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Can The Twins Better Their Bench?

With just a handful of days left until pitchers and catchers officially report to Fort Myers for spring training, Minnesota is nearing the end of its offseason. The main focus when it comes to additions is starting pitching, and due to the market, that remains the one area left unattended at this point. Whether before or after spring training officially kicks off I expect that to be dealt with. What remains to be seen is whether or not Derek Falvey and Thad Levine have interest in adding a bat to supplement their bench.
Image courtesy of © Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
As things stand right now, the Twins appear to be content opening the season with a bench of Robbie Grossman, Eduardo Escobar, Ehire Adrianza, Mitch Garver and Kennys Vargas. Considering the possible (see: likely) suspension for Miguel Sano, Zack Granite could also find his way into this group out of the gate. Of the names above, it's Vargas who is likely the most on the bubble. Out of options, and having bounced between Triple-A and the big leagues a season ago, he's probably the first to go if space is needed.

Under the assumption that Vargas is the quintessential 25th man, the question revolves around whether or not he can be improved upon. From a construction standpoint, Vargas almost certainly needs to be replaced by a bat first player. Grossman figures to see regular time as the designated hitter, while Adrianza and Escobar have similar skill sets despite Eduardo toting the more capable bat. Garver is entrenched as the backup catcher, and should serve as a platoon option for starter Jason Castro. Bringing in another utility man means Minnesota relies solely on Grossman as the outfield option (which is currently the case), and the lack of a true bat could expose Grossman being heavily reliant on his on-base prowess.

In an ideal world the Twins greatest addition to the bench would be in the form of a right-handed hitting outfielder. Offering the potential to pair with Max Kepler (should his facing left-handed pitching continue to be an issue) as well as play in a rotation across the corner spots makes a lot of sense. Between Adrianza, Escobar and Garver, each of the infield positions has a true and capable backup. After posting a -21 DRS in 630+ innings in the outfield during 2016, Grossman shored things up somewhat totaling a -3 DRS mark across 350+ innings a year ago. There's still plenty to be desired with the glove, but he showed that he can be less of a liability than he had previously been.

Among the options, former Twins center fielder Carlos Gomez has an intriguing profile. He would give the club positional flexibility across all three positions, and posted a .340 OBP in 2017 with some pop. At 32 the hope would be that he could be had on a short-term deal, and that could be intriguing to Minnesota. Another more elderly option comes in the form of Jose Bautista. This would be a relative leap of faith given his age (37) and 2017 season. After posting a .674 OPS there's reason to believe that he's simply cooked. Bautista is just one year removed from an .800+ OPS however, and if you could get him on a minor-league deal or something incentive-laden there would be a level of intrigue.

If you want to go more of an unconventional route, a versatile super-utility type could be a fit. Noted as a possible fit by Zone Coverage's Brandon Warne on Twitter, former Minnesota shortstop Eduardo Nunez has some appeal. Nunez played 20 games in the outfield a season ago for San Francisco, and he got some time out there for the Twins in his first stint with the club. His career -3 DRS across 322 OF innings slots in line with 2017 Grossman, and I'm not a big fan of non-traditional outfielders playing the position. That said, Nunez's .801 OPS from 2017 is more than enticing. He's posted a .778 OPS over the last two seasons while playing in at least 110 games during each. It seems if given semi-regular playing time, he can be an offensive asset as well.

At the end of the day Kennys Vargas should probably be given a final shot. His career .748 is far from abysmal, and the .833 OPS in 47 games during the 2016 season was exciting. Vargas hasn't proven to be much of an OBP guy (just .311 for his career), and the 251/65 K/BB ratio is more than concerning. All of his eggs remain in the power basket, and if he's not taking free bases then he needs to be accumulating power numbers in bunches. At 27 he's no longer a prospect, and the Twins likely have a significant amount of information to feel comfortable with their evaluation of him.

This seems like a no-lose scenario, with a slight opportunity for a win. Vargas is hardly a red flag on the 25-man, and you could do much worse. What Minnesota could also do is look for some competition or even to supplant him completely, and in turn, raise the water level as a whole. There are a few more weeks for us to see how this all plays out, but it'll be a story line worth watching this spring.

Originally published at Off The Baggy.

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22 Comments

If the Twins are uninterested in using internal options, I have to believe Gomez would be a great addition.

 

Plus, I've always enjoyed Gomez. He may be a bit aggravating, but it always appeared that he was having fun when playing.

    • Thrylos, Riverbrian and Vanimal46 like this

Well, I've certainly seem worse Twins benches.I don't want Bautista.He's a clubhouse cancer and a me-first player.I would question the Gomez fit as well.I don't know if the Twins have strong enough leadership to keep either of them in their place.

Escobar will play 3rd WHEN Sano gets suspended (idiot), leaving Adrianza as the utility IF.They cannot count on him to play OF then and Grossman is not a plus defender.  

The Twins lost some great leadership in Chris Giminez.So....I'd love to see them bring in a veteran 4th OF/RH bat that can fill some of that.Is there a guy like Gomez that is a team-first guy? 

And, for heaven's sake, sign Dozier to an extension.He IS the leader of this team....oh, and he's a pretty decent player too!!...lol

    • Oldgoat_MN, mikelink45 and gagu like this

Top RH hitting OF left in FA include:Bautista, Gomez, Rajai Davis, Cameron Maybin, Jayson Werth, Chris Young.As a 4th OF, I'd prefer Davis or Maybin b/c of speed and defense.Guess it depends if you want a RH DH or a RH 4th OF.

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SF Twins Fan
Feb 06 2018 03:41 PM

The problem the Twins would have if they waived Vargas is they don't have anyone to backup Joe at first. Sano can play there on occasion but he's probably going to be suspended and will need days off as well. He has yet to play more than 116 games in a season. Garver would be another option but most coaches don't like to play both catchers in the same game.

 

Whoever they bring in to replace Vargas would need to be able to play 1st base as well.

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nicksaviking
Feb 06 2018 03:53 PM

It would be great if the Twins can get some resolution to the Darvish drama because if they don't get him there's not another starting pitching on the market I'd care to sign to a multi-year deal. In the (more) likely (than not) scenario where the Twins don't get Darvish, I'd be interested in a bigger spend for a RH bat who could see time in the outfield.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this

Grossman as the 4th outfielder is the weak spot. Vargas does just fine at 1b and his power is not inquestion.Also, Adrianza could be DFA with Escobar on the Bench and DHing.I'd like a Vet RH Bat, outfielder, but I don't want Gomez nor do I want topay more than 6 mil for a bench Vet. 

    • caninatl04 likes this

Get better starters and relegate some starters to backups.Bench is better.

    • Doomtints and Vanimal46 like this
Why does everyone assume Sano will be suspended? He’s not been charged with a crime and there is no evidence to prove his guilt. If we add it has to be a right handed outfielder who plays above average defense. GoGo might be worth it
    • Thrylos and OldTimeTwinkie like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Feb 06 2018 07:55 PM

 

Get better starters and relegate some starters to backups.Bench is better.

 

This... logan Morrison is still available. He could be the 1B/DH type and would be a huge upgrade.

    • Twins33 likes this
I'll be pleasantly surprised if the Twins do indeed stick with just an 11 man pitching staff. But, I'll believe it when I see it.
    • SF Twins Fan and caninatl04 like this

 

If the Twins are uninterested in using internal options, I have to believe Gomez would be a great addition.

 

Plus, I've always enjoyed Gomez. He may be a bit aggravating, but it always appeared that he was having fun when playing.

 

Señor Excitemento.

I would use Granite before Gomez and I would give Vargas a real chance - I think we have mishandled him. Otherwise sign Martinez and do something really exciting.

    • David HK likes this
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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 07 2018 10:22 AM

 

This... logan Morrison is still available. He could be the 1B/DH type and would be a huge upgrade.

Morrison and Duda are both intriguing names if you're going for more of a DH/1B type, I agree

    • NewClearHarley likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 07 2018 11:17 AM

I think Maybin or Davis is the best option as the 4th OF/RH DH/ RH bench option. We don't need Vargas to play first - we can have Kepler play first when Joe is off and play the 4th OF then.You then choose between Grossman and Granite as a reserve OF/DH. I prefer Grossman's bat to Granite's glove, but it is a tough call. Granite stll has an option left so absent a minor trade, I go with Grossman. it looks like Granite's upside is as a decent but not great 4th OF so it's hard to get very excited, but we know Grossman's upside - a decent but not great 4th OF.Probably worth giving Granite a AAA spot and see if he improves to where his upside is higher rather than have him sit with little or no playing time. 

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NewClearHarley
Feb 07 2018 02:58 PM

 

Morrison and Duda are both intriguing names if you're going for more of a DH/1B type, I agree

I agree that Morrison would be a huge get but he is a lefty and we really need a better righty bench bat - if the team doesn't trust Vargas, I'd cut both him and Adrianza, sign Morrison as the everyday DH/backup 1B, and then pursue bringing back Eduardo Nunez to be a super utility type. He could play 3B if Sano is suspended and he can back up Sano, Polanco, and potentially both corner OFs. I'd guess the team would even choose to start him regularly in RF as a platoon partner with Kepler. By having Morrison start at DH most days, Grossman could become a quality bench bat who as a switch hitter (with a very good OBP) would give the team a valuable PH late in games.

 

The problem the Twins would have if they waived Vargas is they don't have anyone to backup Joe at first. Sano can play there on occasion but he's probably going to be suspended and will need days off as well. He has yet to play more than 116 games in a season. Garver would be another option but most coaches don't like to play both catchers in the same game.

 

Whoever they bring in to replace Vargas would need to be able to play 1st base as well.

You may be right about managers not wanting to play both catchers in the same game, but I don´t see a problem with it. I definitely believe that managers are hesitant to pinch hit for or pull a catcher from a game. If Castro got hurt, Garver would move behind the plate and Sano or Kepler could fill in at first. The Giants have regularly given Posey thirty or so starts at first with only two catchers on the roster. The difference is that they're giving Posey a break from catching, whereas the Twins would be resting Mauer. My question would be whether Garver hits well enough to merit the move. It could be a good way to get Garver more at-bats as he develops as a major leaguer. It´s an interesting idea, SF. 

 

Get better starters and relegate some starters to backups.Bench is better.

 

Yeh. Sometimes we go too far down the rabbit hole and start talking about which #5 to pick up or which bench players to pick up. The Twins should work from the top down.

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ChrisKnutson
Feb 07 2018 07:08 PM

Why are we so easily dismissing Danny Valencia, seriously, he has a very good track record against lefties and is a versatile bench bat (1b, 3rd, corner of). And after all that's happened with Sano, we shouldn't be worried about his past "clubhouse issues" with the Twins, nor should we even think of pursuing (the lefties) Duda, LoMo, (or overpriced egos) GoGo, or Joey Bats.

 

Also, Valencia would be just as effective of a signing as Eduardo Nunez (ALDS injury and price$) in terms of upgrading our bench.

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 08 2018 10:45 AM

Sure sounds like Mike Napoli is going to be a Twins based upon Darren Wolfson's latest podcast. He's a better fielder than Vargas, and probably a better bad. It makes Robbie the 4th, but Granite can probably push him out.

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Ted Schwerzler
Feb 08 2018 10:46 AM

 

Why are we so easily dismissing Danny Valencia, seriously, he has a very good track record against lefties and is a versatile bench bat (1b, 3rd, corner of). And after all that's happened with Sano, we shouldn't be worried about his past "clubhouse issues" with the Twins, nor should we even think of pursuing (the lefties) Duda, LoMo, (or overpriced egos) GoGo, or Joey Bats.

 

Also, Valencia would be just as effective of a signing as Eduardo Nunez (ALDS injury and price$) in terms of upgrading our bench.

I've brought up Valencia before, but totally get him being off limits. The guy is a dink, and there's a reason he can't stay put anywhere. Sano did stupid things but isn't a clubhouse cancer, they aren't even remotely the same.

Sure sounds like Mike Napoli is going to be a Twins based upon Darren Wolfson's latest podcast. He's a better fielder than Vargas, and probably a better bad. It makes Robbie the 4th, but Granite can probably push him out.


Ugh, Napoli was worth a half a win... in the negative last year.
If Napoli has a higher OPS than Vargas in 2018, I'll eat my hat.

 

 and probably a better bad.

 

Freudian slip?

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