Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Goodbye, Tyler Austin

On Monday morning, the Twins announced that they had traded Tyler Austin to the San Francisco Giants for a minor league outfielder, of whom more later. On Monday evening, Austin was in the Giants lineup as the first baseman, with Brandon Belt in left. He singled in a run, scored himself, and was pulled for defensive purposes, with Belt moving back to first and Geraldo Parra taking over left.

It's not easy for me to see the fit for Austin with the Giants. Their active roster shows just three outfielders -- Parra, Kevin Pillar and Steven Duggar. None of them figure to hit well enough to justify a prominent lineup role. It may be noteworthy that the Giants described Austin as a "first baseman-outfielder." He saw no outfield time with the Twins, either last season or this spring, but it's certainly plausible that the Giants may try to fit both him and Belt in the lineup by playing one on left on a regular basis.

But there's a further complication to that, and his name is Buster Posey. The Giants supposedly wish to pare back the future Hall of Famer's time behind the dish, as there are signs that his body is breaking down. He's 32 and confronting the same conundrum as Joe Mauer did -- catching destroys careers. I don't think the Giants can have Posey, Belt and Austin in the lineup together without Posey catching.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Giants specifically wanted Austin because he hits lefties well, and I can see that purpose. They're in a division with a few teams that lean heavily on lefty starters, although the Dodgers' list of southpaws has been pretty sharply diminished by injury.

As for the Twins' return: Malique Ziegler is a 22-year-old Iowan who has spent four seasons in the Giants system without notable production and hasn't risen out of A ball. He now joins a farm system with a bunch of well-regarded outfield prospects. While he can't be counted out until he's released or retired, there doesn't appear to be much of a path to the majors for him in Minnesota.

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