TFD: Suzuki signing shows how Twins feel about Pinto

News Thursday that the Twins have signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year extension (with a third-year vesting option) obviously says a lot about what they think of Suzuki.

He’s having a very good season, and they’re banking on at least some semblance of that production — and handling of pitchers — for the duration of Suzuki’s contract.

But perhaps the move says just as much, of not more, about the stalled progress of Josmil Pinto. We presumed going into the season that Pinto was the team’s catcher of the future. He showed plenty of pop in a brief stint in 2013. He hit well again this year before slumping and ultimately being sent down.

But if his defense — all phases: handling pitchers, blocking balls, throwing runners out — isn’t close to major-league ready, and the team doesn’t have confidence it will get there … well, that’s when they make a move like today with Suzuki.

The free agent catching market figures to be barren, and with a bunch of young arms waiting in the wings, there is value in having a catcher who can work with them. Did the Twins overpay? A little. Have they been swayed by four good months from Suzuki? Probably. Is it worth it? Quite possibly. Does it tell us Pinto isn’t ready for prime time? Definitely.

Mid-day talker: Trying to make sense of Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone

miloneDid the Twins really just trade an outfielder they added in the middle of the year for nothing for a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher with 31 major league wins, 442 innings pitched and a 3.84 ERA since 2012?

Yes they did. The trade was with Oakland and genius GM Billy Beane, so we are immediately suspicious of this Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone magic.

Fuld was waived — waived! — by Oakland (!) just a few months ago. And now he is worth to them a pitcher who, though nowhere near great, is coated at least with the scent of MLB competency — a very sweet perfume when used to combat the tire fire odor that so often wafts upward from the Twins mound.

The negatives: Oakland didn’t want Milone, so maybe there’s something wrong with him (even though he had a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts before being sent to the minors this season, oh the embarrassment of pitching riches some teams have). Also, the A’s had him for his cheapest years. He’ll be arbitration-eligible in 2015, due a raise from the $510K he’s making this year, but even so he will be a low-cost option for at least another season if not two. And also, this means we might have to watch Chris Parmelee play center field a few times. A Willingham/Parmelee/Arcia outfield. Wow.

The positives: Everything else. Really, everything else. One team’s gold is another team’s garbage. In this case, the Twins were able to spin Oakland’s old garbage into a few good months of Fuld, then trade him back to Oakland for another player the A’s somehow don’t need.

We’re tiptoeing away from this trade quite happily.

Thursday (Wolves reportedly only dealing with Cavs in Love trade) edition: Wha’ Happened?

lovelebronFresh reporting from ESPN on the Kevin Love trade situation only advances the ball a little and mostly just confirms what has been already reported or logically assumed, but there are a few passages worth noting:

Sources this week have described the Cavs as the only team in contention for Love. … (Andrew) Wiggins is not eligible to be dealt until Aug. 23 after signing his rookie contract last week, but numerous league insiders — some of whom are gathered in Las Vegas for this week’s Team USA training camp — have begun to describe a Love-to-Cleveland trade as a “when” transaction as opposed to an “if.”

This is good, of course, because it lets us all focus on one team, one trade. Even though a potential deal with Chicago is pretty good, too, we can stop talking about it. And we can certainly stop mentioning Golden State.

It’s believed the Wolves hope to convince Cleveland to take J.J. Barea as part of a Love trade or find a third team to absorb Barea’s expiring contract.

Again, this was an assumption after the Wolves signed Mo Williams, but it’s worth reiterating. We’d hate to see a deal blow up over the minor pieces, but if Flip Saunders can leverage this to not only add players he wants but subtract players he doesn’t want, that would be keen.

Although Love, 25, is expected to opt for free agency after next season even if he’s dealt to Cleveland, sources say that’s purely because he can secure a far more lucrative contract next summer than he could going the extension route.

That’s interesting. We had been operating under the assumption that Love would opt-in for the final year of his deal. Even if there is a handshake agreement that he will re-sign with Cleveland, that adds some burden to the Cavs.

So basically the sides have a little more than three weeks now to hammer out the details and perhaps find a third team willing to add more pieces to this puzzle. While we’d still rather have the deal done right now since cold feet can change any deal, we’ll just have to trust the process.

TFD: The Wolves lottery history would be even worse with proposed new format

The Timberwolves participated in the NBA draft lottery 16 times in which the pick was derived from their own poor record the season and they still held the pick on draft night.

In nine of those cases, they ended up picking at a lower spot than their pre-lottery position. In seven cases, they stayed the same as their pre-lottery position. In ZERO cases, of course, they picked at a higher spot than their pre-lottery position.

It made us wonder how they might have fared if the NBA had been operating for the past 25 years under the proposed new lottery system, as written about at Grantland a couple of weeks ago and now again in the news because the 76ers reportedly object to them:

Under the current system, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of snagging the no. 1 pick, perhaps the most valuable asset in the entire NBA. The team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance of winning the no. 1 pick, and the third-worst team enters the lottery with a 15.6 percent chance of moving up to the top slot. The odds decline from there, with the final five teams in the lottery — the teams with the five best records — each having a 1.1 percent or worse chance of moving up to no. 1.

The league’s proposal gives at least the four worst teams the same chance at winning the no. 1 pick: approximately an identical 11 percent shot for each club. The odds decline slowly from there, with the team in the next spot holding a 10 percent chance. The lottery team with the best record will have a 2 percent chance of leaping to the no. 1 pick, up from the the minuscule 0.5 percent chance it has under the current system.

Of the 16 cases of the Wolves in the lottery mentioned above, the Wolves had a top-3 pre-lottery position seven times. Another five times, they had either the No. 5 or No. 6 position. The other four times they had a pre-lottery position of seventh or lower.

Without knowing the exact NBA proposal, it’s hard to figure this out with certainty, but our best guess is that in those seven times the Wolves had top-3 lottery position, their odds would have been considerably worse. In the five times they were No. 5 or No. 6, their odds would have been about the same. And the other four times they were seventh or lower, their odds would have improved by a few percentage points.

In other words, the Wolves — who have had historically bad lottery luck — would have been even worse off in this new system. But just for fun, we would be willing to invent a time machine and go back to 1990 to see if any of the drafts worked out in their favor despite the longer odds.

Shockingly, it sounds like Josh Gordon’s second-hand marijuana smoke defense isn’t going to work

joshgordonPer ESPN.com:

Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon‘s claim that secondhand smoke led to his failed marijuana test this offseason might not help him.

“A cornerstone of both of our drug testing programs has always been that you are responsible for what is in your body,” Greg Aiello, NFL senior vice president of communications, said via email Tuesday. “It is stated that way in the policies.”

Sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Gordon will attribute his one positive sample to secondhand smoke, and that he also will argue a disparity in the two samples he provided.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how the marijuana got in your system, Josh — not that anyone should have believed for a second that second-hand smoke was a plausible excuse.

Wednesday (Disappearing and reappearing Kyle Gibson) edition: Wha’ Happened?

gibsonA strange split-personality season for Kyle Gibson, one more extreme than we can ever recall seeing, continued Tuesday.

The balance of it adds up to a fully acceptable and even good first full season as a starter, as he is 9-8 with a 3.94 ERA after holding Kansas City scoreless for seven innings in a 2-1 victory.

But how he has arrived at those numbers is simply crazy. It stands to reason that pitchers will have better numbers in their wins than losses, but here is how it breaks down for Gibson in his 20 starts:

Wins (9) and no-decisions (3): 81.1 IP, 53 hits, 1 HR allowed, 5 earned runs allowed for a 0.55 ERA.

Losses (8): 33 IP, 56 hits, 45 ER, 6 HRs allowed, 12.27 ERA.

For frame of reference, let’s go back to 2010 and Carl Pavano’s season, which ended with a 3.75 ERA. He had a 2.32 ERA in wins and a 5.40 ERA in losses. That’s a pretty reasonable split — really good in wins, bad but not blowout bad in losses.

Gibson, though, is basically unhittable in 12 starts the resulted in wins or no decisions and historically bad in the other eight starts.

He has eight starts in which he finished with at least six innings pitched and ZERO earned runs allowed. He also has four starts in which he didn’t make it past three innings and allowed at least five earned runs every time.

We’re not sure what to make of it. Maybe it’s a question of command, and when he has it he is great and when he misses with his location he gets hammered. Maybe it’s just one of those fluky set of circumstances.

We’re not even sure what we would rather have — a guy who throws seven innings a game and allows three runs every time or a guy who has been like Gibson, either lights-out or terrible.

All we know is that it’s bizarre. If he can harness “good Kyle” more often, he’ll be an All-Star. If he descends into “bad Kyle” more often, he’ll be out of the league.

TFD: The Knicks reportedly made an awful attempt at trading for Kevin Love

loverubioFriday is trash day in our neighborhood. It’s so routine that usually we don’t notice until we go to throw more garbage in the big can in the driveway and presto! it’s empty.

This is almost exactly how we feel about a report that we completely missed via the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. On Friday, trash day, it was reported that the Knicks made the grossest of garbage offers for Kevin Love:

The Knicks recently attempted to make a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love, offering forward Amar’e Stoudemire and his enormous expiring contract, second-year guard Tim Hardaway, Jr. and swingman Iman Shumpert, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

But the long-shot offer, made in the past week, was declined and never stood much of a chance, particularly because the Timberwolves could potentially strike a richer deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers involving No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.

It also never stood a chance because it is about the worst, most laughable offer imaginable. If it really is true, we feel bad for the level of delusion pervading Knicks President Phil Jackson and we feel sorry that Flip Saunders even had to field the phone call.

Stoudemire does nothing for anyone. Shumpert averaged 6.7 ppg last year and is a restricted free agent in a year. Hardaway averaged 10 points last season.

If it was some sort of elaborate ruse or prank, then maybe we could understand. If the offer was for J.J. Barea and a $100 gift card to Hubert’s, we could understand. If that story ran in The Onion instead of the WSJ, we could understand.

But as a legitimate trade offer? No, we cannot understand.

Evidence of the botched Ray Rice situation all over the Ravens web site

rayriceRavens fans are apparently willing to forgive and — maybe more so — forget that Ray Rice knocked his wife unconscious and dragged her out of an elevator this winter. They do not seem, at least the ones quoted on Ravens.com, to share America’s almost unanimous outrage over Rice’s two-game suspension from the NFL, a punishment that is half as long as that for a repeat marijuana smoker.

But the quotes contained within a Ravens.com story titled “Ravens Fans Give Ray Rice Standing Ovation” and the passages within a post penned by one of their communications guys titled “I like Ray Rice” have more to do with the flaws of the NFL than the fans or author (H/T to Matt Ufford for digging out those stories, by the way).

I have on number 27 to show the fans, and the world, that I am supportive of Ray Rice,” said Jerra Byrd of Randallstown, Md. “He has been forgiven by his wife. He is moving on with his life. He didn’t ask for the two-game suspension.”

“He has been forgiven by his wife” is directly related to that Peter King story linked above in which he reveals Rice’s wife was part of a hearing with the NFL and begged the league to go easy on him. You don’t need us to tell you that there is no way she should have been in that hearing — not in a vulnerable position where there is no way she could freely speak her mind about the incident. And besides, Keith Olbermann says it so much better than we would.

“I’m wearing his jersey because he is still a good man,” added Debbie Lindling of Baltimore.

And this, from the Ravens PR man: “I liked Ray Rice a lot then. I like Ray Rice a lot today. … Like many of us, Ray Rice had a moment in his life he wishes he could take back.”

Again, this speaks to the idea that this was an isolated incident, something portrayed in that King story but also surely part of any Rice narrative from his camp and the Ravens going forward. It could very well be true. Even if it is true, it in no way excuses the one incident caught on graphic video, and furthermore there is absolutely no way we know it to be true — particularly not from the testimony of the abused wife, since as Olbermann notes those who are victims will do anything and say anything if they think it will spare future abuse.

The NFL is enabling this with a comically weak punishment and an even worse follow-up from Senior VP Adolpho Birch on Mike & Mike yesterday.

“In terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we’ve done that,” Birch said.

Indeed, NFL, you have. Let’s wipe away this “distraction” as quick as possible. Now who wants to see Ray Rice play football!

Tuesday (The Twins and the trading deadline) edition: Wha’ Happened?

suzukiNewton’s Third Law of Motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It’s not likely that the Twins and GM Terry Ryan will specifically be thinking of Sir Isaac as they approach Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline, but that law does capture the spirit of where the Twins are right now. It’s easy to say “trade anyone and everyone” because the team is not going anywhere for a fourth consecutive season.

But the opposite reaction to dealing Kurt Suzuki, Josh Willingham, Brian Duensing or any of a handful of other players who might have value and are of use to the Twins currently is that they will damage their ability to win games in August and September.

If they’re not going to make the playoffs, who cares?

Well, yes. But there also comes a time when a team has to take a step forward not just in player development — which would be done through trades, in both acquiring younger players for the future and most likely giving young players more opportunities in the present — but in the standings.

The Twins are 47-57, which is a pace that would see them go 73-89. That’s not good. It is also far from a guarantee that they will even keep up that bad pace, since as we have noted multiple times they have reached the 100-game mark each of the past three seasons and taken a nose dive from bad to worse to finish with 99, 96 and 96 losses, respectively.

Is it worth it to hang onto Suzuki in hopes of winning, say, 75 games? Practically speaking, it isn’t. If he’s not going to be here next season, and it sure sounds like he won’t, then why try to inflate this year’s record and hold back other players in the process? The opposite reaction to that, though, is again that there is value in trying to change a culture of losing. And yes, 75-87 or 73-89 would still be a losing record, but would a better chance at a 7-to-9 game improvement and any positive feelings (and possible good will) be worth more than a mid-level prospect acquired in a trade?

We honestly don’t know the answer to that. One way of thinking is logical, the other is more abstract. Smart GMs are probably able to think both ways and understand the big-picture needs of a ballclub in both directions. If the Twins’ clubhouse really is a more confident place than at any point since 2011, as Glen Perkins told us Friday, then there is something to be said, we suppose, for continuity. But if the long-term plan is for Perkins to make the playoffs sometime before his option year of 2018 is done, as he also said, then the emotionless decision is to work toward 2015 and beyond without regard to how this year winds up.

It will be interesting to see which way the Twins go. Suzuki and Willingham, in particular, are guys in the final years of deals who would seem to fetch at least a decent prospect in return. Willingham has the best OPS of any Twins player with at least 200 plate appearances. Suzuki has been their most consistent hitter and a capable handler of pitchers. Take them away and the team is worse. Trade them away and maybe a future team is better.

Action. Opposite reaction. And so on.

TFD: The Wolves have a new point guard. What does it (probably) mean?

mowilliamsThe Wolves on Monday signed 31-year-old Mo Williams to a one-year contract reportedly worth $3.75 million. Williams is a combo guard, but mostly a point guard at 6-foot-1. What does this move mean? Let’s take a stab at it:

*It likely means J.J. Barea’s days in Minnesota are done. Barea has one year left on his contract, and there is absolutely no sense in having Ricky Rubio, Barea and Williams on the roster. While Alexey Shved’s roster spot could also be in jeopardy, this move in particular appears to impact Barea the most. It would be amusing if Barea winds up as part of a Kevin Love trade and follows him to Cleveland, seeing as how the two had a public flareup last season.

*Speaking of a potential Love trade, this would seem to indicate the Wolves know that Barea will be a part of it — whether he winds up in Cleveland to stay is another question — since they would not sign Williams if they didn’t have a way out with Barea. Would they? Please tell us they wouldn’t. This isn’t David Kahn’s Point Guard Central anymore.

*This means the Wolves now have a player who, at age 26, was the second-best player on a LeBron-led Cavs team that lost in the Eastern Conference finals. In other words, he was six years ago what Love will be in 2014-15 (cheap shot alert).

*This means the Wolves have a backup point guard who should be able to capably and reliably run the second unit. And he’s a career 38.5 percent three-percent shooter, a nice boost.

*It also means the Wolves acquired a player who is on his fifth team in six years. That can happen for a variety of reasons, but it is notable.

*It will be interesting to see, assuming Williams and Rubio are healthy, who plays the bulk of the fourth-quarter minutes. Those often went to Barea last year, and the results can politely be described as mixed.

*It means tattoos. So many tattoos.