in mind, rather than a platoon DH and clubhouse cut-up who doesn't mind eating bugs for money or doing silly dances if it makes the guys laugh. That's fine, although I wish Terry Ryan wouldn't pretend that LeCroy blew his spot because he's not versatile enough to make it as a 3rd string Catcher. Ryan told an AP reporter, "Unfortunately, I was concerned about the lack of catching ability. I wanted to think he had enough versatility.''

Frankly, that's silly. Paying $1.5m for a DH isn't out of line. A club that can pay Luis Rivas $1.65m, or $1m for Juan Castro, could find a way to pay $1.5m for a decent DH, even a good platoon bat in the role. His value as a 3rd string Catcher or backup 1st baseman would be negligible, even if he were good at those roles. The main questions should be: is his bat worth the money, or are there better ways to spend the dough?

LeCroy this season hit a solid .260/.354/.444 in 350 plate appearances, including a whopping .306/.404/.621 against lefty pitching. LeCroy's 5.56 RC/27 rate (Runs Created per 27 outs) was second amongst lineup regulars on the team, after only Joe Mauer. His 111 OPS+ was even better than Mauer (108 OPS+), better than any regular on the team. Yes, he's slow, he has marginal fielding skills, and he struggles with righty pitching. But his bat was an asset to the lineup, just the same. A 17.9 VORP for a part-time bat at less than $2 mil is a nice value.

Does the GM think he can bring in a free agent to upgrade the DH spot for that kind of money?

In the 1B/DH bargain bin this winter, he'll be looking at names like Mark Sweeney, John Olerud, Eduardo Perez, Daryle Ward, Robert Fick, Olmedo Saenz, J.T. Snow, Brad Fullmer, Greg Colbrunn, Ruben Sierra, and maybe Raffy Palmeiro if things get desperate for both Palmeiro and the Twins. Only Sweeney and Palmeiro had more value than LeCroy, measured by VORP, this season; and not by all that much. Sweeney was worth 23.2 VORP in 267 PA's this season, Palmeiro was worth 18.9 VORP in 442 PA's.

So if the Twins mean to upgrade on LeCroy's production next year, Ryan will probably have to swing a trade for someone like Lyle Overbay from Milwaukee (33.2 VORP, 2nd year arb., due to be forced out by Prince Fielder) or David Dellucci from Texas (35.5 VORP, due $950k next season, may be available for pitching), to name just two possibilities. Or, perhaps Ryan will apply LeCroy's money to a larger lump of dough to lure an even bigger fish to the Land O' Lakes.

Either way, this could work out fine. But it seems odd that Terry Ryan didn't see LeCroy as a trading chip to offer around this winter. A bench bat who crushes lefty pitching, and is still bound by arbitration, should have some trade value. Why outright him to AAA and just cut him loose? Is he just in such a hurry to clear his books so he can go right after other acquisition targets next month? Any ideas on that?

Meanwhile, farewell to you, Flounder. You didn't quite become the Big Stick we projected a few years ago, but you were an asset to the lineup, a fun character, and I always felt good rooting for you. Happy landings.


At 10/10/2005 3:26 PM, Blogger SBG said...

My all-time favorite memory was watching Matty LeCroy at AA New Britain gun down Drew Henson on a stolen base attempt. I was sitting behind the plate and LeCroy sprung up, threw a perfect strike and had the Yankees' premier prospect (at the time) by plenty. I was thinking, hey, maybe he can play catcher at the major league level. (Wrong.)

I yelled, "Way to go Matty!" and he turned around and looked at me to see if he recognized who was yelling at him. Of course, he didn't, and he went back to catching the game.

At 10/11/2005 9:55 AM, Anonymous Roscoe said...

My girlfriend has vowed to hate the Lecroy-less Twins. She loved that he went to area schools to tell kids not to be bullies.

At 10/11/2005 12:04 PM, Blogger amr said...

My favorite LeCroy moment:
2004, Twins Down 6-3 in the top of the ninth in Toronto. Bases loaded. Two outs (maybe). Lecroy hits a GS and I feel very happy for about 3 days. The next day, everyone at work wanted to talk about the Wolves playoff win over the Kings, and I was like "Did you see Matty's Granny?" (Not that I did, it was a day game). I will surely miss the guy. I hope he finds a place where I can watch him enough. (No west coast NL teams!)

At 10/11/2005 12:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't doubt that LeCroy ends up on another contending team as a small, but integral piece of the puzzle.

I read somewhere that the reason the move was made so fast was so that LeCroy would be in an optimum position to take advantage of his free agent status. Ryan's spin was that this is a move made out of respect for Lecroy's contributions over the years. Of course in the same breath, he cited LeCroy's limited versatility as the primary reason why he was let go. He butters you up to knock you down.

Strike another fatal blow to team chemistry! It'll be interesting to see this team morph into the Santana/Mauer show - with the cold-blooded intensity of Carlos Silva fueling the competitve fires.

If the Twins are mired in another mediocre season next year, you can rest-assured the loss of the crawdad eating palooka will be cited as a contributing factor.

At 10/11/2005 2:36 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

Even if TR respects the service LeCroy has given the club, it's odd that he should just give up an inexpensive, useful player who is still under club control. Why not look to trade him?

At 10/14/2005 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess the question is what could ryan get in return for lecroy, who is a very one dimensional player. his trading partners were likely limited to the AL and would likely only get a one dimensional player in return or a low level prospect.

All signs point to bringing in an every day DH this season, so I just think TR was clearing space and lightening his load over the next few months.

This seems to be the end of the "old guard" era, with only Torii remaining (and even that isnt certain)

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