Monday, October 17, 2011

Tinkering with the edges of the 40-man roster

The Twins on Friday announced that four players — outfielder Jason Repko, catcher Rene Rivera, pitcher Anthony Slama and infielder Matt Tolbert — had been outrighted to Triple-A Rochester and thus removed from the 40-man major league roster.

The four are all low-ceiling players and out of options. The move also indicates that the Twins don't see them as likely to make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training, which is interesting since two of them (Repko and Tolbert) did in 2011.

Let's read between the lines on each player and try to decipher what their demotion tells us about the Twins' plans for 2012:

Jason Repko hit
Repko: Had he remained on the 40, he'd have been arbitration eligible, and thus in line for a substantial raise. That wasn't going to happen.

Beyond the finances, Repko's value is diminished by the rise of Ben Revere and Rene Tosoni. Repko isn't needed as a backup center fielder. Tosoni is a better hitter — and a left-handed hitter, something managers tend to value in a fourth (or fifth) outfielder.

We don't know how the Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel free agencies will play out, but right now we can assume that the Twins will break camp with Revere and Denard Span as outfield regulars, Tosoni as a reserve, and a veteran holding down right field while Joe Benson gets a year in Triple A.

Rene Rivera hit
Rivera: Drew Butera stays, Rivera goes. Both are catch-and-throw guys; neither can hit. On a team whose regular catcher starts 130-plus games, either is an acceptable backup; you don't want them catching 100-plus games.

So how do you pick between the two? I believe Butera still has options. I rather expect the Twins to look this winter for a No. 2 catcher who offers something at the plate, in which case Butera goes to Rochester and waits for an injury.

Slama: His minor league numbers have always been better than his scouting reports. The Twins clearly don't think his stuff and command will work in the majors. Plus he had some arm issues in 2010.

He may not have gotten a clean shake from the Twins — seven major league innings is hardly enough to prove that what worked for him in the minors won't work in the bigs — but life isn't always fair.

Matt Tolbert hit
Tolbert: A victim of the numbers game. The Twins know they have to revamp their middle infield. They have an investment in Tsuyoshi Nishioka; Alexi Casilla was the best of a bad lot; Trevor Plouffe still intrigues somebody with his bat. Plus there's Brian Dozier, their minor league player of the year, who ought to get a good look during spring training.

That's four holdovers, plus the likelihood that the Twins will import somebody from the outside.

Like Repko, Tolbert is arbitration eligible; again, there's no way the Twins were going to give him a big raise.

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