When rumors started floating around last week about the Twins' interest in Marwin Gonzalez, I found myself quite surprised. While I still contend that the Twins would be better off spending said money on Keuchel or Kimbrel if they would sign a two or three year contract, it is hard to find fault in adding another above average bat for the lineup. My concern now is how do the Twins find 500 AB for Gonzalez when all of the starting positions are essentially spoken for.
I did some digging and believe it can be done without sacrificing continued development of our younger players. Let's start with the assumption that the following players will hold down starting positions followed by the number of plate appearances I would project them to get this coming season.
C - Garver, Castro - 650
1B - Cron - 550
2B - Schoop - 550
SS - Polanco - 600
3B - Sano - 550
LF - Rosario - 600
CF - Buxton - 550
RF - Kepler - 600
DH - Cruz - 550
This totals up to 5200 PA for the starters. Last season the Twins tallied a little over 6100 PA not including those taken by pitchers. That leaves 900 PA for the bench. The 650 PA for the catchers is approximately what they totaled for the team last year. Since Gonzalez can essentially sub for any of those positions, I think it is easy to see that he can get to 500 plate appearances this year.
Baldelli will need to be creative and use Gonzalez as a true super utility player. Looking at the projected PA, Gonzalez would need to account mostly for PA at 1B, 2B, 3B and OF. I will guess that he will play 3B the most (with Sano slotting in to take away some PA from Cron) followed closely by OF, then 2B and SS. I doubt they will actually play him at 1B much as I would guess that Gonzalez is a better 3B than Sano. If Gonzalez can perform with the bat near past levels while moving around this much it would be of great benefit to the Twins. They can keep players healthy with roughly a game off once every one or two weeks.
Adding Gonzalez puts the Twins at 11 position players with the 10 above. The Twins are likely to have 13 pitchers and 12 hitters on their roster. Since Astudillo and Cave both have options, it is likely they start in AAA. In order to get to 500 PA, Gonzalez will need to be the primary sub for the OF so Cave should be in AAA. I like both Cave and Astudillo, but having options dooms them to AAA. That leaves Austin and Adrianza for the final spot. Maybe the Twins keep both at the start of the season and only have 12 pitchers, but it is likely one will hit waivers at some point. My choice would be to keep Austin as a bat off the bench, especially since we have Torreyes likely at AAA as a fallback in case we lost Adrianza on waivers. If Adrianza doesn't get claimed, the Twins have solid depth at AAA in case of injuries, possibly better depth than we've had in some time. The more I look at this signing, the more I like it. Now find a way to sign Keuchel or Kimbrel.