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  • Finding Offense

    The vibe down here in Ft. Myers is that the pitching will definitely improve this year. Although Vance Worley's ugly outing on Tuesday may still be fresh in your mind, various coaches and media types have commented on how sharp guys like Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco have looked. Kyle Gibson and Samuel Deduno have both been cruising.

    There's less confidence that this club is going to score enough runs.

    Last year, the Twins tallied 614 runs to rank 13th in the American League. While they made large investments in the pitching staff during the offseason, their moves to address the offense amounted to getting rid of Justin Morneau ad Ryan Doumit -- who ranked second and third on the team in homers with 17 and 14 -- and bringing in a few rebound candidates on minor-league deals, along with light-hitting catcher Kurt Suzuki.

    Losing the possibility of a midseason impact from Miguel Sano hurts.

    In order to field a decent lineup, the Twins are counting on several players to either bounce back from down years (Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, Aaron Hicks) or take the next step (Trevor Plouffe, Oswaldo Arcia, Josmil Pinto).

    That's not necessarily a reliable recipe for success. So let's get creative and take a look at some things the Twins could do to boost their offensive potential.

    Dozier Back to Short?

    It's been discussed before but can't be ignored. Brian Dozier played shortstop almost exclusively while coming up through the minors, and after a brief stint there in the majors in 2012, he was moved over to second base, where he has excelled.

    Yet, the Twins have some second basemen coming up through the minors who can hit. Eddie Rosario will be back from his suspension in a couple months, and Jorge Polanco figures to start this season in High-A.

    At shortstop, there's less to be enthused about going forward. Projected starter Pedro Florimon is essentially a lock to turn in an OPS around .600, and despite all the spring hype surrounding Danny Santana, he has a .712 career OPS in the minors and is erratic defensively.

    How nice would it be to slide Dozier -- who led the club in homers with 18 last year -- over to short, and finally have an offensive threat at the position for the first time since J.J. Hardy's departure?

    I asked Dozier about that possibility on Wednesday, and he insisted he's "extremely comfortable at second." However, he didn't say he'd rule out such an idea.

    "Obviously if they (Gardenhire and Terry Ryan) came to me and wanted me to play another position I'd be all ears," he said. "But for now I'm strictly second."

    Clearly Dozier would be a defensive downgrade from Florimon, and until Rosario is ready there's not even an obvious replacement available at second base. But it's a lot easier to find guys who can hit there than at shortstop, and from my view Dozier didn't look terrible defensively at short when he first came up.

    Ultimately, the Twins might have to make some hard choices and figure out what they're willing to sacrifice to improve the offense.

    Utilizing Pinto

    Initially my thought was that if Josmil Pinto wasn't going to be the regular starter at catcher, the Twins would be best served sending him to Triple-A so he can get regular at-bats. Now, I'm starting to think that they'd be better off keeping him in the majors and finding a way to get his potent bat into the lineup as much as possible.

    The best approach might be having Pinto start at catcher a couple times a week -- something like a 40/60 time share with Kurt Suzuki -- and having him fill in at DH against righties.

    This would help out with another key objective:

    Shielding Kubel From Lefties

    Asked about how he's felt facing lefties this spring, Jason Kubel said it's "coming along." But you can't ignore the numbers; the 31-year-old has had a rough go against southpaws over the course of his career and it's been especially bad lately.

    The Twins will be best off maximizing Kubel's greatest strength -- hitting righties -- and minimizing his greatest weakness. Whether that means platooning him with Pinto or someone like Chris Colabello, it'd be nice to see Gardenhire find a workable solution.

    Finding a Backup Infielder With a Stick

    After starting his spring with a mind-boggling 0-for-26 slump, Jason Bartlett finally got his first hit on Wednesday. Clearly the veteran's inability to so much as sneak a grounder through the infield or drop in a bloop single over so many plate appearances was a bit of a fluke, but there's not much reason to believe his offensive struggles in general have been a mirage. This is a guy who sat out last year after hitting .241/.310/.317 from 2010 through 2012.

    I didn't really expect the Twins to make any big offensive additions during the offseason but was disappointed that they didn't add an established bat to the infield mix. There will surely be some intriguing names hitting the waiver wire here as spring training winds down, and it won't be hard to find a guy with more punch than Bartlett.

    As things stand, the Twins are heavily relying on Dozier and Plouffe to provide production in the infield, and if one should fail or get injured, there's not much to fall back on.


    Signing Kendrys Morales

    Over the last two seasons, Morales has hit 45 homers and driven in 153 runs. Willingham is the only player on the Twins roster who can match either of those numbers, and it's solely because of his big 2012 campaign.

    I'm not convinced that Morales is worth giving up a draft pick to sign, but he's still sitting in free agency and would probably come pretty cheap.

    What are your ideas to deliver a jolt to this lineup? Share in the comments section.
    Comments 43 Comments
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      I'm not sure there are any workable ideas to improve the offense at this point. Drew and Morales are better off waiting to sign until June than signing at a discount now. The time to add offense was 2-3 months ago.
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Of these options, Morales is the one I like the best, which isn't entirely good. Dozier is a huge asset at 2B, both on offense and defense (assuming the second half of the season is who he is as a hitter) and Gardy doesn't like his defense at SS so moving him doesn't seem like a real option.

      I agree about Pinto being an option to improve the offense, but there's no way Gardy will DH him. Yes, it's a little silly, but it is what it is. The better hope is that he hits his way into getting more starts at catcher.

      Morales is the most realistic option considering this team and its manager. He'd be a nice player to backup Mauer at 1B and be the primary DH, and as a switch-hitter he'd give some lineup flexibility. He's not too old that a 3 year deal would be foolish either.

      But clearly, the offense needs some help until Sano and Buxton are ready.
    1. pierre75275's Avatar
      pierre75275 -
      Morales to me, isnt worth giving up a draft pick to sign. Or worth what he wants to get paid. That being said if Josh W started off hot and got traded June 4th and the twins signed Morales to a 3 yr deal without losing a draft pick I would be good with that
      With Pinto, if the plan is to Dh him, i believe that it will come with a price. That being, Chris Hermann makes the roster and Aaron Hicks doesnt. Mayb that isnt much of a price..but i would rather see Hicks then Hermann
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Quote Originally Posted by pierre75275 View Post
      With Pinto, if the plan is to Dh him, i believe that it will come with a price. That being, Chris Hermann makes the roster and Aaron Hicks doesnt. Mayb that isnt much of a price..but i would rather see Hicks then Hermann
      If Pinto is hitting well enough to DH he should be the starting catcher. I think Colabello could be the other side of the DH platoon and hit as well as Pinto.
    1. savvyspy's Avatar
      savvyspy -
      I agree with Jim above. The time to improve the offense was months ago. The front office neglected it again this year and will be paying the price all year. Bartlett and Kubel were garbage signings. Neither belongs in the big leagues at this point. Suzuki isn't horrible but doesn't add any upside either.

      I would say its much more likely we've seen the best days from Plouffe, Willingham, and Parmalee than they are actually going to improve.


      Its basically an offense that is built to fail. That is 100% on the front office. They chose to go with hope over actually building a roster.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      Hoping and praying is always a great way to put a teamtogether.
    1. ppearson50's Avatar
      ppearson50 -
      Kendry Morales. Kendry Morales. Kendry Morales.
      Morales would slot into the DH spot this year and next. Put him at first on the days you need to use the DH for Mauer.
      They apparently like Florimon too much to even consider signing Drew so I've pretty much given up on that one.
    1. jay's Avatar
      jay -
      Quote Originally Posted by DJL44 View Post
      If Pinto is hitting well enough to DH he should be the starting catcher. I think Colabello could be the other side of the DH platoon and hit as well as Pinto.
      Pinto and Colabello would the same side of the platoon... they're both righties.

      I do like the idea of a 40/60 split at C with Pinto at DH vs lefties. That configuration makes it easier to keep Parmelee or Kubel to DH vs righties, but it might squeeze Colabello from the roster.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      Nick, you're definitely working on the right problem. The pitching looks pretty damn good, and the hitting looks worse than last year. I think the Twins give up too much defensively to move Dozier back to SS. If the Twins had an above-average infielder at 3B, it could work. With Plouffe at 3B, the Twins need Florimon's range.

      With so much help on the way in the minors (Sano, Buxton, Rosario), and the improvement Arcia has shown this spring, I just can't see the Twins doing something short-term to get a few more wins during the first half of the season. Your short-term fix is Kubel. I think Buxton gets promoted in June or July, moving Willingham to DH and Kubel off the team. If Buxton gets hot, the whole team will ignite. I'm thinking to buy more tickets in July-Sept than April-May, how about you?
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      I think Morales makes a lot of sense for this team. The market's weak, they'd only give up a ~45th pick, and by signing a switch-hitting DH they can keep Bartlett and one extra out of options guy on the roster this year, or claim a waiver pickup or whatever.

      Dozier
      Mauer
      Hammer
      Morales
      Arcia

      not a bad top 5 at all.

      I'd think different if Kubel or Colabello had done something to get me excited but from what I've seen, there's probably nothing we'll miss.
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      "I agree with Jim above. The time to improve the offense was months ago" Not sure I agree. Unless you think we should have been in the running for Sano the best names months ago that I could see were Morales and Drew who are still available. I would have liked to see Drew. I also believe the best move down the line might be to put Dozier at shortstop if Rosario is all we hope he will be.
    1. tjsyam921's Avatar
      tjsyam921 -
      I think the only reason Gibson doesnt start the year with the big club is if they keep him in Rochester to have a space open for a optionless player. With Deduno pitching out of the pen all spring and Worley and Diamond struggling (Worley being horrible) I dont see any reason to not have Gibson start with the Twins. They need to have the best pitching staff they can if they're going to struggle to score runs.
      I dont even want to get started on the Gold Glove 30 homer short stop we gave away. The loss of a possible mid-season call up of Sano is a big blow to the offense. If some of the players hit like last year and players like Plouffe, Willingham, Colabello, Hicks, or Kubel can hit better we could surprise some people. But thats a lot to ask.
    1. Winston Smith's Avatar
      Winston Smith -
      They have the money to sign both Drew and Morales. The 40+ and 70+ draft picks are a very very long shot to ever produce what these guys should. It would really improve the Twins chances of at least keeping fans interested past Memorial Day. People might even start buying tickets again!
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      It would be nice to move Dozier back to SS, and go get Franklin to play 2nd but that isn't going to happen.
    1. tellis205's Avatar
      tellis205 -
      It would be nice if Eddie Rosario was even in camp! Seems to me that he'll need significant time to get ready now that he's missed so much. Anybody willing to step up and let us know what's going on?
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Dantes929 View Post
      "I agree with Jim above. The time to improve the offense was months ago" Not sure I agree. Unless you think we should have been in the running for Sano the best names months ago that I could see were Morales and Drew who are still available. I would have liked to see Drew. I also believe the best move down the line might be to put Dozier at shortstop if Rosario is all we hope he will be.
      You're assuming the only "moves" a front office can make involve signing free agents. While it's true there was limited offense on the FA market, that doesn't mean you can't add offense via trade. Acquiring help via trade is every bit as important as, and often preferable to, adding it via free agency.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      I am not as concerned as some, though with Mauer moving to first Kurt Suzuki behind the plate is just nowhere near a good idea. I think Pinto is going to be mightily important this year. I am not concerned about Dozier, Arcia, and even Hicks. Willingham and Plouffe? Yes.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Quote Originally Posted by jay View Post
      Pinto and Colabello would the same side of the platoon... they're both righties.
      Well, yeah. The other half of the DH platoon is Kubel or Parmelee. I'd rather have Pinto catch and Colabello DH than having Pinto DH and Chris Herrmann catching.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      by signing a switch-hitting DH they can keep Bartlett
      Why would they want to keep Bartlett? He's been awful.
    1. DJL44's Avatar
      DJL44 -
      Quote Originally Posted by tellis205 View Post
      It would be nice if Eddie Rosario was even in camp! Seems to me that he'll need significant time to get ready now that he's missed so much. Anybody willing to step up and let us know what's going on?
      50 game suspension to start the season
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