Updated: May 24th, 2010 10:11pm
140 characters or more: Bullpen questions, Oswalt's price, and more

140 characters or more: Bullpen questions, Oswalt's price, and more

by Phil Mackey
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Every once in a while, Tom and I receive questions via Twitter that require longer responses than the 140-character limit will allow.

@ChadWisnant: Is JJ Hardy really this important to the lineup? Twins seem less potent w/o him

I would argue the Twins miss J.J. Hardy's excellent defense more than anything. Manager Ron Gardenhire has filled the void with Alexi Casilla, Brendan Harris, and Trevor Plouffe. None of them are in the same league defensively as Hardy.

I would also argue the best strategy with Hardy out is to put Nick Punto at shortstop and patchwork third base. Shortstop is by far the most difficult position to play, and Punto is by far the best replacement option.

Offensively, Twins shortstops combined to hit .263/.309/.374 (.683 OPS) in 2009, and Hardy -- despite struggling somewhat early on -- posted a .250/.299/.400 (.699 OPS) before getting hurt this season. Nothing spectacular, but in the past he has posted OPS marks of .786 in 2007 and .821 in 2008, so the upside is obvious.

@1500ESPNPhunn: how close was the ball to your head yesterday?

Yeah, we had a foul ball dart through the Target Field press box like a pinball yesterday, and it literally buzzed within six inches of my head. I felt like Neo dodging bullets in The Matrix.

@Bryz_OffTheMark: How will the Twins fit Neshek and possibly Condrey, Slama, Delaney, et. al into the bullpen before rosters expand in September?

In all honesty, they probably won't fit all of them into the bullpen before September, unless multiple relievers go down with injuries. LHP Ron Mahay, who has allowed seven earned runs in his last three outings, is probably the most vulnerable, considering the Twins may feel comfortable with Jose Mijares and Brian Duensing as the prime lefties.

RHP Jesse Crain could also be on a short leash. Despite the nostalgia, it makes no sense to coddle Crain all summer if he's going to give up crooked numbers every fourth outing, especially with guys like Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, and Kyle Waldrop deserving opportunities.

Bullpen management -- with both the front office and with the field manager -- is going to be a critical component to the Twins' success and/or failure this season.

@DezSays: What changes need to be made to get the offense hitting with RISP? Flipping Delmon and Cuddy in order?

Change nothing. It will turn on its own, as long as guys remain selective, patient, and keep the same approach as they do in "non-clutch" spots.

@Misty2k: I'm female, British & have been a Minnesota Twins fan since the beginning of the 1987 season when I chose a team at random. Unique?

I'm male, I brush my teeth twice per day, I eat sushi multiple times per week, and sometimes I have commitment issues. Nice to meet you!

@HeHateMN: What would it take to realistically get Oswalt? I would guess Houston would have to eat some of the contract too

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but why do people realistically believe the Twins are going to land Roy Oswalt? He is set to make $29 million through the end of 2011, with a team option for $15 million in 2012. From a salary standpoint alone, unless the Twins are comfortable moving well into the $100 million plateau, it just doesn't seem feasible.

Unless, of course, the Astros pick up a large chunk of the bill. In that case, the Twins would have to give up at least one top prospect (think Ben Revere, Aaron Hicks, Wilson Ramos, etc.), maybe even two, plus another lower or mid-level guy or two.

On top of that, the Twins would be demoting (or trading) either Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, or Nick Blackburn.

So, in essence, the Twins would be trading for (and probably overpaying for) whatever the gap is between, let's say, Slowey and Oswalt. Some people will scoff at this (*cough* Reusse *cough*), but in 2008 Slowey was a "3-win" pitcher (in terms of "win shares"), meaning he was worth three wins more than a readily available, replacement-level AAA pitcher.

In his prime, Oswalt was a "6-win" pitcher, and more recently a 4.5 and 3.5-win pitcher.

Then again, Oswalt would likely be much more trustworthy in the playoffs, when high-leverage situations are magnified, but still... How much would you be willing to pay and/or give up?

And we haven't even talked about Oswalt's age (34), his back problems, and the fact that he'd be moving from the National League to the American League...

@amyjcomedy: any guesses on who the best poker player is in the twins clubhouse?

I'm guessing Slowey. At the very least, he'd be good at the mathematical stuff.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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