Fool Me Once: Minnesota Twins Haven't Learned from Livan Hernandez's Lesson

Dan WadeSenior Analyst IJanuary 18, 2009

As soon-to-be-former President Bush once said "fool me once, shame on … shame on you. It fool me. We can’t get fooled again.”

Well, with the way things are going now, it looks like the Twins are about to get fooled again; really, fooled for the third time in as many seasons.

Reports are surfacing not only from the Twins' beat writers, but also from the Twins' own website that indicates talks between free agent reliever Eric Gagne and the Twins have reached a point where terms are being seriously discussed.

In 2007, it was Ramon Ortiz. In 2008, Livan Hernandez was the front office's man. Now, it appears that Eric Gagne may be Twins fans' newest whipping boy.

There is logic to this move, to be sure. Gagne pitched reasonably well after the All-Star break and the Twins need a bridge from the starters to Joe Nathan, especially with Pat Neshek shelved for the year.

However, Gagne isn't the answer. Like Ortiz and Hernandez before him, Gagne isn't likely to pitch as well as the player he'll be stealing time from, but unlike his predecessors, he is likely to come with a huge price tag.

In 2007, he pitched well in Texas, well enough to convince the Red Sox he could solve their bullpen troubles heading into the playoffs.

He fell to pieces down the stretch, couldn't hold it together in the playoffs, and in the course of one year, went from premier closer to punchline.

Still, he is a Scott Boras client and the one thing Scott Boras does is get his clients paid. Milwaukee took the bait and doled out $10 million for the 31-year old, whose name showed up in the Mitchell Commission final report.

Gagne repaid their faith by going 2-2, blowing 1/3 of his save opportunities, posting an unenviable 7.33 ERA, and earning himself a seat on the bench.

Gagne came back strong after his stint on the DL, giving up runs in just six outings after his return. However, in half of the outings he did give up runs, he gave up three or more.

The Twins are nowhere near dumb enough to give Gagne the kind of contract Milwaukee gave him last year (for the record, Gagne would have been the highest paid Twin last season), and if he was looking for a true reclamation contract, maybe something could be worked out.

However, as a Boras client, there is little to no chance that he ends up with less than $3-4 million a year, even on a one year deal in a depressed market. The Twins have more than enough reclamation projects in their own backyard to make this signing seem like a smart move.

Boof Bonser and Philip Humber are out of options, Jason Jones has to remain on the 40-man roster as a Rule V pick up, and who knows which Twins minor leaguer will light up the Grapefruit League?

Jose Mijares is the eighth inning man of the future, and if what he showed in September is any indication of what he can do, then Gagne would only be blocking the Twins future.

Behind Mijares is Anthony Slama, who will likely start the year at AA and move up as the need for pitchers arises. Even someone like Bobby Korecky may be able to step in and eat some innings if need be.

Gagne will never return to his 2002-2004 form, there have been too many injuries and steroid concerns for that to be a plausible ceiling at this point.

He may regain the form he showed in Texas in 2007, but he may also be on a steady decline to retirement by way of whoever Scott Boras can rope into a foolhardy contract this year and maybe next year.

Signing him is a gamble at any price, and given that he isn't likely to be near the veteran minimum any time soon, it should be too rich a risk for the Twins.

As much as the Twins should be looking for bullpen arms, they shouldn't be looking for reclamation projects like Gagne.

If they aren't convinced Mijares can handle it, let him take it in spring training. If he seizes it, which I suspect he will, then the Twins have their man.

If not, there will almost certainly be someone who barely gets cut at the end of some team's camp the Twins can sign for less than Gagne with the same potential.