Thursday, December 1, 2011

A rough draft of the position players

It's still relatively early in the offseason, but the Winter Meetings are next week, and that's probably the high point for the hot stove league.

The Twins have made a fair number of roster changes, mainly focused on the position players. Let's see if we can compile an approximation of who'll be playing here come April from the players on hand:

Ryan Doumit is
one of two free
agents signed so
far by the Twins.
C: Joe Mauer
1B/DH: Justin Morneau
2B: Alexi Casilla
3B: Danny Valencia
SS: Jamey Carroll
LF: Ben Revere
CF: Denard Span
RF: Rene Tosoni
DH/1B: Ryan Doumit

IF: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
IF: Luke Hughes
OF: Trevor Plouffe
C: Drew Butera

That's 13, which leaves 12 spots for pitchers. Now, let me emphasize again: This is based on players on hand. I expect more activity between now and April. But this array may help us see where Terry Ryan will try to go.

What most grabs my attention at the moment is the C/1B/RF/DH nexus:

  • It's entirely possible that Morneau's concussion history will make him a DH.
  • Both the Twins and Doumit have already downplayed the notion that he would see significant time at first base. Catcher, yes; DH, yes; right field, yes. First base, not so much.
  • If Morneau's a DH and Doumit isn't a first baseman, there's a significant hole in what is normally an important offensive position. Luke Hughes ain't the answer.
  • If Morneau can play first and Doumit spends most of his time as a designated hitter, I have right field as a Plouffe-Tosoni platoon, which also probably isn't optimal.
  • And, of course, all this assumes that Mauer is indeed going to catch 130 games.

The word from the metro writers is that the Twins still hold out hope that they can retain Michael Cuddyer, and certainly he would be a good fit in the right field-first base-designated hitter mix. The outside interest in Cuddyer doesn't seem as high as anticipated. But I still doubt that the Twins want to give him a raise, and I would think they'd be tempted by two compensatory draft picks to decline to put up a fight.

Terry Ryan and Co. face two questions here. First, are the Twins close enough to contending to justify keeping Cuddyer, or are they better off with the picks? Second, can Morneau play in the field?

They have no way of confidently answering Question No. 2 now. And that makes it difficult to answer Question No. 1.

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