Friday, July 10, 2015

Contemplating the third base situation

Trevor Plouffe has
been the cleanup hitter
for most of the season,
but Miguel Sano
appears to be taking
that lineup slot away.
For me, one of the more intriguing aspects of the rise of Miguel Sano is how unthreatened Trevor Plouffe appears to be.

During spring training, Plouffe tweeted enthusiastically about Sano's power. The day Sano reported to the big league club, Plouffe was seen working with Sano on the youngster's defense. I attended Wednesday's game; Plouffe and Sano were catch partners before the game, and when the game ended, they did their own version, just the two of them, of the outfielders' celebratory chest bump.

It's an interesting dynamic. Plouffe has become a better-than-average third baseman, both in the field and at the plate. Sano hasn't played anything but third since his first year in the very lowest levels of the organization. Two third basemen, one of whom is a cornerstone of the lineup and the other a cornerstone of the future.

The assumption here has been: When Sano arrives, Plouffe is no longer the third baseman. That's not the case. Not now, certainly, and maybe not for some time. In this season of contention and transition, the Twins are likely to continue to deploy Sano mainly as a designated hitter, and to keep Plouffe at third base and in the middle of the lineup.

Plouffe is on a one-year deal but under team control through 2017. I doubt the Twins want to keep Sano at DH that long. Maybe Sano changes positions. Maybe Plouffe does (a few years ago he was supposed to become an outfielder, but then Danny Valencia's tenure with the Twins short-circuited and Plouffe inherited the third base job). Or maybe Plouffe gets traded.

This is not a situation that needs to be resolved immediately. But I suspect something will give this winter.

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