Sunday, March 11, 2018

Twins Spring Forward and Go All Lynn

Well, it looks like the Twins were not satisfied with Anibal Sanchez filling out the rotation in 2018, so they went out and signed long-time Cardinal Lance Lynn to a one-year deal. Lynn led the league in 2017 with 33 starts and had a nice comeback season. He was an All-Star in 2012, and has been a fixture in the middle of the Cardinals' rotation ever since.

He's logged nearly 1,000 Innings and sports an ERA under 4, which is definitely going to help out a rotation that will be missing its ace, Ervin Santana, until at least May. Lynn was offered a 2 year deal from the Twins earlier in the offseason, which he declined because he (and/or his agency) believed it to be a lowball offer. Lynn missed all of 2016 due to injury, and signing him means the Twins will forfeit a draft pick in 2018 to the Cardinals, both of which may have hurt Lynn's value.  Daylight Savings Time apparently applies to free agents, too. 

No one's going to be asking me to make customs anytime soon, but I decided to make myself laugh with this silly cut and paste job. Welcome to the Twins, Lance!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Guess Who *Else* Is Coming To Spring Training?

"Hmm, is that a sunset? I don't think so!"

Ichiro is 44 years old, but he still has the fire and desire to play at the major league level.

It's been a slow off-season for a lot of veteran players, and it was starting to look like Ichiro was going to have to find work back in Japan.

Not yet! The Seattle Mariners have stepped up to make a 1 year offer to the all-time great. No Sunset for Ichiro, we're going to get to enjoy him a little bit longer.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Guess Who's Coming To Spring Training?

The Twins have rarely been active in free agency. The Wild Card berth last season, combined with new front office personnel has changed things a bit. They saw big needs in the bullpen and in the rotation, and the first big signing of the off-season was the Mercurial Mercenary, right handed closer Fernando Rodney. The soon to be 41 year old is a 3-time All-Star, with 300 career saves. For his career, he averages a strikeout per inning, which is something the bullpen desperately needed.

Thankfully, the Twins did not stop there, bolstering the bullpen further with another pair of high quality arms. Lefty specialist Zach Duke battled the injury bug in 2017 -- pitching just 18.1 innings for the Cardinals. The Twins are counting on him regaining the magic from 2014 through 2016, when he piled up over 200 strikeouts for Milwaukee, Chicago, and Saint Louis. Addison Reed split last season with the Mets and the Red Sox, closing games for New York, and setting up for Kimbrel in Boston. He too struck out batters with regularity in recent years, providing velocity, depth, and a veteran presence.

The Twins still had work to do on the mound, and after missing out on Yu Darvish, acquired Jake Odorizzi from the Rays in exchange for minor leaguer Jermaine Palacios. This was the third time Jake had been traded, first from the Brewers in the Zach Grienke trade, then to the Rays along with Wil Myers for James Shields. Last season, his ERA+ was exactly league average, and he had his lowest innings total since his rookie season. He certainly doesn't replace Darvish, and he won't out pitch Ervin Santana's 2017 production either. But the fact is that even a league average arm helps the Twins' rotation immensely.

The surprise signing of the spring was Logan Morrison, who seemed destined to go wherever Eric Hosmer didn't go between KC and San Diego. The addition of a 30+ homer bat to the middle of the lineup is nothing to sneeze at. Morrison decided to come to the Twins over KC (who also submitted an offer) because he wanted to play for a team with a chance to contend. This was a pleasant surprise - however it probably means the end of the line for my favorite Twin, Kennys Vargas, who is now out of minor league options.

I had been waiting to make this post because I was hoping the Twins would add another starter, especially considering that Ervin Santana will miss a month or so to start the season. They instead gave a contract to Anibal Sanchez, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. If he is healthy and can figure out the mechanical issues that derailed his final years in Detroit, he could make for a decent 5th starter. The Twins also signed a trio of former MLB regulars to minor league deals to provide depth and some injury insurance. Chris Heisey, Jordan Pacheco, and Erick Aybar aren't likely to crack the 25 Man Roster, but having these guys in camp provides a little competition for the younger players like backup catcher Mitch Garver, and incentive for veterans like Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Escobar to stay on their toes.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturday is Card Show Day

The snow is starting to melt, and with warmer weather, the trip out to the card show finally felt manageable again. I made sure that I got caught up on all the series 1 standouts I missed the first time around.

I'm now caught up on Rookie Cups again, ready for Series 2 to do the right thing and keep the Cups coming.

Every show there are boxes and boxes of Puckett cards, and I usually just skip them because I assume there's nothing in them I don't already have. I gave it a shot and it turns out I was wrong!

I do check everyone's table for Kennys Vargas cards, and for the first time in a long time there was a Vargas card I'd never seen before.

Turns out this was a "custom" card made in New York to promote a local card show (or card magazine?) near the Twins' AAA Affiliate in Rochester. Makes no difference to me, I was happy to add another Kennys to my collection!

I did a double take on this card - Auto, relic, numbered to /25 for hometown hero Joe Mauer. As he's gotten further away from his MVP season, the prices on his cards have seemingly come down everywhere but here in MN. Well. until now! This one was a steal, easily the cheapest Mauer auto I've seen at a show.

It wouldn't be a card show without some cheap vintage! These were all listed between .50 and a buck, and by the time I left the table the stack was big enough to earn an even better price per card.

My set build of 1959 Topps is going to be a focus of mine all summer. I'm going to make a wantlist this month so I can make an even bigger dent at the April show.

The biggest name added to the set this show? Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn! He beat out Willie Mays for the batting title in 1958 by going 3 for 4 on the last day of the season. Way to go, Whiz Kid!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Fine Art of Transatlantic Triple Breaking

The Triple break train continues! 2017 Topps Gallery was available exclusively at Wal-Mart, and I found a way to snag a box around X-Mas time. Each box has a pair of autographs, and I was happy to be able to send both of them out to my trade partners Bob Walk The Plank and The Card Papoy.

Here's a peek at the card backs - Mayumi Seto was the artist on all of the base cards (at least in the NL East and AL Central). The backs feature monthly splits and then does the math for you with their 2016 season totals.

The insert sets - all four of these feature the artwork of Dan Bergen. The top right is Gallery "Heritage" based on the early 50s Bowman sets, though not in the original size. The backs show the history of all (well, most) players that played the same position for the team.

Here were the Twins - was happy to get a Gallery "Private Issue" parallel of a Twin!

Just a few more of the base cards. I like the Gallery set. All the cards have heft to them, with a slick (but not too glossy) finish. It's a decent complement to Panini's Diamond Kings set, I am pretty sure that we wouldn't be seeing this set if not for the success of DK. Of course, Topps has the advantage of the MLB license, though I like the design and variety of DK a little more. 

If either Panini or Topps wanted to take a risk, I would recommend an art card set that used a less literal art style - there's no question that the artists are talented, but the photo-realistic style feels unnecessary. I mean, we have full bleed, full color photography on cards now, the paintings to me are too similar to photographs. I would say it's more in Panini's court, as they could take things further into the abstract since they aren't working with logos. Then again, that might be exactly the thought process that gave us the Triple Play sets....