Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adding to a stockpile

The Twins on Monday announced yet another minor-league free agent signing, this time of Jeff Clement, a left-handed hitting, defensively limited first baseman-catcher. Clement was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2005, but his career has stalled in Triple A at age 29.

In bits and pieces -- four partial seasons scattered over the past six years -- Clement has hit .218/.277/.371 in 385 major-league at-bats. His defensive chops behind the plate aren't good enough to sustain that, and nobody's glove at first base is good enough to sustain that. Clements' minor league numbers (.282/.361/.493 in more than 2,200 Triple A plate appearances), while good, aren't sufficiently eye-popping to force a sustained opportunity.

The Twins are his third organization; the first two, Seattle and Pittsburgh, have been starved for hitters. Clement couldn't, or at least didn't, carve out a career in either place.

The Twins certainly, at the moment, don't look like the place where Clement is going to change that. What is he? A left-handed hitter who kinda plays first base and catcher. The Twins have two major-league first basemen in Justin Morneau and Chris Parmelee; they both hit left-handed. The Twins have at catcher Joe Mauer (left-handed hitter) and Ryan Doumit (switch-hitter who is stronger from the left side). Clement probably isn't a defensive upgrade over any of the four, and there's no reason to believe he's a better hitter.

So why would a minor-league free agent with his profile turn to the Twins for an opportunity? Because there's a possible future opportunity.

Say the Twins trade one of the first basemen next month for pitching. Clement still may not make the major league roster out of spring training, but he'd be available if the other guy gets hurt. Two "ifs" there, but the odds of them coming through for him aren't terrible. The Twins are going to trade somebody for pitching, we can be sure of that.

At 29, with his track record, Clement isn't going to be anybody's Plan A, and he's not likely to be anybody's Plan B. A strong Plan C might be his best remaining chance, and the Twins offer that kind of chance.

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