Saturday, October 30, 2010

More Kubel, less Punto (maybe)

As generally expected, the Twins on Friday exercised their $5.25 million option on Jason Kubel and declined their $5 million option on Nick Punto.

Jason Kubel played 83
games in right field,
16 in left field in 2010.
The Twins may well be overpaying on Kubel. Certainly his 2010 numbers were disappointing (his slash stats were his worst since 2006), he shows no real sign of ever being a truly productive hitter against southpaws and he's never going to be a Gold Glove candidate in the outfield. But he's still on the good side of 30, retaining him leaves one less question mark to deal with in the offseason, and he convinced me that he's at least as capable in the outfield as Michael Cuddyer.

He certainly had fewer problems playing the right field wall at Target Field than Cuddy did.

The Punto situation is a bit more complex. As stated here before, there may (or may not) be a price at which the Twins want to keep Punto. It's pretty obvious that $5 million isn't it.

Nick Punto's 288 plate
appearances were his
fewest since 2004.
A lot depends on what the Twins want to do with their middle infield, and that depends in large part on (a) how big their payroll budget is and (b) how much of it they want to spend on relief pitching vs. middle infield. It would be a lot easier to re-sign Punto at $1.5 million with bonuses for at-bats (just picking a Punto-friendly number out of the air) if they hadn't already committed $1.75 million to Brendan Harris.

The Harris contract is wasted money; there's no market for a bat-first utility infielder who hit .157/.233/.213 in the bigs and .233 in Triple A. Even if the Twins go young and cheap in their middle infield in 2011 -- say with Alexi Casilla at second and Trevor Plouffe at short -- there may be no room for Punto as a reserve, with Matt Tolbert out of options and that money already committed to Harris. Still, it's a safe bet that Ron Gardenhire would rather have Punto than Harris.

For that matter, so would I.

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