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  • Competition for Plouffe?

    Throughout the offseason, Terry Ryan has continued to say that he is looking for a third baseman to provide competition for Trevor Plouffe. He says that Plouffe will go into spring training as the Twins starting third baseman. However, as the Twins media contingent in Nashville last night met with the Twins GM, it became clear that he will bring in a quality third baseman, and maybe even this week.

    As Nick wrote yesterday, when Terry Ryan says something over and over, it generally is true. Initial response by Twins fans (myself included) was that, with all of the Twins pitching needs and maybe needs in the middle infield, why would third base be such a focal point?


    Plouffe’s 24 home runs in 2012 was the most by a Twins third baseman since Corey Koskie hit 25 homers in 2004, his final season with the team. It is also hard for Twins fans to forget how Plouffe hit in June and July. In 26 games in June, he hit .327/.391/.735 (1.126) with seven doubles and 11 home runs. In 16 games in July, he hit .302/.343/.476 (.819) with three more homers.

    It was at that point, in mid-July that Plouffe hurt his thumb, and although initial reports said he would be day-to-day, he missed a month, and when he returned, he hit like he did in April and May. That’s the part that we might forget. In April, Plouffe hit .121/.274/.242 (.517). In May, he hit .185/.254/.400 (.654). In August, he hit .161/.232/.226 (.458). In September, he hit .218/.269/.416 (.684), although he did add four home runs.

    At the end of the day, er… season, Trevor Plouffe hit .235/.301/.455 (.756) in 119 games. Combined in 2010 and 2011 (103 games), he had hit .226/.286/.382 (.668).

    Plouffe has been willing to play all over the field. He went to spring training, and started the season, as an outfielder. However, when the Twins DFAd Luke Hughes in April and then optioned Danny Valencia to Rochester in May, Plouffe took over at third base. Initially, he looked quite good at the position. However, in 95 games at the position, he made 14 errors and had a .935 fielding percentage. However, after his return from injury, it appeared that his range, particularly to his right, decreased. If you like UZR, he posted a -6.8 UZR at third base.

    For all of the struggles, that hot stretch in June and July is encouraging and exciting. Still just 26 years old, Plouffe still has a chance to improve.

    With so much of Plouffe’s 2012 offensive success coming in about a six week time frame, and struggles with the bat most of the other four months, it’s understandable that Ryan and all of the Twins decision-makers would not be sure what to make of Plouffe’s season or his long-term potential.

    Ryan has also commented that he isn’t just looking for any third baseman. He wants a third baseman who could be a starter. So, who are the options? Kevin Youklis would seem to be too high-priced to be competition and a backup. Scott Rolen could retire or would stay close to the Reds. Eric Chavez wants t keep playing, but we have to assume he’ll want to play on a contender. Here are some possibilities:

    Placido Polanco
    – His numbers have steadily declined the last couple of seasons with the Phillies. He also has not been able to stay on the field consistently. He could play third base while at the same time being a backup option at second base.

    Brandon Inge
    – Ron Gardenhire gushed about Inge when the Tigers released him last year during the middle of the season. Solid defensively at third base, he has shown power in the past. When he signed with the A’s, he had some big hits right away, and then was hurt again. Inge could also play some second base and in a pinch, I guess he could go behind the plate.

    Chone Figgins
    – He got the big contract from the Mariners three years ago, and has gone from big free agent acquisition, to bust, to utility, to hardly-plays-at all, to the Mariners paying him a lot of money in 2013 NOT to play with them. However, he can play third base, second base and likely some in the outfield. He still has speed. I’m sure he would like an opportunity to get into a nice role and show teams he still has something left.

    Jack Hannahan
    – The former Gophers infielder will turn 33 years old in March. Cleveland non-tendered him last week, making him a free agent. He has played 110 and 105 games for the Tribe the past two seasons. Combined, he hit .247/.323/.366 (.688) with 32 doubles, 12 homers and 69 RBI. Certainly not great numbers, but decent for a backup. In 451 games as a big league third baseman in his career, he has a .968 fielding percentage. Last year, that number dropped to .949 (although it was .983 in 2011). In 2011, his UZR was 8.7. In 2012, his UZR was -3.9.

    Ryan hinted to reporters that the Twins could sign someone for the position this week in Nashville. A case could be made for each of these players, although the assumption (by me) is that Hannahan just makes the most sense. Another local guy who, other than last year, has provided really solid defense at the hot corner. As a left-handed hitter, he could platoon (in theory) with Plouffe if it came to that. He could be an everyday player for a period of time if necessary. And, frankly, he should be available on a minor league deal at around $1 million if he makes the team.

    A year ago, a 23-year-old Eduardo Escobar was the White Sox opening day utility infielder. He would come in to play third base in late innings. It was more the case later in the season when the Sox acquired Kevin Youklis. They would move Youklis to first base in the late innings and take out Paul Konerko or Adam Dunn (whichever was playing first base). Escobar came to the Twins in the Francisco Liriano deal and can play all three infield positions well. He is very much similar to Twins utility infielders of the past. However, the Twins typically have two backups in the infield, so that may factor in as well.

    So, what do you think? How much value do you put into Trevor Plouffe’s six-week power binge as it relates to his future? Can he be an .800+ OPS third baseman? Can he make the necessary defensive plays at the hot corner? Do the Twins need to bring in someone as competition who will all but be ensured a big league job? Should third base be getting this much attention when pitching remains a black hole for the Twins?
    This article was originally published in blog: Competition for Plouffe? started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 51 Comments
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Since we're talking about 3B, what's the status on Deibinson Romero? I know he's also a righty, and so not a candidate for a platoon, per se, but if I recall correctly he OPSed like 800 in New Britain last year.

      Is he considered competition? He's not on the 40 man. Is he filler or a major league prospect?
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Since we're talking about 3B, what's the status on Deibinson Romero? I know he's also a righty, and so not a candidate for a platoon, per se, but if I recall correctly he OPSed like 800 in New Britain last year.

      Is he considered competition? He's not on the 40 man. Is he filler or a major league prospect?
      A 25-year-old in AA who doesn't tear up the league at the plate and is still shaky making plays at 3rd probably is never going to be more than filler by this point.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Yeah, Romero was on the Twins 40 man roster before Plouffe, I believe. He's improved the last couple of years, and he's earned a right to come back to spring training if only to see where he is and if he can step up. But, most likely a Rochester guy in 2013.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      The problem with competition and a back up 3b is it really doesn't work with the Twins roster.

      At some point early enough in the season the Twins will have a need for a 13th pitcher. That leaves the starting lineup and three bench spots.

      Those three spots need to be someone who can catch, someone who can defend in the middle infield and someone who can defend in center field. Last year, both Hughes and Burroughs were forced off the bench when they couldn't fill any of those roles. They were not a loss of any significance, but it points out the challenge of roster building with the current era of large bullpens.

      Hanahan can't fit any of those bench roles. I guess you could argue Plouffe can be the back up middle infielder. Is that realistic? You could argue that Doumit could be DH and back up catcher. You saw how long that lasted in 2012. The Twins don't have the luxury of a corner guy that can move to CF so they need a true 4th outfielder.

      Unless they also plan to change past practice of going to a 13 man staff when guys are day to day or the bullpen is overused, they won't be able to commit a year long roster spot to a back up 3B. At some point it will come down to DFA Plouffe or his competition.

      There is another solution. Never have a 13 man staff. When a pitcher is day to day, DL him immediately. That doesn't sound like the Twins management to me.

      On the other hand, if they sign Hanahan and later DFA him it really isn't any more significant a loss than Burroughs or Hughes. Pay him enough money and they can stash him in AAA when no one claims him.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      'Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield?'

      He constantly moves his players all over the diamond...which, I guess, isn't actually a platoon...more like pick the position you'll be playing today out of a hat...
      Yes, I was speaking strictly in the sense of a traditional left/right platoon. Gardenhire's desire for everyday lineup coherence in the infield is exceeded only by his desire to play the guys whose defense he feels least likely to give him a coronary on any given day.
      I like when one post is quoted and seemingly agreed with by someone saying something nearly the opposite...and both takes seem invented!

      For the record, I've heard a lot of times how Gardenhire moves everyone around too much. Compared to what? This year...

      Justin Morneau played only one position. Alexi Casilla played one game plus a couple spare innings at 3B and otherwise played only one position. Danny Valencia played only one position, and once he was moved on down the road and Plouffe was given the job...he played only that position. Dozier played only one position, and once he was demoted and Florimon took over HE played only one position. Josh Willingham played only one position. Denard Span...guess how many! And Revere played exclusively RF except when Span was out and then he played that position instead. Carroll moved around because he was, you know, the utility infielder. Mastro played a lot around the outfield because he was the utility outfielder. So who was playing Russian roulette around the diamond? Mauer played two spots for reasons well known and discussed. Parmalee played a couple spots. The rest of the guys who came up and down didn't play significantly anywhere.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      Let Plouffe play and see if his hot streak was a fluke. It doesn't look like the Twins will be competetive in 2013 so there's no harm in letting TP get his AB's. A low dollar 3B could be a wise pick-up, but I'm for sticking with Babe Plouffe.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      'Like most managers today, Gardy doesn't care much for platooning, especially in the infield?'

      He constantly moves his players all over the diamond...which, I guess, isn't actually a platoon...more like pick the position you'll be playing today out of a hat...
      Yes, I was speaking strictly in the sense of a traditional left/right platoon. Gardenhire's desire for everyday lineup coherence in the infield is exceeded only by his desire to play the guys whose defense he feels least likely to give him a coronary on any given day.
      I like when one post is quoted and seemingly agreed with by someone saying something nearly the opposite...and both takes seem invented!

      For the record, I've heard a lot of times how Gardenhire moves everyone around too much. Compared to what? This year...

      Justin Morneau played only one position. Alexi Casilla played one game plus a couple spare innings at 3B and otherwise played only one position. Danny Valencia played only one position, and once he was moved on down the road and Plouffe was given the job...he played only that position. Dozier played only one position, and once he was demoted and Florimon took over HE played only one position. Josh Willingham played only one position. Denard Span...guess how many! And Revere played exclusively RF except when Span was out and then he played that position instead. Carroll moved around because he was, you know, the utility infielder. Mastro played a lot around the outfield because he was the utility outfielder. So who was playing Russian roulette around the diamond? Mauer played two spots for reasons well known and discussed. Parmalee played a couple spots. The rest of the guys who came up and down didn't play significantly anywhere.
      18, 19 different lineups to start the season this past season when everyone was healthy.

      In 2011 Plouffe started three different positions in three different games between the IF and OF. Gardy put Cuddy, a OF at 2B while putting Plouffe, an middle IF in RF (Plouffe having played OF, at the time, once in his whole professional career...so let's put him out there in a major league game). Doumit, catcher, DH, OF...even though he's a disaster out there and Gardy had plenty of OF options. Alexi, a 2B who was also given the starting shortstop job coming into 2011...having had less than 30 starts at the major league level at shortstop. Heck lets put him at 3B some too this year. Punto given the starting shortstop job, but heck, we'll put our starting shortstop over at 3B or 2B so we can give a backup some time. Mauer, our catcher, let's play him at 1B...and heck, throw him in RF too.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post

      I like when one post is quoted and seemingly agreed with by someone saying something nearly the opposite...and both takes seem invented!

      For the record, I've heard a lot of times how Gardenhire moves everyone around too much. Compared to what? This year...

      Justin Morneau played only one position. Alexi Casilla played one game plus a couple spare innings at 3B and otherwise played only one position. Danny Valencia played only one position, and once he was moved on down the road and Plouffe was given the job...he played only that position. Dozier played only one position, and once he was demoted and Florimon took over HE played only one position. Josh Willingham played only one position. Denard Span...guess how many! And Revere played exclusively RF except when Span was out and then he played that position instead. Carroll moved around because he was, you know, the utility infielder. Mastro played a lot around the outfield because he was the utility outfielder. So who was playing Russian roulette around the diamond? Mauer played two spots for reasons well known and discussed. Parmalee played a couple spots. The rest of the guys who came up and down didn't play significantly anywhere.
      Great post.

      Sometimes the criticisms of Gardy are well founded.

      And sometimes they're just...not.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Chavez is gone, for just 3 million. Was he not an option?
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by CDog View Post
      I like when one post is quoted and seemingly agreed with by someone saying something nearly the opposite...and both takes seem invented!
      And I like when a poster rips another post and then goes on to agree with it. So it's win/win!

      Back to sort of on topic, the Twins can sign renowned wildlife boob and frequent Letterman guest Jack Hanna this offseason for all I care, as long it's only a one year deal. There are better options than Hannahan, but he's from here and Hartmann loves him, so he's practically a Twin already.
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      Just read a Tweet from Danny Knobler (CBSSports) that said Reds, WhiteSox and Yankees all interested in Hannahan. Still think we can get him for a minor league contract and ST invite?
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