Happy Thanksgiving! It is once again that time of the year to select our annual Twins Turkey of the Year winner. This year we get to select our seventh annual Twins Turkey of the Year award winner, who will be lucky number seven? As always we have plenty of blue-chip candidates to scrutinize, analyze, and reflect on. First off we need to narrow the list down to a manageable size.
Didn’t make the final five – Trevor Plouffe – Trevor makes the list not because of bad hitting or fielding but he makes this list because he managed to make three outs on the base paths in just one game. In the June 19 game in which the Twins beat the Chicago Cubs 7-2 at Target Field, Plouffe seemingly forgot how to run the bases. Mike Berardino did a nice piece on it that you can read here. Plouffe went 2 for 4 with 4 RBI in a game the Twins won so everyone got some chuckles out of Plouffe’s misadventures but it was still a game that Plouffe will never forget. Box score.
Didn’t make the final five – Phil Hughes – In his first season with Minnesota in 2014 had a 3.52 ERA and a 16-10 record with a record-breaking BB9 of 0.7 for a team that won 70 games. In 2015 Hughes spend a month on the DL due to lower back issues and missed 32 games. Because of his injury he pitched just 155 innings versus 209+ in 2014 and had a 4.40 ERA with an 11-9 record when the Twins won 83 games. The only thing that Hughes was a league leader in was home runs allowed with 29. The Twins were so pleased with Hughes work that after the 2014 season ended that Hughes, 28, was rewarded with a three-year extension worth $42 million that brings his total contract value to $66 million over six years, including 2014 when he made $8 million. Hughes, who was slated to make $8 million in both 2015 and ’16, will now make $9.2 million each of those years before making $13.2 million per season from 2017-19. I sure hope that Hughes doesn’t turn out to be another money pit.
Didn’t make the final five – Glen Perkins – You have to wonder why a closer who has made the AL All-Star team for the last three seasons was nominated for the 2015 Twins Turkey of the Year award and an opportunity to become the first two-time winner of this honor. That won’t happen this year because there were so many more qualified candidates so why is he even here? During the first three months of the season Perkins had 28 saves but from July 9 until the season ended opposing batters hit .348 off Perkins and he had a total of 4 saves, a 6.97 ERA and gave up 7 home runs in 20.2 innings and in the process lost his closer role to Kevin Jepsen. In 2014 Perkins had a similar meltdown from about mid August through the end of the season although he was shut down for the season on September 17. From August 19 until the season ended Perkins had a 9.64 ERA and allowed batters to hit .342 off him (not to mention giving up five home runs) while he registered 3 saves and lost 3 games. Has Perkins who will be 33 when the 2016 season opens lost it? Perkins is kind of a Jeckle and Hyde personality. He has a reputation for being a big community guy in the limelight and in public but one on one with fans when there are no cameras around Perkins can be a snob and pretty mean to fans trying to get his autograph. But what gets me is that Perkins doesn’t bring up the fact that he is injured until he has a number of bad outings in a row and then he blames his injuries for his bad pitching. Perkins is all about Perkins and not exactly a team player or leader in my book.
Didn’t make the final five – troika of Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia – The Twins expected all three of these guys to win starting jobs in 2015 and they all failed miserably and yet the Twins improved by 13 wins from the previous season. If just one of these guys had the kind of season that was expected of them the Twins would have been playing playoff baseball in October. I know, I know, “if the bear hadn’t stopped to take a dump in the woods he would still be alive today.” All three of these guys will turn 25 in 2016 so it is too early to give up on them but at the same time their futures with the Twins have dimmed considerably. The Twins have already stated that Eduardo Escobar is the lead dog at shortstop going into 2016. The Twins are exploring selling Kennys Vargas to a team in Korea and Oswaldo Arcia is supposedly trade bait. It would be a shame if all three fail to become major league players with Minnesota. Each of them have shown they can be quality players in their rookie seasons but the sophomore year has proven to be much tougher. I hope the Twins hang on to these guys for at least one more season so they have another opportunity to prove they can help the Twins. And now we move on to the finalists!
Fourth runner-up – Tim Stauffer – The Twins signed Stauffer as a free agent on December 23, 2014 for $2.2 million and it made for a great Christmas gift for Stauffer but for the Twins it turned out to be lump of coal. The Twins said that they would give the 33 year-old Stauffer who had started just four games since 2011 an opportunity to make the starting rotation in the spring but he failed there so the Twins moved him to the bullpen. In April, Stauffer appeared in 8 games pitching 9.2 innings, allowing 16 hits, 6 walks, 10 runs, allowed opposing batters to hit .372 and put up a 8.38 ERA. To be fair I should mention he did strike out 2 of the 50 batters he faced. Stauffer went on the DL on May 1 for a “right intercostal strain” and was reactivated on May 22. Who recovers from an intercostal strain in just three weeks? Anyway, the Twins used Stauffer two times in May and three times in June before the Twins released him on June 17 and sent his butt packing. Stauffer eventually signed as a FA with the Mets. That was a quick $2.2 million down the crapper. I give the Twins credit for trying to upgrade the bullpen with this signing but this will certainly not go on anyone’s resume as one of their better finds.
Third runner-up – Torii Hunter – The Twin paid $10.5 million to free agent Torii Hunter to get his services for the past season. That is a lot of money to pay an outfielder who was starting his nineteenth big league season and would turn 40 at mid-season. Torii was the Twins number one selection and 20th overall in the 1993 draft. Technically, Torii was a compensation pick from the Cincinnati Reds after they signed Twins free agent pitcher John Smiley. The Twins also had a supplemental pick in round 1 number 33 overall for losing Smiley and they selected RHP Marc Barcelo but he never reached the big leagues. The Twins own pick was number 21 and they used that to select catcher Jason Varitek but he decided not to sign with Minnesota. That same year they received another first round supplemental pick in round 1 which was number 38 overall for the loss of Greg Gagne to and they used that pick on outfielder Kelcey Mucker who never reached the big leagues either. After being drafted in 1993 Hunter made his major league debut with the Twins on August 22, 1997 as a pinch runner in his only big league appearance that season. So why is Torii on the list after all this? He is here because he made a fool of himself and the Minnesota Twins during his news conference to announce his return to the Minnesota Twins after a seven year hiatus. Hunter responded to a question from Twins beat reporter Mike Berardino by calling the reporter a “prick.” Not once, twice, thrice but four times. You can see it here on the Deadspin video. Hunter is no rookie in front of a microphone and could have handled the situation much better versus creating a scene at an event to reintroduce him to Twins fans. Very unprofessional in my opinion for a person that was brought back not only to play right field but was brought back to help teach the Twins younger players how to act and play the game the right way in the major leagues. Shame on you Torii!
Second runner-up – Joe Mauer – Mauer’s 12th season in a Twins uniform had its up’s and down’s, he played in a career high 158 games and had a career high 666 plate appearances but on the other side of the coin he had career lows in batting average by hitting .265 and OBP with a .338. In the last four seasons he has struck out 88, 89, 96 and 112 times as to compared to his previous high strike out mark of 64. The former MVP and six-time all-star hung up his catchers gear after the 2013 season primarily due to concussion issues and took over first base duties on a full-time basis. Joe and his wife Maddie also started a family in 2013 when Maddie gave birth to twin girls on July 24. Since 2013 Mauer’s batting skills have gone down hill quicker than Ingemar Stenmark. The question is why, is it just age, is it his personal life where all of a sudden his marriage and children become more important on his list of priorities (as they should) or was it giving up catching and moving to first base. No one knows the answer to that except Mauer himself but I think that Mauer saw himself as a Hall of Fame catcher and once he realized his catching career was over the game just wasn’t the same challenge it once was and subconsciously Mauer has lost interest in doing what it takes to be the best, and family time has moved up on his list of priorities. The problem is that Mauer’s $23 million salary chewed up about 23% of the teams opening day payroll, he is so even-tempered he never seems to show any emotion, he shows no outward signs of being a team leader and he is a local legend born in St. Paul. Right or wrong, the general public associates big money with leadership and Mauer has shown nothing in that regard. Twins fans want to see the team win and when you have a guy that hits 10 home runs, knocks in just 66 RBI hitting in the three hole and makes $23 million, you have a problem. Manager Paul Molitor had Mauer in the number 3 spot in the batting order 133 times this past season. Mauer has appeared in 1,453 games and he has started a game in the number 3 spot a total of 1,143 times and he has hit in the number 2 spot 228 times. Back in 2004 and 2005 he hit in the 6, 7 and 8 hole a total of 22 times. Yet, Molitor continues to say this off-season that there is no real reason not to have Mauer bat third. I can’t believe that Mauer would object to being put in a lower spot in the order to help the team win. If he does, then we have a real problem because the Twins are on the hook to pay Mauer who has a full no trade clause $23 million for the next three seasons. If Joe Mauer is in the three spot in the batting order in 2016 (unless he is on a tear) it will be on Paul Molitor and he will be high on next years Twins Turkey of the Year ballot and he should be updating his resume.
This years Twins Turkey of the Year runner-up is – Ervin Santana – Last December Ervin Santana agreed to a four-year deal with the Twins worth around $54 million. That would be the largest free agent contract in Twins history, narrowly topping last year’s four-year, $49 million deal with RHP Ricky Nolasco. So how did the right-handed throwing Santana repay the Twins? MLB announced on April 3, 2015 just days before the 2015 season started that Santana has been suspended for 80 games without pay leaving the Twins without their number two starter. Santana was suspended after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance. In a statement released through the players’ union, Santana said he did not know how the PED got into his system. Stanozolol is by far one of the most popular anabolic steroids of all time. This is an anabolic steroid that has gained worldwide media attention numerous times. It was the Stanozolol hormone that made headlines during the 1988 Olympics when Ben Johnson was stripped of his medal, and has been linked to the MLB more times than can be counted. It is important to take stanozolol regularly to get the most benefit. If that is the case then how could Santana not know that he ingested it? If you know you are in line to sign a big contract why would you take a chance and take anabolic steroids? Questions only Santana can answer. The good news? It saved the Twins $6.75 million but the bad news is that it probably cost the Twins a playoff spot. The Twins have Santana for the next three years plus another possible option year, Santana better start paying back some of the faith the Twins placed in him.
The Twins 2015 Turkey of the Year winner in a landslide is pitcher Ricky Nolasco. The Minnesota Twins announced on December 3, 2013 that they have signed free agent right-handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco to a four-year contract worth $49 million with a club option that could vest in 2018. Twins fans were ecstatic, this was the biggest free agent deal the Twins had ever done and it was for a starting pitcher. What could go wrong? Nolasco will earn a guaranteed $12 million salary in each year of the contract (2014-2017). Nolasco was 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA in 27 starts in 2014. Nolasco missed 32 games with right elbow soreness that season by spending July 7 through September 15 on the disabled list. This past season Nolasco had a deceiving 5-2 record with a 6.75 ERA. In 37.1 innings Nolasco gave up 50 hits and walked 14 more while striking out 35. It seems Nolasco can’t stay healthy, in his first trip to the DL this year from April 11 through May 2 for right elbow inflammation, he missed 21 games. His next trip to the DL lasted from June 4 to September 25 for a right ankle impingement issue which caused him to miss 103 games. When he returned from his second trip to the DL, Nolasco appeared in 2 games, relieving in one and starting the other. In those two games he pitched a total of 4.2 innings, allowed 8 earned runs, walked four, and allowed 6 hits, two of them were home runs. On the plus side, he struck out 7 batters. WOW! I wonder what he can do for an encore! I sure hope we Twins fans get more than what Nolasco has shown us so far for that $49 million that Jim Pohlad spent to get him to come to Minnesota. So far all Nolasco has given us are excuses.
Previous Twins Turkey of Year Winners2014 – Outfielder Aaron Hicks 2013 – Twins President Dave St. Peter 2012 – Twins owner Jim Pohlad 2011 – Catcher Joe Mauer 2010 – Infielder Brendan Harris 2009 – Pitcher Glen Perkins