Thursday, November 7, 2013

Minnesota Twins Free Agent Targets Part 1: Infield

Now that the World Series has come and gone and qualifying offers have been doled out, we can finally get to the official Free Agent Hot Stove Maniastravaganzapocaylpse.  Sure, there will be some non-tenders announced later, but those aren't anyone's idea of dream targets.  For a small market fan like me, I like to use the early part of the off-season to dream big, the middle part to remember who my favorite team really is and the end to cry in the corner while wearing my new XXXL Willie Bloomquist Twins shirsey. 

While we can all speculate on what number Bloomquist will wear for the Twins in February, November is the time to think big and think hard.  In November, every team has a shot at Robinson Cano.  In November, no one has to think of putting Cole De Vries into their rotation.  In November, hamburger eat you.  Wait, that last one is from something else.  Regardless, I thought it would be fun and original to explore some of the free agents who I think the Twins should be targeting.  I'll outline my master plan for position players today and tomorrow and my master plan for pitchers next week.  Suspense!!!

I placed players in five categories: 

Like, but don't need
Not interested, but notable
If desperate
Wish List
Not included at all

The Not included at all folks won't even be named, in what will certainly be perceived as a figurative slap across the face with a wet hand holding a lasagna noodle. 

Corner Infield


I'm fine with signing a corner infielder to a short-term contract.  I think the Twins would be best served moving Joe Mauer to first, basically removing any need to address that position.  However, I also feel that Trevor Plouffe is easily upgrade-able and Miguel Sano might not be ready for full-time duty until late in 2014.  Thus, having a decent corner option wouldn't hurt anyone.

Like, but don't need:  Kendrys Morales and Mike Napoli:  I don't think either of these two are worth giving up a second-round pick for.  I'd rather just go with the dreaded PP combo of Plouffe and Chris Parmelee than give up a potential early 40s pick. 

Not interested, but notable:  Paul Konerko and Justin Morneau.  Konerko looked so old last season.  It's a shame.  I thought he was on a comfortable 500 home run pace and that I would get to read a whole mess of articles about his hidden Hall of Fame career in 2020.  Morneau is one of my favorite players and I enjoyed his time in Minnesota.  Unless he is willing to take a massive discount, I don't know how the Twins could justify giving him a roster spot.  He's an empty-average hitter at this point.  You know it's sad but true.

If desperate:  Kevin Youkilis, James Loney, Carlos Pena and Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds would have to agree to never venture anywhere near third base before I even call him up.  Impossible perhaps, but those are my conditions.  Pena is supposedly the nicest guy in the World, so I would be willing to bring him in as a clubhouse boost.  Loney is solid, but his upside might be post-concussion Morneau.  He's younger and probably cheaper, so he's a better option for this team.  He may have played well enough in Tampa to earn a multi-year deal.  Not interested in that.  Youkilis could be an option at third, but he has to grow his goatee again.  He terrifies me without it.

Wish List:  Eric Chavez and/or Corey Hart.  Bad teams need to strike big on high-upside players.  Corey Hart had a 130, 133 and 120 OPS+ in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  He was injured all of last year and might be willing to take a one-year deal to re-establish his value.  If the Twins offer $6 million or so, they might get him.  He's not a building block type player, but he could be a tradable asset in July if all goes well.  Chavez would complete an excellent platoon with Trevor Plouffe and eventually Miguel Sano.  He would be another ideal "one-year deal with an option to trade in July" kind of guy.

Hart is probably a more likely candidate than Chavez, especially considering Terry Ryan basically said in an interview with Twins Daily that platoons are "dumb as heck."  His words.  Not really.  Hart would be a full-time player and could pay off huge.  Uuge if you're from New York.

Middle Infield


Shortstop is probably the Twins' second greatest need.  Pedro Florimon performed ably, but is all-glove, no-bat and not all-glove enough for an all-glove kind of guy.  Eduardo Escobar is Pedro Florimon minus two years of age, so I'd probably give him the starting job and hope he found some magic beans in the off-season.  That being said, the middle infield free agent crop is like a giant field of lentils.  Sure, there are a ton of lentils but who likes lentils? 

There really is no need to address second base with Brian Dozier's emergence and Eddie Rosario's lurking at AA and then AAA and then MLB and then ASG and then HOF.

Not interested, but notable:  Jamey Carroll and Brian Roberts.  Jamey Carroll has exactly 1000 hits.  If anyone tries to mess with that, they should be sufficiently messed with in return.  There was a time in my life where I would have tried to sign Brian Roberts to my own team if I had one.  The Minnesota Brads.  Creativity aside, Roberts is older and injury prone and not really right for this version of the Minnesota Twins. 

Like, but don't need:  Robinson Cano and Stephen Drew.  I already argued that the Twins should sign Cano to a 10 year, $300 million contract and I was mostly laughed out of my basement by friends, family, colleagues, angry loners, the unemployed and alcoholics.  Drew would have been at the very top of my wish list, but he received a qualifying offer and I am terrified of giving up draft picks.  I'm not against giving up that pick, I just don't think Stephen Drew is the right guy for that move.

If desperate:  Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto.  Hey, at least it would be exciting and super frustrating!

Wish List:  Rafael Furcal, Jhonny Peralta and Brendan Ryan.  These could not be three more unique paths to solving the Twins' middle infield quandary.  Furcal is in the same vein as Corey Hart as he would be a reclamation project with (less) upside who could be signed to a short-term deal for less money that he is probably worth if healthy.  Furcal is also 36, wildly inconsistent and not the defender he once was.  For 8-10 mil, he still might be worth a one-year deal. 

Ryan is basically Pedro Florimon but with a better glove and absolutely no chance to provide any offense whatsoever.  If I'm employing an all-glove shortstop, I'd like the best all-glove shortstop.  The middle infield defense with Ryan would be superb, but he also once had a ridiculous mustache.  Pros and cons.

Signing Peralta would be almost the opposite of signing Ryan.  Peralta is a passable defender but has little range and was suspended for steroids last season.  I can't even say for certain that Peralta is a reliable offensive player, as he slipped an 84 OPS+ in 2012 between his 122 in 2011 and 119 in 2013.  However, only Jed Lowrie had a higher OPS+ among AL shortstops in 2013.    

Peralta would likely require a longer deal, perhaps up to three years.  With no heir apparent in the upper minors (Danny Santana is at AA, but Paul Molitor stated last season that he is at least a couple years away), a long-term deal to shore up the shortstop position wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.  His defense is worrisome though, as I'm not sure he can remain a shortstop for three more years.  Ah, conundrum! 

I'd prefer Furcal on a risk-reward type deal, but the other two guys aren't terrible alternatives, but each come with their own very real issues. 

In the end, I'd probably limit myself to one infielder in free agency.  I'd aim high and go for upside.  If that player exceeds expectations and fills a long-term need, then an extension could be worked out.  If they meet or exceed expectations but don't fill a long-term need, then I'd trade them with a giant, smug smile on my face.  Either way, I'd want to remain very true to the fact that this team is still rebuilding and needs to add assets any way it can.

Tomorrow, I'll post the catchers and outfielders who I would target.  Get ready.

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