Saturday, December 5, 2009

Infield musical chairs

The Twins struck early in their infield makeover with the J.J. Hardy trade. Now they seem content to sit back and see who's left without a job when free agency settles down.

It's a strategy that may result in a below-market signing — or that may result in a Joe Crede sequel. Or Orlando Cabrera.

The Twins never figured to be in on Marco Scutaro (above), who signed a two-year deal Friday with the Red Sox. He's a Type A with an arbitration offer, which essentially eliminates him in the Twins scheme of things — they're not giving up a first round draft pick for the privilege of paying a 34-year-old $6 million plus to play in their middle infield.

And in that light, it seems odd that the Red Sox made that decision. But they got stuck last year at short when Jed Lowrie got hurt and wound up playing Nick Green for much of the season. They picked up Alex Gonzalez from Cincinnati near the trading deadline, and he at least provided a competent glove, but the Blue Jays grabbed Gonzalez early in the free agent process.

So it amounts to a trade of Scutaro for Gonzalez and two draft picks. If Scutaro plays as he did last season, that's fair to both clubs; if he reverts to his usual form, the Jays have a real chance to win that exchange.

When teams are scrapping for the likes of Gonzalez and Scutaro to play short, it makes the Twins deal for Hardy look pretty good. Rumor has it that Boston pursued Hardy, but the Brewers didn't like the pitchers offered and demanded pitchers the Red Sox were't willing to trade.

Meanwhile, the Twins still have an infield opening. Placido Polanco's gone; Scutaro's gone; Chone Figgins — another guy the Twins weren't going to purse — is apparently all but signed with Seattle. That still leaves most of the infield possibilities mentioned here earlier in the week, with some of the big spenders having filled their holes.

I suspect the Twins' favored target would be Adrian Beltre, the cupless wonder, but there's talk that agent Scott Boras is angling for something like four years at $10 million-plus a year, and the Twins won't (and shouldn't) go there on either length or price. After Beltre's .265/.304/.379 season (complete with ruptured testicle), somebody (agent or player or both) probably needs a reality check.

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