Saturday, December 6, 2014

Looking for meaning in a minor signing

OK, it's a minor transaction -- specifically, a minor league transaction. But it still says something about a particular problem in the upper levels of the Twins farm system.

The Twins on Thursday signed outfielder Shane Robinson to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Robinson has been with the St. Louis Cardinals since he was drafted in 2006 and has been a reserve outfielder for the big-league club for most of the past three years. He's a little (5-foot-9) guy who can run well enough to be used in center field, and he has a career MLB average of .231.

The Cardinals cut him loose rather than risk going to arbitration with him. The Twins got him to sign in a hurry, probably because there's a fairly obvious chance to be on the major league team. While the corner outfield starters are set (Torii Hunter and Oswaldo Arcia), center field is open.

Aaron Hicks? Jordan Schafer? Robinson? As matters stand, at least one, probably two, of these guys are going to be on the 25-man roster. Somebody has to play center field, at least until Byron Buxton establishes that he can stay in one piece for a month.

The Twins had the opportunity to do unto Schafer as the Cardinals did to Robinson, but they lack any sort of depth in center field-competent outfielders. So Schafer, a .229 lifetime hitter, figures to pull in well over $1 million next year, while Robinson will do well to get half that.

At the very least the Twins have now the option of platooning in center. Schafer hits left; Robinson hits right. Robinson has actually shown a backwards platoon split in his limited major league playing time, but if Paul Molitor has any inclination to platoon, this might be a reasonable pair to do it with.

Hicks, a switch hitter who is stronger from the right side, also offers a platoon option, but I doubt the Twins would do that with Hicks, who is considerably younger than Schafer and Robinson and is still seen as having a higher ceiling.

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