Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ron Gardenhire, Terry Ryan and Aaron Hicks

One of the frequently touched themes in the publicity tour that is the Twins Caravan  -- or at least in manager Ron Gardenhire's portion of it -- is the vacancy in center field.

Reading between the lines of multiple stories, Gardy really wants Aaron Hicks to take the job this spring, and has been of that mind even as the trade talks that resulted in the departures of Denard Span and Ben Revere were going on.

Which makes sense, because, as noted here in the "Benchmarks" series, Hicks profiles not only as a legitimate defensive center fielder but -- unlike fellow center field candidates Darin Mastroianni and Joe Benson -- as a legitimate leadoff hitter. He's the destination.

From the Star Tribune:

Gardenhire said he has received assurances from General Manager Terry Ryan that he can bring Hicks, the 2008 first-round draft pick who hasn't played above Class AA, north with the club if he earns the job this spring.

Sounds obvious, right? If Hicks is the best option for a vacant job, he should have it, right? Seems hardly worth mentioning.

Well, there are reasons Gardenhire finds such "assurances" worth mentioning. There are service-time aspects, such as arbitration eligibility, that make it financially desirable to delay a prospect's arrival in the majors. Plus the Twins have a well-established pattern over the past decade or so of handling promotions conservatively. The core philosophy seems to be: Better to call him up a month late than a month early.

Hicks may be the best fit for the open job in April. It may well be that it is better for the organization, in the longer term, to delay his arrival for weeks or even months.

It will be interesting to see what Gardenhire says for public consumption about this competition during camp -- and to see what actually happens when the Opening Day roster is set.


  1. I expect Hicks could "earn" a job this spring. Part of the problem will be is that, fans will look at BA or OBP or some other stat, and decide Hicks has "earned" a job. Just like Bartlett a few years ago. The issue with that, is thata fans don't see everything that happens in spring training. The games are actually a small part of what goes on in Florida.

    I guess I wouldn't mind Mastro or Benson "winning" the job in spring training. If Mastroianni can prove he is an everyday centerfielder, well now he has trade value. The same might be true of Benson. If things go the way many bloggers hope/expect either or both of those 2 will be supplanted by better options within 1 to 3 years.

    I don't think Hicks is necessarily ready for the big leagues either. He maybe able to hold his own, but even if he is better than the other 2, some time at AAA could be to his benefit.

  2. Earl Weaver, R.I.P