Thursday, March 29, 2007

When "The Deal" Goes Down

Almost exactly two years ago, as the Twins 2005 spring training season was concluding, one of the most discussed topics was what to do with Michael Restovich.

Restovich, a local product from Rochester, Minnesota, was drafted by the Twins in the second round of the 1997 amateur draft. His hulking 6'4" frame, prodigious power, and especially his local ties led to some inevitable whispers of him being "the next Kent Hrbek."

But in spring training of 2005, Restovich and the Twins were at a crossroads. Restovich had steadily worked his way up through the Twins minor league system, leading to brief major league stints toward the end of the 2002, 2003, and 2004 seasons, but by 2005 he was out of minor league options, meaning if he didn't make the Twins 25 man major league roster, he would have had to pass through waivers before he could be sent back to the minor leagues. With the outfield set, Restovich's only chance to make the club was as its 25th man, but the Twins were being overly cautious on franchise catcher Joe Mauer's tender knee, and decided to break camp with four catchers on the roster (Mauer, backup Mike Redmond, DH Matthew LeCroy, and third-catcher Corky Miller), leaving Restovich without a job.

When it was announced that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had claimed Restovich off waivers, there were cries from hometown fans in Rochester, Minnesota all the way to the Twins' AAA affiliate in Rochester, New York. "How could we let him go for nothing?" "I can't believe they couldn't even get a minor league prospect for him!" "This is going to come back to haunt the Twins, like David Ortiz all over again!"

Well, two years later that decision has not exactly hampered the Twins. One week after the Devil Rays acquired Restovich, they tried sneaking him through waivers themselves (Resto never did appear in a big league game for Tampa Bay). He was picked up by the Colorado Rockies, who did keep him on their big league roster... for about one month. In May, Restovich was sold by the Rockies to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his 2005 stints with the Rockies and Pirates, Restovich combined for 115 at bats and produced a measly .676 OPS. In 2006 he picked up 12 at bats in 10 games for the Chicago Cubs, collecting only two hits. He spent most of the season with the Cubs Iowa farm club. This season, he's set to play for the Washington Nationals minor league club in Columbus.

So why all the Restovich reminiscing? Well, now at the conclusion of spring training '07, the Twins are faced with the same dilemma. They have a former second round draft pick who is out of minor league options, and they risk losing him for nothing if he doesn't make the final roster.

J.D. "The Real Deal" Durbin (nickname self-proclaimed) was the hottest pitching prospect in the Twins system in 2004. Dude threw gas! A September call-up in 2004 yielded ugly results, though (8 innings pitched, 12 hits, 6 walks, and a 7.36 ERA). Control problems plagued him in 2005 and he stayed in the minors all season. J.D. finally started putting it all together in 2006, and seemed destined for another late-season stint with the Twins until injuries ended his season prematurely.

This year seemed to be Durbin's best shot to stick with the Twins, but he obviously is not fully recovered from his arm injuries. He has posted a 12.38 spring training ERA so far. There's no way he makes the team, but (as of this writing) he still hasn't been given his pink slip. Obviously, the Twins are trying to deal "The Deal", which makes sense. If they can get something - anything - for him, it's better than nothing. But there does seem to be a sentiment that they need to get something for him.

Why? Because if they don't he might come back to haunt them? Fans who are panicking about the possibility of losing Durbin on waivers are overvaluing him. If someone else (Washington? Kansas City? Tampa Bay?) wants to take a chance on him, let them have him. He’s a guy fighting his way back from injury, a LONG way away from being able to help a major league staff, and he’s always been bigger on hype than on production anyway. Remember, Pat Mahomes and Willie Banks could once throw 95 MPH, too!

At 5:00 PM today, KFAN is reporting that the Twins have officially received nothing for J.D. Durbin, as he has been claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks.


At 10:17 AM, Blogger Maria said...

I love when you write. Do it all the time. :)

At 2:38 PM, Blogger AFstephanie_07 said...

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