I'm in the process of outlining my off-season free agent targets. Yesterday, I shared my grand plan to basically keep the infield exactly the same as last year, but largely cripple the offense behind the plate by moving Joe Mauer to first. If you missed it, you can find it here. If status quo after 3 straight 90-loss seasons doesn't excite you, then I don't know what will! Today, I share my plan for catcher and outfield. It's just as juicy.
I'm not sure the Twins really NEED a catcher, but at the same time, it wouldn't hurt. Joe Mauer is getting older and dealt with a concussion at the end of 2013. Josmil Pinto looks like a future stud, but has only one month of MLB experience. Ryan Doumit might as well be a cast iron bust with a glove placed precariously atop. Chrriss Herrmaann is hogging all the letters. Basically, a decent back-up or platoon catcher would be nice.
Like, but dont need: Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Brian McCann. Both are great offensive players and both will be tremendously pricey. I'm not sure that investing boatloads of money into another catcher is wise right now. They are luxury items and the Twins' living room needs couches more than fancy rugs and Fatheads.
Not interested, but notable: A.J. Pierzynski and Henry Blanco. I'm all for Twins reunion tours, but Pierzynski doesn't really fit on this team. He's old, he's declining and he bleaches his hair. Henry Blanco is 89 years old, but still looks great. I'd still pass.
If desperate: Kurt Suzuki. I'm not a huge fan, but as a back-up, why not?
Wish List: Carlos Ruiz, Jose Molina and Dioner Navarro. WHOOOOOOOO!!!! Navarro is the least adept defensive catcher of the three, but has the most offensive upside. He has been in the league for 35 years, but will be just 30 next season. That kind of paradox is intriguing. He is a switch hitter too, and I love versatility. Molina and Ruiz are both great defensive catchers. It would be interesting to see what kind of effect the Molina Framing Technique would have on Twins pitchers. Ruiz might be past his prime, but he also might be able to inject some life into the Twins.
I wouldn't spend more than a few million bones on any catcher and I probably wouldn't give out anything but a one-year deal. Each of these three guys could fill the void until Pinto is ready for full-time catching duties.
The Twins outfield is both completely in flux and totally set. At the start of 2014, the outfield could be Josh Willingham, Alex Presley and Oswaldo Arcia, an outfield that would challenge for "most times three guys watched the ball fall between them then shrugged in an embarrassed manner" in a season. However, the Twins have to feel that their outfield will actually be Arcia, Aaron Hicks and Byron Buxton by the end of 2014 and then for the foreseeable future. As such, any outfielders signed would need to be on very short contracts.
Not interested, but notable: Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez, Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. Beltran is outstanding and likely a future Hall of Famer, but he's old and would cost a draft pick. Not worth it; not the right fit. I can't watch Sizemore, it's too painful. I'm not sure Cruz is an upgrade over Willingham or Arcia. Gutierrez is a fantastic defender, but he can't stay healthy and he wouldn't be a super attractive trade chip in July for that very reason. Most teams are not trying to bolster their disabled list at the deadline.
Like, but don't need: Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. If the Twins don't believe in Aaron Hicks or Oswaldo Arcia, then these two would be very interesting and worth giving up that second-round pick for. However, I think the Twins still believe in both of those fellas, and therefore, I see no reason to invest in either Ellsbury or Choo, even though I think both are great. In a perfect world, Arcia and Buxton become better versions of Choo and Ellsbury, right?
If desperate: Jason Kubel, Casper Wells, Raul Ibanez, Nate McLouth, Rajai Davis, David Murphy and Chris Young. I wouldn't hate if any of these guys signed here, but I wouldn't be excited either. Murphy and Wells could form an interesting platoon, but platoons are wank according to Terry Ryan. McLouth and Davis are fine players, but not necessarily better than players on the current roster. Young and Kubel could be reclamation projects, or they could just be cooked. Ibanez WILL NEVER REST but is likely too old to sign with such a lowly team.
Wish list: Marlon Byrd. Yeah, I know, super exciting. My plan for 2014 is as such: Sign Byrd; rejoice. Move Willingham to DH; relief. Opening Day OF: Arcia-Presley-Byrd. Offensively, not terrible. Defensively, not terrible. Mid-season: Presley to the pine, Hicks to CF. Late July: Byrd to another team, Hicks to RF, Buxton to CF. End of 2014/Start of 2015 OF: Arcia-Buxton-Hicks; actually rejoice.
If the Twins trust the development of their supremely talented young players, there is no reason to supplement the outfield beyond a minor signing. I don't actually think Byrd is the only possible target, I just chose him due to my proclivity toward Bird/Byrd puns. In fact, just get a guy who won't divert too many funds from starting pitching. Realistically, you could insert Nate McLouth, Rajai Davis, David Murphy, Chris Young, etc, into that paragraph and get basically the same results. The Twins need so much help, but outfield is an area where they need to hope over help. Cute.
As you can clearly see, I'm not investing a lot in position players. The Twins don't have a great offense, but they have players who can be reasonably relied upon to contribute more in the future than they did in 2013. Not every prospect will pan out, but if 2-3 of Buxton, Hicks, Arcia, Pinto, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario actually hit, the offense will be fine. If more hit, then LOOOOOOK OUT WORLD! Don't abandon the long-term plan. That's what WCW did with Goldberg. Think about it.
Since I'm being thrifty with position players, I have plenty to spend on pitching; which I will do next week. See you then!