The Twins 40-man roster is once again full after the Twins made 6 additions — and a subtraction — before the deadline to protect players from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Earlier this off-season, I posted my thoughts on who I thought the Twins might protect. Aside from my blunder on Anthony Slama (namely, forgetting about the draft-and-follow process that used to exist) and my confusion over Rene Tosoni (which was also pondered in a previous post), I didn’t do too badly.
First, the addition of third baseman Danny Valencia was never really in doubt. Whether or not the Twins decide to sign a third baseman on the market, Valencia will get a long look in Spring Training. Having added him to the 40-man roster, the Twins now have several years (if necessary) to evaluate him further. I would personally bet against his being on the opening day roster in 2010 — I think there’s some work ahead for him in Rochester — but there was absolutely no reason to expose him to the Rule 5 Draft.
The biggest surprise of the list for me was the other infielder added by the team — middle infielder Estarlin De Los Santos. For me, this selection is at least a year premature. De Los Santos spent his 2009 season in Ft. Myers, hitting .290/727 in 262 AB’s with 11 steals in 15 attempts. Those are nice numbers in somewhat limited action, sure — but to me, it just doesn’t seem likely that a team would draft De Los Santos and find a way to keep him on the big league roster for a whole season. Admittedly, I don’t know a lot about De Los Santos and have never seen him play — maybe there’s something special there that just isn’t immediately apparent from the numbers. If I were in Bill Smith’s position, though, I probably would have protected someone else this year and waited to see what De Los Santos did in 2010.
The Twins also added four pitchers. For me, there was very little surprise in the addition of either Alex Burnett or Rob Delaney, both of whom I included in my second tier of candidates for protection. I felt there were a couple of niggling issues with both that made it at least possible that they wouldn’t be added (unlike Valencia, who I thought was a sure thing), but that both were likely additions because of their past performance.
The other two additions were more interesting. I had Deolis Guerra, the last direct link in the organization to the Johan Santana trade, in a category all his own during my prediction post, listing him as a Wild Card. We keep hearing about Guerra’s potential, and there are reasons to think that he may be starting to put things together. It’s more likely to me that a team like Washington or Pittsburgh would take a guy like Guerra and stash him away in a dark corner of the bullpen for a summer — much like the Twins did with Johan Santana — than it would be with a middle infielder. As a result, I agree with the decision to protect Guerra, and hopefully he will continue to improve next season.
Finally, the Twins decided to protect Loek Van Mil — the 7’1″ Nederlander. This was always a possibility — with his physical tools, he could be an imposing presence in a future Twins bullpen. I would still argue that he’s still a project. He needs to improve his K-BB rate a bit, for one thing. But in terms of sure intrigue, this move was at the top of this year’s Rule 5 moves.
The Twins also had to remove a player from the roster in order to make room for these additions. The short straw was drawn by Deibinson Romero, who was added last year and who spent this year flailing away in the Florida State League with the Ft. Myers Miracle. Romero took a significant step back in 2009 and he was a clear choice for removal. I would imagine another year in the FSL is on tap for 2010.
With the roster now full, the Twins could not add a free agent without removing someone. Three names stand out to me: Jason Pridie, Bobby Keppel, and Alexi Casilla. The Twins will probably NOT cut Casilla to make room for a free agent, but I think they should. He’s out of options, and as I’ve said before I don’t see him making the 25-man roster next year with Nick Punto returning, J.J. Hardy at SS, and Matt Tolbert being around. The Twins should cut ties with him now rather than having him take up a roster spot. The Twins can also do better than Keppel in the bullpen, and if they sign a free agent reliever Keppel would be the clear choice to be removed. Pridie simply seems dispensable at this point, and since the Twins didn’t bother to call him up in September I’m not sure what they think his role is. Since Carlos Gomez is no longer around, Pridie might be in the mix for a roster spot as the backup outfielder (I’m not really sure who the Twins expect to play in CF if Denard Span is injured, for instance) — but I put him on this list because the Twins just don’t seem to be all that interested in him.
When we get closer to December 10 I’ll post my thoughts on which Twins players I think are in danger of being taken in the Rule 5 draft. Maybe by then the Twins will have added a free agent — although I’m not holding my breath!