|Nick Punto hit .238/.313/.302 last season.|
Well, he doesn't have to. There's a price point at which the Rays will be happy to re-sign Crawford. There's little chance that that price point will be high enough to satisfy him, but that's his choice. It's not that the Rays are rejecting him; they can't realistically fit him into their budget.
On the other hand, there's Nick Punto. The Twins are expected to decline Punto's $5 million option for 2011 and pay him a $500,000 buyout, making him a free agent. Says the infielder:
"I want to stay. There's unfinished business here. If something happens, wherever I go won't be a better place than here."
But this one might indeed be out of his hands. Punto is essentially the same player as Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert: switch-hitting middle infielders with little power. They are gloves and legs.
Even if Punto is willing to accept the same kind of money Casilla and Tolbert figure to get — and that's going to be closer to the major league minimum ($400,000) than to the $4 million Punto's been paid the past couple of seasons — it's probably the smarter percentage play to go with the younger guys.
Punto turns 33 next month and missed much of the second half with injuries. Tolbert is 28; Casilla is 26.
Manager Ron Gardenhire has valued — many fans say overvalued — what Punto brings to the table. But Punto's playing time dropped sharply this season, and in his limited second-half action he was decidedly unimpressive even at the things he usually does well.
There are a lot of moving pieces to the Twins infield puzzle this offseason, but I fully expect that one piece that will be moving elsewhere is Punto.