Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Eye on 2014: Shortstop

Incumbent Pedro Florimon was good in the field
and not at the plate.
Incumbent shortstop Pedro Florimon said during TwinsFest that he had been told going into the 2013 season that he was the Twins shortstop. He also said he had not been given that assurance this winter.

And he shouldn't be a sure thing. Florimon was one of the better defensive shortstops in the majors last season -- by Baseball Info Systems' runs saved and plus minus metrics, he was probably the best in the non-Andrelton Simmons division -- but his offensive numbers were awful (.221/.281/.330).

Rermember: The Twins were near the bottom of the AL in runs scored. They can't easily afford to give up a lineup spot.

But who else might the Twins turn to to man the position? Florimon is clearly Option A still, but there are two other possibilities on the 40-man roster, and one not on anybody's roster.

Option B: Eduardo Escobar. Like Florimon, Escobar is a switch hitter with a good-field no-hit reputation. .He is two years younger than the incumbent, and he did have an impressive batting line in Rochester after the Twins sent him down at the All-Star break (.307/.380/.500).

If that slash line were valid, Escobar might well be a better choice than Florimon. The problem is, those two months aren't backed up with any other indication that he can hit.

Option C: Danny Santana. He's hit for good averages in High A (2012) and Double A (2013); Baseball America listed him as the Twins' No. 7 prospect and as the best defensive infielder in the system.

I'm less optimistic about him. I see chronic problems in controlling the strike zone. Last year, at New Britain, he walked 24 times and struck out 94 times. He's had that kind of ugly ratio at each level. I have trouble imagining how he's going to keep hitting .280 and higher with that poor ratio.

As for the defense, he commits a lot of errors. While the Twins claim the boots are because of his superior range, it's pretty clear he's muffing routine plays as well.

Maybe he really is a future regular. Even if he is, I doubt this is the year for that. I see Triple A for him.

Option D: Free agent Stephen Drew. The regular for the Red Sox last season, Drew remains on the market in large part because (a) he will cost the signing team a draft pick; (b) his agent is Scott Boras, who is, to be charitable, a patient negotiator insistent on top dollar; and (c) teams may well be wary of Drew's injury history.

Drew is 30. He played 124 games (plus the postseason) last year; he was limited to 86 and 79 games the previous two seasons. The Red Sox, with Xavier Bogearts ready, appear more interested in collecting an extra pick than in retaining Drew.

It would be extremely out of character for the Twins to sign Drew. Terry Ryan is always loathe to surrender a draft pick. (In the Twins' case, signing Drew would cost their second-round pick, not their first rounder, but it would still be a premium pick.)

There is, I'm sure, a combination of price and contract length at which Ryan and Co. would be willing to give up that pick. I don't know that Boras is going to agree to something so team-friendly that Ryan would agree to it, but Drew doesn't seem to have a lot of options right now.

Part of this equation may well be how highly the Twins really regard Santana. If they truly view him as the shortstop of the future, splurging on Drew just gets in the way. If they have the same reservations about Santana that I have, Drew makes a lot more sense.

I'm pretty sure the Twins don't regard Florimon or Escobar as long-term solutions at short.

Former Twins shortstop Jason Bartlett will be in camp as a nonroster invitee, but I can't see him as a serious possibility. Bartlett is 34. He hasn't played well since 2010 at the latest and hasn't played at all since the first month or so of 2012. The Twins don't really have anything invested in him, and they won't get anything out of him.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite line in this column is "who is, to be charitable, a patient negotiator ..." I do wonder if Boras at times has hurt the players he represents, though. Drew is an iffy pickup anyway because of the draft pick and his lack of durability and I think he could use an agent right now that understood he's probably going to have to sign a more team-friendly deal than Boras' clients usually do.